Once, Kyozan’s master asked him, “The Nirvana Sutra has about forty chapters of the Buddha’s teaching. How many of these are devil teachings?”
A strange question, which can only be asked in the Zen atmosphere. You cannot ask in a Christian monastery, “How many teachings in the Bible are devil teachings?” The idea simply looks awkward. But in Zen you can ask anything because nothing matters. It is not a serious, philosophical system. Asking such a question…The Nirvana Sutra is one of the most respected sutras in the Buddhist world and it contains almost everything essential that Buddha has said. It is called Nirvana Sutra because it concludes at the point where you disappear. Its whole process is how to help you disappear.
First you become silent. And as the silence goes deeper you start feeling that you are not the body, that you are not the mind. You are living in the body but you are not it. You are using the mind but you are not it. As the silence goes to serenity you suddenly become aware that, “I am only a witness, witness of the whole world and witness of my body and mind too.” Just a pure witness, a cool breeze, a fragrant breeze.
The word nirvana means blowing out the candle. Buddha chose a really beautiful word for the ultimate. When you disappear into the ultimate ocean, the dewdrop disappears. Or you can say in other words, the dewdrop becomes the ocean. Or, you can even say the ocean disappears in the dewdrop. But something disappears, just as if you have blown a candle flame out and there is absolute silence and darkness.
“The Nirvana Sutra has about forty chapters of the Buddha’s teaching. How many of these are devil teachings?”
In no other religion can such a question be asked. But the answer is even greater.
“All of them,” replied Kyozan.
Isan was not expecting that much. Buddha’s words, and Kyozan is saying all of them are devil’s words! And it is perfectly in line with Buddha’s approach to life. It is not through books, it is not through words.
So Isan will go on teaching the Nirvana Sutra, and at the same time will remind his disciples, “Don’t cling to any sutra – Nirvana or Diamond Sutra – don’t cling. These are simply footsteps leading to your ultimate disappearance.”