I don’t think that the statement of Suzuki would have been understood by the people who asked the question and who received the right answer. It needs a totally different context to understand.
The Western education is so much of a nourishment to the ego…in fact the Western psychology supports the idea that a person should have a very clear ego – powerful, aggressive, ambitious; otherwise, one cannot survive in the struggle of existence. To survive, first you have to be, and you have to be not only defensive, because the right way of defense is to offend, to attack…Before anybody else attacks you, you should attack. You should be first, not the second, because to be defensive is already losing the battle.
And because of the Western psychology, the whole educational system supports the idea that a man becomes mature as he attains a more and more crystallized ego. This goes against the experience of all the buddhas, of all the awakened ones. And none of these psychologists or educationalists have any glimpse of what awakening is, of what enlightenment is.
Those who have become enlightened are agreed, without any exception, on the point that the ego has to disappear. It is false, it is created by society; it is not your original face, it is not you.
The false must disappear for the real to be.
So remember these steps: first, the false must disappear for the real to be, and then the real has to disappear into the ultimately real. People are living so far away from their ultimate home – they are not even real, what to say about the ultimate? For it, they have to first move away from the ego. They have to experience in meditation their own center.
But this is not the end. Meditation is only a beginning of the journey. In the end, the seeker is dissolved in the sought, the knower in the known, the experiencer in the experience. Who is going to have satori? You are absent; you are non-existent when enlightenment explodes. Your absence is an absolute necessity for enlightenment to happen.
Suzuki is absolutely right: “The reason I do not talk about satori is because I have never had it.” I am absolutely certain that those who heard him are bound to have thought that he had had no experience of satori. That is simply the meaning of what he is saying. Unless there was somebody who had experienced egolessness, and finally selflessness, Suzuki was without fail, bound to be misunderstood.
But he was a man of immense daring, of great courage, to introduce Zen to the West. Not many people were impressed. Many certainly entertained Suzuki’s statements, his anecdotes from the annals of Zen; they thought them strange jokes. But there were a few who understood not what the man was saying, but the man himself. He turned a few people on; he has the same distinction as Bodhidharma who planted the seeds of Zen in China.