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?