Zen Practice – Manifesting the Purity of the Mind

November 2, 2012

A thought is a form of energy.  Each thought causes a brainwave, which has its own energy wave. A physical body and material things are also energy. They are energy forms; energy cannot be separated. I try to make this idea clear to people, because it is very useful. When you have a thought, you will have an action that produces a result, or a reaction. A thought is first, followed by an action and then the result. The concept that everything happens simultaneously can be difficult for people–beginners, especially–to understand..

The mind has no form, but the mind is the creator. The concept of a creator must have some conditions. In other words, the creator exists everywhere and can manifest everything simultaneously; the creator generates everything but has no form. No matter if this creator is the God of Islam, Christianity or another religious faith, the concept of God presents certain conditions. Without those conditions, it cannot be.

Buddhism states that every single person possesses a Buddha nature. This means that in the future, no matter how far forward it might be, you will become a Buddha. It is because this nature of yours is completely like the nature of the Buddha. The Buddha nature is intrinsic to every person. Thus the Buddha nature is the creator. You can say the concept of Buddha nature equates to the concept of God in Buddhism. In Zen Buddhism, however, we avoid the terminology “Buddha” or “Buddha nature” but instead use the idea of the Mind. The function or ability of the Mind is  equal to the idea of Buddha nature, or to the idea of God.

So, this is the difference between Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. For example, in Catholic society or Muslim society, God is the only one. In Buddhism or Zen practice, the mind of every single person is God. This means that every single person needs to take responsibility for what he or she has already done. Each person needs to take responsibility for what he or she faces. It is because you are the creator and you create your own reality. This is completely different from other religions. Therefore, in Buddhism it is called Buddha nature. In Zen, we call it the Mind.

Let me help you to clear up an idea. In the book, Just Use This Mind, I use the pure “Mind” with a capital “M” and the mundane human mind with a small “m.” You have your mind, and a Buddha has his. What distinguishes the two? What makes your mind different from Buddha’s? The function and ability of your mind are completely the same as the Buddha’s. They are equal. However, in Buddha’s Mind it is pure. There is no attachment or ego, so it is like a spotless, dust-free mirror. An everyday person’s mind is like a clear mirror as well, but there is dust on it. However, even with dust on the mirror, the mirror’s function remains.  When the mirror has dust, it manifests a distorted reality. So, in the book, Just Use This Mind, the functions of the Mind and mind are the same. The mind, however, belongs to an everyday person, and consequently there is dust and self-attachment. The eyes of the Buddha’s Mind do not see through colored lenses, but the eyes of the ordinary person do. When your eyes are shaded with colored lenses, the reality is distorted. The eyes are clear, but their vision is hindered by colorful glasses. This is what we refer to as the mundane mind.

What is the difference between the mundane mind and Buddha’s Mind? Buddha’s Mind is a mind without illusions and attachments, and a mundane mind is burdened by illusions. There is a saying: “The Buddha is an everyday person without worries and attachments. The everyday person is a Buddha with a lot of worries.” This is an important idea. Besides the mundane mind, can you find a pure mind? You cannot.  However, within the mundane mind exists a pure Mind. So the practice of Zen has only one goal: to get rid of the pollutants that cloud one’s perception like the dust on a mirror. Our practice does not try to create a pure mind but instead to get rid of illusions and attachments. It is like removing all the dust that covers the mirror. This is the only purpose.  In Zen, we emphasize enlightenment. If you try to achieve enlightenment, this is a good purpose and a wonderful goal in your practice. The key is to let go of your attachments. You cannot carry your ego and self-attachments with you and achieve enlightenment. It cannot be done.

Enlightenment is a status of your mind. What kind of status is it? Enlightenment is the purity and tranquility of the mind. When your mind is tranquil, pure and aware, it is in the state of enlightenment. People have illusions, such as, “I am practicing,” or “I am trying to achieve enlightenment.” This is a good idea, but how can one make it a reality? By letting go of attachments and letting go of the dust that covers the mirror, you will manifest a shining reflection of the truth. This is the meaning of enlightenment.

Thoughts come and go, and the physical body is a combination of energy. The physical body changes constantly. Can thoughts or the physical body be used to achieve enlightenment? They cannot. When your mind manifests its own intrinsic purity, enlightenment is achieved. It has nothing to do with your physical body or your thoughts, because thoughts are created and generated. Purity of mind has nothing to do with one’s emotions, worries or thoughts, nor does it have anything to do with your physical body. Intrinsically, every single person’s mind is born with this purity, but we have attachments, which in turn pollute the purity of the mind. The right thing to do is to let go of the pollutants, or the attachments in the mind. Many practitioners delude themselves and think they are practicing meditation, reciting sutras, practicing mindfulness and trying to achieve enlightenment. Such achievement is the right idea, but somehow it is also the wrong idea. People have the wrong idea, because they are subject to deep self-attachment. When you say “to achieve,” who is trying to achieve enlightenment? Be honest with yourself: Who is trying to achieve enlightenment?  You will say, “I am trying to achieve enlightenment,” but let me ask you, “Who is the real ‘I’”? Ask yourself this question.

It is the ego, of course. You assume that the thought, ego and body will eventually achieve enlightenment. To make this assumption is to put more dust on the mirror. If you practice this way, you only create more pollution within your mind. This is why I say that people have illusions in regard to practicing. They think they should “try” to achieve. They carry their self-attachments as they try to achieve something. It is like putting more of a burden on your shoulders and then forcing yourself to walk faster. This is unattainable.

So, when we talk about achieving enlightenment we really mean letting go of attachments in the mind. The idea of letting go of attachments in the mind means that thoughts vanish as soon as they appear. They come and go instantaneously. Do not follow them. For example, when you see food on the table, you generate a first thought: “It is good food.” Your second thought is, “I want to have some of it.“  Then after that you create thoughts continuously. Instead, when a thought appears, just let it go. Thoughts will come and go, so do not pursue them. That is why, when wandering thoughts appear during our practice of meditation, we do not follow them. Otherwise, we will lose our focus and instead create more wandering thoughts. When we practice, we try to manifest purity; the intrinsic purity of the mind. This is the purpose, and this is the goal. Thoughts come and go; combinations of energy and the physical body occur and change constantly. However, every phenomenon–each thought and every energy combination–exists only temporarily in the moment.

Let us return to the idea that the mind has no form. There is a saying, “If you think that ‘I’ achieve enlightenment, it means you never achieve enlightenment.” This is because you are still attached to the concept of “I.” If someone truly achieves enlightenment, he can say he has done so. It is okay. However, for the everyday person to say, “I have achieved enlightenment,” the attachment to the concept of “I” denies it. A better way to say “achieving enlightenment” is to say “manifesting the purity of your mind.” This is the goal. We are here to practice, not to create the purity of the mind; we are here to let go of attachments in order to manifest that purity.