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Buddhadharma : Spring 2008
buddhadharma| 81 |spring 2008 We turn the same warmth and curi- osity toward our own heart/minds. Ma famously said that ordinary mind is the Way. We don’t reject our own thoughts and feelings; even in a desperate time, the grieving, the rage, the flashes of bravery and generosity in ourselves and in oth- ers—all of that is the Way, too. Even, maybe especially, the mind that doesn’t understand is exactly it. In our own time, anyone who claims to have an explana- tion for what’s going on probably doesn’t, whether it’s from a political or meta- physical or conspiratorial or any other perspective. It’s a good time to be asking questions, to appreciate the grounding of the ordinary mind in its impulses to make a warm breakfast on a cold day and to research what it would take to become carbon-neutral. In other words, there is a unity between our inner lives and the outer world, a continuum that only appears to be separated into pieces that are sometimes in conflict. Turn too far toward your own heart/mind and you become self-obsessed; turn too far in the other direction and you burn out. Bring an attitude of warmth and curiosity to both and the Way begins to open on its own. This is what Ma called living a nat- ural life according to the times. Be part of what’s going on around you, and “just wear clothes, eat food, always uphold the way of the bodhisattva.” We might chuckle and think, Oh sure, clothes, food, way of the bodhisattva—nothing to it, right? Just so, according to Shitou. “Your essential mind is absolutely still and com- pletely whole, and its ability to respond to circumstances is limitless.” This fundamental wholeness and responsiveness is what Ma urged people to experience for themselves; it’s where Shitou invited us to rest. It’s the freedom of having no position; there’s no running around in circles waving our hands, no updating the inventories of everything that’s missing, and no illusion that what we’re capable of is determined solely by our will. Put all that down and things get big and alive. Our essential mind isn’t bounded by our skull, and our capacity to respond isn’t either. This aspect of realiza- tion also has everything to do with rela- tionship: we feel whole and at peace and able to respond because we know we’re part of something very large. Remember- ing this even some of the time can make a huge difference; it can make us bold.