“The ancients” does not mean the people of the old times. “The ancients” indicate the people who have reached the heights of consciousness. They are the real ancients, not in time but in consciousness. In time they may be contemporaries, they may be sitting by your side. As far as time is concerned you may be contemporary to a buddha. But his height of consciousness has taken him far away. He has become an ancient.
Ordinarily when a man becomes old, we don’t call him ancient. He is just called old. But if the man becomes a buddha, then not only in time has he become old, grown up, ripe, but beyond time he has reached to the very source of life where all the ancient buddhas have reached. It is the same source. He has become one with all the ancient buddhas.
So when these questions are asked, always remember, “the ancients” does not mean the old people, or the people of the old times. It means the people of greater consciousness, of higher peaks of being. They are the real ancients. They may be contemporary to you, but you exist on such different levels, you cannot call them your contemporaries.
“What is that,” the monk asked, “which was possessed by the ancients?”
The master said, “When it can be possessed, I will tell you.”
The master is saying that it can never be possessed either by you or by any ancient. When you reach to the experience, you are overwhelmed by it. It possesses you, not you possess it. Do you see the difference when you are possessed? The experience is far bigger than you. You are absorbed into it.
The master was right when he said, “When it can be possessed, I will tell you.” As far as I know, it cannot be possessed; you have to be ready to be possessed by it. But Zen does not complete its sentences; it leaves everything open; it simply gives hints. It is a test of the questioner’s intelligence to complete it.
The monk said dubiously, “Master, why should you lie?”
“You possess it. And you are lying to me.” He has missed the point. The master does not possess it; it possesses the master. Because of its possession of the master, the master is no more. It is a pure emptiness through which the whole existence can pass – no hindrance, just a pure receptivity.