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There’s a Japanese master called Bokoju. It was said of Bojoku that he was plump and rotund and a happy-go-lucky soul. Every morning when he woke up, he’d give a great big belly laugh that resounded through the 250 cells of the monastery. Every morning everybody woke up with that laughter, like to an alarm clock. The disciples were very curious to know what it was that made the master laugh but Bokoju wouldn’t say. There is another mystic called Kabir who wrote extraordinary mystical poems, and one of them begins with the line, “I laughed when they told me that the fish in the water is thirsty.”
We are all thirst aren’t we?
I read about a several American hunters traveling with natives in Africa and one of the hunters reported that whenever they were in danger, the natives looked at the white men with a strange kind of curiosity when they saw fear in their eyes. It was incomprehensible to the natives, like looking into the eyes of fishes who were afraid to get drowned.” Can you imagine a fish scared of drowning?
Again and again, the mystical teachers of the world have been posing this question. “Why are they unhappy?” “Why are they scared?”. And, of course, until one has seen Reality, namely the kingdom of joy surrounding them, it will make sense to feel scared. It will make sense to be unhappy. When I talk about fear, I’m not talking about a present response to immediate danger—that, the animals have. I’m talking about fear of what’s going to come, fear of what’s going to happen. Fear of the future. For the mystics, this kind of fear doesn’t exist in their mind. My, what am extraordinary state to be in.
There’s another story about this, involving a camel caravan traveling across the Sahara Desert. The party pitches a tent for the night and the slaves drive pegs into the ground and tie the camels to the pegs. Then they come in to say to the master, “There are only nineteen pegs and we’ve got twenty camels. How do we tie the twentieth camel?”
“These camels are stupid animals,” the master said. “Just go through the motions of tying the camel and he’ll stay put all night,” which is what they did, and the camel stood there as if tied. Next morning when they lifted the tent and continued on their journey, the slaves came to say that all the camels were following except this one. This one refused to budge. And the master said, “You forgot to go through the motions of untying him.” So the slaves did this and the camel started moving with the others.
That is an image of the human condition. We’re scared about things that are not. We’re tied to things that don’t exist. They’re illusions. They’re falsehoods. They’re beliefs; they’re not realities. The agonies we go through over things and outcomes—convinced as we are that our happiness depends upon them, but it doesn’t. We don’t want to see it. It is incredible that human beings would deceive themselves in this way of the peace and happiness that is our natural state that requires nothing other than our waking up to it.. This was what Bokoju, the Zen master, was laughing about. He understand this because he had gone through it himself.