One day a visitor came to the Providence Zen Center and asked Seung Sahn Soen-sa, “If I study Zen, will I attain enlightenment?
”Soen-sa said, “Why do you want to attain enlightenment?”
The visitor said, “I’m upset by all sorts of things. I don’t feel free.”Soen-sa said, “Why don’t you feel free?”“I guess I have too many attachments.”
“Why don’t you cut through these attachments?”
“They all seem very real.”
Soen-sa said, “No one knows when he will die. It could be next year, or next week, or in the next five minutes. So put it all down, now, at this very moment. Keep your mind as if you were already dead. Then all your attachments will disappear, and it won’t matter whether you study Zen or not. Right now you think, ‘I am alive, I am strong.’So you have many desires, many attachments. Only think, ‘I am dead.’A dead man has no desires.
”The visitor said, “How can I be alive and dead?
”Soen-sa said, “Dead is not dead. We have eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. But the Heart Sutra says that in emptiness there are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind. Without my six senses I have no hindrance. It is very easy. So if I am already dead, seeing is not seeing, hearing is not hearing. It is like passing in front of a restaurant, smelling the good smells, and passing on. It is not my house, so I don’t touch.
”The visitor said, “How can I practice being dead?
”Soen-sa said, “Only keep the great question, ‘What am I?’Now let me ask you, what are you?”
“I’m one.”“Where does one come from?”
“From God. God is one.”
“God? Do you understand God?”
“You say ‘one,’you say ‘God.’This is wrong. If you make one, it is one. If you make God, it is God. All this is thinking. Without thinking, what are you?”
“Nothing?”Soen-sa hit him and said, “This is pain. Can ‘nothing’feel pain?”
The visitor smiled.
Soen-sa said, “Before thinking, your mind was like a sheet of white paper. Then you wrote down ‘one,’and ‘God,’and ‘nothing,’and so on and so forth. When you cut off all thinking, you erase all these names and forms and return to your original emptiness. What am I? I don’t know. When you keep the great question, you keep the mind that doesn’t know. Don’t-know mind is empty mind. There are no words, no speech. So there is no one, no God, no nothing, no mind, no emptiness. This don’t-know mind is very important. I is don’t-know, don’t-know is I. Only this. This is your true self. So always keep don’t-know mind.
”The visitor said, “My friends think I’m crazy because I’m interested in Zen.
”Soen-sa said, “Craziness is good. Crazy people are happy, free, they have no hindrance. But since you have many attachments, you are only a little crazy. This is not crazy enough. You must become completely crazy. Then you will understand.
”The visitor bowed. Someone came and poured out two cups of tea.