“The study of Zen is like drilling wood to get fire. The wisest course is to forge straight ahead without stopping. If you rest at the first sign of heat, and then again as soon as the first wisp of smoke arises, even though you drill for three asamkhya kalpas, you will never see a spark of fire.
“My native place is close to the seashore, barely a few hundred paces from the beach. Suppose a man of my village is concerned because he does not know the flavor of sea water, and wants to go and taste it for himself. If he turns back after having taken only a few steps, or even if he returns after having taken a hundred steps, in either case when will he ever know the ocean’s bitter, salty taste?
“But, though a man comes from as far as the mountains of Koshu or Shinshu, Hida or Mino, if he goes straight ahead without stopping, within a few days he will reach the shore, and, the moment he dips the tip of one finger into the sea and licks it, he will instantly know the taste of the waters of the distant oceans and the nearby seas, of the southern beaches and the northern shores, in fact of all the sea water in the world.”
Maneesha, Hakuin is one of the most respected Zen masters. His respect is because of his ability to express the inexpressible, to create devices that somehow can manage to give you a glimpse of the unknown. He is basically concerned with the method. If a right method is used in the right time and ripe time, it is not going to fail. If you are on the right way, it may take some time to reach, but you will reach. The whole question before Hakuin is: the right way, the right method, the right beginning.
It was Gautam Buddha’s habitual way of expression. All the great qualities that he has called for in an experienced, self-realized man, all begin with the word right. For example, he will not say simply samadhi. He will say samma samadhi. Samadhi can go wrong, people can mistake similar experiences for samadhi and get lost.
That’s what happened to Aldous Huxley when he took LSD. He was a man of tremendous knowledge, particularly of the East, and most of the saints of the East he knew well. He immediately said that, “The experience of LSD is samadhi, the same experience that Patanjali has described, the ultimate phenomenon.”
This gives a clear illustration that Buddha was right not to use simply the word samadhi. It is dangerous. You can find something else and think it is samadhi; there are similar phenomena. There are people who have become addicted to opium, or hashish, or marijuana. And these drugs have been used for centuries, from the very beginning of man. It is nothing new.
The reason why they became addicted is because the drugs gave them a glimpse of something…how things should be. They are temporary glimpses, and they are produced by chemicals so they don’t go beyond the mind. But mind gets a glimpse, just as the lake reflects the faraway moon. And the experience is so beautiful that not to repeat it again and again becomes impossible.