The Story of Eno Daikan 2:
The Heart has no stand
The delusion of 'I', takes its stand by splitting the world into opposites. 'Me' or 'you', 'mind' or 'body', 'inside' or 'outside', 'relative truth' or 'absolute truth'. And perhaps most relevant, 'my opinion' or 'your opinion'. This splitting and taking sides goes against the Buddha's middle path of letting-go of these attachments in order to see things as they really are.
Eno (Hui Neng), was taken into the monastery and put to work in the rice-hulling shed.
As he was only of slight build this was a task that required a lot of energy. There is a wooden treadle and the operator uses his body weight to press down upon it thus operating the mechanism to hull the rice from its husks.
Being so light-weight Eno had to tie a rock around himself to make himself sufficiently heavy.
Such hard manual labour is a common feature in traditional Zen training places; its purpose, above and beyond getting the necessary jobs done, is to bring the students out of their heads and into their bodies.
The Buddha said that in this fathom long body lies the world, the beginning of the world, the end of the world and the way that leads to the end of the world.
It starts and ends here.
In Zen terms many of us live too much in our heads, with our thoughts and opinions, our convictions, likes and dislikes. We are deeply attached to this thought bundle where the notion of ‘I’ plays a central role.
The physical labour is to direct energy away from these clinging thoughts and back into the body, putting it to good use.
A good remedy for a bad mood can be some hard digging in the garden or a thorough spring-clean in the house!
Master Gunin was looking for a successor and announced that all the monks should compose a verse expressing their insight and submit it to him.
But the monks assumed that the ‘who?’ question of the succession was a forgone conclusion and that the head monk was the obvious choice.
The Head Monk was called Jinshu (ch. Shen-hsiu), and he was not so certain of the clarity of his own insight.
One part of the monastery was undergoing re-decorating, and feeling uncertain, rather than openly presenting his verse he instead wrote it up on a wall that was due to be painted.
His verse ran:
The body is like the Bodhi Tree
The Heart is a bright mirror on a stand.
Everyday wipe clean the mirror,
So that no dust may alight.
The following day Gunin’s attention was drawn to the verse and upon reading it he realised who had written it and also that his Head Monk had not yet penetrated through into the realisation of Buddha nature.
However he said:
“Light incense before this verse, learn it off by heart and recite it. Whomsoever can truly practice it will avoid the error of other ways, and in time will realise Buddha nature.”
If we know how this story will end we might again wonder what the old patriarch is really up to?
This question arises from an error in our own thinking.
Knowing that Eno becomes the 6th Patriarch we assume that Jinshu’s verse must be wrong, particularly as we know that Gunin though the Head Monk had not yet penetrated through to his own Buddha nature.
However, Jinshu’s poem expresses beautifully our daily life practice and the practice of sitting meditation (zazen).
On the cushion, when the heart is carried away by thoughts, as soon as this is realised it is swiftly brought back to the object of meditation.
In daily life practice, it is the same; when what is just now being done is lost because of daydreams and thoughts, as soon as that is realised to once again give myself back into what is just now being done anyway.
This gradual practice approach is not denied in Zen although insight when it arises is sudden. What is needed is a solid foundation, a monkey trap, to catch the monkey of insight into Buddha nature!
Eventually Eno got to hear the poem.
When he did, he too realised that the Head Monk had not yet penetrated through. In response he composed his own verse and had to persuade another to write his verse alongside the first. It ran:
There is no Bodhi Tree,
The Heart has no stand.
When there is nothing whatsoever,
What dust can alight where?
The Bodhi Tree refers to the ‘Tree of Enlightenment’ under which the ascetic Gautama attained Buddhahood. It was the culmination of all those years with his two teachers and his hard training with the five ascetics almost starving himself to death.
The early teachings lay great emphasis on laying down ‘good roots’ for a favourable incarnation so as to attain liberation. Looking at the story of the Buddha it would seem that Buddhahood and the attainment under the tree was the culmination of all that went before.
But that would be to make Buddha nature contingent and subject to causes and conditions.
The Great Indian Sage, Nagarjuna, taught that the True Nature or Buddha nature is empty of all marks and signs, of anything at all – including causes and conditions.
This would spark a controversy among some monks about whether Enlightenment is attained gradually or suddenly, an argument that still goes on today among some here in the West too.
There is a resonance here with the Buddha’s teaching of the Two Truths – that there is a relative truth, that is causally conditioned and an absolute truth that is not.
There is a story about a province in China that suffered a bad drought. Everything that could be done was done to remedy the problem.
Sacrifices to the gods, spells and charms were made all to no avail.
In the end one official sent for a rainmaker from a distant province. When he arrived he was greeted by the official who implored him to save them from the impending famine that would result if the rains failed to come.
The rainmaker looked around and said that he would see what he could do. He noticed a cottage up on a hill and asked if he could stay there for three days whilst he pondered the problem.
The official made the arrangements and for three days nothing happened.
On the third day the storm clouds gathered and there was a torrential downpour.
Everyone rejoiced – they had been saved!
A large procession of people made their way up to the cottage and the official knocked on the door.
When the rainmaker opened the door they began thanking him profusely for what he had done for them!
The rainmaker replied that he had done nothing.
“But you have made it rain, look” they responded.
“This isn’t my doing at all.”
He went onto explain that in his province everything happens when it is supposed to happen. People do what they are supposed to do and the rains fall when they are supposed to. “But in this province as soon as I stepped down from the carriage I realised that everything is out of sorts, including the people!
Of course, being here too meant that my own heart was also now out of sorts and I thought that the best thing I can do is to sort out my own Heart, and that is all I have been doing for the past three days.”
We might ask would the rains have come if he had not arrived and entered the cottage? The point may be better expressed by saying that he did enter the cottage and the rains came.
Causality says there is no connection; however, there is a traditional way of seeing in China that sees connections between things that occur at the same time.
This is reflected in the Hindu notion of Indra’s net. The Great god Indra has a net that stretches across the universe; it runs in the three directions of length, breadth and along. Where three threads touch there is a jewel that holds them in place. Each jewel reflects itself and every other jewel in that net.
If you move a single jewel it is simultaneously reflected in each and every jewel.
When we read the stories of sudden awakening, that this one smelled the peach blossom or that one heard a pebble click against a bamboo and had profound awakening – we should remember Indra’s net.
The Story of Huineng
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