The limit of language comes with Four Elements and Five Components. Beyond that is an open sky of witnessing, just a pure awareness. You can have it, but you cannot say anything about it. That’s why Joshu does not say it. He again and again reminds the person, “Language ends with Four Elements and Five Components. What can I do? This is the last milestone; beyond this, what remains is the buddha nature.”
This is the way of Zen, not to say things to their completion. This has to be understood; it is a very important methodology. Not to say everything means to give an opportunity to the listener to complete it. All answers are incomplete. The master has only given you a direction: go in the direction of Four Elements and Five Components. By the time you reach the limit, you will know what is going to remain.
This way, if somebody is trying to understand Zen intellectually he will fail. It is not an answer to the question but something more than the answer. It is indicating the very reality. Joshu is saying that you, as a witness, will remain. The buddha nature is not something far away – your very consciousness is buddha nature. And your consciousness can witness these things which constitute the world. The world will end but the mirror will remain, mirroring nothing.
But he does not say anything about witnessing, about the mirror. He leaves it to the person’s meditativeness. The person has to find the answer himself. This is not a school or a college or a university.
Zen is an opportunity for anybody to rise in consciousness and awareness. The master’s function is not to supply the answer. If the master supplies the answer, he is your enemy. The master can only give you the line to follow; your experience will be the answer. This way of dialogue has never existed anywhere else in the world.
Once, a monk was saying farewell to Joshu, who asked him, “Where are you going?”
The monk replied, “All over the place, to learn Buddhism.”
Holding up his mosquito-flapper, Joshu instructed the monk, “Do not stay where the buddha is!”
A strange suggestion…because the monk seems to be stupid not to see Joshu, a living buddha, before him. Obviously, Joshu does not want to say, “Remain here! I am the buddha you are searching for.” On the contrary, he says:
“Do not stay where the buddha is. Pass quickly through a place where there is no buddha!”
Because where there is no buddha, what is the point? Pass quickly and don’t stay where a buddha is.
Now, he is not leaving any place to go, because these are the only two places: either the Buddha will be there or the Buddha will not be there.