The Game of Chess
Osho : If a rosebush starts trying to become a rosebush, it will go mad. It is ALREADY the rosebush. You may have forgotten. Zen says you are in a state of slumber, you have forgotten who you are, that’s all. Nothing has to be done, just a remembrance. That’s what Nanak calls SURATI, Kabir calls SURATI – just a remembrance. You have only to REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE! NOW SIT DOWN AND LISTEN
So Zen teaches not by words, not by scriptures, not by theories, but by direct pointing, by engaging us in a game in which the only answer is a new level of consciousness. Listen to this story and you will understand how Zen creates situations. Zen is very psychological. The problem is psychological – you have simply forgotten; it is not that you have gone anywhere. You have fallen asleep. Zen functions as an alarm. It hits you, hits at the heart, makes you awake.
Listen to this beautiful parable:
A young man, who had a bitter disappointment in life, went to a remote monastery and said to the Master, ”I am disillusioned with life and wish to attain enlightenment to be freed from these sufferings. But I have no capacity for sticking long at anything. I could never do long years of meditation and study and austerity. I would relapse and be drawn back to the world again, painful though I know it to be. Is there any short way for people like me?”
”There is,” said the Master, ”if you are really determined. Tell me, what have you studied? What have you concentrated on most in your life?”
”Why, nothing really. We were rich and I did not have to work. I suppose the thing I was really interested in was chess; I spent most of my time at that.”
The Master thought for a moment and then said to his attendant, ”Call such-and-such a monk, and tell him to bring a chess board and men.”
But the attendant said, ”Sir, that monk does not know how to play chess.”
The Master said, ”Don’t be worried. You simply call him.”
The monk came with the board and the Master set up the men. He sent for a sword and showed it to the two. ”Oh monk,” he said, ”you have vowed obedience to me as your Master, and now I require it of you. You will play a game of chess with this youth, and if you lose I shall cut off your head with this sword.”
And the man does not know much about chess. Maybe he can recognize the chessboard, or maybe he has played once or twice when he was young. But to put this man against this young, rich man, who has never done anything but play chess, is simply a death warrant. And then the Master says, ”You have surrendered to me, and you have told me I can do anything I want with your life or with your death. Now the moment has come. If you lose I shall cut off your head with this sword.”
And a naked sword is there in the hands of the Master, and he is standing just close by. ”But I promise that if you die by my hand, you will be born in paradise. If you win, I shall cut off the head of this man. Chess is the only thing he has ever tried hard at, and if he loses he deserves to lose his head also.” They looked at the Master’s face and saw that he meant it: he would cut off the head of the loser.
They began to play. With the opening moves the youth felt the sweat trickling down to his heels as he played for his life. The chessboard became the whole world; he was entirely concentrated on it. At first he had somewhat the worst of it, but then the other made an inferior move and he seized his chance to launch a strong attack. As his opponent’s position crumbled, he looked covertly at him. He saw a face of intelligence and sincerity, worn with years of austerity and effort.
The other was a beggar – a BHIKKHU – his eyes were silent and calm. He was not disturbed even by the idea of death. He was playing because of the Master’s request, and he had surrendered himself so there was no problem in it. Even if paradise were not promised, then too, he would have to follow. He was playing calm and quiet. His eyes were very silent and very intelligent – and the young man is winning! and the monk’s moves are going all wrong! The young man looked at the monk – the grace, the austerity, the beauty, the silence, the intelligence.
He thought of his own worthless life, and a wave of compassion came over him. He decided: ”To let this man die is unnecessary. If I die, nothing is lost to the earth. I am a stupid man, I have wasted my life, I have nothing. This man has worked hard, disciplined his life, has lived a life of austerity, a life of meditation and prayer. If he is killed that will be a loss.” Great compassion arose in him. He deliberately made a blunder and then another blunder, ruining his position and leaving himself defenseless.
The Master suddenly leant forward and upset the board. The two contestants sat stupefied. ”There is no winner and no loser,” said the Master slowly. ”There is no need to fall here. Only two things are required, ” and he turned to the young man, ”complete concentration and compassion. You have today learned them both. You were completely concentrated on the game, but then in that concentration you could feel compassion and sacrifice your life for it. Now, stay here a few months and pursue our training in this spirit and your enlightenment is sure. He did so and got it.
A tremendously beautiful story. The Master created a situation and showed the whole path. This is DIRECT – showing the path. He showed all that can be shown! There are only two things – meditation and compassion. Meditation means being utterly absorbed into something, totally absorbed into something, completely lost. If you are dancing and only the dance remains and the dancer is forgotten, then it is meditation. If you are gambling and only gambling remains and the gambler disappears, then it is meditation. It can be any activity.
Meditation is not averse to any activity. Meditation requires only one thing: be absorbed in it totally, whatsoever it is. If you are a thief and you are going to steal, and while stealing if you get absorbed utterly and totally, it is meditation. Who you are, what you do, does not matter! For Zen all that matters is totality, utter concentration, absorbed, lost, drunk into it. So much so that you are not standing behind aloof. This is the fundamental – meditation. And then a natural outflow of it, a natural by-product – compassion.
Compassion cannot be practiced. It comes as a shadow to meditation. Now, this is the whole Buddha dharma, this is ALL. And this Master, whose name is not known, must have been a great deviser. Through the game of chess he expressed the whole Buddha dharma. He expressed all the fundamentals, all that is needed. No more is needed. This is enough for your whole journey. Means and ends – all are included in this small situation.
Source: " Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 3 " - Osho