By Bhiksu Heng K'ung
When a person-is desirous off knowledge of what a thing is, it is best to illustrate that thing by showing what the thing is not. For if you show him directly what the thing is, it Will be your conclusion superimposed on his mind, and not based on the individual's genuine understanding of the thing, but if you illustrate what the thing is by showing what the—thing is not, by process of elimination he-will understand what the thing is. With respect to Knowledge of Self, it is best to arrive at if through a process of elimination rather than through a process of assertations. This is the Path of Self-Enquiry and the primary aim of Ch'an meditation. The most practiced technique of this school is the Hua T'ou technique. One of the most common used Hua T'ous is "Who is being mindful of the Buddha?" let us apply the above thesis to this Hua T'ou.
When we go to the garbage dump with a trailer full of garbage, we have a single purpose in mind"-to leave the dump with an empty trailer. After we have parked our car in the designated area, we start throwing the garbage-out-of the trailer. When we throw the garbage out of the trailer, we do not examine each bit of garbage before throwing it away, but we just heave-ho until the trailer is empty and we are free to go. Examining each bit of garbage before throwing it away is a tedious and unnecessary task, for we have already established that it was garbage.
Meditation; is no different. When we enquire into the nature of the Self we do not want to examine why we have obstructions and try to psychoanalyze ourselves or figure ourselves out, for to de so will not lead to Self Realization, but only to an improvement of character. If we want to tread the Path of Self Enquiry, we must hold firmly with deep faith to a thesis that has produced accomplished beings: from the tine the-Buddha turned, the Dharma Wheel over three thousand years ago to the present. What is this thesis? l) I am not the body. 2) I am not the ego or personality that takes the body as real. Although this list can be greatly expanded if one is of scholarly inclinations, it needn't be for those more inclined, towards actual practice than theoretical understanding. The path of Self-Enquiry is the most direct of all the Buddhist methods of practice. It requires a powerful faculty of discrimination to be able to quickly give rise to doubt and set the process of elimination in motion when a notion such as "I am the body," or "I am the mind" arises.
When we first begin to sit we feel pain in our legs or in our backs. Before we have the thought, "my legs hurt," or "my back hurts," we must quickly say, "I am not my body." The thought will naturally follow, "Who is being mindful of the Buddha?" or "Who am I?" The emphasis is on who? If one's head feels as if it’s going to burst because one has been working so hard, one must firmly say, "I am not the internal organ, the brain, that aches so." And then firmly ask, "Who is it that feels the pain?" "Who is being mindful of the Buddha?" If one's business is causing one anxiety or one's position in life is causing one to calculate for one's self in a multitude of confused and scattered thoughts, one must with firm determination say, "I a» not the ego that takes social position or personal faults or the faults of others as real," and then ask, "Who takes the faults of others as real?" or "Who takes the faults of the personality as rear?" "Who am I?" "Who is being mindful of the Buddha?" The emphasis is always on the "Who?" One does not become a king by merely saying, "I am a king." The pain in one’s legs doesn't vanish with the words, “I am a king." Self realization mist unfold, and this will happen according to one's endurance and one's ability to grasp what is essential and to reject what is not essential. Our association with the body and its faculties will gradually diminish, and with this diminishing will unfold an increased self-awareness.
Originally there was no garbage in our trailer, and in the beginning there was no one who was mindful of the Buddha. If we simply cast aside all our opinions of what is, and what is not, what remains will be the Buddha. We certainly have nothing to gain but only some things to lose.