The Great Zen Master Ta Hui 31

ThirtyFirst Discourse from the series of 38 discourses - The Great Zen Master Ta Hui by Osho.
You can listen, download or read all of these discourses on oshoworld.com.


In our family there is indeed a subtle marvel not transmitted. It wouldn’t help even if the sky became my mouth, and grass, trees, pebbles, and stones all emitted light to help me expound the truth. Thus we believe that this thing cannot be transmitted and cannot be studied: it requires one’s own realization and enlightenment.
Be sure to remember the words of the previous day: “In principle, it’s sudden enlightenment – taking advantage of enlightenment to clear everything away. In the event, phenomena are not suddenly removed but exhausted gradually.” Whether you’re walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, you must not forget! You don’t have to seek special excellence or extraordinary wonders besides.
Master Shui Lao asked Ma Tsu, “What is the true meaning of the coming from the West?”
Ma Tsu then knocked him down with a kick to the chest: Shui Lao was greatly enlightened. He got up, clapping his hands and laughing loudly, and said, “How extraordinary! How wonderful! Instantly, on the tip of a hair, I’ve understood the root source of myriad states of concentration, and countless subtle meanings.” Then he bowed and withdrew. Afterward, he would tell the assembly, “From the time I took Ma Tsu’s kick, up until now, I haven’t stopped laughing.”
Last night it rained cats and dogs. I have always wondered where this phrase may have come from. There is only one possible source, and that is a fable of Aesop: A cat was very happily walking by, smiling to herself, and a dog asked her, “What is the matter?”
She said, “Last night in my dreams it rained, and it rained rats!”
The dog said, “Listen, you stupid cat. You don’t understand a thing about dream psychology. I was also here last night and I can testify that it rained – but it rained cats, not rats.”
That seems to be accurate enough. Dogs can dream of cats raining, but the saying is, “It rained cats and dogs.” Who would be dreaming about dogs…? Except for this small anecdote in Aesop there is no reference in the whole literature of the world, but it seems in almost all the languages somehow the saying has taken root. One thing is certain: whatever the roots – or no roots – the saying is very expressive.
The rain last night was an immense joy…not only to the earth – thirsty, waiting for it – but to the trees and to you all. These small experiences can release in you the ultimate experience…just the beauty of them, the splendor, unexpected, unpredictable. Suddenly you are surrounded with such tremendous peace, silence – and not empty, but full of songs and dances, and the whole existence rejoicing.
As one goes deeper on the path, as one releases oneself from the prison of one’s own mind, ordinary experiences start taking extraordinary colors. Just an ordinary flower looked at silently becomes a wondrous experience. What a marvel that a small flower can exist with beautiful colors, with a little fragrance of its own, an individuality of its own. The greatest philosopher cannot fathom the meaning of the smallest flower.
But the mystic is not a philosopher; he does not bother to fathom meanings, to measure meanings, to think about things. He simply rejoices in them. When it rains, he dances, he joins hands with the rain. When trees are rejoicing, becoming fresh, one starts feeling the same freshness. Only one thing is needed, and that is the offering of the sutra this morning…release.
Ta Hui is intending to convey a simple thing to you: you are the prison, you are the prisoner, and you are the one who has imprisoned you. You are playing a game with yourself. One part of you functions as the jailer, another part functions as the jail, and your innermost core is crushed between these two parts. You become a prisoner; it is not that somebody else is making you a prisoner.
It would have been a great calamity if man’s consciousness was imprisoned by somebody else. Then freedom would not be in your own hands; then freedom would be in somebody else’s hands. It is marvelous that you are yourself imprisoning your being, hence the release can happen instantly. It is only a question of a little understanding, just a little intelligence.
This sutra is very beautiful. It says,
In our family…
To whom is Ta Hui referring as “our family”? You are included in it, as are all those who are involved in this great affair of searching, seeking, trying to penetrate into the mysteries of existence. They may have been past, they may be present, they may be in the future, but they constitute the only family worth calling family.
There is a physical, biological family: your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your husbands, your wives, your children – but that is a very superficial phenomenon, accidental. There is a deeper family which has nothing to do with your biological origins but is concerned with your ultimate search. It is spiritual. It is not accidental – it is very essential.
Once you become aware, you will be suddenly amazed that all the buddhas of the past and all the buddhas of the future and all the buddhas of the present constitute a single family, because their experience is the same, their truth is the same, their life is surrounded with the same fragrance. They in no way differ from each other. If you have come across a single buddha, you have come across all of them. He contains all of them; he represents all of them.
Ta Hui is immensely beautiful to mention it as a family…
In our family there is indeed a subtle marvel not transmitted.
Everybody in the family knows about it, but nobody says anything about it. Everybody in the family has experienced it, but remains absolutely silent about it, because knowing the ultimate is also to know simultaneously that it is inexpressible. Those who try to express it are those who don’t know.
This is the marvel: Those who know don’t try to express it, and those who don’t know try to express it.
The ignorant are very articulate; they say things about God, about heaven and about hell, and the ones who know are utterly silent about the mysteries of life. You can know whether a man has experienced something or not by his being silent about the ultimate matters. He may indicate, he may give a few hints, he may create devices in which you can also awaken to the experience – but he will not say a single word.
Because of this fact, Zen has strange ways of transmitting. The truth has always been transmitted; it has never been said. It is more like a gesture of the hand, more like a smile on the lips, more like a twinkle in the eyes…but it is never a word.
In our family there is indeed a subtle marvel not transmitted. It would not help even if the sky became my mouth, and grass, trees, pebbles, and stones all emitted light to help me expound the truth. Thus we believe that this thing cannot be transmitted and cannot be studied: it requires one’s own realization and enlightenment.
This has to be understood as the very fundamental: if you are ready, open, receptive, alert, you will get it. And you will get it in strange ways which have no logical relationship, no causal relationship.
Many intellectuals in the world who have become aware of Zen in the past century were, in the beginning, simply laughing at the craziness of these people, because it does not make sense to their reasoning minds. Somebody hits you and you become enlightened…the mind cannot believe it. There seems to be no reason why a certain hit will destroy all your ignorance.
Even today, Zen is being studied in the West on a vast scale; it has become one of the universal phenomena. But the very idea of studying it goes against it: you cannot study Zen. You can have it, but you cannot get it from someone else. And the simple reason is that you have already got it. It is just a question of forgetfulness.
It will be helpful for you to be reminded… Perhaps in everybody’s life there are moments when you know that a certain name, a certain person, a certain face is known to you. The expression exists in all the languages that it is “just on the tip of my tongue.” Then who is preventing you, why don’t you tell it? You know perfectly well it is there, but it needs some release – and perhaps a hit may do it. You have only forgotten – perhaps a good hit will help you to forget to remember it, because the effort to remember a thing makes your mind tense, and the more you try to remember, the more tense you become.
Tension means narrowing of the mind. It becomes so narrow that nothing can pass through it. A good hit and the mind opens…because you have forgotten that you were trying to remember something, and suddenly that which was on your tongue is no more a secret; now you know it fully well. Something like this has been happening in transmissions of a higher and deeper level.
But Zen is not a study. There is no way to make it a subject of studies in the universities; that will be very stupid. There is no way to find someone who has it who can give it to you. It is not that the people who have it are miserly or not generous – just the contrary. They are the most generous people; if they could give it to you they would not bother whether you want it or not, they would give it to you.
But the very nature of the experience is such that it does not come from outside; it happens within you. The people who have experienced it are in constant search of creating a situation around you so that what is asleep becomes awake. Once you understand it, Zen will not look crazy, it will not look irrational. It will look certainly super-rational – beyond the capacities of the mind.
Thus we believe that this thing cannot be transmitted and cannot be studied: it requires one’s own realization and enlightenment.
It has become more difficult because Hindus, Mohammedans, Christians, Jews have created a very difficult situation for millions of people. They have been giving people the idea that it will be delivered to you by a savior, it will be given to you by a messenger; all you have to do is to believe and wait. Jesus will redeem you – or Mohammed or Krishna.
What I want to point out very clearly is that the idea that somebody else, it does not matter who – Jesus, Moses, Krishna or Mohammed…the idea that somebody else will do it on your behalf is absolutely wrong. But this idea has prevailed and it is very easy to accept it, it is very simple to be imprisoned by it, because somebody else is taking the responsibility.
In this world people are very easily ready to give responsibility to somebody else. They think that by giving away responsibility they are free of the burden. They are absolutely wrong. Responsibility is freedom, and the moment you give responsibility to somebody else you have also given your freedom.
Now two thousand years have passed and Christians are waiting for the savior to come. I tell you he is never going to come, for the simple reason that what he has promised he cannot deliver. Krishna has promised that he will be coming, but it is strange that nobody wonders why these people did not redeem humanity while they were here. What is the point of postponing it for the future, for the next time when they will come?
People were as much in misery then as they are now, people were as much ignorant as they are now – so what was the reason to postpone? Jesus could have redeemed the whole world, Krishna could have enlightened everybody. But it was a very subtle game: they took the responsibility – and helped you to remain a prisoner till they come back. Just go on praying…one day he is going to come.
This has taken away not only your responsibility but your freedom. It has taken away your very individuality and your uniqueness.
I love Gautam Buddha for the simple reason that he is the first man in the long history of man who refused to take the responsibility of redeeming anybody. He seems to be the most courageous man – because it is so easy to gather followers if you take responsibility, and rather than taking responsibility he was saying that there is no way for anybody else to redeem you.
Let it sink deep in your hearts. Only you are capable of awakening. Because only you are capable of falling asleep. Nobody else is responsible for your sleep.
How can somebody else be responsible for your awakening? All those who have promised to redeem you have humiliated you; they have reduced you to less than human beings.
It is not a coincidence that Jesus goes on calling himself the shepherd and you the sheep and I sometimes wonder why not even a single man stood up and said, “This is very insulting.” Not that people must not have felt it, but it was very cheap, and “the fellow is taking all the responsibility, that is good – so we need not bother about it. We can go round and round in our trivia and he will take care of our spirituality.” It was a good chance to get rid of the whole affair.
It seems hurtful…but I cannot say anything which is not true. All these people behaved more like businessmen; they were more concerned in having more and more customers.
Gautam Buddha seems to be the single man who is not interested in having followers, who is not interested in being a shepherd, who is not interested in reducing you into sheep. On the contrary, his whole life he insisted on only one thing: You are just like me; the difference is very small. One day I was asleep, today I am awake. Today you are asleep, tomorrow you may be awake – and if you are intelligent you can be awake this very moment.
Buddha alone gives respect to individuality, to human beings – no one else has ever given it. He denied God for the simple reason that God cannot be accepted. The very acceptance of God as a creator destroys the whole beauty of humanity. Then you are just a puppet in the hands of a God who seems to be whimsical. For no reason he created you, and for no reason he can decreate you.
Buddha removed God completely from the vision of the people who understood him: God and man cannot exist together. No coexistence is possible, because God is basically a dictatorial concept, absolute dictatorship…and man cannot raise his head in freedom if there is a God. You can hear people say that without the will of God not even a leaf moves. Then this whole existence becomes an imprisonment, a great concentration camp, and God becomes Adolf Hitler a million times magnified.
Gautam Buddha, rather than talking about hypothetical nonsense, takes the existential problem directly: the problem is your release. And the problem is simple because the release is within your own hands: you have just forgotten who you are. Just by telling you who you are, you will not understand, and the danger is that by telling you who you are, you may become a parrot. You may start…
In India you will find a whole country full of parrots. Everybody is talking about the soul, enlightenment, awakening, nirvana. They have all been repeating beautiful sentences from scriptures. Buddha also does not want to make you a parrot; hence he says there is no way to give you the truth, for the simple reason that you already have it.
So all that can be done is somehow to create situations to wake you up and, if it is needed, to give you a good slap at the right moment. Anybody’s slap won’t do, only a master’s – and only a disciple who has been working on the way for years, or maybe for lives, comes to a point just on the boundary line, where a little push…and he has reached to the other shore. So there are disciplines in Buddhism, but those disciplines are not going to give you the truth. They are only going to bring you to the point where some insightful compassionate master will be needed to create a device which releases you.
Have you seen small birds? They see their parents flying all around, and they also flutter their wings. But they are afraid – naturally, because they have never flown – and they cannot believe that going out of their cozy nest is safe. The vast sky…and no experience of flying – although they are capable of flying, they have the wings, and they will rejoice to fly in the sky under the warm sun.
Finally the parents of those small birds have to push them. That is a device – that is a Zen device. But the parents have to wait till their wings are strong enough; they do many things which to me seem to be exactly what the Zen master does for the disciple. The mother will fly in front of them, showing that if she can fly, why can’t they? The young birds flutter their wings to gain confidence, to become acquainted with the fact that they also have wings – it’s true!
But to take the jump… They come to the very edge of their nest, they weigh all the pros and cons. There is a great longing to take the jump, but there is also a fear because they are going into the unknown. Who knows – they may fall flat on the earth and be finished. The mother goes to the other tree, and from there she starts calling them: Come on! It is irresistible. They try, but some invisible boundary prevents them.
When the parents see that now they are perfectly capable, it is only fear that is preventing them, one day, without informing them, suddenly a Zen push…! Of course in the beginning they flutter in a haphazard way, but they know now that although they are not flying as they should, they can keep themselves up in the air. Then the mother starts calling them from faraway trees. First they go to very close trees, then they start going to farther trees, and then one day they are gone forever into the infinite; they never come back. Then the whole sky has become theirs.
I have always thought that the Zen devices of transmitting must have come from such sources. Zen monasteries are in the forests, and some genius master may have seen the situation of a bird being pushed. There is no logical sense. You cannot convince the bird intellectually, and a push is not a rational way.
Be sure to remember the words of a previous day: “In principle, it is sudden enlightenment…”
In principle only is it sudden enlightenment. In practice, in reality, the small bird has to grow strong wings, wait for the right moment, and has to be under the protection of a right master. Any hurry can be fatal.
If somebody is awakened before his ripening time, before his maturity, that enlightenment can be dangerous. He may not be able to survive it, it may be too much. He was not yet able to contain it, to absorb it, to relish it. So in principle Ta Hui is right; it is sudden enlightenment.
Intellectuals all over the world have asked, “If it is sudden, then why is it not happening to us? Then why does somebody have to meditate for years if it is sudden?” They have not understood that in principle it is sudden. When it will happen, it will happen suddenly – but before that happening, a certain maturity is needed. That means enlightenment in itself is sudden, but its preparation is gradual.
Ta Hui is bringing a tremendous synthesis to two conflicting schools. One says it is gradual, one says it is sudden – and they have gone on fighting for centuries, arguing against each other. They cannot see that gradualness and suddenness are not necessarily opposite, that gradualness can be a preparation for suddenness. They cannot see that both can be part of a synthetic process.
“…Taking advantage of enlightenment to clear everything away. In the event…
– but in the actual event –
“…phenomena are not suddenly removed but exhausted gradually.”
It takes time, different times for different people. According to their love, according to their trust, according to their longing, according to their passion, according to their readiness to risk all, the time element will differ.

Mahakashyapa was the first to become enlightened among Gautam Buddha’s disciples, and he was the most silent person. He never asked a question, never even came close to Gautam Buddha. He had his own tree, and he would sit under his own tree; it became known that that place was reserved for Mahakashyapa. He did not speak, he did not question…he simply sat under the tree, not far away from Gautam Buddha.
Among ten thousand disciples everybody was asking questions, and many were asking Mahakashyapa, “Why don’t you ask?” He would simply smile…
One day Gautam Buddha came with a lotus flower in his hand – and that day was the beginning of Zen. Buddha was supposed to give a discourse as usual, but rather than giving a discourse he sat there in the utter silence of ten thousand disciples, just looking at the lotus flower. Moments passed…people started becoming restless. What has happened? In the first place he had never come before with anything in his hand; in the second place, he seems to have completely forgotten for what he has come. Thirdly, it is strange that he goes on looking at that lotus flower. It is beautiful…but that does not mean that you have to go on looking forever and forever.
Hours passed and people became really agitated. Something has to be done…and at that very moment Mahakashyapa laughed. Gautam Buddha looked at Mahakashyapa, called him close and said, “This flower belongs to you. Take care of it.” This is the first transmission without words.
People looked in amazement: “What has happened?” In the first place, to laugh in the presence of the master without any reason is not courteous, it is not respectful. Secondly, there was nothing to laugh at. Thirdly, what has been transmitted? All that people can see is a lotus flower.
But Mahakashyapa became the first Zen master. He is rarely mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures because he rarely spoke. And because he received the transmission without words, nobody knows what he has received. When finally forced by other disciples – older, more prominent – Mahakashyapa said, “I have not received, I have only recognized. In that great silence when you were all becoming restless I started becoming restful. My silence became deeper, to a point that I suddenly saw that it is so ridiculous to search for truth because I am the truth. At that very moment I could not contain it, and I laughed. The flower was given to me as a confirmation that ‘your laughter means you have opened your wings in the sky. You are released.’”

When one comes to a master, one has so much garbage which the master has to remove gradually, because to him it is garbage, but to the disciple it is knowledge. To the master it is chains; to the disciple, these are his ornaments. So it takes time…the master goes on throwing the garbage out and the disciple goes on collecting it back, and hiding it in deeper places where the master cannot reach, until there is a recognition that the master and the disciple stand in the same space. Then anything will do, just a little push…
Whether you are walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, you must not forget!…
Must not forget what? Simply must not forget. Simply remain alert and aware, not of anything special, not of any object, but just alert, as if something great is going to happen, you don’t know what; as if a great guest is going to come and you are standing at your door waiting. You don’t know who is coming…you don’t know whether he is coming or not. You don’t have any confirmation – but greatly alert you are standing at the door, not knowing for what. A pure awareness…
You don’t have to seek special excellence or extraordinary wonders besides.
On the path the greatest hindrance is that you can find special qualities, extraordinary powers, miracles, mysterious experiences, and you can get lost into all that. It was not your search; you got off the path. Remember not to seek special excellence or extraordinary wonders besides.
Master Shui Lao asked Ma Tsu, “What is the true meaning of the coming from the West?”
This is a special way of asking the question, “What is the true meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the West?” – because to China, India is the West. “What was the special reason for Bodhidharma coming to China?” In other words the question is, “What has he come to transmit?” It took him three years to reach so far, and it took him nine years to transmit. What was it?
Ma Tsu then knocked him down with a kick to the chest: Shui Lao was greatly enlightened. He got up, clapping his hands and laughing loudly, and said, “How extraordinary! How wonderful! Instantly, on the tip of a hair, I have understood the root source of myriad states of concentration, and countless subtle meanings.” Then he bowed and withdrew. Afterward he would tell the assembly, “From the time I took Ma Tsu’s kick, up until now, I haven’t stopped laughing.”
Remember that Master Shui Lao is not an ordinary disciple; he is already recognized as a great master, although he is only a great teacher. But the difference is very subtle and can be known only by those who are beyond the master and the teacher. He was known as a master himself…and he was not just a teacher; he had come gradually closer and closer to being a master but he needed a last push. He was fluttering his wings…he was waiting, but just on the verge of flying into the sky.
Master Shui Lao asked Ma Tsu…Ma Tsu is one of the strangest masters in the assembly of strange masters of Zen. Shui Lao is asking a simple question: “Why did Bodhidharma come to China? What special transmission was there that he had to deliver?”
MaTtsu then knocked him down with a kick to the chest: Shui Lao was greatly enlightened.
Now incidents like this make intellectuals confused. What has happened? Ma Tsu has shown him that Bodhidharma has come to kill your ego, to release you from the fear of death. He kicked him in the chest, knocked him down. It was so strange and so sudden, it was not expected. He had asked a simple routine question; any intellectual could have explained why Bodhidharma had come to China – to spread Buddhism, to spread the message of the great master.
But nobody could have thought that Ma Tsu would do this to the poor questioner and it was so sudden and so unpredictable… But it is only sudden and unpredictable to us; Ma Tsu could have seen the ripeness of the man, the maturity…that he needs just a small push, that this moment should not be missed. His kicking him on the chest and knocking him down may have completely stopped the functioning of his mind, because it was so unexpected and so strange. In that stopping of the mind is the release. Suddenly the goose is out! Shui Lao became enlightened.
He got up, clapping his hands and laughing loudly, and said, “How extraordinary! How wonderful! Instantly, on the tip of a hair, I have understood the root source of myriad states of concentration, and countless subtle meanings.” Then he bowed – in deep respect – and withdrew. Afterward, he would tell the assembly – he became himself a great master – “From the time I took Ma Tsu’s kick, up until now, I have not stopped laughing.
How can one stop laughing? This great affair is so ridiculous!
It is just like a dog who, on a winter morning in the warm sun, sitting silently looking at his tail, becomes interested in catching it. He tries in many ways, and the more he tries, the more he becomes challenged, because the tail jumps immediately. The faster he jumps, the faster the tail jumps – and the difference remains the same. Standing by the side you will laugh: “This stupid dog! That tail belongs to him; there is no need to catch hold of it – and there is no way…”
Your enlightenment belongs to you.
There is no need to seek and search.
You are it. It is not an achievement, it is only a recognition – hence the laughing.
Naturally, people who have not been accustomed to the tradition of Zen will be shocked by such behavior. If I suddenly knock Maneesha here and now, although she is not yet ripe – but if I knock, will you understand? You will think, “This man has gone mad.” You will think, “We already knew that he was mad; now he has crossed all the boundaries.” And from tomorrow, those who sit in front will remain alert: at any moment…
And this is going to happen, because I am not going to leave this world unless I make more people enlightened than Gautam Buddha. I am watching who is growing wings, who is becoming ready to be knocked – so don’t be surprised. And when somebody gets knocked, rejoice in the happening! The man has become enlightened.
But people who are not in a deep resonance with Zen will not be able to understand it – Hindus or Mohammedans or Christians or Jews – because there is nothing like that in their whole history. Their whole history is more or less just intellectual gymnastics.
Zen is absolutely existential. The master is there not only to teach you certain doctrines; he has to release you from the prison that you yourself have made. Whatever arbitrary, expedient methods are needed, he is not going to be worried about what people will think of them; he will use them.
There have never been more compassionate beings than Zen masters. It is a great compassion of Ma Tsu; otherwise, who cares? – he could have just answered the question and the whole thing would be over. He took so much effort, hit the man, knocked him down…
And it is not only Ma Tsu who is compassionate: Shui Lao also knows tremendous understanding. If it had happened to somebody who was not ready, he would have started fighting or he would have become angry, saying “This is absolutely absurd! I am asking a question and you are hitting me.” But he took the hit in the same way as Mahakashyapa had taken the lotus flower – with even more beauty: “How extraordinary! How wonderful!” – and with great reverence, …he bowed down and withdrew.
No other question…everything is solved. He has been kicked out of the nest, now his wings are open in the sky. Now he can fly across the sun. Now there are no more any boundaries. And he remembered the event his whole life, even when he became a great respected master, saying “The greatest thing in my life was the kick that Ma Tsu gave me. I have not stopped laughing since then.”
Something that is not visible to the eyes must have happened in that moment. As Ma Tsu reached and knocked him, perhaps – most probably – he may have knocked him out of his body, and Shui Lao must have witnessed the whole scene, standing outside his own body. The first experience of being outside your own body is one of the most exquisite, sweet, marvelous experiences: you are released.
Your body is your prison.
Your mind is your prison.
Ta Hui has named the sutra rightly as The Release.
Get ready and be prepared. It is a totally different world from the days of Ma Tsu, but I would like to make that beautiful time and those beautiful incidents contemporary again. But it all depends on you. If you are gradually dropping all your garbage, becoming more alert, not forgetting for a single moment – walking, sitting, working, lying down, a constant undercurrent of remembrance – then the day is not far away when I will start knocking people down. There is no necessity to actually knock somebody down, because between me and Ma Tsu much time has passed, and I have got more refined methods! He is, in a way, primitive.
I do my own kind of kicking and knocking, so don’t wait for me to actually hit you on your chest. There is no need…I have developed more subtle methods – but you have to be ready anyway.

Spread the love