|Hui-Neng busy cutting bamboo. By Liang-K'ai.|
When there is water, you drink water. When there is nothing but sky, you see mountains in all directions. What's the problem?
Munen is the Japanese for the Chinese word "wu-nien." It means "No-Thoughts."
"Wu-nien" came fully into Zen with Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng and with the Oxhead School of Chan. Once upon a time in ancient China.
I shall now digress, to tell you the story of the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng.
When Hui-Neng was a little boy his father died. He took over his father's job, which was to gather firewood in the forest and hump it down to the city and stand over it on a streetcorner shouting, "Firewood for sale right here! Get your firewood! Highest quality, lowest prices!"
At the end of the day he'd take his meager earnings back to his mother and they'd have a little bowl of rice to celebrate one more day of having some food in their wasted bellies.
Hui-Neng the boy was basically all ribs, arms, and eyes. You've seen them on TV I'm sure.
Anyhow one day this enterprising little boy was standing over his pathetic little bundle of for-sale firewood doing his thing when he saw a bald Zen monk with glaring eyes striding along like he owned the place. The monk was in old messed up robes and was chanting in his big ox voice the "Lightning-like [Vajra] Perfection of Wisdom Sutra." It's a sutra that's actually short enough to memorize [in Chinese] if you're smart.
Hui-Neng wasn't so smart but he happened to hear this one amazing verse, "Give rise to a mind that doesn't stay fixed anyplace at all" and he had a strange sudden understanding. It was like someone took his body and moved it five feet to one side. Wow!
He asked the monk where he, the monk, was from and the monk told him the name of a Chan (Meditation) monastery in the north run by a certain old fool named Master Hongren.
Hui-Neng said, "Meditation? All right. I want some of that. If one just verse of that crazy Chan sutra can transport me five feet to the side, maybe this old bald fool Hongren can really sock it to me. I'd like to know what he knows. My crippled mother will just have to fend for herself."
To be continued . . .