The raja asked Prajnatara, “Why don’t you read the scriptures?” Prajnatara said, “This poor wayfarer doesn’t dwell in the realm of body and mind when breathing in.” Master Dogen says, “To study the Way is to study the self.” Study of the self is the study of mind, body, heart. So why does Prajnatara say he doesn’t dwell in the realm of the body or mind? What is it “to dwell in”? What is it, in the language of the Vimalakirti Sutra, “to become interested in”? To dwell in something is to reside in it. It is to depend on something stable and certain, something that will always be what we want it to be.
So what is it to not “dwell in the realm of the body or mind when breathing in”? It is to turn the light around; to “take the backward step,” as Dogen says. When breathing in, there’s no dwelling in the body, in the mind, in the breath, in emotions, thoughts, memories or anticipation. In the silence and equanimity that arises out of sitting, there’s no dwelling in any one thing, in any one person. What kind of diligence does that require?
When we chant the Heart Sutra we say, “No realm of sight, no realm of consciousness.” No realm of sight is the realm of the body: sight, hearing, taste, touch, thought, feeling. No realm of consciousness is the realm of mind: perception, conception, discrimination, awareness. “No ignorance, no end to ignorance.” Because there is no realm of sight, there is no realm of no sight. Because there is no realm of ignorance, there is no realm of an end to ignorance. “No old age and death and no end to old age and death.” In order for there to be a realm that we can arrive at—a place of birthlessness, deathlessness, no old age and death—there would need to be a realm of no end to these states. But there is no realm. “No suffering, no cause of suffering, no extinguishing, no path, no wisdom, and no gain. No gain and thus the bodhisattva lives prajna paramita.” Because there is no wisdom and gain, no realm, no place to dwell in, the bodhisattva lives prajna paramita—the Great Perfection of Wisdom. Prajnatara is not involved in the realm of body or mind when breathing in. He doesn’t get involved in myriad circumstances when breathing out. This is not to be confused with being unconcerned or uncaring, with being cold, shut down, turned off, turned away. Involvement actually requires distance. To be involved in your zazen requires a kind of calculation, plotting out how you’ll be involved, weighing the potential gain and loss. To not be involved with myriad circumstances is to not be involved in the idea of things, of situations, of people, of events. It means to be whole body and mind. No distance.
Prajnatara says, “I always reiterate such a scripture.” What is the scripture he’s referring to? He’s just said he doesn’t dwell in the realm of body and mind breathing in. He doesn’t get involved in myriad circumstances breathing out. Then he says, “I always reiterate such a scripture—hundreds, thousands, millions of scrolls.” Wansong’s footnote to that line says, “The preceding lecture and eulogy was an unlimited excellent cause.” Prajnatara says, “I always reiterate such a scripture breathing in (not dwelling in body and mind)... breathing out (facing the myriad circumstances).” He’s not involved because he’s completely immersed—so immersed that there’s no involvement, no distance. That’s what practice is all about, letting the dharma be so permeating, so infused within you that you realize there’s no way to be lost anymore. There’s nowhere to go and not be in it, not be it. There is a point in practice when it’s no longer possible to believe that the truth is somewhere else, that it’s something else. That’s the moment when there’s no more involvement.