Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nothing Is At Least One Thing Too Much

Zen Master Dogen asked, "Why store up useless things? Even among lay people, those who completely devote themselves to a certain way do not think it necessary to possess property such as rice paddies, gardens, or manors."

Dogen was speaking of things we possess in the concrete world of the relative.  But speaking in the absolute, any name and form we carry with us is really an unnecessary burden, as it's the mind that separates things from the formless substance of the universe, and believing these things to be separate from other things and to be real is our delusion, the dream from which the Buddha would have us awaken. 
A monk once asked Joshu, "I have nothing.  How's that?"
Joshu replied, "Throw it away."
The monk then asked, "How can I throw away nothing?"
Joshu answered, "Then carry it with you."
Obviously, this monk was still clinging to the concept of "nothing" as a thing, a name and form, and Joshu was encouraging him to drop even that. When the monk didn't understand, Joshu told the monk to go ahead and carry around this delusion, and feel how its weight burdened him.

It's kind of like when we're sitting in meditation and things are getting very quiet and the internal monolog of the mind seems to finally come to an end. But as soon as we think "It's really getting quiet," we realize that there's the voice again, articulating yet another thought. Trying to think about not thinking is still thinking.

Zen Master Bankei (1622-1693) had some very practical advice for this situation. Bankei said, "You people try to stop your thoughts from arising, and then by stopping them you divide one mind into two. The original clinging thoughts that you were able to stop may have come to an end, but the subsequent thoughts concerned with your stopping them won't ever cease. Well, you might wonder, what can I do to stop them?"

"Just let them come. Don't develop them any further. Don't attach to them. Without concerning yourself about whether to stop your rising thoughts or not to stop them, just don't bother with them. And then there's nothing else that they can do but vanish. You can't have an argument with fence. When there's no one there to fight with, things can't help but simply come to an end of themselves."

No comments: