My own understanding is that before the time of Gautam Buddha there must have been the same kind of feeling in the East, that life is meaningless. I know the names of at least three people who were very famous in those days, but all their literature has been destroyed because their whole point of view was against life. One was Sanjay Belattiputta, another was Ajit Keshkambal, and the third was Gosal. These three people were as intelligent as any Gautam Buddha. But they preached that life is meaningless; all the meaning that you give to it is your imagination. It is just a hope that keeps you going on, through all the sufferings, through all the meaningless incidents. And from the cradle to the grave, you will not find a single place where you can rest. It is just restlessness.
Shoitsu said to Chizen:
In the school of the ancestral teachers, we point directly to the human mind. Verbal explanations and illustrative devices actually miss the point.
Not falling into seeing and hearing, not following sound or form, acting freely in the phenomenal world, sitting and lying in the heap of myriad forms, not involved with phenomena in breathing out, not bound to the clusters and elements of existence in breathing in, the whole world is the gate of liberation. All worlds are true reality.
A universal master knows what it comes to, the moment it is raised. How will beginners and latecomers come to grips with it?
If you don’t get it yet, for the time being we open up a pathway in the gateway of the secondary truth. Speak out where there is nothing to say; manifest form in the midst of formlessness.
During your daily activities responding to circumstances in the realm of distinctions, don’t think of getting rid of anything. Don’t understand it as a hidden marvel – with no road of reason, no flavor, day and night, forgetting sleep and food, keep those sayings in mind.
If you still don’t get it, we go on to speak of the tertiary, expounding mind and nature, speaking of mystery and marvel. One atom contains the cosmos, one thought pervades everywhere. Thus an ancient said:
“Infinite lands and worlds with no distinctions between self and others, ten ages past and present are never apart from this moment of thought.”
Maneesha, the whole point of Zen, its whole philosophy, its whole theology, is contained in the present moment. If you can stay in the present moment, the doors of wisdom will open on their own. In a thousand ways the same thing has been said, again and again: This moment contains everything – the whole universe – past, present and future. This moment is all. If we can enter into this moment’s reality, we will be entering the very center of the universe, the very source of life.
Zen’s interest is not in gods, not in paradises. Its interest is absolutely life, known in its eternity, with all its joys and celebrations. It is a religion of celebration. It is not sad, serious. Because it is not going to achieve anything, it cannot fail. Its victory is absolutely certain because what it is seeking is already there within you. It is everybody’s life source. Combined, it becomes the life source of the whole universe. We are just small branches coming out of the universal source.
The moment you realize your universality, all your anxieties appear to be so trivial, so tiny…just the very realization of your eternity makes them disappear, they become shadows. The moment you realize your life source, they lose their reality. In other words your anxieties, your problems and your anguish are real if you don’t know yourself. That is your life, if you don’t know your life source.
What has come to be known as existentialism in the West must have preceded Gautam Buddha in the East. Existentialism says life is nothing but anguish, anxiety, angst; it has no meaning. There is only failure; that is your destiny. It gives a very dark color, a very negative approach, to existence. Listening to the modern existentialists one can only feel that perhaps suicide is the only way out. Life in every possible way is going to be full of anxiety.