The Eternal State ~ Advaita Nonduality

19 nov 08 - silence mind - a zen talk

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A Zen Talk
Silence Mind and Disturbance Mind

Because when we do Zen we sit quietly, some imagine we are supposed to be silent inside too. For most people, because they begin their Zen practice with this misunderstanding, they find the practice difficult. But for someone who understands the practice correctly, they don't get caught in silence or disturbance; they just go directly to their awakened nature”.

Even existing dharmas must be discarded,
So how can we cling to Dharmas which don't exist!
Ah ha! Futilely the Ancients busily pursued
enlightenment, then departed.
The countenance, existing of its own accord
I wonder who named it buddha or sentient being?
Even one true Dharma cannot survive.
Outside the window, the cherry tree
is singing this news.

Venerable Hyunoong Sunim
Sixth Patriarch Zen Center
, Berkeley (Sixth Patriarch is Hui Neng)

"Silence mind" is not Zen. If we abide in silence mind, it soon breaks. Trying to stay in this mind of silence can be a source of confusion or disturbance. When we do Zen, the appearance is that we are supposed to be silent. Zen is the mind where both silence and disturbance is cut off. So from the outside it might look like silence but on the inside of someone doing Zen, its not silence either. We have to know this in order to practice correctly.

Because when we do Zen we sit quietly, some imagine we are supposed to be silent inside too. For most people, because they begin their Zen practice with this misunderstanding, they find the practice difficult. But for someone who understands the practice correctly, they don't get caught in silence or disturbance; so they just go directly to their awakened nature. This Zen nature is referred to as "miraculous awareness".

This awareness exists in each one of us. But because we are attached to ideas of silence and disturbance, our mind goes back and forth between being silent, being complex, being silent, being disturbed.

The existence of silence means there can also be existence of disturbance. Disturbance has the characteristic by which it can become silent. In both of these, there is no awakening. Awakening can be within silence or disturbance but it is not in one or the other. Without even realizing it, we have this idea we have to achieve silence or get rid of this complexity in our mind. This process that we go through of trying to bring our mind from complexities into silence may seem to us as though that is what we are supposed to be doing to do Zen, but this is like trying to walk the path with only one foot. This approach is unstable and unsettled.

We have to have a kind of faith. If we have this faith, then even if our meditation doesn't go well now, it can still be the seed for it to go well in the future. Before we awaken, until we awaken, we need to be careful about incorrect assumptions. All of us in our ordinary life are always having realizations. Because these realizations come up very momentarily and disappear again, we don't notice and make use of the window they give us. These opportunities flash by in one hundred thousandth of a second. Because of our habits of making judgments or forming opinions, these opportunities flash by, unused. For example we can know that we're hungry or tired and when we hurt somewhere, we know that we hurt. We can know things without any time involved. This is called the seed of our awakened nature. There isn't anyone alive who doesn't have this.

We obscure our self and then go searching for our self. When we are searching, the arrow has already left the bow. If we want to do Zen, thinking and knowledge needs to be cut off. To think a mind of silence will be helpful to awakening is mistaken.

We do need the environment of silence, because the ordinary mind is confusing. Its very difficult for us to make the distinction between what is correct and incorrect thinking. In the midst of silence we can become aware of when our thoughts arise. Then we can see that the silence itself is not actually our Zen nature.

If we have incorrect beliefs about our practice, we will constantly feel a sense of thirst. If we can realize this correctly, right underneath that is this mind of miraculous awareness. So even though that miraculous awareness is there, if we try to grasp it, its ungraspable. If we try to see it, we obscure it. We can't figure it out through our human thinking because when we try to grasp or see it, the person trying to grasp or see it is the one we are trying to see. So we tend to make the same mistake.

These words are very simple but only when we can really understand this can we become more distant from the complexities of our mind. If we can experience this, we'll find that whether things outside us are noisy or quiet, it really doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if we are sitting or standing, because truth is there either way. Its there when we talk, its here, there, everywhere. When we feel it is nowhere, its because our own mind is obscured and that makes us feel as though that awakening is somewhere else.

If we can realize its simply being obscured by extraneous things, these obscurations are automatically released, they disappear. When your light functions without hindrance you can see everyday truth, everyday Zen, see everywhere, into silence, into disturbance. The only reason we can't see is the conceptual or "utility" mind obscures our true mind.

The mysterious nature that is functioning endlessly is within us. So we can't talk about HOW it is, whether its like this or that. If we talk about how large it is, it is very large. If we talk about how small it is, its extremely small. According to the person who's experienced it they might describe it one way or the other, but it can't be realized through these descriptions. It can never be described through words or in books. You will not continue suffering by holding onto things you experienced long ago. You have to experience it for yourself. When you experience it, you will understand these words and you will no longer hold conceptions about it or want to know something about it.

You'll see that it is endlessly mysterious. Truth is not something you can run away from. Even if you try to run away from it, its still truth. So, searching for it is a very foolish thing. What this is, is something to which we can awaken. To awaken to it we must first look back at ourselves and see what within us is obscuring it. We come to not take those things which are obscuring it to be who we are.

Even if you don't have a direct experience of this, how you live your life is still a part of your practice. In any one moment, your body is alive, your energy is moving, your blood circulates; these things happen without any effort on your part. Look there, who is it who is doing that? Its not a question we can answer by thinking. Both our body and mind are mysterious. But we cling to useless, extraneous things these create complexities and confusion for our body. We keep creating worlds and realities that don't really exist but we continue to insist they do exist and then they shatter. When we create them it makes suffering and when they shatter its also suffering.

When we're young it takes little to make us feel happy and hopeful but as we get older, that energy becomes diminished, it starts to fade. When that hope we believed in starts to fade, this is when we start to have that feeling of wandering about our life.

In the Heart Sutra, it says there is no old age and the Teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha are precisely that of truth. Its not a matter of just looking at what was within the Buddha himself.

Individually, within each one of us we have this nature. If we come to awaken to this, we see the words of the Buddha were very true.

This is something which has great possibility. If it was something we didn't actually have our self and had to try to borrow from someplace else, then it would be difficult. Sometimes we just take a wrong step and all we have to do is realize that. As we continually realize these mistakes, one by one, our karma becomes lighter and our practice becomes easier.

The method for this practice is not thinking, neither is it holding onto silence. We need to realize that this is not the way to truth. Then we will find real freedom. It won't matter what comes along from outside us to obscure it. We will see that past, present and future are all connected with each other and I and others are one.

There is nothing there causing any obstruction. Because there is no obstruction, we are released and our limits disappear. Because our limitations have disappeared, our body and mind are very comfortable. When you are silent, don't look at it with your eyes and get stuck in silence. You have to look back at yourself and awaken. Then, everything is there, Buddha, God.

The ancient teachers used to say "if you see the Buddha, kill the Buddha" or "if you see the Patriarchs, kill the Patriarchs". These are frightening words but the words are said in order to help you experience the nature within yourself.

If you awaken to that you will have tremendous respect for the Buddha and Patriarchs and realize how fortunate it is that we have their teachings and you will start to feel that you also have to convey their teachings.

This is the tradition of passing the lamp, the transmission of the teachings from one to another. This is so precious and mysterious. The average person has no interest in it, but from my own life, view and experience, if we don't connect with this, then we have no direction. What we can obtain from the world is very temporary and not secure.

If we can have the mind of mind where we can write some poetry at old age or death, how much better that would be. This is the path of someone who practices Zen.

We have to really look to see if spiritual teachers have the real truth; if its their own truth, that's a cult. Its very easy for this to happen in
America, it creates confusion for individuals and the society.

When you cannot save yourself, you cannot save others. So, its important to awaken while we are still alive. If we listen to these words and practice according to them, then we will see it is exactly as the Buddha laid it out. He spoke about reality exactly as it really is.

When we can realize that, that's when we have such respect for the Buddha and we practice even more diligently. Because of the thankfulness for this practice, I want to spread this enlightenment around to suffering people, this kind of thought just comes up. And this is also the teaching of the Buddha. Buddha was not just talking about his own awakening, but that this awakening is endless, that we have to continually pass it on. Buddhist monks do this.

Even though we are beginning in a small place, as my own practice gets deeper and more diligent, I believe we can transmit to
America the deep and pure teachings of the Buddha. If a few Americans come forth with this pure awakening, then American culture will change so that Americans' eyes will turn to this; then more people can go beyond their own suffering. Americans will come to stop those habits which create suffering, and I feel that the time is coming for that to happen.

Incidentally, you must not be in a hurry to do this practice, because the sooner you can put to rest that mind that wants to hurry, the sooner you can awaken. If your mind is in a hurry, then it delays your practice even more. When you are feeling that you are in a hurry to awaken, just watch that and be aware of it. When you're aware of it, you can correct it; but this also means don't be lazy. Don't be lazy and don't be in a hurry.


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