True Mind and False Mind

Mind of Unity and Thusness

HUANG Po, in speaking of the reality of true nature (what he called “the mind of Unity and Thusness”), said:

“Buddhas and living beings participate in the same one and unique mind. There is no separation concerning this mind. Since time immemorial this mind has never been created or destroyed; it is neither green nor yellow; it has neither form nor aspect; it is neither being nor non-being; it is neither old nor new, neither short nor long, neither big nor small. It transcends all the intellectual categories, all words and expressions, all signs and marks, all comparisons and discriminations. It is what it is; if one tries to conceive it, one loses it. Unlimited like space, it has no boundaries and cannot be measured. This Mind is Unity and Thusness, it is Buddha.”

The statements of Huang Po are clear: one must allow the Mind to reveal itself; it is lost if one tries to conceptualize it. This means that in order to realize it one must take a road other than that of concepts. The only way to realize this Mind of Unity and Thusness, which is also called True Mind, is to return to oneself and to see into one’s true nature.

True Mind is the radiant nature of Being, while False Mind is only the faculty of conceiving and discriminating. If one realizes True Mind, reality of Being is revealed in its completeness; it is the enlightened life of Zen. The world built of concepts is different from living reality. The world in which birth and death, good and bad, being and non-being are opposed, exists only for those who do not live as Awakened. But the vicissitudes of this world no longer affect the “awakened” man because he has already come to the world of reality in which there is no discrimination between birth and death, between good and bad, between being and non-being.

In the work The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana (Mahayana Sraddhotpada) , one reads, in connection with the world of reality without discrimination:

“All phenomena of being, since time immemorial, are independent of concepts and words; concepts and words cannot transform them nor separate them from their true nature.”

This Mahayanist work uses the expression “wu-nien” which is translated as “non-conceptual.” Non-conceptual wisdom is wisdom that is not based on the concepts of the False Mind – it is also called non-discriminative wisdom (nirvikalpajnana).

Reality in Itself

TRUE NATURE, or True Mind, is not what one would call an ontological entity of the idealistic kind. It is reality itself. The word “Mind” is sometimes called “Nature”; True Mind and True Nature are two different names for the same reality. From the standpoint of knowledge, one uses the word “Wisdom,” and sometimes the word “Mind.” When one is talking about reality in itself, the distinction between the subject and object of knowledge no longer exists. This is the reason why the expressions “True Nature” and “True Mind” sometimes refer to reality in itself, sometimes to non-discriminative Wisdom which reflects this reality in itself. Such an understanding of reality in itself is described in Zen as the act of seeing into one’s own nature.

Source: Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Keys, p. 75 – 77





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