Hi everyone. Thanks for starting this thread, retro. Is it okay if i bring zerotime's post over as well? 'cause my question was specifically
about this perspective here, which seems so different from the way many folks here view the ideas of Zen and Chan...
Its Buddhadasa Bikkhu's embrace of Chan ideas and teachers that surprised me. A careful look at the other thread shows that views of Zen/Chan seem more negative, nowadays, at least among many Western Theravadins posting online...
When the Buddhist Teachings spread to China, the Chinese of those days were intelligent and wise enough to accept it, and there arose teachings such as those of Hui Neng and Huang-Po in which explanations of mind and Dhamma, of Buddha, the Way and emptiness were extremely terse. There emerged the key sentence that mind, Buddha, Dhamma, the Way and emptiness are all just one thing. This one sentence is enough there is no need to say anything more. It is equivalent to all the scriptures.
Now that is a statement that particularly those of us studying and practising in the old style have no way at all of understanding. It might be beneficial for us to feel a little ashamed on this account. The Chinese went on to say that 'emptiness is by nature always present, but we don’t see it'. I may prove this by saying once again that at this moment everyone sitting here has a mind that is by nature empty but not only do you not see it but what's more, you will not accept that this is emptiness.
Huang Po scolded that this is to be like someone having a diamond attached to their forehead without knowing it, who goes searching all around the world or perhaps outside the world in hell, heaven or the Brahma worlds, making an offering of a penny and expecting to go to heaven and satisfy every desire. Not seeing that which is stuck to our forehead, we seek all around the world or if that's not enough in the other realms. So please, just for a while, look very closely to see what is there at your forehead, and how to go about putting your hands on it.
When speaking of the way to take hold of the diamond the Chinese teachers spoke even more profoundly, "There's no need to do anything just be still and the mind will become empty by itself". This phrase "Just be still. There's no need to do anything" has many meanings. Our minds are naughty and playful. The mind wanders out of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body, gathering sense-objects, and having accepted them within, is stupid enough to allow the dhammas of ignorance to climb into the driver's seat', so that there is nothing but grasping and clinging to "I" and 'mine'. This is called being naughty, refusing to be still.
'Being still' means not admitting sense-objects into the mind but being content to let them founder like waves on the shore. For instance, when the eye sees a form, if there is merely seeing, then that is called not admitting visible forms into the mind and similarly with the other sense organs. If you can't do that and vedana, feeling of satisfaction and dissatisfaction arise, let it stop just there, don't allow desires based on those feelings to develop. If it stops there it's still possible to be still. But if we act to extend a feeling of satisfaction then in a moment the 'I' and 'mine' emerge. Or if we act in response to a feeling of dissatisfaction then there will be Dukkha. It is called not being still.
So the 'being still' of Hui Neng refers to that very practice that the Buddha taught, of seeing that nothing whatsoever should be grasped at or clung to as being 'I' or 'mine'. If there is nothing whatsoever to be clung to, what possible purpose can there be in busying and confusing ourselves, rushing about after the things that disturb, rather than just being still?
We must look for this emptiness that is truly worthy of our aspiration. To say that there is a kind of emptiness that gives rise to cessation, purity, clarity, and peace is still to be speaking in the realm of convention. Truly speaking, there is nothing other than emptiness, there is only this one thing. It is not the cause of anything else. It is Buddha, it is Dhamma, it is Sangha, it is the Way. It is purity, clarity, and peace. All these things are present in emptiness. If we still say that emptiness is the cause of this or that it shows that we haven't yet reached the supreme emptiness, because if we have reached the supreme then we don't have to do anything. By being still the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, purity, clarity, peace, Nibbana - everything will be present in that very immutable state.
An extremely simple method that Huang Po used to teach dull people how to recognize emptiness was to give them a riddle, 'Look at the mind of a child before its conception'. I would like to present all of you with this riddle. Look at the child's mind. Before it is conceived in the womb where is it? If you can find it you will easily be able to find emptiness, just as if taking hold of that which is already there at your forehead.
To sum up - this one subject of emptiness covers all of the Buddhist Teachings, for the Buddha breathed with emptiness. Emptiness is the theoretical knowledge, it is the practice and it is the fruit of the practice. If one studies one must study emptiness; if one practises it must be for the fruit of emptiness, and if one receives the fruit it must be emptiness, so that finally one attains that thing that is supremely desirable. There is nothing beyond emptiness. When it is realized, all problems end. It is not above, it is not below, it is not anywhere-I don't know what to say about it, better to shut up! Suffice it to say that emptiness is the supreme happiness.
HEART - WOOD FROM THE BO TREE