Giving the Zen Finger
Some years ago Douglas Harding gave a workshop in Tokyo. On his return to England he received a letter from John, an American Zen Buddhist abbot in Japan. John had met a friend who had been to Douglas Harding’s workshop and, when the friend told him about the pointing experiment, John had done it. He wrote to Douglas to say how great he thought the experiment was, and that it was pure Zen. Douglas then invited John to our annual summer gathering in England, which was where I met him. The following year, I think it was 2000, I gave a workshop in Tokyo, and then went on to stay with John for a week – he lived in a village about three hours by train west of the capital. It was a great experience. Here’s an email he sent me later:
“Something interesting happened last night. I was visited by a man that I didn't know very well and he noticed a calligraphic scroll I had hanging, with only the character for "Mu" (nothingness) on it. He asked, "Toler san, have you ever entered the world of Mu?" I said "Yes. Many times." He then asked "How can you do it? At what times do you do it?" I said, "Oh, you can do it anytime". He asked, "How?" So I led him through the pointing exercise. When I came to the question, "Now, what do you see at the place where your finger is pointing?" he said, "Nothing". I said, "Well, that's Mu, isn't it?" He thought about that for about ten seconds, then suddenly laughed loudly and clapped his hands and said "I've been pondering that for years, and you showed me in a minute!" and thanked me profusely.”
Recently George, a friend in Florida, told me how he came to see who he really is:
“I ‘accidentally’ came across the website while surfing, went almost directly to the experiments, did the first one – the pointing finger – and was literally staggered by the immediate revelation. I remember going ‘Holy Shit’ to myself, and ran upstairs to get my friend to come down and try the experiment. He did, and got it as well, though apparently without the fanfare it occasioned here. I did have an extensive ‘spiritual’ background prior to this, but I have shared the experiments with others who didn’t, yet who seemed to get it anyway. The pointing finger and other experiments are certainly killers! Hallelujah!”
How easy it is to see who you really are! Point your finger back at where others see your face and notice what Zen calls your Original Face. Self-evidently it’s capacity for the world.
Of course, your reaction to seeing your no-head
will not be exactly the same as anyone else’s. If you don’t hear the bells of heaven ringing, don’t worry! Nothing has gone wrong. The point is to see
, not to have a peak experience. When you look back at where others see your face, at the place you are looking out of, look for the simple and plain truth about yourself – are you a thing or are you space for things? If you stay with the bare truth of your ‘no-thingness’ – a no-thingness which is awake and full of everything - over time it will give you all the peak experiences and deep insights you need, tailor-made just for you.
Feel free to share Seeing
with anyone who expresses an interest – once you yourself see who you really are, you are fully qualified to share it with others!
Thank you so much for sending the "Reflections". I have read a couple of books by Douglas and did the experiments quite a while ago and did see then "who I really am", but lost it in the turmoil of daily life. Thank you so much for reminding me who I really am. It is the most profound, yet so simple (perhaps too simple) way in figuring it out. I spent decades studying Zen, Tantra, Advaita etc.etc., but nothing is as revealing as the "headless way". Again, thank you so much and warm regards, Lars.