However, his mildness of manner was only a veneer for the iconoclast and rebel within.
You should not understand that his humbleness was not a rebellious quality. You should not think that his humbleness made him compromise with the past and the traditions. He remained a great rebel against all that goes towards preventing a person’s enlightenment.
So his mildness of manner was only a veneer, just a cover for the iconoclast and rebel within. Deep down he was fire. On the surface he was very polite. Those who came to him because of his politeness – because there were many who were afraid of the Zen masters who would beat, who would hit, who would suddenly jump on you; their behavior looked so irrational. Isan looked very good compared to the other predecessors. Although he never was interested in people, still in the deepest forest one thousand disciples had gathered, and they had come from such faraway places just because they had heard that Isan was not a man to hit or slap. He was so mild and so humble and so loving….
But this was only a veneer. Inside there was glowing fire. Once you had come close to him, because of his humbleness, because of his very friendly behavior, you were caught in the net. As you would come closer, you would know the fiery nature of his being – but it was too late to go back. You had fallen in love with the man. Now whatever happens, if you have to pass through this fire, you will pass through this fire.
Maneesha has brought one anecdote:
On one occasion, a monk came to Isan’s monastery to be taught, and, seeing him, Isan made as if to get up.
“Please don’t stand up!” exclaimed the monk.
“I have not sat down yet!” said Isan.
When you are in the middle, it is very difficult to say whether you are going to sit down or you are going to get up.
Mulla Nasruddin used to suggest to his followers that if you don’t want to be bored by anybody, just take your umbrella and stand in the door.
If the fellow is all right and you would like to welcome him, you can say, “You came at the right time; I was just coming in.” And if the fellow is a bore, you can say, “Excuse me, you came at a wrong time. I am going out.” But just standing at the door with the umbrella, now it is very difficult to decide where the man is going, whether in or out. He is standing in the door, in the middle.
The same was the position: the man has come to be taught, and seeing him, Isan made as if to get up. It was a strategy to know his response, how the other man will behave. Isan was not getting up; he just made as if he was going to get up.