On another occasion, Ummon asked a monk, “What are you?”
He replied, “I’m the head of the infirmary.”
“You don’t mean to say so!” said Ummon. “Is there anybody not ill?”
“I don’t understand,” replied the monk.
“Why can’t you understand?” asked Ummon.
The monk was silent, and then Ummon said, “Ask me the same question.”
So the monk asked Ummon, “Who is the man without any illness?”
Ummon pointed to the next monk.
Zen is so strange in its methods and devices that unless you are very silent and deep in meditation, you will not understand even these simple anecdotes. When the monk asked again, “Who is the man without any illness?” Ummon without saying anything pointed to the next monk, asking him, “Do you also have any question?”
This means that the question that the monk is asking is unanswerable. There is someone in you without illness; even when you are sick, your consciousness is as whole and healthy as it has always been. You may be a child, you may be young, you may be old, you may be dying, but your consciousness remains without any illness. And that is your reality, your existence.
To ask unnecessary questions is simply to waste the time of the master.
Once there was a monk ill in the infirmary who asked to see Tozan. When Tozan went there the monk said to him, “Why don’t you save ordinary people?”
Tozan asked him, “Who is your family?”
The monk replied, “A great icchantika family.”
Now this word, icchantika, comes from Sanskrit ekantika. In the times of Gautam Buddha there were two schools of thought: the Ekantikas who believed that there is only one consciousness, one existence. Ek means one, and from ek comes ekant and ekantika – they believed in one cosmos only.
The other school was called anekant. Jainism is of that other school; they believe that there are as many souls as there are living beings. And they contain even in their final realization their individuality. Gautam Buddha is not ekantika.
It is very difficult to understand, unless you understand the difference between your personality and your individuality. The personality will be lost. As you reach higher, the personality will disappear – it is just a paper bag. But that does not mean that your individuality, your center of being, will disappear. Yes, it will throb with the universe, it will dance with the universe, there will be no barrier between it and the universe, but it will remain as individual as it has ever been.