Xingyang's Garuda

Today’s teisho will be Xingyang’s “Garuda,” Case 44 in the Book of Serenity.


A lion strikes an elephant, a garuda strikes a dragon. Flying and running, they still distinguish ruler and subject; a patchrobed monk should remember guest and host. But how can someone who brazenly affronts the authority of heaven be judged?


A monk asked Master Xingyang Pou, “A dragon king comes out of the sea, sky and earth are tranquil—how is direct presentation?”
The master said, “The garuda, king of birds, takes command of the universe—who can stick his head out here?”
The monk said, “Suppose one suddenly appears, what then?”
Xingyang said, “It’s like a falcon catching a pigeon. If you don’t realize, check in front of the tower, then for the first time you’ll know the real.”
The monk said, “If so, then I’ll fold my hands on my chest and retreat three paces.”
Xingyang said, “You blind turtle under the seat of Mount Sumeru! Don’t wait for another scarring from a rap on the head.”


The imperial decree comes down,
The commanding order’s distinct:
Within the heartland, the emperor,
Outside the border, the general,
Without awaiting the thunder to roust the insects,
How could one know the wind stops the coursing clouds?
A continuous weave under the loom—naturally there’s a gold needle and jade thread:
Before the seal is wide open emptiness—originally there’s no writing.

Three bells

Something made you wake up early and drive here to practice or listen to the talk--something. But what? It’s wasn’t your ordinary consciousness.

Ordinary consciousness is a bit like this: You get up in the morning and you say to yourself, “Oh, it’s a little too cold in here,” and so you turn down the air conditioner. And then you think, “Hmm, I’m hungry. I’ll have breakfast.” You go downstairs to the kitchen and you look in the refrigerator and you see some eggs and you think, “Maybe I’ll make some fried eggs,” but perhaps you have second thoughts—too much cholesterol. “I’ll eat something more healthy. I’ll have some oatmeal instead.” Then you make oatmeal—with raisons and brown sugar. Next you ask yourself, “Coffee or tea?” And then you think, “Oh, it’s a little too hot for regular coffee. I’ll make the coffee and I’ll ice it.” Then you start thinking about some task you have to do at work and you begin to get a little tense. Or maybe you’re excited about the project. You set off to work and as you’re sitting at your desk, the unexpected happens.

Your boss calls you in and he says, “We’re going to have to make a big change in the schedule. I said you could get that report done in a month, but I’m going to need it in two weeks. So you’ll have to put in a lot of overtime.” And you think to yourself, “How can I do what he’s asking? I’ve made a promise to my partner at home that I would be more available. I can’t handle the overtime now.” But then you look at your boss’s face and you realize that you have to do this.

All the way home you’re thinking, “Oh god, we’re going to have a big argument.” When you arrive, your partner doesn’t understand, feels neglected, and gets angry. You go to bed and maybe you’re thinking, “Oh, what will I do. Either my partner’s going to be mad at me or my boss is going to write up a bad report—and no bonus.” When you wake up the next morning, you don’t feel as free and easy as you did at the start of the previous day. And when your partner comes downstairs, you’re a little bit anxious. Maybe you’ve even had an argument. That would be the perfect way to start a day, wouldn’t it—arguing with someone you love.

So you have an argument with your partner and then you go off to work and you’re mad and feel guilty, right? You get to work and when you see your boss, you think, “I’d just like to punch him in the face!” Then you feel guilty because you recall the occasions when your boss was kind and supportive. You start to worry because you don’t know if this report will be any good, and you start to doubt your own abilities.

Days of this kind go on and on, one after the next. Finally the report gets turned in and maybe the boss says, “Good job!” Or perhaps the boss doesn’t say anything. An eerie silence follows all your hard work like a giant question mark in the sky. Sitting at your desk you worry: “I put in all that work and I didn’t even get a thanks.” Then you think, “He’s really not a very good boss.” Or you might worry about yourself: “Maybe I didn’t do a good job. Maybe he no longer has a high opinion of me.” All day long you fret about whether your boss thinks you’re capable or not. After you drive home, your partner starts talking to you. Possibly she’s trying to patch things up. But you can’t focus because you’re still worried about your boss’s opinion. You lie down at night exhausted. But you can’t sleep because you’re now drawn into the fantasy that you might lose your job. You think about your future, your house payments and so on.

Life can be like this, yes? Of course there are good moments too. Maybe you go to work the next day and your partner comes downstairs and announces, “I’m really proud of you.” Glowing, you leave the house and drive to work. When you get there the boss turns to you and says, “Well done on that report”—and he gives you the “thumbs up” sign. That would be a nice day, wouldn’t it? “And by the way,” your boss continues, “I’m giving you a raise.” You think, “I must be dreaming! I can’t believe it!” You sit down at your desk and everything seems to unfold perfectly, as though you were making it happen in some mysterious way exactly as you planned.

But it can’t last, can it? Precisely because it’s all so perfect, you start worrying again. That’s ordinary consciousness--the ordinary human mental world. Of course, the story could get more complicated. Maybe your partner didn’t wake up in the morning and say, “Oh, honey, you’re doing a good job.” Maybe your partner gave you a sour look, a look that said, “You are a bad person who is neglecting our marriage.” And maybe you think, “That’s unfair because I have no choice in all this.” So you drive to work angry, and as you’re toiling late into the night you find yourself thinking, “My partner and I have been having a lot of arguments lately. Maybe we’re really incompatible.” Coincidentally, somebody comes in from the office complex next door and gives you a strange look, a seductive look. You think, “I’m actually pretty lonely. Why don’t I go to dinner with this person and see what that would be like.” Then perhaps things escalate and you have an affair.

But as the affair goes on, you start to feel buyer’s remorse: “Gee, I’ve made a terrible mistake. I love my family. Why did I do this?” So now you’re back at home and you’re lying in bed and you’re not just fantasizing about getting fired. You’re also fantasizing about your partner discovering your infidelity. And the next day, when you go to work, you feel just terrible. You don’t know which way to turn.

This is all quite human too. If we had the time—an eternity, actually—we could go through all the variations. Maybe the company has to downsize. And even though you did a good job on the report, the boss calls you in and says, “Listen, I’m going to have to let you go. We have to cut twenty employees and you’re the junior person.” Then you drive home thinking, “I’m a loser. I’m nobody. I’m a failure.” You remember your Uncle Louie who was unemployed most of his life, and you recall, with a pit in your stomach, the way your father used to say that Uncle Louie was a bum. You find yourself thinking, “My god, I’m a bum too! That’s what Dad would say about me.”

This is ordinary consciousness. It’s the way we all live to a certain degree. If you read novels and you watch television or movies, you know that the stories are meant to dramatize the adventures of the ordinary self in the world.

In America we still have the remnants of a democratic culture, and so we believe that the self is very important, not only politically but in every other sense as well. We believe, quite correctly, that everybody should be treated with respect. Every person—every self—should get a vote. We have also evolved into a consumer society, which shares some commonalities with the democratic culture it is replacing. Basically, the consumer culture asks, “What would your ‘self’ like today?” If you like hot chocolate, we’ve got hot chocolate for you, at a certain price. If you like mint in the chocolate, well then, we can get some mint too, provided that you can afford it. If you can’t, you’ll have to drink poor people’s chocolate and you will be ashamed. Better to find the money and really enjoy yourself!” This too is ordinary human life, the ordinary human adventure, with its many stresses and strains and its many rewards.

When your spouse comes downstairs and says, “Honey, I really think you’re great,” you feel wonderful. And when your boss comes in and says, “Well done!” you feel a warm glow of satisfaction. But when your boss comes into your office and says, “I’m afraid we’re going to have to lay you off,” you’re plunged into hell. And when your spouse is no longer talking to you, you feel angry, isolated, and abandoned. All of this is quite familiar and of course things can go wrong in countless ways. You can become so unhappy with your life that you begin looking for escapes. If affairs aren’t your style, then you might start drinking. You come home every night and you feel bad about yourself, and finally you say, “Maybe a drink would help.” You have a drink and you do indeed feel a bit better. You feel less bad about yourself and you feel a little more open, less crippled by your self-consciousness. And then you start doing this every night. As soon as you get home you think, “A drink would be nice.” But pretty soon you have a different a problem, a new one, on top of all your others: you can’t stop drinking. This too is quite a common problem—almost typical.

The Dalai Lama has said on many occasions that humans are pretty much all the same, and I agree. The little stories I’ve been telling could have been told about humans anywhere in the world--in Cairo or New York or Mumbai. Some of the details would be different, of course, but pretty much everything would be the same thing. If you were in New York City you might see someone get into a BMW at the end of the workday while you might get into your Honda. You might begin to worry that you’ve been treated unfairly when it comes to salary, or perhaps you begin to fear that you really are a loser. If you were a Tuareg in the deserts of North Africa, or a nomad in Mongolia, the person who shames you might have five camels while you might have only one. Not that anybody really rides camels these days—but psychologically nothing would really be different. You’d still think, “Oh my god, he’s got five camels. What a loser I am! I’m just like Uncle Abdul. I’m going to wind up like him, a man without a single date tree to his name.” This is the human adventure.

Sometimes, however, people for various reasons get interested in Zen. Let’s say that you attend beginners’ meditation on a Monday night and you hear my standard speech and you sit down on the cushion to watch your breath. At the end of two meditation periods you might begin to feel a little more calm, a little happier, without knowing why. It’s interesting, right? You sit down on the cushion. You begin to feel happy, inexplicably. If you’re not exactly happy, at least you’re relaxed enough to make the decision to come back. The next time, however, things might not go as well. Last night, for example, Brian brought a couple of his friends with him and they were highly motivated, especially the young man. I introduced myself by saying, “Hi. My name is Kurt. I’m the teacher.” Then I asked, “Are you interested in interested in Zen?” He said, “Oh yeah!! It’s very cool!” and I was excited for him. He was deeply motivated but he found the whole thing quite difficult. It was also hard to focus his mind, so hard that he had to get up and walk around during the second sit.

Why was it so difficult for him? Meditation ought to be simple, right? Tune in, turn on, bliss out. But this is not what happened. Instead, his awareness began its descent into the depths of the mind. Not just his mind but the mind. Garuda—the great bird that carries the gods from earth to heaven and back—had already begun its descent. Have you met the Garuda? Has it carried you down, down, down?

Even if your first sit—your first meditation period—goes quite well, eventually you will face a challenge. At first you will be watching your breath and feeling calm, but then you will notice something: the thoughts going through your head are like a raging torrent. You notice this thought and that thought, one after another, raging on like a stream crashing over rocks. And sometimes these thoughts trigger powerful emotions.

Often people manage to avoid this level of the mind the first time around. They move from the level of discursive thinking—“I have to buy some dog food on the way home”—right to the level emptiness, of no thought. But sooner or later you are going to notice that beneath the level of rational, discursive awareness there is this other level, the raging torrent of thoughts, thought fragments, and emotions.

Brian’s friend encountered this level when he tried to meditate. Once he sat down on the cushion, his distress became worse, not better. As he later said to me, “I became so aware of all these thoughts that I had to get up and walk around.” That can happen sometimes. You know, we normally try to look away from those thoughts. The thoughts are there but we conceal them from ourselves. If work has become stressful, you drive home and you flip on the television. And television is often so mindless that you can just float along with the images on the screen. Soon you are not thinking about your boss anymore. You’re not thinking about what a loser you might be and so on. It’s quite refreshing.

I remember that when I was in college I spent several nights at the house of a friend of mine. His father was a prominent lawyer in West Virginia, the senior partner in a now-famous law firm. After coming home, while he was waiting for dinner, the lawyer would watch The Lucy Show. Even though he was a top drawer, highly paid litigator, he’d just come home and space out while Ethel and Lucy would be making pies or Lucy would pull some trick on Ricky that would backfire. The plots must have seemed incredibly conventional even then, and yet the shows were very well executed and the lawyer would be laughing like a baby at a puppet show. At the time I was surprised, even amazed, but the pure stupidity of it all was relaxing for someone under such intense pressure.

We might not watch the Lucy Show these days but we all develop such strategies for dealing with tension. The mind has many layers and we try to float along on the surface--though ultimately to no avail. Right under the surface we find everything we hoped to forget or escape from. For a certain length of time, sitting can be a real struggle as your Garuda carries you down into the torrent and then you try to pull your mind back to the breath—back to breath. It’s like swimming against a mighty stream, but there’s no avoiding it.

Eventually, if you keep practicing, your attention will drop down through that layer—the torrent --and you’ll reach this place in the mind where there’s absolutely nothing. It’s just absolutely blank and empty. And our word for this is mu-shin, mind of emptiness. If you do a lot of meditation, you’ll eventually get to that place and it’s quite a lovely. At first you might be a little alarmed to encounter mu-shin. But it’s really quite extraordinary, as though, after being swept and battered by a torrential stream, you find yourself floating in a calm pool, sheltered and safe. What a relief. But then you will eventually realize that it’s not a sheltered little pool at all: it's a vast ocean with no boundaries, unfathomably deep.

Once you reach this place, things are going to be different, more different than you might expect at first. The ordinary view is centered on our individual selves. When I get up in the morning, I think, “What will it be, oatmeal or fried eggs? Hot coffee or iced coffee?” That’s the world of ordinary consciousness and generally speaking, that’s the world our culture thinks of as the only real world. But actually that’s just an image of reality we ourselves have created—the image you create when you look at the world from the topmost level of the mind.

If you were a monkey, you would see the world through monkey eyes—and not in the way that humans see it. I don’t mean that we humans see the world accurately whereas the monkey’s perception is distorted. I mean that our way of seeing is inescapably arbitrary, and so is the monkey’s. Humans see the world through human eyes and we tend to notice certain things and ignore other things. A monkey might see as blue something that we see as green. Perhaps monkeys notice things like fruit smells that we entirely overlook. Even though there is indeed a real world, what we know of it is pretty much determined by our embodied situation.

If you were flying over your neighborhood in a plane, because you are a human you might say to someone, “Look, there’s a bunch of houses there in between the trees.” But if you were a monkey and you could speak, you might say, “Oh, there’s a bunch of trees down there and something in between them, but who cares about that?” In other words monkeys don’t care about houses, they care about trees.

In the same fashion, each layer of mind organizes experience in a certain way. The topmost layer, the layer we associate with rationality, organizes experience around the little character we call the self. But the next layer of the mind is more complex because it’s there that all these emotions reside, and all of these emotions are in play. When we enter that layer of the mind, awareness often become much more volatile. One minute you’re thinking, “Damn! I’m the king of the world and I’ve got it knocked! And the next minute you’re thinking, “Uh, what a loser I am! Oh my god, I’m going to get fired.” Right under the surface of the reasoning mind we find these emotions which are not usually very mature, and then there are also memories and fragments of memory. If the top layer of the mind is, so to speak, an ordinary human being, the level right under that is a bit like a madman. The madman is hidden under the façade of normality. And then under the madman, if you keep going down, there’s a layer where you find absolutely nothing.

Now, there are many people who would say that when we sit on the cushion and enter mu-shin, we are wasting our time. And that response is really a reflection of a certain kind of culture. In places like ancient China or India or Tibet, people understood that the world is more complex than we can appreciate by looking at it exclusively from the top layer of our mind. They understood that the world we see from the top layer is not the real world, only a rather impoverished image. It’s just a very selective picture of the real world—not false but very selective and limited.

If you descend more deeply, you will reach emptiness. In Buddhist culture and also to some degree in the Hindu world as well, this emptiness is quite well understood as a part of reality, either the reality of the mind or the reality of the world, or both. For a long time people in these cultures have understood that you can’t really get a complete picture of everything by looking at it in just one way. Rather than looking from the topmost layer, you can get a fuller picture by including all of the layers. How does the world look from this layer? How does the world look from that layer? I hope I’m making some sense.

Anyway, the layer of the mind which is empty is quite important in Zen. And when you’re in that state of mind and you look at the world, that world becomes a very different place. Today, for example, we went outside and did walking meditation after three hours of sitting in a dark zendo. Some of us had done five periods of meditation. Some of us had done two. And then we walked outside, and we made that beautiful circuit around the fountain. I don’t know how you felt about the walk, but it was really a great experience for me. I really didn’t want to stop. Those trees that encircle the fountain are lindens, quite beautiful and unusual trees, at least in central New Jersey. The leaves shimmered in the sun and light. You could feel the warm cement underfoot and the cool breezes on your face. And I must say that as I was walking, very few thoughts clouded my mind. My mind was like an empty mirror, and all of these inputs were registering very richly and powerfully. Things seemed to unfold in a natural, effortless way. This is not how things seem when we look at them from the layer of mind that says, “What will I have for breakfast?” I would say that the mirror-like consciousness is more inclusive and complex—it brings together more of our total consciousness, and also more of reality.

I’ve been in that mirror mind many times and it’s a wonderful state. But even the mirror-like consciousness is not the highest state or the final state. As our great ancestor Hui-neng declared, even to think of the mind as a mirror is too limited. Sometimes the mind does not experience itself as mirroring events—instead it seems to be producing those events.

My point is that no matter what image of the world we happen to create, it’s only partially true—part of something much larger. Have you ever seen a bee bumping up a glass window, trying to get out? I’m afraid that we are all a bit like that: we can’t ever fully understand because the universe is so vast. But I think that people who do mediation have tools at their disposal for coping with those moments when we find ourselves bumping up against an invisible barrier. The most important tool of all is confidence in the Garuda, the mind that watches the mind. Here’s Hui-neng again:

The many beings are numberless; I vow to save them.
Greed, hatred, and ignorance rise endlessly; I vow to overcome them
Dharma gates are countless; I vow to wake to them.
Buddha's way is unsurpassed; I vow to embody it fully.

Imagine a little bee saying all this as it bumps up against the glass. With this kind of confidence, the bee just might get out into the beautiful fields and trees where it belongs. Indeed, that confidence might help the little bee lead the other bees to freedom.

Most of us lack that confidence. When we experience setbacks, we feel off balance or helpless. But some people are able to deal with setbacks and obstacles without becoming too unhappy about them. They just move along, and those people are, I think, naturally in touch with the Garuda. Other people have to work harder because when they have setbacks, their ego structure is not very strong or flexible and they begin to have these corrosive doubts and maybe self loathing and so on. But when you have these setbacks, if you practice Zen, you learn that the proper response is to drop down into the mind, below the layer that says, “I’ll have iced coffee.” We learn to sit on the cushion and drop down through the layers of the mind until we get to this place which is empty. And that place is so healing and so powerful. And by the way, it’s no less a part of you than the “I’ll have coffee” part. We identify so heavily with the top layer of the mind that we don’t appreciate who or what we really are. If you observe the layers of the mind you see that there’s the small, choosy self and then there’s the madman. Under that, there are memories from childhood and then under that you will find the realm of the gods. The psychological forces you encounter there are very powerful: the God of Love, for example, and the God of War. All of them are in there, down there. And then, when you go a little deeper, you will find the emptiness. And then, under that, there’s enlightened mind.

The point is we have this wonderful resource, this Garuda. We can go down, down, down into the mind and we can enter mu-shin. We can enter shunyata. And when we look at the world through eyes of shunyata, it’s very different than when we look at the world through the eyes of the small, picky self because that self is always nervously trying to adjust things, picking and choosing between yes and no, right and wrong. But when we get to the layer of ourselves that is empty, when we look at the world from this place, there is just serene openness.

This morning we were walking around the fountain in the serene openness of no-mind. In that state, anything that happens is OK. And if you’re really deeply in mu-shin, even if strangers are walking by, or somebody’s playing the drums, it doesn’t matter. Being able to gain access to this level of ourselves can be tremendously helpful because we’re better able to deal with the problems that the little self faces. We realize that there’s more to us than the picky, choosy mind. Life is actually much richer than that, bigger than that. I don’t have to be so trapped in myself.

Of course normally people don’t feel a strong desire to get outside of themselves. They’re pretty happy being a self, floating along on the top layer of the mind. But sometimes when we encounter setbacks or painful events, we realize the inadequacy of the small self as a tool for dealing with life. And then people can become, say, religious, reciting prayers and so on. We Zen people, however, are a little different. We certainly respect people’s prayers and as we go down, down, down through the mind, we see the great gods and we nod respectfully, “Hello, how do you do?” But we go further down to the level of shunyata, emptiness. And when we look at the world, it’s as though we are present at the first day of creation. Everything is fresh and new. And this can be tremendously helpful. Even if we feel totally trapped on the level of the small self, having contact with this expansive, nonjudgmental, all-embracing awareness is tremendously liberating. And so Zen practice is a bit like possessing a stereoscopic mind. You’ve got the little self and the “big self,” we say, though it’s not really a self. And you can use the so-called big self to help liberate the little self.

At the same time, the troubles of the small self force us to develop our “big self” awareness more fully. We have these two different forms of awareness in dialog with each other. And sometimes they match up—the small mind with the big mind, the conscious mind with the unconscious mind. And when they match up, that’s really energizing. It’s really wonderful.

Somebody in our group is training to be a lawyer--going to law school. I won’t mention who and I’m sure you won’t be able to guess. [Laughter.] But I don’t think this person would mind my telling you that he was asked to present a case at school in a mock trial. When this person presented, everything unfolded as though by magic. All of a sudden a wonderful energy arose and the person held the courtroom in the palm of his hand. Everybody watching said, “Holy smokes!! Wow!! That was great!!” After the fact, this person was amazed and somewhat puzzled by his success. “How did I do that?” he wondered.

But this sort of thing happens to people sometimes. I remember when I was in intermediate school—the eighth grade, I believe. I wasn’t really a very good student at the time. I wasn’t an athlete either. I wasn’t handsome—I wasn’t anything. I was just an unhappy adolescent. And the principal of the school was a very nice man who thought to himself, “There must be something we can do with Kurt that will help him develop as a human being.” And he put me into the school play. He sent me down to the music teacher in our high school. And the music teacher was a wonderful man who, I realize now in retrospect, was gay, though I had no inkling at the time. The music teacher was this wonderful gay man who worked terrifically hard making good musicians out of the students in the school. And he put me, a cynical thirteen year old, into a major role. At first I went to rehearsal halfheartedly but as the rehearsals progressed, I got carried away by it all. When we actually did the play, I felt that events were unfolding as though by magic. Everything worked. And afterward people in the audience complemented me: “Oh, you did such a fantastic job. You should be an actor,” they said. Fortunately I didn’t take that advice, but I now realize that I was in the Tao. The big mind and the small mind, the unconscious and the conscious, were working in harmony. And as a result, this tremendous energy was released, through no doing of my own.

Sometimes we do things we don’t really want to do. And this is just our human fate. But sometimes we’re doing something that really speaks to us. We say in Zen, “The big mind speaks.” Unexpectedly you go before the judge and the jury and there’s no stopping your eloquences. You don’t stammer. You don’t reach for words. Everything you need is right there, at your fingertips. It’s a glorious moment.

Musicians understand this quite well, I suspect. To be a good musician, you have to practice, practice, practice. Sometimes you feel stale; sometimes the music seems forced, or dry. But one night you come in and start playing, and the performance is impeccable—not flawless but impeccably alive. When this happens, big mind and small mind have matched up. But how does it happen?

The garuda is a special bird that can fly down to earth from the realm of the gods and back. Most people associate the garuda with Tibetan Buddhism, but as you can see, it also has a place in Zen. The garuda is that part of yourself which can pass through all these different layers of the mind. It can go from heaven to hell. It can go from the world of form to the world of the formless. And when the world of form and the world of the formless become one, you experience this tremendous energy and this tremendous joy.

Of course, we can get stuck, and sometimes the two halves don’t quite match. We have obstacles, and sometimes we don’t tap into the big mind because we’re afraid. Growing up, we develop obstructive karma.

Maybe in high school you tried out for the basketball team and you didn’t make cut. You missed the shot and after that failed tryout, you’re always a little bit nervous about volunteering. So you’re at work and there’s a project you want to be involved in but you’re afraid because it will be just like high school where they turned you down for the basketball team. Fearing failure, you don’t volunteer and you don’t do the project you really want to do. That’s karma. A lot of sitting involves trying to connect with our big mind in order work through events that have scarred us for a long time. We have to do a lot of sitting before we can open the door to big mind. But when we do, there’s this tremendous energy and this tremendous joy.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come in to sit on a Saturday morning, not just here but back in Seattle, and started out feeling blocked. I remember being in a graduate class with people who were very well educated, people who could speak German and French very fluently. A lot of the graduate students I competed with came from places like Harvard and Yale. And not only were they very well educated, but many of them were wealthy. When I started graduate school at the University of Washington, I used to bring groceries home in my backpack. I’d go to the grocery store, put my groceries in the backpack and walk home. I had friends, however, school friends, who had nice cars. For all of these reasons I felt outclassed. But I would go to the Zen center and I would sit. I would start the sit feeling down--inferior. I would sit and sit and sit. And by the end of the morning meditation, I would feel like a garuda. I would be in that beautiful, empty mind and I felt that I could go anywhere.

Of course, this didn’t always happen. Some days my doubts and my karma would be a little too hard to work through. And then I would notice that when I got off the cushion, I might be a little sad still or a little grumpy. But you just keep sitting and sooner or later you work through those karmic obstacles. And then you connect with your big mind and there’s this beautiful, spontaneous action which is not directed toward any particular result. It’s just the unfolding of the universe. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

A monk asked Xingyang Pou, “A dragon king comes out of the sea, sky and earth are tranquil—how is direct presentation?”
The master said, “The garuda, king of birds, takes command of the universe—who can stick his head out here?”
The monk said, “Suppose one suddenly appears, what then?
Xingyang said, “It’s like a falcon catching a pidgeon. If you don’t realize, check in front of the tower, then for the first time you’ll know the real.”

This passage is rather complicated, but the point is that when you have become one with the Garuda, all the layers of your mind can work together, and you have a much fuller picture of reality, a much fuller life.

The monk said, “If so, I’ll fold my hands on my chest and retreat three paces.”
Xingyang said, “You blind turtle under the seating of Mount Sumeru! Don’t wait for another scarring from a rap on the head.”

Normally we second guess ourselves. One part of the mind undermines another part—we call this a “divided mind” as opposed to a “unified mind in accord with the way.” In Zen we believe that a divided mind is like an illness from which we must recover.

In its simplest form, a divided mind might look like this. I’m here on the cushion but wishing I were somewhere else. I’m at my office and I’m dreaming of a vacation in Hawaii. Or I’m in the kitchen with my partner and I’m imagining an affair with somebody at work. This is a divided mind and it is quite unhealthy from the Zen standpoint. A healthy mind isn’t divided: we are fully present wherever we are. But a healthy mind is united in another way too. Small mind and big mind are together, like the matching haves of the yin-yang symbol—the conscious and the unconscious. This takes a lot of work but when it happens, it’s really great. When small mind and big mind operate in harmony, the conscious and the unconscious, there’s a spontaneity to things. You’re not second guessing yourself. You’re not looking at yourself with a judgmental view. You’re in the flow, the Tao. This is precious, really wonderful.

Xingyang said, “You blind turtle under the seat of Mount Sumeru. Don’t wait for another scarring.

In other words, Xingyang is saying, "Don’t make me hit you on the head. Be spontaneous!"

The imperial decree comes down,
The commanding order’s distinct,
Within the heartland, the emperor:
Outside the border, the general,
Without awaiting the thunder to roust the insects,
How could one know the wind stops the coursing clouds?
A continuous weave under the loom—naturally there’s a gold needle and a jade thread:
Before the seal is wide open emptiness—originally there’s no writing.

These lines describe the unification of the whole human being. Thanks to the Garuda—who can go from top to bottom and back--all of these different layers of experience can be recognized as aspects of larger reality, a “continuous weave under the loom.” Once you have entered his condition, when you speak in words, it’s the voice of no words. When you act, it’s the unfolding of no action. We ourselves become the Garuda who can fly from heaven to earth. Whether in form or emptiness, we are always at home. So, let’s be Garudas, ok?

Three bells