Archive for June, 2010



A monk said to Yaoshan, "I have doubt. I
ask the master to resolve it for me."
Yaoshan said, "Wait until I go
into the hall tonight to speak. Then I’ll resolve it."
evening, Yaoshan entered the hall. When the assembly was ready, he said,
"Where is the monk who asked me today to resolve his doubt?"
monk came forward and stood there.
Yaoshan got down from the Dharma
seat, grabbed the monk, and said, "Everyone! This monk has doubt!"
then released the monk and went back to his room.
Andy Ferguson, Zen’s
Chinese Heritage
(Wisdom 2000) p.109

 Do you think that resolved monk’s
doubt? If so, what kind of "resolution" was it? It’s interesting to
compare this story to another, more famous one about resolving doubt:
the story of how Bodhidharma pacifies the mind of Huike. (Wu-men Kuan
Case 41). As you probably remember, in that story, Huike comes to
Bodhidharmas and says, "Your disciple’s mind has no peace as yet. I beg
you Master, please put it to rest." And Bodhidharma replies, "Bring me
your mind, and I’ll put it to rest." Well, after practicing with this
question for a long time, Huike finally returns and says, "I have
searched for my mind, but I cannot find it." And Bodhidharma says, "I
have completely put it to rest for you."
Now, we might say that
Yaoshan resolves the monk’s doubt by demonstrating that the mind (or
Mind) is everywhere. Even in the midst of doubt, there is nothing that
is not It. Huike, on the other hand, discovers that his mind is nowhere
to be found. His mind, his self, has no fixed or essential nature at all
– there is only the ever changing moment, empty of anything he can
grasp onto and call his mind. Yaoshan shows us the mind is everywhere;
Bodhidharma that it is nowhere. Are these perspectives the same or
When the mind or the self is found to be empty, it has no
boundary – it has no fixed or permanent essence, but neither is there
anything we can say that is not the mind. From a practical
practice perspective, what is important is that we come to terms with
our own "doubt," and understand its nature. Whenever we have doubt, or
feel that our mind is not at peace, basically what we’re saying is that
there is some aspect of the present moment we don’t want to face,
something about which we’re not yet willing to say that this is me, this
is it. And no matter how often we tell oursleves that our practice is
"just sitting," or just being the moment, our unconscious mind, our
latent defensiveness, is always there in the background setting up
subtle boundaries of how we want to feel, how we want our sitting to go,
who we want to be and not be. If our practice is to mature, we have to
become more and more conscious of these subtle boundaries. If we don’t
find a way to expose these unconscious boundaries, either we will settle
down complacently within them or forever feel there are aspects of
ourselves that we won’t know how to come to terms with – we will
endlessly nurture the suspicion that our sitting is never quite right
and our doubts will keep intruding. "Is this really it? Is this all
there is?" and so on. Yaoshan grabs us by the shoulders and shouts,
"This monk has doubt!" This too is your mind. Everything is your mind.
Exclude nothing from your sitting.
Of course, I’m not saying, "Just
sit and daydream, that’s your mind too." But why not? Precisely because
our ordinary way of thinking implicitly identifies the mind with the
contents of its thoughts. We may not notice it, but that way of thinking
sets up the most rigid boundaries of all. My "self" is inside, having
"my" thoughts. Only when we meticulously label our thoughts and learn to
see thoughts as thought, and not get caught up in the content of
thought, do we begin to open ourselves to our true nature. Only then do
we become truly transparent and open to the moment. Is the sound of
that bird in the street or in your head? Are we are our thoughts and
feelings or are we one with the whole interconnnected world that’s
giving rise to this moment’s thoughts and feelings? When the mind is
everywhere and nowhere, inside and outside, self and other, dissolve
into this moment. That’s all there is, all there can be. Nothing to hold
onto, nothing excluded. There is room for everything in your mind –
even doubt.


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