On one occasion, Joshu said to his monks:
I have single-heartedly practiced Zazen in the southern province for thirty years. If you want to realize enlightenment, you should realize the essence of Buddhism, doing Zazen.
In the course of three, five, twenty or thirty years, if you fail to grasp the way, you may cut off my head and make it into a ladle to draw urine with.
Joshu is also reported to have said:
Thousands upon thousands of people are only seekers after Buddha, but not a single one is a true man of Tao. Before the existence of the world the self-nature remains intact. Now that you have seen this old monk, you are no longer someone else, but a master of yourself. What’s the use of seeking another in the exterior?
Once a monk asked Joshu: “What is your family’s tradition?”
Joshu responded: “I have nothing inside, and I seek for nothing outside.”
Maneesha, the word Zazen has to be understood before I can start discussing the sutras that you have brought. Zen I have explained to you. It comes from the Sanskrit dhyan. Buddha never used Sanskrit as a part of his revolution. Sanskrit was the language of the learned, it has never been a language of the masses. Buddha broke away from tradition and started speaking in the language of the masses. It was a revolt against scholarship, learnedness, the pundits, the rabbis, the people of the scripture, whose whole heart is in their books. And because of those books they cannot see the reality.
Buddha started speaking in the language of his province, Pali. In Pali, dhyan changes its form a little bit. It becomes jhan. When Bodhidharma reached China, jhan again changed, into Chinese; it became ch’an. And when the school of Rinzai took the same message to Japan from China, the word ch’an came very close to the very original Pali, jhan. It became in Japan, zen.
In English there is no equivalent word. There are words like concentration, contemplation…but they are all of the mind. Dhyan means going beyond the mind. It is not concentration, it is not contemplation; it is just letting the mind be put aside and looking at reality and your own existence directly, without the mind interpreting it.
Have you ever tried small experiments? Watching a roseflower, can you watch the roseflower without the mind saying, “How beautiful”? Can you just watch the rose without the mind saying anything at all? In that moment you are in the state of dhyan, or zen.
I am reminded of a story.
Twenty-five centuries ago it was a great coincidence that in Greece there was Socrates and in India were Gautam Buddha and Mahavira, and in China there were Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu – all expressing the existential truth, indicating towards it. It is very strange that suddenly, all over the world, there were at least six people fully awakened. Their words may be different because their languages are different, but their indication is to the same moon. That is absolutely certain.
Dhyan means looking, either outside or inside, without thinking – just looking straight forward. Your eyes become only a mirror. The mirror never says anything to anybody. Neither does it condemn the ugly nor does it appreciate the beautiful; it is simply non-judgmental.