teisho 1334, (2014)
Koan practice is not a Zen practice but a life practice that brings into question the very basis on which we live our life. And as a consequence it is necessarily going to cause suffering. The security we feel is illusory, built on the feeling ‘I am something unique in the world.’ When we ask the question ‘Who am I?’ or ‘What is Mu?’ this is going to be undermined.
Working on a koan, one must think without thinking. In his book ‘All and Everything’, Gurdjieff says that the non desires must predominate over the desires. A non desire is not an absence of desire, what is it then? Benoit in ‘Let Go’ talks about a non will to experience. This is allowing. Allowing is actionless action. It is thinking without thinking. ‘Mu’ and ‘Who am I?’ is a profound use of the mind, or perhaps better put, a non use of the mind: arousing the mind without resting it on anything. It is intense action, but without any kind of form, any kind of content, any kind of result. It is not striving for an answer, it is questioning. The mind is active but not with a grasping result oriented attitude. Without thinking something, without thinking what does it mean, you turn with absolute faith to ‘I am’. Not the words, not the concept, but that which the words mask and hide although they are meant to reveal.
When you think you can go no further, when you are completely stymied, when you see it is utterly impossible, when you can’t see any point in going on, realise that it has taken years of work for you to get to this point.
Awakening is coming to. It is like when you wake up in the morning, first you are asleep and then you come to. You don’t come to anything, you simply come to. There is that story about a monk who had had an awakening: he meets a brother monk who asks, ‘what is it?’. And the first monk, who was travelling with his belongings in a bundle over his shoulder, put his baggage down on the floor. And the brother monk said, ‘Is that all?’ The first monk picked up his bundle and went on walking.
When you ask ‘Who am I?’ you expect something to be completely different. We are constantly looking for something special, something dramatic. But when you yourself pick up your bundle and go on walking, you will find it is so ordinary, so wonderfully ordinary. Only you can do it, but this is good news. While you are dependent on someone else, you are tied like a donkey to a pole. Because it is your work alone that can free you, you are already free.