But unlearning has nothing to do with gradualness; one never graduates in it. One sees the point and drops it immediately. The knowledgeable person, of course, will find it more difficult because whatsoever he has acquired with years of effort, labor, strain, he is bound to cling to it. The ignorant person has nothing to cling, and the knowledgeable person has many layers covering his vision. The ignorant person has nothing to cover his vision; he is far more clear.
And you will see this quality in farmers, in carpenters, in gardeners – people who work with the land – the woodcutters, the fisherman. You will find a certain clarity in these people, a certain immediacy of understanding. They may not be able to understand complex theories like Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, but they will be able to understand immediately the beauty of a saying of Jesus or Buddha. The knowledgeable person may not be able to see the beauty of the saying of Jesus. He may start analyzing it, he may start interpreting it, he may start imposing his ideas upon it. He will distort it; he cannot see it as it is.
If a man like Jesus comes today he will be more misunderstood than he was misunderstood in his own days. If he talks the same language…even in those days the knowledgeable people were not able to understand him. It was the rabbis – the Jewish pundits, the Jewish brahmins – who conspired to kill him. The people who followed him were simple people, very simple people
The world has changed so much that now a totally different kind of approach is needed. Zen has to be made contemporary. That’s why I am speaking so much on Zen, because I see the immense beauty of it, I see the inestimable value of it. It should not be lost, to lose it will be losing the greatest treasure humanity has discovered. But we are losing it.
You will read this story; it will look like a beautiful anecdote, nothing more special than that. It is far more. It is what Zen calls the special transmission, an illustration of it. But you will have to understand how innocence grasps and how knowledge misses.
After thirty years of meditation a great bodhisattva became enlightened, and in the traditional way he went to the master to receive a robe. But this is a contemporary story; it belongs to the twentieth century. But instead of giving him a robe the master gave him a piece of paper on which was written the following:
1. Do not say “I am Allah” in any Mohammedan country unless you are trying to commit suicide.
And the master is right, because there are people like Ayatollah Khomaniac and other maniacs who are his followers. Even with Al-Hillaj Mansoor who has declared, “Ana’l haq! – I am Allah!” they had not behaved in a human way. Today they have become even more inhuman.
2. Do not say “I am the Son of God” in the Middle East, otherwise some Jew will ask you for the price of the nails used last time.
3. Do not say “The only thing that I know is that I know nothing” in Mediterranean countries unless you get someone to taste the wine before you drink it.
4. Do not say in America that you are enlightened, otherwise you will have to pay taxes.