Those nine hundred ninety-nine people just looked at each other: “What can be the right word?” The master cut the cat and gave it, half and half, to both wings. Sad, carrying the dead cat, with blood flowing…And then came the monk who had gone down to the village. He came in and hit the master with a good slap! The master said, “Good! If you had been here, the poor cat would have been saved.”
This was the right word. “What nonsense you are talking – cutting the cat! A living being cannot be divided that way.” The master said, “This was the right thing, but those nine hundred ninety-nine monks had not the courage to come to me and hit me. I had given the opportunity…they could have saved the cat, but the very idea did not arise in their minds.”
The idea can arise only in a mind who is coming very close to enlightenment. It is a spontaneous response. Otherwise, hitting the master is very rare. The master hits, that’s okay; but the disciple hitting the master…There are a few instances, and they are always right. The disciple has shown a great insight, that the master is asking an absurdity.
When the whole community had flocked to the door, he said, “I will not open the door unless you can say the right word.” No answer came from the crowd. But Nansen silently passed the key through a window hole.
In fact, Joshu could not open the door without the key. That was the right word. He was closed in, he needed a key. Nobody thought of it, that the door was closed.
Nansen silently passed the key through a window hole. This was the right word that Joshu had in mind, and he opened the door immediately.
The “right word” simply means a spontaneous response, with clarity and intelligence, to the situation. There are two kinds of possibilities. One is a reaction. In a reaction you start thinking – what can be the right word? You have missed the point. Now you can go on thinking and consulting encyclopedias, you will not find the right word. The second is responsibility, not reaction. Responsibility means you don’t go into your memory storage. You look directly at the situation: the door is closed, the flames are growing bigger and bigger. Any man of clarity will think of how to help him to open the door. That will be the right word, the right response.
the same bright stars return,
night after night
on the mountain ranges.
Winter snows appear every year.
Silly to imagine from these things
that Gautama is in any
particular place –
like carving nicks on the side
of a boat to mark its place
in the river!