It is only a question of seeing, it is only a question of becoming alert, awake, it is only a question of waking up. The goose is in the bottle if you are in a dream; the goose has never been in the bottle if you are awake. And in the dream there is no way to take the goose out of the bottle. Either the goose will die or the bottle will have to be broken, and both alternatives are not allowed: neither has the bottle to be broken nor has the goose to be killed. Now, a fully-grown goose in a small bottle…how can you take it out? This is called a koan.
A koan is not an ordinary puzzle; it is not a puzzle because it cannot be solved. A puzzle is that which has a possibility of being solved; you just have to look for the right answer. You will find it – it only needs intelligence to find the answer to the puzzle, but a puzzle is not really insoluble.
A koan is insoluble, you cannot solve it, you can only dissolve it. And the way to dissolve it is to change the very plane of your being from dreaming to wakefulness. In the dream the goose is in the bottle and there is no way to bring it out of the bottle without breaking the bottle or killing the goose – in the dream. Hence, as far as the dream is concerned the puzzle is impossible, nothing can be done about it.
But there is a way out – which has nothing to do with the puzzle, remember. You have to wake up. That has nothing to do with the bottle and nothing to do with the goose either. You have to wake up. It has something to do with you. That’s why Nansen did not answer the question.
Riko asked, “If a man puts a gosling into a bottle and feeds him until he is full-grown, how can the man get the goose out without killing it or breaking the bottle?”
Nansen didn’t answer. On the other hand, he gave a great clap with his hands and shouted, “Riko!”
Now, this is not an answer to the question – this has nothing to do with the question at all – it is irrelevant, inconsistent. But it solves it; in fact, it dissolves it. The moment he shouted, “Riko!” the official with a start said, “Yes, Master,” and the whole plane of his being is transformed by a simple strategy.
A master is not a teacher; he does not teach you, he simply devises methods to wake you up. That clap is a method, that clap simply brought Riko into the present. And it was so unexpected… When you are asking such a spiritual koan you don’t expect the master to answer you with a loud clap and then shout, “Riko!”
Suddenly he is brought from the past, from the future. Suddenly for a moment he forgets the whole problem. Where is the bottle and where is the goose? There is only the master, in a strange posture, clapping and shouting for Riko. Suddenly the whole problem is dropped. He has slipped out of the problem without even knowing that he slipped out of it. He has slipped out of the problem as a snake slips out of its old skin. For a moment time has stopped. For a moment the clock has stopped. For a moment the mind has stopped. For a moment there is nothing. The master, the sound of the clap, and a sudden awakening. In that very moment the master says, “See! See, the goose is out!” It is dissolved.