An ancient worthy had a saying: “To look for the ox, one must seek out its tracks. To study the path, seek out mindlessness. Where the tracks are, so must the ox be.” The path of mindlessness is easy to seek out. So-called mindlessness is not being inert and unknowing like earth, wood, tile, or stone; it means that the mind is settled and imperturbable when in contact with situations and meeting circumstances; that it does not cling to anything, but is clear in all places, without hindrance or obstruction; without being stained, yet without dwelling in the stainlessness; viewing body and mind like dreams or illusions, yet without remaining in the perspective of dreams’ and illusions’ empty nothingness.
Only when one arrives at a realm like this, can it be called true mindlessness. No, it’s not lip-service mindlessness: if you haven’t attained true mindlessness and just go by the verbal kind, how is this different from the perverted Ch’an of “silent illumination”?
“Just get to the root, don’t worry about the branches.”
Emptying this mind is the root. Once you get the root, the fundamental, then all kinds of language and knowledge and all your daily activities as you respond to people and adapt to circumstances, through so many upsets and downfalls, whether joyous or angry, good or bad, favorable or adverse – these are all trivial matters, the branches. If you can be spontaneously aware and knowing as you are going along with circumstances, then there is neither lack nor excess.
The great Zen teacher Ta Hui comes from the same lineage as Bodhidharma. He was born four hundred years after Bodhidharma had left for the Himalayas, to disappear into the eternal ice, the eternal silence there.
I have called Ta Hui the great Zen teacher – not a master(it has to be explained to you clearly. The master is one who is enlightened. but sometimes it happens that the master may be enlightened, but is not articulate enough to give expression to what he has known. That is a totally different art.
The teacher is not enlightened, but he is very articulate. He can say things which the master, although he knows, cannot bring to words. The teacher can say them, although he does not know.
The teacher he has heard…he has lived with enlightened people, he has imbibed their energy, he has been showered by their flowers. He has tasted something transpiring from the enlightened ones, so he has a certainty that something like enlightenment happens, but he has no authority of his own; his authority is borrowed. And if the teacher is a genius, he can almost manage to express things over which masters have faltered, or they have remained silent.
The teacher has his own utility. He is more available to the people – he belongs to the people. The master is on a high sunlit peak. Even if he shouts from there, only echoes reach to the people’s ears. But the teacher lives amongst the people, knows their life, knows their language, knows how things should be expressed so they can understand. The master remains committed to his experience, while the teacher is more committed to the people, to spread the message.
Once in a while it happens that the master cannot express at all. For example, Ramakrishna was an enlightened man, but utterly uneducated, uncultured, knowing nothing of great literature, knowing nothing of what other enlightened people have said. He experienced the beauty of his inner being, but he was absolutely handicapped as far as conveying it to others. He had to take the support of a man, Vivekananda, who was not enlightened but was a great genius – very intelligent, rational, logical, intellectual, well-versed, well-educated. He became the mouthpiece of Ramakrishna. He went around the world spreading his message.
Whatever exists today as Ramakrishna Mission, is completely the work of Vivekananda, but he himself died in utter agony. The agony was more intense because he had been spreading the good news of ecstasy, but inside he was empty. His whole message was only verbal, but he managed it so cleverly that many started thinking of him as enlightened.