Get out of your head, stupid!

27. “Q: What is the Way and how must it be followed?

A: What sort of THING do you suppose the Way to be, that you should wish to FOLLOW it?

Q: What instructions have the Masters everywhere given for dhyana-practice and the study of the Dharma?

A: Words used to attract the dull of wit are not to be relied on.

Q: If those teachings were meant for the dull-witted, I have yet to hear what Dharma has been taught to those of really high capacity.

A: If they are really men of high capacity, where could they find people to follow? If they seek from within themselves, they will find nothing tangible; how much less can they find a Dharma worthy of their attention elsewhere! Do not look to what is called the Dharma by preachers, for what sort of Dharma could that be?

Q: If that is so, should we not seek for anything at all?

A: By conceding this, you would save yourself a lot of mental effort.

Q: But in this way everything would be eliminated. There cannot just be nothing.

A: Who called it nothing? Who was this fellow? But you wanted to SEEK for something.

Q: Since there is no need to seek, why do you also say that not everything is eliminated?

A: Not to seek is to rest tranquil. Who told you to eliminate anything? Look at the void in front of your eyes. How can you produce it or eliminate it?

Q: If I could reach this Dharma, would it be like the void?

A: Morning and night I have explained to you that the Void is both One and Manifold. I said this as a temporary expedient, but you are building up concepts from it.

Q: Do you mean that we should not form concepts as human beings normally do?

A: I have not prevented you; but concepts are related to the senses; and, when feeling takes place, wisdom is shut out.

Q: Then should we avoid any feeling in relation to the Dharma?

A: Where no feeling arises, who can say that you are right?

Q: Why do you speak as though I was mistaken in all the questions I have asked Your Reverence?

A: You are a man who doesn’t understand what is said to him. What is all this about being mistaken?”1 

1 Huang Po is obviously trying to help his questioner break away from the habit of thinking in terms of concepts and logical categories. To do this, he is obliged to make his questioner seem wrong, whatever he asks. We are reminded of the Buddha who, when questioned about such things as existence and non-existence, would reply: ‘Not this, not this.’

We suddenly come to a dialog-format that will constitute the bulk of the forthcoming Wan Ling Record. These are mini dharma-sessions between the Master and his pupils. This opener appears to be coming fresh off the heels of what we’ve been covering thus far…it’s as if the pupil-questioner had been listening to a huge seminar hosted by Huang Po. This gives us a taste of whether or not what the Master had been teaching has taken root or not in the thick-heads of his disciples. “What is the Way and how can it be followed?” Well, right off the bat it seems that it’s going to take a while before it all sinks in. The Master replies by assuring his questioner that the Way is certainly no form of “objective thing” to be followed; also, the “teachings” that hopefully will shed some light of the Way are also not formalized “words” bearing any merit to awaken any dim-witted or even erudite adepts; the Buddhadharma is a wordless affair and is not conveyed simply through the articulate-eloquence of the best of preachers. The disciple responds to all this thinking, “Well, what’s the use of seeking—should we just cease doing it???” Huang Po’s answer is classic in its simplicity, “Right, if you just cease from conceptualizations altogether, it will save you from a lot of trouble and mental anguish.” The adept, though, still gets himself into deeper conceptual waters, “You’re trying to eliminate everything! There just can’t be nothingness!” “Who called it that?”, responds Huang Po; notice the profound depth of his response: “who” implies some form of sentient existence; “seeking” implies some form of ACTION by this apparent sentient-person. In Huang Po’s Dharma-Realm, never the twain shall meet, since as the Diamond Sutra would convey, both are sunya of Self-Essence—and THIS ESSENCE is all that should concern the pupils. The “void”, too, is also misconstrued by this dharma-student. All that had been aforementioned concerning the void was not meant to communicate something-other, some form of objective construct.  All “words” are temporary expedients, like a finger pointing to the moon…pointing to the far Greater and Wordless Self-Realization of Mind in-Itself. When the adept just shakes his head in defeat and whines that he was “mistaken” to even begin questioning the Master, Huang Po once again pounds it into his thick-head, “Who is mistaken; what does this “mistaken” thing have to do with the Dharma-matter at hand?” Huang Po warns that all “feelings” of sensate inadequacy, indeed all skandhic vexations need to be allayed before Noble Wisdom can reveal Itself.

28. “Q: Up to now, you have refuted everything which has been said. You have done nothing to point out the true Dharma to us.

A: In the true Dharma there is no confusion, but you produce confusion by such questions. What sort of ‘true Dharma’ can you go seeking for?

Q: Since the confusion arises from my questions, what will Your Reverence’s answer be?

A: Observe things as they are and don’t pay attention to other people. There are some people just like mad dogs barking at everything that moves, even barking when the wind stirs among the grass and leaves.”1 

1 Such people mistake motions taking place within their minds for external independently moving objects.

Apparently the adept has in his head another conceptual-construct of something that bears the title, “True Dharma”; he has envisioned some formalized sense of what the True Dharma should consist of. The Master says to forget all this nonsense of what someone has apparently taught you about what this “True Dharma-thing” should be; don’t pay any attention to what your “thoughts” may have remembered about these apparent “teachings”…your thoughts about these teachers and their inadequate knowledge are just like dogs barking in the wind at everything that moves. Indeed, just allay those thought-patterns that have been drilled into your head and are constantly roaming around within just to devour-you whole. They are all just ghostly shadows that have no substance and should not prevent you to ‘turn-about’ from them and focus instead upon Recollecting Mind.

29. “Regarding this Zen Doctrine of ours, since it was first transmitted, it has never taught that men should seek for learning or form concepts. ‘Studying the Way’ is just a figure of speech. It is a method of arousing people’s interest in the early stages of their development. In fact, the Way is not something which can be studied. Study leads to the retention of concepts and so the Way is entirely misunderstood. Moreover, the Way is not something specially existing; it is called the Mahayana Mind-Mind which is not to be found inside, outside or in the middle. Truly it is not located anywhere. The first step is to refrain from knowledge-based concepts. This implies that if you were to follow the empirical method to the utmost limit, on reaching that limit you would still be unable to locate Mind. The way is spiritual Truth and was originally without name or title. It was only because people ignorantly sought for it empirically that the Buddhas appeared and taught them to eradicate this method of approach. Fearing that nobody would understand, they selected the name ‘Way’. You must not allow this name to lead you into forming a mental concept of a road. So it is said ‘When the fish is caught we pay no more attention to the trap.’ When body and mind achieve spontaneity, the Way is reached and Mind is understood. A Sramana1 is so called because he has penetrated to the original source of all things. The fruit of attaining the sramana stage is gained by putting an end to all anxiety; it does not come from booklearning”.2 

1 Commonly, the word for ‘monk’.

2 This passage has a strong Taoist flavour. The quotation is from Chuang Tzu, and the word Tao (Way) is used throughout. Zen and Taoism have so much in common that some have been led to believe that the former is a sort of Taoism in Buddhist disguise; but, as both sects employ much the same theory and practice, it may be that the similarity is because the teachers of both sects are speaking from the same transcendental experience of Reality. The present text is written in a highly condensed form and includes sermons delivered on many different occasions. It is not improbable that paragraphs 29 and 30 are a summary of a sermon delivered to an audience including one or more distinguished Taoist scholars, especially as the opening sentence gives the impression that the Master was addressing newcomers to Zen.

This section appears to be like Huang Po is saying, “OK, let’s all just take a deep breath from this exchange between myself and this pupil.” He then proceeds to once again reinforce that “all conceptualizations” are just like chaff that are blown away in the wind. It is best to do without them. Also, to get out of your heads the notion that the Way in Itself is some-thing to be studied; you cannot study the Way, It is meant to be lived and revealed of Its own accord. Don’t place such a high premium on academia; it can only go so far and falls completely flat vs what can only be Self-Realized in It’s own time and fashion. Book-learning in itself can never lead you to become enlightened; one has to experience IT (like in deep-samadhis) before one can begin to penetrate all the way to the Original-Mind-Source. Simply forget about all mind-constructs and the Way will generate an authentic Pure-Mind Realization.

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