Bodhidharma said, “Bring me your mind and I will put it to rest.”
The Second Ancestor replied, “I have searched everywhere for my mind, but I cannot find it.”
Bodhidharma said,”I have completely put it to rest for you.”
~ Gateless Barrier, Case 41
Talking with a friend recently about his purchase of a house in the Texas hill country, he mentioned that one of the common varmints in those parts is the scorpion. They have lots of them. That reminded me of a small I apartment I once had that was tucked into a mountain in Kamakura, Japan. One summer while there, I was visited by over a dozen centipedes, or mukade (trans: 100 feet). I was so spooked that I made a small altar to the mukade gods in my apartment to appease the beasts. I thought, somehow, that this might be a good tale to address a koan, though I knew that most readers don’t care for bug stories.
One muggy night that summer, while I was lying on my futon pad on the floor, I felt something in my hair. I grabbed for it, felt a kind of bee sting on my head, and threw whatever was in my hand onto the tatami mat floor. Snapping on the light, I saw a five-inch long centipede zig-zagging away at top speed. When I got back to sleep, I had a scary dream that I was a devil, which I was pretty sure came from the bite and not the bad Japanese grape wine I drank earlier. Still, in searching, I could not find a koan to go with the story.
Yesterday, sitting at my computer, writing to another friend, I paraphrased the Second Ancestor’s above saying: “I have searched everywhere for the web page, but cannot find it.” In writing just that, I felt like I had taken a huge breath of clear, fresh air. I had an expansive sense of the utter unnecessary-ness in searching for my true nature, and at the same time I could feel the history of my own pain from years of searching and failing.
That searching in our lives and practice, I feel, is so very important. But, at the same time, how we come to discoveries is kind of a mystery: the Dharma in its generosity actually comes to us. We only need to make ourselves available.
By the way, that night long ago I searched for and found the centipede that had so enjoyed my skull. With a broom, I sent it off to its next karmic manifestation, and then lit a stick of incense to the mukade gods.