Book Summaries Philosophy

Idea 3: Empty Your Mind

This idea is about nothingness, particularly emptying the mind of its preconceptions about the world. Zen Master Seung Sahn, when commenting on the mud reference in the below excerpt said,

Our mind is like a glass of clear water. If we put salt into the water, it becomes salt
water; sugar, it becomes sugar water; shit, it becomes shit water. But originally the
water is clear. No thinking, no mind. No mind, no problem.


The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance.
They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things

The invocation to empty your mind is common, but what does it mean? It does not mean to suppress your thoughts, but simply to observe them from a distance. When you step outside self-consciousness, you enter the Tao. The mind is originally empty, when it stays empty, and does not grasp or reject anything, it is like like a mirror that reflects all things perfectly. It does not refuse to show a thing, and does not retain anything after it is gone.


Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.
If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

The last idea is about embracing non-being. The true teacher realizes that there is nothing to teach, so he can teach anyone who wants to learn. The true lover knows that there is no one to love, that is why he available to whoever needs him. And the master knows there is nowhere to stand, and that is why he can stand anywhere.

The more you cling to being and certainty, the less the possibilities available to you.

CHAPTER 11: Non-Being

We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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