The Miracle of Ordinariness
BANKEI WAS PREACHING QUIETLY TO HIS FOLLOWERS ONE DAY WHEN
HIS TALKING WAS INTERRUPTED BY A PRIEST FROM ANOTHER SECT. THIS
SECT BELIEVED IN THE POWER OF MIRACLES, AND THOUGHT THAT
SALVATION CAME FROM REPEATING HOLY WORDS.
BANKEI STOPPED TALKING, AND ASKED THE PRIEST WHAT HE WANTED
THE PRIEST BOASTED THAT THE FOUNDER OF HIS RELIGION COULD
STAND ON ONE BANK OF THE RIVER WITH A BRUSH IN HIS HAND AND
WRITE A HOLY NAME ON A PIECE OF PAPER HELD BY AN ASSISTANT ON
THE OPPOSITE BANK OF THE RIVER. THE PRIEST ASKED, “WHAT MIRACLES
CAN YOU DO?”
BANKEI REPLIED,”ONLY ONE. WHEN I AM HUNGRY I EAT, AND WHEN I AM
THIRSTY I DRINK.”
The only miracle, the impossible miracle, is to be just ordinary. The longing of the mind is to be extraordinary. The ego thirsts and hungers for the recognition that you are somebody. Somebody achieves that dream through wealth, somebody else achieves that dream through power, politics, somebody else can achieve that dream through miracles, jugglery, but the dream remains the same: I cannot tolerate being nobody.
And this is a miracle — when you accept your nobodiness, when you are just as ordinary as anybody else, when you don’t ask for any recognition, when you can exist as if you are not existing. To be absent is the miracle.
This story is beautiful, one of the most beautiful Zen anecdotes, and Bankei is one of the superb masters. But Bankei was an ordinary man.
Once it happened that Bankei was working in his garden. Somebody came, a seeker, a man in search of a master, and he asked Bankei, “Gardener, where is the master?” Bankei laughed and said, “Wait. Come from that door, inside you will find the master.” So the man went round and came inside. He saw Bankei sitting on a throne, the same man who was the gardener outside. The seeker said, “Are you kidding? Get down from this throne. This is sacrilegious, you don’t pay any respect to the master.”
Bankei got down, sat on the ground, and said, “Now then, it is difficult. Now you will not find the master here because I am the master.”
It was difficult for that man to see that a great master could work in the garden, could be just ordinary. He left. He couldn’t believe that this man was the master; he missed. We are all in search of the extraordinary. But why are you in search of the extraordinary? It is because you also long to be extraordinary. With an ordinary master, how can you become extraordinary, exceptional?
Bankei was talking, lecturing, and one man stood and asked about miracles. He belonged to some other sect, a sect which worked through mantras, holy names. Remember that a mantra is a secret technique to achieve more power. A mantra is not spiritual, it is political, but the politics are of the inner space, not of the outer.
The mind can become powerful if you narrow it down; narrowing is the method. The more narrow the mind, the more powerful it becomes. It is just like the sun’s rays falling to the ground. If you focus those waves, those rays, through a lens, fire can be created. Those rays were falling all spread out but now they have been narrowed down through the lens. They have become one-pointed, concentrated; now fire is possible.
The mind is energy, in fact, the same energy that comes through the sun, the same subtle rays. Ask the physicists. They say the mind has a voltage of electricity, that it is electrical.
If you can focus the mind through a lens, the mantra is a lens, and you go on repeating Ram, Ram, Ram, or Om, Om, Om, or anything, just one word — if you go repeating and repeating and repeating it, and the mind’s whole energy is centered in that one word — it becomes a lens. Now all the rays are passing through that lens. Narrowed to one point it becomes powerful, you can do miracles. Just by thinking you can do miracles.
But remember, those miracles are not spiritual.Power is never spiritual. Powerlessness, helplessness, to be nothing, is spiritual;.power is never spiritual. This is the difference between magic and religion; magic is after power, religion is after nothingness.
A mantra is a part of magic not of religion at all, but everything is a big mess, mixed up. People who are doing miracles are magicians, not spiritual in any way. They are even anti-spiritual because they are spreading magic in the name of religion, which is very dangerous.
Through a mantra the mind is narrowed; it is more narrowed, more powerful, and then anything can be done. There is only one thing you will miss — you will miss yourself. All miracles will be possible, the ultimate miracle you will miss. You will miss yourself because through narrowing down you can achieve an object. The more the mind is narrowed, the more it becomes fixed to an object; it becomes objective. You are hidden behind and the object is outside.
So if you are a man of mantras you can say to this tree, “Die,” and the tree will die; you can say to a man, “Be healthy,” and the disease will disappear, or, “Be unhealthy,” and the disease will enter — many things you can do. You can become somebody, and people will recognize you as a man of power but never a man of God.
A man of God is born when the mind is not narrowed at all, when the mind is not flowing in one direction but is overflowing in all directions. There is no lens, no mantra, just the energy flowing in all dimensions everywhere. That flowing energy, that energy overflowing everywhere, will make you alert about yourself because then there is no object. Only you, only subjectivity exists, and through you, you will become aware of God, not through any power.
This man asked Bankei, “What type of miracles can you do? My master, through mantra, through the holy name, can do miracles. He will stand on one bank of the river, and disciples will stand on the other bank with a paper in their hands, a half-mile distant, and he will write from here and the words will come on the paper on the other bank. This our master can do. What can you do?”
And Bankei said, “We know only one miracle here, and that is when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel sleepy I sleep. Only this much.” Not much of a miracle. Your mind will say, “What type of a miracle is this? It is nothing to be proud of.” But I say to you Bankei has said the real thing. That’s what a Buddha can do, that’s what a Mahavira is doing, that’s what a Jesus is to do. Only then is he a Christ, otherwise not. What he is saying is such a simple thing. He says, “When I am hungry I eat.” Is it so difficult that he calls it a miracle? I say it is difficult for you; for the mind it is the most difficult thing — not to interfere. When you feel hungry the mind says, “No, this is a religious day and I am on a fast.” When you don’t feel hungry the mind says, “Eat, because this is the time every day that you eat.” And when the stomach is overfilled the mind says, “Go on eating, the food is delicious.” Your mind interferes.
What is Bankei saying? He is saying, “My mind has stopped interfering. When I feel hungry I eat, when I don’t feel hungry I don’t eat. Eating has become a spontaneous thing; the mind is not a continuous interference.
When I feel sleepy I go to sleep.” No, you are not doing this. You go to sleep as a ritual, not when you feel sleepy. You get up as a ritual because it is brahmamuhurta, and you are a Hindu and you must get up before sunrise. Because you are a Hindu, you get up. Who is this Hindu? It is the mind. You cannot be a Hindu, you cannot be a Mohammedan; there is no sect for you but the mind. The mind says, “You are a Hindu, you must get up,” so you get up.
When the mind says, “Now it is time to go to sleep,” you go to sleep. You follow the mind, not nature.
Bankei is saying, “I flow with nature; whatsoever my whole being feels, I do it. There is no fragmentary mind manipulating it, manipulation is the problem. You go on manipulating and this disturbance, interference, this manipulation from the mind is the problem.
Even in dreams you go on manipulating — ask the psychologists; they say while awake, you continue manipulating. The mind doesn’t allow you to see what is there, it projects; the mind doesn’t allow you to hear what is being said to you, it interprets.
Even in dreams you are false because the mind goes on playing tricks on you. Freud discovered that our dreams are also false. You want to kill your father so in the dream you don’t kill your father. You want to poison your wife but you don’t poison your wife even in a dream, you poison some woman who somehow resembles your wife. The mind is interfering continuously.
I have heard that one man was saying to another, to his friend, “Did I dream last night! What a dream! I went to Coney Island — What delicious ice cream, such a tasteful dinner.I have never eaten such a thing in my whole life.”
The other man said,”You are kidding.You call that a wonderful dream? Last night I dreamt that on one side was Elizabeth Taylor, on the other side was Marilyn Monroe, both in the nude.
The other became excited and said, “Then why didn’t you call me?” The man said: “I called you, but your wife said you had already left for Coney Island.” Even in dreams the mind goes on creating the world — Coney Islands, Elizabeth Taylors – – and you become jealous even about another’s dream:Why didn’t you call me?
Bankei is saying: “We know only one miracle. We allow nature to have its own course, we don’t interfere.” Through interference comes the ego: the more you interfere, the more you manipulate, the more you feel you are somebody.
Look at the ascetics — their egos are so refined and subtle, so shiny. Why? It is because they have interfered the most; you have not interfered so much. They have killed their sex, they have destroyed their love, they have suppressed their anger, they have completely destroyed their hunger and the feeling of the body. They have reason to be egoists: they are somebodies. Look in their eyes, there is nothing except ego.
Their bodies may be almost dead but their egos are at the supreme-most peak. They have become Everests.
These monks and saints will not be able to understand what Bankei means.He says, “We know only one miracle — to allow nature to have its own course.
We don’t interfere.” If you don’t interfere, you will disappear. Fighting is the way to be there.
People come to me and ask how to drop the ego. I tell them, Who will drop it? If you try to drop it you will be the ego, and someday you will claim that you have dropped the ego. And who is this claimer, who is claiming it? This is the ego, and the most subtle ego always tries to pretend egolessness.
I also know only one miracle, to let nature have its course, to allow it. Whatsoever is happening, don’t interfere, don’t come in the way, and suddenly you will disappear. You cannot be there without resistance, fight, aggression, violence; the ego exists through resistance. This has to be understood very deeply — the more you fight, the more you will be there.
Why do soldiers feel so happy fighting? Fighting is not such a beautiful thing, war is just ugly, but why do soldiers feel so happy fighting? If you have once been to a war you will never be happy again in peace because the ego comes to such a peak fighting. Why, in competition, do you feel so happy? It is because something, your ego, arises; fighting, you become stronger.
But fighting with another is never so ego-fulfilling because you may be defeated — the possibility is there — but fighting with yourself you cannot be defeated. You are always going to be the winner, “There is nobody else except you. Fighting with another there is fear, the fear of being a failure; fighting with yourself there is no fear, you are alone. You are going to win today or tomorrow, but finally you will win because there is nobody else.
The ascetic is fighting with himself; the soldier is fighting with others; the businessman, fighting with others; the monk, fighting with himself. The monk and the ascetic are more cunning, they have chosen a path where victory is inevitable. You are not so calculating, your path is hazardous. You may be a success, you may be a failure, and your success can turn into a failure any moment because there are so many fighters around you, and you are such a small, tiny existence — you can be destroyed.
But fighting with yourself you are alone, there is no competition. So those who are very cunning escape from the world and start fighting with themselves. Those who are not so cunning, are more simple, are in the world and go on fighting with others. But the basic essential thing remains the same — fighting.
Bankei is saying, “I am not a fighter; I don’t fight at all. When I feel hungry I eat, when I feel sleepy I go to sleep; when I am alive I am alive, and when I die I will die. I don’t come in the way.” And he says,”This is the only miracle we know.”
But why call it a miracle? Animals are doing it already, trees are doing it already, birds are doing it already; the whole existence is doing it already. Why call it a miracle? Man cannot do it.
The whole existence is a miracle except man. The Christian story seems to be very meaningful: that man has been turned out of the Garden of Eden seems to be very relevant, most significant. The whole existence is a continuous miracle, it is a continuum; miracles are happening every moment. Existence is miraculous but man has been turned out.
Why has man been turned out? The story says because he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge and God had forbidden it. God said, “don’t eat the fruit of this tree, the tree of knowledge. All the trees are open to you except this one.”
But the Devil persuaded. Of course he persuaded Eve first; the Devil always enters through the woman. Why? It is because woman is the weakest point of man, the weakest link from where the Devil can enter. To enter man directly is difficult because he will give a good fight, it will be difficult, but through woman the Devil can persuade man.
So the Devil said to woman, to Eve, “This is the only fruit worth eating, and that’s why God has prohibited it. If you eat this fruit you will be like gods. You will be a god yourself.”
Eve couldn’t resist, the temptation was too much. She persuaded Adam. Adam tried to say it was not good because God had prohibited it, but when it is a problem of choosing between your wife and God, you will choose your wife.
Really, there is no real alternative because she will create such trouble, in twenty-four hours, such trouble… God cannot create so much trouble So finally Adam had to eat, and the moment he ate the fruit he became conscious of the ego; he became aware that “I am.”Immediately he was thrown out of the Garden of Eden. It is a beautiful story; the story is really a key to all the secrets.
This knowledge has turned you out of the miraculous world that you are in. Before this Adam was like a child — naked but not aware that he was naked; naked but not aware that there was some guilt in it. He loved Eve but the love was natural; he was never aware that something wrong was going on or that there was some sin.
There was no sin; before knowledge there is no sin. A child cannot commit sin; only an old man can be a sinner, so all sinners are old. A child cannot be a sinner. How can it be a sinner? A child is innocent because a child is not aware of himself, that he is.
Adam was like a child, Eve was like a child; they enjoyed but there was no one who was enjoying. They were part of this mystery, of the miracle. When they felt hungry they ate, when they felt sleepy they slept, when they felt like loving they loved. But everything was a natural phenomenon, the mind was not there as the manipulator. They were part of this universe — flowing like rivers, flowering like trees, singing like birds — they were not separate. Separation came with the knowledge that “I am.”
The first thing Adam and Eve did was to try to hide their nakedness; the childhood was lost. Whenever a child begins to feel that he is naked, that is the point where Adam and Eve were turned out of the Garden of Eden.
It has always been my feeling that the answer to the Christian story exists in Mahavira — not in Jesus, but in Mahavira — because if by eating the fruit of knowledge Adam became aware and felt guilty that he was naked, then the answer exists in Mahavira. The moment Mahavira became silent the first thing he did was to become naked.
And I say Mahavira entered the Garden of Eden again, he became a child again. The Christian story is half, the Jain story is the other half; they make the whole. The whole existence is a miracle; you have fallen out of it.
Bankei said, “We know only one miracle; we have entered in this great miracle again. We are no more separate as egos, we are not individuals. Hunger is there but there is no one who is hungry. Sleep comes but there is no one who is sleepy. The ego is not there to resist or to decide; we flow, we drift.” Nothing is wrong and nothing is good. This is the beyondness, the transcendental attitude where no evil exists and no good. You have become innocent.
Your saints cannot be innocents because their goodness is forced too much; their goodness is already ugly. Their goodness is managed, controlled, cultivated, it is not innocent.
I have heard about one old woman. She served a buddhist monk for thirty years, did everything for that monk; she was just like a mother and a disciple both. And the buddhist monk meditated and meditated and meditated. The day the old woman was going to die she called a prostitute from the town and said, “Go to that monk’s hut. Enter the hut, go near him, caress the monk, and just come and tell me how he reacts. This night I am going to die, and I want to be certain whether I was serving a man who is innocent. I am not certain.”
The prostitute became afraid. She said, “He is such a good man, so saintly, we have never seen such a saintly man.”
Even the prostitute felt guilty to go there and touch this man, but the old woman bribed her. She went, she opened the door. The monk was meditating. It was midnight; in that isolated part nobody was near. The monk opened his eyes, looked at the prostitute, jumped to his feet and said, “why are you coming in ? Get out!”
His whole body trembled. The prostitute went nearer. The monk jumped out of the hut and cried, “This woman is trying to seduce me!”
The prostitute returned, she told the whole thing and the old woman sent her servants to burn the hut of the monk. She said, “This man is of no use; he has not become innocent yet. He may be a saint but his saintliness is ugly, it is manipulated. Why should he see a prostitute so suddenly? A woman was entering not a prostitute; why should he think that she had come to seduce him? He should have been at least gentlemanly. He should have said, ‘Come, sit, why have you come?’ He should have at least shown a little compassion. And even if she had embraced him, why should he be afraid? He has been telling me for thirty years, ‘I am not the body.’If he is not the body then why should he be so much afraid of the body? No, his saintliness is cultivated, it is a pose. It is not from the inner, it is from the outer. He has managed it all right, but inside he is not innocent, he is not childlike.”
And unless saintliness becomes childlike, it is not saintliness at all, it is just a sinner hiding, hiding through a facade.
Bankei has said, “We know only one miracle.” What is that miracle? It is to be childlike. Whenever a child feels hungry he starts crying — he is hungry. Whenever he feels sleepy, he goes to sleep.
We try to manage even a child; we destroy him.In the West now there are books, guides for mothers. And what type of world is there going to be when a guide is needed even for a mother — guidelines that say: After three hours give milk, never before, but each three hours, give. The child is crying, but that’s not the point because the guidebook says after three hours. The mother is waiting, and when the three hours are completed she will feed the child.
Even motherhood is not enough, a guide is needed; and a child’s authentic cry is not to be trusted, as if the child may be trying to deceive. Why should the child deceive? If he is hungry, he is crying.
But we are trying to destroy childhood. Sooner or later he will follow us, he will also look at the clock, and when the three hours are complete he will give a cry that he is hungry. This hunger will be false, and when hunger goes false everything goes false.
We go on forcing children to go to sleep when we think it is time. But sleep is not to be manipulated by time, sleep is something inner. When the child feels sleepy he will go to sleep, but mother and father go on forcing the child to go to sleep, as if sleep can be ordered.
Children must think that you are foolish, they think that something has gone wrong in your mind. How can a child force sleep? He can pretend, so when you are there he can close the eyes and when you have gone he can open the eyes, because sleep cannot be forced. Nobody, not even you, can force sleep. If you don’t feel sleepy how can you go to sleep?
But this is how society destroys. That’s how the Devil persuades, that’s how we bring every child out of the Garden of Eden. Remember, not only were Adam and Eve born in the Garden, every child is born there because that is the birthplace, and then society brings the child out. So society is the Devil. Society persuades: Do this, do that, and bring the child out. Make him an ego, make him a manipulator.
And the only miracle that is possible is to enter this Garden of Eden again, to become childlike, to allow nature its flow. Don’t block it, don’t stand in the way, don’t push it; just flow with it. You are nature, you are Tao; you are part of the continuous mystery that is happening. Bankei was right, it is difficult for us because we have become so much addicted to the mind and its manipulation. And even if I say to you, be natural, you will try to be natural and then you will miss. How can one try to be natural? If I say don’t do anything you try not to do anything; if I say be inactive then you make every effort to be inactive, but the effort is the activity. So this has to be understood: no effort is needed. Any effort on your part and you will miss the miracle.
Then what is to be done? Nothing is to be done, just a simple feeling — allow nature. In the beginning it will be difficult because you have always been jumping in the way, always interfering. In the beginning it will be difficult but for just three weeks allow nature. When you feel hungry, eat, when you feel sleepy, go to sleep.
When you don’t feel hungry, don’t eat. It is not a fast, remember, because a fast is from the mind, and you are feeling hungry but you are on a fast. There is no harm if you don’t feel sleepy; there is no harm because the body doesn’t need it, so don’t force it. Stay awake, enjoy, go for a walk, have a little dance in the room or sing or meditate, but don’t force sleep. When you feel sleepy, when the eyes say: Now go to sleep….
And don’t force yourself in the morning to come out of bed; allow your inner being, give it a chance. It will give you the indication, the eyes will open by themselves.
For a few days there will be difficulty but within three weeks… and I say within three weeks if you don’t interfere; if you interfere, then three lives are not enough. Don’t interfere and just wait for things to happen, and allow them. Within three weeks you will fall into nature again, and suddenly you will see that you have been existing in the Garden of Eden and Adam has never been expelled — he only thinks he has. That’s what the knowledge of the fruit means.
You simply think that you have been expelled. Where can you be expelled to? The whole nature is the Garden of Eden — where can you be expelled to? The whole house is God so where can you be expelled to? Bankei said, “I have entered the Garden again.”
Bankei was going to die. The disciples were very worried and they asked, “What should we do? What should we do with your body? Should we preserve it? Should be burn it, as Hindus do, as Buddhists do? Should we bury it in the ground, as Mohammedans and Christians do? We don’t know who you are, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Mohammedan? You have confused us too much we don’t know who you are, so what should we do?”
Bankei said, “Wait, let me die first. Why are you in such a hurry? The mind always jumps ahead. Why are you in such a hurry? And you call yourselves my disciples? Let me die and do whatsoever you like, because Bankei will not be there. Whether you bury, whether you burn, or whether you preserve, it makes no difference to Bankei; Bankei will not be there. But let me die first then do whatsoever you like. It makes no difference but don’t jump ahead. The mind has a tendency to jump ahead, always to jump ahead.
“One minister invited his congregation for a garden party. He forgot a little old lady. Just at the eleventh hour he remembered, so he phoned because that lady was dangerous, very religious, and very religious people are always dangerous. He was afraid that she might create trouble or mischief. She was one of the oldest members of his congregation and contributed to the church and everything. She could create trouble. So he phoned and told the old lady, “Come. Just by mistake I forgot, but forgive me and you must come.” The old lady said, “It is too late now, I have already prayed for rain.”
There was going to be a garden party and she had not been invited, and she had already prayed for rain so it was too late. See, it was no use; now, nothing could be done. The mind goes on jumping ahead, that is the way of the mind. Make jumps less and less, or if it is very difficult for you, then allow the mind to jog but don’t jump ahead. Jogging is meditation, it is a jogging; you are jumping on the same ground and the mind is accustomed to jump ahead.
It may be difficult to stop it completely, so do half-half — don’t jump ahead, jump on the ground, jog. Half is cut. Then, by and by, slow down; then stand, then sit down. When you are here and now, sitting totally, not jumping ahead, the miracle has happened. To be in the moment is the miracle.
But I know Bankei will not appeal to you. Sai Baba can appeal to you because with Sai Baba your mind has a logic, a tuning. With Bankei your mind cannot be tuned, it has to be dropped — only then can that tuning happen. With Sai Baba you can understand things — with logic it is the same — what your mind says is that a miracle is happening.
This is not religion at all, this is simply magic. And there is no difference between a Houdini and a Sai Baba. The only difference, if there is any, is that Houdini was more honest than Sai Baba because he simply said that he was a magician, that these were tricks. And all that Sai Baba can do, any magician can do, but you will not pay much respect to a magician because he is so sincere and honest that he says, “These are tricks.” So you say, “Okay, so these are tricks; no miracle.”
When somebody says, “These are not tricks, this is a miracle, divine power manifesting through me,” then your mind starts jumping. Then you think, “If I can become a close disciple of this man then I also can become somebody, I can also do something.”
If you have come in search of such a miracle from me you have come to the wrong person. I am Bankei reborn. I know only one miracle — to be here and now: when feeling hungry, to eat; when feeling sleepy, to sleep; just to be ordinary and just to be part of the cosmos.
If you are in search of such a miracle much can happen near me, but if you are not in such a search nothing will happen near me. And remember, you will be responsible for it because your whole search is wrong, and then there can be no tuning with me. So decide clearly in your mind, come to an understanding of what type of miracle you are searching for.
I can make you most ordinary, I can make you simple human beings, I can make you like trees and birds. There is no magic around here, only religion, but if you can see, this is the greatest miracle.