Hanshan Deqing said:
“How foolish are they who turn away from what is real and true and lasting and instead pursue the fleeting shapes of the physical world, shapes that are mere reflections in the ego’s mirror.
“Not caring to peer beneath the surfaces, deluded beings are content to snatch at images. They think that the material world’s everflowing energy can be modified into permanent forms, that they can name and value these forms, and then, like great lords, exert dominion over them…
“The Dharma is for the living. The permanent cannot abide in the ephemeral. True and lasting joy can’t be found in the ego’s world of changing illusion. No one can drink the water of a mirage…
“There are also those who, claiming enlightenment, insist that they understand the non-substantial nature of reality. Boasting that the disease of materialism cannot infect them, they try to prove their immunity by carefully shunning all earthly enjoyments. But they, too, are in the dark.
“Neither are they correct who dedicate themselves to exposing the fraud of every sensory object they encounter. True, perceptions of material objects give rise to wild desire in the heart. True, once it is understood how essentially worthless such apparent objects are, wild desires are reduced to timid thoughts.
“But we may not limit our spiritual practice to the discipline of dispelling illusion. There is more to the Dharma than understanding the nature of reality.”
So long as we give the world a leg to stand on, it’ll use that leg to kick us in the face over and over again. Take the body. If I have some kind of deep connection to affinity for this pile of bones, then I’m gonna suffer a lot as it changes. Right now I have an abscess on my leg that—without insurance—I’m gonna have to have looked at.
It’s painful, and because of its current state and where it’s located, I’m not sure if they’ll be able to incise it by ordinary outpatient means. I’ve had them on and off throughout my life—the scar on my chest looks like someone attacked me with a knife.
If I think of this body as something independent and continuous, then I’m gonna suffer as I have before. But if I can this independent, continuous quality I’ve projected onto it as a mirage, then maybe I can stumble on my actual body, which is none other than Suchness.
It’s tempting to totally despise or bash forms when we consider them illusory, but that isn’t the Way either. Some students try to isolate themselves from their experiences by using emptiness in an analytical way. “This body isn’t a body, it’s this, that, and the other thing.”
They might close themselves off from life, keeping everything enjoyable at arm’s length because they think that there’s another, more Absolute reality apart from these things.
They might stumble on an intellectual kind of enlightenment and then try to indoctrinate everyone they come across. But in actualized enlightenment, there’s no need for indoctrination or debate, and nirvana isn’t given a spot on the pedestal above samsara.
Because here’s the thing, nirvana and samsara are both equally mind-only, so is relative and Absolute. Suffering is the mind, its cause and end are the mind. Experiencing the world or turning away from it is mind.
The point of Chan is to just see the true nature of this mind, which is by extension the true nature of everything. The mind is the call and the divided world is the response. In Chan, we see this directly by no longer calling. When there’s no call, then there’s no echo.
But which is which?