Words of Wisdom

Zen Koans By Gyomay M. Kubose

If Buddhism must be described in one word, that word is non-attachment. The eighty-four thousand teachings of the Buddha could be reduced to non-attachment. Non-attachment and detachment is to cut off one’s self from the problem, to get away from it, to escape. But life can not be escaped. Non-attachment is to be one with the problem. Living life is like flowing water. But instead of letting life flow, we attach to favorable conditions and become greedy, or we attach to adverse situations and become angry. We form attachments to words, actions, situations, things, and people. The strongest attachment of all is the attachment to one’s self.

No Flag, Not Wind
Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said, “The flag is moving. “The other said, “The wind is moving.” The sixth patriarch, Eno, happened to be passing by. He told them, “Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.”

The two monks are attached to external things, flag and wind. Eno denies external things and says it is mind that is moving. In so doing, Eno attaches to mind. But Eno knows better than that – he simply is pointing out the error of attaching to external things. (A Buddhist nun once said to monks who were discussing this same koan: “The flag does not move; the mind does not move; the mind does not move.”) The truth is totality, non-attachment. Anything that is conceptualized is not really. Zen teaches one to see things as they are and to understand without analyzing and conceptualizing.