Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mumonkan, Koan 24: Fuketsu's Speech and Silence

A monk asked Fuketsu, "Both speech and silence are faulty in being ri or bi. How can we escape these faults?" Fuketsu said,"I always remember the spring in Konan, where the partridges sing; how fragrant the countless flowers!"

Ri and bi are the inward and outward actions of the mind. We do not need to 'escape' these faults; we simply should not accept that they exist. There is no inward or outward action of the mind. There is only the mind.

I understood this while sitting in zazen during my first experiences with a meditation group I joined a little over two weeks ago. In joining, I was concerned I would not be able to attain samadhi as effectively (i.e., it would be 'bad'). To a certain extent, it is harder for me to attain samadhi in these sessions because I find myself being self-conscious or paying attention to the presence of the others. While this is 'bad' it is also 'good', because it demands from me a greater discipline of mind. So it is helpful to meditate in a group precisely for the reasons that it is unhelpful. I realized that allowing the concepts of good/bad, helpful/unhelpful into my thinking was the problem, not group meditation.

This was the key for me in solving this koan. Speech and silence are not different. Inward and outward actions of the mind are not different. Each is not good or bad. They are both...and neither. We do not admit them, nor try to escape from them. All that matters is the mind, being present in the moment. This is where there are no faults. So we do not escape these faults so much as we should refuse to shackle ourselves with them.

The significance of Fuketsu's response is that he is recalling an experience he had, namely the spring in Konan. This could be related to an experience of kensho he had or perhaps it simply evokes the idea of samadhi for him. Whatever the case, maintaining the right mindset is the path away from the monk's question.

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