In Zen, “a saint” means one who can listen, who can listen to the profound silence of existence. It has nothing to do with virtue, with doing good things. It has something to do with your being conscious, alert, aware – waking up – and suddenly you see the bamboos are saying the same truth that the buddhas have said. The birds are singing from the same life source that you are breathing from. It is one cosmic mystery, in which we all share.
The monk must have been utterly stupid, because he goes on asking questions without understanding any answer that has been given. But the compassion of the master tolerates it.
He again asks:
“Does your grace hear it?”
“Not I!” replied Nanyo.
He was such a great master, because if he says, “Yes, I hear it,” the “I” is the barrier; you have to drop it. And there is no reason to hear it, because you are it. That’s why he simply denies, he says, “Not I!”
The monk still goes on being stupid.
“If you don’t hear it, how can you explain the teaching of the law by inanimate creatures?” asked the monk.
He seems to be thinking in his mind that he is winning a debate!
The experience of existence is not a debate. It is not debatable.
Nanyo answered, “It is my good luck that I do not hear it.”
These statements are strange, but absolutely true. “It is my good luck” – because I am not there. “It is my good luck” that I don’t hear it – I am it, I have dissolved myself into this silence. I have become this fire, everything else is burned in it.
Nanyo must be very compassionate, he said:
“It is my good luck that I do not hear it. If I did, I would be the same as all the saints, and then you wouldn’t have the chance to hear my teaching.”
It looks like a very absurd answer – it is not. He is saying, “It is my good luck that I do not hear it, because I do not exist.”
[In the pause, a cuckoo’s song is heard.]
The cuckoo has just spoken it. Do you hear it?
[The cuckoo calls again.]
It is the same life source, without any discontinuity.