Zen does not want anybody to be a believer. Either experience or just go home. Except experience, no belief is going to help. So those who have followed Zen masters were not followers, they were fellow travelers. They were rejoicing in the master’s enlightenment. They were drinking as much of his wisdom as possible, and they were finding the path so that they could also experience the same lightning experience which dissolves all questions, all answers, and leaves you simply innocent, centered — eternity in your hands. But they were not followers, and this is very difficult for the ordinary masses to understand.
Zen is a religion of beauty. You know the Upanishadic description of the ultimate reality, satyam, shivam, sundram. Either a man can reach to the ultimate by finding the truth of his being, satyam, or he can reach by finding the divinity of his being, the goodness, or he can reach to the ultimate by finding the eternal beauty of his being. Zen is a religion of beauty. The strange fact is that if you can get one, the other two follow automatically. If you attain to truth, satyam, then shivam and sundram will follow automatically. They are one thing looked at from three standpoints. Because beauty is the heartbeat of Zen it has been more creative. It has created great poetry, great paintings. It has transformed ordinary things like archery or swordsmanship into meditation. It is not a non-creative religion; it has created and added to the beauty of existence.
In comparison to Zen, all the religions look like entertainment. Formal rituals, social conditionings — Zen goes through them like a sword cutting all the ropes that bind you. It has no ritual, it has no mantra, it has no way of sacrificing anything to anyone. The very basis of sacrifice, God himself, is missing in Zen.
Zen is pure essence, unpolluted, uncorrupted by any non-essential. You cannot take away anything from Zen, because it is only a declaration of your self-nature; neither can you add anything to Zen, because anything added will be artificial. Zen is absolutely in favor of nature. It is not against entertainment; in fact only Zen is capable of laughing, of entertainment, but its entertainment is not different from its enlightenment. The very quality of entertainment differs.
Zen does not talk about great principles, that has to be noted. It simply creates the device and leaves you to find the way out. Obviously it has been immensely successful.
Zen has only created devices, leaving you completely free to find the truth. And it is strange, more people have become enlightened through Zen than through any other religion of the world. The other religions are very big, and Zen is a very small stream. You can see these small things, and a master uses them in such a way that they start pointing to the moon.
In the world of Zen, mind is the only thing that has to be thrown out, and then you have the whole universe available. You are welcomed by the whole universe.
In Zen, when the master hits you, it means he is showing his love, he is showing his acceptance. By hitting you he is giving you an indication of his approval. That is a kind of certificate. Disciples long for years to be hit by the master. It is a very different world that Zen has created.
Zen has a very flexible methodology. It does not give commandments to be followed for generations; it does not give general principles which are applicable in every situation to every person. It is more intimate and more personal.
Zen never became the religion of the majority and it will never become. It will remain always for the chosen few, for the rare ones, just because it does not console you by giving any opium, and it does not give you promises and hopes for the future life. It insists on remaining in the present. Don’t move backwards or forwards, because the present moment is the only moment you ever have been in and will ever be in. Whenever it is, it is the present moment.
Zen wants you to approach life unconditionally. That means without any prejudice, without any precondition, without any expectation. You can be total only if you are standing at your very center.