On one occasion, Nansen said to Joshu, “Nowadays, it is best to live and work among members of a different species from us.”
Joshu replied, “Leaving aside the question of ‘different’ let me ask you, what do you mean by ‘species’?”
Nansen put his hands on the ground. Joshu walked towards Nansen from behind, trampling him into the ground, and then ran into the Nirvana Hall, crying, “I repent! I repent!”
Nansen sent his attendant to ask Joshu what he was repenting for. Joshu replied, “I repent that I did not trample him twice over.”
Maneesha, Zen alone has a religious approach of playfulness, of laughter. Even the great masters play with each other, with their words, with their actions and their gestures. But all this play is always indicative of the eternal and the ultimate. Behind their laughter you will find a great serenity, a tremendous peace. Their laughter is not hysterical.
And you have to understand the difference between these two laughters. Hysterical laughter is when you cannot stop it, when it has taken possession of you; and non-hysterical laughter is…it is your will, it is with your agreement. The moment Nivedano’s drum gives you a signal that it is time to stop, you stop it. The hysterical person will not be able to stop; it is beyond his capacity. Sane laughter is always within your hands.
Secondly, Zen masters playing with each other indicate something that cannot be said. Their disciples discuss for centuries these small anecdotes of tremendous beauty and grandeur. They are not jokes. The West, when for the first time it came in contact with Zen through the Christian missionaries, thought that these were some kind of joke. They could not conceive that these small anecdotes could carry scriptures.
This one is between Nansen and Joshu, both recognized buddhas with thousands of disciples. And it was not an extraordinary event, it was an everyday thing. Their monasteries were in the mountains, very close to each other and the masters would come to meet each other.
Their very playfulness shows one thing absolutely, that existence has not to be taken seriously. Those who take it seriously are psychically sick. Existence has to be taken playfully, with a joy. Only for those who take it with joy and playfulness does existence open its mysteries.
In this anecdote:
On one occasion, Nansen said to Joshu, “Nowadays, it is best to live and work among members of a different species from us,”
…he was saying that man has become too serious, has lost his playfulness, has become so knowledgeable he has lost his innocence. Hence it is better to mix with other species: birds and fish, other animals and trees, to have the whole universe as your commune, not just human beings who have gone too astray.
The roseflower is exactly the same as it has always been; the changes of time have not affected it. Nansen is saying that it is time now that Zen disciples should spend their time more and more in contact with animals, birds, trees.