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Buddhadharma : Summer 2016
64 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 6 melissa myozen Blacker, roshi is the abbot of Boundless Way Zen and coeditor of The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen’s Most Important Koan. to live a life of compassion and wisdom in a world of suffering, great cruelty, and despair. Deshan had his own form of hunger for under- standing. When he was young, he was called Diamond Zhou based on his reputation as a great scholar of the Diamond Sutra, a Mahayana text that is still valued and studied by Zen students. He was also a devoted student of the Buddhist pre- cepts. As someone who favored scholarship over direct experience, Deshan was disturbed to hear that Zen teachers in the south of China were saying that one’s own self-nature was already identical to the awakened (buddha) nature. Even worse, these deluded people (in Deshan’s view) were saying that this truth could be realized directly, without the tra- ditional studies he valued so much, simply through the practice of sitting meditation (zazen). Loading up a backpack with commentaries on the Diamond Sutra, he set out on a pilgrimage to the south of China to show these mistaken Zen masters the truth of Buddhism. Here is our first entry point to the heart-mind of Deshan. Convinced of the certainty of his own views, he is willing to do whatever it takes to prove that anyone who disagrees with him is just plain wrong. This is so deeply human, and, for anyone who grew up as a well-educated person in our own times, it is easily recognizable. The “others” who oppose us must be corrected and made to see our truth. Here in Deshan’s certainty we can see the seeds of every disagreement that we have ever been caught in, whether this manifests in politics, reli- gion, ecology, or morality. When I am with someone who doesn’t share my views, I can feel the seeds of violence in my own heart. It may start as a mild form of discomfort and slowly or quickly rise full-blown into heated debate. Democrats versus Republicans, climate-change deniers versus ecological activists, terrorists versus peaceful mediators, scholars versus practitioners— the opportunity for oppositional behavior is always arising. Deshan is self-righteous, which isn’t neces- sarily a good or bad quality. He is in love with his knowing. And his certainty gives him the energy to take the long journey to what will ultimately become his life’s destiny. Deshan’s collision with his own certainty is found in Case 28 of the Gateless Gate: At one point on his journey, he stopped to rest at a small teahouse. The old woman who ran the teahouse was curious about his big backpack, and he proudly told her who he was. “Oh,” she said, “the Diamond Sutra! Maybe you could help me understand a part of that sutra that has always puzzled me. If you can answer my question, I’ll give you your tea and cakes for free.” Deshan was delighted with this offer. The teacakes the old woman offered him were called “mind refreshers.” The old woman said, “In the Diamond Sutra, it says that there is no mind in the past, no mind in the present, and no mind in the future. If that’s so, which mind will my mind-refreshers refresh?” Hearing this unexpected question, Deshan had his first opening into a new view. His certainty dis- solved and he was unable to speak. All he could say from this new place was, “Is there a Zen teacher anywhere around here?” daviddaeanrynick