The True Person and the good spiritual friend is that within me that hears everything and perceives all that I do without engaging. It is unstruck, >>anahata<<, the unstruck one. That is why from that place I will never strike, >>ahimsa<<. While birth, dwelling, changing and destruction happen, I remain as the True Person. The good spiritual friend is always at my side. He is my own true being, my Self.
“Master Linji taught, ‘In this world, what is it you need to turn towards in order to find liberation? All you need is a bowl of brown rice, a mantle of cloth, and apart from this you should give all your psychological force and time to find the good spiritual friend.’
“Master Linji made up the expression, ‘signlessness of the four objects of mind.’ The four signs are: earth, water, fire, and air. He used the image of the earth to speak about all the obstacles caused by our ignorance and doubts. Whenever we have a wrong perception, it’s as if there’s a huge rock in front of us that we can’t get around and that obstacle is symbolized by the earth. Water represents the obstacle that is caused by craving or sensual desire. Water has the capacity to pull us very far away and sensual desire pulls us like a strong current. Fire represents the obstacle of anger because anger has the capacity to burn. Air and wind represent the obstacle of excitement because wind whips us about and pulls us away from our own calmness and contentment. This excitement and joy is very different from the happiness that we experience because of the positive elements of our practice. Rather than real happiness, this is the joy, the rush, that becomes a craving because of our addiction to the adrenaline of excitement.
“If we have insight into the empty nature of the four elements, they are no longer obstacles and we can take refuge in them. Then the four elements become ‘signless’ and we maintain our freedom and, as Master Linji said, we make good use of our surroundings. When we aren’t pressured by a situation, the fire can’t burn us and we can use fire to cook rice and warm the house. When the water can’t drown us, we can use it to wash and to water the vegetables in the garden. When the earth doesn’t corner us, so it can become the foundation of a house or a garden. When the wind isn’t an obstruction, we can use the wind to dry our clothes or fly a kite.
“When we are no longer caught in the signs, when we can see the empty nature of the four great elements, we are no longer afraid of them. When we know their true nature we can take refuge in earth, water, fire and wind, and they cannot obstruct us. Instead of fearing the water, we can ride the waves.”
Source: Thich Nhat Hanh, Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go, Waking Up to Who You Are, p. 120, 121