Q: Why do I have such a problem realizing pure Mind? I understand what you are saying. But I just can’t do it, if that makes any sense.
A: One major problem is that we expect to perceive something—something determinate. Maybe something subjective. But pure Mind, if we are stalking it as a perceiver, will always elude us. Not that it isn’t ultimately real (it sure is) but being a perceiver means that we have certain expectations of what pure Mind is and how to find it. A lot of Zennists, for example, think pure Mind is awareness or the awareness of awareness. But they are dead wrong. Awareness isn’t a substance or essence, pure Mind is. This essence is what the perceiver is made of, including the world out there he perceives. The two together make up vijñâna or consciousness which the Buddha tells us is like a magician’s creation. Yep! We are mesmerized by this magician’s creation. We can’t shake off the spell.
Q: Well, yeah. I try sometimes to see who is thinking or what my original face was before my parents had me. The perceiver—me—is looking but he isn’t finding anything like pure Mind. He definately has his opinions and expectations about what he will find. He thinks doing a lot of zazen will help. But just sitting seems like a dead-end. It’s really disheartening. So this perceiver—me—is the major problem. But how do I dump him?
A: What you are really asking me is how do I dump the magician’s spell in which the perceiver and the perceived world are integral parts of the spell. You can see how the idea of awakening is very important. In such a spell we have to awaken if we want to stand in the presence of pure Mind. That is the only way we get out of the spell. Somehow we have to transcend the bespelled perceiver and the world he perceives if only for a finger snap. But there is even more to this. We have to keep in mind that the perceiver is strong and stubborn. He is not going to give up until he has thoroughly exhausted every idea he has about pure Mind. Let me say that the process of seeking pure Mind weakens the perceiver. It’s supposed to. Then he is ripe for the picking. One well timed whack across the head should do it, or in Hakuin’s case the churr of a cricket. The whack or the cricket churr make us wake up. No more spell.
Q: Does this mean we shouldn’t read Huang-Po’s sermons or Sutras because they fill us with wrong ideas?
A: No. We should study the words of great Zen masters. Their words will frustrate us even more. Their words are like drinking poison to kill off the bespelled perceiver. They keep giving us hints—beautiful hints. Sometimes we almost wake up but then fall back into the spell. Next, things start to get real frustraiting for us. We start to feel real stupid. Here is this wonderful pure Mind that Zen masters keep talking about and demonstrating with their crazy antics—and we—the idiots—don’t get it!
Q: Didn’t you eventually come to your wit’s end?
A: I sure did! Already I was trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea. I had such hope that my retreat would help me to awaken and escape my predicament. But the more I read the sermons of the Zen masters and read the discourses of the Buddha the more frustrated I became. I was really searching hard, too, for the illusive ox but coming up empty even though I had a good description of him from the Zen masters—or at least I imagined I did. What a joke that was. Let me say, you have to come to your wit’s end. Who wits is it but the perceiver’s. It’s sure as hell not pure Mind’s problem or wits. It’s like you have your left hand holding a door firmly shut and the other hand on the doorknob trying desperately to open the door. So you have to exhaust this wild man—you see? Hopefully he will collapse. Then the breeze opens the door. How wild is that?
Q: I have to laugh. I saw myself holding the door shut also trying to open it. I think I see what you mean. The perceiver and his world are like a dream. It does no good to dream about pure Mind, falling into a spell which is what we are really doing. I think maybe this is why I love koans, they sort of interfere with the spell I am in. I can’t get comfortable with them like, “Oh yeah, that’s the answer.” It’s more like “What the fuck?” I seem to almost wake up at times then I fall back into the spell. Any advice?
A: Hold the door closed with all your might then try to open it at the same time with all your might.