In Taoist circles, when somebody says “He has lost his memory” he is praising the man, remember. Taoists have their own way of saying things, very peculiar ways of saying things. But the meaning of their gestures is profound.
In the middle age, Hua tzu of Yang-li in Sung lost his memory.
He became a no-mind, he forgot all about his past, he forgot all that had happened – it was as if all the dust from the mirror dropped away. He came to exist in the present – that’s what it means. He was no longer in the past, he did not exist through the past, he did not function through the past, he had started functioning in the immediate present. Moment to moment he now lived – not gathering, not accumulating, not hoarding any knowledge or any information. Whatsoever the totality brought in the moment was all. If he felt hungry he looked for food, but he had no idea about any food that he had eaten before. And the moment his appetite was fulfilled he forgot all about it. He did not carry the idea in the mind, he had no fantasy about food, either before or after. The moment was all, the now and the here was all, there was no then and there was no there.
This is the first satori – when a man becomes loosened from the grip of the past, the hold of the past, as if a snake has slipped from the old skin. He has become absolutely new, like a tree which, after dropping all her old leaves during the fall, has sprouted new leaves. The moment something becomes old, one moment old, it is dropped immediately. One goes on slipping again and again into the present. It is a totally new style of life – the way of Tao, the way of Zen, the way of sannyas.
Watch it in your own life. How do you live? Do you bring the past in again and again? So you always live through the past? Is your life too colored by memory? Then you are living the worldly life. To live in memory is to live in the world, sansara; to live without memory, is to live in God, to live without memory is to live in nirvana, enlightenment.
Remember, by saying that Hua Tzu lost his memory, you should not translate it to mean that he became absent-minded, no. That is not the meaning of it. To become absent-minded is a totally a different thing. It is a disease, Absent-mindedness means that memory persists but becomes distorted. You know but you don’t know clearly. An absent-minded person is not a man of Tao. An absent-minded person is simply absent-minded. The man of Tao is very much present, he is not absent-minded. In fact, he is so much present that the memory cannot interfere. His presence is tremendous; his presence is so intense, the light of presence is so intense, that the memory cannot interfere. He functions out of the present, you function out of memory.