Yes, this has been posted on this blog already. Maybe last year. But it bears repeating. It could be the simplest “how-to” directive for the “what-to-do-about-thinking-during-sitting-meditation”. I have seen so many people find that this quote “unlocks” the dimension of their relationship to their headspace — during seated meditation, and in their life. This is probably why I quote it so much in talks and in private dialogues and beginners’ instruction. This pithy instruction works so effectively because it is not just a “directive,” but it is expressed in an image-form which we can immediately visualize, and therefore directly integrate as a “seen” experience which is relatable, accessible, practical.
I would only add one thing to this otherwise perfect teaching (and I always do, when quoting it): Allowing the thoughts to “come and go” with no hindrance is a wonderful advance, but then one more step is necessary. What “notices” the thoughts, coming and going? Who is the witness? What hears sounds, happening nearby? Who witnesses this movement of breath — happening…? What am I?
The Great Question is fundamental to Zen practice. It is the existential motor that lies under the hood of our car: without that engine, our practice does not really arrive. We don’t “create” that question, as a concept: having that question about the nature of our life and death, about the reality of “reality” itself — this is fundamental to being a human.