The first time I went to the Monastery I felt like I was home. I remember noting that and thinking, “Well that’s strange, I’ve never been here before.” But many times over the years, I heard people express this feeling of somehow being home at the Monastery. It wasn’t just the building or the mountain. What were they experiencing? What kind of mystery was I experiencing that gave rise to that deep sense of home? What is home? It’s that one true place, in the middle of the night when there is no moon. There’s no reference, there is no way to regard oneself in relationship to another.
What our senses do is constantly position the one we call our self in relationship to everything: I am this, I am not this, I’m like this more than I’m like that. But there is a place where none of this can be found. Where this ceaseless positioning of oneself ceases. When you arrive home, there is no recognition. Who is the true person of no rank? It’s not a matter of resisting comparison with others; there is nothing that can be compared. Caoshan said, “It is quite natural just like that.” Caoshan’s “natural” is unborn and unextinguished, utterly without contrivance because there is nothing that has arisen and nothing that can go away. The parent cannot pay attention to the child—parent and child are one unified body.
There is a story about a student who came to Caoshan and asked, “Who is the person who is here forever?” That is, the person who is not born and doesn’t die. Who is that true person? Caoshan said, “Just when you encounter Caoshan, that person is instantly revealed.” When you truly meet Caoshan you meet yourself. When you meet yourself you meet the Buddha. When you meet the Buddha you encounter the ten thousand dharmas; they naturally advance to realize the self. The student then asked, “Who is the one who has never been here?” Caoshan said, “Hard to find.” No one has ever seen this one. At the time of the Buddha’s enlightenment, he encountered the one who has never been here. In one moment of total practice-realization, when you meet the one who is hard to find, you discover the one who, all along, has never been here. It is this “never having been here” that is the great liberation.
“Where is the love between the parent and child?” Caoshan says, “The love between parent and child.” He could have said “love,” “parent,” or “child.” One thing contains everything; everything contains one. Thus, parent and child become each other. But don’t be confused into thinking that this is the result of practice, of some skillful activity. “Parent and child become each other” is parent discovering child, discovering parent, discovering heaven and earth, discovering no distinction, discovering discovering.
In practice we go very deep to let all the activity drop away to get to the bare and naked luminous truth. But in that there is not a single thing that can be seen. So there has to be a turning around to face the light, to see the world and move within it. Seeing the world, we must realize that it too is hard to find. It too has never been here. When the relative world returns to the great emptiness, what is that? Caoshan said, “The love between parent and child.”