Neo Surangama Three

The Surangama is a tangled pull through many forks and branches. There’s a clean line through, but it’s broken into a hundred pieces.

The Buddha asked Ananda, “Why did you decide to give up love and affection and follow me?” Ananda mentioned his “shining, crystal-like form, and the wondrous brightness of his golden-hued body.”

The Buddha used this as an opening to teach. After looking at many different objects at various distances, he said, “Passing clouds and flying birds, the wind rising and dust, trees, mountains, rivers, grass, men, and animals. They’re all external and not you… the great variety of things… appear different, whereas the nature of your seeing is uniform. This wondrous bright essence is really the nature of your perception.”

A very simple analogy, but difficult to realize. It doesn’t include the years of practice, what it takes to put down the entity, for the seeing requires a break from this. The simplest analogies are often the most difficult to realize. The questioning was finally resolved only when Ananda had exhausted all possible locations of seeing.

Ananda said, “I’ve realized that the wondrous bright Mind is fundamentally perfect, that I’ve always dwelt in my mind-ground.” Still he doubted whether he heard correctly. The Buddha used the example of a finger-pointing at the moon.

“If you look at the finger and mistake it for the moon, you lose sight of both.”

Zen Master Seung Sahn often spoke so forcefully that his statements became power phrases. When I’d finally penetrated through to a deep state, I’d long forgotten the words he’d used. It all seemed so abstract. They weren’t wrong, it’s just that, in the mind of an enlightened master, the crossing is easy.

The Buddha used simple analogies, tracing back from outer phenomenon to the true Mind. The teaching is sound, but understanding won’t help. You have to do it yourself, find your own way. Then everything will make sense. These analogies are, at best, abstractions, pieces of art that will have to be abandoned for some time.

All emotions derive from one: the pure, undiluted great peace, love of the One Mind space, but it’s very difficult to open to this. It’s not visible through the mind. The mind has to be suspended, like going into another dimension. It has to be overtaken, the brightness all; a sensory overload that contains all emotions at once. To experience it is to step out of time.

Seeing, what Zen master Seung Sahn called “clear seeing,” is an artifice we have labored over since the Surangama. It appears nonsensical, but I know what they’re talking about. ZMSS described it as “putting down the small self, become the true self.” To put down the life, to disperse the entity, is a dramatic shift in perception. All of this has been well covered by many great masters. It’s all empty speech until you’ve crossed the threshold. I don’t know if it’s useful to continue the analogy. The life becomes a pure expression, including the love. There is no hesitation, no other way to consider. As you learn to disperse the entity, you trust the One Mind completely. There are no constraints, no stopping the flow. It only increases until it is spilling out of every pore. From this view, I see the Surangama as a love letter to the One, but these days I’m a romantic.

The Buddha then tasked Ananda with revealing “real seeing,” an attempt was made to ferret it out. The language was obtuse, no reason to include the iterations here. It finally resolved when Ananda gave up. He realized he couldn’t “dissect things and pick out the essence of seeing, which had an independent nature apart from phenomenon… each one of them is the seeing.”

The Buddha said, “Correct, correct!”

Any student of Zen will see the flash right away. Ananda had come to the limit of the logical process, so simply stated what was in front of him — the act of seeing and the object had become one. If you have an interview with a Zen master and he asks something broad, such as “What is truth?” follow Ananda’s lead, call out something in the room. In Korea, nearly all the floors are yellow paper or linoleum undol. We say, “The floor is yellow.” I’ve never met a Zen master who wasn’t impressed with this answer, even for the hundredth time.

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