Hui Neng — The Mind That Moves

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

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.