36. A Wild Fox Spirit

Q. Robert Adams said, “You’ve got to take control of your mind. You’ve got to realize your mind and your body are not your friends. They feed you the wrong information. They appear right for a while but then it becomes wrong again. Do not listen to your mind. Stop the thoughts before they get to the edge of your nose. That’s all I’ve got to say. “You’ve got to realize that your body and your mind are not your friend.”

Robert, when you have a moment, please help me to understand. Why are my body and my mind not my friends? All I am trying to be is a friend to my body and my mind. How else to live?

A. Well, you began with a quote, so I will begin with a quote:

Here and there you hear about a way to be practiced, and a dharma to become enlightened to. Will you tell me then just what dharma there is to be enlightened to, what way there is to practice? In your everyday life and doings, what is lacking or needs to be cured by practice?

Those neophyte monks get it all wrong. They put their faith and trust in a bunch of wild fox spirits who spout their notions and tie people in knots with nonsense. . . .

They listen to the hot air coming out of the mouths of a batch of old teachers as if it were Truth, while thinking, “This is a most wonderful teacher while I have only the mind of a common mortal. I would never dare to try to fathom such venerability.”

Blind idiots they are indeed, going through life with that grasp of matters, betraying their own two eyes, cringing and faltering like a donkey on an icy road.

Those are the words of Linji from the 9th century. They are as good now as they were then. On that note, I will tell you that Robert Adams and many others like him who purport to teach the final truth about what “myself” really is, are, in my view, “wild fox spirits.”

During my thankfully brief stint as a “spiritual teacher,” for my sins, an advisee gave me a book by Robert Adams. I had never heard of him, but subsequently found out that he was billed as a “self-realized master.” After reading three pages I threw the book in the trash. Seriously. I threw it in the trash.

Perhaps it is time to call a halt to this “spiritual search,” which seems to afflict the human mind like a nasty virus, and produces so-called “masters” who cannot even get out of their own way, much less show you yours. You have your own two eyes. Why betray them? Just see what you see and be what you are in this moment, and that will be sufficient. Just be yourself. And then see where you are.

To quote Linji again:

Just stop this rushing around searching, then you’ll be no different from the patriarchs and Buddhas. But if you keep looking for something from outside, even if you get it, all it will be is words and phrases, pretty appearances…

By the way, the “wild fox spirit” refers to a well-known Zen story:

Whenever Master Dahui gave a dharma talk, an odd old man would stand in the back and listen in silence. He usually left right after the talk, but one day he lingered, so Dahui approached him and asked, “Who are you?”

The old boy replied, “I am not actually a human being. I was the dharma teacher on this mountain at the time of Kashyapa Buddha. One day a student asked me, ‘Does a person who practices with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?’ I said to him, ‘No, such a person doesn’t.’ Because I uttered those words I was reborn again and again as a wild fox for five hundred lifetimes.”

Perhaps Robert Adams is now living in the body of a wild fox. Ah well, that’s what you get for being a wiseacre.