No Thinking, No Suffering
It's our thinking that creates good and bad, right and wrong, sorrow
and joy. When we actively engage in "no thinking" there is both no
suffering, and no consolation. Read a striking story of the Zen master
Seung Sahn adapted by Charlie Badenhop.
There is a story told by the Zen master Seung Sahn. Many years ago
there was a young man living in Korea, and the young man felt that
his life was quite empty. So he shaved his head and went up into the
mountains to live the life of a monk. He studied diligently for a
number of years, but still felt that he did not really understand
how to be free.
The young man had heard of certain Zen masters living in China so
he gathered his meager belongings and started a long and arduous journey
across arid plains.
Every day he would walk for many hours, and would stop only after
finding a patch of land that had a source of water. Finding water
was not at all a simple task in such dry lands, but a task necessary
for preserving his life. There were many times he had to walk until
quite late in the evening before finding a suitable location in which
to rest and be refreshed.
One day was particularly hot, and the monk walked on endlessly, unable
to find an oasis. As day turned into a moonless night, the pace of
his walking slowed considerably so that we would not fall and hurt
or kill himself. When he did finally find a shaded area he collapsed
on the ground and slept for several hours. He woke up some time after
midnight and he was tremendously thirsty. He crawled around on his
hands and knees in the darkness, and ran across a roughly made cup
that must have been left by a previous traveler. The custom of leaving
a cup with some water in it, for the next traveler to drink from was
quite common. He drank the meager amount of water in the cup and he
felt very blessed and very at peace with the world. He laid down again
and slept quite comfortably until awaking to the light of the early
Upon sitting up he saw what the night before, he had taken to be the
roughly made cup. It was a shattered skull of a baby wolf. Ths skull
was caked with dried blood, and numerous insects were floating on
the surface of the small quantity of filthy rain water still left
in the bottom portion of the skull.
The monk saw all of this and immediately started to vomit. He had
a great wave of nausea, and as the fluid poured forth from his mouth,
it was as if his mind was being cleansed. He immediately felt a deep
sense of understanding. Last night, since he couldn't see he assumed
that he had found a cup which had been left by a fellow traveler.
The water tasted delicious. This morning, upon seeing the skull, the
thought of what he had done the night before made him sick to his
stomach. He understood that it was his thinking, and not the water,
that made him feel ill. It was his thinking that created good and
bad, right and wrong, delicious and foul tasting. With no thinking
there was no suffering.
Having realized this, his journey was complete, as he no longer needed
to find a Zen master.