When Buddha says, "Follow me," he does not mean imitate him. When he says, "Follow me," he does not say let him be a model to you, make your life according to his life -- no, not at all. "Following" him has a totally different meaning.
There is a Zen story:
A ZEN MYSTIC WAS CELEBRATING a certain festival which is celebrated only on your Master's birthday. But people were puzzled.
They asked him, "As far as we know, you have never had any Master. We have also heard rumors that you had approached a great master, Bokuju, many times, but he always refused to accept you as a disciple. Not only that, he used to chase you out of his hut. We have also heard that because of your continuous persistence, he had beaten you few times; and once he had thrown you, physically, out of the window of his hut. He never accepted you, he never initiated you -- WHY YOU ARE CELEBRATING THIS DAY? This is to be celebrated only on your Master's birthday."
And the mystic said, "Yet, he was my Master. His refusal, his throwing me out, his constant rejection, was his initiation. He was saying, 'BE A LIGHT UNTO YOURSELF -- THERE IS NO NEED TO FOLLOW ME.' Because of his continuous refusal, I became enlightened sitting under a tree; there was nobody to cling to.
"The only beautiful man that I have known was Bokuju. If he had allowed, I would have become a shadow to him. If he had allowed, I would have become another Bokuju. I HAD LOVED THE MAN; I would have imitated him in detail. I would have eaten the same things, I would have walked the same way, I would have said the same things... I would have been a carbon copy of him.
"But he was great, he was my Master -- he refused. He knew where the pitfall is. The moment he looked into my eyes, he knew my future... that if he allows, I am going to be a pseudo phenomenon -- I will never be an authentic individual. Knowing this, he was very hard on me.
"But now I know his hardness was because of his compassion. IT IS BECAUSE OF HIM THAT I BECAME ENLIGHTENED. Hence I am celebrating this day -- it is my Master's birthday."
Somebody asked him, "But your life-style does not show any indication of Bokuju. YOUR STATEMENTS ARE UTTERLY DIFFERENT -- not only different, but sometimes contradictory to his statements. How can you say that he was your Master and you are his follower?"
And the mystic said, "Yes, I say he was my Master although he never initiated me formally. BUT FORMAL INITIATION IS IMMATERIAL, IRRELEVANT. And I still say that I am his follower, though I cannot prove it by any documents. But there is no need to prove to anybody... I know, that's all. I am his follower."
The people insisted, "How can you say that?"
And the mystic said, "He never followed his Master, I never follow him. That was his basic characteristic: HE NEVER FOLLOWED HIS MASTER, AND I NEVER FOLLOW HIM. THAT'S HOW I FOLLOW HIM. I am a follower and he was my Master."
INVALUABLE SECRETS! Yes, these are invaluable secrets. The life of a real seeker is not an ordinary life. It cannot be confined to a certain pattern, it cannot be confined to a certain style of life -- Christian, Hindu, Mohammedan. THE LIFE OF A REAL SEEKER IS THE LIFE OF FREEDOM.
And when Buddha says: FOLLOW HIM, FOLLOW THE WAY... he does not mean to become a carbon copy. He simply means: try to understand his life. WATCH, ANALYZE, MEDITATE. And then let your meditation, your watchfulness, your witnessing, become the way.
And following the wise man is really not following the wise man himself, but the way -- the way that has made him wise.
WHAT IS THAT WAY THAT MAKES ONE WISE?
Two things... First, the negative: DROP KNOWLEDGE. And second, the positive: ENTER INTO MEDITATION.
The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
Vol 3, Ch #1: Knowledge is not knowledge
am in Buddha Hall