Monday, May 16, 2016

Zen & Archery

An ancient Zen master said that zen is like learning archery; only after long practice do you hit the bullseye.

Enlightenment is experienced instantaneously, but Zen work must be done over a long time, like a bird that when first hatched is naked and scrawny, but then grows feathers as it is nourished, until it can fly high and far.

Therefore those who have attained clear penetrating enlightenment then need fine tuning.

When it comes to worldly situations, by which ordinary people get suffocated, those who have attained Zen get through them all by being empty. Thus everything is their own gateway to liberation.


Set aside all the slogans you have learned and all the intellectual views that stick to your skin and cling to your flesh. Make your mind empty, not manifesting any thoughts on your own, not doing anything at all. Then you can attain thoroughgoing Zen experience.

But even when you reach this point, you should still realize that there is progressive action that transcends a teacher.

-Master Yuanwu

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Spur to a Good Horse

The true nature with which people are endowed, and the fundamental nature of the Buddhas of the three worlds, are not two. They are equal in their virtue and majesty; the same light and glory are there. The wisdom and wonderful powers are the same. It is like the radiance of the sun illuminating mountains and rivers and the whole wide earth, lighting up the despised manure just as much as gold and jewels. But a blind man may stand pathetically in that very light, without seeing it or knowing anything about it.

Though the fundamental nature of all the Buddhas and of living beings is the same and not distinct, their minds are looking in quite different directions. The Buddha faces inward and makes the heart-essence (hon-shin) shine forth. The ordinary man faces outward, and is concerned with the ten thousand things.

If you would grasp the nature of the universal body of all the Buddhas, first you must be clear about, and then you must enlighten, the root of ignorance in you. How is it to be made clear? You must search after your true nature. How to search? In the eye, seeing of colors; in the ear, hearing of sounds; in the body, feeling distinctions of heat and cold; in the consciousness, feelings of wrong and right: all these must be seen clearly as they are. This seeing and hearing and knowing is at the root of the practice. The ordinary man sees colors and is deluded by colors, hears voices and is deluded by voices, feels heat and cold and is deluded by heat and cold, knows right and wrong and is deluded by right and wrong. This is what is meant by the saying: "The ordinary man looks outward."

The training of a bodhisattva is: when looking at some color, to ask himself what it is that is being seen; when hearing some sound, to ask himself what it is that is being heard; when feeling hot or cold, to ask himself what it is that is being felt; when distinguishing wrong from right, to ask himself what it is that is being known. This is called the "facing inward of the Buddhas." Practicing it is different from facing in the direction in which the ordinary man looks. At first, though facing the same way as the Buddha, the Buddha power and wisdom are not manifest in him. But still, he is an infant bodhisattva, and he must realize that he has come into that company. If he always keeps to his great vow to the Buddhas, praying to the spiritual lights and being loyal to the teacher, then one day the Great Thing comes about.

-Zen Master Torei

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Great Sound

The moon floats above the pines,
And the night veranda is cold
As the ancient, clear sound comes from your finger tips.
The old melody usually makes the listeners weep,
But Zen music is beyond sentiment.
Do not play again unless the Great Sound of Lao-tsu accompanies you.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

One Bright Pearl

in your body is a light
that shines through mountains & rivers
one bright naked pearl
spewed from the black dragon's mouth
like the moon breaking through clouds & mists
to intoxicate a living midnight with its brilliance

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Samten Migdrön

Now, as for expounding the doctrine of Atiyoga, the excellent vehicle, the best and topmost yoga, the mother of all conquerors, its name is the Great Perfection. Why? Because it gives detailed teaching with a view to imparting direct understanding of the principle of this non-sought spontaneity with regard to all existential elements. The sense of the spontaneous essence, which is the innermost treasury of all vehicles and the great "universal grandfather" [spyi myes], is to be experienced directly by "self-awareness" [rang rig pas], but not as a thing to be kept in mind. It is to be made clear to the "self-awareness". How one is to know of it? In this vehicle of the high yoga, there is nothing that can be measured by the discriminative self-intellect as expounded in the tantras, authoritative works and precepts. Why is it so? Because all the so-called elemental particles have never grown new feathers or changed their colour from the beginning. It is the Buddha-nature, the "sphere of the great circle" [thig le chen po'i klong] of the "self-awareness". Who then has seen this as an object? Who has demonstrated the logic for seeing it? To what doctrine does one entrust it? With what cognition does one cognise it? All the elements are non-conceivable, because separately they have no substance.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pristine Gnosis, Bitches

The actual essence, pristine gnosis,
cannot be improved upon, so virtue is profitless,
and it cannot be impaired, so vice is harmless;
in its absence of karma there is no ripening of pleasure or pain;
in its absence of judgement, no preference for samsara or nirvana;
in its absence of articulation, it has no dimension;
in its absence of past and future, rebirth is an empty notion:
who is there to transmigrate? and how to wander?
what is karma and how can it mature?
Contemplate the reality that is like the clear sky!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Siva Yoga

Invite the breath,
the outer space,
to come within your house.

If you are unwavering,
placing it there
as though you were
putting oil in a lamp . . .
They shall meet.
Breath and God
becoming one.
Like wind becoming breath
there is no individual intelligence.

The Great Awareness becomes Siva.
He and breath
merge into one.

It is this light becoming breath
that redeems the soul.
Surely this is the truth
of Siva Yoga!


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Great Self, Great Buddha

What is known as the revealed Buddha is this evidence of My own being. Because it has the center, the central vigor, it is the Self of everything. As it does not need any deeds, it is the Buddha since the beginning. As it is free of striving and achieving, it is since the beginning known as great. The Great Self is known as the Great Buddha. This evidence which is unborn and non-conceptual is the dimension of Reality [dharmadhatu].

-The All-Creating Mind-King Tantra


The solitary light of self-originating wisdom
shines without ever ceasing:
mountains, rivers, great forests do not obstruct it.
Can empty space be grasped or let go of?
Treat the affairs of the world as a passing dream,
a poor play, on a flimsy stage with a shaking backdrop.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Enter the Noumenon

Roshi: For your benefit I will now point straight to your original mind so that you can awaken to it. Clear your minds and listen to my words.

From morning until evening, all during the 12 periods of the day, during all your actions and activities -- whether seeing, hearing, laughing, talking, whether angry of happy, whether doing evil or good -- ultimately who is it that is able to perform all these actions? Speak! If you say that it is the physical body which is acting, then at the moment when a man's life comes to an end, even though the body has not yet decayed, how is it that the eyes cannot see, the ears cannot hear, the nose cannot smell, the tongue cannot talk, the hands cannot grasp, the feet cannot run?

You should know that what is capable of seeing, hearing, moving and acting has to be your original mind; it is not your physical body. Furthermore, the four elements which make up the physical body are by nature void; they are like images in a mirror of the moon's reflection in water. How can they be clear and constantly aware, always bright and never obscured -- and, upon activation, be able to put into operation sublime functions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges? For this reason it is said: "Drawing water and carrying firewood are spiritual powers and sublime functions." 神通並妙用

There are many points at which to enter the noumenon. I will indicate one approach which will allow you to return to the source. Do you hear the sound of that crow cawing and that magpie calling?

A student: Yes.

Roshi: Trace them back and listen to your hearing-nature. Do you hear any sounds?

A student [shutting his eyes to listen, then opening them amazed]: At that place, sound and discrimination do not obtain!

Roshu: Marvelous! Marvelous! This is Avalokitesvara's method for entering the noumenon [exactly as explained in the Shurangama Sutra]. Let me ask you again. You said that sounds and discrimination do not obtain at that place. But since they do not obtain, isn't the hearing-nature just empty space at such a time?

A student [speaking with growing wonder]: No, it is not empty. It is always bright and never obscured.

Roshi: What is this essence which is not empty?

A student [blinking in surprise]: Words cannot describe it!

Thursday, September 10, 2015


The Guru replied, 
At no time throughout the beginningless succession of lifetimes has there ever been actual birth. There has been only the appearance of birth. There has never been actual death, only the transformation of sensory appearances, like the shift from the dream state to the waking state. All sensations—seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt as forms, sounds odors, tastes, and tactile sensations by the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin – are merely the mind being conscious of its own projections (rang-nang), without their ever having even a hair’s tip of existence as something else. 
You may think that something other than this does exist in its own right (rang-gyud), since you can see it directly with your eyes, actually hold it in your hand, or experience it through your other senses. But in fact, although all the forms, sounds, odors, tastes, and tactile sensations in dreams seem to truly exist in their respective contexts, from the point of view of waking experience they have never existed, being nonexistent as objects (yul-med).
Throughout the beginningless succession of lifetimes, there has never been any actual experience of transition or going from one state to another, or any actual experience of being located in some other place. This is analogous to the images in a dream.

-Dudjom Lingpa

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Outside Mind There is Nothing

Hills are hills. Water is water. Monks are monks. Laymen are laymen. But these mountains, these rivers, the whole world itself, together with sun, moon and stars -- not one of them exists outside your minds! The vast chiliocosm exists only within you, so where else can the various categories of phenomena possibly be found? Outside Mind, there is nothing. The green hills which everywhere meet your gaze and that void sky that you see glistening above the earth -- not a hairsbreadth of any of them exists outside the concepts you have formed for yourself! So it is that every single sight and sound is but the Buddha's Eye of Wisdom. 

-Great Zen Master Huang-Po

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pass Through Fire Without Being Burnt

If you set out in quest of words and sentences, cudgeling your brains with their logical meanings, working over a thousand possibilities and ten thousand subtle distinctions, and creating endless questions and debates, all you will gain is a glib tongue, while all the time getting farther and farther away from Tao, with no rest for your wandering. If It could be found in the Sutras why should there be "a special transmission outside the scriptures"? But if you have really found your True Self, then you can pass through fire without being burnt. The important thing is your experiential realization of this state.


The Time I Saw My True Self

Zhaozhou entered the hall and addressed the monks, saying, "A metal buddha does not withstand the furnace. A wooden buddha does not withstand the fire. A mud buddha does not withstand water. The genuine buddha sits within you. "Bodhi" and "nirvana," "true thusness" and "buddha nature" -- these things are just clothes stuck to the body and they are known as "afflictions." Where is the actual ground-truth revealed?

Big mind is unborn. The myriad dharmas are flawless. Try sitting for twenty or thirty years, and if you still don't understand then cut off my head! The empty flowers of delusion and dreams -- disciples work so hard to grab them!

When nothing deviates from big mind, then the myriad dharmas are but one thusness. Since it can't be attained from outside, what will you try to grasp?

This nature existed before the appearance of the world. If the world ends, this will not end. From the time I saw my True Self, there hasn't been anyone else. There's just the One In Charge.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Imagine the Wonder of No-Thought

Yang-shan asked, "Where is the abiding place of the real Buddha?" Kuei-shan replied: "Imagine the wonder of no-thought and trace it back to the infinity of the light of the spirit. While thoughts are exhausted and return to their source, nature and appearance are ever abiding. Reality and events are no longer differentiated. Therein is the real Buddha of Suchness." Hearing this Yang-shan was suddenly enlightened, and thereafter he served Master Kuei-shan.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Unfurling the Red Flag of Victory

For students of mystic wisdom, seeing the real nature of things and awakening to the true pattern and treading in the steps of the Buddhas is everyday food and drink.

You should realize that on the crown of the heads of the Buddhas and enlightened adepts there is a wondrous way of “changing the bones” and transforming your existence. Only then can you get beyond conventional categories and sectarian limits and act like a transcendent person, so that even great Zen masters like Linji and Deshan would have no way to apply their blows and shouts to you.

At all times just remain free and uninvolved. Never make any displays of clever tricks -- be like a stolid simpleton in a village of three families. Then the gods will have no road on which to offer you flowers, and demons and outsiders will not be able to spy on you.

Be undefinable, and do not reveal any conspicuous signs of your special attainment. It should be as if you are there among myriad precious goods locked up securely and deeply hidden in a treasure house. With your face smeared with mud and ashes, join in the work of the common laborers, neither speaking out nor thinking.

Live your whole life so that no one can figure you out, while your spirit and mind are at peace. Isn't this what it is to be imbued with the Way without any contrived or forced actions, a genuinely unconcerned person?

Among the enlightened adepts, being able to speak the Truth has nothing to do with the tongue, and being able to talk about the Dharma is not a matter of words.

Clearly we know that the words spoken by the ancients were not meant to be passively depended on. Anything the ancients said was intended only so that people would directly experience the fundamental reality. Thus, the teachings of the Sutras are like a finger pointing to the moon, and the sayings of the Zen masters are like a piece of tile used to knock on a door.

- Master Yuanwu, Zen Letters

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The True Power of Zen

Those who study the Path must become again like infants. Then praise and blame, success and fame, unfavorable circumstances, unfavorable environments -- none of these can move them. Though their eyes see form, they're the same as a blind person. Though their ears hear sound, they're the same as a deaf person. They're like fools, like idiots. The mind is motionless as Mount Sumeru. This is the place where patch-robed monastics and practitioners really attain true power.

An old master said, "My patched garment covering my head, myriad concerns cease. At this time, I don't understand anything at all. "

Though adepts are like this, nevertheless they can't be fooled at all. They are without artifice, without clinging thoughts. They're like the sun and the moon moving through the sky, without ever stopping, without ever saying, "I have so many names and forms." They're like the sky everywhere covering, like the earth everywhere supporting: since they have no mind, they bring up and nurture myriad beings without saying, "I have so many accomplishments." Since sky and earth are mindless, they last forever -- what has mind has limits. A person who attains the Path is like this too. In the midst of no activity, they carry out their activities, accepting all unfavorable and favorable circumstances with a compassionate heart.

-Master Yuanwu

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How Do They Differ From Wooden Dolls?

If ‘there's never been a single thing', past, present and future are meaningless. So those who seek the Way must enter it with the suddenness of a knife-thrust. Full understanding of this must come before they can enter. Hence, though Bodhidharma traversed many countries on his way from India to China, he encountered only one man, the Venerable Ko, to whom he could silently transmit the Mind-Seal, the Seal of your own REAL Mind. Phenomena are the Seal of Mind, just as the latter is the Seal of phenomena. Whatever Mind is, so also are phenomena—both are equally real and partake equally of the Dharma-Nature, which hangs in the void. He who receives an intuition of this truth has become a Buddha and attained to the Dharma. Let me repeat that Enlightenment cannot be bodily grasped (attained perceived, etc.), for the body is formless; nor mentally grasped (etc.), for the mind is formless; nor grasped (etc.), through its essential nature, since that nature is the Original Source of all things, the real Nature of all things, permanent Reality, of Buddha! How can you use the Buddha to grasp the Buddha, formlessness to grasp formlessness, mind to grasp mind, void to grasp void, the Way to grasp the Way? In reality, there is nothing to be grasped (perceived, attained, conceived, etc.)—even not-grasping cannot be grasped. So it is said: ‘There is NOTHING to be grasped.' We simply teach you how to understand your original Mind.

Moreover, when the moment of understanding comes, do not think in terms of understanding, not understanding or not not-understanding, for none of these is something to be grasped. This Dharma of Thusness when ‘grasped' is ‘grasped', but he who ‘grasps' it is no more conscious of having done so than someone ignorant of it is conscious of his failure. Ah, this Dharma of Thusness—until now so few people have come to understand it that it is written: ‘In this world, how few are they who lose their egos!' As for those people who seek to grasp it through the application of some particular principle or by creating a special environment, or through some scripture, or doctrine, or age, or time, or name, or word, or through their six senses—how do they differ from wooden dolls? But if, unexpectedly, one man were to appear, one who formed no concept based on any name or form, I assure you that this man might be sought through world after world, always in vain! His uniqueness would assure him of succeeding to the Patriarch's place and earn for him the name of Śākyamuni's true spiritual son: the conflicting aggregates of his ego-self would have vanished, and he would indeed be the One! Therefore is it written: 'When the King attains to Buddhahood, the princes accordingly leave their home to become monks.' Hard is the meaning of this saying! It is to teach you to refrain from seeking Buddhahood, since any SEARCH is doomed to failure. Some madman shrieking on the mountain-top, on hearing the echo far below, may go to seek it in the valley. But, oh, how vain his search! Once in the valley, he shrieks again and straightway climbs to search among the peaks—why, he may spend a thousand rebirths or ten thousand aeons searching for the source of those sounds by following their echoes! How vainly will he breast the troubled waters of life and death! Far better that you make NO sound, for then will there be no echo—and thus it is with the dwellers in Nirvāņa! No listening, no knowing, no sound, no track, no trace—make yourselves thus and you will be scarcely less than neighbours of Bodhidharma!


Never allow yourselves to mistake outward appearance for reality. Avoid the error of thinking in terms of past, present and future. The past has not gone; the present is a fleeting moment; the future is not yet to come. When you practise mind-control,  sit in the proper position, stay perfectly tranquil, and do not permit the least movement of your minds to disturb you. This alone is what is called liberation.

Ah, be diligent! Be diligent! Of a thousand or ten thousand attempting to enter by this Gate, only three or perhaps five pass through. If you are heedless of my warnings, calamity is sure to follow. Therefore is it written:

Exert your strength in THIS life to attain!
Or else incur long aeons of further pain!

-Huang-Po, The Wan Ling Record, John Blofeld translation

Thursday, February 5, 2015


On yet another occasion, when I met the great rigdzin Hungchhenkara in a vision, I asked, "What is this array of sensory appearances like?"

He bestowed the following reply: "Ah, great spiritual being, the five sense consciousnesses are like space, in which anything can happen, while conceptualization is like the substances and incantations used in magic. The array that appears from the synchronicity of these two occurs like a magical illusion. Consciousness that perpetuates this is like a spectator."

-Dudjom Lingpa Rinpoche

Sunday, February 1, 2015


One day, a Sutra Master came and he questioned Zen Master Dae-Ju. "I understand that you
have attained Satori. What is Zen?'"

Dae-Ju said, "Zen is very easy. It is not difficult at all. When I am hungry, I eat; when I am
tired, I sleep."

The Sutra Master said, "This is doing the same as all people do. Attaining satori [Zen enlightenment] and not attaining are then the same."

"No, no, most people are different on the outside than on the inside.'"

The Sutra Master said, "When I am hungry, I eat. When I am tired, I sleep. Why is the outside different from the inside?"

Dae-Ju said, "When most people are hungry, they eat. Only the outside, the body, is eating. On the inside they are thinking, and they have desire for money, fame, sex, food, and they feel anger. And so when they are tired, because of these wants, they do not sleep. So, the outside and the inside are different. But when I am hungry, I only eat. When I am tired, I only sleep. I have no thinking, and so I have no inside and no outside."

Friday, January 30, 2015

Seeing the Ganges

Then King Prasenajit rose and said to the Buddha, "In the past, when I had not yet received the teachings of the Buddha, I met Katyayana and Vairatiputra, both of whom said that this body is annihilated after death, and that this is Nirvana. Now, although I have met the Buddha, I still have doubts about their words. How much I wish to be enlightened to the ways and means to perceive and realize the true mind, thereby proving that it transcends production and extinction! All those who have karmic outflows also wish to be instructed on this subject."

The Buddha said to the great king, "Now I ask you, as it is now is your physical body indestructible and living forever? Or does it change and go bad?"

"World Honored One, this body of mine will keep changing until it eventually becomes extinct."

The Buddha said, "Great king, you have not yet become extinct. How do you know you will become extinct?"

"World Honored One, although my impermanent, changing, and decaying body has not yet become extinct, I observe it now, and every passing thought fades away. Each new one fails to remain, but gradually perishes like fire turning to ashes. This perishing without cease convinces me that this body will eventually become completely extinct."

The Buddha said, "So it is."

"Great king, at your present age you are already old and declining. How do your appearance and complexion compare to when you were a youth?"

"World Honored One, in the past when I was young my skin was moist and shining. When I reached the prime of life, my blood and breath were full. But now in my declining years, as I race into old age, my form is withered and wizened and my spirit dull. My hair is white and my face is in wrinkles and I haven’t much time remaining. How can I be compared to how I was when I was full of life?"

The Buddha said, "Great king, your appearance is not declining so suddenly as all that."

The king said, "World Honored One, the change has been a hidden transformation of which I honestly have not been aware. I have come to this gradually through the passing of winters and summers. How did it happen? In my twenties, I was still young, but my features had aged since the time I was ten. My thirties were a further decline from my twenties, and now at sixty-two I look back on my fifties as hale and hearty. World Honored One, I am contemplating these hidden transformations. Although the changes wrought by this process of dying are evident through the decades, I might consider them further in finer detail: these changes do not occur just in periods of twelve years; there are actually changes year by year. Not only are there yearly changes, there are also monthly transformations. Nor does it stop at monthly transformations; there are also differences day by day. Examining them closely, I find that kshana by kshana, thought after thought, they never stop. And so I know my body will keep changing until it is extinct."

The Buddha told the great king, "By watching the ceaseless changes of these transformations, you awaken and know of your extinction, but do you also know that at the time of extinction there is something in your body which does not become extinct?"

King Prasenajit put his palms together and exclaimed, "I really do not know."

The Buddha said, "I will now show you the nature which is not produced and not extinguished. Great king, how old were you when you first saw the waters of the Ganges?"

The king said, "When I was three years old my compassionate mother led me to visit the Goddess Jiva. We passed a river, and at the time I knew it was the waters of the Ganges."

The Buddha said, "Great king, you have said that when you were twenty you had deteriorated from when you were ten. Day by day, month by month, year by year until you have reached your sixties, in thought after thought there has been change. Yet when you saw the Ganges River at the age of three, how was it different from when you were thirteen?"

The king said, "It was no different from when I was three, and even now when I am sixty-two it is still no different."

The Buddha said, "Now you are mournful that your hair is white and your face is wrinkled. In the same way that your face is definitely more wrinkled than it was in your youth, has the seeing with which you look at the Ganges aged, so that it is old now but was young when you looked at the river as a child in the past?"

The king said, "No, World Honored One."

The Buddha said, "Great king, your face is in wrinkles, but the essential nature of your seeing has not yet wrinkled. What wrinkles is subject to change. What does not wrinkle does not change. What changes will become extinct, but what does not change is fundamentally free of production and extinction. How can it be subject to your birth and death? So you have no need to be concerned with what Maskari Goshaliputra and the others say: that when this body dies, you cease to exist."

The king believed the words that he had heard, and he understood that when we leave this body, we go on to another. He and all the others in the great assembly were elated at having gained this new understanding.

-Shurangama Sutra

Empty and Bright

The pure Dharma-body is without coming or going:
It does not arise or cease
And is constantly in peace and happiness.
It is empty and bright, and shines of itself:
It is without obstructions.
It reaches to even the deepest darkness,
And transcends all limits.

Iron Into Gold

When the vital-energy rises (to the head and produces tension) you should establish your will like a mountain, and calm your mind like the sea. Sit erect on your cushion and contemplate the tan-t’ien (Jap. Hara) with the mind’s eye. (When you are troubled by headaches) gently put the feeling of doubt into the tan-t’ien. Through this unawareness and non-attention the hua-t’ou will quickly ripen. Eventually the body will seem to be like empty space; it will seem both to exist, and not to exist. When the mind and body are very light and comfortable, you will gradually enter into auspicious states. As you are now transmuting iron into gold, you ought to be very careful. Be diligent!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Satori Experiment

I hereby propose a modest Zen experiment to you: stop thinking for four minutes while in an alert, fully conscious waking state. All that you need for this experiment are four unoccupied minutes. Just throw yourself into it as if off the Golden Gate Bridge. Start now. Ready? Set? Go!

Can you do it, or not? If not, why not? If I say to make a fist for four minutes, you can do that. Right? Or if I say not to blink your eyes for four minutes, you can even do that. And with training, you could learn to hold your breath for four minutes!

What's the trouble? Isn't this thinking business something that is under your control?

"Are you telling me to fall into some kind of yogic trance?" The opposite of that. No. I said to do it while fully awake, alert and conscious of your body and its surroundings. So try now.

Huh! Ah so desu ka. So you've bravely tried what I suggest. And you must now admit that something was blocking your attempt. You failed utterly and miserably. You simply can't do it. Thoughts kept coming up no matter how you tried to adjust your mind.

Don't get frustrated. It's hard. Just muster your will and your spirit to break through and try the same experiment again later today or tonight or tomorrow. You know how to get to Carnegie Hall, don't you?

One day soon as a result of your one pointed efforts, I promise, you will be able to stop your thinking while fully alert sometime during those four minutes. Then something will happen to you. Or rather, let's say that three things will happen to you, although they are really all one thing:

-You will drop all stress, all tension, all sense of effort and enter an inconceivable, indescribable state of brilliance characterized by vivid wonder and joy, as if all your senses suddenly lost their dust and came into sharp focus at once.

-Your original nature or "root-consciousness" (Bodhi) will wake up to itself without any further effort on your part, giving you the startling impression of being infinite, while also being "empty" of any defined sense of "self." Empty, yet infinite.

-You will experience a great rush of bodily energy.

All of your former anguish, stress and irritability gone in a single instant, blazing with Zen truth, you will realize that I was not lying to you, or trying to torture you with my incessant talk about satori. No -- I was right, and the Zen Masters were right, and Buddha was right, and now you too are right.

NOTE: Is getting satori as sketched out above the only way to Daigo-Tettei, Great Enlightenment? Not so. If you find that you cannot cut off thinking in a flash, then you can simply contemplate your bare awareness and practice not fixating on or pursuing any thoughts even as they arise. Just ignore them: take the attitude of "no matter, never mind." Let go of every mental appearance, let it self-liberate into infinite space. "If you do not follow one thought, the next thought cannot appear," says the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. This is just taking the attitude of a rock wall, a withered tree overhanging a deep gorge, an ancient strip of silk, a white ox in the blinding snow. This is the way taught by Hongzhi, sometimes called "silent illumination Zen," and later by Dogen as "shikantaza". It is not as difficult as cutting off thinking in a flash, but it takes more time and patience. If you practice this Zen method every day you will never experience "satori" as such but gradually you will settle into Daigo-Tettei, the inconceivable state of the Buddhas -- a snowy egret standing on the riverbank in morning mist, a hazy moon shining through black winter fog. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Former Worthies Gather at the Mount Shuang-feng and Each Talks of the Dark Principle

Monk Parsva says: "The teachings of the canon are to be taken as commentary on the mind ground. Sit silently in empty fusion."

Asvaghosa Bodhisattva says: "Mind is the same as space. Space is no mind. This mind is also that way."

Dhyana Master Ch'ao says: "The correct and the incorrect are equally usable."

Dhyana Master Buddha says: "The extreme principle is wordless. The sagely mind is unimpeded."

Reverend K'o says: "Correct mindfulness is uninterrupted and intrinsically pure."

Superior Man Yu says: "Realize the real and lose objects. Quiet anxieties and have no thought."

Master Min says: "When mind is pure without anxieties, Dharma will spontaneously appear."

Dhyana Master Neng says: "The mind range is sameness, uniformity, and without admixture."

Dhyana Master Hsien says: "Correct thoughts so that they do not arise. Concentration and insight are to be used equally."

Master Tao says: "Stimulating thoughts is bondage. No thought is release."

Dhyana Master Tang says: "Empty deception does not exist, yet it is real. But it is still not the locus in which to rest mind." Also: "When one enters meditation, one corrects thoughts and objects. When one exits from meditation, one examines illusions and reflections."

Dhyana Master Hsiu says: "In the pure locus gaze at purity."

(translated by Jeffrey Broughton, The Bodhidharma Anthology)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


"Non-abiding mind" is the goal of Zen training. Thus, sitting resolutely with a non-abiding mind is both the practice and (if and when truly done without mind) also the enlightenment. The merging of everyday activity with enlightenment via no-mind is Zen.
When doing sitting Zen (坐禪) the training is to cut off all attachments, forget all views, drop thinking, and maintain the immovable mind.
Is this training limited to sitting meditation? Not at all. It is just that it is easiest to prevent your awareness from fixing on sense-objects or mental chatter when you are sitting resolutely with your back straight, so this is the preferred method of Zen yogins for attaining no-mind.
Let's say you were in prison and learned you'd been sentenced to death, and that your execution would happen at dawn. You could pace around the cell all night, write some eloquent letters protesting your innocence, start gibbering like a madman, or bash your head against the walls of your cell until you collapsed unconscious.
But the Zen way to deal with this situation would be to sit resolutely with your back straight and attain the mind that is neither inside nor outside.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Bodhidharma Sutra

Manjusri asked, "World Honored One, I've heard you prophecy that in the future a special Dharma heir of yours will take the transmission of Mind to the East, all the way to China, and there he will expound a doctrine of Sudden Enlightenment."

"That is so, Manjusri. This silent transmission I inaugurated by holding up a flower, to which Mahakasyapa smiled in response, will continue through a line of teachers of which a monk who will become known as the Blue-Eyed Barbarian will be one. This monk will go to China, bringing with him the sutra I preached on the summit of Mount Lanka. There, he will astonish people by his direct manner and his energy. He will spend 9 years in a mountain cave gazing at a wall. Eventually, he will attract students to whom he will teach the One Vehicle consisting of the highest truth that Mind is Buddha, Buddha is Mind."

"Sugata, how is this doctrine different than what you have already taught us, and continue to teach?"

"Manjusri, there is no difference except this: Bodhidharma will use words to teach the doctrine, but he will not rely upon them. And some of Bodhidharma's heirs will invent ways to enlighten their students without using words at all -- for example, with a shout, or a blow, or with a glance of the eyes, or a shaking of the sleeves, or the spilling of a cup of tea, or a long and stubborn silence. I, too, have sometimes taught in this way. Even those who still use words will use them in an unusual way that seems to make little sense to their questioners, for example responding to a question about the Dharma by quoting a line of poetry about Spring and birds singing on a branch. The purpose of all this is to awaken students' intuitive wisdom. Prajna, as you know, means 'before-knowing.' The Dhyana Masters will try to show students the essence of their own minds before they think of anything at all, which is an inherently pure, alert and natural responsiveness to various situations free of any attachment to ideas about self and other, being or nonbeing. This method of pointing directly to the heart, not relying on words and letters, will catch on in China and will be known as the Dhyana School, though in some cases it will reject even formal meditation, relying only on intuitive penetration. The aim of the method and its various subtle approaches will be to cause students to wake up suddenly to the reality that is free of all dualistic extremes."

"World Honored One, can people really be liberated in this way, without prolonged study and meditation?"

"Manjusri, I myself experienced Sudden Awakening under the Bodhi tree when I saw the morning star in the coolness of dawn. Because of the incalculable number of lives I had already spent practicing kindness and helpfulness to other beings in various situations, I was also instantly liberated by my awakening. Yet many who will experience Sudden Awakening will still not be so liberated, and will have to continue to cultivate the Dharma for years after before decisive liberation. The initial breakthrough is not always the same as the leap-over. If you are drilling a piece of wood to make fire, you must not stop when you see smoke, or even when there is a sudden spark, but keep working diligently, adding more bits of tinder and wood gradually, until the fire is blazing."

"Sugata, what was the nature of your Sudden Awakening?"

"I saw in a flash there there were no other beings, no self, nobody to liberate, nobody to ever wander through samsara. I saw that even Nirvana and Samsara are not truly distinct, and that there is 'nothing to be gained' by awakening except this very realization of what has always been evident. All this was as clear to me as holding an amala fruit in the palm of my hand. 'The Rhinoceros of Doubt fell over dead.' Yet, with my sudden leap over delusions to Prajna wisdom, I also saw with the sympathetic eye of my heart that, although delusions are unreal, those who suffer from these delusions still do feel them to be real, and so I wanted to help others attain the same understanding that now energized my entire body and mind. This led me to devise hundreds, even thousands of methods for awakening people to reality and putting an end to their delusions. Manjusri, I say that nothing new is ever gained by awakening because what can awakening add to your clear and unborn self-nature?  -- instead, upon awakening the delusive person reverts to a state of natural ease and bliss as soon as the true nature gets revealed and is fully experienced. It's like pouring cool water into boiling water; the agitation stops instantly. Even 'personhood' is gone. Yet unless one wakes up for oneself, all these teachings are just a matter of words and ideas."

"Sugata, you say nothing is gained, yet did not your Sudden Awakening liberate you and make you a Buddha?"

"Manjusri, does a dreamer ever really gain anything by awakening from a dream, except for the knowledge that it was a dream? Such sure and immediate knowledge is the only difference between a Buddha and a non-Buddha. If a person dreams of being confined in a prison and does not know that this a dream, it is exactly as if he were imprisoned, so far as he is concerned! Wake him up, and he sees instantly that he was mistaken. As soon as the dream is gone, so is the mistake and the suffering caused by it. Yet, short of waking up oneself, one will continue to wander through dream after dream in a state of anxiety and confusion."

"Why then, Sugata, is Sudden Awakening not instantly liberation for everyone who experiences it?"

"Manjusri, this is due to the stubborn tendency some people have to continue to believe in and hold onto their dreams even after getting a clear glimpse of the truth. Sudden Awakening may be like a flash of lightning that reveals the total extent of the original purity, or a gleam of sunlight in the East under a dark sky. There are even people who become terrified when they realize that their dreams are 'not real' and wish to return to the confused state of a dreamer who does not know he is dreaming. Such people are afraid because they cling to extreme concepts such as 'real' and 'unreal' and the idea that their dreams are 'unreal' makes them afraid that nothing is real and that by awakening they will fall into total emptiness, like plunging into an abyss with no bottom. But they are mistaken, like children mistaking a temple mural of a dragon for a real dragon, for in one important sense their dreams have always been quite real -- that is, dreams are imbued with all the reality of the mind that dreams them!

Waking up from dreaming one finds, Manjusri, that the reality is the mind of the dreamer, not the details of this or that dream. Nonetheless, stubborn clinging onto dreams as true reality can only be relaxed gradually, with the application of constant effort. This is a situation that requires compassion and infinite patience, and it is why Bodhisattvas return to samsara again and again to rescue beings still caught up in delusion and suffering. In the end, it is not so easy to get rid of thought-discriminations if you have spent many lifetimes addicted to them.

Upon liberation, it is quite true -- just as the future Dhyana Masters of China will say -- all that will have been gained by it is knowing that one's eyes are horizontal and nose vertical, and the inconceivably wondrous spiritual delights of 'chopping wood, hauling water'."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Kashyapa Only Realized This

The Buddha said people are deluded. This is why when they act they fall into the river of endless rebirth. And when they try to get out they only sink deeper. And all because they don’t see their nature. If people weren’t deluded why would they ask about something right in front of them? Not one of them understands the movement of his own hands and feet. The Buddha wasn’t mistaken. Deluded people don’t know who they are. A Buddha and no one else can know something so hard to fathom. Only the wise knows mind, this mind called nature, this mind called liberation. Neither life nor death can restrain this mind. Nothing can. It’s also called "the Unstoppable Tathagata," the Incomprehensible, the Sacred Self, the Immortal, the Great Sage. Its names vary but not its essence. Buddhas vary too, but none leaves his own mind. The mind’s capacity is limitless, and its manifestations are inexhaustible. Seeing forms with your eyes, hearing sounds with your ears, smelling odors with your nose, tasting flavors with your tongue, every movement or state is your entire mind. At every moment, where language can’t go, that’s your mind.
The sutras say, "A Tathagata’s forms are endless. And so is his awareness." The endless variety of forms is due to the mind. Its ability to distinguish things, whatever their movement or state, is the mind’s awareness. But the mind has no form and its awareness no limit. Hence it’s said, "A Tathagata’s forms are endless. And so is his awareness." A "material body of the four elements" is trouble. A material body is subject to birth and death. But the real body exists without existing, because a Tathagata’s real body never changes. The sutras say, "People should realize that the Buddha-nature is something they have always had." Kashyapa only realized his own nature.

-Bodhidharma (Red Pine translation)

Friday, September 12, 2014

More Ancient Chan from Master Daoxin

The hundred thousand gates of the Awakened Teaching all return to the one heart. The source of the countless sublime practices all come from this one mind. All of the precepts and ethical guidelines, the practice of meditation, the gate of primordial wisdom and all its miraculous manifestations are all your natural possession, not separate from your mind. Every type of misfortune and karmic impediment is fundamentally empty and without substantial existence. All causes and effects are simply dreams and illusions. There are no suffering worlds to escape from and there is no awakening to search for. The original nature, and the outer appearance of humans and all beings, are identical. The great way is empty and boundless, free from thought and anxiety. If you have merged with this truth, where nothing whatsoever is lacking, what difference is there between yourself and an awakened one? Here there is not a single teaching left. You are just free to abide in your own spontaneous nature. There is no need to contemplate your behavior, no need to practice purifying austerities. Free from desires, having a heart without anger or cares, completely at ease and without impediment; free to go in any direction according to conditions; with no need to deliberately take on any good or evil affairs. In walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, whatever meets your eyes is nothing other than the essential source; all of it just the sublime function of awakening; joyful and carefree. This is called "Buddha."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014



A monk asked Joshu, "Has the dog the Buddha nature?" Joshu replied, "Mu (nought)!"


In the pursuit of Zen, you must pass through the barriers (gates) set up by the Zen masters. To attain this mysterious awareness one must completely uproot all the normal workings of one's mind. If you do not pass through the barriers, nor uproot the normal workings of your mind, whatever you do and whatever you think is a tangle of ghosts. Now what are the barriers? This one word "Mu" is the sole barrier. This is why it is called the Gateless Gate of Zen. The one who passes through this barrier shall meet with Joshu face to face and also see with the same eyes, hear with the same ears and walk together in the long train of the patriarchs. Wouldn't that be pleasant?

Would you like to pass through this barrier? Then concentrate your whole body, with its 360 bones and joints, and 84,000 hair follicles, into this question of what "Mu" is; day and night, without ceasing, hold it before you. It is neither nothingness, nor its relative "not" of "is" and "is not." It must be like gulping a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.

Then, all the useless knowledge you have diligently learned till now is thrown away. As a fruit ripening in season, your internality and externality spontaneously become one. As with a mute man who had had a dream, you know it for sure and yet cannot say it. Indeed your ego-shell suddenly is crushed, you can shake heaven and earth. Just as with getting hold of a great sword of a general, when you meet Buddha you will kill Buddha. A master of Zen? You will kill him, too. As you stand on the brink of life and death, you are absolutely free. You can enter any world as if it were your own playground. How do you concentrate on this Mu? Pour every ounce of your entire energy [Qi] into it and do not give up, then a torch of truth will illuminate the entire universe.


Has a dog the Buddha nature?
This is a matter of life and death.
If you wonder whether a dog has it or not,
You certainly lose your body and life!

Dissolving Completely in Deep Unknowing

Dissolving completely in deep unknowing, one's breathing becomes tranquil and one's mind gradually settled. Your energy becomes clear and sharp, your awareness bright and pure. Observing carefully, inside and outside become empty and pure, and the mind becomes still. From this stillness, the realization of the sage becomes manifest . . . The presently arrived body of true nature is pure, perfect, and complete. All forms are manifested within it, even though that nature is without mental effort. It is like a clear mirror suspended in the air -- all the various objects are manifested within it, but the mirror is without any effort to generate them.

-from the Ju Dao An Xin Yao Fang Pien Fa Men by Master Daoxin, 4th Patriarch of Ch'an

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lao Tzu Yoga

it's just the conscious dropping away of all thoughts
so there is no identification with the idea of a person
for when the mind isn't occupied with thinking
it awakens instantly to reality (wuzhen, the Great Way)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Listening to the Zen Masters

There are no Ch'an/Zen Masters except possibly Wangsong who do not have a sudden enlightenment story. Such stories were customarily presented at the beginning of any collection of "sayings" or writings by the Master.

Why? Because the essence of Ch'an is "sudden enlightenment."

Nobody in Chinese or Japanese Zen history seems to have believed that any of what a non-enlightened person says about Zen could ever be of the least interest or importance, any more than you or I would trouble ourselves over the idea of our names coming up in the gossip of inmates in a mental hospital.

An unenlightened person is, by definition, merely a drone speaking or writing from received ideas, which are delusions. To think that such a person could meaningfully critique or an interpret the words or doings of an enlightened Master is a glaring contradiction in terms.

One reads a piece of "Zen" writing -- whether a poem or a Dharma speech or any other fragment of discourse -- always and only because the author is thought to be enlightened, and because reading it might help one to get enlightened, also.

Zen Masters are by definition greatly enlightened -- if you are not greatly enlightened, you cannot be called a Zen Master. The way that enlightenment comes about is not only a topic of great interest in Ch'an literature, but its guiding question.

Figuring out if a person is a Zen Master or not is strictly a matter of accepting what he says about himself and his own enlightenment story (or not), as well as listening to what other Zen Masters have had to say about it (or not). Of special but not absolute importance is a recognition or certification of one Master's awakening by another Master who has been recognized as awakened by a previous Master, &c.

This is because there are no "objective" standards, no fixed rubric to help one determine who is enlightened and who isn't apart from the verbal record. At some point, one must simply "believe" it to be so, or at least, not disbelieve it.

Since Ch'an Buddhist students were already disposed to believe that "sudden enlightenment" is possible, though rare and hard to attain, it stands to reason that they would want to hear as much as possible about how a person who claims to be enlightened managed or happened to become so.

Reputed Zen Masters were customarily sought out even in remote mountain retreats because it was believed that they might have some special talent, method or tactic for enlightening the seeker in his turn. And, in fact, like the fabled swordsmen and kung fu experts in Chinese wu xia movies, each Ch'an Master was renowned for some special style or trick, such as Lin-Chi's shouts or Yunmen's "one word barriers." Though, instead of being used by the Masters to win duels, these special tactics were used solely to jolt students into sudden awakening.

There would be no other reason to seek out Yunmen except the belief that Yunmen is enlightened, and the related commonplace belief that Yunmen may therefore be able to enlighten the seeker, also. After all, Yunmen himself approached his own Master for help in "clarifying the mind" (attaining wu, satori).

So it is quite natural for any Zen student to ask, like Yunmen, How do I clarify "this"? And it would be unreasonable to ask such a question of anybody but a person whom one believes, or at least does not disbelieve, to be enlightened.

Master Hui-Ha's Root-Practice of Sudden Awakening

Q: What method must we practice in order to attain deliverance?

A: It can be attained only through a sudden illumination.

Q: What is a sudden illumination?

A: ‘Sudden' means ridding yourselves of deluded thoughts' instantaneously. ‘Illumination' means the realization that illumination is not something to be attained.

Q: From where do we start this practice?

A: You must start from the very root.

Q: And what is that?

A: Mind is the root.

Q: How can this be known?

A: The Lankavatara Sutra says: ‘When mental processes (hsin) arise, then do all dharmas (phenomena) spring forth; and when mental processes cease, then do all dharmas cease likewise.' The Vimalakirti Sutra says: 'Those desiring to attain the Pure Land' must first purify their own minds, for the purification of mind is the purity of the Buddha Land.' The Sutra (of the Doctrine Bequeathed by the Buddha) says: 'Just by mind control, all things become possible to us.' In another sutra it says: ‘Sages seek from mind, not from the Buddha; fools seek from the Buddha instead of seeking from mind. Wise men regulate their minds rather than their persons; fools regulate their persons rather than their minds.' The Sutra of the Names of the Buddha states: ‘Evil springs forth from the mind, and by the mind is evil overcome.' Thus, we may know that all good and evil proceed from our minds and that mind is therefore the root. If you desire deliverance, you must first know all about the root. Unless you can penetrate to this truth, all your efforts will be vain; for, while you are still seeking something from forms external to yourselves, you will never attain. The Dhyana Paramita Sutra says: ‘For as long as you direct your search to the forms around you, you will not attain your goal even after aeon upon aeon; whereas, by contemplating your inner awareness, you can achieve Buddhahood in a single flash of thought.'

Q: By what means is the root-practice to be performed?

A: Only by sitting in meditation, for it is accomplished by Dhyana (Ch'an) and samádhi (ting). The Dhyana-Paramita Sutra says: ‘Dhyana and samádhi are essential to the search for the sacred knowledge of the Buddhas; for, without these, the thoughts remain in tumult and the roots of goodness suffer damage.'

Q: Please describe Dhyana and samádhi.

A: When wrong thinking ceases, that is Dhyana; when you sit contemplating your original nature, that is samádhi, for indeed that original nature is your eternal mind. By samádhi, you withdraw your minds from their surroundings, thereby making them impervious to the eight winds, that is to say, impervious to gain and loss, calumny and eulogy, praise and blame, sorrow and joy. By concentrating in this way, even ordinary people may enter the state of Buddhahood. How can that be so? The Sutra of the Bodhisattva Precepts says: ‘All beings who observe the Buddha-precept thereby enter Buddhahood.' Other names for this are ‘deliverance', 'gaining the further shore', ‘transcending the six states of mortal being, 'overleaping the three worlds', or 'becoming a mighty Bodhisattva, an omnipotent sage, a conqueror'!

Q: Whereon should the mind settle and dwell?

A: It should settle upon non-dwelling and there dwell.

Q: What is this non-dwelling?

A: It means not allowing the mind to dwell upon anything whatsoever.

Q: And what is the meaning of that?

A: Dwelling upon nothing means that the mind is not fixed upon good or evil, being or nonbeing, inside or outside, or somewhere between the two, void or non-void, concentration or distraction. This dwelling upon nothing is the state in which it should dwell; those who attain to it are said to have non-dwelling minds -- in other words, they have Buddha-minds!

Q: What does mind resemble?

A: Mind has no color, such as green or yellow, red or white; it is not long or short; it does not vanish or appear; it is free from purity and impurity alike; and its duration is eternal. It is utter stillness. Such, then, is the form and shape of our original mind, which is also our original body -- the Buddhakaya!

Q: By what means do this body or mind perceive? Can they perceive with the eyes, ears, nose, sense of touch and consciousness?

A: No, there are not several means of perception like that.

Q: Then, what sort of perception is involved, since it is unlike any of those already mentioned?

A: It is perception by means of your own nature (svabhava). How so? Because your own nature being essentially pure and utterly still, its immaterial and motionless 'substance' is capable of this perception.

Q: Yet, since that pure 'substance' cannot be found, where does such perception come from?

A: We may liken it to a bright mirror, which, though it contains no forms, can nevertheless 'perceive' all forms. Why? Just because it is free from mental activity. If you students of the Way had minds unstained, they would not give rise to falsehood and their attachment to the subjective ego and to objective externals would vanish; then purity would arise of itself and you would thereby be capable of such perception. The Dharmapada Sutra says: 'To establish ourselves amid perfect voidness in a single flash is excellent wisdom indeed!'

Q: According to the Vajra-body chapter of The Mahaparinirvana Sutra: 'The (indestructible) diamond-body' is imperceptible, yet it clearly perceives; it is free from discerning and yet there is nothing which it does not comprehend.' What does this mean?

A: It is imperceptible because its own nature is a formless 'substance' which is intangible; hence it is called 'imperceptible'; and, since it is intangible, this 'substance' is observed to be profoundly still and neither vanishing nor appearing. Though not apart from our world, it cannot be influenced by the worldly stream; it is self-possessed and sovereign, which is the reason why it clearly perceives. It is free from discerning in that its own nature is formless and basically undifferentiated. Its comprehending everything means that the undifferentiated 'substance' is endowed with functions as countless as the sands of the Ganges; and, if all phenomena were to be discerned simultaneously, it would comprehend all of them without exception. In The Prajna Gatha it is written:

Prajna, unknowing, knows all,

Prajna, unseeing, sees all.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Great Enlightenment & the True Yoga of Zen

Pai-chang Huai-hai told a student who was grappling with difficult portions of sutras, "Take up words in order to manifest meaning and you'll obtain meaning. Cut off words and meaning is emptiness. Emptiness is the Dao. The Dao is cutting off words and speech."

Only the yoga of "cutting off words and speech" will give you the formless bliss of reality. Why? Perceiving by itself is blissful, instantaneous, laughingly direct. But by the time you become aware of your perceiving, the true form of the formless is already in the past. You only perceive traces of It, conditioned by previous traces. Your cognizing mind latches onto these traces and creates a mental object. The true form of the formless is eclipsed by this mental object, this emergent concept. The mind goes on making new objects and mistaking them for the true form, which is no-form. Meantime, the so called "now" -- it is just the pure clean no-thing -- has been obscured and its reality lost. This reality is that of the absolute, no time and no space, the unborn. You can personally experience this like someone drinking water and knowing if it is hot or cold by cutting off thinking. Whenever random scattered thoughts -- short of sagehood there are no other kind -- begin to arise, you cut them off boldly at the root. Then you dwell in the formless energy of muga mushin, which is inconceivable. Wind in the cedars, a shining star at the top of the sky. That's the realm of enlightenment.

This is the true yoga of Shakyamuni. Gaining stability in it is attaining the way of "no self." No self is the true self because it is without particular qualities; it is beyond and above time and space, utterly independent and real in its noble brilliance, and it is only by the abstracting qualities of the mind dwelling on concepts and language that it appears remote. It is the most intimate, not the most remote. Mysterious, pervasive, great -- who can define it?

"Having ripped away both heaven and earth undoubtedly is Great Enlightenment."  -Hakuin

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Make No-Mind Your Mind

Your mind is the source of all these myriad, illusion-like, wondrous appearances on Emptiness.

Your mind is also what begins to discriminate based on name-and-form, and gets stuck in ignorant ideas.

By making no-mind your mind, you return to the source, which is empty and free.

By trying to grasp mind with mind, you sink yourself deeper into thought-discriminations and come to believe more in concepts than in the inherently liberated thusness- reality.

That is why Mumon says that the ego-soul is the seed of life and death. The ego soul is the "user-illusion" of ignorant thinking.

Thusness reality is seeing, hearing, &c. before these are objectified. Also walking, sitting down, eating, &c before one layers on ideas and thoughts.

In no-mind, it is all the direct clear functioning of the mysterious essence, empty and direct, therefore the real and true Dharma!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Drawing the Bow of the Tao

Even if the spider
doesn't think of a web
there it glistens

Examine a tree
down to its Essence --
& its infinity

If being is
everything experienced
what can you say?

Not being
not not being
how miraculous!

Experiencing is all
the being there is
says Parmenides

Being doesn't
that's how it be-s

When being simply
it's not even being

Enjoying it
living it
no ideas about it

The inconceivable
non instant
is the always now

When you see through
all the ideas
then you're free

Paris, Tokyo, Rome --
only the One Mind
coming & going

The sage does nothing
the Tao makes sure
it all gets done

Wonder of wonders
earth is earth
wind is wind & fire is fire

Waking up
you realize
you weren't asleep

Don't form opinions
or ideas about it
you are It

Drawing the bow
& letting go
I am the target

every shot
is a hit
if the target is you

No before thought
no afterthought
thought isn't thought

At night
the great bell
sounds for miles around

turn away from It
you cannot
you are It

Nothing to do
to realize it
it's already the One

Nobody can
wake up to it
it is Awakeness

The Great Now
is a name
for the Eternal Tao

the Omnipresent Buddha
is your eyes, nostrils,
genitals, hands --

how miraculous
how extraordinary
I cut wood, I haul water!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Be Empty Like Bamboo

-Sensei, I'm confused about what you teach and about what "Zen" is. Can you explain in just a few simple words?

-I teach spontaneous clear original being free of difficulties. However, if you hear me say this but cannot see it for yourself instantly, or feel like protesting, "But I suffer!" or "It's all so confusing!" I go further and show you some ways to dissolve the confusion and experience it directly for yourself. One example of such a "way" is to "sit quietly in empty fusion." Just let everything go and drift in this floating world. Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light, takes care of all the brilliance, so you can be dull. If you practice this every day, eventually you'll reach the stage where you can pick up a bowl of green tea and look at and taste it with the most bemused subtle amazement. "Here it be!" Then everything you do will be like the tea ceremony, and you will emanate shibumi. Another is to "turn the light of your awareness back on itself" and look intensely to see what's there where it's darkest and most obscure, until you have a sudden lightning like "Aha!" and your body streams with cold sweat and you "know It directly for yourself, like one who drinks water and knows instantly whether it is hot or cold." This is usually called kensho. Another way is to "drop mind into the Tanden." Do it quickly and all at once, and you will suddenly gain the miraculous power to see "spontaneous clear original being free of difficulties," and you will become a true Taoist sage. Naturally, the superior Way is just not to be confused, to see everything as it is, to take what's before you with quiet joy. Then you don't react to anything that happens, you just emit the universal energy, which is the Tao itself. You've got to transcend thinking and cognition. Then the "thinking-self" vanishes completely. Be empty, like bamboo. Rest in the vastness!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Haragei Sutra

Thus I have heard. At one time, on Eagle Peak, the Blessed One climbed to the Dharma seat to address an assembly of Bodhisattvas, monks, and laypeople. It was a cold and windy afternoon, and rain mixed with hailstones was falling in blasts, interspersed with deafening lightning bolts, but the Blessed One appeared cheerful, relaxed, content and warm as ever. Manjusri rose in the audience and, bowing respectfully with one shoulder bared, asked:

"Mahatma, Great One, how is it that you alone, of all those gathered here today, are not hunched over and shivering from the cold, the rain and the hail? How is it that the lightning strikes nearby do not cause you to jump with fright? In fact, you appear to be as serene, alert and composed as an owl sitting in its nest."

The World Honored Once smiled and replied as follows:

"Manjusri, in response to your excellent question I will now preach to you and to this Dharma assembly the sutra of Haragei. Please listen with all of your attention.

As soon as I attained Nirvana sitting under the Bodhi tree, I saw in a flash that all compounded things are subject to decay. Thus, these bodies of ours, made of the four great elements, are not immortal. Yet what is it that moves my body, or yours, Manjusri?"

"It is the mind, O Bhagawan."

"That is correct. Yet where is the mind, that it can move the body as it does?"

"This I do not know. Perhaps it is inside the body, for example in the chest, in the heart-center."

"The Tathagata has taught that the body is empty of all self. How, then, can the mind be inside the body? If it were in the heart-center it would be very small, smaller than your thumb. How could it cause your hands to grasp, and your feet to walk?"

Manjusri, shook his head, dumbfounded.

At that instant, a blast of thunder caused some in the crowd to cry out, and many to shift uneasily.

The World Honored One continued:

"When I saw the morning star and attained Nirvana, although I saw that all formations are transient, I did not feel sad, Manjusri, but was filled with a blissful energy. Why? It was as if I had begun breathing for the first time. I felt this clear and brilliant energy pervade me, from the crown of my head to my toes. And thinking on it, I remembered that, as a boy, I had been instructed in the Vedas by a tutor who spoke to me of Prana, a formless invisible energy that moves ceaselessly in the subtle channels of the body, and is connected to breathing.

Do not look startled, Manjusri. In my all-night meditation under the Bodhi tree, I attained perfect Enlightenment and clarity of mind, but I also experienced a blazing vitality of energy, and gained the ability to sense the brilliant Prana moving unobstructed through the channels of my body. This Prana was not different from the Prana in the air, in the grasses and trees, in the snakes, in the birds, in animals, and in other human beings.

At the instant I gained Enlightenment, the Prana flowing through the separate subtle channels of my body suddenly joined and united in the central channel, producing a flash of bliss that turned into a whirlwind. It rose to the crown of my head and unfolded like a thousand petaled lotus, and then it began to seep and to circulate with the calm rhythm of my breathing back down as a precious nectar, filling my body with light.

As I sat still longer under the Bodhi tree, I no longer meditated in any formal way, yet it seemed to me that the seat of this blissful Mind of Enlightenment was a point resting about two inches below my navel and about an inch inside. Why? Because this point seemed to be nothing whatever.

By turning my mind to various parts of my body, I could feel and experience them clearly -- my fingers, toes, ears, and so on -- but when I tried to look into the Tanden (the One Point in the Hara), I found only unfathomable space extending in all directions.

As the sense of the Prana flowing in my body vitalized and made it blissful, the ground of this Prana, the center from which it sprang and to which it returned in a powerful ebb and flow, seemed to be this One Point, which is also a Zero Point. Some ancient sages have called this point in the Hara 'the gateless gate,' 'the mountain barrier.' Others have called it 'the cinnabar field,' the dark palace where the golden elixer is made. The Hara is the place of no mind, where nothing is, yet everything mysteriously arises.

As I sat under the Bodhi tree, I boldly dropped my mental formations and even my thinking itself into the Hara, and it all vanished, leaving me in a state of absolute clarity that cannot be described in words. Indeed, it seemed to me that at this instant I experienced infinity. By experimenting like this, I came to realize that the Hara is like a deep, cool forest grove where one can rest from all effort and all thought, and gain sudden enlightenment. In that grove is a waterfall that sings delightfully all day and night, without overwhelming the ears. This waterfall, Manjusri, is the Prana of the whole universe.

It is from the Hara that Prana flows through the body like a powerful vibration from a drum. It is the center of vitality.

When I got up from my seat under the Bodhi tree, I knew that I could draw on the reservoir of Prana in the Tanden for the energy to walk across India, for the power to speak and project my voice in these great assemblies, and for the ability to withstand hunger and thirst and the extremes of heat and cold.

Do you hear that thunder crashing? By relaxing my body and dropping any sense of fear or alarm into the Hara, I instantly become calm and gain the courage and stability of a lion.

I do not shiver from the rain and hail, because the Prana rising from the Tanden with every breath fills me with delightful warmth.

So you, too, Manjusri -- and all those gathered here today to hear my words -- should spend as many of your waking hours as possible practicing this wonderful art of 'dropping' thoughts, sensations, emotions, and mental formations into the void of the Hara. Thereby you will realize for yourself the voidness of the whole universe, void yet overflowing with energy!"

"One Meeting, Full of Friendship"

Meeting of wind and a pine tree,
with ears and consciousness.
Sudden! Mysterious!
Meeting of white cloud and open space,
with eyes and consciousness.
Who can explain it?

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Active Nature of Zen

Despite what some people believe, Master Bodhidharma didn't experience satori after wall-gazing at the Shaolin temple. According to all the classical Zen accounts, he was suddenly awakened while still in India and received the Mind-to-Mind transmission from his teacher, Prajñatara, who is said to have been a woman.

If you read through various Chinese Zen texts, you'll see that often people (Bodhidharma but also Hui-Neng, for example) "wake up" without doing any meditation, but they practice meditation for many years after. Reason for this? After the initial awakening (satori), one still needs to cultivate the pure, imageless Mind by letting go of all the thoughts and mental images that arise. In Zen, it's these continuing thoughts and mental images that embody all the "karma" from one's past existences, and will perpetuate the karmic round of cause-effect if not completely shed. Even though Bodhidharma had woken up and been given the Mind Transmission by his teacher, he still wasn't completely liberated.

The story about Bodhidharma tearing off his eyelids (or his legs withering as he sat in meditation) is just an expression of his formidable willpower. He blazed with energy (Ki). Zen requires nothing less.

Bodhidharma brought the direct Mind Transmission to China energetically, by leaving India and making the hard journey. He then demonstrated the blazing truth of Zen by sitting in front of a wall at the Shaolin temple for nine years. As Huangbo says, "Therefore Bodhidharma sat rapt before a wall, and did not lead people into having opinions." Opinions are what cause arguments.

Zen has nothing to do with forming opinions or having arguments but, as Bodhidharma said bluntly in his remarks to the Shaolin students, is a matter of instantly seeing the pure, imageless Mind-Essence and then cultivating that awakening for the rest of your life through careful and often arduous practice. There is no other way to attain liberation, and if you do not attain liberation you will continue to be swept along, bobbing and sinking, in samsara.

According to Bodhidharma, a few rare exceptions aside, if you want to fully awaken to the Mind Dharma you must go out and find a teacher who can help you develop your Zen ability.

Seeing the self-nature is seeing Mind. Every sentient being already has the pure, imageless Mind, but most don't realize it because they cling to thoughts and opinions and believe in the independent existence of external objects and beings.

Once you experience your initial shock of awakening to the imageless Mind you must cultivate it with hard practice. Look at the Ten Ox-herding pictures, which illustrate this point in detail.

Zen is not a matter of reading books and talking about Zen. At the most, reading a book or hearing a talk about Zen can give you some initial insight, but if you do not follow it up with energetic practice and cultivation your insight will vanish into thin air.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Heart of Zen

-Sensei, what is it that you teach?

-I teach No birth and No obstruction. In this clear sky all appearances and sensations are sudden, flashing like lightning, and there is nothing to gain or realize, nothing to talk about, nothing to do. There is no this or that, no the other, no dependent arising, no self and no cessation of self. Yogins just live in the pure awareness that is neither conscious nor unconscious, is not being and is not nothingness. The nature of this pure awareness is free of all so-called limits and boundaries and has been from the non-existent and inconceivable beginning -- it is just totally open and clear, penetrating and brilliant on all sides. All colors, tones, sounds, odors, and tastes occur nowhere else. If you want to call it "Buddha," that's okay. But if you want to call it a lump of dried shit, that's okay too.  If you can fully understand why I say this and laugh, that's the heart and meaning of Zen.

-Can you tell me how to "see this directly" so that it is not conceptual but directly experienced by me?

-Look into your brilliant "awakeness" at all times. Just drop any involvement with being a thinker of thoughts, forget about external objects except as they appear directly to the senses and the mind, leave behind the usual human activities of planning, regretting, hoping, despairing, coming up with ideas and concepts, judging, discriminating, arguing about opinions or methods, and so on, and look nakedly and intensely into This, like a cat crouched in front a hole in the deep of night waiting for the mouse to pop out, or a miser gazing rapturously at a pile of gold. Then, when all your strength is exhausted, you will suddenly wake up. If you don't, you can cut off my head and take it away with you.

Take Up Awareness Like a Sharp Sword, Cut Through Both Buddhas and Devils

Search out the point where your thoughts arise and disappear. See where a thought rises and where it vanishes.Keep this point in mind and try to break right through it; try to crush it with all your might! If you can crush it to pieces, all will dissolve and vanish away. At this time, however, one must not follow it [the instantaneous experience] nor try to continue it. Master Yung Chia once admonished, "The thought of continuation should be cut short." This is because floating, delusory thoughts are virtually rootless and unreal. Never treat the distracted thought as a concrete thing. When it arises, notice it right away but never try to suppress it. Let it go and watch it as one watches a calabash floating on the surface of a stream.
What you should do is take up this awareness as if holding a sharp sword in your hand. No matter whether Buddha or devils come, just cut them off like a snarl of entangled silk threads. Use all your attention and strength patiently to push your mind to the very dead end [of consciousness]; just push it on and on.
Those who determine to practice the Dharma should believe firmly the teaching of Mind-only. Buddha said, "All the Three Kingdoms are mind, all ten thousand Dharmas are consciousness." All Buddhism is nothing but an exposition of this sentence. Ignorance or Enlightenment, virtue or wickedness, cause or effect, are nothing but one's own mind. Not one iota of anything exists outside of Mind. The Zen yogi should completely cast aside his former knowledge and understandings. Here scholarship or cleverness is useless. Rather, he should look on the whole world as hallucinatory. What he sees are mirages, mirror-images, like the moon reflected in the water. The sounds he hears are hymns of the wind blowing through the trees. He should see all manifestations as clouds floating in the sky-changing and unreal. Not only the outer world, but all habitual thoughts, passions, distractions, and desires within one's own mind are, likewise, insubstantial, non-concrete, rootless, and floating.
-Chang Chen-Chi, The Practice of Zen