The pupils of the Tendai school used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them, who were intimate friends, promised one another to observe seven days of silence.
On the first day all were silent, but when the night came and the oil lamps were growing dim, one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: “Fix those lamps. “
The second pupil was surprised to hear the first one talk. “We are not supposed to say a word, “ he remarked.
“You two are stupid. Why did you talk?” asked the third.
“I am the only one who has not talked – thank God!” concluded the fourth.
In the search for the first principle silence is the door – the only door. And except it there is no way to approach the first principle. The first principle can be known only when you move to the primordial state of your being. Thinking is secondary. Existence precedes thinking, existence comes first. First you are, and then you start thinking. Thinking is secondary. Thinking is a shadow activity; it follows you. It cannot exist without you, but you can exist without it. Through thinking you can know secondary things, not the primary things. The most fundamental is not available to thinking; the most fundamental is available to silence.
Silence means a state of consciousness where no thought interferes.
The first principle is not far away, it is not distant. Never think for a single moment that you are missing it because it is very far away. No, not at all. It is the closest thing to you. It is the obvious thing. It surrounds you. It surrounds you just like the ocean surrounds a fish. You are in it. You are born in it and born out of it. You live in it, you breathe in it, and one day you disappear in it. It is not far away, not that you have to travel to it. It is there. It is already there around you, within and without. It is your very existence, that first principle.
Zen people call it the first principle; other religions call it God. There is no difference. The Zen approach is far better because with the word God, trouble starts. The first principle becomes personified; then you can create an image. You cannot make an image of the first principle, but that’s what all the religions do. They say, “God is the first cause, the uncaused cause, the most fundamental, the substantial, the substratum.” Zen people call it the first principle. It is beautiful to call it the first principle because nothing preceded it. Everything has followed it.
So if you want to have a communion with the first principle, you will have to seek and search for a reality within yourself which is original, which has not been preceded by anything else.