Hyakujo had a unique way of guiding monks. From morning till night he kept on saying, “Work for me in the field, and I will teach for you.”
He thus made his disciples work on the field all the time; but he did not seem to be prepared to give any lectures or sermons.
Finally, the monks, not able to stand it any longer, went to the master and asked: “Would you please be gracious enough to give us an edifying sermon?”
The master’s unwavering reply was: “Work for me on the field, and I will teach for you.”
Several days passed, and the impatient monks went to the master again and urged: “Please give us a sermon.” This time, he quite readily agreed to do so.
After a while all the monks gathered together in the hall. The master quietly appeared before them, walked up to the pulpit, spread out both his arms, and without a word immediately returned to his room.
One day Nansen was working on the mountain with a sickle. A monk came up the mountain path and asked, without knowing to whom he was talking: “How can I get to Master Nansen?”
The master raised his sickle in front of the monk, and said: “I paid thirty cents for this sickle.”
The monk retorted: “I did not ask you about the sickle.”
“What, then,” queried the master, “did you ask me?”
The monk repeated: “How can I get to Master Nansen?”
The master said, “Oh, yes! This cuts well!”
Maneesha, this is the greatest sermon that has been delivered in the whole history of mysticism.
Just preparing his people, he used to say, “Go and work in the field. You cannot work with the trees and with the grass and with the roses for long without yourself becoming as silent as they are.”
The people who live with nature naturally find a synchronicity between themselves and the rivers and the mountains. They are closer to the earth and its heartbeat.
Hyakujo first tried to bring the disciple close to nature, close to silence. Unless the disciple is prepared, the great sermon cannot be delivered. A great sermon needs great disciples, and a great disciple is exactly one who is silent.
Before I enter into the tremendously beautiful story of Hyakujo I would like to tell you something about a contemporary master, George Gurdjieff. He used to use – without knowing Hyakujo – the same method, and the people who came to him were very different than the people who came to Hyakujo.
Gurdjieff was working in the West. And intellectuals would come and Gurdjieff would ask them to go and dig a ditch in the field, but they would say, “We have come here to learn something, not to dig a ditch.”
Gurdjieff was very hard. He would say, “First do what I say if you want to hear the answer.”
In one particular case, Bennett reached Gurdjieff. Highly educated, cultivated, he had come to ask about God and the meaning of life – and the answer was the same. Gurdjieff said, “Leave these things for the moment. Just go and dig the ditch in the field.”
Bennett hesitated for a moment, but then thought, “I have come from so far, let us see what happens. What am I going to lose?” He started digging the ditch; Gurdjieff came with his cigar, watched him digging, told him that, “Before sunset this certain area has to be prepared.”