In India we have been thinking about brahman for centuries and there are as many interpretations of brahman as there have been philosophers: Shankara interprets in one way, Nimbarka in another, Ramanuja still in a different way, and so on and so forth. Not even two philosophers agree and the dispute still continues. Philosophers go on quarreling. They never come to any conclusions, they cannot, because mind has no capacity to conclude about “the One.”
Even Shankara, the greatest non-dualist, remains a dualist deep down. He talks about brahman, the One, but to talk about the One he has to bring in maya, illusion; then one becomes two. If you want to talk about the real you will have to talk about the unreal; that is a necessity, an absolute necessity. Without talking about the unreal you cannot talk about the real; without the unreal the real loses all meaning. Human languages are dualistic, hence Shankara got into a trouble, a great trouble. He tried to sort it out but he could not, and for one thousand years many philosophers who have followed Shankara have tried to find a way out, but they have not been able to. Even if you say that maya means illusion, maya means that which does not exist, you have to talk about it. To define brahman you have to use illusion as a support, otherwise who will define it? How will you define it? The One remains indefinable; the One needs something else to define it. So although the philosophy of Shankara is thought to be non-dualist, it is not. No philosophy can be non-dualist.
Zen is neither dualist nor non-dualist; it is not a philosophy at all. It simply says, “Move from the mind into the no-mind and see.” It believes in seeing.
The spirit operates naturally through the organs of sense.
Thus the objective world is perceived.
This dualism mists the mirror.
But when the haze is removed, the light shines forth.
Thus when each individual spirit and the objective world
are forgotten and emptied, suchness affirms truth.
When all words are gone, your mirror has no more dust on it, no more mist on it. When you look at things you collect impressions; that is the dust – that’s what you call thinking. When you see a roseflower, the roseflower is outside you but it makes a reflection inside you. The roseflower will fade away by the evening, the petals will fall and disappear, but the inner roseflower, the rose that has become imprinted in your memory will continue. It will remain forever with you, you can always remember it. And if you are a sensitive, aesthetic, artistic person you can visualize it again and again; you can imagine it as if it is true. In fact, if you try you will be surprised: you can even experience the fragrance of the rose again. If you create the whole situation in your imagination: the garden, the green grass, the dew on the grass, and you are walking…naked feet on the grass…and the sweet smell of the earth and the cool air and the birds singing; you just create the whole atmosphere…and then suddenly you discover a beautiful roseflower hidden behind a bush…and the fragrance. And then suddenly you will see: the fragrance has come back to you; the imprint is there. The outer rose is gone, but the inner rose is alive.