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