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Huangbo Travel Quotes

Huángbò Xīyùn (trad. Chinese: 黄檗希運 or Huang Po in older English-language works) was an influential Zen master in 8th and 9th century Tang Dynasty China and the teacher of Línjì, whose teachings we explored previously: Linji Travel Quotes. Thich Nhat Hanh, a living Zen master, author of Peace is Every Step, practices in a Zen Buddhist tradition that identifies as descending from Linji. So we can trace a direct line all the way back to the teachings of Huangbo. In his teachings, which his students wrote down in the form of sermons or question-and-answer dialogues, Huangbo is well-known for dismissing any dualism between ordinary thoughts and enlightened thoughts or special spiritual practices to chase some different state. He emphasizes that the mind is Buddha, so enlightenment is more about unwinding and throwing away all the useless junk and judgments and wrong perceptions we’ve stuck on our minds. Let’s explore some Huangbo quotes you can pack lightly in your carry-on as you adventure. The teachings here come from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po on the Transmission of Mind, translated by John Blofeld: 

Black and white woodblock print of Huangbo in monks' robes sitting on his meditation cushion, holding some type of implement in his hands.

The ignorant eschew phenomena but not thought; the wise eschew thought but not phenomena.

It’s ok to admit it if you thought wisdom was the other way around. We’re so good at thinking! This is one of Huangbo’s most famous and influential quotes. It really captures his approach to seeing things as they are and not covering them up with all of the judgments and assumptions we stick on them. While you’re traveling in new cultures, try to see them, not your perceptions. While you’re on vacation, be there with enjoyment, not time traveling and ruminating.

Here it is―right now. Start thinking about it and you miss it.

Attributed to Huangbo, and it aligns with his teachings, but the origin is unclear. It’s a useful reminder for any adventure. When you’re at that mezcal tasting, you don’t need to be writing the review in your head. When your taxi driver turns out to have a cousin studying the exact same rare rainbow unicorn sea snail that you’re studying and they take you out later that day in a boat to see a special secret spot to find them that nobody else knows about, you don’t need to be planning out how you’ll tell your friends about this later. You can simply be there and enjoy that unique experience. You can give yourself trust to take care of whatever comes after. Be here right now. Here it is!

Words used to attract the dull of wit are not to be relied on.

This is a valuable reminder when navigating advertisements for hotels and tours and the like, but perhaps especially important for digital nomads to consider as you interact with online communities at difficult times in your lives. Many expat and digital nomad forums are full of snake oil salespeople looking to prey on vulnerable travelers feeling lonely or struggling financially. Watch out for magical quick fixes to complex human experiences. Always ask yourself: Would Huangbo throw a roof tile at my head for clicking on this?

You people go on misunderstanding; you hold to concepts such as ‘ordinary’ and ‘Enlightened’, directing your thoughts outwards where they gallop about like horses! All this amounts to beclouding your own minds!

Are you heading off on a spiritual journey? Do you plan to find yourself somewhere out there in the world? Do you worry about relapsing on vacation and want to separate the “true thoughts” from “mental illness thoughts”? How could you do that? I don’t know about you, but personally, I only have one brain. I would take a spare but Team No Checked Bags!

When your glance falls upon a grain of dust, what you see is identical with all the vast world-systems with their great rivers and mighty hills. To gaze upon a drop of water is to behold the nature of all the waters of the universe.

This quote from Huangbo was recorded by one of his students as part of a longer dharma talk. It is helpful instruction on the practice of mindfulness we can bring to any experience on our journeys, especially as we touch the reality of climate change. Something as simple as washing our hands is connected to a vast system that circles the entire planet, that extends backwards and forwards in time. In that moment, in a dirty toilet on the side of the highway, we can see the miracle in which we participate!

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