Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #29
Not the Wind, Not the Flag
Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #29
Not the Wind, Not the Flag
The Sixth Patriarch, Huineng (638-713), 6th generation, was one of three dharma heirs of 5th Patriarch, Hongren (602-675). All extant Zen lineages descend from Huineng, the last Zen master to be called "Patriarch." Huineng appears in one other of our koans: GG #23.
The wind was flapping a temple flag, and two were having an argument about it.
One said, "The flag is moving."
The other said, "The wind is moving."
They argued back and forth but could not reach the truth.
The sixth patriarch [Huineng] said, "It is not the wind that moves. It is not the flag that moves. It is your mind that moves."
The two monks were stuck with awe.
It is not the wind that moves; it is not the flag that moves; it is not the mind that moves.
Where do you see the essence of the patriarch? If you have a close grasp of the matter, you will see how the two monks, intending to buy iron, got gold, and that what the patriarch impatiently said was a failure on the spot.
The wind moves, the flag moves, the mind moves;
All have missed it.
They only know how to open their mouths,
And do not know that their words have failed.
When a master delivered a sermon at a temple, a flag was hoisted at the gate to announce it to the public. At first they may have enjoyed their argument, but presently it became heated. They became excited, each bent on defeating the other. In short, their minds lost their anchors and started drifting. But the monks were unaware of the disturbed condition of their minds. That was what Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch, pointed out.
The flag never moves by itself, but it looks as though it is moving, according to the movement of the wind. The children of our day will not have an argument as foolish as that of those two monks. One monk was a materialist, and he said that the flag was moving, since he actually witnessed the fact. The other monk was a fatalist, believing in the invisible cause of things. The Sixth Patriarch struck the two birds of sophistry, and instead of killing them, turned them loose among the phoenixes of the holy land. Now, show me how your mind moves.
Since they were Budddhist monks in training, they must have known the basic Buddhist teachings, such as "Every phenomenon is only due to mind," or "Nothing exists outside mind." Brother Huineng's statement, "Your mind is moving," came directly out of the experiential fact which has nothing to do with intellectual interpretation. In other words, it was the natural working of Huineng's Zen. Setting aside the old story, how should we, here and now, grasp, "It is your mind that is moving" as the living fact in our lives?
From Dogen (1200-1253)
(Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma [Shobogenzo], Book 28, "Getting the Marrow by Doing Obeisance")
The nun Miaoxin was a disciple of Yangshan (807-883). When Yangshan was looking to choose a director of the monastery’s office for secular affairs, he asked around among the retired senior and junior officers, “Which person would be suitable to appoint?”
After an exchange of questions and answers, Yangshan at last said, “Although [Miao] Xin, the “kid” from the Huai [river region], is a woman, she has the determination of a person of great resolve. She is truly the one qualified to serve as the director of the office for secular affairs.”
All in the assembly agreed.
When, in the end, Miaoxin was appointed director of the office for secular affairs, the dragons and elephants among Yangshan’s disciples had no misgivings. Although this was not an important office, she was careful [in performing her duties] as befitting one who had been chosen [for this responsibility].
After [Miaoxin] had taken up her position and was residing in the office for secular affairs, seventeen monks from Shu banded together to go in search of a teacher to ask about the way. Thinking that they would climb Yangshan, at sunset they took lodgings in the office for secular affairs. During the evening lecture, while they were resting, someone brought up the story of Caoqi Gaozu’s words on the wind and the flag. But what each of the seventeen monks had to say was wide of the mark. At that time, Miaoxin, who was on the other side of the wall, heard the monks and said, “How lamentable, you seventeen blind donkeys! How many straw sandals have you wasted [in your futile search for the dharma]? The buddha dharma has not yet appeared even in your dreams!”
At that time there was a postulant who, having heard the disapproving remarks about these monks by Miaoxin, reported them to the seventeen monks. The seventeen monks did not resent Miaoxin’s disapproval. To the contrary, they were ashamed that their words were inadequate and so, comporting themselves in the proper fashion, they offered incense, did obeisance, and respectfully inquired [about the dharma].
Miaoxin then said, “Step forward!”
As the seventeen monks were walking toward her, Miaoxin said, “It’s not the wind moving, it’s not the flag moving, it’s not the mind moving .”
Instructed in this fashion, all seventeen monks were awakened. They expressed their gratitude, establishing the formal relationship of teacher and disciple, and quickly returned to Western Shu. In the end, they never climbed Yangshan.
Yamada Koun's Comment
The moving wind and the moving flag are not the reality or the fact; they are merely labels. The wind does not say, "I am moving." The flag does not say, "I am moving." Master Huineng said, "The mind is moving." But what is the mind? If you say the wind is moving, the wind is all and is quite alone in the universe. There is no flag or mind outside the wind. If you say the flag is moving, the flag is the only thing in the universe There is no wind or mind outside the flag. If you say the mind is moving, the mind is all. Nothing exists outside of it. The true fact transcends all these three, and what is that? Mountains, trees, rivers, grass, and so on are nothing but our true self. We call it "The only Mu in the whole universe," or "our own self," or "the other self," and there is only one between heaven and earth. Or we may say, "There is only I, alone and sacred, in heaven above and the earth below."
When I was a much younger Zen student, I supposed that Huineng intended to show the two monks that they were being very intellectual. "It is not the flag that moves; it is not the wind that moves -- what is moving is the endless stream of thoughts in your heads as you argue back and forth." Partly true, perhaps, but very ordinary. More duckweed. I am sure Huineng would not emerge after all that practice simply to preach quietism to the two monks. Some people might suppose that Huineng is saying that phenomena find their home in perception and that apart from one's own perception -- one's own mind -- there is no reality. Thus: "It is your mind that moves." No, I don't think so. Huineng tossed something into the depths beneath such a view. The two monks then felt the profound echo of his words: "It is your mind that moves" -- it is the mind of yourself that moves. You must see into the mind of that self. What is that mind? Sitting there, show me your reincarnation of Huineng.
The two monks are arguing about the flag, disputing what is cause and what is effect. To argue about a flag might seem strange, but they could have a well been arguing about whether we have free will or are determined. Our mind is split at a subliminal level, which forces us constantly into making judgments and assessments, fracturing our world in all kinds of ways. We feel people are always trying to frustrate us, thwart us in what we want to do; the world seems unfair and out of joint; we feel unlucky and mistreated. The more we try to sort it all out, decide what is best, and anticipate the problems before they strike, the worse it seems to be. Are the circumstances the problem or is the problem all of our frantic efforts to set things right? The sixth patriarch told the monks it was their minds that move -- that is, their minds fall into dichotomies. If the mind is at one it will naturally seek the good and the true without reducing them to concepts, dogmas, rules, and commandments. If the mind is at one it will naturally seek harmony with others and peace with the world. That is what underlies the sixth patriarch's statement.
The Zen master said it is not the wind moving, and not the banner moving.
If it is not the wind or the banner, where is it evident?
If there is anyone who can play the host for the Zen master,
come forth and meet with me.
Wind, flag, mind --
If you wish to attain intimacy,
just close the gap.
So wind, flag, and mind all move.
So neither wind, nor flag, nor mind move.
Both are true.
Indeed, they are the same truth.
Illustration by Mark Morse, http://www.thegatelessgate.com/