On another occasion, a monk said to Ummon, “I ask you, master, to deliver a learner from darkness and illusion quickly!”
Ummon said, “What is the price of rice in Joshu?”
The monk was coming from Joshu, a village. Ordinarily, you will not see any connection between the question and the answer. If you can see it, there will be a great illumination. Ummon said, “Don’t be bothered about getting rid of illusion and darkness. First be aware of the present. What is the price of rice in Joshu?” – you are coming from Joshu and you are not even aware of the price of rice. And you are asking great questions – how to get from darkness to light, and quickly!
A philosophical monk asked Baso, “What teaching does the Zen sect propagate?”
Baso returned the question, and said, “How about you?”
He did not answer the question in the ordinarily understood and accepted way. But he has answered by asking, “How about you? Don’t bother about the Zen sect and its philosophy – you are the point. If you know yourself, there is no need to know anything about Zen.”
If you know yourself, there is no need to know about anything. Knowing yourself is finding not the way, but the goal itself.
The monk answered, “I am lecturing on as many as twenty different sutras and shastras.”
Baso exclaimed, “You are a lion’s whelp indeed!”
The monk said, “You are very kind.”
He thought that Baso had appreciated him because of his scholarship of different scriptures and different sutras.
Baso breathed out strongly.
“That is the real thing!” cried the monk.
“What do you mean, ‘real thing,’ may I ask?” said Baso.
“It is the lion emerging from its den!” said the monk.
Baso was silent.
“That also is the real thing!” exclaimed the monk.
“How so?” asked Baso.
“It is the lion entering his den!” said the monk.
The monk must be well acquainted with Zen and its heritage, but he has never, it seems, come into contact with a real Zen master – a real lion. He does not know about Baso.