Archive for September, 2006


Harmony of Difference and Sameness

By Ch’an Master Shih-t’ou Hsi-ch’ien , 石頭希遷, Sekitõ Kisen

Harmony of Difference and Sameness 
竺土大仙心    The mind of the great sage of India
東西密相付    is intimately transmitted from west to east.
人根有利鈍    While human faculties are sharp or dull,
道無南北祖    the Way has no northern or southern ancestors.
靈源明皎潔    The spiritual source shines clear in the light;
枝派暗流注    the branching streams flow on in the dark.
執事元是迷    Grasping at things is surely delusion;
契理亦非悟    according with sameness is still not enlightenment.
門門一切境    All the objects of the senses
迴互不迴互    interact and yet do not.
迴而更相    Interacting brings involvement.
不爾依位住    Otherwise, each keeps its place.
色本殊質像    Sights vary in quality and form,
聲元異樂苦    sounds differ as pleasing or harsh.
闇合上中言    Refined and common speech come together in the dark,
明明清濁句    clear and murky phrases are distinguished in the light.
四大性自復    The four elements return to their natures
如子得其母    just as a child turns to its mother;
火熱風動搖    Fire heats, wind moves,
水濕地堅固    water wets, earth is solid.
眼色耳音聲    Eye and sights, ear and sounds,
鼻香舌鹹醋    nose and smells, tongue and tastes;
然於一一法    Thus with each and every thing,
依根葉分布    depending on these roots, the leaves spread forth.
本未須歸宗    Trunk and branches share the essence;
尊卑用其語    revered and common, each has its speech.
當明中有暗    In the light there is darkness,
勿以暗相遇    but don’t take it as darkness;
當暗中有明    In the dark there is light,
勿以明相睹    but don’t see it as light.
明暗各相對    Light and dark oppose one another
比如前後歩    like the front and back foot in walking.
萬物自有功    Each of the myriad things has its merit,
當言用及處    expressed according to function and place.
事存函蓋合    Phenomena exist; box and lid fit;
理應箭鋒    principle responds; arrow points meet.
承言須會宗    Hearing the words, understand the meaning;
勿自立規矩    don’t set up standards of your own.
觸目不會道    If you don’t understand the Way right before you,
運足焉知路    how will you know the path as you walk?
進歩非近遠    Progress is not a matter of far or near,
迷隔山河故    but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way.
謹白參玄人    I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,
光陰莫虚度    do not pass your days and nights in vain.

Inquiry into Matching Halves

Translated by Master Sheng-yen


The mind of the great Indian immortal

Was esoterically transmitted from West to East.

The capacity of people may be dull or sharp,

But there are no Northern and Southern Patriarchs in the

The spiritual source is bright and pure,

Branching out and secretly flowing forth.

Attachment to phenomenon has always been confusion,

Yet union with principle is not enlightenment.

Every (Dharma) door includes all realms,

Some mutually interact, others do not.

Reaction increases mutual involvement;

There should be no reliance on abiding in one place.

From original form comes shapes and images;

From primal sound comes pleasures and pains.

In obscurity, words of the high and middle (paths) are in

In lucidity, expressions of purity and muddiness are

The four great elements return to their own nature

As a child finds its mother.

Fire burns, wind moves and shakes.

Water moistens, earth solidifies.

Eyes – forms, ears – sounds,

Nose – odors, tongue – salt and sour.

In accordance with each dharma,

The root gives rise to separate leaves.

Roots and branches must return to basic principle;

"Honorable" and "lowly" are merely

In the midst of brightness there is darkness;

Do not take darkness as darkness.

In the midst of darkness there is brightness;

Do not take brightness as brightness.

Brightness and darkness correspond,

Line one step following another,

All things have their own function

Depending on their use and location.

Phenomena stores, seals, covers, combines..

Principle yields to the arrow, the sword’s edge, the stick.

Received teachings must be reconciled with basic principle;

Do not establish your own rules.

Using your eyes, the path is lost.

Using your feet, how can you know the road?

Moving forward there is no near or far;

Confusion creates mountains and rivers of obstructions.

I implore those who investigate the mysterious:

Do not waste your time!

Hsing-ssu one day asked: "Some say that an intelligence comes from the south of the Ling."
T’ou: "There is no such intelligence from anybody."
Ssu: "If not, whence are all those sutras of the Tripitaka?"
T’ou: "They all come out of here, and there is nothing wanting."
Shih-t’ou, "Stone-head", gains his name because of his having a hut over the flat surface of a rock in his monastery grounds in Heng-chou. He once gave the following sermon: "My teaching which has come down from the ancient Buddhas is not dependent on meditation (dhyana) or on diligent application of any kind. When you attain the insight as attained by the Buddha, you realize that Mind is Buddha and Buddha is Mind, that Mind, Buddha, sentient beings, Bodhi (enlightenment), and Klesa (passions) are of one and the same substance while they vary in names. You should know that your own mind-essence is neither subject to annihilation nor eternally subsisting, is neither pure nor defiled, that it remains perfectly undisturbed and self-sufficient and the same with the wise and the ignorant, that it is not limited in its working, and that it is not included in the category of mind (citta), consciousness (manas), or thought (vijnana). The three worlds of desire, form, and no-form, and the six paths of existence are no more than manifestations of your mind itself. They are all like the moon reflected in water or images in the mirror. How can we speak of them as being born or as passing away? When you come to this understanding, you will be furnished with all the things you are in need of."
Tao-wu, one of Shih-t’ou’s disciples, then asked: "Who has attained to the understanding of Hui-neng’s teaching?"
T’ou: "The one who understands Buddhism."
Wu: "Have you then attained it?"
T’ou: "No, I do not understand Buddhism."
A monk asked: "How does one get emancipated?"
The master said: "Who has ever put you in bondage?"
Monk: "What is the Pure Land?"
Master: "Who has ever defiled you?"
Monk: "What is Nirvana?"
Master: "Who has ever subjected you to birth-and-death?"
Shih-t’ou asked a monk newly arrived: "Where do you come from?"
"From Chiang-hsi."
"Did you see Ma the great teacher?"
"Yes, master."
Shih-t’ou then pointed at a bundle of kindlings and said: "How does Ma the teacher resemble this?"
The monk made no answer. Returning to Ma the teacher, he reported the interview with Shih-t’ou. Ma asked: "Did you notice how large the bundle was?"
"An immensely large one it was."
"You are a very strong man indeed."
"How?" asked the monk.
"Because you have carried that huge bundle from Nan-yueh even up to this monastery. Only a strong man can accomplish such a feat."
A monk asked: "What is the meaning of the First Patriarch’s coming from the West?"
Master: "Ask the post over there."
Monk: "I do not understand you."
Master: "I do not either, any more than you."
Ta-tien asked: "According to an ancient sage it is a dualism to take the Tao either as existing or as not-existing. Please tell me how to remove this obstruction."
"Not a thing here, and what do you wish to remove?"
Shih-t’ou turned about and demanded: "Do away with your throat and lips, and let me see what you can say."
Said Ta-tien, "No such things have I."
"If so, you may enter the gate."
Tao-wu asked: "What is the ultimate teaching of Buddhism?"
"You won’t understand it until you have it."
"Is there anything over and above it whereby one may have a new turn?"
"Boundlessly expands the sky and nothing obstructs the white clouds from freely flying about."
"What is Zen?" asked a monk.
"Brick and stone."
"What is the Tao?"
"A block of wood."

The Zen Teachings of Mazu

(Mazu Daoyi, 馬祖道一, 709-788 CE)
The Normal Mind:
The Way does not require cultivation – just don’t pollute it. What is pollution? As long as you have a fluctuating mind fabricating artificialities and contrivances, all of this is pollution. If you want to understand the Way directly, the normal mind is the Way. What I mean by the normal mind is the mind without artificiality, without subjective judgments, without grasping or rejection.
The Root:
The founders of Zen said that one’s own essence is inherently complete. Just don’t linger over good or bad things – that is called practice of the Way. To grasp the good and reject the bad, to contemplate emptiness and enter concentration, is all in the province of contrivance – and if you go on seeking externals, you get further and further estranged. Just end the mental objectivization of the world. A single thought of the wandering mind is the root of birth and death in the world. Just don’t have a single thought and you’ll get rid of the root of birth and death.
The Oceanic Reflection:
Human delusions of time immemorial, deceit, pride, deviousness, and conceit, have conglomerated into one body.That is why scripture says that this body is just made of elements, and its appearance and disappearance is just that of the elements, which have no identity. When successive thoughts do not await one another, and each thought dies peacefully away, this is called absorption in the oceanic reflection.
Delusion and Enlightenment:
Delusion means you are not aware of your own fundamental mind; enlightenment means you realize your own fundamental essence. Once enlightened, you do not become deluded anymore. If you understand mind and objects, then false conceptions do not arise; when false conceptions do not arise, this is the acceptance of the beginninglessness of things. You have always had it, and you have it now – there is no need to cultivate the Way and sit in meditation.
The Tao:
Right this moment, as you walk, stand, sit, and recline, responding to all situations and dealing with people – all is the Tao. The Tao is the realm of reality. No matter how numerous are the uncountable, inconceivable functions, they are not beyond this ealm. If they were, how could we speak of the teaching of the Mind-ground, and how could we tell of the inexhaustible lantern?
The Mind:
All phenomena are mental; all labels are labeled by the mind. All phenomena arise out of mind; mind is the root of all phenomena. A sutra says, ‘When you know mind and arrive at its root source, in that sense you may be called a devotee.
The Dharmakaya:
The Dharmakaya is infinite; its substance nethier waxes nor wanes. It can be vast or minute, angled or smooth; it manifests images in accordance with things and beings, like the moon reflected in a pool. Its function gushes forth yet does not take root; it never exhausts deliberate action nor does it dwell in inaction. Deliberate action is a function of authenticity; authenticity is the basis of deliberate action. Because of no longer having fixation on this basis, one is spoken of as autonomous, like empty space.
The true Suchness of mind is like a mirror reflecting forms: the mind is like the mirror, and phenomena are like the (reflected) forms. If the mind grasps at phenomena, then it involves itself in external conditions & causes; this is what ‘the birth and death of mind’ means. If it no longer grasps at such phenomena, this is what ‘the true Suchness of mind’ means.
All dharmas are Buddhist teachings; all dharmas are liberation. Liberation is true Suchnes, and not one thing is separate from this true Suchness. Walking, standing, sitting, and reclining are all inconceivable actions.

The following mondo are all taken the book "Sayings of the Ancient Worthies", fas. I (Ku tsun-hsiu yu-lu).], translated by D.T. Suzuki:
Someone asked Ma-tsu: "How does a man discipline himself in the Tao?"
The master replied: "In the Tao there is nothing to discipline oneself in. If there is any discipline in it, the completion of such discipline means the destruction of the Tao. One then will be like the Sravaka. But if there is no discipline whatever in the Tao, one remains an ignoramus."
"By what kind of understanding does a man attain the Tao?"
On this, the master gave the following sermon:
"The Tao in its nature is from the first perfect and self-sufficient. When a man finds himself unhalting in his management of the affairs of life good or bad, he is known as one who is disciplined in the Tao. To shun evils and to become attached to things good, to meditate on Emptiness and to enter into a state of samadhi–this is doing something. If those who run after an outward object, they are the farthest away [from the Tao].
Only let a man exhaust all his thinking and imagining he can possibly have in the triple world. When even an iota of imagination is left with him, this is his triple world and the source of birth and death in it. When there is not a trace of imagination, he has removed all the source of birth and death, he then holds the unparalleled treasure belonging to the Dharmaraja. All the imagination harboured since the beginningless past by an ignorant being, together with his falsehood, flattery, self-conceit, arrogance, and other evil passions, are united in the body of One Essence, and all melt away.
"It is said in the sutra that many elements combine themselves to make this body of ours, and that the rising of the body merely means the rising together of all these elements and the disappearance of the body means also merely that of the elements. When the latter rise, they do not declare that they are now to rise; when they disappear they do not declare that they are now to disappear.
So with thoughts, one thought follows another without interruption, the preceding one does not wait for the succeeding, each one is self-contained and quiescent. This is called the Sagaramudra-samadhi, "Meditation of the Ocean-stamp", in which are included all things, like the ocean where all the rivers however different in size, etc., empty themselves. In this great ocean of one salt-water, all the waters in it partake of one and the same taste. A man living in it diffuses himself in all the streams pouring into it. A man bathing in the great ocean uses all the waters emptied into it.
"The Sravaka is enlightened and yet going astray; the ordinary man is out of the right path and yet in a way enlightened. The Sravaka fails to perceive that Mind as it is in itself knows no stages, no causation, no imaginations. Disciplining himself in the cause he has attained the result and abides in the Samadhi of Emptiness itself for ever so many kalpas. However enlightened in his way, the Sravaka is not at all on the right track. From the point of view of the Bodhisattva, this is like suffering the torture of hell. The Sravaka has buried himself in emptiness and does not know how to get out of his quiet contemplation, for he has no insight into the Buddha-nature itself.
If a man is of superior character and intelligence he will, under the instruction of a wise director, at once see into the essence of the thing and understand that this is not a matter of stages and processes. He has an instant insight into his own Original Nature. So we read in the sutra that ordinary beings change in their thoughts but the Sravaka knows no such changes [which means that he never comes out of his meditation of absolute quietude].
"’Going astray’ stands against ‘being enlightened’; but when there is primarily no going astray there is no being enlightened either. All beings since the beginningless past have never been outside the Dharma-essence itself; abiding for ever in the midst of the Dharma-essence, they eat, they are clothed, they talk, they respond; all the functioning of the six senses, all their doings are of the Dharma-essence itself. When they fail to understand to go back to the Source they follow names, pursue forms, allow confusing imaginations to rise, and cultivate all kinds of karma. Let them once in one thought return to the Source and their entire being will be of Buddha-mind.
"O monks, let each of you see into his own Mind. Do not memorize what I tell you. However eloquently I may talk about all kinds of things as innumerable as the sands of the Ganges, the Mind shows no increase; even when no talk is possible, the Mind shows no decrease. You may talk ever so much about it, and it is still your own Mind; you may not at all talk about it, and it is just the same your own Mind. You may divide your body into so many forms, and emitting rays of supernatural light perform the eighteen miracles, and yet what you have gained is after all no more than your own dead ashes.
"The dead ashes thoroughly wet have no vitality and are likened to the Sravaka’s disciplining himself in the cause in order to attain its result. The dead ashes not yet wet are full of vitality and are likened to the Bodhisattva, whose life in the Tao is pure and not at all dyed in evils. If I begin to talk about the various teachings given out by the Tathagata, there will be no end however long through ages I may go on. They are like an endless series of chains. But once you have an insight into the Buddha-mind, nothing in Lore is left to you to attain.
"I have kept you standing long enough, fare you well!"
P’ang the lay-disciple’ asked one day when Ma-tsu appeared in the pulpit: "Here is the Original Body altogether unbedimmed! Raise your eyes to it!" Ma-tsu looked straight downward. Said Fang, "How beautifully the master plays on the first-class stringless lute!" The master looked straight up. P’ang made a bow, and the master returned to his own room. Fang followed him and said, "A while ago you made a fool of yourself, did you not?"
Someone asked: "What is the Buddha?"
"Mind is the Buddha, and there’s no other."
A monk asked: "Without resorting to the four statements and an endless series of negations, can you tell me straightway what is the idea of our Patriarch’s coming from the West?"
The master said: "I don’t feel like answering it today. You go to the Western Hall and ask Shih-tsang about it."
The monk went to the Western Hall and saw the priest, who pointing at his head with a finger said, "My head aches today and I am unable to explain it to you today. I advise you to go to Brother Hai."
[1. Ho-koji in Japanese. He was one of the greatest disciples of Ma, and for further quotations see my Essays on Zen, I, II, and III.]
The monk now called on Hai, and Hai said: "As to that I do not understand."
The monk finally returned to the master and told him about his adventure. Said the master: "Tsang’s head is black while Hai’s is white."
A monk asked: "Why do you teach that Mind is no other than Buddha?"
"In order to make a child stop its crying."
"When the crying is stopped, what would you say?"
"Neither Mind nor Buddha."
"What teaching would you give to him who is not in these two groups?"
"I will say, ‘It is not a something.’
"If you unexpectedly interview a person who is in it what would you do?" finally, asked the monk.
"I will let him realize the great Tao."
The master asked Pai-chang, one of his chief disciples: How would you teach others?"
Pai-chang raised his hossu.
The master remarked, "Is that all? No other way?"
Pai-chang threw the hossu down.
A monk asked: "How does a man set himself in harmony with the Tao?"
"I am already out of harmony."
Tan-yuan, one of Ma-tsu’s personal disciples, came back from his pilgrimage. When he saw the master, he drew a circle on the floor and after making bows stood on it facing the master. Said Ma-tsu: "So you wish to become a Buddha?"
The monk said: "I do not know the art of putting my own eyes out of focus."
"I am not your equal."
The monk had no answer.
One day in the first month of the fourth year of Chen-yuan (788), while walking in the woods at Shih-men Shan, Ma-tsu noticed a cave with a flat floor. He said to his attendant monk, "My body subject to decomposition will return to earth here in the month to come." On the fourth of the second month, he was indisposed as he predicted, and after a bath he sat cross-legged and passed away. 
Ma-tsu (Baso) whose posthumous title was the Zen Master of Great Quietude (ta-chi) was to be properly called Tao-i (Doichi). His family name was Ma, from the district of Han-chou. His teaching which was originally propagated in the province of Chiang-hsi proved of great influence in the Buddhist world of the time, and he came to be generally known as Ma the Father, that, Ma-tsu

Zen teachings of Master Lin-Chi

(Linji Yixuan, 臨済義玄, Lin-chi I-hsüan, Rinzai Gigen- ?- 866) founder of the Linji school of Chan Buddhism

The following passages are from "The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi" translated by Burton Watson:

The Master instructed the group, saying: "Those who study the Dharma of the buddhas these days should approach it with a true and proper understanding. If you approach it with a true and proper understanding, you won’t be affected by considerations of birth and death, you’ll be free to go or stay as you please. You don’t have to strive for benefits, benefits will come of themselves.
"Followers of the Way, the outstanding teachers from times past have all had ways of drawing people out. What I want myself to impress on you is that you mustn’t be led astray by others. If you want to use this thing, then use it and have no doubts or hesitations!
"When students today fail to make progress, where’s the fault? The fault lies in the fact that they don’t have faith in themselves! If you don’t have faith in yourself, then you’ll be forever in a hurry trying to keep up with everything around you, you’ll be twisted and turned by whatever environment you’re in and you can never move freely. But if you can just stop this mind that goes rushing around moment by moment looking for something, then you’ll be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas. Do you want to get to know the patriarchs and buddhas? They’re none other than you, the people standing in front of me listening to this lecture on the Dharma!"Students don’t have enough faith in themselves, and so they rush around looking for something outside themselves. But even if they get something, all it will be is words and phrases, pretty appearances. They’ll never get at the living thought of the patriarchs!
"Make no mistake, you followers of Ch’an. If you don’t find it in this life, then for a thousand kalpas you’ll be born again and again in the three-fold world, you’ll be lured off by what you think are favorable environments and be born in the belly of a donkey or a cow!
"Followers of the Way, as I look at it, we’re no different from Shakyamuni. In all our various activities each day, is there anything we lack? The wonderful light of the six faculties has never for a moment ceased to shine. If you could just look at it this way, then you’d be the kind of person who has nothing to do for the rest of his life.
"Fellow believers, ‘There is no safety in the threefold world; it is like a burning house.’ This is no place for you to linger long! The deadly demon of impermanence will be on you in an instant, regardless of whether you’re rich or poor, old or young.
"If you want to be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas, then never look for something outside yourselves. The clean pure light in a moment of your mind–that is the Essence-body of the Buddha lodged in you. The undifferentiated light in a moment of your mind~that is the Bliss-body of the Buddha lodged in you. The undiscriminating light in a moment of your mind–that is the Transformtion-body of the Buddha lodged in you. These three types of bodies are you, the person who stands before me now listening to this lecture on the Dharma! And simply because you do not rush around seeking anything outside yourselves, you can command these fine faculties.
"According to the expounders of the sutras and treatises, the threefold body is to be taken as some kind of ultimate goal. But as I see it, that’s not so. This threefold body is nothing but mere names. Or they’re three types of dependencies. One man of early times said, ‘The body depends on doctrine for its definition, and the land is discussed in terms of the reality.’ This’body’ of the Dharma-realm, or reality, and this’land’ of the Dharma-realm we can see clearly are no more than flickering lights.
"Followers of the Way, you should realize that the person who manipulates these flickering lights is the source of the buddhas, the home that all followers of the way should return to. Your physical body made up of the four great elements doesn’t know how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma. Your spleen and stomach, your liver and gall, don’t know how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma. The empty spaces don’t know how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma. What is it, then, that knows how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma? It is you who are right here before my eyes, this lone brightness without fixed shape or form–this is what knows how to preach the Dharma and listen to the Dharma. If you can see it this way, you’ll be no different from the patriarchs and the buddhas.
"But never at any time let go of this even for a moment. Everything ~ that meets your eyes is this. But’when feelings arise, wisdom is blocked; when thoughts waver, reality departs,’ therefore you keep being reborn again and again in the threefold world and undergoing all kinds of misery. But as I see it, there are none of you incapable of profound understanding, none of you are incapable of emancipation.
"Followers of the Way, this thing called mind has no fixed form; it penetrates all the ten directions. In the eye we call it sight; in the ear we call it hearing; in the nose it detects odors, in the mouth it speaks discourse; in the hand it grasps, in the feet it runs along. Basically it is a single bright essence, but it divides itself into these six functions. And because this single mind has no fixed form, it is everywhere in a state of emancipation. Why do I tell you this? Because you followers of the Way seem to be incapable of stopping this mind that goes rushing around everywhere looking for something. So you get caught up in those idle devices of the men of old.
Someone asked, "What is the Buddha devil?" The Master said, "If you have doubts in your mind for an instant, that’s the Buddha devil. But if you can understand that the ten thousand phenomena were never born, that the mind is like a conjurers trick, then not one speck of dust, not one phenomenon will exist. Everywhere will be clean and pure, and this will be Buddha. Buddha and devil just refer to two states, one stained, one pure. "As I see it, there’s no Buddha, no living beings, no long ago, no now. If you want to get it, you’ve already got it–it’s not something that requires time. There’s no religious practice, no enlightenment, no getting anything, no missing out on anything. At no time is there any other Dharma than this. If anyone claims there is a Dharma superior to this, I say it must be a dream, a phantom. All I have to say to you is simply this. "Followers of the Way, this lone brightness before my eyes now, this person plainly listening to me–this person is unimpeded at any point but penetrates the ten directions, free to do as he pleases in the threefold world. No matter what the environment he may encounter, with its peculiarities and differences, he cannot be swayed or pulled awry. In the space of an instant he makes his way into the Dharma-realm. If he meets a buddha he preaches to the buddha, if he meets a patriarch, he preaches to the patriarch, if he meets an arhat, he preaches to the arhat, if he meets a hungry ghost, he preaches to the hungry ghost. He goes everywhere, wandering through many lands, teaching and converting living beings, yet never becomes separated from his single thought. Every place for him is clean and pure, his light pierces the ten directions, the ten thousand phenomena are a single thusness.
Followers of the Way, the really first-rate person knows right now that from the first theres never been anything that needed doing. Its because you dont have enough faith that you rush around moment by moment looking for something. You throw away your head and hunt for your head, and you cant seem to stop yourselves. You are like the bodhisattva of perfect and immediate enlightenment, who manifests his body in the dharma realm but who, in the midst of the pure land, still hates the state of common mortal and prays to become a sage. People like that have yet to forget about choices; their minds are still occupied with thoughts about purity and impurity. But the Chan school doesnt see things that way. What counts is this present moment; theres nothing that requires a lot of time. Everything I say to you is for the moment only, medicine to cure the disease. Ultimately it has no true reality. If you can see things in this way you will be true people who have left the household, free to spend ten thousand pieces of gold every day.
Followers of the Way, dont let just anyone put their stamp of approval on your face; dont say, I understand Zen; I understand the Way, spouting off like a waterfall. All that sort of thing is karma, leading to hell. If you are a person who honestly wants to learn the Way, dont go looking for the worlds mistakes, but set about as fast as you can looking for true and proper understanding. If you can acquire true and proper understanding thats clear and complete, then you can think about calling it quits.
"Followers of the Way, you take the words that come out of the mouths of a bunch of old teachers to be a description of the true Way. You think, ‘This is a most wonderful teacher and friend. I have only the mind of a common mortal, I would never dare to try to fathom such venerableness.’ Blind idiots! You go through life with this kind of understanding, betraying your own two eyes, cringing and faltering like a donkey on an icy road, saying, ‘I would never dare speak ill of such a good friend, I’d be afraid of making mouth karma!’
"Followers of the Way, the really good friend is someone who dares speak ill of the Buddha, speak ill of the patriarchs, pass judgment on anyone in the world, throw away the Tripitaka, revile those little children, and in the midst of opposition and assent search out the real person. So for the past twelve years, though I’ve looked for this thing called karma, I’ve never found so much as a particle of it the size of a mustard seed.
"Those Ch’an masters who are as timid as a new bride are afraid they might be expelled from the monastery or deprived of their meal of rice, worrying and fretting. But from times past the real teachers, wherever they went, were never listened to and were always driven out–that’s how you know they were men of worth. If everybody approves of you wherever you go, what use can you be? Hence the saying, let the lion give one roar and the brains of the little foxes will split open.
"Followers of the Way, here and there you hear it said that there is a Way to be practiced, a Dharma to become enlightened to. Will you tell me then just what Dharma there is to be enlightened to, what Way there is to practice? In your present aetivities, what is it you lack, what is it that practice must mend? But those little greenhorn monks don’t understand this and immediately put faith in that bunch of wild fox spirits, letting them spout their ideas and tie people in knots, saying, ‘When principle and practice match one another and proper precaution is taken with regard to the three types of karma of body, mouth, and mind, only then can one attain Budhahood.’ People who go on like that are as plentiful as springtime showers.
"A man of old said, ‘If along the road you meet a man who is master of the Way, whatever you do, don’t talk to him about the Way.’ Therefore it is said, ‘If a person practices the way, the Way will never proceed. Instead, ten thousand kinds of mistaken environments will vie in poking up their heads. But if the sword of wisdom comes to cut them all down, then even before the bright signs manifest themselves, the dark signs will have become bright. Therefore a man of old said, ‘The everyday mind–that is the Way.’ "Fellow believers, what are you looking for? This man of the Way who depends on nothing, here before my eyes now listening to the Dharma–his brightness shines clearly, he has never lacked anything. If you want to be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas, learn to see it this way and — never give in to doubt or questioning. When your mind moment by moment never differentiates, it may be called the living patriarch. If the mind differentiates, its nature and manifestations become separated from one another. But so long as it does not differentiate, its nature and manifestations do not become separated."
Someone asked, "What do you mean by the true Buddha, the true Dharma, and the true Way? Would you be good enough to explain to us?" The Master said, "Buddha–this is the cleanness and purity of the mind. The Dharma–this is the shining brightness of the mind. The Way–this is the pure light that is never obstructed anywhere. The three are in fact one. All are empty names and have no true reality.
"The true and proper man of the Way from moment to moment never permits any interruption in his mind. When the great teacher Bodhidharma came from the west, he was simply looking for a man who would not be misled by others. Later the Second Patriarch encountered Bodhidharma, and after hearing one word, he understood. Then for the first time he realized that up to then he had been engaged in useless activity and striving.
"My understanding today is no different from that of the patriarchs and buddhas. If you get it with the first phrase, you can be a teacher of the patriarchs and buddhas. If you get it with the second phrase, you can be a teacher of human and heavenly beings. If you get it with the third phrase, you can’t even save yourself!"
Someone asked, "What was Bodhidharma’s purpose in coming from the west?" The Master said, "If he had had a purpose, he wouldn’t have been able to save even himself!"The questioner said, "If he had no purpose, then how did the Second Patriarch manage to get the Dharma?" The Master said, "Getting means not getting." "If it means not getting," said the questioner, "then what do you mean by not getting?"
The Master said, "You can’t seem to stop your mind from racing around everywhere seeking something. That’s why the patriarch said, ‘Hopeless fellows–using their heads to look for their heads!’ You must right now turn your light around and shine it on yourselves, not go seeking somewhere else. Then you will understand that in body and mind you are no different
from the patriarchs and the buddhas, and that there is nothing to do. Do that and you may speak of’getting the Dharma.’
"Fellow believers, at this time, having found it impossible to refuse, I have been addressing you, putting forth a lot of trashy talk. But make no mistake! In my view, there are in fact no great number of principles to be grasped. If you want to use the thing, then use it. If you don’t want to use it, then let it be.
"Followers of the Way, don’t take the Buddha to be some sort of ultimate goal. In my view he’s more like the hole in a privy. Bodhisattvas and arhats are so many cangues and chains, things for fettering people. Therefore, Manjushri grasped his sword, ready to kill Gautama, and Angulimala, blade in hand, tried to do injury to Shakyamuni.
"Followers of the Way, there is no Buddha to be gained, and the Three Vehicles, the five natures, the teaching of the perfect and immediate enlightenment are all simply medicines to cure diseases of the moment. None have any true reality. Even if they had, they would still all be mere shams, placards proclaiming superticial matters, so many words lined up, pronouncements of such kind.
"Followers of the Way, there are certain baldheads who turn all their efforts inward, seeking in this way to find some otherworldly truth. But they are completely mistaken! Seek the Buddha and you’ll lose the Buddha. Seek the Way and you’ll lose the Way. Seek the patriarchs and you’ll lose the patriarchs.
"Fellow believers, don’t mistake me! I don’t care whether you understand the sutras and treatises. I don’t care whether you are rulers or great statesmen. I don’t care whether you can pour out torrents of eloquence. 1 don’t care whether you display brilliant intellects. All I ask is that you have true and proper understanding."
"Fellow believers, do not use your minds in a mistaken manner, but be like the sea which rejects the bodies of the dead. While you continue to carry such dead bodies and go racing around the world with them, you only obstruct your own vision and create obstacles in your mind. When no clouds block the sun, the beautiful light of heaven shines everywhere. When no disease afflicts the eye, it does not see phantom flowers in the empty air.
"Followers of the Way, if you wish to be always in accord with the Dharma, never give way to doubt. ‘Spread it out and it fills the whole Dharma-realm, gather it up and it’s tinier than a thread of hair.’ Its lone brightness gleaming forth, it has never lacked anything. ‘The eye doesn’t see it, the ear doesn’t hear it.’ What shall we call this thing? A man of old said, ‘Say something about a thing and already you’re off the mark.’ You’ll just have to see it for yourselves. What other way is there? But there’s no end to this talk. Each of you, do your best! Thank you for your trouble."
The Master was entering an army encampment to attend a dinner when he saw one of the officers at the gate. He pointed to a bare wooden gatepost and said, "A common mortal or a sage?" The officer had no reply. The Master struck the gatepost and said, "Even if you had managed a reply, it would still just be a wooden post!" With that he entered the camp.
Someone asked, "what is the true nature of mind?" The Master replied, "officially even a needle cannot enter; unofficially you can drive a horse and cart through."
The following is translated by D.T. Suzuki
An ancient doctor says that the body is dependent on its meaning, and the ground is describable by its substance. Being so, we know that Dharma-body and Dharma-ground are reflections of the (original) light. O Venerable Sirs, let us take hold of this person who handles these reflections. For he is the source of all the Buddhas and the house of truth-seekers everywhere. The body made up of the four elements does not understand how to discourse or how to listen to a discourse. Nor do the liver, the stomach, the kidneys, the bowels. Nor does the vacuity of space. That which is most unmistakably perceivable right before your eyes, though without form, yet absolutely identifiable—this is what understands the discourse and listens to it.
When this is thoroughly seen into, there is no difference between yourselves and the old masters. Only let not your insight be interrupted through all the periods of time, and you will be at peace with whatever situation you come into. When wrong imaginations are stirred, the insight is no more immediate; when thoughts are changeable, the essence is no more the same. For this reason, we transmigrate in the triple world and suffer varieties of pain. As I view the matter in my way, deep indeed is (Reality), and there is none who is not destined for emancipation.
O Followers of the Way, Mind has no form and penetrates every corner of the universe. In the eye it sees, in the ear it hears, in the nose it smells, in the mouth it talks, in the hand it seizes, in the leg it runs. The source is just one illuminating essence, which divides itself into six functioning units. Let all interfering thoughts depart from Mind, and you experience emancipation wherever you go. What do you think is my idea of talking to you like this? I simply wish to see you stop wandering after external objects, for it is because of this hankering that the old masters play tricks on you.
* * *
Followers of the Way, when you come to view things as I do, you are able to sit over the heads of the Enjoyment- and Transformation-Buddhas; the Bodhisattvas who have successfully mounted the scale of ten stages look like hirelings; those who have attained the stage of full enlightenment resemble prisoners in chains; the Arhats and Pratyeka-Buddhas are cesspools; Bodhi and Nirvana are a stake to which donkeys are fastened. Why so? Because. O Followers of the Way, you have not yet attained the view whereby all kalpas are reduced to Emptiness. When this is not realized, there are all such hindrances. It is not so with the true man who has insight into Reality. He gives himself up to all manner of situations in which he finds himself in obedience to his past karma. He appears in whatever garments re ready for him to put on. As it is desired of him either to move or to sit quietly, he moves or sits. He has not a thought of running after Buddhahood. He is free from such pinings. Why is it so with him? Says an ancient sage, "When the Buddha is sought after, he is the cause of transmigration."
O Venerable Sirs, time is not to be wasted. Do not commit yourselves to a grave mistake by convulsively looking around your neighborhood and not within yourselves. You make mistakes by truing to master Zen, to master the Way, to learn words and phrases, to seek for Buddhas and Fathers and good friends. There is just one parenthood for you, and outside of it what do you wish to acquire? Just look within yourselves. The Buddha tells us the story of Yajnadatta. Thinking he had lost his head, he wildly ran after it; but when he found that he had never lost it, he became a peaceful man. O Followers of the Way, be just yourselves, stop your hysterical antics. There are some old baldheaded fools who know not good from bad. They recognize all kinds of things, they see spirits, they see ghosts, they look this way and that way, they like fair weather, they like rainy weather. If they go on like this, they are sure one day to appear before the King of Death, who will ask them to pay up their debts by swallowing red-hot iron balls. Sons and daughters of good families become possessed of this uncanny fox-spirit and go wildly astray even against their original sanity. Poor blind followers! Some day they will have to pay up their board.
This passage is translated by Thomas Cleary
True Perception and Understanding:
People who study Buddhism should seek real, true perception and understanding for now. If you attain real, true perception and understanding, birth and death won’t affect you – you are free to go or stay. You needn’t seek wonders, for wonders come of themselves.
Self Confidence:
What I point out to you is only that you shouldn’t allow yourselves to be confused by others. Act when you need to, without further hesitation or doubt. People today can’t do this – what is their affliction? Their affliction is in their lack of self-confidence. If you do not spontaneously trust yourself sufficiently, you will be in a frantic state, pursuing all sorts of objects and being changed by those objects, unable to be independent.
Buddha Within:
There is no stability in the world; it is like a house on fire. This is not a place where you can stay for a long time. The murderous demon of impermanence is instantaneous, and it does not choose between the upper and lower classes, or between the young and old. If you want to be no different from the Buddhas and Zen masters, just don’t seek externally. The pure light in a moment of awareness in your mind is the Buddha’s essence within you. The nondiscriminating light in a moment of awareness in your mind is the Buddha’s wisom within you. The undifferentiated light in a moment of awareness in your mind is the Buddha’s manifestation within you.
No Obsessions:
It is most urgent that you seek real, true perception and understanding, so you can be free in the world and not confused by ordinary spiritualists. It is best to have no obsessions. Just do not be contrived. Simply be normal. You impulsively seek elsewhere, looking to others for your own hands and feet. This is already mistaken.
The Mind Ground:
The mind ground can go into the ordinary, into the holy, into the pure, into the defiled, into the real, into the conventional; but it is not your "real" or "conventional," "ordinary" or "holy." It can put labels on all the real and conventional, the ordinary and the holy, but the real and conventional, the ordinary and the holy, cannot put labels on someone in the mind ground. If you can get it, use it, without putting any more labels on it.
Understanding People:
When followers of Zen come to see me, I have already understood them completely. How can I do this? Simply because my perception is independent – externally I do not grasp the ordinary or the holy, internally I do not dwell on the fundamental. I see all the way through and do not doubt or err anymore.
Just be autonomous wherever you are, and right there is realization. Situations that come up cannot change you. Even if you have bad habits, you will spontaneously be liberated from them.
Spiritual Dilettantes:
Zen students today are totally unaware of truth. They are like foraging goats that pick up whatever they bump into They do not distinguish between the servant and the master, or between guest and host. People like this enter Zen with distorted minds, and are unable to enter effectively into dynamic situations. They may be called true initiates, but actually they are really mundane people. Those who really leave attachments must master real, true perception to distinguish the enlightened from the obsessed, the genuine from the artificial, the unregenerate from the sage. If you can make these discernments, you can be said to have really left dependency. Professionally Buddhist clergy who cannot tell obsession from enlightenment have just left one social group and entered another social group. They cannot really be said to be independent. Now there is an obsession with Buddhism that is mixed in with the real thing. Those with clear eyes cut through both obsession and Buddhism. If you love the sacred and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion.
Labels and Objective Truth:
Because you grasp labels and slogans, you are hindered by those labels and slogans, both those used in ordinary life and those considered sacred. Thus they obstruct your perception of objective truth, and you cannot understand clearly.
The Free Self:
If you want to be free, get to know your real self. It has no form, no appearance, no root, no basis, no abode, but is lively and buoyant. It responds with versatile facility, but its function cannot be located. Therefore when you look for it you become further from it, when you seek it you turn away from it all the more.
No Concern:
Just put thoughts to rest and don’t seek outwardly anymore. When things come up, then give them your attention; just trust what is functional in you at present, and you have nothing to be concerned about.
Blind Baldies:
There are blind baldies who, after they have eaten their fill, do zazen and practice meditation, arresting thoughts leaking out to prevent them from arising, shunning clamor and seeking quiet. This is a deviated form of Zen.
Uncritical Acceptance:
You take the words of these ordinary Zen teachers for the real Way, supposing that Zen teachers are incomprehensible and as an ordinary person you dare not attempt to assess those old timers. You are blind if you take this view all your life, contrary to the evidence of your own eyes.
Tourist Trap:
At Zen centers they say there is a Way to be practiced and a religious truth to be realized. Tell me, what religious truth is realized and what Way is practiced? In your present functioning, what do you lack? What would you fix? Younger newcomers, not understanding this, immediately believe these mesmerists and let them talk about things that tie people up.
Supernormal Faculties:
The six supernormal faculties of the enlightened are the ability to enter the realm of form without being confused by form, to enter the realm of sound without being confused by sound, to enter the realm of scent without being confused by scent, to enter the realm of flavor without being confused by flavor, to enter the realm of feeling without being confused by feeling, to enter the realm of phenomena without being confused by phenomena.
Objective Perception and Understanding:
If you want to perceive and understand objectively, just don’t allow yourself to be confused by people. Detach from whatever you find inside or outside yourself – detach from religion, tradition, and society, and only then will you attain liberation. When you are not entangled in things, you pass through freely to autonomy.
Zen Teaching:
I have no doctrine to give people – I just cure ailments and unlock fetters.
Adding Mud to Dirt:
There are Zen students who are in chains when they go to a teacher, and the teacher adds another chain. The students are delighted, unable to discern one thing from another. This is called a guest looking at a guest.
When I say there is nothing outside, students who do not understand me intepret this in terms of inwardness, so they sit silent and still, taking this to be Zen Buddhism. This is a big mistake. If you take a state of unmoving clarity to be Zen, you are recognizing ignorance as a slave master.
Movement and Stillness:
If you try to grasp Zen in movement, it goes into stillness. If you try to grasp Zen in stillness, it goes into movement. It is like a fish hidden in a spring, drumming up waves and dancing independently. Movement and stillness are two states. The Zen master, who does not depend on anything, makes deliberate use of both movement and stillness.


Treatise on the True Sudden Enlightenment School Opening up Mind and revealing Reality-Nature

Zen Dawn: Early Zen Texts from Tun Huang (Shambhala Dragon Editions)
The Great Path is fused with Mind, revealing the true pattern of reality. All worthy sages past and future tend toward this gate. For those who awaken, the triple world is only mind. Those who do not awaken create dreams as they sleep. Those who completely awaken know that all phenomena are peaceful and still, that causal connections produce events, and that temporary combinations give rise to names. Those who do not comprehend become attached to names and abide in words, grasp concepts and run around misguided.
If you want to rein in the false and return to the real, so that defilement and purity are equalized, you must focus your attention and contemplate the self-revealed meaning of the mind’s fundamental enlightenment. When your contemplation has power, you are still not beyond this meaning: mindfulness reaches the Other Shore, and you are constantly in the deepest meditative concentration. If you practice this for a long time without stopping, naturally everything will be accomplished.
If you have concerns in your contemplation, gradually let your body and mind go toward the real. Empty out what is in your breast, so that all doings are forever stilled. Aware of things without giving them forms, you move freely in samadhi, closely nurturing the Path and its power. By this means you achieve the dharmakaya, the body of reality.
When you turn back and awaken to the mind source, there are no hindrances and no obstructions. Its body is like empty space, so it is called boundless samadhi. Mind has no going out or coming in, so it is called the samadhi of stillness. Amid all being it is pure and without seeking, so it is called inconceivable samadhi. Samadha is undimmed and does not follow causal origination, so it is called the samadhi of the real nature of things.
Students are all seeking interpretive understanding: they do not seek direct experience. If you want to cultivate the Great Vehicle without knowing how to pacify mind, your knowledge is sure to go wrong
There was a layman named Li Huiguang, a man of Changan: his dharma name was Great Awareness. He paid no attention to glory or profit, but was intent on seeking enlightenment. He had served Huian and later on Shenhui. He received oral instructions personally from both of them and was given the gist of their teaching. He became able to reach the root and fathom the source of refined truths and subtle principles: he appeared amid being and entered into nothingness in perfect fusion and freedom.
When not engaged in Chan contemplation, Layman Li lamented that the multitudes were deluded, so he published these Dharma essentials, revealing the abstruse gate of phenomena and inner truth and displaying subtle truths. This treatise could be called a boat for crossing the seas directly to enlightenment, that those not at peace would find peace, and that those not yet liberated would find liberation.
Question: The Buddha Dharma is abstruse and mysterious, unfathomable to ordinary people. Its literature is vast, its meanings hard to understand. May we inquire about the Chan Master’s essential teachings? Let us have some provisional words, some expedient means, a direct approach through direct words without secrets, that does not abandon us worldly types.
Great Awareness answered: Excellent! Excellent! Observing your question, I see that your basis as a bodhisattva is about to become pure and ripe. I am forty-five; it has been more than twenty years since I entered the Path, and there has never been anyone who has asked about this. 
What concerns do you have? What doubts are you trying to resolve? Speak directly; there’s no time to bother with words.
Questioner: If we wish to enter the Path, what Dharma should we practice, what Dharma should we study, what Dharma should we seek, what Dharma do we experience, what Dharma do we attain, in order to proceed toward enlightenment?
Answer: No Dharma is studied, and there is no seeking. No Dharma is experienced, and there is no attaining. No Dharma is awakened to, and there is no Path that can be cultivated. This is enlightenment.
Question: Since time without beginning we have been flowing along with birth and death at odds with inner truth. Having just heard the sudden teaching, we are confused and do not understand; our consiousness is dimmed and we do not know where we are. We are like drunks who cannot yet wake up sober. We humbly hope that you will extend yourself down toward the deluded multitudes and bestow some teachings on those of little learning, so that by your skillful means we may meet with reality. What is our true identity?
Answer: It does not give rise to false states of mind: it is forever formless and pure.
Question: What is self-identity?
Answer: Seeing, hearing, knowing, the four elements, and all things each possess self-identity.
Question: From what is self-identity born?
Answer: It is born from false mind.
Question: How can one detach from self-identity?
Answer: When false states of mind do not arise, this is detachment.
Question: What is the Path? What is inner truth? What is mind?
Answer: Mind is the Path. Mind is inner truth. There is no inner truth outside of mind and no mind outside of inner truth. Since mind is capable of equanimity, it is called inner truth. Since inner truth is aware and can illuminate clearly, it is called mind. Since mind and inner truth are equal, it is called buddha. When mind finds this inner truth, you do not see birth and death: ordinary and sage are no different, objects and knowledge are not two, principle and phenomena are both fused, defiled and pure are one suchness. With true awareness according to inner truth, nothing is not the Path. Detached from self and other, you practice all practices at once. There is no before and after and no in between. Your bonds are untied and you are free: it is called the Path.
Question: How do we accord with inner truth to enter into enlightenment?
Answer: When you do not give rise to false states of mind and are forever formless, this is according.
Question: What is according to the Path?
Answer: A straightforward mind not attached to anything accords with the Path.
Question: What is falsity?
Answer: Falsity is not knowing inherent mind.
Question: What is error?
Answer: Error is giving rise to all sorts of objects.
Question: What is inherent mind: What is false mind?
Answer: If you differentiate, it is false mind. If you do not differentiate, it is inherent mind.
Question: Where are they born from, the mind that differentiates and the mind that does not?
Answer: The mind that differentiates is born from error. The mind that does not differentiate is born from correct wisdom.
Question: Considered together, where are they born from?
Answer: There is nowhere they are born.
Question: If there is nowhere they are born, how can you say there is error or correct wisdom?
Answer: If you do not know inherent mind, you will proceed with all sorts of error. If you know inherent mind, this is correct wisdom.
Question: You just spoke of knowing and not knowing; what are these born from?
Answer: Knowing is born from awakening. Not knowing is born from false thinking.
Question: All sentient beings are in false thinking; how can they also be in correct wisdom?
Answer: All sentient beings are within correct wisdom; there is really no false thinking.
Question: Right now we are engaged in false thinking; how can we be said to have correct wisdom?
Answer: In reality, you are fundamentally without false thinking. When you call it false thinking, this is like a person drinking a potion that dilates the pupils, then looking for a needle in the sky: in the sky there is really no needle.
Question: Given that fundamentally false thinking does not exist, what are all today’s practitioners trying to cut off in order to seek the Path?
Answer: Nothing is cut off and there is no path that can be sought.
Question: If there is no path to be sought and nothing to be cut off, then why in the scriptures did the World Honored One speak of cutting off false thinking?
Answer: In reality the World Honored One did not teach cutting off false thinking. As for cutting off false thinking: without detaching from false thinking, all sentient beings falsely feel that there is something attained and something cut off; they falsely perceive that the phenomena of false thinking exist. Following the concepts of sentient beings, the World Honored One spoke provisionally in terms of phenomena of false thinking. In reality, he did not speak a word of it. He was like a good doctor prescribing medicine for a disease. If there is no disease, he does not prescribe medicine.

Dreams and Their Significance

By Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
‘Life is nothing but a dream.’
One of man’s greatest unsolved problems is the mystery of dreams. From the very earliest of times man has tried to analyze dreams and has tried to explain them in prophetic and psychological terms, but while there has been some measure of success recently, we are probably no nearer the answers to the baffling question: ‘What is a dream?’
The great English Romantic poet William Wordsworth had a startling concept: that this life we live is merely a dream and that we will ‘awake’ to the ‘real’ reality when we die, when our ‘dream’ ends.
‘Our birth is but a sleep and forgetting:
The Soul, that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.’
A similar concept is expressed in a charming old Buddhist tale which tells of a deva who was playing with some other devas. Being tired, he lay down to take a short nap and passed away. He was reborn as a girl on earth. There she got married, had a few children and lived to be very old. After her death again she was born as a deva amongst the same companions who had just finished playing their game. (This story also illustrates the world is very different from time in another plane of existence).
What has Buddhism to say about dreams? Just as in every other culture, Buddhism has had its fair share of people who claimed to be skilled in interpreting dreams. Such people earn a lot of money exploiting the ignorance of men and women who believe that every dream has a spiritual or prophetic significance.
According to Buddhist psychology dreams are ideational processes which occur as activities of the mind. In considering the occurrence of dreams it is relevant to remember that the process of sleeping can be regarded as falling into five stages.
– drowsiness,
– light slumber,
– deep slumber,
– light slumber and
– awakening.
The significance and the cause of dreams were the subject of discussion in the famous book ‘Milinda Panha’ or ‘The Questions of King Milinda’, in which Ven. Nagasena has stated that there are six causes of dreams, three of them being organic, wind, bile and phlegm. The fourth is due to the intervention of supernatural forces, fifth, revival of past experience and sixth, the influence of future events. It is categorically stated that dreams occur only in light slumber which is said to be like the sleep of the monkey. Of the six causes given Ven. Nagasena has stated positively that the last, namely prophetic dreams are the only important ones and the others are relatively insignificant.
Dreams are mind-created phenomena and they are activities of the mind. All human beings dream, although some people cannot remember. Buddhism teaches that some dreams have psychological significance. The six causes mentioned earlier can also be classified in the following manner:
Every single thought that is created is stored in our subconscious mind and some of them strongly influence the mind according to our anxieties. When we sleep, some of these thoughts are activated and appear to us as ‘pictures’ moving before us. This happens because during sleep, the five senses which constitute our contact with the outside world, are temporarily arrested. The subconscious mind then is free to become dominant and to ‘re-play’ thoughts that are stored. These dreams may be of value to psychiatry but cannot be classified as prophetic. They are merely the reflections of the mind at rest.
The second type of dream also has no significance. These are caused by internal and external provocations which set off a train of ‘visual thoughts’ which are ‘seen’ by the mind at rest. Internal factors are those which disturb the body (e.g. a heavy meal which does not allow one to have a restful slumber or imbalance and friction between elements that constitute the body). External provocation is when the mind is disturbed(although the sleeper may be unaware of it) by natural phenomena like the weather, wind, cold, rain, leaves rustling, windows rattling etc. The subconscious mind reacts to these disturbances and creates pictures to ‘explain’ them away. The mind accommodates the irritation in a seemingly rational way so that the dreamer can continue to sleep undisturbed. These dreams too have no importance and need no interpretation.
Then there are prophetic dreams. These are important. They are seldom experienced and only when there is an impending event which is of great relevance to the dreamer. Buddhism teaches that besides the tangible world we can experience, there are devas who exist on another plane or some spirits who are bound to this earth and are invisible to us. They could be our relatives or friends who have passed away and who have been reborn. They maintain their former mental relationships and attachments to us. When Buddhists transfer merits to devas and departed ones, they remember them and invite them to share the happiness accrued in the merit. Thus they develop a mental relationship with their departed ones. The devas in turn are pleased and they keep a watch over us and indicate something in dreams when we are facing certain big problems and they try to protect us from harm.
So, when there is something important that is going to happen in our lives they activate certain mental energies in our minds which are seen as dreams. These dreams can warn of impending danger or even prepare us for sudden over-whelming good news. These messages are given in symbolic terms (much like the negatives of photographs) and have to be interpreted skillfully and with intelligence. Unfortunately too many people confuses the first two kinds of dreams with these and end up wasting valuable time and money consulting fake mediums and dream-interpreters. The Buddha was aware that this could be exploited for personal gain and He therefore warned the monks against practising soothsaying, astrology and interpreting dreams in the name of Buddhism.
Finally, our mind is the depository of all kammic energies accumulated in the past. Sometimes, when a kamma is about to ripen (that is, when the action we did in a previous life or early part of our life, is going to experience its reaction) the mind which is at rest during sleep can trigger off a ‘picture’ of what is going to happen. Again the impending action has to be of great importance and must be so strongly charged that the mind ‘releases’ the extra energy in the form of a vivid dream. Such dreams occur only very rarely and only to certain people with a special kind of mental make up. The sign of the effect of certain kammas also appears in our minds at the last moment when we are going to depart from this world.
Dreams can occur when two living human beings send strong mental telepathic messages to each other. When one person has an intense desire to communicate with another, he concentrates strongly on the message and the person with whom he wishes to communicate. When the mind is at rest, it is in an ideal state to receive these messages which are seen as dreams. Usually these dreams only appear in one intense moment because the human mind is not strong enough to sustain such messages over a long period of time.
All worldlings are dreamers, and they see as permanent, what is essentially impermanent. They do not see that youth ends in old age, beauty in ugliness, health in sickness, and life itself in death. In this dream-world, what is truly without substance is seen as reality. Dreaming during sleep is but another dimension of the dream-world. The only ones who are awake are the Buddhas and Arahats as they have seen reality.
Buddhas and Arahants never dream. The first three kinds of dream cannot occur in their minds, because their minds have been permanently ‘stilled’ and cannot be activated to dream. The last kind of dream cannot happen to them because they have eradicated all their craving energy completely, and there is no ‘residual’ energy of anxiety or unsatisfied desire to activate the mind to produce dreams. The Buddha is also known as the Awakened One because His way of relaxing the physical body is not the way we sleep which results in dreams. Great artists and thinkers, like the German Goethe, have often said they get some of their best inspiration through dreams. This could be because when their minds are cut off from the five senses during sleep, they produce clear thoughts which are creative in the highest degree. Wordsworth meant the same thing when he said that good poetry results from ‘powerful emotions’ recollected in tranquillity.

The Integrity of Emptiness

By Thanissaro Bhikkhu
For all the subtlety of his teachings, the Buddha had a simple test for measuring wisdom. You’re wise, he said, to the extent that you can get yourself to do things you don’t like doing but know will result in happiness, and to refrain from things you like doing but know will result in pain and harm.
He derived this standard for wisdom from his insight into the radical importance of intentional action in shaping our experience of happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain. With action so important and yet so frequently misguided, wisdom has to be tactical, strategic, in fostering actions that are truly beneficial. It has to outwit short-sighted preferences to yield a happiness that lasts.
Because the Buddha viewed all issues of experience, from the gross to the subtle, in terms of intentional actions and their results, his tactical standard for wisdom applies to all levels as well, from the wisdom of simple generosity to the wisdom of emptiness and ultimate Awakening. Wisdom on all levels is wise because it works. It makes a difference in what you do and the happiness that results. And to work, it requires integrity: the willingness to look honestly at the results of your actions, to admit when you’ve caused harm, and to change your ways so that you won’t make the same mistake again.
What’s striking about this standard for wisdom is how direct and down to earth it is. This might come as a surprise, for most of us don’t think of Buddhist wisdom as so commonsensical and straightforward. Instead, the phrase "Buddhist wisdom" conjures up teachings more abstract and paradoxical, flying in the face of common sense — emptiness being a prime example. Emptiness, we’re told, means that nothing has any inherent existence. In other words, on an ultimate level, things aren’t what we conventionally think of as "things." They’re processes that are in no way separate from all the other processes on which they depend. This is a philosophically sophisticated idea that’s fascinating to ponder, but it doesn’t provide much obvious help in getting you up early on a cold morning to meditate nor in convincing you to give up a destructive addiction.
For example, if you’re addicted to alcohol, it’s not because you feel that the alcohol has any inherent existence. It’s because, in your calculation, the immediate pleasure derived from the alcohol outweighs the long-term damage it’s doing to your life. This is a general principle: attachment and addiction are not metaphysical problems. They’re tactical ones. We’re attached to things and actions, not because of what we think they are, but because of what we think they can do for our happiness. If we keep overestimating the pleasure and underestimating the pain they bring, we stay attached to them regardless of what, in an ultimate sense, we understand them to be.
Because the problem is tactical, the solution has to be tactical as well. The cure for addiction and attachment lies in retraining your imagination and your intentions through expanding your sense of the power of your actions and the possible happiness you can achieve. This means learning to become more honest and sensitive to your actions and their consequences, at the same time allowing yourself to imagine and master alternative routes to greater happiness with fewer drawbacks. Metaphysical views may sometimes enter into the equation, but at most they’re only secondary. Many times they’re irrelevant. Even if you were to see the alcohol and its pleasure as lacking inherent existence, you’d still go for the pleasure as long as you saw it as outweighing the damage. Sometimes ideas of metaphysical emptiness can actually be harmful. If you start focusing on how the damage of drinking — and the people damaged by your drinking — are empty of inherent existence, you could develop a rationale for continuing to drink. So the teaching on metaphysical emptiness wouldn’t seem to pass the Buddha’s own test for wisdom.
The irony here is that the idea of emptiness as lack of inherent existence has very little to do with what the Buddha himself said about emptiness. His teachings on emptiness — as reported in the earliest Buddhist texts, the Pali Canon — deal directly with actions and their results, with issues of pleasure and pain. To understand and experience emptiness in line with these teachings requires not philosophical sophistication, but a personal integrity willing to admit the actual motivations behind your actions and the actual benefits and harm they cause. For these reasons, this version of emptiness is very relevant in developing the sort of wisdom that would pass the Buddha’s commonsensical test for measuring how wise you are.
The Buddha’s teachings on emptiness — contained in two major discourses and several smaller ones — define it in three distinct ways: as an approach to meditation, as an attribute of the senses and their objects, and as a state of concentration. Although these forms of emptiness differ in their definitions, they ultimately converge on the same route to release from suffering. To see how this happens, we will need to examine the three meanings of emptiness one by one. In doing so, we’ll find that each of them applies the Buddha’s commonsensical test for wisdom to subtle actions of the mind. But to understand how this test applies to this subtle level, we first have to see how it applies to actions on a more obvious level. For that, there’s no better introduction than the Buddha’s advice to his son, Rahula, on how to cultivate wisdom while engaging in the activities of everyday life.
Observing Everyday Actions
The Buddha told Rahula — who was seven at the time — to use his thoughts, words, and deeds as a mirror. In other words, just as you would use a mirror to check for any dirt on your face, Rahula was to use his actions as a means of learning where there was still anything impure in his mind. Before he acted, he should try to anticipate the results of the action. If he saw that they’d be harmful to himself or to others, he shouldn’t follow through with the action. If he foresaw no harm, he could go ahead and act. If, in the course of doing the action, he saw it causing unexpected harm, he should stop the action. If he didn’t see any harm, he could continue with it.
If, after he was done, he saw any long-term harm resulting from the action, he should consult with another person on the path to get some perspective on what he had done — and on how not to do it again — and then resolve not to repeat that mistake. In other words, he should not feel embarrassed or ashamed to reveal his mistakes to people he respected, for if he started hiding his mistakes from them, he would soon start hiding them from himself. If, on the other hand, he saw no harm resulting from the action, he should rejoice in his progress in the practice and continue with his training.
The right name for this reflection is not "self-purification." It’s "action-purification." You deflect judgments of good and bad away from your sense of self, where they can tie you down with conceit and guilt. Instead, you focus directly on the actions themselves, where the judgments can allow you to learn from your mistakes and to find a healthy joy in what you did right.
When you keep reflecting in this way, it serves many purposes. First and foremost, it forces you to be honest about your intentions and about the effects of your actions. Honesty here is a simple principle: you don’t add any after-the-fact rationalizations to cover up what you actually did, nor do you try to subtract from the actual facts through denial. Because you’re applying this honesty to areas where the normal reaction is to be embarrassed about or afraid of the truth, it’s more than a simple registering of the facts. It also requires moral integrity. This is why the Buddha stressed morality as a precondition for wisdom, and declared the highest moral principle to be the precept against lying. If you don’t make a habit of admitting uncomfortable truths, the truth as a whole will elude you.
The second purpose of this reflection is to emphasize the power of your actions. You see that your actions do make the difference between pleasure and pain. Third, you gain practice in learning from your mistakes without shame or remorse. Fourth, you realize that the more honest you are in evaluating your actions, the more power you have to change your ways in a positive direction. And finally, you develop good will and compassion, in that you resolve to act only on intentions that mean no harm to anyone, and you continually focus on developing the skill of harmlessness as your top priority.
All of these lessons are necessary to develop the kind of wisdom measured by the Buddha’s test for wisdom; and, as it turns out, they’re directly related to the first meaning of emptiness, as an approach to meditation. In fact, this sort of emptiness simply takes the instructions Rahula received for observing everyday actions and extends them to the act of perception within the mind.
Emptiness as an Approach to Meditation
Emptiness as an approach to meditation is the most basic of the three kinds of emptiness. In the context of this approach, emptiness means "empty of disturbance" — or, to put it in other terms, empty of stress. You bring the mind to concentration and then examine your state of concentration in order to detect the presence or absence of subtle disturbance or stress still inherent within that state. When you find a disturbance, you follow it back to the perception — the mental label or act of recognition — on which the concentration is based. Then, you drop that perception in favor of a more refined one, one leading to a state of concentration with less inherent disturbance.
In the discourse explaining this meaning of emptiness (MN 121), the Buddha introduces his explanation with a simile. He and Ananda are dwelling in an abandoned palace that is now a quiet monastery. The Buddha tells Ananda to notice and appreciate how the monastery is empty of the disturbances it contained when it was still used as a palace — the disturbances caused by gold and silver, elephants and horses, assemblies of women and men. The only disturbance remaining is that caused by the presence of the monks meditating in unity.
Taking this observation as a simile, the Buddha launches into his description of emptiness as an approach to meditation. (The simile is reinforced by the fact that the Pali word for "monastery" or "dwelling — vihara — also means "attitude" or "approach.") He describes a monk meditating in the wilderness who is simply noting to himself that he is now in the wilderness. The monk allows his mind to concentrate on and enjoy the perception, "wilderness." He then steps back mentally to observe and appreciate that this mode of perception is empty of the disturbances that come with perceptions of the village life he has left behind. The only remaining disturbances are those associated with the perception, "wilderness" — for example, any emotional reactions to the dangers that wilderness might entail. As the Buddha says, the monk sees accurately which disturbances are not present in that mode of perception; as for those remaining, he sees accurately, "There is this." In other words, he adds nothing to what is there and takes nothing away. This is how he enters into a meditative emptiness that is pure and undistorted.
Then, noting the disturbances inherent in the act of focusing on "wilderness," the monk drops that perception and replaces it with a more refined perception, one with less potential for arousing disturbance. He chooses the earth element, banishing from his mind any details of the hills and ravines of the earth, simply taking note of its earthness. He repeats the process he applied to the perception of wilderness — settling into the perception of "earth," fully indulging in it, and then stepping back to notice how the disturbances associated with "wilderness" are now gone, while the only remaining disturbances are those associated with the singleness of mind based on the perception of "earth."
He then repeats the same process with ever more refined perceptions, settling into the formless jhanas, or meditative absorptions: infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, neither perception nor non-perception, and the objectless concentration of awareness.
Finally, seeing that even this objectless concentration of awareness is fabricated and willed, he drops his desire to continue mentally fabricating anything at all. In this way he is released from the mental fermentations — sensual desire, becoming, views, ignorance — that would "bubble up" into further becoming. He observes that this release still has the disturbances that come with the functioning of the six sense spheres, but that it’s empty of all fermentation, all potential for further suffering and stress. This, concludes the Buddha, is the entry into a pure and undistorted emptiness that is superior and unsurpassed. It’s the emptiness in which he himself dwells and that, throughout time, has never been nor ever will be excelled.
Throughout this description, emptiness means one thing: empty of disturbance or stress. The meditator is taught to appreciate the lack of disturbance as a positive accomplishment, and to see any remaining disturbance created by the mind, however subtle, as a problem to be solved.
When you understand disturbance as a subtle form of harm, you see the connections between this description of emptiness and the Buddha’s instructions to Rahula. Instead of regarding his meditative states as a measure of self-identity or self-worth — in having developed a self that’s purer, more expansive, more at one with the ground of being — the monk views them simply in terms of actions and their consequences. And the same principles apply here, on the meditative level, as apply in the Buddha’s comments to Rahula on action in general.
Here, the action is the perception that underlies your state of meditative concentration. You settle into the state by repeating the action of perception continually until you are thoroughly familiar with it. Just as Rahula discovered the consequences of his actions by observing the obvious harm done to himself or to others, here you discover the consequences of concentrating on the perception by seeing how much disturbance arises from the mental action. As you sense disturbance, you can change your mental action, moving your concentration to a more refined perception, until ultimately you can stop the fabrication of mental states altogether.
At the core of this meditation practice are two important principles derived from the instructions to Rahula. The first is honesty: the ability to be free of embellishment or denial, adding no interpretation to the disturbance actually present, while at the same time not trying to deny that it’s there. An integral part of this honesty is the ability to see things simply as action and result, without reading into them the conceit "I am."
The second principle is compassion — the desire to end suffering — in that you keep trying to abandon the causes of stress and disturbance wherever you find them. The effects of this compassion extend not only to yourself, but to others as well. When you don’t weigh yourself down with stress, you’re less likely to be a burden to others; you’re also in a better position to help shoulder their burdens when need be. In this way, the principles of integrity and compassion underlie even the most subtle expressions of the wisdom leading to release.
This process of developing emptiness of disturbance is not necessarily smooth and straightforward. It keeps requiring the strength of will needed to give up any attachment. This is because an essential step in getting to know the meditative perception as an action is learning to settle into it, to indulge in it — in other words, to enjoy it thoroughly, even to the point of attachment. This is one of the roles of tranquility in meditation. If you don’t learn to enjoy the meditation enough to keep at it consistently, you won’t grow familiar with it. If you aren’t familiar with it, insight into its consequences won’t arise.
However, unless you’ve already had practice using the Rahula instructions to overcome grosser attachments, then even if you gain insight into the disturbances caused by your attachment to concentration, your insight will lack integrity. Because you haven’t had any practice with more blatant attachments, you won’t be able to pry loose your subtle attachments in a reliable way. You first need to develop the moral habit of looking at your actions and their consequences, believing firmly — through experience — in the worth of refraining from harm, however subtle. Only then will you have the skill needed to develop emptiness as an approach to meditation in a pure and undistorted way that will carry you all the way to its intended goal.
Emptiness as an Attribute of the Senses and their Objects
Emptiness as an attribute, when used as a departure point for practice, leads to a similar process but by a different route. Whereas emptiness as an approach to meditation focuses on issues of disturbance and stress, emptiness as an attribute focuses on issues of self and not-self. And whereas emptiness as an approach to meditation starts with tranquility, emptiness as an attribute starts with insight.
The Buddha describes this kind of emptiness in a short discourse (SN 35.85). Again, Ananda is his interlocutor, opening the discourse with a question: In what way is the world empty? The Buddha answers that each of the six senses and their objects are empty of one’s self or anything pertaining to one’s self.
The discourse gives no further explanation, but related discourses show that this insight can be put into practice in one of two ways. The first is to reflect on what the Buddha says about "self" and how ideas of self can be understood as forms of mental activity. The second way, which we will discuss in the next section, is to develop the perception of all things being empty of one’s self as a basis for a state of refined concentration. However, as we shall see, both of these tactics ultimately lead back to using the first form of emptiness, as an approach to meditation, to complete the path to Awakening.
When talking about "self," the Buddha refused to say whether it exists or not, but he gave a detailed description of how the mind develops the idea of self as a strategy based on craving. In our desire for happiness, we repeatedly engage in what the Buddha calls "I-making" and "my-making" as ways of trying to exercise control over pleasure and pain. Because I-making and my-making are actions, they fall under the purview of the Buddha’s instructions to Rahula. Whenever you engage in them, you should check to see whether they lead to affliction; if they do, you should abandon them.
This is a lesson that, on a blatant level, we learn even as children. If you lay claim to a piece of candy belonging to your sister, you’re going to get into a fight. If she’s bigger than you, you’d do better not to claim the candy as yours. Much of our practical education as we grow up lies in discovering where it’s beneficial to create a sense of self around something, and where it’s not.
If you learn to approach your I-making and my-making in the light of the Rahula instructions, you greatly refine this aspect of your education, as you find yourself forced to be more honest, discerning, and compassionate in seeing where an "I" is a liability, and where it’s a asset. On a blatant level, you discover that while there are many areas where "I" and "mine" lead only to useless conflicts, there are others where they’re beneficial. The sense of "I" that leads you to be generous and principled in your actions is an "I" worth making, worth mastering as a skill. So, too, is the sense of "I" that can assume responsibility for your actions, and can be willing to sacrifice a small pleasure in the present for a greater happiness in the future. This kind of "I," with practice, leads away from affliction and toward increasing levels of happiness. This is the "I" that will eventually lead you to practice meditation, for you see the long-term benefits that come from training your powers of mindfulness, concentration, and discernment.
However, as meditation refines your sensitivity, you begin to notice the subtle levels of affliction and disturbance that I-making and my-making can create in the mind. They can get you attached to a state of calm, so that you resent any intrusions on "my" calm. They can get you attached to your insights, so that you develop pride around "my" insights. This can block further progress, for the sense of "I" and "mine" can blind you to the subtle stress on which the calm and insights are based. If you’ve had training in following the Rahula instructions, though, you’ll come to appreciate the advantages of learning to see even the calm and the insights as empty of self or anything pertaining to self. That is the essence of this second type of emptiness. When you remove labels of "I" or "mine" even from your own insights and mental states, how do you see them? Simply as instances of stress arising and passing away — disturbance arising and passing away — with nothing else added or taken away. As you pursue this mode of perception, you’re adopting the first form of emptiness, as an approach to meditation.
Emptiness as a State of Concentration
The third kind of emptiness taught by the Buddha — as a state of concentration — is essentially another way of using insight into emptiness as an attribute of the senses and their objects as a means to attain release. One discourse (MN 43) describes it as follows: A monk goes to sit in a quiet place and intentionally perceives the six senses and their objects as empty of self or anything pertaining to self. As he pursues this perception, it brings his mind not directly to release, but to the formless jhana of nothingness, which is accompanied by strong equanimity.
Another discourse (MN 106) pursues this topic further, noting that the monk relishes the equanimity. If he simply keeps on relishing it, his meditation goes no further than that. But if he learns to see that equanimity as an action — fabricated, willed — he can look for the subtle stress it engenders. If he can observe this stress as it arises and passes away simply on its own terms, neither adding any other perceptions to it nor taking anything away, he’s again adopting emptiness as an approach to his meditation. By dropping the causes of stress wherever he finds them in his concentration, he ultimately reaches the highest form of emptiness, free from all mental fabrication.
The Wisdom of Emptiness
Thus the last two types of emptiness ultimately lead back to the first — emptiness as an approach to meditation — which means that all three types of emptiness ultimately lead to the same destination. Whether they interpret emptiness as meaning empty of disturbance (suffering/stress) or empty of self, whether they encourage fostering insight through tranquility or tranquility through insight, they all culminate in a practice that completes the tasks appropriate to the four noble truths: comprehending stress, abandoning its cause, realizing its cessation, and developing the path to that cessation. Completing these tasks leads to release.
What’s distinctive about this process is the way it grows out of the principles of action-purification that the Buddha taught to Rahula, applying these principles to every step of the practice from the most elementary to the most refined. As the Buddha told Rahula, these principles are the only possible means by which purity can be attained. Although most explanations of this statement define purity as purity of virtue, the Buddha’s discussion of emptiness as an approach to meditation shows that purity here means purity of mind and purity of wisdom as well. Every aspect of the training is purified by viewing it in terms of actions and consequences, which helps to develop the integrity that’s willing to admit to unskillful actions, and the mature goodwill that keeps aiming at consequences entailing ever less harm, disturbance, and stress.
This is where this sort of emptiness differs from the metaphysical definition of emptiness as "lack of inherent existence." Whereas that view of emptiness doesn’t necessarily involve integrity — it’s an attempt to describe the ultimate truth of the nature of things, rather than to evaluate actions — this approach to emptiness requires honestly evaluating your mental actions and their results. Integrity is thus integral to its mastery.
In this way, the highest levels of wisdom and discernment grow primarily not from the type of knowledge fostered by debate and logical analysis, nor from the type fostered by bare awareness or mere noting. They grow from the knowledge fostered by integrity, devoid of conceit, coupled with compassion and goodwill.
The reason for this is so obvious that it’s often missed: if you’re going to put an end to suffering, you need the compassion to see that this is a worthwhile goal, and the integrity to admit the suffering you’ve heedlessly and needlessly caused throughout the past. The ignorance that gives rise to suffering occurs not because you don’t know enough or are not philosophically sophisticated enough to understand the true meaning of emptiness. It comes from being unwilling to admit that what you’re obviously doing right before your very eyes is causing suffering. This is why Awakening destroys conceit: it awakens you to the full extent of the willful blindness that has kept you complicit in unskillful behavior all along. It’s a chastening experience. The only honest thing to do in response to this experience is to open to release. That’s the emptiness that’s superior and unsurpassed.
In building the path to this emptiness on the same principles that underlie the more elementary levels of action-purification, the Buddha managed to avoid creating artificial dichotomies between conventional and ultimate truths in the practice. For this reason, his approach to ultimate wisdom helps validate the more elementary levels as well. When you realize that an undistorted understanding of emptiness depends on the skills you develop in adopting a responsible, honest, and kind attitude toward all your actions, you’re more likely to bring this attitude to everything you do — gross or subtle. You give more importance to all your actions and their consequences, you give more importance to your sense of integrity, for you realize that these things are directly related to the skills leading to total release. You can’t develop a throwaway attitude to your actions and their consequences, for if you do you’re throwing away your chances for a true and unconditional happiness. The skills you need to talk yourself into meditating on a cold, dark morning, or into resisting a drink on a lazy afternoon, are the same ones that will eventually guarantee an undistorted realization of the highest peace.
This is how the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness encourage you to exercise wisdom in everything you do.



The Buddha advised bhikkhus, "Bhikkhus when you have assembled together you should do one of two things: have Dhamma discussions or observe noble silence."
Noble silence is the state of
mind where there are no thoughts. The mind is totally silent. Thoughts can be stopped only if we train our mind to do so through correct meditation practice.
A meditator should begin by paying undivided and uninterrupted attention to one single object without verbalizing the experience in the mind. When you verbalize and conceptualize things, you interrupt your attention on the one hand and on the other you perpetuate your thoughts.
When you verbalize, you add more and more concepts or ideas. The reality is not a word or verb. The reality is what you experience. When you experience aches and pains or pleasure and happiness in or out of your meditation, you directly notice the experience exactly as it is. You don’t need a conceptual bridge between your experience and direct knowledge. When you are hungry, you experience hunger without saying: "I am hungry, I am hungry."
You need nouns and verbs only to communicate your experience. When you meditate you observe total silence, not trying to talk to anybody about your experience. You should know yourself exactly as you are. You should feel yourself exactly as you are.
From babyhood through college, we learn to use words, concepts and ideas to make others understand us. But during meditation you are not trying to express your experience to anybody. By training your mind to remain silent, you make it silent. If you add more words to the mind, the mind simply remains busy.
We all have noticed people sitting or walking down the street carrying on a monologue with themselves. They cannot silence their minds. This is an extreme example of being unable to still thoughts. But in our own way, we wrestle with this in daily life and in meditation. It comes down to this; unless you try, you can never stop all that thinking. You still the thoughts only when you determine to do so.
Pay total attention to what you experience through the six senses without labeling what arises. There are certain things you experience for which no words are necessary. You simply know them. Your mind knows them. You stay with this knowing. When you feel cold, the normal habit is to say to yourself, "Gee, it is cold." When you feel hot, you automatically think, "Boy, it is hot." Simply pay attention to the cold you feel without this additional thought. Simply feel the heat without verbalizing the experience. When you remember visiting a place, or talking to someone, or eating ice cream or holding someone by the hand, simply become aware of those objects of your memory.
You need to gain full concentration to stop your thoughts. You do this by paying total attention to one object at a time. If you start the practice by focusing your mind exclusively on one object, gradually you condition your mind to overcome discursive thoughts by sustaining initial contact with the object.
When you listen to your heartbeat you don’t need concepts to feel this subtle occurrence. Similarly, during meditation as you pay total attention to your in-breathing and out-breathing, you can notice the beginning, middle, and end of each inhaling and each exhaling. You can notice the brief pause between inhaling and exhaling. You can notice these natural occurrences in your breath if you pay total attention to them.
The mind moves so rapidly yet we can train it to notice these events exactly as they happen because they happen in succession. If you conceptualize these occurrences then you will be unable to notice them. Instead, you hang on to the words and miss the actual experience. You don’t have to say, "This is the beginning of breathing in," or "This is the middle" or "This is the end." Simply notice these stages. You don’t need thought to notice them. All you need is attention.
By no means do we become a vegetable when we still our thoughts. A quiet mind is receptive to insight. And you can stop the thought process by systematically training the mind.
I use the phrase "quieting the mind" or "silencing the mind" to mean not having thought in the mind, but this does not mean slowing down the mind like slowing down a body’s metabolism during hibernation. It simply means not having thought-creating habits in the mind.
The brain does not manufacture thoughts unless we stimulate it with habitual verbalizing. When we train ourselves by constant practice to stop verbalizing, the brain can experience things as they are. By silencing the mind, we can experience real peace. As long as various kinds of thoughts agitate the brain, we don’t experience 100 percent peace.
Peace is not a thought, not a concept, it is a nonverbal experience. One can stay in this peaceful state up to seven days. But before one attains such a totally peaceful state of mind, one should gradually train oneself to slow down thoughts. Once slowed down, thoughts fade away and no more new thoughts are fed into the brain.
Even while not meditating, we experience many things deeply for which often there are no words. We may try to find a word or verb for that experience. We may call it intuition. Yet intuitions may arise with no associated words or concepts. You can also listen to sounds without any words arising in the mind. It is said the best way to enjoy music is to listen to music. While hearing music, you listen to the sound without trying to verbalize the sound. Or consider how you listen to a bird’s song; you don’t verbalize the sound. You may say "The robin sings like this…" but that is your imagination.
This means that even outside of meditation you can experience many very subtle things simply by paying total attention to your senses. Most of the time, we verbalize things after we have experienced them, not while experiencing them. But when you pay total, nonverbal attention to something, you gain concentration which is not possible by verbalizing. Words stimulate the mind. Therefore the mind keeps producing more and more words and we express them in thoughts. By nonverbal attention, you can minimize the number of words you use. When the words are minimized, thoughts are minimized. Finally, this process makes the mind truly free from thoughts. But if you don’t minimize the words, you can’t free the mind from thoughts.
When you experience something, if you don’t try to translate the experience into words you simply have the experience, not thoughts. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, they can all be experienced directly without words. When you use words, you block your direct experience of sensory objects.
After all, it is not the words that make you experience what you experience. Suppose the color white appears before your eyes. The whiteness reflects on your eyes. The minds knows it as it is. Only if you want to express what you have seen do you really need words. Yet whiteness is not a word, but what it is. Blackness is not a word, but what it is. The same is true for sweetness, bitterness, sourness, toughness, and everything in your experience.
The brain does not manufacture thoughts from nothing. It has to be fed something to use as raw material for manufacturing thoughts. The raw material is what you have fed to it in the past. If you do not feed it words, if you have trained it by avoiding verbalization, the brain cannot manufacture thoughts from a vacuum.