Tozan: Living Moment to Moment

Osho on Enlightened Zen Master Tozan

Tozan, also spelled as Dongshan, was a Chan Buddhist monk of ninth-century China. He founded the Caodong school which was transmitted to Japan in the thirteenth century by Dogen and developed into the Soto school of Zen. Tozan is also known for the poetic Five Ranks. At the age of ten, he was sent away from his home village to get trained at the monastery on nearby Wutai Mountain. At the age of twenty-one, he went to Shaolin Monastery on Mount Song, where he took the complete monk’s precepts as a Bhikshu.

Since his early life he had utilized gātha, or small poems, in order to try better to understand and to expound the meaning of Chan principles for himself and others. One of the famous verses by him is – “Avoid seeking elsewhere, for that’s far from the self. Now I travel alone, everywhere I meet it. Now it’s exactly me, now I’m not it. It must thus be understood to merge with thusness”.

Tozan died at the age of sixty-three having spent forty-two years as a monk. His shrine, built in keeping with Buddhist tradition, was named the Stupa of Wisdom-awareness. According to one of the kōans of his sect, Tozan announced the end of his life several days before the event, and used the opportunity to teach his students one, final time. In response to their grief over the news of his impending death, he told them to create a “delusion banquet.” After a week of preparations, he took one bite of the meal and, telling the students not to “make a great commotion over nothing,” went to his room and died.

Osho says, “Because of our mind we always divide everything into opposite polarities. Delusion and enlightenment, night and day, birth and death, they are all one process but the mind cannot conceive it. It is intrinsically incapable of conceiving of the oneness of life and death, of light and darkness. And even if somehow it can be proved logically that they are one, the greatest problem arises about delusion and enlightenment. Are they one?

Tozan shows that he is a great master by saying that they are one. The moment delusion disappears, enlightenment also disappears. It is not that delusion disappears and you remain enlightened. The very idea of remaining enlightened is part of delusion. They both remain together, or they go away together, leaving you alone, neither deluded nor enlightened, but just simple, ordinary — a nothingness, a nobody, a pure space.”



Many things: first, a Zen master is not a recluse, he has not renounced life; rather, on the contrary, he has renounced the mind and entered life. There are two types of sannyasins in the world: one type renounces life and enters the life of the mind completely — these are the anti-life people, escaping from the world towards the Himalayas, Tibet. They renounce life to be completely absorbed in the mind — and they are in the majority, because to renounce life is easy; to renounce mind is difficult. What is the difficulty? If you want to escape from here, you can escape! You can leave your wife, your children, your house, your job — really you will feel unburdened, because your wife has become a burden, the children have become a burden, and the whole thing, working every day, earning… you are fed up! You will feel unburdened.

And what will you do in the Himalayas? The whole energy will become mind: you will repeat Ram, Ram, Ram, you will read the Upanishads and the Vedas, and you will think profound truths. You will think about where the world came from, where the world is going, who created the world, why he created the world, what is good and what is evil. You will contemplate, think — great things! Your whole life energy which was engaged in other things will be freed from them now and will be absorbed in the mind. You will become a mind. And people will pay you respect because you renounced life. You are a great man! Fools will recognize you as a great man: fools can recognize you only because you are the greatest of them and they will pay respect, they will prostrate themselves at your feet — you have done a great miracle! But what has happened? You renounced life just to be the mind. You renounced the whole body just to be the head — and the head was the problem! You saved the disease, and you renounced everything. Now the mind will become a cancerous growth. It will do JAPA, mantra, austerities — it will do everything; and then it will become a ritual.

That’s why religious people move in rituals: ritual means a repetitive phenomenon. Every morning, every day they have to do their prayer: a Mohammedan does five prayers in a day — wherever he is, he is to do the prayer five times; a Hindu goes on doing the same ritual every day for his whole life; Christians have to go to church every Sunday… just a ritual! Because mind likes repetition, mind creates a ritual. In your ordinary life also, mind creates a ritual. You love, you meet friends, you go to parties… everything is a ritual, has to be done, repeated. You have a program for all the seven days, and the program is fixed — and this has been so always. You have become a robot, not alive. Mind is a robot. If you give too much attention to the mind it will absorb all your energy; it is a cancer, it will grow, it will spread all over.

But a Zen master belongs to the other category of Sannyasin. He belongs to my category of Sannyasin. A Zen master has always been a neo-sannyasin — hence I love to talk about them; I have a deep affinity with them. They renounce mind and they live life; they don’t renounce life and live mind — just the contrary. They simply renounce mind because it is repetitive — and they live life. They may be living the life of a householder; they may have a wife, they may have children; they will work on the farm, they will work in the garden, they will dig holes, they will weigh flax in the storeroom. A Hindu cannot think why an enlightened man should weigh flax — why? Why such an ordinary activity? But a zen master renounces mind, lives life in its totality. He drops mind and becomes simple existence. So the first thing to remember: if you renounce mind and live life you are a true sannyasin; if you renounce life and live mind you are an untrue sannyasin, you are a pseudo-sannyasin.

And remember well, to be pseudo is always easier; to be real is always difficult. To live with a wife and to be happy is really difficult; to live with children and to be blissful is really difficult. To work in a shop, in an office, in a factory and to be ecstatic is the real difficulty. To leave everything and just sit under a tree and feel happy is not difficult — anybody will feel that way. Nothing to do, you can be detached; everything to do, you become attached. But when you do everything AND remain unattached, when you move with the crowd, in the world and yet alone, then something real is happening…

And remember, and always keep it in your heart: truth, love, life, meditation, ecstasy, bliss, all that is true and beautiful and good, always exists as a paradox: in the world, and not of it; with people, yet alone; doing everything, and being inactive; moving and not moving; living an ordinary life, and yet not being identified with it; working as everybody else is working, yet remaining aloof deep down. Being in the world and not of the world, that is the paradox. And when you attain this paradox, the greatest peak happens to you: the peak experience. It is very easy to move into a simple existence either in the world and attached or out of the world and detached — both are simple. But the greater comes only when it is a complex phenomenon. If you move to the Himalayas and are unattached, you are a single note of the music; if you live in the world and are attached, again you are a single note of the music. But when you are in the world AND beyond it, and you carry your Himalaya in the heart, you are a harmony not a single note. An accord happens, including all discordant notes, a synthesis of the opposites, a bridge between two banks.

And the highest is possible only when life is most complex; only in complexity the highest happens. If you want to be simple you can choose one of the alternatives — but you will miss the complexity. If you cannot be simple in complexity, you will be like an animal, an animal or someone in the Himalayas living a renounced life — they don’t go to a shop, they don’t work in a factory, they don’t have wives, they don’t have children…. Zen masters have lived a very ordinary life — very otherworldly, but in the world. They are more beautiful people than any Hindu sannyasin, they are more beautiful than any Catholic monk. In fact, nothing like Zen exists on the earth, because they have attained to the highest paradox.


An enlightened person, a Buddha, weighing flax? You would have simply turned away. Why ask any question of this man? — if he knew anything he would not be weighing flax. Because you have a concept of a saint, a sage, as something extraordinary, beyond you, somewhere in the sky sitting on a golden throne, you cannot reach him. He is very different — whatsoever you are, he is just the opposite. A Zen master is not that way. He is in no way extraordinary — and yet extraordinary. He lives the very ordinary life just like you, and yet he is not you. He is not somewhere in the sky, he is HERE, but still beyond you. Weighing flax — but just the same as Buddha under a Bodhi tree. In India nobody can conceive of Mahavira weighing flax or Buddha weighing flax — impossible! It would look almost profane. What is Buddha doing in a storeroom? Then what is the difference between you and him? You also weigh flax, he is also weighing flax, so what is the difference? The difference is not outward — and outward differences don’t make any change. You can go and sit under a Bodhi tree — nothing will happen. And when the inside changes, why be bothered with the outside? Carry on whatsoever you were doing. Carry on whatsoever is given to you. Carry on whatsoever the whole wills.



In Buddhism that is the greatest question to be asked — just like what is truth? or what is God? — because in Buddhism God is not a concept, Buddha is God; no other god exists. Buddha is the highest reality, the highest peak; nothing is beyond it. The truth, God, the absolute, Brahma — whatsoever name you give to it, Buddha is THAT. So when a monk asks, ‘What is Buddha?’ he is asking what is truth? what is Tao? what is Brahma? what is that one among the many? what is the basic reality? what is the very central core of existence? — he is asking all that.


Absurd. Irrelevant. It seems to be completely pointless because the man was asking, ‘What is Buddha?’ And this Tozan seems to be a madman. He is not talking about Buddha at all, he has not answered the question at all — and yet he has answered. This is the paradox. If you start living this paradox your life will become a symphony; it will become a higher and higher synthesis of all the opposites. In YOU, then, all opposites will dissolve.


One thing he said: that this very ordinary life is Buddha, this very ordinary life is truth, this very ordinary life is Brahma, is the kingdom of God. There is no other life except this; there is no that, only THIS exists. Hindus say, ‘THAT exists, this is illusion’; Tozan said, ‘This is true, that is illusion. This very moment is truth, and don’t ask for any extraordinary thing.’

Seekers always ask for something extraordinary, because ego feels fulfilled only when something extraordinary is given. You come to a master and you ask questions, and if he says such things you will think he is mad, or joking, or not a man worthy to be asked. You will simply escape. Why? — because he shatters your ego completely. You were asking Buddha, you were desiring Buddha, you would like to be a Buddha yourself; hence the question. And this man says: What nonsense you are asking! Not even worth answering! This flax weighs five pounds. This is more important than any Buddha. This moment, this flax, is the whole of existence. In this five pounds of flax is cantered the whole being of the world — here and now. Don’t go astray; don’t ask philosophical questions. Look at this moment.

Tozan did a wonderful thing. Tozan is a Buddha. Tozan weighing flax is Buddha weighing flax — and reality is one! Tozan is Buddha, and the flax is also Buddha; and in that moment it weighed five pounds. That was the truth, the facticity of the moment. But if you are filled with philosophy you will think this man is mad and you will go away….Look: superficially this man is mad, but deeply you cannot find a saner man than this Tozan…Don’t be too wise, otherwise you will miss the real wisdom. Look at this Tozan without any prejudice, without any mind of your own. Simply look at the phenomenon, what is happening? A disciple monk asks, ‘What is Buddha?’ — and a Zen master lives in the moment, he is always here and now, he is always at home — whenever you come you will find him there, he is never absent from there — he remains in this moment. The trees, the sky, the sun, the rocks, the birds, the people — the whole world is concentrated in this moment! This moment is vast. It is not just a tick of your clock; this moment is infinite, because in this moment, everything is. Millions of stars, many new stars being born, many old stars going to die, this whole infinite expanse of time and space meets in this moment.

So how to indicate this moment? — and Tozan was weighing flax — how to indicate this moment, how to bring this monk here and now? How to put his philosophic inquiry aside? How to shock him and awaken him to this moment, and in this moment? This is a shock — because he must have been inquiring about Buddha in his mind, thinking: ‘What is the reality of a Buddha? What is truth?’ And he must have been expecting some profound answer, something very superb: ‘This master is enlightened, so he must say something very valuable.’ He could never have expected that it was going to be such an ordinary thing, such an ordinary and absurd answer. He must have been shocked. In that shock you can be awake for a moment, a fraction of a moment. When you are shocked thinking cannot continue. If the answer is anything relevant, thinking can continue, because that is what mind asks — relevancy. If something is said which is relevant to the question, thinking can continue; if something is said which is absolutely absurd, discontinuous, is not to the point at all, the mind cannot continue. Suddenly the mind is shocked, and the continuity broken. Soon it will start again, because the mind will say: This is absurd!…

But the shock, and the assertion of the mind that it is absurd, are not simultaneous; there is a gap. In that gap satori is possible. In that gap you can be awakened, you can have a glimpse. It would have been wonderful if the opportunity could have been used; wonderful is this man Tozan, incomparable. You cannot find such a man anywhere else. And what a spontaneous answer! Not prefabricated, not in any way readymade; nobody had said that ever before, and there is no point in saying it now. Nobody has ever said, ‘THIS FLAX WEIGHS FIVE POUNDS’ in answer to a question about Buddha: ‘What is Buddha?’ Tozan is spontaneous, he does not answer from the memory; otherwise he knows the scriptures, he was a great scholar before he became enlightened…. He knows by heart and has chanted all Buddha’s words, he has discussed philosophy for many years; he knows what the monk is asking, he knows what he is expecting — but he is simply spontaneous, weighing flax.

Just try to imagine and see Tozan weighing flax. In that moment what could indicate more spontaneously the reality of the moment, the facticity of existence? He simply said, ‘THIS FLAX WEIGHS FIVE POUNDS’ — and finished! He doesn’t say anything about Buddha; there is no need. This is Buddhahood. This being spontaneous is Buddhahood. This being true to the moment is buddhahood. What he says is just part of it; what he leaves unsaid is the whole. If you awaken in that moment you will see Buddha weighing flax — and the flax weighs five pounds. What is he indicating? He is not saying much, but he is showing much, and by not saying much he is creating a possibility: you may, for a single moment, be aware of the whole existence that is there concentrated in this Tozan. Whenever a Buddha happens in the world, the whole existence finds a centre there. Then all the rivers fall in him, and all the mountains bow down to him, and all the stars move around him. Whenever there is an enlightened man, the whole existence converges on his being. He becomes the centre.

Tozan weighing flax in that moment was the Buddha: the whole existence converging, flowing into Tozan, and Tozan weighing flax — and the flax weighed five pounds. This moment is so real: if you awaken, if you open your eyes, satori is possible. Tozan is spontaneous; he has no readymade answers; he responds to the moment. Next time if you come to Tozan the same answer cannot be given, will not be given, because Tozan may not be weighing, or may be weighing something else, or may be even weighing flax, but the flax may not weigh five pounds. Next time the answer will be different. If you come again and again, each time the answer will be different. This is the difference between a scholar and a man of knowledge. A scholar has fixed answers. If you come, whenever you come, he has a readymade answer for you. You ask, and he will give you the answer, and the answer will always be the same — and you will feel he is very consistent. He is…

An enlightened man lives in the moment: you ask, he replies — but he has got no fixed replies. He IS the reply. So whatsoever happens in that moment happens; he does not manipulate it, he does not think about it, about what you are asking. You simply ask, and his whole being responds. In this moment it happened that Tozan was weighing flax, and in this moment it happened that the flax weighed five pounds, and when this monk asked, ‘What is Buddha?’ in Tozan’s being five pounds was the reality. He was weighing; in Tozan’s being five pounds was the fact. He simply said: Five pounds of flax. Looks absurd on the surface. If you go deeper, deeper, you find a relevancy which is not a logical relevancy, and you find a consistency which is not that of the mind, but of the being. Understand, try to understand the difference. If next time you come and Tozan is digging a hole in the garden, and you ask, ‘What is Buddha?’ — he will give you the answer. He will say, ‘Look at this hole,’ he will say, ‘It is ready; now the tree can be planted.’ Next time, if you come again, and if he is going for a walk with his walking stick, he may say, ‘This walking stick.’

Whatsoever is in the moment will be the reply, because a Buddha lives moment to moment — and if you start living moment to moment, you become a Buddha. This is the answer: live moment to moment and you become a Buddha. A Buddha is one who lives moment to moment, who does not live in the past, who does not live in the future, who lives here now. Buddhahood is a quality of being present here and now — and Buddhahood is not a goal, you need not wait, you can become just here and now.

Talking, I am a Buddha, because only talk is happening. If only listening is happening there at the other end with you, you are a Buddha in listening. Try to catch a glimpse of the moment, this moment. This moment Tozan is not weighing flax; Tozan is talking to you. This moment you have not asked, ‘What is Buddha?’ but the question is there whether you ask it or not. The question goes around and around in the mind: What is truth? what is Buddha? what is Tao? Whether you ask it or not it is the question. YOU are the question. In this moment you can awake. You can look, you can shake the mind a little, create a discontinuity, and suddenly you understand… If you are also too intelligent, you will miss. Don’t be too intelligent, don’t try to be too clever, because there is a wisdom which is attained by those who become fools; there is a wisdom which is attained by those who become like madmen; there is a wisdom which is attained only when you lose your mind.

Tozan is beautiful. If you can see, and if you can see that the answer is not absurd, you have seen it, you have understood it. But if the understanding remains intellectual it will not be of much use. I have explained it to you, you have understood it, it is a question of a non-mental understanding. If it arises from your heart, if you feel it, not think it, if it touches your whole being, if it penetrates, is not just a verbal thing, not a philosophy, but becomes an experience, it will transform you. I am talking about these stories just to shock you out of your mind, just to bring you down a little towards the heart — and if you are ready, then still further down towards the navel. The further down you go, the deeper you reach… and, ultimately, depth and height are the same thing. 


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse series: And The Flowers Showered Chapter #8

Chapter title: Tozan’s Five Pounds

7 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:

  1. Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master
  2. Ancient Music in the Pines
  3. Ah, This!
  4. A Bird on the Wing
  5. Dang Dang Doko Dang
  6. Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment
  7. Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing
  8. God is Dead, Now Zen is the Only Living Truth
  9. Isan: No Footprints in the Blue Sky
  10. Joshu: The Lion’s Roar
  11. Kyozan: A True Man of Zen
  12. The Language of Existence
  13. Ma Tzu: The Empty Mirror
  14. Nansen: The Point of Departure
  15. Hyakujo: The Everest of Zen, with Basho’s Haikus
  16. No Mind: The Flowers of Eternity
  17. No Water, No Moon
  18. Yakusan: Straight to the Point of Enlightenment
  19. Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap and Zing
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