The Chinese Zen Master Ching Ch’ing was famous for his strict discipline. Late one night as he sat with the monks he asked them, “What’s that sound outside the gate?” One of the monks replied, “Master, that’s the sound of raindrops.” Ching Ch’ing then said, “This world is upside down; people lose themselves and chase after things.”
If you look closely at our world it’s apparent that something is very wrong. Everywhere you look there is suffering. Why? The Buddha said that the cause of suffering is desire: “I want… something.” Anytime you want something you lose your true self and are “chasing” after that something. Suddenly the world flips over like an unbalanced iceberg… bluuuuuub! Once the world is upside down, everything is seen differently. The Buddha called that ignorance. And just like a fish in water, we don’t realize our ignorance until the wake-up alarm of suffering starts ringing loudly in our ears. In fact, when we hear people talking about the rightside-up world, we tend to reject it immediately… “That’s not true; no way, you must be crazy or some kind of religious nut!”
When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount he was talking about the rightside-up world. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. Ignorance doesn’t include just our material desires, it can also embrace our “spiritual” practices as well; these too can become things. As Zen Master Huang Po, Lin Chi’s teacher, said:
So, if you students of the Way are mistaken about your own real Mind… you will indulge in various achievements and practices and expect to attain realization by such graduated practices. But, even after aeons of diligent searching, you will not be able to attain to the Way. These methods cannot be compared to the sudden elimination of conceptual thought, the certain knowledge that there is nothing at all which has absolute existence, nothing on which to lay hold, nothing on which to rely, nothing in which to abide, nothing subjective or objective. It is by preventing the rise of conceptual thought that you will realize Bodhi; and, when you do, you will just be realizing the Buddha who has always existed in your own Mind.
How simple, but few people will believe it. Zen means “I don’t want anything,” “don’t attach to anything,” the direct simple antidote to suffering of all kinds. When Zen Master Seung Sahn says that if you don’t want anything you get everything, who believes him? That’s upside down! If he tells us to put it all down or to cut off all thinking, who will follow? If we can just detach from our thinking for even a second then… bluuuuuuub, the world turns rightside up; we are awake. We call this Great Love and Great Compassion.
Here is a question for you:
A monk asked Un Mun, “When it’s not the immediate instinct and it’s not the immediate phenomenon, how is it?”
Un Mun said, “An upside-down statement.”
So, if there is no upside down and no right side up, then what? Zen won’t help you.