It is a very sad story about Thomas Merton. Perhaps he was one of
the persons in the West who has come closest to Zen. He had the
sensibility of a poet; the others are approaching Zen from their
intellect, their mind.
Thomas Merton is approaching Zen through his heart. He feels it, but he could not live the direct experience he is talking about. He would have been the first Zen master in the West, but he was prevented by the Catholic church.
Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk under the control of the Vatican. The Trappist monks are the most self-torturing ascetics in Christianity. Perhaps that′s why they are called Trappist - trapped forever.
Thomas Merton wrote beautiful poetry, and he asked again and again to go to Japan and to live in a Zen monastery to have the direct experience of Zen. But permission was refused half a dozen times; again and again he was refused.
If he had really understood Zen he would not have bothered even to ask for permission. Who is the Vatican? Who is the pope? A Zen master asking permission from unenlightened people is simply not heard of. And he followed the orders from the Vatican and from the abbot of his own monastery.
He had been reading as much as was available in English about Zen. Finally, he had a chance to go, but he did not understand the way the organized religions work. There was going to be a Catholic conference of missionaries in Bangkok, Thailand, and he asked permission to attend the conference. Deep in his heart he was going to Bangkok to attend the conference just so that from there he could enter Japan without asking anybody′s permission.
But the pope and the Vatican leaders and his abbot - they were all aware of his continuously asking for permission to go to a Zen monastery.
On the last day of the conference in Bangkok, Thomas Merton spoke about Zen. And he also mentioned that he would love to go to Japan from Bangkok. That very night he was found dead. And without anybody being informed, his body was embalmed immediately, without any autopsy, without knowing the cause of his death. After you have embalmed a body there is no possibility of autopsy. There is every reason to suspect that he was poisoned to prevent him from going to a Zen monastery.
Murder has been the argument of the so-called religions. This is not a religious attitude at all. If he wanted to experience Zen, any religious man would have allowed him to go. That′s what happens in Zen. No master ever rejects any disciple′s interest in some other Zen monk, in some other monastery - maybe belonging to a different branch, Soto or Rinzai... Permission is gracefully given, and not only to those who are inquiring about going somewhere else. Even the master himself, if he feels that some other master will be more appropriate, some other path leading to the direct experience will be more fitting to the disciple, will send his own disciples to other monasteries. This is a totally different world, the world of Zen, with no competitiveness, no question of conversion.
Thomas Merton′s murder shows the poverty of Catholicism and Christianity. Why were they so afraid? The fear was that Thomas Merton had already praised Zen, and although he was living in the monastery, it seemed he was wavering between Zen and Christianity. To give him a chance to go to Japan and have a direct experience under a master might have been dangerous. He might have become involved in Zen for his whole life. These so-called religions are so jealous; they don′t have any compassion for individual growth, freedom.
Thomas Merton′s murder is not only Thomas Merton′s murder, it should make every Christian aware that Christianity is not a religion. Deep down it is more interested in gathering numbers. Numbers have their own politics. The greater the number of followers you have, the greater the power to dominate. And they are always afraid that anybody who leaves their fold is betraying.
But it is absolutely certain that Thomas Merton had already felt in his heart the immense need for Zen. Christianity was no longer satisfying. His whole life he had been a monk in the monastery, but slowly slowly, as he became aware of Zen, he could see that Christianity was not at all a religion; fictions, lies, beliefs, but not a direct experience. The very idea of Zen as a non-systematic, individualist approach to truth in a direct way - not through theology, not through any belief, not through any philosophy, but through meditation - was attracting him immensely, but it was not yet an experience.
Thomas Merton is far better than Suzuki, than Alan Watts, than Paul Reps, than Hubert Benoit, and than many others who have written about Zen. He comes the closest, because he is not speaking through the head, he is speaking through the heart of a poet.
But the heart is only just in the middle, between the head and the being. Unless you reach to the being, you don′t have the experience yourself. But he was a sensitive man; he managed to state things which he had not experienced.
His statement is beautiful, but it shows clearly that he had not experienced it himself. This is his understanding - of course, far deeper than any other Western scholar of Zen. If it had really been a direct experience for him, the way he was saying, he would not have cared about anybody′s permission, he would not have cared about Christianity. He would have come out of that fold - which was just a slavery and nothing else.
Because he never came out of the fold, that shows he was hanging in the middle, he was not yet certain. He had not tasted the truth. He had only heard about it, read about it, and felt that there seems to be a different approach, altogether different, from that of Christianity. But Christianity was still keeping its hold over him. He could not be a rebel, and that′s where he failed, completely failed.
A man of Zen is basically rebellious. Thomas Merton was not rebellious, he was a very obedient person. Obedience is another name for slavery, a beautiful name that does not hurt you, but it is spiritual slavery. His asking six times and being refused, and still remaining in the fold, shows clearly that he was spiritually a slave. Although he was showing a deep interest in Zen, it was at the most, deeper than the mind, but not deep enough to reach to the being. He remained hanging in the middle. Perhaps now in his new life, he may either be here, or in Japan - most probably he is here amongst you - because that was his last wish before he died.
As the conference ended and he went to his bed, immediately he was poisoned. While he was dying, thinking about Zen, his last wish must have been to go to Japan, to be with a master. He had lived under Christianity his whole life, but it had not fulfilled him, it had not made him enlightened. It had only been a consolation.
Only fools can be deceived by consolations and lies and fictions. A man of such intense sensitivity as Thomas Merton could not be befooled. But a lifelong obedience turned into a spiritual slavery. He tried to sneak out from Bangkok - because there was no need to ask the abbot of the monastery, there was no need to ask the pope. He could have simply gone from Bangkok.
But these so-called religions are murderous. They must have been ready. If he showed any interest in Japan and not going back to his monastery directly from Bangkok as the conference ended... the murderers must have been already there. And because he mentioned in his last speech to the conference that he was immensely interested in Zen, and he would like to go to Japan from there, this statement became his death.
So it is not only Ayatollah Khomeini. There have been murders and murders, century after century, of people who wanted to get out of the slavery and seek and search the truth on their own; who wanted to get rid of all systems, who wanted to have a direct experience of life.
Thomas Merton′s words are beautiful, but they are empty words because there is no supporting experience behind them.
I will read those words again:
But this can be said very easily by anybody reading books about Zen. It is not a systematic explanation of life; in fact, it is not an explanation at all. That makes the difference.
He is denying:
I say unto you, Zen is not an explanation at all about life or
existence. It is an experience, not an explanation. It is not an
This can be said by anyone who is reading a book on Zen. But it is stated with such certainty by so many people who have only an intellectual understanding, that it is not a great indication of whether Thomas Merton had had any experience. Zen certainly is not an ideology, it is not a world view. All these are different words for the same thing:
He is simply being tautological, he is saying the same thing again and again in different words.
There he is wrong. It is, although it is
not stated. That′s why he thought it is not a mystique. It is the
greatest mystique, but it is not said because it cannot be said.
Because it is never said, he thought that it is not a mystique.
These small things indicate that he′s just read about it - because
nowhere is it said that it is a mystique. Because no master ever
indicated in words that it is a mystique, he thinks it is not a
mystique. It is. It is the greatest mystique, the greatest mystery,
the greatest miracle.
But to say it in words has not been the way of Zen. It attracts people, takes away their ideologies, their theologies, their religions. It leaves you absolutely fresh at the very center of your being. Without saying anything, you experience the mystique, you experience the mystery of existence and life. But because it is an experience...
In Zen they don′t even use the word ′experience′, they use the word ′experiencing′, because the experience is not something dead and complete. It is a river flowing, flowing, alive, moving. The word ′experience′ indicates that it has become complete. Anything that becomes complete becomes dead, and Zen is the most alive thing in the world; hence it cannot be said that it is an experience. We have to invent a word, ′experiencing′; instead of river, ′rivering′... That gives the clear-cut idea that a river is not static, it is moving. On the way, always on the way, moving eternally, falling into the ocean, rising into the clouds, falling in the rain on the mountains, and again into the river... moving in a circle of tremendous aliveness, never stopping anywhere.
There is no full stop in Zen, and all our words - ′experience′, ′knowledge′, ′understanding′... give the illusion of a full stop. We have to change our nouns into verbs - verbs come closer to life. We use the word ′life′, but we should use the word ′living′ - that comes closer. Moment to moment, living. ′Life′ seems to be something dead; it has already completed its course, has come to an end, to the graveyard.
Zen is certainly a mystique. In fact, it is the only mystique there is. But it is not being said, it is kept a secret so that you don′t go inside your being with a certain idea. You go absolutely clean and fresh. You will find the mystery, the immense mystery of life, but Zen′s absolute approach is not to give you any idea what you are going to find. The reason is very scientific.
If you have any idea what you are going to find - which all the religions give you... The mind has the capacity to create an hallucination of the idea. Then the idea becomes a reality to you. Christians experience Christ, Buddhists experience Buddha, Hindus experience Krishna. It never happens to a Hindu that Christ comes, it never happens to a Christian that Mohammed comes. Strange... Mohammed comes only to those who believe in Mohammed.
Once in a while it would be good for these people to enter into somebody else′s experience. In fact, it would be absolutely right to convert.... If Christ appears to a Hindu, the Hindu will become Christian; if Krishna appears to a Christian, the Christian will turn to the Hare Krishna, Hare Rama movement. But it never happens! It cannot happen because you are carrying a certain idea, so fixed that your whole mind starts creating a dream.
The mind has the capacity of dreaming, hallucinating, imagining. If you are constantly working on one single idea, sooner or later it becomes such a fixed program that when you look in silence you find suddenly Christ arising. That fulfills your idea. It is a vicious circle. Because you experience Christ arising in your mind, your belief in Christ becomes stronger.
Now it is no longer just a belief, you have experienced it also. Because it becomes stronger, there is more possibility of Christ coming closer to you. Every time Christ appears to you, he will be more solid, more alive, closer. And every time he appears, you are getting feedback for your belief system, it is becoming stronger and more fanatical. Soon you will be almost insane. You will start talking to Christ - and not only will you start talking, but he will answer.
Anybody watching you will see that you are doing both the things: you are asking the question and you are answering the question. Anybody watching you will be able to see that you are just behaving in an insane way. You are not talking to anybody but yourself. But you have gone so deep in the hallucination, with such strength and continuous feedback, that you believe it is Christ who is talking.
You can find such mad people sitting and talking in every madhouse, and you know that there is nobody. And the strangest phenomenon which the mind is capable of, is that when the person asks a question, his voice will be different. When he answers the question, his voice will be different again - booming, coming from the beyond. This whole game he is playing alone; there is nobody to answer.
If you continue till you start hearing, you are going to be completely insane. All the religions have been driving their saints, their monks, into insanity. This world is not in a mess without any reason; the religions are absolutely responsible for it.
Thomas Merton says:
Because he was following an ascetic way of perfection, he could see that Zen is different; it gives no discipline. The Trappist monk lives under such a strict discipline, it is unbelievable.
A man entered into one of the most prominent Trappist monasteries,
and the abbot said, "Do you know our rule? For seven years you have
not to say a single word. Only after seven years can you state
anything you want, anything you need, anything you want to inquire
about - just a small talk. Then for seven years again you have to be
The man was determined to follow the discipline, so he accepted and he was shown his cell. He went into the cell and he saw that the glass was broken. So for seven years he was suffering from cold, suffering from rain - because the rain was coming directly through the window - and he could not say a single word, he had to wait for seven years.
He waited, and after seven years he went to the abbot and said, "My window is broken."
The abbot said, "That′s enough. You go back. For seven years no more words. The window will be repaired."
The window was repaired, but in seven years the mattress had gone completely rotten because rain was continuously coming in, and even snowflakes were coming in. Suddenly he saw that he had not mentioned about the mattress. "My God! now seven years again..." And the mattress had gathered all kinds of cockroaches, spiders... because the window was broken, and this was a good shelter for cockroaches.
After seven years of continuous suffering with cockroaches... he again went to the abbot and said, "You repaired the window, but the mattress is absolutely rotten."
The abbot said, "Go back to your cell, a new mattress will be sent." And the people who brought the new mattress pulled out the old one and cleaned the cell, but the new mattress was bigger than the cell. They somehow forced it, and because they were forcing it, the glass of the window broke. Now again begins the same story....
Fourteen years have passed - again he is back to zero. The first day he entered, this was the situation. Seven years he has to wait again. Again the rain - and he is getting old and sick, and continuously has fever, but he cannot speak.
After seven years when he went to the abbot, the abbot said, "Shut up!" before he even spoke. "For twenty-one years I have never heard anything from you except complaints, complaints, complaints! Get out of the monastery!"
The poor fellow, after wasting twenty-one years in a Trappist
monastery, was thrown out, sick, old, exhausted. Twenty-one years of
continuous torture !
Thomas Merton was living in a Trappist monastery. Obviously, he could see that Zen does not give you any discipline, it is not ascetic, and he could see what he had been doing to himself and what other Trappists were doing to themselves. It is sheer masochism - self-torture in the name of an ascetic way of life. It is not a way of life, it is a way of death! It is slow suicide, slow poisoning.
But his statement will be detected by any man who has a direct experience of Zen.
The implication is that it is a way of perfection without
asceticism. It is not a way of perfection at all.
Zen is evolution, endless evolution. Perfection is the dead end of
the road, there is no more to go. In Zen there is always the
infinite and the eternal available. You cannot exhaust it. In fact,
as you go on the way, the way is not exhausted, slowly slowly you
start dispersing and disappearing. Suddenly you find one day you are
no more, only existence is.
It is not perfection at all, it is not salvation. It is dissolution, it is disappearance, it is melting like ice into the ocean.
Thomas Merton goes on:
In the West it is understood as mysticism; that does not mean it is not mysticism. Certainly it is not the mysticism that arises out of the mind as a philosophical point of view. It is pure mysticism, not originating in the mind, but arising from your very sources of life. It blossoms into mysterious flowers releasing mysterious, absolutely unknown fragrances into existence. It is mysticism - but it is not an "ism." It is not a philosophy, it is not a creed or cult. Again and again you have to fall back towards direct experience.
All his statements are beautiful, but something is missing. That
missing link you will find only if you have the experience. Then you
can compare. Otherwise Thomas Merton will look absolutely right, a
man of Zen. He is not. He wanted to be, but if he had been, there
would have been no need to go to Japan.
I have never been to Japan. In fact, in Japanese Zen monasteries my books are being read, prescribed in Zen universities - but I have never been to Japan. I don′t need to. Buddha himself never went to Japan, Mahakashyapa was not born in Japan.
His desire to go to Japan shows that he had seen one thing clearly: that Christianity does not work. And he was searching for some new approach that worked.
is true. But it is not only categories of ours -
it does not fit into any kind of category. It is beyond categories.
Neither Christian categories, nor Hindu, nor Mohammedan, nor Jaina,
it does not fit into any category. It is so original, you cannot
make it fit into any category. The original is always individual; it
is not a category.
Do you think I fit in any category? All categories are against me! And the reason they are against me is that I don′t fit with them. I have no desire to fit with anybody. I am sufficient unto myself. I don′t need any religion, I don′t need any philosophy, I don′t need any category.
In other words: I am a category in myself.
Zen will not fit into any category because it is a category in itself. And it is such a rebellious category, such an unsystematic category, that in Zen all kinds of wildflowers are accepted as equal with the roses and with the lotuses. It does not matter whether it is a lotus or a rose or just a wildflower, the only thing that matters is flowering. All have flowered to their potential. That′s where they are all equal. Otherwise their colors are different, their beauties are different, their fragrances are different - a few may not have any fragrance at all.
So they don′t fit in one category, but as far as flowering is concerned, they have all flowered, blossomed, to their totality. Whatever was hidden has become a reality. What was a dream in the plant has blossomed as a reality.
Zen is a blossoming of your potential. And everybody has a different potential, so when you blossom as a Zen man you have a unique individuality. You don′t fit with any category - and not only Christian categories. That′s what Thomas Merton means:
But I have to say to you, it does not fit any category at all, yours
or ours or anybody else′s. It is beyond the mind. All categories
belong to the mind. This is the only rebellion against mind: going
beyond it. This is the only revolution against the self: going into
no-self, into anatta. This is ultimate freedom from all kinds of
bondages: prisons and categories and isms and ideologies and world
views and philosophies. It is an absolute freedom from all that mind
can create and mind can understand. It is also free from the heart.
The heart can understand something deeper than the mind, but Zen is far deeper than the heart. The heart can be just an overnight stay. While you are going towards your being, your heart, your art, your music, your dance, your poetry, your painting, your sculpture, can be just one night′s halt. But you have to go deeper. You have to reach to the very roots of your life, from where you are getting nourishment every moment, to the point where you are joined with existence, you are no longer separate.
says Thomas Merton,
This is a very simple understanding which need not have any direct experience. And he comes to the point.
A beautiful statement, but empty - a plastic flower with no
fragrance and with no life in it. Otherwise, why did he want to go
If he had had this direct experience he is talking about, there was no need to go to Japan, and there was no need to remain in a Trappist monastery. He should have been a man of freedom.
But he could never attain that freedom. He was longing for it, he was desiring it - and you desire only because you don′t have it. If you have it, you don′t desire it.
And you have asked,
Not yet - but perhaps in this life. After being murdered by the
It is a well-known fact to the people who have known the direct experience, that your last thought before you die is going to be your first thought when you are born and you grow up. As you start having intelligence, your last thought of the past life is going to suddenly pop up. It has been hiding itself inside you.
It is just like the last thought when you go to bed. Just watch what is the last thought... or perhaps it is better to create the last thought so you are clearly aware of it. For example, you simply think of zero. Go on watching the zero, so it is visual also, and the thought is inside: zero, zero, zero, zero... and sleep starts coming. And when sleep is coming, still a faraway echo, zero, zero, zero... goes on. Once the sleep settles, you forget about the word ′zero′.
Then remember in the early morning when you are feeling awake - don′t open your eyes, just wait a little. Within moments, the first thought in the morning will be "zero." That will give you the idea that although you had forgotten about zero, the whole night, eight hours, it was continuously moving as an undercurrent. Otherwise, how do you find exactly that thought in the morning as the first thought?
The same happens with death, because death is nothing but a deeper sleep. The last thought, the last desire, is going to be your first thought, your first desire as you become mature enough to have thoughts. It will immediately come to your mind.
In Tibet they have a special ceremony for dying people called bardo. The person is dying, and the masters of Bardo recite certain experiences that are going to happen to you: that you will be born in a certain womb of a special kind, that you will be born as an intelligent being, that your first thought will be how to find the truth, how to become a buddha... They go on repeating....
The man is dying, he is going deeper and deeper into sleep, and they go on repeating it till they feel the man is dead. They have given him the last thought. Perhaps he would not have been able to have this last thought by himself, because his last thought may be money, his last thought may be sex, his last thought may be anything that he has been desiring and has not been able to get: power, prestige, respectability.
One never knows what the last thought will be. It will be the one that you have not been able to materialize in your life and in which you have been disappointed. That will bubble up, pop up in your head, and that will drive you into a new life. That will be the determining factor for your new phase, your new journey.
The Tibetan enlightened people found that it is better not to depend on the person. It is better to create the aroma, the atmosphere in which he forgets all about money and sex, power and prestige, fame and name, and they go on repeating the Bardo in such a singing voice that it is impossible for him not to hear it.
Thomas Merton must have been born in Japan or in a place where he
can experience Zen without any hindrance from Christianity, without
any obedience to any pope. But in the past life, when he was Thomas
Merton, he was having a good contemplation about Zen that may have
created the atmosphere of Bardo. And because this was his last
statement in the conference... and he must have been planning it
while he was being poisoned. The next morning he was to leave for
Japan, he had booked for Japan - but he was not aware that
Christianity will not allow you to get out of their prison so
I am against all these religions for the simple reason that they have been criminals, murderers. They have been talking about peace, love, God; they have been talking great words - but they don′t mean it. What they mean can be found only in their actions, not in their words.
Do you see the contradiction? Just in the first statement he was saying it is not a mystique, it is not mysticism, and now he is saying:
The first thing is that Thomas Merton was not a very conscious being; he knew nothing of meditation. Without knowing meditation, you cannot be more conscious than ordinary people; everybody has a thin layer of consciousness. Hence, he forgets immediately that he has denied that Zen is a mystique, and immediately he comes to the point:
In fact, it is simply mysterious; it has nothing to do with
spiritualities. It is far beyond so-called spirituality - because
what else is your spirit than your self? Hence, all spiritualities
are centered on self realization.
Zen is not a spiritual phenomenon at all, because it is moving beyond the spirit and beyond the self. It is going into nothingness. It is melting into the blue sky.
For example, Jainism is a great spirituality. It stops at the realization of the self. Once you have realized your individuality, it stops. You become a frozen iceberg, not melting. Gautam Buddha goes beyond Mahavira. The iceberg has to melt, and once the iceberg melts, you are no more.
It is not even spirituality. Certainly that makes it more mysterious, but not a more mysterious spirituality. The basic approach of Gautam Buddha is that you are not, and you have to look into this nothingness. This nothingness is the beginning of your universal synchronicity with the very heart of existence. This dissolving into the ocean of life has never been taught by anyone other than Gautam Buddha. And since Gautam Buddha, Zen masters have taken the task in their hands.
It is not a spirituality, because it has no self. It is utterly mysterious, because you are expected to dissolve yourself - which will look to the mind the hardest thing, but it is not. Once you are out of the mind, not to be is the easiest thing.
Shakespeare′s statement, "To be or not to be..." All religions are in favor of the first: to be. Zen alone is there, rising high into the blue sky, declaring the phenomenon, the great mystery of not to be. To be is just an extension of your ego. Your self is just a polished ego and nothing else. Your self can be said to be your spiritual ego - a pious ego, very refined, very subtle, but it is nothing but ego.
Your personality is given by society, your individuality is given by your very birth. But before the birth you were not an individual, you were one with the womb of the mother. You never thought about being separate - you were not separate. You were nourished by the mother′s blood, by the mother′s oxygen; you were part of the mother′s body. You were joined from your navel to the mother′s body, and that was your very source of life. The mother was giving you life; you did not have any individuality.
So when you reach to the ultimate womb of the universe, again you will not have any individuality. Personality has to be dropped very quickly. That is only clothes given by the society to cover you, to keep you unaware of your individuality, which is more natural. Hence, all civilized cultures are against nudity. It is not just a social question; it is that they don′t want you to know your individuality, they want you to think of yourself as a personality. Your clothes, your language, your education, your morality, your religion, your church-going, your prayer... they all constitute your personality. They are the clothes with which the society goes on covering you, and you forget completely about your individuality.
The first thing Zen has to do is to take away all the clothes. The second thing it has to do is to take away even the individuality and leave you in the cosmic womb, utterly one with existence. It is not spirituality, it is pure life, pure existence. But don′t talk about spirituality or self-realization or salvation - they are all ego-bound.
Thomas Merton was aware of the fact that:
Those paradoxes appear only to those who are trying to
understand Zen from books. Zen is a direct transmission of the lamp.
Without a master it is a very very rare phenomenon that somebody can
become enlightened. With the master you are already moving into an
energy field. You are nothing but energy, condensed energy, and the
master is in tune with existence. If you get in tune with the
master, indirectly you are getting in tune with existence. The
moment the master sees that you are getting in tune with him, he
simply moves out of the way.
That′s why Buddha is reported to have said a very strange thing: "If I come on your path, immediately cut off my head." What he is saying is that the master at a certain point has to move out of the way. If he does not move out, it is the duty of the disciple to push him away and go directly into the cosmos. But no master worth his salt will ever become a hindrance.
Teachers can become hindrances - and Thomas Merton′s teachers were hindrances. His abbot was prohibiting him, the pope was prohibiting him, all the senior monks in the monastery were prohibiting him. They were saying, "What is the need? You have Christ, you have Christianity, you have the greatest religion of the world. Why do you want to go to Japan, and particularly to the Zen people, who are just a small stream?"
If you are reading through books you will find they are full of paradox, but if you are studying under a master, he will dissolve the paradox. That′s what I have been doing continuously. You bring the sutras which are almost without any explanation, very paradoxical, very strange, almost absurd.
My whole effort is to take that absurdity away, to take that paradox away and make things clean and clear for you, so that you can at least understand Zen not as a paradoxical system, self-contradictory, irrational, but as absolutely relevant to existence. Certainly it does not follow Aristotle′s logic upon which the whole of Christianity depends.
The West finds in Aristotle the father of their whole logical mind. Aristotle is certainly a genius as far as mind is concerned, but beyond the mind he has no idea. Just as Thomas Merton was seeking to go to Japan, to have some direct experience...
Aristotle was Alexander the Great′s teacher. And when Alexander was coming to conquer India, he asked his teacher, Aristotle, "Would you like me to bring some special thing for you? I can bring anything you want from India."
And what Aristotle wanted, was for Alexander to bring a sannyasin. He said, "I have heard so much about the sannyasins and their enlightenment. If you can bring an enlightened sannyasin, that will be a real gift for me. And secondly, I have heard much about the Vedas of the Hindus, their scriptures. If you can bring a set of the four Vedas with an enlightened sannyasin, that will be the greatest gift to me."
That shows that he does not understand what enlightenment is, he does not understand what sannyas is. He is asking for a contradictory thing. A sannyasin, an enlightened being, is against all scriptures - and he is asking for the Hindu scriptures also. He does not know that these are two contradictory things. But one thing is certain, that he has no experience of the inner world, otherwise he would not have asked for a sannyasin. He cannot understand what this phenomenon of enlightenment is.
Your greatest logician is absolutely unaware of his own being - to say nothing about the great being of existence - and he is still trying to figure it out through his mind. Hence his request to bring the four Vedas, so that by reading the Vedas he can understand enlightenment. The Vedas are not needed for enlightenment. You cannot understand enlightenment by reading any scripture. All that you will get will be a misunderstanding.
Thomas Merton says:
- it is not impudent paradox -
Rational spirit? He is using the word ′spirit′ in place of
′mind′. Rational mind seems to be relevant; rational spirit nobody
has heard of. Either you have your rationality or you have your
spirit. Both cannot exist together.
Once you have dropped your rationality, only the spirit remains, the self remains. That is the last barrier. When the last barrier also is dropped, you are no more, and existence is and life is - and this is Zen.
You are asking:
No. Zen is neither rational nor irrational, because both belong
to the mind. Zen is simply beyond any duality. Rational and
irrational are just another duality like day and night, birth and
death, darkness and light. Zen is simply beyond any dual
Once you are beyond mind, you cannot have any duality, any trace of duality in you. You are neither rational nor irrational; you are simply here and now, without any label. All labels are gathered by the mind. You are no longer a man or a woman; you have never been born and you have never died. All that was the same stuff that dreams are made of.
You are saying that,
No, we are not after anything. The unlimited also becomes to the mind just the opposite of the limited - again, another duality. We are not after anything, we are just relaxing into ourselves. To go after anything is always going outward. To go after anything means to go after something which is outside you. We are not after anything; we are dropping all those processes - after this and after that, after money, after power, after prestige, after self-realization, after God. All those things are dropped. We are simply relaxing and resting into our very source.
You are also asking,
Christianity lives on all kinds of lies. All religions live on
lies, but Christianity′s lies are very apparent.
Other religions have tried hard to hide their irrationalities, and sometimes you may not be able to discover where the irrationality is. For example, Jainism has no God, so the greatest lie is dissolved, and with it many other things are dissolved. There is no question of creation, and there is no question of the last judgment day; there is no question of prophets coming from God, there is no question of messiahs, messengers sent by God, and there is no question of a Jesus Christ being the only begotten of God. When there is no God, all these things disappear automatically. Jainism seems to be more solidly rooted.
Mahavira creates no miracles, does not give eyes to the blind, does not give health to sick people, does not revive the dead again into life. There are no miracles which can create doubt in your mind: "How are these things possible? These are absolutely unscientific." So Mahavira stands on firmer ground, and it will be very difficult to find where he is hiding his irrationality.
Most of the followers of Mahavira have never thought that there can be anything irrational in Mahavira. He seems to be very rational, far more rational than Aristotle. Aristotle′s logic is simply two steps: yes-no, day-night, positive-negative. Just two polarities have been taken into account. But what about the middle ground? There are many positions between two extremes - at least there is a middle. And when there is a middle, again there is another middle - on this side, on that side. As you go on creating middles...
You see within these five fingers, one space, a second space, a third space, a fourth space - so there are nine points. But this is not exhaustive. Once you put one point between two fingers, on both sides of the middle there will be two gaps again. So it is an infinite process of dividing and dividing into smaller pieces.
Mahavira divides his logic into seven pieces. That seems to be more rational than Aristotle, because Aristotle has only two alternatives - a very poor logic. So when you study Mahavira you will be overwhelmed with his subtlety, and you will not find where to look for the loopholes.
The loopholes are there. No religion can live without loopholes - but it is far superior to Christianity. Christianity′s loopholes are just there in front of everybody. Only utterly blind people can be Christians, those who cannot even see just in front of themselves.
Immaculate conception, virgin birth... and how can an intelligent person go on believing in a virgin birth? Creation of the world - and nobody asks what God had been doing before that. Was he completely unemployed... for eternity? just living with the Holy Ghost?
A strange kind of God... And suddenly, for no reason at all, six thousand years ago, he created the whole world within six days. Do you think anybody can create this whole universe within six days? And if he was so creative, then why did he remain absolutely impotent for eternity?
And if there is a beginning to existence there is bound to be an end. Things are very clear. Jesus Christ′s miracles - walking on water, raising the dead - are apparently clear, but are not scientific. Resurrection... and after resurrection going directly, alive, without any vehicle, not even a horse...?
Mohammed at least had his horse going up. They just stopped in the middle for a rest at Jerusalem. Jerusalem seems to be above the clouds, a holy city. Tired after a long journey, he rested there on a rock, and then took another jump - but at least he had the horse! Jesus had not even a horse, but went directly... like a balloon, and without any gas! And after reaching paradise, he must have thrown a rope or something for his mother to hold onto, and pulled the mother also to paradise!
And people go on believing in these things! And if you remove all these things, Christianity has nothing to offer. So they go on insisting that these are real factual experiences. But the time has come when they cannot insist anymore.
Jainism is far superior, but I will tell you where its loopholes are. Its loopholes are very well hidden. It does not believe in creation. Then the question arises: the population of the world goes on growing, so from where are all these people coming? There is no sign of any life on any planet, on any star, so from where do all these people keep on coming?
At the time of Mahavira, India had only two million people. Now there are, in India alone, nine hundred million people. From where have they come? - not to say anything about the mosquitoes, because they also have souls according to Mahavira. And bedbugs, and cockroaches, and rats - just look around the world - all these have souls! From where are they coming?
Mahavira had his loophole too, so he fabricated an idea that there is a place called nigod - somewhere far away, just as God is far away - and this nigod is a place like a freezer, where souls are frozen from eternity, infinite souls. It cannot be a small freezer. Howsoever frozen the souls are, they will take some space, so the freezer has to be big enough to contain millions and millions and millions and trillions of souls. Then those souls start coming, one by one. Why one by one?
This nigod is an absolutely imaginary place just to answer the question: "From where are the souls coming... their number goes on growing?" If the world is uncreated, and if the same number of people had remained, there would have been no question. But every day the number of people is growing; every moment, every second, thousands of people are coming. And these are only men... what about all the other animals, all the insects...? They also have souls. According to Mahavira every living being has a soul, even a tree.
So finally he had to invent a lie - that there is some faraway place where souls are dormant. The top layer is released, then another layer is released. But who is doing all this work? Who is running the shop? And why have some people come first, and some are still in the freezer? Mahavira has no explanation for it.
In every religion - it does not matter what religion it is - you will find, if you search deep enough, howsoever sophisticated it is, that there will be a loophole. All religions depend on lies.
Zen is not a religion, hence it need not be dependent on lies. It is a pure search. It does not go with any prejudice or any belief in the search. It does not even say that you will find it. One never knows: you just go and see on your own whether there is something inside or not. Although anybody who has gone deep inside has always found, still Zen continues to be the only approach without any lies. Knowing perfectly well there is a hidden buddha in you, it does not tell you that you have to believe in it.
Search for yourself.
Zen gives such total freedom to you, because it does not impose any belief. Hence you cannot find any loophole in Zen. That is its beauty, that is its greatness.
Because they cannot drop their old prison, they have become so
accustomed to it. These two experiences cannot be compared. These
two experiences are as far away from each other as a lie and a
The God-oriented religions... Thomas Merton mentions Christianity because he is a Christian, but you can see his statement begins with an "if." Whenever there is an "if" there is no direct experience.
- in the first place, it is an "if."
- no Christian mystic can have such an experience -
No, absolutely no. No Christian can ever experience phenomenologically something equal to the Zen experience, because the foundations of their search are totally different.
Yes, it does matter. To be personally united with God is a
fiction. The man is living in an hallucination. It is not the
experience of truth, it is the experience projected by a belief
system in a particular god. There are thousands of "gods" around,
not only the Christian god. So everybody can choose - they come in
all sizes and all shapes. It is a commodity you can purchase from
the marketplace - a Buddha, a Jesus on the cross, a Krishna playing
on his flute - and you can worship them. And if you go on
worshipping them you are really programming your memory
continuously. Soon you will start having delusions.
A Christian or a Hindu or a Mohammedan cannot have any experience equivalent to the Zen experience; it is not a question of language only. That′s what Merton is trying to do. He is saying that it is only linguistically different. They are using different language, but the experience is the same. If it was the same, why was Merton trying to go to Japan? What was the need?
A Zen master has never been known to have gone to a Christian monastery. There is no need. Merton is consoling himself and other Christians: "Don′t be worried, phenomenologically your experience can be compared to the Zen experience of nothingness." No, it cannot be compared, because your experience is not of nothingness. Your experience is of a God which is filling your nothingness, which is a barrier against nothingness. Your God has to be removed. And rather than removing him, you are feeling an identity with God, you are becoming one with the God. You are hallucinating, you are dreaming with open eyes.
The Zen experience of shunyata, of nothingness, is not a mind projection. Only one thing can the mind not project, and that is nothingness. This has to be understood. Mind can project everything; only one thing it cannot project, nothingness, because in trying to project nothingness, the mind will have to empty itself completely. In the emptying of the mind completely, mind will disappear. Mind is nothing but thoughts put together.
We call five persons living in a house, a family. Just take those five persons out, and where is the family? "Family" was only a collective name. We call a certain group of people a Rotary Club. Take the members out one by one, and then see whether the Rotary Club is still inside the house. There is no one.
Mind is a collective name for all your thoughts. If you go on emptying the mind to create something equal to nothingness, then God will have to be dropped; it is a thought. Then heaven and hell will be dropped; they are thoughts. Once you create a mind which has no thoughts, you have transcended mind, there is no mind anymore. You have entered into nothingness - but you will not find a God waiting there and hugging you.
And remember always, if any God hugs you it is dangerous, because that fellow, who has created this whole universe, must not be of your size. He will be huge! You will be simply killed like a mosquito! Avoid any such experience.
Nothingness is good. You will disappear in both the cases. In one you will be murdered, in the other you will simply disperse. But dispersing yourself is a beautiful experience; being murdered is a very ugly, torturous experience. These two experiences cannot be compared, there is no question of it at all. But it is not only Thomas Merton, many other Christians are trying to do the same.
Christianity is feeling that its moment to disappear has come; it has no reason now to remain in existence. It has lost its roots. It was perfectly okay for the uneducated, uncultured, uncivilized slaves. Now man is coming of age. Christianity was good for children to play with, a good toy. God was a toy. But when man comes of age, he does not need a toy, he needs something real.
Zen is for those who are intelligent, mature, who are no longer childish, but grown-ups. It needs daring, it needs throwing away all kinds of slaveries. And all the religions are nothing but very cunning ways to reduce humanity to indignity, humiliation and slavery. Now Christianity is trying hard somehow to survive.
Thomas Merton′s statement is simply a desire somehow to keep God and God-oriented religion alive in the future also. He sees a way: if both these experiences - the experience of Zen and the experience of a Christian mystic - can be compared, they are just the same, only their language differs, then there is a possibility for Christianity and God to dominate still. But they cannot be compared. They are not only different, they are opposite to each other. One is a lie, another is a truth.
God is a fiction. Shunyata is the ultimate experience.
There is no way for Christianity to survive.
It shows certainly that Christians are aware of their death which is coming closer and closer every moment. They know their God is dead and they are keeping that God on an artificial breathing system. They are looking all over the world to see if some props can be found so that God can look as if he is still alive.
Hindus are not in such a search, because they are not so sophisticated and they are not so alert. Neither are Jainas in such a frantic search, because they are not so sophisticated and they are not so much interested. Their interest is much more in money.
One Japanese newspaper just wrote an article about me and wondered what is the matter: why are Indians coming to Japan to learn technology, particularly the latest discoveries in electronics? Japan has become now the most sophisticated technological country, the richest country in the world; even America is poorer now. Japan is four times richer than America, and it is four times smaller than America. So what Japan has done is a miracle. After the destruction of the second world war, suddenly a tremendous outburst of energy.
So Indians are going to Tokyo, and the article mentions that the Japanese are going to Poona. You are all coming from Western countries or from Eastern countries which have become rich enough. From Japan, Taiwan... soon people from Korea will be here.
Indians are rushing all over the world - to America, to Britain, to Germany, to learn new technology, to be more scientific. And India still goes on claiming that it is one of the most spiritual countries. My foot! It is the most unspiritual country in the world. Gone are those days when it used to be spiritual - twenty-five centuries have passed - but the old fog remains around the mind. India is more attached to things, attached to money, attached to power, is more ambitious to have domination, prestige, respectability, than any other country.
You are the proof.
Whenever I say anything, I have the proof. You are here because you know money is not going to help, it is not going to bring your ultimate blossoming. It can buy everything, but it cannot buy buddhahood. It can buy everything, human beings included, but it cannot buy meditation.
You have to go alone on the path.
Richer countries are frustrated, utterly frustrated, because they have found money and they have found respectability. They are educated, they are sophisticated, they are intellectually far more advanced than the backward countries.
Naturally, Christianity is the only religion in the world which is becoming aware that their congregation is disappearing - they are all going to Poona!
You don′t see many Indians here - very few. Very few are intelligent enough. But it is really sad. The country of Gautam Buddha is no longer interested in meditation; it is interested in bringing more technology, more riches. And most of the people who go outside to learn technology, never return - just as you would not like to return - because there they get more money.
A doctor can earn more in Germany or Japan. In America a professor can earn more, a scientist is needed more in those countries. In India he will be at the most middle class, he cannot think of being super-rich. But in Japan or Germany or America he can fulfill the ambition to become super-rich. So those who go, go forever.
There was another article a few months ago in a German magazine, asking, "What is happening? German young people simply go to Poona and then they are never seen again." It is only because of the difficulties created by the barriers of nations that you cannot stay more than three months, more than six months at the most, so you have to go and come back again. If these barriers disappear, Poona is going to become a country in itself. But it will be a foreign country to India; it will in itself be one of the most cosmopolitan worlds.
It is because of this that Christianity is more alert and is trying to survive. Hindus are perfectly asleep; although they are going to drown, they are in the same boat in which Christianity is. In the same boat Hindus are sleeping, in the same boat Jainas are sleeping, in the same boat Mohammedans are sleeping - but they are all sleeping. At least the Christian is looking all around. The boat is sinking - and he is trying somehow to save the God-oriented theology.
But it cannot be saved, it has already outlived its time. It should be more graceful in allowing itself to disappear. It is now ugly, and becoming more and more ugly. It is trying to enforce itself and pretend, "We are alive." If your God is dead you cannot be alive. You have died with your God.
I offer you resurrection. But in resurrection you will not be Christians, you will not be Hindus, you will not be Mohammedans. In resurrection you will be men of Zen. Hence the Zen Manifesto. The world needs it immediately, urgently.
Now, put on the lights! It is time for Sardar Gurudayal Singh!
Let the Christian ship drown.
You have found something alive; you can laugh and you can dance and you can celebrate.
Close your eyes... and feel your body to be completely frozen. This is the right moment to enter into your inner world. Gather all your energy, your total consciousness, and rush towards the center of your being. It is exactly two inches below your navel, inside.
A great urgency is needed, as if it is going to be your last moment.
Faster, with great intensity...
Rush faster and faster... deeper and deeper.
As you are coming closer to the center of your being, a great silence descends over you, just like soft rain falling. You can feel the coolness. The whole night is becoming silent with you.
A little closer to the center, and you are surrounded in a cloud of peace - peace that passeth understanding.
Move a little closer, and you feel a great blissfulness you have not known before, a tremendous power which is harmless, a light that is filling your very being.
You are luminous.
In this luminosity you can see the center perfectly well. Step into the center, and you will start feeling a divine drunkenness, a great ecstasy. You have heard these words - this is a direct experience.
Here you will find your original face. The face of Gautam the Buddha has been accepted in the East as a symbol of everybody′s original face. Everybody is born with the potential of becoming a buddha. As you step into the center, you disappear. Only the buddha remains, only your awareness, alertness, consciousness.
Buddha has only one quality; that is the very meaning of the name "Buddha" - witnessing. Witness that you are not the body, witness that you are not the mind, and finally, witness that you are only a witness.
Suddenly a door opens into the cosmos.
You see from where your life has been coming.
You see you are no more, only existence is.
This pure nothingness, this shunyata is the only religious experience there is.
To make your witnessing deeper:
Sink into your very sources of life.
Dissolve yourself in this ocean of consciousness.
Gautama the Buddha Auditorium is turning into an ocean of consciousness. Ten thousand buddhas are disappearing into one oceanic feeling, into one oceanic experience.
This is pure Zen.
This is the beginning of an endless journey. Gautam Buddha is reported to have said, "Ignorance has no beginning but an end. Enlightenment has a beginning but no end." You are taking the first step into enlightenment.
These are the three steps. The first step is: you will find Gautam Buddha as your shadow, but very luminous, very solid, almost tangible. You will feel a tremendous compassion surrounding you.
In the second step, Buddha will come in front of you and you will become his shadow. Your shadow of course is dark; it is only a false entity. As the buddha becomes more and more radiant in front of you, your shadow starts dissolving.
The second step is followed by the third. Your shadow has dissolved into the buddha. Only a pure witnessing buddha remains, utterly transparent, so he cannot make any shadow.
This is your pure life eternal. This life is cosmic. You have entered into the womb of existence. You are no more on the one hand; on the other hand you are all that is alive. And the whole existence is alive, throbbing. You can hear existence′s heartbeat, you are so close to it.
Now gather all these experiences, the bliss, the ecstasy, the peace, the silence, the serenity, and persuade the buddha to come behind you. He has to become a constant companion to you in your acts, in your gestures, in your day-to-day affairs.
This is the first step. The second and third will follow in their own time. You have just to wait in deep trust. If the first has happened, the second is bound to happen. It is really the growth of the first. The third is the growth of the second, and the third is the final step. Once you have become enlightened, you are free from birth and death, you are free from all bondages, you are even free from yourself.
This is the ultimate freedom: freedom from oneself. And only a man who has attained the ultimate freedom can dance, and there will be no dancer but only dance; can celebrate, but now celebration will be arising from the very depths of existence itself; can laugh, but now it will be a totally different laughter - it will be existence laughing through you.
All your actions will become existential; they will have a great grace and beauty and truth and authenticity.
Now come back, and bring all these experiences and the buddha
With great grace, with silence, sit down for a few moments, just to remember the golden path that you have followed, and the opening into ultimate space, into nothingness, into shunyata and the great moment when you had disappeared and only existence was there.
Soon it will become your twenty-four-hour experience. Inch by inch you will be transformed into a Gautam Buddha. That is everybody′s birthright.
Yes, Osho.(Thus spake Osho the second part of The Zen Manifesto (chapter 2)