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.”
“You are the primordial awareness of skillful means the indestructible state beyond all concepts, Realized in the nature of the Great Mother, transcendental wisdom free from any reference, Displaying your compassion, in all its variety, in every kind of way — O Great Vajrasattva, to you I pay homage!”
The Vajrasattva mantra practice is probably the best known of all the practices in Vajrayana Buddhism. It’s usually part of the pre-liminary practices given to individuals that are embarking on the tantric journey.
I have studied with multiple vajrayana and mahamudra teachers but only a couple of them placed any emphasis on the pre-liminaries.
Many years ago I began to train under a Vajrayana master named Lama Sonam Gyatso. In one of the first times we sat down to talk he asked me if I had done any of the preliminary practices associated with that lineage. These practices included prostrations, mandala offerings, guru yoga and Vajrasattva mantra recitation – 100,000 of them. I told him no. He then said that it would be good for me to do so.
That night I (begrudgingly) set myself to work starting with Vajrasattva mantra recitations. This mantra is no easy thing as it is 100 syllables long. I struggled with it for those first few days. Getting my mouth to contort to the syllables and getting my mind to remember the mantra itself. But I am so glad that I stuck it out – it was a completely transformative experience for me.
The hundred syllable Vajrasattva mantra practice is one of my favourites. So many people rush through it but Vajrasattva and the teaching hidden within the mantra itself could be a path of awakening in it’s own right.
To understand the beauty of this practice it’s good to know who Vajrasattva is, what they represent and then from that insight and understanding approach the practice.
So before you jump ahead to either the Tibetan, or Sanskrit version of the mantra or the modern poetric translation of it please first take some time to absorb and study the teachings and wisdom associated with Vajrasattva.
WHO IS VAJRASATTVA?
Vajrasattva is the fundamentally pure, blazingly radiant, ever knowing essence of your very own mind. Vajrasattva is the clear light potentiate of splendour, bliss and ease that is the very core of you. Vajrasattva is the archetypical perfectly pure potential of mind. All embracing, forever welcoming, unending openness. Pure and total presence. The joy of release.
Sangharakshita says that Vajrasattva is, “the beginningless purity of one’s own mind; that is to say one’s own Ultimate Mind or Ultimate Essence.”
When we’re caught up in the mayhem and madness of the small “me-me-me” mind, trapped in emotions, tossed about by the winds of karma and the pull and push of greed, hatred and delusion it’s pretty hard to believe that there’s a fundamental purity and brilliance to the mind. But it’s true.
The Buddha said that the fundamental nature of the mind was, “Consciousness without feature, without end, luminous all around.” He said that we don’t see and know this radiant purity because since beginningless time it is covered over by obscurities or defilementsI.
In the Brahmanimantanika Sutra (Majjhima-Nikaya), the Buddha says, “Do not think that this [nirvana] is an empty or void state. There is this consciousness, without distinguishing mark, infinite and shining everywhere (Vinnanam anidassanam anantam sabbato-pabham); it is untouched by the material elements and not subject to any power.”
Zen Master Chinul talked of the minds fundamental purity and brilliance saying, “At that point where all dharmas are empty, the numinous awareness is not obscured. It is not the same as insentience, for its nature is spiritually deft. This is your pure mind-essence of void and calm, numinous awareness. This pure, void, and calm mind is that mind of outstanding purity and brilliance of all the buddhas of the three time-periods; it is that enlightened nature which is the original source of all sentient beings. One who awakens to it and safeguards that [awakening] will then abide in the unitary, “such,” and immovable liberation.”
Vajrayanna and Ati-Yoga teacher Tarchin Hearn said that, “Portrayed as a radiant buddha figure, Vajrasattva represents the primordial natural state of pure and total presence – the essence of body, speech and mind activity of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As a meditation, the primary purpose of Vajrasattva practice is to remove the obstacles obscuring one’s perception of the true nature of mind, and hence to cleanse unwholesomeness from all levels of being.”
The Vajrasattva practice is one of remembering and removal. Remembering that fundamental purity and removing all the crud that’s covering that brilliance up. VAJRASATTVA’S GREAT VOW
Yukhok Chatralwa Chöying Rangdrol says: In the past, while on the path of learning, Vajrasattva made the following aspiration:
“In future, when I reach complete and perfect buddhahood, may those who have committed the five crimes with immediate retribution, or anyone whose samaya commitments have been impaired, be purified entirely of all their harmful actions and impairments merely by hearing my name, thinking of me, or reciting the hundred syllables, the most majestic of all the secret mantras! Until this is brought about may I remain without awakening!
May I be present before all those with impairments and breakages of samaya commitments and may I purify all their obscurations!”
KUKKARAJA’S INSTRUCTIONS TO GARAB DORJE ABOUT VAJRASATTVA Garab Dorje is said to be the original Tulku, the first person to receive the Ati-Yoga/Dzogchen teachings and that he was taught directly by Vajrasattva.
Kukkuraja’s instruction to Garab Dorje entailed a teaching of the Three Vajras in relation to Vajrasattva, Atiyoga and Kulayaraja Tantra:
“Everything without exception is the Divine Body-Speech-Mind,” he had said. “The Divine Body-Speech-Mind is all-encompassing. Thus know your ultimate identity to be Vajrasattva, the Divine Body-Speech-Mind.”
As the Tibetan text of the Kulaya-raja Sutra (Kun.byed.rgyal.po’i .mdo) states: “When everything is seen as the Great Self-identity (bdag.nyid.chen.po), it is known as Atiyoga.”
THE CHAPTER ON DIRECT PERCEPTION OF VAJRASATTVA FROM THE GUHYAGARBHA TANTRA
Samantabhadra and sentient beings are gathered indivisibly in immaculate existential space, and in order to demonstrate experientially the direct perception of Vajrasattva’s face, deliberately, Samantabhadra speaks:
In direct perception of this mundane world, where things are never what they seem, where all is delusory enchantment, like hallucination, seeing all and everything as a continuity like the reflection of the moon in water, that is the buddha’s pristine awareness, and a flash of undivided recognition of that gives us a unitary experience of total presence. A finger snap of ungrounded limitless space, in timeless existential space, the here and now, that is Vajrasattva wielding an utterly inviolable vajra. When vision and conduct are in sync with direct perception, we see his face in the intrinsic purity of the mandala.
That boundless existential space is oneself in a union of utter purity, and all is spontaneously awakened. Whoever experiences this realization he is seeing with the eye of pure awareness and he sees the immaculate matrix of being, and he is utterly inviolable, adamantine, imperturbable. Intrinsic existential space radiates clear light which is the immaculate voice of pristine being (sattva). In that recognition is direct perception of his face.
With this spontaneity of perfect equipoise, the mind is filled with the magnificent self-sprung mandala of the Five Tathagathas, the five aspects of awareness, and in this unitary mind free of subject and object contemplating the buddhas’ radiance as nothing at all, without seeing or hearing or any sensation, here is the clear light of pure awareness of intrinsic presence and everything is realized as intrinsically empty and in reality there is no substance whatsoever.
Just as the victorious Buddha sat as a focus in the middle of the hosts of Mara all gathered around the bodhi tree, miserable in their state of malignancy trying to cut the tree but quite unable, so is Vajrasattva: when oneself is at one with samadhi that is direct perception of the vajra-face.
The mind filled with Vajrasattva, samadhi saturated with radiance, everything becomes his vajra-nature, and since he is everything, nothing can harm him; with oneself and sattva inseparable action accords with whatever appears, and the vision and activity of oneself and sattva are one and that is direct perception of the vajra-face.
Now, the immaculate mandala of reflected images: conjoined by means of the coarse and tangible (thabs) apprehending sensory distinctions, perfect insight (prajna) is realized and the non-dual connection of means and insight is sublime skilful means. All and everything as the space of that manifold insight, all appearances and existence, everything whatsoever, unmoving from the intrinsical here and now, are neither existent nor non-existent and their being and non-being are indivisible: all is gathered into the space of existential sameness and such a communion never coming into being, everything, in that way, inseparable from sameness, is inviolable. That is the abode of sattva and the supreme order who realize that, their status in accord with sattva, they see directly the vajra-face.
All transforming illusion, the psycho-organism and the elements of perception, is one in the suchness of the ground of being, and illusory appearances, all reflected images, lack any substance in their very nature; yet that very absence of substance displays multiplicity: the five aspects of the psycho-organism are the Five Tathagathas, sense organs and conciousnesses are the bodhisattvas, the objects and times are the goddesses the four concepts of the self are the four wrathful male guardians, the four extreme views of eternalism and nihilism are the four wrathful female guardians. That awakened mind – known as intrinsic presence – all as existential space, Samantabhadra, that is Vajrasattva. Whoever recognizes that, his buddha-mind in harmony with sattva, He sees the vajra-face.
All things, all experience without exception, can be expressed by representational name, word, letters and sound, but like all those letters, names and sounds nothing whatsoever has any substance. That very absence of substance appears as multiplicity, the nature of appearances is nothing at all; although there is a constant stream of creativity it is no-thing and that is immaculate. The utterly inviolable here and now is not insensate matter; it is radiantly clear light, and Vajrasattva abides there. Whoever recognizes that is a member of the supreme order, and indivisible from the vajra-order he has direct perception of the vajra-face.
The eminent man or woman with high creativity can realize the meaning of such universal identity; but the result is intangible, for the place in which enlightened mind exists is like a womb or an egg. Although unreal, obscurations do arise, and just as in the process of their creation they dissolve so the forms of thought are abandoned instantaneously. In that way he is empowered by all things and he becomes a being of the sublime order.
Identical to Vajrasattva, the supreme siddhis are perfected in him; he attains the blissful pure land, supreme wisdom becomes his display, and he is an exemplar to gods and men; he is empowered in body speech and mind and whatever he imagines is actualized.
He is mastered by the four boundless states, his activity everywhere is supreme awareness of bliss, and he has reached the place where suffering has ceased – the suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death.
Reaching the supreme vajra-status, through the blessings of great compassion he leads all beings without exception into that vajra-order.
Annihilating the hosts of Mara, taming the passions impeccably he turns the wheel of dharma; to all beings without exception he teaches the nature of impermanence in a way compatible with their every path – to the shravakas the way of the arhat, to the bodhisattvas the way of the self-born, to the spontaneously originated buddhas of the unsurpassable approach, inviolable existential space. Without moving from intrinsic existential space he reveals to everyone immutability, and all paths without exception are accomplished in that space.
Thus he spoke the vajra-secret word! The word spoken by himself to himself!
Notes on the Direct Perception of Vajrasattva’s
The thirty first chapter: “Direct perception of Vajrasattva’s face by high beings with creative minds”: from the gSang ba’i snying po de kho na nyid nges pa.
Translated by the Inje Nyomba Kunzang Tenzin at the behest of a sky-being in the Orgyen Tsamkhang in the City of Buda, this version finished during the auspicious visit of Chogyel Namkhai Norbu to the Kathmandu Valley, 21st September, 2000. This text is taken from the rNying ma rgyud ‘bum published in gTing skyes dGon pa in Tibet by Dingo Khyentse Rimpoche, Thimbu 1973, Vol. 14, Pha, the sGyu ‘phrul le’u lag (Maya Appendix), Chapter Thirty-one, “Zhal mthong gi le’u”, pp. 534.1-537.6.
The Basic Scene
I bow to glorious Vajrasattva, Secret Wisdom!
These things were once spoken:
The Tathagata is a fully perfected Buddha who dwells eternally in a magnificent pleasure that is like the sky. His body, speech, and mind are like vajras. He is a spontaneously formed potentate, indivisible from the totality of Vajrasattvas. He beams out like a thousand suns in a most extraordinary way. He is the unique essence of all things. His magnificence cannot be separated from any of them.
This glorious Vajrasattva, the unity of all the Buddhas of the three times, lives in the abode of Akaniṣṭa, a dominion of the Dharma that is not to be exaggerated or demeaned, in a crystal palace made of the blazing wisdom of awareness. It has no boundaries or center, and is equal to the dominion of the sky. The most secret of secret wisdoms has the measure of a magnificent all encompassing pervasion that has no extent or limits. It is profound and subtle. Its nature is difficult to understand. Nothing touches it, and it is neither depleted nor augmented. It is ornamented with a countless vast diffusion of jewels, equal to the end of the sky.
The Great Perfection, the Blessed One, dwells in it.
The above section “Vajrasattva’s Abode” is an excerpt from Chris Wilkson’s, The Great Tantra of Vajrasattva: Equal to the End of the Sky THE VAJRA – FROM LONGCHENPA’S PRECIOUS TREASURY OF THE WAY OF ABIDING
How Marvellous! The Vajra of self-knowing awareness is timeless awareness blazing everywhere. The naturally manifest Vajra without characteristics blazes in all directions. The radiantly fearless Vajra is supreme emptiness. The immaculate Vajra of what is subtle and coarse blazes intensely. The great Vajra crown is all-pervasive emptiness. The limitless Vajra is not conferred, but naturally perfect. The limitless Vajra is samaya that is beyond being upheld.
(from Longchenpa’s “The Precious Treasury of The Way of Abiding” Padma Pub.) The Song of the Vajra
Unborn, Yet continuing without interruption, Neither coming nor going, omnipresent, Supreme Dharma, Immutable space, beyond definition, Spontaneously, self-liberating. Perfect state without any obstruction, Existent from the very beginning, Self created, without location, With nothing negative to reject, And nothing positive to accept, Infinite expanse, all pervading, Immense, and limitless, unbound, With nothing even to dissolve Or from which to be liberated. Present beyond Space and Time, Existent from the beginning, Immense dimension of inner space, The radiance of clarity is like the sun and the moon, Self perfected, As indestructible as the Vajra, As stable as a mountain, As pure as a lotus, Strong as a lion, Incomparable bliss Beyond all limits; Illumination, Equanimity, Peak of the Dharma, Light of the Universe, Perfect since the very beginning.
From “The Song of the Vajra”, An Oral Commentary by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche,
Edited by Gina Perini
HUNDRED SYLLABLE VAJRASATTVA MANTRA Common Tibetan Pronunciation Phonetically
OM BENZA SATA SAMAYA
BENZA SATA TEY NO PA
TEETA DREEDO MEY BAWA
SUTO KAYO MEY BAWA
SUPO KAYO MEY BAWA
A NU RATO MEY BAWA
SARWA SIDDI MEY PRA YA TSA
SARWA KARMA SU TSA MEY
TSEE TAM SHRI YAM KURU
HA HA HA HA HO
SARWA TATAGATA BENZA
MA MEY MUN TSA
BENZA BAWA MAHA SAMAYA SATU
The Hundred Syllable Vajrasattva Mantra in Sanskrit
DRIDHO ME BHAVA
SUTOSHYO ME BHAVA
SUPOSHYO ME BHAVA
ANURAKTO ME BHAVA
SARVA SIDDHIM ME PRAYACCHA
SARVA KARMA SU CHAME
CHITTAM SREYAH KURU
HA HA HA HA HO
SARVA TATHAGATA VAJRA
MA ME MUNCA
VAJRI BHAVA MAHA SAMAYA SATTVA
(AUDIO) MY FAVOURITE CHANTED VERSION OF THE VAJRASATTVA MANTRA
VAJRASATTVA MANTRA MEANING BY IAN PAUL MARSHALL
This translation is a poetic one of experience. It is not an interlinear word for word rendering. There’s already tons of those translations out there. The Translation of the Vajrasattva mantra take the position of resting in the radiance or realization of the fundamental natural purity of mind. Vajrasattva Mantra Modern Poetic Translation
OM (purifies the body) The Indestructible adamantine essence The indivisible union of awareness and emptiness Abiding here always
This essence, this quality of being ever-fresh, timeless awareness radiant presence is the path and should be cherished
(this vajra essence – when experienced directly)
It is steadfast and stable for me It is well, good, complete contentment – pleasure and joy for me It is nourishing me It is dear to me like my very blood
It bestows upon me and is the greatest of all attainments, It is universal perfection, complete fulfillment and from it (when I abide in it) every and all of my actions the very essence of my mind is radiant and generates good fortune
HUM (purifies the mind)
HA HA HA HA HO (laughter of realization)
The blessedness, the very essence of all the Buddha’s, the indestructible bliss of my freedom
(Embodiment of the mantra)
The very essence and experience of the adamantine indestructible state is now and continually being experienced
AH (purifies speech)
Traditional Translation of the Vajrasattva Mantra
Below is a version of the 100 syllable mantra slightly adapted from He Tsewang Seetar’s translation.
OM O Vajrasattva: Guard and protect my commitments. O Vajrasattva, help me be strong. Be my constant support. May I ever be pleasing to you. May you ever be happy with me. Hold me in your affectionate regard. Help me attain all sublime accomplishments. Help me to act virtuously always, and to purify my mind.
HA HA HA HA HO! [invocation to and delight in, the Five Buddha Families and symbolizes: loving-kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity.]
O Blessed One, Vajra of All Tathagathas, Never abandon me. Eternal Vajra, Great Embodiment of commitment. Grant me the realization of the Vajra Nature Make me one with you.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche on The Meaning of the Mantra Note: This is not a literal translation of the individual Sanskrit words of the mantra.
You, Vajrasattva, have generated the holy mind according to your samaya. Your holy mind is enriched with the simultaneously-born holy actions of liberating transmigratory beings from samsara. Whatever happiness and suffering, good and bad, happens to me, by my pleasing the holy mind, never give me up and guide me. Please stabilize the realizations of the paths and bhumis, including the happiness of the upper realms, actualize all actions and the common and sublime realizations, and make the glory of the five wisdoms abide in my heart. More Detailed Vajrasattva Mantra Translation Word by Word
VAJRASATTVA (TIBETAN: BENZA SATA)
Vajra (vajra: indestructible/adamantine/diamond like thunderbolt-irresistible force/illuminating/shatters the darkness)
Sattva (essence/first/ Sat-truth/true-real/being/non-changing/state of being tattva-principle/axiom)
SAMAYAMANUPALAYA (TIBETAN: SAMAYA MANU PALAYA)
Samaya (agreement/covenant/meeting or meeting place/coming together)
Manu (wise/archetypal being) Manas (mind)
Anupalaya (to be guarded or kept/maintained/preserved)
Alaya (place/abode/In the Lamdré teachings it refers to the indivisible union of awareness and emptiness)
Vajrasattvatvena (vajrasattvaness/as vajrasattva/the qualtity of being a vajra-being)
Upa (towards, near to, by the side of, with, stood near, be present, approach, support, revealed one’s self or appeared)
Istha (reverenced/loved/respected/regarded as good/beloved/sought/pleasant/worshipped/desired/cherished)
DRDHO ME BHAVA
Bhava (to be/for me)
Drdho (steadfast/firm/steady) Is steadfast for me
SUTOSYO ME BHAVA
Sutoṣyaḥ (is a compound of the prefix su – meaning “well, good, complete‟ and toṣya from √tuṣ meaning “satisfaction, contentment, pleasure, joy‟) Is well good and complete contentment pleasure and joy for me
SUPOSYO ME BHAVA
Supoṣyaḥ (is again su – but combined with poṣya from √puṣ meaning “to thrive, to prosper, nourish, foster‟) Is nourishing me
ANURAKTO ME BHAVA
Rakta (fond of/attached or devoted to/enamoured/beloved/coloured/dear to me/blood – close to Raga which means the act of colouring, to dye, affection) Is dear to me like my very blood
SARVASIDDHIM ME PRAVACCHA
Siddhi (perfection/readiness/hitting of a mark/fulfillment/attainment)
It bestows upon me and is the greatest of all attainments, universal perfection, complete fulfillment
SARVA KARMASU CA ME CITTAM SREYAH KURU
Karma (volitional action/active)
Sreyah (Śreyah is from śrī which has a huge range of connotations: ‘light, lustre, radiance; prosperity, welfare, good fortune, success, auspiciousness; high rank, royalty’)
Kuru (to make, to do)
and every and all of my actions the very essence of my mind is radiant and generates good fortune
HUM (from OM AH HUM – OM purifies body, AH purifies speech and HUM purifies mind)
HA HA HO (laughter of realization)
BHAGAVAN SARVA TATHAGATA VAJRA MA ME MUNCA
Bhagavan (Blessed one)
Hail, the blessed one, the very essence of all the Buddha’s, the indestructible mother of my freedom
Vajri (active expression/embodiment/becoming of the indestructible/adamantine/diamond like thunderbolt-irresistible force/illuminating/shatters the darkness)
Samaya (agreement/covenant/meeting or meeting place/coming together)
Sattva (essence/first/ Sat-truth/true-real/being/non-changing/state of being tattva-principle/axiom)
(Embodiment of the mantra)
The very essence and experience of the adamantine indestructible state is now being experienced
AH (from OM AH HUM – OM purifies body, AH purifies speech and HUM purifies mind)
My work on this translation would not have been possible without the great work already done by Dharmacārī Jayarava http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vol5/vajrasattva-mantra.pdf
Vajrasattva’s name translates to Diamond Being or Thunderbolt Being. Tibetan Book of the Dead – Meeting Vajrasattva
From the field of reality’s expanse, uncreated and pure,
Within a celestial palace,which is a seminal point [of light], pure, unceasing, and radiant,
Through the natural expressive power of one’s own mind, uncontrived and empty,
Intrinsic awareness, radiant and empty, arises in the form of Vajrasattva,
[seated] upon a bejewelled throne adorned with lotus, sun and moon [cushions].
[Vajrasattu is] white, radiant, with one face, two arms, and a smiling countenance;
The right hand holds a vajra at the heart,
[Symbolising the union] of awareness and emptiness,
The left hand supports a bell [resting] on the hip,
[Symbolising the union] of appearances and emptiness;
And the head [is adorned with a garland of] perfect buddhas,
[Representing] the five enlightened families of Those Gone to Bliss.
Thus, [Vajrasattva] manifests in the form of the Buddha-body of Perfect Resource,
[Exquisitely] adorned with silks and jewels,
Seated in the posture of royal ease,
With the right leg extended, and the left drawn in.
[Radiating] at the heart is the seed-syllable HUM,
Surrounded by the Hundred-syllable Mantra:
Then [maintaining the recognition of] oneself as vajrasattva,
In the celestial palace of one’s own precious heart,
One clearly discerns a seminal point [formed of] the five lights,
Whose nature is the five pure essences [of the five elements],
[And from this], the thirty-six peaceful buddhas radiantly manifest,
Amidst a radiant and vibrant mandala suffused by the five pristine cognitions,
Their bodies composed of five lights, the unimpeded [union of] emptiness and radiance,
[Seated] upon a tier of lotus, sun and moon [cushions],
Supported by lion, elephant, horse, peacock and civarycivaka [thrones].
Praise to Vajrasattva,
essential, pure. Vajrasattva,
authentic, pure. Vajrasattva,
radiant, luminous, pure. Vajrasattva,
naked, open, pure. Vajrasattva,
vivid, empty, pure. Vajrasattva,
unshakeable strength. Vajrasattva,
Pure diamond of reality, Purifying all faults eternally, Breaking all fetters instantly, Seeing through all obstacles clearly.
Vajrasattva! Beginningless purity, Deepest nature, Never impure, Always open, Always clear, Always responsive, Beyond time, Beyond space.
MANTRA AND OFFERINGS: OM VAJRASATTVA HUM
Salutation Vajrasattva! Constantly forgiving. Constantly loving. Without clinging, Without grasping, Selfless heart, All guilt, fear, Despair, anger, Dissolve – liberated from our hearts.
Vajrasattva! Embracing all, Without exception, Whoever they are, Whatever they have done.
Vajrasattva, Mahasattva, All knowing vajra, To you Vajrasattva, I bow!
Going For Refuge Vajrasattva,
The five wisdoms, In the dance of openness and awareness, All things rise, All things pass, No things, Only change, Ever flowing, Ever moving.
Vajrasattva, Mahasattva, I will suffer illness. I will get old. I will die. I have a body, These things must be. These things I cannot change. This is what is in the world. Actions have their effects.
If I make an effort, I can grow, If I devote myself to the Three Jewels, I will not be let down. If I follow the path of wisdom and compassion, Awakening is possible. If the obsession of self is loosened, The Bodhicitta will arise. If I relax, Fully at ease, The True Nature will reveal itself.
All-knowing vajra, Compassionate one, Diamond warrior, Be with me! Help me in the fight. Vajrasattva, Guru, Protector, Refuge, Supreme Vajraholder, The essence of great compassion, Hold me to the samaya, Hold me to the refuges, Hold me to the skilful, Hold me to the training, Hold me to the noble quest, Hold me with your great love.
REFUGES AND PRECEPTS
Reflecting on the weight of my deeds, Reflecting on the powers of disintegration, Reflecting on the instability of my mind, I cry out to you, “Help me now!” My aspirations remain unfulfilled, My efforts weak.
I fail in love and devotion. Oh Guru within, Vajrasattva. Protect my mind from such confusion. Protect my mind from such selfishness. Protect my mind from the harm it causes.
Oh Vajrasattva, I have caused others pain and suffering, I have caused myself great loss and hurt. Vajrasattva, Even now I bring suffering to others, Even now I bring suffering to myself.
Vajrasattva, With you as my firm ground, May I be pure in intention. May I be pure of heart. May I be pure in thought. May I be pure of conduct. May I be pure in friendship. May I be pure in giving. May I be pure in speech. May I be pure in listening. May I be pure in understanding. May I be pure in meditation.
CONFESSION OFFERINGS AND 100-SYLLABLE MANTRA
You remain, A shrine in the darkness. Somewhere to place The desperate yearnings of my heart. You remain, Through all the struggle. Silent, Still.
You hold up the pure gold of truth to your heart, Let the perfect silver bell ring, Roll out, One pure crystal clear sound, Across the white singing cosmos, Opening my heart like a flower, It reverberates forever.
Love, truth, Radiant, Burning in you, Purifying us all in you, All appearances, Flow unhindered in you. I dissolve, In the warmth of your love.
Reflections and Aspirations Vajrasattva! Ultimate teacher, Never separate from us, With your immense love You have shown myself and all other beings, Their true nature. I bow to you. Wisdom being pervading the entire world, And all beings, Samsara and nirvana. Showing me all phenomena are intrinsically pure, By nature empty. Showing me how everything reveals the truth.
Oh Vajrasattva, Help me see things as they truly are. Help me see with intrinsic awareness. Help me see the Buddha nature everywhere. Help all beings to meet the precious Dharma. May they recognise it, Wherever they are, Whoever they are, Whatever their nature.
Oh Vajrasattva, Let me not stand isolated from others. Let me not fight to master life. Let me not grasp after life. Let me yield like a lover to the truth. Let me be one with you, Take up the vajra, Hold it to my heart, Let me dance in the white fire of your heart!
Vajrasattva, Instantaneous presence, Raining down healing nectar, The gap closes, The separation dissolves, The suffering ceases, The yearning ends, I, and all beings, Are eternally enlightened, As we are And always have been Completely pure, Vajrasattva.
OM VAJRASATTVA HUM
the Vajrasattva mantra is regarded as having the ability to purify karma, bring peace, and cause enlightened activity in general.
An Anthology of the Best “Pointing Out” Instructions
Lama Gendun on the Nature of Mind, “The recognition of the nature of mind is the only thing that we actually need – it has the power to liberate us from everything and to liberate all beings in the universe, too. All phenomena of the external world are only the manifestations of the luminosity of our own mind and ultimately have no reality. When we allow our mind to rest in the recognition that everything that it experiences is its own projection, the separation between subject and object comes to an end. Then there is no longer anyone who grasps at something and nothing that is being grasped at –subject and object are recognized to be unreal. In order to experience this, we allow our mind to remain in its ordinary consciousness, the awareness of the present moment, which is the deep, unchanging nature of mind itself and which is also called “timeless awareness.” (yeshe) That is the natural insight that arises spontaneously when in every moment we look directly at the true nature of mind. In seeing the nature of mind, there is nothing to “see” since it is not an object of perception. We see it without seeing anything. We know it without knowing anything. The mind recognizes itself spontaneously, in a way beyond all duality. The path that leads to this is the awareness of the present moment, free of all interference. It is an error to think that the ultimate truth is difficult to recognize. The meditation on the nature of mind is actually very easy, as we do not have to go anywhere to find this nature. No work needs to be done to produce it; no effort is required to find it. It is sufficient for us to sit down, allow our mind to rest in itself and directly look at the one who thinks that it is difficult to find the nature of mind. In that moment, we discover it directly, as it is very close and always within easy reach. It would be absurd to worry that we might not succeed in discovering the nature of mind, as it is already present in us. It is sufficient to look into ourselves. When our mind directs its gaze upon itself, it finds itself and that the seeker and the sought are not two different things.”
The following quote is from the famous cycle of teachings known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The text was discovered by Karma Lingpa (born in Tibet around 1329). It was considered to have been originally written by eighth-century Master Padmasambhava, who hid the text before he left Tibet. It was later discovered by Karma Lingpa. It is part of what is called “The Direct Introduction to Awareness” teaching of Dzogchen and is meant to “awaken” those who simply read and understand the text without need for any prior or subsequent practice:
Padmasambhava said, “And in the present moment, when your mind remains in its own condition without constructing anything, Awareness, at that moment, in itself is quite ordinary.
And when you look into yourself in this way nakedly, without any discursive thoughts,
Since there is only this pure observing, there will be found a lucid clarity without anyone being there who is the observer, only a naked manifest awareness is present.
This Awareness is empty and immaculately pure, not being created by anything whatsoever. It is authentic and unadulterated, without any duality of clarity and emptiness.”
(From John Reynolds’s translation, Self-Liberation Through Seeing With Naked Awareness.)
Khenpo Gangshar, “Simply rest naturally in the naked ordinary mind of the immediate present without trying to correct it or replace it. If you rest like that, your mind-essence will be clear and expansive, vivid and naked, without any concerns about thought or recollection, joy or pain. That is awareness (rigpa).”
Sri Ramana Maharshi, “You are awareness. Awareness is another name for you. Since you are awareness there is no need to attain or cultivate it.”
Longchenpa, “Awareness abides as the aspect which is aware under any and all circumstances, and so occurs naturally, without transition or change.”
Longchenpa wrote in his Choying Dzod, “There is only awareness, pure in being free of adventitious distortions; there is no essence of buddhahood other than this -mind itself; nothing to seek through causes or conditions, effort or achievement, because the term “buddhahood” is being used merely to describe pure awareness.” P. 84
Longchenpa, “So once you rest in awareness, to then make an effort or engage in view and meditation is beside the point and will lead to error and obscuration” P. 85
Tulku Pema Rigtsal said, “But in actuality, the intrinsic awareness of Dzogchen is not produced or initiated by causes and conditions, for the potential of pure being and primal awareness is intrinsically present and manifests spontaneously.”
Longchenpa, “The Philosophical Systems” (p.305) “Natural great perfection, the essence of utterly lucid basic space, is naturally occurring timeless awareness. Since it involves neither cause nor effect, neither something to develop nor an agent to develop it, nor any attendant conditions, it is timelessly present such that its nature is like that of space.”
Rigtsal, Tulku Pema (2013-02-19). The Great Secret of Mind: Special Instructions on the Nonduality of Dzogchen (p. 119). Snow Lion. Kindle Edition, “In The Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra, Longchenpa says, “It is taught by the Lama Vimalamitra, that Buddha will never be attained on the paths of the nine graduated approaches by engaging in their view, meditation, and conduct. Why not? Because in the views of the nine approaches, there is only intellectual conjecture that is sometimes convincing and sometimes not, but which can never induce the naked essence.”
Rigtsal, Tulku Pema, “Until we realize that intrinsic awareness is already present, we must understand that striving to generate that awareness is a wrong path.”
Tulku Pema Rigtsal, “When all discursive thought and concepts and all constructs of the dualistic mind dissolve into their spaciousness, the real luminous mind in all its clarity shines in its own space, and there is no need to look for it anywhere else.”
Tulku Urgyen, “Rigpa simply means uninvolvement in thoughts of the three times (past, present, future).”
Tulku Urgyen, “Rigpa is neither caught up in the object perceived nor with the sense organ through which perception takes place. It is not caught up in the perceiving dualistic mind. Rigpa is not caught up in anything whatsoever. Rigpa is therefore described as immaculate dharmakaya, which means flawless. If rigpa were even slightly affected by some habitual tendency, you would not call it flawless. Rigpa means the state that is totally untainted by any obscuration, negative karma or habitual imprints, just like mercury remains unaffected by whatever it touches.”
TulkuUrgyen, “There is some innate stability in this (rigpa) that is present all by itself —it is not kept up deliberately. It is not that one thinks, “Now I must make myself undistracted.” That is not necessary. There is a natural sense of being undistracted.” “As It Is” volume 2
Garab Dorje taught, “Empty Awareness” (rigpa) is always primordially present equally during moments of empty stillness as well as during moments of mental activity and turbulence.”
The Dalai Lama wrote, “As Dodrubchen says, mere ‘luminosity and knowing’ (rigpa) pervades all consciousnesses and can even be identified during the generation of a strong afflictive emotion without having to cease the six operative consciousnesses.”
Longchenpa from his “Commentary on Basic Space”), “When something appears or arises, recognize it as naked, unobstructed rigpa. It should not be looked upon as an “other” at all.”
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, “Do not divide appearances as being there and awareness (rigpa) as being here. Let appearance and awareness be indivisible.”
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
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.
In the beginning
There was neither existence nor non-existence then.
All this world was unmanifest energy.
There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond.
There was neither death nor immortality then.
There was no distinguishing the sign of night nor of the day.
Oneness breathed, without breath, by its own impulse and power.
Other than that there was nothing beyond.
Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning,
With no distinguishing sign.
All this was pure potentiality.
And then something stirred in the deep.
An impulse, a desire, a thought, “Let us explore all the possibilities of our potential. Let’s play.”
And from that infinite stillness arose a thunderous sound.
And light came to be.
And in an instant all of existence came to be.
And we gazed at the splendour, beauty and magnificence of it all.
We wanted to explore and play.
To become lost in the effulgence of our creative display.
Then to find our way back home to truth.
And so it was that the great forgetting began.
We dove into the ovean of ignorance.
Believing ourselves to be small, separate from each other and alone.
We tasted suffering for the first time
And became lost in a sea of selfish despair.
But don’t worry, this isn’t where our story ends.
Remember this is just the beginning.
For deep within us sleeps the wisdom of the truth of who we truly are.
And if we become silent for a moment we may hear a soft voice whispering,
“Awaken my love awaken. You’ve forgotten who you truly are. Don’t you remember that this is a game?
All this is consciousness. All this is illuminating suchness. All that you see, hear, smell, touch and taste is nothing but suchness. All reality is shimmering, radiant, joyful suchness. Words cannot truly describe it.
But know that all of this is just the free play of mind.
The true essence of who you are my beloved is suchness. A magnitude of magnificence that is the basis and becoming of all.
That is your true self. Your natural essence. Your first face.
You can feel it.. Deep within – you can feel it.
The truth of you Is timeless, vast and beyond words.
When you gaze upon all of existence you are really looking upon yourself.
This blissful, radiant compassionate suchness is the reality of everything and is the truth of who you are.
But you’ve forgotten my beloved. You’ve been lost in the game we created for ourselves.
And in this forgetting you have suffered. You have wandered. And you have believed that you were alone and separate from it all.
But all of it is you.
Remember my dear remember. All that you are is all that is. And all that is, is pure illuminating suchness. And suchness is you.
I am the nature of all phenomena.
I am the root of existence.
This pervasiveness is your true state.
I am the sublime source of all manifestation.
My own being is the mind of perfect purity.
Pure is taught to be my nature.
The nature of what is called awareness is taught as being ceaseless, all encompassing, and all creating.
Everything is made and generated from my mind of perfect purity.
I am the core of all the Buddhas of the three times.
I am the father and the mother to all sentient beings of the three-fold worlds Nirmanakaya, Samboghakaya, and Dharmakaya.
I am the cause for all that exists, both animate and inanimate.
Not one thing is that does not emanate from me.
I am known through direct experience where there is no attempt to reify this pure experience of awareness.
My pristine awareness permeates the universe and is manifested as the universe and is known through beauty.
I gaze into everything and into everyone as my own being.
My pristine awareness presents itself in every aspect of existence,
and I am not a punishing ruler;
my pristine awareness cannot be anthropomorphized.
The world of phenomena is nothing else than the manifested forms of my awakened awareness.
I am the all-creating one.
I am the awareness of perfect purity.
The multiplicity of all emanates from my awareness.
The multiplicity of things appears in individuality.
I rejoice in the way sentient beings appear to us as form, appearance, and color.
This rejoicing reveals the innate, compassionate nature of my pristine awareness.
All that appears is my reality.
These words are the expression of the seminal heart essence in its purest form.
Understanding the message of the teachings means discovering one’s own true condition. Excerpt from The Dzogchen text the All Creating Sovereign
Question: We are still uncertain what is meant by “true mind.” Zen Master Chinul: To leave behind the false is called “true.” The open awe-inspiring illuminating presence is called “mind.” The Surangama Sutra sheds light on this mind.”
In the Surangama Sutra the Buddha said:
The Buddha said: “This clear seeing as well as the objects (seen) and the void are fundamentally the perfect, pure, true Mind of the Wonderful, Bright, Supreme Bodhi wrongly perceived as form and voidness as well as hearing and seeing, just as a second moon is perceived with the accompanying misconception of real and unreal moons. Manjusri there is only one real moon which is beyond the condition of “is” and “is not”.”
Therefore, if you discern seeing and its objects and give rise to all kinds of (mental) creation, this is wrong thinking which will prevent you from getting out of this dual condition of “is” and “is not” (If you look into them by means of) this true, essential, wonderful, bright, and enlightened Nature, it will enable you to avoid this duality.
Direct Pointing to the One Mind The Buddha said, “Ananda, you are still not clear about the illusory appearances of all passing phenomena which vanish wherever they arise. These illusions in the shape of forms spring from (their underlying nature which is) the substance of wonderful Bodhi. So also are the six entrances (organs), the twelve ayatana (six sense organs and six sense data) and the eighteen realms of senses which falsely arise from the mixture and union of causes and conditions and which falsely vanish when the same causes and conditions are disconnected. They are but creation and destruction appearing and vanishing within the permanent, wonderfully bright, immutable, all-embracing and profound Bhutatathata (absolute) nature of the Tathagata store wherein neither coming nor going, neither delusion nor enlightenment, and neither birth nor death can be found.”
Pointing to the One Source
Ananda, this is like water which, after becoming ice, can change back into water.
Ananda, because your mind is unsettled, you do not realize that the seeing and hearing that arouse consciousness, come fundamentally from the Tathagata store. You should look into the consciousnesses inside the Six Entrances and see if they are the same or different, exist or not, are neither the same nor different, and neither exist nor not. For you do not realize that in the Tathagata store self-natured consciousness is the enlightened basic Bodhi which embraces and pervades the whole Dharma-realm, is not (to be found) in a given, place or direction and manifests according to the laws of karma. Ignorant worldlings think wrongly that it is causal, conditional and due to the self as such, according to the way their consciousnesses differentiate and discriminate while they do not know that the language they use has no real meaning.
After listening to the Buddha’s profound instruction, Ananda and the assembly realized that their bodies and minds were now free from all obstructions. Each understood that his selfmind pervaded the ten directions of space which he saw clearly like a leaf held in his own hand, and that all things were the wondrous and bright fundamental Mind of Bodhi. While his essence of Mind embraced all and contained the ten directions, he looked back at his own body given him by his parents, which was like a speck of dust dancing in the great void, sometimes visible and sometimes not, and like a bubble rising and falling aimlessly in a boundless clear ocean. After seeing all this clearly, they all realized their fundamental, profound, permanent and indestructible (self-) minds, and brought their palms together to pay reverence to the Buddha (thanking Him) for (showing them) what they had never seen before.
Question: Is it only named true mind or does it also have other appellations? Zen Master Chinul: The names given to it in the teachings of the Buddha and in the teachings of the patriarchs are not the same. First let us explore the teachings of the Buddha.
In the Bodhisattvasila Sutra it is called the “mindground” because it produces the myriads of good dharmas.
In the Prajnaparamita sutras it is referred to as “bodhi” because enlightenment is its essence.
The Avatamsaka Sutra names it the “dharmadhatu” because it interpenetrates and infuses all dharmas.
In the Diamond Sutra it is called “tathagata” because it does not come from anywhere.
In the Prajnaparamita sutras it is also referred to as “nirvana” because it is the sanctuary of all the saints.
In the Golden Light Sutra it is said to be “suchness” because it is true, permanent, and immutable.”
In the Pure Name Sutra it is named the “dharma-body” because it is the support for the reward and transformation bodies.
In the Awakening oj Faith it is termed “true suchness” because it neither arises nor ceases.”
In the Mahaparanirvana Satra it is referred to as “Buddha-nature” because it is the fundamental essence of the three bodies.
In the Complete Enlightenment Sutra it is called “dharani” because all meritorious qualities flow from it.
In the Srimaladevisimhananda Sutra it is named “tathagatagarbha” because it conceals and contains all dharmas.
In the definitive sutras [the Complete Enlightenment Sutra] it is named “complete enlightenment” because it destroys darkness and shines solitarily of itself.’
As Son Master Yen-shou’s Secrets on Mind-Only says, “The one dharma has a thousand names: its appellations are each given in response to different conditions.””
The true mind appears in all the sutras, but I cannot cite all the references. Question: We now know what true mind means in the teachings of the Buddha, but what about the teachings of the patriarchs? Chinul: In the school of the patriarchs all names and words are severed; not even one name is sanctioned, let alone many.
In response to stimuli and according to faculties, however, its names are also many.
Sometimes it is referred to as “oneself,” for it is the original nature of sentient beings.
Sometimes it is named “the proper eye,” for it makes visible all phenomena.
At other times it is called “the sublime mind,” for it is empty yet numinous, calm yet radiant.
Sometimes it is named “the old master,” for it has been the supervisor since time immemorial.
Sometimes it is called “the bottomless bowl,” for it can survive anywhere.
Sometimes it is called “a stringless lute,” for it is always in harmony.
Sometimes it is called “an inextinguishable lamp,” for it illuminates and disperses delusion and passion.
Sometimes it is called “a rootless tree,” for its roots and trunk are strong and firm.
Sometimes it is referred to as “a sword which splits a wind-blown hair,” for it severs the roots of the defilements.
Sometimes it is called “the unconditioned kingdom,” for the seas are calm there and the rivers clear.
Sometimes it is named a “wish-fulfilling gem,” for it benefits the poor and distressed.
Sometimes it is called “a boltless lock,” for it shuts the six sensedoors.
It is also called “a clay ox,” “a wooden horse,” “moon of the~mind,” and “gem of the mind.”
It has such a variety of different names that I cannot record them all.”
If you penetrate to the true mind, you will fully comprehend all of these names; but if you remain dark to this true mind, all names are only a block.
Consequently, you must be precise in your investigation of the true mind.
Master Thich Thien-An says that, “The Supreme Way is all-embracing, excludes nothing and rejects nothing. To actualize the Supreme Way it is necessary to fuse one’s meditation with the circumstances of everyday life, otherwise meditation is useless.”
Many people believe that practice only happens when they’re on the cushion, listening to a Dharma talk and reading a book on Zen or Buddhism.
But Zen practice is your whole life. Every aspect of your day IS your practice. The insights, revelations and understandings that you glean from your studies or meditation need to be infused into every aspect of your life. These realizations are useless if they’re not actualized while you’re stuck in traffic, shopping for groceries or grinding it out at work.
Sure it’s nice and maybe even a wee bit necessary at times to carve out some quiet space and time to help you anchor in your practice. Retreat from the mundane world will help you discipline your mind but we must be careful not to be seduced into seclusion.
The Chan Master Dàhuì Zōnggăo said that, “To attain enlightenment, it is not necessary to abandon family life, quit your job, become a vegetarian, practice asceticism, flee to a quiet mountain top, or enter a ghost cave of dead Zen to entertain your subjective imaginings.”
Zen is found in the marketplace. Zen is for the world. Zen is here now.
In the famous Ten Oxherding Pictures, in the tenth picture we find the sage deep within the world – not tucked away in the mountaintop. The tenth picture shows the enlightened oxherder entering the town marketplace, doing all of the ordinary things that everyone else does.
“But because of his deep awareness, everything he does is quite extraordinary. He doesn’t retreat from the world, but shares his enlightened existence with everyone around him. Not only does he lead fishmongers and innkeepers in the way of the Buddha but, because of his creative energy and the radiance of his life, even withered trees bloom.”
The Sixth Patriarch of Zen is a good example of someone totally immersed in the world who achieved deep realization. He wasn’t an educated man, he had to work tirelessly throughout the day to feed over five hundred monks. His days were filled with cooking rice, carrying water, collecting firewood, taking care of the garden, and all the busy-ness that’s involved in the kitchen. And even with all of that he was able to keep his mind under control no matter what he was doing. Every moment became his meditation.
In Zen, doing is more important than knowing. Knowing is a brain centred approach. Doing is an embodied transformative process. Each moment, each action, each word becomes a chance to practice.
We must taste the chocolate.
In the Three Pillars of Zen there’s a story of an American businessman who had been studying Zen for years. One day the man’s friend blurted out, “You’re forever spouting Zen philosophy, but you’ve hardly become more serene or considerate since you’ve begun studying it. If anything, it’s made you supercilious and condescending.”
Zen practice must touch something in you so that your old selfish habits and patterns begin to fade away.
Like a lotus that emerges from the muck and mud to rest gently and beautifully on top of the water so too does a practitioner of Zen go about their days in the hustle and bustle of life at ease within the chaos.
This is the most difficult training in Zen.
Being peaceful and serene with a mind at ease is easy to do in the meditation hall or on the cushion. The real challenge is to bring that equanimity and awareness into every day life.
This is the Bodhisattva Mind. A Bodhisattva lives fully in the mundane world but is not tainted by it. A Bodhisattva does what they can to aid all living beings.
Lao-tzu said that, “The Tao that can be talked about is not the Eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the true name.” Such is the same with Zen.
Zen must be lived. Zen must be experienced. You must go beyond concepts and notions and actualize the teachings.
The writings of the Masters are only expedient tools. They are fingers pointing to the moon.
Wisdom is experiential. We must taste the chocolate. We drop our theories and concepts of what chocolate is and we take a bite.
Zen is not just practiced on the cushion, all of life is the Dharma Hall.
We need not complicate the process. Commit not a single unwholesome act Develop a wealth of virtue Tame and transform the mind
Be mindful of body, speech and mind.
Realize that everything is interconnected. We’re all in this together. So we must not only seek liberation for ourselves but we must seek to liberate others.
We enjoy life to the full during the blissful and ecstatic moments but we’re also content to bear the suffering and hardships of life.
Some days we’re up. Some days we’re down. That’s just how it is.
Master Thich Thien-An says that, “Each day the Zen student must do his best to fulfill that day. Then he should let the day pass, not clinging, not attached, not worried about anything; he must let the mind be free.”
Over 1000 years have passed since the Great Master Padmasambhava gave these pointing out instructions.
And I believe that these instructions of precise clarity were truly meant for the Western mind.
Below you’ll find:
Padmasambhava’s Pointing Out Instructions to the King and the 25 Disciples
Imagine being there in the snow capped mountains of Tibet. And because of fortunate karma you have been blessed to be in the close presence of Padmasambhava, probably the greatest master to share the Dharma.
And knowing that life is short and that death may snatch you away at any moment you along with the king and the 25 disciples humbly ask the Master to bestow on you simple and profound teachings to help you fully realize the awakened state.
Picture that now…
In your mind see yourself and the others calling out to Padmasambhava asking,
“Please bestow upon us a profound instruction
that touches the essential point,
which is all inclusive
and yet simple to practice.”
Padmasambhava sang in reply:
King, princes and the rest of you disciples,
I will briefly explain
What you, out of devotion, have asked me.
Listen here, take the cross-legged position,
Keep your body straight on the seat and meditate!
Keep your attention thoughtfree and
unconfined by mental constructs.
As your focus transcends all types of objects,
Unfixed on any mark of concreteness,
Remain quiet, tranquil and awake!
When you remain like this,
the signs of progress naturally appear,
As the clarity of consciousness
that neither arises nor ceases
And as awareness utterly free of misconceptions.
This is the awakened state found in yourself,
Not sought elsewhere but self-existing
— how wonderful!
Since your mind has no real identity to be shown,
In a natural, uncontrived. spontaneously present state,
Remain undistracted within the sphere of nonmeditation!
Remaining like this, liberation occurs spontaneously.
This itself is the awakened state!
All phenomena of samsara and nirvana are your own mind,
And do not appear apart from this mind —
Devoid of a self-nature,
beyond thought, word, and description.
Don’t accept the pleasant or reject the awful,
don’t affirm or deny,
Make no preferences,
But remain vividly awake
in the state of unfabricated naturalness!
By remaining like this, the sign of progress is that
your body, speech and mind
Feel free and easy,
beyond the confines of pleasure and pain.
That is the moment of
understanding the awakened state!
All that appears and exists, samsara and nirvana,
arises from your own mind —
A mind that cannot be grasped,
free from center and edge.
In the natural state of vast equality,
intrinsic and uncontrived,
Remain undistracted in great effortlessness!
Whatever thought you think, it arises
as the space of wakefulness —
The Awakened One is nothing other than this.
When self-cognizant wakefulness is fully actualized,
That is what is given the name ‘buddha’!
Your mind is nonarising,
no thing whatsoever is seen.
Thoughtfree, forming no concepts, don’t follow your thinking!
So don’t affirm or deny, but remain, released in yourself!
In this state, the flow of thoughts is cut
And wisdom unfolds, drawing the line
between samsara and nirvana!
Your mind is simplicity free from ego and a self,
So remain in its self-occuring, self-subsiding state,
free from artifice!
At that moment, bliss arises from within,
The signs of progress occur spontaneously;
this is itself the awakened state!
Your mind was at first not created through causes,
And at the end will not be destroyed by conditions,
So remain effortless in
the indescribable and uncontrived state!
At that moment, the fruition is discovered
in yourself without seeking.
Apart from this you
will find no other Awakened One!
The awakened mind of enlightenment
is not created through meditation,
So, free from thinking,
without projecting or dissolving thought,
Remain with wide-open senses,
letting your thinking subside in itself!
Within this state,
your thinking spontaneously dissolves
And the wisdoms occur by themselves
without being sought.
This is itself the discovering
of the awakened state.
That which bears the name
‘awakened mind of enlightenment’
Is intrinsic, primordially self-existing
and without center or edge.
Don’t correct it but in the state that is
self-cognizant and naturally serene,
Don’t change, don’t alter, but remain,
released into naturalness!
By remaining like this,
your mind free of turmoil
Is itself the Awakened One!
The awakened state of mind is unmade,
Unsought and self-existing.
Without the effort of holding a subject and object,
Remain in the unfabricated state of natural cognizance!
By remaining in this way,
the stream of agitation
is cut and ceases;
Recognize that moment to be the Awakened One!
Leave your attention free of dualistic action,
don’t affirm or deny,
But remain in uncontrived effortlessness,
don’t accept or reject.
The awakened state is
to dwell undistractedly in that!
Leave your mind in nonmeditation,
don’t fabricate an attitude,
But, without constructing, remain
in self-existing natural cognizance!
By remaining in that state,
without casting samsara aside,
The natural dissolving of samsara’s faults
Is the wisdom of the Awakened One!
Your mind is devoid of subject and object
and is not made,
So free from effort and artifice,
don’t create anything through meditation,
But remain undistracted
in self-existing natural cognizance!
By remaining in that state,
natural cognizance is liberated.
You will never find the Awakened One
if you abandon this!
When letting go of subject and object,
the mind is not a thing to show.
Likewise, it is not to be made or corrected.
Remain in the state of equanimity,
not straying into fixation on concreteness.
Remaining undistracted from that
is itself the awakened state!
The awakened state of mind is free
From all claims to be more or less.
Unfabricated and naturally free
From the subject that accepts or rejects an object,
Don’t dwell on anything, be utterly unobstructed.
To remain in this state is itself the Awakened One!
Your mind cannot be thought of,
nor can it be observed.
It lies beyond being and not being,
permanence and annihilation,
So remain free of the meditation
on meditator and object!
When you remain undistracted from that state,
That is what is called the dharmakaya
of the Awakened One!
Leave your attention free of knower and known,
Do not fixate, but relax freely without wishing,
And remain in the state of cognizance
devoid of self-nature.
To remain unwavering from that
is itself the awakened state!
Your mind, which perceives yet is free of substance,
Cognizes without thought, is conscious yet indescribable.
Free from the movements of conceptual thinking,
Remain in that state, awake and wide-open.
To remain in this nature
is itself the awakened state!
Awakened mind is a perceiving emptiness,
An empty yet luminous cognizance.
Remain in its self-existing state,
don’t alter or correct it.
To remain unmoved from that
is itself the Awakened One!
The identity of your attention,
which consists of nothing whatsoever,
Is not to be held; neither is it to be
created or neglected in meditation.
Don’t correct or alter
its self-existing freshness,
But remain in the original state
that is spontaneously present!
Within this state, don’t let your mind waver,
Since you will never find a fruition apart from this!
Awakened mind is empty while perceiving
And likewise perceives while being empty.
An inconceivable unity
of perceiving and aware emptiness —
Remain in naturalness, undistracted from this sphere.
To remain unmoved from this
is itself the Awakened One.
The nature of your mind
is not concrete and has no attributes,
Don’t seek to fabricate or improve it,
but remain without changing or forgetting.
To remain like that is itself the Awakened One.
Your mind is inconcrete and primordially pure,
Naturally empty and uncontrived,
So remain in the state free
from meditator and meditation object.
Through this, you attain the fruition of buddhahood!
Your mind does not arise or cease,
nor does it have
Attributes of concreteness.
Empty by its nature,
its cognizance is unobstructed.
To remain unmoved from this
is itself the Awakened One!
All of you, apply these instructions in your experience!
You may compare the sutras and tantras
Of the Buddha and their commentaries,
With words in numbers
that transcend the limts of space,
But the concise meaning is included
in just these vital points.
So practice them, and hide them as treasures
in accordance with your oath!
Thus Padmasambhava spoke,
and by merely bestowing the true
essential instruction upon them,
they were all liberated and
Padmasambhava’s Pointing-Out Instruction to the Old Lady
When the nirmanakaya, Master Padmasambhava, was invited by King Trisong Deutsen and was residing in Glorious Samye at Red Rock, the virtuous Lady of Ton, a woman of extraordinary devotion, sent her attendant the Lady of Margong by the name Rinchen Tso to offer a morning meal of curd with slices of grapes.
Later, when the master was on his way to Samye Chimphu, just as he was passing through the gate, the Lady of Ton bowed down on the road and circumambulated him, joined her palms before him, and said: “Please, great master, You are about to leave, and this old lady is about to die.
“First of all, since I was born as a girl, I am of an inferior birth.. Having been distracted by activities, I forgot the Dharma. Second, being of lesser intelligence, my wits are feeble. Third, I feel obscured due to my advanced age and my mind is unclear.
“Please, great master, bestow upon this old woman an instruction that requires little hardship, that is simple to grasp, easy to apply, and very effective. Please give an instruction for an old woman who will die soon.”
The master replied: “Old Lady, who are you?”
The old woman responded: “I am the one who has been sending a bowl of curd with a lowly maid.”
The master joyfully said: “You are surely one who has greater devotion than Trisong Deutsen.”
The he instructed the old lady and her attendant with these words: “Old woman, take the cross-legged position and keep your body upright. For a short while, simply remain with totally relaxed attention.”
The master pointed his finger to the old lady’s heart and gave this instruction: “Old woman, listen to me. If you are asked what the difference is between the mind of the truly perfected Buddha and the mind of sentient beings of the three realms, it is nothing other than the difference between realizing and not realizing the nature of mind.
“Since sentient beings fail to realize this nature, delusion occurs and from this ignorance the myriad types of sufferings come to pass. Thus beings roam through samsara. The basic material of Buddhahood is in them, but they fail to recognize it.
“First of all, the basic material of Buddhahood is within you. In particular, it is in the human beings who have obtained the freedoms and riches. Moreover, it is not such that the basic material for Buddhahood is abundant in men and deficient in women. Thus, even though you have taken rebirth as a woman, you are not prevented from attaining Buddhahood .
“The 84,000 Dharma doors have been taught in order to recognize and realize the wisdom mind of the buddhas, but this understanding is contained in a master’s three words of instruction. Thus, even though you may be of inferior intelligence and feeble wits, you are not disadvantaged.
“Now, the meaning of the Dharma, the Buddha-mind, and the master’s three words of instruction is this; By purifying externally perceived objects, your perceptions are freed in themselves. By purifying the perceiving mind within, your nonclinging awareness is freed in itself. As the lucid wakefulness between is delightful, you recognize your own nature.
“How are the perceived objects outside purified? This present awareness, the awakened state of mind, is unspoiled by thought and perceives as a natural brightness. Let it be like that, and objects are perceived without being clung to. In this way, no matter how appearances appear, they are in fact not real and are not held to be actual things. Thus, no matter what you perceive, be it the earth or rocks, mountains or cliffs, plants or trees, houses or castles, goods or utensils, friends or foes, family members or companions, husband or wife, sons or daughters — towards all these and all other things — you are uninvolved in the attitude of claiming ownership; and so, they are perceived but not held to be that way. By being free of clinging to anything whatsoever, you are purified of objects perceived externally.
“Objects being purified does not mean that you stop perceiving. It means not to hold and cling while being bright and empty. Like the example of reflections in a mirror, they appear but are empty in that there is nothing to grasp, and your perceptions are known as ‘perceptions occurring to yourself.’
“By means of the inner perceiving mind being purified, here is the instruction in liberating nonclinging awareness in itself; No matter what occurs in your mind — the flow of thoughts, memories, or the five poisonous emotions — when you do not focus upon them, the movement vanishes by itself; thus you are untainted by the faults of thinking.
“To be flawless within does not mean to become an inert stone. It means that your awareness remains free of the flaws of thinking, like the example of having gone to an island of precious gold; on this golden island, no even the name “stone” exists. Likewise, once your thinking dissolves into original wakefulness, there is not even the name “thought.”
“As the lucid wakefulness between is delightful, here is the instruction in recognizing your own nature; While practicing, free from unknowing, your own consciousness is clear, pure, and awake. When practicing, you have the experience that your innate, self-existing wakefulness is neither spoiled by a conceptual attitude nor by clinging to bliss, clarity, or nonthought. As that itself is the Buddha-mind, you have recognized your own nature.
“It is like the example of not needing to imagine your mother to be your mother, as you have no fear due to thinking that she is not your mother. Similarly, when your awareness recognizes that it is the innate nature of dharmata, you will no longer mistakenly imagine that the phenomena of samsara are the innate nature — even without knowing it, you were never apart from this innate nature of dharmata.
“As this is known as the unfabricated training, the dharmata mother is the fact that all phenomena are devoid of self-nature; the dharmata abode is the recognition that they are devoid of self-nature; and ‘knowing your own nature by yourself’ is so called since you recognize that your own awareness is the innate space of dharmadhatu.
“When you have recognized this, there is neither superior nor inferior birth, neither higher nor lower activities, neither sharper nor weaker intellect, neither greater nor lesser intelligence, neither vast nor narrow learning, neither high nor low age, neither clear nor unclear mind.
“This is an instruction of little hardship but simple to grasp, easy to apply but very effective, with which you will have no dread at the time of death. Old lady, practice it! Be diligent, as life does not wait! You get no reward from slaving for husband and child, so do not return empty-handed, but take along the provisions of your master’s instructions! The tasks of this life are endless; so reach perfection in meditation practice!
Old lady, keep this advice as your escort for being fearless at the time of death!”
Thus he spoke. Since the master gave this instruction while pointing his finger at the old woman’s heart, it is known as “The Pointing-Out Instruction to the Old Lady.” Upon hearing it, the old lady and her attendant were both liberated and attained accomplishment.
Lady Tsogyal of Kharchen committed it to writing for the benefit of future generations. It was written down on the southern slope of Samye on the seventeenth day of the second summer month in the Year of the Hare.
Concealed as terma treasure for the sake of future generations,
May it meet with a worthy emanation!
May it instruct beings in appropriate ways!
Through this, may the destined ones liberate their stream-of-being!
Seal, Seal, Seal. Padmasambhava’s Pointing the Staff at the Old Man’s Heart
WHILE THE GREAT MASTER PADMASAMBHAVA was staying at Great Rock Hermitage at Samye, Sherab Gyalpo of Ngog, an uneducated 61 year old man who had the highest faith and strong devotion to the master, served him for one year.
All this while Ngog didn’t ask for any teachings, nor did the master give him any. When after a year the master intended to leave, Ngog offered a mandala plate upon which he placed a flower of one ounce of gold. Then he said, “Great Master, think of me with kindness. First of all, I am uneducated. Second, my intelligence is small. Third, I am old, so my elements are worn down. I beg you to give a teaching to an old man on the verge of death that is simple to understand, can thoroughly cut through doubt, is easy to realize and apply, has an effective view, and will help me in future lives.”
The Master pointed his walking staff at the old man’s heart and gave this instruction:
Listen here old man!
Look into the awakened mind of your own awareness!
It has neither form nor color,
neither center nor edge.
At first, it has no origin but is empty.
Next, it has no dwelling place but is empty.
At the end, it has no destination but is empty.
This emptiness is not made of anything
and is clear and cognizant.
When you see this and recognize it,
you know your natural face.
You understand the nature of things.
You have then seen the nature of mind,
resolved the basic state of reality
and cut through doubts about topics of knowledge.
This awakened mind of awareness is not made out of any material substance;
it is self-existing and inherent in yourself.
This is the nature of things that is easy to realize
because it is not to be sought for elsewhere.
This is the nature of mind that does not consist of a concrete perceiver
and something perceived to fixate on.
It defies the limitations of permanence and annihilation.
In it there is no thing to awaken;
the awakened state of enlightenment is your own awareness
that is naturally awake.
In it there is no thing that goes to the hells;
awareness is naturally pure.
In it there is no practice to carry out;
its nature is naturally cognizant.
This great view of the natural state is present in yourself:
resolve that it is not to be sought for elsewhere.
When you understand the view in this way
and want to apply it in your experience,
wherever you stay
is the mountain retreat of your body.
Whatever external appearance you perceive
is a naturally occurring appearance
and a naturally empty emptiness;
let it be, free from mental constructs.
Naturally freed appearances become your helpers,
and you can practice while taking appearances as the path.
Within, whatever moves in your mind,
whatever you think,
has no essence but is empty.
Thought occurrences are naturally freed.
When remembering your mind essence
you can take thoughts as the path
and the practice is easy.
As for the innermost advice:
No matter what kind of disturbing emotion you feel,
look into the emotion and it tracelessly subsides.
The disturbing emotion is thus naturally freed.
This is simple to practice.
When you can practice in this way,
your meditation training is not confined to sessions.
Knowing that everything is a helper,
your meditation experience is unchanging,
the innate nature is unceasing,
and your conduct is unshackled.
Wherever you stay,
you are never apart
from the innate nature.
Once you realize this,
your material body may be old,
but awakened mind doesn’t age.
It knows no difference between young and old.
The innate nature is beyond bias and partiality.
When you recognize that awareness,
is present in yourself,
there is no difference between sharp and dull faculties.
When you understand the innate nature,
free from bias and partiality,
is present within yourself,
there is no difference between great and small learning.
Even though your body,
the support for the mind,
the dharmakaya of awareness wisdom is unceasing.
When you gain stability in this unchanging state,
there is no difference between a long and a short life-span.
Old man, practice the true meaning!
Take the practice to heart!
Don’t mistake words and meaning!
Don’t depart from your friend, diligence!
Embrace everything with mindfulness!
Don’t indulge in idle talk and pointless gossip!
Don’t become involved in common aims!
Don’t disturb yourself with worry of offspring!
Don’t excessively crave food and drink!
Intend to die an ordinary man!
Your life is running out, so be diligent!
Practice this instruction for an old man on the verge of death!
Because of pointing the staff at Sherab Gyalpo’s heart, this is called ‘The Instruction of Pointing the Staff at the Old Man.’ Sherab Gyalpo of Ngog was liberated and attained accomplishment.
This was written down by the Princess of Kharchen for the sake of future generations. It is known under the name ‘The Instruction of Pointing the Staff.’
“If we imagine that our mind is like the blue sky,
and that across it pass thoughts as clouds,
we can get a feel for that part of it which is other than our thoughts. The sky is always present;
it contains the clouds and yet is not contained by them. So with our awareness.
It is present and encompasses all our thoughts, feelings, and sensations;
yet it is not the same as them. To recognize and acknowledge this awareness,
with its spacious, peaceful quality,
is to find a very useful resource within. We see that