Tuesday, 20 June 2017


120. When Joshu was a young monk he asked his master Nansen, 'What is the Way?' Nansen simply replied, 'Ordinary mind is the Way'. Then Joshu had another question, asking, 'Shall I try to seek after it?' This might leave us wondering why he didn't inquire about the nature of ordinary mind. Anyway, Nansen's response to Joshu's second question is to tell him that trying for it would separate him from it. But still Joshu's questions kept coming: 'How can I know the Way unless I try for it?' At this point Nansen gives a final, if somewhat wordy, response. He says: 'The Way is not a matter of knowing or not knowing. Knowing is delusion; not knowing is confusion. When you have really reached the true Way beyond doubt, you will find it is vast and boundless as outer space. How can it be talked about at the level of right and wrong?'
     There is a lot to unpack in this koan story. However, our interest here has to do with the question that Joshu did not ask, namely, 'What is ordinary mind?' Perhaps what Joshu is pointing to with the expression 'ordinary mind' is something so ordinary, so familiar, that the very fact that one might feel the need to start looking for it simply serves to demonstrate that one has already missed it by a thousand miles. This is the very heart-mind of which Eka, the Second Chinese Patriarch, said, 'I have searched for my mind, and I cannot take hold of it'.

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