Thank you for your letter. You said that I have helped your practice. This is very good. Zen practice is of the greatest importance. You must decide to practice and very strongly keep this decision. This requires great faith, great courage, and great questioning.
What is great faith? Great faith means that at all times you keep the mind which decided to practice no matter what. It is like a hen sitting on her eggs. She sits on them constantly, caring for them and giving them warmth, so that they will hatch. If she becomes careless or negligent the eggs will not hatch and will not become chicks. So Zen mind means always and everywhere believing in myself. I vow to become Buddha and save all people.
Next, what is great courage? This means bringing all your energy to one point. It is like a cat hunting a mouse. The mouse has retreated into its hole, but the cat waits outside the hole for hours on end without the slightest movement. It is totally concentrated on the mouse hole. This is Zen mind cutting off all thinking and directing all your energy to one point.
Next, great questioning. This is like a child who thinks only of its mother, or a man dying of thirst who thinks only of water. It is called one mind. If you question with great sincerity, there will only be don’t know mind.
If you keep these three, great faith, great courage, and great questioning, you will soon attain enlightenment. You said in your letter that practice is difficult. This is thinking. Zen is not difficult. If you say it is difficult, that means you have been examining yourself, examining your situation, your condition, your opinions. So you say Zen is difficult. And it is not easy. The truth is only like this. Don’t make difficult, don’t make easy. Just practice.
You said that the Zen books which you read shattered your beliefs. That’s very good. But shattered is not shattered. Before, your view was a deluded view. Now it is a correct view. What you believed before was like wanting to hold the rainbow. But the rainbow soon disappears. It never really existed. All things are like this. Before, you believed that all things existed. But now you understand that all things are emptiness. Even so, you must take one step further. Believing or not believing, shattered or not shattered, this is still the area of opposites.
You must throw all these opposites away. Then the truth will be only like this.
You said that everything was shattered. But this “shattered” is still an attachment to name and form. Originally, there is only emptiness. There is neither shattered nor not shattered. This is the area of the absolute. The absolute is true emptiness. True emptiness is before thinking. Before thinking is like this. Form is form, emptiness is emptiness. So your don’t know mind is true emptiness, is before thinking, is the absolute, is your true self.
The names are all different, but they are all names for clear mind. Originally clear mind has no name and no form. There are no words for it. So if you open your mouth, you are wrong. This is why whenever Zen Master Lin-chi was asked a question, he only shouted, “KATZ!” Dok Sahn would answer only by hitting the questioner. Kuji would just hold up one finger. If you are not attached to KATZ or HIT or one finger, then you will understand that the meaning behind these actions is clear mind. The different actions are just different styles of pointing to clear mind.
It is impossible to explain clear mind in words, so the Zen Masters used shouting and hitting and holding up one finger to explain. You must put it down! KATZ is only KATZ, HIT is only HIT, one finger is only one finger. You must understand this. When you say, “I know I don’t know,” this is no good.
Don’t examine your don’t know mind.
Life is Zen. But some people say that life is suffering. How are these different? If you make “my life is Zen,” then your life becomes Zen. If somebody else makes “my life is suffering,” then that person’s life becomes suffering. So it all depends on how you are keeping your mind just now, at this very moment! This just-now mind continues and becomes your life, as one point continues and becomes a straight line.
You like Zen, so your life has become Zen. Now you think that the world is wonderful. Your mind is wonderful, so the whole world is wonderful. If you attain enlightenment, you will understand that all people are suffering greatly, so your mind also will be suffering. This is big suffering. So you must enter the great bodhisattva way and save all people from their suffering. I hope that you only keep don’t know mind, always and everywhere. Then you will soon attain enlightenment and save all beings.
Here is a question for you: Somebody once asked the great Zen Master Dong Sahn, “What is Buddha?” Dong Sahn answered, “Three pounds of flax.” What does this mean?
I will wait for a good answer.