Sunday, August 27, 2017

True Mind & False Mind

It is hard to give a simple definition of the distinction between true and false. It is a mistake to say the true mind and the false mind are the same, and yet it is also mistaken to say they are different.

Suppose you press your eyeball with your finger, causing yourself to see a doubled image, such as a second moon beside the real moon. Now this second moon is only seen because of the pressure of the finger on your eye; there isn't really any second moon beside the real moon.

This does not mean, however, that if you don't want to be seeing a second moon, you should get rid of the false moon and see the real moon. If you simply remove the finger pressing your eyeball, there is no other moon beside the original moon. If you try to get rid of the second moon without removing the finger from your eye, you will never succeed. There are some people who think there is no real moon apart from this second moon, so they are in love with it. That is also a big mistake.

Those who do not put pressure on their eyeballs do not see a second moon to begin with; how could there be any debate about whether or not to get rid of the second moon? So the issue of the sameness or difference of the true and false mind arises because of pressing the eye of the fundamental with the finger of confusion.

-Zen Master Muso, Dream Conversations

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Jewel Beyond All Price

Though others may talk of the Way of the Buddhas as something to be reached by various pious practices and by sutra study, you must have nothing to do with such ideas. A perception, sudden as blinking, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deeply mysterious wordless understanding; and by this understanding will you awake to the truth of Zen. When you happen upon someone who has no understanding, you must claim to know nothing. He may he delighted by his discovery of some "way to Enlightenment"; yet if you allow yourselves to be persuaded by him, you will experience no delight at all, but suffer both sorrow and disappointment. What have such thoughts as his to do with the study of Zen? Even if you do obtain from him some trifling "method," it will only be a thought-constructed dharma having nothing to do with Zen. Thus, Bodhidharma sat rapt in meditation before a wall; he did not seek to lead people into having opinions. Therefore it is written: "To put out of the mind even the principle from which action springs is the true teaching of the Buddhas, while dualism belongs to the sphere of the demons." Your true nature is something never lost to you even in moments of delusion, nor is it gained at the moment of Enlightenment. It is the Nature of the Bhutatathata. In it is neither delusion nor right understanding. It fills the Void everywhere and is intrinsically of the substance of the One Mind. How, then, can your mind-created objects exist outside of the Void? The Void is fundamentally without spacial dimensions, passions, activities,delusions, or right understanding. You must clearly understand that in it there are no things, no men, no Buddhas; for this Void contains not the smallest hairsbreadth of anything that can be viewed spatially; it depends on nothing and is attached to nothing. It is all-pervading, spotless beauty;it is the self-existent and uncreated Absolute. Then how can it ever be a matter for discussion that the real Buddha has no mouth and preaches no dharma, or that real hearing requires no ears, for who could hear it? Ah,it is a jewel beyond all price! 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Take No Notice

In days gone by, Ch'an master Hui Chueh of Lang Yeh mountain, had a woman disciple who called on him for instruction. The master taught her to examine into the sentence: 'Take no notice.' She followed his instruction strictly without backsliding.

One day, her house caught fire, but she said: 'Take no notice.' Another day, her son fell into the water and when a bystander called her, she said: 'Take no notice.' She observed exactly her master's instruction by laying down all causal thoughts.

One day, as her husband ht the fire to make fritters of twisted dough, she threw into the pan full of boiling (vegetable) oil a batter which made a noise. Upon hearing the noise, she was instantaneously enlightened. Then she threw the pan of oil on the ground, clapped her hands and laughed.

Thinking she was insane, her husband scolded her and said: 'Why do you do this? Are you mad?'

She replied: 'Take no notice.' Then she went to master Hui Chueh and asked him to verify her achievement.

The master confirmed that she had obtained the holy fruit.

-Charles Luk, Ch'an and Zen Teaching: First Series

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Bird Out of Cage

Zen cannot be attained by lectures, discussions, and debates. Only those of great perceptive capacity can clearly understand it. For this reason the ancient adepts did not waste a moment. Even when they weren’t calling on teachers to ascertain specific truths, they were involved in real Zen practice, so they eventually attained mature serenity in a natural way. They were not wrapped up in the illusions of the world. If you can do this, at some point you will suddenly turn the light of your mind around and see through illusions to the real self. Then you will understand where everything comes from—mundane passions and illusions, the material world, form and emptiness, light and darkness, principle and essence, mystery and marvel. Once you understand this clearly, then you will not be caged or trapped by anything at all, mundane or transmundane.

-Master Ying-An

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Entering the Infinite

Student: OMG, I just realized something today. For almost my whole life I've intellectualized everything. Even my closest friendships, even my love affairs, my work, my play, my days off. Everything. Even Zen. Over the past few years, I've read hundreds of Zen books, and I've intellectualized them all instantly, every single sentence in every one of these books, every time. I'm trapped! I can't stop intellectualizing! I'm in a box and I can't get out. It's terrifying! Sensei, please help me right now.

Sensei: This sounds like a terrifying predicament. Tell me, so I can understand a little better. When you "intellectualize" things, what is it that happens in your body and mind?

Student: Wh-what?


Sensei: What does it feel like, this "intellectualizing" that you do. Can you describe it?

Student: I don't know . . . Vague . . . Anxious. Tensed up. A kind of weird dislocation feeling, a feeling like I'm removed from my surroundings, isolated & alone.

Sensei: Where?

Student: What?

Sensei: Where are you isolated & alone? In what space?

Student: In my head!

Sensei: Where in your head? Front, back, or middle? Upper or lower? Shut your eyes if it will help you to concentrate. Point to the place where you're feeling the "intellectualizing" happen.

Student: [Points to forehead]. There.

Sensei: Right on the surface?

Student: No . . . About an inch inside, I think.

Sensei: Is that where you feel yourself thinking?

Student: Yes.

Sensei: Hmm.


Sensei: KAI!

Student: Jesus!

Sensei: What do you feel like now?

Student: I'm in a sweat. My skin is tingling. But for an instant there I . . . wasn't thinking! [Laughs]. I wasn't in my head, or out of it. But I was intensely aware. So strange!

Sensei: If this simple shout of mine could shock you out of intellectualizing everything, which you say you are used to doing all of the time, isn't it possible that you could find other ways to shock yourself, and might these instants of total "non-intellectualizing," once you've experienced enough of them to begin to explore in depth what they might mean to you as a human being, also point you to the Path you must follow? A Path of delight?

Student: [Laughs.] Maybe!

Sensei: What if I told you that all Zen students, in all of time and space, have had to learn how to "shatter the chain of thinking," which can only be done with energy, and that you're no different from them, and that now you've seen how "intellectualizing everything" blocks you from experiencing the instantaneous truth of life, you have an excellent "entryway" into Zen?

Student: Arigato!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Instant Enlightenment

If there is no such thing as instant enlight­enment, how can you free your mind of the twenty-five states of being in the three realms? How can you free your mind of the sensation of uncertainty?

Now there have already been professional priests coming here saying, “Perception is unobscured,” totally accepting perception and claiming that is right. That means they do not see what is not obscured. When I ask them about other worlds, they do not know; and when I question them about the senses and objects, it turns out they have not broken through. How can they imag­ine that the feelings and perceptions of ordinary people are exactly the same as instant enlightenment?

Today I say to everyone, just trust that there is such a thing as instant enlightenment. It is like a farmer finding an alchemi­cal pill as he plows the fields; after taking it, the whole family goes to heaven. It is also like a commoner being appointed prime minister.

In the Teachings it says that those ordinary feelings and per­ceptions of yours are like unbaked clay, which is useless before it has been fired. You have to bake it in a hot fire before it is use­ful; that is like an instant enlightenment.

When I came out of Szechwan, I only called on one person. I know this person’s talk was the same as the ancients. I once asked my teacher, “I’ve heard it said that there is enlightenment in Zen; is that so?” My teacher said, “If there were no enlightenment, how could it be attained? Just investigate in an easygoing way.” So I studied in a relaxed frame of mind. There was a certain Elder Fu, whose insight was so luminously clear that I used to go to him with questions. But he just used to tell me, “You must make a living on your own; don’t come questioning me.”

One day he recited a story to me: Zhaozhou showed some fire to a student and said, “Don’t call it fire. What is it?” I won­dered deeply at this: obviously it is fire — why not call it fire? I contemplated this for three years, always reflecting, “How dare I use the feelings and perceptions of an ordinary man to ask about the realization of sages?”

I have also heard what it says in the Lotus Scripture, “ This truth cannot be understood by the discriminations of discursive thought,” I have always kept this in mind. Today when you say you are right just as you are, that is because you have pro­duced an interpretative understanding, and so do not understand.

Once my teacher went to the residence of Judge Li, who invited him into the library. After lighting a fire, the judge picked up a copy of Transmission of the Lamp and said to the teacher, “Although I am a man of the world, I have always taken an inter­est in this path. Whenever I read this book I find many points I do not understand.” My teacher said, “This matter is not under­stood in that way. You need to have realization of enlightenment first. If you have enlightenment, you naturally need not ask oth­ers about whatever you do not understand. If you have no enlight­enment, even what understanding you do have is not yet right either.” The judge remarked, “My teacher, you have spoken rightly.”

As for me, since I was the superintendent of guests, I attained understanding at the fireside; after that, there was nothing I did not understand. You must see the reality of instant enlighten­ment yourself before you can attain it. No one in the Zen com­munities of the present time tells of it.

-Master Foyan

Monday, June 13, 2016

Inner Silence

Don Juan defied inner silence as a peculiar state of being in which thoughts were canceled out and one could function from a level other than that of daily awareness. He stressed that inner silence meant the suspension of the internal dialogue -- the perennial companion of thoughts -- and was therefore a state of profound quietude.

"The old sorcerers," don Juan said, "called it inner silence because it is a state in which perception doesn't depend on the senses. What is at work during inner silence is another faculty that man has, the faculty that makes him a magical being, the very faculty that has been curtailed, not by man himself but by some extraneous influence."

"What is this extraneous influence that curtails the magical faculty of man?" I asked. "That is the topic for a future explanation," don Juan replied, "not the subject of our present discussion, even though it is indeed the most serious aspect of the sorcery of the shamans of ancient Mexico."

"Inner silence," he continued, "is the stand from which everything stems in sorcery. In other words, everything we do leads to  that stand, which, like everything else in the world of sorcerers, doesn't reveal itself unless something gigantic shakes us." Don Juan said that the sorcerers of ancient Mexico devised endless ways to shake themselves or other sorcery practitioners at their foundations in order to reach that coveted state of inner silence. They considered the most far-fetched acts, which may seem totally unrelated to the pursuit of inner silence, such as, for instance, jumping into waterfalls or spending nights hanging upside down from the top branch of a tree, to be the key points that brought it into being.

Following the rationales of the sorcerers of ancient Mexico, don Juan stated categorically that inner silence was accrued, accumulated. In my case, he struggled to guide me to construct a core of inner silence in myself, and then add to it, second by second, on every occasion I practiced it. He explained that the sorcerers of ancient Mexico discovered that each individual had a different threshold of inner silence in terms of time, meaning that inner silence must be kept by each one of us for the length of time of our specific threshold before it can work.

"What did those sorcerers consider the sign that inner silence is working, don Juan?" I asked. "Inner silence works from the moment you begin to accrue it," he replied. "What the old sorcerers were after was the final, dramatic, end result of reaching that individual threshold of silence. Some very talented practitioners need only a few minutes of silence to reach that coveted goal. Others, less talented, need long periods of silence, perhaps more than one hour of complete quietude, before they reach the desired result. The desired result is what the old sorcerers called stopping the world, the moment when everything around us ceases to be what it's always been."

"This is the moment when sorcerers return to the true nature of man," don Juan went on. "The old sorcerers also called it total freedom. It is the moment when man the slave becomes man the free being, capable of feats of perception that defy our linear imagination."

Don Juan assured me that inner silence is the avenue that leads to a true suspension of judgment -- to a moment when sensory data emanating from the universe at large ceases to be interpreted by the senses; a moment when cognition ceases to be the force which, through usage and repetition, decides the nature of the world.

"Sorcerers need a breaking point for the workings of inner silence to set in," don Juan said. "The breaking point is like the mortar that a mason puts between bricks. It's only when the mortar hardens that the loose bricks become a structure."

From the beginning of our association, don Juan had drilled into me the value, the necessity, of inner silence. I did my best to follow his suggestions by accumulating inner silence second by second. I had no means to measure the effect of this accumulation, nor did I have any means to judge whether or not I had reached any threshold. I simply aimed doggedly at accruing it, not just to please don Juan but because the act of accumulating it had become a challenge in itself.

-Carlos Castaneda

Sunday, June 12, 2016


by Dudjom Lingpa

So I had the idea to put on some beautiful clothes made out of silk and brocade and go out and meet some people, but when I looked around I couldn’t find any. So I applied mud on my body for clothes, and for ornaments I stuck sticks and feathers in it. Then, thinking that these were the finest ornaments, I said, I have something stupid to tell people regarding putting mud and feathers on for clothing. So hark!  Listen to this foolish meditation of mud and feathers. Listen, observe and laugh.

Some meditators value good thoughts and try to block bad thoughts. This is like a dog which has come into your house, stolen some food, then escaped outside, so you close up all the doors and windows and grope in the dark. Some meditators, after compulsive ideation has dissolved, send an antidote after it which is like sending a hunting dog after a fox which has already escaped. Some meditators practice by looking at their thoughts from afar, like an old shepherd viewing his herds of cows and sheep over a flat plain, but if you are a garuda flying away from your nest, it’s too much to throw out the corpses of 21,000 mice in a single day.

Some meditators regard thoughts like a flash of lightening, and awareness like clear light, considering the nonduality of appearance and awareness to be the genuine path.

Some meditators believe the genuine path is as soon as a thought arises, recognizing the thought and thinker as nondual.

These practices are good for beginners, but if you continue to meditate this way, it’s like compounding delusion upon delusion. If you practice this way, and achieve joy, clarity and non-conceptuality, and an inflated sense of having ascended to some high tower from which you look down on others with a haughty attitude, like sitting in the saddle of a fine horse, or posing on a high throne as some lamas do, how can you ever hope to ascend from the depths of samsara? It’s like lifting a big stone out of the bottom of the ocean. Grasping still occurs and liberation is out of the question.

When you engage in the path, if you focus single pointedly on an object, and forcefully block thoughts, more thoughts will arise, and you will become miserable, sick and mad. But if you are like a shepherd looking at thoughts from afar, then everything that arises will be seen with clarity, the mind is identified as awareness, and what is seen is understood as movement. In this stable experience, joy, clarity and non-conceptuality will arise. When you fuse stillness, movement and awareness, thoughts will be self-knowing, self-illuminating. What is crucial is not to lose your ground in terms of clear awareness free of hope and fear, negation and affirmation.

When I was young, I heard people say that meditation was a fine path to spiritual awakening. Giving this careful thought, I believed this path was something you could see, feel and hear, and so I thought if these old monks can do it, why can’t I? So I went to a remote area, sat in solitude, and waited for three days for meditation to arise. On the third day I got pooped and fell asleep. I had a dream of a white child who asked me, ‘What are you doing here?’ I replied, ‘I’m waiting to see meditation.’ The child closed his eyes and sang the following song:

‘Hey, hey! You blind boy who wishes to enter the genuine path, listen! The body is like a paper bag carried away by the wind; the speech is like the sound of wind in a tube; the mind is the creator of both samsara and nirvana. Among these three, mind is foremost. You will wait a long time to see meditation.’ Then I woke up.

A few days later I had another dream of a yogin who called himself Orgyen Padma Vajra, who placed a vase on my head and said, ‘Investigate first the origin of the mind, second its location, and third its destination.’ Then he dissolved into me.

Another night I dreamed of a red yogin who called himself Orgyen Speech Vajra who said, “Thoughts are called movement; that which understands them is called awareness; and remaining in that understanding is called stillness. Never be separate from these three.’ Then he dissolved into me.

Three years later a young woman appeared in a dream. She placed 13 white mustard seeds on the surface of a clear mirror, then held it at my heart and sang this song:

‘Ema! Child of clear light, your own mind is the ground of all of samsara and nirvana. Its origin is empty, its location is empty, its departure is empty. It is spontaneously present in great emptiness. Your mind is a mirror that transcends causes and conditions. Like a mirror, it gives rise to various reflections, but its essential nature is unchanging. Distinguish between mind and awareness. They have the same ground, but they are not the same. The mind is what becomes deluded in samsara; awareness recognizes the nature of existence. Identify ground awareness. Child of wisdom awareness, this is the secret treasure of the dakinis.’ Then she dissolved into me, and my body, speech and mind were pervaded with bliss.

Applying myself to identifying luminous awareness, at times I had the sense that appearances, and that which recognizes appearances were nondual. Sometimes this experience appeared outside. Sometimes this experience appeared inside. Sometimes nondual appearance and awareness went out to the object then vanished. I knew these experiences were due to grasping to the ground as an object. At other times, grasping onto phenomena naturally dissolved when I relaxed into the all-pervasive, originally pure ground. Then the creative displays arose naturally and dissolved in a state free from antidote.

A mind devoid of activities, free from hope and fear, is reality itself, which can be likened to the sun rising in a clear sky. This is spontaneously present awareness, the dharmakaya. The essential nature of the ground is that all self-arising appearances naturally release themselves. The ground and appearance is nondual, like the sun and its rays. Mind grasps to phenomena; awareness doesn’t. Appearances, which are the creative display of the expansive ground of awareness, naturally dissolve in the primordial womb like waves in the ocean.

Later, in a dream, I saw Orgyen Dorje Trolod in an expanse of flame and light, and he was chanting a song of Hung:

‘Hung hung. Do you understand that the cord that holds you to samsara is the duality of subject and object? Do you understand that joy and sorrow, your environment and companions, are manifestations of light and dark, devoid of true existence like a dream? Although space is free of periphery or center, it doesn’t go beyond the expanse of awareness. Space is none other than the expanse of awareness itself. Supplicating the demon above you grasp to the buddha; supplicating the demon below you grasp to delusive appearances. These are both products of reification. Do you understand that all appearances are natural projections of thoughts? Do you understand that samsara and nirvana are nondual displays within the ground expanse of the absolute nature? Do you understand that dynamic energy is naturally released into the all-pervasive nature without meditation? All grasping is devoid of substance. Subject and object are one taste. Myself and emanations of myself are primordially one with the mother’s womb of the great expanse.’ Then Orgyen Dorje Trolod dissolved into me.

Samsara and nirvana are co-arising, but these are one, not two. It is very important to understand that the nature of being is the great perfection of samsara and nirvana. Don’t be satisfied with just the empty aspect of the view, but have the all-embracing dzogchen view. Good and bad are expressions of your own nature. The five buddhafields are the creative expression of the expanse of primordial wisdom. The compassionate buddha appears spontaneously, without effort.

Heh, heh! The originally pure absolute nature is free from the extreme of dualistic grasping. The palace of pure light is the display of pure presence. From the nondual realm of bliss and emptiness pure awareness beings arise as the face of natural being. From this effortless place, I naturally encountered these beings and received these quintessential instructions from the treasury of the expanse of reality itself.

Heh, heh! The essential nature free from extremes is the primordial ground, originally pure. Don’t look for any buddha apart from this. All fictitious appearances are perfected in the expanse of your own natural awareness. This is the meaning of the Great Perfection.

In the unchanging field of all-pervasive bliss and emptiness arising as the expanse, the sun of clear light neither rises nor sets. In the fortress of fearlessness, in the palace of spontaneous presence seated on the immutable throne, never disengaged from skillful means and wisdom, I, a useless old man, have held my own ground as an embodiment of reality itself, arising as Dorje Trolod, standing on the corpse of mental afflictions.

My path is the essential nature. I am not bound by reified practices. I have a way of practice without meditation or propitiation. This way is all-pervasive, free from extremes, holding one’s ground without antidote or structure. It is unmixed with intellectual analysis, and without focus. Whatever comes up, let it go. Here is a practice free from activity which transcends good and bad, hope and fear. Awakening to suffering and peace as being the expanse of reality, I have cut from my heart the darkness of ignorance. Mental afflictions are dispelled in total openness, in clear, empty wisdom awareness, the womb of non-objectivity.

These verses are the foolish dharma of an idiot who wears mud and feathers for clothing.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Beings depend on wu in coming into existence, in becoming what they are. Affairs on account of wu come to fruition and become what they are. Now, one tries to speak about wu, but no words could describe it; name it, but it has no name; look at it, but it does not have any form; listen to it, but it does not give any sound. Then, indeed, it is clear that the Dao is complete. Thus, it can bring forth sounds and echoes; generate Qi-energies and things; establish form and spirit; and illuminate light and shadows. What is dark obtains its blackness from it; what is plain obtains its whiteness from it. The carpenter’s square is able to make a square because of it; the compass is able to make a circle because of it. The round and the square obtain their form, but that which gives them their form itself does not have any form. The white and the black obtain their name, but that which gives them their name itself does not have any name.

-He Yan, Dao Lun

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Mode of a Lunatic

All things are mere labels, for in actuality they are beyond
characterization or expression.
Having decisively experienced that samsara is not confusion and nirvana
is not freedom,
let no one make any effort!
Let no one try to meddle with or alter this!

Awareness, with no breadth or depth,
is not subject to restrictions or extremes, so give up any frame of reference.
Awareness, involving no plans or actions, no coming or going,
entails no time frame or antidote, so drop reification and effort.
If there is a deliberate frame of reference, it is a cause of bondage.
Do not rely on any fixed construct whatsoever--let go in evenness!

It is of no concern whether or not all phenomena are timelessly free.
It is of no concern whether or not the way of abiding is pure by nature.
It is of no concern whether or not mind itself is free of elaboration.
It is of no concern whether or not anything has ever existed within the
fundamentally unconditioned, genuine state.

It is of no concern whether or not samsara and nirvana are by nature a duality.
It is of no concern whether or not all thoughts and expressions are transcended.
It is of no concern whether or not confused attempts at proof and
refutation are demolished.
It is of no concern whether or not the view to be realized has been realized.

It is of no concern whether or not you meditate on the ultimate meaning
of the true nature of phenomena.
It is of no concern whether or not you engage in examination, since
there is nothing to accept or reject.
It is of no concern whether or not the way of abiding has ever existed as
the fruition.
It is of no concern whether or not you have traversed the paths and
levels of realization.

It is of no concern whether or not you are free of all obscurations.
It is of no concern whether or not the development and completion
stages perfect your true nature.
It is of no concern whether or not the fruition of liberation is attained.
It is of no concern whether or not you wander in the six realms of samsara.

It is of no concern whether or not the nature of being is spontaneous presence.
It is of no concern whether or not you are bound by dualistic perceptions
of affirmation and denial.
It is of no concern whether or not you have arrived at the enlightened
intent of the true nature of phenomena.
It is of no concern whether or not you follow in the footsteps of masters
of the past.

No matter what arises, even if heaven and earth change places,
there is a bare state of relaxed openness, without any underlying basis.
Without any reference point--nebulous, ephemeral, and evanescent--
this is the mode of a lunatic, free from the duality of hope and fear.
With unbiased view and meditation, ordinary consciousness that is
caught up in reification collapses.
without the entanglements of wishful thinking, there is no "thing" to
strive for or achieve.
Let whatever happens happen and whatever manifests manifest.
Let whatever occurs occur and whatever is be.
Let whatever is anything at all be nothing at all.

With your conduct unpredictable, you make the final leap into awareness
without the slightest basis for determining what is spiritual or not,
and so this bare state with no reference point is beyond the cage of philosophy.
Whether eating, moving around, lying down, or sitting, day and night
you rest in infinite evenness,
so that you experience the true nature of phenomena as their equalness.
There are no gods to worship, no demons to exorcise,
nothing to cultivate in meditation -- this is the completely "ordinary" state.
With this single state of evenness -- the uncontrived ruler has no pride --
there is oneness, a relaxed and unstructured openness.
How delightful -- things are timelessly ensured without having to be done,
and being free of effort and achievement, you are content.

-Longchenpa, The Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena

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.