OUR BELOVED MASTER,
THERE WAS A MONK WHO HAD STAYED WITH YAKUSAN FOR THREE YEARS AND SERVED AS THE HEAD COOK. ONCE, YAKUSAN ASKED HIM, “HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN HERE?”
“THREE YEARS,” THE MONK REPLIED.
“I DON’T KNOW YOUR FACE AT ALL,” SAID YAKUSAN.
THE MONK DID NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT YAKUSAN MEANT,
AND, OUT OF RESENTMENT, LEFT THE MONASTERY.
The master was too compassionate on him — but he missed the point, the poor monk.
Yakusan has asked him, “HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN HERE?” He is not asking how many years, his emphasis is on the point of here: “How long have you been here?”
In Zen, language takes a totally different nuance. The master is asking, “How long have you been in the time which is called now, in the space which is called here? How long have you been here?” He is not asking how many years you have spent here. Perhaps the man had not even touched the space called here, the time called now. So he said, “THREE YEARS.” That was factual, he had been in the monastery as a cook for three years — but that was not the question. Yakusan was not interested how many years he had been in the monastery; he was interested that “Have you touched the point here, or not? Have you learned the art of being here, or not?”
To be here and now, you have to be in meditation, beyond mind. Then suddenly all time disappears, you are in eternity. The very present moment becomes eternal.
That was the question. When a master asks anything, it is never an ordinary thing. The words may be ordinary, but you have to listen very carefully: Where is his emphasis? Why is he asking suddenly? And because the monk said, “Three years,” the master saw that he could not understand even a simple statement in the world of Zen. That’s why he said, “I DON’T KNOW YOUR FACE AT ALL.”
Again, he gave another opportunity to the person. “Have you discovered your original face? — because I don’t see it. I see the persona, the personality, but I don’t see your original being, your original face. I DON’T KNOW YOUR FACE AT ALL.” And he was the cook, and the master was seeing him every day, because he was serving his food. So it had nothing to do with factuality, it had something to do with absolute truth. Yakusan was saying, “You don’t know how to be here, you don’t know how to be in the now. That means you don’t know who you are. That means you have not looked inwards, behind the personality, into your original face.”
The original face is the face of the Buddha. The original face is the face you had before your father was born. The original face is the face you have had since eternity, and you will have till eternity. It is your very being, it is your very life source.
But instead of understanding the master’s compassion, the monk did not understand what he meant, and he felt resentment: “What kind of man is this? I have been serving food to him for three years, and he says he has not seen my face.” He thought, “It is very insulting, humiliating.” Out of resentment he left the monastery. So many poor people — poor in the spirit — by chance, by accident, come across a master, but they are bound to miss.
For three years the master has not asked him anything. He gave him enough time. Three years is thought to be enough time for anyone to get into the centre. It is a very strange phenomenon, and perhaps you may have observed it. If you move your house, it takes three days to be at rest in the new house. Gautam Buddha and Mahavira, two great awakened people, did not allow their monks to stay in one place more than three days, because if you stay more than three days friendships arise, you can fall in love, you can start loving the place, you can start loving the food that you are getting in the place. You can become acquainted, you are no more a stranger. It takes three days for a stranger to be absorbed by the masses. So Buddha and Mahavira were in absolute agreement on the point that no sannyasin should stay in one place more than three days; three days is the limit. After the third day he should leave, so no attachments, no possessiveness, arise.
It is my experience that it takes three years for the laziest person. To those who are faster, it can happen in three seconds, but even to the laziest, if he goes on meditating, in three years he will find his original face. That is a finding of thousands of meditators. So after three years — the man had been with the master, he had been cooking, he had been listening to the master’s discourses — it was time to ask him: “HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN HERE?” He understood how long but he forgot the word `here’. The emphasis was not on how long, the emphasis was on `here’. But out of compassion a master gives as many chances as possible. He asked another question. “I DON’T KNOW YOUR FACE AT ALL — and you say you have been here for three years. Where is your face?”
Now the man became resentful. He is standing before the master, and what kind of madman is this? — he is asking, “Where is your face?” He is asking about your original face — not this face that is reflected in the mirror, but a face that is reflected in the heart of the master. The master knows when he encounters his disciple whether his heart reflects his original face or not. The original face is your consciousness, your witnessing, your Buddha. But this is the poverty of humanity, that you may come across — which is very rare — a master, and you will misunderstand and misinterpret, and what was compassion may look to you like humiliation, insult, and you may leave the master with resentment, with anger.
Being with a master one has to be very patient and one has to listen correctly.
One has to watch where the emphasis is. The master has no concern how many years you have been here. What is he going to do with counting the years? Certainly he is not asking about the years; he is asking about this moment.
Are you here?
Factually you all seem to be here, but if your mind is wandering somewhere else, then in truth you are not here. This face that you see in the mirror is not your original face. The original face is only a symbolic word. It does not mean `face’; inside there is no face. It simply means your originality, your individuality, your essential consciousness, your very nature of being a Buddha. That is your original face. It is a metaphor. I am talking about these anecdotes not for the sake of the anecdotes. I am talking about these anecdotes for you to become aware: You are with a master. You have to listen rightly. You have to listen silently. No agreement is needed, no disagreement is needed, no criticism is needed. Just listening peacefully, a synchronicity arises. Suddenly you feel a merger, a meeting — so deep a meeting that you don’t know who is who, who is the disciple and who is the master.
It happened to Chuang Tzu, a great master, perhaps one of the very rarest ones ….
His disciple Lieh Tzu one day came and sat on the seat of the master. Then came Chuang Tzu and sat on the floor. The gathering of hundreds of monks could not believe what was happening. The master is sitting on the floor, a disciple is sitting on his seat!
The master said to the head monk, “Ring the bell for discourse” — and Lieh Tzu gave the discourse.
The master, Chuang Tzu, clapped and said, “Perfectly right. From now onwards I don’t have to come. You take my seat. You are my successor.”
Zen is such a unique phenomenon. There is no question of inferiority or superiority. The master is not offended. He could see the face of Lieh Tzu for the first time. The original face has arisen, the buddha is awakened, that’s why he has taken the seat. It does not matter. When the buddha has arisen in a disciple, the master can retire. Chuang Tzu never came back again to the assembly hall. Lieh Tzu continued. I have told you another story about Chuang Tzu and Lieh Tzu. It is worth remembering again in this context.
One day Chuang Tzu woke up in the morning …. It was after this incident that I told you about. Although he was not coming to the assembly hall, his disciples were missing him. Lieh Tzu had become awakened, but he was not of the same quality. He was still new, he was not so articulate. He had entered into buddhahood just now, while Chuang Tzu had been living in that state for many many years. So the disciples would listen to Lieh Tzu but would still go to Chuang Tzu’s room just to touch his feet or just to sit by his side.
One morning Chuang Tzu woke up and almost a dozen disciples were there, because he was late. It had never happened before. “Is he sick?” He was getting old, so they were concerned. But he woke up and he called the disciples in.
He said, “I am in a difficulty, that’s why I am late. Do you promise to help me to get out of the difficulty?”
They said, “We will do anything. Even if our life is needed, it is in your hands. Just tell us.”
He said, “No, it is not a question of taking your life. In the night I dreamt that I had become a butterfly.”
All the disciples laughed. They said, “This is not a problem. We all dream of many things. A butterfly? — now you are awake, there is no question … it is finished. The dream is no more.”
Chuang Tzu said, “No, it is not finished. Now it starts — the question. If Chuang Tzu can dream in his sleep that he has become a butterfly, cannot the butterfly in her sleep dream that she is Chuang Tzu? Now who am I? — a butterfly dreaming of being Chuang Tzu or am I really Chuang Tzu? That is the problem.”
It is absolutely right. If you can dream about being a butterfly, what is wrong in a butterfly dreaming about being you?
The disciples looked at each other. What to do? — this is nonsense, but you cannot tell the master that this is nonsense. He is making out of this nonsense a very sensible question.
They said, “If you cannot solve it, you cannot expect us unenlightened, unconscious people to solve it.”
He said, “Ring the bell and call the whole monastery.”
There were at least fifteen hundred monks, and they came running. What has happened? — because it was very rare: the bell was rung always in the assembly hall, not in the cottage of the master.
They all surrounded him. Those twelve disciples told them, “Our master is in a difficulty.” First they all laughed. The twelve said, “Don’t laugh. We also laughed, but he is really very sad, very serious. We have never seen him so serious. He is not a serious man at all but his question seemed to be relevant as we pondered over it. It looks absolutely right to wonder.”
Fifteen hundred monks looked at each other. There was a great silence. Lieh Tzu was not present, he had gone to the city for some work. He came back right at this time. The gathering of the monks allowed him to enter.
He said, “What is the problem? Why are you gathered here?”
They told him the problem. He did not enter into the cottage, he went outside. As he was going out, the monks said, “Where are you going? You are needed, you have to help the master.”
He said, “I am going to help him.”
He went to the well. It was a cold winter morning, and he pulled out ice-cold water in a bucket and went into the cottage and poured the whole bucket on Chuang Tzu.
Chuang Tzu jumped out of the bed. He said, “Wait! The problem is solved! I am Chuang Tzu. But where have you been? If you had not come here I would have remained in my bed the rest of my life. Where have you been?”
Lieh Tzu said, “Are you awake, or do I have to bring another bucket?”
Chuang Tzu said, “No, there is no need for another bucket. One bucket is enough to prove that I am not a butterfly. The butterfly would have died! I am certainly Chuang Tzu. Just tell all the monks, `Don’t be worried, the problem is solved.’
“But you should not be so strange — bringing such cold water! At least you could have warmed the water. I am an old man. You don’t understand …. I was just waiting for you, to see whether you could solve it or not. You are really my successor. You have rightly taken my seat. Don’t be worried, slowly slowly you will learn and I will manage many situations for you to learn.”
This was one of the situations.
The master functions in different ways on different people. Different masters are creating different devices, but all for the sake of finding the truth. Never get resentful, never be angry, never feel insulted. The master never means to humiliate anyone. He wants everyone to be elevated to the ultimate status of a Gautam Buddha.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Gautam the Buddha Auditorium, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse series: Christianity: The Deadliest Poison and Zen: The Antidote to All Poisons
Chapter title: Service with a smile
23 January 1989 pm in Gautam the Buddha Auditorium
Osho has spoken on ‘Original Face, Here Now, witnessing’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- The Great Pilgrimage: From Here to Here
- God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
- I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
- Philosophia Ultima
- Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 3
- Walk Without Feet, Fly Without Wings and Think Without Mind
- The First Principle
- The Book of Wisdom
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 4
- The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol 2, 3
- Nirvana: The Last Nightmare
- The Ultimate Alchemy, Vol 1
- The Zen Manifesto: Freedom From Oneself