By Ven. Shih Jingang
As a child my parents encouraged questions, as did my Heart Lama. However, the latter person gave me two questions to ask before speaking: “will what I am wanting to say, and the way I say it, be helpful or harmful to myself/others? Also, does the question come from ‘I don’t know’ (beginner’s mind), or from a place of judgement and opinions?” The aim was/is to cultivate the mind to be like an empty vessel, not one filled to the brim and overflowing where nothing new can enter.
Many years later, while studying to become a Chaplain, my Supervisor offered a gift in the form of a question, saying, “What is going on here?” As a Ch’an practitioner I took the question on as a Hua-t’ou, so that the light of inquiry was turned onto me and the whole experience of this moment. Whether sitting, standing, walking or lying down, I repeatedly asked, “What is going on here…?” It should be understood that I was not looking for an intellectual answer. It was going much deeper than just asking, “What is this thought, sensation, sound or external object?” In a more meaningful way, I was asking, “What is it that is thinking, feeling, hearing? What is it before thought?”
To this day the question remains alive in the pores of my skin and the marrow of my bones. Wonderfully empty.