“I will let go with both hands for then I shall surely find the Buddha in my mind.” – Huangbo
I’ve been around, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. No matter how far I sail, the wind always pushes me back to the spot I started from.
I’ve studied everything I can, and that’s only increased my vocabulary and uncertainty. I’ve practiced every method I’ve come across, and that’s only tarnished my discipline. When I look at Buddhism as a whole, all the views and methods seem like stepping stones toward one simple thing: sitting down and letting go.
Letting go so completely that ones subjective experience is peeled away like an onion, so that what once seemed solid now appears to flow like a waterfall. Letting go of everything inside and everything outside. Letting go of past, present, and future, of ignorance and wisdom, of form and emptiness, of Buddhahood and sentient being…hood.
Letting go of all paths, both spiritual and worldly. Seeking nothing, neither the shallow comforts of the material nor the profound bliss of the spiritual. No Four Noble Truths, no dependent arising, no Buddha-nature, no Suchness, no mind-only, no karma or lack of it, no noing. Letting it all go, and then letting go of letting go.
Put into practice, it’s called k’an hsin, mind-gazing. Being mindful of the mind. Viewing everything that passes through the mind as like guests at an inn, and awareness is the innkeeper. This view creates an atmosphere of release, focus on that and nothing else. Only letting go.
When there’s a sound or a thought or feeling, it’s there. When it goes, it goes. When something is there, let it be there. When it’s gone, let it be gone. Nothing lingers by nature, we make things linger.
Everything that arises in the mind—every experience of all things within and without—are stirrings. In letting go, we’re putting an end to that stirring. The instant we view things as guest-host and maintain that view, we’ve stopped stirring. Then we just have to wait for the momentum to run out.
Whenever you lose this view, you’ll start stirring the mind again. So whether we’re sitting, standing, eating, drinking, pissing, screwing: guest-host. Letting go is an ongoing process, from moment-to-moment. We don’t just let go once.
We are also guests in our minds. There’s no me or you outside of this cognitive process. And there’s no cognition outside of consciousness. That’s why awareness is the true host, the innkeeper.
As we sit and live with this perspective, the mind will get fewer guests because awareness’s reputation for being an attentive, hospitable host will go down. Attention is fuel, without it, everything gradually disappears, the same way that you’re probably not aware of your butt on your chair right now. Well, now you’re aware of it. Just like how we tune things out while reading a book, everything will fade.
When we see everything in the mind (and the mind itself) as guests, awareness will focus on them less and instead abide more and more with itself—like a rude innkeeper who doesn’t even come out of the office when a guest rings the bell. This is letting go.
We’re the last guest to leave. Shit, we’re practically residents. We’ve been here so long that we think we’re the innkeepers, but we’re not. By the time we go, the innkeeper is so unconcerned with us that we don’t even have to pay our outstanding boarding fees. That’s letting go of letting go.
With no one around, the innkeeper can finally clean up the dump; there wasn’t time before since there was so much foot traffic. The guests were so impatient that they wouldn’t even give housekeeping time to clean.
Like new, the innkeeper can open the doors again, and we walk back in, but without the delusion that we’re the innkeeper.
In many ways, I wonder if this is the direct teaching and method since all of the others seem to lead to it. Letting go is the only thing that all Buddhist views and schools seem to have in common. Should I just say, “Fuck it,” and finally put an end to the search the same way Buddha did when he collapsed under that tree? Should I just surrender this assumed position as the keeper of my own mind?
I suspect that I must if I’m to ever get some rest in this drifting world.