When the mouth opens, all are wrong


Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: “The flag is moving.”
The other said: “The wind is moving.”
The sixth patriarch happened to be passing by. He told them: “Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.”
The Gateless Gate #29

The wind and flag are moving in my own world of images. There are perceptions and then an overlay of images telling me it is a flag moving in, or being moved by, the wind. It is all happening within my own world of images. When I recognize that, there is the possibility of not taking my own world of images as substantial and real. It is very helpful to use an imagined overlay, but also good to notice it is all happening within my own world of images.

Mumon’s comment: The sixth patriarch said: “The wind is not moving, the flag is not moving. Mind is moving.” What did he mean? If you understand this intimately, you will see the two monks there trying to buy iron and gaining gold. The sixth patriarch could not bear to see those two dull heads, so he made such a bargain.

Wind, flag, mind moves,
The same understanding.
When the mouth opens
All are wrong

When the mouth opens, all ways of talking about it is wrong. As soon as we put it into words, it gives the appearance of boundaries and separate objects as more real than they are, missing that it is all the play of awake emptiness.

The sixth patriarch gave them a useful pointer, but even what he said misses the mark.

As does the commentary. And this.



  • mind is moving
    • initial verse
      • flag, wind moving – images, concepts
      • mind moves – flag, wind moves w/in own world of images (practical, helpful, but also good to notice is w/in own world of images)
    • commentary
      • when the mouth opens, all are wrong
      • words split + reify boundaries, content of experience as real (the way it appears, as something in itself, not just play of awake emptiness)

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