And yet, venerable ones, you run outside carrying your bag of excrement and rush about looking for the Buddha and the Dharma. Do you know him who thus runs about seeking? He is as lively as a fish in water and has neither root nor trunk; though you try to fold it up, it never shrinks; though you try to unfold it, it doesn’t spread. The more you seek him, the further away he is; and if you do not seek him, he is right before your eyes and sounds divine in your ears. If a man has no faith in it, in vain will he labour for a hundred years his whole life.
‘Your bag of excrement’ implies our physical body. ‘You run outside carrying your bag of excrement’ means that we, unaware that we, including our physical body, are also part of the Buddha, wander about following words. We should know that he who is running about in search of the Buddha is none other than the Buddha. ‘Has neither root nor trunk; though you try to fold it up, it never shrinks; though you try to unfold it, it doesn’t spread’ means that he has neither body nor limbs because it is formless. This is why he neither shrinks nor spreads himself.
However, he is always active before you since there is nothing that is not him. Everything you can see, hear and feel is the Buddha. Even you yourself are part of it and can escape from it no more than winds can from air. This is why all your efforts turn out to be futile if you try to find it somewhere else other than where you are, or from something else other than what you see and hear. The core of Buddhist teaching is not how to find and reach the Buddha somewhere far away out of our sight, but how to realise that you are the Buddha or that the things in your sight and hearing are the Buddha.
Student: “What is the Buddha?”
Master: “That’s it.”
Student: “I don’t understand.”
Master: “That’s it, too.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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