The way that Buddhism is taught these days is not always exactly how it appears in the original. Therefore it is always beneficial to go back to the original source from time to time.
Here is a nice verse from the Dhammapada, which is the most translated book of the Buddhist canon. The verses in it are short and pithy, and very much in line with the rest of the suttas.
Yathaa agaara.m ducchanna.m vu.t.thi samativijjhati
Evam abhaavita.m citta.m raago samativijjhati
Just as rain comes through the roof of a badly thatched house
So passion invades an undeveloped mind
‘Thatched’ if you are not a native English speaker, refers to a roof made of grass. If you have not done the thatching well, then your roof will leak.
This is a very different style of dhamma to that of Nui-heng (see blog from a couple of days ago). There we have ultimate declarations of the nature of the enlightened mind. It is spotless, and nothing can taint it – even if it is amongst the passions, it is not defiled by them. Therefore there is nothing you can ‘do’ to attain to what is Unconditioned. Meditation thereby is ‘non-action’.
Yet here in the Dhammapada the Buddha is saying quite clearly that it is the ‘passions’ that are bad, that make the house/mind unsuitable. They have an effect! Practically the opposite to Hui-neng’s dhamma.
The word ‘passions’ is Raaga. What is so wrong with passion? Are you not passionate about your work, about your family, about dhamma? Passion in English is usually considered something good.
There are two answers to this. First, ‘raaga’ has a negative connotation. Unlike say, ‘aspiration’ or ‘ardent’ or ‘striving’ … all of which the Buddha would use in a positive light, as something worthy. So it is the negative passions that are the problem. ‘Raaga’ is always attached to some form of sense desire.
On a deeper level though, all passion has to cease. The words in the suttas are ‘disenchantment’, ‘dispassion’, ‘equanimity’ etc… These all point to a state of mind that is completely unperturbed by anything. The Buddha often described enlightenment as the ‘unshakable deliverance of mind’. It is passion that shakes the mind. It is raaga that sends the mind outside of itself looking for satisfaction in things of the world.
The other word in the stanza that is very interesting is ‘abhavita’, ‘undeveloped’. Here quite clearly the Buddha is pointing to a developed mind as something good. Even though the mind, and any quality you can develop in it, is ultimately impermanent, dukkha and non-self , there are nonetheless some ways in which a mind can be developed that are conducive to enlightenment.
Would Hui-neng and other Patriarchs agree? Would Nisargadatta, Krishanamurthi or Ramana Maharshi agree? They seem to say there is nothing you can develop that is Enlightenment. Any state of mind you create is conditioned, and will soon cease. They say that even the very refined developments of mind are still not ‘it’.
Yathaa agaara.m succhanna.m vu.t.thi na samativijjhati
Evam subhaavita.m citta.m raago na samativijjhati
Just as the rain does not penetrate the roof of a well thatched house
Even so the developed mind is not invaded by passion
So be mindful, be watchful, and develop the good qualities of mind. As you are ever more present, you catch the mind at those times when it is empty of raaga. These points are usually overlooked by people not trained in mindfulness. If you see them, and examine, you find the mind that is free from passion, and free from sleepiness, free from restlessness. Far from the mind being dull or boring when it is without passion, there is a supreme clarity and brightness. It is incomparable. And it is Peace.