Mind Is Moving

A favorite koan from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, by Paul Reps:

Two monks were arguing about a flag.

One said: ‘The flag is moving.’

The other said: ‘The wind is moving.’

The sixth patriarch happened to be passing by. He told them: ‘Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.’

We can assume that the patriarch was making a concession to his dense pupils and using ‘mind’ in this context as limitless consciousness – that which is prior to or beyond all experience, beyond knowing, beyond understanding, beyond the beyond. Otherwise he too was talking through his hat.

Have you ever experienced your own appearance or disappearance? To say that you have appeared from somewhere, you would have to be present and aware prior to making this claim. To say that you have witnessed your own disappearance, you would have to claim the same.

If you look closely at the nature of consciousness, awareness, sense of being – that which knows the coming and going of all appearances, yet doesn’t come and go with them – no edge, boundary, beginning, or end can be found. It is not limited by time or space, and therefore is infinite and eternal. Actually, consciousness is the only thing that can be called infinite and eternal. What else never appears or disappears? If you can confirm this is as fact, which you can by simply looking openly, then you can also claim with authority that there cannot be room for two.

As I, you, we, are a part of this consciousness, born of this consciousness, made of this consciousness, where is the division between us? See it now – there are not two and there will never be two. It is just this, one without a second, and you, I, we, are that.

Flag moves, wind moves, mind moves, but our actual experience is that nothing moves independently of consciousness. Everything arises within consciousness, moves within consciousness, and dissolves within consciousness. In other words, everything is a manifestation of consciousness, is made out of consciousness.

The flag, wind, and mind appear to be different, yet they are also the same – all born of consciousness. And this different sameness appears and disappears just like everything else, including the idea of consciousness, and only this – THIS – remains.

No Effort Required

“Since all is empty from the beginning, where can the dust alight?” – Hui Neng

All effort of the separate self to become liberated or enlightened is futile. Actually, all effort to become anything, ‘become’ being the key word, is futile. The act of becoming is a never-ending uphill battle that cannot be won. Yes, you might meditate, chant mantras, go on a spiritual retreat, take a self-help course, improve your self-image, your position in life, your relationships, even your mental outlook, but none of these have any lasting effect or enduring qualities. To paraphrase Wei Wu Wei, the ‘action which is not action’ man, we are unhappy because everything we do is for our self, and there isn’t one.

The separate self, or Little Me, or ego, can’t become something else because it’s nothing to begin with. It’s like a shadow trying to become the phantom that created it.

If you look closely, all qualities of the separate self are temporary. Any substances that they appear to be made out of are ultimately no more real than a shadow.

Your true self, essential being, needs no help. It already is and always will be. It is inherently liberated and enlightened, peaceful, happy, and loving. It is untouchable, unmoving, unchanging.

In the act of becoming, the separate self will endlessly create new obstacles to overcome, new goals to achieve, and will forever be chasing the carrot dangling just out of reach. That’s what the separate self, the ego, does. This is what gives it life. And this is what causes all of our psychological suffering – trying to cure our problems with that which caused them.

The phantom and the shadow, the seeker and the sought, all vanish in the brilliant light of awareness, of simply being, and all effort ceases. And in this effortlessness there is a resting, an abiding in that which is nameless, can never be found, and yet is everywhere. And you, I, we are that.