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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
17 fall 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Several times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Maha Ghosananda for decades wandered the world by himself. Only with the onset of old age did he allow people to accompany him on his travels. As a student of Zen Master Seung Sahn, Maha Ghosananda’s dear friend, I had the privilege of helping him many times. Recently, an event oc curred that made me question the appropriateness of my behavior as his attendant. Out of respect for the monk’s safety, I had become very good at giving guarded answers about his whereabouts and plans. Many times I found it necessary to be less than polite in response to these queries; this made me feel very uncomfortable. Looking for counsel, I recounted to Maha Ghosananda how, the day before, the Dalai Lama had very directly asked me where he was staying. I had, without thinking, replied in my customary manner: “At a temple in the woods.” I looked at Maha Ghosananda and said, “How silly I have been. Even with your dear friend the Dalai Lama, I acted like a guard dog and evaded the question about where you were staying.” Maha Ghosananda’s eyes twinkled. In a per fect imitation of Zen Master Seung Sahn’s voice, he said, “When Dalai Lama asks where I come from, only say, ‘DON’T KNOW!’ Then you be come the Dalai Lama’s teacher.” We both laughed with delight. From the Winter 2008 iSSue oF PriMarY PoinT. ideas aren’T The real Thing Don’t make the mistake of trying to achieve your concept of enlightenment or quiet mind, says Hogen Bays, co-abbot of Great Vow Zen Monastery. When we begin practice, we hear about different states of mind. We may hear terms like The Great Mystery, Deep Stillness, Quiet Mind, Oneness, or Enlightenment. Unfortunately, all these terms can add to our confusion about spiritual practice because we think of them as things to be had or achieved. Because of our mental confusion, we quickly trap ourselves by trying to make our experience match our ideas. The notion of a quiet mind is a good example. We think we know what “quiet mind” means. We assume there is a mind, that it can be made quiet, and that if we work hard we can do it. Usually when we think of a quiet mind, we have some notion that there are no thoughts in whatever our idea of our “mind” is and that this state is sustained over time. With this idea, people can spend years trying to get rid of thought so that their experience will match their idea of quiet mind. It is sad to see people mired in a hopeless quest for the experience they think they should have. True, from the perspective of a noisy mind there is a state of less noise. But in the experience of deep quiet mind, there is no awareness of quiet or active. The Great Mystery is also like this. It exists only from the perspective of the knowing mind. Enlightenment is as well, existing only as an idea held by the mind of separation. Oneness exists only from the perspective of twoness. It is essential that we have aspirations in prac tice. But these are only pointers, like the North Star, useful in helping us to follow the way, but useless as guideposts for experience. Experience cannot be expressed through words; what is the experience of eating an orange? How does a pomelo taste different than a grapefruit? How can anyone describe quiet mind with words? What do words have to do with the direct expe rience of lovingkindness? If we think our concep tual understanding touches the real thing, we are like someone watching a video of the Himalaya Mountains who thinks they understand moun tain climbing. Instead of trying to match your conceptual un derstanding, cultivate as one who has a thousand tastes of enlightenment by chewing it over and over! To do this, let go of ideas. When we have no ideas, we are the Great Mystery itself. From ink on The CaT, apriL 2008, the neWSLetter oF the Zen community oF oregon and great voW Zen monaStery.