Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fundamentals: Don't Make Anything

What is Reality? What is our version of reality? Are they the same or different? For a long time it was almost a mantra for me to "see things as they are." What does that mean anyway? In the book, there is a topic about the fact that there are over seven billion people on earth. Does that mean there are seven billion versions of reality?

We all have this amazing awareness of our surroundings, our environment. We all see, hear, smell, taste, touch the one Reality. We then add our own views, Karma, wants, desires, judgments. We end up with a personal reality.

The thoughts presented to us by that big ball of non-stop energy we call our mind re-enforce this view. We listen to the thoughts in our heads and believe we are our thoughts. Is this really true? The great Zen Master So Sahn put in one of is books "treat each thought as unreal delusion." Why did he say that? Please investigate!

In Koan practice, a Zen teacher will ask a student questions with the ultimate goal of helping the student to find his or her own way toward waking up. One of the ways this helps is by showing us how we are constantly "making something", adding things that are not there. Here is an example:

Zhàozhōu’s Hermits

Zen Master Zhàozhōu once visited a hermit and asked, “Do you have it? Do you have it?” The hermit held up his fist. “The water is too shallow to anchor here,” said Zhàozhōu, and continued on his way. He came upon another hermit and called out, “Do you have it? Do you have it?” This hermit too held up his fist. “You are free to give or take away, to kill of give life,” Zhàozhōu said, bowing to him.

1. Why did Zhàozhōu approve of one answer and not the other?
2. If you were the first monk, what could you say to Zhàozhōu?
3. If you were the second monk, what could you say to Zhàozhōu?
How can you answer questions like these? There is a minimum of information given to us, yet all three questions can be answered. If you do not know the answer, keep these questions like this in mind as a kind of mantra, waiting for the answer to come. As always, if you want to try to answer it, contact me at If you want some more information, another past master 's comment on this is below.

Wúmén’s Comment

Both raised their fists; why was the one accepted and the other rejected? Tell me, what is the difficulty here? If you can give a turning word to clarify this problem, you will realize that Zhàozhōu’s tongue has no bone in it, now helping others up, now knocking them down, with perfect freedom. However, I must remind you: the two hermits could also see through Zhàozhōu. If you say there is anything to choose between the two hermits, you have no eye of realization. If you say there is no choice between the two, you have no eye of realization.