Monday, December 19, 2005

The Path in a pail of muddy water

Hui Neng, the 6th Patriach, said in his very first sermon:

"Our mind is by nature pure and enlightened;
With this very mind should we enter straight into Buddhahood."

What does a pail of muddy water got to do with the Dhamma? Lots. In fact that's all there is to it; if you can understand this simile, you don't need to learn anything else. Take a pail of muddy water. When you let the water come to rest, the mud will gradually settle to the bottom of the pail & the water will resume its original transparency. But if the water is disturbed, the transparency will again be lost. Similarly, our original mind always retains an inner transparency or luminosity, and if we learn to leave the mind undisturbed, the mind will regain its original transparency. Again, if we let the mind be disturbed by the presence of dual thoughts, the mind will lose its original transparency.

Our Buddha-nature is like the transparent nature of water. Our delusional mind is the muddy water itself; good thoughts, evil thoughts, emotions & concepts are like the mud. The goal of practicing Chan or Zen meditation is to attempt to let thought separate itself from the mind, in the same way that mud settles to the bottom of the pail, returning the water to its original transparent form. Once your mind return to its true essence, freed from all duality, one attains Nibbana. Such a mind will never be deluded or muddy again. This is the most direct path to enlightenment.

4 comments:

Jay said...

"Once your mind return to its true essence, freed from all duality, one attains Nibbana. Such a mind will never be deluded or muddy again. This is the most direct path to enlightenment."

Well said! It is said that arhats still have thoughts but they do not cling to them or deluded by them. Are they Buddha as well?

hoangkybactien said...

"The goal of practicing Chan or Zen meditation is to attempt to let thought separate itself from the mind, in the same way that mud settles to the bottom of the pail, returning the water to its original transparent form." -Wayne

===

Wayne, your use of a-pail-of-water as a finger pointing to the moon is good.

However, you still stumble on this suble point (see the citation quoted above) "let thought separate itself from the mind",

for thoughts is the manifestation of the mind. In other words, it is the mind in action. In good action or in bad action is another story.

Thoughts are like waves and mind is like the water that produces it. If water stands still, it produces no waves. But if the water is disturbed, waves will appear. So, waves cannot be separated from water.

Similarly, when the mind is in use, it manifests into thoughts, concepts, perceptions.... Otherwise, it is in bodhi state (for awaken beings, of course).

In other words, thoughts cannot be separated from mind!

If one does not want thoughts, then just simply stop thinking!

But the purpose of meditation is to go after the mind, not after the thoughts. And that is the whole purpose of "huatou" technique: What is it before word/thought arising?

hoangkybactien said...

"Once your mind return to its true essence, freed from all duality, one attains Nibbana. Such a mind will never be deluded or muddy again. This is the most direct path to enlightenment." -Wayne

===

Well, how about puting it this way:

Your mind, my mind, everybody's mind, and the buddha's mind are in essence the same. Neither smaller, nor larger. The essential different point is that the buddha's mind is very, very controllable; meaning he uses it at will, plus buddha also already repaid all of his karmic deeds; whereas we, ordinary men, still have infinite amount of karma to pay off, and our minds are still uncontrollable, meaning myriad thoughts keep gushing up like vocanoe even when we wish it to go away!

The point is: Nothing can polute our budha nature.

It is always there.

Maybe, it is obscured by our bad habit of clinging to thoughts. But once this bad habit is eradicated, one will be able to realize it.

***

"Well said! It is said that arhats still have thoughts but they do not cling to them or deluded by them. Are they Buddha as well?" -asked Jay

===

Arhats or any awakened beings are like Ph.D. candicates who have just finished their disertations and received their degrees. But they are still new in their professions and not so much experience as compared to their professors.

The point is: In buddhahood, there is no room for complacency!

Wayne Woo said...

Yes waves cannot be separated from the water in the same way that thoughts cannot be separated from the mind. However, if one cannot recognise thought as thought and mind as mind, then one will forever be deluded by thoughts. Or to put it in another way, we need to recognise the water first in order to see through the waves. This is essentially what I meant.