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The goose in the bottle
We have hardly begun our seated meditation when we find ourselves in a situation in which everything starts hurting: our legs, our shoulders and our back. We waste so much time, energy and thought on this body of ours, which we pick up and carry around like a snail shell. Even though this makes us very tired, we simply cannot let go of the shell and put it down. Our Chan practice means to cut off the burden of the shell.
There was once a Chan Master who asked his disciple: “A live goose was raised in a bottle ever since it was a gosling. Without breaking the bottle, how can you get the goose out of the bottle?” Even though the master kept questioning the disciple again and again, he could not come up with an answer. Finally, the master left. But after a few steps on his way he turned his head and called out to his disciple “You there!” The disciple immediately responded “Yes!” At that very moment, the disciple was no longer in that bottle. He had already come out. With only one shout he got out. Right? But I shout and you don`t even turn your head. Even in front of a red light, you keep going without turning around. Isn`t that so?
What is this body of ours? It is composed of the four elements. There is nothing in there to hold on to. The important point for us to remember in our Chan practice is Self-mastery.
When you sit down to meditate, you become drowsy; when you concentrate on your breath, you lose it right away; when you listen to silence, you feel that your ears are ready to explode. How about it? In your listening to silence, have you realized how the goose got out of the bottle?
From the beginning there is nothing at all. It is only a habit of ours to think that there is such a thing as a snail shell, and to fuss about it. Trying to protect it as much as we can we start creating Karma because of it, both good Karma and also bad Karma. Through our Chan practice - if we do it well - we slowly, slowly give up our habit of looking at things as solid. Only then can we come out of that bottle.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao
(Translated by Maria Reis Habito)