Zen has a way of saying things which nobody else in the world has used. Rather than saying, “You are asking me an impossible question,” Ma Tzu says for him first to do something impossible – “Then come and ask me. If you can manage to drink all the water of the Yangtze River, I will manage the experience to be translated into words.”
Nothing is possible: neither can you drink all the water of Yangtze….
Immediately, Koji understood and underwent another enlightening experience. He composed another verse:
The ten directions converging,
Each learning to do nothing,
This is the hall of Buddha’s training;
Mind is empty, all is finished.
“In ordinary life,” Koji is saying, “I am exercising what is called ‘occult power.’ In carrying water, I am being a witness. Shouldering firewood, I am a witness.”
And the moment you are a witness you are in meditation. Whatever you are doing or not doing, it is irrelevant.
Later, when he came to visit Ma Tzu, Koji again asked, “Who is he that is independent of all things?”
Ma Tzu said, “When you have drunk all the water in the Yangtze River, I will tell you.” At this, Koji underwent another great experience and composed a second verse…
What again transpired?
Ma Tzu said, “I will tell you. First, you have to drink all the water in the Yangtze River – a vast river, it will take eternity for you to drink all the water.” Ma Tzu is saying, “Don’t ask impossible things.”
You are asking the impossible thing which cannot be answered, but only can be experienced. You are asking, “Who is he that is independent of all things?” – the witness, the mirrorlike reflecting consciousness. But there is no way to make you understand just by words.
You have to go through the experience of witnessing. That is the only way to dissolve the mystery. Otherwise you can go on collecting answers from masters, from scriptures, from all around the world. But all that you will collect will be simply rubbish.
Anybody else’s experience is not going to be your experience. If you drink water, your thirst is quenched, not mine. I will have to drink water to quench my thirst; the experience is absolutely individual.
He recognized the fact that he is asking an impossible question. It is not the master’s fault that he is talking of an absurdity:
“When you have drunk all the water in the Yangtze River, I will tell you.”