During the practice period, various students are invited to give a Way-Seeking Mind talk – an explanation of how they came to be sitting on a cushion in a semi-dark room, facing a wall in imitation of a long-dead prince. These talks are occasionally funny, but rarely pretty. People don’t usually end up on the cushion because their life is going swimmingly. They end up there because they’re drowning in suffering. And they’ve somehow found the courage and the willingness to learn how to drain the swamp.
So the students talk about how, by bits and pieces, fits and starts, their mind searched for a way to understand how suffering is made, and how it might be alleviated. They talk about how they realized certain truths of their own role in suffering, how they took up various practices to soften the tyranny of the inner discursive/critical chatter, how they broadened their perspective to dilute the arrogance of knowing the one right answer.
In short, these talks are always from the perspective of someone’s mind seeking a more helpful and peaceful way to live. Nothing wrong with that.
But I’ve long harbored a suspicion that the hyphen in “way-seeking mind” is a typo. That it’s not the mind that’s doing the seeking. What if the true meaning of that phrase is a plea from Buddha’s way for a mind to partner with? Imagine the want-ad:
Way seeks mind for long-term relationship
filled with compassion, lovingkindness,
joy and tranquility.
Maybe that’s what Dogen really meant. (Only a Buddha and a Buddha...)
Maybe Rumi was right. (This longing you feel is the return message.)
Maybe we come to practice because our minds, rather than seeking, are simply responding to a request.