Saturday, March 6, 2010

Grasping Ice

In Chapter 19 of the Diamond Sutra, Buddha says to Subhuti: "the past mind cannot be grasped, neither can the present mind or the future mind."

Thich Nhat Hanh, in his commentary, follows up on this line with a question:

"How can we have as true understanding of the mind if we keep going after different psychological phenomena trying to grasp them?"

Take a look at the photo above. It was taken a few weeks ago along the Mississippi River. Isn't that how your mind works much of the time? You imagine there is something solid you need to get a fix on, and so your thoughts spin around and around like the ducks around that slab of ice. Perhaps, there comes a time when you step onto the ice, or even take a hold of it with your hands, or some other part of your body. But no matter what you do, the ice isn't going to be here long. It's already melting, and soon will return completely to the water. In fact, before it was melting, it had been growing, thickening to become a slab of ice. Yet, never did it leave the river, even if one of those ducks ingested a piece of it and then flew off into a field.

So much effort put into trying to confirm a separation that isn't there. Even when we believe intellectually that everything is interdependent, how often do each of us still act like a cold duck, reaching for that slab of ice as if it were the thing that will hold us up, and keep us from drowning?

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