Opening and Closing

From a talk given at the opening ceremony of the New Haven Zen Center on December 16, 1978. If you want to change anything, you must open your mind. If you do, then you can open your Zen Center and nothing will stand in the way of many people coming to the temple. But, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Opening is closing, closing is opening. What is opening? It is an "opposites" word. Desire, anger and ignorance will appear in abundance. If you only open, you will have difficulty, so closing is also necessary. It is very important to understand when to open and when to close. When you open your eyes and see something, you cannot feel your eyes. If your eyes hurt, you become aware of them. If you don't see clearly, you have them checked. But if you are completely open, already you have lost your eyes.

One time a famous comedian invited Zen Master Mang Gong to talk with him. After the comedian finished talking, Mang Gong asked, "Are you not talking now, smart comedian?"

"No sir," replied the comedian.

"But you still have your tongue," said Mang Gong.

The comedian was confused. He was always checking what his audience thought of him. He thought that because everyone was happy when he talked, his speech must be wonderful. But this happiness was only in his mind. "How can I make this mind disappear?" he asked. Mang Gong asked him,

"Where is your mind? Do you have a mind?"

"Yes, I have a mind."

"Then give me your mind!"

The comedian was completely stumped. "I don't know."

"You already lost your body -- where is your tongue?" demanded the Zen Master. Just then the comedian attained enlightenment. Mang Gong said, "Talk to me." The comedian was silent. Mang Gong said, "Your name is 'no tongue'."

Open your eyes, ears and tongue and you will have no difficulty. If you keep them open, sometimes demons appear, but opening and closing are both okay. If you are correctly open, you lose your eyes, ears and tongue. If you close everything -- eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind -- you have no hindrance.