Many years ago, I took vows to officially become a Buddhist. It is called taking Refuge. I love that so much. I took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. This simply means that I decided to study the Buddha, his teachings with a community of other people who were committed to doing the same. I have been pretty faithful to the first two, not so much with the last one. I am not a good joiner. I prefer to do my own thing. Progress not perfection as they say...
When you take refuge vows, you are given a name. Your teacher or priest will give the name to you. Like most naming, the object being named has no say so.
I was given the name Mu-Shin (not really spelled Moo-Shin). I didn’t really like it all that much because of the whole “moo” part of the name. I thought it was cow-like and was wondering if Seisu was commenting on my weight...or that I just went through life chewing my cud, thinking nothing of any import.
I am sure Seisu told me at the time what "Moo"-Shin meant. And perhaps I wasn’t listening, or perhaps he said something else. But I am sure that I never heard what I heard about this name last night...
So I am sitting in a meeting, enjoying myself, quieting down and trying to listen to the speaker. And this guy talks about his time in martial arts. And how there is this word, yep, you guessed it, “moo-shin” which means the art of acting without thinking. Now, he was speaking in reference to knowing your moves and maneuvers so well that they occur without thought, beyond thought. Your body and mind so conditioned together that the two are one.
I was over there in my chair having a totally different experience...
What I am thinking, “so some twenty years ago when I took refuge vows, my teacher, saw in me that I act without thinking...and that fucker never said this to me! What the fuck, this is information I could have used a long time ago...Wait, maybe he meant it like I have so manicured my mind that I can maneuver myself through life, mind and body as one. Um, no fucking way, anyone who has been with me for less than five minutes know that I OVERTHINK everything!”
So what was that crafty Seisu thinking naming me this?
Well, I decided to go on a quest to see if the guy speaking last night actually knew what he was talking about...I mean I have this habit of taking things literally and at face value. I don’t question people and their motives unless they are overtly sketchy or obvious. This is a flaw in my character I am working on. I front people a great deal of things that are not really, in a final analysis, frontable.
So I googled it.
And felt worse immediately...
Here is what old google had to say -
“The term is shortened from mushin no shin (無心の心), a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of "no-mindness". That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything. It is translated by D.T. Suzuki as "being free from mind-attachment".
Well, thanks for that Wikipedia.
So, now some twenty years ago Seisu took one look at me and thought, “let’s name her empty mind!” And I was immediately offended. I have been called a great number of things in my life, but "airhead" was NEVER one.
But then I took a beat and really gave this some thought, mostly as some sort of giant fuck you to Seisu to prove to him my mind IS occupied by thought and emotion, um, fuck to the yes.
But what I landed on, upon further reflection, was perhaps Seisu saw me and named me Mu-Shin because he knew my battle. He saw in me the parts that were good and whole and kind, while also seeing my life long task would be to commit to a practice of meditation and prayer all in an effort to empty my mind from all its attachments, desires, hopes, dreams, wants, needs. Perhaps, that wise Zen priest saw a mind in desperate need to be free of attachment. And so he named me thusly to give my life direction and purpose.
Now it would have been immensely helpful if he would have told me this. But that is not the Buddhist way. The whole premise of my religion, which isn’t really a religion, is to find out for yourself. And so here I am twenty some odd years later, just now figuring it out.
And I returned to a place I left so many years ago, remembering a time when my aspirations were clearer and my heart and mind racy and machine like. And this memory bubbled up into my consciousness last night, and it struck me so hard I pulled out my phone in the meeting (so rude) to write it down so that I wouldn’t forget.
I have no idea what Seisu was thinking when he named me but I will tell you that a theme of my life is working to get to a place without so much attachment because of all the suffering that comes with it. “A mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything.” That is my own goal for my life and perhaps it was Seisu's also.
And perhaps it is somewhat bovine. Cows do seem to stand there looking at everything with this detached look about them, giving off the impression that they are thinking no thoughts. But instead, perhaps, mu-shin is the absence of emotional judgments based on attraction-or-aversion?
I am pretty sure that is my life’s goal. To move through the world, allowing my mind to find a resting place where I am not caught always in the trap of attraction or aversion. That my mind, body and soul can find a place to rest between all of that. To empty my mind of all its internal chatter and mechanics to just experience each moment as it comes. To settle down and just allow life to come as it does with out all the adornmenting (yes, I know that isn't really a word, but it is now) I do.
And, what the hell, maybe cows know a great deal more than we give them credit for...they do spend an awful lot of time just standing there, allowing life to just happen. And while I don’t have any personally close relationships with cows (at the moment anyway) I am pretty sure their minds are free of the debris of attachment or aversion, except perhaps as it comes to survival instinct...which is present for all of us, lest we would perish way sooner than perhaps is destined.
So, Seisu, thank you, you old son of a gun! I do believe I have earned my name. I am working on it daily. This blog has been since its inception, my attempt to empty my mind from all its attachments and aversions...to release my mind from its fixed position of total occupation with thought and emotion. And to arrive in place of peaceful abiding which is open to everything.
Seisu, that’s who.