“…who is the person who is making the inquiry? That true face which was before father and mother were born, where is it right now?”
You must have had a face before you were born. Or were you faceless? And you will have a face when you are dead. Or do you think you won’t have any face?
Zen’s most significant inquiry is to find the original face. This face that you have right now is not your original face, it is changing every moment. Every moment you are becoming older; every moment death is coming closer. Just a few years before you were a child, and just a few years afterwards you were an old man. A few more years and not even a trace of you will be found anywhere. How many millions of people have lived before you?
Some crackpot has inquired – because only crackpots inquire into such things – and found that wherever you are sitting, there have been at least eight graves in the past. You are sitting on eight ghosts! And just think of the implication – you will be the ninth. And the tenth ghost will be sitting on your head. Where have all those people disappeared?
No. This face, this body, this mind which comes and goes, is not your true being, your original face. You have to find something in you which never changes. In Zen language, that which never changes in you is your original face. All others are masks.
Only one thing never changes in you and that is witnessing, watchfulness, awareness. Everything changes. You are aware of the anger, anger will change. How long can you be angry? The hottest person is going to be cool sooner or later, and the coolest person can be driven to be hot. You love, but the moment you say, “I love,” you should remember that love has started dying. Soon you will be carrying the corpse of love, still saying the old words, repeated dialogues. But deep inside you know the love that was a romance, a poetry, a song, is no more there; your heart no more sings, no more dances.
But awareness remains the same. At one time it was aware that you loved, now it is aware that love is gone. Seasons come and go, flowers blossom and disappear in the dust, but at the deepest core of your being is the greatest mystery of awareness, which is eternal, which is your original face.
“When suddenly one day the light of life, now so brilliant, will be withdrawn, where does it go to?”
“In this sort of way,” continued Bukko, “look into the self. Look when you sleep, look when you sit, look when you walk.”