There is a story in Zen about Kyogen, who was a very gifted and clever monk, but who was unsuccessful in penetrating Zen master Isan’s question which asked of Kyogen of his state before he was born. Yes, Kyogen was caught up in this mysterious question which no amount of intellectual skill could penetrate. All the books he perused couldn’t help him to answer Isan’s strange question. They were to him no more than painted cakes incapable of satisfying hunger. He even pleaded with Isan to reveal the secret to him. But Isan would only say, “What I speak of still belongs to me—it has nothing to do with you.”
Finally, at his wits’ end Kyogen decided to burn his books vowing never to study Buddha dharma again. At that point he would become an itinerant monk always on the move going from one place to another. Sadly, he took leave of Isan. Eventually, his wanderings found him at an old neglected temple associated with Zen master Echu. He made his temporary abode here. Then one day something unexpected happened. As he was sweeping the grounds of the temple part of a broken tile happened to hit some bamboo (bamboo can be quite large). When he heard the sound of the broken tile made—at once he entered. Suddenly, he intuited his true self: the state before he was born. Yes, he had awakened.
Kyogen, obviously, had spent a lot of time studying the teachings of the Buddha before he decided to leave Isan. When it came, finally, to seeing what Siddhartha, exactly, saw while sitting under the Bodhi-tree, Kyogen couldn’t intuit it. His book learning would not reach that far—nor for that matter any practice such as zazen. There is a time to drop such learning and practices because they will not help us to intuit, all at once, our true nature which is transcendent. But just refusing to study the dharma or stop doing zazen won’t work either. Most students lack what Kyogen had in spades: a driving enthusiasm to see, directly, the state before he was born. While he could burn his books and never study Buddha dharma anymore, Kyogen was totally hooked on seeing the state before he was born. He couldn’t stop or abandon his singleminded drive. This kind of drive is what 99% of students today lack.