No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.
There is a Zen story I have loved very much. Three friends had gone for a morning walk, and then they suddenly saw on the hill a Zen monk standing.
One of the friends said, ”I think he must have come with his friends; they must have been left behind and he is waiting for them.”
The other said, ”I cannot agree with you, because seeing that man I can say one thing is certain; he is not waiting for somebody who has been left behind, because he never looks back. He is just standing like a statue. Anybody who is waiting for somebody who is left behind will once in a while look, to see whether the fellow has come or not. But he is unmoving.
”He is not waiting for any friend. I think… I know this monk; he has a cow and the cow must have been lost in the thick forest. And that is the highest place from where he can look all over the forest and find the cow.”
The third man said, ”You have forgotten your own argument. If he was looking for the cow then he would be looking all around. He would not just stand there like a statue, focused in one direction; that is not the way of looking for a lost cow.” He said, ”As far as I can tell, he is doing his morning meditation.”
But the other two said that the basic philosophy of Zen is that you can meditate anywhere, you can meditate doing anything. What was the need to go to that hill in the early morning, in the cold, and stand there to meditate? ”He could have meditated in his cozy monastery where they have a special meditation temple. He could have been there –what was the need to go? No, we cannot agree.”
They argued; finally they said, ”It is better we go to the hill. It will be a waste of time but there is no other way to settle what he is doing.” Such is the curiosity of the human mind –very monkeyish. Now why trouble yourself? Let him do whatever he is doing. If he is searching for his cow it is his business; if he is waiting for his friend, it is his friend; if he is meditating it is his business –why should you poke your nose into it? But that’s how people are.
They became so excited arguing with each other that they decided, ”We have to go.” They forgot that they had come just for a small morning walk, and going to the hill will take hours, then coming down the hill… the sun will be almost directly overhead. But the question… they have to come to a conclusion. And in fact they want to prove that ”I am right.” Each of them wants to prove that ”I am right.” Now the only man who can decide is that monk.
They reached –huffing, puffing. The monk was standing there with half-closed eyes. That is the Buddhist way –to keep the eyes half closed when you are meditating, because if you close your eyes completely you may doze into sleep; that is more possible than going into meditation. If you keep your eyes fully open you will get interested in thousands of things. A beautiful woman passes by, and meditation is lost, anything can disturb. So keep the eyes half closed so you don’t see exactly what is happening outside, and you have to keep your eyes half open so you don’t fall asleep.
The first man asked, ”Master, we have heard much about you but we never had any chance to come to your monastery. Fortunately we had come for a morning walk and we saw you. We have a question I want you to answer: Are you not waiting for somebody who has been left behind?”
The monk with half-closed eyes said, ”I have nobody, I am alone. I was born alone, I will die alone, and between these two alonenesses I am not trying to fool myself that somebody is with me. I am alone and I am not waiting for anybody.”
The second man said happily, ”Then certainly your cow has got lost in the thick forest and you must be looking for it.”
The monk said, ”It seems strange idiots have come here! I don’t possess a single thing. I don’t have any cow, the monastery has it; that is not my business. And why should I waste my time looking for a cow?”
The third man was immensely happy. He said, ”Now you cannot deny: you must be meditating. Is it not so? –you are doing your morning meditation!”
The monk laughed; he said, ”You are the worst idiot of the three! Meditation is not done, it is not a doing. You can be in meditation but you cannot do it. It is a state. So certainly I am not doing meditation. I am in meditation, but for that I need not come to this hill; anywhere I am in meditation. Meditation is my consciousness.
”So you all get lost! And never disturb anybody who is standing with half-closed eyes, remember it.”
But they all three said, ”Forgive us – we are stupid, certainly we are stupid to walk miles and to ask you such…. We are feeling embarrassed. But now that we have come and now that we accept we are stupid, just one question from all of the three, not separate: Then what are you doing?”
And the master said nothing.
In that nothing is the witness.
To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.
– Eckhart Tolle