The Gateless Gate, Case 30

The Case: A monk asked Baso, "What is Buddha?"

Baso said, "This very mind is Buddha"

Commentary: Baso's 'Mind is Buddha' has been persistently misunderstood. People might think there is a special state of mind free from delusion, or a mind realm of Buddha, or that mind is true reality, or similar, but they are mistaken.

Baso said "This very mind". That is: your mind now, your experience now, but unconstellated by the self, not stained by attachment or aversion. When we sit, we wobble between self and buddha.

The crucial issue is not what is true and what is false, but how we live.

Picture vigorous fish in the ocean: they might want to see the water clearly but they can't: their activity blurs and distorts it. But this same activity is the ocean's life. It is nowhere else.


The Gateless Gate, Case 37

The Case:

A monk asked Joshu: "Why did Bodhidharma come from the West?"

Joshu said "The cypress tree in the courtyard"

Commentary: The standard interpretation of this koan is that the questioner was caught by language. He thought the tree was an objective thing. He couldn't see the being- ness of the tree, and so he couldn't see the dynamic being- ness of everything.

But there is something else hidden in there. In our usual way of thinking,  Bodhidharma travelled from India to China. The tree didn't move at all. Likewise, we may act as if we are the subject and the world is the object; we are active and 'things' are passive.

If we look at a clutch of trees, we can often see the oldest tree, then, a little distance away, another tree, derived from the first, and so on. The tree is walking through time. We don't see it, the tree doesn't see it, but it's there.

The path is walking and we are walking. Everything is expressing and exerting itself, together.


We practice within a deep faith that we exist within a dynamic whole, that we are part of everything. Part of everything.

That being so, it doesn't matter if our mind is empty or full, quiet or busy. Whatever arises is part of this wholeness too. What we call delusion is asking to be seen, to be understood, to be ungrasped by our attachment and aversion, not eradicated, not cast into nothingness.


The Gateless Gate, Case 1

The case: A monk asked Joshu "Does a dog have Buddha nature?"

Joshu said "Mu" (no)

Commentary: There is an assumption buried within the question, which isn't immediately obvious. But consider: why didn't the monk ask " Does Buddha nature have the dog?" " Does Buddha nature have you?", "Is Buddha nature all of creation?", or similar?

He did not because he assumed that the aim of spiritual life is the enhancement and enlightenment of the self, the steady or sudden uncovering of a jewel within us.

This colossal mistake is endemic. We need to understand that the aim of practice isn't the liberation of the self from the world, but the liberation of the world - all of it - from the self. Enlightenment is universal, not personal.

We are like snow falling


The Gateless Gate, Case 5

The case:  Hsiang- yen said: "It is just as though you were up a tree, hanging from a branch with your teeth. Your hands and feet can't touch any branch. Someone appears beneath the tree and asks, "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the West?" If you do not answer, you evade your responsibility. If you do answer, you lose your life. What do you do?"


How many are in this story: two, one, or many?

Sometimes, when we sit, we feel completely concentrated and unified. Like the man holding onto the branch with his teeth, our complete effort in this moment occupies the whole space.

Then, it is as if, from within our experience someone, someone just like us, asks a question, makes a statement, or something similar. It is as if we are suddenly divided. Do we ignore it? Do we engage with it? Either way, we appear to fall into duality.

We need to understand that just as the man holding onto the branch is making a complete effort, just as the branch and the tree are making a complete effort, so the questioner is making a complete effort, entirely expressing his nature. We imagine a response is called for, but we are mistaken.

Likewise with delusion.

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