There are oysters that live at the bottom of the ocean. A little bit of the light we enjoy up here is able to reach down there somehow. But the oysters have no chance to see the blue ocean; for them the blue ocean doesn’t exist. We human beings are walking on the planet. When we look up we see the constellations, the stars, the moon, the blue sky, and when we look down we see the blue ocean. We consider ourselves to be much superior to the oysters, and we have the impression that we see everything and hear everything. But in fact, we are a kind of oyster. We have access only to a very limited zone of suchness.
Our perception of something tends to be based on the ground of our precious experiences. We have experienced something in the past and we compare it with what we encounter in the present moment and we feel that we recognize it. We paint the information with the colors we already have inside us. That’s why most of the time we don’t have the direct access to the reality.
Often it is our own knowledge that is the biggest obstacle to us touching suchness. That is why its very important to learn how to release our own views. Knowledge is the obstacle to knowledge. If you are dogmatic in your way of thinking it is very difficult to receive new insights, to conceive of new theories and understanding about the world. The Buddha said, “Please consider my teaching to be a raft helping you to the other shore”. What you need is a raft to cross the river in order to go to the other shore. You don’t need a raft to worship, to carry on your shoulders and to be proud that you are possessing the truth.
The Buddha said, “Even the Dharma has to be thrown away, not to mention the non-Dharma”. Sometimes he went further. He said that, “My teaching is like a snake. It is dangerous. If you don’t know how to handle it, you will get bitten by it.”
One day in a meeting, a Zen master said this: “Dear friends, I am allergic to the word ‘Buddha.’ You know, he is a Zen master, and he talks about the Buddha like that. “Every time I am forced to utter the word ‘Buddha’ I have to go to the river and rinse my mouth three times.” And many people were confused, because he was a Buddhist teacher. He was supposed to praise the Buddha. Fortunately there was one person who understood in the crowd. She stood up and said, “Dear teacher, every time I hear you pronouncing the word ‘Buddha’, I have to go to the river and wash my ears three times.” This is a Buddhist example of a good teacher and a good student!
- Buddha Mind, Buddha Body — Thich Nhat Hanh (Book)