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Lions Roar : January 2016
The Businessless Person The person who has nothing to do is sovereign of herself. Master Linji invented the term the “businessless person,” the person who has nothing to do and nowhere to go. This was his ideal example of what a person could be. In Theravada Buddhism, the ideal person was the arhat, someone who practiced to attain enlightenment. In Mahayana Buddhism, the ideal person was the bodhisattva, a compassion- ate being who, on the path of enlightenment, helped others. According to Master Linji, the businessless person is someone who doesn’t run after enlightenment or grasp at anything, even if that thing is the Buddha. This person has simply stopped. She is no longer caught by anything, even theories or teachings. The businessless person is the true person inside each one of us. This is the essential teaching of Master Linji. When we learn to stop and be truly alive in the present moment, we are in touch with what’s going on within and around us. We aren’t carried away by the past, the future, our thinking, ideas, emo- tions, and projects. Often we think that our ideas about things are the reality of that thing. Our notion of the Buddha may just be an idea and may be far from reality. The Buddha outside ourselves was a hu- man being who was born, lived, and died. For us to seek such a Buddha would be to seek a shadow, a ghost Buddha, and at some point our idea of Buddha would become an obstacle for us. Master Linji said that when we meet the ghost Buddha, we should cut off his head. Whether we’re looking inside or outside ourselves, we need to cut off the head of whatever we meet, and abandon the views and ideas we have about things, including our ideas about Buddhism and Buddhist teachings. Buddhist teachings are not exalted words and scriptures existing outside us, sitting on a high shelf in the temple, but are medicine for our ills. Buddhist teachings are skillful means to cure our igno- rance, craving, and anger, as well as our habit of seeking things outside and not having confidence in ourselves. Insight can’t be found in sutras, commentaries, or dharma talks. Liberation and awakened understanding can’t be found by devoting ourselves to the study of the Buddhist scriptures. This is like hoping to find fresh water in dry bones. Returning to the present moment, using our clear mind that exists right here and now, we can be in touch with liberation and enlight- enment, as well as with the Buddha and all his disciples as living realities right in this moment. The person who has nothing to do is sovereign of herself. She doesn’t need to put on airs or leave any trace behind. The true person is an active participant, engaged in her environment while remaining unoppressed by it. Although all phenomena are going through the various appearances of birth, abiding, changing, and dying, the true person doesn’t become a victim of sadness, happiness, love, or hate. She lives in awareness as an ordinary person, whether standing, walking, lying down, or sit- ting. She doesn’t act a part, even the part of a great Zen master. This is what Master Linji means by “be sovereign wherever you are and use that place as your seat of awakening.” Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go (Parallax) The True Person On this pile of red flesh there’s a true person. Anyone who hasn’t seen this person: look carefully. In thirteenth-century Vietnam, King Tran Thai Tong wrote this poem: The true person without position lies on the pile of red flesh The pink color and the white color of the flesh and of the bones may trick us. We don’t recognize our true person. We only live with the things we think are our true person. We live our whole life in this ignorance, thinking our feelings and our flesh are the sum total of our true person. Our true person has no position, is not inside or outside, is not tricked by birth and death, by coming and going, by having or not having, by what we do or don’t do. Whether we play chess, stay in bed all day, or meditate all night, this is not our true person. Our true person can’t be found by means of our intellect, our reasoning. On this pile of red flesh there’s a true person. Any- one who hasn’t seen this person: look carefully. Live mindfully. Our true person is our own miraculous Buddha, present in our wonderful relationship with all things. Our Buddha is not our five skandhas, the five things that make up a human being: form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and conscious- ness; these are not our true person. We are the clouds, the sky, all our ancestors and descendants. Our true person is a wonder. And when we can see this, we are well. We still have our ups and downs, but we don’t identify ourselves with them. We know we are more than that. Our great success as practitioners is to realize our true person. Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go (Parallax) SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2016 61