Thus Spake Shakyamunithustra
Q. What do you say to the sutras that tell us the Dharma is signless, ungraspable, and depends on nothing? That no words can teach it, nor is there anything ever to be taught? That there is nobody to hear it, nobody to experience joy, delight, amazement, or relief at hearing it?
A. All perfectly and ultimately true. I do not claim to be able to transmit any Dharma whatsoever. I am not a teacher of "Buddhism," a monk or a demagogue. And I find these sutras -- I believe you are quoting from the True Mark of the Dharma chapter in the Buddha Treasury Sutra, one of those translated by Kumārajīva -- exhilarating! They give me amazement, delight, and relief. I enjoy them. Who is this "I"? Is it my head, my legs, my nostrils? By the way:
Where has this so-called "mind" that believes this or that or struggles to overcome its own limits ever occurred? In what space? By what causes? Who can point to it? Is there really anything "physical" to be distinguished from the non-physical? Is it necessary to speak in terms of samsara and nirvana when there has never been a hair's breadth worth of difference? In any case, by cutting away all thoughts or letting them settle completely into clearness by themselves, doesn't one live one's life as the figurehead of supreme ease? It's all empty, impermanent, and grand. Thus spake Shakyamunithustra.
Q. Puzzling . . . I can't answer any of the questions you just asked. I wonder if you're just fucking with me. I don't have any Zen insight. It seems I'm sitting in a dark cave and you're just throwing these horrific paradoxes at me. Are you really a Guru, or what? Is all this just mind-fuck?
A. Let's backtrack a little. Ch'an (Zen) is a literature. It is a style. Some would say it is a religion. But before any of this it is a method for discovering your true being. Can we agree on that?
A. So what's the method? Unrelenting attention is used to cut through the illusory world of "thinking" to simple awareness; absorbed into awareness, the "watcher" gets spontaneously annihilated. That's satori. A one-pointed focus on "this-here-now" has this result -- the bottom suddenly drops out of the cosmic shit pail. That's the basic Ch'an method and it's what Nisargadatta taught, too. "Have you felt the all-embracing emptiness in which the universe swims like a cloud in the blue sky?"
Q. So this "all-embracing emptiness" is the Reality of Suchness that is tasted by simple clear awareness?
A. Bingo! After satori, as Mumon said, you live out your life in a merry and playful samadhi. The "you" living this life is mysterious, abrupt and profound, sometimes extremely silly. Dogmatism, Zen or otherwise, finds no foothold here.
Q. But if there's no "watcher" left, no person but only clear empty awareness, who lives out this life after satori in a merry and playful samadhi? Who is talking to me right now? Got you! How can "you" possibly answer that one?
A. The Reality of Suchness takes care of it, out of its ongoing creativity. "I" don't worry about stuff like that. In Zen it's sometimes called "the Original Person Without Qualities," "the Deep One," "the Indwelling Sage," and so forth.
Q.Okay. What are you doing these days with your simple awareness?
A. Playing the bamboo flute. Ajikan meditation focused in a relaxed way on the pure simplicity of breathing. Presence without a goal. Non-abiding anywhere. Giving rise to the stark energy of voidness itself, carefree as a lark. Mountains with the blue shoulders of last autumn's rain. Rivers like bells. Demon chants.