Now that Zen has become fashionable all around the world there is so much written about it. But nobody I have come across up to now…and I have seen almost everything that has been written about Zen by people who don’t have any enlightenment, but who are impressed by the beauty of the people who have been following Zen. They have picked up things which make no sense, are almost nonsense, and they don’t have the capacity to give you the background.
Remember, everything depends on the background: long years of preparation are there, long years of waiting, longing, long years of silent patience, meditating. This dialogue comes at the apex, at the very end. If you can understand the whole process, then it will be explained to you how the dialogue can bring enlightenment to someone.
Without knowing the whole process, Zen will remain just entertainment to the world. What is enlightenment to Zen people falls down to a state of entertainment. These dialogues are not the whole process. It is just like an iceberg: a small piece is showing above the sea – one-tenth of the whole iceberg – and nine-tenths is underneath. Unless you understand that nine tenths, this one tenth will not give you any insight.
In the old days,
says Ta Hui,
…the venerable Yen Yang asked Chao Chou, “What is it like when not bringing a single thing?” Chou said, “Put it down.” Yen Yang said, “Since not a single thing is brought, put what down?” Chou said, “If you can’t put it down, pick it up.” At these words, Yen Yang was greatly enlightened.
Now, if you remain confined to this small anecdote, you cannot explain how it can bring great enlightenment. First, in the context of the whole Zen approach: in the eyes of Gautam Buddha, Bodhidharma, Ta Hui, the world is nothing but emptiness. And when they use the word emptiness, they have their own meaning; it is not the ordinary meaning that you can find in a dictionary.
If everything is removed from your room – all the furniture, the photographs hanging on the wall, the chandelier and everything – and nothing is left behind, anybody will say, “This room is empty.” This is the ordinary meaning of the word. But from the perspective of Gautam Buddha, this room is empty of things but it is full of space. In fact, when things were there, they were hindering the space. The very word room means space. So it is overflowing now with space, with nothing to hinder, nothing to prevent and obstruct the space.
Space is not a negative thing like the word emptiness connotes. Everything in the world has come out of space and everything disappears into space. Space seems to be the reservoir of all that is….