Hogen became a priest at the age of seven, studying Buddhism and Confucianism. One day, some years later, when Hogen was on the way to the lake, it began to rain and he took shelter in Jizo’s temple.
Jizo, who was sitting by the fireplace, asked Hogen, “Where are you going?”
Hogen replied, “Just wandering from master to master in search of enlightenment.”
“What does that mean?” asked Jizo.
“I don’t know,” said Hogen.
“’Don’t know’ is the most intimate,” said Jizo.
The two sat together by the fire, talking of a treatise on Buddhism, and when they got to a sentence that read, “Heaven and I are of the same root,” Jizo asked, “Are mountains and rivers and the great earth different from me or the same?”
Shinzan, who was with them, replied, “The same.”
Jizo held up two fingers, and, looking at them earnestly, said there were two, and then went out. It had now stopped raining, and Jizo accompanied Hogen and Shinzan to the gate. On the way, in the garden there was a stone, and pointing to it, Jizo asked a question: “It is said that in the three worlds, all is mind. Is this stone in the mind or outside it?”
Hogen answered, “Inside it.”
Jizo said, “You people on a pilgrimage, why do you think that the stone is in your mind?”
Hogen was at a loss and could find no answer, so he undid his bundle and asked Jizo to help him resolve the problem.
After a month, Hogen explained his view of philosophy, but Jizo said, “Buddhism is not philosophy.”
Hogen then said, “I have now got to the point of avoiding all words and giving up all philosophy.”
Jizo said, “If you now explain Buddhism, everything is accomplished.”
At this, Hogen was profoundly enlightened.
Maneesha, these small anecdotes are not just for reading, are not just to become more acquainted with different world views. It is not possible to capture Zen in scriptures, in doctrines. By thinking, by concentration, by contemplation, you cannot find it.
The strangest thing about Zen is that it is hidden in the seeker, and the seeker is running from master to master, from philosophy to philosophy – thinking that by gathering knowledge he will be able to understand the truth of existence, that he will be able to experience the significance and meaning of life.
But by going from one master to another master one simply gathers words. And if those masters are not authentic, but only teachers… Always remember the difference: the teacher is knowledgeable, but it is not his own experience. Somebody else has been drinking water, and he is talking about the thirst and the quenching of thirst. For the teacher, these are not his experiences. Perhaps he has seen somebody thirsty and then, after drinking water, feeling satisfied. He has seen the difference, but still he does not know what happened inside the man who was in thirst and then in contentment.
The master knows directly, immediately. It is never, never a borrowed thing: it is his own. It is his own song, it is his own dance. He is not imitating anyone and he is not pretending in any way. The teacher is doing that. The teacher can pretend to be a master – out of a hundred masters, ninety-nine are only teachers. And it is very difficult for people to make out the difference, because both speak the same language. The teacher’s words are empty, but how can you know? The master’s words are breathing, alive, are surrounded by silence and peace. But in your state it is very difficult to make the distinction.
But in Zen, since Bodhidharma left India, it has been a long-standing tradition that disciples wander from teacher to teacher, master to master – listening to this, listening to that, hoping that somewhere they will find the man who triggers in them the flame that was already there, but needed to be triggered.
Hogen became a priest at the age of seven…
He must have been a very intelligent child. To become a monk at the age of seven is nothing ordinary – the quest for truth is an extraordinary perception at the age of seven. Even at the age of seventy people are not aware of what this truth is all about. In fact they wonder why people unnecessarily talk about truth, the ultimate, the being. There is so much to do in the world: money, power, prestige, respectability… There is the whole world to conquer.