Last week I went to a dentist to clean my teeth. When the dentist was using one of his tools it pinched part of a nerve and my body naturally vibrated a little bit. At this moment I thought how this feeling of pain came from my brain. I started to wonder… If I were a dead body lying here I don’t think my brain would be feeling any pain. If the pain is from my soul why is my brain feeling pain? Where is the pain coming from?
This made me remember a Zen master story:
Master Mazu Daoyi’s student Tein Wangwu was also a Zen master. Before he reached enlightenment he practiced very hard and even developed some magical powers. The local government felt Tein Wangwu was spreading wild rumours about his abilities to mislead a lot of people into following him. One day an official tried to stop Tein Wangwu by throwing him into the river. Instead of drowning, a lotus flower rose from beneath him as he sat in meditation. The official changed his mind about Tein Wangwu’s abilities and became his student instead.
After Tein Wangwu reached enlightenment he never used his magical powers again. On his deathbed he was in a lot of pain and was groaning loudly. His student said, “Master don’t be so loud! In the years before you reached enlightenment you did miraculous things like float out of a river on a lotus blossom. People believe you were very good a practicing. You are enlightened now but not behaving like someone who is. Students will feel shame for following you.”
Tein Wangwu thought this request was reasonable. He smiled and asked his students, “You know I’m in a lot of pain right now. But even in the midst of such great pain there is no pain. Do know what this is?” They didn’t. Tein Wangwu continued, “Ouch! Ouch! This one is not pain. Can you understand?” The students still couldn’t understand. Tein Wangwu let the matter drop. He sat himself up in lotus position and died. 🙂