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'."

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