The Mind of Emptiness

Life is too short. If you attain the mind of emptiness and formlessness, you will be free from the world of coming and going.

You can feel the frailness of your body now, even when you are healthy and strong. Try this: breathe in and out, gently and naturally; feel the breathing in and out; feel your whole body breathing; feel your whole body becoming one with the breath. Then you will see that your breath is so fragile and your body is so vulnerable.

The more you experience the bliss from meditation, the more you feel sorrowful for the plight of humankind.
Recalling the Buddha’s words saying that we have born and died countless times, you will feel grateful to countless parents, and will see all people around as your dear parents in past lives. Then you will feel your whole body deeply resonate with the Zen vow to save all sentient beings. How can we save others if we are not free yet?

Zen master Vien Chieu said that learners must attain the mind of emptiness and formlessness. Indeed, you will see that the mind essence is empty and formless. So all things in the world appear and disappear in the mind just like the clouds formed and dissolved in the sky, just like the images emerged and vanished in a mirror.

So all the forms you see, all the sounds your hear, all the odors you smell, all the flavors you taste, all the senses you feel, all the thoughts you have are changing swiftly. So nothing has a self. So all things come and go, governed by the principle of dependent arising. Realizing the mind essence will free you from the world of coming and going.

Buddha’s Zen

Zen is also a form of Buddism that emphasises the originally pure nature of the mind. Zen, more than anything else, is about reclaiming and expanding the present moment. Life exists in the present, or nowhere at all, and if you cannot grasp that you are simply living a fantasy.

Buddha said: “I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes. I observe treasures of gold and gems as so many bricks and pebbles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see myriad worlds of the universe as small seeds of fruit, and the greatest lake in India as a drop of oil on my foot. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusion of magicians.”

And Buddha also said: “I discern the highest conception of emancipation as a golden brocade in a dream, and view the holy path of the illuminated ones as flowers appearing in one’s eyes. I see meditation as a pillar of a mountain, Nirvana as a nightmare of daytime. I look upon the judgment of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of a dragon, and the rise and fall of beliefs as but traces left by the four seasons.”

Tosui’s Vinegar

To live in non-attachment means that we recognize there was never anything to attach or cling to in the first place. And for those who can truly recognize this, it is indeed a position of joyfulness.

Tosui was the Zen master who left the formalism of temples to live under a bridge with beggars. When he was getting very old, a friend helped him to earn his living without begging. He showed Tosui how to collect rice and manufacture vinegar from it, and Tosui did this until he passed away.

While Tosui was making vinegar, one of the beggars gave him a picture of the Buddha. Tosui hung it on the wall of his hut and put a sign beside it. The sign read:

“Mr. Amida Buddha: This little room is quite narrow. I can let you remain as a transient. But don’t think I am asking you to help me to be reborn in your paradise.”

Non-Attachment

Attachments were always around us and within us. Thus, the problem was we can be accepted them or determined how to abandon.

Kitano Gempo, abbot of Eihei temple, was ninety-two years old when he passed away in the year 1933. He endeavored his whole life not to be attached to anything. As a wandering mendicant when he was twenty he happened to meet a traveler who smoked tobacco. As they walked together down a mountain road, they stopped under a tree to rest. The traveler offered Kitano a smoke, which he accepted, as he was very hungry at the time.

“How pleasant this smoking is,” he commented. The other gave him an extra pipe and tobacco and they parted.

Kitano felt: “Such pleasant things may disturb meditation. Before this goes too far, I will stop now.” So he threw the smoking outfit away.

When he was twenty-three years old he studied I-King, the profoundest doctrine of the universe. It was winter at the time and he needed some heavy clothes. He wrote his teacher, who lived a hundred miles away, telling him of his need, and gave the letter to a traveler to deliver. Almost the whole winter passed and neither answer nor clothes arrived. So Kitano resorted to the prescience of I-King, which also teaches the art of divination, to determine whether or not his letter had miscarried. He found that this had been the case. A letter afterwards from his teacher made no mention of clothes.

“If I perform such accurate determinative work with I-King, I may neglect my meditation,” felt Kitano. So he gave up this marvelous teaching, and never resorted to its powers again.

When he was twenty-eight he studied Chinese calligraphy and poetry. He grew so skillful in these arts that his teacher praised him. Kitano mused: “If I don’t stop now, I’ll be a poet, not a Zen teacher.” So he never wrote another poem.

Midnight Excursion

He was aghast when the wanderer returned, but with immense love from his zen master Sengai, he turned into a great respect to his teacher. To be respected always have a  power that can be transformed much better than feared

Many pupils were studying meditation under the Zen master Sengai. One of them used to arise at night, climb over the temple wall, and go to town on a pleasure jaunt.

Sengai, inspecting the dormitory quarters, found this pupil missing one night and also discovered the high stool he had used to scale the wall. Sengai removed the stool and stood there in its place.

When the wanderer returned, not knowing that Sengai was the stool, he put his feet on the master’s head and jumped down into the grounds. Discovering what he had done, he was aghast.

Sengai said: “It is very chilly in the early morning. Do be careful not to catch cold yourself.”

The pupil never went out at night again.

True Friends

Signs of a Genuine Friendship is perfect understanding and they really listen.

A long time ago in China there were two friends, one who played the harp skillfully and one who listened skillfully.

When the one played or sang about a mountain, the other would say: “I can see the mountain before us.”

When the one played about water, the listener would exclaim: “Here is the running stream!”

But the listener fell sick and died. The first friend cut the strings of his harp and never played again. Since that time the cutting of harp strings has always been a sign of intimate friendship.

Just Go To Sleep

We all us turn round and round everyday in foolish questions. But, there is something lovely in foolish question from Zen master and quoted in this story when Gasan answered loudly: “Don’t ask such foolish questions. Just go to sleep.”

Gasan was sitting at the bedside of Tekisui three days before his teacher’s passing. Tekisui had already chosen him as his successor.

A temple recently had burned and Gasan was busy rebuilding the structure. Tekisui asked him: “What are you going to do when you get the temple rebuilt?”

“When your sickness is over we want you to speak there,” said Gasan.

“Suppose I do not live until then?”

“Then we will get someone else,” replied Gasan.

“Suppose you cannot find anyone?” continued Tekisui.

Gasan answered loudly: “Don’t ask such foolish questions. Just go to sleep.”

Real Prosperity

If whole life prepared to meet death, the death were good !

A rich man asked Sengai to write something for the continued prosperity of his family so that it might be treasured from generation to generation.

Sengai obtained a large sheet of paper and wrote: “Father dies, son dies, grandson dies.”

The rich man became angry. “I asked you to write something for the happiness of my family. Why do you make such a joke as this?”

“No joke is intended,” explained Sengai. “If before you yourself die your son should die, this would grieve you greatly. If your grandson should pass away before your son, both of you would be broken-hearted. If your family, generation after generation, passes away in the order I have named, it will be the natural course of life. I call this real prosperity.”

True Reformation

Love – Buddha taught: “Love is the only way to destroy hatred. Hatred cannot be defeated  with more hatred”.

Ryokan devoted his life to the study of Zen. One day he heard that his nephew, despite the admonitions of relatives, was spending his money on a courtesan. Inasmuch as the nephew had taken Ryokan’s place in managing the family estate and the property was in danger of being dissipated, the relatives asked Ryokan to do something about it.

Ryokan had to travel a long way to visit his nephew, whom he had not seen for many years. The nephew seemed pleased to meet his uncle again and invited him to remain overnight.

All night Ryokan sat in meditation. As he was departing in the morning he said to the young man: “I must be getting old, my hand shakes so. Will you help me tie the string of my straw sandal?”

The nephew helped him willingly. “‘Thank you,” finished Ryokan, “you see, a man becomes older and feebler day by day. Take good care of yourself.” Then Ryokan left, never mentioning a word about the courtesan or the complaints of the relatives. But, from that morning on, the dissipations of the nephew ended.