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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Stop Thinking, Satori

Look at the puppets performing on the wooden stage:
Their jumps and jerks all depend on the person behind.

"Only know your own mind. Cut off thinking . . . When thoughts do not arise, this is bodhi." -Huang-Po

"When the mind does not arise, everything is flawless." -Joshu

"No-mind truly is practicing the Path. How can you even speak of what is obtained and unobtainable? When you even slightly give rise to a single thought, then there are phenomena. If there is not one thought, then the phenomena are forgotten and this false mind self-extinguishes. It will not again be able to seek.” -Huang-Po

"The sacred radiance of our original nature never darkens.
It has shined forth since beginningless time.
Do you wish to enter the gate that leads to this?
Simply do not give rise to conceptual thinking." -So Sahn

"Yoga happens when there is stilling of the movement of thought in the indivisible intelligence in which there is no movement. Then the seer rests in his own self."" - Patanjali, Yoga Sutras

"The Buddha said, 'The absence of thought is the state of the unconditioned.'" -Demonstration of the Inconceivable State of Buddhahood Sutra

"To attain this subtle realization you must completely cut off the way of thinking. If you do not cut off the way of thinking you will become like a ghost clinging to the grasses and weeds." -Mumon Ekai

"Obstruct your knowledge and block your intelligence to ensure the intuitive recognition of reality in solitude." -Seng Chao

"With the intellect steadfast and the mind sunk in the Self, allow no thought to arise. For whatever reason, distraction or object, when the restless, unsteady mind wanders away, restrain it from those causes, and bring it under the control of the Self, itself." -Bhagavad Gita

"When there is no presence of thought, no-thought itself is not." -Wu Zhu

"The most important thing is for people of great faculties and sharp wisdom to turn the light of mind around and shine back and clearly awaken to this mind before a single thought is born." -Yuanwu

"When thoughts are exhausted you arrive at the source, where true nature is revealed as eternally abiding. In that place there is no difference between affairs and principle, and the true Buddha is manifested." -Guishan

"When thoughts are gone, mind is abolished;
When mind is gone, action is terminated.
No need to confirm emptiness;
Naturally, there is clear comprehension." -Fajung

"Thought is samsara. Being free of thought is liberation. When we are free of thinking, we are free of thought." -Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche

"Investigating Chan requires non-movement of the mind and thoughts and this means silence. The Chan method works like the thrust of a knife, cutting right through. Because Chan investigation is apart from the mind-consciousness, it is known as putting an end to the mind. Ending the mind means ending all mental activities of the mind-consciousness. Only when all the activities of the false mind are stopped will thoughts be silenced. When that happens, we gain the power of knowing and seeing that comes with suddenly enlightening to the nonarising of all things. We then have patience with the nonarising of people and dharmas . . . Our thoughts are like waves that cannot be calmed. Sitting in meditation aims at stopping the mind-consciousness from moving. Eventually, it stops naturally. Once stopped, the mind is silent. When it is completely silent, wisdom comes forth. When wisdom arises, we become self-illuminating." -Hui Ha

"When the fives senses are settled and the mind has ceased to think, and the intellect does not stir, that is the highest state, they say." -The Katha Upanishad

"If you wish to know the essential points of my teaching, you should free yourself from all thoughts, good ones as well as bad; then your mind will be in a state of purity, calm and serene all the time, and its usefulness as manifold as the grains of sand in the Ganges."-Hui-Neng

"Once your mind is free from thought, it becomes clearly wakeful and at rest in an utterly simple awareness. This awareness cannot be described adequately." - Bhante Gunaratana

"Just detach from gross mental objects, and whatever subtle ones there are will naturally clear out, and eventually you will come to understand spontaneously; you don’t need to seek. This is called putting conceptualization to rest and forgetting mental objects, not being a partner to the dusts. The only essential thing in learning Zen is to forget mental objects and stop rumination. This is the message of Zen since time immemorial." -Foyan

"When a person's mind has no thoughts and is fundamentally empty and still and free of false views, this is the greatest of all causes -- which occurs when you aren't confused about the inside or the outside, when you are free of dualities. If you're confused about the outside, you're attached to forms. If you are confused about the inside, you're attached to emptiness. To be free of form amid forms and to be free of emptiness amid emptiness, this is when you aren't confused about the inside or the outside." -Hui-Neng

"Involvement in thinking is like a heavy chain that weighs you down. Now it is time to be free from that chain. The moment you shatter the chain of thinking, you are free from the three realms of samsara." -Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

"No-thought is the Absolute Reality, in which the mind ceases to act. When one's mind is free from thoughts, one's nature has reached the Absolute." -Fa-jung

"The very moment that the mind goes wandering, that inattentiveness is to be abandoned, then stillness should follow." -Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

"If one instant of thought is cut off, the Dharma body separates from the physical body, and in the midst of successive thoughts there will be no place for attachment to anything. If one instant of thought clings, then successive thoughts cling; this is known as being fettered. If in all things successive thoughts do not cling, then you are unfettered . . . If you stop thinking of the myriad things, and cast aside all thoughts, as soon as one instant of thought is cut off, you will be reborn in another realm." -Hui-Neng

"If you want to see, see directly into it; but when you try to think about it, it is altogether missed." - Tao-wu

"Don't have a single thought and you'll get rid of the root of birth and death . . . Just put an end to all mental conceptions in the three realms. A single thought of the wandering mind is the root of birth and death in the world. If there is not a single thought, then one eliminates the root of birth and death and obtains the unexcelled treasury of the Dharma king.“ -Ma Tsu

"If you give up all thoughts you will here and now attain to the realization of oneness with all." -Valmiki

"Pure and passionless knowledge [Enlightenment] implies putting an end to the ceaseless flow of thoughts and images . . .If only you could comprehend the nature of your own Mind and put an end to discriminatory thought, there would naturally be no room for even a grain of error to arise. As it is, so long as your mind is subject to the slightest movement of thought, you will remain engulfed in the error of taking 'ignorant' and 'Enlightened' for separate states . . . If you can only rid yourselves of conceptual thought, you will have accomplished everything." -Huang Po

"The only real demon is conceptual thought." -Dudjom Lingpa

"One should guide sentient beings to calm their mind by abiding in the diamond-base of undistracted awareness, with no arising of thoughts. The mind being thus calmed will always be calm and at peace, without a single thought." -Vajrasamadhi Sutra

"Asmaprajnata: Highest superconscious state where the mind is completely annihilated and Reality experienced." -Swami Sivananda

“Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen.” -Bodhidharma

“People of the deepest understanding look within, distracted by nothing. Since a clear mind is the Buddha, they attain the understanding of a Buddha without using the mind.” -Bodhidharma

"Getting rid of the discriminating mind is Nirvana." -The Lankavatara Sutra

"Argumentation gives rise to delusory consciousness. Thus Bodhidharma sat rapt in meditation facing a wall, and did not create opinions." -Huang Po.

"Stop thinking, and end your problems." -Lao Tzu

"The yogi sits at ease, watches his mind, and silences the bubbling thoughts. He stills the mind, restrains the thought-waves and enters into the thoughtless state, or Asmaprajnata Samada, hence the name Raja Yoga." - Paramahansa Yogananda

"Just stop thinking and see it directly." -Linji.

"If there are thoughts then there is mind, and for there to be mind is contrary to enlightenment. If there is no thought (wunian) then there is no mind (wuxin), and for there to be no mind is true enlightenment." -The Transcendence of Cognition treatise (Chüeh-kuan lun) of the Oxhead School

"The limited and multifarious thoughts having disappeared, there shines in the Heart a kind of wordless illumination of I-I, which is pure consciousness. . . What is meditation? It is the suspension of thoughts." - Ramana Maharshi

"We should control the mind and strip it of all wandering thoughts before we can speak of Chan practice. Therefore, the first step is to put an end to the flow of thoughts, but we also know this is the most difficult thing to achieve. If we fail to stop our stirring thoughts, we will not be able to practice self-cultivation." -Charles Luk, from The Secrets of Chinese Meditation

"Empty your mind. Now, without thinking of good or bad, what was your original face before your parents met? . . . If you want to know the essence of mind, just do not think about good or bad at all. Then you will spontaneously gain access to the pure substance of mind, calm and always tranquil, with subtle functions beyond number." -Hui-Neng

"All differentiations and particularizations are not separated from the Mind in itself. The Mind has immeasurable size and its function is limitless. Using the eye, it perceives its shape; using the ear, it hears sounds, with the nose it smells odors, and with the tongue knows taste, and from such movements and turnings forms the idea of self. In one cut, slice time from its middle and destroy the way of words and speech, along with thought and its resting place." -Bodhidharma

"Zen is just getting rid of the discriminating mind." -Tsunemoto

"You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay. Cast aside all involvements and cease all affairs. Do not think good or bad. Do not administer pros and cons. Cease all the movements of the conscious mind, the gauging of all thought and views." -Dogen

"Cast away all things, becoming without thought and without mind." -Hakuin

"Whether you are walking, lying down, sitting, drinking tea or eating rice, let go of thought after thought as the best way of striving (kufu) to attain satori." -Takuan Soho

"All that is necessary is that there be no perceiver or perceived when you perceive -- no hearer or heard when you hear, no thinker or thought when you think. Buddhism is very easy; it spares effort, but you yourself waste energy and make your own hardships." -Foyan.

"Think the unthinkable. How to think the unthinkable? Be without thoughts, this is the secret of meditation." Dogen Zenji

"This abstaining from all thought whatever is called real thought". -Dazhu Huihai

"When no thought arises in the mind it is called za and to look at one's nature inwardly is called zen. Have your mind be like space and entertain in it no thought of emptiness." -Hui Neng

"Our fundamental substance is the self-mind; how can it be sought in books? Now just cognize the self-mind [chien hsing, kensho] and stop your thinking process, and troubles will come to an end." -Baizhang

"Followers of the Way, the Dharma of the Heart-Mind (xin) has no form and pervades the Ten Directions. In the eye, it is called seeing; in the ear, hearing; in the nose, smelling; in the mouth, talking; in the hands, grasping; in the feet, walking. Fundamentally, it is one light; [conceptually] differentiated, it becomes the six senses. When one's whole heart comes to a full stop, one is delivered where one stands." -Linji

"Thus, Mahamati, when the Manovijnana is got rid of, the seven Vijnanas are also got rid of. So it is said: I enter not into Nirvana by means of being, of work, of individual signs; I enter into Nirvana when the Vijnana which is caused by discrimination ceases." -The Lankavatara Sutra

"Right now, even as deluded thoughts arise, your awareness of the arising of deluded thoughts is not deluded. This is exactly the Buddha. There is no other. Put a complete stop to the arising of concepts, and you will have a slight chance of sudden awakening to the truth." -Huang-Po

"The universal mind is no mind and is completely detached from form. Only study how to avoid seeking for or clinging to anything. If nothing is sought, the mind will remain in its unborn state. If nothing is clung to, the mind will not go through the process of destruction. That which is neither born nor destroyed is the Buddha." Hsi Yun

"Put down all entangling conditions, let not one thought arise." -Hsu Yun

"When nothing whatsoever is conceptualized, /How could you possibly go astray?/ Annihilate your conceptions. And rest." -Machik Labdrön

"Twenty-four hours a day you think about clothing, think about food, think all sorts of vari­ous thoughts, like the flame of a candle burning unceasingly. But just detach from gross mental objects, and whatever subtle ones there are will naturally clear out, and eventually you will come to understand spontaneously; you don’t need to seek. This is called putting conceptualization to rest and forgetting mental objects, not being a partner to the dusts . . .  The only essential thing in learning Zen is to forget mental objects and stop rumination." -Foyan

"You must clean it all up; when your defiling feelings, concep­tual thinking, and comparative judgments of gain and loss and right and wrong are all cleared away at once, then you will spontaneously understand." -Yunmen

"Study only how to avoid seeking for or clinging to anything . . . If you would spend all your time – walking, standing, sitting or lying down – learning to halt the concept-forming activities of your own mind, you could be sure of ultimately attaining the goal of Zen." -Huang-Po

"If your mind exists, you are stuck in the mundane for eternity; if your mind does not exist, you experience wondrous enlightenment instantly." - Yuanwu

"Because the Buddha Mind is unborn, it has no thoughts at all. Thoughts are the source of delusion. When thoughts are gone, delusion vanishes too." -Bankei

"It cannot be denied nor yet affirmed,
And ungraspable it is inconceivable.
Through conceptualisation fools are bound,
While concept-free there is immaculate sahaja." -Saraha

"If you completely cut off all thinking for one minute, then you become a Buddha for one minute." -Seung Sahn.

"Apply the mind and at once there's differentiation; rouse a thought and at once there's error." -Lin-Chi

"If your mind can be made empty like space, your practice will be successful. In the West (India), our great great grandfather (the Buddha) compared the immaculate vast Snowy mountains (the Himalayas) to the Great Nirvana. The First Patriarch of China (Bodhidharma) said: 'The mind should be insensate like wood and stone.' The Third Patriarch said, 'Profound is this state of suchness -- lofty and beyond illusions.' Hui Neng said, 'Don't think of either good or evil.' My late master (Ma Tsu) said, 'Like one losing his way who does not even know the direction he takes.' Seng Chao said, 'Obstruct your knowledge and block your intelligence to ensure the intuitive recognition of reality in solitude.' Manjusri said, 'His mind is vast like the great emptiness, hence I salute him who looks into nothing -- which is a profound sutra which can be neither heard nor practiced.' -Pai-Chang

"If one has not dispelled the cloud of the conceptual thoughts, the stars and planets of wisdom will not arise." -Lord Jigten Sumgon

“The word ‘Mu’ means neither ‘non-existence’ of ‘existing or not existing,’ nor ‘nothingness.’ If this is so, then what is it? In this questioning state, the practitioner doesn’t think of anything at all, not even the thought of not thinking! When a person does not think and does not even have consciousness of thinking, then a state of great calm and emptiness is reached.” -Seon Master Taego

"With the ways of the intellect you won’t see beyond intellect.
With the ways of action you won’t know non-action.
If you want to know what is beyond intellect and action,
Cut your mind at its root and rest in naked awareness." -Tilopa

"Always keep your mind as bright and clear as the vast sky, the great ocean, and the highest peak, empty of all thoughts." O-Sensei

Pick up this broom, sweep all the dust from empty space!
After the rooster's frantic cackling, a beautiful clear blue sky.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Two Koans

Where's the form before any seeing?

What's the sound before any hearing?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Who Is It?

What is the master [within you] who at this very moment is seeing and hearing?

If you reply, as most do, that it is Mind or Nature or Buddha or one’s Face before birth or one’s Original Home or Koan or Being or Nothingness or Emptiness or Form-and-Color or the Known or the Unknown or Truth or Delusion, or say something or remain silent, or regard it as Enlightenment or Ignorance, you fall into error at once.

What is more, if you are so foolhardy as to doubt the reality of this master, you bind yourself though you use no rope. However much you try to know it through logical reasoning or to name or call it, you are doomed to failure. And even though all of you becomes one mass of questioning as you turn inward and intently search the very core of your being, you will find nothing that can be termed Mind or Essence.

Yet should someone call your name, something from within will hear and respond. Find out this instant who it is!

If you push forward with your last ounce of strength at the very point where the path of your thinking has been blocked, and then, completely stymied, leap with hands high in the air into the tremendous abyss of fire confronting you — into the ever-burning flame of your own primordial nature — all ego-consciousness, all delusive feelings and thoughts and perceptions will perish with your ego-root and the true source of your Self-nature will appear. You will feel resurrected, all sickness having completely vanished, and will experience genuine peace and joy.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Meifumado Ni Ochin

In Tang Dynasty Zen, onward to Japanese Zen (fusing with Shinto), Enlightenment is primordial. It is one's original essence, or nature. In fact, Enlightenment is the essence-nature of all of what goes by the name Nature. Thus, one does not have to "transcend" the ordinary world, and in particular one need not go to become a monk in a remote mountain monastery in order to fully realize this Essence.

This makes for an interesting deepening of the "religious" idea of Nirvana propounded by the Mahayana sects -- that making a bowl of tea or practicing with a wooden sword can be, and is, absolutely as "enlightened" and "enlightening" as chanting sutras, banging a gong, or bowing to Buddha statues in an incense-thick temple. Nirvana is right here now.

What makes an activity "Zen" and "nirvanic" or not has nothing to do with the external form or name, but with whether one is in clinging-mind or in "empty mind."

The early Buddhist forest monks practiced a mental discipline of being directly and brilliantly aware of the body and surroundings at all times before and beyond any thinking. Sometimes this is translated "mindfulness." But it is also Mushin, or "empty mind."

Japanese swordsmen also developed this empty mind training. One of their techniques was Mokuso, a form of sitting meditation done before sword practice.

Conscious mind stirred up by thoughts gives birth to an "ego" sense that experiences fear. In Japanese Zen, fear can only be conquered within the mind, and this is done by "stilling thoughts" in order to strip away egotism and see what is brilliantly here-now.

In Mokuso, as breathing deepens and becomes steady, thinking ends, yet consciousness or awareness does not. The result is an inconceivable state in which the senses regains original purity and a clean and direct cognition becomes possible.

For Japanese swordsmen, the test of direct cognition was a simple one: if (whether in practice or actual battle) one could parry or evade an attack and make a "hit" on one's enemy without any thinking or any hesitation or any consciously formed "intention" of doing so, one had attained the "empty mind,"  Muga Mushin.

Thus, "Enlightenment" was not something to be attained in another lifetime, or at the end of a long and strenuous religious practice segregated from society, but right here and now in the midst of the dust and noise. What's more, this enlightenment wasn't a remote matter of faith supported by doctrine or ritual but was experiential, direct and real.

Thus, there is a Japanese saying that the "do" (way) is not found in the realm of enlightenment, but in the hell-realms. One finds the true self by "falling into the pit of hell" (meifumado ni ochin).  To study Zen is to go cheerfully to hell.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

84,000 Defilements from Ichi-nen, the "One Thought"

Q. I was reading Hui-Neng's Platform Sutra and he talks of "crushing the 84,000 defilements." I wonder what "defilement" can mean in Zen. Is there anyone to be defiled?

A. The Zen notion of "defilement" is subtler than the standard Buddhist one, and it's also more directly useful in everyday life. In Zen, a "defilement" is a clinging-thought, a mental fixation on a sound, a form or a color. Master Takuan Soho says that in learning swordsmanship, this is a "suki," a moment of absence from your whole mind and body, that allows the enemy to cut you down. WHACK! When your head is full of thoughts you stop being able to see what's right in front of you. Such "defilements" are in themselves just transient and momentary, and so present no special problem. However, supposing "you" get into the habit of forming clinging-thoughts, and fixating on a sound, a form or a color, and acting on these fixations in the belief that they're more real than your sensory experience. In that case, you are said by the Zen Masters to be suddenly "transmigrating" through the Three Worlds and the Six Realms. This is a colorful way of saying that you've lost sight of the True Nature. You confuse your "self" now with this mental fixation, now with that one. It's like a chunk of ice forgetting that it's originally water. Stop thinking for just a little while and you'll be right as rain again.

Q. Why do you say "water" is always there first, before "ice"?

A. Who's talking about "what's there first?" Ice isn't something other than water, so there's no problem about which comes first or not. The Zen point is that thinking freezes the field of sensory experiencing into rigid shapes (names-and-forms). The shapes are transient because they'll eventually melt again. Yet they're taken by ignorance for the reality. Once the shapes melt, it becomes clear there's only one substance "in" and "behind" them. It is just your Original Mind. Since there's no "two" to oppose to the "one," it's not even "one." You do not need to add a dharma of water to a dharma of ice, because they're not inherently (originally) different!

This, in Zen, is the unity of "substance" and "function." However, something mysterious happens when a person habitually identifies with a name-and-form, which is not the substance or the function, but a sort of mental snapshot, a "thought" about It. Such is the laughable idea of different "things" existing separately in space and time, a "self" that is opposed to "others," and so on. This is clinging-thinking, or ignorance.

Q. What's wrong with ignorance?

A. Congratulations! You've just created all 84,000 defilements. That was just a little joke, by the way. Still, it illustrates the Zen notion of "defilement" -- not having attachments as such, but to be unable to get out of the endless stupidity of your thinking. If you have 84,000 thoughts, and you're taken in by them, then you have 84,000 defilements. However, you actually "have" nothing at all. There are no defilements, there is only idiotic thinking. See it directly and wake up!

Q. Why do you insist that there's even a person to see It directly and wake up, or not?

Q. Master Rinzai called him "the True Person Who is No-Person." So listen closely, because I'm speaking to you. If you have 84,000 thoughts and you are taken in by them, they are "defilements" according to Zen. If you are not taken in by them, they are not even thoughts, because where is there any defined thinker of thoughts? Do thoughts think themselves? So, are you taken in by them, or not?

A. This is illogical. Why should it make any difference if I'm taken in or not if I'm the "True Person" Rinzai speaks of?

Q. Let's backtrack. You asked me to explain the Zen use of the word "defilements." I explained it. The explanation goes beyond conceptual terms, as it points directly to experience. If you are facing an enemy holding a sword, and you start thinking about where and when he's going to hit you, you will be cut down. If being cut down doesn't make a difference to you, bravo! Nonetheless, that's the Zen notion of "defilement." Your spontaneity is hindered by thinking. The "you" that gets taken in by thinking is a "user illusion" of thinking itself. What question do you still have?

A. I'm not worried about being hindered by my thinking. Why are you?

Q. I don't tell you to be worried about it. If you enjoy sticking to your 84,000 thoughts and the hallucinatory user-illusion that there is a small "someone" behind them to be hindered or not hindered anything, then by all means, do so!

If you hold your hand in front of your face while the train is passing Mt Fuji, you won't see Mt Fuji. You'll just see your hand. Maybe that's more interesting to you. But you asked me to explain the Zen notion of "defilement." I explained it. It's like a hand obstructing your view of Mt. Fuji. Just don't say Mt. Fuji is worthless to look at until you've seen it.

Zen is just this -- either wake up or don't. See Mt Fuji or look at your hand. Just shut up with the arguing and complaining!

Seeing the Morning Star

Zen is what turned Shakyamuni into a Buddha. He woke up when he saw the morning star after all night meditation. "Ah!"

Therefore, it's clear that "Buddhism" comes out of Zen. In fact there's no such thing as Buddhism apart from the speculations of academic eggheads -- in Asia, they just say "the Buddha Dharma."

The essential Buddha Dharma is the Dharma of Sudden Awakening. Shakyamuni wordlessly transmitted it to Mahakasyapa on Vulture Peak, who woke up (experienced satori) when his Teacher smiled and held up a flower.

The direct Mind-to-Mind transmission continued through twenty-eight Indian meditation Masters before Bodhidharma brought it to China. The Chinese had their own Buddha named Lao-Tzu, but Zen still hit China like a thunderclap out of a clear blue sky or a big iron bell ringing in empty space.

Zen is the essence of the Buddha Dharma. In Tibet they call it Mahamudra and Dzogchen. There will always be people trying to cover it up with mind and intellect, words and letters, but Zen always eludes these people.

"Ah! Ah! Ah!"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

See It Directly and Wake Up

See It directly and wake up.
Intellectual ideas can't grasp it.
Words and concepts obscure its brilliance.
It just functions everywhere without any problem.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Attaining a Mind That is Everywhere and Nowhere

In Zen swordsmanship there are the words hen and sho. Hen means "being partial with a thing." When the mind is directed to a part of the body it is partial or one-sided. On the other hand when the mind fills up the whole body it is said to be sho, meaning "right" or "truth." The right-mind is spread all over the body and is not at all partial or identified. The partial-mind is one-sided, attached to a thing. Zen dislikes prejudice and one-sidedness. We also disregard absorption in all things, because this means identification with something and becomes partial (hen). If there is no thought about where to direct the mind it will be everywhere. Instead of keeping and guarding it as though it were a cat tied to a lead, if you leave it to itself and let it move about it will never go out of your body. Strive (kufu) not to keep it in one place, not to localize or partialize it. Make the whole body the mind. Only by unflagging striving can one attain this. When the mind seems to be nowhere it is everywhere.


When there is some thought in the mind you cannot hear what someone says even though you hear the sound, because your mind is engrossed in what you are thinking. You cannot hear what you should hear, and you cannot see what you should see. Nothing registers in your mind. When you let it go it will become mushin (no-mind) and you can hear and see what it necessary. However, when you think to remove the thought, that very same thought becomes an obstacle in your mind. If you do not think anything at all, then everything in the mind disappears by itself and you will be in a state of mushin. It will take time to be able to empty the mind. If you are always trying to let go of a thought your mind will eventually reach the state of mushin.

(Translated by Nobuko Hirose)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Boil Some Water

Waking up is just seeing it directly as it is, not how it "should" be or how someone said it was in a book you once read.
Rather than living by received ideas, notions and concepts such as good and bad, self and other, Zen and not-Zen, and so on and so on, we awakened Zen free spirits just laugh and boil some water or look at the white clouds.
Who cares what Zen is or what it isn't? Who cares what Foyan said? He's gone. Can you utter a living word right now about this experience? Ha. I didn't think so!
Seeing it as it is and laughing doesn't sound logical, since logic is about concepts, and it doesn't sound as if it will give you the sadistic satisfaction of dominating other people with your unrelenting yappery and supposedly superior intellect. That's right -- it isn't and it won't!
Waking up won't fulfill your fantasy of being a Zen Master. But it's still extremely brilliant and wonderful even when it's a little subdued. "Sesame flatcake." "Three pounds of fingerling potatoes with dirt still clinging to them." "Zhenzhou turnips are big!"
Wake up and laugh. Shake the snow out of your ears and we'll build a snow Zendo. It's all just like this.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Manjusri and the Art of Zen Archery

The Buddha asked, “You have entered the inconceivable samādhi?”
Mañjuśrī replied, “No, World-Honored One, I am the inconceivable. Not seeing a mind that can conceive, how can I be said to enter the inconceivable samādhi? When I first activated the bodhi mind, I resolved to enter this samādhi. Now I think that I have entered this samādhi without any mental appearances. To learn archery, a student has to practice for a long time to acquire the skill. Because of his longtime practice, he now shoots without using his mind, and all his arrows hit the target. I have trained in the same way. When I started learning the inconceivable samādhi, I had to focus my mind on one object. After practicing for a long time, I have come to accomplishment. I now am constantly in this samādhi without thinking.”