For the rest of this week we are going to look at a writing called The Hsin Hsin Ming — Verses on the Faith Mind by Chien-chih Seng-ts’an, the Third Zen Patriarch. I would share it all, in this one post, but it is thirteen pages long and by the time I add my comments we could easily be looking at twenty plus pages. I am afraid that would be too long. I would not be interested in receiving a twenty plus page email, so I will not send one.
Let’s look at today’s portion of this writing:
The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood,
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
It seems obvious to me that The Great Way refers to the path which leads us to a life filled with peace. I could not agree more that dwelling in a perpetual state of joy is simple when we release all of our addictions and preferences.
We must understand that life, as we see it, is governed by our history. This is why we can witness the same set of circumstances and you may interpret the details entirely differently than I do. We will each ‘spin’ what we see based on the filters created by our past. Our past has taught us to like some things and dislike others. The human mind applies these preferences to everything we observe, without any conscious effort on our part. To rise above this autonomic programming we must find a way to process sensory data without allowing our unconscious mind to filter the input.
To be fully present, to dwell in the magnificent, perpetual joy that living in the here and now offers, we must make the decision not to be controlled by our history, by the memories we own because of the life we have lived to this point. We must learn to look at everything with the eyes of an infant. When we are successful at observing life in this manner, everything is new, everything is exciting.
It is the nature of our brain to categorize and evaluate everything it sees based on the past and our preferences. It immediately, with no conscious intervention on our part, classifies what it observes into good or bad, right or wrong, possible or impossible, feasible or not likely, etc. If we are to live in the manner suggested by this insightful author, we must interrupt this automatic, natural ordering and learn to look at all of life with the eyes, ears, and imagination of a very young child. We must live as though life is new, in each NOW moment.
“Surely, Elliott, the wisdom we have gained in life is worth something.” I can hear some say.
To which I respond: “Yes, but when we allow our brain to compare what we are witnessing to our ‘like or dislike’ database, we rob ourselves of the opportunity for peace, every time we encounter anything that falls into the dislike category.”
Does that make sense? In other words life is good, fun, or happy when things we call good are happening but life is bad when the opposite is true. The very idea of good and its opposite diminishes the likelihood of ongoing peace, because labeling anything automatically creates its polar opposite. This is simply the way the brain works. One thing is light and another is dark. One thing leads to happiness the other to sorrow. The brain really struggles with things simply ‘being’ with no object of comparison. Yet to be truly free we must reprogram this tendency to classify everything into some predefined, preexisting set of rules.
The one who is truly free to live in this Present Moment, is free of the restrictions imposed by a domineering brain.
The fully functioning person learns to use the brain to his/her advantage, not to be a slave to this classification tendency. Life is not as it appears when filtered through an unconscious person’s filters. As you grow in your conscious awareness you will know this to be true. Truth lies out beyond the field of autonomic interpretation of the facts, because these so-called facts are based upon one’s history and not on any sort of empirical data.
I hope that is clear. This is what these first two stanzas of this writing say to me and I wholeheartedly agree with this wisdom.
Because the examination of this writing has been so long, today, it may take us longer than the next four days to complete this evaluation. I know some of what I have written may seem redundant, but I needed to say things in slightly different ways to satisfy myself that I was being clear. Hopefully you are able to wade through it and find some wisdom in my verbosity.
Anyway, that is all for today. I am sure that some of the future writings will contain more of The Hsin Hsin Ming and less of my rambling.