Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Great Sound

The moon floats above the pines,
And the night veranda is cold
As the ancient, clear sound comes from your finger tips.
The old melody usually makes the listeners weep,
But Zen music is beyond sentiment.
Do not play again unless the Great Sound of Lao-tsu accompanies you.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

One Bright Pearl

in your body is a light
that shines through mountains & rivers
one bright naked pearl
spewed from the black dragon's mouth
like the moon breaking through clouds & mists
to intoxicate a living midnight with its brilliance

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Samten Migdrön

Now, as for expounding the doctrine of Atiyoga, the excellent vehicle, the best and topmost yoga, the mother of all conquerors, its name is the Great Perfection. Why? Because it gives detailed teaching with a view to imparting direct understanding of the principle of this non-sought spontaneity with regard to all existential elements. The sense of the spontaneous essence, which is the innermost treasury of all vehicles and the great "universal grandfather" [spyi myes], is to be experienced directly by "self-awareness" [rang rig pas], but not as a thing to be kept in mind. It is to be made clear to the "self-awareness". How one is to know of it? In this vehicle of the high yoga, there is nothing that can be measured by the discriminative self-intellect as expounded in the tantras, authoritative works and precepts. Why is it so? Because all the so-called elemental particles have never grown new feathers or changed their colour from the beginning. It is the Buddha-nature, the "sphere of the great circle" [thig le chen po'i klong] of the "self-awareness". Who then has seen this as an object? Who has demonstrated the logic for seeing it? To what doctrine does one entrust it? With what cognition does one cognise it? All the elements are non-conceivable, because separately they have no substance.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pristine Gnosis, Bitches

The actual essence, pristine gnosis,
cannot be improved upon, so virtue is profitless,
and it cannot be impaired, so vice is harmless;
in its absence of karma there is no ripening of pleasure or pain;
in its absence of judgement, no preference for samsara or nirvana;
in its absence of articulation, it has no dimension;
in its absence of past and future, rebirth is an empty notion:
who is there to transmigrate? and how to wander?
what is karma and how can it mature?
Contemplate the reality that is like the clear sky!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Siva Yoga

Invite the breath,
the outer space,
to come within your house.

If you are unwavering,
placing it there
as though you were
putting oil in a lamp . . .
They shall meet.
Breath and God
becoming one.
Like wind becoming breath
there is no individual intelligence.

The Great Awareness becomes Siva.
He and breath
merge into one.

It is this light becoming breath
that redeems the soul.
Surely this is the truth
of Siva Yoga!


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Great Self, Great Buddha

What is known as the revealed Buddha is this evidence of My own being. Because it has the center, the central vigor, it is the Self of everything. As it does not need any deeds, it is the Buddha since the beginning. As it is free of striving and achieving, it is since the beginning known as great. The Great Self is known as the Great Buddha. This evidence which is unborn and non-conceptual is the dimension of Reality [dharmadhatu].

-The All-Creating Mind-King Tantra


The solitary light of self-originating wisdom
shines without ever ceasing:
mountains, rivers, great forests do not obstruct it.
Can empty space be grasped or let go of?
Treat the affairs of the world as a passing dream,
a poor play, on a flimsy stage with a shaking backdrop.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Enter the Noumenon

Roshi: For your benefit I will now point straight to your original mind so that you can awaken to it. Clear your minds and listen to my words.

From morning until evening, all during the 12 periods of the day, during all your actions and activities -- whether seeing, hearing, laughing, talking, whether angry of happy, whether doing evil or good -- ultimately who is it that is able to perform all these actions? Speak! If you say that it is the physical body which is acting, then at the moment when a man's life comes to an end, even though the body has not yet decayed, how is it that the eyes cannot see, the ears cannot hear, the nose cannot smell, the tongue cannot talk, the hands cannot grasp, the feet cannot run?

You should know that what is capable of seeing, hearing, moving and acting has to be your original mind; it is not your physical body. Furthermore, the four elements which make up the physical body are by nature void; they are like images in a mirror of the moon's reflection in water. How can they be clear and constantly aware, always bright and never obscured -- and, upon activation, be able to put into operation sublime functions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges? For this reason it is said: "Drawing water and carrying firewood are spiritual powers and sublime functions." 神通並妙用

There are many points at which to enter the noumenon. I will indicate one approach which will allow you to return to the source. Do you hear the sound of that crow cawing and that magpie calling?

A student: Yes.

Roshi: Trace them back and listen to your hearing-nature. Do you hear any sounds?

A student [shutting his eyes to listen, then opening them amazed]: At that place, sound and discrimination do not obtain!

Roshu: Marvelous! Marvelous! This is Avalokitesvara's method for entering the noumenon [exactly as explained in the Shurangama Sutra]. Let me ask you again. You said that sounds and discrimination do not obtain at that place. But since they do not obtain, isn't the hearing-nature just empty space at such a time?

A student [speaking with growing wonder]: No, it is not empty. It is always bright and never obscured.

Roshi: What is this essence which is not empty?

A student [blinking in surprise]: Words cannot describe it!

Thursday, September 10, 2015


The Guru replied, 
At no time throughout the beginningless succession of lifetimes has there ever been actual birth. There has been only the appearance of birth. There has never been actual death, only the transformation of sensory appearances, like the shift from the dream state to the waking state. All sensations—seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt as forms, sounds odors, tastes, and tactile sensations by the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin – are merely the mind being conscious of its own projections (rang-nang), without their ever having even a hair’s tip of existence as something else. 
You may think that something other than this does exist in its own right (rang-gyud), since you can see it directly with your eyes, actually hold it in your hand, or experience it through your other senses. But in fact, although all the forms, sounds, odors, tastes, and tactile sensations in dreams seem to truly exist in their respective contexts, from the point of view of waking experience they have never existed, being nonexistent as objects (yul-med).
Throughout the beginningless succession of lifetimes, there has never been any actual experience of transition or going from one state to another, or any actual experience of being located in some other place. This is analogous to the images in a dream.

-Dudjom Lingpa

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Outside Mind There is Nothing

Hills are hills. Water is water. Monks are monks. Laymen are laymen. But these mountains, these rivers, the whole world itself, together with sun, moon and stars -- not one of them exists outside your minds! The vast chiliocosm exists only within you, so where else can the various categories of phenomena possibly be found? Outside Mind, there is nothing. The green hills which everywhere meet your gaze and that void sky that you see glistening above the earth -- not a hairsbreadth of any of them exists outside the concepts you have formed for yourself! So it is that every single sight and sound is but the Buddha's Eye of Wisdom. 

-Great Zen Master Huang-Po

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pass Through Fire Without Being Burnt

If you set out in quest of words and sentences, cudgeling your brains with their logical meanings, working over a thousand possibilities and ten thousand subtle distinctions, and creating endless questions and debates, all you will gain is a glib tongue, while all the time getting farther and farther away from Tao, with no rest for your wandering. If It could be found in the Sutras why should there be "a special transmission outside the scriptures"? But if you have really found your True Self, then you can pass through fire without being burnt. The important thing is your experiential realization of this state.


The Time I Saw My True Self

Zhaozhou entered the hall and addressed the monks, saying, "A metal buddha does not withstand the furnace. A wooden buddha does not withstand the fire. A mud buddha does not withstand water. The genuine buddha sits within you. "Bodhi" and "nirvana," "true thusness" and "buddha nature" -- these things are just clothes stuck to the body and they are known as "afflictions." Where is the actual ground-truth revealed?

Big mind is unborn. The myriad dharmas are flawless. Try sitting for twenty or thirty years, and if you still don't understand then cut off my head! The empty flowers of delusion and dreams -- disciples work so hard to grab them!

When nothing deviates from big mind, then the myriad dharmas are but one thusness. Since it can't be attained from outside, what will you try to grasp?

This nature existed before the appearance of the world. If the world ends, this will not end. From the time I saw my True Self, there hasn't been anyone else. There's just the One In Charge.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Imagine the Wonder of No-Thought

Yang-shan asked, "Where is the abiding place of the real Buddha?" Kuei-shan replied: "Imagine the wonder of no-thought and trace it back to the infinity of the light of the spirit. While thoughts are exhausted and return to their source, nature and appearance are ever abiding. Reality and events are no longer differentiated. Therein is the real Buddha of Suchness." Hearing this Yang-shan was suddenly enlightened, and thereafter he served Master Kuei-shan.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Unfurling the Red Flag of Victory

For students of mystic wisdom, seeing the real nature of things and awakening to the true pattern and treading in the steps of the Buddhas is everyday food and drink.

You should realize that on the crown of the heads of the Buddhas and enlightened adepts there is a wondrous way of “changing the bones” and transforming your existence. Only then can you get beyond conventional categories and sectarian limits and act like a transcendent person, so that even great Zen masters like Linji and Deshan would have no way to apply their blows and shouts to you.

At all times just remain free and uninvolved. Never make any displays of clever tricks -- be like a stolid simpleton in a village of three families. Then the gods will have no road on which to offer you flowers, and demons and outsiders will not be able to spy on you.

Be undefinable, and do not reveal any conspicuous signs of your special attainment. It should be as if you are there among myriad precious goods locked up securely and deeply hidden in a treasure house. With your face smeared with mud and ashes, join in the work of the common laborers, neither speaking out nor thinking.

Live your whole life so that no one can figure you out, while your spirit and mind are at peace. Isn't this what it is to be imbued with the Way without any contrived or forced actions, a genuinely unconcerned person?

Among the enlightened adepts, being able to speak the Truth has nothing to do with the tongue, and being able to talk about the Dharma is not a matter of words.

Clearly we know that the words spoken by the ancients were not meant to be passively depended on. Anything the ancients said was intended only so that people would directly experience the fundamental reality. Thus, the teachings of the Sutras are like a finger pointing to the moon, and the sayings of the Zen masters are like a piece of tile used to knock on a door.

- Master Yuanwu, Zen Letters

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The True Power of Zen

Those who study the Path must become again like infants. Then praise and blame, success and fame, unfavorable circumstances, unfavorable environments -- none of these can move them. Though their eyes see form, they're the same as a blind person. Though their ears hear sound, they're the same as a deaf person. They're like fools, like idiots. The mind is motionless as Mount Sumeru. This is the place where patch-robed monastics and practitioners really attain true power.

An old master said, "My patched garment covering my head, myriad concerns cease. At this time, I don't understand anything at all. "

Though adepts are like this, nevertheless they can't be fooled at all. They are without artifice, without clinging thoughts. They're like the sun and the moon moving through the sky, without ever stopping, without ever saying, "I have so many names and forms." They're like the sky everywhere covering, like the earth everywhere supporting: since they have no mind, they bring up and nurture myriad beings without saying, "I have so many accomplishments." Since sky and earth are mindless, they last forever -- what has mind has limits. A person who attains the Path is like this too. In the midst of no activity, they carry out their activities, accepting all unfavorable and favorable circumstances with a compassionate heart.

-Master Yuanwu

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How Do They Differ From Wooden Dolls?

If ‘there's never been a single thing', past, present and future are meaningless. So those who seek the Way must enter it with the suddenness of a knife-thrust. Full understanding of this must come before they can enter. Hence, though Bodhidharma traversed many countries on his way from India to China, he encountered only one man, the Venerable Ko, to whom he could silently transmit the Mind-Seal, the Seal of your own REAL Mind. Phenomena are the Seal of Mind, just as the latter is the Seal of phenomena. Whatever Mind is, so also are phenomena—both are equally real and partake equally of the Dharma-Nature, which hangs in the void. He who receives an intuition of this truth has become a Buddha and attained to the Dharma. Let me repeat that Enlightenment cannot be bodily grasped (attained perceived, etc.), for the body is formless; nor mentally grasped (etc.), for the mind is formless; nor grasped (etc.), through its essential nature, since that nature is the Original Source of all things, the real Nature of all things, permanent Reality, of Buddha! How can you use the Buddha to grasp the Buddha, formlessness to grasp formlessness, mind to grasp mind, void to grasp void, the Way to grasp the Way? In reality, there is nothing to be grasped (perceived, attained, conceived, etc.)—even not-grasping cannot be grasped. So it is said: ‘There is NOTHING to be grasped.' We simply teach you how to understand your original Mind.

Moreover, when the moment of understanding comes, do not think in terms of understanding, not understanding or not not-understanding, for none of these is something to be grasped. This Dharma of Thusness when ‘grasped' is ‘grasped', but he who ‘grasps' it is no more conscious of having done so than someone ignorant of it is conscious of his failure. Ah, this Dharma of Thusness—until now so few people have come to understand it that it is written: ‘In this world, how few are they who lose their egos!' As for those people who seek to grasp it through the application of some particular principle or by creating a special environment, or through some scripture, or doctrine, or age, or time, or name, or word, or through their six senses—how do they differ from wooden dolls? But if, unexpectedly, one man were to appear, one who formed no concept based on any name or form, I assure you that this man might be sought through world after world, always in vain! His uniqueness would assure him of succeeding to the Patriarch's place and earn for him the name of Śākyamuni's true spiritual son: the conflicting aggregates of his ego-self would have vanished, and he would indeed be the One! Therefore is it written: 'When the King attains to Buddhahood, the princes accordingly leave their home to become monks.' Hard is the meaning of this saying! It is to teach you to refrain from seeking Buddhahood, since any SEARCH is doomed to failure. Some madman shrieking on the mountain-top, on hearing the echo far below, may go to seek it in the valley. But, oh, how vain his search! Once in the valley, he shrieks again and straightway climbs to search among the peaks—why, he may spend a thousand rebirths or ten thousand aeons searching for the source of those sounds by following their echoes! How vainly will he breast the troubled waters of life and death! Far better that you make NO sound, for then will there be no echo—and thus it is with the dwellers in Nirvāņa! No listening, no knowing, no sound, no track, no trace—make yourselves thus and you will be scarcely less than neighbours of Bodhidharma!


Never allow yourselves to mistake outward appearance for reality. Avoid the error of thinking in terms of past, present and future. The past has not gone; the present is a fleeting moment; the future is not yet to come. When you practise mind-control,  sit in the proper position, stay perfectly tranquil, and do not permit the least movement of your minds to disturb you. This alone is what is called liberation.

Ah, be diligent! Be diligent! Of a thousand or ten thousand attempting to enter by this Gate, only three or perhaps five pass through. If you are heedless of my warnings, calamity is sure to follow. Therefore is it written:

Exert your strength in THIS life to attain!
Or else incur long aeons of further pain!

-Huang-Po, The Wan Ling Record, John Blofeld translation

Thursday, February 5, 2015


On yet another occasion, when I met the great rigdzin Hungchhenkara in a vision, I asked, "What is this array of sensory appearances like?"

He bestowed the following reply: "Ah, great spiritual being, the five sense consciousnesses are like space, in which anything can happen, while conceptualization is like the substances and incantations used in magic. The array that appears from the synchronicity of these two occurs like a magical illusion. Consciousness that perpetuates this is like a spectator."

-Dudjom Lingpa Rinpoche

Sunday, February 1, 2015


One day, a Sutra Master came and he questioned Zen Master Dae-Ju. "I understand that you
have attained Satori. What is Zen?'"

Dae-Ju said, "Zen is very easy. It is not difficult at all. When I am hungry, I eat; when I am
tired, I sleep."

The Sutra Master said, "This is doing the same as all people do. Attaining satori [Zen enlightenment] and not attaining are then the same."

"No, no, most people are different on the outside than on the inside.'"

The Sutra Master said, "When I am hungry, I eat. When I am tired, I sleep. Why is the outside different from the inside?"

Dae-Ju said, "When most people are hungry, they eat. Only the outside, the body, is eating. On the inside they are thinking, and they have desire for money, fame, sex, food, and they feel anger. And so when they are tired, because of these wants, they do not sleep. So, the outside and the inside are different. But when I am hungry, I only eat. When I am tired, I only sleep. I have no thinking, and so I have no inside and no outside."

Friday, January 30, 2015

Seeing the Ganges

Then King Prasenajit rose and said to the Buddha, "In the past, when I had not yet received the teachings of the Buddha, I met Katyayana and Vairatiputra, both of whom said that this body is annihilated after death, and that this is Nirvana. Now, although I have met the Buddha, I still have doubts about their words. How much I wish to be enlightened to the ways and means to perceive and realize the true mind, thereby proving that it transcends production and extinction! All those who have karmic outflows also wish to be instructed on this subject."

The Buddha said to the great king, "Now I ask you, as it is now is your physical body indestructible and living forever? Or does it change and go bad?"

"World Honored One, this body of mine will keep changing until it eventually becomes extinct."

The Buddha said, "Great king, you have not yet become extinct. How do you know you will become extinct?"

"World Honored One, although my impermanent, changing, and decaying body has not yet become extinct, I observe it now, and every passing thought fades away. Each new one fails to remain, but gradually perishes like fire turning to ashes. This perishing without cease convinces me that this body will eventually become completely extinct."

The Buddha said, "So it is."

"Great king, at your present age you are already old and declining. How do your appearance and complexion compare to when you were a youth?"

"World Honored One, in the past when I was young my skin was moist and shining. When I reached the prime of life, my blood and breath were full. But now in my declining years, as I race into old age, my form is withered and wizened and my spirit dull. My hair is white and my face is in wrinkles and I haven’t much time remaining. How can I be compared to how I was when I was full of life?"

The Buddha said, "Great king, your appearance is not declining so suddenly as all that."

The king said, "World Honored One, the change has been a hidden transformation of which I honestly have not been aware. I have come to this gradually through the passing of winters and summers. How did it happen? In my twenties, I was still young, but my features had aged since the time I was ten. My thirties were a further decline from my twenties, and now at sixty-two I look back on my fifties as hale and hearty. World Honored One, I am contemplating these hidden transformations. Although the changes wrought by this process of dying are evident through the decades, I might consider them further in finer detail: these changes do not occur just in periods of twelve years; there are actually changes year by year. Not only are there yearly changes, there are also monthly transformations. Nor does it stop at monthly transformations; there are also differences day by day. Examining them closely, I find that kshana by kshana, thought after thought, they never stop. And so I know my body will keep changing until it is extinct."

The Buddha told the great king, "By watching the ceaseless changes of these transformations, you awaken and know of your extinction, but do you also know that at the time of extinction there is something in your body which does not become extinct?"

King Prasenajit put his palms together and exclaimed, "I really do not know."

The Buddha said, "I will now show you the nature which is not produced and not extinguished. Great king, how old were you when you first saw the waters of the Ganges?"

The king said, "When I was three years old my compassionate mother led me to visit the Goddess Jiva. We passed a river, and at the time I knew it was the waters of the Ganges."

The Buddha said, "Great king, you have said that when you were twenty you had deteriorated from when you were ten. Day by day, month by month, year by year until you have reached your sixties, in thought after thought there has been change. Yet when you saw the Ganges River at the age of three, how was it different from when you were thirteen?"

The king said, "It was no different from when I was three, and even now when I am sixty-two it is still no different."

The Buddha said, "Now you are mournful that your hair is white and your face is wrinkled. In the same way that your face is definitely more wrinkled than it was in your youth, has the seeing with which you look at the Ganges aged, so that it is old now but was young when you looked at the river as a child in the past?"

The king said, "No, World Honored One."

The Buddha said, "Great king, your face is in wrinkles, but the essential nature of your seeing has not yet wrinkled. What wrinkles is subject to change. What does not wrinkle does not change. What changes will become extinct, but what does not change is fundamentally free of production and extinction. How can it be subject to your birth and death? So you have no need to be concerned with what Maskari Goshaliputra and the others say: that when this body dies, you cease to exist."

The king believed the words that he had heard, and he understood that when we leave this body, we go on to another. He and all the others in the great assembly were elated at having gained this new understanding.

-Shurangama Sutra

Empty and Bright

The pure Dharma-body is without coming or going:
It does not arise or cease
And is constantly in peace and happiness.
It is empty and bright, and shines of itself:
It is without obstructions.
It reaches to even the deepest darkness,
And transcends all limits.

Iron Into Gold

When the vital-energy rises (to the head and produces tension) you should establish your will like a mountain, and calm your mind like the sea. Sit erect on your cushion and contemplate the tan-t’ien (Jap. Hara) with the mind’s eye. (When you are troubled by headaches) gently put the feeling of doubt into the tan-t’ien. Through this unawareness and non-attention the hua-t’ou will quickly ripen. Eventually the body will seem to be like empty space; it will seem both to exist, and not to exist. When the mind and body are very light and comfortable, you will gradually enter into auspicious states. As you are now transmuting iron into gold, you ought to be very careful. Be diligent!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Satori Experiment

I hereby propose a modest Zen experiment to you: stop thinking for four minutes while in an alert, fully conscious waking state. All that you need for this experiment are four unoccupied minutes. Just throw yourself into it as if off the Golden Gate Bridge. Start now. Ready? Set? Go!

Can you do it, or not? If not, why not? If I say to make a fist for four minutes, you can do that. Right? Or if I say not to blink your eyes for four minutes, you can even do that. And with training, you could learn to hold your breath for four minutes!

What's the trouble? Isn't this thinking business something that is under your control?

"Are you telling me to fall into some kind of yogic trance?" The opposite of that. No. I said to do it while fully awake, alert and conscious of your body and its surroundings. So try now.

Huh! Ah so desu ka. So you've bravely tried what I suggest. And you must now admit that something was blocking your attempt. You failed utterly and miserably. You simply can't do it. Thoughts kept coming up no matter how you tried to adjust your mind.

Don't get frustrated. It's hard. Just muster your will and your spirit to break through and try the same experiment again later today or tonight or tomorrow. You know how to get to Carnegie Hall, don't you?

One day soon as a result of your one pointed efforts, I promise, you will be able to stop your thinking while fully alert sometime during those four minutes. Then something will happen to you. Or rather, let's say that three things will happen to you, although they are really all one thing:

-You will drop all stress, all tension, all sense of effort and enter an inconceivable, indescribable state of brilliance characterized by vivid wonder and joy, as if all your senses suddenly lost their dust and came into sharp focus at once.

-Your original nature or "root-consciousness" (Bodhi) will wake up to itself without any further effort on your part, giving you the startling impression of being infinite, while also being "empty" of any defined sense of "self." Empty, yet infinite.

-You will experience a great rush of bodily energy.

All of your former anguish, stress and irritability gone in a single instant, blazing with Zen truth, you will realize that I was not lying to you, or trying to torture you with my incessant talk about satori. No -- I was right, and the Zen Masters were right, and Buddha was right, and now you too are right.

NOTE: Is getting satori as sketched out above the only way to Daigo-Tettei, Great Enlightenment? Not so. If you find that you cannot cut off thinking in a flash, then you can simply contemplate your bare awareness and practice not fixating on or pursuing any thoughts even as they arise. Just ignore them: take the attitude of "no matter, never mind." Let go of every mental appearance, let it self-liberate into infinite space. "If you do not follow one thought, the next thought cannot appear," says the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. This is just taking the attitude of a rock wall, a withered tree overhanging a deep gorge, an ancient strip of silk, a white ox in the blinding snow. This is the way taught by Hongzhi, sometimes called "silent illumination Zen," and later by Dogen as "shikantaza". It is not as difficult as cutting off thinking in a flash, but it takes more time and patience. If you practice this Zen method every day you will never experience "satori" as such but gradually you will settle into Daigo-Tettei, the inconceivable state of the Buddhas -- a snowy egret standing on the riverbank in morning mist, a hazy moon shining through black winter fog.