Unless you are clear about what you want you will be pointing your cart north when you want to go south. This is not a question you can answer and then go on with your practice. The question is your practice. Do you want comfort, security, peace, certainty? Do you want knowledge, to understand? Or are you searching for beauty or love? What is it you want? All of these are out there, they can be obtained, reached, but when you get them, then what?
We say one must yearn for Mu. Unfortunately some people take this as a technique, as a method by which they can attain what they want to achieve. Fundamentally all our desires, longing, yearning, even if it is for money, recognition or fame, even if it is expressed in greed or lust, is always the longing for home. In allowing this natural longing – not something you are doing but what you are – to arise spontaneously, without trying to define it, grasp it or use it, it will naturally lean towards what it is you fundamentally want. It will become coarse, grasping. But if one allows it to be like that, without defining it or trying to pin it down, it will be purified. But if you have already established the direction in which you are going, have made up your mind what you want, then this purification will not occur. This is why one must be honest with oneself, be honest about one’s intentions. It does not matter what these intentions are, but you must honestly acknowledge them. Be open to everything that comes up, let it out into the light, because in the light of awareness it will be purified.
Our society has its ideas of what is appropriate, but you must allow yourself to be what you are, not what society expects, without judgment. Don’t be in a hurry to say what you really want; just have the courage to open to yourself. In that way the natural process of purification will bring you home, which is beyond good and bad, beyond right and wrong, beyond a scale of values.
Nisagardatta says that if you examine closely you will see that the mind is seething with thoughts. It is continually in a turmoil of thoughts. Have you seen into this turbulence we call the mind? Or have you always been trying to do something about it in order to get beyond it? Have you ever allowed everything to come up? He suggests allowing the mind to be restless, allowing it to be ignorant and unknowing, allowing it to be ugly. Allow it to be what it is, because whatever it is is the truth and has its source in peace. Some people say that what they want is peace, but Nisagardatta says that what they call peace is only absence of disturbance. Real peace cannot be disturbed.
Once you recognize that your seeking is simply a product of the restless mind, no matter how exalted it might sound, one must now ask: What must I do then? You can only ask that question when you have exhausted all the other ways by which you feel some kind of satisfaction can come. The restless mind is not a bad mind, it is a perfectly legitimate mind; but by the agitation of the restless mind one will only get more restlessness.
Nisagardatta: “changes by themselves cannot bring us to the changeless.” We want to change ourselves, to become the sort of person we feel we ought to be. There is a constant struggle to bring about this change. But you are what you are; allow yourself to be what you are without judgment. This need to change so often underlies our practice.
Nisagardatta: “The real reveals itself as beginingless and endless, all pervading, all powerful.” You cannot experience this, you can only experience the changing. The idea of the unchanging is not the unchanging. So how can you go beyond experience? How can you go to that which is not an experience? When you ask what is Mu, that is the question you are asking, but you look in experience for some kind of resolution to your koan. Sometimes experiences come up which are blissful, peaceful, and you feel you are getting near it, but this does not mean you are getting any closer to the truth. In the same way, when the mind is dry and arid, it doesn’t mean you are far from the truth. You are not an experience, you experience. It is that simple change of perspective that is required. It is going from outside inside.
One looks for an experience that corresponds to anything that is said about what is real, but the description, the words, must be taken as pointers. What you go for, what you feel is it, is not all pervading, beginingless and endless, nor all powerful. Take the words as pointers, take the word ‘awakening’ as a pointer, not a state that you can experience.
So what has one to do? It is taking yourself to be what you are not that binds you.
See into what you are certain you are, and then see that this is what you are not.
Beyond the self lies the unmanifest; the causeless cause of everything.
Reading this text, I am reminded of a story Albert often told about coming into dokusan with Philip Kapleau at the end of a sesshin in which he had worked very hard. He was feeling very discouraged, thinking that he could never come to awakening, his mind and feelings being so muddy and restless. Without saying a word, Kapleau pointed his stick towards a small and heavily crooked cactus in a vase near him. Albert looked and saw that on the tip of this almost dried-up plant, an improbable beautiful flower had bloomed.
Lotus flowers grow in muddy terrain. Without the mud, where could we ever find them?