March 12, 2012

Master Wanshi: Reality - Cold and Thin

I have come across a text by Master Wanshi, a Chinese master who lived before master Dogen came to China. I've tried to comment and explain what this teacher had to say about the state of realisation.  Maybe you can first read the whole Wanshi's text in italics and later read my comments.  

Empty and desireless, cold and thin, simple and genuine, this is how to strike down and fold-up the remaining habits of many lives.

Although we might not believe in past lives, we may be  sure that our past lives are those lives of our grandfathers and grandmothers whose habits and genes we inherited when we were born. We were taught on the basis of generations to look for luck and happiness, wealth and love… but we were not taught to find the simplicity of truth. So here we are facing the habits of generations who were interested in secular pleasures and forgot to teach their children to find the truth in the simplicity of this moment. How to strike down, how to drop  the mistakes piled up by generations of our ancestors? When we let go of body and mind in the instant of the simplest action where nothing is obviously full and where there is no time for desire, we are cold and serene, just like the winter night sky, we are thin like the moonbeams without emotions, simple and true, and no one can deny the fact of this instant that is beyond intellectual reasoning. Even if this may sound like death or at least complete cynicism, it is this simple fact here and now from where caring and true love springs up. By being himself or herself quite simply and coldly in this moment, the person has saved others and himself or herself from “the remaining habits of many lives”.           

When the stains from old habits are exhausted, the original light appears, blazing through your skull, not admitting any other matters.

When we sincerely act in the present, our old habits give up and when we practice zazen here and now without seeking anything, our old habits give up, too. Both acting in our everyday life and sitting in zazen, which is a simple action, make us drop the old habits in favor of our true self. When all things are dropped, the fact in front of our eyes is clear, not dim anymore, not shaded by all kinds of intellectual notions. That is the original light, the original form of things and as the old person disappears, the fact is bright, so bright that it pushes away all ideas and concepts from our brain.        

Vast and spacious, like sky and water merging during Autumn, like snow and moon having the same colour, this field is without boundary, beyond direction, magnificently one entity without edge or seam. Further, when you turn within and drop off everything completely, realisation occurs. Right at the time of entirely dropping off, deliberation and discussion are one thousand or ten thousand miles away.

This field, this situation, this time, this space, this realm of the essential fact has no limits, it cannot be measured, it cannot be compared to other facts, it cannot be grasped and evaluated, it cannot be seen or heard or explained, it has to be something real, experienced beyond subject and object. It cannot be just yours or just mine, as the usual person disappears in this realm of no categories. This experience, this realization is possible when we drop off all our matters, habits, categories, knowledge, wishes or even wisdom. This dropping off all our matters which is the realization at the same time is not something we can think about, it is done in the instant of a wholehearted action. It is also done in the instant of sincere action of zazen. This is the realization of thousands of buddhas every day, in every country, in every street, every house, but only very rarely people notice the immense value of it. In Buddhism from the beginning to the end, both beginners and masters together study, learn and experience this simple realization through zazen, and everyday life actions. They all learn the limits of words, although we cannot do without them to explain their own limited value, and the unlimited value of reality that is beyond intellectual discussions and idealistic goals. 

Still no principle is discernible, so what could there be to point to or explain? People with the bottom of the bucket fallen out immediately find total trust. So we are told simply to realise mutual response and explore mutual response, then turn around and enter the world.

Yes, there are no principles in the truth, so it cannot be explained. But it can be explained why it cannot be explained. Furthermore, we can say to ourselves and others: Go and sit down, just be active in the present moment. People with „the bottom of the bucked fallen out“ are those who have dropped off their intellectual reasoning without trying to find something external. When we are just our original self, just here and now, beyond thought, the fact, reality is so clear that there is no room for doubt. Do you doubt when somebody punches you in your nose? Do you say: I am not sure whether someone has punched me or not? Although we are not sure what caused the universe to appear or which person is wiser or more stupid, we usually have no doubts about what we just experience here and now. So once you drop all your concepts and ideas, what is in front of you becomes that which is beyond speculation, and immediately you trust the simple fact here and now. The people who do not trust what is right here and now are still deeply lost in their intellectual space. They believe ideas but are afraid to believe what is here and now. They tend to treat ideas as if they were something real and when they encounter something real, they say, „it is just a concept“.  When we just sit down and practice zazen, we don‘t have to worry whether we believe reality or not, whether we have dropped our body and mind or not, instead just by sitting actively we automatically drop our body and mind and naturaly trust the simple fact of Buddhism without having to think about it or understand it. So our Buddhist teachers tell us to „simply realise mutual response and explore mutual response, then turn around and enter the world“. Master Wanshi probably means that we are told to act in the field where subject and object reflect each other, and  experience the state where subject and object reflect each other, in other words we enter the balanced state of subject and object, at the same time we should drop this dualism of subject and object and just enter reality. Nobody really follows these steps, but these several steps happen in one unbelievably short instant of this simple action. And these steps happen over and over again, as long as we act sincerely, beyond subject and object, beyond self and others.           

Roam and play in samadhi. Every detail clearly appears before you. Sound and form, echo and shadow, happen instantly without leaving traces.

„Roam and play in samadhi“. That sounds like we could flee into some heavenly Buddhist realms. But in fact the best kind of samadhi we can ever experience is the pleasure of flushing the toilet or opening the window to get some fresh air. After all, it is not so difficult to feel balanced, to let go of our personal problems here and now, it is the best samadhi there is and we should appreciate it as it was celebrated by hundreds of our Buddhist ancestors and practiced in zazen by them day after day. In this kind of samadhi, „every detail clearly appears before you“ -  the sound of the flushing is rather poetic (as long as you like the dim magic of Jim Jarmush’s films) and the scent of the early spring evening hits our nose directly. „Sound and form, echo and shadow, happen instantly without leaving traces.“ Just what is in front of us, no matter whether it seems nice or not, loud or quiet, close or distant, is exactly present and immeditaly and completely dodging our intention to label it with names and categories. When we try to grasp it intellectually, we only grasp a trace of it. But the traces of reality may serve as a kind of direction. Buddha discovered that which leaves no traces. So let’s discover that which Buddha discovered. After observing the traces of Buddha’s discovery by studying the Buddhist philosophy, we can ourselves sit down and practice that which leaves no traces and act that which leaves no traces.

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