Preface to the Assembly:
A manifest koan depends solely on right now. The absolute manner distinguishes only itself. If you try to set up gradations or intentionally strive, then all of this is painting eyebrows on chaos, or attaching a handle to a bowl. So how is tranquility achieved?
Attention! The Sutra of Complete Awakening says, be at all times without deluded thoughts arising. Moreover, with regard to all deluded states of mind, do not try to extinguish them. Dwelling in the realm of delusion do not add knowledge. With regard to lacking knowledge do not distinguish reality.
—Case 45, Shoyoroku
The manifest koan is you, what is apparent and appearing, depending solely on right now. Nothing else. If you’re still caught in the comparing mind, the judgmental mind, you won’t see it. If you’re trapped in seeing objects as separate from you, you are far from it. But I think everybody here is starting to sense it. You are always the manifestation. You are the totality of the universe. You are the wholeness of it all. You are the great mirror samadhi. And this manifest form is nothing other than yourself, brought about by karma, causes, and conditions. The best that I can tell you is that it has been that way forever. It is infinite. Beyond that, I can’t say anything. When we see, it takes our breath away. So let’s take a look.
A manifest koan depends solely on right now. The absolute manner distinguishes only itself.
It’s just you! Don’t seek outside yourself. At the moment you see an object, what’s set in motion is the activity of the conceptual mind, the thinking mind. Eye, ear, nose, throat, tongue, body, mind: this is the mind that discriminates. It looks out, it sees, it discriminates, it identifies, and then it labels: good/bad, right/wrong, attraction/repulsion. Same thing with all of the senses. And yet, the senses are empty. A dead body has ears, but can’t hear. A blind man has eyes, but can’t see. What’s going on? What exactly is here?
There is something here that is awake, that is alive. You should deeply question yourself. When I hear, what hears? And then what makes the judgment of whether it is pleasant or annoying, liked or disliked? The conceptual mind makes the judgment. Now in our great Way, we talk about “jewel mirror samadhi.” That is the state of awareness freed from the picking and choosing mind. I don’t free myself by trying to suppress thoughts—I simply sit here focused. And then I can look out, and without slipping into the judgmental mind, see what needs to be done.
If you try to set up gradations or intentionally strive, then all of this is painting eyebrows on chaos, or attaching a handle to a bowl.
We have all of these schemes. I worked out scheme after scheme on how to do my practice. I made breathing an absolute hell. I have sat where I thought I was going to pass out. Why? I had rigid notions as to what breathing should be. I’d say to myself: This can’t be it. There has to be more!
The teaching is simple: count your breath or follow your breath, that’s all. Don’t do anything else. Putting a handle on a bowl is useless! Yet people come in to see me and they’ve constructed all of these elaborate interpretations in their heads. Their minds are in chaos. Interestingly enough, if you just do your practice, a transformation does in fact take place.
So how is tranquility achieved?
We don’t have to say tranquility. We can say great serenity. Bliss. Fearlessness. Selfless compassion. That’s what this koan points to: complete awakening.
Be at all times without deluded thoughts arising.
Non-distracted awareness. Where is it? Now, right now. Stay here. Don’t take a side journey in your head. Don’t play in your thoughts. Keep staying here. It doesn’t mean to suppress your thoughts, so in the next step he clarifies that.
Moreover, with regard to all deluded states of mind, do not try to extinguish them.
There’s a term in psychology: reciprocal inhibition. It simply means that whatever you force down is eventually going to explode up. Everybody who sits sesshins knows what I mean, because you’ll try so hard at first that you begin to suppress the thoughts and pretty soon you’re going crazy. We have to go through the process, so it’s ok. Until we can free ourselves from following the thoughts, we experience this again and again. What’s the difference between a buddha and a sentient being? Buddha said, “Upside down thinking.”
Dwelling in the realm of delusion, do not add knowledge.
Don’t add to it. Don’t pick and choose. Don’t push away your delusional thoughts. This becomes the rich fertilizer of the enlightened mind. You’re not trying to float away to someplace else. It’s more amazing than that. Where you are, you’re going to transform the world of delusion into a Buddha field.
With regard to lacking knowledge do not distinguish reality.
Don’t try to understand. That’s the most difficult part, but this is what it means to enter into the place of not-knowing. You will not be brain dead. You will not lose your ability to think. Actually, your mind will be sharpened, because you’ll no longer be caught in the psychological drama of “Am I smart?” “Am I stupid?” “Am I accepted?” “Am I not accepted?” “Do I know?” or “Do I not know?” You’ll simply speak when it’s appropriate to speak and be silent when it’s appropriate to be silent. If there’s something to be picked up, you pick it up. If there’s something to be put down, you put it down. The place of not-knowing is simply to be here now. In this state of true samadhi, when I’m actually here, I cannot be involved in the intellectual process of distinguishing good or bad, right or wrong. If we sustain samadhi, the perception of separation slips away. You enter into the world of oneness, right where you are.
Sublime, magnificent, courageous, magnanimous;
piercing your head in bustling places;
walking along in tranquil places;
Underfoot, string cut away—I’m perfectly free.
Stop cutting. The mud’s gone from the nose.
Don’t be disturbed.
A prescription on a thousand-year-old paper.
This is what we are. What turns around you is your very state of being, the Buddha Mind. Stay in the now, where there is no fear and no need for anger. Become the manifestation of selfless compassion. Nothing to do, nothing to add, nothing else. The Sutra of Complete Awakening is the prescription for what we are.
A talk given at the Hazy Moon Zen Center on Oct. 11, 2007.