Bhikkhuni Triệt Như – The Fount of Happiness – No 8
Translated into English by Như Lưu
This is the story of how Zen Master(Nanquan Puyuan) enlightened Zen Master Tòng Thầm (Zhaozhou Congshen).
- What is the truth?
- The natural mind is the truth.
- Can we aim for this destination?
- Aiming will make the destination further away.
- If we don’t think about it, how can we know that it is the truth?
- The truth does not belong in the realm of knowing or not knowing. Knowing is knowing incorrectly, not knowing is lack of wisdom. If one has truly seen the truth, then right now is the vast and spacious emptiness, why contrive right and wrong?
Upon hearing this, Zhaozhou had a sudden spiritual realization.
What is the “natural mind”? The term “natural” needs to be understood with a Zen perspective. It refers to everlasting, unchanging peace. The “truth” has a dual meaning. It means the spiritual path, but also the ultimate truth, which is empty and pure, envelops the whole universe, and is also referred to as suchness or emptiness nature.
The sentence “the natural mind is the Truth” means that the essence of the mind is pure, vast, empty. It is enlightenment, suchness, emptiness.
Zen Master(Mazu Daoyi) once enlightened Zen Master (Damei Fachang) with this sentence: “Like mind, like Buddha”. Upon hearing, Master had a realization, retired to mount to practice and eventually attained enlightenment.
“Like mind, like Buddha” means that the essence of the mind is enlightenment. One does not need to seek the truth anywhere else, as looking outwards leads only to losing one’s way.
Zen Buddhism has also this teaching:
“Wanting to sever suffering results in more illness
Wanting to attain suchness is the wrong way”
The first sentence reminds us that the essence of suffering is emptiness. It is formed by the temporary gathering of causal conditions and is illusionary like a dream. The second sentence teaches that the essence of the mind is suchness and immobility. Therefore, to seek suchness outside the mind is to follow the wrong path.
We may also recall the story told in the Angulimāla sutta. Angulimāla ran after the Buddha and cried:
- Stop, monk! Stop, monk!
The Buddha responded:
- I have already stopped. Why don’t you, Angulimāla?
When Angulimāla called on the Buddha to stop, he referred to the Buddha’s body. When the Buddha replied, he referred to his mind, which has become immobile and eschews any harm to others. He asked Angulimāla to do likewise, to take control over himself.
Developmental Buddhism has this sentence: “The nature of the mind is pure, the world outside is polluted”
What do these teachings all say?
The general truth that the Buddha and Zen Patriarchs reminded us is that our mind has purity as its essence and contains the seed for enlightenment. All we need to do is return to our own mind, recognize its essence and develop the potential wisdom and noble qualities innate to all human beings. We cannot find our virtue and wisdom by turning outwards, to other people.
You might have already heard this teaching many times. But why are we still wandering the world in search for the truth? There is something that causes us to be “stuck”. We know that Buddha is in our mind. So why are we still concerned about our children and grand-children, worried about the future, regretful about the past, stressed about upheavals occurring in the world, even having headaches about our jobs? We find it difficult to be at peace, free from concerns. So where is Buddha? Where is wisdom? Why don’t they resolve the difficulties that we experience in life? Is it because the pure mind lies hidden deep underneath like an underground spring, while above big tsunami-like waves batter, pull us about and exhaust us?
My dear friends, for thousands of years, humans have been “stuck” at this very place. We are not alone in having this predicament. We have heard that Buddha-nature is innate in each of us, so why enlightened people are few while suffering and worldly behaviors remain prevalent? Why is this so? There is a difficult to describe thing that causes us to be “stuck”. It does not have a name, a form, a color, anything really, so how can we describe it? Therefore some will see it, and some won’t. The Buddha and Zen Patriarchs have tried to express it through many suttas and books, through many forms of explanation and metaphor, conventional truth and ultimate truth. Some masters have decided to keep silent, as more talk will not achieve anything. Some have entered nibbāna, but some have decided to re-embody, to re-enter hell to rescue the ignorant. As we reflect and feel for the world, we are more grateful of the Buddha and all those who have come before us. They have endeavored to teach us knowledge and wisdom, have sacrificed themselves in defense of the territory, have poured their sweat to develop the land. They have all contributed to our own happiness and the happiness of those around us. What can we do today in order to look at the sky and not feeling inadequate?
In order to repay our debt of gratitude, our highest duty is not to build big monuments, write hundreds of books, struggle for independence and freedom, or become a president, as these worldly achievements will inevitably turn to dust. Our highest duty is to practice spirituality so that this world has one less ignorant being. This is the highest contribution that one can make towards lessening the sea of suffering that has lasted from time immemorial.
There is a sutta that says: “There is nothing more unfavorable than a mind that hasn’t seen the need for spiritual practice”. The sea of suffering is caused by minds that haven’t seen the need for spiritual practice. If we follow the right practice and transform ourselves into a person with wisdom and right conduct, we will make a great contribution to the world.
We have now come to the knot in our discussion: How do we do it? The answer is: “Live naturally”.
The term “naturally” should not be understood in its ordinary meaning of a dissolute, undisciplined life.
“Naturally” should be understood as living in accordance with nature, in harmony with the laws of change and transformation, impermanence, dependent origination, cause and effect, without resisting them. By doing so, we do not suffer when faced with aging, sickness and death, we do not yearn for and desire things, we do not love anything exceedingly nor despise anyone, we are not attached to anything and therefore are free from anxiety and fear.
In the annals of Zen, we have this description of the life of an enlightened person: “Eat when hungry, rest when tired” (or Ling Chao, daughter of or Pang Jushi). Mr (Pang Jushi), 8th century Chinese Zen Master, described as follows his daily life:
Every day, I do nothing else
I alone know within myself
Objects, I do not hold onto
Places, I do not tarry
Bright colors do not attract me
I like the mountain where the dust is absent
My supernatural power and wonderful application
Consists of skillful water fetching and wood chopping.
only performs ordinary tasks such as fetching water and chopping wood, so how could we mention Zen’s supernatural powers? His mind was pure and he has a clear awareness of what he was doing. He did not compare and differentiate, he was not attached to colors or images. This is living without differentiating intellect, with an equal mind. This is natural living, without hypocrisy, desire, love or hate. This is living by the pure essence of one’s mind. This is living free from concerns, and leaving this world free from concerns. This is living in full control of one’s mind, and leaving the world in full control of one’s mind, or entering nibbāna.
In conclusion, spiritual practice is teaching the mind to return to its true, pure essence. Once the mind is purified, its light will shine forth. Zen Master Bá Trượng (Baizhang Huaihai) once said: “If the mind is an empty land, the light of wisdom will shine forth by itself”.
Master’s Hall, the 12th of June, 2021
Link to Vietnamese article: https://tanhkhong.org/p105a2391/triet-nhu-snhp008-hay-song-tu-nhien