Discourses Zen master Ryōkan — 18 June 2018

Ryokan must have loved bamboo tremendously because he sings about it in many songs; he paints bamboo in many paintings, says Osho.

Osho 561

Ryokan liked this character in the bamboo – this character of emptiness:

“Once, it is said, a young growing shoot began to break through the door of his closet. He took interest in it. At last, seeing it grow too tall for the enclosure he started to remove the roof for it.”

Just think. A bamboo started growing inside the hut. He didn’t remove the bamboo, he started to remove the roof because the bamboo needed sky, the bamboo needed more space. The house was not as important as the bamboo – the empty bamboo growing in it, the alive bamboo growing in it.

But then one thing more happened.

“He tried to burn the roof with a candle.”

Suzuki says:

“Did he think it the easiest way to accomplish the work? Perhaps he had no such design in his mind, he simply wanted to give room to the young plant and seeing the candle most available at that time, he began to work.”

No, that it is not my feeling. That’s how Zen people work. If they can destroy something they will destroy it utterly. It has to be destroyed, it has to be destroyed utterly. And they take drastic steps. Now this was a drastic step – to burn the roof. Suzuki says:

“But unfortunately the roof caught fire more extensively than was first intended and the whole structure, together with the bamboo itself, was burned down.”

Now Suzuki says ‘unfortunately’. No, that is not right. Ryokan knows it is not unfortunate. That is what is exactly meant – the roof should go with the whole structure, the whole structure should go.

When a bamboo starts growing inside you, when a new something starts growing inside you – call it meditation, call it zazen – when it starts growing inside you the mind is the structure around it – because in the beginning, it is always the mind that you start with, there is no other way to start. If you have come to me you have come to me because of the mind. If you have started meditating, you have started because of your mind. Even if you are listening to me against the mind, you are listening from the mind, so everything will be in the structure of the mind. That roof, that structure, that hut is the mind and the bamboo grows inside it.

He burns the roof. Suzuki says ‘unfortunately’ the fire got too much beyond control and not only did it burn the whole structure it burned the bamboo itself. Naturally Suzuki thinks that when it burns the bamboo itself it is an accident. No, it is not.

First, to protect your meditation I will have to burn the structure of the mind, but this meditation you have started is part of the structure of your mind. When the mind is burned this meditation will be burned too. This mind and this meditation are together. This meditation has come out of this mind; it has to go with this mind. Another kind of meditation will arrive when this mind and meditation are both gone.

Yes, that is the meaning of this beautiful story. I am not ready to agree with Suzuki. Suzuki has missed the point. He has become too much concerned with the bamboo. He has lost track. It is fortunate that the fire got too extensive – in fact, it was meant to be so. When a master like Ryokan is going to do something he knows what he is doing. It cannot be just accident. In fact, in the life of a master like Ryokan, accidents don’t happen. All is done in full awareness, in total, absolute consciousness. This is what he meant. The structure will go and with the structure will go the bamboo. “The mind has to go and the meditation that you started with the mind will have to go too.”

And then another kind of meditation will arrive that has nothing to do with you – a totally discontinuous something. It is discontinuous, no more continuous with you. And then it is from God, then it is from the whole – a gift. It is not created by you, it is a happening.

Osho, Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 1, Ch 9