The fact that this has occurred means that all along there was the mind of a student. Even in his self-deception there was honesty and sincerity. Even in his turning away there was the seed of his turning towards. It's the marvelous thing about practice—in the same way that it's not possible to get away from our delusion, it's also not possible to turn away from enlightenment. In the same way that when we try to get away from what's binding us, we simply carry it with us and are in full possession of what will relieve us from that binding. In the moment when we have given up, the moment of starting again is already there.
In response to Baoen's turning back, Daido Roshi said, "Good. Three times knocked down, four times get up." It's not possible to be absolutely, irrevocably lost. We can give up in our mind completely, forever. Still, in one mysterious and unexpected moment something can shift, and the Way is again present, open and clear. It's always like that. That's why it's important to pay attention when we begin to waver in our practice, or even begin to wander away. Pay attention, but don't worry.
Daido Roshi's capping verse says, "If you're not intimate with it when it's revealed, then you will think about it for the rest of your life." Not being intimate gives rise to ideas, opinions and so on. True seeking demands intimacy. When you want to see something and it's not clear, what do you do? You lean forward and come closer. With practice, it's the same principle, but it's more subtle because this intimacy is not just a matter of shifting your physical direction, of moving your body. The whole universe needs to leap forward.
Living as a tourist, through our thoughts, our ideas, our fears, living through what we want life to be, trying to make it happen, rejecting, being in conflict, all of it—this is the diamond-hard concept of the self. This is when life feels distant. Feelings are distant, tastes are distant, sounds are distant. When the mind ceases to be so active, things appear closer, more vivid. Every practitioner has had that experience. What is it telling us? It's not that the food is more flavorful, that the colors are more brilliant. The world is always completely being itself. There is something shifting within ourselves.
"That which gains entry through the gate is not the family treasure." We shouldn't be satisfied with ideas and images of a real life. Live! When we let go of thoughts and all self-clinging, the Way is seen as it always is, clear and undisguised, open and free.
The fire god seeks fire. Why, at that moment, did Baoen realize it? The same words had been spoken before and he had walked away believing that he had attained a peaceful bliss. And he was wrong. And then, in this encounter, the same question, the same words. Yet nothing was the same. That shift speaks of the miraculous turning of the Way-seeking mind. Truth seeking truth. When we let go of the diamond-hard concept of self, then there is room for everything and everyone. Everything is held. There is nothing outside of it.