It’s said that one of the great patriarchs of the Zen tradition, Hui Neng, was enlightened upon hearing a single verse of the Diamond Sutra (one of the key teachings in Buddhism). That verse can be translate in various ways, but the key line in it goes something like, “Develop a mind that clings to nothing.”
Imagine having a mind like that — it doesn’t get attached, it doesn’t need things to be a certain way, it doesn’t need people to behave in particular ways. It’s a mind at home everywhere, because it doesn’t need to be anywhere in particular.
All of our difficulties would be eased:
- If someone irritates you, it’s because you are attached to a particular way you want them to behave, and when you don’t get that way, you are unhappy. If your mind didn’t cling to what you wanted, you would be fine with how they were acting. In fact, you might have compassion for them, as you could see they are suffering.
- If you are stuck in traffic, or a long line somewhere, you can become bothered when you want your life to be different (to not have traffic or a long line). Your mind is clinging to how it wants things, and doesn’t like not getting its way.
- When someone is upset with you, you can become defensive or angry that they’re acting that way, because you’re clinging to wishing they would treat you a certain way. If you let go of clinging, it wouldn’t excuse their bad behavior — nor would you have to allow yourself to be abused. But you would not have to be upset, you would just protect yourself by not allowing yourself to be abused (if necessary). And again, you might have understanding for their suffering.
Every difficulty is caused by this clinging: stress when you’re overwhelmed, procrastination when you don’t want to work on something difficult or do uncomfortable exercise, loneliness, shutting your heart down in an argument, overeating, bad financial habits, and much more.
Let’s look at how we’d react in one situation, if we could have a mind of no clinging. Then let’s look at how we might start to develop that no-clinging mind.