Now it is such obvious nonsense – one hand clapping cannot create sound. Clapping with what? Sound needs at least two things. Just one hand cannot clap, both hands are needed! And he told the disciple, “Whenever you hear the sound of one hand clapping, come to me.”
The disciple tried earnestly. He meditated, and he heard the wind blowing through the pine trees. He said, “Perhaps this is the sound!” He rushed to the master. Early in the morning he woke the old man and said, “I have heard it.”
Before even asking, “What have you heard?” the master slapped him and he said, “Get lost! And start meditating again. I myself will know when you have heard.”
The disciple said, “This is strange! I have not even been given the chance to tell you what I have found.”
Each time it happened! The master never gave him any chance. Sometimes, in the mango grove, the cuckoo started singing and the disciple thought, “Perhaps…” Or a nightingale in the middle of the night, and he would rush…and the master would go on throwing him out.
The disciple used to ask him, “At least give me a chance to say what I have heard!”
The master said, “When you have heard it, I will know before you know it. So just get lost! Start meditating. Find out what the sound of one hand clapping is.”
Slowly, slowly, because he was only concerned with one thing, all other thoughts disappeared. They never come uninvited. People say, “We want to get rid of thoughts,” but they don’t understand the basic point that they don’t come uninvited, you are inviting them. One part of your being goes on inviting them, and another part tries to throw them away. You are never going to succeed.
But the disciple’s whole being became one-pointed. It was a great challenge, that he could not hear a simple thing: the sound of one hand clapping. And as all thoughts disappeared there was absolute silence – and he knew. But he did not rush to the master.
Almost every day he had been coming with new ideas, and getting slapped every day. That day the master was waiting: “He has not come. Has he heard it?” – because if he has heard it, he need not come to him. There is no need of anybody’s recognition of it.
So the master went in search: “Where is that disciple?” In the forest by the side of a lake the disciple was sitting under a tree, so silently that nobody would have even thought that there was anybody present – so absent, so empty. Even when the master came he did not take any note of him.
The master went around him – what was the matter? But he didn’t say anything. The master sat in front of him, but he went on sitting in his silence. And the master said: “Please, at least slap me! You have heard it. I know you cannot say so – nobody can say – but slap me! I have been slapping you so much.”