A koan can only be dissolved but can never be solved. A puzzle can never be dissolved but can be solved. So remember, a koan is not a puzzle.
But when people who are accustomed to continuous thinking, logical reasoning, start studying Zen, they take a false step from the very beginning. Zen cannot be studied; it has to be lived, it has to be imbibed – imbibed from a living master. It is a transmission beyond words, a transmission of the lamp. The lamp is invisible.
Now, anybody watching this whole situation – Riko asking a question, the master clapping and shouting – would not have found anything very spiritual in it, would not have found any great philosophy, may have become very frustrated. But something transpired, something which is not visible and can never be visible.
It happens only when the silence of the master penetrates the silence of the disciple, when two silences meet and merge; then immediately there is seeing. The master has eyes, the disciple has eyes, but the disciple’s eyes are closed. A device is needed, some method, so that the disciple can open his eyes without any effort of his own. If he makes an effort he will miss the point, because who will make the effort?
Christmas Humphreys, one of the great lovers of Zen in the West, the founder of the Buddhist Society of England and the man who made Zen Buddhism very famous in the Western world, writes about this koan, and you will see the difference. He says:
“There is a method of taking the problem in flank, as it were. It will be nonsense to the rational-minded, but such will read no further. Those who read on will expect increasing nonsense, for sense, the suburban villas of rational thought, will soon be left behind, and the mind will be free on the illimitable hills of its own inherent joy. Here, then, is the real solution to the problem of the opposites.
“Shall I tell it to you? Consider a live goose in a bottle. How to get it out without hurting the goose or breaking the bottle? The answer is simple – ’There, it is!’”
Now, the whole point is lost: it becomes philosophical. First, Christmas Humphreys thinks Zen is part of Buddhism; that is to begin with a wrong door, with a wrong step. Zen has nothing to do with Buddhism. It certainly has something to do with the Buddha but nothing to do with Buddhism as such – just as Sufism has nothing to do with Islam, Hassidism has nothing to do with Judaism, Tantra has nothing to do with Hinduism. Yes, Tantra certainly has something to do with Shiva and Sufism has something to do with Mohammed and Hassidism has something to do with Moses, but not with the traditions, not with the conventions, not with the theologies.