The Ordinary is the Extraordinary
Osho on Zen Master Nansen
Nansen is one of the most famous ZEN master. He was from the period of tang dynasty (i.e. during 8th century). A man with utter simplicity, an ordinary person but with abundance of awareness. With the face of a child and action of a grown one, gestures of innocence and talk of the ultimate. He was the man of his own kind. One could very simply misunderstand him if lagging the art of awareness.
When Nansen, was asked what is Zen, he expressed the impossibility of giving a satisfying answer through words, in his reply, “Can a cloud in the sky be nailed there, or bound there by a rope?”
Osho has dedicated a whole discourse series ‘Nansen: the point of departure’ to Him.
Many stories are told about Nansen, and Osho has also spoken on many of them. Osho has said that these stories have a deep meaning and they are nourishment. Osho says After Bodhidharma, Nansen is a new point of departure. He opens Zen to a wider variety, he gives Zen more dimensions. It is no more a small stream, but becomes an ocean. When a man like Nansen lives in a temple, then the rafters and the tiles also become something divine, something sacred, but not sacred against the secular. Nansen has joined the earth with the sky. My love for Nansen is immense because of this understanding that the earth and the sky are not separate — are not separateable. And both should be enjoyed.
Osho also says Nansen was one of the greats. I count him with Gautam Buddha, Mahakashyap, Bodhidharma, Joshu, Hyakujo. There have been thousands of masters, but Nansen will still stand out with his own beauty, uniqueness. He became so well known to the people that the very mountain where he had a small cottage is now called Mount Nansen.
Now let me tell you this beautiful anecdote. It is one of the most beautiful anecdotes in the Zen literature, and Zen has many beautiful anecdotes. This is one of the topmost. Listen to it.
THE OFFICIAL, RIKO, ONCE ASKED NANSEN….
Nansen was a great Master. You must have heard another story, I must have told you sometime. A great professor comes to see Nansen. The professor was the head of the department of philosophy in a university. He comes, and immediately he asks, “Do you believe in God? Is there any life after death? Has man a soul?”
Nansen says, “Wait. Let me prepare tea for you. You are tired and you are perspiring. And there is no hurry; these problems can wait a little. Let me prepare tea for you.” And he prepares the tea. This is the humbleness of a Zen Master.
He brings tea. He goes on pouring the tea in the cup. The cup is full and the tea starts overflowing into the saucer, and then the saucer is full, and the professor shouts, “What are you doing? Are you mad? Now there is not any space, not even for a single drop, and you go on pouring and you go on pouring. It will start dropping on your floor!”
And Nansen laughs and he says, “So you understand. Now do you have any questions, still?”
The professor says, “Why, what do you mean? How does this explain my questions?”
And Nansen says, “Have you any space in your head? I can give you the answer, but there is no space. I don’t see any space in your head. And you are alert, very alert; you can see that when the cup is full, no more tea should be poured in. Go, please, and clean your skull. Empty your skull and come back! Because these questions are such that they can only be answered to an empty skull.”
Nansen is a rare man.
THE OFFICIAL, RIKO, ONCE ASKED NANSEN TO EXPLAIN TO HIM THE OLD PROBLEM OF THE GOOSE IN THE BOTTLE.
The problem is very ancient. It is a koan; it is given to a disciple, that he has to meditate on it. It is absurd; you cannot “solve” it.
A koan is something which cannot be solved. Remember, it is not a puzzle. A puzzle has a clue; a koan has no clue. A koan is a puzzle without any clue. Not that more intelligence will solve it. No, no intelligence will ever solve it. Even if it is given to God, it will not be solved. It is made in such a way that it cannot be solved. This is a koan.
“IF A MAN PUTS A GOSLING INTO A BOTTLE,” SAID RIKO, “AND FEEDS HIM UNTIL HE IS FULL GROWN, HOW CAN THE MAN GET THE GOOSE OUT WITHOUT KILLING IT OR BREAKING THE BOTTLE?”
Don’t break the bottle — and the goose has to be taken out — and don’t kill the goose. Now, these are the two conditions to be fulfilled. The koan becomes impossible. The bottle has a small neck; the goose cannot come out from it. Either you have to break the bottle or you have to kill the goose. You can kill the goose, and piece by piece you can take the goose out, or you can break the bottle, and the goose can come out alive, whole. But the condition is the bottle has not to be broken and the goose has not to be killed. The goose has to come out whole and the bottle has to remain whole. Nothing has to be destroyed; no destruction allowed. Now, how are you going to solve it? But meditating on it, meditating on it… one day it happens that you see the point. Not that you solve the problem, suddenly the problem is no more there.
NANSEN GAVE A GREAT CLAP WITH HIS HANDS AND SHOUTED,
“YES, MASTER, “SAID THE OFFICIAL WITH A START.
“SEE, “SAID NANSEN, “THE GOOSE IS OUT!”
Now, it is tremendously beautiful. What he is saying is that the goose has never been in, the goose has always been out. What is he saying, the moment he said, “Riko!”? What happened? Those seven layers of ego disappeared and Riko became aware. The shout was so sudden, the sound was so unexpected. He was expecting a philosophical answer. That’s why sometimes the Zen Master will hit you on your head or throw you out of the window or jump upon you or threaten you that he will kill you: he will do something so that those seven layers of ego are immediately transcended and your awareness, which is the center of all, is alert. You are made alert. Now, shouting “Riko!” so suddenly, for no reason at all — and he has brought a small puzzle to be solved and this Master suddenly shouts “Riko!” — he cannot see the connection. And that is the whole clue to it. He cannot see the connection, the shout startles him, and he says, “Yes, Master.”
“See,” said Nansen, “the goose is out!”
Those seven layers of the bottle are crossed.
“Yes, Master” — in that moment Riko was pure consciousness, without any layer. In that moment, Riko was not the body. In that moment, Riko was not the mind. In that moment, Riko was just awareness. In that moment, Riko was not the memory of the past. In that moment, Riko was not the future, the desire. In that moment, he was not in any comparison with anybody. In that moment, he was not a Buddhist or a Mohammedan or a Hindu. In that moment, he was not a Japanese or an Indian. In that moment, when the Master shouted “Riko!” he was simply awareness, without any content, without any conditioning. In that moment, he was not young, old. In that moment, he was not beautiful, ugly. In that moment, he was not stupid, intelligent. All layers disappeared. In that moment, he was just a flame of awareness.
That is the meaning when the Master says, “See, the goose is out — and I have not broken the bottle, I have not even touched the bottle.” The bottle means the ego, those seven layers. “I have not broken the bottle, it is there, and I have not killed the goose. And the goose is out.” Now, there are three types of religions in the world. One which will destroy the bottle. Then you become very vulnerable, then you become very insecure, then great trembling arises in you, and then there is every possibility you may go mad. That sort of thing happens many times in India. There are methods which can destroy the bottle, easier methods. They destroy the bottle, and the goose is out; but then the goose has no house to abide in, no shelter; then there is every possibility the man may go mad. And many people in India, seeking, searching, working towards the unknown become mad. When the unknown comes into them, they have no protection.
Remember, you need protection even against God because God can be too much too suddenly. Those protections have not to be destroyed; practically, they have to remain there. Just think of a person who has no ego. Now, the house is on fire: he will not run out. For what? “I am not. The fire cannot burn me, because I am not.” Just think of a man who has no ego, and he is standing in the middle of the road, and there comes a bus and the driver honks and honks, and he does not bother. He is the immortal soul, he is not the ego. This state can be dangerous. It happens if you destroy the bottle. Zen says don’t destroy the bottle. Use it when it is needed. Whenever you feel to have protection, the goose simply goes inside the bottle. Sometimes one needs rest, and sometimes the bottle is also useful. It can be put to a thousand and one uses. The ego can be used if you know that you are not the ego. Then the ego cannot use you, you can use it.
And there are methods which will save the bottle and kill the goose — self-destructive methods are there — so one becomes more and more unaware. That is what I mean when I say kill the goose: one becomes more and more unaware. Drugs can do that. Drugs have been used in India for thousands of years. They can kill the goose. The bottle remains protected, but the goose is killed. If you take some foreign chemicals inside your being and your nature is not ready to absorb them, by and by you will kill the goose, your consciousness will be gone, you may fall in a coma. The first possibility, if the bottle is broken and thrown; you may go mad. The second possibility, if the goose is killed, or almost killed: you will become so unconscious that you will become a zombie. You can find zombies. In many monasteries there are zombies, whose goose is killed, or at least drugged. And there are mad people, maniacs.
Zen says avoid both. The bottle has to remain and the goose has to come out. This is a great synthesis.
“YES, MASTER,” SAID THE OFFICIAL WITH A START.
“SEE, “SAID NANSEN, “THE GOOSE IS OUT!”
It must have been a moment of great discovery to Riko. He must have seen it, “Yes, it is out.” He is fully aware. The trick worked, the device worked, the shouting and clapping worked. In fact, Riko must have been almost on the verge; otherwise shouting would not do. You can go on shouting. Clapping won’t do. But the man must have been just on the verge of it. Just a small push, and he has jumped the barrier. Meditate over it.
This is the way to attain the first principle: to know that the goose can be out without destroying the bottle, that you can be God without destroying your humanity, that you can be God without destroying your ordinariness.
A disciple of His Divine Grace Prabhupad came to see me. Prabhupad is the founder of the Krishna Consciousness movement. Naturally, to be respectful to me, he also called me His Divine Grace. I said, “Don’t call me that; just call me ‘his Divine Ordinariness’.”
The ordinaly is the extraordinary. The ordinary has not to be destroyed. Once the ordinary is in the service of the extraordinary it is beautiful, it is tremendously beautiful. Let me repeat: the trivial is the profound, samsara is nirvana. Whatsoever you are, there is nothing wrong with it. Just something is missing. Nothing wrong with it! Something is simply missing. Just that missing link has to be provided, that plus, and everything that you have becomes divine. Love has not to be destroyed; only awareness has to be added to it. Relationship has not to be destroyed; only meditation has to be added to it. You need not go from the marketplace, you need not go to any cave and in the Himalayas; only God has to be called there in the marketplace.
The bottle is beautiful, nothing is wrong in it. You just have to learn that you can come out of it whenever you want and you can go into it whenever you want, that it is your pleasure. It is almost like the house. When you feel too cool or cold in the house, freezing cold, you get out under the sky, under the sun, to warm yourself. Then it becomes too warm and you start perspiring; you go into the house. You are free. The same door takes you out, the same door takes you in, and the house is not the enemy. But if you cannot get out of the house, then something is wrong.
There is no need to leave the house, there is no need to drop being a householder. There is only one thing needed: in the house become a sannyasin, in the world remain in such a way that the world is not in you.
See, the goose is out. In fact, the goose has always been out, just a recognition is needed.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The First Principle
Chapter title: You, the Greatest Lie There Is
19 April 1977 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