The tendency to misread the words of teachers like Bodhidharma and other masters is especially great for the student who has yet to behold the pure Mind. In fact, this negative tendency (a part of the negative personality that doesn’t want to look beyond the mortal veil) assumes that Zen is speaking for our all-too-human mind, this being somehow related to the pure Mind or the same, the Buddha Mind.
It never fails that someone on any given day will say the ‘everyday mind’ or the ‘ordinary mind’ is the Buddha Mind. But this is certainly not what Zen master Huangbo would agree with when he said:
“This fundamentally pure Mind is always perfectly bright and uniformly radiant. People of the world are not enlightened and only recognize their perceptive faculties as mind. Since their [understanding] is obscured by their perceptive faculties, they therefore do not witness the pure and bright fundamental essence” (transl. McRae).
Over the years I am convinced that the average reader of Zen texts somehow blanks out their mind when it comes across terms like “pure Mind” “unborn Mind” “unconditioned Mind” etc. But when they see a term like “ordinary mind” or “everyday mind” that’s it! It is just my monkey mind filled with emotions, worries, mental images, internal dialogues that is the Buddha Mind.
Then someone might say to me, “Who are you to say that my ordinary mind is not the Buddha Mind?” This response for me shades off into Dogen’s understanding of Zen which is a kind of pantheism: the phenomenal, ever changing world is absolute. In other words, “Impermanence is Buddhahood.”
Marketing Zen in the West is always confusing since almost everyone is more or less guilty of misreading Zen, especially, trying to keep any and all interpretations within the ambit of who I am now and the world I live in. Mentioned earlier, this is the ‘negative personality’ which tries to maintain worldliness. As might be expected, it has no problem with recontextualizing Zen much the same way that Stephen Batchelor recontextualized Buddhism with his book, Buddhism Without Beliefs—yes, our all-too-human mind is the Buddha Mind. How nice. No real change required.