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13: Stillness and Commotion
To Tseng T'ien-yu
Having read your letter carefully, I have come to know that you are unremitting in your conduct, that you are not carried away by the press of official duties, that in the midst of swift flowing streams you vigorously examine yourself. Far from being lax, your aspiration to the Path grows ever more firm as time goes on. You have fulfilled my humble wishes solidly and profoundly.
Nevertheless, worldly passions are like a blazing fire: when will they ever end? Right in the midst of the hubbub, you mustn’t forget the business of the bamboo chair and reed cushion (meditation). Usually (to meditate) you set your mind on a still concentration point, but you must be able to use it right in the midst of the hubbub. If you have no strength amidst commotion, after all it’s as if you never made any effort in stillness.
I have heard that there was some complicated situation in the past, and now you are experiencing the sadness of the outcome; alone, you do not dare to hear your fate. If you arouse this thought, then it will obstruct the Path. An ancient worthy said, ‘‘If you can recognize the inherent nature while going along with the flow, there is neither joy nor sorrow.’’
Vimalakirti said, ‘‘It’s like this: the high plateau does not produce lotus flowers; it is the mire of the low swamplands that produces these flowers.’’ The Old Barbarian (Buddha) said, ‘‘True Thusness does not keep to its own nature, but according to circumstances brings about all phenomenal things.’’ He also said, ‘‘Proceeding to effect according to circumstances, it extends everywhere while always here upon this Seat of Enlightenment.’’ Would they deceive people? If you consider quietude right and commotion wrong, then this is seeking the real aspect by destroying the worldly aspect, seeking nirvana, the peace of extinction, apart from birth and death. When you like the quiet and hate the hubbub, this is just the time to apply effort. Suddenly when in the midst of hubbub, you topple the scene of quietude—that power surpasses the (meditation) seat and cushion by a million billion times.
14: Don't Cling to Stillness
To K'ung Hui
Once you have achieved peaceful stillness of body and mind, you must make earnest effort. Do not immediately settle down in peaceful stillness—in the Teachings this is called ‘‘The Deep Pit of Liberation,’’ much to be feared. You must make yourself turn freely, like a gourd floating on the water, independent and free, not subject to restraints, entering purity and impurity without being obstructed or sinking down. Only then do you have a little familiarity with the school of the patchrobed monks. If you just manage to cradle the uncrying child in your arms, what’s the use?