Who is it that Sees these Leaves?

by on Jan 1, 1975Zen Master Seung Sahn

A Student wrote to Zen Master Seung Sahn:


In the Fall, there are leaves on the ground. If they are on a lawn, someone may come out of a house and sweep them into little piles. In the afternoon the wind comes and blows all the leaves away. Many people become mad at the wind. Some may go out again and sweep the scattered leaves into new piles. But again, the wind comes and sweeps them away. Then what work must be done?

As to your kong-an; ‘The tree has no roots,’ I ask you, ‘If the tree has no roots then how can it stand?’

Zen Master Seung Sahn replied:

If a person goes outside and stays with leaves and wind and people, he cannot find his way back home. Why are you attached to leaves, wind and people’s anger? Who is it that sees these leaves? Who?

The Sixth Patriarch, long ago in China, once passed two monks who were arguing about a flag blowing in the wind. One monk said, ‘It is the flag that is moving.’ The second monk said, ‘It is the wind that is moving.’ The Sixth Patriarch said, ‘You are both wrong. It is not the flag, it is not the wind; it is your mind that is moving.’

It is the same with the leaves, wind, and anger. When your mind is moving, then actions appear. But when your mind is not moving, the truth is just like this. The falling of the leaves is truth. The sweeping is truth. The wind blowing them away is truth. The people’s anger also is truth. If your mind is moving you don’t understand the truth. You must first understand that form is emptiness, emptiness is form; next, no form, no emptiness. Then you will understand that form is form, emptiness is emptiness. Then all actions are the truth.

You say, ‘If the tree has no roots, how can it stand?’ I say, ‘The dog runs after the bone.’ You must not be attached to words. First attain true emptiness. If you do not dwell there you will attain freedom and no hindrance. Then you will understand that the tree has no roots. Thinking is no good. Put it all down. Only ‘What am I?’ This don’t know mind is very important. If you keep it for a long time, you will understand this tree with no roots.