Archive for August, 2006


The Practice of Looking Deeply Using Three Dharma Seals: Impermanence, No-self and Nirvana

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that by looking deeply we develop insight into impermanence and no self. These are the keys to the door of reality.
All authentic practices of the Buddha carry within them three essential teachings called the Dharma Seals. These three teachings of the Buddha are: impermanence, no self and nirvana. Just as all-important legal documents have the mark or signature of a witness, all genuine practices of the Buddha bear the mark of these three teachings.

If we look into the first Dharma Seal, impermanence, we see that it doesn’t just mean that everything changes. By looking into the nature of things, we can see that nothing remains the same for even two consecutive moments. Because nothing remains unchanged from moment to moment it therefore has no fixed identity or a permanent self. So in the teaching of impermanence we always see the lack of an unchanging self. We call this "no self," the second Dharma Seal. It is because things are always transforming and have no self that freedom is possible.

The third Dharma Seal is nirvana. This means solidity and freedom, freedom from all ideas and notions. The word "nirvana" literally means "the extinction of all concepts." Looking deeply into impermanence leads to the discovery of no self. The discovery of no self leads to nirvana. Nirvana is the Kingdom of God.

The practice and understanding of impermanence is not just another description of reality. It is a tool that helps us in our transformation, healing and emancipation.
Impermanence means that everything changes and nothing remains the same in any consecutive moment. And although things change every moment, they still cannot be accurately described as the same or as different from what they were a moment ago.
When we bathe in the river today that we bathed in yesterday, is it the same river? Heraclitus said that we couldn’t step into the same river twice. He was right. The water in the river today is completely different from the water we bathed in yesterday. Yet it is the same river. When Confucius was standing on the bank of a river watching it flow by he said, "Oh, it flows like that day and night, never ending."
The insight of impermanence helps us to go beyond all concepts. It helps us to go beyond same and different, and coming and going. It helps us to see that the river is not the same river but is also not different either. It shows us that the flame we lit on our bedside candle before we went to bed is not the same flame of the next morning. The flame on the table is not two flames, but it is not one flame either.

Impermanence Makes Everything Possible
We are often sad and suffer a lot when things change, but change and impermanence have a positive side. Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. Life itself is possible. If a grain of corn is not impermanent, it can never be transformed into a stalk of corn. If the stalk were not impermanent, it could never provide us with the ear of corn we eat. If your daughter is not impermanent, she cannot grow up to become a woman. Then your grandchildren would never manifest. So instead of complaining about impermanence, we should say, "Warm welcome and long live impermanence." We should be happy. When we can see the miracle of impermanence our sadness and suffering will pass.
Impermanence should also be understood in the light of inter-being. Because all things inter-are, they are constantly influencing each other. It is said a butterfly’s wings flapping on one side of the planet can affect the weather on the other side. Things cannot stay the same because they are influenced by everything else, everything that is not itself.

Practicing Impermanence
All of us can understand impermanence with our intellect, but this is not yet true understanding. Our intellect alone will not lead us to freedom. It will not lead us to enlightenment. When we are solid and we concentrate, we can practice looking deeply. And when we look deeply and see the nature of impermanence, we can then be concentrated on this deep insight. This is how the insight of impermanence becomes part of our being. It becomes our daily experience. We have to maintain the insight of impermanence in order to be able to see and live impermanence all the time. If we can use impermanence as an object of our meditation, we will nourish the understanding of impermanence in such a way that it will live in us every day. With this practice impermanence becomes a key that opens the door of reality.
We also cannot uncover the insight into impermanence for only a moment and then cover it up and see everything as permanent again. Most of the time we behave with our children as though they will always be at home with us. We never think that in three or four years they will leave us to marry and have their own family. Therefore we do not value the moments our child is with us.
I know many parents whose children, when they are eighteen or nineteen years old, leave home and live on their own. The parents lose their children and feel very sorry for themselves. Yet the parents did not value the moments they had with their children. The same is true of husbands and wives. You think that your spouse will be there for the whole of your life but how can you be so sure? We really have no idea where our partner will be in twenty or thirty years, or even tomorrow. It is very important to remember every day the practice of impermanence.

Seeing Emotions Through the Eyes of Impermanence
When somebody says something that makes you angry and you wish they would go away, please look deeply with the eyes of impermanence. If he or she were gone, what would you really feel? Would you be happy or would you weep? Practicing this insight can be very helpful. There is a gatha, or poem, we can use to help us:
Angry in the ultimate dimension
I close my eyes and look deeply.
Three hundred years from now
Where will you be and where shall I be?
When we are angry, what do we usually do? We shout, scream, and try to blame someone else for our problems. But looking at anger with the eyes of impermanence, we can stop and breathe. Angry at each other in the ultimate dimension, we close our eyes and look deeply. We try to see three hundred years into the future. What will you be like? What will I be like? Where will you be? Where will I be? We need only to breathe in and out, look at our future and at the other person’s future. We do not need to look as far as three hundred years. It could be fifty or sixty years from now when we have both passed away.
Looking at the future, we see that the other person is very precious to us. When we know we can lose them at any moment, we are no longer angry. We want to embrace her or him and say, "How wonderful, you are still alive. I am so happy. How could I be angry with you? Both of us have to die someday and while we are still alive and together it is foolish to be angry at each other."
The reason we are foolish enough to make ourselves suffer and make the other person suffer is we forget that we and the other person are impermanent. Someday when we die we will lose all our possessions, our power, our family, everything. Our freedom, peace and joy in the present moment is the most important thing we have. But without an awakened understanding of impermanence it is not possible to be happy.
Some people do not even want to look at a person when they are alive, but when they die they write eloquent obituaries and make offerings of flowers. But at that point the person has died and cannot smell the fragrance of the flowers anymore. If we really understood and remembered that life was impermanent, we would do everything we could to make the other person happy right here and right now. If we spend twenty-four hours being angry at our beloved, it is because we are ignorant of impermanence.
"Angry in the ultimate dimension/I close my eyes." I close my eyes in order to practice visualization of my beloved one hundred or three hundred years from now. When you visualize yourself and your beloved in three hundred years’ time, you just feel so happy that you are alive today and that your dearest is alive today. You open your eyes and all your anger has gone. You open your arms to embrace the other person and you practice: "Breathing in you are alive, breathing out I am so happy." When you close your eyes to visualize yourself and the other person in three hundred years’ time, you are practicing the meditation on impermanence. In the ultimate dimension, anger does not exist.
Hatred is also impermanent. Although we may be consumed with hatred at this moment, if we know that hatred is impermanent we can do something to change it. A practitioner can take resentment and hatred and help it to disappear. Just like with anger, we close our eyes and think: where will we be in three hundred years? With the understanding of hatred in the ultimate dimension, it can evaporate in an instant.

Let Impermanence Nurture Love
Because we are ignorant and forget about impermanence, we don’t nurture our love properly. When we first married our love was great. We thought that if we did not have each other we would not be able to live one more day. Because we did not know how to practice impermanence, after one or two years our love changed to frustration and anger. Now we wonder how we can survive one more day if we have to remain with the person we once loved so much. We decide there is no alternative: we want a divorce. If we live with the understanding of impermanence we will cultivate and nurture our love. Only then will it last. You have to nourish and look after your love for it to grow.

No Self
Impermanence is looking at reality from the point of view of time. No self is looking at reality from the point of view of space. They are two sides of reality. No self is a manifestation of impermanence and impermanence is a manifestation of no self. If things are impermanent they are without a separate self. If things are without a separate self, it means that they are impermanent. Impermanence means being transformed at every moment. This is reality. And since there is nothing unchanging, how can there be a permanent self, a separate self? When we say "self" we mean something that is always itself, unchanging day after day. But nothing is like that. Our body is impermanent, our emotions are impermanent, and our perceptions are impermanent. Our anger, our sadness, our love, our hatred and our consciousness are also impermanent.
So what permanent thing is there which we can call a self? The piece of paper these words are written on does not have a separate self. It can only be present when the clouds, the forest, the sun, the earth, the people who make the paper, and the machines are present. If those things are not present the paper cannot be present. And if we burn the paper, where is the self of paper?
Nothing can exist by itself alone. It has to depend on every other thing. That is called inter-being. To be means to inter-be. The paper inter-is with the sunshine and with the forest. The flower cannot exist by itself alone; it has to inter-be with soil, rain, weeds and insects. There is no being; there is only inter-being.
Looking deeply into a flower we see that the flower is made of non-flower elements. We can describe the flower as being full of everything. There is nothing that is not present in the flower. We see sunshine, we see the rain, we see clouds, we see the earth, and we also see time and space in the flower. A flower, like everything else, is made entirely of non-flower elements. The whole cosmos has come together in order to help the flower manifest herself. The flower is full of everything except one thing: a separate self or a separate identity.
The flower cannot be by herself alone. The flower has to inter-be with the sunshine, the cloud and everything in the cosmos. If we understand being in terms of inter-being, then we are much closer to the truth. Inter-being is not being and it is not non-being. Inter-being means at the same time being empty of a separate identity; empty of a separate self.
No self also means emptiness, a technical term in Buddhism which means the absence of a separate self. We are of the nature of no self, but that does not mean that we are not here. It does not mean that nothing exists. A glass can be empty or full of tea, but in order to be either empty or full the glass has to be there. So emptiness does not mean non-being and does not mean being either. It transcends all concepts. If you touch deeply the nature of impermanence, no self and inter-being, you touch the ultimate dimension, the nature of nirvana.

Who Are We?
We think of our body as our self or belonging to our self. We think of our body as me or mine. But if you look deeply, you see that your body is also the body of your ancestors, of your parents, of your children, and of their children. So it is not a "me"; it is not a "mine." Your body is full of everything else-limitless non-body elements-except one thing: a separate existence.
Impermanence has to be seen in the light of emptiness, of inter-being, and of non-self. These things are not negative. Emptiness is wonderful. Nagarjuna, the famous Buddhist teacher of the second century, said, "Thanks to emptiness, everything is possible."
You can see no non-self in impermanence, and impermanence in non-self. You can say that impermanence is no self seen from the angle of time, and non-self is impermanence seen from the angle of space. They are the same thing. That is why impermanence and non-self inter-are. If you do not see impermanence in non-self, that is not non-self. If you do not see non-self in impermanence, that’s not really impermanence.
But that is not all. You have to see nirvana in impermanence and you have to see nirvana in non-self. If I draw a line on one side there will be impermanence and non-self, and on the other side there will be nirvana. That line may be helpful, although it can also be misleading. Nirvana means going beyond all concepts, even the concepts of no self and impermanence. If we have nirvana in no self and in impermanence, it means that we are not caught in no self and impermanence as ideas.

Impermanence and no self are not rules to follow given to us by the Buddha. They are keys to open the door of reality. The idea of permanence is wrong, so the teaching on impermanence helps us correct our view of permanence. But if we get caught in the idea of impermanence we have not realized nirvana. The idea of self is wrong. So we use the idea of non-self to cure it. But if we are caught in the idea of non-self then that is not good for us either. Impermanence and no self are keys to the practice. They are not absolute truths. We do not die for them or kill for them.
In Buddhism there are no ideas or prejudices that we kill for. We do not kill people simply because they do not accept our religion. The teachings of the Buddha are skillful means; they are not absolute truth. So we have to say that impermanence and no self are skillful means to help us come toward the truth; they are not absolute truth. The Buddha said, "My teachings are a finger pointing to the moon. Do not get caught in thinking that the finger is the moon. It is because of the finger that you can see the moon."
No self and impermanence are means to understand the truth; they are not the truth itself. They are instruments; they are not the ultimate truth. Impermanence is not a doctrine that you should feel you have to die for. You would never put someone in prison because they contradict you. You are not using one concept against another concept. These means are to lead us to the ultimate truth. Buddhism is a skillful path to help us; it is not a path of fanatics. Buddhists can never go to war, shedding blood and killing thousands of people on behalf of their religion.
Because impermanence contains within itself the nature of nirvana, you are safe from being caught in an idea. When you study and practice this teaching you free yourself from notions and concepts, including the concept of permanence and impermanence. This way, we arrive at freedom from suffering and fear. This is nirvana, the kingdom of God.

Extinction of Concept
We are scared because of our notions of birth and death, increasing and decreasing, being and non-being. Nirvana means extinction of all notions and ideas. If we can become free from these notions we can touch the peace of our true nature.
There are eight basic concepts that serve to fuel our fear. They are the notions of birth and death, coming and going, the same and different, being and non-being. These notions keep us from being happy. The teaching given to counteract these notions is called "the eight no’s," which are no birth, no death, no coming, no going, not the same, not different, no being, no non-being.

Ending Notions of Happiness
Each of us has a notion of how we can be happy. It would be very helpful if we took the time to reconsider our notions of happiness. We could make a list of what we think we need to be happy: "I can only be happy if…" Write down the things you want and the things you do not want. Where did these ideas come from? Is it reality? Or is it only your notion? If you are committed to a particular notion of happiness you do not have much chance to be happy.
Happiness arrives from many directions. If you have a notion that it comes only from one direction, you will miss all of these other opportunities, because you want happiness to come only from the direction you want. You say, "I would rather die than marry anyone but her. I would rather die than lose my job, my reputation. I cannot be happy if I don’t get that degree or that promotion or that house." You have put many conditions on your happiness. And then, even if you do have all your conditions met, you still won’t be happy. You will just keep creating new conditions for your happiness. You will still want the higher degree, the better job and the more beautiful house.
A government can also believe that they know the only way to make a nation prosper and be happy. That government and nation may commit itself to that ideology for one hundred years or more. During that time its citizens can suffer so much. Anyone who disagrees or dares to speak against the government’s ideas will be locked up. They might even be considered insane. You can transform your nation into a prison because you are committed to an ideology.
Please remember your notions of happiness may be very dangerous. The Buddha said happiness can only be possible in the here and now, so go back and examine deeply your notions and ideas of happiness. You may recognize that the conditions of happiness that are already there in your life are enough. Then happiness can be instantly yours.

  • 諸行無常是說一切世間法無時不在生住異滅中,過去有的,現在起了變異,現在有的,將來終歸幻滅;
  • 諸法無我是說在一切 有為無為的諸法中,無有我的實體;
  • 涅槃寂靜是說涅槃的境界,滅除一切生死的痛苦,無為安樂,故涅槃是寂靜的。


  • 諸行無常:意指世間一切事物,皆在剎那間遷流變異,無一常住不變。有為諸法概皆無常,眾生執以為實,認假作真,而起諸妄想,或求長生不老,或徒務粉飾色身,不識「亙古不變」,仍不免「剎那生變」,無常者乃是世間之自然法則,此方是「真常」。了悟變化無常乃是生命的特徵,於一切境,隨遇而安,在悲智雙運中,得見生命之究竟義。想得到幸福,就要從真理下手。真理要從心下手,心要從悟下手。悟就要從觀照無常下手。能觀照就有大慈悲心,因為能觀照無常,就沒有得失的觀念。一旦失去什麼,就不會感到痛苦,因為你知道——這就是無常。
  • 諸法無我:意指世間諸法,無論有為、無為,皆是緣起幻有,並無恆常不變、獨立存在之實體或主宰。世尊殷勤囑咐:應於二六時中觀照「無我、無我所」。此色身乃四大假合之幻軀,凡我之物皆是為我所用,非我所有。若真有我,何以我之心緒、生死皆非己能掌控?足見「我」無從主宰「我所有」,有「我」即生對立,而我執則為一切眾生之通病,唯有放下我執,方可覓得真我。唯有了知無我,始能與世界和平共處。
  • 涅槃寂靜:此係佛教之中心思想,意指不生不滅,身心俱寂之解脫境界。若離開涅槃思想,佛教就形同生滅的世間法,只能稱之為勸善,不能體會因性本空,果性本空之非因非果甚深奧義。未入正信者,每以涅槃為死亡,此乃嚴重之誤解。倘如其所言,則死亡又為另一生命之開端,豈非生死未了?眾生長嬰(18)輪迴之苦,乃受業力所牽,作主不得。唯有佛陀為究竟死亡,以其死即不復再生,不生則不滅,蓋已打破無始無明,徹見本來面目,此允稱為佛教最可貴之處。

To Know Yourself is to Forget Yourself- Pema Chödrön

"We might think that knowing ourselves is a very ego-centered thing, but by beginning to look clearly and honestly at ourselves, we begin to dissolve the walls that separate us from others."

The journey of awakening happens just at the place where we can’t get comfortable. Opening to discomfort is the basis of transmuting our so-called "negative" feelings. We somehow want to get rid of our uncomfortable feelings either by justifying them or by squelching them, but it turns out that this is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. According to the teachings of vajrayana, or tantric, Buddhism, our wisdom and our confusion are so interwoven that it doesn’t work to just throw things out.

By trying to get rid of "negativity," by trying to eradicate it, by putting it into a column labelled "bad," we are throwing away our wisdom as well, because everything in us is creative energy-particularly our strong emotions. They are filled with life-force.

There is nothing wrong with negativity per se; the problem is that we never see it, we never honor it, we never look into its heart. We don’t taste our negativity, smell it, get to know it. Instead, we are always trying to get rid of it by punching someone in the face, by slandering someone, by punishing ourselves, or by repressing our feelings. In between repression and acting out, however, there is something wise and profound and timeless.

If we just try to get rid of negative feelings, we don’t realize that those feelings are our wisdom. The transmutation comes from the willingness to hold our seat with the feeling, to let the words go, to let the justification go. We don’t have to have resolution. We can live with a dissonant note; we don’t have to play the next key to end the tune.

Curiously enough, this journey of transmutation is one of tremendous joy. We usually seek joy in the wrong places, by trying to avoid feeling whole parts of the human condition. We seek happiness by believing that whole parts of what it is to be human are unacceptable. We feel that something has to change in ourselves. However, unconditional joy comes about through some kind of intelligence in which we allow ourselves to see clearly what we do with great honesty, combined with a tremendous kindness and gentleness. This combination of honesty, or clear-seeing, and kindness is the essence of maitri-unconditional friendship with ourselves.

This is a process of continually stepping into unknown territory. You become willing to step into the unknown territory of your own being. Then you realize that this particular adventure is not only taking you into your own being, it’s also taking you out into the whole universe. You can only go into the unknown when you have made friends with yourself. You can only step into those areas "out there" by beginning to explore and have curiosity about this unknown "in here," in yourself.

Dogen Zen-ji said, "To know yourself is to forget yourself." We might think that knowing ourselves is a very ego-centered thing, but by beginning to look so clearly and so honestly at ourselves-at our emotions, at our thoughts, at who we really are-we begin to dissolve the walls that separate us from others. Somehow all of these walls, these ways of feeling separate from everything else and everyone else, are made up of opinions. They are made up of dogma; they are made of prejudice. These walls come from our fear of knowing parts of ourselves.

There is a Tibetan teaching that is often translated as, "Self-cherishing is the root of all suffering." It can be hard for a Western person to hear the term "self-cherishing" without misunderstanding what is being said. I would guess that 85% of us Westerners would interpret it as telling us that we shouldn’t care for ourselves-that there is something anti-wakeful about respecting ourselves. But that isn’t what it really means. What it is talking about is fixating. "Self-cherishing" refers to how we try to protect ourselves by fixating; how we put up walls so that we won’t have to feel discomfort or lack of resolution. That notion of self-cherishing refers to the erroneous belief that there could be only comfort and no discomfort, or the belief that there could be only happiness and no sadness, or the belief that there could be just good and no bad.

But what the Buddhist teachings point out is that we could take a much bigger perspective, one that is beyond good and evil. Classifications of good and bad come from lack of maitri. We say that something is good if it makes us feel secure and it’s bad if it makes us feel insecure. That way we get into hating people who make us feel insecure and hating all kinds of religions or nationalities that make us feel insecure. And we like those who give us ground under our feet.

When we are so involved with trying to protect ourselves, we are unable to see the pain in another person’s face. "Self-cherishing" is ego fixating and grasping: it ties our hearts, our shoulders, our head, our stomach, into knots. We can’t open. Everything is in a knot. When we begin to open we can see others and we can be there for them. But to the degree that we haven’t worked with our own fear, we are going to shut down when others trigger our fear.
So to know yourself is to forget yourself. This is to say that when we make friends with ourselves we no longer have to be so self-involved. It’s a curious twist: making friends with ourselves is a way of not being so self-involved anymore. Then Dogen Zen-ji goes on to say, "To forget yourself is to become enlightened by all things." When we are not so self-involved, we begin to realize that the world is speaking to us all of the time. Every plant, every tree, every animal, every person, every car, every airplane is speaking to us, teaching us, awakening us. It’s a wonderful world, but we often miss it. It’s as if we see the previews of coming attractions and never get to the main feature.

When we feel resentful or judgmental, it hurts us and it hurts others. But if we look into it we might see that behind the resentment there is fear and behind the fear there is a tremendous softness. There is a very big heart and a huge mind-a very awake, basic state of being. To experience this we begin to make a journey, the journey of unconditional friendliness toward the self that we already are.


emotion: anger

Dealing with Anger- Ajahn Punnadhammo 

The modern urban environment often leads to a lot of stress. The fast pace, crowded conditions and constant sensory bombardment incline the mind towards agitation. This manifests as a constant low-grade irritability sometimes exploding into anger. We are all familiar with the general surliness of modern manners and with the more dangerous phenomenon of road rage. 

The Buddhist teachings have a lot to say about the state of anger, and provide practical tools for dealing with it. Anger is classified as an unskilful state of mind. This is very important, and it is crucial to see that there are no exceptions. Buddhism allows no place for "righteous anger." In other words, there is no conceivable case where anger is justifiable or where it is the most appropriate response. 

This might be hard to accept. It is easy to think of numerous examples of real grievances and injustices that seem to call forth the need for anger. But if we look at the results of anger the wisdom of this teaching may become more evident. An angry person is unable to think clearly, he has lost his perspective on the issue and if he acts from that anger he is likely to provoke an angry response, escalating the conflict. 

This does not at all mean that one should be passive in the face of abuse. It is a simple statement of the fact that any difficulty is best faced with a clear mind and a calm resolve. This holds true even in extreme situations where the skill of the warrior may be required. Ask any student of the martial arts whether the calm or the angry combatant is likely to take the match. In real life, avoiding anger can often defuse situations before they turn violent. All of this is in addition to the physiological effects of chronic anger, from high blood-pressure to ulcers. 

A final objection might be made by those who see anger as empowering, a way to self-assertion for the victimized. There is something of truth here, and it is important to clarify the issue. There is a great deal of harm in repressing any mental state, including anger. When a state is repressed, it is not that it isn’t present, it is just that it is not fully conscious. If we want to overcome anger, or any unskilful state, the first step is to be fully mindful of it. It is only then that we can work to get beyond it. 

Buddhism recognizes anger as a poison, and it offers an antidote. This is the skilful mental state of loving-kindness which is simply wishing well of another. If this state becomes universal, it leads into wisdom. It also feels better than anger, and that isn’t such a trifling advantage. 

As a practical example, let us go back to the case of road rage. If you are driving on the expressway and some aggressive driver cuts you off, you have a choice. You can indulge in the automatic flaring up of anger and it would be easy to justify it to yourself. That guy is an idiot, after all. You can become consumed with the anger, which will leave you feeling miserable and make your own driving more reckless. Alternatively, you can be mindful of the anger at the first arising and refuse to play along. You can cut it off immediately with a thought of loving-kindness. Instead of cursing that fellow up ahead formulate a conscious wish; "May he get home to his family safely." Isn’t it worth a try?

Anger, Thought, and Insight by Chuan Zhi Shakya

She was an energetic woman. She moved quickly and purposefully, and as she and her daughter sat down to join me for lunch, I could tell that she was clearly distressed. "It seems I’m always angry," she said, "and what’s worse, my daughter is picking up my anger-habits. This morning her pre-school teacher told me that she’s turning into a class b-u-l-l-y." I was glad she spelled the word. Watching the little girl innocently start to color with the paper and crayons the waitress had brought, I didn’t want her to think I saw her as any kind of bully. I asked her to tell me more about her problems.

"Everything that happens around me seems to make me angry. Yesterday I got a nuisance telephone call just as I had gotten into the bathtub… I stood there literally as ‘mad as a wet hen’ and slammed down the receiver. People can be so inconsiderate! Then, I tried to iron a silk blouse, and I had the setting up too high and I scorched the fabric. I yanked the blouse off the ironing board and threw it in the garbage. I was beside myself with anger. Last night, my husband made a crack about my mother, and I slapped his face. I just reached out and slapped him!  He was stunned – not by the slap but by the insult. Afterward, I apologized. I felt so ashamed. But my daughter hasn’t reached the point of self-analysis and repentence. She’s copying me."

"Do you ever hit her?" I asked. "Yes," she confessed. "I do, but only as a spanking on her behind. I never hit her face." "Is this spanking as ‘a last resort’?" I asked. "Yes," she said, "but often, instead of being patient and tolerant, I get angry at her when she doesn’t respond to verbal orders… when she ignores me or makes the same mistake repeatedly. Now, apparently, she’s doing the same thing with her classmates. What can I do to get over my anger."

"Anger is not a bad thing" I started out. "Anger is a natural response. Especially when we have certain responsibilites and we need to delegate authority to others or when we rely on some guarantee that a piece of machinery is going to work in a certain way and it doesn’t, we have a legitimate reason to become angry. Anger is supposed to indicate our dissatisfaction with the performance of people or things which have not performed satisfactorily. There is a limit to patience; and frankly, there are careless mistakes that people make that are injurious to others. We need to impress the person who carelessly makes those mistakes with the seriousness of his errors. Anger punctuates the message … as long as we are conscious of what we’re doing and are able to act reasonably.

"But other times anger is just a response to something going on within us. It’s not another person who makes us angry — that’s just an excuse to make ourselves angry — it’s our ego’s response to a perceived lessening of status, of threat, or to a conflict which we suspect we can’t win. The conflict may be known and conscious or unrecognized and unconscious: if it’s conscious, we can learn to understand our anger and then can maintain an inner calm: this is the only way we can command the power to avoid harming ourselves or others. This is the only way we can act, teach or protect in any constructive way.

"But if the conflict is unconscious, actions arising from that anger are unconscious as well and we, necessarily, lose command of them. Then our behavior becomes a pure response of the ego that is struggling to maintain superiority over the Self. In this case, the reason for our anger remains beyond our reach; and when we struggle for an explanation, we look outward and blame the person or thing nearest us: the telemarketer, the husband, the child, the blouse. This is what the ego thinks it has to do to protect itself from the injustices of fate that it can’t understand."

"What can I do to make her understand that hitting another child is wrong," she asked.

"Well, you can’t teach her theology or philosophy. She won’t understand that. But the wisdom of the East is not necessarily beyond her appreciation." I turned to the child. "I wonder," I said pretending doubt, "that if I tell you a special story you are old enough to understand it?"

"I can understand," she assured me. "Tell me."

"Well, a famous teacher named Saraswati likes to tell this story: I’ll repeat it for you:

"Once upon a time there was a holy man who encountered a big snake while he was walking through the forest. The holy man immediately recognized the snake as the reincarnation of a man who, in his previous life, had been very angry with many people. Oh, he caused his mother and his family and his friends so much trouble because of his anger and his meanness. That’s why he was reborn as a snake . When the snake saw that the holy man recognized this, he spoke to him. ‘I’m so miserable as a snake,’ he said. ‘I have no friends, and all the people who come here hate me. They say nasty things to me and want to hurt me. But I don’t let them. If they come near me I bite them. Tell me, how can I escape from this predicament?’

"The holy man said, ‘Why that’s simple! Stop biting people and eventually you will be liberated and can become a human being again!’

"So, in his desperation, the snake stopped biting people when they came into the forest to collect berries and fruit and firewood. But soon, the people realized that the snake did not react to their presence and so they started throwing stones at him. The poor snake wanted desperately to become a human being again so he did nothing at all; and, in time, he grew weak from the all the injuries he received.

"Many months later the holy man returned and saw the terrible condition of the snake. He asked him what was wrong and the snake explained what had happened. "The holy man saw the problem and the solution. He said to the snake: ‘You were forbidden to bite. You were not forbidden to hiss! So hiss! But then, mind you, hiss only when they throw stones.’

"The snake understood, and from that time on when people came near, if they were pleasant, the snake did nothing; but if they started to throw stones at him, he hissed. Oh, did he hiss! And so the people learned that if they respected the snake, he would respect them. They learned that even a patient snake can remind them that he is not exactly powerless against them.

Now," I asked, "what did you learn from this story?"

Even at the age of five, she could understand. "The people stopped trying to hurt the snake."

"Right," I said. "So hiss if you must hiss… but don’t bite. And if people are nice to you, you should be nice to them."

As to the young mother’s problem, the solution was not nearly so easy to determine. What was needed here was for her to learn to be conscious of what was making her angry and, through that inquisitive investigation, to gain possession of the anger instead of letting it possess her. She needed to take the ego out of the equation.

When we practice Zen, we practice engaging our Buddha Nature, that inner, separate-less, Self. When we experience a sudden outburst of emotion such as anger or fear, we need to pause and, through an act of will, engage our Inner Self. It requires that we activate our heart as well as our mind before we respond to a situation. Someone slaps us on the face and our immediate response is anger ­ "How dare he!" But what really happened? A hand has struck skin causing nerve impulses to travel to the spinal column and then to the brain … the brain responds by stimulating another part of the brain that generates the sensation of pain on the face. This is the reality of a slap to the face, but are we aware of it? Such a simple inquiry into the nature of an event that stimulates the anger reflex is often enough to break us free of it. Once we’re out of the anger-loop, we can reasonably investigate the cause of the slap to our face. Did we say something that offended someone? Is the other person trying to teach us a lesson? Was it an accident because the person happened to turn around quickly without knowing we were standing there? The only way we can understand is first to diffuse the anger and then to analyze the event. If we don’t do this, we’re a hungry devil’s meat.

We chatted through the meal about anger and ego and Self and selflessness. What seemed to be an overwhelming problem to her at the beginning of the conversation – that she was helpless before the disease of anger and had passed the disease to her child – now seemed within reach of a solution. She wanted to practice this new technique, she said, to see how well it worked.

I told her it’s really not that hard and that it all begins with awareness of the possibility that we are more than the sum of our parts. We can also think. She had already achieved that insight.

"I will stop biting," she said, "and learn how to hiss. Hissing will give me time to think things through."


Being Met by the Reality Called Mu

Joan Halifax
Of Koans

R. H. Blythe said that Zen is poetry. What does he mean by poetry? Certainly he did not use the word
poetry in the sense of what we commonly call verse. Rather, he meant that the essence of Zen, like the
world of poetry, comes from the spontaneous, natural, unfabricated energy of meeting reality directly. This
quality of immediacy is in our every day practice, and is also reflected in the so-called literary body that we
call koans.
The mystery of koans and their poetic veracity comes about because they are non-discursive, based in life,
full of allusions, and nonlinear. They invite us not to use the thinking mind but to allow the thinking mind to
drop away by being absorbed completely into the koan body so that a genuine experience of intimacy can
present itself. Practicing with a koan is like a muscle that moves us into the reality, something that gathers us
up and releases into the present.
The experience of absorption into this poem-like case is similar and dissimilar to what we experience in
meditation practice, of being with the present moment as it is. Usually this “as it isness” is free of a medium.
However, in the case of koan practice, the koan is dropped into the midst of this “as it isness”, and let’s
the truth of things as they are shine through the matrix of its body. Using a jewel-like koan, a bright fragment
of a past reality, as a source and a place, an inspiration and a guide in the immediacy of one’s very practice,
can be a way for us to be engulfed by truth; we are a kind of hook, line and sinker that is swallowed by the
whole fish of life.
In the practice of koans, we are energized by a poetic economy as we use just this one scrap of reality, a
small sharp broken lens through which the present shines. At first, we place the story in the foreground of
our mind and then allow it to drop into the background of our awareness, an invisible blade wheel that cuts
away the superflous. It is through this splinter of a past reality that we have
the experience of moving away from our habitual response to our life, to a moment to moment
experience where “life as it is” and the koan and our mind are unified. In this experience of unification, we
are met by the present through being absorbed or cut through by something that is out of our patterned way
of discerning and thinking, moving us beyond the need to define and defend.
All of Buddhist practice is about realizing fundamentally one thing. We use different means to
actualize this one thing. That fundamental thing is to be completely present and open to things as they are,
unfabricated reality, this one most precious thing. Our practice invites us to rest in a natural state of mind not
being charged by concepts which can obscure our experience, nor directed by mental formations taking
us away from this moment. When we are fully with unfabricated reality, our practice, our very life is
completely absorbed by the immensity of the immediate.
Because most of us are conditioned to react to the world around us, to fall into our habitual patterns of
thought or emotion, we often find it difficult to just sit, to be in this experience of awareness free of the need
to choose, an awareness that is without an object. Often our mental habits carry us back, again and again,
to the same territories of reactivity and objectification, thus giving strength to the continuation of our suffering.
In practicing with a koan, we use something that is of us and not quite of us to absorb ourselves completely
into or be absorbed completely by things as they are. What a strange and wonderful strategy.
Thus, this practice can lead us to the experience of choiceless awareness, moment to moment awareness,
an awareness that feels all beings and things as not separate from us. Often enough our practice is not so
strong and attention falters. We can use a stronger upaya, a more magnetizing skillful means wherein we
actually come to the experience of what it is to be completely in this immediacy, to be completely
present. This is when the practice with a koan can seize reality, like a mysterious magnet that grabs our
world with the force of its drawing power. This present moment, like a koan, is a small door that opens onto all
of life as it is, an intimate portal that includes the infinite. It is a gateway that allows us not to fall into
habitual mental patterns but to move into the experience of the Ultimate, of profound nonduality.
This is why we practice with a koan.
It takes a lot of humility to allow ourselves to do koan practice. It also takes a spirit that is hungry for
submission. As practitioners, we come together in sesshin and submit completely to a schedule, or we
come together in a day of zazen and practice letting go to structure, teacher, sangha, the dropping away of “I.”
It is this practice of surrender which is fundamental to working with these small stories, these mentally
recorded and transmitted moments between practitioners that happened 1000 years ago. Without
submitting to the koan as the ancients did, letting ourselves be turned and turned by it as the ancients
were turned, we cannot realize anything from the practice but so-called interesting ideas. Koan practice is 
not about ideas or understanding anything. It is not about mimicking the ancestors gestures or aping their
understanding. It is about being the ancestors and buddhas, being mu, katz, and the cries of geese; and as
well being that small irritating tail of the buffalo which can’t quite get through the window.
Like our zazen, which is based in the experience of not being general but engaging in the particularities of life,
practicing with a koan engages details in a subjective nondual process. This is not so different than putting
our shoes neatly by the temple door, this quality of the minding of particularities. This practice with details is
essential in our lives, for it is the basis of richness, inclusivity, and intimacy. Koan practice calls us to
embed ourselves in attending to the fine details of our moment to moment life, or to be embedded by life as it
is, letting each element of the story be the truth. In this way, we allow ourselves to be instructed by and
unified with each detail, as we discover that we are not separate from any being or thing, any twist of story or
exchange, or the gap of the pronouncement of mu, no, not this, that sends us down a kind of rabbithole to our
home ground.
Koan practice is not a quietistic or passive practice. It requires engagement and vividness of attention. When I
was doing koan practice with my first teacher, Seung Sahn, sometimes I would be pressed hard by a koan. I 
remember moments of struggle, turning the koan around and around, then letting it turn me. It was an
active experience and, in fact, it is one of the ways, though not necessarily the way, that we are called
upon to approach our life, to be grabbed by the moment, grabbed by the koan, the irresolvable
question, to be engaged in the practice not quietistically but with a sense of openness, vividness
and non-sleepiness. We bring this quality into our everyday life, not turning away from life but being fully
absorbed by life as it is, moment after moment.
With Roshi Bernie Glassman, koan practice softened into another quality. The encounter was quieter, more
nonverbal, more on my side than his. I had to let go into the case, like entering a strange but friendly room,
where I was completely at home, even though I knew no one. The practice always took me to Not Knowing,
Glassman’s First Tenet, which is a way to express the mind that is free of concepts, or at least not dominated
by them.
Sadly, sometimes we think we have to solve life, and we hear inside ourselves the phrase: My life is a koan.
After some years with my first teacher, I came to realize that the point is not to solve the problem but to be
informed by the spirit of the question. If one is looking for a solution, an outcome: the right relationship,
practice, teacher - a perfect world – disappointment will surely follow. That’s not what life is about. That’s
not what this practice is about. This practice is not about being in an ideal or idea; it cannot be about
trying to get anything or anywhere. Maybe through the friction of the koan, the habit skins begin to drop off, or
maybe the habit skins are the very richness that gives life to life. Which ever, a koan can show us what we
are wearing and what is underneath. That is why the first koan in the Mumonkan is so
demanding and precious. There is No solution.
Of Mu
One of the most beloved masters in early China was Joshu, admired for his economy and spirit. Zen Master
Joshu was born in 778 CE and became a monk when he was 18 years of age. He stayed with his teacher
Nansen for 40 years. When Nansen died, Joshu grieved for some years, and then, at the age of 60, after his grief
had worn through, he said “I think I’m going to wander around for a while.” He spent the next 20 years
traveling about China, visiting various Zen teachers and letting them check his mind. He was checking their
minds too.
At the age of 80 he thought, “It’s time to settle down now,” and he became the head of a small temple,
where students would come and go, and he would have quiet, pointed interactions with those who met 
him. It was said that a kind of light shown around his mouth, he was so direct, purified, simple, non-greedy
about his own mind and his own practice. Modest and having submitted for so long, he became who he really
was. He died at the age of 120, and thus he had the advantage, once he had settled down at the age of 80,
to have another 40 years of discovery, enjoying peculiar and unmediated interactions with those who
found their way to his modest temple.
The most well-known koan associated with Joshu is the first koan in the Mumonkan:
A monk asks Joshu, “Does a dog have Buddha nature?”
Joshu replied, “Mu.” (or no, or it has not, or it does not)
Putting aside the dog question, what the monk seems to be saying is “I don’t have Buddha nature.” In the koan
and in our experience, that’s what most of us feel. We believe that we don’t have this potential for awakening,
that our mind is not that of the Buddha’s, and we regard ourselves a little doggishly, not feeling adequate
to meet the moment.
Working with the koan, we are this monk who is trying to figure out the question about buddha nature, saying,
“I can’t access my own awakened nature. I can’t perceive the awakened nature of others.” Imagine 
being this monk and going to Joshu and saying, “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” And Joshu sits there and
says, “mu” or no. What you and I are really asking is, “Who am I? Who am I, really?”
In another way, the monk is asking Joshu, “How can I be free from mental constructions, from the habit
formations that create suffering, not only in my life but engender suffering in others?” The monk is struggling.
We struggle; we struggle with our lives; we struggle with mu. Joshu is not saying “turn away from or face
our struggle.” He is uses this powerful word, “mu” or no, inviting us into the body of positive negation so that
the whole universe is revealed in its illustrious truth, as it is, not in the delusional descriptions and ideas that
have made our world much smaller than it actually is.
Instead of life and mu becoming a field of impossibility, mu and life become a field of great possibility. Mu, or
no, is a way for the mind to clear itself of all constructions, toreset itself to not knowing, to
openness, to zero, as one Zen teacher suggested. Can we feel that right now? A thought arises; the self
follows the thought and suddenly feels, “I am right. This is how it is.” Then we recall that the practice is
mu or “no.” We trap the thought in the space of mu, and suddenly it is free. The mind re-sets itself to its
place of origin. Allow the mental formation, the thought formation to liberate itself naturally, in its own 
time as it will and let the mind re-set itself to its beginning point, to “our original dwelling place.”
“Mu” is not about negation. It is about liberation; liberation from ideas, ideals, ideologies. In the
commentary on this koan, the Zen Master Mumon said it is imperative for the practice of Zen that you pass
through the barriers established by the ancestral teachers. Robert Aitken Roshi reminds us that a barrier
is a checkpoint at a frontier. It’s a place where you check your mind, in the two senses of the word. Check
as in examine, and check as in something you would do with your coat; ie, leave it at the door.
Our barriers are those things that we bump up against, that turn us around and cause us to say, “Who am I in
this?” “Who am I really?” These are the barriers of the ancestors. What this means is that they all went
through it too. The Buddha went through it. Mumon went through it. Joshu went through it. Dogen went
through it. Gandhi went through it. The Dalai Lama,Thich Nhat Hanh are still going through it. You and I
are up against the wall too.
What the barriers are saying to us is to be more involved with our life, all of our life, as it is. Don’t let
your thoughts stop you. Relinquish this ideal that doesn’t relate to reality. It is a stepping into and being
stepped into reality by reality. This is essential for our  practice. Not having some kind of goal out there but to
actualize the quality of courage that the ancestors and the great teachers actualized by meeting the barrier
head-on in this field of life.
In Chinese Zen, in Japanese Zen and more and more in Western Zen, the emphasis is on intimacy. One teacher
asked, “What is your laboratory for intimacy?” Maybe it’s a personal relationship, although many personal
relationships evolve to being non--intimate. It takes courage to stay present. It takes courage to live in a
community – liking and disliking, loving and feeling negatively toward each other, and to stay in it until we
move beyond our projections or retrieve them, take responsibility for them, and finally to let them go, like
an old suitcase filled with sand. Sangha, this deep identification with a group of individuals with whom
you live and practice and you suddenly realize that it is one body, one heart, one mind. Eventually you realize
that this whole world, this whole universe is one single thing, just this moment. How could I objectify this one
or that one? Why can’t I come into the realization of pervasive subjectivity, or inter-subjectivity, as it is
called sometimes? All of this is the miracle of Mu when we paint the whole world Mu.
The practice with koans is a vigorous, active, engaged practice that asks us to not be separate from any
element of the story, not to be separate from any element of life. When we realize “mu,” when we
realize this very simple thing, the key word “no,” it opens our lives for us, reality for us if we let it consume
us. One can do the same thing with the breath. One can do the same thing in a relationship with a teacher.
One can do the same thing by sitting still a long time and then stepping into the early morning and seeing
white mist floating above the dark ground.
For some, the world has become real because a small pebble hits the bamboo body or the eye is filled with a
vision of peach blossoms. There are many ways for this experience of unification to open for us. In essence, the
opening has to be sufficiently deep and thorough that we can actualize it in the details in our everyday life.
The practice of koans, as is the practice of all of Zen is in its particularities, in the very fine details of our
moment to moment existence. Mu gathers the details into a singular net of emptiness.
In the Mumonkon, there are verses by various Zen Masters which are glosses on koans. The last verse
goes, “A dog has no Buddha nature.” Then the old teacher says, “Kind compassion. Deep as the sea.
Those who pursue words and chase sayings bury the heart.” This teacher is saying, 1000 years ago, “Please
be it. Open your hands to the world. Open your heart to the world. Open your heart to your own suffering.
Be it completely. Don’t talk about it. Be it. And if you feel rough (which all of us do at times) work it, be
worked by it, apply yourself. Don’t beat up yourself.
This is your barrier. This is your maturation point. Kind compassion, feeling all things as one’s own body and
heart. This is your chance and my chance now to apply the basic energy of the bodhisattvas in our own life, to
pass through the fire and to be a braver person for having seen deeply into the nature of suffering, taking
responsibility for the suffering in my own life and that which I have created and to vow to change it, to
liberate it and then in fact, to liberate it. Do not pursue words and bury the heart. Just meet this reality that is
called Mu.”


The Dharma of Mind Transmission, the teaching of Ch’an Master Huang-Bei Tuan-Chi (1)

The Chung-Ling Record
All Buddhas and all sentient beings are no different from the One Mind. In this One Mind there is neither arising nor ceasing, no name or form, no long or short, no large or small, and neither existence nor non-existence. It transcends all limitations of name, word and relativity, and it is as boundless as the great void. Giving rise to thought is erroneous, and any speculation about it with our ordinary faculties is inapplicable, irrelevant and inaccurate. Only Mind is Buddha, and Buddhas and sentient beings are not different. All sentient beings grasp form and search outside themselves. Using Buddha to seek Buddha, they thus use mind to seek Mind. Practicing in this manner even until the end of the kalpa, they cannot attain the fruit. However, when thinking and discrimination suddenly halt, the Buddhas appear.

The Mind is Buddha, and the Buddha is no different from sentient beings. The Mind of sentient beings does not decrease; the Buddha’s Mind does not increase. Moreover, the six paramitas and all sila, as countless as the grains of sand of the Ganges, belong to one’s own mind. Thus there is no need to search outside oneself to create them. When causes and conditions unite, they will appear; as causes and conditions separate, they disappear. So if one does not have the understanding that on’es very own Mind itself is Buddha, he will then grasp the form of the practice merely and create even more delusion. This approach is exactly the opposite of the Buddha’s practice path. Just this Mind alone is Buddha! Nothing else is!

The Mind is transparent, having no shape or form. Giving rise to thought and discrimination is grasping and runs counter to the natural Dharma. Since time without beginning, there never has been a grasping Buddha. The practice of the six paramitas and various other disciplines is known as the gradual method of becoming a Buddha. This gradual method, however, is a secondary idea, and it does not represent the complete path to Perfect Awakening. If one does not understand that one’s mind is Buddha, no Dharma can ever be attained.

The Buddhas and sentient beings possess the same fundamental Mind, neither mixing nor separating the quality of true voidness. When the sun shines over the four directions, the world becomes light, but true voidness is never light. When the sun sets, the world becomes dark, but voidness is never dark. The regions of dark and light destroy each other, but the nature of voidness is clear and undisturbed. The True Mind of both Buddhas and sentient beings enjoys this same nature.

If one thinks that the Buddha is clean, bright and liberated and that sentient beings are dirty, dark and entangled in samsara, and, further, if one also uses this view to practice, then even though one perseveres through kalpas as numerous as the sand grains of the Ganges, one will not arrive at Bodhi. What exists for both Buddhas and for sentient beings, however, is the unconditioned Mind (Asamskrta citta) with nothing to attain. Many Ch’an students, not understanding the nature of this Mind, use the Mind to create Mind, thus grasping form and searching outside themselves. However, this is only to follow the path of evil and really is not the practice path to Bodhi.

Making offerings to one "without mind" surpasses in merit offerings made to countless others. Why is this? Because without mind we have unconditioned Buddha, who has neither movement nor obstruction. This alone is true emptiness, neither active nor passive, without form or place, without gain or loss.

Manjusri Bodhisattva symbolizes great substance (principle) and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva symbolizes the great function (action). Substance means emptiness, being without obstacles; functions means no form, being inexhaustible. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva symbolizes great compassion (mahakaruna), and Mahasthama Bodhisattva symbolizes great wisdom (mahaprajna). Vimalakirti means "pure name". Purity is nature and name is form. Name and form are not different, and, therefore, Vimalakirti is called "pure name". These great Bodhisattvas symbolize those wholesome qualities or perfections that all of us intrinsically possess. There is no Mind to search for outside ourselves. Understanding "thus it is", people awaken immediately. Many contemporary Dharma students do not investigate their own minds, but instead search outside and grasp the region of form. Fearing failure, they cannot enter the region of dhyana and, therefore, experience powerlessness and frustration and return to seeking intellectual understanding and knowledge. Hence, many students strive for doctrinal or intellectual understanding, but very few attain to the state of True Awakening. They just proceed, in their error, in the direction the very opposite to Bodhi.

One should emulate the great earth. All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, devas and human beings tread upon the earth, but the earth does not rejoice because of this. When the sheep, oxen, ants, etc., tread upon it, the earth does not become angry. Adorned with jewelry or rare fragrances, the earth does not give rise to greed. Bearing excrement and foul smells, the earth does not exhibit hatred or disgust. The unconditioned Mind is without mind, beyond form. All sentient beings and Buddhas are not different; the Perfectly Awakened Mind is thus. If Dharma students are unable to let go of conditioned mind suddenly, and instead practice in other ways, many kalpas may pass but they still will not have reached Bodhi. Because they are tied down by their thinking of the merits of the Three Vehicles, they do not attain genuine liberation.

Some students attain the state of liberated Mind quickly, some slowly. After listening to a Dharma talk, some reach "no mind" directly. In contrast, some must first pass gradually through the ten grades of Bodhisattva faith, the Dasabhumi of Bodhisattva development, and the ten stages before attaining the Perfectly Awakened Mind. Whether one takes a long or a short time, however, once attained, "no mind" can never be lost. With nothing further to cultivate and nothing more to attain, one realizes that this "no mind" is true, not false, Mind. Whether reaching this stage quickly or after passing through the various stages of Bodhisattva development gradually, the attainment of "no mind" cannot be characterized in terms of shallow or deep. Those students who cannot win this state of understanding and liberation go on to create the wholesome and unwholesome mental states by grasping form, thus creating further suffering in samsara.

In short, nothing is better than suddenly to recognize the Original Dharma. This Dharma is Mind, and outside of Mind there is no Dharma. This Mind is Dharma, and outside of this Dharma there is no mind. Self mind is "no mind" and no "no mind". Awaken the mind to "no mind" and win silent and sudden understanding. Just this!!

A Ch’an master said: "Break off the way of speech and destroy the place of thinking!" This Mind itself is the ultimately pure Source of Buddha; and all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and sentient beings possess this same Mind. However, some people, because of delusion and discrimination, create much karma fruit. Original Buddha contains nothing. Awaken suddenly, profoundly and completely to the emptiness, peace, brilliance, wonder and bliss of this Original Buddha!!

The attainment of one who has practiced the myriad Dharma doors throughout three kalpas, having passed through the many Bodhisattva stages, and the attainment of one who has suddenly awakened to the One Mind are equal. Both of them have just attained their own Original Buddha. The former type of disciple, the gradual attainer, upon arriving at his Original Buddha, looks back on his three kalpas of past practice as if he were looking at himself acting totally without principle in a dream.

Therefore, the Tathagata said: "There was really no Dharma by means of which the Tathagata attained Supreme Awakening. If there had been, Dipamkara Buddha would not have predicted my future attainment of Buddhahood." In addition the Tathagata said: "This Dharma is universal and impartial; therefore, it is called Supreme Awakening."

This ultimate pure source of Mind encompasses all Buddhas, sentient beings and the world of mountains, rivers, forms and formlessness. Throughout the ten directions, all and everything reflects the equality of pure Mind, which is always universally penetrating and illuminating. However, those with merely worldly understanding cannot recognize this truth and so identify seeing, hearing, touching and thinking as the mind. Covered by seeing, hearing, touching and thinking, one cannot see the brightness of Original Mind. If suddenly one is without mind, Original Mind will appear like the great sun in the sky, illuminating everywhere without obstruction.

Most Dharma students only know seeing, hearing, touching and thinking as movement and function and are, therefore, unable to recognize Original Mind at the moment of seeing, hearing, touching and thinking. However, Original Mind does not belong to seeing, hearing, touching and thinking but also is not distinct or separate from these activities. The view that one is seeing, hearing, touching and thinking does not arise; and yet one is not separate from these activities. This movement does not dim the Mind, for it is neither itself a thing nor something apart from things. Neither staying nor grasping, capable of freely moving in any direction whatsoever, everywhere, this Mind becomes the Bodhimandala.

When people hear that all Buddhas transmit the Mind Dharma, they fantasize that there is a special Dharma they might attain. They then try to use the Mind to find Dharma, not realizing that this very Mind is the Dharma and that the Dharma is this very Mind. Using the mind to search out Mind, one can pass through thousands and thousands of kalpas of cultivation and still not acquire it. However, if a person can be suddenly without mind, then he and Original Dharma are one. A prodigal son forgot that a pearl was hidden in the cuff of his own clothes and searched outside, here and there, running everywhere in bewilderment and wonder. Then a wise friend pointed out the pearl to him, so thus he found it where it had always been.

Most Dharma students are confused about Original Mind, not knowing that Original Dharma is non-existing, neither dependent nor staying. Neither active nor passive and without stirring thought, they can suddenly attain the stage of Perfect Awakening and see that they have reached the condition of Original Mind that alone is Buddha. Looking back on their prior cultivation throughout many kalpas, they see it now only as labor expended in vain. Thus the prodigal son found his original pearl, and he realized then that the time and energy spent looking for it, heretofore, outside himself were all completely unnecessary. Therefore, Sakyamuni Buddha stated: " There was really no Dharma by means of which the Tathagata attained Supreme Awakening." Because most people find this Dharma profound and difficult to believe, one is forced to make use of analogies to express the Supreme Reality.

Dharma students should harbor no doubts concerning the body, and they should realize that, comprised, as it is, of four elements, there is within it no self or master to be found. The skandhas are mind, but no self or master can be found there either. The six sense-organs, six sense-objects and six sense-consciousnesses form the eighteen sense-realms, which are, likewise, void. Birth, death and all things everywhere are empty. Only Original Mind is vast and clear. If one maintains the four elements of this body and allays the ulcer of hunger in a manner free from grasping, one nourishes oneself with wisdom food. On the other hand, if one pursues taste, having no regard for rules of moderation, and uses discrimination to seek things to please the palate and sate his desire-nature, one is gorging on consciousness food.

The disciple depends on the sound of the Dharma Teaching to attain the state of Perfect Awakening, but he still does not know the reality of unconditioned Mind. This is because he erroneously gives rise to thoughts concerning the Teaching, sounds, yogic power, auspicious signs, speaking and activity. If such a person were to hear about Bodhi or Nirvana and then set about to practice in order to achieve Liberation ? even for the duration of three great Asankhyeya kalpas ? his practice would never, indeed, attain the Supreme Buddha Fruit. This cultivation belongs to the Sravaka stage and is called Sravaka Buddha. Suddenly awakening to one’s own Mind, one finds real Buddha. Nothing to practice, nothing to attain ? this alone is the Supreme Tao, the genuine Dharma. Without seeking the Mind, there is no birth; without grasping the Mind, there is no death. That which is neither birth nor death is Buddha. The 84,000 Dharmas are useful for curing the ills of sentient beings, but they are merely expedients used to teach and convert and receive all sentient beings. However, only Original Emptiness, without defilement, is Bodhi.

If Dharma students wish to know the key to successful cultivation, they should know that it is the mind that dwells on nothing. Emptiness is the Buddha’s Dharmakaya, just as the Dharmakaya is emptiness. People’s usual understanding is that the Dharmakaya pervades emptiness, and that it is contained in emptiness. However, this is erroneous, for we should understand that the Dharmakaya is emptiness and that emptiness is the Dharmakaya.

If one thinks that emptiness is an entity and that this emptiness is separate from the Dharmakaya or that there is a Dharmakaya outside of emptiness, one is holding a wrong view. In the complete absence of views about emptiness, the true Dharmakaya appears. Emptiness and Dharmakaya are not different. Sentient beings and Buddhas are not different. Birth and death and Nirvana are not different. Klesa and Bodhi are not different. That alone which is beyond all form is Buddha.

Worldly people grasp worldliness; Dharma students grasp Mind. If they let go of both worldliness and Mind, they can encounter real Dharma. Dwelling without worldliness is easy; dwelling without mind is difficult. People fear dwelling without mind and fear failure in their attempts to do so because they think that they would have nothing to hold onto. However, Original Emptiness is not emptiness but genuine Dharmadhatu.

Since time without beginning, the nature of Awakened Mind and Emptiness has consisted of the same, absolute non-duality of no birth or death, no existence or non-existence, no purity or impurity, no movement or stillness, no young or old, no inside or outside, no shape and form, no sound and color. Neither striving nor searching, one should not use intellect to understand nor words to express Awakened Mind. One should not think that it is a place or things, name or form. One should not think that it is a place or things, name or form. Only then is it realized that all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and sentient beings possess the same natural state of great Nirvana.

True Nature is Mind; the Mind is Buddha; the Buddha is Dharma. One should not use the Mind to seek Mind, the Buddha to seek Buddha, nor the Dharma to seek Dharma. Therefore, Dharma students should suddenly realize no-mind and suddenly attain stillness and silence. Stirring thoughts is wrong, but using the Mind to transmit Mind is right. Be careful not to search outside yourself. If you consider the Mind to be outside yourself, it is the same as mistaking a thief for your own son.

Because of our craving, aversion and delusion, we must utilize sila,samadhi and prajna to purify our minds of grasping and delusion. If there originally is no defilement, then what is Bodhi? Relative to this, a Ch’an Master said: "All Dharma taught by Lord Buddha is taught solely to wipe out all mind, Without any mind at all, what use is Dharma?" So, there is nothing at all to hold onto at the original and ultimate source of pure Buddha. Even if emptiness were to be adorned with countless jewels and other treasures, these things could not remain. Similarly, even if the Buddha Nature is adorned with immeasurable wisdom and virtue, that adornment has no place to stay. Most people are deluded about their own nature and thus cannot or will not awaken to their own Minds.

In short, all things are dependent on the Mind. When causes and conditions meet, things appear. When causes and conditions separate, they disappear. Dharma students should not sully their pure nature by giving rise to thoughts. The mirror of sila and prajna is bright and tranquil and allows one to reflect on seeing, hearing, touching and thinking. This view of the Mind’s sphere is only an expedient used to teach those of average or inferior capabilities and is not a vision of Supreme Bodhi. One who aspires to Supreme Bodhi should not hold such a view. The existent and non-existent are both within the grasping mind’s sphere. Without existence and non-existence, there is no-mind and everything is Dharma.

A Ch’an Master has said: "From the time of his arrival in China, Patriarch Bodhidharma taught only the view of unconditioned Mind and spread only the view of unconditioned Dharma." Using Dharma to transmit Dharma, there is no other Dharma. Using Buddha to transmit Buddha, there is no other Buddha. This Dharma is "without-words" Dharma; this Buddha is "without-words" Buddha. Hence, they are the ultimate source of Pure Mind. This is the true Ch’an teaching. All others are false!

Prajna is Original Mind without form. Worldly people do not have a natural inclination towards the Tao, but prefer instead to indulge in the six emotions that arise due to the six conditions of sentient existence — i.e., the emotional effects, like desire or aversion, that arise when sense-objects contact the internal sense-bases or, afterwards, in recollection of this contact. Dharma students who allow a thought of birth and death to arise fall into the realm of Mara. If one allows a thought to arise while seeing, one falls into heresy. When one desires to exterminate birth and death, one falls into the Sravaka realm. One who sees neither birth nor death and is aware only of cessation falls into the Pratyekabuddha realm. However, one might ask: Originally the dharmas know no arising, so how can they be subject to cessation? The answer one might receive is : With this non-dualistic outlook — that is, having neither desire nor aversion ? everything is Mind. This alone is the Buddha of Supreme Awakening!

Worldly people allow thoughts to arise concerning the mind’s sphere and thus harbor like and dislike. If one does not want this entanglement, one must forget the mind. Without mind, the sphere is empty. If one does not want "without mind", but only wants to end entanglement in the various realms of the mind, then one is simply creating more disturbance. Therefore, one must realize that all phenomena are dependent on Mind and that Mind itself is unattainable, if one is to attain the Buddha of Supreme Awakening.

Prajna students, even if you seek the one Dharma and give no thought to the Three Vehicles, this one Dharma is also unobtainable, If someone says he can obtain it, he is indeed an arrogant person and indeed is one with those who left the Lotus Assembly, refusing to listen to the Lotus Teaching Thus the Tathagata said: "There was really no Dharma by means of which the Tathagata attained Supreme Awakening." However, there is the unspoken, silent understanding. There is just this!

Those who are near death just then realize that the five skandhas are empty, the real Mind is without form, and that the four elements are devoid of self. Neither coming nor going, the Buddhas nature does not depart. If one suddenly understands the unconditioned Mind and realizes that the mind-sphere is non-differentiated, he is not restricted by the three periods. This is the true Arya, who is free of defiling tendencies. Encountering pleasing sense objects and even being greeted by all Buddhas, he does not pursue them. Terrible or loathsome sense objects cause no fear to such a one. Dwelling without mind, like the Dharmadhatu, the Mind is free of all delusions.

A Ch’an Master said: "The expedient teachings of Sravaka, Bodhisattva, Dasabhumi and Samyak Sambodhi all belong to the path of gradual awakening." What is perfect Nirvana? Perfect Nirvana is the sudden understanding that one’s own nature is original Buddha and True Mind. It is the sudden realization that there is neither Buddha nor sentient beings, neither subject nor object. If this present place is illusion city, where then is perfect Nirvana? Perfect Nirvana cannot be pointed out because we are only able to point out a place. Whatever is thought of as a place cannot be the condition of true, perfect Nirvana. One can give indications as to which direction it lies in, but one cannot give a definite location. However, one may come to a correct and silent understanding of it.

An Icchantika is a person abandoned as unteachable because of the complete absence of faith in his heart. If any sentient beings and Sravakas do not believe that being "without mind" is the Buddha and Supreme Awakening, they can certainly be termed Icchantika.

All Bodhisattvas have confidence in the Buddhadharma, whether it is the teaching of the Sravaka or the Bodhisattva Vehicles. All sentient beings have the same Dharma nature as the Buddhas and, therefore, may be termed Icchantika with good roots. In short, those who depend on hearing the Teaching to attain Awakening are termed Sravakas. Those who contemplate the twelve nidanas of dependent origination and thus win Awakening are termed Pratyekabuddhas. Most Dharma students are awakened by Dharma teaching but not awakened directly to Mind. Practicing for many kalpas, they still do not attain Original Buddha. Just as a dog is distracted by a clod of earth thrown at him, so we forget Original Mind. However, if one can attain silent and unspoken understanding, one knows that because the mind is Dharma it is, therefore, not necessary to seek Dharma.

Most people’s minds are hindered by the mind-realms and only perceive the Buddha principle polluted by and mixed with phenomena. Thus, they are always trying to escape the mind-realms and calm the mind. To attain Pure Mind, they attempt to eradicate phenomena and keep the principle, not realizing that the mind-realms are hindered by Mind and that phenomena are hindered by the principle. Without mind, the realms are empty; when the principle is tranquil, so are phenomena. One should not turn the Mind upside down for some personal use. People do not really want to realize the state of being "Without mind", fearing that if they fail at their attempts at cultivation a one-sided emptiness would result. Foolish people only try to wipe out phenomena but do not wipe out mind. The wise man wipes out the mind and does not bother with phenomena. The mind of the Bodhisattva is void, having abandoned all and grasping neither bliss nor merit.

There are three degrees of renunciation in this practice. The highest degree is the renunciation of body and mind through the perception of everything, inside and out, as void, there being nothing to obtain and nothing to grasp. Depending on the limits of his strength of belief and committment to practice, one makes the great renunciation of negative and positive, existence and non-existence. Following this realization of truth with practice and non-expectation of reward or personal benefit is the middle degree of renunciation. The superior degree of renunciation is compared to holding a torch in front of oneself, being neither deluded nor awakened. The middle renunciation is compared to holding the torch at one’s side; it is sometimes light and sometimes dark. The lowest renunciation is similar to holding the torch at one’s back, thus being unable to see a pit or trap in front of one. The mind of the Bodhisattva is void, having abandoned all things. Past-mind not grasping is past renunciation; present-mind not grasping is present renunciation; future-mind not grasping is future renunciation.

Since that time when the Tathagata bequeathed his Teaching to Venerable Mahakasyapa, the Mind has been used to transmit Mind, nothing apart from this being necessary. As a seal makes no impression on the sky, one leaves no written mark. As a seal makes an impression on paper, one leaves no Dharma. Therefore, using the Mind to imprint Mind, one still has only Mind. Without both the negative and positive imprint, the unspoken understanding is difficult to attain. For this reason, many Dharma students study, but few accomplish the path. However, no-mind is Mind and no-attainment is Attainment.

The Tathagata has a threefold body. The Dharmakaya propagates the void-nature Dharma. The Dharmakaya preaches the Dharma beyond words and form. With really no Dharma to expound, it teaches the Dharma of emptiness as self-nature. The Nirmanakaya propagates the six paramitas and the myriad Dharma practices. The Sambhogakaya expounds Dharma according to the various conditions and capacities of all sentient beings.

The one essence is Mind. The six sense-organs with their six sense-objects and resultant six sense-consciousnesses are, altogether, called the eighteen realms. If one perceives these eighteen realms as empty and reduces them to one essence, that essence is Mind. All Dharma students know this theoretically, but cannot divest themselves of views based on the duality and analysis of this essence and the grasping of the six senses. Being bound by these dharmas, they cannot silently understand Original Mind.

The Tathagata appeared in the world to teach the Supreme Vehicle. However, because sentient beings were unable to believe in, and even slandered, the Teaching, they remained immersed and drowning in a sea of suffering. Therefore, the Tathagata utilized the expedient Teaching of the Three Vehicles to help them. Some disciples attained deep realization, some shallow; but since few or none had awakened to Buddha’s Original Dharma, one sutra states: "They still do not manifest the Dharma of One Mind." This special teaching of Mind is a Dharma without words. The Ch’an School relies not on texts but, instead, on the special transmission received by the Venerable Mahakasyapa ? i.e., silent understanding and sudden attainment of the Great Awakening with arrival at the Ultimate Tao.

Once a bhiksu asked his master: "What is Tao and how is it practiced?" The master responded: "What is this Tao and what do you want to practice?" The bhiksu asked: "Is Tao receptive of the students who come for instruction in cultivation?" "That is for people of dull capacity; the Tao cannot be practiced," said the master. "If this is for people of dull capacity, what is the Dharma for people of superior ability?" asked the bhiksu. The master answered: "If one is of genuine superior ability, there is none for him to follow. Even seeking himself is impossible, so how can he grasp Dharma?" The bhiksu exclaimed, "If that is so, there is nothing to seek!" The master retorted, "Then save your mental energy." "But this would be tantamount to the annihilation view, and one could say nothing." said the bhiksu. "Who is it that says nothing? Who is he? Try to search for him, " said the master. "If this is the case, why seek Œwho it is that says nothing’?" asked the bhiksu. The master answered: "If you do not seek, that is alright. Who asked you about annihilation? You see the void in front of you, so why do you think you have destroyed it?" "Could this Dharma be voidness?" asked the bhiksu. "Does this voidness tell you the difference between morning and night? I’m just speaking expediently to you because you are giving rise to thoughts and holding views about what I say," said the master. The bhiksu then asked: "One should not hold views?" The master answered: "I’m not obstructing you, but you should understand your view as emotion. When emotion arises, wisdom is concealed." The bhiksu asked: I’m just talking to you, so why call it superfluous?" The master said: " you do not understand what others say, so where is the superfluity?" The bhiksu said: Now you have talked for quite some time, all of which seemed to be for the sake of resisting the enemy of words, while giving no instruction at all in the Dharma." The master replied: "Just realize the Dharma without inverted view. Your questions are inverted! What ‘true’ Dharma do you want?" The bhiksu then observed: "So, my questions are inverted? How about the master’s answers?" The master replied:" You should take something to illumine your face; do not meddle with others." The bhiksu exclaimed: "Just like a foolish dog! When he sees something move, he barks at shadows and sounds." The master said: "The Dhyana School, mutually receiving all sentient beings from the distant past until now, never taught people to hold views, but only stated, ‘Learn Tao’." These words are designed to convert and receive the average person, but the Tao cannot be learned. If one hold some view of learning, then one is , indeed, deluded by the Tao. The Tao is nothing but this Mahayana mind. This mind is nowhere, neither inside, outside, nor somewhere in between. So primarily, one should not hold any view. The cessation of the dualistic view of ‘like’ is Tao. If ‘like’ is cut off, the mind is nowhere. The Original Tao is without name, but because worldly people do not comprehend, they are deluded by perverted views. All Buddhas appear in the world to explain and teach this Dharma. Since people are unable to understand it directly, the Buddhas utilize expedient methods to teach the Tao. One should not cling to names and create views. For example, when fishing, if one catches a fish, one should forget about the bamboo fish-trap. When one attains the other shore, one should then give up the raft."

At the very moment when one understands the Tao and recognizes the Mind, one is then free of body and mind. One who reaches the ultimate source is called a Sramana. The fruit of a Sramana is the cessation of false thinking. This fruit cannot be attained through worldly learning. Using the mind to seek Mind and depending on others for insight, how can one reach or acquire the Tao? The ancient cultivators were possessed of wisdom. Just by hearing a few words of Dharma, they suddenly attained the state beyond study and thinking. Today, people only want to seek worldly learning, mistakenly believing that more knowledge leads to better practice. They do not know that more and more learning leads only to obstacles in their cultivation. Giving a baby more and more cream to eat, who knows if he digests it or not? Likewise, the Teaching of the Three Vehicles is comparable to eating a lot without proper digestion. All study without proper digestion is poison. These things exist in the realm of production and annihilation, while in the Bhutatathata ? the state of absolute Thusness or Suchness, i.e., things as they are in reality, devoid of the usual distortion by klesa ? there is nothing whatsoever. Attaining the Bhutatathata and the Unconditioned means wiping out all previous views and remaining empty without false discrimination.

What is the Tathagata Store? It is Emptiness, the kingly Dharma, appearing in the world to refute all relative things. Therefore, the sutra states: "There really was no Dharma by means of which the Tathagata attained Supreme Awakening." These words are only to be expediently used for wiping out one’s perverted views. Without the inside-and-outside concept of perverted views, there is nothing whatsoever to depend on or to grasp. This is truly the reality of the unhindered one. All the teaching of the Three Vehicles is merely medicine for weak patients; all the various teachings are merely expedients to suit the temporary needs of sentient beings. However, one should not become confused by this Teaching. If one does not give rise to views or grasp words, there is no Dharma. Why? Because there is no fixed Dharma for the Tathagata to expound. My Dhyana school never talks about this matter. The Teaching’s purpose is to stop false thinking; it is not meant to serve the ends of thinking, pondering and intellectual analysis.

A bhiksu once declared to his master: "You have said that, above all, the mind is Buddha, but I don’t know which mind is the Buddha." " How many minds do you have?" questioned the master. "Is the worldly mind or the holy mind the Buddha?" asked the Bhiksu. The master then asked: " Exactly where do you find the worldly and the holy minds?" The bhiksu observed: " The Three Vehicles constantly speak of worldly and holy, so how can you say they don’t exist?" The master replied: "Worldly and holy are very clearly explained in the Three Vehicles. You do not understand and grasp them as objects. Wouldn’t it be incorrect to think of emptiness as really existing? Merely wipe out the worldly-and-holy view. There is no Buddha outside of the Mind. The Patriarch came from the West solely to point out that people’s minds are Buddha. You do not recognize this and actively pursue the Buddha. You do not recognize this and actively pursue the Buddha outside, thus deluding your own mind. For this reason, I talk about the Mind as Buddha. Actually, giving rise to a single thought, one falls into heterodox paths. Since time without beginning, there is no differentiation or discrimination, Voidness is the Unconditioned Awakening."

The bhiksu queried: "In what theory do you say ‘is’?" The master replied: "What theory do you seek? If you have some theory, that is a differentiating mind." The bhiksu asked further: "You said earlier that since time without beginning there is no differentiation. What theory is this?" The master answered: "Because of your seeking, you realize a difference. Without seeking, where is the difference?" The bhiksu asked: "If non-different, why do you say ‘it is’?" The master replied: "If you do not have the worldly-and-holy view, who can tell you Œit is’? If ‘it is’ is not, it truly ‘is’! When mind is ‘not mind’, then the mind and ‘it is’ all disappear. Where do you want to seek?" The bhiksu queried: "If the false can be an obstacle to the Mind, how does one drive away the false?" The master answered: "The false arising and ceasing — that is the false. Originally, the false has no root but arises from discrimination, If one has no perverted view of worldly versus holy, then automatically there is no false. With nothing to grasp and nothing to drive out, abandoning everything — just there and then is the Buddha." The bhiksu then asked: "If there is already no grasping, then what is transmitted?" The master answered: "The Mind is used to transmit Mind." The bhiksu asked: "If the mind can be mutually transmitted, how can one then be said to be without mind?" The master responded: "Just nothing-to-obtain is the real transmission of Mind. If one really understands, then the mind is no-mind and no-Dharma." The bhiksu asked: "If there is no-mind and no-Dharma, where is the transmission?" The master replied: When you hear the phrase Œtransmission of Mind’ do you think there is something to obtain? The Patriarch has said, ŒWhen you see the mind nature, that is the state beyond discrimination.’ The complete Mind is just nothing attained. Where is there Œattainment’? Knowing is not present. What do you think about that?" The bhiksu asked: "Only voidness in front of me without the mind’s sphere! Without the mind’s sphere, wouldn’t one then see the Mind? The master responded: "What mind do you want to see in this sphere? If you see something, it is only a reflection from the mind’s sphere? Like a person looking at his face in a mirror thinking he clearly sees his face and eye-brows but, in reality, seeing only an image or a reflection, even so is any reflection from the mind’s sphere. But what has all this got to do with you?" The bhiksu asked: "If not by reflection, how can one see the Mind?" The master replied: "If one wants to point out the cause, one must continually refer to that which the cause is dependent upon. This is a never-ending process, for there is no end to the dependent origination of things. Relax your hold, for there is nothing to obtain. Talking continuously of thousands and thousands of things is just labor expended in vain."

"If one understands this, then even with reflection is there still nothing to obtain?" asked the bhiksu. "If there is nothing to obtain, then reflection is not necessary," said the master. "Don’t depend on talk from a dream to open your eyes. ŒNothing-to-seek’ is the primary Dharma. This is better than studying and learning a hundred different things. With nothing to obtain, one has finished the task," continued the master. The bhiksu queried: "What is ordinary truth?" The master replied: "Why do you persist in creating clinging vines? Originally, truth is clear and bright. It is not necessary to have questions and answers."

In summary, then, it is to be noted that this without-mind state is wisdom and detachment. Walking, standing, sitting, reclining, talking and all of one’s other everyday actions are done without attachment and are thus transformed into non-action.

In this Dharma-ending age, many Dharma students grasp form and sound in their cultivation. If only they were able to make their minds as void as a withered, dead tree or like a stone or cold ashes, they might realize a bit of this Dharma. Otherwise, they might as well try to force information from the King of Hell. Being without the dualistic conception of existence and non-existence, like the sun shining in the sky, wouldn’t they save energy?

Therefore, being with no place to dwell is the way of all Buddha activity. The Mind that does not abide anywhere is the Perfect Awakening, Without understanding the Unconditioned Truth, even with much learning and diligent practice, one still does not recognize one’s own Mind. Therefore, all one’s actions are nonsense, and one is a member of the Deva Mara’s family. The Ch’an master Chi-Kung observed: "Buddha is one’s own Mind! Why do you search in words and letters?" "If you do not meet a teacher with this transcendental understanding, then you must take the Dharma medicine of Mahayana. Walking, standing, sitting and lying over a long period of time, one may realize the without-mind state if the right combination of causes fosters it. Because one lacks the capacity for sudden Awakening, one must study the Tao of Dhyana for 3, 5, or 10 years. There is no special arrangement or negotiation for achieving Buddhadharma. However, this Teaching of the Tathagata exists as an expedient for the purpose of transforming all beings. For example, one shows a yellow leaf to a crying baby and pretends that it is gold. This is not really true, but it stops the crying of the baby. If a teaching says that there is truly something to obtain, then it is not the Teaching of my sect, nor would I be a member of such an heretical sect. The sutra states: "There really was no Dharma by means of which the Tathagata attained Supreme Awakening." This is the truth of the non-heretical sect, with which I identify.

If one realizes the originally clear and bright Mind, then both Buddha and Mara, as dualistic conceptions, are wrong. In this Mind there is no square or round, no big or small, no short or long. It is passionless and non-active. Neither deluded nor awakened, it is clarity and emptiness. Human beings and Buddha in worlds as numerous as the sands of the Ganges appear as bubbles in the ocean. Nothing is better than "without-mind". Since time without beginning, all Buddhas and the Dharmakaya are not different, neither increasing nor decreasing. For this reason, if one really comprehends the importance of such an insight, one should cultivate diligently until the end of one’s life. Since the outbreath does not guarantee the inbreath, everybody should wake up!!

A bhiksu asked the master: "Since the Sixth Patriarch did not study the sutras, how could he possibly receive the transmission of the yellow robe and become Patriarch? Venerable Shen-Hsiu was the leader of five hundred monks and a Dharma teacher able to expound on thirty-two sutras and sastras. Why wasn’t the Patriarch’s robe transmitted to them?" The master said:" The Venerable Shen-Hsiu still had a discriminating mind. His Dharma was action-oriented because he practiced and attained that which has form. The Sixth Patriarch, in contrast, was suddenly awakened and tacitly understood. Therefore, the Fifth Patriarch secretly transmitted to him the profound truth of the Tathagata’s Teaching."

The Dharma Transmission Gatha of Sakyamuni Buddha states: "Original Dharma is no-Dharma; without Dharma is true Dharma. In transmitting the Dharma that is no-Dharma, has there ever been a Dharma?" If one accepts this right view, then one can practice with ease; such a one can truly be called one who has left home. When the Venerable Wai-Ming chased the Sixth Patriarch to Ta Yu Mountain, the Patriarch asked him: "What do you want by coming here? Do you seek the robe or the Dharma?" "I come for the Dharma, not for the robe," answered the Venerable Wai-Ming. The Sixth Patriarch then asked him: "Without thinking of good or evil, what is the original face of the Venerable Wai-Ming?" Venerable Wai-Ming was suddenly awakened and prostrated himself at the feet of the Patriarch, declaring: "Only a person who drinks the water knows whether it is cool or warm. My following the Fifth Patriarch for thirty years was just labor expended in vain." The Sixth Patriarch responded: "Yes! Now you know that the intention of the Patriarch’s coming from the West was just to point to the Mind directly. Beholding the Buddha Nature within oneself is the Perfect Awakening, for it never depends on words."

Once the Venerable Ananda asked the Venerable Mahakasyapa: "Besides handing down the robe, what else does the World Honored One transmit?" Venerable Mahakasyapa shouted, "Ananda!" "Yes!" answered Venerable Ananda. "Turn the flag-pole in front of the door upside down," commanded Venerable Mahakasyapa. This is an excellent example of the upholding and maintaining of the Patriarch’s purpose. The foremost listener among the Buddha’s disciples was Venerable Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant for thirty years. However, his only reasons for listening to the Dharma had been to acquire vast erudition. Therefore, the Buddha scolded him thus: "Learning the Tao for one day is far superior to acquiring knowledge for a thousand." If Dharma students do not learn the Tao, even the digestion of one drop of water is difficult.

A bhiksu asked the master: "How does one practice without grade or degree?" The master replied: "Taking one’s meal every day, one never chews a grain of rice. Walking every day, one never steps upon the ground." Without the discrimination between self and others, one lives in the world, not deluded by anything at all. This is a genuinely free person whose thinking is beyond name and form. Transcending the three periods of thought, he understands that the previous period has not passed, the present period does not stay, and that the future period will not come. Sitting properly and peacefully, not bound by the world ? this alone is called liberation! Everybody should strive diligently. Out of thousands and thousands of Dharma students in the Dhyana School, only three or five attain the fruit. If we do not care about our practice, misfortune could easily arise in the future. All of us should practice diligently and finish the task of liberation in this life. Who can or wants to bear misfortune for endless kalpas?


The Dharma of Mind Transmission, the teaching of Ch’an Master Huang-Bei Tuan-Chi (2)

The Wan-Ling Record
Once, I asked the master that: "There are a few hundred monks dwelling on that mountain. How many of them have acquired your Dharma?" The master responded: "To know how many of them have acquired it is impossible because the Tao is expressed and comprehended only by Mind, not by words. All thoughts and words are used only as expedients to teach innocent children."

Question: "What is the Buddha?" The master responded: "The Mind is Buddha; no-mind is the Tao. Just be without mind and stop your thinking. Just be of that Mind where there is no existence or non-existence, no long and no short, no self and no others, neither negative nor positive, and neither within nor without. Just know, above all, that non-differentiating Mind is the Buddha, that Buddha is the Mind and that the Mind is voidness. Therefore, the real Dharmakaya is just voidness. It is not necessary to seek anything whatsoever, and all who do continue to seek for something only prolong their suffering in samsara. Even if they were to practice the Six Paramitas for as many numberless kalpas as there are sandgrains in the Ganges River, they would still not reach the Supreme Stage. And why not? Just because such practice depends on primary and secondary causes, and when these causes separate, the practitioner of this path will still have only reached a stage of impermanence. Therefore, even the Sambhogakaya and the Nirmanakaya are not the real Buddha. Also, the one who spreads Dharma is not the real Buddha. In reality, therefore, everybody should recognize that only one’s own Mind is the Original Buddha."

Question: "The holy ‘without-mind’ is Buddha, but might the worldly ‘without-mind’ sink into emptiness?" The master answered: "Hold neither a concept of holy nor of worldly; think neither of emptiness nor tranquillity in the Dharma. Since originally there is no non-existent Dharma, it is, therefore, not necessary to have a view of existence as such. Furthermore, concepts of existence and non-existence are all perverted views just like the illusion created by a film spread over diseased eyes. Analogously, the perceptions of seeing and hearing, just like the film that creates the illusion for diseased eyes, cause the errors and delusions of all sentient beings. Being without motive, desire or view, and without compromise, is the way of the Patriarch. In addition, being without motive is the principle that allows the flourishing of Buddha. In contrast, discriminating view, firmly grasped, encourages the thriving of the army of Mara."

Question: "If the Mind is already the original Buddha, should we still need to practice the Six Paramitas and all such methods?" The master said: "We are enlightened only by Mind, no matter whether we follow the Six Paramitas or other methods. All such methods and teaching are used only as expedients to help save all sentient beings. The goal is to realize Bodhi, liberation and Dharmakaya; even the four Phalas (Fruitions) and the ten stages of a Bodhisattvas progress are nothing but expedient teaching ? surely not ends in themselves ? to help sentient beings realize the Buddha Mind. Since, in reality, the Mind is Buddha, the first and only teaching necessary for saving sentient beings is ‘THE MIND IS BUDDHA’." If we were without concepts of birth and death as well as suffering and affliction, it would not then be necessary to have the Dharma of Bodhi. So all the Dharma ever spoken by Buddha was and is expediently designed to liberate the minds of all sentient beings. However, if all beings are without mind, it is not necessary to have any Dharma at all. The Buddha and the Patriarchs never talk about anything other than One Mind, which is also called the One Vehicle. Therefore, even if you seek in the ten directions, you will find no other vehicle that is the Truth except this realization of One Mind. So, in the Assembly that has this Right View, there are no leaves or branches ? only the One Vehicle.

However, it is extremely difficult for most beings to believe in or to grasp the profound meaning of this Dharma. Bodhidharma came to the two countries of Liang and Wei, just in order to spread the Venerable Wai-Kuo’s esoteric belief in the Dharma and the understanding that one’s own Mind is Buddha. ‘Without-body’ and ‘without-mind’ is the great Tao! Since all sentient beings have fundamentally the same nature, everybody should be able to believe deeply. Mind and self-nature are not different. One’s self-nature is Mind. One’s Mind is self-nature. It is frequently said that the recognition and realization of this identification of mind and self-nature is beyond comprehension."

Question: "Does the Buddha really save or rescue all sentient beings?" The master said: "There are really no sentient beings to be saved by Tathagata. Since there is, in reality, neither self nor non-self, how then can there be a Buddha to save or sentient beings to be saved?"

Question: "There are thirty-two Laksanas, that traditionally purport to save all sentient beings, so how can we say that there are no sentient being?" The master said: "Everything with form is unreal. If all form is seen as unreal, then the Taghagata will be perceived, Buddha, sentient beings and the infinite variety of forms ? all are generated by your false view, whereby you do not understand the Original Mind. If you retain a view even of Buddha as real, then even Buddha is an obstacle! If you grasp a view of sentient beings as real, then sentient beings are also obstacles. If you hold a view that labels phenomena as worldly, holy, pure, dirty, etc., this is also an obstacle to enlightenment. Because of these obstacles in your mind, you transmigrate along the six illusory paths, becoming fixed to the wheel of transmigration, just as a monkey picks up one object and lets go of another in never-ending, habitual, monotonous repetition.

The important thing is to learn the Truth; for without learning that there is really no holy, no pure, no dirty, no big, no small, etc., but only emptiness and non-action and that this alone is ONE MIND and that, always, any adornment is only an expedient to learn the truth, one only clings to illusion. Furthermore, even if you learn by heart the Three Vehicles and the twelve divisions of the Mahayana canon, you must abandon it all. Thus the Vimalakirti Sutra states that just as a person confined in bed by illness only lies in one bed, so there is only one Dharma that does not obstruct Dharma ? namely, the No-Dharma Dharma. This Dharma view alone can penetrate the three physical, mental and worldly realms, and it alone constitutes the supramundane Buddha.

Thus, just as one prostrates oneself, grasping at nothing, so this view is not at all heretical, for since the Mind is no different from the Dharma? the Mind being non-action and the Dharma being non-action? then everything is created by the mind. If the mind is empty, then all Dharma is emptiness, and all things are identical? including space in the ten directions? with the One Mind. Because you hold to a discriminating view, you, therefore, have different names, forms and things, just as all the Devas take a meal from a one-jewelled container, but the color and the taste of the food depend upon their stages of bliss and morality. Thus, there was really no Dharma by means of which all the Buddhas in the ten directions attained what is called ‘Supreme Enlightenment’. Without differentiation of form or luster, there is neither victory nor defeat; and if there is no victory or defeat, then sentient beings have no form."

Question: "If there never really has been form in the Mind, then how can we correctly say that it is possible to save all sentient beings by means of the thirty-two Laksanas and the eighty notable physical characteristics?" The master responded: "The thirty-two Laksanas are form. The Sutra has said that everything with form is unreal. The eighty notable physical characteristics are appearance. So the Diamond Sutra said: ŒHe who seeks me by outward appearance and seeks me in sound treads the heterodox path and cannot perceive the Tathagata’."

Question: "Are the natures of Buddha and of sentient beings the same or different?" the master replied: "Their natures have no such characteristics as ‘same’ and ‘different’. Suppose that a hypothetical three-vehicles teaching discriminated between Buddha Nature and sentient-beings nature. Thereupon would follow the view of cause and effect, and form this we could then say that their natures have such characteristics as ‘same’ and ‘different’. However, suppose the Buddha and the Patriarchs never talked in this manner, but only pointed to the One Mind. Then there could be no such ‘same’ and ‘different’, no cause and effect and, except as an expedient teaching, no two or three. In reality, therefore, there is only One Vehicle!"

Question: "Can the immeasurable body of a Bodhisattva be seen or not be seen?" The master answered: "There is really nothing to see. Why not? Just because the immeasurable body of a Bodhisattva is the Tathagata. So, again, there is nothing to see. Just do not hold any view of the Buddha and you will never go to the Buddha extreme; just do not hold a view about sentient beings and you will never go to the sentient-beings extreme; just do not hold any view about existence and you will never go to existence extreme; do not hold a view about non-existence extreme; do not hold any view about worldly characteristics and you will never go to the worldly-characteristics extreme; do not hold any view about holy characteristics and you will never go to the holy-characteristics extreme. Thus the state of merely being without any view whatsoever is already the Immeasurable Body. If you have something to see, you are a heretic. While heretics like to hold all different kinds of views, Bodhisattvas are not moved by any view whatsoever. ‘Tathagata’ means the suchness of all phenomena, the undifferentiated whole of all dharmas.

Therefore, the Maitreya and all the holy saints and sages are also suchness, having neither birth nor death and neither characteristics nor view. The real and true expression of Buddha is the Complete View. However, if you do not hold the view of the Complete View, you will never go to the Complete-View extreme. Remember that the body of Buddha is only non-form and non-action, ever crystallizing or materializing into phenomena, just as in the great space of the void nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess. Do not discern self versus others, if to discriminate in such a way would become illusory knowledge ? i.e., consciousness. So sink into the ocean of complete Perfection Consciousness, flowing, returning and drifting about alone. Merely learn how to be quietly enlightened and liberated. Regarding the view that desires victory and does not desire defeat ? I can only ask, ‘What use is such a view?’ I have just advised you that no matter what the usual way of acting or perceiving is, don’t let your mind run wild. If you just cease holding any view whatsoever, then it is not necessary to search for truth. In this sense, then, both Buddha and Deva Mara are evil. So Manjusri said: ‘If anyone gives rise to the transient, dualistic view of transcendence and calls it reality, he should be banished to the two iron-enclosing mountains at the very edge of the world.’ Manjusri represents the wisdom of reality, while Samantabhadra represents the knowledge of relative truth, for there is only One Mind. Even the Mind itself is neither the nature of Buddha nor of sentient beings. Even if you abruptly have a vision of the Buddha, it is also, simultaneously, a vision of sentient beings. The view that holds to the duality of existence and non-existence and of permanent and impermanent is like being limited by the two iron-enclosing mountains, because understanding and liberation are obstructed by any and all views. To point out that the Original Mind of all sentient beings is Buddha was the only purpose of the Patriarch who came from the West. Thus suddenly, rather than gradually, pointing to Original Mind, the Patriarch showed that it was neither light nor dark and that without light there is no dark and that without dark there is no light. Consequently, it followed that there is no ignorance and also no ending of ignorance. As one enters the door of Dhyana, he should have this awareness and understanding. This discernment of reality is the Dharma ? which is no other than the awareness of Buddha as no Buddha and the Sangha as the Sangha of non-action and the realization of the Precious Three as One Body. If you seek to understand Dharma better, don’t grasp the Sangha. You should realize that there is nothing to seek. Also, do not grasp the Buddha or the Dharma, for, again, there is nothing at all to seek. Don’t grasp the Buddha in your seeking, for there is no Buddha. Don’t grasp the Dharma in your seeking, for there is no Dharma. Don’t grasp the Sangha in your seeking, for there is no Sangha. Such is the true and correct Dharma!"

Question: "Master, you spread Dharma now, so how can you say that there is no Sangha and no Dharma?" The master answered: "If you think that I have Dharma to spread, that means you perceive the Tathagata by sound. If you really have seen the Tathagata, that means you also perceive a place. The true Dharma is no-Dharma! The true Dharma is Mind! So be aware that in the Dharma of Mind Transmission, Dharma has, indeed, never been Dharma. Without the view of ‘Dharma and mind’, we would understand immediately that all mind is Dharma. At this instant we would set up the Bodhimandala. Remember, there is really nothing to obtain, for the Bodhimandala is without any view whatsoever. To the enlightened ones, the Dharma is voidness and nothingness. Then where has it ever been defiled by any dust? Such is the Bhutatathata in its purity. If you comprehend this truth intuitively, you will have joy and freedom beyond comparison."

Question: "You say that originally there is nothingness. Doesn’t this view assume that nothingness’ is’?" The master replied: "Nothingness also is not ‘is’. Bodhi is nowhere and also has no such view."

Question: "What is Buddha?" The master answered: "Your Mind is Buddha. Buddha and Mind are not different. If the Mind were to depart, nothing else would be Buddha."

Question: "If one’s own Mind is Buddha, how can it be transmitted by the Patriarch who came from the West?" The master responded: "The patriarch who came from the West only transmitted the Buddha Mind and directly pointed out that your Original Mind is Buddha. Original Mind itself is no different from the so-called Patriarch. If you comprehend this meaning deeply, suddenly you transcend the Three Vehicles and all the stages of a Bodhisattva’s progress and realize that, since all is Buddha originally, it is not necessary to practice."

Questions: "If suddenly all Buddhas were to appear from all the ten directions of space, what Dharma would be preached by those Buddhas?" The master replied: "All Buddhas appearing from the ten directions of space would only spread the Dharma of One Mind. Therefore, the World Honored One handed down just this esoteric Dharma to Mahakasyapa. The Dharma of One Mind consists of utter voidness and the universal Dharmakaya, which alone is called ‘The Truth of All Buddhas.’ One cannot seek this Dharma in subjective and objective duality; neither can it be found by searching out books and concepts, nor can it be perceived in time or space. It can only be tacitly understood. This is the doorway to understanding the non-action Dharma. If you want to comprehend, just be without mind and you will suddenly be enlightened; for if you intend or plan to learn about or desire to get something, you will find yourself very far away from the truth. However, if you have no discrimination, do not grasp thought and abandon all views, then the mind, as firm and hard as a piece of wood or stone, will have a chance to realize the Tao."

Question: "Now, there really are many false thoughts, so how can you say there are none?" The master replied: "False thoughts have no self-nature, for they arise from your discriminating mind. If you recognize that the Mind is Buddha, then the Mind is not false nor does any thought arise that views the Mind as false. Thus, if you do not raise any thought or start any thinking, then naturally there is no false thought; however, when the mind stirs, all sorts of things are created; but when the mind is annihilated, all sorts of things vanish."

Question: "When false thought stirs, where is the Buddha?" The master replied: "When you perceive false thought stirring, that very perception is the Buddha. If there is no false thought, there is no Buddha. Why not? Just because if you have a view of Buddha, you will think that there really is a Buddha to be attained. If you have a view of sentient beings, you will think there really are sentient beings to be delivered. Such is the totality of your false thought. However, if you are without any thought or view at all, where then is the Buddha? So this is why Manjusri said, ‘To have any view of Buddha whatsoever is like being limited and obstructed by the two iron-enclosing mountains’."

Question: "At the moment of perception of and upon reaching Enlightenment, where is the Buddha?" The master said: "From where does the question come and from where does perception arise? Conversation and silence, movement and tranquillity, sound and form are all Buddha’s affair, so where else can you seek a Buddha? You should not seek to put a head on a head or add a mouth to a mouth. Just let go of any discriminating view, and a mountain is a mountain, water is water, Sangha is Sangha, laymen are laymen; and these mountains, rivers, the earth, the sun, the moon and all the planets are absolutely nothing outside of your own mind.

Even the three kinds of thousands of great chiliocosms are all your own self, nor are they anything at all outside your own mind. It follows then that the green mountains and blue water and the multitudinous eyes of the infinite would are just voidness that is very clear and bright. Moreover, if you have the ‘no-view’ of things, then all sounds and forms are the wisdom-eyes of Buddha. The Dharma that phenomena are real does not raise a solitary thing that depends on a created realm. Even so, for sentient beings the Buddha used many different kinds of wisdom. However, Buddha spoke all day and said nothing; and sentient beings listened from morning to night but heard nothing. In this sense it can be asserted that Buddha Sakyamuni spoke the Dharma for forty-nine years but never spoke a single word.""

Question: " If it is really thus, then where is Bodhi?" The master replied: "Bodhi is nowhere! Even Buddha has never attained Bodhi, while all sentient beings have never lost it. It is neither gotten by the body nor sought by the mind. All sentient beings are, indeed, the form of Bodhi."

Question: "How is it possible to develop the Supreme-Enlightenment Mind?" The master said: "Bodhi means nothing to attain. Even now, just as you allow a thought to arise, you get nothing. Thus, realizing that there is absolutely nothing to attain is the Bodhi Mind. The realization that there is nowhere to abide and nothing to attain is the Bodhi. Therefore, Sakyamuni Buddha said, ‘Since there was really no Dharma by means of which the Tathagata attained Supreme Enlightenment, so Dipamkara Buddha predicted about me in my last lifetime, "In your next lifetime, you will be a Buddha named Sakyamuni".’ It is very clear, then that originally all sentient beings are Bodhi, so there is no Bodhi to again attain. Thus, you have just now heard how to develop Bodhi Mind. Do you think there really have a Mind to develop? Do you think that you really is a Buddha to attain? If you practice with this view or in this way, even throughout the three Asankhyeya kalpas, you would only have attained the Sambhogakaya and the Nirmanakaya. What have these got to do with your Original Buddha Mind? Furthermore, to seek the form of Buddha Mind outside your own mind is illusion, for that ? whatever you find ? is not your Original Buddha Mind."

Question: "If originally all is Buddha, how can there be four forms of birth, six conditions of sentient existence and all kinds of different forms?" The master answered: "The universal body of all Buddhas, without increasing or decreasing, represents everywhere the perfect combination. All sentient beings are Buddha, just as when a large bead of mercury disperses into many places but every smaller bead remains round like the original and just as all parts are contained, in potential, within the original if it does not disperse. One is all and all is one! Take a house as a further example. We abandon the house of a donkey in order to enter the house of a person. In turn, we abandon the body of a person to obtain the body of a heavenly being. Until you enter the houses of Sravaka, Pratyeka-Buddha, Bodhisattva and Buddha, you continue to accept, reject and discriminate among various places and bodies, thus experiencing difference? in name and form ? and suffering. But where is there and differentiation at all in our Original Nature?"

Question: "How is it possible to spread Dharma and to perform the acts of great compassion of all the Buddhas?" The master answered: "That compassion of Buddha without immediate causal connection is the Great Compassion. Your not seeing a Buddha to be attained is Great Compassion. Your not seeing any sentient being to release from suffering is great pity. To spread Dharma, neither speak nor indicate; to listen to Dharma, hear nothing and desire to attain nothing. If as an illusionary person you spread Dharma to another illusionary person, or if you think that you understand the Dharma as correct even if you’ve heard it from a virtuous friend, or if you let the thought arise that you desire to attain great learning and compassion? these conditions definitely are not your Enlightened Mind. Finally, by grasping such views, you work without achieving anything at all in the end."

Question: "What is unadulterated progress?" The master said: "Your not allowing any view whatsoever of body and mind to arise is the very highest and strongest unadulterated progress. Allowing just one tiny thought to arise is to seek outside; then, like Kaliraja, you become interested in travelling here and there to hunt. However, the Mind that does not search outside itself is like Ksantyrsi. Being without any mind-and-body view whatsoever is the way of the Buddha."

Question: "If we practice Dharma without discrimination, how do we know that it is the correct Dharma?" The master said: "To be without discriminating mind is the correct Dharma. Now when you conceive of right or wrong or even allow a single thought to arise, the idea of place arises; on the other hand, without a single thought arising, ideas of place and mind both vanish. In reality, there is nothing to seek and nothing to search for."

Question: "How is it possible to leave the three realms?" The master answered: "To be without a view either of good or evil is to leave the three realms. The Tathagata appeared in the world to refute the three kinds of existence. Therefore, if you are without any mind at all, then there are, suddenly, no three realms. To illustrate: If a molecule is separated into a hundred parts and ninety-nine parts are destroyed, with only one part remaining, the existence of this one remaining part, like the tiniest discriminating thought, makes impossible the victory of the Great Vehicle. Not until this last little bit of discrimination also vanishes can the Mahayana Dharma be truly victorious."

The master said: "The Mind is Buddha. All Buddhas and all sentient beings have the same Buddha-Nature and one Mind. Therefore, Bodhidharma came from the West only to transmit the One-Mind Doctrine. However, since the mind of all sentient beings is the same as original Buddha-Nature, there is no need to practice; for if one recognizes one’s own Mind and sees one’s own Nature, there is nothing at all to seek outside oneself. But how is one to recognize one’s own Mind? Just that Mind itself that wants to perceive the Mind ? that is your own Mind, which is as void as Original Mind and is without words and function. However, we cannot say that up to now we have been talking about nothing but existence."

The master said: "The real nature of Mind is without a head and without a tail. This is called expedient wisdom and is used to convert and deliver sentient beings, depending upon their capacity. If there is no conversion of sentient beings, we cannot say whether there is existence or non-existence. Therefore, one should understand as follows: Just to settle in voidness ? that is the way of all Buddhas. The Sutra said: ‘One should develop a mind which does not abide in anything whatsoever.’ All sentient beings have birth and death in endless transmigration because their mind-sense is intractable, always taking the path of the six senses and existence, thus grasping the wheel of life and death ? a condition that causes them perpetual suffering.

The Vimalakirti Sutra says: "It is very difficult to convert people because their minds are as intractable as monkeys.’ They use many different methods to guard against conversion; and only gradually, after a long time, might they bring their minds under control. Therefore, when the mind stirs, all sorts of things are created; and when the mind is annihilated, all sorts of things are destroyed. In this manner, everything ? human beings, Devas, the six ways of sentient existence ? is created by the mind. If you wish to understand the truth or achieve the reality of no-mind, just stop all accessory conditions; i.e., suddenly and absolutely do not allow false thoughts and discriminatory ideas to arise. Without others, there is no self, no greed, no hate, no love, no abhorrence; neither is there victory or defeat. So just eliminate all delusions, and what remains is the Original Bright Nature ? Bodhi and Dharma. If you do not understand this, then even though you study extensively and practice diligently and even though you lead a simple life, but never come to recognize your own Mind, you will finally only bear the fruit of evil action, perhaps becoming a deva-mara, a heretic, or a god of water or land. So what benefit is there at all in such practice! Master Chi Kung said, ‘The Buddha-Nature is your own Mind, so how can you search for it or find it through words and concepts?’ Just recognize your own Mind and stop thinking; then the false thoughts and all the troubles of the world automatically disappear. The Vimalakirti Sutra says: ‘Just as a person confined in bed by illness who is resting to get well, do not allow any thought to arise. Just as a person lying in bed with an illness trying to cure himself, stop all activities that aggravate the illness. When false thoughts stop, Bodhi appears.’ Now, if your mind is in great confusion, even if you arrive at the stage of the Three Vehicles and practice all the stages of a Bodhisattva’s progress, you will still only remain hovering between the worldly and holy views. One should realize that everything is impermanent, that all power declines; just as an arrow shot up into the sky, expending the energy of the thrust, falls to earth, so human beings continuously revolve through the various states of transmigration, birth and death. If we do not understand the Dharma and practice, and instead only continue suffering and working in ignorance, achieving nothing, isn’t this a great error?"

The Master Chi Kung said: "If you do not study with a teacher of images of supramundane reality, then it would be useless to take the medicine of Mahayana Dharma. Rather, while walking, standing, sitting, lying, etc., just learn being ‘without-mind’ and being without discrimination or dependence on anything. Also, learn neither to stay not to grasp. Then you will be prosperous and happy, as you wish, always, even though you might appear to others to be merely a fool. Nobody in the whole world will recognize you, but then you will not need them to recognize you. Your mind will become like an unpolished stone with no crack ? nothing whatsoever can pierce your mind. To stand firmly without grasping corresponds somewhat to this state. Passing right through the region of the three sense realms, one is suddenly in supramundane Reality. Not to grasp even a tiny spark of the mind is passionless wisdom. Neither create the karma of human beings and devas nor create the karma of hell. Do not allow any thought whatsoever to arise, and you will be at the end of all conditioned mind. At this stage, then, the body and mind are free yet not non-reborn, but reborn according to one’s own wishes. So the Sutra said: ‘The Bodhisattva assumes a body at his own will.’ If you do not comprehend the mind or if you grasp any form, this only creates karma that belongs to Deva Nara. Even becoming involved in Buddhist rituals and practice ? such as Pure Land ? can all, if clung to , be obstructions to the realization of Buddha. Because of these obstructions in your mind and being bound to conditions of discipline brought about by cause and effect, there is no freedom to go from or to stay in any or all of the various realms at will.

Therefore, the Dharma of Bodhi was originally non-existent, but all the Tathagata’s teaching is used as skillful means for the transformation of all sentient beings. Just as the golden-yellow leaves, used expediently to stop the crying of a baby, are not real gold, so there is a Dharma called Supreme Enlightenment. Now, if you already understand this teaching, there is no need at all to practice diligently. Just eliminate your old karma and never create new misfortune. Thus your mind will ever be very bright and clear. So abandon all of your previous views. The Vimalakirti Sutra says: ‘Eliminate everything!’ The Lotus Sutra says: ‘Try to shovel out the dung from your mind that has been piling up for the last twenty years or so. Just eliminate the view of place and form from your mind, and automatically the dung of sophistry will be wiped out. Then and only then will you realize that the Tathagata Store is originally only voidness. So the Sutra says: ‘All Buddhalands are truly void.’ If you think that any Buddhas have attained Enlightenment by learning and practice, you will find no support for such a view.

If one holds to the subjective-objective view, he will feel proud when, after studying and practicing a little, he thinks he has tacitly understood and attained Enlightenment in the Ch’an method. So for this reason, if we see someone such as this who does not really understand anything at all, we scold him for his ignorance. If he gets some meaning from others, he is very happy and might feel superior to others, thus creating for himself even more unfortunate mental conditions. If one studies Ch’an with this focus, there is no possibility of profound understanding; for even if one is permitted to comprehend some small idea or theory, one merely obtains, as a result, some attribute of the mind but no insight into Ch’an or Tao. Therefore, the Bodhidharma sat facing the wall ? an example for people to totally reject all views. Thus, being without motive is the way of Buddha. Having any discrimination whatsoever is only achieving the stage of Deva Mara. For the ignorant person Buddha-Nature is never lost. For the enlightened person there is nothing to attain. In reality, Buddha Nature is originally neither confused nor enlightened. Remember that the endlessness of the ten directions of infinite space is originally one’s own Mind. Even though you have creative energy and physical and mental functions, still you are never separated from voidness. The void has in it neither the big nor the small. It is passionless, being neither active nor non-active. It is neither confused nor enlightened, and it is without any view whatsoever generated by phenomenal disturbances. It has neither sentient beings nor Buddhas. It depends on absolutely nothing, not even the tiniest mote or flash. It is fundamentally pure and bright and is identical with the patient endurance of the uncreate. The real Buddha has no mouth and no Dharma to state or spread. It is said that we hear the real Dharma without ears, but who hears? One should think well about this! There is really nothing to say about it!"

One day the master, preaching in the Dharma Hall to the assembly, said: "If you do not awaken soon rather than late, when the end of your life approaches there is no guarantee that you will not have some trouble." At that moment, some heretics in the hall were talking aloud about having achieved kung fu (a term for a certain level of attainment in meditation practice). One man was smiling sarcastically and said: "At the last moment I will still have my kung fu." The master responded thus: "I would like to know what you would say to yourself suddenly during your last breath to defend against being caught, once again, in the repetitive cycle of life and death. Try to think about it! In fact, you should have some plan or insight for these last moments, Tell me, where is there any inborn Maitreya and where do we have natural Sakyamuni? Some say that there is a heaven of gods and a hell of wild and hungry ghosts. If you saw a sick person, you might say to him, ‘Just lie down and rest.’ However, when you yourself get sick, you might not be able to focus, and you might be confused and afraid and unable to lie down, rest or even to take any medicine easily. Moreover, even if you could defend yourself with the very swords of hell and the boiling oil of the cooking pot, at that time you would have no assistance at all from any being with supernatural powers. So you should prepare a plan for yourself at the right time so you can use it in an emergency. Don’t waste your energy. You should not prepare your plan too late and find yourself in a regretful state and bereft. If your mind is, at the last moment, in an hysterical flurry, how can you escape the disorder and dissolution of your body. The prospect is dark, and, lacking insight, you would be at a loss to know how to handle this situation. Alas! Alas! Commonly one learns about Samadhi only to speak platitudes about Ch’an and Tao or to shout at the Buddha and scold the Patriarch. However, during one’s last breath, all is useless, all is in vain! If you have always cheated and lied you way through life, you will only cheat yourself on that final day. The hell of Avici already has imprisoned you, and you cannot escape at the last moment.

During this Dharma-ending age, when the Dharma has almost disappeared, there is a good opportunity and the perfect time for those monks who have taken a Great Vow to spread Dharma and to bear and transmit to future generations, for continued use, the wisdom-life of all Buddhas, not to let their Vow weaken or die. Now, we have quite a few wandering monks who desire to be responsible only for seeing and enjoying the brightness of the mountains and the beauty of the rivers. However, they do not know how much time they have left in this life, for if only one tiny outbreath does not return as an inbreath you are already on your way to the next life. Moreover, nobody knows what lies ahead or what he will have to face again in the next lifetime. Alas! So my advice to all of my brothers is to fulfill your promise during your period of good health and take advantage immediately of your good opportunity for Enlightenment. Do it now! Don’t wait! This is the Universal Enlightenment and the Great Release, which average people are quite confused about. This confusion and obstruction to understanding is not difficult to conquer. However, if you do not have any ambition and determination to practice, but only talk, again and again, about how difficult it all is, you will not succeed. Rather, you should remember the origin of the wooden ladle ? that it began its life in a tree. Recalling this, you should change your way of thinking and turn to the Right Way. If you are really courageous, go seek a Kung-an!"

One monk asked Master Chao-Chou: "Does a dog have Buddha-Nature?" Chao-Chou replied: "None!" At once the monk just concentrated his mind exclusively on the word ‘none’. For twenty-four hours of every day, while walking, staying, sitting and lying, he practiced. Day by day, even while eating and dressing, moving his bowels and urinating, his mind and mental energy were all focussed, at all times, towards profound and total concentration on the word ‘none’. Gradually he understood the ‘none'(wu) was, indeed, just so. If you are suddenly enlightened regarding the nature of Buddha, you can never be fooled about truth by anyone in the world, no matter how clever he is. In this sense, then, you could say that Bodhidharma came from the West to make a lot of trouble out of nothing. Also you might say that when the World Honored One held up the golden flower, his performance was a complete failure. Furthermore, you can even say that Yama, the King of Hell, and even all the holy saints and sages are no different from you yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you believe or not, for that which is real is beyond our comprehension. Why? Just because if there is really no problem or suffering in the world that is based on misconception and illusion, then you do not need to have any fear or desire anything whatsoever." The Gatha Abandon all trouble in the world —
This is the most extraordinary act.
As in an opera, grasp the rope
Only to swing on, progressing further.
If you don’t feel penetrating cold
To the bone at least once,
How can you ever come to smell
The warm fragrance of plum flowers?


Zen Master Seung Sahn

Kill Cow – Get Enlightenment
Question: My husband has an idea to open a seafood restaurant in China. He has a very good plan and it seems that we can make money from that business. But having a restaurant, especially a seafood restaurant, means that you kill many lives. So I asked him not to open this restaurant, but I don’t have enough grounds to convince him. How would you convince him, sir?
Zen Master Seung Sahn: There was a man in Buddha’s lifetime. His everyday job was killing cows. He could not change his job because of the way Indian society worked at that time: there were Brahmins, very high class families, next the king’s family, next usually farmers, then the lowest class families, who would kill cows or jobs of this sort. So this man killed cows every day. The cow would come, then "Boom!" The cow said "Muuuuu!", then died.
The man never changed this job, but he didn’t like it. He talked to his parents, but it was impossible to change it. One day Shariputra, a disciple of the Buddha’s, passed by the man’s working place. Shariputra had completely attained the sutra on emptiness. The man went over to him, bowed and said, "I am sorry, I have a question. Buddha and the precepts say ‘Don’t kill any life.’ My job is killing cows every day. I make a lot of bad karma. What shall I do?"
Shariputra said "Who kills the cow?"
"I kill the cow."
"Who are you?"
"Don’t know."
"Only keep this don’t know mind, and kill cows. Then you don’t make bad karma." Then Shariputra left.
The main continued to kill cows every day, but in the meantime he asked himself "Who is killing the cow?" This question became bigger, bigger, bigger. While killing cows, he did not feel guilty, only the big question: "Who is killing the cow?"
One day a cow appeared. He only kept his big question: "Who is killing the cow?" Then ‘Boom!’, he killed the cow. The cow said "Muuu!" The man heard this ‘Muuu!’ and ‘Boom!’ got enlightenment. "Our true self has no life, no death. I am one of the Buddhas."
Any kind of business is no problem. That’s very important. If its only for you, then you will have a problem. But, if you make a lot of money, and build a temple, then you help many other people Then your direction is clear. That’s bodhisattva action. Okay? Try that. Question: Thank you, sir.

Opposite Worlds, Absolute World, Complete World, Moment World
Excerpted from a lecture series entitled "Compass of Zen," delivered by Zen Master Seung Sahn at retreats in 1988.
Human beings have a lot of opposite thinking: like/dislike, good/bad, happiness/sadness, coming/going and so on. This opposite thinking creates opposite worlds within each one of us and our ignorance makes us hold on to these opposite worlds. These opposite worlds are ways in conflict with each other, so there is tension and suffering. This is the basic teaching of Hinayana Buddhism: all suffering comes from opposite thinking.
The Buddha taught how to go from opposite worlds to absolute world. Absolute world means the world before thinking. What is before thinking? Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." If I am not thinking, then what? Descartes did not explore this question but Buddhism has always talked about before-thinking. If I am not thinking, there is no I. If there is no I, there are no opposite worlds because opposites are created by "I." When "I" disappears, opposite worlds also disappear; this is called emptiness or nirvana.
So it is said that when mind disappears, dharma disappears; dharma disappears, name and form disappear, name and form disappear, coming and going, life and death, happiness and suffering, all these opposite categories also disappear. When there are no opposites, it is nirvana. Its name is Absolute, its name is Stillness, its name is Emptiness. So going from opposite worlds to absolute world is to move into the nirvana world. This is the teaching of Hinayana Buddhism.
Mahayana Buddhism begins at the point of emptiness, the absence of self-nature of things. If you attain "no self," it is possible to move to complete world. Complete world means if your mind is complete, everything in the universe is complete. The sun, the moon, the stars, everything else in the universe is complete, one by one. Complete means truth. When you cut off all thinking there is no "I"; when there is no "I" your mind is clear like space. Clear like space means clear like mirror; clear like mirror means a mind which just reflects: sky is blue, grass is green, water is flowing, sugar is sweet, salt is salty. The mirror-mind only reflects what’s in front of it. In the mirror-mind what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you taste, what you touch – everything is just like this. Just like this is truth. Just like this is complete world, so complete world is truth world.
If you attain truth and complete world, you can understand correct situation, correct function, correct relationship. Then helping others is possible; helping others means only to love others, to have compassion for others. We call love and compassion the Bodhisattva Way. So, the teaching of Mahayana Buddhism is how to follow the Bodhisattva Way, how to help others. If you want to follow this path, you must attain the truth world first; truth world means keeping moment to moment correct situation, correct function, correct relationship; truth world means great love, great compassion, great Bodhisattva Way. This is the teaching of Mahayana Buddhism.
Next is Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhism never talks about opposite worlds, never talks about absolute world, never talks about complete world. It only points straight to our mind, to our true self. "What is Buddha?" "Dry shit on a stick." This is a Zen answer. There is no talk here, no explanation. Only just a swift, direct pointing that cuts through all discriminations. In the history of Zen many people got enlightened as a result of this style of direct pointing and were able to help many people. So in Zen there is no speech, no words, only practicing. Talking about opposite worlds or absolute world or complete world is an intellectual style where more explanation, more analysis becomes necessary. Zen only points to the moment world, the world of this moment. This moment is very important; it has everything in it. In this moment there is infinite time, infinite space; in this moment there is truth, correct life and the Bodhisattva Way. This moment has everything, also this moment has nothing. If you attain this moment, you attain everything. This is the teaching of Zen Buddhism.

Q&A about God at Brown University
On Tuesday nights The Providence Zen Center holds a meditation session at the Dharma Room (Manning Chapel) at Brown University. The following is an account of one of the exchanges which has taken place there.
After one of the Dharma Teachers was finished with his introductory remarks, he asked those congregated to direct their questions to Zen Master Seung Sahn, Soen Sa Nim. One of the visitors asked if there was a God.
Soen Sa answered "If you think God, you have God, if you do not think God, you do not have God."
"I think that there is no God. Why do I have God if I think God?"
"Do you understand God?"
"No, I don’t know."
"Do you understand yourself?"
"I don’t know."
"You do not understand God. You do not understand yourself. How would you even know if there was a God or not?"
"Then, is there a God?"
"God is not God, no God is God."
"Why is God not God?"
Holding up the Zen stick, Soen Sa said "This is a stick, but it is not a stick. Originally, there is no stick. It is the same with God for originally there is no God. God is only name. The same is true of all things in the universe."
"Then is there no God?"
"The philosopher Descartes said, ‘I think therefore I am.’ If you do not think, you are not, and so the universe and you are one. This is your substance, the universe’s substance, and God’s substance. It has no name and no form. You are God, God is you. This is the ‘big I,’ this is the path, this is the truth. Do you now understand God?"
"Yes, I think that there is no God, and I have no God."
"If you say that you have no God, I will hit you thirty times. If you say that you do, I will still hit you thirty times."
"Why will you hit me? I don’t understand. Please explain."
"I do not give acupuncture to a dead cow. Today is Tuesday." replied Soen Sa.

Four Precepts Enlightenment
Once in Korea a man wanted to take the five precepts. But, he liked to drink. "I want to drink!", but then he thought, "If I only drink and take the precepts that means breaking the precepts." So, he got an idea. He invited a friend out to dinner and said, "I’ll drink for you!" As the evening proceeded the friend saw that he was drinking a lot, much more than him. "That’s not correct," said the friend. "Now you are breaking two precepts: the one against drinking and the one against lying!"
A long time ago my teacher, Zen Master Ko Bong, gave the five precepts to Chung Dong Go Sa Nim. Everything in the ceremony went smoothly until the part where the preceptor recites the precepts. Suddenly the man stood up and said "If I cannot drink, I die!" So, now there was a problem. Immediately Ko Bong Sunim said "Then you take only four precepts." He became the "four precepts layman" and got four precepts enlightenment. Anybody can take four precepts–no problem!

Losing It is Getting
This is an excerpt from a talk given by Zen Master Seung Sahn to the members of Hwa Gye Sah, our temple in Seoul, on the evening before Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. Traditionally Buddhists will stay up all night practicing meditation on this night in emulation of the Buddha before his great enlightenment.
[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits podium with stick.]
Attaining enlightenment is losing enlightenment. Losing enlightenment is attaining enlightenment.
In our world everything has name and form. Everything that has name and form follows the flow of time and space–changing, changing, always changing. Not one thing remains the same. Buddha taught us that our world is impermanent. If we completely attain impermanence then we can find the one unchanging thing, the one unmoving thing. Since everything is changing, mountain becomes water, water becomes mountain. Everything appears and disappears. We call that the law of appearing and disappearing. So, attaining enlightenment is losing enlightenment. Losing enlightenment is attaining enlightenment.
One hundred years ago all the people gathered here today were not alive. Over the last one hundred years you all were born and appeared as a Korean person or as a Western person. But a hundred years from now, will you still be alive? No! you will have to die. So we see that everything is changing, changing. Your body will soon be gone. Where is the master of this body? Where will the owner of this body go? In order to find the answer to that question you have come here to Hwa Gye Sah. You’ve become a member of Hwa Gye Sah. You chant and practice Zen here with other people.
[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits podium with stick.]
What is the meaning of this hit? This means no enlightenment to attain, no enlightenment to lose. A long time ago an eminent Patriarch said, "keep a mind which is clear like space." If we look ever more deeply into our true self and try to find it, then we see that it is completely empty–empty and clear like space. "Complete emptiness with nothing to attain" is our original mind — our original substance. That’s where we come from and that’s where we go. For that reason there is nothing to attain; nothing to lose. All opposites are cut off: good, bad, right, wrong, holy and unholy. If all opposites are cut off, we call that
complete emptiness. That is our original face, primary point.
In order to attain that point we’ve all gathered here to stay up all night practicing until Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. You see many Western people here with big noses. They have been staying up many nights during Kyol Che practicing very late into the night. There are also four Russian people here practicing. How come our Hwa Gye Sah members don’t come here and practice more? Even if you stay up this one night, is that enough? We have to do it. We have to attain where we came from and where we go. We gather here to enlighten ourselves.
If you practice hard then the true way appears in front of you very clearly. Then even though you lose your body, still your way is clear. So we must attain that. We must attain our true selves. All of us should stay up tonight and ask ourselves, "What am I?" After all, who is carrying around this body? If we always keep this great question we will attain one clear and pure thing. If we attain that, then we attain our true selves.
Raises Zen stick over head, then hits podium with stick.]
What is the meaning of this?
This means that enlightenment is just enlightenment. Getting enlightenment is just getting enlightenment. Losing enlightenment is just losing enlightenment. Not so long ago, the great patriarch Song Chol Sunim said, "Mountain is mountain, water is water." First we said that mountain is water, water is mountain. Next we went to the place where there is no mountain, no water. Now we say, "mountain is mountain, water is water." This is the place of attaining my true self. So, mountain is just mountain, water is just water. Our true self is like a clear mirror — a great round mirror. In this clear mirror everyhing is reflected. Mountain is just mountain reflected; water comes, just water is reflected. If we completely empty our mind it’s like a clear mirror. Then everything in our world is reflected in my mind: mountain is reflected, water is reflected, everything is just reflected. We call that "truth like this," the world of truth. We also say that is true form or just truth.
First, we talked about the world of impermanence. Attaining enlightenment is to lose enlightenment. Losing enlightenment is getting enlightenment. Mountain becomes water, water becomes mountain.
Next we went to the world of emptiness. Attainment is emptiness; also, no attainment is emptiness. Mountain is emptiness and water is emptiness. Complete and true emptiness.
Then, taking one more big step from the world of emptiness we come to the world of truth. Here everything is just as it is. Mountain is mountain; water is water. Attaining enlightenment is just attaining enlightenment; losing enlightenment is just losing enlightenment. We call that truth.
Now three different worlds have appeared. Of these three worlds, which one is the correct? Once again: Mountain is water, water is mountain. That’s the world of impermanence. Next, no mountain, no water. That’s the world of emptiness. And lastly mountain is mountain, water is water — truth or moment world. If we have time and space, then all things exist. If we transcend time and space, then we come to the world of emptiness. Taking one more step, we come to the world of truth. In the world of truth everything we see, hear, smell, taste and touch is always teaching us. Every moment is truth. The sky is blue, the dog is barking: woof woof, sugar is sweet. This is the world of truth.
So, which of these worlds is the correct? Which is the world that we attain? Which is the world of enlightenment? If somebody says that they found which is correct then this heavy Zen stick will hit you thirty times. Yes, there is a correct world. But, if you say that you found it, this stick will hit you thirty times. If you say you cannot find it, then this stick will also hit you thirty times. Why is that? Whether you find it or not, you get hit thirty times. Why?
Outside the snow is shining white. Inside the electric lights make it possible for us to see each other very clearly. With this my dharma speech is finished.
Here we see that one more world has appeared. We call this the world of function. Outside the snow is white, inside the electric lights shine clearly. So, we talked about impermanence world, the changing world. Then we talked about complete emptiness, the world of emptiness. Last we talked about truth world — everything is truth. Then, going from truth world through KATZ! — primary point — we arrived at moment world, function. We call that the Great Bodhisattva Way. So, first attain the truth, then attain the bodhisattva way. World after world, lifetime after lifetime, I vow to follow the bodhisattva way, until all beings become Buddha. I vow to follow the Great Bodhisattva Way until all beings are saved from suffering. That’s Ji Jang Bosal’s great vow, the Great Bodhisattva Vow.
Carrying this great vow, we live our lives. That’s our purpose in our life. And not only this life, but lifetime after lifetime, until all beings are saved. That’s how we should live. Then my purpose in life is very clear. I eat breakfast early in the morning and lunch later in the day — for what? Why do I live in this world? Consider this right now. In Dongdaemun market and Namdaemun market many people come and go every day…very busy, very greedy. Aside from the time they spend making money, they have no time. Why do you live in this world? All of you who have gathered here today on the eve of Buddha’s Enlightenment Day; you are just like Buddha: you also want to attain to your true self. You gathered here to practice just as the Buddha did under the Bodhi tree. You are here to find out what you are.
So, really ask, "Who am I?" This is my head, this is my hand, this is my body. But is this me? What is the true me? What is the one thing that brought this body to Hwa Gye Sah and is now sitting in this dharma room? What is that one thing? You have to find that thing, the one thing that brought this body here. If you are just attached to some kind of material thing, if you are just emotionally moved by some kind of material thing, than how are you different from a cow or a pig? How are we different from any animal? "This is a person," we say to ourselves. "This is not an animal." But we have to understand our human being’s function before we can call ourselves a human being. We have to understand our human being’s correct way before we can say that we are not just an animal. The Buddha saw the morning star and got enlightenment. When he saw the morning star, he attained his true human nature — the way of a human being. If you attain to your human nature, then you can be called a human being.
Buddhism is not really religion. Our Buddhism means attain something, attain enlightenment. Look at this world… look at our country, Korea. Look at all things in this world changing. Recently several people wanted to become President of Korea. They spent a lot of money and time but they could not become President. If we look closely we see many people in this world who are ruled by the five desires of food, sex, money, sleep and fame. Many people live just for those things. If we throw those desires away, then we can find the correct way.
We should ask: "How can I attain to the true way? How can I save all beings?" That is the important question! We need a great vow. We need a great vow and strong will to save all beings. Even though I die, if I make this great vow, this vow will bring me back again as a human being. I will again seek the bodhisattva way; again come to Hwa Gye Sah; again attain to my true self; again save all beings. We have to make a great vow to save all beings. If we don’t make this great vow then, after we die, how will we be reborn? What will happen to us? Don’t stay in the five desires. Leave the five desires and live in the world of the great bodhisattva vow.

Before the ancient Buddha was born,
There was this one thing — lucid, round and clear.
Na Mu Ah Mi Ta Bul
Originally nothing, but today
White snow covers the world.
Na Mu Ah Mi Ta Bul

Tomorrow is Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. Just like Buddha, we have gathered here to attain something. Someone tries Kwan Seum Bosal, Kwan Seum Bosal, Kwan Seum Bosal: Who is trying Kwan Seum Bosal, who is that? Who is chanting? What is that thing that chants? What is that thing that tries Kwan Seum Bosal? We call that "don’t know"; we call that "cut off all thinking"– before thinking. We come here and try to keep a before thinking mind.
For six years the Buddha kept "What am I?" and kept "don’t know." But in front of the Buddha many beautiful women were dancing; demons appeared, many things appeared. He understood that all these things came from his mind. They appear and disappear over and over again. If I have no mind, then nothing appears. So, I ask all you Hwa Gye Sah members, do you have mind or not? If you say you have mind, this stick will hit you. If you say you don’t have mind, this stick will also hit you. Will you say you have mind, or will you say you have no mind? You must understand how to answer! If you want to understand how to answer, you have to earnestly and sincerely practice Zen.
A long time ago Shakyamuni Buddha sat under the bodhi tree for six years. Then one morning he saw a star and got enlightenment. In our world many kinds of religion have appeared: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Today many people believe in these religions. In the Buddha’s time, also, there were many kinds of religion. But the Buddha left all these beliefs behind and went to the mountain. He only asked himself, " What am I?" Then he attained enlightenment. So Buddhism is a religion of enlightenment, not of belief. Of course, we say somebody becomes Buddha or somebody attained dharma. All these things are nescessary, but they are only teaching words. Originally Buddhism means attain my true self, attain "Buddha is mind, mind is Buddha." You must attain to that! OK?
The Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng, unlike the Buddha, had a very simple situation. Every morning he helped his mother; went to the mountains, got firewood, sold the firewood, got money and bought food. He did not get married; he only went to the mountain every day and supported his mother–a very simple mind. But look at our minds; they are very complicated. We have many things to do: save money, make investments, etc. But the Sixth Patriarch’s mind was very simple…too simple.
One day on his way home after selling the firewood, he encountered a monk who was reciting the Diamond Sutra. Just as he passed by he heard the monk recite the line, "don’t be attached to anything that arises in your mind." BOOM! he got enlightenment, attained his true self and "what am I." He had never learned Chinese characters or studied Buddhist texts. All he did was to go to the mountains and get firewood to help his mother. But he attained enlightenment upon hearing one line from the Diamond Sutra.
Then he asked the monk: "What book is that? What text are you reading?"
"This is the Diamond Sutra. If you go to the North, you will find the Fifth Patriarch, Hung Jen. He has thousands of disciples and teaches the Diamond Sutra."
He went back and told his mother about what had happened. After arranging for his mother’s care, he traveled north until he found the Fifth Patriarch’s temple. He said, "I’ve come here to practice with you. I want to learn the dharma from you."
The Fifth Patriarch asked, "Where did you come from?"
He said "I’ve come from the South."
"From the South? Ah, barbarians from the South have no Buddha nature!"
Then Hui Neng said, "Human Beings have North and South, but in Buddha nature is there North and South?"
What a beautiful way to answer. That is the speech of an enlightened person — remarkable. How could this kind of speech appear from somebody who just worked in the mountains cutting wood and helping his mother? It can only appear if you attain something, if you have enlightened yourself. At this point the Fifth Patriarch already understood his mind and said, "You go into the rice pounding room and work." Later, as everybody here knows, the Fifth Patriarch secretly gave him transmission.
So, how do you attain an enlightened mind? It took the Buddha six years, but the Sixth Patriarch heard just one word and attained enlightenment. Some people just hear one word–BOOM!–get enlightenment. People can attain enlightenment in just one instant; it doesn’t always take six years. Every day we chant, everyday we sit in the dharma hall. How come we are not enlightened people? How come we have not gotten great enlightenment? Our minds are complicated, that’s why. The Sixth Patriarch’s mind was very simple, so he easily got enlightenment. A complicated mind takes a long time. However, we look, we see, and even though it takes time, we can get enlightenment.
Among the Buddha’s disciples, Ananda was one of the foremost. Known for his phenomenal memory, he remembered everything that the Buddha taught — just like a tape recorder. If you said to him, "At this time, at this place, what was the dharma speech?" he could tell you precisely. In the Buddha’s time there were no sutras. It was not until after the Buddha died that the sutras were made. Many people wanted to hear about what the Buddha had taught, so they asked Ananda. One problem was that Ananda had not yet attained enlightenment himself. At one time five hundred great arhats gathered to compile the sutras. All of these great monks had gathered, but Ananda could not join them because Ananda had not yet attained enlightenment. He approached his senior brother Mahakasypa and asked him, "Older brother, besides the golden kasa and bowls, what else did the Buddha transmit to you? What else did you get from the Buddha?"
Mahakasypa said, " Ananda."
Ananda replied, "Yes."
"Knock down the flag pole in front of the gate."
So what does that mean? He asked Mahakasyapa what he got from the Buddha, and Mahakasyapa said "knock down the flag pole in front of the gate." Ananda went away and for seven days only practiced. He didn’t eat. He didn’t lie down. He stood constantly and meditated on this question. That’s the origin of the seven day Yong Maeng Jong Jin practice that our western monks are now doing. Tomorrow, when we see the morning star, it’s all finished. On the seventh day it is said that Ananda got enlightenment. Then the five hundred arhats welcomed Ananda into their assembly. Mahakasyapa said, "Without opening the door, come in."
What does that mean, "Without opening the door, how can you come in?" The meaning is that all five hundred arhats were finally willing to accept Ananda into the assembly. Then all the sutras were composed. Every sutra says, "Thus have I heard…" Those are Ananda’s words. "Thus have I heard" means "I heard from the Buddha such and such teaching at such and such time." If you look at our sutras today, they all have this mark on them.
The First Patriarch was Mahakasypa. The Second Patriarch was Ananda. But Mahakasypa became a monk much later than Ananda. Ananda left home and became a monk twenty years before Mahakasypa. Even though Ananda became a monk before Mahakasypa, because of the dharma he later became Mahakasypa’s disciple, and became the Second Patriarch. So that is the history of the second dharma transmission.
For seven days we have been practicing very hard. Tomorrow morning, look at the morning star, then we will attain something, OK? I hope you all get enlightenment. This is how the Buddha’s dharma was transmitted through Mahakasypa to Ananda.
Next, let’s consider the great Korean Zen Master, Sosan Dae Sa. He was originally from Pyong-Ando Province in what is now North Korea. As a child he demonstrated great intelligence, so at an early age his stepfather took him to Seoul, where he could learn Confucian texts. After several years of study he stood for the civil service examination. He was required to write an essay for the test. He also wrote the essays for his friends. When the test results came back he was very surprised: all his friends passed; only he did not pass! Again he tried; he wrote very well and finished all the essays. But, again he did not pass. A third time he took the test–again he failed. Why was that? Then he finally understood: It was because of his background. He came from Pyong-Ando–the northern part of Korea. All his friends were from other parts of Korea: Chungchong Do, Kang-Won Do, etc.
After several tries, his stepfather suggested that he should go somewhere where he could rest and just read books. The young man wanted to go to Hein Sah and his stepfather agreed. Upon arriving at Hein Sah temple he found many, many books that he could read. Of course, you all know that the 84,000 sutras are housed there. He found that reading about Buddhism was more interesting than Confucianism or Taoism. The Buddhist Sutras talked about how to solve real human problems. Suddenly he realized how lucky he was that he didn’t get a position in the government. If he had, he would never have known the wonderful teaching of the Buddha.
One day Sosan was sent into town to buy brushes and ink. Upon returning to the temple he had to respond to a call from nature. The temple had an old-style outhouse which was built very high off the ground. It was said that the outhouse was so high that if shit dropped when a traveler left Taejon, it wouldn’t land until the traveler reached Seoul! That’s how high this toilet was! So, as Sosan Taesa was squatting over the hole he happened to look down below–way below!–and saw many small animals. As soon as his fresh shit hit the bottom, worms, rats, many kinds of animals would rush and dive into it, eating ravenously. After contemplating this scene for a while it struck him that the people in the market place were no different. They are always looking for something, always seeking something, always going for something new, always trying to make a profit off something. Ahh… his mind opened. He understood something. Up to now, he thought, I have been just like one of those worms, diving into new shit; always looking for another pile of shit. Now it’s time for me to really practice. Only reading sutras is not enough–that can’t help me. I have to do some serious practice. What am I? Who am I?
With that, he decided to become a monk. He shaved his head, put on gray robes, and went to Myo Hyang San Mountain. There he practiced very hard. First he did a hundred-day retreat, then he did another. On the first hundred-day retreat his mind didn’t really open. On the second hundred-day retreat, everything appeared clearly in front of him. At that time his mind opened widely and he saw that the world is always turning, turning, turning. Everything is always changing. But within all that change there is one thing that is not changing. In order to find that one unchanging thing, we have to attain our true nature.
What did Sosan attain? One morning he awoke very early to do a kido. From far away he heard a chicken crowing and attained his true self. Listening to the sound of a chicken crowing he said, "I’ve finished the great work of life and death. All of you who haven’t attained enlightenment, tomorrow morning, try listening to the sound of a rooster crowing. Listen to that and finish a great man’s work." He became very famous in the history of Korea. He and Samyan Taesa helped save the country from the Japanese invasion of 1592. That is the story of Sosan.
Zen Master Pao-Chi practiced very hard but still everything was unclear in front of him. One day at a funeral he heard the bell of the funeral crier. As the monk rang the bell he chanted. As soon as Pao-Chi heard this chant–BOOM!–his mind opened, he got enlightenment. The line that opened his mind was: "In front of the door lies the land of stillness." Hearing that line, he got enlightenment.
Many stories of masters attaining enlightenment involve hearing one thing. Zen Master Bao Zho was asked by his teacher, "What is your original face before you were born?" He stayed up many nights, desperately trying to answer this question, but to no avail. On his way to the market one day he saw two people fighting. Eventually one man apologized to the other, saying, "I have truly lost my face." At this Bao Zho achieved awakening. He attained "losing his face." Then he truly understood his original face. If you keep this great question, then any time, any place, you can get enlightenment. The Sixth Patriarch got enlightenment hearing the Diamond Sutra. Bao Zho got enlightenment hearing two people fighting. Also, you can hear a bird or the bellow of a cow–any kind of sound–and get enlightenment.
Tomorrow is Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. That is the day the Buddha saw a star and got enlightenment. If you really want to attain enlightenment, then the big question must become very strong. It must be earnest and sincere. If you have this big question: "Who is chanting Kwan Seum Bosal? Who is sitting Zen?" then it’s possible to get enlightenment.
These days I am always teaching that human beings are not human beings. Human beings have to act correctly, then they become human beings. Moment to moment, what do you do? What is your correct direction? Moment to moment, what is your correct life? How do you find your correct way? How do you save all beings from suffering? We come into this world empty-handed. What do we do in this world? Why did we come into this world? Our body is an empty thing. What is the one thing that carries this body around? Where did it come from? You must understand that…you must find that. If you want to find that, you have to ask yourself, "What am I?" Always keep this big question. Thinking has to disappear. You have to take away all your thinking; cut off all your thinking. Then your true self appears; then your true mind appears. Everybody assembled here tonight, ask yourself sincerely, "What am I?", and keep this great don’t know. Maybe you try Kwan Seum Bosal, or maybe you try Om Mani Padme Hum, but only if you do it with complete sincerity will this great question–this don’t know mind–explode. Then you will attain enlightenment!
In this world how many people really want to practice? Many people don’t practice at all. All day and night they fight and only exercise their desire, their anger and their ignorance. When you lose this body, you will have nothing to take with you. When this body disappears, what will you take with you? What will you do? If this don’t know is clear, then also the place you go is clear. Then you understand your job, you understand why you were born into this world. Then you understand what to do in this world. When you do that, then you can become a human being. Tonight I will give you homework–a kong-an to work on. A long time ago a monk asked Zen Master Un Mun, "What is Buddha? Un Mun said, "Dry shit on stick." What is that? What in the world does that mean? Dry shit on stick. If you keep practicing…ahh! Buddha is dry shit on stick! Everything in this world is Buddha. All things–not just dry shit on stick, but everything in the world. All are Buddha.
So I ask you, how long is this dry shit stick? You must attain that, then we can say that you are really a Zen disciple. How long is dry shit on stick?–you must find that. It is very important to find that. Then you can understand your original face. You can understand what brought you to Hwa Gye Sah. You can find Buddha’s original face. You can have the energy to save all beings and you can keep the great bodhisattva vow. Lifetime after lifetime the great bodhisattva way opens for you. All our Hwa Gye Sah members, ask yourself, "What am I?" Keep a great "don’t know" mind. Tonight we will stay up all night, attain our true selves, attain universal truth, and save all beings from suffering.
Zen Master Seung Sahn chants while hitting with the Zen stick three times.
Vowing to join with all sentient beings throughout the universe,
Together we enter Amita’s Ocean of Great Vows.
Na Mu Ah Mi Ta Bul
In order to save all beings in numberless worlds,
Together, you and I, at the same time, attain Buddhahood.
Na Mu Ah Mi Ta Bul

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August 2006
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