Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Unwind the Mind

Look upon the body as unreal,
An image in a mirror,
Or the reflection of the moon in the water.
Contemplate the mind as formless
Yet bright and pure.
Not a single thought arising,
Empty, yet perceptive,
Still, yet illuminating,
Complete like the Great Emptiness.

This is the beginning of a poem called Contemplating Mind by the seventeenth century Ch'an (Japanese, Zen) Master Han-Shan. As Master Shen-Yen writes in his book On Getting the Buddha Mind (1982, Dharma Drum Publications):

He (Han-Shan) exemplified the bodhisattva ideal of developing wisdom through meditation, study and compassionate action. In the spirit of his times, he did not make a strong distinction between the sects of Buddhism and was eclectic, incorporating elements of Confucianism. His style was a fusion of the austerity of Ch'an with the inclusive view of the Hua-Yen sect. To this day his undecayed body remains intact in the monastery of the Sixth Patriarch on mainland China.

I find both Han-Shan's poem and Master Shen-Yen's book to be religiously instructive and marvelously poetic at the same time. For instance, I am somewhat anxious about the skateboard camp I will be helping to instruct at the end of the month. I've been trying to keep in shape, but still have a fallen arch in one foot, and my joints are pretty sore and unresponsive in this heat. When I start telling myself that I'm too old to be skating, or that I'll never make it through five straight days of being an instructor, I think about Han-Shan's poem and it reminds me not to worry so much about my physical person.

The Buddha Mind, Calligraphy by Shen-Yen

Skateboarding is always, ultimately, a leap into the Great Emptiness. You can train and practice to perfect your skills but the act itself remains a spontaneous interaction with the environment. And in those moments when the mind is empty, with not a single thought arising, and you bring a backside G-turn around to perfect rotation, there is no difference between yourself and the environment.


ANONYMOUS 1 said...

sometimes when I read your work I almost understand - a thought of magnificent clarity skates through my mind but, like trying to remember a dream upon wakening, by the time I've finished I've forgotten what the ray of light meant. The feeling of having grasped a concept in which I believe still lingers though. It's a feeling of contentment. Thank you.

flatlander said...

If there are any magnificent thoughts abiding here, they are your own. That is to say, they must be living already in your own mind.

But you're welcome. I'm just a chatter-box: born to blog, but I'm glad to be sparking neurons. The operant word is "skates"; thought as a process, enlightenment arrived at through motion. Try to grab it, and it's gone; but let it go and maybe something will remain.

Thank you for leaving comments. Like the the plywood applause of kids slapping their boards against the pavement at the skatepark, it keeps me motivated.