- Richard Shrobe
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Sometimes turn back and contemplate closely on an intimate level who the one reciting is.
It is like the story of the Second Patriarch (Chin., Hui-k’o; Jap., Eka) who persistently asked for Bodhidharma’s instruction while standing in the snow outside a cave at Shao-lin Monastery, where Bodhidharma was practicing. When he finally relented, Bodhidharma asked the monk, “What is it that you want?” The monk said, “My mind is not at peace. Please pacify my mind.” Bodhidharma replied, “Take out your mind and bring it here, and I will pacify it for you.” The monk said, “When I look for my mind I can’t find it.” Bodhidharma said, “Then I already pacified your mind.”
“Everything is not it, nothing is not it.”
If you sit in meditation or observe your mind in daily activities, you may notice that once you get past the stage of settling your distracted mind, you will almost continuously be explaining your experience to yourself moment by moment by moment. We all tend to engage in this ongoing commentary on living, trying to consolidate our ground or to feel more secure about our experience. Yet, this ongoing explanation is, in its fundamental form, a lie. These explanations are not the actual facts of our experience. That is why Ma-tsu and his student Chih-tsang both say, “Can’t explain.”
The body is the Bodhi tree [the place where Buddha sat and attained his enlightenment], The mind is the clear mirror’s stand. Constantly we should clean them, so that no dust collects.
Then the Sixth Patriarch composed a poem challenging that one, saying: Bodhi [Sanskrit for wisdom] has no tree. The clear mirror has no stand. Originally nothing. Where is dust?”
The longer you practice, the more you see the infinity of expectations we all have the capacity to bring to something as simple as just sitting, just walking, just listening, just eating, just sleeping, just helping someone.
Truly, what is north and what is south? Can true being be found somewhere or nowhere? Irrelevant! Just now, feet pointing to the ground, head pointing toward the sky.
The second aspect of his teaching was his view of what he called “practice/enlightenment.” He used a simile, saying that practice and enlightenment are like the front and the back of your hand.
The Chinese Zen master Lin-chi (Jap., Rinzai) said, “Your true teacher is always just before you.” This means that all experience becomes your teacher.
Inside it is bright. Outside it is also bright. Wherever it is, it is bright. What is it?