Case 19 Nansen's "Ordinary Mind Is the Way"
Jõshû asked Nansen, "What is the Way?"
"Ordinary mind is the Way," Nansen replied
"Shall I try to seek after it?" Jõshû asked.
"If you try for it, you will become separated from it," responded Nansen.
"How can I know the Way unless I try for it?" persisted Jõshû.
Nansen said, "The Way is not a matter of knowing or not knowing.
Knowing is delusion; not knowing is confusion.
When you have really reached the true Way beyond doubt, you will find it as vast and boundless as outer space.
How can it be talked about on the level of right and wrong?"
With these words, Jõshû came to a sudden realization.
Nansen dissolved and melted away before Jõshû's question, and could not offer a plausible explanation.
Even though Jõshû comes to a realization, he must delve into it for another thirty years before he can fully understand it.
The spring flowers, the autumn moon;
Summer breezes, winter snow.
If useless things do not clutter your mind,
You have the best days of your life.
Do not use "Ordinary Mind Is the Way" as an excuse for not disciplining your mind and practicing lazy zazen. And yes I have heard this expression as just such an excuse. If "ordinary mind" referred to the ordinary day to day mind of most of us then what need would we have for zazen? Why would we work so hard to solve koans? The whole edifice of practice comes crashing down.
Mumon obviously didn't believe Ordinary Mind to be so simple because ha our minds are not simple and that is the problem. The great way is not difficult for those who have no prejudices, who do not think constantly of likes and dislikes, whose mind is not cluttered. But for most of us our ordinary mind is cluttered with prejudices of right and wrong, likes and dislikes, and other useless things, and we are not happy. Instead can we find happiness simply in what the world presents to us, in what is ordinary but is also magical, " The spring flowers, the autumn moon; Summer breezes, winter snow." It took the great Joshu 30 years to cultivate this sort ordinary of mind.
Bodhidharma defined zazen as not to be attached to the external and not to be moved by the internal. This is a recommendation not just for zazen but our daily life as well. This is the way of ordinary mind. Not to be attached to the external means: Greet the world with a certain easiness of mind which appreciates being alive and the beauty and joy of life but also is well aware that things are always changing. Don't be attached to things being any certain way or not being any certain way. Don't try to possess and accumulate things. Be straight froward and honest. To not be moved by the internal means: Don't get carried away by your own thoughts and emotions. Drop habitual thought and emotional patterns. Be unattached to any thoughts and emotions that appear and not to add further unnecessary thoughts and emotions. Remain mindful, clear and focussed. Make this your Ordinary Mind. It is not so ordinary.