That is a theological answer. And Zen is not a theology, there is no concern about hell or heaven. What Master Tozan is asking is something else. “What is the most miserable condition in the world?” – to be confined, to be enclosed, to be imprisoned, to be fettered; to lose your freedom, your joy, your blissfulness; to lose yourself in the mundane and forget the sacred.
“No,” said Tozan.
Hell is out of the question.
“What is the most miserable is to wear this robe”
– the robe of a seeker, of a sannyasin –
“without understanding the great matter.”
It is very easy to change clothes; the question is transforming your consciousness, which is called in Zen “the great matter”.
Changing the clothes is very ordinary, anybody can do it. But transforming your consciousness, throwing out all darkness from your inner world and making it radiate with the ultimate, with the absolute…. Time stops, mind has become just a shadow; you are no more you, you have become the universe. Unless this happens, you are in misery.
Then addressing all the assembled monks, Tozan said:
The late master, Wu Tzu, one day took a bath, burned incense, sat upright and said to his disciples: “The body of reality is perfectly quiescent, while giving the appearance of going and coming. The thousand sages are from the same source; myriad awarenesses are ultimately one. I am now a bubble bursting – what is the use of sadness?”
He was going to die, he was going to leave this body that he has used up to now. This is his last message to his disciples, “Don’t become sad when I am no more, there is no use in being sad.
“Don’t trouble your minds; just maintain complete awareness. If you follow this order, you are really requiting my kindness. If you stubbornly go against what I say, you are not my disciples.”
At that time,