Huang Po or in Japanese, Obaku, is one of the Great Ones. I have been reading The Zen Teaching of Huang Po for nearly 40 years. Little is known of his life, but texts traditionally give his death some time between 847 and 859 A.D.
I am going to pick just one section from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po which was translated by John Blofeld in 1958. I will divide this section into two or three posts and add some commentary to each. His words really need no commentary, but I hope my comments are useful. My commentary will probably fall into the category known in Zen as ” spreading shit on the clean-driven snow”. However, this is also true of Huang Po’s words, so I have put myself cleverly in good company.
If you would spend all your time – walking, standing, sitting, or lying down – learning to halt the concept-forming activities of your mind, you could be sure of ultimately attaining the goal. Since your strength is insufficient, you might not be able to transcend samsara (illusion) by a single leap; but, after 5 or 10 years, you would surely have made a good beginning and be able to make further progress spontaneously. It is because you are not that sort of man that you feel obliged to employ your mind ‘studying dhyana (dharma)’ and ‘studying the Way’. What does all that have to do with Buddhism?
So it is said that all the Tathagata (The Buddha) taught was to convert people; it was like pretending yellow leaves are real gold, just to stop the flow of a child’s tears; it must by no means be regarded as though it were ultimate truth.
Commentary: Huang Po raises the flag of the true Dharma eye high. He draws a line below which all speculation, intellectualism, and conception fall and above which the empty mind of the Way begins. Can it be as simple as this? The answer is: yes, it can. But don’t be deceived: it is simple, but hard, very hard and requires an on-going, inexhaustible spirit.
photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography