18 Rest and Activity Stop activity and there is no activity; When activity stops, there is
Rest and Activity
Stop activity and there is no activity;
When activity stops, there is no rest.
Since two cannot be established,
How can there be one?
In Ch'an practice it is not necessary to stop wandering thoughts. The
reason is that activity and rest are not in opposition. But if there is
no such duality, then there is no oneness to speak of either. We call
this retreat a Ch'an retreat but actually it is just a suffering or
training retreat. Ch'an is methodless, but everyone here is using
certain methods. The purpose of the methods is to replace your
wandering thoughts. But the methods themselves are wandering thoughts.
Therefore, to use a method to stop the activity of your thoughts is in
itself activity. There can be no such thing as rest.
Let us talk about rest. In samadhi, the mind moves so slowly it feels
as if it were at rest. But this rest is only relative. Even if you get
to the highest level of samadhi, the so-called "neither thinking nor
not thinking samadhi," your mind is still moving in a subtle way.
However, most people would understand this to be rest.
On the other hand, it is possible for the mind to seem to be at rest
even when it is moving fast. To illustrate, one can copy a two-hour
taped lecture onto another tape in the space of one minute. But if you
listen to this lecture as it is being copied, you would not be able to
distinguish the various words. You would hear only a single sound.
Likewise, a person with an agile mind can resolve many problems without
effort. He would not be conscious of any strenuous mental activity. A
person with slower mental faculties, however, may sense more vexations
and feel that his mind has gone through a lot of thinking, when
actually it has dealt with fewer problems.
In the very ultimate,
Rules and standards do not exist.
The ultimate is beyond all human rules and laws. It cannot be judged by
worldly standards. Thoroughly enlightened people spontaneously help
sentient beings in accordance with causes and conditions. Their actions
are not bound by the moral codes of society. This is not the case for
ordinary people. We must abide by certain principles and rules. But if
the thoroughly enlightened are bound by these laws, it would not be
genuine liberation. For them there is no boundary between activity and
But the misinterpretation of this truth has caused great harm. Some
people think that Ch'an advertises moral indifference, that Ch'an
practitioners in general are free to ignore ethical principles. There
are some who admit they are not enlightened, but nevertheless refuse to
recognize accepted rules of behavior. They reason that if they imitate
the ways of an enlightened person, they will gradually pick up the
Master Hsu-Yun, though a monk, never shaved his head. Thus, he appeared
to be one of those who did not observe the rules. However, he insisted
that his disciples have shaved heads. The reason why Hsu-Yun never
shaved is that during his long period of practice, he did not have the
time. Later, when he was an accomplished master he was already
accustomed to not shaving. Though his hair was unruly, he conducted
his life was very rigorously and in strict accord with the precepts. A
Ch'an master may seem carefree, but behind superficial appearances
there is a solid foundation. It is only upon a solid foundation that
one can draw on a truly liberated spirit not limited by rules.
Develop a mind of equanimity,
And all deeds are put to rest.
A mind of equanimity is a mind without distinctions; in other words,
there is no rest and no activity. When your mind is in this condition,
whatever you do is the same as not doing anything at all. Your mind is
at rest within activity. There is a saying that on becoming an arhat,
whatever has to be done has already been accomplished. Similarly, in
the Platform Sutra, it is said that when there is no concern about good
or evil, you can stretch out your legs and take a nap. When the mind is
not making distinctions, there is no self, no other, no good, no bad.
There is really nothing that needs to be done. This does not mean that
you do nothing, but that your mind is in a state of rest. In fact, it
is not even correct to speak of your mind. A person in this condition
uses the mind of sentient beings.
Anxious doubts are completely cleared.
Right faith is made upright.
With a mind of equanimity, there is no longer any confusion or doubt
about the Dharma. Even if you believe in the Dharma, but have not
experienced realization, that is not called "right faith." You must
have your own realization so that your faith will be affirmed and never
change. Your mind will be straightforward without distortion. This
means that whatever you endeavor, you will not make the wrong decision
from the point of view of Dharma. The ordinary person may make
erroneous judgments and actions, because he uses a mind of
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 arhat: (sanskrit, "worthy one"). Practitioner, especially in the
Hinayana (Theravadin) tradition, who has extinguished all
attachments and defilements, and stands on the threshold of
nirvana. Contrasted to a bodhisattva of the Mahayana tradition, who
foregoes the promise of nirvana until all sentient beings are
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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank