Nansen said to the assembled monks, “Old Master O - ‘O’ was Nansen’s own lay name - is going to sell himself. Will anyone buy him?”
A monk came out and said, “I will!”
Nansen said, “Don’t make me dear; don’t make me cheap. How will you buy me?”
The monk was silent.
On another occasion Nansen was asked by a monk, “Where will the master be gone in a hundred years’ time?”
Nansen said, “I’ll be a water-colored ox.”
The monk said, “May I follow you or not?”
Nansen said, “Well, if you do, bring a mouthful of grass with you!”
Maneesha, life can be taken as a drama, as a play, or can be taken very seriously. Those who take it very seriously suffer immensely, unnecessarily. They suffer if they fail, they suffer if they are victorious, they suffer if they are poor, they suffer if they are rich.
One of the richest men in India told me that he feels very guilty. The country is dying in poverty and his riches go on growing. And he is not courageous enough to stop this growing of riches; deep down he still wants more. On the one hand he can see the country is suffering from poverty, on the other hand is his desire to have more and more; between these two he is crushed.
The poor suffer, the rich suffer. It seems those who take life seriously, whatever their profession and whatever line they take in life, are bound to suffer, with anxiety, with frustration, at each step, because existence has no obligation to fulfill your desires.
And your desires are immense, almost infinite. Because of your desires life becomes a competition, and wherever there is competition, there is anxiety and angst; and at the end everybody is aware deep down there is death. Life is a misery, a struggle, an anguish and it finally ends in death, which is simply darkness. Nobody knows what happens after death.
Zen is not for those who are serious. Zen is only for those who can take life as fun. This looks strange because religion has always been thought to be a serious phenomenon. Zen has taken a departure from that attitude. It takes life as fun, and not only life but death too.
The moment you start seeing life as nonserious, a playfulness, all the burden on your heart disappears. All the fear of death, of life, of love – everything disappears. One starts living with a very light weight or almost no weight. So weightless one becomes, one can fly in the open sky.
Zen’s greatest contribution is to give you an alternative to the serious man. The serious man has made the world, the serious man has made all the religions. He has created all the philosophies, all the cultures, all the moralities, everything that exists around you is a creation of the serious man. Zen has dropped out of the serious world. It has created a world of its own which is very playful, full of laughter, where even great masters behave like children. You can see this in the sutra that Maneesha has brought.