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Gate, gate, paragate, paragate, bodhi svaha! Gone, gone, have gone, altogether have gone!
The Perfection of Great Wisdom Sutra exists in many different lengths, starting from one hundred thousand lines to the present version of twenty-four lines. Each version is a narrower condensation of the version before it. Some say the one-line mantra that concludes this version—"Gate, gate, paragate, paragate, bodhi svaha!"—is the next condensation. Finally, there is he single vowel, A, the first syllable of the sutra. And even A is unnecessary, for this very moment is the Wisdom literature; this very moment is the perfection of wisdom.
What is the perfection of wisdom? In face-to-face study, a student expresses agony over a relationship that ended two years ago and asks me how to let go. What is letting go? There is a little toy called a Chinese finger-trap: You put two fingers into it, then try to pull them out. But you can’t extricate your fingers the trap by pulling; it’s only when you push your fingers further in that the trap releases them. Similarly, we thing of letting go as doing something: throwing things away, ending a relationship, getting rid of whatever’s bothering us. But that works no better than pulling our fingers in order to extricate them from the trap. We let go b eliminating the separation between us and what we wish to let go of. We become it.
Do we let go of anger by saying good-be or going away? Of course not! That doesn’t work. The way to let go of anger is to enter the anger, become the anger rather than separate from it. If you even hold on to the notion of having to let go of it, you’re still stuck. In a famous koan a monk whet to Chao-chou Ts’ung-shen and asked, "What shall I do now that I’ve let go of everything?" Chao-chou said, "Let go of that!" The monk said, "What do you mean let go of that? I’ve let go of everything,." Chao-chou answered, "Okay, then continue carrying it with you." The monk failed to get the point. Holding on to letting go is not letting go.
We don’t get rid of anger by trying to get rid of it; the same applies to forgetting the self. To forget the self means to become what is, become what we are. How do we let go of a painful relationship? Become the person we wish to let go of, become the pain itself. We think we’re not the person, not the pain, but we are. Eliminate the gap between subject and object and there’s no anger, no loss of relationship, no sorrow, not suffering, no observer sitting back and crying, "Poor me!"
The Chinese finger-trap is solved by going further into the trap by becoming the trap, and the same is true of letting go: Go into it. If you avoid the situation, it only gets worse. Totally be it; that’s letting go. Similarly, when we sit, it’s not a question of trying to do something. Don’t sit there saying, "I have to accomplish this. I have to attain that." Just let go and be what you are, be this very moment. If you are breathing, just be breathing, and you will realize that you’re the while universe, with nothing outside or external to you. The beautiful mountain—that’s you. Anger, lust, joy, frustration—they’re all you; none are outside. And because there’s no outside, there’s also no inside; altogether, this is you. This is the meaning of Shakyamuni Buddha’s "I alone am!"
Bernie Glassman is a Zen master and the first dharma successor to Taisan Maezumi Roshi. As Abbot of the Zen Community of New York, Roshi Glassman founded the Greystone Mandala of community development organizations in Yonkers, New York. He is also the cofounder of the Zen Peacemaker Order, an international order of social activists engaged in peace-making and Zen practice.
excerpt from Infinite Circle: Teachings in Zen, by Bernie Glassman, (c) 2002. Used with permission from Shambhala Press.