Dharma Talk – 16 October 2016

This Dharma talk was given by Ven. Charama on October 16, 2016.

Hui-neng: “Not the Wind; Not the Flag”

Two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind. One said, “The flag moves.” The other said, “The wind moves.” They argued back and forth but could not agree. The Sixth Ancestor said, “Gentlemen! It is not the wind that moves; it is not the flag that moves; it is your mind that moves.” The two monks were struck with awe.

It is not the wind that moves. It is not the flag that moves. It is not the mind that moves. How do you see the Ancestral Teacher here? If you can view this matter intimately, you will find that the two monks received gold when they were buying iron. The Ancestral Teacher could not repress his compassion and overspent himself.

Wind, flag, mind move—
all the same fallacy;
only knowing how to open their mouths;
not knowing they had fallen into chatter.

Robert Aitken. The Gateless Barrier: The Wu-Men Kuan (Mumonkan) (Kindle Locations 3392-3399). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition, which you can buy here.


That famous and engaging koan, plus portions of Chapter 26 of the Dhammapada, are the foundation for my Dharma talk this evening, which I have titled:

“What Moves You?”

Can you believe all those allegations against Donald Trump? The slimeball! I always knew he was a misogynist! He’s a racist, a bigot, a homophobe a xenophobe, a Hitler in the making!

I’m so angry I could…

Not wind. Not flag.

Can you believe all those scandals involving Hillary Clinton?!?!?! She let Americans die in Benghazi! She lied about her e-mails! Her foundation is a pay-to-play scam. Her husband is a sexual predator!

I’m so angry I could…

Not wind. Not flag.

You know what really frosts my cookies? When Chasayk constantly cleans up around me. I no sooner set down my socks or a shirt than she comes along behind me and picks them up and throws them in the washer. And the kitchen cabinets! She’s always combining my older vitamins and medications and my turmeric powder and black pepper and honey into new containers so the old ones and the new ones are all mixed up!

I’m so angry I could…

Not wind. Not flag.

I tell you the truth. If my co-worker doesn’t put away the tools when he’s done with them, or if he doesn’t quit taking those 15 minutes breaks when he’s only supposed to have 10 I’m going to…

I’m so angry I could…

Not wind. Not flag.

The reading from Chapter 26 of the Dhammapada about “The True Master” contains several verses that are key to understanding our relationship to the world…and to this koan:

He does not take offense

And he does not give it.

He never returns evil for evil.

The master endures

Insults and ill treatment

Without reacting.

For his spirit is an army.

He is never angry.

He keeps his promises.

He never strays, he is determined.
This body is my last, he says!

Never offend

By what you think or say or do.

Those are qualities of a person who understands…

Not wind. Not flag.

Such a person understands that to be a Bodhisattva, one cannot allow the world to cause her to take offense at the words and actions of others, to be an offense in word or deed, to return evil for evil, to retaliate against wrongs, to get angry.

Not wind. Not flag.

And, most importantly,

Not mind.

When we understand not wind, not flag, not mind we allow everything to pass by unlabeled, without attachment. We are not “moved” by external forces and so fall into actions and words that cause harm. We remain undeterred in our aspiration to be a Bodhisattva. Our hearts remain tender so that we have the wherewithal to be love in a world dying from lack of it.

I was AWOL from Facebook since early July. Last week, I popped back on to see what was going on.

I saw anger and divisiveness and hatred and making opposites and…

I quickly logged off.

During my weekly meeting with Rev. Jachong, she said, “I saw you were on Facebook for awhile.”

“Yeah,” I said. “And it depressed the hell out of me.”

Not wind. Not flag.

My problem was not that I wasn’t able to identify the hypocrisy and disingenuousness and violations of every Zen tenet in the book. My problem was I allowed them to “move” my mind.

Here’s the truth about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: From a Zen perspective they are not different from one another. They are the same.

What’s more, we are not separate from Donald and Hillary, either.

We are Trump and Hillary.

Therefore, it seems skillful for us to get off our high horses, quit feigning outrage over Trump’s pussy comments or Clinton’s frequent scandals, and remember…

Not wind.

Not flag.

And not mind.

It’s one thing to know that everything in the universe is one, that there is no separation, and that our Zen practice trains us to not make something, to not be dualistic, to not return evil for evil, to not lash out at perceived wrongs, to not return tit for tat.

But it’s another thing entirely to not allow the wind of others to ruffle our mental flags, causing our minds to move – be the “wind” Trump, Hillary, spouse, co-worker, media, politics, friends – even inanimate objects, circumstances. Even things or circumstances can cause our mental flags to flap rapidly. Once that happens, anything is possible.

However, one thing that’s not likely possible is a peaceful, loving response. (Or no response at all, which is often the most skillful approach.)

Because once our minds start to flap along with the wind and the flag, it’s very difficult to still them…

One by one.

Not wind.

Not flag.

Not mind.

And return to this moment.

Where there is stillness.

And peace.

And a serenity that comes from not being continually buffeted by the winds of the world.

Here…there is love.


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