The meaning of this story is that a disciple can become so attuned with the master that his hand is not his, it is the master’s hand; that he is not hitting the master, he is hitting himself. He has, through that gesture, declared himself to be realized, enlightened.
And the master called the whole crowd and said, “If Sosan had been here, the cat would have lived long. But alas, he was not here. And you idiots, none of you could show or say anything that could have saved the cat.”
Everybody asked Sosan, “What have you done?”
He said, “I don’t know what I have done. Now, thinking backwards, I feel amazed. Even to touch the feet of the master is a great blessing. But what came upon me? I simply hit him, slapped his face. I will cut off my hand.”
People had to prevent him, saying, “Just cool down.”
He said, “But how did it happen? And the master is such a beautiful man. I slapped him and he laughed. I slapped him and he recognized me as enlightened.”
And Sosan became the master’s successor.
You cannot conceive of such a phenomenon today because these so-called teachers – bishops, cardinals, priests, rabbis – will not tell you you are enlightened when you slap them – or do you think they will? Try.
To tell you that, you need a real master, one who knows what has happened. Sosan has become so identified with the master that when the master cuts the cat it seems that he has cut the cat. He is not hitting the master, he is hitting himself.
It took a little time for Sosan to understand what happened, but since that moment he was a different man.
And the master used to say later on, “It was not a great loss. We lost a cat but we got one man enlightened – so it was not a great loss.”
One more story I will tell you to explain the differences that time has brought.
Kabir, one of the most famous mystics and poets of India, had a son, Kamal. The word kamal means a miracle. And he was a miracle because Kabir lived in Varanasi, which is the headquarters of Hinduism – and according to Hindus it has remained eternally the headquarters of Hinduism. According to them, Varanasi is the oldest city in the world. And looking at Varanasi it seems as if it is the oldest city; you can see layer upon layer of different centuries in different parts of Varanasi.
Kabir lived in Varanasi, but he was not a brahmin. So no brahmin high caste Hindu will accept him as a mystic – but it was not a problem to him whether you accept him as a mystic or not. He is. You can close your eyes and say there is no sun, that is up to you; but the sun is there.