A Zen master is sitting by the side of the sea on the beach, and the king of the country passes by. Seeing the opportunity…the king has thought many times that some day he will go to this man about whom he has heard so much. But you know the troubles of a king, problems and worries. He had not been able to find time.
But this had happened accidentally; the Zen master was sitting on the beach. The king stopped his caravan and said, “I would like to meet the master. So please wait here, and let me go alone.”
He asked the master, “I have heard much about you and I wanted to come long, long ago but it did not materialize. I am grateful that today I have seen a man of silence. Can you tell me the art which you have practiced, which has made you a luminous silence? I don’t have much time.”
The Zen master said, “You don’t be worried about time, because I don’t have much to say either.” And there was silence.
The king waited and waited, and the master went on looking towards the sea. The sun was setting and it was so beautiful – so immensely golden, all over the ocean.
The king thought, “The man seems to be a little strange. I have asked the question and he is looking at the sea. It seems he has forgotten me and my question.” He reminded him – “Perhaps you don’t know that I am king of this country and I have asked you a question and you have not answered it.”
The poor master said, “I am trying hard to answer it.”
The king said, “Either you are mad or I am mad. I have not heard a single word.”
The master said, “Aha! That is the answer – that you have not heard a single word! You have understood everything. This is it.”
The king said, “You are certainly mad! You have not said a single word.”
The master said, “The question is such that not even a single word can be said. But I will try again, although whatever I have said is more than could have been allowed by existence. But for you, I will descend a little.”
And he wrote on the sand, “Zen” – and started looking again towards the setting sun.
The king said, “Zen? Please, can you elaborate on it a little?”
The master said, “I have already said too much. I am going against myself. And you are asking for elaboration? But you are the king…and with great humbleness I will try to elaborate a little more.”
He wrote in bigger letters: ZEN.
The king said, “Do you think that my eyesight is such that I am not able to read? This is elaboration?”
The master said, “I can write in even bigger letters, but more than that…I cannot commit a sin against existence. There are a few things which either you understand or you don’t.”