Actually there isn't a thing

by Feng-kan (Big Stick)

English version by Red Pine (Bill Porter)
Original Language Chinese

Actually there isn't a thing
much less any dust to wipe away
who can master this
doesn't need to sit there stiff

-- from The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain, Translated by Red Pine

| More Poems by Feng-kan (Big Stick) | Next Poem >>

View All Poems by Feng-kan (Big Stick)

Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

Wiping away dust is a traditional metaphor for meditation and spiritual practice: It is the equivalent of polishing a mirror, wiping away the dust until one purely reflects the light of Reality.

But in these teasingly terse lines, Feng-kan throws all effort aside and hints at a deeper truth: There are no objects. Even one's self is not a separate "thing." There is no mirror to polish. Only the light of Reality exists. Nothing can pretend to be apart from That in order to reflect It. Coming to this supremely unified truth, one then is stunned to realize that there has never been any impediment to the witnessing of that Reality, never any "dust to wipe away." Mind IS that Reality. Dust too is that Reality. Everything is seen as the gossamer-like nimbus radiating out from the scintillating core of Being. What, then, is not That? There is ONLY that spacious Reality!

Feng-kan further needles overly driven spiritual practitioners with his concluding lines. When this fundamental truth fully permeates the awareness, when understanding this ceases to be a game of concepts -- when you "can master this" -- then the effort of meditation itself ceases to be necessary, one "doesn't need to sit there stiff." For him, everything is meditation because everything is filled with pure awareness. Why turn it into an effort?

Having said that, I'd just personally add that I think I'll keep the spine poised and alert and maybe invite a little stiffness now and then. I've found that nonexistent mirrors have a way of accumulating nonexistent dust, so I'll pretend to keep polishing...

Recommended Books: Feng-kan (Big Stick)

The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain

Actually there isn't