By Zen Master Dae Kwang
Buddhism teaches us that everything is just “One Thing”. In fact, Zen means become one. However, our dualistic thinking has us conceiving of the world as a vast array of opposites: good/bad, us/them, win/lose, subject/object, life/death etc. This forms the basis of our ignorance—we think of ourselves and everything else as separate. This leads to our experience of alienation and suffering, and all of our misguided attempts to solve our problems through satisfying our desires. Buddha taught that our desires were the source of our suffering. As Zen Master Seung Sahn said, “Thinking is desire; desire leads to suffering.” So, if we can let go of our opposites thinking, its possible to return to our True Self and then help the world.
Hui Neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen and the founder of modern Zen, spent many years in hiding after he received transmission from the Fifth Patriarch. One day it came to him that he shouldn’t live a secluded life all the time; it was time for him to propagate the Dharma. So, he left the forest and traveled to the famous Dharma Nature Temple in the city of Gwang Chou, in southern China. At that time a Bhikkhu named Yen Chung, a Master of the Dharma, happened to be giving a series of lectures on the Maha Parinirvana Sutra. Hui Neng happened to overhear two monks who were arguing about a temple flag, blowing in the wind. One said the wind was moving, the other said the flag was moving. They argued back and forth futilely. “It’s not the wind or the flag that’s moving,” Hui Neng said, “its your minds that are moving.”
The whole assembly was awed by what Hui Neng said. The Bhikkhu Yen Chung then invited Hui Neng to take a seat of honor and questioned him about various difficult points in the Sutras. Seeing that his answers were precise and accurate and that they showed something more than book-knowledge, he said, “Lay Brother, you must be an extraordinary man. I was told long ago that the inheritor of the Fifth Patriarch’s robe and bowl, and the Dharma had come to the South, very likely you are that man.”
To this Hui Neng politely assented. The monk immediately bowed and asked Hui Neng to show the assembly the robe and bowl. He further asked what the Fifth Patriarch had taught him. “Apart from a discussion on the realization of True Nature,” Hui Neng replied, “he gave me no other instruction, nor did he refer to meditation or liberation.”
“Why not?” the monk asked.
“Because that would mean two ways,” Hui Neng replied. “Buddha Dharma does not have two ways.”
He asked, “What is the Buddhism without two ways?”
Hui Neng explained, “The Maha Parinirvana Sutra, which you expound, explains that Buddha-nature doesn’t have two ways. In the Sutra, King Ko Kwai Tak, a Bodhisattva, asked Buddha if those who carry out gross acts of misconduct, commit the five deadly sins, or spread heretical teaching would destroy their ‘element of goodness’ and their Buddha-nature. Buddha replied, ‘There are two kinds of ‘element of goodness’, the eternal and the non-eternal. Since Buddha-nature is neither eternal nor non-eternal, therefore their “element of goodness” is not eradicated.’ Now, Buddhism is known as not having two ways. There are good ways and evil ways, but since Buddha-nature is neither, Buddhism is known for not having two ways. From the point of view of ordinary people, the component parts of a personality (the skandhas) and factors of consciousness (the dhatus) are two separate things, but enlightened people understand that they are not dual in nature. Buddha-nature is non-dual.”
Around the time of Hui Neng, Chinese Buddhism began to develop a very interesting technique which allows us to directly experience this non-dual nature, the world of “One Thing”. This technique is the Kong-an. Here is a kong-an for you: A long time ago in China a monk asked Zen Master Kuei Shan, "What is the meaning of all the Sutras?"
Kuei Shan didn't say anything, he just raised his fist. So, I ask you, if there is just One Thing, what was Kuei Shan's meaning? Quick, tell me! Thinking isn’t going to help you.