Sometimes it has happened that the imitator can defeat the original. It happened once that a few friends arranged a birthday celebration for an English actor. They made it a nationwide competition: who can imitate the actor the best? In every big city people would be chosen, and then the final test would be in London. The winner was going to have a great prize.
Many actors participated. The actor himself thought that it would be a good joke to enter the competition from a small town. Of course he was certain that he was going to come in first – he is the original, everybody else is imitating him. But to everybody’s surprise – and more to his – he came in second. When it became known that he was the real man, nobody could believe that it had happened – how had all the examiners got misled by an imitator?
But I see deeper into the psychology of it: the imitator prepares, rehearses, does much homework. The original simply stands there in his spontaneity and reality – he has not prepared, he has not rehearsed, he is just as he is. But somebody who is trying to come in first in the great competition may have worked for months. Naturally, he deceived the examiners. And this has happened a thousand and one times – that someone like Ta Hui, who is just an intellectual, has been accepted for one thousand years as a great master of Zen teaching, and he is simply repeating.
I would like you to see that everything can be imitated, except enlightenment. You may say the same words, but they will not have the same fire. Your gestures may be the same, but they will not have the same grace. You may act as if you are enlightened, but that ‘as if’ is a big gap, almost unbridgeable. This becomes so clear in Ta Hui’s case.
Haven’t you seen the saying of the man of old: “Even if there were something surpassing nirvana, I would say that it too is like a dream, an illusion.”
It is true that the people who have achieved the ultimate realization – you can call it nirvana, liberation, self-realization – those who have achieved it are fully able to say that that too is made of the same stuff as dreams are made of. It is the most beautiful dream, the most perfect dream – but nothing more than that.
The reason for the enlightened man to call his enlightenment only a dream is a very fundamental one. He is trying to say: “This too is an experience, and I am separate from my every experience – whether the experience is of misery, of suffering, of anguish, or of blissfulness or enlightenment, it makes no difference. They belong to the same category of experiences.
“I am not the experience, I am the experiencer. I am always transcendental to any experience that happens to me. I am only a witness, a sakshin. Just as I have seen black clouds, I am seeing white clouds. Just as I have seen clouds, I am seeing a cloudless sky – but I am separate.