Mind vs. Mind

Saturday, May 11, 2002



Please continue doing zazen just as you are.  Continue to sit still, erect; keep your mind clear and focused on your breath.  Treat my words the same as you do the words that appear in your own mind.  Just notice them and let them pass through. 


There are many ironies in the practice of zazen.  Generally people begin the practice because they want to experience enlightenment.  They realize that there is something beyond ordinary everyday life, and this is a motivation to begin, and to continue this physically demanding practice.  After you make some progress, you realize that the motivating factors, that you have been using to keep the practice going, are delusions created in your own mind.  And you make much better progress when you don’t have any goals; you’re not trying to achieve something.  In fact the farther along you get, the more obvious it becomes that there is really no difference between enlightenment and ignorance.  The ordinary everyday mind is the enlightened mind; Buddha Mind.  But we are so accustomed to deluding ourselves, and making things look like something other than what they are, we fail to see the reality of the original mind. 


But for beginning - - - Most people here this morning are new to the practice and I’m sure, finding it most difficult.  What’s ironic is that the people who need this discipline the most, who would get the most benefit from it, are the ones who find it the most difficult to continue; and generally don’t.  They go back to some other practices.  I spent a lot of years when I was younger, in and out of Zen, practicing seriously for a time, and then just not being able to do it at all for a while.  Every time you fall off the wagon, it just gets harder and harder to get back on.  But for beginning, in order to get a glimpse of something that will encourage you, to sit without goals and do real zazen, we need to first calm the everyday mind.; the mind that distracts us constantly.  The mind controlled by ego, which is setting up all these delusions.  We label things and events.  We classify everything.  We say some things are good and some are bad.  We have Good and Evil; this is a strictly human characteristic. Things and events occur because they are a part of the process of nature.  They are neither good nor bad, but we have to classify them.  Delude ourselves into thinking there are some forms of behavior that are acceptable or inherently bad.  In fact we as a society have agreed that there are some things we won’t do, in order to survive as a group.  And then to reinforce the rule we ascribe it to some deity, and say “this is a sin against nature”.  Behavior is the wrong word, but some classifications are… See you can’t even talk about this without getting muddled. 


If you accept everything as it is, make no value judgment, make no comparisons, just try very hard to settle the mind; and then for an instant – thought stops.  And then you get a glimpse of the Original Mind, the illumination that is Buddha Nature (Enlightenment).  Its always there, our everyday mind is so busy that we can’t see through it.  It’s muddied by the constant activity. Like water, the nature of water is clear and calm, but if you stir it up it gets muddy, and you can’t see through it.  There are waves that crash into the banks and churn up more mud; on and on and on.  Human nature is like this we always have to be picking, making decisions, churning the muddy water.  When what we need to do is step back – and just watch.  Wait for the mud to settle, and the water becomes cleat again.  The illuminating Original Mind becomes very clear.  And then we can see how we have created the delusions that have contributed to, in fact caused, our suffering in the first place.  The things that we wanted to get rid of in order to save ourselves, and other beings from suffering. 


It’s an irony, it’s also kind of a magic circle; the deeper we get into delusion, the more we set up circumstances that cause us to suffer.  Because we want things that we want to remain the same, we want things the way the were.  Things will never be the way they were.  Everything changes, everything is constantly becoming, constantly in a state of flux.  We are all becoming something else.  The furniture is becoming dust and earth. Earth becomes food for new life.  You know its just everything changing constantly.  The situations we create in our own lifetime change more rapidly, and our hanging on, our clinging to the way we want things to be, is what causes the suffering of human beings.  The Buddha said that life is suffering…  we can’t get around it.  That suffering is caused by desire… by attachment.  To rid yourselves of suffering, you must rid yourselves of desire… and attachment.  And he prescribed the eightfold path as a method, the middle way, and Zazen sitting meditation. 


There is a Chinese Ch’an Master who’s been around for years and years.  Ch’an is the Chinese pronunciation of the word Zen.  Actually it was Ch’an first and when it went to Japan it became Zen.   This Ch’an Master, Cheng Yen, gave a public talk last night near here.  In one of his books there is a poem that he translated from the Third Patriarch of Zen, somewhere in the year 600 C.E.  The first stanza has a lot of bearing on what I’ve been discussing.  


            The supreme Way is not difficult

            If only you do not pick and choose.

            Neither love nor hate,

            And you will clearly understand.

            Be off by a hair,

            And you are as far from it as heaven and earth.

            If you want the Way to appear,

            Be neither for nor against.

            For and against opposing each other –

            This is the mind’s disease. *


It goes on in this way.  but for people who want to practice, I recommend, no matter how difficult, follow the instructions to the letter, sit perfectly still.  It will be difficult, it may be painful, but the pain is something created in the mind.  Working through the pain, concentrating on the practice in spite of the pain, this is a great ally.  It is a big help in breaking through.  Body Must Be Still in order for the mind to settle.  And no understanding is possible without first settling the mind.  – Please continue.


*Faith in Mind by Master Seng Ts’an (d. 606 C.E.)

  Translated by Sheng Yen, Si Fu  - ©1987, Dharma Drum Publications