Living in heaven I could not always keep my feet from walking out the door, leaving the cafe in the capable care of my assistant Dazu, he of the strong right arm and the missing left.
According to Dhamo (the Red Monk) he had once come to his nine year cave when the master was immersed in creative trance so had not noticed a miserable person seeking refuge from the bitter cold. But a sudden burst of agony broke his concentration and he turned to see Dazu standing beside him holding his severed left forearm in his right hand while his whole body trembled with pain. Then Dazu fell unconscious, into Dhamo’s arms.
The rest is history or myth. When Dazu woke, somewhat groggy from the poppy juice the Red Monk had dabbed on his tongue after tying off the stump of his left arm, he found his nurse holding out a cup of hot broth which he helped him drink. It tasted of nettles but he drained the cup and laid back on the mat and slept again. After a few days of this he became clear enough for conversation and the Monk asked for an explanation.
I heard you are a wonder worker, he said. I am tormented by my own mind.
Show me this mind then, Dhamo said.
How do I do that? he said, it’s not a thing I can just pull out of my pack.
What is it, then? How do you experience it?
Thoughts, he said, memories and fears about my future. I have enemies. I fear they will ruin or kill me. I fear I will be reborn in a hot hell, or a cold one, like this winter.
It’s been a cold one, Dhamo said. So you experience your mind as a bad story, or collection of bad stories about this person you call You.
That’s it, he said, I’m a poor monkey chased thru the world by a cloud of bad stories.
That’s your story in a nutshell, said Dhamo. Who created that one?
I did, he said.
You or your mind?
Dazu was silent then, struck dumb by insight, before he found the words.
I am my mind, he said, I mean my mind is part of me, just like my hands—hand. It’s the part of me that makes stories but it also feels like my persecutor.
So your mind has different parts too, said Dhamo.
Yes, said Dazu, one part hates and torments me–with all these bad stories. The other part wants it to stop. I hate it. I hate that part of myself. I want to cut it off.
Dazu paused his narration here in the Clear Light Cafe then said: That’s when I saw that I tormented myself because I hated myself for tormenting me with self-hateful stories and that it was not some separate ‘mind’ that created the stories. It was me. I also created this notion of two separate selves, tormentor and victim. Like two separate hands. I tried to cut off the tormentor by cutting off my left arm and that might have been one more crime to add on. But then I saw the exit.
You saw a way to stop making those hateful stories, I said, by making no more stories at all, attaining a silent mind.
No, said Dazu, I chose a different path. I decided to use my passion for storytelling to make better stories. I decided to make a better story about being Dazu Huike, about being human, about the illuminating alliance of compassion and imagination.