Tag: Therese of Lisieux

How to Live Like a Zen Master

Lessons from spiritual adepts from various traditions tell us the same thing: Cultivate the eyes of a child

In the seventh century, Hung Jen, the fifth patriarch of Chinese Zen Buddhism, neared death. In order to choose a successor, he asked each monk to compose a verse that testified to the monk’s Zen insight and post it on the wall. Shen Hsiu, the illustrious heir apparent, composed the following:

The body is the Bodhi-tree,

The mind is like a clear mirror standing.

Take care to wipe it all the time,

Allow no grain of dust to cling to it.

An uneducated kitchen worker named Hui Neng disagreed with the verse, and wrote beside it:

The Bodhi is not like a tree,

The clear mirror is nowhere standing.

Fundamentally not one thing exists:

Where then is a grain of dust to cling?

The Patriarch favored Hui Neng’s verse and appointed him successor. Zen at this point split into two schools, the Northern School (under Shen Hsiu) and the Southern School (under Hui Neng). The Southern School became the dominant school and the doctrines now associated with Zen are from the Southern School. Although this popular account of a famous split in early Zen is often disputed the key lesson remains: don’t wipe the mirror.

Pure Self is Still Self

Zen as it developed in the Southern School has always disdained mirror wiping because, by emphasizing the mirror, the “mirror wiper” asserts that he or she is renouncing the self in order to create a pure self — with the result that either way he or she is focused on him or herself. His or her self may become more pure, but it continues to stand strong.

It’s the religious version of having your cake and eating it, too.

Zen tries … Read the rest