Foyan said, “I say there are but two types of sickness. One is to ride a donkey to look for the donkey. The other is riding the donkey and not letting yourself get off of it.”

I love this quote. I love Foyan in general, that dude was a genius.

When we’re not aware that we’re riding the donkey, then we don’t know why everything’s moving, or why things get so rough at times. To make sense of it, we either blame the world, ourselves, some all powerful force, or a combination of the three.

Blaming the world or a force is like riding the donkey, seeing that the land moves with each step, and deciding that it’s an earthquake. Blaming ourselves is like concluding that we have vertigo or that there’s something wrong with our eyes.

But it’s not the world, deities, or us that’s making everything tremble and heave—it’s the fucking donkey. Our only fault is that we’re not aware of it.

The first leg of practice usually involves gathering our minds. That’s like the donkey stopping to graze. That’s when we get our first taste of tranquility and self-control.

But we’re still confused at that point. We usually think that our vision suddenly improved or that the earthquake finally stopped. No matter what, once the donkey’s full, it’s gonna start walking again.

As we practice, we learn to look around. We learn to see without judgment, and without drawing conclusions. As we bring that tranquility with us into day-to-day life, we’re able to handle the earthquakes and vertigo a little better.

Then, in a flash, we realize that it’s not our inner ears, eyes, or the land that’s behind all this—it’s the donkey. We’re able to look down and see the fucker for ourselves.

A lot of students stop practicing at that point. They think that that’s all there is to it, that there’s nothing else they need to know or do. Life is a lazy stream for awhile, a pleasant daydream where we almost feel indestructible.

That’s called, Illusion City. It’s a fake awakening, a half-measure. The next step is to hop off the donkey altogether and go our own way.

So what’s the donkey?

3 Comments

    1. It could be the mind. But Foyan asks us to 1) be aware that we’re riding the donkey, and then 2) get off of it.

      So if it’s the mind, then he’s asking us to lose our minds haha. Being someone who’s lost his mind once or twice, I’m not too interested in doing it again.

      But in Zen, there are two ways to look at the mind. There’s the state of mind that sorts and divides everything it experiences, and then there’s the state of mind that lets everything remain unsorted and undivided.

      So maybe Foyan is referring to one or both of those mindsets?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay. Maybe there is a time to plant seeds, a time to harvest a crop, and a time to leave it alone and just let it grow.

        Donkey can pull a cart, provide fertilizer, and it also needs to eat and to rest. Donkey could be time. Get off the ride to look at it.

        Liked by 1 person

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