It’s interesting to approach something openly—without any baggage, hardened opinions, weighty ideas or rules about how vastness functions.
Through presence, there’s a meeting between this mind and what is before us… where the perceived boundary lines we create aren’t necessarily apparent and the ways in which we label life “boring,” “colorful,” or “dreadful” are fundamentally false—not because we are false or life is false, but because these discriminations limit an ever-present ultimate reality that rests quietly like a coat around the foregrounds of our lives.
Having a rigid view then is no different than inhabiting a fortress or walking around with dense iron-plated armor to protect against the vibrancy of the unknown. It could be intriguing to watch ourselves from time to time with the question in mind, “Where is the armor in my life and what might happen if I begin to take it off?”
Taking our own limiting views down to step into the intimacy of life and accept the unknown might transform us beyond what we prepared for— and that “unpreparedness” could be a wonderful thing.
The 8th century Zen Master Ma-tsu had a way with taking apart people’s intricate ideas about themselves or how their world functioned, and exchanging these small attempts to corral infinity for the freedom that was always just beyond the reach of their heavy armor.
The master pointed to the heart of things, a focal point that nevertheless enveloped the universe and permeated through the open mind when one simply allowed one’s attention to inhabit the now.
Rather than having his students use their energy to maintain their personal views, he asked them to use this energy to watch the mind and the way this life unfolded naturally. Over time, some of these followers broke through into something large while the rest of them continued to watch and laugh—to live this life intensely underneath the canopy of stars whether they could see them or not.[i]
Some talk of this “freedom” as an immediate sense of intimacy with each moment and others talk of a kind of melting into a profound and yet ordinary sense of oneness: Ma-tsu just roared, and within that wild, voluminous roar was a clear presentation of all the wisdom one could possibly uncover in oneself—an opportunity for an unknowably deep realization. It was as if he meant to say “You! It is always sitting intensely on the edge of your nose! Do not forget.” There is love and compassion in that intense roar too, one that bubbles up naturally as we peel away the rusty pieces we use to try and hold our version of the universe together.
Here’s a quote from the old ancestor himself:
“The Way needs no cultivation, just do not defile. What is defilement? When with a mind of birth and death one acts in a contrived way, then everything is defilement. If one wants to know the Way directly: Ordinary Mind is the way! What is meant by Ordinary Mind? No activity, no right or wrong, no grasping or rejecting, neither terminable nor permanent, without worldly or holy. Just like now—whether walking, standing, sitting or reclining, responding to situations and dealing with people as they come: everything is the Way.”
Ma turns the ways in which we might approach the world from time to time upside down. Rather than cultivating an identity he asks us to attend the moment and live the life that is here without anything to grasp hold of. Breathing, being, living, this is Ma’s viewless view: “Ordinary Mind is the way!”
The universe remains the universe. It could be a wonderful thing for this mind to recognize it through and through, moment after moment and step into the flowing water of this life without anything to hold onto—no borders, no views.
[i] Day or night, clear or cloudy the stars are always here.
Ed: Lynn H.
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