Zen Master Ummon, one of the most eloquent of the Zen Masters, lived from 864 – 949 CE. He founded the Yunmen school, one of the five major schools of Chinese Zen. Ummon was renowned for his forceful, direct and yet subtle teaching, often expressed through sudden shouts and blows with a staff. He was also known for his wisdom and skill with words.
“However wonderful a thing is, it may be that it is better not to have it at all.” A saying from Zen Master Ummon. He had a fondness for speaking in koans and loved to shock people to wake them up. He did not like people to note down his words. Whenever he saw someone doing this, he chased the person out of the hall with the words, “Because your own mouth is not good for anything you come to note down my words. It is certain that someday you’ll sell me!”
Osho says, “Ummon had thousands of disciples and he had many devices to work with them. And he was a man like Gurdjieff — he would create situations, because only situations can help. If words can’t help because you are dumb, you are deaf — words can’t help. If you are blind, gestures are useless. Then what to do? Only situations can help.
If you are blind, I cannot show you the door just by gesture because you can’t see. I cannot tell you about the door because you are deaf and you cannot listen. Really, you cannot even ask the question, ‘Where is the door?’ — because you are dumb. What to do? I have to create a situation.
I can take hold of your hand, I can take you by my hand towards the door. No gesture, no word. I have to DO something; I have to create a situation in which the dumb, the deaf and the blind can move.”
TROUBLED BY THESE WORDS, ONE OF GENSHA’S DISCIPLES WENT TO CONSULT THE MASTER UMMON.
Ummon was a brother disciple to Gensha — they were disciples to the same teacher, Seppo. So what to do? Gensha has said such a troubling thing to this man: how to help people? He went to Ummon…Because he knew well that Gensha wouldn’t say much; he was not a man of many words and he never created any situation; he would say things and he would keep quiet. People had to go to other masters to ask what he meant. He was a different type, a silent type of man, like Ramana Maharshi; he would not say much. Ummon was like Gurdjieff. He was also not a man of words, but he would create situations, and he would use words only to create situations.
HE WENT TO CONSULT THE MASTER UMMON WHO, LIKE GENSHA, WAS A DISCIPLE OF SEPPO.
And Seppo was totally different from both. It is said he never spoke. He remained completely silent. So there was no problem for him — he never came across a deaf, dumb and blind man because he never moved. Only people who were in search, only people whose eyes were slightly opening, only people who were deaf but if you spoke loudly they could hear something… so that’s why many people became enlightened near Seppo because only those who were just borderline cases reached him. This Ummon and this Gensha, these two disciples became enlightened with Seppo, a totally silent man — he would simply sit and sit and do nothing. If you wanted to learn you could be with him, if you didn’t want to you could go. He would not say anything. YOU had to learn, HE would not teach. He was not a teacher, but many people learned.
The disciple went to Ummon.
‘BOW PLEASE,’ SAID UMMON.
He started immediately, because people who are enlightened don’t waste time, they simply jump to the point immediately.
‘BOW PLEASE,’ SAID UMMON.
THE MONK, THOUGH TAKEN BY SURPRISE….
… Because this is no way! You don’t order anybody to bow. And there is no need — if somebody wants to bow he will bow, if he wants to pay you respect, he will pay it. If not, then not. What type of man is this Ummon? He says ‘Bow please’ before the monk has asked anything; he has just entered his room, and Ummon says ‘Bow please.’
THE MONK, THOUGH TAKEN BY SURPRISE, OBEYED THE MASTER’S COMMAND — THEN STRAIGHTENED UP IN EXPECTATION OF HAVING HIS QUERY ANSWERED.
BUT INSTEAD OF AN ANSWER, HE GOT A STAFF THRUST AT HIM. HE LEAPT BACK.’WELL,’ SAID UMMON, ‘YOU’RE NOT BLIND. NOW APPROACH.’
He said: You can see my staff, so one thing is certain, you are not blind. Now approach.
THE MONK DID AS HE WAS BIDDEN. ‘GOOD,’ SAID UMMON, ‘SO YOU’RE NOT DEAF EITHER.’
You can listen: I say approach and you approach.
‘WELL, UNDERSTAND?’ ‘UNDERSTAND WHAT SIR?’ SAID THE MONK.
What is he saying? He says:
‘WELL, UNDERSTAND?’ ‘UNDERSTAND WHAT SIR? SAID THE MONK.’AH, YOU’RE NOT DUMB EITHER,’ SAID UMMON. ON HEARING THESE WORDS THE MONK AWOKE AS FROM A DEEP SLEEP.
What happened? What is Ummon pointing to? First, he is saying that if it is not a problem to you why be worried? There are people who come to me….A very rich man came, one of the richest in India, and he said, ‘What about poor people, how will you help poor people?’ So I told him, ‘If you are a poor person, then ask; otherwise let the poor ask. How is it a problem to you? You are not poor, so why create a problem out of it?’
Once Mulla Nasruddin’s child asked him — I was present, and the child was working very strenuously, grumbling of course, on his homework, and then suddenly he looked at Nasruddin and said, ‘Gee Dad, what is this education stuff? Of what use is all this education stuff anyway?’
Nasruddin said, ‘Well, there is nothing like education. It makes you capable of worrying about everybody else in the world except you.’
There is nothing like education. All your education simply makes you capable of worrying about situations everywhere in the world, about everyone except you — about all the troubles that are in the world. They have always been there, they will always be there. It is not because you are here that troubles are there. You were not and they were there; you will not be soon and they will remain there. They change their colors but they remain. The very scheme of the universe is such that it seems that through trouble and misery something IS growing. It seems to be a step, it seems to be a necessary schooling, a discipline.
The first thing Ummon is pointing out is: You are neither blind, nor dumb, nor deaf, so why are you concerned and why are you troubled? YOU have eyes — why waste time thinking about blind men? Why not look at your master? — because blind men will be there always, your master will not be there always. And you can think and worry about blind and deaf people, how to save them, but the man who can save you will not be there forever. So you be concerned about yourself.
My experience is also that people are concerned about others. Once one man brought to me even exactly the same question. He said, ‘We can listen to you but what about those who can’t come to listen, what to do? We can read you,’ he said, ‘but what about those who cannot read?’ They appear relevant, but they are absolutely irrelevant. Because why are YOU worried? And if you are worried in such a way then you can never become enlightened, because a person who goes on wasting and dissipating his energy on others never looks at himself. This is a trick of the mind to escape from oneself — you go on thinking about others and you feel very good because you are worrying about others. You are a great social reformer or a revolutionary or a utopian, a great servant of the society — but what are you doing? You are simply avoiding the basic question: it is with YOU that something has to be done.
Forget the whole society, and only then can something be done to you; and when you are saved you can start saving others. But before that, please don’t think — it is impossible. Before you are healed, you cannot heal anyone. Before YOU are filled with light, you cannot help anyone to enkindle his own heart. Impossible — only a lighted flame can help somebody. First become a lighted flame — this is the first point.
And the second point is, Ummon created a situation. He could have said this but he is not saying it; he is creating a situation, because only in a situation are you totally involved. If I say something only intellect is involved. You listen from the head; but your legs, your heart, your kidneys, your liver, your totality is not involved. But when the monk got a staff thrust at him he jumped totally. Then it was total action; then not only the head and the legs, the kidneys, the liver, but the whole of him JUMPED. That’s the whole point of my meditation techniques: the whole of you has to shake, jump, the whole of you has to dance, the whole of you has to move. If you simply sit with closed eyes only the head is involved. You can go on and on inside the head — and there are many people who go on sitting for years together, just with closed eyes, repeating a mantra. But a mantra moves in the head, your totality is not involved — and your totality is involved in existence. Your head is only as much in God as your liver and kidneys and your feet. You are totally in him, and just the head cannot realize this.
Anything intensely active will be helpful. Inactive, you can simply go on rambling inside the mind. And they have no end, the dreams, the thoughts, they have no end. They go on infinitely.
Kabir has said: There are two infinities in the world — one is ignorance and another is God.
Two things are endless — God is endless, and ignorance. You can go on repeating a mantra, but it will not help unless your whole life becomes a mantra, unless you are completely involved it it — no holding back, no division.
That’s what Ummon did. The monk got a staff thrust at him.
HE LEAPT BACK.’WELL,’ SAID UMMON, ‘YOU’RE NOT BLIND. NOW APPROACH.’
THE MONK DID AS HE WAS BIDDEN. ‘GOOD, YOU’RE NOT DEAF EITHER.’
What is he pointing at? He is pointing at this: ‘You can understand, so why waste time?’ Then he asks, ‘WELL, UNDERSTAND?’ Ummon was finished. The situation was complete. But the disciple was not yet ready, had not yet got the point. He asked, ‘UNDERSTAND WHAT SIR?’ The whole thing was there now. Ummon had said whatsoever was to be said. And he had created a situation where thoughts were not: when somebody pushes a staff at you, you jump without thought. If you think you cannot jump, because by the time you have decided to jump the staff will have hit you. There is no time. Mind needs time, thinking needs time. When somebody pushes a staff at you, or suddenly you find a snake on a path, you jump! You don’t think about it, you don’t make a logical syllogism, you don’t say: Here is a snake; a snake is dangerous; death is possible; I must jump. You don’t follow Aristotle there. You simply put aside all Aristotle — YOU JUMP! You don’t care what Aristotle says, you are illogical. But whenever you are illogical you are total.
That’s what Ummon has said. You jump totally. If you can jump totally, why not meditate totally? When a staff is thrust at you, you jump without caring about the world. You don’t ask, ‘That’s okay, but what about a blind man? If you push a staff, how will it help a blind man?’ You don’t ask a question — you simply jump; you simply avoid. In that moment the whole world disappears, only you are the problem. And the problem is THERE — you have to solve it and come out of it.
— that’s what Ummon asked. The point is complete.
‘UNDERSTAND WHAT SIR?’ SAID THE MONK.
He has still not got it.
‘AH, YOU’RE NOT DUMB EITHER’ — you can speak also.
ON HEARING THESE WORDS THE MONK AWOKE AS FROM A DEEP SLEEP.
A whole situation — nonverbal, illogical, total. As if someone has shaken him out of his sleep. He awoke; for a moment everything became clear. For a moment there was lightning, there was no darkness. Satori happened. Now the taste is there. Now this disciple can follow the taste. Now he has known, he cannot forget it ever. Now the search will be totally different. Before this it was a search for something unknown — and how can you search for an unknown? And how can you put down your total life for it? But now it will be total, now it is not something unknown — a glimpse has been given to him. He has tasted the ocean, maybe out of a teacup but the taste is the same. Now he KNOWS. It was really a small experience — a window opened, but the whole sky was there. Now he can move out of the house, come out under the sky and live in it. Now he knows that the question is individual.
Don’t make it social. The question is YOU, and when I say you I mean YOU, each individual; not you as a group, not you as a society. When I mean you, I mean simply you, the individual — and the trick of the mind is to make it social. The mind wants to worry about others — then there is no problem. You can postpone your own problem; that’s how you have been wasting your lives for many lives. Don’t waste it any more.
I have been pushing these talks, subtler ones than with Ummon, but if you don’t listen to me I may have to find grosser things. Don’t think about others. First solve YOUR problem, then you will have the clarity to help others also. And nobody can help unless he is enlightened himself.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: And The Flowers Showered
Chapter title: Deaf, dumb and blind
8 November 1974 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has also spoken on other Zen Masters and Mystics Mahakashyap, Bodhidharma, Hyakujo, Ma Tzu, Nansen, Dogen, Isan, Joshu, Kyozan, Basho, Bokuju, Sekito, Yakusan, Bankei, Sosan, Nan-in and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
- Ancient Music in the Pines
- Ah, This!
- A Bird on the Wing
- Dang Dang Doko Dang
- Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment
- Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing
- God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
- Isan: No Footprints in the Blue Sky
- Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
- Kyozan: A True Man of Zen
- The Language of Existence
- Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror
- Nansen: The Point of Departure
- Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
- No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity
- No Water, No Moon
- Yakusan: Straight to the Point of Enlightenment
- Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing