“Respond without laboring and accomplish without hindrance.” – Hongzhi

Responding without labor and accomplishing without hindrance sounds like the benefits of possessing some kind of wish fulfilling jewel. For Hongzhi, that jewel was the luminous field of awakening that he called the empty field. It is the wisdom that we are in possession of since before our parents were born. Hongzhi said there is no way cultivate that field of awakening, there is only recognizing it and also recognizing the way our thinking and conditioning interfere with our clarity.

When we recognize our innate wisdom, we are not limited by conditions, and do not fall into ranking this and that. We are free to face whatever is arising in the moment, let it go and stay in balance. As I looked at the 100 koans that Hongzhi collected in the Book of Serenity, thinking about this quote about responding without labor, the koan that jumped out at me involved another famous teacher named Zhaozhou.

When a newly arrived member of the community approached Zhaozhou after the morning meal and asked for instruction. Zhaozhou asked if he had eaten and he said yes. Responding without laboring Zhaozhou told him to wash his bowls. Teaching without hindrance Zhaozhou told him to wash his bowls. The questioner was looking for something to “cultivate” and Zhaozhou pointed him back at his own innate wisdom. After you eat you wash your bowls.

When you recognize your innate wisdom you respond without laboring and accomplish without hindrance.  “When food comes you open your mouth; when sleep comes you close your eyes. As you wash your face you find your nose, when you take off your shoes you feel your feet.”
What’s to cultivate?


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