Master Han Shan never really had any interest in worldly ways. He never felt drawn to riches, power or fame. He loved listening to Dharma Talks saying that, “A wonderful feeling would come over me as I listened. It was as if the Dharma was a song I once knew but had forgotten, and now I was hearing snatches of melody, a few bars here and there that I could recognize though not yet put together to reconstruct the song.”
One day Master Wu Ji said to him, “Be like a mountain and always hold its presence in your mind.” This visual really resonated with Han Shan and he used it as a guiding light in his practice.
He trained this way for a long time but was still having trouble controlling his mind. Another practice he tried was to continually mentally recite the Buddha’s name but still this did not quell his moving mind. One day Master Yun Gu gave Han Shan the koan, “Who is repeating the Buddha’s name?”
For years he travelled from temple to temple training under many different Masters.
One day he heard a story of an Enlightened Brahmin who went back to visit the home he had left as a child. Though the Brahmin’s hair was white and he had aged considerably, a neighbor was still able to recognize him. “You’re the man who used to live here.” he said. But the Brahmin smiled and explained that man was dead and that what the neighbor was seeing was merely his image.
Master Han Shan shared about this event: So! This is what it meant! When your illusory, constantly changing ego-self dies you can realize your one, true and permanent nature, your Immutable Buddha-Self! Only appearances can change. The underlying reality cannot change! I wanted my ego to die-back like that Brahmin’s. I wanted to take refuge in my Buddha Self. I got up and went into the temple and prostrated myself before the altar. Everything suddenly seemed so clear.
Then, when I got up and started to leave, I stopped on the temple steps and looked with amazement at the courtyard. A strong wind had started to blow, tearing leaves off all the trees. The air was filled with them! Yet, the leaves were motionless. They were just there, suspended in air. And all was so serene! Finally, I had perceived something with my Buddha Eye! So this was the whirlwind that destroys but does not move.
And again I understood that the ego-mind continuously moves like a flow of air or water, but what it sees is actually stable – a matrix which all things pulse in and out of. Now I understood! My ego-mind had decided that a certain configuration of matter was a leaf, and then my ego-mind had decided to string together a series of images and to call this series movement: blowing leaves. In reality, there was no I standing there on the steps. There were no steps. There was neither wind nor blowing leaf. My ego-mind put arbitrary boundaries on matter and time, and gave things name and form. But reality, perceived directly without my intervening egomind, was nameless and formless and timeless!
Well! This was no small breakthrough! I suddenly desired to urinate. And again, watching my urine stream out, everything stopped. Experiencing the “eternal moment” I saw with my Buddha Eye. Now I knew. Nothing is born and nothing can die. Everything simply “is.”
Han Shan’s Looking at the Mind
Tr. by Hakuun Barnhard
Look at what your body is – it is not you
But an image in the mirror of awareness,
Just like the reflection of the moon on the water.
Look at what your mind is – it is not
The thoughts and feelings that appear within it
But the bright knowing space that holds them.
When not a single thought arises, your mind is
Open, perceptive, serene and luminous;
It is complete as great all-embracing space
And holds all kinds of wondrous aspects.
Your mind does not come or go away,
Has no particular shape, nor a special way of being.
But a great many beneficial qualities
Come all forth from this one knowing being.
It does not depend on material existence,
Material existence covers it up!
Do not cling to deluded thoughts.
These give birth to illusory phenomena.
Closely investigate this mind, which is
A knowing emptiness, not containing a thing.
When you are suddenly flooded with emotions
Your vision gets unclear, your experience confused.
Then at once bring back your presence of mind
And gather all your strengths to reflect.
The clouds will disperse and the sky will clear:
The sun of awareness spreads brightly its light.
If no feelings or thoughts arise within
No (worrying) circumstance is found without.
So where lies the original reality,
Of all that has characteristics?
If you can be aware of a thought as it arises
This awareness dissolves the thought at once.
Sweep away whatever state of mind may come,
Be present and aware – and you will be free.
Good and evil, internal or external,
Transform when you turn towards the heart of it.
Worldly and spiritual forms
Come into being through what you think.
Using a mantra and looking at your mind
Are means to polish the mirror of awareness;
Once the obscurations have been removed
They have no more use and can be dropped.
All great and deep spiritual abilities
Are already complete within your mind
And you can roam as you wish
To the Pure Land or Heavenly Palace.
There is no need to seek the Truth
As your mind is from the start already enlightened.
When ripe, all things are fresh and new
When fresh and new, they are inherently already ripe.
Day and night all things are wondrous
And you will have faith in whatever you meet.
The above is what you need to know
Regarding the mind.
Zen master e’s comment
From the beginning the true empty light of mind has always been shining.
It takes a good friend to show you your original face.
It is empty, stable and clear.
Leave behind thoughts, concepts and ideas.
Then you’ll discover the truth and the mirror of awareness will become your refuge.
This awareness is beyond thinking. Beyond concepts. Beyond ideas. Yet the empty knowingness is there.
It’s limitless like space
Freedom will be yours at all times and in all places.
And you will see how the mind makes the ten thousand things appear.
No mind and there is no problem.
So look into the mind and discover freedom for yourself
The body is always changing and not the true self so do not become attached it
Feelings are always changing and not the true self so do not become attached to them
Ideas, thoughts and memories are always changing and are not the true self so do not become attached to them
Look into the space in which body, feelings, ideas, thoughts and memories arise
See into the suchness of mind and become disenchanted from all the comings and goings
Then life is seen to be like a dream, a bubble floating on the water, a magical illusion
Just put it all down and rest in the radiant emptiness and experience truth for yourself
If you want to be a free person then take your new friends’ words to heart.
You are a Buddha. Your Buddha Nature is just temporarily covered over by adventitious stains.
Adventitious because they are only temporary phenomena and do not touch or taint the true mind.
Chew the koan and rest in the Radiance of Awareness.
Come back home to your true self. A place that you’ve never left.
For in truth it is beyond all comings and goings or birth and death.