If you meet the Buddha…
I’ve probably mentioned this before somewhere, I am loathed to recommend ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!’ by Sheldon B. Kopp to anyone because its… well it was a tough read, for me anyway. (admittedly I am stupid, so there’s that). It also, paging through it last night, feels a little dated now. But mostly I imagine its one of those very subjective books that requires the reader to be in a particular head-space to derive in any real value from it. Otherwise its likely to be a largely wtf experience…
Still, this is one of my favorite passages in my dog-eared heavily underlined copy that I transcribe now for posterity
Whether pilgrim or wayfarer, while seeking to be taught the Truth, the disciple learns only that there is nothing that anyone else can teach him. He learns, once he is willing to give up being taught, that he already knows how to live, that it is implied in his own tale. The secret is that there is no secret.
Everything is just what it seems to be. This is it! There are no hidden meanings. Before he is enlightened, a man gets up each morning to spend the day tending his fields, returns home to eat his supper, goes to bed, makes love to his woman and falls asleep. But once he has attained enlightenment, then a man gets up each morning to spend the day tending his fields, returns home to eat his supper, goes to bed, makes love to his woman and falls asleep.
The Zen way to see the truth is through your everyday eyes. It is only the heartless questioning of life-as-it-is that ties a man in knots. A man does not need an answer in order to find peace. He needs only to surrender to his existence, to cease the needless, empty questioning. The secret of enlightenment is when you are hungry, eat; and when you are tired, sleep.
The Zen master warns: ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!’ This admonition points up that no meaning that comes from outside of ourselves is real. The Buddhahood of each of us has already been obtained. We need only recognize it. Philosophy, religion, patriotism, all are empty idols. The only meaning in our lives is what we each bring to them. Killing the Buddha on the road means destroying the hope that anything outside of ourselves can be our master. No one is any bigger than anyone else. There are no mothers or fathers for grown-ups, only sisters and brothers.