Osho : Maneesha, in the long history of Zen there are milestones. Mahakashyapa is the first, but not much is known about him – in Buddhist scriptures he is mentioned only once. Just one mention and yet he is regarded as the greatest disciple of Gautam Buddha.
For twenty years he has not spoken a single word, no question, just sat by the side of Gautam Buddha. Even Gautam Buddha is concerned: ”This is a strange fellow – he has not even said hello; there are thousands of monks, they all come with questions, problems, but this man seems to have no questions.” But in that utter silence, everything happened.
Mahakashyapa was immensely courageous to be utterly silent for twenty years, not even to ask the master, but just to wait: ”Whenever the time is ripe, the master will deliver the truth.” And it happened, and it happened in a strange way.
The emperor Prasenjita has come to offer Gautam Buddha some flowers out of season. And at the same time a great philosopher, whom Prasenjita has up to now believed to be his teacher, has come with Prasenjita.
Prasenjita introduced his teacher, Maulingaputta, and said to Gautam Buddha, ”I offer my gratitude that you are staying in my kingdom; just let me know if anything is needed by the great assembly of monks. One thing more I ask you: I have brought my teacher, Maulingaputta, and he has come with his five hundred followers.
He is a great philosopher, a man of tremendous knowledge, very articulate in discussing things. I pray to you to give him a chance to discuss ultimate problems with you.”
Gautam Buddha turned to Maulingaputta and said, ”I am ready. But are you ready?”
Maulingaputta could not understand what readiness was needed.
Gautam Buddha said, ”Readiness means, are you capable of being silent, utterly silent, not a single thought passing through your mind?”
He said, ”Thought is my life, I am a thinker; philosophy is my profession. All that I know about mind is that it is a thinking process. Beyond that I don’t know any silence you are talking about.”
Then Buddha said, ”You are not ready. And it will be a very strange conversation. From the hilltop I will be shouting to you, and from the dark valleys you will be answering me – without understanding me. So first, let us come to a point where our consciousnesses are at the same level.”
It was convincing, and even Prasenjita said, ”Gautam Buddha is right. But what is to be done?”
Gautam Buddha said, ”Nothing has to be done. Just sit silently by my side for two years. Many people will come and go, and ask – you don’t bother about anything. Your work is simply to watch and be silent. Not a single word for two years.”
At this moment Mahakashyapa, sitting under a tree, started laughing hysterically, could not manage… The whole assembly was shocked – they had never heard him even speak, he did not speak to anybody. You might say something, he would not answer; he would not take note of anybody. People had accepted him as a strange fellow. But what happened? Suddenly, out of nowhere… And he laughed, such beautiful laughter, resounding in that silence of the assembly.
Maulingaputta said, ”Why is your disciple laughing?”
Buddha said, ”You can ask him yourself.” This is the only mention of Mahakashyapa.
Mahakashyapa said, ”I am laughing because this fellow is tricky. He tricked me also, in the same way he is trying it on you. But now he has become old, so he is saying only two years; I had to remain silent for twenty years. If you really want to ask the questions, ask now. After two years it will be too late.” This is the only mention.
And when Prasenjita offered flowers, Buddha called Mahakashyapa and gave those flowers to him. And he said, ”What could be said through words, I have said to everybody. What could not be said through words, but only through silence, I have imparted to Mahakashyapa.”
This made him the first Zen master. But besides this, there is no other mention of him.
Perhaps silence remained his method. Many must have become enlightened sitting by his side, but nothing was said. He was a silent master. So there is no record left. Then the second great departure – there have been many others – but the second great departure from the past is Bodhidharma. He was even more strange than Mahakashyapa. He is the sixth in
the line of Zen patriarchs.
After Bodhidharma, Nansen is a new point of departure. He opens Zen to a wider variety, he gives Zen more dimensions. It is no more a small stream, but becomes an ocean.