As he rolled up the text, Yakusan asked, “What time of day is it?” Hakugan replied…
And these are the subtleties, delicacies of the world of Zen. It was a test question. Yakusan was a great scholar. He could not leave Hakugan without checking if Hakugan was enlightened himself or if he was just humiliating him by saying, “You should stop fooling people.”
He asked, “What time of day is it?”
A simple question, you will think; but not a simple question because those who know meditation…mind disappears and with the mind, time disappears. Time is a projection of mind. Without your mind there is no time. There is eternity, there is only this moment, but you can’t say what this moment is.
If Hakugan was also only a scholar, he would have been caught only in the question. But he was a master. He replied,
This moment it is just noon.
Yakusan then said, “There is still this pattern.”
He is referring to the pattern of past, present, future. He is saying to Hakugan that his saying “Just noon,” implies that there has been a morning and there will be an evening – still the time is there.
That’s why he says, “There is still this pattern,” this division – morning, noon, evening, afternoon, night and day. Your mind is full of divisions. When there is no mind there is no division.”
Hakugan replied, “I don’t even have anything,”
“I don’t even have nothing,” to which Yakusan said, “You are too brilliant.”
In any other context, it may seem that Yakusan is appreciating him by saying, “You are too brilliant,” but that is not appreciation in Zen – that is a very sophisticated condemnation: “You are still a great intellectual, don’t pretend to be a master.”
Hakugan commented, “I am just thus. What about you?”
He did not contradict him. On the contrary he simply accepted it: “This is my reality, I am just this, an ignorant man. I do not claim to be enlightened, I don’t claim anything, I don’t know even nothing. What about you?”