Stop activity and there is no activity;
When activity stops, there is no rest.
Since two cannot be established,
How can there be one?
Stilling our minds is like resting and sometimes when we’re practicing we can experience a profound feeling of relief. It’s tiring for our minds to be active all the time. Slowing down and stilling our minds can feel very good at times, although at other times meditation feels like a great struggle. But this stillness doesn’t really exist in opposition to the mental activity that we call ‘monkey mind’ because the truth is that in real stillness there’s no opposition to anything. There is just a letting go.
In the very ultimate,
Rules and standards do not exist.
Enlightenment is beyond whatever box we are trying to put it in. Even rules and standards are things we can’t hold onto.
Develop a mind of equanimity,
And all deeds are put to rest.
A mind of equanimity is a mind without distinctions, a mind that doesn’t chase after this or that. When your mind is in equanimity, whatever you do is the same as doing nothing at all. Your mind is resting in equanimity. When the mind isn’t making distinctions then there is no self and other, nowhere to go and nothing to do. This doesn’t mean we don’t do anything, but rather that our minds are in a state of rest.
Anxious doubts are completely cleared.
Right faith is made upright.
When we have a mind of equanimity, we don’t have such doubts about ourselves or the path anymore.
Nothing lingers behind,
Nothing can be remembered.
Bright and empty, functioning naturally,
The mind does not exert itself.
We should strive to come to a state where things don’t leave a trace in our minds. For example, I shouldn’t be upset by something that happened yesterday. I shouldn’t cling to things in the past so much. Not that we shouldn’t learn from things that happen, of course, just that we shouldn’t cling. We try not to bring our emotional baggage into everything that happens.
When the mind is bright and empty, it just sees everything as it is, without coloring it’s perception with baggage and preconceived ideas. Then it can be rested and not have to exert itself so much.
It is not a place of thinking,
Difficult for reason and emotion to fathom.
If you have trouble understanding teachings about enlightenment and emptiness, you’re in the company of many. The truth is that these concepts are difficult for reason and emotion to understand. That’s why we have to practice and strive diligently. It’s only through practice that we can have experience and it’s only experience that can go forward.
In the Dharma Realm of true suchness,
There is no other, no self.
True suchness is kind of a clunky translation. “Suchness” isn’t really a word that means anything to us. It refers to things as they really are, interdependent and impermanent. True suchness isn’t bound by the separation of self and other. True suchness is beyond such distinctions.
To accord with it is vitally important;
Only refer to “not two.”
In not-two all things are in unity;
nothing is excluded.
To understand suchness we have to see beyond duality. We think of things as separate, but they’re not. In true suchness we feel at one with other beings. We form a unity with each other. And everyone is included. The “not two” refers to duality. The Platform Sutra says that aversion is the same as Enlightenment.
The wise throughout the ten directions
All enter this principle.
This principle is neither hurried nor slow –
One thought for ten thousand years
There’s been some debate within Buddhism about whether Enlightenment comes suddenly, all at once, or in stages. Here Sengcan is challenging both of those views. It’s neither hurried nor slow because the truth is we’re already there.
“Ten thousand years” here is used to indicate unlimited time. One thought is the mind that dwells in stillness. One moment of real stillness is like unlimited time.
Abiding nowhere yet everywhere,
The ten thousand directions are right before you.
True suchness, Enlightenment, is everywhere. Nothing is separate and nothing is left out. The universe has been described as a vast net of jewels, with each jewel reflecting all the others endlessly. I like to compare it to a broken beer bottle by the side of the road that reflects the sunlight and also everything around. Everything in the universe reflects everything else.
“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop,” is a quote by Rumi. Rumi was not a Buddhist, but he really expressed this idea well, didn’t he?
The smallest is the same as the largest
In the realm where delusion is cut off.
The largest is the same as the smallest;
No boundaries are visible.
What you see in front of you is the equivalent of everything. All things connect to all other things. To say that the smallest is the same as the largest is to erase all boundaries.
Existence is precisely emptiness;
Emptiness is precisely existence.
This takes the idea even further, there is no difference between things that exist and things that do not. Even “real” is a label we are putting on things.
If it is not like this,
Then you must not preserve it.
You have to let go of the baggage and attachments that you are carrying. They are really holding you back.
One is everything,
Everything is one.
True suchness is one with everything. Nothing is separate, and it never was.
If you can be like this,
Why worry about not finishing?
When we know that our true nature is Enlightenment, then we don’t worry about goals and attainments. We get there by realizing we’re already there.
Faith and mind are not two;
Non-duality is faith in mind.
This is the same as saying Enlightenment is one with all things. There is no separation between your ordinary mind and the true wakefulness that is your nature.
The path of words is cut off;
There is no past, no future, no present.
The truth is beyond words, really. We try to describe it, as Sengcan tried, and as I’m trying now. But it’s only through practice and intuition that we can really get any kind of understanding.
Past, present, and future refers to our efforts to measure progress.
Once a student asked master Hsu Yun, “Is there time in Enlightenment?” And Hsu Yun said, “If there is time in Enlightenment, it is not Enlightenment.” In awakening the self drops away, so there is no one there to measure time. It’s hard for us to think that time doesn’t exist when we don’t measure it, but the truth is that past, present, and future are really only concepts that exist in the minds of those that perceive them.
And with that deep and profound statement about time, the text of Faith in Mind comes to an end. I hope you have enjoyed exploring it with me.