Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha - Stephen Mitchell

This is by far the most fascinating book I have read. It is a compilation of 100 short conversations, discussions with Korean Zen master Seung Sahn. The conversations make no sense to the thinking and organised mind but you know intuitively that there's something very interesting going on. The Zen practice of not being attached to name or form, situation or circumstance, and to actually stay in a clear, before-thinking mind, leads to highly amusing yet powerful conversations. And to cap it all, to cut off thinking the Zen master poses a touch question and says he will hit you thirty times if you say 'yes' and thirty times if you say 'no'. Or will hit the floor, or will shout loudly KATZ! Or say - Put it all down.

And you're back in a state where your inside and the outside are one.

Buddha is ashes and the ashes are Buddha. Nothing is right or wrong, holy or unholy. Detach from name, form, opinion, condition. That said be aware that you can be attached to emptiness and to form.   

The Zen mind is when the outside and the inside are one. Nature has no opposites. To the don't know mind, all opposites are the same. Name and form are made by thinking. If you detach all substances are the same. Substance has no form. Thinking is suffering. Without thinking all things are exactly as they are. Man's discriminating thoughts build up a great thought-mass in his mind and this is what he mistakenly regards as his real self. Zen dissolves this. His teachings are about curing words and speech with word-and-speech medicine. Which is why its so complex - so simple.

When you detach your mind before thinking, it's just 'like this'. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. But in the end form is form and emptiness is emptiness.   

For example he asks - this stick, its sound and the mind, are they all the same?

KATZ, he says in reply, spring comes and the grows grows by itself.

Zen as a circle

He explains Zen as a circle - from 0 degrees to 90 degrees you are thinking and attached to thinking, all things are separated into opposites. Thinking is desire and desire is suffering

At 90 the mind is one of consciousness and karma
at 180 there is not thinking, true emptiness, but you are  attached to emptiness
at 270 you can achieve magic and miracles with no hindrance of space and time, but you are attached to freedom
at 360 you have attained the Big I, there's no attachment to thinking (when you drive, just drive)

Thinking is OK, don't worry about it.If you're not upset by your thinking mind, then its not difficult to keep don't know mind. 

If you keep Great Faith, Great Courage and Great Questions, you will become enlightened. Great faith i when you experience true emptiness - you will attain your true situation, your true condition and true opinions. Great courage is bringing all your energy to one part. Great questioning is one mind.

Zen mind means always and everywhere believing in myself, Vow to become Buddha and save all people. If you keep the mind big, the whole universe fits in your mind. The Bodhisattva is yourself. Your true self is big. 

Keep your mind as if you're already dead. Craziness is good. Crazy people are happy.

Some kong-ans

If all things are one, where does he one return?

The spring geese are flying north.

Where was I before I was born and where will I be after I die?

Who is the master of this body and where does he reside?

Originally everything was empty so where does spring come from?

The real Buddha has no name and form. How can Buddha be smiling?

Buddha is three pounds of flax.

The mouse eats cat-food but the cat bowl is broken.

A kong-an is like a finger pointing to the moon. If you get attached to your finger, you cannot see the moon.

True freedom is not rebelling. Its is freedom from thinking, from attachment, from life and death.

Why are you running away from yourself and seeking things from the outside? What is important is one moment of clear mind.

The 5 types of Zen

Zen is meditation.
1) Outer Path Zen includes many types of meditation (Transcendental Meditation, Divine Light etc)
2) Common People's Zen is concentration meditation, dharma play meditation, sports, tea ceremony meditation, ritual meditation
3) Hinayana meditation is insight into impermanence, imurity and non-self
4) Mahayana meditation is insight into existence and non-existence of the nature of the dharmas, true aspect of all phenomena, middle way etc
5) Utmost Vehicle Zen - Theoretical Zen (intellectual understanding of Zen), Tathagata Zen (attainment of emptiness and unity of mind) and Patriarchal Zen ('like this' Zen, a relaxed mind, infinite time and space)

A baby is not attached to the question, we are.

Three things are important while chanting the mantra
1) your reason for doing the mantra
2) strong faith that the mantra works
3) constant practice

When you think death, you make death. When you think life, you make life. When you are not thinking there is no life and death.

Everything is good (drugs, sex) but getting attached to them is no good.

Use your life, your natural style or business style, to teach people the true way. Your disciple should not be dependent on the teacher.

Samadhi is one mind. Enlightenment is only like this 

 Small love is opposite love, attachment love, desire love. Big love is absolute love, freedom. True freedom means true love. 

In true nature all things neither appear nor disappear. All things that appear are transient. If you are attached to name and form, all things appear and disappear.

Good and bad are both your teachers. Kill your small I, kill yourself. And then thee will be no hindrance. Your mind is very strong but your 'self'is attached to it. Cut off the strong mind,the strong I.

The Big I is when the outside and the inside become one. You don't lose yourself when outside conditions change.. There are three stages - losing your mind, keeping your mind and clear mind. First enlightenment, Original enlightenment and Final enlightenment.

There is a wonderful piece - a conversation between a Swami and the Zen Master. The Swami talks of purpose, knowledge, of teaching and the Zen Master actually practices his no mind living.Its a fascinating dialogue. Funny and profound. They part happily.

And in the end there is this when a student asks 'what is love?'

The Master asks in return - I ask you. What is love?

There is silence.

This is love he says. You ask me. I ask you. This is love.


Absolutely fascinating to read. I used the practice a bit and found it eased my mind in a 'thinking storm'. More practice would surely help. Less said the better now. Practice. 

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