Zen does not compromise with your desire for eternity. It does not compromise for your security; it does not compromise with your ego in any form. Zen is utterly radical, it cuts the very root. Zen says: The idea to survive forever is idiotic – what are you going to do if you survive forever? Are you not yet finished with your doing? Are you not yet frustrated enough with your doing? Have you not seen the foolishness and stupidity of your being? What does it bring you except misery? The more of an ego you are, the more miserable you are. Can’t you see that the ego functions like a wound? – it hurts. Still you want to continue this wound, still you want to continue this wound forever and ever. You don’t want to be cured? Ego is illness, to be egoless is to be cured. But you want to be saved forever.
In your very idea of remaining forever, being saved forever, there is a kind of miserliness. Other religions say: Save. Save yourself. Zen says: Spend. Spend yourself, because to be utterly spent is to be saved.
A Christian was walking with Mulla Nasruddin; they had gone for a morning walk. And the Christian showed Mulla Nasruddin his church. He said, “Look, this is my church.” And on the church there was a big board – on the board was written: Jesus Saves! Mulla Nasruddin looked at it and said “So what! My wife saves better.”
Saving of any kind is a miserly attitude towards life. Spend – don’t hoard. Relax your clinging. Don’t keep your hands clenched like fists. Open them, be spent. Be spent like a flower which has released its fragrance to the winds. Be spent like a candle which has lived its night, danced, and now is no more. The Buddhist word for nirvana means “putting out the candle.” When you are utterly spent, when you have authentically lived and spent yourself totally and there is nothing left in you except emptiness, you have arrived home because emptiness is the home.
You are the world. When you are not, you have come home.
The Zen attitude towards life is that of laughter, of living, of enjoying, of celebrating. Zen is not anti-life it is life-affirmative. It accepts all that is. It does not say deny this, deny that. It says all is good: live it, live it as totally as possible. Being total in anything is to be religious. Being partial in anything is to be worldly. And live so totally that when death comes you can live death totally too. Laugh so totally that when death comes you can have your last laugh.
A great master, Lo-shan, was coming closer to his death. When he sensed that death was close, Lo-shan called everyone into the Buddha Hall and ascended the lecture seat. First he held his left hand open for several minutes. No one understood so he told the monks from the eastern side of the monastery to leave. Then he held his right hand open. Still no one understood so he told the monks from the western side of the monastery to leave. Only the laymen remained. He said to them, ‘If any of you really want to show gratitude to Buddha for his compassion to you, spare no efforts in spreading the dharma. Now get out! Get out of here!’ Then laughing loudly, the master fell over dead.