A woman in great distress over the death of her son came to the Master for comfort.
He listened to her patiently while she poured out her tale of woe.
Then he said softly, "I can not wipe away your tears, my dear. I can only teach you how to make them holy."
Sometimes there would be a rush of noisy visitors and the Silence of the monastery would be shattered.
This would upset the disciples; not the Master, who seemed just as content with the noise as with the Silence.
To his protesting disciples he said one day,
"Silence is not the absence of sound, but the absence of self."
In keeping with his doctrine that nothing be taken too seriously, not even his own teachings, the Master loved to tell this story on himself:
"My very first disciple was so weak that the exercises killed him. My second disciple drove himself crazy from his earnest practice of the exercises I gave him. My third disciple dulled his intellect through too much contemplation. But the fourth managed to keep his sanity."
"Why was that?" someone would invariably ask.
"Possibly because he was the only one who refused to do the exercises."
The Master's words would be drowned in howls of laughter.
"Calamities can bring growth and Enlightenment," said the Master.
And he explained it thus:
"Each day a bird would shelter in the withered branches of a tree that stood in the middle of a vast deserted plain. One day a whirlwind
uprooted the tree, forcing the poor bird to fly a hundred miles in search of shelter -- till it finally came to a forest of fruit-laden trees."
And he concluded: "If the withered tree had survived, nothing would have induced the bird to give up its security and fly."
"She blooms because she blooms,
The Master frequently reminded his disciples that holiness, like beauty, is only genuine when unselfconscious.
He loved to quote the verse:
Does not ask why,
nor does she preen herself
to catch my eye."
And the saying: "A saint is a saint until he knows that he is one."
"How does one seek union with God?"
"The harder you seek, the more distance you create between Him and you."
"So what does one do about the distance?"
"Understand that it isn't there."
"Does that mean that God and I are one?"
"Not one. Not two."
"How is that possible?"
"The sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and his song -- not one. Not two."
This is how the Master once explained the fact that Enlightenment came not through effort but through understanding:
"Imagine all of you are hypnotized to believe there is a tiger in this room. In your fear you will try to escape it, to fight it, to protect yourselves from it, to placate it. But once the spell is broken there is nothing to be done. And you are all radically changed:
"So understanding breaks the spell, the broken spell brings change, change leads to inaction, inaction is power: You can do anything on earth, for it is no longer you who do it."
On the question of his own Enlightenment the Master always remained reticent, even though the disciples tried every means to get him to talk.
All the information they had on this subject was what the Master once said to his youngest son who wanted to know what his father felt when he
The answer was: "A fool."
When the boy asked why, the Master had replied,
"Well, son, it was like going to great pains to break into a house by climbing a ladder and smashing a window and then realizing later that the door of the house
All questions at the public meeting that day were about life beyond the grave.
The Master only laughed and did not give a single answer.
To his disciples, who demanded to know the reason for his evasiveness, he
"Have you observed that it is precisely those who do not know
what to do with this life who want another that will last forever?"
"But is there life after death or is there not?" persisted a disciple.
"Is there life before death? that is the question!" said the Master
To the disciples who were always asking for words of wisdom the Master said,
"Wisdom is not expressed in words. It reveals itself in action."
But when he saw them plunge headlong into activity, he laughed aloud and said,
"That isn't action.
A writer arrived at the monastery to write a book about the Master.
"People say you are a genius. Are you?" he asked.
"You might say so," said the Master, none too modestly.
"And what makes one a genius?"
"The ability to recognize."
"The butterfly in a caterpillar; the eagle in an egg; the saint in a selfish human being."
"Why is everyone here so happy except me?"
"Because they have learned to see goodness and beauty everywhere," said the
"Why don't I see goodness and beauty everywhere?"
"Because you cannot see outside of you what you fail to see inside."
"I wish to learn. Will you teach me?"
"I do not think that you know how to learn," said the Master.
"Can you teach me how to learn?"
"Can you learn how to let me teach?"
To his bewildered disciples the Master later said:
"Teaching only takes place when learning does. Learning only takes place when you teach
something to yourself:"
The Master would frequently assert that holiness was less a matter of what
one did than of what one allowed to happen.
To a group of disciples who had difficulty understanding that he told the
"There was once a one-legged dragon who said to the centipede, 'How do you
manage all those legs? It is all I can do to manage one.'
'To tell you the truth,' said the centipede, 'I do not manage them at all.'"
The disciples were absorbed in a discussion of Lao-tzu's dictum:
"Those who know do not say; Those who say do not know."
When the Master entered, they asked him exactly what the words meant.
Said the Master,
"Which of you knows
the fragrance of a rose?"
All of them knew.
Then he said,
"Put it into words."
All of them were silent.