the teaching Xuefeng got from Deshan or any of the other teachers that he studied with. He had heard this all before, but it wasn’t yet time.
When the time is right, when great doubt and great faith and great determination are all present, you’ll see it. No question about it. But you’ve got to make the practice your own. It’s not the same as doing some sort of an exercise in order to get a particular kind of result. It’s not that kind of an activity. The minute you set your sights on the goal, you’ve separated yourself from the process. Zhaozhou asked his teacher, “But if I don’t direct myself toward it, how will I know it’s the true way?” Nanquan answered, “The way is not about knowing. And it’s not about not knowing.” Knowing is being caught up in the words and ideas that describe things; not knowing is blank consciousness. The way is beyond both of those.
When we enter into real zazen, the zazen of this very moment, we enter the realm of the buddhas. All of these people that preceded us, all of them, were made of the same stuff that each one of us is made of, felt the same kinds of feelings that each one of us feels, ran into the same kinds of barriers and difficulties that all of us run into. There was nothing special about any one of them.
What was special was that they realized themselves. And what they realized is that which is part of the life of each and every one of us. Some may realize it, some may not, but the fact is, all sentient beings are perfect and complete, lacking nothing. That’s what the mind-to-mind transmission is—it doesn’t come from the outside. You already have it. There’s only realization of that which is already there. That’s why it’s nothing that anybody can give you. That’s what Yantou was saying when he said, “It’s got to emanate from your own heart.”
You can’t do it by imitating the honchos; you can’t do it by memorizing the texts; you can’t even do it by passing koans. You’ve got to realize it. Make it your own. Making it your own is intimacy. The process of arriving at intimacy is zazen. Do you know what its basic principles are? The instructions are very simple, but when you really do it, what happens is incredibly profound. Please don’t take it lightly.