Sunday, September 20, 2009

Manifestations Of Consciousness

At the age of thirty-nine Hui-neng left his home in the mountains and decided to go out and experience the world. He came to the Fa-hsing Temple in the province of Kuang, where he saw some monks arguing on the fluttering pennant; one of them said, ‘The pennant is an inanimate object and it is the wind that makes it flap.’

Against this it was remarked by another monk that ‘Both wind and pennant are inanimate things, and the flapping is an impossibility.’ A third one protested, ‘The flapping is due to a certain combination of cause and condition’; while a fourth one proposed a theory, saying, ‘After all there is no flapping pennant, but it is the wind that is moving by itself.’

The discussion grew quite animated when Hui-neng interrupted with the remark, ‘It is neither wind nor pennant but your own mind that flaps.’ This at once put a stop to the heated argument.

D.T. Suzuki tells that story in his 1927 book, Essays in Zen Buddhism. Hui-neng, the sixth and last Patriarch of Chan Buddhism was born in China in 638. He is considered the founder of the Southern school of Buddhism. Most of us don’t have the time or the inclination to pay attention to how a pennant flaps in the wind. We don't even pay attention to a pennant unless someone or something motivates that action. Our lives are filled with similar occurrences. We are more concerned with matters that attract our interest, especially when it comes to personal and material growth. The simple things that manifest around us are useless and immaterial in a material wealth world that's filled with rational rules and material confinements.

We conform to a system of beliefs that makes it difficult to understand that we create what we notice and then experience. Our beliefs tell us that the world around us is created by an unknown entity that grants wishes based on performance. We transfer our responsibility and power to an external force when we believe that a higher power is controlling our experiences. Separation is avoidance. It’s much easier to avoid or fight than it is to unite and accept.

The monk’s in Suzuki’s story probably would have continued arguing about the pennant, but he introduced information that was known, but forgotten. He instigated thought and their level of awareness changed. He reminded them that the wind and the pennant were not separate inanimate objects, they were manifestations of consciousness set in action by our limited belief system.

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