The mystics of Zen have a koan: they ask the disciples to meditate on the sound of one hand clapping. It is absurd – there cannot be any sound of one hand clapping. Clapping with what? For clapping, two hands are needed, apparently opposed to each other but deep down creating a single clap; united in their efforts, coherent, neither opposed to each other nor contradictory to each other, but complementary. The meditation is given for the simple reason so that you can become aware that in life you cannot find a single instance supporting the sound of one hand clapping. The whole existence is two hands clapping: man and woman, day and night, life and death, love and hate. The deeper the disciple meditates…slowly slowly he becomes aware that in existence it is impossible to find anything.
And the master asks everything – “Have you found it? Have you heard the sound of one hand clapping?”
Many ideas come to their minds: the sound of running water – and they think perhaps this is it. And they run to the master to tell him, “I have got it: the sound of running water.”
And they will get a hit from the master’s staff: “You idiot! This is not the sound of one hand clapping. There is duality; just go and see. All those rocks in the water, they are creating a sound; it is not the sound of one, it is always the sound of two.” In fact there cannot be a sound of one.
Frustrated thousands of times, each answer that the disciple finds is rejected. He comes to the realization that sound is always of the two.
Silence is of the one; only silence can be the answer. It is not a clapping. But going through all this process to reach to the silence…and then he comes to the master and the master asks, “Have you heard it?”
And the disciple bows down to his feet, tears of joy flowing from his eyes. He cannot even say, “Yes, I have found it.” That will not be accurate. He has not found silence; on the contrary, he has disappeared in silence. It is not a finding, it is a disappearing. He is no more. Only silence is.
Now, who is there to say, “I have found the answer.” Hence the tears of joy and a grateful head touching the feet of the master…
And the master says, “I do understand, don’t be worried. Don’t be worried that you cannot say it. Nobody can say it.” That’s why sometimes, when you had come before, rushing with an answer, even before you told me the answer I hit you with my staff and told you, ‘You idiot! Go back!’ And you were puzzled, that you have not even said the answer and it has been rejected.
“Now you can understand: it is not a question of this answer or that answer. All answers are wrong. Only silence – which is an existential presence, not an intellectual answer – is right.”
You are fortunate to know that within seven days you are going to die, that you have cancer. Everybody has cancer, just a few people are lazy, you are speedy! – American! Most people are Indians; even in dying, they will take time. They are always late, always missing the train.