Archive for February, 2007


Instructions in the Critical Essentials of Cultivating Dhyana Meditation

The particular lineage of the dhyana gateway transmits the seal of the buddha mind. Originally, it was not a subtle matter. Beginning with Bodhidharma’s coming from the west, the idea of exclusive transmittal became established and the four fascicles of the La’nkaavataara were taken as the [basis for] the seal of the mind. This being the case, although dhyana constituted a separate transmittal outside of the teachings, in actuality, it is because the teachings bring forth a corresponding realization that one then [succeeds in] perceiving the non-dual path of the buddhas and patriarchs. The very meditative skills which are employed during one’s investigations [into dhyana] come forth from the teachings themselves.
The La’nkaavataara states, "When sitting quietly in the mountains and forests, at superior, middling and lower levels of cultivation one is able to perceive the flow of the false thinking in one’s own mind." This is in fact the World Honored One’s clear instruction in the formulary method of developing meditative skill. It also states, "His intellectual mind consciousness is a manifestation of his own mind. The false marks of the experiential state associated with one’s self nature [manifest as] the sea of existence within the realm of birth and death. [They arise from] karmic action, desire and ignorance. Such causes as these may all be transcended thereby." This constitutes the Thus Come One’s clear instruction in the marvelous principle of how to awaken the mind. It also states, "From all of the sages of the past it has been passed on in turn, being [both] transmitted and received that false thinking is devoid of an [inherently existent] nature." This is also a clear instruction in the [basis of] the secret mind seal.
This golden-countenanced elder’s(1) instructions to people on the critically essential points of [dhyana] investigation were [continued on like this] until Bodhidharma instructed the second patriarch, saying, "You need only release (lit. "exhale") all conditions in the external sphere. The inner mind will then have nothing to draw in (lit. "inhale"). The mind will then become like a wall. You will then be able to enter the Way." This was Bodhidharma’s very first essential dharma employed in instructing people how to carry out meditative investigations.
[The tradition] was transmitted on until the time when Hwang Mei, [the Fifth Patriarch], sought a Dharma heir. The Sixth Patriarch had just proclaimed his realization that, "Fundamentally, there is nothing whatsoever" when he then obtained the robe and bowl. This was a clear indication of the transmittal of the seal of the mind.
Next, the Sixth Patriarch returned to the South and instructed Dao Ming, saying, "Don’t think of good. Don’t think of bad. Right then, what is the original countenance of the senior-seated Ming?" This was the Sixth Patriarch’s first instruction to people in the clear formula for [dhyana] investigation.
From these [examples] we know that as it came down to us from the Buddha and the patriarchs the intent was only to instruct a person in obtaining a complete awakening to his own mind and in the recognition [of the true nature] of the "self," that’s all. There still had not yet been any discussion of a gung-an (i.e. "anecdote") or a hwa-tou (lit. "speech-source"). When it came to Nan Ywe, Ching Ywan and those who came after them, all of the patriarchs accorded with what was appropriate in providing their instructions. For the most part they went to the place of doubt and knocked there in order to cause a person to turn his head around, reverse the direction of his thinking and then put it [all] to rest. But then it came about that there were those who were unable [to respond to this technique] so that even though one might bang away with the hammer and tongs, one still had no choice but to let [one’s teaching] adapt to [the student’s] appropriate time and conditions.
When it reached Hwang Bwo was when there first occured the instruction of people in [the practice of] looking into a hwa-tou. [This was the practice] straight on down to Dhyana Master Da Hwei who then engaged in the extremely strong promotion of teaching students to investigate into a gung-an (lit. "anecdote") which was used as an aid. This was referred to as a hwa-tou (lit. "speech source"). It was required of a person that he very closely engage in the bringing up and "tearing into" it.
Why was this? It was done on account of the fact that in every thought the seeds of evil practices from an incalculable number of kalpas permeate internally within the field of the eighth consciousness. They flow on continuously [with the result that] false thinking is not cut off and there is nothing which [most people] can do about it. Hence he would take a phrase of words devoid of any meaning-based flavor and give it to you for you to bite into it and hold it down.
Formerly one would take all internally and externally related false thinking in one’s mind state and put it all down at once. But because one became unable to put it down he then taught one to bring up this hwa-tou. Then, just like chopping off tangled strands of silk, in a single cut they were all cut off evenly such that they did not continue on any more. One cut off the intellectual mind consciousness so that it was no longer allowed to be active. This is precisely the same as Bodhidharma’s principle of "You need only release (lit. "exhale") all conditions in the external sphere. The inner mind will then have nothing to draw in (lit. "inhale"). The mind will then become like a wall."
If one fails to take on the task in this fashion, one will certainly fail to perceive one’s original countenance. The intention is not to teach you to deliberate on [the meaning of] the sentence in the gung-an. One should develop a sentiment of doubt and look to it as a means for seeking a measure of realization. This is just exactly like [the instruction offered by] Da Hwei who exclusively taught the looking into the hwa-tou as the invoking of a deadly stratagem whereby he simply wanted you to engage in an assassin’s surprise attack on the mind, that’s all. As an example [of his teaching], he instructed the assembly, saying, "When engaging in dhyana investigation one must empty out the mind and take the two words ‘birth’ and ‘death’ and stick them up on your forehead. [One should feel] as if he owed ten-thousand strings of cash. In the three [periods] of the day and the three [periods] of the night, whether drinking tea or eating meals, when walking and when standing, when sitting and when lying down, when toasting with friends, at quiet times and at boisterous times, one still keeps bringing up the hwa-tou: ‘Does a dog have the buddha nature, or not?’ Jou said, ‘No.’
"One should only be concerned about looking one way and looking another [so that] when there is no flavor [anymore] then it will be like running right into a wall. When one gets to the source where things come together, then it is like when a mouse [runs headlong] into a bull’s horn and then finds the route cut off. The intent is that you succeed in bringing about the single entity of the long-enduring and distantly-extending body and mind with which one carries on a struggle [with the result that] suddenly the flower of the mind puts out a brightness which illuminates the k.setras of the ten directions. With a single awakening one then reaches right down to the very bottom of things."(2)
The above [teaching] is the set of hammer and tongs routinely employed by the old eminence Da Hwei. His intent was just that he wanted you to take the hwa-tou and use it to block up and cut off the false thinking set loose by the intellectual mind faculty with the result that its flowing on would no longer be active. It is just at that point where it is not being active that one succeeds in seeing one’s original countenance.
It is not the intent to instruct you to carry on deliberative thinking about [the meaning of] the gung-an. One should employ the sentiment of doubt as a means for seeking a measure of realization. For example, it was [also] stated, "As for the flower of the mind putting forth brightness, how could that be something obtained from someone else?"
Instruction such as that presented above has been set forth by each and every one of the buddhas and patriarchs with the intention that you investigate into yourself and refrain from seizing on and peering into someone else’s esoteric and marvelous phrases. As for the people of the present era, in discussing investigations undertaken in dhyana and the application of meditative skill, everyone speaks of looking into the hwa-tou and bringing the sentiment of doubt to bear, but they do not realize that one must go to the very root [of the matter]. And so they are only concerned with seeking at the level of the hwa-tou.
They seek coming and they seek going and then suddenly visualize a scene full of light and declare that they have awakened. They then speak forth a verse and present a piece of poetry making as if they had become especially exotic goods. They then take it that they have succeeded in gaining complete understanding. They are completely unaware that they have fallen entirely into the net of knowledge and vision based on false thinking. When one goes about dhyana investigations in this manner, doesn’t this amount to poking out the eyes of everyone in the entire world of later generations?
The younger generation of today have not even gotten their sitting cushions warm when they proclaim that they have awakened to the Way. They then rely on their mouths, start channeling sprites and ghosts, fall into the quick-and-smart verbal swordplay, and then think up a few sentences of foolish words and scrambled discourse which are utterly baseless. They proclaim it to be an "Ode to the Ancients." This is just something which has come forth from your own false thinking. And was it ever really so that you even saw the ancients here even in a dream?
If it was actually so easy to become awakened to the Way as [claimed by] people of the present, then considering the integrity of practice of ancients such as Chang Ching who wore out seven sitting cushions and Chao Jou who for thirty years permitted no unfocused use of mind, those ancients had to have been of the very dullest of faculties. They wouldn’t even be fit to serve you moderns by holding your straw sandals! When people of overweening arrogance claim to have realizations when they have not yet realized them, can one not be appalled by this?
One’s investigations into Dhyana wherein one looks into the hwa-tou and brings the sentiment of doubt to bear absolutely cannot be given short shrift. [This is a case of] the so-called, "A little doubt,– a little enlightenment. A big doubt,– a big enlightenment. Refraining from doubt,– one doesn’t become enlightened." It is only essential that one become skillful in the use of the sentiment of doubt. If one achieves a breakthrough through the sentiment of doubt then in a single pass one can string together all of the buddhas and bodhisattvas by their noses.
It’s only necessary that, for instance when one looks into the mindfulness-of-the-buddha gung-an, one simply investigates into who it is that is being mindful of the buddha. It is not the case that one is supposed to entertain doubts about who the buddha is. If it were a case of doubting who the buddha is, then it would only be necessary to listen to the lecturer say, "Amitabha is named ‘Limitless Light’." After something like this then one should become enlightened and then make up a few verses on "Limitless Light." If instances such as this could be referred to as "awakening to the Way," then those with enlightened minds would be as numerous as sesame seeds and rice grains. How very sad! How very sad!
The ancients spoke of the hwa-tou as like a tile used to knock on the door. If one succeeds in opening the door by knocking, then one is supposed to go see the person in the room. It’s not supposed to be the case that one stands outside the door fooling around.(3) From this one can see that in relying on the hwa-tou to bring up doubt, the doubt is not directed towards the hwa-tou. It must be directed at the very root [of the matter].
Just take for instance when Jya Shan went to visit "Boatman" who inquired of him, saying, "I’ve hung down the line a thousand feet. The mind abides in a deep pool, three inches from the hook. Why don’t you speak?!"
Shan then started to open his mouth. The Master then knocked him into the water with an oar. Shan then climbed back into the boat. The Master said again, "Speak! Speak!" Shan was about to open his mouth again when the Master hit him again. Shan then experienced a major awakening whereupon he then knodded his head three times.
The Master then said, "The line from my fishing pole has succeeded in playing you in. Without having to stir up the purity as waves, your mind is naturally evident."
If this Jya Shan had just fooled around with the hook and line, how could "Boatman," even at the expense of a life, have been able to succeed in getting him?
This demonstrates the keen facility of the ancients in skillfully pursuing the means of bringing forth personages. In the past when the way of dhyana was flourishing, there were clear-eyed knowing advisors everywhere and the patch-robed men who were about in the land pursuing their investigations were many. Wherever they went, it flourished.
As a comparative statement, one can say that [nowadays] either there are no [practitioners of] dhyana or there are no Masters available.(4) The house of Dhyana has been silent and deserted now for a long time. How fortunate then that all at once there are many who have decided to take up the search. Although there do exist some knowing advisors, sometimes in taking the measure of the prospective candidates, those of [only] provisional talents [are allowed to] enter in as they yield to sentiment in their proffering of the seal of realization. The students, though of only shallow mind, then have the opinion that they have [actually] gotten some realizations.
Moreover, they do not have faith in the Thus Come One’s sacred teachings and do not seek out the origin of the true and correct road. They only care to go on about their dull-witted doings and so it then just becomes a case of a chop made of wintermelon being taken as the real formula.(5) Not only is this a fooling of oneself, but it’s also a fooling of others. Can one not be appalled by this? What’s more take for example the layman Dzai Gwan who of old recorded [one of the] records of the transmitting of the lamp. There were a number of [noteworthy] men in there, but that’s all.
Now, there are those people who are immersed in the weariness of the sense objects and who don’t even cultivate the most obvious precepts. They have such turbid and tangled false thinking that they lean on their own clever-wittedness, scan a few cases of the ancient virtuous ones and their prospective [lineage heirs], and then in every case they presume the airs of those of the most superior faculties. As soon as they see a member of the Sangha they then harass him with verbal swordplay and then take it that they themselves have awakened to the Way. I bring this up even though we are in an age which has become corrupt especially on account of my own disciples. It can become a case of a single blind man leading on a crowd of blind people, that’s all. This old man now faithfully sets forth the essential points of the true and correct meditative skills of the buddhas and patriarchs. Everyone can evaluate this. Those lofty and clear eminences who have well understood these things may themselves have ways in which they might correct it.
1. This is a reference to Shakyamuni Buddha. See DFB, 2058c.
2. It is as yet unclear how much of the above "quote" is paraphrase.
3. This "dzwo hwo-ji" which I have translated as "to fool around" means "to knit" or "to carry on a livelihood." It’s use seems a little ambiguous here.
4. This sentence is ambiguous in the Chinese and hence tentative in the English.
5. This is another utterly ambiguous Chinese sentence resulting in a tentative translation.

No Mind, No Enlightenment

Throughout the history of Chinese Chan, there were only a few Chan masters who have had a profound influence on me. One of them was Master Bai Zhang’s disciple Master Wei Shan Ling You, who lived from 771 to 853 AD. This was a very interesting person. He became a monk when he was fifteen. Me, I became a monk when I was thirteen, so he left home a little later than I myself. This master Wei Shan, when he was about twenty years old, he traveled to Mount Tian Tai. And during his journey to Mount Tian Tai he ran into two people, actually two legendary figures in Chan history. One of them was Master Han Shan, often known as Cold Mountain, and the other was Master Shi De. (Actually, it isn’t correct to call him a master — he was a monk, he never became a master.) 
Nobody really knows the true names of these two people — Han Shan and Shi De were not their real names. Han Shan lived in this place in the mountain called Cold Rock, so that’s where his name came from — Han Shan means "Cold Mountain." And with Shi De, when he was asked what his name was, he would answer that he didn’t know because he was an orphan. Then when his master found him and brought him back to the monastery, he said, "Look what I ‘shi de’," which literally means "picked up", I picked up something, so that’s why his name was Shi De.
So, these two people never knew their own names, and they never lived in any monasteries, they lived in the wilderness, so they never had any disciples and never had any followers. Whenever anybody asked them to teach the Dharma, they would always just say some crazy words in some nutty way. 
Today there is a book of poems called Cold Mountain. What happened was that when Han Shan lived in the mountains he wrote poems all over the place, on the rocks. After a while he just disappeared — no one knew what happened, if he left the place or if he died. But there was one person who really missed him and went to his place, Cold Rock, and copied down all the poems he had written all over the place and compiled them into this book of poems by Han Shan. It’s actually been translated into English — has anyone seen it? One or two people — did you like it? Compared to my poems, which ones are better? Can’t really compare because I’ve never written any poems. 
Back to the story of Wei Shan Ling You. Wei Shan was traveling to this mountain, and he ran into Han Shan, and Han Shan told him, here in this mountain all you have to do is keep going, keep going until you run into a pond, and you will become enlightened. So Wei Shan kept going, but before he ran into any pond of water, he ran into Shi De, and he asked, "I heard there is a pond of water here, where is this pond of water?" And Shi De said, "Yes, yes, just keep going, you’ll run into this pond of water." Well, Wei Shan finally ran into a pond, but he didn’t get enlightened, then he ran into another pond, but he didn’t get enlightened, and he kept running into one pond after another, but he never got enlightened. Finally he ran into yet another person, whose name was Zhou Tan, and Tan means "pond." So the pond they were referring to was actually the second character of this person’s name. Wei Shan thought, "This must be an enlightened monk; he’ll help me become enlightened." But Zhou Tan only directed him to yet another person — he told him to go look for someone called Bai Zhang. Have you heard of Master Bai Zhang? How many people have heard of him? 
How about Master Ma Zu? Master Bai Zhang was Master Ma Zu’s disciple. 
Has anyone heard of Rebecca? She is my disciple. [Laughter]
At the time Wei Shan met Master Bai Zhang, he was already 23 years old, and he was not yet enlightened, but when Bai Zhang saw him he said, "Okay, why don’t you become my attendant?" So wherever Master Bai Zhang went, Wei Shan Ling You followed. 
One day Master Bai Zhang asked him, "Who are you?" and he answered, "I am Ling You." At this moment there was some doubt arising in Wei Shan’s mind, and he thought, "That’s strange, Master knows who I am, why is he asking me who I am?" Master Bai Zhang then told Wei Shan to go and check the fire, to see if it was still burning. Wei Shan looked and saw only ash, so he told Master Bai Zhang that there was no fire, just ash. Master Bai Zhang himself went to look and he dug deeper beneath the ashes and found there were traces of fire there, and so he said to Wei Shan, "Isn’t this fire here?" Wei Shan Ling You saw the fire and at that moment, he was enlightened. Now, I’d like to ask you, how did he become enlightened?
You’ve heard this pretty long story — Wei Shan traveling to the mountain, and hearing about the pond, and expecting to become enlightened, and finally meeting Master Bai Zhang… Then Bai Zhang’s question "Who are you?" kind of shook him up a little bit. And then he was asked to look at the fire, and he said there was no fire, and then Master Bai Zhang asked, "Isn’t there fire here?" That’s when he got enlightened. What happened was that the whole time he wasn’t paying attention to the wisdom he already possessed. He wasn’t paying attention to the wisdom within himself. It was only when Master Bai Zhang showed him the fire hidden in the ashes that he began to see that he had always possessed this buddha nature hidden within himself. 
Actually it’s not so rare or so surprising that he got enlightened in this way. However, if you go to look for the fire in the ashes, you’re not going to get enlightened, because the most important part here is the process itself. The whole time that he was looking for enlightenment, how could he become enlightened? He was looking for the path, looking for the path, and he couldn’t find the path because he wasn’t paying attention. The moment that he was paying attention, in that moment, he found that his mind was the path.
So Wei Shan was very happy and very grateful to Master Bai Zhang, and he described his experience to him. And Master Bai Zhang responded, "Oh, you have wondered off the road here." This is strange — Wei Shan experiences enlightenment, yet Master Bai Zhang responds that he’s gone off the road. Do you understand why Master Bai Zhang responded that way, why he had gone off track? Smart people, please tell me. 
[Responses by listeners: "There is nothing to attain"; "Bodhisattvas have no obstructions…"]
Master Bai Zhang told Wei Shan these two things. First he told him that in order for enlightenment to happen, it has to be the right time, when all the causes and conditions have ripened. Without this, no matter what you do, you will not experience enlightenment. So enlightenment is really nothing to be excited or overjoyed about, because you haven’t really achieved it, and you haven’t gained anything. And Master Bai Zhang went on to say that actually there’s no difference in a person before and after enlightenment, it’s just that before enlightenment they do not know, and after enlightenment they know, that actually there is no such thing as an enlightened mind, and no such thing as the phenomenon of enlightenment. Why did he say that? And why did he say that a person is no different before and after enlightenment, why did he say that? Peter, maybe you can answer that question. Does anyone want to guess?
I believe with 100 people there will be 100 different answers. And I myself don’t know which answer would be correct. Maybe, however, I can tell you a story, which is actually a koan in the Chan tradition. There was a monk who left home, who became a monk when he was very young, and who after many years decided to go back to his hometown to see what was going on. When he got there, the people actually recognized him. They saw him and said, "Oh, you’re that little kid, you haven’t changed at all, you look exactly as you did before." And this old monk thought this was quite strange. "How can I be the same, I’m much older than before?" What had actually happened was that everyone had aged — the monk had aged, and the other people in town had aged as well. The old monk said, "I’m actually the same as before, however I’m not the same either." Do you understand this? I’m still the same me as the old me but I’m not the same as the old me. Is this a contradiction? Why isn’t it a contradiction? 
When we talk about the person being no different before and after enlightenment, we mean that the self before enlightenment is no different from the self after enlightenment. What is different is that before enlightenment one sees vexation as wisdom, and afterwards one sees wisdom as vexation. Let me repeat. Before enlightenment one sees vexation as wisdom; after enlightenment one sees wisdom as vexation. Do you understand? No, you don’t understand?
What is wisdom? Smart people take vexation as wisdom; dull people see wisdom as vexation. Smart people, before enlightenment, have a mind of discrimination, a mind that is constantly discriminating, picking and choosing. This mind of discrimination sees vexation as wisdom. Without this mind of discrimination, however dull one is, whatever one knows is wisdom. And once one has understood that there is no such thing as an enlightened mind, and no such thing as enlightenment, one will see that holding on to the idea of wisdom is vexation. Why do we say that, that enlightened people see wisdom as vexation? Because when they give rise to the thought, "I have wisdom," they are aware that they have vexation in that moment. When there’s no idea, "I have wisdom," then there’s no problem, no vexation in that moment. Therefore, when people come to me and say that I have a lot of wisdom, it makes me very ashamed, because they are actually criticizing me, saying a bad thing about me. 
So Master Bai Zhang went on, telling Wei Shan that there is no difference between ordinary beings and saints, and no difference between liberation and samsara. Liberation, and the cycle of birth and death, they are no different, they are the same. They are only different when you yourself start discriminating between the two, vexing yourself with the idea that you have to become a saint, you have to escape from samsara, you have to become liberated. Again, it’s very important to understand that there’s no such thing as an enlightened mind, and there is no such phenomenon as enlightenment, please remember this. So as long as you see your experience as something special, as long as you use your mind to attain this experience of enlightenment, then you still have a vexed mind. It’s very important to understand that having experienced enlightenment doesn’t make you a special person, you’re still the same person. If you think, "I have experienced enlightenment… I’m special now… I’m different," then you’re in trouble. 
When one who has experienced enlightenment feels liberated from the cycle of samsara, and clearly sees that this is distinctly different from before, this is merely small liberation. In the truly great liberation, that of maha nirvana, one would see no difference between nirvana and samsara. One would no longer be attached to the idea that there is a samsara and a nirvana, so one would see no distinction between the two, and thus would have no sense of being completely different from before.
So Master Bai Zhang was trying to help Wei Shan turn his small enlightenment into a complete enlightenment. When he brushed the ash and showed his disciple the fire, and Wei Shan saw it and became so overjoyed, Master Bai Zhang could see that this was just a little tiny enlightenment, and therefore he continued his teaching.

Zen Teachings of Hongzhi Zhenjue of Mt. Tiantong in Ming Province

Hongzhi made vast and empty the bright mirror and saw through it and reflected without neglect. He manifested he mysterious pivot of subtle change, then trusted his fortune and certainly found the core. Only one who had the true eye and deep flowing eloquence could have mastered this!
My teacher lived below Taipai Peak. dragons and elephants tromped around. The hammer and chisel [of teaching[ chipped away. The meaning of his words spread widely but still conveyed the essence. Sometimes scholars and laypeople who trusted the Way (Tao) asked for his directions; sometimes mendicant monks requested his instructions. They spread out paper and wrote down his responses. He spoke up and answered their questions, producing appropriate Dhama talks. I have selected a few of these and arranged them in order.
Ah, the emptiness of the great blue sky, the flowing of the vast ocean.
I have not yet attained these utmost depths, so please excuse my attempt to record his talks. I must await the ones who mysteriously accord with spiritual awakening to pound out the rhythm of his words and appreciate their tones.
§ 1. The Bright, Boundless Field
The field of boundless emptiness is what exits from the very beginning. You must purify, cure, grind down, or brush away al the tendencies you have fabricated into apparent habits. Then you can reside in the clear circle of brightness. Utter emptiness has no image, upright independence does not rely on anything. Just expand and illuminate the original truth unconcerned by external conditions. Accordingly we are told to realize that not a single thing exists. In this field birth and death do not
appear. The deep source, transparent down to the bottom, can radiantly shine and can respond unencumbered to each speck of dust without becoming its partner. The subtlety of seeing and hearing transcends mere colors and sounds. The whole affair functions without leaving traces, and mirrors without obscurations. Very naturally mind and dharmas emerge and harmonize. An Ancient said that non-mind enacts and fulfills the way of non-mind. Enacting and fulfilling the way of non-mind, finally you can rest. Proceeding you are able to guide the assembly. With thoughts clear, sitting silently, wander into the center of the circle of wonder.
This is how you must penetrate and study.
§ 2. The Practice Of True Reality
The practice of true reality is simply to sit serenely in silent introspection. When you have fathomed this you cannot be turned around by external causes and conditions. This empty, wide open mind is subtlety and correctly illuminating. Spacious and content, without confusion from inner thoughts or grasping, effectively overcome habitual behavior and realize the self that is not possessed by emotions. You must be broad-minded, whole without relying on others. Such upright independent spirit can begin not to pursue degrading situations. Here you can rest and become clean, pure, and lucid. Bright and penetrating, you can immediately return, accord, and respond to deal with events. Everything is unhindered; clouds gracefully floating up to the peaks, the moonlight glitteringly flowing down mountain streams. The entire place is brightly illumined and spiritually transformed, totally unobstructed and clearly manifesting responsive interaction like box and lid or arrow points [meeting]. Continuing, cultivate and nourish yourself to enact maturity and achieve stability. If you accord everywhere with thorough clarity and cut off sharp corners without dependence on doctrines, like the white bull or wildcat [helping to arouse wonder], you can be called a complete person. So we hear that this is how one of the way of non-mind acts, but before realizing non-mind we still have great hardship.
§ 3. Face Everything, Let Go, Attain Stability.
Vast and far-reaching without boundary, secluded and pure, manifesting light, this spirit is without obstruction. Its brightness does not shine out but can be called empty and inherently radiant. Its brightness, inherently purifying, transcends causal conditions beyond subject and object. Subtle but preserved, illumined and vast, also it cannot be spoken of as being or nonbeing, or discussed with images or calculations. Right in here the central pivot turns, the gateway opens. You accord and respond without laboring and accomplish without hindrance. Everywhere turn around freely, not following conditions, not falling into classifications. Facing everything, let go and attain stability. Stay with that just as that. Stay with this just as this. That and this are mixed together with no discriminations as to their places. So it is said that the earth lifts up the mountain without knowing the mountain’s stark steepness. A rock contains jade without knowing the jade’s flawlessness. This how truly to leave home, how home-leaving must be enacted.
§ 4. Contemplating The Ten Thousand Years
Patch-robed monks make their thinking dry and cool and rest from the remnants of conditioning. Persistently brush up and sharpen this bit of the field. Directly cut through al the overgrown grass. Reach the limit in all directions without defiling even one atom. Spiritual and bright, vast and lustrous, illuminating fully what is before you, directly attain the shining light and clarity that cannot attach to a single defilement. Immediately tug and pull back the ox’s nose. Of course his horns are imposing and he stomps around like a beast, yet he never damages people’s sprouts or grain. Wandering around, accept how it goes. Accepting how it goes, wander around. Do not be bounded by or settle into any place. Then the plough will break open the ground in the field of the empty kalpa. Proceeding in this manner, each event will be unobscured, each realm will appear complete. One contemplation of the ten thousand years is beginning not to dwell on appearances. Thus it is said that the mind-ground contains every seed and he universal rain makes them all sprout. When awakening blossoms, desires fade, and Bodhi’s fruit is perfected self.
§ 5. Performing The Buddha Work
[The empty field] cannot be cultivated or proven. From the beginning it is altogether complete, undefiled and clear down to the bottom. Where everything is correct and totally sufficient, attain the pure eye that illuminates thoroughly, fulfilling liberation. Enlightenment involves enacting this; stability develops from practicing it. Birth and death originally have no root or stems, appearing and disappearing originally have no defiling signs or traces. The primal light, empty and effective, illumines the headtop. The primal wisdom, silent but also glorious, responds to conditions. When you reach the truth without middle or edge, cutting off before and after, then you realize one wholeness. Everywhere sense faculties and objects both just happen. The one who sticks out his broad, long tongue transmits the inexhaustible lamp, radiates the great light, and performs the great Buddha work, from the first not borrowing from others one atom from outside the Dharma. Clearly this affair occurs within your own house.
§ 6. Forgetting About Merit Is Fulfillment
Separate yourself from disturbance and face whatever appears before you. Not one iota seeps through from outside. The two forms (yin and yang) have the same root, and the ten thousand images have one substance. Following change and going along with transformation the whole is not clouded over by previous conditions. Then you reach the foundation of the great freedom. Wind blows and moon shines, and beings do not obstruct each other. Afterwards, settle back within and take responsibility. Wisdom returns and the principle is consummated. When you forget about merit your position is fulfilled. Do not fall for occupying honorable stations, but enter the current of the world and join with the delusion. Transcendent, solitary, and glorious, directly know that transmitting is merit, but having transmitted is not your own merit.
§ 7. The Ground That Sages Cannot Transmit
Cast off completely your head and skin. Thoroughly withdraw from distinctions of light and shadow. Where the ten thousand changes do no reach is the foundation that even a thousand sages cannot transmit. Simply by yourself illuminate and deeply experience it with intimate accord. The original light flashes through confusion. true illuminations reflects into the distance. Deliberations about being and nonbeing are entirely abandoned. The wonder appears before you, its benefit transferred out for kalpas. Immediately you follow conditions and accord with awakening without obstruction from any defilements. The mind does not attach to things, and your footsteps are not visible on the road. Then you are called to continue the family business. Even if you thoroughly understand, still please practice until it is familiar.
§ 8. With Total Trust, Roam and Play in Samadhi
  Empty and desireless, cold and thin, simple and genuine, this is how to strike down and fold up the remaining habits of many lives. When the stains from old habits are exhausted, the original light appears, blazing through your skull, not admitting any other maters. Vast and spacious, like sky and water merging during autumn, like snow and moon having the same color, this field is without boundary, beyond direction, magnificently one entity without edge or seam. Further, when you turn within and drop off everything completely, realization occurs. Right at the time of entirely dropping off, deliberation and discussion are one thousand or ten thousand miles away. Still no principle is discernible, so what could there be to point to or explain? People with the bottom of the bucket fallen out immediately find total trust. So we are told simply to realize mutual response and explore mutual response, then turn around and enter the world. Roam and play in Samadhi. Every detail clearly appears before you. Sound and form, echo and shadow, happen instantly without leaving traces. The outside and myself do not dominate each other, only because no perceiving [of objects] comes between us. Only this non-perceiving encloses the empty space of the Dhama realm’s majestic ten thousand forms. People with the original face should enact and fully investigate [the field] without neglecting a single fragment.
§ 9. The Valley Spirit and the Wind Matter
Patch-robed monks practice thoroughly without carrying a single thread. Open-mindedly sparkling and pure, they are like a mirror reflecting a mirror, with nothing regarded as outside, without capacity for accumulating dust. They illuminate everything fully, perceiving nothing [as an object]. This is called taking up the burden from inside and is how to shoulder responsibility. Wisdom illuminates the darkness without confusion. The Way integrates with he boy and does not get stuck. From this unstuck place engaging and transforming at the appropriate opportunity, he wisdom dos not leak out, Clearly the Way does not get stained. Unobstructed and free, beyond restraints, they do not depend on even subtle indicators and their essential spirit cannot be eclipsed. Fulfilled, wander around and arrive at such a field. the entire place secure, the entire place at leisure, the open field of the white ox is plain and simple, of one color. If you chase the ox, still he will not go away. You must intimately experience and arrive here.
§ 10. Simply Drop Off Everything
Silently dwell in the self, in true suchness abandon conditioning. Open-minded and bright without defilement, simply penetrate and drop off everything. Today is not your first arrival here. since the ancient home before the empty kalpa, clearly nothing has been obscured. Although you are inherently spirited and splendid, still you must go ahead and enact it. When doing so, immediately display every atom without hiding a speck of dirt. Dry and cool in deep repose, profoundly understand. If your rest is not satisfying and you yearn to go beyond birth and death, there can be no such place. Just burst through and you will discern without thought-dusts, pure without reasons for anxiety. Stepping back with open hands, [giving up everything], is thoroughly comprehending life and death. Immediately you can sparkle and respond to the world. Merge together with all things. Everywhere is just right. Accordingly, we are told that from ancient to modern times all dharmas are not concealed, always apparent and exposed.
§ 11. The Ancient Ferryboat in the Bright Moonlight
A patch-robed monk’s authentic task is to practice the essence, in each minute event carefully discerning the shining source, radiant without discrimination, one color unstained. You must keep turning inwards, then [the source] is apprehended. This is called being able of continue the family business. Do not wear the changing fashions, transcend the duality of light and shadow. Accordingly the ancestors’ single trail is marvelously enacted. The residual debris of the world departs, its influence ended. This worldly knowledge does not compare to returning to the primary and obtaining confirmation. Observing beyond your skull, the core finally can be fulfilled and you can emerge from the transitory. The reeds blossom under the bright moon; the ancient ferryboat begins its passage; the jade thread fits into the golden needle. Then the opportunity arises to turn around, enter the world, and respond to conditions. All the dusts are entirely yours; all the dharmas are not someone else’s. Follow the current and paddle along, naturally unobstructed!
§ 12. The Gates Sparkling at the Source
All Buddhas and every ancestor without exception testify that they all arrive at this refuge where the three times [past, present, and future] cease and the ten thousand changes are silenced. Straight ahead, unopposed by the smallest atom, the inherently illumined Buddha spirit subtly penetrates the original source. When recognized and realized exhaustively, [this spirit] shares itself and responds to situations. The gates sparkle and all bens behold the gleamings. Then they understand d that from within this place fulfilled self flows out. The hundreds of grass-tips all around never are imposed as my causes and conditioning. The whole body from head to foot proceeds smoothly.
§ 13. The Misunderstanding of Many Lifetimes
Emptiness is without characteristics. Illumination has no emotional afflictions. With piercing, quietly profound radiance, it mysteriously eliminates all disgrace. Thus one can know oneself; thus the self is completed. We all have the clear, wondrously bright field from the beginning. Many lifetimes of misunderstanding come only from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation. With boundless wisdom journey beyond this, forgetting accomplishments. Straightforwardly abandon stratagems and take on responsibility. Having turned yourself around, accepting your situation,
if you set foot on the path, spiritual energy will marvelously transport you. Contact phenomena with total sincerity, not a single atom of dust outside yourself.
§ 14. Self and Other the Same
All dharmas are innately amazing beyond description. Perfect vision has no gap. In mountain groves, grasslands, and woods the truth has always been exhibited. Discern and comprehend the broad long tongue [of Buddha’s teaching], which cannot be muted anywhere. The spoken is instantly hard; what is heard is instantly spoken. Senses and objects merge; principle and wisdom are united. When self and other are the same, mind and dharmas are one. When you face what you have excluded and see how it appears, you must quickly gather it together and integrate with it. Make it work within your house, then establish stable sitting.
§ 15. Ten Billion Illuminating Spirits
The way wanders in the empty middle of the circle, reaching the vacancy where appearances are forgotten. The pure ultimate self blazes, brilliant simply from inherent illumination. Facing the boundary of the objective world without yet creating the sense gates, realize the subtlety of how to eliminate the effects of the swirling flow of arising and extinction! Rely only on the source of creation. If you feel a shadow of a hair’s gap, nothing will be received. Just experience and respond appropriately. From this singular impact many thousands of roads open, and al things are preeminent. With this unification I radiantly speak the Dhama. The self divides into ten billion distinct illuminating spirits. Distinguish these without falling into names and classifications and accord fully without effort. The mirror is clear and magnanimous. The valley is empty, but echoes. From the beginning unbound by seeing or hearing, the genuine self romps and plays in samadhi without obstruction. When enacted like this, how could it not be beneficial?
The specific practice experience of shikan taza was first articulated in the Soto Zen lineage (Caodong in Chinese) by the Chinese master Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157; Wanshi Shogaku in Japanese),and further elaborated by the Japanese Soto founder Eihei Dogen (1200-1253).


a teisho by John Tarrant, Roshi
Originally published in: Mind Moon Circle, Autumn 1994, pp.1-3.
Good Buddhists know that the thing to do is to renounce the world,
attain enlightenment and lead other beings to safety. But if you are a
Zen person, you don’t get off so easily. We find Buddha in the heart
of delusion, we find stars in the deepest night. When Hakuin said,
"This very body is the Buddha," he didn’t mean after we’ve gained
enlightenment or taken vows, he meant right now, in the chaos.

I think of the old story of the warrior who did zazen with such energy
that all the mice in the house grew still until he had finished. His
wife remarked on this and he said, "Well, this won’t do, I’ll have to
try harder." His zazen deepened and soon, as he sat, the mice came out
and played all over him, completely unafraid.

This story tells about inclusion. It implies that even mice have their
contribution and worth and that we don’t want to shut too much of
their world out. This means not only the outer world as the field of
enlightenment but also the inner world – the disturbed zazen, the
immense proliferation of fantasies, the distractions. If lay life has
a virtue, it is in this inclusiveness.

In the Indian world that Buddhism grew from there seems to have been a
fairly clear distinction between lay and monastic lives. One was a
householder for the first part of life and then, when family
obligations were finished, one was free to seek enlightenment. But
nothing is really this orderly and Shakyamuni fractured this way of
seeing things by abandoning his obligations before they were completed
and so making lay life somehow second class. Primeval Buddhism
certainly saw things this way. There was a split between the pure
monastic world and the contaminated householder world.

It was the advent of the Mahayana that clouded this view once more.
Vimalakirti, a layman, became a hero, and the Bodhisattva ideal was of
one who had compassion, who saved others and who did so by walking
unharmed through the fires of the world. Now this is quite a different
path. The image of enlightenment has changed. The original idea of
nirvana was a cessation, extinction, a snuffing out, as of a lamp.
Perhaps we should call it endarkment. It implies a stoic view of
things. Life was seen as so contaminated that the end of it was the
best thing of all. The Mahayana, and the Zen image is more optimistic:
to light a lamp and pass it on. Beings are worth saving, even stones
are beings, and consciousness is a great project.

The monastic life then becomes less a way station on the path out of
life and more of a matter of practical choice within life, a skilful
means. We put a fence around the training hall to get containment, so
that the energy we pour in does not leak out. The training hall is a
kind of alchemical vessel. Only if it is in some degree sealed off can
we get enough heat to change the lead into gold. This is the great
virtue of monastic life. All transformation needs its guardians and
monastic life provides them. But its project enlightenment and
compassion – is no longer different from the lay project.

Both lay and monastic worlds have their pathologies. The pathologies
of the monastic life seem to be about clinging to purity. Purity is
not a natural thing and needs to be guarded. Another way to say this
is that monasteries tend towards monotheism – a single and orthodox
view of reality. The monastic consciousness doesn’t believe in
fantasies or in the arts because it doesn’t like the confusion of
multiple views. Monasteries like rules because when we make a rule we
gain the illusion that we have dealt with the problem. This monotheism
relates to the inner life as well. Samadhi and concentration states
are often highly valued. This is what the Chinese masters called the
sword that kills – the koan that drives all thoughts away,
annihilating every other content in the mind. Then enlightenment will
come and there will be no more real problems.

The status of women and children always seems to suffer in
monasteries. This is because they always bring in more real problems.
Women have a special role as distractions, human affections being the
one thing most difficult to put boundaries around. Women have been
excluded, or they are included but asked to act like men, or they’re
asked to act like women, but to not have children, or they’re asked to
not bring their children around the sesshin. Even women’s monasteries
seem to have a patriarchal air – rigid and hostile to the obligations
of the heart. Women in temples are often given the archetypal task of
representing the world and its weight, its messiness. Naturally a
woman will object because her real developmental task is something
independent of the way a man reacts to her.

The pathologies of a lay life relate to a kind of getting lost, a
forgetting of the quest, an unconscious immersion in the world. So
much time is spent changing diapers or watching the stock market
ticker that zazen never gets up enough steam to bring about a real
change. We are so close to the greed, the sadness, the anger and the
ignorance that it’s impossible not to get stained by them. We come
home from the hospital and can’t stop thinking about the baby who
died. The world penetrates us.

But this wounding of consciousness can be the essence of the
Bodhisattva life. The Bodhisattva legend is of one who puts off her
own enlightenment in order to save others. On the face of it, this is
an absurdity, but like many absurdities it contains a very deep story.
An old koan goes like this: "Why is it that perfectly accomplished
Bodhisattvas are attached to the vermilion line?" The red line is the
line of passion- of sorrow and the love of the world. Our perfection
cannot connect with others. Only through our weaknesses do we grow. It
is the field of our failures and problems that is the place of
Bodhisattva action and the development of character after
enlightenment. The Bodhistttva’s enlightenment is not something that
makes her invulnerable to the world but open to it. It is closely
linked to love. This weakness, this permeability, is the strength of
the lay life.

The lay view asks itself unanswerable questions such as, "What does
enlightenment mean?", trying to link the experience of eternity to the
smell of the morning coffee. It assumes there will always be problems
and failures. It wonders what its dreams mean and always misinterprets
them. It gets lost in symbol and metaphor. The monastic view is
uninterested in meaning and tends to think enlightened people don’t

Obviously there are people in monasteries who are immersed in the
world and people outside of monasteries who try to stay unsullied by
the world. Most of the Western monasteries today have some degree of
what I am calling lay consciousness,. And yet it is the monastic
consciousness that has preserved Buddhism down through the ages and
this is a powerful argument in its favour.

The virtue of the lay point of view is that it brings a fertilizing
muddle into the serenity of the temple. Blackberry pie, sex, a new
car, lessons for the little girl, these distractions and frivolities
are themselves the Buddha Way. A coherent temple existence seems, at
least from the outside, to be difficult. Fortunately, a coherent lay
existence is impossible.

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