So, Shariputra, without gaining anything,
Bodhisattvas find refuge in Prajna-paramita,
Living without walls in the mind, and so without fears,
Seeing through delusions and finally seeing through nirvana.
~The Heart Sutra
We recently held a long retreat that was based on the Heart Sutra, the two-millennia old document that outlines the basic tenets of our Zen Buddhist school: “Form is emptiness; Emptiness is form” are the iconic lines from the sutra. But the lines that most spoke to me this retreat were those above: to find refuge in “perfection of transcendent wisdom (prajna paramita)” we learn to live “without walls in the mind”, which in turn allows us to “live without fears”, to see through delusions, and even to see through enlightenment. The lines “living without walls in the mind”, like a mantra, keep coming back to me, time and again, these past weeks.
A friend, who had returned home from the retreat, told a story of how she was driving to work on the freeway and she found the world around her getting very bright and clear. She was looking at the distant hills, sky and clouds and suddenly she felt they were inside of her. There was really was no difference between inside and outside; they were not two. She was so overcome with emotion, and had to pull the car over for a moment. When we don’t erect walls in the mind, even for a moment, we find we are not so separate from the rest of the world. The sound of a dog barking moves through us, the song of a bird is our song.
Increasingly, as we practice, we learn that living without walls is the ordinary, rather than the extraordinary condition. And it can be empowering. Following the retreat, another friend recounted a loving fearlessness in navigating a new love relationship. Rather than settle into old patterns of self-abnegation, for the first time she was able to advocate for herself in ways she had previously been afraid of doing. Living without walls in the mind. Another friend wrote how after the retreat she noticed how her habitual fear of fully engaging in her life ~just as it is presented this very moment~ was beginning to ease. Avoidance had turned into vibrant engagement: Living without walls in the mind.