Hui Neng — The Mind That Moves

Hui Neng was an illit­er­ate peas­ant who had expe­ri­enced a sud­den awak­en­ing upon hear­ing the Lotus Sutra recit­ed aloud, and went to join the monastery of the Fifth Patri­arch of Zen. The Patri­arch rec­og­nized that Hui Neng was in the process of awak­en­ing, but rather than open­ly acknowl­edge this he assigned him to care for the pigs on the out­skirts of the monastery to pro­tect him from the aca­d­e­m­ic and spir­i­tu­al cor­rup­tions of the oth­er monks.

How­ev­er, one day as Hui Neng was going about his work he heard two monks near­by engag­ing in a clas­sic argu­ment about spir­i­tu­al real­i­ty. They were watch­ing the large monastery flag wav­ing in the wind, and one monk was argu­ing that it was the flag that was mov­ing, while the oth­er argued that it was the wind that was mov­ing. These two argu­ments cor­re­spond to clas­sic spir­i­tu­al view­points about the nature of real­i­ty, and while lis­ten­ing to the learned monks argue, Hui Neng could not hold back. He inter­rupt­ed them and told them, “It is nei­ther the flag that moves, nor the wind that moves. It is your mind that moves”.

The two monks were silenced, and Hui Neng went about his work tend­ing to the pigs.