The Great Zen Master Ta Hui 25

TwentyFifth Discourse from the series of 38 discourses - The Great Zen Master Ta Hui by Osho.
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Two Awakenings

In the old days the venerable Yen Yang asked Chao Chou, “What’s 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.
Again: A monk asked an ancient worthy, “What’s it like when the student can’t cope?” The ancient worthy said, “I too am like this.” The monk said, “Teacher, why can’t you cope either?” The ancient worthy said, “If I could cope, I could take away this inability to cope of yours.” At these words, the monk was greatly enlightened.
The enlightenment of these two monks is precisely where you are lost; where you have doubts is exactly where these two monks asked their questions. “Phenomena are born from discrimination and also perish through discrimination. Wipe out all phenomena of discrimination – this dharma has no birth or destruction.”
Zen is special in many ways from other traditions of the mystics. But one thing that stands out, very unique, is these strange, small dialogues: just reading them you cannot see how those small dialogues can bring enlightenment to someone.
Secondly, Zen itself gives no explanations. That is one of the reasons a living tradition of enlightenment has not overtaken the whole world. I would like you to understand these small dialogues which apparently mean nothing, but in a certain circumstance, produced by other Zen methods, can bring awakening. The dialogues are remembered down the centuries; and the people on the path of Zen enjoy them immensely. But for outsiders they remain an anathema, because the context is never told; in what reference the awakening happened is never discussed.
Behind these small dialogues there is a long discipline of meditation, understanding – maybe years and years of work. But only the dialogue is known to the outside world. You don’t know the men who are discussing with each other; they are not ordinary people. The awakening is possible only if they have a background which can make the small piece of dialogue – which in itself is nothing – of tremendous importance.
But when you read them, you cannot believe how these dialogues can make somebody enlightened – because you are reading them and you are not becoming enlightened! Something is missing in your perspective.
My effort will be to give you the whole context, and to explain not only the words of the dialogue but also the individuals who are engaged in these small dialogues. Only then will you see that they are not small things, they are the very optimum. Those people have reached to the last point; these dialogues are just a little push. They were almost ready…it can be said that even without these dialogues they were going to become enlightened, maybe a week later. These dialogues have cut not more than one week from their being enlightened.
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….
Now, scientists say they have discovered, a few years ago, black holes in space. It is the most amazing story that science has to tell. They themselves feel embarrassed, but what can they do? They have come across a few places in space…the moment any star, even the biggest, comes into that area, you can no longer see it: it has become just pure nothingness. The pull of these few places is so tremendous that anything that comes close to them is immediately pulled into the black hole, and disappears from the world. Every day, many stars continue disappearing into black holes; that was the basic idea.
But then, certainly, scientists started thinking: if there are black holes, there must be white holes too. If everything goes on disappearing into the black holes, one day everything will have disappeared. But every day new stars are being born – from where do they come? It is still an assumption, a hypothesis, that from wherever they come, that place should be called a white hole.
My own understanding is that the black hole and the white hole are just two sides of the same phenomenon; they are not separate. It is just like a door: you can go in, you can go out. On one side of the door is written “Push”; and on the other side is written “Pull.” The black hole de-creates; it is a death.
Not only do you get tired and old, now they say even metal gets tired; even for machinery, working twenty-four hours a day is not right. You are creating too much tension in the metal. It needs a little rest to recover itself; otherwise, soon it will not be functional anymore. Even machines become old, just as men do.
Stars become old, just like anything else. When a star or a planet has become too old and cannot hold itself together any more, it disappears into a black hole. Its death has come. It is a de-creation. The function of the black hole is to disperse all constituents of the planet or star – they return to their original form.
The original form is just electricity, just energy, so matter melts into energy. Energy cannot be seen, you cannot see it. Have you ever seen electricity? You have seen a byproduct of electricity, like your light bulb, but you have not seen electricity itself. When it is passing through a wire, do you see anything? And if the bulb is removed, electricity is still there – but do you see it?
No energy can be seen. No energy is visible, so when the whole mass of a vast star or a planet falls back into the original source, it becomes pure energy. That is why you cannot see it: it has disappeared. Perhaps it was time for a long rest. And once it is rested, then the basic constituents can again come together, can again form a new body and get out into the universe from the other side of the black hole – that is the white hole.
This is very significant today in the minds of physicists. It means the universe is continuously renewing itself in the same way as every individual is born, grows old, dies, and then somewhere else is born in a new form, fresh, young. This is the process of rejuvenation.
Existence itself is full of space. Space looks empty to us – but it is not empty, it is a potential for things to happen. Everything has come out of it – hence, how can you call it empty? Can you call a mother’s womb empty? It has the potential of giving birth to life. It appears empty, because its potentiality has not been transformed into actuality.
Gautam Buddha was the first man to use the word emptiness in the sense of spaciousness, infinite space. Everything is just a form and the thing that is creating the form is invisible. Only the form is visible, but the energy that makes it is invisible.
The Zen disciple meditates continuously on the emptiness of existence, on the spaciousness of existence. All forms are empty, no form has a self. Only existence has a self. All others are only dreams lasting for a few years – and in the eternity of time, a few years are not much to brag about, they don’t matter at all. The meditator continually goes on and on realizing the nature and the flavor of nothingness.
The day he understands that everything phenomenal that appears will disappear…today it is, tomorrow it may be gone – it is nothing eternal. And unless something is eternal, it is not real.
Getting deep into this meditation will change your whole life. Anger comes and you know that it is just an energy form; you don’t pay attention to the person against whom you are angry. The meditator pays his whole attention to anger itself. The form disappears, and the energy contained in the form is absorbed by the meditator.
As things go on disappearing – sadness, tensions, unhappiness, misery – you go on becoming more and more powerful, because everything is falling back into the form of energy. In this state, try to understand the first anecdote.
Yen Yang asked Chao Chou, “What is it like when not bringing a single thing?” It is just customary. Both are adepts – one has already become enlightened, the other is just on the verge – and it is respectful to bring something as a present to the master.
But Yen Yang asked, “What is it like when not bringing a single thing?” He has not brought any present to the master, and he is asking the master himself, “What is it like, how does it feel, when you come to the master without a single thing as a present?”
Chou said, “Put it down.” Logically it is an absolutely absurd answer. When you have not brought anything, what is there to put down? But there is something, and it is not absurd. Yen Yang has asked, “What is it like,” how does it feel, “when not bringing a single thing?” And when Chou says “Put it down,” he is saying to put down whatsoever it feels like. He is not saying to put anything down; that much is understood between the two of them. How can you put down something which you have not brought? But you are feeling something – put that feeling down, get rid of it.
Because all things are empty forms, you never bring anything, whether you bring them or not. It is always nothingness – either potential nothingness or actual nothingness, but it is nothingness. So don’t be bothered about it. Whatever your feeling is, there is no need to discuss it; you just put it down, get free of it.
Yen Yang said, “Since not a single thing is brought, put what down?”
It is not that he has not understood; it is not your kind of question that he is asking. He is a man of meditation, and he understands exactly what Chou means when he says, “Put it down.” But he is teasing the master; he wants him to say something which is not right, so then he can catch hold of his neck.
He has raised a question in which anybody could be caught. This is the old playfulness in the tradition of Zen. Since not a single thing is brought, put what down? He is making a logical statement, knowing perfectly well what the master means when he says, “Put it down.” But you cannot defeat a master.
Chou said, “If you can’t put it down, pick it up”
But he remains in his state of pure nothingness. He does not move a single bit. Although the disciple is trying to move him to say something wrong, an enlightened man, an awakened consciousness cannot be tricked into anything. You can try it from every corner – and there are thousands of stories in which disciples have been trying to pull the leg of the master. But nobody has ever succeeded. If somebody succeeds, that means the master is not a master yet, he is a pretender.
So when he asks, “Put what down?” he is making a logical statement, and he is trying to prove that what the master is saying is absurd. But the master cannot be moved from his state of being. He says, “Okay, if you can’t put it down, pick it up.”
The situation remains the same. The same question can be asked again: “If I have not brought anything, how can I pick it up?” But Yen Yang understood that it was enough. You cannot trick the master into making a statement which is not according to his experience of nothingness. There is nothing to pick up and there is nothing to put down, other than the feeling that you are carrying. Either put it down…or, if you cannot put it down, then pick it up. What else can be said?
This absurd statement, which looks absurd to any outsider, suddenly triggers in the disciple who is just on the verge of enlightenment the same light, the same understanding that there is nothing to carry, nothing to put down, nothing to pick up – that you are only a pure awareness in an ocean of nothingness.
Listening to it from the master Chou, it goes directly as an arrow to his being. At these words, Yen Yang was greatly enlightened.
I would like to give you another instance which is more clear and which will help you to understand this instance.

One great king, Prasenjita, a contemporary of Gautam Buddha, was going to receive Gautam Buddha outside the main gate of the city. He had a very precious diamond which was unique; all the kings of this country were jealous of this diamond. So he thought, “What would be an appropriate present for Buddha’s coming into my city? I will take this diamond….”
His wife was a long-time follower of Gautam Buddha, since even before she was married to Prasenjita. In fact, Prasenjita was going only because his wife was insisting, “It is a precious moment, don’t miss it.” He wanted deep down to show the world his generosity, his ego, by offering the great diamond.
On the surface it was one thing: he is so polite, so nice, so humble, that he has brought the greatest, most valuable present. But deep down in his unconscious it was something else: Thousands of monks will be there – ten thousand monks used to move with Gautam Buddha, wherever he went – and the whole capital will be there to receive him. So it will be a good chance to show his wealth, his power, his generosity.
His wife could see it in his eyes. She said, “Listen, to Gautam Buddha this is just a stone; don’t think that he will be impressed by it. My feeling is, in our pond in the palace, there is a beautiful lotus flower – you should take that. That will mean much more to him than a dead stone.”
He said, “I will take both, and I will see whether you are right or I am.”
He went there with his wife. And he was the king, so of course he was ahead of the whole crowd of people who had come to receive Buddha. He brought the diamond before him, and said, “I am not very rich, but I have one of the most precious diamonds, and I offer it to you.”
Buddha said, “Drop it.”
He could not believe it, but before thousands of people, when Buddha said, “Drop it,” he could not even resist or say no. He had to drop it. He thought that perhaps his wife was right: to Buddha it is just a stone; to you it is a very precious thing.
Then he brought with the other hand the lotus flower, and Buddha said, “Drop it.”
He said, “My God, my wife is also wrong!” – so he dropped the lotus flower.
Now there was nothing to present. Just with empty hands he was standing there…. and Buddha said, “Drop it!” Now, this was too much! When there is nothing left, what can he drop?
And Mahakashyapa started laughing. Mahakashyapa was the originator of Zen. He was really the founder, but because he never spoke, all that is mentioned once in a while is his laughter.
Prasenjita looked at Mahakashyapa. He himself was the son of a great king and had renounced his kingdom and followed Gautam Buddha. Prasenjita said, “Mahakashyap, why are you laughing?”
He said, “I am laughing because you don’t understand what Buddha is saying. To understand him, a deep experience of meditation is needed. He is not saying to drop the diamond, or drop the lotus flower; they are just false. Drop yourself! Unless you drop yourself, you don’t drop anything. Fall at his feet!”
This was too much. Prasenjita had not thought about it. He had brought presents…he was not a follower, his wife was. But now, before so many people, it looked awkward not to bow down.
He touched Gautam Buddha’s feet with his head, and this time Gautam Buddha laughed. He said, “You are pretending to drop, but not dropping! There is no need to pretend here. Either be authentic, or don’t do it. Now take up your diamond and your lotus flower and get lost. If you cannot drop yourself, there is no other present that you can bring to me.
“Unless you are the present itself, no present is acceptable. Only love can be a present. Only a deep let-go can be a present. Only merging with the one who has arrived can be a present. All presents are just too ordinary: even to bring them is to show your stupidity.”
Listening to him, seeing him – suddenly he was seeing Buddha for the first time. Feeling the energy field around him…he had never been silent, and now for the first time he was feeling silent – and thousands of people were utterly silent, as if there was nobody else.
Prasenjita touched Gautam Buddha’s feet a second time, and Gautam Buddha said, “Now it is right, it is coming from your very heart. Now I can accept your present.” For the ordinary person, the question will be, “What present?” because the diamond has been rejected, the lotus flower has been rejected…and Buddha is accepting the present now. For the ordinary mind, nothing is transferred anymore; but to the perception of the enlightened one, everything has happened.
Prasenjita is no longer the same man. He did not return home. He said to his wife, “I am puzzled: you have been so long a disciple of Gautam Buddha; why then did you get married, why are you still in the palace? When your master is moving barefoot in the hot sun around the country you should be with him, you should take care of him. You can go back home – the chariot is ready – but I have dropped myself, I have given myself as a present. I am not coming home.”
The wife had not thought of such a possibility. She was a disciple, but that did not mean… But now, when the husband was not coming…she also rose to a higher state of consciousness. She said, “You cannot defeat me; I belong to the same race of warriors to which you belong. Defeat is simply not acceptable. Death is acceptable, but defeat – no. I am also going to remain. The chariot can go back empty.”

This dropping will help you to understand the dialogue between Yen Yang and Chou. Chou is saying, “Don’t carry any tension. If you have not brought anything, it doesn’t matter. When you bring something, then too it doesn’t matter. So put it down. This whole feeling that you have not brought anything, this whole guilt, this whole embarrassment – put it down.”
But when Yen Yang says, “When I have not brought anything, how can I put it down?” Chou then says, “It is up to you. Pick it up.” At that very moment, like a sudden bolt of lightning, Yen Yang could see what he means: he is not talking about any thing; he is talking about the tense mind. Either put it down, or if you cannot – it is sad, but it is okay – pick it up.
An immediate understanding arose in him. Yen Yang was greatly enlightened.
If you can see the whole background – how meditation functions, how masters of meditation have functioned…. And remember, Chou would not have said this to anybody or everybody. Certainly it is Yen Yang’s state that is clear to Chou. When you come before the master, he knows where you are. Seeing that just a small thought was preventing him from entering the great nothingness, he answered this way – otherwise he would not have. If a professor were visiting, a scientist, a logician, he would not have said that. It would be pointless; the other man would not be ready for it.
That’s why I have been continually saying to you, I don’t answer your questions, I answer you. The question is irrelevant; the questioner is my target, not his question. So it is possible that the same question may be asked by different people and I may answer differently, because the questioner is different. Different people can phrase the question in the same way, in the same words; but different people cannot ask the same question, because those different individuals have different states of consciousness. I have to answer their consciousness, not the rubbish that comes out of their minds.
This creates a problem for anybody who wants to work out what my philosophy is. He is soon going to be in an insane asylum, because he will find so many answers for the same question that he is going to go crazy, nuts! It is not a philosophy; it is not a consistent logical system. It is an intimate, individual-to-individual transfer of some energy, of some light.
Again: a monk asked an ancient worthy, “What is it like when the student can’t cope?” The ancient worthy said, “I too am like this.”
This is strange as far as the mind is concerned – the master saying, “I am also like this.” A student cannot cope – that is understandable. But the master saying, “I too am like this” leads you into a dimension which is not of logic, it is of existence itself.
The monk said, “Teacher, why can’t you cope either?” The ancient worthy said, “If I could cope, I could take away this inability to cope of yours.” At these words, the monk was greatly enlightened.
First the monk asks about somebody else, from which the master can see directly that he wants to ask a question about himself, but is not courageous enough to ask it.
Thousands of times I have come across people bringing question like, “My friend has this problem,” and I have told them always, “It is better you send your friend, and he can say that his friend has the problem. If you cannot even accept that it is your problem, you don’t deserve any answer. You are not authentic even in your question.
He says, “What is it like when the student can’t cope?” On the path, the master’s time has not to be wasted about others; in these rare moments you should ask about yourself. He is really asking, “What is it like when I cannot cope?”, but is cowardly.
The ancient worthy said, “I too am like this.” Now the thing becomes even more puzzling. First, the questioner is not opening his heart, but he thinks whatever the master answers will be applicable to him too. And what the master answers is, “I too am like this.”
This makes no sense.
The monk said, “Teacher, why can’t you cope either?”
It is okay for a disciple, for a student, but for you…? You are a master, you have already arrived, why can’t you cope?
And The ancient worthy said, “If I could cope, I could take away this inability to cope of yours.”
He is not talking about the student, he is not talking about anybody else; he directly hits the monk, who was hiding behind the word student.
The master says, “If I could cope, I could take away this inability to cope of yours.” If I cannot take it away, that simply means I myself can’t cope, I am not a real master. Before a false student, how can I be a real master? I can expose my reality only to one who is authentic toward me. He has caught hold of the man, and he says, “I could take away this inability to cope of yours.”
It must have been a sudden shock – the monk was asking about somebody else, and the master is answering him. That sudden shock stopped the functioning of the mind. Anything sudden and the mind cannot manage. It can manage only with that which is stale and old, perfectly known to it; it can repeat like a parrot the old answers. But now, what to do? – the master has caught him red-handed, cheating.
A silence, a shock, but the shock and the silence have helped immensely…. At these words, the monk was greatly enlightened.
The enlightenment of these two monks is precisely where you are lost; where you have doubts is exactly where these two monks asked their questions. “Phenomena are born from discrimination and also perish through discrimination. Wipe out all phenomena of discrimination – this dharma has no birth or destruction.”
This path, this alchemy of Zen, has no birth and no destruction. It is one of the most direct transmissions from the master to the disciple. It does not go into long verbiage, it does not discuss unnecessary problems. Zen has reduced everything to the very essential; it has cut out everything that was not necessary.
Zen is like a telegram. Have you noticed that when you write a letter, it goes on becoming longer and longer. It is easy to start the letter, but it is difficult to end it. When you send a telegram, just ten words, it is a condensed message. Your ten-page-long letter will not have the same effect as the ten words of a telegram. The more condensed the meaning is, the more striking. The more spread the meaning is, the less impressive.
Zen believes in the very essentials. It has no nonsense around it, no rituals, in which all other religions have got lost, no chanting, no mantras, no scriptures – just small anecdotes. If you have the right awareness, they will hit you directly in the heart. It is a very condensed and crystallized teaching, but it needs the person to be prepared for it. And the only preparation is meditative awareness.
You cannot teach Zen in universities. It will be difficult for the simple reason that the students don’t have meditative awareness, and you don’t have books on Zen which can make meaningful that which looks absurd. You will be surprised that in many Zen universities they are teaching Zen through my books, because my books are at least making an effort to make the absurd appear sensible. I’m trying to give a context, the right background, because I am talking to people who are not born in the Zen tradition. Zen books themselves are very fragmentary.
I have never been to Japan and most probably the government of Japan won’t allow me. But in many universities…in Japan, the Zen monasteries have a university attached where the Zen monks can teach. It is simply strange that it is their tradition…they have an almost twelve-hundred-year-old history with great literature, paintings, poems, but they are all fragmentary. Nobody has tried to give more than just the conclusion; nobody has given the whole context.
It was very strange. When I was arrested in America, the first telegram protesting to the president came from a Zen master from Japan: “This is absolutely ugly of your country – to arrest a man who has not committed any crimes and who cannot commit any crimes. Although we don’t know him personally, we teach from his books in our university. The insight that he has brought to Zen is so clear that it is not possible that the man has not reached to the same space as Gautam Buddha.
“You have arrested a Gautam Buddha. Please immediately release him, or it will be a condemnation of you and your country forever.” The jailer immediately came to me and showed me the telegram. A copy was sent to me and a copy to the president of the United States.
Just now they are having a great festival of sannyasins in Japan. Everybody else is also invited, and thousands of people are going to gather; most will be monks, people who are meditating, but are somewhere stuck – people who have been reading, but cannot find the right explanation.
All absurd statements appear absurd only to the mundane mind. Once you have risen above your mundane mediocrity, once you can see clearly, the absurdity disappears. And not only the absurdity disappears – its disappearance will be a disappearance of your own ego too. Your mind will also disappear with it.
These small dialogues and stories have served so many people in attaining enlightenment, which great scriptures have not been able to do. Great scriptures have created only scholars. There is no place for scholars in Zen. For example, what is a scholar to do with these two stories? But a scholar is perfectly at ease with the Vedas, with the Gita, with the Bible, with the Talmud, with the Torah. He is very much at ease, because those are ten-page letters and these are telegrams – urgent, immediate, not giving you any explanation, but simply giving you the very essence, the perfume of thousands of flowers. You just have to be alert and meditative enough to absorb them.
If you can absorb them, in the whole world’s literature there is nothing more important than Zen anecdotes. In everything they are unique. They are small paintings, and just watching them, you will fall into such peace that you cannot conceive of getting from a Picasso. Seeing a Picasso, you will get such nightmares…but watching a Zen painting, it is very simple; you will have a great peace descending on you.
There are great poetries, but not of the same significance as the small haikus from Zen. I have always loved Basho, one of the haiku masters. His small haikus say so much that even a whole thousand-page holy scripture does not say – it is all so much prose. A small haiku of Basho is: The ancient pond…
And when you hear the haiku, you have to visualize it. It is so small that it is not a question of understanding, it is a question of entering into it. The ancient pond…just have the feel of an ancient pond, visualize it.
The ancient pond.
A frog jumps in.
And the haiku is complete.

But he has said so much: the ancient pond, the ancient trees, the ancient rocks around it…. and there must be silence…and a frog jumps in. For a moment the silence is disturbed, plop. And again the silence is restored…perhaps deeper than it was before.
What does he want to say in this haiku? He is saying, This ancient world…and your existence is just a plop, a little sound in the silence. And then you are gone, and the silence deepens. In this way he makes the whole world ephemeral, dreamlike – nothing solid in it, except the great silence.
That great silence is your very being. It is also the very being of the whole universe.

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