“But” and “Hey, But…” muddy our minds.

Zen Practice


We often easily use the words “but” or “Hey, but…” when our demands are not accepted. The expressions that follow these conjunctions are always negative. We tend to quibble when we don’t get our way, no matter what we say.

Haven’t you ever argued with people who, if you say one thing, they say another? Or haven’t you ever made other people embarrassed by arguing?


Zen master, Hakuin (1686-1769), who was called Chuko no So (Father of the Restoration) of the Rinzai sect, persuaded a priest who was quibbling and annoying as follows:

    One of Hakuin’s disciple priests used Sutras for toilet paper. The priest argued with Hakuin and tried to annoy him, saying, “I am the Buddha. Why shouldn’t the Buddha use the Sutras, which He used to preach with, to wipe His butt?” Hakuin told the priest, “Surely your butt is that of the Buddha’s. Why in the world would you wipe such a precious butt with used sutra paper? From now on, you will use new clean white paper so as not to be impolite to the Buddha’s butt.” Hakuin’s response left the priest no room for rebuttal. The priest was deeply sorry and apologized to Hakuin for his foolish behavior.


Quibbling is unreasonable and selfish. A characteristic of quibbling is that it feels good for those who do it, but it is very unpleasant for those who are forced to listen to it.

Like Hakuin, when arguing with a quibbler, it is important to recognize what the other person is saying since arguing with them head on only escalates the quibbling.
When we are little we never quibble. That is because we are kept in the pure, clean spiritual condition of a newborn. The reason why we can keep such a pure mind is because our eyes, i.e. our mind, which look around us are pure. We must continue to have the pure, unprejudiced, undistorted eyes of a child even after we become adults.

However, the eyes with which you see the world become clouded as we grow older and more experienced, and we come to think about everything selfishly. In Buddhism, this is called “Kenjyaku” , “clouded vision”.

In this selfishness, there is a self-centered desire, which says, “Who cares, as long as I’m okay.” When one desire comes true, the next desire appears right away. This is called “bon-no- jyoku”, “cloudiness with worldly desires”.


A mind filled with desire will never be satisfied. When we are controlled by desire, we are never satisfied with our present condition, and desires spring up, one after another. The unsatisfied mind is always upset and dissatisfied. Our inability to be satisfied, no matter what we do, is caused by a spiritual lack of gratitude and an inability to know how much is enough. This is called “goh-jyoku”.

Desire knows no limits. When a desire is not fulfilled, we fall into a state of distress at not being given what we seek. This is not all. When others are granted their desire before we are, we feel jealous and become mean, wishing for their failure or unhappiness. Behind inexhaustible greed hides a very scary psychological disorder.

With a mind clouded with greed, you can no longer see around you with right judgment. A warped heart that is jaundiced and envious creates a nature that is no longer genuinely pleased with the happiness of others. Furthermore, we come to have a persecution complex, no longer able to take others’ advice or listen to their opinions. This situation is called “shujyo-jyoku”, all-creature cloudiness or “total cloudiness”.

When this happens, we can no longer trust anyone, we become wary and behave suspiciously of others. An upset mind weakens our desire to do good, we become apathetic and ultimately our mind and body are weakened. This is called “jyumyo-jyoku”, life cloudiness.


Buddhism strictly cautions against this Five-Mind Cloudiness, (gojoku). It is a fact that a motivation for living is the fulfilling of desire, the root of the Five Desires, but when it is not satisfied, desire transforms itself to suffering.

Cloudiness of the mind always creates frustration and leads to negative thinking. Be very careful if your remarks seem to begin with the words “But” or “Hey, but…” which express excuses and negativity. An unconscious increase in excuses, and negativity and quibbling about everything are signs that your mind is cloudy. Let’s try to clean our muddled minds every day and always keep them clear.

Let’s start by not making negative remarks in our everyday life and avoid negative thinking. Words have power. Our negative thinking should improve if we stay away from negative words and argument for argument’s sake.