Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mumonkan, Koan 29: The Sixth Patriarch's "Your Mind Moves"

Prayer flags in the wind, Nepal
Photo: Stefanie Buehler
The wind was flapping a temple flag, and two monks started an argument. One said the flag moved, the other said the wind moved; they argued back and forth but could not reach a conclusion. The Sixth Patriarch said, "It is not the wind that moves, it is not the flag that moves; it is your mind that moves." The two monks were awe-struck.

The argument is based on interpreting what one sees with the mind, rather than simply having direct experience in the moment. As such, there is no right-mindedness while the monks argue about what is happening. They are removed from the moment. This is what is meant by "it is your mind that moves."

The argument is one of delusion since it is the debating of interpretations of reality - what each monk thinks about what they see - rather than reality itself. The distancing from reality is actually three-fold. First, there is the interpretation of reality. Second, there is the evaluation of the other monk's interpretation. Then third, there is the comparison of the evaluations against one another. Once we let our minds "move", we are quickly swept out of the moment and away from the moment into an intellectual hall of mirrors that is merely delusion.

The Sixth Patriarch was chastising the monks for their lack of discipline.

No comments: