Think neither good nor evil

March 12, 2014

In  Obai, the monastery of fifth Chinese ancestor, Daman Hongren, two well-known poems were written on the wall. One was Shenxiu’s, the senior monk. It says:

The body is the tree of bodhi,
The mind is like the stand of a bright mirror.
Moment by moment wipe the mirror carefully,
Never let dust collect on it.

Hui-neng, the sixth ancestor composed the other:

Bodhi is not originally a tree,
Nor has the bright mirror a stand.
Originally there is nothing,
So where can any dust collect?

The story  is a well-knownmixture of history and/or legend. From among the large practice community t containing these two, senior monk and recently arrived lay brother, Master Hongren wwoud end up choosing a  successor. Coming upon these  this koan and these views  early in our practice, we may decide there is a right answer and a wrong one. Even with this view, coming upon it later ,we may have begun to concentrate on wiping dust from the mirror. We may have begun  to sort the dust into good and evil. Or later we may have begun to think  that there being nothing, we need not be concerned about dust.

Some of us may plunge into this practice of Zen with the abandon of Hui-neng who followed the chant “…manifest the mind that dwells nowhere…” We dare not ignore either verse. One does not stand upright without the other. How can form and emptiness be parted from each other? How can wetness be taken from water and dryness be absent? How can we make full use of dualities without  a deepening awareness of the nondual that permeates our life as One?