Nansen said to the assembled monks…
They have come to hear about the ultimate truth, and Nansen said to the assembled monks,
“Old Master O - ‘O’ was Nansen’s own lay name - is going to sell himself. Will anyone buy him?”
Strange start to a sermon! You cannot think a rabbi would do it in a synagogue – although buying and selling is a very Jewish interest. In no temple, in no mosque, in no church is a sermon going to begin this way where the master comes on the stage and says: “Old Master O, and ‘O’ is his own childhood name, “is going to sell himself. Will anyone buy him?”
Before we enter into the discussion, remember that Nansen uses his childhood name, ‘O.’ He could have used “Nansen,” he could have said, “I want to sell myself.” He could not say “I” because a man of the status of Nansen knows there is no I. He cannot use the word Nansen, because it is the name of his old age when he became a monk, the name of his maturity. He uses the word O, which was his childhood name. He has again become a child; he is again as innocent and as ignorant as a child, he knows nothing. His using the name “O” is significant.
And his saying that he is going to sell himself reminds you that if you are going to sell yourself, do you think you will get any price? Perhaps man is the most worthless creature. A cow, a horse, an elephant…even in death an elephant is worth thousands of rupees, just his bones. Man in his death is so useless and so disgusting that people are in a hurry to take him to the funeral pyre.
His family are crying and the neighbors are preparing the stretcher on which the dead man is to be carried to the burning ghats. They are in a hurry; the sooner it is finished the better. Otherwise this crying and weeping and all this hullabaloo will continue. And if this man stays long, he will start stinking. There is no value in him; if you take him to the market you will be beaten.
I’m reminded of Diogenes again: he used to live naked; he was a very healthy and beautiful man. Even Alexander the Great felt a little jealous. He had everything, but the beauty of Diogenes, his marble-like body, his statue-like firmness….