Martin Summerhayes (martinsummerhay) wrote,
Martin Summerhayes

Sickness of the mind

I am currently reading The Way of Zen by Alan Watts - a fascinating read. Alan Watts is someone who I came across over a year ago and I have been listening to his lectures ever since.

At the start of Part Two of the book - Principles and Practice, there is a poem, reputed to be the oldest Zen poem ever written. The last two lines struck a chord with me and I thought to share the poem with you.

The perfect way is without difficulty
Save that it avoids picking and choosing.
Only when you stop liking and disliking
Will all be clearly understood.
A split hair’s difference,
And Heaven and Earth are set apart!
If you want to get the plain truth,
Be not concerned with right and wrong.
The conflict between right and wrong
Is the sickness of the mind.

From Hsin-hsin Ming by Seng-ts’an

The poem articulates quite clearly the problem with believing it is possible to establish ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, or ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as clearly distinguishable features of a person or an action or situation. The effort, time and passion devoted to this is often a distraction to resolution of a difficult situation or relationship as it leads to a competitive response to conflict.

Rather, when you next find yourself in a situation of "right" or "wrong", why not take a moment to reflect, and think about whether you really are "splitting hairs" over nothing.

Happy Friday.

Tags: alan watts, depression, zen buddhism

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