Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hsin-Hsin Ming X: Equalize

Scott Bradley

"If you wish to move in the One Way / do not dislike the worlds of senses and ideas. / Indeed, to embrace them fully / is identical with true Enlightenment. / The wise person attaches to no goals / but the foolish person fetters himself or herself. . . . / To seek Mind with the discriminating mind / is the greatest of mistakes." (Clarke)

Nirvana is samsara. Samsara is nirvana. The holy is mundane. The mundane is holy. Emptiness is form. Form is emptiness. Awakened is unawakened. Unawakened is awakened. And none of these are anything at all.

With the possible exception of the last of these couplets, this is the teaching Zen. All these distinctions are falsely imagined. This is not because we are unable to make distinctions properly, but because there is but one Vastness, without distinctions. All this sounds profoundly metaphysical, but I have come here with a view to reaffirming this moment, this life, this muddling along I call my path. When I say that all is well, it is an attempt to express the realization of this Vast Equality in my actual being here in the world. All is well.

We seek. We strive. We discriminate. We live. And we die. Chances are that the lofty spiritual goals that we set for ourselves will never be reached. It does not matter. If we die in the fetters of our attachment to goals, it does not matter. This is reassuring since it is undoubtedly the way things will probably turn out for you and for me.

But let us return to the goal of goal-lessness. This is a worthy goal. It suggests just being here now. It suggests enjoying the folly of trying to be. It suggests embracing the essential contradictions of our human experience. The way to be free of our fetters is not to gnaw off our limbs, but to understand how fetters are both a concrete fact of our existence and a construct of our minds. There is vast freedom in being fettered. The limitless is found right here in our limits. We can find it in no other way. The well-frog is liberated within the narrow confines of his little world. Nay, he is liberated because of those confines.

Describing the sage, the Ocean God tells us, "Advancing and retreating, shrinking and expanding according to the time, he returns always to the most constrained but can thereby be described as reaching the expanse of the ultimate." (Zhuangzi, Chap. 17; Ziporyn) "Every enslavement is also an ennobling." (Zhuangzi, 2:41; Ziporyn)

There is always a broader, more expansive view. We let our fetters fetter us when we see and attach only to them, and fail to take a more transcendent view. Enjoy your fetters, and they will fetter your heart no more.

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


  1. This sounds a little like bondage fetishism.

  2. A post dear to me especially paragraph 5 of the 7

  3. This has been on my mind since posted: in the traditional folk story, the frog leaves the well, sees a larger world, and never goes back to the well.

    Whether the frog understands the larger world, or can, is the point of the ZZ story, I suppose. But still "Enjoy your fetters" sounds like bondage to me. I would prefer to think about recognizing limits of our understanding. Same thing, but not so creepy.


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