|The Sixth Ancestor's Rice Mill, ink on paper, 10.8 x 16.7 cm, Shinwa-an Collection|
A few hours ago we finished our summer sesshin at Boundless Way Temple, named by our tanto (sesshin leader) "The Original Face Sesshin." The topic was a koan about the Sixth Chinese Ancestor, Hui Neng, who threshed rice in a monastery for nine months and then was recognized by the Fifth Ancestor, Hongren, as his Dharma Heir.
We have used this koan many times, including at a previous summer sesshin, but as always, it felt new and fresh and we considered it from many angles. One of the translations we used this year was from David Hinton, and the question that Hui Neng asks Monk Lumen (know to most of us as Monk Ming) is translated by Hinton as: "Don't think about right answers, don't think about wrong. Right here in this very moment, what is the original face of Head Monk Lumen, the face that's been gazing out since the very beginning of things?"
This is a fundamental question in Zen, and you may want to play with it yourself, as we played with it for the past week. Who are you before all of the constructions of personality and history arose in you, blocking your view of what has been here forever, and will continue with no end? In this very moment, who are you? The answer to this question endlessly deepens. May you find your way to what Lumen discovered, in Hinton's translation: "Here today I've taken a drink, and it's like the water itself knows how warm or cold the drink is."