Three Approaches of Zen

The Three Divisions of Ch’an Buddhism by Zen Master Zongmi (Tsung-mi)
There are various schools of Ch’an mutually conflicting with each other. The doctrines preached by these established sects are contradictory and obstructive to each other.
Some of them

  • Regard Emptiness (sunyata) as the foundation
  • Some regard Wisdom (prajna) as the source.
  • Some say that only Silence is true;
  • Some that [all actions such as] walking and sitting are right.
  • Some claim that from morning to evening all actions arising from the view (drsti) of discrimination (vikalpa) are false
  • Some say all discriminate doings are real.
  • Some preserve all the myriad practices;
  • Some suppress even Buddhas.
  • Some give free course to their will;
  • Some restrain their mind.
  • Some respect the sutras and the vinayas as authorities to rely on;
  • Others regard both of them as obstacles to the Tao…

Essentially speaking, when these doctrines are viewed in a limited perspective, each of them is wrong; while looking at them from a comprehensive perspective, all of them are right
One has to use the words of Buddha, to show the meaning and the advantages of each school, and thus to classify these teachings into three divisions corresponding with the three teachings [of Buddhism]. Unless this is done, how can one become a skilful teacher of the age and make all the schools important and wonderful entrances to the law (Dharma)?
The Sect Which Taught the Cessation of Falsity and the Cultivation of Mind
Firstly, the sect which taught the stopping of falsity and the cultivation of mind.
Although it is said that all sentient beings innately possess the Buddha-nature (buddhata), yet the Nature cannot be seen as it is covered up by the beginningless ignorance (avidya), and they are, therefore, dragged within the wheel of birth and death (samsara).
When Buddhas have eliminated false thought, they see their Nature in its fullest extension; they are freed from the bondage of birth and death and acquire super-natural powers and independence.
One should be aware of the different functions of common men and saints, and this difference exists both in their treatment of external objects and in their mind within.
It is, therefore, necessary for [disciples to]

  • rely on the spoken teaching of a master,
  • to detach themselves from outward objects and
  • contemplate their mind,
  • thus to extinguish false thoughts.

When thoughts are completely extinguished, one immediately attains Enlightenment (bodhi), which is omniscient.
It is like a mirror obscured by dust; one has to cleanse it diligently; only when the dust is wiped out completely, does the mirror become bright and able to reflect all things.
One should also have a clear understanding about skillful means to enter into the realm of Dhyana: to keep oneself far away from confusion and noise, to stay in a quiet place, to harmonize one’s body and breath, and sit cross-legged in silence, putting the tongue upward against the palate and concentrating the mind on one point.
Zongmi explains that the Buddha has seen that the Six Ways of sentient beings (the six conditions of transmigration) in the Three Worlds (of Desire, of Matter and Immaterial) are all Characters of the True Nature itself. They originate from the sentient beings being deluded about the True Nature substance in itself; and do not have any substance of their own; therefore their nature is said to be Dependent (paratantra).
For those whose faculties are dull, it is impossible to be awakened (from the delusion). So the Buddha discourses on the Law according to the Characters which they see, in order to ferry them over gradually. Therefore it is called discourse on Characters. As Ultimate Truth is not expressly revealed in this teaching it is called esoteric (mi-i – having a hidden meaning)
Scholar Jan Yün-Hua mentions that, “This sect destroys the attachment to external objects by the theory of Consciousness-only. When people understand that external objects are merely projections of subjective consciousness, they will not attach themselves to phenomena. They will then devote themselves to the cultivation of consciousness. This is what he calls cessation of falsity and cultivation of Mind.
The Sect of Emptiness
Secondly, the sect which taught absolute annihilation (cessation), this is to say that everything, both profane and sacred is dreamlike illusion and entirely non-existent. Original non-existence does not begin from the present. Even the knowledge which leads one to attain to nothingness is unobtainable.
In the Dharmadhtu which is all identity (samata) there are no Buddhas nor sentient beings; the Dharmadhatu itself is merely a borrowed name.
If the mind is non-existent, who will talk about Dharnadhatu?
As the cultivation itself is non-existent, one should not cultivate; and as Buddhas are non-existent, so their worship is unnecessary.
If one claims that there is a Dharma which is better than Nirvana, I would still say that it is a dreamlike illusion.
There is no Law to follow, nor a Buddhahood for one to attain.
Whatever the effort, all is deluding and false. To avoid going against truth, the only way is thus to understand thoroughly that originally nothing exists, and that one should not attach his mind to any thing.
Only after this is one called liberated. From Shih-t’ou and Ox-head down to Ching-shan, all preached this doctrine.
They consequently asked their disciples to practice mentally in accordance with this doctrine, and not to let their feelings be hindered by any single Dharma.
In course of time the defiled habits would be eliminated by themselves, and one would be without any obstacles from hate or affection, sorrow or happiness.
Because of this doctrine, there were a kind of Taoist priests, Confucian scholars and idle Buddhist monks who had some vague knowledge of Ch’an and liked to speak such words and regard them as the highest.
These people are, however, not aware of the fact that this sect does not regard only these words as being its law.
The disciples of Ho-tse, Chiang-hsi and T’ien-t’ai are also preaching this teaching, though they did not regard it as their principal doctrine.
Zongmi clarifies this as follows:
According to the ultimate meaning of Truth, the false tenets are originally empty, so there is nothing to negate. All pure Dharmas are originally the True Nature, and have forever their wonderful functions in accordance with circumstances. Therefore, they are also not to be negated. However, there is a kind of sentient beings who are unable to awake, as their vision is obstructed by attachment to empty Characters. So the Buddha negates all Characters without distinction of good and evil or pure and impure. He considers both the True (Buddha) Nature and its wonderful functions as not non-existent; but he cannot discuss it explicity and he says they are non-existent. That is what is called esoteric teaching. It also means that the intention of the teaching is to reveal the True Nature, but its linguistic expression only negates Characters. Since the intention is not explicitly expressed, that is why it is called esoteric (secret).
(This is also the teaching of inference. Where the nature isn’t directly pointed to but can be stumbled upon. This is characterized by the Zen stories featuring Masters lifting fingers, raising eyebrows, shouting, hitting, Joshu’s MU)
The Sect of the Direct Discovery of Mind-Nature
Thirdly, the sect which taught direct revelation of the Mind-nature: this is to say that all Dharmas, whether existent or empty, are nothing but the absolute Nature (Buddha Nature).
The absolute Nature is characterless and nonactive, and its substance differs from all phenomena; it is neither profane nor sacred, neither cause nor effect, neither good nor evil.
Nevertheless, the functioning of the substance is able to create all kinds of manifestations, meaning that it is capable of manifesting itself as profane or sacred, as material forms or other characters.
Here, one may point out two kinds of manifestations of Mind-Nature.
First, things such as language and action, desire and hatred, compassion and patience, good and evil deeds, suffering and enjoyment, all these are the Buddha-nature in yourselves; they are the original Buddha [in you] apart from which there is no other Buddha.
When one understands that this natural reality is spontaneous (svayambhu), the longing for cultivation of the Tao does not arise in one’s mind. The Tao is the Mind itself; one cannot use the Mind to cultivate the Mind.
Evil also is the Mind itself; one cannot cut off the Mind with the Mind itself. Non-cutting and noncultivating, following one’s self-nature freely, may be called liberation (vimoksa).
The (Mind-) Nature resembles emptiness; nothing can be added to it nor taken away from it.
What necessity is there for completing it?
The only thing one has to do is to stop one’s own Karma and to nourish one’s own spiritual power, at all times and places where one lives, thus to strengthen the womb of holiness and to manifest the wonder of spontaneity.
This is the true awakening. the true cultivation and the true realization.
Second, they say, all Dharmas are dreamlike illusions, and this has been taught by all saints.
Originally, therefore, false thought is calm, worldly phenomena are empty, and the empty and calm Mind is self-knowing and never obscured.
This empty and calm knowledge is your own real Nature; whether deluded or enlightened, the Mind is always self-knowing.
It does not depend on other conditions for birth, nor does it arise from external objects.
The one word (awareness) is the gate to all wonders.
Being deluded by the beginningless ignorance, one wrongly grasps his physical body (rupa) and mental elements (nama) as the Self, from which thoughts of desire, hatred and so forth arise.
If one has a good and learned friend to open and indicate the empty and calm knowledge of Sudden Enlightenment, and [to indicate] that the knowledge itself is thoughtless and formless, then who will make a distinction between self and others ?
When one realizes that all characters are empty, thoughts will naturally not remain in his mind.
When a thought arises, one is immediately aware of it; and with this awareness, thought becomes nothing.
The wonderful gate of religious cultivation is here and not elsewhere.
Although a myriad ways of cultivation are available, yet the Absence of Thought is the principal.
Only when one becomes aware of the Absence of Thought, do love (raga) and hatred (dvesa) naturally become calm; compassion (karuna) and wisdom (prajna) naturally become brighter; evil karmic effects are naturally cut off, and meritorious actions naturally advance.
After one thoroughly understands that all characters are no characters, one naturally cultivates without cultivation.
When passions are ended, one is freed from the bondage of birth and death.
When birth and death are annihilated, one is confronted with Nirvana-illumination, whose responses to the needs are inexhaustible; and this is called Buddha-hood.
[Despite their differences] these two views are both aimed at the unity of all characters and the return to (Buddha-) Nature. They are, therefore, to be considered as having the same principle.
The third type of Buddhist thought is termed by Tsung-mi as “the exoteric teaching revealing that the True Mind itself is the (Buddha) Nature”.
He comments this formula as follows,

“This teaching directly points to the Mind as being the True (Buddha) Nature. The revelation of Truth is limited neither by phenomenal nor by mental Characters, so it is said that Mind itself is the (Buddha) Nature. As this teaching is not through the skillful means of esotericism, it is called exoteric revelation.”

Scholar Jan Yün-Hua mentions that,

“These passages show that Tsung-mi considers all the doctrines and practices of Ch’an Buddhism as devices only. In other words, while he recognizes that the fundamental problems of the phenomenal world are basically the same, yet the spiritual needs may be different from man to man. Therefore, there is no dispute about the painful aspect of worldly life, but there do exist differences about the means or the ways helpful to each individual.

The three divisions mentioned above are further divided by their attitudes towards traditional “teaching”: either looking up to it or looking down on it, either following its characters or destroying them. Their methods for the refutation of external challenge, their skillful means towards the lay community, their modes and manners of teaching disciples, are varied and different. All these differences, however, are modes of action beneficial to and adapted to circumstances. There is no loss therein. The principle which they respect is non-dual. This is why they should be understood comprehensively in accordance with the words spoken by Buddha.

Each of these devices are useful and helpful only to certain groups of people to which the device is suitable and adopted. As far as these people are concerned, it is correct and productive; however, if one proclaims the device to be the only absolute or ultimate way to salvation, and imposes it upon other people, then the device becomes an obstacle rather than a help. After all, there is no single medical formula that is capable of curing all kinds of diseases.

This recognition of the individual need is one of the most distinct contributions of Ch’an Buddhism. Ch’an Buddhists pointed out that if any religious man chose an unsuitable device for spiritual cultivation, it would be impossible for him to attain the expected fruit. In that case, religious practice may become a source of suffering, rather than of liberation from suffering. Ch’an therefore laid stress on the freedom of choice as to the means adopted to reach the religious goal.”



Catching the Zen Bird

Catching the Zen Bird
So many people hear of the Zen Mind or Buddha Mind or Truth or Suchness or Enlightenment or the Great Way or the Absolute or the Unborn or the Fundamental Nature – there’s a million different names for it – and they know they want it for themselves.
It’s like hearing of a magical mythical royal bird – like a phoenix.
And theres a story that whoever may catch it will be given great power and riches and the knowledge of the universe.
So we go off searching for it.
Hunting for it
Scheming for it
And maybe we catch sight of it flying high in a certain place
So we go there again and again
And we lay traps for it
Hoping to snatch it for ourselves
And in those traps
We catch all kinds of different birds
Brown birds blue birds red birds
Even a chicken
And we shew them all away
And we wait and wait and wait
Dreaming of the day we catch the phoenix. We fantasize about it. It consumes us.
Then one day we check on the trap and we discover a hurt little baby bird
Our heart breaks open a little bit and we are moved by it’s innocence it’s helplessness and a great remorse comes over us as we watch it struggle to breakfree of the pain that we ourselves have caused it from our own selfishness
And something in us moves us to help it
Then the momma bird comes and attacks us
And we take those attacks
We endure her piercing beak because we know she is only trying to protect her baby and maybe she’s feeling bad too that she couldn’t keep it safe
So we care for that baby bird
We nurture it
We help it
We feed it
We gently love it
We strengthen it
We watch it grow
This whole time we’re still thinking of the royal magical bird
But less and less
We just see the matter at hand and do our best
We start to really see and know that it was because of our own greed hatred and delusion that this little innocent bird has been hurt
We vow to change
To be different
To be better
The baby bird finally gets strong enough to walk and fly on it’s own and we rejoice we celebrate it we clap and dance
In this moment we forgot about ourselves
And finally we bring it back to it’s mother strong and alive
We apologize to the mother and say we will change or ways – we have changed already and promise to do even better
We bow to her and we wish them the best bird life possible
And we realize in that moment that we have forgotten about the royal bird
We’ve forgotten about our goal our dreams our wants
And when we look to the place where we used to lay our trap – right there fast asleep is what we have sought so long ago
The royal bird – the radiant phoenix in all it’s spledour and glory is just sleeping peacefully there
We experience great awe reverence and we stop right there in our tracks our breath caught in our chest
And we sit there in the grass not moving a few feet from the phoenix
Not wanting to disturb this moment and the beauty of it
And we watch with an open heart
And something has changed in us because we don’t chase after it we don’t grasp it at – if this is the closest we get to it then that’s fine – more than fine – it’s the most magical thing we’ve ever experienced
And every day we do this
We tiptoe quietly to the spot hoping not to disturb the royal bird and scare it away with our own blunderings and some days we do and some days we don’t
But we keep going back
And now something else changes
We hear the forest
We feel the breeze
We look around us and somehow start to see the magic of life again
We praise the tree
We dance with the wind
We feed the birds
And care for the land
And easeful joyous heart begins to arise in us
The simplest things become marvellous
How could you have never seen this before
Heard this before
Tasted this before
Smelt this before
Touched this before
You even see the beauty in the “dark” things
In the decay
In the struggle
In the pain of the process
And even in death
You begin to bear witness to it all
The miracle of it
You have a reverence for it
You see that you have a great privilege and rare chance here and you do everything you can to help it
And everything is smooth
Everything is easy
Mountains are no longer mountains
Streams no longer streams
Everything is the great way
Then one day you realize that you haven’t thought of the royal bird in a long time
And you go check in on it’s normal place and it’s not there
And you’re fine
And you sit
And the you that’s sitting disappears
Words cannot get to it
To say you are oneness is not correct
To say anything really is not correct
But everything is correct
All words are silence
All actions are non-actiom
All thoughts are non-thought
All and all
Everything is perfect just as it is
How foolish you were before
Now you’re the greatest of fools
Just this
And that’s saying too much
The crickets chirping
The sun setting
The wind blowing
The water softly cresting on the shore
How can you truly describe the great way – to say anything is to miss the mark but to not say anything is to break your hearts vow to help all beings
And right then looking down there’s the discovery
Of the royal bird – the blazingly radiant phoenix sleeping in your lap and you’re not shocked or elated or anything really
It’s just this and nothing else
And though nothing’s been said you hear it’s wisdom nonetheless
And somehow you know that the royal bird, the great beautiful phoenix had been there the whole time
Guiding you
Loving you
Calling you
To awaken
It’s all the great phoenix
And you laugh and laugh
And the royal bird smiles
The crickets chirp
The sun sets
The wind blows
And the water softly crests on the shore
A rumble in your tummy
You getup and cook the rice
Clean the dishes
And sleep when you’re tired
You and the forest are not two – not one either

Mountains are mountains

Streams are streams

The great blazing phoenix soars through the vast open sky unhindered and completely free.
Zen Master e
Please read:
Artwork by Louis Dyer –
The amazingly beautiful and transcendent artwork of the Golden Phoenix is by the gifted artist Louis Dyer.
Please checkout his work and support him in his visionary art.


Find Your Mind Treasure

Transcript: Finding the Treasure in Your Mind is a True Practitioner
Finding the Treasure in Your Mind is a True Practitioner
We think that we should learn and accept while meditating on a daily basis.
But more important than that is you must save yourself.
The enlightenment of a Buddha’s true nature is in your own mind.
We should live Buddha’s life with that Buddha Nature.
Knowing this and putting it into practice.
This is the real practice.
That’s why we are here and practicing because sentient beings are foolish.
Mind and behavior are different.
We have to come to this distant place because we have to retreat according to the shape of the karma.
You better cut off everything – such as desire, anger, ignorance, delusion, worldly matters and family matters.
If I only talked about liberating – do not be attached to it or accept (as a fixed view) with any boundaries
(Pointing Out Your Intrinsic Buddha Nature)
(Look and see for yourself)
It should be a calm mind forever and eternally like the empty sky everywhere.
Therefore in the end it is necessary to take off from all troubles naturally with clear and pure minds (all your troubles disappear in the Buddha Mind)
Isn’t it right?
Seeking vain honors and speaking truth with that mouth do not let your mind be like monkeys.
The difference between words and action is that you deceive yourself if you fall into hellish hell.
Do not pursue vain honors and pleasure living in the world without knowing yourself (first).
Without knowing yourself you will suffer disease for all eternity.
Be diligent (Chris one of Master’s senior students) hardwork and make effort.
You are saving yourself.
The Buddha and I cannot save you – the enlightenment too.
You are just guidance (these are just guides)
We just lead you to be meditators to get into the meditation world.
If the Buddha could save the sentient beings, which are more than the dust of the world, he would have finished saving all sentient beings already
But why are we not leaving samsara and the circle of reincarnation and being Buddha until now?
Therefore sentient beings should save oneself.
Not the Buddha saving.
So you understand that clearly – diligence and effort are meditate yourself and you should not rely on the power of another Buddha from outside.
(Rely on the Buddha within)
What would I like to attach?
We usually see ourselves or those around us living – it’s called “sentient beings”.
The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng said, “Seeing and looking at the surface, right and wrong and distinguishing minds are called sentient beings. It is not sentient beings that is revealed in all kind of images of the world as the state of life.”
Jealous mind
Anger mind
Dispute mind
and deceived mind
This is called “sentient beings”.
When we live with a mind that we comprehend (small mind/thinking mind).
If you call this kind of mind – sentient beings
If there isn’t that kind of mind – if that mind disappears – then all sentient beings are saved and attain enlightenment at that moment.
When sentient beings disappear then the Buddha’s world will appear.
Thank you
Finding treasuring in your mind is a true practitioner
So Phuon she already found it – Kwan Seum Bosal (Quan Yin/Avalokitesvara)
I asked Elaine to make that frame and I think Phuon gave her some kind of information.
Actually that frame and this picture is Phuons.
Phuon – alway in her mind is Kwan Seum Bosal.
So I would like to give you all of this picture. One each.
What is your treasure?
What is in your mind? What is in there? (Master points to his heart)
You better find out.
So – Phuon – she already found – maybe about two years ago.
She always says, “I’m Kwan Seum Bosal.”
Always she’s thinking Kwan Seum Bosal.
Everybody have one of these.
And also – another one is this one. (Master holds up a picture of a statue that’s shaped like a meditator clothed in a black robe and at their heart is the Buddha and their face/mind is golden)
I took this picture from Korea.
With Kelly and Rebecca.
I took this picture in Seol Korea. Then when I come back I asked Elaine to make it like this.
Meditators here – inside – Buddha is inside.
You can try to find out what is in your mind.
Maybe that is a Buddha or Dharma or Kwan Seum Bosal.
Kwan Seum Bosal is mercy and compassion Bodhisattva.
From now – everybody try and find out what you got in your mind.
Thank you.


She Let Go

By Ernest Holmes
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go. She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments. She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around in her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within herself. She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go. She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on how to let go. She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go. She let go of all of the memories that held her back. She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right. She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope, She just let go. She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter one word. She just let go. No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go. There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that. In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.”


Plunging Into the Nowness

“Plunge into the nowness of everfresh completely spontaneous everpresence. Pure pristine awareness.” Master e
All phenomena are completely new and fresh, absolutely unique and entirely free from all concepts of past, present, and future. They are experienced in timelessness.
The continual stream of new discovery, revelation, and inspiration which arises at every moment is the manifestation of our clarity. We should learn to see everyday life as mandala – the luminous fringes of experience which radiate spontaneously from the empty nature of our being. The aspects of our mandala are the day-to-day objects of our life experience moving in the dance or play of the universe. By this symbolism, the inner teacher reveals the profound and ultimate significance of being.
Therefore we should be natural and spontaneous, accepting and learning from everything. This enables us to see the ironic and amusing side of events that usually irritate us.
In meditation we can see through the illusion of past, present, and future – our experience becomes the continuity of nowness. The past is only an unreliable memory held in the present. The future is only a projection of our present conceptions. The present itself vanishes as soon as we try to grasp it. So why bother with attempting to establish an illusion of solid ground?
We should free ourselves from our past memories and preconceptions of meditation. Each moment of meditation is completely unique and full of potentiality. In such moments, we will be incapable of judging our meditation in terms of past experience, dry theory or hollow rhetoric.
Simply plunging directly into meditation in the moment now, with our whole being, free from hesitation, boredom or excitement, is enlightenment.
– Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Dzogchen Practice in Daily Life


Giving & Getting

A student had really resonated with the teaching of giving and said that this came up for them in their business meeting just recently – to give so that they could get more.
Here is my response…
The practice of giving if tied to getting (the expectation that because I’ve given means I will get more) is then bound to the three poisons – greed in particular.
Wanting yearning craving desire attachment – all will bind you.
And what happens when you give and don’t get anything in return?
Then there’s frustration and anger.
Then we look and see others are getting and when we’re not then that leads to jealousy. (Jealousy and pride are added to the poisons in some schools of Buddhism)
Free yourself from this dualistic grasping.
We give because it’s the natural expression of awakening.
When abiding in the empty radiance of mind the natural expression of that is giving.
It doesn’t need to be enticed to give with getting something in return because it’s already full.
If you’re worried about giving away too much – going beyond your capacity – again this too is taken care of when we just keep a clear mind – then wisdom flows through us and we give within reason – to not cripple or hinder ourselves.
There’s no point in getting into debt to be able to give.
Be a good caretaker of what’s currently “yours” and be wise, skillful and compassionate with its use.
Stop seeing the world and others as a transaction that you’re always trying to tweak so you can benefit in some way.
Just rest in your fundamentally awake awareness and bring benefit to everyone you meet as best you can – and drop the scorecard.
Put it all down and let the energy of awareness work through you unhindered by your selfish grasping.
May you only go straight, achieve enlightenment and free us all.
Zen Master E
Ian Paul Marshall


Dharma Transmission

In Zen-Buddhism, Dharma transmission is a custom in which a person is established as a “successor in an unbroken lineage of teachers and disciples, a spiritual ‘bloodline’ (kechimyaku) theoretically traced back to the Buddha himself.”

The Buddha Twirls A Flower

In the Flower Sermon, Shakyamuni Buddha passes something to his disciple, Mahakashyapa.
According to the story, Shakyamuni is on the teaching seat surrounded by his disciples.
But instead of giving the usual kind of lecture, he just holds up a flower and gives it a twirl.
Everyone except Mahakashyapa stared with confusion at the Buddha.
But, Mahakashyapa smiled.
Whereupon the Buddha said, “I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvelous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle Dharma Gate that does not rely on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures. This I entrust to Mahakashyapa.”
Commentary: There’s nothing to transmit and no-one to transmit it to.
To say a word about it and you break the 4th precept. To not say anything and you break the Bodhisattva vow.
What could be said that would make that moment more beautiful?
Mahakashyapa is still smiling.
The Buddha is still smiling.
The flower is still twirling.
It was such a beautiful day.
How do I know?
I was there.
So were you.


Just This Is It

Ancestor Dongshan Liangjie (807-869).
After some period of practice with Yunyan, just before departing to visit other teachers, Dongshan asked Yunyan,
“Later on, if I am asked to describe your reality, how should I respond?”
After a pause, Yunyan said, “Just this is it.”
Dongshan departed without further comment.
Later while wading across a stream, he looked down, saw his reflection, and awakened to the meaning of the previous exchange.
Comment by Master e
Where else are you going to find it?
Why are you searching for it anyways? How funny to see a Buddha looking for a Buddha.
Dongshan finally saw it in his own face. Right there in an instant.
Not thinking about it and there it was.


The Heart Sutra

The Bodhisattva of Compassion, Avalokateshvara, while in deep meditative concentration, absorption and curious inquiry, looked deeply into the nature of experience, penetrated fully to the intuitve realization of the emptiness of the skandhas and after completely seeing and knowing this for himself in depth, he became completely free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
Seeing the wise Sharaputra was still bound by conceptual knowledge he came to him and said,
Form is emptiness
And emptiness is form
Form is not different than emptiness
And emptiness is not different from form
Form itself IS emptiness
And emptiness itself IS form
The same is true for all the other things we take, cling to and believe to be a “me”
Like sensations of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral
Perceptions, those moments of recognition of perceiving something based on memories and prior experiences
Impulses, those urges that move us to take volitional actions
Or the six streams of consciousness
All phenomena are marked with emptiness
They do not appear or disappear
Are not tainted or pure
And do not increase or decrease
Therefore when you rest and abide in emptiness
Not grasping, not clinging, not conceptually designating
There in that freedom
There is no form
No feelings
No perceptions
No impulses
No identifying with the six streams of consciousness
There’s also
No Eyes
No Ears
No Nose
No Tongue
No Body
No mind
There’s no concepts like
Feeling tones
And no thoughts
No elements of perception
From eye consciousness to conceptual consciousness
In that freedom there’s no ignorance or the ending of ignorance
Even concepts like old age and death or the ending of old age and death are gone
In that freedom there is no suffering, no causes of suffering, or end of suffering
There is no path
No insight
And no attainment
Because there is nothing to attain
Those Bodhisattvas who practice this penetrating wisdom of the Prajna Paramita are free
No longer trapped by concepts and hindrances
They overcome all fear
Destroy all distorted views
Even that of nirvana
All Buddhas of the past, present and future
Take refuge in Prajna Paramita
and realize unexcelled, perfect enlightenment.
Therefore Sariputra,
it should be known that
the Prajna Paramita,
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore,
the deep intuitive knowing that goes beyond,
is a Great Mantra,
the most illuminating mantra,
the highest mantra,
a mantra beyond compare,
the True Wisdom that has the
power to put an end to all kinds of suffering.
Therefore let us proclaim the mantra of the Prajna Paramita
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Totally gone
Gone completely
To the other shore
How amazing!
(A modern expanded translation of the Heart Sutra by Ian Paul Marshall)


Everything is the Buddha

When we see the great light through complete enlightenment, we see the non-duality of the eternal and the momentary. Everything we see is Kwanseum Bosal, and everything we hear is the mystical Dharma sound.
There is no truth aside from seeing and hearing. Do you understand? Mountain is mountain. River is river.
Let us respect all forms of life as we respect the Buddha. The true form of everything in the universe is brighter than sunlight, clearer than sky, and immaculate.
Such terms as “evil” or “lowly” are but superficial judgments. Everything is Buddha, everything is magnificent, everything is sublime.
Let us respect not just people, but all forms of life—even the lowly flies and ants, and ferocious wolves and tigers—just as we would the Buddha.
When we respect even the most vile criminal, we come to see life as it really is. We come to live in true fundamentality.
Everything in the infinite universe is Buddha, and every nation is a Buddhafield. If you look into the true nature of reality, you will not find a trace of misery. You will only find eternal happiness everywhere.
Seon Master Songchol


Essentials of Cultivating the Mind

Daman Hongren – Essentials of Cultivating the Mind
The essence of cultivating the Way is to discern that one’s own body-mind awareness is inherently pure, not subject to birth or death, and without division.
Perfect and complete in its self-nature, present awareness is the fundamental teacher.
Focusing on it exclusively is superior to reflecting on the awakened ones of the ten directions.
How do you know that one’s own awareness is inherently pure?
To use the bright sun as a metaphor: even if the clouds and mists of the world were to arise together in all directions so that the world became dark, still, how could the sun ever be extinguished?
The sun’s light is not destroyed, but merely deflected by the clouds and mists.
The pure mind possessed by all sentient beings is like this – simply covered by the layered clouds of discriminative thinking, false ideas, and ascriptive views.
If you just distinctly maintain awareness of present clear mind and don’t manufacture false thoughts, then the reality-sun of nirvana will be naturally manifested.
That is how you can experience that your own mind is inherently pure.
How do you know that one’s own awareness is inherently not subject to birth and death?
The Vimalakirti Sutra says: “Suchness is without birth, suchness is without death.”
The term “suchness” refers to the nature of awakened presence, the mind which is the source of all phenomena.
Suchness is fundamentally, originally existent, not conditionally produced.
The sutra also says, “ordinary beings all embody suchness; sages and wise ones also embody suchness.”
Although the names and characteristics of ordinary and awakened beings are different, the essential reality of suchness embodied in each is identical and is not subject to birth or death.
This is how it is realized that one’s own mind is inherently not subject to birth and death.
Why is the mind the fundamental teacher?
The true mind exists of itself and does not come from outside. As a teacher, it does not even require any tuition fee!
If you discern the “suchness” of the mind and maintain awareness of it, you reach the shore of nirvana.
By clearly maintaining awareness of the mind, the false mind (of attachment to ideas) is not activated and you reach the birthless.
Therefore we understand that the mind is the fundamental teacher.
Why is focusing on your own mind superior to reflecting on the awakened ones of the ten directions?
You cannot transcend birth and death by constantly imagining awakened beings divorced from yourself, but you reach the shore of nirvana by maintaining awareness of your own fundamental mind.
The Buddha says in the Diamond Sutra, “Anyone who views me in terms of form and seeks me by sound is practicing a mistaken path and is unable to see the one who is ‘thus-come.’”
Therefore we realize that maintaining awareness of (your own) true mind is superior to reflecting on awakened ones divorced from oneself. (But this word “superior” is only used for encouragement in the context of practice – In reality, the essence of the ultimate fruit of awakening is harmoniously inclusive and without opposing dualities).
If you can maintain awareness of the true mind without generating false thoughts or the illusion of personal possession, then you will automatically be equal to the Awakened Ones.
The nature of true presence is the core of both ordinary beings and awakened ones just the same.
Why, then, are awakened ones liberated, while ordinary beings are deluded?
At this point we enter the inconceivable which cannot be understood by the ordinary mind.
You awaken by discerning the true mind, you become deluded by losing awareness of this true nature. If the conditions (for awakening) come together, then they come together – it cannot be definitively explained.
Simply commit to your conviction of the ultimate truth, and maintain awareness of your own true mind. Do this constantly with focused energy, without fabricating false thoughts or the illusion of personal possession.
Awakening then manifests of itself.
If you ask a lot of questions, the number of conceptual terms will simply become greater and greater.
If you want to understand the essential point of the Awakened Way – then know that maintaining awareness of mind is the fundamental basis of nirvana, the essential gateway for entering the path, the basic principle of all the scriptures, and the teacher of all the awakened ones of the past, present, and future…
The essence of what is called nirvana is serene dissolution.
When one’s mind focuses on the true, false thoughts dissolve.
When false thoughts cease, correct mindfulness arises, generating the wisdom of serene illumination, or the total comprehension of reality-nature, which is also called the experience of nirvana.
All concepts, and all affairs of past, present, and future, should be seen as dust on a mirror – when the dust is gone, true nature naturally becomes clearly visible.
That which is learned by the deluded mind is completely useless.
True learning is what is learned by the unconditioned mind, which never ceases perfect awareness. Although we can call this “true learning,” ultimately there is nothing to be learned.
Because “self “and “liberation” are both insubstantial, they are neither different nor the same.
Thus, the essential principle of “nothing to be learned” is evident.
All the Awakened Ones of the past, present, and future are born within your own consciousness.
When you do not give birth to false thoughts, when your illusions of personal possession have been relinquished, the awakened one is born within your own consciousness.
You can only experience awakening by maintaining awareness of true mind.
My only desire is that you discern this fundamental mind for yourself.
Therefore, I employ you: Make effort! Make effort!
All the myriad scriptures and treatises say nothing other than that maintaining the true mind is the essential way to awakening.
Do not try to search outside of yourself – this only leads to the suffering of continued conventional patterns.
Just maintain the same mind of awareness in every moment of thought, and in all phases of mental activity.
When you sit…you may experience all kinds of good and bad psychological states…when you perceive such things, concentrate the mind and do not become attached to them. They are all insubstantial manifestations of deluded thinking.
A scripture says, “The triple realm is an empty apparition that is solely the creation of the individual mind.”
Do not worry if you cannot achieve special concentration or do not experience the various states of meditative absorption – just constantly maintain clear awareness of the present mind in all your actions.
If you stop generating delusive ideas and the illusion of personal possession, the you will realize that all the myriad phenomena are nothing other than manifestations of your own mind.
The awakened sages only preach with extensive and verbal teachings because the mental tendencies of sentient beings differ, and require a variety of responses. In actuality, the (present) mind is the basic subject of all the myriad teachings and philosophies.
Make effort and remain humble.
It is rare to get a chance to hear this essential teaching.
Of those that hear it, very few are able to practice it.
With great care keep your self calm, moderate your sensory activity, and attentively view the mind that is the source of all phenomena. Allow it to shine distinctly and clearly at all times, without letting yourself fall into mental blankness.
What is mental blankness?
People who practice special concentration exercises can inhibit the true mind by being dependent on particular sensory activities, dulled states of mind, or restricted breathing.
Although they may practice constantly, they cannot experience true clarity; they cannot reveal the mind which is the source of all phenomena. This is called blankness.
One can have success with minimal exertion by merely donning tattered robes, eating simple food, and clearly maintaining awareness of the present mind.
Deluded people of the world do not understand this truth and put themselves through great anguish in their ignorance.
Hoping to achieve liberation, they cultivate a broad range of superficial practices to gain merit – only to fall into the inevitable discontent of habitual cyclic existence.
(So just) make your body and mind perfectly empty and peaceful, without any discriminative thinking at all.
Sit properly with the body erect.
Regulate the breath and concentrate the mind so it is not within you, not outside of you, and not in any location in between.
Do this carefully but naturally.
View your own consciousness tranquilly and attentively, so you can see how it is always moving, like flowing water or a glittering mirage.
After you have perceived this consciousness, simply continue to observe it gently and naturally, without getting fixed anywhere inside or outside of yourself.
Do this calmly and attentively until its fluctuations dissolve into peaceful stability.
This flowing consciousness will disappear like a gust of wind.
When this consciousness disappears, all illusions disappear along with it…one’s own mind becomes peacefully stable, and pure.
I cannot describe it any further.
Anyone who can keep this mind in sight during all activities and in the face of the desires for forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, and in the midst of the winds of success and failure, criticism and praise, honor and abuse, suffering and pleasure, has established a pure practice (brahmacarya), and will never again be born into the realm of birth and death.
My disciples have recorded this treatise from my oral teachings so that readers might intuitively resonate with the words and perceive the meaning behind them.
I want everyone to discern their fundamental mind and experience awakening at once.
The basic principle of this teaching is the the manifestation of the one vehicle.
It’s ultimate intention is to lead the deluded to liberation, allowing them to become free from the realm of birth and death themselves, and to help others to cross over to the other shore of nirvana.
But this treatise only speaks of the benefit to oneself, it does not elaborate on how to benefit others.
It should be understood as a gate of direct practice.
Anyone who practices according to these instructions will realize awakening immediately.
From the Xiu Xin Yao Lun (c.700) written by members of the “East Mountain School” (Hongren’s students) as a summary of Master Hongren’s teaching. Based on a translation by John R. McRae.


Be Soft Like Water

[et_pb_section bb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.0.101″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.0.101″ use_custom_width=”on” custom_width_px=”750″ background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” background_size=”initial”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_video admin_label=”Be Soft Like Water” _builder_version=”3.0.106″ src=”” image_src=”” /][et_pb_blurb _builder_version=”3.0.106″ title=”Be Soft Like Water Dharma Talk” url_new_window=”off” use_icon=”off” use_circle=”off” use_circle_border=”off” icon_placement=”top” use_icon_font_size=”off” background_layout=”light”]
Video of the Be Soft Like Water Dharma Talk
This is the second talk of the Awakened Heart Series and this talk looks at softening.
Be Soft Like Water
Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.
― Lao Tzu
Like the Video? Support the Work!
→ Click here to give
(Dana) Giving: The practice of giving is universally recognized as one of the most basic human virtues, a quality that testifies to the depth of one’s humanity and one’s capacity for self-transcendence. In the teaching of the Buddha, too, the practice of giving claims a place of special eminence, one which singles it out as being in a sense the foundation and seed of spiritual development.