Chapter 9: Entering the Gap
In the very idea of conquest I see the seed of the impossibility of conquest. And it is this very mistake that does not allow man to conquer. If you want to conquer your own shadow will you be able to? As soon as you know the shadow to be a shadow you have won it over. The shadow isn’t to be conquered, it is just to be known. And what is true of the shadow is also true of the mind. I ask you to know the mind, not to conquer it.
Someone once reverently asked Bodhidharma, “My mind is very restless. Will you please show me the way to calm it?” Bodhidharma posed a question in reply: “Where is your mind? Bring it to me and I will calm it.” The man said, “That is the difficulty. It eludes all my attempts to catch it.”
If I had been in Bodhidharma’s place I would have then said, “Do not try to catch it, let it go. Your very desire to catch it is its restlessness. Can you ever catch a shadow?”
Do you know what else Bodhidharma said then? He said, “Look, I have calmed it, have I not?”
If you can only watch your mind and not try to catch it or to conquer it, it will no more be found. In the old days when they were trying to saddle-break a horse, they used to ask whether it was better to tire the horse out or to strengthen the reins. These were also the two methods for conquering the mind, for bringing it under control. But I don’t prescribe either of the two methods. I ask you to first look if there really is a horse at all. You are out to exhaust, harness and saddle something that does not exist at all. Both efforts are false because there is no horse. The horse is the shadow of your unawareness. If you wake up, there is neither a horse nor a mind to conquer or bring under control.
You ask us not to hold on to thoughts. Does this apply to good thoughts as well?
If you want to know your real self you must rid yourself of both good and evil and become empty, without content. Good thoughts, bad thoughts, both are acquired things. They have come from outside: they are both things taken in. Your real self-nature is hidden under them, behind their cover. Thoughts as such are a covering. They are like chains keeping you bound. It is necessary to break these chains. It makes no difference whether the chains are of iron or of gold.
Whatsoever has come from without is an acquired thing, an accumulation. Non-accumulation means that state of pure consciousness where no outside impressions exist. The revelation of the soul becomes possible only in the absence of all conditionings. And for that, the foundation of an unconditioned mind is a must. But we are full of thoughts. And those who are religious are even more full of religious thoughts. This is what is understood by “being religious”! Being full of the scriptures is considered being religious. This is absolutely wrong.