Working on Mu: teisho 944-2004

The problem is we feel things are absolute. We believe that there is a world and that we live in this world. It is as though there is water and it freezes and now you have chunks that you can break up into bits. In a way, you could say things are frozen knowing. When we are practicing with Mu, the thing is to melt down this frozen world. As long as it is frozen it gives us a sense of there being absolute right and wrong, yes and no.

When one sees into Mu one sees things are like reflections in a mirror. There isn’t a mirror that one sees that one calls Mu, it is simply seeing everything as a reflection, things lose their selfhood. Mu is not something, it is not a state, it is not an underlying condition. There is no substratum. We have the conviction of things because we have a fixed idea of ourselves. We have a fixed viewpoint and this is what we are questioning when we ask ‘Who am I?’ A world of things comes with this sense of separation, this illusion of separation. It is not the things that are illusory, it is the belief in separation, that I am here and the world is there. This is what you are working with if you are working on Mu or Who. One is working on seeing into the illusory nature of separation. But how can you see into an illusion? How can you see what is not really there?

How can we take hold of the possibility that there is just one world.? This is the question we need to ask.

The thereness of the world makes death terrible. The thereness of the world compared to the no thereness of death. When one sees the illusion of the thereness of the world, that cliff edge, that line that one crosses from life to death, loses its sharp edge. By seeing into this we can see more clearly what we mean by ‘no thingness.’ It shows up in sharper outline the illusory nature of a defined entity called ‘me’.

What is silence? Is there an isness to silence, does it have its own being? If it doesn’t how do sounds that come out of it have any being of their own? Silence stands to sounds as what you know and that you know stand to each other. What you know comes out of knowing and returns to knowing. What sort of being does knowing have? It is not something, but it is not nothing. When you say I know, what is this knowing? You cannot hold it at arms length and examine it, you cannot separate the knowing from knowing in order to know it. It isn’t an absence. When you know I am, upstream of all saying, what is it that is being known? This is not an idle question. It cannot be given a verbal answer because it refers to that which is upstream of verbalization. It is like silence. We ignore the knowing, we are taken up with experience, sensations, emotions, thoughts – they all have their being in knowing. All of them are knowing made manifest. So what is this knowing? ( The ‘is’ is unfortunate – seize the spirit of the question.)

Throughout the whole day, thoughts and feelings are coming out of knowing. We say that this is my life, this is my experience, or this is the world. We say the room is real. But what is real, is it the room or is it knowing the room? Can we make a distinction? Where does the room end and your seeing it begin? Knowing has no past or future. It is what is known that has a past and future. One must be taken up in the wonder of it, letting go of prejudgment, letting go of taking it for granted, unfreezing, allowing what is to be, rather than how we think it ought to be. So what are you, what is the world, what is Mu?

We cannot discover reality, we cannot discover truth, we cannot discover meaning, but we can see into what is not the case, what is not so: see into the notion that thoughts are absolute, see into the claim that I am something, separate, apart, distinct, unique. By seeing into the falseness, the truth shines out by itself.

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One Response to Working on Mu: teisho 944-2004

  1. Monique D. says:

    In the teisho 1125, Albert says : “When we hear a sound, is there no longer the silence or is the sound, the sound of silence? Is sound the body of silence? And if we could use as a metaphor silence and death and sound and life, we think that because we die there is no longer life, and because we live there is not yet death, but that is like saying because there is sound there is no longer silence, but is that the case? Is it possible that life is the body of death, in which case what we call death is no longer a dark empty hole but a brilliant, scintillating light of love.

    This is a complete reversal of perspective. So wonderful. Thank you Albert. And thank you Jean for this post.

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