The art of letting the mind alone is vividly described by the Taoist writer, Lieh-Tzu (c. 398 B.C.), celebrated for his mysterious power of being able to ride upon the wind. This, no doubt, refers to the peculiar sensation of ‘walking on air’ which arises when the mind is first liberated.
It is said that when Professor D. T. Suzuki was once asked how it feels to have attained satori, the Zen experience of ‘awakening’, he answered: “Just like ordinary everyday experience, except about two inches off the ground!”. Thus when asked to explain the art of riding on the wind, Lieh-Tzu gave the following account of his training under his master Leo Shang:
“After I had served him… for the space of three years, my mind did not venture to reflect on right and wrong, my lips did not venture to speak of profit and loss. Then, for the first time, my master bestowed one glance upon me, and that was all.
At the end of five years a change had taken place; my mind was reflecting on right and wrong, and my lips were speaking of profit and loss. Then, for the first time, my master relaxed his countenance and smiled.
At the end of seven years, there was another change. I let me mind reflect on what it would, but it no longer occupied itself with right and wrong. I let my lips utter whatsoever they pleased, but they no longer spoke of profit and loss. Then, at least, my master led me in to sit on the mat beside him.
At the end of nine years, my mind gave free rein to its reflections, my mouth free passage to its speech. Of right and wrong, profit and loss, I had no knowledge, either as touching myself or others… Internal and external were blended into unity. After that, there was no distinction between eye and ear, ear and nose, nose and mouth: all were the same. My mind was frozen, my body in dissolution, my flesh and bones all melted together. I was wholly unconscious of what my body was resting on, or what was under my feet. I was borne this way and that on the wind, like dry chaff or leaves falling from a tree. In fact, I knew not whether the wind was riding on me or I on the wind”.
Alan Watts (1915-1973). British philosopher, writer and speaker. Known as an interpreter of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. He began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest in 1945, then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion. Watts proposed that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy and not a religion. Extract taken from the book: Watts, A. 1989. The way of Zen. New York: Random House.