July 11, 2019

When you pick up a book, it seems to have a power that goes beyond the passivity of ink on paper. It emanates energy, beckoning you to read, promising entertainment, education or enlightenment. Much like a prayer shawl that holds the intention of the creator, a book, well-done, holds the intention of each individual who has worked on it. The author, first and foremost, but then a team of individuals: editors, proofers, designers, copywriters, printers, distributors, sales people and eventually other readers. A book, well-done, has been cared for and nurtured at every stage since it left its creator’s mind. It’s energy has only grown. The New Chapter blog is meant to share my experience as the publisher’s editor for Master Miao Tsan’s English books. But I am only one person on a large team. We thought it would be a good opportunity for you to hear from others, too. Lawrence Payne–Larry–works with Jay on the original translation before it comes to me. I have now worked with Larry for a couple of years, but I only had the pleasure of meeting him recently. Books bring people together. Meet Larry Payne. You’ll be hearing from him often from these pages. And as I have been delighted to get to know him better, I know you will be, too.   Being Better Than “Ourselves” Hello, everyone. It is a pleasure to embark on this new episode in the study and exploration of Zen, in which I’ve been asked to contribute occasional blogs for the Vairocana Monastery website. Even greater is the honor of working with and learning from Venerable Master Miao Tsan, the abbot of Vairocana. Over the past couple of years, since the publication of “Just Use This Mind,” I have given a measure of consideration to the essentiality of the Mind in all the perceivable aspects of our existence. Thanks to the Master, my profoundly gifted teacher and friend, the blessings of a fuller life have been revealed, free at last from the old encumbrances that had bound me to a tired, non-productive image of self. Perhaps that sounds a bit aloof, but in the quest to convey the sincerity of such a revelation, the common terms of daily expression would fail miserably. I’ll offer an example: Isn’t it true that man, who began his existence as an earthbound forager, has always gazed at the clouds and wished he could soar among them as the birds so easily do? Haven’t we, the society of mankind, aspired to things that could neither be spoken nor illustrated? Why is it that our minds can conceive realities of such depth and color that our hands may never touch them? So, now you see the conundrum: It’s all questioning, brittle as the late-fall leaves. It’s the lonely pursuit of the mind within, constantly reaching for the power to create something larger than itself. However, it is not the pursuit of the Mind, the infinite and formless creative power that can imbue us with the greatest creation: a life that expresses truth and happiness. Certainly I’m not one to lecture others on the nature of things. I can only share what I’ve learned through the writings of my teacher, Master Miao Tsan. Nevertheless, I have so many questions, and of course I have various ideas about how all these pieces of knowledge fit. To one who is experienced in the understanding of life, such as the Master is, this might be relatively simple. Yes, he says: It is simple, but it is never easy. Here in this place, a roomful of memories and reactions I no longer need, I feel as if I’m lashed to a particular, narrow perspective. I want to know how I can set aside my constant awareness of “me,” so that the universe of the Mind can make the rich possibility of life evident in each moment of my day. Two things come to my mind as I write this: First, I believe one should discern the active endeavor of learning from the wasteful pattern of habitual thinking. Secondly, I want to adopt, as second nature, the idea once described to me by the Master: I said, “It seems that each of us is a grain of sand in the universe.” The Master replied, “Yes, you are a grain of sand. This is true, and it’s important to remember. But please, also remember that in the same way you are a grain of sand in the universe, a grain of sand contains the universe. You, as a grain of sand, are within the universe, and the universe is within you. When you realize the nature of the Mind, you will see the truth: There is no difference.” Our friend Sasha said, “Master, isn’t it like a drop of water from the ocean? Is there no difference?” Master Miao Tsan said, “We are drops of water from the ocean, but we are not the ocean itself. We cannot claim such immensity of power, but the Mind can. We must set aside all we think about ourselves and let the Mind direct us to the truth.” Is it merely poetry? Clearly the words are beautiful, but they’re much more than that. The message, as this lowly student discerns it, is to set aside the dusty lens of personal perspective and welcome the infinitely greater view that the Mind affords us. It is possible that each of you has already learned this, so I offer this message with no expectation of gratitude. But I do hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. So, until next time, I wish you peace. Lawrence Payne