When investigating hwadu, what must one do about the tasteless?

When one continues purely to form the feeling of doubt about the hwadu, one comes to the state where one cannot sense any taste. This condition is called “lack of taste” (moljami) or “the tasteless” (mujami). Even grasping it firmly it does not exist; if one relies on it it does not exist; it is totally without interest. Seon Master Dahui said that such times are good times.

The hwadu cut off the taste of language and concepts, and one cannot analyze or pursue it with thought. Hwadu originally does not have any taste. And so Seon Master Yuanwu said of the hwadu, “It is a tasteless cake made of iron.” If one comes to take up the hwadu, one falls fully into where the path of reason is cut off as are all the various thoughts that trouble and ponder, as well as the discriminative consciousness that divides you and I. Traces and signs are cut off.

If one develops to some extent and chews on the tasteless in taking up the hwadu, the path of language is cut off and the paths of thought are blocked. It is the cutting off of the taste of language and thought. Being so uninteresting it is called tasteless. But this is proof that the hwadu is mature and that oneself and the hwadu have become one. If one reaches such a state, even you yourself will have disappeared.

Seon Master Naong of the late Goryeo examined the condition of practitioner’s study with the “ten paragraphs on study.” While he explained this condition of tastelessness as the state just before one took up the mind and body in one thusness that achieves the hwadu-samādhi, because one in that state continues to support the hwadu, although the interest disappears, the power abates. He stressed that in the condition of no interest whatsoever of the tasteless, to push the investigation of the hwadu is not easy.

    Even though one takes up the hwadu and is plain and full of study, there is entirely no interest, there is no place to peck with a beak, and no place to exercise strength, there is not the slightest place of clarity, and even though it being so nothing can be done, one absolutely must not retreat from here. At exactly this time, this is the place where the student applies strength of study, and it is the place where the strength is subtracted, and is the place where the strength of practice is gained, and is the place where the body and life are discarded. (Naong Hwasang eorok, Showing to the Practitioner Ilju).

In the process of the tasteless study one must not be negligent but investigate the hwadu even more strongly. One cannot discontinue it here. One must not search for other expedient means and one must push on to excite only more doubt. One must push on only by managing the hwadu with the mind of great faith and the mind of great vigorous practice.

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