Neither hot nor cold: when the mind intensifies the power of the heat wave

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

Deciphering a kôan that teaches us to become our own thermometer in the face of the fevers of life.

In Japan, summer is particularly humid and the heat can quickly become unbearable. The slightest movement is the cause of untimely perspiration, the faces drip with sweat and everyone carries with them the essential accessories to face this terrible temperature and maintain a form of dignity: towels to mop their face, refreshing handkerchiefs, fans. Stores, shops, trains are all equipped with air conditioning. It is not uncommon to hear people stuck in an elevator or in a line exclaim: “Assuiii! Which means "How hot" and in doing so, no doubt, they only intensify the feeling of heat so much they lament it, complain about it and are in a hurry to escape it or find a corner. of freshness. A famous story can enlighten us on this question.

How to disappear into sensation 

One scorching summer day in Tang China more than a thousand years ago, the Zen master Dongshan was walking quietly in a garden. He admired there at his leisure, in almost total solitude, the heat chasing visitors away, the transparency of the waters and the multicolored insects which frolicked there gracefully, in particular the butterflies and dragonflies with their blue and green reflections. A young monk, surprised to see him venturing like this in full sun and without showing any discomfort, pressed him with a question: “How can we avoid too great a heat or too intense a cold when they present themselves to us? Dongshan replied with a broad smile, "Why don't you go to this place spared from hot and cold?" ". "Is there such a place, and if so, where will I find it?" asks the little boy full of hope and impatience, imagining that he is going to receive a secret instruction on a heavenly place. "It's very simple, retorted the master, be one with hot and cold and you will be freed from it."

Whatever the difficulties, obstacles or problems encountered, however insurmountable or unpleasant they may seem, it is enough to recognize them as part of our reality.

This anecdote, which is a very profound lesson recorded in the Blue Cliff Compendium (see note), in no way invites one to indulge in mortification. Nor is there any question, here, of parading proudly, braving the elements and bringing the garish demonstration of one's mastery. Old Dongshan simply teaches acceptance of what is, in other words: whatever the difficulties, obstacles or problems encountered, however insurmountable or unpleasant they may seem, it suffices to recognize them as part of our reality. Our tendency being to distance ourselves from what affects us, this koan encourages us to stop resisting what is, for the suffering experienced here, the painful feeling of hot or cold, is the result of a mind that does not accept this reality. Thus, Dongshan teaches here non-duality, and how to “disappear in sensation” so that it ceases to be an embarrassment by being nothing more than this heat or this cold.

No, the difficulties don't go away

This very old exchange is rich in a rare lesson, because it goes against our reflexes and habits: problems are no longer perceived as parasites and unwanted guests, but as means and grounds for practice. We are there at the heart of the Buddha's teaching which, contrary to commonly conveyed ideas, does not propose an idealized conception of the path and does not nourish the chimera of a universe freed from asperities and troubles, from a fully pacified and serene space. No, the difficulties do not disappear, the world remains equal to itself, what changes is our relationship, our dance with them. False views and attachments release and transmute themselves as long as we let go

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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