Q218. What does ‘no picking and choosing ‘ mean in everyday life and Zen practice?

A. It means ‘no discrimination’. However, what matters is not whether we pick and choose but how to pick and choose. You should not mistake it for making no discrimination and having no thought at all, which means death.

Picking and choosing is an essential part of your life. How is it possible to maintain your life with ‘no picking and choosing’? When shopping for instance, you have to pick and choose what to buy and when to go shopping before leaving the house. During your shopping, you also make a lot of discrimination about prices and brands. Your life can be said to be an endless series of ‘picking and choosing’. The enlightened also make ‘picking and choosing’ in their life.

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The difference between your ‘picking and choosing’ and the enlightened’s is that the enlightened know that all their ‘picking and choosing’s are empty and illusions while you don’t. When you realise the truth that everything is empty, you come to know that both the objects of your ‘picking and choosing’ and the action of your ‘picking and choosing’ are empty. Then, your ‘picking and choosing’ is not ‘picking and choosing’ any more. Then you can be said to do without doing, or enjoy a life without ‘picking and choosing’ or discrimination.

There is a similar phrase about ‘chopping wood and carrying water before enlightenment and chopping wood and carrying water after enlightenment’.  Both the ‘chopping wood and carrying water’s look and sound the same, but the latter is quite different from the former because the latter is not ‘chopping wood and carrying water’ any more. In fact, they are actually so subtle and different from each other that only the enlightened can be conscious of the difference.

 

©Boo Ahm

 

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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