An American Zen Buddhist training center in the Mountains and Rivers Order, offering Sunday programs, weekend retreats and month-long residencies.
The true, real view is the indivisible unity of emptiness and compassion. Confusion arises when something seemingly is, but actually isn’t, like mistaking a rope for a snake. That is a clear mistake, because in reality the rope is not a snake, no way.
How do we actualize this view? We have a lot of thoughts, one after the other, involving the duality of subject and object. When the subject latches onto or grasps the object, that is what is normally called mind, the thinking mind. When there is this subject-object clinging, that creates karma. When karma is created, there is confusion.
What is this thinker that always grasps onto an object? That is what we need to discover. What is it, really? Identify what it is that thinks, clearly and directly. It is as simple and immediate as switching on a light. Instead of thinking of this and that, one thing after the other, let your mind recognize itself in a single moment. When the mind recognizes itself, there is no thing to see there. It’s just wide open. That’s because the essence of mind is empty. It’s wide open and free.
This busy, grasping mind,
Always latching onto things,
Let it be given a break to recognize itself instead.
In that very moment of recognition,
This mind becomes wide open,
Free, and unconfined.
That’s called empty essence.
At the same time, there is a certain knowing that it is empty.
That’s called cognizant nature.
Your mind’s empty essence and cognizant nature function simultaneously.
They are not two separate things, not at all.
In fact, they are indivisible.
That’s called unconfined capacity.
Know these three simultaneously -
Empty essence, cognizant nature, and unconfined capacity -
That’s called the view.
In this way, to actualize the view, to realize or understand the view, is to know that our minds are empty in essence and cognizant by nature simultaneously.
Essence is like the sun itself. The sun’s nature is to shine, to be warm, and to illuminate. In the same way, you should distinguish between mind and mind essence. Mind essence has all three of these qualities. It is the essence of this mind essence that is empty, the nature of this mind essence that is cognizant, and the capacity of this mind essence that is unconfined.
The ground is Buddha-nature, which is unmistaken in nature, the basic state of all things. It is the natural state, which is not made by the Buddha, and not created by any ordinary being either. It’s naturally so, all by itself. That is the ultimate truth. Whether a buddha comes into this world or not, the nature of things is still the nature of things. The Buddha is someone who realizes what is true, what actually exists. If we want to become enlightened, we simply have to acknowledge or recognize what is.
What is the basic state, the ground? Through training on the path, we realize the ground as the fruition. We contact what was there to begin with. At the moment, while we are deluded and on the path, we are not seeing it as it is. We are mistaking it for something else, just like mistaking a rope for a snake. We need to abandon that state of temporary confusion.
The path is the state of confusion. To remove it we need view, meditation, and conduct. When we have a glimpse of natural mind, it’s like we see a piece of the ground. The more we get used to it, the more we see, until we finally realize the ground as it is in its entirety.
That’s why, in the context of the path, there are three aspects: recognizing, perfecting the training of that recognition, and attaining stability. We need to dissolve confusion. At the moment of the view, dissolve the confusion. When meditating, dissolve the confusion. When applying the conduct, dissolve the confusion. When all confusion has been totally removed or dissolved, then you can call that fruition.
If we don’t know or experience the indivisibility of emptiness and compassion, it’s hard to get through life smoothly. Imagine a man and woman who live together happily and love each other very deeply. One day the wife hears some teachings, and she becomes interested in the dharma. She listens a lot and understands emptiness; she realizes that nothing in this life has lasting substance. There’s no real core or substance to anything.
Then she thinks, “My husband and I, we go to lots of parties. We go shopping and buy all sorts of things. But actually, none of that really matters to me anymore.” And she starts to close herself up, to shut herself off from her past activities. From one point of view, what she thinks is actually true. Everything is in fact insubstantial, there’s no real point to it. The husband is puzzled and thinks, “My wife is changing. Maybe I did something wrong? Maybe she has a new boyfriend?” But he lets it slide for a while.
Then she starts going into a room, closing the door, and doing prostrations, which he can hear - “boom, boom, boom” - and he thinks, “Hey, my wife is going a little crazy.” Sometimes she sits in a really strange way, holding a string of beads in one hand. The husband thinks, “This is really weird!” So he says, “Tonight, let’s go out and have some fun.” She says, “That doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. I like just sitting here. Besides, why waste the money?”