The term pure Mind refers to the One Mind free of adventitious defilements which includes karmic activity. In addition, we can think of pure Mind as Mind free from being stirred or agitated, that is, mind no longer modified. In this respect, it is absolutely unchanged, Mind being rightly substance or essence.
Most Buddhists can’t wrap their head around this—not even the most basic understanding. Yet, the sermons of the old Zen masters point to it as do the various koan compilations which causes the normal intellect to go into a kind of paralysis. While we can imagine what this pure Mind might be like or what it might be like to awaken to it, actually awakening to this Mind is unimaginable. We are sure that it is at once simple and profound which makes the sermons and koans that much more paradoxical.
To get to having a most basic understanding of pure Mind we need look no further than our own everyday thoughts. It lies hidden there in a most sublime way, defying all of our attempts to see it. Before our mind’s eye there seems to be nothing else to see than our ordinary thoughts coming and going; arising and perishing. Frustrated by this, which is really saying our intellect has been denied access, we re-read koan compilations like the Mumonkan, for example, which we soon discover is little more than koans within koans within koans.
In this confusion, it never dawns on us that these troubling koans are solved only if we unlock the mystery of pure Mind (or unborn Mind, etc.). In fact, as I have mentioned in other blogs koans were composed with this Mind in view. Koans, let me add, depend on the pure Mind. The pure Mind doesn’t depend on koans. This leads me to say that the most important thing we can do is to search for the pure Mind within our ordinary, everyday mind. The need to answer koans is not all that important. They are answered by first realizing pure Mind; by no other means.