The subject is extinguished with the object.
The object sinks away with the subject.
The mind dharma cannot arise by itself or function alone. It always
co-exists with the form dharma. The Zen expression "one hand clapping"
illustrates the impossibility of such a thing. The mind can only be
found in the realm of mental objects.
Once Master Nan-Ch'uan went to the farm of the monastery where he was
abbot. The previous night, a local earth deity informed the farmers of
Nan-Ch'uan's impending visit, so they had prepared a welcome feast. He
asked them, "How did you know I was coming?" They answered, "Last night
the earth deity told us you were coming today." Upon hearing this, the
master said, "I am really very ashamed. My practice must be quite poor
that even deities manage to peep into my mind." He meant that when he
thought of going to the farm, the mind dharma had arisen in conjunction
with the form dharma, or the concrete idea of the farm. When his mind
moved, the deity was able to see it.
The same master was meditating in a hut next to a river. One night he
heard two ghosts conversing. One of them was rejoicing that his term
was coming to an end because the next day someone would be replacing
him. The second ghost asked, "Who will be replacing you?" He replied,
"A man wearing an iron hat." The master wondered to himself who this
person could be. The next day there was heavy rain and the river rose
to a higher level. The master looked out of his hut and saw a man about
to cross the river. He had covered his head with a wok for protection
against the rain. Immediately, the master knew that this was the man of
the iron hat, so he cautioned him saying, "Don't cross the river today.
It's too dangerous." The man asked, "Why?" "Because the water is very
deep and running rapidly." The man listened to the old monk's advice
and returned home.
You must understand that in Chinese lore, water ghosts are prisoners
until another person drowns and takes their place. That night as he was
meditating, the master heard the two ghosts again. This time the first
ghost was complaining, "I have been stuck here for so many years, and I
thought my chance for freedom had finally come. But now the old monk
interfered and messed everything up. I'll show him what I can do." With
that, the ghost broke a hole in the bank of the river, so that the
water would run down and cover the hut. The master realized that the
ghost was trying to drown him. Suddenly he disappeared from sight. The
ghost looked around, but the hut was empty.
Actually, the master was still there and heard the ghost very clearly.
He was invisible for the simple reason that his mind was not moving. It
was not influenced by the environment, no longer tied to mental
objects, which are shadows of the mind.
All of our thoughts are illusory; they depend on certain objects or
symbols. If there are no objects, forms or symbols in your mind, there
would be no illusory thoughts. It is possible, however, to have an
illusory thought that is considered "right thought" if you maintain
this one thought continually without interference. For instance,
counting the breath is in itself an illusory thought, but if you
maintain it without a break it would be the right thought, the method
of your practice.
On the other hand, if your thoughts are constantly changing, they would
be considered "wandering thoughts" rather than "right thought." But
both of these situations are not the pure mind because your mind is
still attached to mental realms. It is not the state of no mind; it is
not even the state of one mind. With these mental objects in your mind
it would be difficult to control your next birth at the time of death.
Instead, where you go will be directed by the thrust of your karma.
Karma leads you in the direction of your strongest desire or
attachment. Thus your mind follows the mental realm that you are most
attracted to. If your mind is free from the environment, not bounded by
mental realms, then your next birth will not be dictated by karma but
rather by your own decision. Being free to go wherever you wish, you
are outside of the cycle of birth and death.
So long as your mind is filled with greed, hatred, or ignorance, you
will be immersed in vexation and suffering. You will not even be reborn
in the heavens, not to mention be liberated from birth and death.
Heavenly states can only be attained by performing meritorious deeds
with a minimum of desire. And you could not reach one mind, or samadhi,
because of your strong attachment to certain objects.
Thus when you are practicing, all thoughts other than the method should
be considered as demons, even if it feels like you have entered a
"heavenly" state. Some people, as they are sitting, may suddenly enter
a completely new world which is very beautiful and comfortable.
Afterwards, they want to return to it in each meditation. They may be
able to get into that state again, but nonetheless it is an attachment.
There are also other states that are terrifying. Such visions, good and
bad, are generally manifestations of our own mental realms.
Now we can understand why the methods of kung-an and hua-t'ou are
different than counting the breath, reciting the Buddha's name, or
repeating a mantra. Though the latter are necessary in the beginning,
they include relative objects (i.e. the breath, the Buddha's name, or
the mantra). In these cases, the objects make up your mental realm. And
where there is an object there must be a subject, namely, the self. But
kung-an and hua-t'ou are objectless methods of practice. Other than the
method, there is nothing in front of you. For example, the question
"What is wu?"  does not have an answer you can grasp. There is
nothing behind the question. You are just using it as a method to
practice. If there is no object, then what about a subject? When you
enter deeply into this method, even though you may not be enlightened,
you will not have any sense of self. Your entire self will be enclosed
in a great mass of doubt. No ghosts or deities would be able to find you.
* * *
 "What is wu?": (wu=Chinese, "nothing" or "there is not"; in
Japanese, mu). Hua-t'ou based on the kung-an in which Master
Chao-Chou was asked by a monk, "Does a dog have buddha nature?", to
which Chao-Chou replied, "Wu." Alteratively practiced by just
looking into the word wu/mu.
* * * * * * * *