Don’t interpret

Cold weather forecast for today, with snow possible on higher ground:

A monk wanted to know what was Mahaprajna, Great or Absolute Wisdom. The Master answered:

“The snow is falling fast and all is enveloped in mist.”

The monk remains silent. The Master asks: “Do you understand?”“No, Master, I do not”. 

Thereupon the Master composed a verse for him:

Great Wisdom: It is neither taking in nor giving up. 
If one understands it not, The wind is cold, the snow is falling.

The monk is ‘trying to understand” when in fact he ought to try to look. The apparently mysterious and cryptic sayings  become much simpler when we see them in the whole context of “mindfulness” or awareness, which in its most elementary form consists in “bare attention” which simply sees what is right there and does not add any comment, any interpretation, any judgment, any conclusion. It just sees. 

If one reaches the point where understanding fails, this is not a tragedy:

it is simply a reminder to stop thinking and start looking.

Perhaps there is nothing to figure out after all: perhaps we only need to wake up.

Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite,

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