“Master Linji tells us … If we search for something outside ourselves, we will never find it. The things we are looking for aren’t in these places. This message appears frequently in Master Linji’s teachings, but it is especially clear here. If we search for something outside ourselves, we will never find it. We have, within us, all the seeds of Buddhahood. The Buddha and the masters don’t belong to the past, the future, or another place. They are here with us in the present moment.
“Master Linji asked, ‘Do you want to know who our teacher, the Buddha is? The Buddha is you yourselves who are standing before me, listening to me teach the Dharma.’ That statement is very revolutionary. Our true person is the Buddha and the master, and that true person is right inside us. All the Buddhas and all the worlds talked about in the sutras are products of our mind, of consciousness. We shouldn’t look for them in space and we can’t find them in time. We can only find them in our own consciousness.
“Master Linji said, ‘If in this present moment you aren’t able to meet the Buddha in person, then for countless lives to come you will have to be reborn in the three realms of samsara, always searching for something to grasp hold of that will make you feel comfortable, continually being born in the womb of an ox or an ass.’
“Right in this moment we are listening to the Dharma, and the Buddha is sitting with us, sitting inside us. In this moment, if we can’t touch the Buddha, then we shouldn’t talk about the future. Only the present moment is real. If we lose this present moment, then we can’t get in touch with the Buddha, and for thousands of lifetimes we will continue in the circle of samsara: being conceived, being born, and dying as humans or other beings.
“Master Linji asked, ‘Today, in every ordinary daily activity you do, do you feel you lack anything? Is there any moment when the six miraculous beams of light do not shine out?’ the six miraculous lights are our sense consciousnesses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and thinking. In our consciousness, the shining mind manifests. If we use these six miraculous lights skillfully, then we are the Buddhas. It means that in each moment of our daily life, we need to shine the light of mindfulness. We see something, and we know what we’re seeing, we listen to something and we know what we’re hearing. When we look, we look like the Buddha. When we touch, we touch like the Buddha. When we think, we think like the Buddha. If in each moment our six miraculous powers are radiating, then we will have nothing to do. We will become what Master Linji called the “businessless person”. This is the spirit of Buddha’s teaching of aimlessness, aprahihita, one of the three doors of liberation.”
Buddhism speaks of four elements of our mind: feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. These four elements can be seen as the progression of our senses. We feel first the texture, the temperature and the consistency of something, perhaps water. Then that feeling is translated into a perception which we call water. From there our mind creates a mental formation, such as “I need a drink”. Finally there is the consciousness level of our mind that I will call the state of consciousness, such as constricted in greed, agitated in passion or tranquil in understanding.
The following statements have the purpose of attuning myself to the “bright clarity” that Master Linji speaks of as our true nature, or Ramana calls the Inner Effulgence, or Self.
“I am happy with this feeling.”
Whatever feeling (physical sensation) I have, I recognize that my sense organs (the six miraculous powers) are doing a perfect job of transmitting to me the appropriate sensation. If it is very cold where I am, that feeling is correctly transmitted to me. This does not say that I am happy that it is cold, but I am happy with the feeling because it is the bright clarity in action, transmitting to me “what is”, and that makes me happy.
“I am happy with this perception.”
Whatever perception then accompanies the feeling, perhaps that it is cold weather, makes me happy because it is the bright clarity in action, correctly telling me that the weather is cold. This doesn’t mean that I am happy that it is cold weather, but I am happy to recognize how the bright clarity does such an amazing job of transmitting that fact to me.
“I am happy with this mental formation (this thought).”
The thought (mental formation) now arises, “I wish it were warm and sunny”. I am happy with that thought, not because it is a thought I like or don’t like, but because it is such an amazing feat that the bright clarity performs so perfectly, giving me the thought which is in alignment with my mind. That thought, which signifies a certain wish, is perfect just like it is and I am so happy with it.
“I am happy with this consciousness.”
The consciousness is dissatisfied with the weather right now, and I am so happy that the bright clarity is giving me that consciousness to look at and take in. It is such a fantastic and miraculous power that the bright clarity that I am, is able to reflect in this way to me. This consciousness makes me happy.
In this way I am able to recognize my happiness in every circumstance and gain a correct reflection of my true nature in all my everyday actions.
“Master Linji taught, ‘Only because emotional attachment arises, understanding is obstructed. Because perceptions are changing, the form of the true nature changes. That is why there is rebirth in the three realms and we have to undergo so many kinds of sufferings…’
“Master Linji was referring to the Surangama Sutra when he said that the one bright shining mind is divided into six consciousnesses. The bright shining mind manifests as six miraculous beams of light. If we let that light shine, then we are the Buddha. But if we let this shining light be covered by our afflictions of greed, ignorance, and hatred, then we are ordinary living beings.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, “Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go”, excerpt Commentary 11, Evening Talks, pgs. 95 – 97