Let me give you an example from my own experience. In the late 1970s I sat with a little-known teacher called Dr Poy, a Gujurati who lived in northern Bombay. On my first meeting I asked him what his teachings were and he replied, ‘I have no teachings. People ask questions and I answer them. That is all.’
I persevered: ‘If someone asks you ”How do I get enlightened?”, what do you normally tell them?’
‘Whatever is appropriate,’ he replied.
After a few more questions like this, I realised that I wasn’t going to receive a coherent presentation of this man’s teachings, assuming of course that he had any. He was a good example of what I have just been talking about. He didn’t have a doctrine or a practice that he passed out to everyone who came to see him. He simply answered all questions on a case-by-case basis.
I sat quietly for about ten minutes while Dr Poy talked in Gujurati to a couple of other visitors. In those few minutes I experienced a silence that was so deep, so intense, it physically paralysed me.
He turned to me and said, smiling, ‘What’s your next question?’
He knew I was incapable of replying. His question was a private joke between us that no one else there would have understood. I felt as if my whole body had been given a novocaine injection. I was so paralysed, in an immobilised, ecstatic way, I couldn’t even smile at his remark.