Chao Chou asked Nan Chuan, “What is the Tao?”
Nan Chuan answered, “The ordinary mind is Tao.”
Chao Chou then asked, “How can one approach it?”
Nan Chuan replied, “If you want to approach it, you will certainly miss it.”
“If you do not approach it, how do you know it is the Tao?”
“The Tao is not a matter of knowing, nor a matter of not knowing. To know is a delusory way of thinking, and not to know is a matter of insensibility. If one can realize the Tao unmistakably, his mind will be like the great space – vast, void, and clear. How, then, can one regard this as right and that as wrong?”
Upon hearing this remark, Chao Chou was immediately awakened.
We enter today into the very special world of Zen. It is very special because it is the most ordinary state of consciousness – that’s its specialty. The ordinary mind always wants to be extraordinary; it is only the extraordinary mind who relaxes into ordinariness. It is only the exceptional who is ready to relax and rest into the ordinary. The ordinary always feels inferior; out of that inferiority complex he tries to be special. The special need not make any effort to be special – he is special. There is no inferiority complex in him. He is not suffering from any emptiness. He is so full, overflowing, that he can be just whatsoever he is.
The world of Zen can be called the most special and also the most ordinary. It is a paradox if you look from the outside; if you look from the inside there is no paradox at all. It is a very simple phenomenon. The roseflower, the marigold, the lotus, or just the very ordinary blade of grass, they are not trying to be special at all. From the blade of grass to the greatest star, they are all living in their suchness. There is no effort, no striving, no desire. There is no becoming. They are absolutely blissful in their being. Hence there is no comparison, no competitiveness. And there is no question of any hierarchy – who is lower and who is higher. Nobody is lower, nobody is higher. In fact, the person who is trying to prove himself higher is lower.
The person who accepts whatsoever he is with joy – not with resignation, mind you, not in despair but in deep understanding, and is grateful for it, grateful to the existence, grateful to the whole – he is the highest.
Jesus says it: Blessed are those who are the last in this world because they shall be the first in my kingdom of God. He was speaking a different language because he was speaking to a different kind of people, but the statement has the quality of Zen in it. Those who are the last…. But if you are trying to be the last you are not the last, remember.
That’s what Christians have been doing for hundreds of years: trying to be the last in order to be the first in the kingdom of God. They have missed the whole point. To be the last – not by effort, not by striving, but just by simple understanding that “Whatsoever I am, I am; there is no other way for me to be. I cannot be anybody else, I need not be anybody else. This is how the whole wants me to be and I relax in it. I surrender to the will of the whole….”