zen: wearing clothes and eating food



“It enters into everything wholeheartedly and freely without having to keep an eye on itself. It does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.

In the words of Lin-chi:

When it’s time to get dressed, put on your clothes. When you must walk, then walk. When you must sit, then sit. Don’t have a single thought in your mind about seeking for Buddhahood… 

You talk about being perfectly disciplined in your six senses and in all your actions, but in my view all this is making karma. To seek the Buddha (nature) and to seek the Dharma is at once to m a k e karma which leads to the hells. To seek (to be) Bodhisattvas is also making karma, and likewise studying the sutras and commentaries. Buddhas and Patriarchs are people without such artificialities.… It is said everywhere that there is a Tao which must be cultivated and a Dharma which must be realized. What Dharma do you say must be realized, and what Tao cultivated? What do you lack in the way you are functioning
right now? What will you add to where you are?

As another Zenrin poem says:There’s nothing equal to
wearing clothes and eating food.
Outside this there are neither
Buddhas nor Patríarchs.

This is the quality of wu-shih, of naturalness without any contrivances or means for being natural, such as thoughts of Zen, of the Tao, or of the Buddha. One does not exclude such thoughts; they simply fall away when seen to be unnecessary. “He does not linger where the Buddha is, and where there is no Buddha he passes right on.”

For as the Zenrin says again:

To be conscious of the original mind, the original nature–
Just this is the great disease of Zen!

As “the fish swims in the water but is unmindful of the water, the bird flies in the wind but knows not of the wind,” so the true life of Zen has no need to “raise waves when no wind is blowing,” to drag in religion or spirituality as something over and above life itself. This is why the sage Fa-yung received no more offerings of flowers from the birds after he had had his interview with the Fourth Patriarch, for his holiness no longer “stood out like a sore thumb.”

Of such a man the Zenrin says:

Entering the forest he moves not the grass;
Entering the water he makes not a ripple.
No one notices him because he does not notice himself.

It is often said that to be clinging to oneself is like having a thorn in the skin, and that Buddhism is a second thorn to extract the first. When it is out, both thorns are thrown away. But in the moment when Buddhism, when philosophy or religion, becomes another way of clinging to oneself through seeking a spiritual security, the two thorns become one–and how is it to be taken out? This, as Bankei said, is “wiping off blood with blood.” Therefore in Zen there is neither self nor Buddha to which one can cling, no good to gain and no evil to be avoided, no thoughts to be eradicated and no mind to be purified, no body to perish and no soul to be saved. At one blow this entire framework of abstractions is shattered to fragments.

As the Zenrin says:

To save life it must be destroyed.
When utterly destroyed, one
dwells for the first time in peace.
One word settles heaven and earth;
One sword levels the whole world.

Of this “one sword” Lin-chi said:

If a man cultivates the Tao, the Tao will not work–on all sides evil conditions will head up competitively. But when the sword of wisdom [prajna] comes out there’s not one thing left.

The “sword of prajna” which cuts away abstraction is that “direct pointing” whereby Zen avoids the entanglements of religiosity and goes straight to the heart. Thus when the Governor of Lang asked Yao-shan, “What is the Tao?” the master pointed upwards to the
sky and downwards to a water jug beside him. Asked for an explanation, he replied:

“A cloud in the sky and water in the jug.”

from “The Way of Zen” – Alan Watts






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