Now, when we see the followers of an enlightened Zen master, we realize that they have many difficulties in hearing his true teachings. True aspirants of Buddhism amount to twenty or thirty – nay, to one hundred or to one thousand. In this case, if a master tries to lead every one of them, he will find the days and nights too short. Further, they have no ear for his teachings, however hard he may try to lead them. But when they give ear to him, his sermon is already finished.
When an old Zen master laughs loudly, clapping his hands, beginners and later-day trainees in Buddhism seem to have difficulty even in having a chance to find themselves among the attendants. Some of them realize the innermost depths of the master, and others, not. Some hear the core of the master’s enlightenment, and others, not.
Time flies faster than an arrow; life is more transient than a dewdrop. Some may have the master, but regret that they cannot hear his teachings. Some wish to listen to his teachings, but regret that they cannot see the master himself.
On another occasion, Dogen said:
My own master never easily permitted new monks to stay in his temple, usually saying, “Those, who, lacking in the bodhi-mind, behave themselves merely from force of habit must not stay here.” Having turned them out, he said, “They are lacking in the bodhi-seeking mind. What are they going to do? Such fellows only disturb others. They are not worthy of being allowed to stay here.”
Dogen continued: “Seeing and personally hearing this fact, I said to myself, ‘Living as they are, in this country, what sin or crime in their previous existence, prevents them from living with my master? Under what a lucky star I was born that, coming from a far-distant foreign country, I am permitted to stay here to worship his venerable body and listen to his sermon! Foolish as I am, I have been able to form a good and fruitful connection with him.’”
Maneesha, Dogen is dealing with one of the most important aspects of Zen. His statement is not as exact as it could be, but anyway he comes very approximately near to the truth.
He does not mention, and perhaps no Zen master has ever mentioned, that there are three potentialities. When a seeker comes to a master he may be only a student, most of them are. They are in search of more knowledge because knowledge brings power, knowledge brings respectability, knowledge brings honor and dignity. But these are not the true seekers.
The second category that comes to the master is the disciple. Zen masters have reached very high as far as human consciousness is concerned. But they have stopped at the second category of seekers, the disciple and the master.
There is another category which Zen is not aware of, because it was not needed. To be a disciple was enough…to meditate, to watch the master, and to create a connection of consciousnesses. It has worked well for Zen but I can see that something is missing, and that is the devotee.
The third category of seekers did not happen in Zen. The masters have reached to the highest peak, but the disciple cannot reach to the highest peak unless he becomes a devotee. And the difference is great. The disciple is satisfied if he is connected with the master – watches his movements, listens to his words, listens to his silences. Slowly slowly he starts growing an individuality of his own. He may jump from disciplehood into mastership.
Zen knows disciples and masters. But a more ancient tradition in India, which has almost disappeared, makes it clear that unless a disciple first becomes a devotee there is no way of becoming a master.