Zen is just Zen


“The future of humanity will go closer and closer to the approach of Zen, because the meeting of the East and West is possible only through something like Zen, which is earthly and yet unearthly.” (Ah This! Ch 1, part 1)


Ascending to the high seat, Dogen Zenji said:
“Zen Master Hogen studied with Keishin Zenji.
Once Keishin Zenji asked him, ‘Joza, where do you go?’
Hogen said. ‘I am making pilgrimage aimlessly.’
Keishin said, ‘What is the matter of your pilgrimage?’
Hogen said, ‘I don’t know.’
Keishin said, ‘Not knowing is the most intimate.’
Hogen suddenly attained great enlightenment.”

Zen ist just Zen. There is nothing comparable to it. It is unique – unique in the sense that it is the most ordinary and yet the most extraordinary phenomenon that has happened to human consciousness. It is the most ordinary because it does not believe in knowledge, it does not believe in mind. It is not a philosophy, not a religion either. It is the acceptance of the ordinary existence with a total heart, with one’s total being, not desiring some other world, supra-mundane, supra-mental. It has no interest in any esoteric nonsense, no interest in metaphysics at all. It does not hanker for the other shore; this shore is more than enough. Its acceptance of this shore is so tremendous that through that very acceptance it transforms this shore – and this very shore becomes the other shore:

This very body the buddha;
This very earth the lotus paradise.

Hence it is ordinary. It does not want you to create a certain kind of spirituality, a certain kind of holiness. All that it asks is that you live your life with immediacy, spontaneity. And then the mundane becomes the sacred.

The great miracle of Zen is in the transformation of the mundane into the sacred. And it is tremendously extraordinary because this way life has never been approached before, this way life has never been respected before.

Zen goes beyond Buddha and beyond Lao Tzu. It is a culmination, a transcendence, both of the Indian genius and of the Chinese genius. The Indian genius reached its highest peak in Gautam the Buddha and the Chinese genius reached its highest peak in Lao Tzu. And the meeting… the essence of Buddha’s teaching and the essence of Lao Tzu’s teaching merged into one stream so deeply that no separation is possible now. Even to make a distinction between what belongs to Buddha and what to Lao Tzu is impossible, the merger has been so total. It is not only a synthesis, it is an integration. Out of this meeting Zen was born. Zen is neither Buddhist nor Taoist and yet both.

To call Zen ‘Zen Buddhism’ is not right because it is far more. Buddha is not so earthly as Zen is. Lao Tzu is tremendously earthly, but Zen is not only earthly: its vision transforms the earth into heaven. Lao Tzu is earthly, Buddha is unearthly, Zen is both – and in being both it has become the most extraordinary phenomenon.

The future of humanity will go closer and closer to the approach of Zen, because the meeting of the East and West is possible only through something like Zen, which is earthly and yet unearthly. The West is very earthly, the East is very unearthly. Who is going to become the bridge? Buddha cannot be the bridge; he is so essentially Eastern, the very flavor of the East, the very fragrance of the East, uncompromising. Lao Tzu cannot be the bridge; he is too earthly. China has always been very earthly. China is more part of the Western psyche than of the Eastern psyche.

It is not an accident that China is the first country in the East to turn communist, to become materialist, to believe in a godless philosophy, to believe that man is only matter and nothing else. This is not just accidental. China has been earthly for almost five thousand years; it is very Western. Hence Lao Tzu cannot become the bridge; he is more like Zorba the Greek. Buddha is so unearthly you cannot even catch hold of him – how can he become the bridge?

When I look all around, Zen seems to be the only possibility, because in Zen, Buddha and Lao Tzu have become one. The meeting has already happened. The seed is there, the seed of that great bridge which can make East and West one. Zen is going to be the meeting point. It has a great future – a great past and a great future.

And the miracle is that Zen is neither interested in the past nor in the future. Its total interest is in the present. Maybe that’s why the miracle is possible, because the past and the future are bridged by the present.

The present is not part of time. Have you ever thought about it? How long is the present? The past has a duration, the future has a duration. What is the duration of the present? How long does it last? Between the past and the future can you measure the present? It is immeasurable; it is almost not. It is not time at all: it is the penetration of eternity into time.

And Zen lives in the present. The whole teaching is: how to be in the present, how to get out of the past which is no more and how not to get involved in the future which is not yet, and just to be rooted, centered, in that which is.

The whole approach of Zen is of immediacy, but because of that it can bridge the past and the future. It can bridge many things: it can bridge the past and the future, it can bridge the East and the West, it can bridge body and soul. It can bridge the unbridgeable worlds: this world and that, the mundane and the sacred.

Before we enter into this small anecdote it will be good to understand a few things. The first: the Masters do not tell the truth. Even if they want to they cannot; it is impossible. Then what is their function? What do they go on doing? They cannot tell the truth, but they can call forth the truth which is fast asleep in you. They can provoke it, they can challenge it. They can shake you up, they can wake you up. They cannot give you God, truth, nirvana, because in the first place you already have it all with you. You are born with it. It is innate, it is intrinsic. It is your very nature. So anybody who pretends to give you the truth is simply exploiting your stupidity, your gullibility. He is cunning – cunning and utterly ignorant too. He knows nothing; not even a glimpse of truth has happened to him. He is a pseudo Master.

Truth cannot be given; it is already in you. It can be called forth, it can be provoked. A context can be created, a certain space can be created in which it rises in you and is no more asleep, becomes awakened.

The function of the Master is far more complex than you think. It would have been far easier, simpler, if truth could be conveyed. It cannot be conveyed, hence indirect ways and means have to be devised.

The New Testament has the beautiful story of Lazarus. Christians have missed the whole point of it. Christ is so unfortunate – he has fallen into the wrong company. Not even a single Christian theologian has been able to discover the meaning of the story of Lazarus, his death and resurrection.

Lazarus dies. He is the brother of Mary Magdalene and Martha and a great devotee of Jesus. Jesus is far away; by the time he gets the information and the invitation, “Come immediately,” two days have already passed, and by the time he reaches Lazarus’ place four days have passed. But Mary and Martha are waiting for him – their trust is such. The whole village is laughing at them. They are being stupid in others’ eyes because they are keeping the corpse in a cave; they are watching day in, day out, guarding the corpse. The corpse has already started stinking; it is deteriorating.

The village people are saying, “You are fools! Jesus cannot do anything. When somebody is dead, somebody is dead!”

Jesus comes. He goes to the cave – he does not enter into the cave – he stands outside and calls Lazarus forth. The people have gathered. They must be laughing: “This man seems to be crazy!”

Somebody says to him, “What are you doing?” He is dead! He has been dead for four days. In fact, to enter into the cave is difficult – his body is stinking. It is impossible! Whom are you calling?”

But, unperturbed, Jesus shouts again and again, “Lazarus, come out!”

And the crowd is in for a great surprise: Lazarus walks out of the cave – shaken, shocked, as if out of a great slumber, as if he had fallen into a coma. He himself cannot believe what has happened, why he is in the cave.

This in fact is just a way of saying what the function of a Master is. Whether Lazarus was really dead or not is not the point. Whether Jesus was capable of raising the dead or not is not the point. To get involved in those stupid questions is absurd. Only scholars can be so foolish. No man of understanding will think that this is something historical. It is far more! It is not a fact, it is a truth. It is not something that happens in time, it is something more: something that happens in eternity.

You are all dead. You are all in the same situation as Lazarus. You are all living in your dark caves. You are all stinking and deteriorating… because death is not something that comes one day suddenly – you are dying every day. Since the day of your birth you have been dying. It is a long process; it takes seventy, eighty, ninety years to complete it. Each moment something of you dies, something in you dies, but you are absolutely unaware of the whole situation. You go on as if you are alive; you go on living as if you know what life is.

The function of the Master is to call forth: “Lazarus, come out of the cave! Come out of your grave! Come out of your death!”

The Master cannot give you the truth but he can call forth the truth. He can stir something in you. He can trigger a process in you which will ignite a fire, a flame. Truth you are – just so much dust has gathered around you. The function of the Master is negative: he has to give you a bath, a shower, so the dust disappears.

That’s exactly the meaning of Christian baptism. That’s what John the Baptist was doing in the River Jordan. But people go on misunderstanding. Today also baptism happens in the churches; it is meaningless.

John the Baptist was preparing people for an inner bath. When they were ready he would take them symbolically into the River Jordan. That was only symbolic – just as your orange clothes are symbolic, that bath in the River Jordan was symbolic – symbolic that the Master can give you a bath. He can take the dust, the dust of centuries, away from you. And suddenly all is clear, all is clarity. That clarity is enlightenment.

The great Master Daie says: “All the teachings of the sages, of the saints, of the masters, have expounded no more than this: they are commentaries on your sudden cry, ‘Ah, This!'”

When suddenly you are clear and a great joy and rejoicing arises in you, and your whole being, every fiber of your body, mind and soul dances, and you say, “Ah, this! Alleluia!” a great shout of joy arises in your being, that is enlightenment. Suddenly stars come down from the rafters. You become part of the eternal dance of existence.

Auden says:

Dance till the stars come down from the rafters!
Dance, dance, dance till you drop!

Yes, it happens – it is not something that you have to do. It is something that even if you want not to do you will find it impossible; you will find it impossible to resist. You will have to dance.

The beauty of this, the beauty of now, the joy that existence is and the closeness of it… Yes, stars come down from the rafters. They are so close you can just touch them; you can hold them in your hands.

Daie is right. He says:

All the teachings the sages expounded are no more than commentaries on your sudden cry, “Ah, this!”

The whole heart says, “Aha!” And the silence that follows it, and the peace, and the joy, and the meeting, and the merger, and the orgasmic experience, the ecstasy…!

Osho, Ah This! Ch 1 (part 1)

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