Once there was a Zen master, Sekito, so called because he constructed a hut on a big flat stone which he found in a mountain, and lived there. One day a young monk in training came to see him.
Sekito asked: “Where have you come from?”
The monk answered, “From Kosei, master.”
Sekito then said: “In Kosei, the famous Zen master, Baso, lives. Have you ever seen him?”
“Yes, I have,” the monk replied.
The master, pointing at a big piece of firewood nearby, then asked a most extraordinary question: “Does Master Baso look like this?”
Unfortunately, the monk, with whatever Zen ability he might have had, was no match for Sekito. He blinked his eyes and could not utter a word.
The astonished monk returned all the way back to Kosei, met the great teacher Baso, and told him of the story.
Hearing it, Baso asked, “Was the firewood you saw big or small?”
“It was very big,” the monk answered.
“You are a man of great strength,” was Baso’s unexpected reply.
“Why, master?” queried the monk, at a loss as to how to take it.
Baso then said: “You have brought here such a big piece of firewood all the way from Sekito. You surely are a man of great strength, aren’t you?”
Baso is saying nothing about the firewood. He is talking about the thought the poor monk has carried from one mountain to another mountain. Sekito has not meant the firewood. He simply meant this. It was just by chance that there was a pile of firewood. But he was pointing to this, not to the firewood.
The monk missed the point. He thought perhaps Baso might be able to explain. But again he missed. Because Baso said nothing about the firewood, nothing about Sekito, but about the strength of the monk – which seemed to be absolutely irrelevant.
But Baso is right. He is saying, “You unnecessarily carried such a load from mountain to mountain.” Sekito has not pointed to the firewood, he has pointed to thisness of things, to suchness of things.
The whole of Zen is concerned with this…
Baso – also called Ma Tsu – was said to be a strange-looking man. He walked like a cow and looked around like a tiger. He could touch his nose with his tongue and had two rings on the soles of his feet. His chief disciples were Hyakujo…
We talked about him yesterday.
We talked about him also.
His disciples numbered in all more than a hundred.
One hundred people became enlightened under Baso. He defeated even Gautam Buddha. He defeated even Bodhidharma. But his method was as unique as his style. Do you see that he walked like an animal? Signifying the natural, the innocent; signifying no head, no headiness, but only a heart that can understand without being told, that can understand without a single word being said.
He was certainly one of the most strange masters who has walked on the earth. Nobody has walked like a cow; not even in ten thousand years has any Hindu – who worship cows – has tried to walk like a cow.