In this morning’s talk I was going into some of the fundamental features of Zen, and today I want to concentrate on that aspect of Zen practice which is called in Chinese yìzhí zǒu, or ‘going straight ahead.’

A master who was once asked, What is the Tao—the Way? replied, Walk on. Actually, Go! As we say, Go, man! Go! Go, go. And it is this aspect of Zen which is what is truly understood by ‘detachment,’ or having a mind that isn’t ‘sticky’ and that isn’t stopped at any point in its whole working. To be stopped at a certain point is what is called ‘having a doubt,’ as when one fumbles, or wobbles, or hesitates about something—trying to find the right solution for the circumstances by thinking it out in a situation where there really is no time to think it out. So that when a Zen teacher asks his disciple a question, he expects an immediate answer, as it were, without thought or premeditation.

 

They speak in Zen—they use a phrase to have a mind of no deliberation. And they also speak of a kind of person, a man who doesn’t depend on anything—that is to say, on a formula, on a theory, on a belief—to govern his action. And this person who doesn’t stick anywhere is like Dante’s image at the end of the Paradiso, where he says—in the presence of the vision of God—But my volition now and my desires were moved as a wheel revolving evenly by love that moves the sun and other stars. And the image of the wheel which is not too tight on its axle, and not too loose—that is really with the axle—is the Zen principle of ‘not being attached;’ ‘not being sticky.’

 

It’s very difficult for us to function in that way because we’ve been brought up to believe that there are two sides to ourselves. One, the animal side, and the other, the human and civilized side. And these are expressed in what Freud calls the Pleasure Principle, which he classifies with the animal side—with the Id—and the other the Reality Principle, which he puts on the side of society and the super-ego. And man is so split, that he is in a constant fight between these two. Theosophists sometimes speak of our having two selves: the higher self, which is spiritual, and the lower self, which is merely psychic; the Ego. And therefore, the problem of life is to make the ‘oneself,’ the ‘higher one,’ take charge of the lower, as a rider takes charge of a horse.

 

But the problem that constantly arises is: how do you know that what you think is your higher self isn’t really your lower self in disguise? When a thief is robbing a house and the police enter on the ground floor, the thief goes up to the second floor, and when the police follow up the stairs he goes higher and higher until, at last, he gets out to the rooftop. And in the same way, when one really feels oneself to be the lower self, that is to say, to be a separate Ego, and then the moralists come along—they are, of course, the police—and say, You ought not to be selfish! then the Ego dissembles and tries to pretend that he’s a good person after all.

 

And therefore, one of the ways of doing this is for the Ego to say, I believe I have a higher self.

 

And I would say, Why do you believe that? Do you know the higher self?

 

No. If I knew it I would behave differently. But I’m trying to get there.

 

Well, why are you trying to get there?

 

Well, then the police wouldn’t come around. Then the moralists wouldn’t preach at me. Then I could feel that I was doing my duty, behaving as a proper member of society.

 

But all this is a great phony front. If you don’t know that there is a higher self and you believe that there is one, on whose authority do you believe this? You say, Oh, such and such a teacher—Buddha, Jesus, Śaṅkara, the Upanishads—said that we have a higher self, and I believe it. Catholics sometimes say they believe their religion because they’re told to, and they have to be obedient. The catechism starts out—I mean the Baltimore catechism—it starts out, We are bound to believe that there is but one God, the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth, et cetera. And they make jokes about Protestants and say, They don’t have real authority in Protestant church because everybody interprets the Bible according to his own opinion. But we have an authoritative interpretation of the Bible. But this always screens out the fact that it is fundamentally a matter of your own opinion, that you accept the authority of the Church to interpret the Bible.

 

You cannot escape, in all matters of belief, from opinion. In other words, it must become clear to you that you, yourself, create all the authorities you accept. And if you create them in order to dissimilate, in order to pretend that your motivations and your character are different, that you would like them to be different—this is the same old principle of the separate self trying to improve itself so that it will live longer, or survive in the spiritual world, or attain the riches and the progress of enlightenment. And the whole thing is phony.

 

So, in Zen, a duality between higher self and lower self is not made. Because if you believe in the higher self, this is a simple trick of the lower self. If you believe that there is no really lower self—that there is only the higher self, but that somehow or other the higher self has to shine through—the very fact that you think that it has to try to shine through still gives validity to the existence of a lower self. If you think you have a lower self—or an ego—to get rid of, and then you fight against it, nothing strengthens the delusion that it exists more than that.

So this tremendous schizophrenia in human beings—of thinking that they are rider and horse, soul in command of body, or will in command of passions, wrestling with them—all that kind of split thinking simply aggravates the problem, and we get more and more split. And so we have all sorts of people engaged in an interior conflict, which they will never, never resolve. Because the true self—either you know it or you don’t. If you do know it, then you know it’s the only one; and the other, so-called lower self, just ceases to be a problem. It becomes something like a mirage. And you don’t go around hitting at mirages with a stick, or trying to put reigns on them. You just know that they are mirages and walk straight through them.

 

But if you were brought up to believe yourself split—I remember my mother used to say to me, when I did naughty things, she said Alan, that’s not like you. So I had, you know, some conception of what was like me in my better moments—that is to say, in the moments when I remembered what my mother would like me to do. And so that split is implanted in us all. And because of our being split-minded we are always dithering. Is the choice that I’m about to make of the higher self or of the lower self? Is it of the spirit, or is it of the flesh? Is the word that I received of the Lord, or is it of the Devil? And nobody can decide. Because if you knew how to choose, you wouldn’t have to.

 

In the so-called Moral Re-Armament movement—which is a very significant title—you test your messages that you get from God in your quiet time by comparing them with standards of absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute love, and so on. But, of course, if you knew what those things were, you wouldn’t have to test. You would know immediately. And do you know what those things are? The more one thinks about the question, What would absolute love be?—supposing I could set myself the ideal of being absolutely loving to everybody, what would that imply in terms of conduct? Well, you can think about that until all is blue, because you could never get to the answer.

 

The problems of life are so subtle that to try to solve them with vague principles, as if those vague principles were specific instructions, is completely impossible. So it is important to overcome split-mindedness. But what is the way? Where can you start from if you’re already split? A Taoist saying is that when the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way. So what are you to do? How can you get off it and get moving? Fundamentally, of course, you have to be surprised into it.

 

Winthrop Sargeant not so long ago interviewed a great Zen priest in Kyōto, who posed to him, Who are you?

 

And he said, Well, I’m Winthrop Sargeant.

 

And the priest laughed. No, he said, I don’t mean that. I mean who are you really?

 

Well, then he went into all sorts of abstractions about his being a particular human being, and so on, who is a journalist, and so on, and the priest just laughed and said, No.

 

Then the priest just tossed off the conversation, and a little later made a joke, and Sargeant laughed. And he said, There you are!

 

There was an army officer who once came to a Zen master and said, I have heard a story about a man who kept a goose in a bottle, and it was growing very rapidly, and he didn’t want to break the bottle and he didn’t want to hurt the goose. So how would he get it out? The Zen master didn’t answer the question at all, but simply changed the subject. Finally, the officer got up to leave and he went over to the door, and suddenly the Zen master called out, Oh, officer? And he turned around and said, Yes? The master said, There! It’s out!

 

So, in the same way, if I say to you, Good morning, you say, Good morning. Nice day isn’t it? Yes. Or if I hit you—you know, boom!—you say, Ouch! And you don’t stop to hesitate to give these answers or responses. You don’t think about it when I say Good morning, unless you’re a psychiatrist. What could I be meaning? So you respond. So, in exactly the same way, that kind of response, which doesn’t have to be a deliberate response, a response of a no-deliberating mind, is a response of a Buddha-Mind or an Unattached-Mind. But you must not imagine that this is necessarily a quick response. Because if you get hung up on the idea of responding quickly, the idea of quickness will be, itself, a form of obstruction.

 

Very often, when Dr. Suzuki is asked a question—very complicated question by some philosophy major from Columbia, when he’s giving lectures there—he’s silent for a full minute, and then says, Yes. And this is exactly as spontaneous a response as it would be if he had answered immediately. Because during the period of silence, he’s not fishing around to think of something to say. He is not at all embarrassed of being silent, or at not knowing the answer. So if you don’t know the answer, you can be silent. If nobody asks a question, you can be silent. There’s no need to be embarrassed about it or to be stuck on it. But you cannot overcome being stuck if you think that, somehow, you would be guilty if you were stuck.

 

When you are perfectly free to feel stuck or not stuck, then you’re unstuck. Because actually, nothing can stick on the real mind, and you will find this out if you watch the flow of your thoughts. There is an expression in Chinese which means ‘the flow of thoughts,’ or what we call in literary criticism ‘stream of consciousness.’ And they put the character for thought (念) three times: niàn, niàn, niàn. And so you will notice that thought follows thought follows thought when you are just ruminating.

 

And those thoughts arise and go like waves on the water; all the time, they come and go. And when they go, they are as if they had never been here. So, actually, this shows your mind doesn’t stick. Really. You can get the illusion of it sticking by, for example, cycling the same succession of thoughts over and over again. And that gives a sense of permanence in the same way as when you revolve a cigarette butt in the dark, you get the illusion of there being a solid circle although there is only the single point of fire. And it is from this connecting of thoughts that we get the sensation that behind our thoughts there is a thinker who controls them and experiences them. Although, the notion that there is a thinker is just one member in the stream of thoughts.

For example, if you get a certain kind of rhythm that goes ‘diggy diggy diggy diggy boop diggy diggy diggy diggy boop diggy diggy diggy diggy boop diggy diggy diggy diggy boop,’ the ‘boop’ is part of the rhythm. But it can be used as a cue. So you get—in relation to ‘diggy diggy diggy diggy boop’—you get ‘thought thought thought thought thinker thought thought thought thought thinker.’ And if this happens regularly enough and long enough, you get the illusion of there being someone who thinks apart from the stream of thoughts that come and go; the stream of experiences. And we use such absurd phrases not only as ‘thinking our thoughts,’ but ‘feeling our feelings,’ ‘seeing sights,’ and ‘hearing sounds.’ But you must understand: it is perfectly obvious that seeing a sight is seeing; hearing a sound is hearing; feeling a feeling is feeling. So, in the same way, thinking a thought is thinking.

 

But you get split-minded, you see, and so you get ‘I’ and ‘me,’ and the ‘I’ who ought to—or must—control ‘me’ as a sensation of some real entity that stands aside from thoughts and chooses among them, controls them, regulates them, and so on.

 

Actually, this is a way to have one’s thoughts not controlled. The more there is this duality of the separate ‘thinker’ standing aside from the thoughts—the separate ‘feeler’ watching or feeling the feelings—the more the stream of feelings is coaxed into self-protective activity; into getting more and more like a stuck record, the purposes of which are to protect and to aggrandize and enlarge the status of the supposed ‘thinker.’

 

When Jōshū, who was a Tang dynasty Zen master, was asked—he had made some reference to the enlightened mind being like the mind of a child—and they said, Well, what is the mind of a child?

 

And he said, A ball in a mountain stream.

 

Why?

 

Thought follows thought instantaneously without interruption.

 

So the saying: Walk or sit as you will. But whatever you do, don’t wobble.

 

Now, we can see this very clearly from confusions we can get into in activity. I have just said, We can see this very clearly from confusions we get into in activity. What kind of a statement is that? When I raised the question—what kind of a statement was it that I just made—I’m beginning to talk about talking. And one can do that, provided you don’t try to do it while you are making the original statement.

 

If I want to say something about what I’ve just said, then I must do it later, mustn’t I? But not at the same time. I cannot say You are a fool, and at the same time say I’m giving you an insult in so many words. I cannot say—or, in mathematics—I cannot write down a certain equation, and as I’m writing in down, simultaneously, state what kind of an equation this is. Unless, of course, I invent an exceedingly complex language which talks about itself as it goes along. But in the ordinary way, people get completely mixed up by that. In the middle of being about to say to somebody anything, you start to think about whether this is the right thing to say. And you start wobbling. You get, in other words, too much feedback. And too much feedback makes any mechanism go crazy.

 

So, in the same way, when you are very, very aware of the difference between the deeds and the doer, and the doer—while doing the deeds—is always sort of commenting on them; the doer really never gets with it! In other words, you are about to strike a nail and you wonder—as you are about to hit it—Is this the right place to put it? And so you’ve probably hit your thumbnail instead of the nail, because you don’t go right through with hitting that nail. This is not saying—let me mark this again—it is not saying that there should be no criticism of thought. But if you criticize thought while thinking, as if there were a critic thinker standing aside from the stream of thought, then you get all balled up. And that is exactly what happens in the process of attachment, or what are called in Buddhist kleśa, which mean ‘disturbing confusions of the mind.’

 

And, you see, this kind of confusion is something to which the human organism is peculiarly liable, because the human organism has language, has—you see, thinking is silent language, and I mean ‘language’ in the most inclusive sense of the word: not only words, but also images and numbers; notation. Just because, then, we can talk about anything. We can talk about talking, we can talk about thinking, we can talk about ourselves, as if we could stand aside and say, ‘Said I to myself’ said I. All we are actually doing is making a second thought, or thought stream, which comments on the one that went before, and then pretending that the second stream is a different stream than the first. That’s because there are built into our minds all kinds of phony images about memory.

We think, for example, of memory by analogy with engraving. In order to remember something we write it down. And so we have a flat and stable piece of paper, and we make marks on it with a pencil, and they stay there. So we begin to think, Isn’t mental memory something of the same kind? Is there something stable, upon which the passage of thoughts makes an impression? We say, He impressed me very much; this was a lasting impression on my mind, as if we were tablets. Indeed, the philosopher Locke used the expression tabula rasa, or ‘clean slate,’ to describe the mind of a child. This is a mind which has not yet collected any memories, as if there were some sort of surface which accumulated these things and preserved them, and that’s me.

 

But, you see, this superstition is related to a much more ancient superstition that the world consists of two elements, one of which is ‘stuff,’ and the other of which is ‘form.’ This is a myth based on a model of the world which is fundamentally ceramic. God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground. And so there is a ‘stuff,’ and so there are ‘forms’ engraved in it, or imposed on it, or stamped on it like a seal is stamped on wax.

 

What is stuff like apart from form? What is form like apart from stuff? All those problems—which have bothered people for centuries—are based on asking the question in the wrong way; on having used the wrong image for the process. Actually, since nobody ever saw a piece of shapeless stuff, and nobody ever saw a piece of stuff-less shape, the whole thing really is saying that they are the same. And there isn’t any necessity even to think of a difference between them. Even the contrasting words, ‘form’ and ‘substance,’ or ‘form’ and ‘matter,’ are a nuisance.

 

There is process. There is the flow of thought. The flow of thought doesn’t have to happen to anyone. Experience does not have to beat upon an experiencer. There is, all the time, simply the one stream going on, and we are convinced that we stand aside from it and observe it, because we’ve been brought up that way. But, you know, in your stream of thought and experience, I am an object, and a very fleeting and passing one. And also, in my stream of experience you, also, are people who come and go. We are all, you see, living in the same world. We think there is me, and there is an external world around me, but I am in you external world and you are in my external world, and if you think about that you see that we are all in one world going along together. There isn’t really the ‘internal’ and the ‘external,’ there is simply the process.

 

It’s very important to get rid of that illusion of duality between the thinker and the thought, so find out: who is the thinker behind the thoughts? Who is the real, genuine you? And so, one of the methods that is used is shouting. The Zen master would say to a student, Now, I want to hear you. I want to hear you say the word ‘moo,’ and really mean it! Because I want to hear not just the sound, but the person who says it. Now, produce—for me—that.

 

He goes, Moo!

 

And the Zen teacher says, No, no! Not yet.

 

Moo!!

 

And he says, It’s only coming from your throat. I want to hear your belly, you know?

 

And always, you see, it’ll never come while the person is trying to make a differentiation between a ‘true’ moo and a ‘false’ moo. To act with confidence, you just do it. But since people are not used to that, it is necessary to set up protected situations in which it can be done.

 

If we just—in the ordinary way of social intercourse—acted without deliberation, we would get into amazing confusions, as when people say, Always speak the truth. Never tell a white lie. And they say exactly what is true and what they think about other people. Well, they can raise a great deal of trouble. But the experience of Zen has been that there should be a kind of enclosure in which this kind of behavior can be done until the people are expert in it and know how to apply it in all situations.

 

And you will find, in everyday life, that there is a very clear distinction between people who always seem to be self-possessed, and people who are dithering and nervous and don’t quite know how to react in any given situation; always getting embarrassed because they have their life too strongly programmed. You said—I mean, this is a common marriage argument—You said you would do such-and-such a thing at such-and-such a time! And now you’ve changed your plans! Not that the change of plans really caused any inconvenience, but just the feeling that when you say you will do something at a certain time, you ought to do it at that time come hell or high water! Well, that’s being very unadaptable. That’s being a stone—kind of sticky—thing. If it, after all, doesn’t matter when we do it and somebody is offended because the time has been changed, that’s simply because they are attached to punctuality as a fetish.

 

And this is one of the great problems. This causes many automobile accidents. Men rushing home to be on time for dinner, when they stayed late either working, or they had to stop for a drink at some bar, or when a girl feels that she has a fussy husband and she feels she has to have the dinner ready at exactly a certain moment, she ruins the cooking. He’d rather have a faithful wife and a bad cook. I hope I’m not treading on any toes.

 

So, you see, we spend an awful lot of energy trying to make our lives fit images of what life is or should be which they could never possibly fit. So Zen practice is in getting rid of these images. But it’s so explosive, socially, to do that, and it so worries people they get vertigo, they get dizzy, they don’t know which end is up. And this happens, you know, if you’ve ever been in one of those Blab-Lab sessions, where they call them ‘tea groups’—I think, or something like that—where people gather together without any clear idea of what this gathering is about. They know it’s somehow self-exploration, but just how do you begin on that? And so, somebody starts to push his idea, and then somebody else says, Well, why are you trying to push your idea on us? And then they all get into an argument about the argument, and the most amazing confusions come about—but sometimes they all see what idiots they’re being, and then they learn to live together in a really open and spontaneous way.

 

The function of a Zen teacher is to put his students in all kinds of situations where, in the normal course of social relations, they would get stuck. By asking nonsensical questions, by making absurd remarks, by always unhinging things, and above all, keeping them stirred up with impossible demands: to hear the sound of one hand, to—without moving—stop a ship sailing out to the water, or to stop the sound of a train whistle in the distance. Magic. To touch the ceiling without getting up from one’s chair, to take the four divisions of Tokyo out of your sleeve, to take Mount Fuji out of a pillbox; all these impossible questions are asked, and in the ordinary way of interpreting these questions we think, Well, now—gee, how could we do that? See? That’s a very difficult question that’s been asked. And you have to think, What would I do to do that?

 

Because we are caught up in a certain way of discourse which the language-game that we play—and the social games, the production games, and the survival games that we play—are good games. But we take them so seriously that we think that that is the only important thing. And this is to unstick us from that notion and realize that it would be just as good a game to drop dead now as to go on living.

 

Is a lightning flash ‘bad’ because it lives for a second, as compared with the sun that goes on for billions of years? You can’t make that sort of comparison, because a world of lighting goes also with a world where there’s a sun—and vice versa. So, long-lived creatures and short-lived go together; that’s the meaning of that saying: Flowering branches grow naturally. Some short, some long.

 

So this, then, is a scene in a Zen community where spontaneous behavior is encouraged within certain limits. And as the student becomes more and more used to it, those limits are expanded. Until, eventually, he can be trusted to go out on the street and behave like a true Zen character, and get by perfectly well. You know what occasionally happens on the street when two people are walking down the sidewalk straight at each other, and they both decide to move to the right together and then to the left together, and they somehow get stuck and they can’t pass each other. Zen teachers will pull just exactly that sort of stunt, when going down a path, and meet one of their students—to see if they can get him in a tangle, and can he escape from it?

 

And you will find, in everyday life, that there is a very clear distinction between people who always seem to be self-possessed, and people who are dithering and nervous and don’t quite know how to react in any given situation; always getting embarrassed because they have their life too strongly programmed. You said—I mean, this is a common marriage argument—You said you would do such-and-such a thing at such-and-such a time! And now you’ve changed your plans! Not that the change of plans really caused any inconvenience, but just the feeling that when you say you will do something at a certain time, you ought to do it at that time come hell or high water! Well, that’s being very unadaptable. That’s being a stone—kind of sticky—thing. If it, after all, doesn’t matter when we do it and somebody is offended because the time has been changed, that’s simply because they are attached to punctuality as a fetish.

 

And this is one of the great problems. This causes many automobile accidents. Men rushing home to be on time for dinner, when they stayed late either working, or they had to stop for a drink at some bar, or when a girl feels that she has a fussy husband and she feels she has to have the dinner ready at exactly a certain moment, she ruins the cooking. He’d rather have a faithful wife and a bad cook. I hope I’m not treading on any toes.

 

So, you see, we spend an awful lot of energy trying to make our lives fit images of what life is or should be which they could never possibly fit. So Zen practice is in getting rid of these images. But it’s so explosive, socially, to do that, and it so worries people they get vertigo, they get dizzy, they don’t know which end is up. And this happens, you know, if you’ve ever been in one of those Blab-Lab sessions, where they call them ‘tea groups’—I think, or something like that—where people gather together without any clear idea of what this gathering is about. They know it’s somehow self-exploration, but just how do you begin on that? And so, somebody starts to push his idea, and then somebody else says, Well, why are you trying to push your idea on us? And then they all get into an argument about the argument, and the most amazing confusions come about—but sometimes they all see what idiots they’re being, and then they learn to live together in a really open and spontaneous way.

 

There was a very interesting dinner party once where a Zen master was present, and there was a geisha girl who served so beautifully and had such style that he suspected she must have some Zen training. And after a while, when she pours to fill his sake cup, he bowed to her and said, I’d like to give you a present. And she said, I would be most honored. And he took the iron chopsticks that are used for the hibachi—the charcoal brazier; moving the charcoal around—he picked up a piece of red-hot charcoal and gave it to her. Well, she instantly—she had very long sleeves on her kimono—she whirled the sleeves around her hands and took the hot charcoal, withdrew to the kitchen, dumped it, and changed her kimono because it was burnt through. Then she came back into the room, and after a suitable interval she stopped before the Zen master and bowed to him and said, I would like to give you, sir, a present. And he said, I would be very much honored. Of course, he was wearing a kimono, or something like this. And so she picked up a piece of coal and offered it to him. He immediately produced a cigarette and said, Thank you, that’s just what I needed.

 

Now, you know, in the same way that we have this in our culture: certain people who are comedians, who know how to make jokes and gags in a completely unprepared situation. Face them with anything and they somehow come through. So that is exactly the same thing in a special domain as Zen. Only, a master of Zen does this in every life situation. But the important thing is to be able to do this—this is the secret—you must remember: you can’t make a mistake.

 

Now, that’s a very difficult thing to do, because from childhood up we have had to conform to a certain social game. And if you are going to conform to this game you can make mistakes or not make mistakes. And so this thing has gone into us all the time. You must do the right thing! There’s certain conduct appropriate here. There’s certain conduct appropriate there. And that sticks in us and gives us a double-self all our lives long, because we never grow up.

 

Do you realize that the whole of life plays a game, which is a childhood game? There are three kinds of people: top people, middle people, and bottom people. And there can’t be any middle people unless there are bottom people and top people. And there can’t be any top people unless there are middle and bottom people, and so it goes. And everybody is trying to be in a top set. Well, if they are going to be there there’s gotta be people in the bottom set. And there are people who do the ‘right’ thing and people who do the ‘wrong’ thing. Here in Sausalito—we have this very, very plainly—there are the ‘right’ people, the nice people who live up on the hill. Then there are the ‘nasty’ people who live down here on the waterfront, and they grow beards and they wear blue jeans and they smoke marijuana. And whereas the other people on the top of the hill drive Cadillacs, and have wall-to-wall carpeting, and nicely mowed lawns, and their particular kind of poison is alcohol. Now, the people who live on the top of the hill know that they are nice people, but they wouldn’t know they were nice people unless they had some nasty people to compare themselves with.

 

Every in-group requires an out-group. Whereas the nasty people think they are the real far-out people, whereas those people, those hillbillies, are squares. And they wouldn’t be able to feel far-out unless there were squares. See? These things simply go together. But when that is not seen we play the games of ‘getting on top of things’ all the time, and so we are in a constant state of competition. As to—if it’s not I’m stronger than you, it’s I’m wiser than you, I’m more loving than you, I’m more tolerant than you, I’m more sophisticated than you. It doesn’t matter what it is, but this constant competition is going on.

 

In terms of that competition we can, of course, lose place and—in that sense—make mistakes. But what a Zen student is, is a person who is not involved in the status game. That’s the real meaning of a monk. He is not ‘keeping up with the Jones,’ and to be a master he must get to the point where he’s not trying to be a master. The whole idea of your being better than anybody else simply doesn’t make any sense at all; it is totally meaningless. Because, you see, everybody manifesting the marvel of the universe in the same way as the stars do, and the water, and the winds, and the animals. And you see them all as being in their right places and not being able, really, to make mistakes—although they may think they are making mistakes or not making mistakes, and playing all these competitive games. But that’s their game!

 

Now, I only say if that game begins to bore you, and it begins to trouble you and give you ulcers and all kinds of things, then you raise the problem of getting out of it, and therefore you start to become interested in things like Zen. That is simply a symptom of your growing in a certain direction where you are tired of playing a certain kind of game. You are as naturally flowing in another direction as if a tree were putting out a new branch. So because you say, Oh well, we people are interested in higher things—you see, that depends, still, on the differentiation of rank between the superior and the inferior people. But when you begin to see through that and grow out of that, you don’t think any more of this ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ classification. You don’t think, We are spiritual people who attend to higher things as distinct from these morons who are only interested in beer and television. This is simply our particular form of life. Like there are crabs, and there are spiders, and there are sharks, and there are sparrows, and so on.

 

The trouble with the human being is like the trouble with certain animals. Like the dinosaur, who evolved to the point where he was so big that he’d have to have two brains—a higher self in the head and a lower self in the rump. And the difficulty was to get these two brains coordinated. But we have exactly the same trouble, and we are suffering from a kind of ‘jitters’ that comes from being two-brained. Now, you see, I’m not saying that that jitters is bad—it’s a potential step in evolution and an opportunity of growth. But remember, in the process of growth, the oak is not better than the acorn; because what does it do? It produces acorns.

 

Or you could say—just like I sometimes love to say—that a chicken is one egg’s way of becoming others. So an oak is an acorn’s way of becoming other acorns. Where is the point of superiority? The first verse of the poem I just quoted—The flowering branches grow naturally. Some short, some long—the first verse is,

In the landscape of spring

there is nothing superior

and nothing inferior.

The flowering branches are naturally

some short some long.

So that’s the point of view of being an outcast, in the sense of being outside the ‘taking seriously’ of being involved in the social game, and therefore being threatened by making mistakes, of doing the wrong thing—that is to say, of carrying into adult life one’s childhood conditioning where somebody is constantly yammering at you to play the game.

 

So therefore, the preachers and the teachers take the same attitude towards their adult congregations that parents take to children, and lecture them and tell them what they should do. And judges in courts feel also entitled to give people lectures because they say those criminal-types haven’t grown up—but neither have the judges. It takes two to make a quarrel. So one can begin to think in a new way—in polarity-thinking. Instead of being stuck with the competitive thinking of the good guys and the bad guys, the cops and robbers, the capitalists and the communists, all these things which are simply childishness.

 

Now, of course, you recognize that the moment I say that it’s like talking in English in order to show that the English language has limitations. And I am talking in a language that seems competitive to show that the competitive game has limitations. As if I were saying to all you cats here, Look, I have something to tell you. And if you get this, you will be in a better position than you were before you heard it. But I cannot speak to this group—or to society, or this language-speaking culture—without using the language, the gestures, the customs, et cetera, that you have.

 

The Zen masters try to get around this by doing things—suddenly—that people just don’t get. Well, what is this? Therefore, that is the reason why—this is the real reason why—Zen cannot be explained. You have to make, as it were, a jump from the valuation game of ‘better people’ and ‘worse people,’ ‘in-groups’ and ‘out-groups,’ and you can only make it by seeing that they all are mutually interdependent. So if we take this situation—let’s say I would be talking to you and saying, Look, I have some very special thing that you’ve got to take notice of. Therefore I am the in-group, and I’m the teacher and you are the out-group. I know perfectly well that I cannot be the teacher unless you come here, and so that my status and my position is totally dependent on you. It isn’t something, you see, therefore I have first and then you get. These things arise mutually. So if you wouldn’t come, I wouldn’t talk. I wouldn’t know what to say, because I borrowed your language.

 

So that is the insight: that things go together. Then, when you see that—and aren’t in competition—then you don’t make a mistake. Because you don’t dither. When I first learned the piano and played these wretched scales, the teacher beside me had a pencil in her hand and she hit my fingers every time I made a wrong note. The consequence was, I never learned to read music because I hesitated too long to play the note on time. Because I was always, Is this pencil going to land? See? And that gets built into your psyche. And so, people are always—although they are adults, and nobody is clubbing them around and screaming at them any longer—athey hear the echoes of that screaming mama—or that bombinating papa—in the back of their heads all their life long. And so they adopt the same attitudes to their own children, and the farce continues.

 

Because there is no—I mean, I don’t say that you shouldn’t lay down the law to children if you want them to play the social game. But if you lay down the law to your children, you must make provisions later in life for them to be ‘liberated.’ To go through a process of curing them from the bad effects of education. But you can’t do that unless you, too, grow up, you see? As we grow up. Says I, including myself.

 

So that is the thing. Now, therefore, in the Zen scene, you would think that the master as we know him and we read about him is an extremely authoritative figure. That’s the way he deliberately comes on at the beginning. He puts up a terrific show of being an awful dragon. And this screens out all sorts of people who don’t have, somehow, the nerve to get into the work. But once you are in, a very strange change takes place: the master becomes the brother; he becomes the affectionate helper of all those students, and they love him as they would a brother, rather than respect him as they would a father. And therefore, the students and masters, they make jokes about each other; they have a very curious kind of social relationship which has all of the outward trappings of authoritarian, but everybody knows on the inside that that’s a joke.

 

Liberated people have to be very cool. Otherwise, in a society which doesn’t believe in equality and cannot possibly practice it, they would be considered extremely subversive. And therefore, great Zen masters wear purple and gold and carry scepters and sit in thrones, and all this is carried on to cool it. The outside world knows, They’re alright, they have discipline, they have order, they are perfectly fine.