One of the Great Cosmic Jokes is that human beings rarely come to spontaneous realizations naturally. Usually, we have to first stuff ourselves with information, knowledge, scripture, lectures…on and on, until one day there is a *POP!*, and in that moment of realization – everything changes. Moments after, we become acutely aware that somehow nothing we have learned that exists externally could have ever made any difference, and that the *POP!* occurred right at the moment our overloaded intellect metaphorically threw up its hands and went for a coffee.
Does this mean that pursuing knowledge in the hopes of gaining wisdom and insight along our spiritual journey is a waste? Not at all, but we do have to change the way we look at all that knowledge and information. Rather than seeking the answer outside of ourselves within books, Gurus, Yogi’s and other external means, we can instead see these ‘helpers’ as exactly that: Helpers that come into our lives as people, knowledge, or scripture to help keep us focused on the path, but the answers won’t be found there – just guidance and strength. The only way to Truth is to turn inward…
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk whose lifelong efforts to generate peace and reconciliation throughout the world led to Martin Luther King Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. Aside from writing the book we are talking about today; Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go, Thich Nhat Hanh has written many others, but I highly recommend you consider adding three in particular to your reading list: Being Peace, Present Moment Wonderful Moment, and The Energy of Prayer.
In Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go, Thich Nhat Hanh uses humor, compassion, and skill to show us how we may each grow closer to the ideal person within us, the person who simply IS…Thich Nhat Hanh does this as he explores the unorthodox teachings of Master Linji, one of the founders of Zen Buddhism.
One of the most striking paragraphs in Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go reads:
“In my last trip to the United States, a friend requested that I write a calligraphy for him of the phrase “Resting with God.” I wrote it for him because it embodied the realization that God is here, he isn’t and old man sitting high above us. God is here, is our true nature, our suchness, just as water is the suchness of the wave. And if the wave knows how to take refuge in water, if it knows to believe in the water, then the wave loses all of its fears, sadness and jealousy. If we take refuge in our true nature then we aren’t afraid anymore of gaining, of losing, of having, of not having, of living, of dying, of being, and nonbeing.”
Such few words; “Resting with God,” and yet they contain the secret to one of those amazing moments when everything changes. It is true – if we can realize that the waves (you, I, and everyone else) are part of the water (The Creator, or God) and perhaps more importantly a function of the water, what do we need fear? What do we need to strive towards? Where do we need to go to find God? According to Master Linji, there is indeed nothing to do and nowhere to go. All the answers and that which we seek most are already here – all around us, and part of us, as we are part of it.
The essential teaching of Linji which was written some eleven hundred plus years ago is focused into something we can all relate to in Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go; The concept of the ‘businessless person.’ According to Master Linji, the businessless person is an individual who has simply stopped. He or she isn’t caught up in anything, including teachings and theories. This businessless person doesn’t chase enlightenment or grasp are anything, as they have learned to stop and be alive in the present moment.
Nothing To Do…
It is easy to get caught up in studying scripture, or spiritual books…I myself find reading an uplifting text as the last task of my evening before bed to leave me feeling calm and at peace. In Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go, Thich Nhat Hanh states that studying and learning are all well and good, but it is only in putting it into practice that we can find our true selves. When we learn to simply stop and realize that in the present moment, there is nothing to do, we can then simply BE.
There is nowhere to go in search of anything; all we need to do is sit and look within. There, we will find God smiling back at us, waiting patiently all this time as we stumble around searching for meaning. In the present moment lies every outcome, and every possibility. To come alive to the present is to cease to differentiate between subject and object. You then realize that in the present, right now, you and the whole universe are one. To help keep us in the present and maintain awareness, Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go provides five Gathas or exercises. Of the five, I leave this one as a favorite mindfulness meditation and my final thoughts…As to this book; it rates a solid five out of five.
Taking refuge in the Island of Self
Breathing in, I go back
To the island of myself.
There are beautiful trees
There is water, there are birds,
There is sunshine and fresh air.
Breathing out, I feel safe.
Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go: Waking Up To Who You Are
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Parallax Press; 1 edition (Aug 22 2007)