The unconditioned eye is the eye of a student. It’s open, innocent, and wild. It is the eye of a beginner—uninformed and constantly searching. Every possibility is present and nothing is excluded. Seeing the universe and the self like this means seeing them in a way that is fresh, new, and original. On the other hand, the conditioned eye is the eye of the expert—informed, sophisticated, cultivated. It is not wild. It’s experienced, accomplished. Needless to say, there is a big difference between these two ways of seeing and therefore the way in which we’ll understand what we see.

Deshan Xuanjian lived during the eighth and ninth centuries in Northern China. With copies of the sutra commentaries on his back, Deshan set out. As he traveled, he came upon an old woman selling dumplings by the side of the road. Stopping to rest, Deshan asked if he could buy a small meal. The old woman pointed at his bundle and asked, “What are those books?” Deshan said, “They are sutra commentaries.” The old woman asked, “What sutra do they expound on?” Deshan responded, “The Diamond Sutra.” Then the old woman said, “I have a question for you. If you answer it correctly, then I’ll give the dumplings to you. If you can’t answer, then I won’t even serve you.”

Of course Deshan, the expert on the Diamond Sutra, did not hesitate for an instant. The old woman then said, “In the sutra it says, ‘Past mind cannot be grasped, present mind cannot be grasped, future mind cannot be grasped.’ What I want to know, monk, is which mind are you revealing right now?” And Deshan couldn’t answer. He then asked the woman, “Is there a Zen teacher around here?” At least he showed some life, but he still could not recognize the teacher standing right in front of him.

Thus is this life – Our gift, our distraction and yet our teacher.

Peace and Love, Jim

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