Yangshan Points To Snow


Today’s Teisho is on Case 26 in the Book of Serenity

INTRODUCTION: Ice and Frost are one color; snow and moon merge their light. Freezing the reality-body to the death, purifying the fisherman to the extreme. Is there anyone who can appreciate?

CASE: Yangshan pointed to a snow lion and said, “Is there any that can go beyond this color?”
Yunmen said, “At that point I’d push it over for him.”
Xuedou said, “He only knows how to push down. He doesn’t know how to help up.”

One knocks down, one sets up - the lion is in the snowy garden.
Careful about transgression, he holds benevolence in his heart.
Courageous in action, he sees his duty.
Pure light shining in the eyes is like being lost far from home –
Turning around in clear purity is after all to fall into that state.
Patchwork mendicants have ultimately nothing to rely on:
Dying the same, born the same, which is ‘this’, and which ‘that’?
News of warmth bursts the plum – spring comes to the cold branches.
A freezing gale makes the leaves drop - autumn clarifies the run off water.

(Rings three bells)

I want to thank everyone for coming here on this beautiful day. Fall has really arrived! The temperatures are dropping. The rain has started and the leaves are beginning to turn. And it is just wonderful to practice when fall is coming up--very exciting. I love this season. I’m sure everybody does. Somehow, after I do zazen and go out on a day like today, it all seems so much closer to me – it all seems very much more alive. I feel more connected with everything. There is just something about this practice which makes that connection possible. I hope you have that feeling too when you leave the zendo today. There are so many things people can do with their time, but you came here to practice Zen and that is really wonderful.

Today’s teisho is about this case:

Yangshan pointed to a snow lion and said “Is there anyone that can go beyond this color?”

Well, it might be important to understand that a snow lion is a very lightly colored animal. It is something like, but slightly bigger than, an American bobcat. In color, it is much closer to white than a bobcat, however. A snow lion in its element is so well adapted that it is very hard to distinguish from snow. It is not as white as a polar bear but it is quite white. Basically, Yangshan points to a snow lion and says, “Is there any that can go beyond this color? Is there anything more perfect or more pure than this?”

Now, you should also understand that the enlightened mind is often symbolized in Buddhist literature by the color white. When Lord Buddha was asked to describe enlightened mind, he said that it was like a white cloth (Maha-Assapura Sutta). In the Buddhist cultures of East Asia, there is a long tradition of representing the enlightened mind as white like the snow or the full moon.

Also, the enlightened mind is often associated with coolness or the cold. When people come here at the end of a busy day and they sit down on the cushion, their minds are furious with sensations, thoughts and emotions. At first, before you start to do Zen meditation, you don’t even notice that condition of your mind. We have had a lot of beginners lately on Monday and Friday nights. Many of them have never done anything like meditation before, and one of them came up to me and said, “You know, I am just astounded. My mind was racing. Thoughts were just popping up, and all these emotions were unfolding.” People don’t normally pay attention to the contents of their minds, but often the mind is like a bubbling cauldron or a racing engine. Sense impressions and thoughts just come tumbling along, and emotions are generally attached to them. You sit down on the cushion and the person next to you starts coughing. Suddenly you feel annoyed or put out. A few moments later you think, “I have to submit that report next week,” and then, the next moment, adrenaline starts pumping. Or maybe you think, “I’d like to eat something after the sit,” and then different memories related to sensation come up. This is the operation of a normal, untrained mind. There is something slightly feverish about all of this. It is like a roaring fire in a certain way.

The Buddha made this point himself in his famous "Fire Sermon" (Aditta-Pariyaya Sutta):

All things, O monks, are on fire. And what, O monks, are all these things which are on fire?

The eye, O monks, is on fire; forms are on fire; eye-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the eye are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the eye, that also is on fire.

The truth is that most people don’t even notice this roaring fire. The mind without any sort of cultivation is often on the edge of hysteria. Really! I am sure that if you have been doing meditation for a while, you have noticed some sensation or thought suddenly passing through your mind, and then you realize that you are, say, angry. That’s almost like a state of hysteria, right? This sensation or thought arises and then an emotion follows and then this memory and then this fear. The truth is that when you sit regularly, you begin to see these mental patterns much more clearly. It might seem that you are not making any progress but that’s not so. You are just becoming more aware of the mental turbulence that has always been there. Normal people who don’t practice usually do not realize what is going on in their minds. When they feel angry, they just feel anger. When they are fearful, they just feel fear. When you start to practice, you become more aware of these mental events. Becoming aware is an essential first step toward a deeper change.

When you have been practicing for a while, you begin to distance yourself from your sensations, thoughts and emotions. You stop identifying with them. So you may be sitting on the cushion and then a memory arises, some event that happened long ago, and then you may see your anger arise along with it. But the interesting thing is that after practicing for a while, you don’t hold on to your mental events. They don’t grip you. They don’t occupy the center of your attention. You may see the anger and may even be repelled by it. You might say, “Is that anger inside me? Is that anger which is arising in my heart right now?” You might also say, “I don’t want that anger there.” And you might come back to your breath or Mu, and then the anger or fear gradually goes away. This is a great accomplishment! Everybody wants to have a totally clear mind but that is very difficult and takes a long time. How long? I will explain in a little bit.

For now, it takes a long time! In the meanwhile, it is a major achievement if you no longer hold on to your sensations, thoughts and emotions. When you sit on the cushion, you become aware of a flow of mental events, but if you keep coming back to your koan, these sensations, thoughts and emotions stop possessing you – like demonic possession – and instead you simply watch them come and go. They come and they go. You don’t hold on to them and they don’t grip you. That is very precious state of consciousness. And it is very hard to achieve!

It takes a lot of sitting to enter that state and if you don’t sit regularly you can lose the ability to enter that state once you have achieved it. But if you continue to practice regularly, you will be able to enter that state, where the mental events come and go without possessing you, more and more often. The events will go by like clouds. This state is often referred to as Blue Sky Mind– Lan tian hsin. Clouds come and go but the sky is always clear. When you are in that "blue sky mind," how do you feel? Cool! Cool and refreshed!

Normal mind is like a burning cauldron – it's like a hot stove. You know I love to cook, and I love to cook at sesshin, but I have to tell you that in August the stove is really hot. If you’re in the kitchen in August, even the little pilot light feels too hot. This August sesshin was not so bad, but during the previous August sesshin, it was very hot. I was sitting there in the kitchen where we hold dokusan and was thinking to myself, “Why is it so hot in here? And I realized that the pilot light in the stove was making me feel uncomfortable. I was sitting there in my robes and perspiring. I had to move the zafus and zabutons to the next aisle away from the stove.

Anyway, the feeling of heat is uncomfortable and that is how we humans often live our lives – in the relentless burning heat of sensations, thoughts and emotions that sweep us along helplessly, with no footing. When you begin to do zazen, however, and you start to focus on your breath or Mu, you begin to feel "cool." The Buddha actually described the awakened mind as being cool and refreshed. Remember that in India the temperature can be as high as 115-120 F, and at those times, if you can sit under a tree where there is breeze, suddenly you feel cool and refreshed. So, the condition of a stable, balanced, unconditioned awareness is often associated with coolness in Buddhist tradition. The Buddhism of China takes this idea one step farther: enlightened mind is often described as cold and not just cool. This cold is not cold in the Western sense, as in “cold-hearted.” Instead, the mind is cold because it is no longer swept helplessly along, and no longer burning.The mind in deep Mu-Shin is free from "demonic possession" by mental events.

In the Ch'an or Zen literature of China, snow and cold are often associated with enlightenment. In classical Chinese poetry, Ch'an masters-- Zen masters--are frequently described using images of this kind. These lines, for example, were written by the great Chia Tao:

A monk since youth . . .
you enter upon meditation
in a frost-streaked robe.

The "frost-streaked robe" is a metaphor for a mind which is starting to get free from its obstructions

Now, the snow lion or snow leopard is a creature of the Himalayas and lives in Bhutan, Tibet, Siberia and western China. He lives in the snow. He is happy there in the snow. This is like somebody who does a lot of zazen. You live your life in that cool spaciousness of deep Mu shin. That’s where we Zen people live our lives, in that cool spaciousness. So the snow leopard plays in the snow and its joy lies in being free from the heat of obstructions in the form of sensations, thoughts and emotions.

So Yangshan says, “Is there any that can go beyond this color?”

In other words, Yangshan asks, “Is there anything more beautiful than this beautiful purity? Is there anything more enlightened than this state of mind?" In response, the famous Zen master Yunmen, Cloudgate, says, “At that point I’d push it over from him”

He just pushed that snow lion over!

Xuedou said, “He only knows how to push down. He doesn’t know how to help up.”

These koans are just crazy. What is this all about?

It is so important to understand what we are doing in our Zen practice. In Zen tradition, people often talk about the experience of Dai Kensho – Great Awakening. The literature of Zen offers countless stories in which you have these Zen monks and nuns who are struggling to wake up for many, many years. They work very, very hard and then they have this wonderful, decisive experience of Great Awakening, a sudden illumination experience. We read those stories, those of us who are interested in them, and we think, “I can’t wait for Great Awakening! Can’t wait! That is so exciting.” People have actually said to me that, “I hope I live long enough to have Dai Kensho.” You know, the desire for Great Awakening is a good incentive, and the experience itself is quite wonderful, the experience of fundamental reality. Enlightenment is empirically real and I believe that it is also real in a deeper way, beyond what we call “empirical” reality!

Nevertheless, even though we hold Dai Kensho up as the highest thing – the highest achievement in Zen-- it is very important to understand that Dai Kensho isn’t actually the goal of Zen practice. It’s actually not! The goal of Zen meditation is to become a Buddha. That is a loftier goal than Dai Kensho.

As I have said on other occasions, progress in Zen is often misunderstood. The dramatic stories told in Zen literature suggest that you live in total ignorance for years – 12 or 15 years or more-- and then, boom! you have an enlightenment experience! That is not how it actually happens! That’s the ideology or propaganda, but it’s not the reality.

Everybody has enlightenment experiences all the time in more or less sustained ways, relatively deeply or relatively shallowly. Take an average person who does no sitting – who just gets up and goes to work early and sees the moon setting as the sun is rising. Or perhaps someone is just walking through the trees in the summertime. At those moments, people don’t think much and often joy arises naturally in their hearts. They don’t practice meditation, but each of these is still a kensho experience, an awakening experience. Often these experiences are accidental and rather fleeting. They come and they go. In fact, if people didn’t have those natural experiences of kensho, then they wouldn’t do Zen at all. Zen would make absolutely no sense to them.

I think I got involved in Zen because I used to do backpacking, believe it or not! I used to go backpacking or hiking for a week at a time or longer. Backpacking is not too different from Zen. First of all, it is physically strenuous. A full backpack weighs 60 pounds or something like that. A backpacker might walk for 10 to 15 miles a day. You get up early, you have some light breakfast and you hit the trail. You can go about half way--covering 7 or 8 miles-- before lunch and then you have lunch and a little snooze, and then you hit the trail again. By about 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon, you reach your destination for the day, pitch your tent, wash your face, fix dinner and go to bed or watch the stars! Walking on the trail is like working out, physically challenging. There is kind of yoga to hiking --hiking yoga. At the end of a day you feel clean and clear, and you feel cool. Everything is very beautiful, with very few thoughts. In my days as an avid hiker I had many moments when I felt connected to the world. I would look out over the mountains – not thinking anything -- and I experienced total absorption, total connection.

Later, when I started doing Zen, I had some problems in my life. I was stressed and had other personal problems, but when I’d sit on the cushion, I’d have experiences like the ones I had when I was hiking. I’d feel the same way as I did when I was on the trail, even if I didn’t consciously reflect on the similarity. I think other people have comparable experiences of awakened mind in their ordinary lives, and these experiences can bring them to the cushion. So it is not true that we live in ignorance and at the end of it all there is a Dai Kensho experience - BOOM! That’s just not how it is! The fact is that any time we get out of our own way and let life flow, we experience reality as it actually is.

Thinking gets in the way, however. Thinking is a special form of memory that we project onto the present, and it makes the present disappear to a certain degree. Even when we project into the future, we are really using memory to make the present moment disappear. This is a fantasy world actually! Years ago when I was doing my Zen training, I was also in the graduate school. Once, I was walking down University Avenue after teaching my class and it was a beautiful day. In Washington State, if it is a fall day and it’s not raining, that’s just wonderful because it’s usually raining! It was a great rarity, a sunny day in November, and I was walking down the Ave and I ran into a graduate student friend of mine, Virginia Chappell. And she had just come out of a class in a course entitled, “Modernism and Poetry.” She had been reading William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming.” The poem is basically about how the modern world is going to hell in a hand basket. It talks about how a monster, the Rough Beast, is coming to destroy the world.

We talked a little while and then Virginia said, “O my God! The whole world is going to hell in a hand basket.” But I thought to myself, “What are you talking about? The sun is out! It’s a beautiful day.” The sense of impending doom was all in her mind. It was like a spell cast over her mind. I actually said to her, “Virginia! Look – the sky is blue and clear. There’s no Rough Beast here now.” Lian tian hsin. Blue sky mind. And then she suddenly realized this herself. “You’re right,” she said. “This is crazy.” Yeats is a great poet and he cast a spell over her: “Imagine the end of the world. The doom!” But it was a fantasy. We do this all the time. We humans become like enchanters who cast a spell over ourselves and then we forget that we have done so. But every once in a while we break through the spell and see that fundamentally, this moment is Buddha. Everything is one great life. This beautiful “one great life”!

You could say, “Well, it’s easy to think that way when it’s a sunny day.” You could say, in other words, that such an outlook is dependent on positive circumstances. But I have known people who had that kind of connectedness literally on their deathbeds. I have talked before about the fact that once I met a Zen master who was dying of cancer and his face was like a baby’s face. He was so serene and so happy. He was in the moment.

It is just not the case that we live in ignorance and then boom – Dai Kensho! True, it is important to have the goal of awakening. But it is important also to realize that awakening goes on all the time because it is your fundamental nature to awaken. We do it all the time. When we do it on the cushion, it can be unusually deep and sustained. It can be really special. Now, some people have these experiences of connectedness but then they go back to the TV. They look at the moon, the beautiful moon, but then they wonder, “What’s on TV?” This happens to all of us. You have a great vacation in Hawaii but then you go back to your job, and you get into the rut of inter-office politics, or you have a personal relationship that is strained, and then you get back into your old self-pity and relive those emotional traumas again and again.

We Zen people have a slightly different way of life because instead of having these experiences of awakening and then watching TV, we build our life around awakened moments. We become the servants of these experiences. We make them the center of our lives, the core of our lives. Some people make money the core of their lives, and some are interested in power or respect from others. We Zen people are interested in remarkable moments when we are totally connected with the world. So instead of encountering these moments casually, here and there as chance would have it, we make ourselves available to them on a regular basis.

One way to think of Zen practice is to say that we are making ourselves available to the universe, and very often. Whenever you come and sit on the cushion, some version of that Blue Sky Mind experience may happen to you. It may not happen each time in the same way, however.

Sometimes you come to sit, and afterward you just think, “That was fantastic!” This happens to me all the time. It happens to many people. Years ago, there was a young woman who used to sit with our group, though eventually she moved away from New Jersey. She had been sitting for six months. Nothing special was happening but she just kept coming back. One day, though, I asked her, “How was your sit?” Her face was radiant and she said, “Wow! What was that?” There was another guy who sat with us and once he said, “That was better than sex!” And indeed it is!

This sort of thing happens to people. But it does not always happen in the same dramatic way. Sometimes, you sit on the cushion and your mind is like a burning cauldron or fiery oven and you think, “Not much is happening today.” But when you get up, you realize, “Gee! I feel so much better.” That’s another version of the same experience. So it isn’t true that we are sitting on the cushion and waiting twelve years for enlightenment. If that is your mindset, please try to see things differently.

Actually, when we talk about enlightenment as an experience, we aren’t quite accurate. Enlightenment is a reality that’s always here, one we can encounter it in a variety of ways. And because enlightenment is always here, all we need to do is to make ourselves available to it. Making ourselves available to it means showing up here and sitting just as you have done this morning. It also means that we lead a certain kind of life. It means being considerate of others, being helpful. You try not to indulge in slandering or anger, or making a habit out of resentment. You try to be honest with others and loving to people you are closely involved with. It would be good if you were non-violent. If you want to be a vegetarian, that would be good. If you refrain from drugs, that would be a huge plus. Right? If you use any kind of mind altering drugs, your likelihood of making progress in Zen is very small. So please don’t use any drugs at all unless they are medically prescribed. And it would be better if you didn’t drink. You don’t have to stop today, but it would be better if someday you didn’t consume any alcohol.

I swear to you that if you serve enlightened mind, it will help you in a lot of different ways. In other worlds, if you make yourself available, lightening will strike more often. If you come and sit once a month, you will have a great sit once a year. That’s how it is. If you sit once every week, you might have a couple of good sits every six months. If you sit regularly on daily basis, you will have a lot of those experiences.

Regular practice makes a huge difference. If you sit once a month and you decide to come to sesshin – Brother! It’s murder! Murder! If you sit more often, many times a week, then sesshin is not so hard. If you come to a lot of sesshins, I promise, they will be heaven itself. Sometimes, every sound you hear, every sensation you feel will be as sweet as sugar. So help me! I have been doing sesshins for 30 years – why? Because when I am at sesshin, everything can become just like heaven itself. Sweet as sugar! At those times, there is diamond clarity every moment. Pure, stainless, spotless life! Unbelievable! The more you make yourself available, the more it happens. And the more it happens, in my opinion, the happier you are going to be. The more you practice, the more will you be able to walk this path without any hesitation or doubts. Beautiful! Beautiful!

The Buddha said, “This path is beautiful at the beginning, beautiful at the middle, beautiful at the end.” And so please don’t think too much about Dai Kensho as the ultimate goal. Instead, it's Kensho, Kensho, Kensho, Kensho, Kensho all the way! This point is quite important. You can really poison your practice if every time you get off the cushion you think, “Darn it! I didn’t have Dai Kensho!” Or you can leave sesshin and think, “Another sesshin where I didn’t have Dai Kensho. I am a Zen failure!” This way of thinking is a big mistake. If you sit on the cushion and you feel the beautiful coolness, all your troubles will go away and you will know that this moment is Buddha itself. You should be grateful for that experience. That is Kensho. I’m not telling you something that is untrue. This moment is Buddha. It is enlightenment. Often, unfortunately, we have mental habits that prevent us from remaining in that state very long because we haven’t made ourselves available to it often enough. But if you just make yourself available, this awareness will come more and more often, and more and more deeply. Absolutely so!

There is another misconception about enlightenment also. Some people think that when they have had Dai Kensho, they are Buddha. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

This kind of thinking is an easy trap to fall into, however. When I started practicing Zen, I had so many problems. I was going to graduate school and it was very difficult for me. I have met people who are genuinely brilliant. They speak in complete paragraphs and in multiple languages. My teacher, Webb Roshi, speaks Japanese and reads Chinese. Just recently he came from Japan and sent me this little letter about his adventures there. He has been teaching at Bukkyo University. He’s so accomplished that it’s almost a little discouraging for me. On his trip, he met a Chinese person and they spoke all night about East Asian art and culture. It seems so easy for Webb. Meanwhile, I can barely speak in English a lot of the time.

So when I was going through my Zen practice as well as graduate school, often I felt inadequate. I would go to these graduate classes and I would have this tremendous sense of stress. And I would think to myself, “Boy oh boy, when I have Dai Kensho, no more stress.” And like anybody else, I was involved in a relationship with my wife that was difficult at first. I had, and have, a lot of personal baggage. Usually both the people in a relationship have this sort of baggage. My father was a very difficult person and a very unhappy man, and he left his mark on my mind. My wife’s mother was a very unhappy woman and she left her mark on my wife’s mind. Of course, you can’t always be aware of these influences. These strange impulses simply sweep over you and then you are full of remorse and self-doubt. So I’d think, when I have Dai Kensho, no more interpersonal problems. When I have Dai Kensho, I’ll be Buddha. That is not so!

If you practice wholeheartedly, you will have Dai Kensho. You will. But after Dai Kensho you are not Buddha yet. Be careful of anybody who thinks they are. If anybody ever tells you, “I have eliminated all mental and karmic obstacles,” just listen politely, look for the door, and run away and never, never come back. This is very important because you will meet people who will make these claims and they are totally false. The Buddha was rather remarkable in that he achieved anuttara samyak sambodhi, that is, enlightenment without any karmic remainder! No anger – no fear! After his great awakening, no fear and no anger.

After awakening, the Buddha was just pure compassion! That's our goal as well, to become pure compassion. If you want to have a goal in your Zen practice, that is a worthy one. Pure loving kindness! Pure compassion! No fear or anger. Even after Dai Kensho, however, all human beings in the world today have residual fear, residual anger, residual lust and envy. There is no human being today for whom that is not true. And if someone believes that he or she is completely free from all obstacles, that person is still blocking and not facing reality clearly, the reality of himself or herself. The person who is deeply awake should be comfortable with the fact that he or she still has imperfections. After Dai Kensho, you spend the rest of your life working with those imperfections, clearing away the remaining karmic obstacles.

Once you see the remaining obstacles in yourself, that insight should go hand in hand with another recognition. Even after your Great Awakening, this world can be a very screwed-up place. Everywhere we look we see the suffering of others, and we have to do something about it. In fact, our liberation is completely bound up with an obligation to help other people with their problems. That's compassion, after all. Before and after Dai Kensho, it is these problems that keep us moving us toward Buddhahood, and they keep everyone else moving in the same direction as well.

Now, you will sometimes meet people who have had Great Awakening. They have received their Dharma Transmission, if that is what they are interested in, and then they say, “Well, I’m done. I'm finished with my practice. ” Usually those people don’t turn out very well. They often become very self-indulgent people. It is important to realize the bigger picture and say, “I understand the importance of waking up but I have a long away to go before I become Buddha.” The goal is not Dai Kensho, the goal is Buddhahood. The goal is to become an awakened being who is completely compassionate! From a Buddhist standpoint it takes many, many lifetimes to achieve that goal. According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha had already achieved Dai Kensho in his previous life before he was born as the Buddha. He was already ethically faultless! So it takes a long time. Just keep practicing.

There is yet another illusion about practice that I want to talk about. Some people say, “If everything and everyone is Buddha, then why do I have to practice?” Well, the short answer is, “Stop practicing and see how you feel.” If you feel better, don’t come back. If you do indeed feel better, however, your experience will have been very different from mine because I too stopped practicing at one time. I didn’t feel good at all, and I came back to practice and thought, “I’m so glad that this path exists.” That’s the short answer.

Right now there are a few famous teachers in the U.S who go around saying, “You don’t even have to do zazen because you are already Buddha. And if you sit on the cushion, and you try to be Buddha, you are creating a mental barrier. You are dividing yourself from the world.” You will hear this line from some famous meditation teachers. My feeling is that these people don’t understand what enlightenment means. If everything is Buddha, you can’t create an obstacle by sitting on the cushion. You can’t. Everything is already Buddha! When you sit on the cushion, you are simply recognizing your inherent Buddha nature. The person who thinks that sitting on the cushion will divide him or her from the world is already living in a divided world. Another way to think about this is that we are really not practicing because we want to wake up. We are practicing because the enlightened part of ourselves is expressing itself. We practice because our true selves told us to practice.

On occasion, there is a voice inside of you that tells you to do something. Sometimes you don’t do it, but sometimes you do it and then you feel very good. Right? We Zen people try to find that voice in ourselves. We Zen people know that the deepest decisions of our lives don’t get made rationally. Suppose the question is “What should I do? Shall I marry this person or not?” To answer such a question you could make a mental checklist of pluses and minuses, but that is not how most sane people decide to marry someone. Instead, you should go deep into yourself and then you will know what to do. And if you do what the deep part of yourself tells you, you will have real joy, real clarity. Lan tian hsin!

The same is true for Zen practice. Even though you might have pain in your knees or in your back or wherever else you have it, some part of yourself has already told you to do this zazen. That is your enlightened mind. By doing it, you will probably feel much better.

However, sometimes the deepest part of ourselves gives us instructions that we don’t particularly want, and this is a big problem. Sometimes the enlightened part of our mind says, “Do this!” and the small mind says, “Are you crazy?” I have a friend of mine who was offered a job at the Princeton University. He teaches here at Rutgers University. He is one of these geniuses I was referring to earlier in the talk. Periodically, Princeton sends over enticements to talented people at Rutgers: “Come on over. You will get more salary, more respect.” But my friend never goes. It is a mystery to people why he doesn’t take the bait. Princeton is much more prestigious. But he knows the voice of his True Nature. He loves it over here. He feels connected over here. He is being true to his True Nature. Some people might hear of his case and say, “That is really strange. He is turning down the perfect job. Princeton is the number one! What could be wrong with this guy?” And yet, he’s made the right decision.

I have been talking for too long and people are squirming on their cushions. My basic point is that you are doing what your True Nature told you to do. And that is already Dai Kensho! That is already enlightenment.

Yangshan pointed to a snow lion and said, “Is there any that can go beyond this color?”
Yunmen said, “At that point, I’d push it over for him.”
Xuedou said,“He only knows how to push down, He doesn’t know how to help up.”

One way to think of enlightenment is that it is very distant from everything around us. Snow is the absence of all color. The absence of all form! It is like a blank white sheet. But actually, all of these experiences--seeing a beautiful tree, listening to a bird, eating a good meal--all of these are Buddha moments. At such moments, your heart is free. Joy and compassion arise. These are the two sides of the same enlightened mind, the formless and the form. Both are Buddha, as you'll see if you just keep practicing.


One knocks down, one sets up –

Mu is one aspect: in it there is no sound. The sound of birds is the other aspect. In Mu there is no taste. But the other aspect is delicious soba noodles. Two aspects of the same Buddha nature! If you practce long enough, they become the same.

Careful about transgression, he holds benevolence in his heart.
Courageous in action, he sees his duty.
Pure light shining in the eyes is like being lost from home

“Pure light shining in the eyes” is looking at one aspect of reality, Mu hsin.

Turning around in clear purity is after all to fall into that state.
Patchwork mendicants have ultimately nothing to rely on:

Wherever you are that’s Buddha!

Dying the same, born the same, which is ‘this’, and which ‘that’?
News of warmth bursts the plum – spring comes to the cold branches.
A freezing gale makes the leaves drop - autumn clarifies the run off water.

Spring is Buddha. Fall is Buddha. That’s the other aspect, Buddha as form.

Today all of you listened to your True Nature, your enlightened mind, and you came here to sit together. Consciously, you might have no idea why you did it. And you might think, “I've had another sit in which I did not achieve enlightenment.” That’s not so. You have been sitting face to face with perfection. If you didn’t feel it yet – just keep going!