Tuesday, 8 December 2015


13. Ordinary mind. Just this. A young monk, when asked what he had learnt in his first year in a Zen monastery, answered that he had learnt to open and close doors. In like vein is Gautama Shakyamuni's reply to the philosopher who wanted to know about the method Buddhists used to attain or manifest enlightenment. When Gautama began to tell him that Buddhists talk, wash, sit down, the philosopher interrupted him to point out everyone talks, eats, bathes, sits down. To which Gautama replied that there is a difference in that when Buddhists walk, sit, stand, and so on, they are aware of what they are doing. As for non-Buddhists, they do these things without being aware of what they are doing. Here we might feel that Gautama was being less than fair to non-Buddhists. After all, some of us will be familiar with the Latin maxim, 'agere quod agis'. Nevertheless, we can acknowledge Gautama's point in that mindfulness is a basic practice in Buddhism. And this practice invests everyday activities with a liberating significance. So whether opening or closing doors, sitting or standing, we can manifest the Buddha's enlightenment just as surely as when reciting sutras, offering incense or doing prostrations. As Master Nansen remarked over a thousand years ago, 'Ordinary mind is the Way'.

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