I am reminded of a Christian priest who used to repeat in every sermon Christ’s saying, “If somebody slaps you on one cheek, give him the other, too.” Everybody liked his sermons, he was quoting such great statements. But in one place a man really stood up and slapped the priest on one of his cheeks. The priest was shocked, because he had just been quoting Jesus. But anyway, to save his face, he gave his other cheek. And that man must have been a real rebellious type; he slapped the other one, too. Now this was too much!
The priest jumped at the man and started beating him. And the man said, “What are you doing?”
He said, “The scripture stops with the second cheek. Now I am here and you are here: let us decide this.”
Borrowed scriptures won’t help in actual encounters. In life there are everyday realities to be faced. In death the ultimate reality has to be faced. And borrowed knowledge is not going to help at all.
The second type of seeker does not go towards the scriptures, but starts searching for a master. These are two different dimensions: one is looking for knowledge, the other is looking for a source which is still alive. One is looking for dead scriptures, the other is looking for a living scripture whose heart is still beating and dancing, in whose eyes you can still see the depth, in whose presence you can see your own potential.
This second type is authentically the seeker for truth. The first type is only a seeker for knowledge.
You can have tons of knowledge and still you will remain ignorant. The man who has found the master may have to drop all his knowledge so that he can become open and vulnerable to the master’s presence, so that he can dance with the master’s heart. In this dance there happens a synchronicity, both the hearts slowly settle into the same rhythm. This rhythm is called the transmission. Nothing visible is given – no teaching, no doctrine – but invisibly two hearts have started dancing in the same tune. All that the master knows slowly goes on this invisible track and pours into the hearts of the disciples to the point of overflowing.
Dogen shows his intelligence, certainly, that he never turned to the scriptures. While his mother was alive, he was translating Abhidharma, one of the most important Buddhist scriptures, from Chinese into Japanese. If his parents had lived, he might have become a great scholar. After his parents had died, he burned all that he had translated with that scripture, Abhidharma.
It is so unbelievable. A seven-year-old child had the great insight that, “Words won’t quench my thirst. I have to go in search of a living source, of someone who has known not by words, but by actual experience; one who is existentially a buddha.”
The search for the master is the search for the buddha.
At the age of thirteen Dogen was formally initiated. It was not easy to be initiated, one had to prove one’s capacity, potentiality, possibility. One had to prove that one will not betray on the path, that one will not waste the time of the master, that one will wait infinitely. So he had to wait until the age of thirteen, and then: