Saturday, October 1, 2011

Finding Your Master

Finding Your Master
by Scott Bradley

Describing those in bondage to themselves, Linji said, "They do not distinguish between the servant and the master, between the guest and the host." What should be the servant usurps the position of the master and bondage results. We must find and submit to our proper master. But who or what is she, he or it?

Dazhu said, "My teacher said to me, 'The treasure house within you contains everything, and you are free to use it. You don't need to seek outside.'" Yuanwu said, "Everything comes from your own heart. This is what one ancient called bringing out the family treasure."

The master is yourself, or perhaps more helpfully, your true self. Who then is the servant or guest?

Again Yuanwu speaks: "As soon as you produce any opinion or interpretation, and want to attain Zen and become a master, you have already fallen into the psychological and material realms. You have become trapped by ordinary senses and perceptions, by ideas of gain and loss, by ideas of right and wrong."

It is that within us that would be master which is properly the servant. It is the egoic mind, the discriminating mind that 'understands' and forms opinions, rational and ethical, about the world. As things ordinarily stand, this usurping servant has for so long ruled that any other possibility has long been forgotten.

What then is this 'true self', the true master? It is that inexplicable mystery which "moves us", our most fundamental selves which we cannot, in fact, define. Again Linji said, "If you want to be free, get to know your real self. It has no form, no appearance, no root, no basis, no abode, but is lively and buoyant. It responds with versatile facility, but its function cannot be located. Therefore when you look for it you become further from it, when you seek it you turn from it all the more." (The Essence of Zen; Cleary)

There are not two selves, but only that true self which lies buried beneath the imagined self of mind.

How then do we realize the true self? Not having done so, I am not qualified to say. Which, of course, disqualifies me from saying all that I have already said. You had best step back to yourself to find your own teacher and master.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

1 comment:

  1. I was just this morning ruminating about this very matter myself, the relationship of master and servant (slaver?), and when you leave the master, which really, in my experience, is more mentor or teacher.

    I have been a little despondent because in two cases, my own Tao practice, and my brush painting study, I am through circumstances (not abandonment), separated from my best teachers/mentors. I have others who could take their place (but they are causing me some frustration), so I have come to think it may be time for me to go it alone, like the fledgling that must leave the nest, like when the student becomes a colleague. Of course, this happens all the time in life. People come in and out of your life with lessons and support, and then they or you move on. We must treasure them, but as you say, in the end, you are on your own. But not everyone welcomes or is capable of that solitary performance. Not so sure it is a stepping back as much as a stepping forward.


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