For nearly twenty years, Houn, a layman devoted to the study of Zen, lived at Yakusan Temple, and undertook discipline under Master Igen.
The day came when he decided to return to his family. The master asked ten of his disciples to see him off at the gate.
It was snowing, and Houn, looking up, said, “Lovely. Snowflakes as beautiful as these don’t fall elsewhere.”
“Elsewhere?” said one of the ten, “where is this elsewhere?” At this Houn slapped his face.
“Why did you do that, dear layman?” asked the disciple, rubbing his cheek.
“How can you pose as a Zen man?” Houn said angrily. “You’re doomed to hell.”
“And you?” the disciple cried. “What about yourself?”
Houn slapped him again. “You’ve eyes, but you won’t see,” he said over his shoulder as he moved off, “and you have a mouth, but you’re dumb.”
A few things before we enter this beautiful anecdote. First, time should be forgotten completely. If you want to enter meditation time should not be of concern to you. If you are in a hurry then nothing is possible, and this has become a most deeply rooted problem for the modern man. The West has made people too time-conscious, not knowing where they are going, but speeding to get there because time is short.
I have heard:
Once a pilot communicated on the intercom to his passengers: “It seems everything has gone wrong. The radar is not functioning, the radio is out of order, even the compass has ceased to function. But don’t be worried, we are keeping the same speed.”
But this is what is happening to the modern mind: everything is out of order except speed. Where are you going? For what are you going? Of course you are going fast, but you are going so fast that you have no time to look at where you are going and why you are going.
People come to me and they say, “I can stay here only one day. Is meditation possible?” They ask, “Can you give me something so that I can know the divine?” They are childish, juvenile; they have not grown up at all. They don’t know what they are saying.
Is God something one can give to you as a gift? Is God a certain technique so that the formula can be given to you and you can work it out later on? Is it something like a material key that can be given to you and you can unlock the door? This search needs tremendous patience, infinite patience. This is the first requirement: you should simply forget about time.
What is time? It is a very anxious state of mind. You are too much worried about tomorrow, too much worried about the future, too much worried about the past. You are pulled in these two opposite directions, the past and the future, and you are worried because you have not gained anything in the past. You are worried: who knows, the same may also happen in the future as has happened in the past – nothing. You have achieved in the past, and it may be that you may not achieve anything in the future, so you are in a hurry. But just hurry won’t help, because it disturbs you.