THE MIND – Zen Master Bankei New MJ Awakening Blog
July 19, 2019

Bankei

Zen Master Bankei (1622-1693)

THE MIND

“The mind, as Bankei describes it, is a dynamic mechanism, reflecting, recording and recalling our impressions of the world, a kind of living mirror that is always in motion, never the same from one instant to the next. Within this mirror mind, thoughts and feelings come and go, appearing, vanishing and reappearing in response to circumstances, neither good nor bad in themselves.

Unlike the man of the Unborn, however, the impulsive person suffers from attachment. He is never natural because he is a slave to his responses, which he fails to realize are only passing reflections. As a result, he is continually “hung up,” entangled in particular thoughts and sensations, obstructing the free flow of the mind. Everything will operate smoothly, Bankei insists, if we only step aside and let it do so.

He illustrates this to the members of his audience by pointing out that, even while engrossed in listening to his talk, they automatically register and identify everything else around them—the calls of crows and sparrows, the various colors and aromas, the different sorts of people in the room. No one is deliberately trying to do this; it simply happens. That, Bankei says, is how the Unborn functions.

For Bankei, the important thing is letting go, breaking the mold of our self-centeredness (mi no hiiki) and bad habits (kiguse). These are familiar Japanese terms that Bankei used to describe the chief components of delusion. Self-centeredness is the basis of the false self. It is “ego” in the pejorative sense, the reflex that leads us to judge everything from a narrowly selfish viewpoint.

What fuels and informs this attitude is bad habits, character flaws that, like self centeredness, are the result of conditioning. We grow up imitating the people around us, Bankei says, and in the process acquire certain failings which finally become so ingrained that we mistake them for our real selves.

Unlike the Unborn Buddha Mind, however, neither bad habits nor self-centeredness is innate; both are assimilated from outside after birth. When we become deluded, we temporarily forfeit the Buddha Mind we started out with, exchanging it for these learned responses.

The only way out of this dilemma, Bankei maintains, is to go back the way we came, to return to the unconditioned, the uncreated, the unborn.”

-Peter Haskel (from the Introduction to BANKEI ZEN)

 

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