In reading those Ten Commandments, I was struck with what I think of as a very funny idea: how could God say to anyone, Thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery? How? How could a God say that to anyone? What kind of a person would God have as a son if they refrained from stealing, killing or committing adultery because someone told them, even God, not to?
In that flash, I saw that the Ten Commandments constitute the law. It not only is the cosmic law under which man lives, it has become the legal law because now we have legal laws saying, “Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery,” and with penalties for infraction of those laws. Well, of course that would have nothing to do with the Son of God at all, would it? The Son of God would have no capacity to kill, to steal, to commit adultery. That couldn’t enter the consciousness of spiritual man, the image and likeness of God. That man would have no such desires, leanings, appetites.
In that second I caught the meaning of the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by the Christ, the spirit of Christ in man, which wipes out the desire for sin and the penalty for sin; and man is then living under grace. How many times do you think that we as Bible readers have read this whole story of Moses and the whole story of Jesus and not seen that connecting link? And the mind could never reveal it. It had to be that developed spiritual awareness to discern that which the thinking mind could never arrive at.
Now if you will turn to your Gospel of John and there read that I am the way, the truth and the life or I am the bread or I have meat that the world knows not of, do you mean to tell me that with your mind you know what that means? Certainly not, or we would not have ministers telling us that that is the authority for our praying, for our food and clothing, when you know right well that the Master taught we are not to pray for our food and clothing or housing. Why no, unless those passages are read with spiritual consciousness, with the soul faculties, you, too would think that Jesus is a loaf of bread or that he’s a street, a highway, or wonder why he could say, I could give you living waters without a bucket. But with spiritual discernment, you not only know what that means but the moment you know what it means, you can demonstrate it.
Now spiritual faculties can be developed, through reading Scripture and coming to those passages that might just have well been written in Sanskrit, so far as you are concerned, and then deciding to stay with them, abide with them until they yield up their spiritual message or the spiritual interpretation of Scripture, an interpretation which is not visible or discernable to the human mind.
It is in this same way that Zen is taught. The whole purpose of Zen, Zen Buddhism, is the opening of the spiritual faculties; and the method of its teaching is—or let us say, one of the methods—is through the use of koans. Now a koan is very much like a Bible verse that has no meaning, like how did Jesus draw water without a bucket? A koan says that you must pray until you hear the voice of your hand. Now if you think that out and reason it out from now til doomsday, you won’t know what that means, nor will you know what it means that I am the bread of life or that you must drink my blood; and so the Zen master feeds the student with these koans and then tells them to go away and break their head over it; and they do, sometimes for years, until through constant meditation, constant cogitation, contemplation, all of a sudden the answer springs up from inside, and the student is illumined or has achieved satori, which is what we would call illumination.
Do you remember the passage I use so much: The four temporal kingdoms will be destroyed by a stone that is carved out of the side of a mountain without hands? This could well be a koan of Zen, and I could say, “Now, go away and don’t come back until you know the meaning of that.” Of course you look at it and you think about it and you’ll break your head over it, but you certainly will never be able to figure out a way in which a stone can be carved out of the side of a mountain without hands and break the four temporal kingdoms.
But, if you had that which the Zen students had—enough time to do nothing else but eat a little food each day, three times a day, and spend the rest of the time meditating, thinking, pondering, inwardly cogitating, the answer would come and with it would come that spiritual discernment, which enables you to know that which the human mind cannot know. You see the things that are invisible; you hear the things that are inaudible; you know the things which are unknowable. In fact, that is what Zen has been called: the science of knowing the unknowable, but that isn’t peculiar only to Zen. That is exactly the same with The Cloud of Unknowing or with Scripture.