(it was snowing, and the monk in charge
asked Hyakujo to give a sermon.
In the first place, Zen does not have any sermons; nor does it have commandments, discipline, rules. It is a very unique style of living so that you can come into contact with the divineness of existence itself.
Jews have ten commandments. Perhaps you know why there are ten. At that time, four thousand years ago, man used to count on his fingers. Ten is the ultimate figure, then there is repetition; for eleven or twelve, you are repeating another set of ten. You can go on repeating many sets of ten, but you cannot go beyond ten. Ten is the basic, because man learned arithmetic by counting on his fingers.
The story is that God created the world and went around asking the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Arabs a single question: “Do you want a commandment?”
They all asked, “What is that commandment? Of course first we want to know what it is. In the dark, we are not going to take anything.”
When he said, “Simple – never, ever look at another woman; avoid all kinds of corruption,” the Babylonians answered, “Then what else should we do? The whole joy of life will be gone. Keep your commandment to yourself.”
The Egyptians did not ask, “What is the commandment?” They simply said, “Go ahead, find somebody else. Why should we listen to any sermon or any commandment? We are enough unto ourselves.”
God was very sad; he had made these people and they were not ready to accept even a single sermon, a single commandment.
Finally he asked Moses, “Would you like to have a commandment?” And God forgot completely that a Jew responds differently from anybody else. Moses did not ask, “What is the commandment?” He asked, “How much does it cost?”
God said, “Absolutely free!”
Moses said, “Then why one? I’ll have ten!”
The poor Jews are carrying those Ten Commandments and Christians and Mohammedans have borrowed from those Ten Commandments. It seems there is some need in man that tells him: unless somebody else guides you, you will be lost. So he is always seeking guidance, without knowing the simple fact: in this world advice is the only thing which is given and never taken. You cannot become wise by asking wise people. The only way is to listen very closely to the heartbeat of existence.