Recognising our fetters
is the first step
towards being as free
as we want to be.
Fa Yan, one of the masters of the Lingji sect of the Zen school of the Song dynasty told his pupils a story that went: ‘As a monk, I entered the town yesterday and heard the sound of cymbals and drums, and took a closer look. All I could see was a black cloth round a stage. On the stage were a number of wooden dolls. Some were handsome and others ugly. Some were well dressed and others in rags. These dolls could move, speak, sing, laugh and cry.
As I was watching with interest, I suddenly saw the black cloth flutter. Getting closer, I saw there was a man behind, whose hands were pulling the puppets’ string and from whose mouth came an imitation of all sorts of different voices. As I looked, I thought, this is really interesting, and couldn’t help laughing. I asked him, “What is your name, Sir?” He replied, “Master Monk, never mind the name! How about just watching?” I was speechless.’ (Record of the Sayings of Renowned Monks)
‘Never mind the name!’ (name in Chinese is xìng; 姓, which means surname, is a homophone of 性, which means ‘nature’) This thus also happened to mean that the original mind or true [Buddha-]nature must be realised through experience (by mindful watching) and cannot be expressed in words.
The puppeteer means we are not our own masters, that we are manipulated. Those who come to profit when all prosper and disperse when not are like puppets, never free. Behind outward appearances, the unmindful are helpless in the extreme, like the puppets, everywhere controlled by invisible strings, that pull and say to struggle to earn money at all costs, that status by incessant promotion is required…
Chinese Zen: A Path To Peace And Happiness
Wu Yansheng (Translated By Tony Blishen)