This is a cool teaching from novice monk Brain Byrnes on Case Nineteen ("Ordinary Mind Is the Way") from The Gateless Gate, a collection of 48 Zen koans compiled in the early 13th century by the Chinese Zen master Wumen Hui-k'ai (1183–1260) (Japanese: Mumon Ekai).
You can read all of The Gateless Gate online, complete with the original Japanese text.
Speaker: Brian Byrnes
Recorded: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Episode Description: Joshin frames this wonderful talk around Case Nineteen from The Gateless Gate (free version here) known as “Ordinary Mind is the Way.” The koan starts: Joshu asked Nansen,”What is the Way?” Nansen answered, ”Everyday, ordinary mind is the Way.” Joshu asked “If everyday, ordinary mind is the way. How shall I direct myself to it?” Nansen said “if you try to direct yourself toward it, you are going in exactly the wrong direction.” Joshin explains what is meant by ordinary mind and how should be present, accepting what life has to offer, moment to moment. “Every day reminds us that we don’t have to run around looking for something special. We just have to turn around and look at our everyday ordinary lives.”
Full test of Case Nineteen, Ordinary Mind Is the Way:Joshu asked Nansen: `What is the path?' Nansen said: `Everyday life is the path.'
Joshu asked: `Can it be studied?'
Nansen said: `If you try to study, you will be far away from it.'
Joshu asked: `If I do not study, how can I know it is the path?'
Nansen said: `The path does not belong to the perception world, neither does it belong to the nonperception world. Cognition is a delusion and noncognition is senseless. If you want to reach the true path beyond doubt, place yourself in the same freedom as sky. You name it neither good nor not-good.'
At these words Joshu was enlightened.
Bio: Joshin Brian Byrnes is a novice priest at Upaya Zen Center and president and CEO of the Santa Fe Community Foundation. He worked at the Boston AIDS Action Committee, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and was CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation and Managing Director at Tides Foundation. His nonprofit career spans over twenty years, where he has led complex organizations through profound change processes, organizational growth, and repositioning them for increased social impact, financial sustainability, and organizational learning. Currently, he is involved with a number of of national philanthropic projects including being the chair-elect of CFLeads: Community Foundations Leading Change, and is a member of the Community Foundation Leadership Team at the Council on Foundations. His academic background includes undergraduate and graduate work in philosophy at St. Meinrad College, theology at the Aquinas Institute at St. Louis University, early music performance at New England Conservatory of Music, and medieval musicology at New York University. He has also studied and practiced organizational development with Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline), and has been trained in Organizational and Relationship Systems Coaching. He is cultivating a “back and forth” practice, moving between the zendo and the larger world of social service, organizational leadership, and social engagement.
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