Tozan said to Ungan, “Master, if someone asks me a hundred years afterwards what I thought was your deepest understanding, what should I say?”
Ungan answered, “Tell him I said, ‘It is simply this.’”
Tozan was silent for a time, and Ungan said, “Tozan, if you have grasped this, you must carry it out in detail!”
Tozan was still silent. Ungan struck him.
Some years later, when Tozan was holding a service in memory of Ungan’s deepest understanding, a monk said to him, “The dead teacher said, ‘It is simply this!’” the monk then added: “Is this the yes-saying spirit?”
“It is,” replied Tozan.
The monk asked, “What does this mean?”
Tozan said, “At the time Ungan said that, my idea was almost entirely a mistaken one, though I understood what he meant all right.”
“The dead teacher,” said the monk, “did he know it, or not?”
Tozan said, “If he didn’t, how could he say such a thing? And if he did, how could he avoid saying it?”
Other Zen masters expressed the essence of Zen like this…
Lichen-crusted frogs croak at moonlit mountaintops.
Awaken, mind’s clear at last.
Refreshing pine winds
Of The Book of Songs
Can’t match this.
All patriarchs are above our understanding,
And they don’t last forever.
Oh my disciples, examine, examine.
What? Why this? This only.
And Daibai said:
I’m one with this, this only.
You, my disciples,
Uphold it firmly –
Now I can breathe my last.
Maneesha, this is the last discourse on the series called, This. This. A Thousand Times This – is the essence of existence, is the essence of your being, is the essence of Zen. This.
This is vast. A small word contains total, universal, eternal truth. There are no boundaries to this. It never begins and it never ends. It is always here.
You can wander here and there but it is just like a fish moving in the ocean; it is the same ocean wherever it goes. You can be a child, you can be young, you can be old, you can be dead, but this remains an eternal truth of your being. Alive or dead, you cannot get rid of this.
This essential point is being discussed again and again by Zen masters. In different ways they have sung their song, in different ways they have signed their signatures; but only the ways differ, all their arrows converge on this. We will see how it has been repeated and why it has been repeated – why for thousands of years those who have known, either said this, or remained silent in thisness. But whatever the case, whether they say it or not, they are pointing to this by words, by silence, by dance, by music, by just being.
Remember Basho, the great master:
And the spring comes,
And the grass grows by itself.