Tracing Back the Radiance


("To Live Is To Extend Ki" by Shinichi Tohei)


Student: What is the mind of void and calm, luminous awareness?

Chinul: What has just asked me this question is precisely your mind of void and calm, luminous awareness. Why not trace back its radiance rather than search for it outside? For your benefit I will now point straight to your original mind so that you can awaken to it. Clear your minds and listen to my words.

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

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

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

Student: Yes.

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

Student: At that place, sound and discrimination do not obtain.

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

Student: Originally it is not empty. It is always bright and never obscured.


Chinul: What is this essence which is not empty?

Student: Words cannot describe it. 


See Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul's Korean Way of Zen

Master Hua: Four Stages of Practice


Silencing the Mind Reveals Wisdom

Investigating Chan requires non-movement of the mind and thoughts and this means silence. The Chan method works like the thrust of a knife, cutting right through. Because Chan investigation is apart from the mind-consciousness, it is known as putting an end to the mind. Ending the mind means ending all mental activities of the mind-consciousness. Only when all the activities of the false mind are stopped will thoughts be silenced. When that happens, we gain the power of knowing and seeing that comes with suddenly enlightening to the nonarising of all things. We then have patience with the nonarising of people and dharmas. And we certify to four stages of practice, which are heat, summit, patience, and first in the world.

1. Heat. This warm energy comes as we sit in meditation.

2. Summit. That energy rises to the crown of our head as we continue to practice.

3. Patience. It becomes very difficult to be patient, but we must still be patient.

4. First in the World. We become a world-transcending great hero.

If we want to attain these four stages, we must first learn to silence the mind. Our mind-consciousness must remain unmoving.

Our thoughts are like waves that cannot be calmed. Sitting in meditation aims at stopping the mind-consciousness from moving. Eventually, it stops naturally. Once stopped, the mind is silent. When it is completely silent, wisdom comes forth. When wisdom arises, we become self-illuminating.

When silence reaches an ultimate point,
the light penetrates everywhere.

That is the power of knowing and seeing that comes with sudden enlightenment to the non-arising of all things.

Like Flowers Planted on Rock


You must let go of both sides and cast down the middle, being in the midst of sound and form like flowers planted on rock, seeing profit and fame as dust in the eye.  If you don't stop now, when are you waiting for? 

This is why ancient sages taught people to be complete in the present; if you can get to have nothing on your mind, even Buddhas and enlightened ancestors are enemies -- all mundane things will naturally be cool and simple. 

-Zen Master Furong

Playing Ro on the Bamboo Flute


My "teaching" on how to realize the living truth of Zen in a single day is simple, profound, and yet it is also delightful. Here it is again:

Raise Ki by doing something active (walking, cutting wood, making love, whatever), put your body into a fine cool sweat, let the heat rise to your head, then use that heightened energy to "cut off thinking" in a single instant by "sinking mind into the Tanden." Then you will know everything directly and clearly, in blazing mysterious awareness.

Do this over and over again until you develop the ability to remain in this no-mind no-thought blazing mysterious awareness for just as long as you like. It's refreshing! Deepen it, play in it, enjoy it! Let yourself be elevated, let yourself be sunk, let yourself be edified, let yourself be terrified -- so long as you don't give rise to thinking about what it "is" or "isn't."

This is the classic method of T'ang Dynasty Zen, which I rediscovered all by myself, and practiced all by myself every single day for many years before I ever dared to speak to anyone about it, because I wanted to verify that it is real and profound and liberating and inexhaustible, and it is, so now I am giving it to you. As Great Master Lin-Chi said:
Fellow believers, when it comes to this, where the student is exerting all his strength, not a breath of air can pass, and the whole thing may be over as swiftly as a flash of lightning or a spark from a flint. If the student so much as bats an eye, the whole relationship could be spoiled. Apply the mind and at once there's differentiation; rouse a thought and at once there's error. The person who can understand this never ceases to be right before my eyes.
There are not many people who can "cut off thinking" without any practice and some direct pointers like Lin-Chi's (or mine). If I am somewhat outspoken on this matter it is because I constantly run into idiots who insist that they don't need to experience this blazing mysterious awareness because they already fully understand it from reading a Zen book.

Raising Ki and "sinking mind" into the Tanden in the way I describe is the simplest way to "cut off thinking" -- the one and only Zen practice advocated by Great Master Huang-Po. Why should you cut off thinking? Simple. Because you cannot experience life and think about life at the same time. You cannot taste the water in your mouth and chemically analyze it at the same instant. You cannot do Zen while talking about Zen and forming ideas about Zen.

The result of energetically "cutting off the way of thinking," if one maintains clear awareness, is a powerful ease and bliss. One thereby instantaneously enters into the mysterious pure brilliance of nature in a great burst of laughter, and subsequently, as Master Mumon says, one "lives out one's life in a merry and playful samadhi."

Whatever technique helps to give you a direct introduction to your original nature is a Zen technique -- arousing energy by walking in the mountains then "cutting off thinking," shouting, hitting with a stick, composing a poem, practicing with a sword are all energetic Zen techniques. They are energetic because life itself is energy, and Zen is not something apart from life.

Like Master Mumon Ekai, I must now admit to you that I have already said too much. Even one sentence would have been too much. Accordingly, I am now entering a new phase of my "teaching" which will give me the great relief of discarding the word "Zen" along with any verbalization whatsoever, because if anyone asks me a question about any of this I will play a note on my bamboo flute to answer.

The Pine and Bamboo Draw a Fresh Breeze



You must be attuned twenty-four hours a day before you attain realization. Have you not read how Lingyun suddenly tuned in to this reality on seeing peach blossoms, how Xiangyan set his mind at rest on hearing the sound of bamboo being hit?

An ancient said, "If you are not in tune with this reality, then the whole earth deceives you, the environment fools you."

The reason for all the mundane conditions abundantly present is just that this reality has not been clarified. I urge you for now to first detach from gross mental objects.

Twenty-four hours a day you think about clothing, think about food, think all sorts of vari­ous thoughts, like the flame of a candle burning unceasingly. But just detach from gross mental objects, and whatever subtle ones there are will naturally clear out, and eventually you will come to understand spontaneously; you don’t need to seek. This is called putting conceptualization to rest and forgetting mental objects, not being a partner to the dusts.

So the ineffable message of Zen is to be understood on one’s own. I have no Zen for you to study, no Doctrine for you to discuss. I just want you to tune in on your own. The only essential thing in learning Zen is to forget mental objects and stop rumination. This is the message of Zen since time immemorial.

-Zen Master Foyan

Q & A on the Dark Principle of Zen



Q. You've spoken of the "dark principle" of Zen, sometimes also, interchangeably, of the "ancestral hall." What is it?

A. The "dark principle" is the Dao. The Dao is the Nameless Way. It is also the mother of all the Buddhas and so-called ordinary people. It is pure reality.

Q. How will I attain this?

A. By relaxing your mind, cutting off thinking, resting with clear awareness in the vastness, pliant and responsive to circumstances, hollow like bamboo.

Q. Please describe how you perceive "reality." How is it different than the world I see around me, for instance the objects in this room?

A. To clearly see this is to be enlightened marvelously, so let yourself hear what I am saying and let yourself be in accord with it. Do not "think" about it. For you, I am one of the objects in this room, although a "speaking" object. It's because I am speaking with you that you impute awareness to me. Quite rightly. This flower vase is not speaking so you would say it isn't living, it's inert, a piece of fired clay from a kiln. So what is this mysterious essence you impute to me? Clearly, it's just your own essence, which is a vitality of perceiving, clear awareness, the ability to distinguish this from that and that from the other. Both of us have this ability. Isn't that profound? This mysterious essence seems to have no location. You can't find it inside your body when you look for it. You can't locate it inside your head, because if it's inside your head why do you feel the breeze from that window on your hands when you lift them up slightly? Padmasambhava called this "self springing awareness." For him it is also an instantly "knowing" awareness. One seems to be born into it. It's like water to a fish. It's the air we breathe, yet it is no object at all. Everything appears in and by it, but when you try to find it, it eludes your search. Master Yunmen said, "Everybody has this brilliant light, so why when you look for it is it dark and obscure?"

Q. What is the relation if any between this mysterious self-springing vital awareness and objects?

A. See that calligraphy scroll?

Q. Yes.

A. You can distinguish some characters on the white scroll; they stand out because of the whiteness of the scroll. Am I right? Yet when you study the characters you are not looking at or thinking about the scroll itself. Are the characters really separate from the paper?

Q. Not at all. Or, at least, they separate from it in my mind, but it's clear that they are part of the scroll -- they appear to my eyes and to my mind because they are written on that white surface.

A. Take this as an analogy. Just as the 2 dimensional characters are completely of the same essence as the scroll they are written on which actually exists in 3 dimensions, even while also standing out from it to your perception as separate objects, all of the 3 dimensional objects of mind you see in this room, including that scroll and my body with all its gestures and the sound of my voice and so forth, are actually embedded in a 4 dimensional reality and inseparable from it though seeming to be different. This 4 dimensional reality displays all of this 3 dimensional stuff. What is it in itself?

Q. I can only assume you are talking about a kind of hyperspace. Maybe that's what Emptiness is.

A. In a way, sunyata is the continuous nature of all this stuff with the space that displays it in terms of a deeper unseen reality, which is the Dao. Yet nothing really makes it appear as it does but your mysteriously illuminating awareness-nature. Right?

Q. I suppose so.

A. Suppose then I were to tell you that the "Way" all this appears is just a feature of your brilliantly alive and energetic awareness-nature, and that all these ten thousand objects are no different, in essence, than it. They are, so to speak, just the energy of it, the pure ringing of its deepest inconceivable stillness, timeless and unborn.

Q. You mean that all the objects of mind are really just Mind itself?

A. This, if truly realized in the flash of an instant, is the "dark principle." It is the mysterious way that anything manifests itself. When you look at it correctly you see that there is nothing "outside" perceiving. Mysteriously, objects seem to come and go, but the nature of perceiving does not. Even when there are no objects, the perceiving ability is still there, though "there" in this context obviously means something different than the seemingly factual thereness of that flower vase or calligraphy scroll. Master Hui-Ha says that there really are no objects to be seen, there is only seeing itself, and so on with hearing, taste, &c. It is all the spontaneous outpouring yet ingathering activity of the "dark principle." To really comprehend this is to enter a realm of total incomprehension, leaving intellect far behind.

The Highest Yoga


The single highest "practice" common to Zen, Mahamudra, Dzogchen, Advaita and Kashmiri Shaivism is to free yourself from the conceptually elaborating process of "thinking" (projecting, remembering, scheming) &c. that implicates your Body of Reality is all sorts of false hopes, desires and fears. To succeed in this is to taste reality, to experience buddhahood here-now. That's why it is the supreme yoga, Atiyoga (Nisaraga Yoga). Beyond this yoga there is only Sahaja, which is not a yoga but natural responsiveness to all situations free of any conceptual elaboration. So, there is "freeing yourself" and then there is "being free." The first is a yoga, the second is just the natural state.

Of course in Kashmir Shaivism there is anupaya, which is not a process at all nor a yoga but just being suddenly initiated into Reality. This can happen if a Guru crosses your path and you happen to have the right potential. There are some Zen stories about such happenings. It can also just happen for no reason, when you are swimming in the summer sea.

Whether it happens spontaneously or you have to do some some yoga to go beyond, this realization projects you from falsehood and confusion into the natural enlightened state.

What is the natural state? How may I describe it to you? Let's say I am lying on the porch looking up at the white clouds, and hearing wind chimes clamor nearby. If I am in the sahaja state, there is absolutely no feeling of inhibition by thinking, no withdrawing of my perceiving mind from the instantaneous reception of sights and sounds, no conceiving of a relative past, a present or a future. In this "state free of conceptual elaboration" I experience joy and bliss because I am the being of pure awareness. I am the vibration of pure consciousness, not subject or object. But if I do feel in "myself" some fear, displacement, reluctance, shying away from this clear and radiant isness -- if I feel the intrusion of conceptualizing and its emotional baggage-train -- then I must do some yoga by consciously not holding onto the arising and sinking of mental formations. In Zen this is called using one thought to annihilate all thoughts. In Taoism it is "sitting and forgetting," and also "fixing contemplation." After that, you drop even the one thought. The one thought is also the "one point" focus of yoga training that calms all mental activity and culminates in samadhi, bare and naked. There are many subtleties to it and different ways have been taught, but the goal is always the same.

What's the goal of the highest yoga? Nothing but ease and bliss -- the natural state. I lie under the sky laughing. There is no sense of any sensation as being an "outside" opposed to my "inside" of self. In pure awareness there is only a nondual experiencing that does not leave any tracks. I am neither behind sensations nor ahead of them, neither inside nor outside, nor somewhere in between. "I" am really only this naked capacity for experiencing it all in its sheer brilliance, and this "I" isn't inside my head, nor is it anything apart from the brilliance of the experiencing, nor does it fragment the experiencing into this or that "part" or "object" that gets experienced and processed conceptually. Rising on the wave I am the wave itself and the water it is made of. What's the problem? Can you set up fences in the empty sky? It's all just "this" and has never been otherwise. Such is the intuitive realization of Reality. These words just point to it, they should not be taken for It.

Even after you have tasted reality, lived in the blissful natural state, there may still be some "thinking-emotional" obstacles remaining for you, and you may have to do some special yoga to get rid of them. This will become clear in time. Of course, in the absolute there is no time, so as long as you are fully "it" then there can be no problem. Typically the problems start up again when you leave the timeless state and begin interacting with people. If you feel some resentments or bad feelings begin to flow, cut them off. You do this by cutting off thinking about them one way or the other, so that your interactions self-liberate as just the spontaneous activity of Reality. That's the best way but there are other approaches that are more complicated, like the Tibetan approach of paying reverence to everybody, even your detractors and critics, because you recognize them as having been your mother in a past life. Such a technique raises thoughts about past lives, the objective nature of things and so forth, so it can create more obstacles in the end. After all, whether or not a person was your mother in a past life, that person is still -- although maybe unknown to him or herself -- the spontaneous appearing of Reality right now, and Reality is the mother of everything, so what's the problem? "Two stalks crooked, three stalks straight."

Master Pai Chang, who was the teacher of the Zen Master Huang-Po, said that if you make your mind like space your practice will be successful. This is really the only practice, the only yoga -- make your mind like space. Space contains everything. Every so called object appears in space yet it does not leave tracks in space. Here we are speaking of an absolute space, not the space of modern physics. It is just that clear no-thing in which everything appears, just as the surface of a mirror is where all reflections appear, and looking at the mirror you never see its surface, only the images. And how are things different than this space, and how is the mirror surface other than the images you see in it? It's all just That. Is this realization the end point of yoga? It may be the end point of yoga, but it is only the beginning of the art of living.

You might raise the objection that I am talking about annihilating selfhood, individuality, everything that seems to make sense of life and make you you, and that this is a frightening idea and practicing like this might lead to madness. I will only retort that the stress of going around mistaking your Body of Reality for all these mental objects and thoughts and saying "I want this, I don't want that" is extremely frightening and has unpleasant effects on the body in the form of stress. Only if you consider your mentally imagined "self" something real will you get scared of losing it. But you don't have such a self, and what you are goes far beyond what you think or imagine. Do you worry that when you wake up from a dream the person you are in the dream will be annihilated? Not at all. The one who is the source of all dreams is always closer to you than your eyebrows and nostrils. To be liberated is to be free of all senseless ideas "about" Reality so that you can live it with some bright vigor, lively as a fish jumping.  Why live an impoverished existence as a slave to ideas? Wake up to the soundless thunderclap of Isness!

Here are some poems for you to illuminate the inconceivable natural state:


starry sky expanse flashes of heat-lightning 

bare & clean without a mark the ancestral home

mountains & rivers the pure ringing of stillness

a day in the heat sound of a bamboo rake

a water buffalo walking in green water dips his head

shining reflections the subtle whir of dragonflies

Wrestling the Ox


Sometime in the eleventh century, starting with Master Kakuan (Shiyuan), Zen Masters began circulating a series of pictures and writing verses on them to elucidate the actual meaning of cultivating Zen's Dharma of the Original Mind-Essence.

These pictures are delightfully simple. They all deal with a boy who has lost his ox. He tracks the ox down, having to wander in remote, wild, frightening and solitary places; he catches the ox, wrestles with its energy, holds it with great effort, trains it with a whip, rides it home playing his bamboo flute. Then, once the ox is trained, the boy can hang up the whip and relax peacefully, sitting in the moonlight, sleeping under the noonday sun. Eventually, both ox and self are completely forgotten. Thus, the eighth picture is just an empty circle, boundless. The next picture is called "Returning to the Source." There are no human beings in this picture, just a flowering tree beside a fresh stream.

The tenth picture shows the boy grown up into a man. He doesn't have his ox anymore -- he's "Entering the Marketplace with His Arms Hanging," totally relaxed and at ease, laughing like a Taoist sage. It's in the tenth picture that we see the result of all the efforts and struggle: "It's just like This." Even enlightenment is forgotten. There are no barriers. The dusty marketplace is the same as the Great Source.

To assume that you can leap to the tenth picture without catching, restraining and taming the ox first is a ludicrous presumption sometimes called "buji Zen,"which has been defined as:
Bravado or excessive self-confidence in the practice of Zen. A tendency attributed to some practitioners to convince themselves that since all beings possess the Buddha-nature they are already enlightened and hence have no need to exert themselves further.

The Energetic Nature of Zen


Despite what some people believe, Master Bodhidharma didn't experience satori after wall-gazing at the Shaolin temple. According to all the classical Zen accounts, he was suddenly awakened while still in India and received the Mind-to-Mind transmission from his teacher, Prajñatara, who is said to have been a woman.

If you read through various Chinese Zen texts, you'll see that often people (Bodhidharma but also Hui-Neng, for example) "wake up" without doing any meditation, but they practice meditation for many years after. Reason for this? After the initial awakening (satori), one still needs to cultivate the pure, imageless Mind by letting go of all the thoughts and mental images that arise. In Zen, it's these continuing thoughts and mental images that embody all the "karma" from one's past existences, and will perpetuate the karmic round of cause-effect if not completely shed. Even though Bodhidharma had woken up and been given the Mind Transmission by his teacher, he still wasn't completely liberated.

The story about Bodhidharma tearing off his eyelids (or his legs withering as he sat in meditation) is just an expression of his formidable willpower. He blazed with energy (Ki). Zen requires nothing less.

Bodhidharma brought the direct Mind Transmission to China energetically, by leaving India and making the hard journey. He then demonstrated the blazing truth of Zen by sitting in front of a wall at the Shaolin temple for nine years. As Huangbo says, "Therefore Bodhidharma sat rapt before a wall, and did not lead people into having opinions." Opinions are what cause arguments.

Zen has nothing to do with forming opinions or having arguments but, as Bodhidharma said bluntly in his remarks to the Shaolin students, is a matter of instantly seeing the pure, imageless Mind-Essence and then cultivating that awakening for the rest of your life through careful and often arduous practice. There is no other way to attain liberation, and if you do not attain liberation you will continue to be swept along, bobbing and sinking, in samsara.

According to Bodhidharma, a few rare exceptions aside, if you want to fully awaken to the Mind Dharma you must go out and find a teacher who can help you develop your Zen ability.

Seeing the self-nature is seeing Mind. Every sentient being already has the pure, imageless Mind, but most don't realize it because they cling to thoughts and opinions and believe in the independent existence of external objects and beings.

Once you experience your initial shock of awakening to the imageless Mind you must cultivate it with hard, exhilarating practice. Look at the Ten Ox-herding pictures, which illustrate this point in detail.

Zen is not a matter of reading books and talking about Zen. At the most, reading a book or hearing a talk about Zen can give you some initial insight, but if you do not follow it up with energetic practice and cultivation your insight will vanish into thin air.

Zen's Sudden Awakening Experience

Zen is the "sudden" or "abrupt" awakening school. Strictly speaking, there is no "content" taught nor any teaching whatsoever in Zen. When a monk asks, "What is Buddha?" and Yunmen says, "Dried shit stick," this is not a statement containing some sort of positive content that could be analyzed and fit into a system called "Zen"  -- it is just an off-the-cuff shock tactic Yunmen used to wake up the monk. To what? To This. To Thusness.

But what is the relation of all this to Zen "practice" -- to yoga, dhyana?

Shakyamuni attained Enlightenment after an all night meditation session under the Bodhi tree when he saw the morning star. He had already mastered self-control and yoga and practiced extreme asceticism without attaining This. Then he accepted some milk from a young girl (that mysteriously auspicious moment when, one might say, Shakyamuni began using Ki!) and sat down for one last effort with the resolve not to move until he had attained liberation. Over the night, he withstood multiple assaults and tricks by Mara by maintaining an immovable mind. He recollected all of his past lives in detail. But it was on seeing the morning star that "inside and outside spontaneously unified" and he exclaimed, "Ah! I see! All sentient beings are Enlightened from the beginning!"
Shakyamuni Buddha sees the morning star. The morning star sees the morning star. Shakyamuni Buddha sees Shakyamuni Buddha. Seeing sees seeing. -The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing
Shakyamuni's story, added to the stories of the many Zen teachers who left home, lived in remote places and practiced yoga and dhyana for many years of extreme one-pointed effort before suddenly waking up to This, proves that there is a subtle connection between making an all-out effort and sudden awakening, and that no matter what anyone tells you it is not enough to just parrot the words, "All sentient beings are Enlightened (awake) from the beginning!" as an excuse for not making any effort. Shakyamuni said it because he experienced it. Have you experienced it? If not, how and when will you experience it?

The Four Zens of the Lankavatara Sutra


To practice dhyana, the earnest disciple should retire to a quiet and solitary place, remembering that life-long habits of discriminative thinking cannot be broken off easily nor quickly. There are four kinds of concentrative meditation (Zen, dhyana): The dhyana practised by the ignorant; the dhyana devoted to the examination of meaning; the dhyana with "suchness" (tathata) for its object; and the dhyana of the Tathagatas.

The dhyana practised by the ignorant is the one resorted to by those who are following the example of the disciples and masters but who do not understand its purpose and, therefore, it becomes "still-sitting" with vacant minds. This dhyana is practised, also, by those who, despising the body, see it as a shadow and a skeleton full of suffering and impurity, and yet who cling to the notion of an ego, seek to attain emancipation by the mere cessation of thought.

The dhyana devoted to the examination of meaning, is the one practised by those who, perceiving the untenability of such ideas as self, other and both, which are held by the philosophers, and who have passed beyond the twofold-egolessness, devote dhyana to an examination of the significance of egolessness and the differentiations of the Bodhisattva stages.

The dhyana with Tathata, or "Suchness," or Oneness, or the Divine Name, for its object is practised by those earnest disciples and masters who, while fully recognising the twofold egolessness and the imagelessness of Tathata, yet cling to the notion of an ultimate Tathata.

The dhyana of the Tathagatas is the dhyana of those who are entering upon the stage of Tathagatahood and who, abiding in the triple bliss which characterises the self-realisation of Noble Wisdom, are devoting themselves for the sake of all beings to the accomplishment of incomprehensible works for their emancipation. This is the pure dhyana of the Tathagatas. When all lesser things and ideas are transcended and forgotten, and there remains only a perfect state of imagelessness where Tathagata and Tathata are merged into perfect Oneness, then the Buddhas will come together from all their Buddha-lands and with shining hands resting on his forehead will welcome a new Tathagata.

-The Lankavatara Sutra

Living Zen


In the Dharma of cultivating the path, the vital energy [Qi] of those who obtain their understanding through the medium of the written word is weak. If one obtains his understanding from events, his vital energy will be robust. Those who see Dharma from the medium of events never lose mindfulness anywhere. When those whose understanding is from the medium of the written word encounter events, their eyes are beclouded. To discuss events from the point of view of the sutras and treatises is to be estranged from Dharma. Though one may chat about events and listen concerning events, it is not as potent as personally experiencing events with the body and mind. -BODHIDHARMA (from The Bodhidharma Anthology)

Zen without the cultivating of vital energy (Ki) is a trivial and irritating intellectual past-time -- or what some of the Masters derisively called "head-and-mouth Zen." Unfortunately, this form of Zen is all too common on the Internet and misleads many people into believing that they are enlightened without ever having to do anything different because someone once said they must be, since "all beings are originally enlightened." Confusing the practical and the absolute levels of Zen, they fall into a confusion from which they will never emerge, at least not in this lifetime.

By contrast, I teach people a simple method that, performed with sincerity and resolve, leads to direct awakening. At its simplest, this method requires raising Ki until the heat rises to your head, then all at once dropping all "thinking" into the Tanden. Once you have experienced an initial awakening (kensho) you can deepen and stabilize it by practicing Seiza meditation, or Mokuso, for brief periods once or twice a day. There are also a number of subtler instructions that must be orally transmitted to you by your teacher.

In China, even before Zen arrived on the scene, the methods of internal energetic training were refined to a science. These methods involved letting go of knots in breathing, keeping the right posture whether sitting still or in movement, and the correct use of strength or tension (basically, letting it flow downward). All this went along with not clinging to thoughts or ideas and not pursuing intellectual disputes. Maybe that's why it was said that Master Joshu's lips "emanated light." It's not for nothing that Chinese Zen developed in remote mountain monasteries and retreats -- places where, as the Chinese believed, positive Qi is particularly strong.

Mind and body are inseparable aspects of the "One" that animates all of nature. Therefore, the Zen Masters spent much time and energy trying to cure students of anxious fixation on the problems of a small discriminating judgmental "I" that interferes with living your life in natural ease and bliss.

So -- go out every day under the open sky, raise your Ki with some hard walking, then decisively let go of all ideas and concepts by "sinking mind into the Tanden" and you will experience the liberating bliss of Muga Mushin.

Yunmen Says


Yunmen says, "Everyone has this same radiant Light -- so when you try to look directly into it, why is it dark and obscure?" Why does Yunmen say, then, that everybody has the radiant light?

Indian Buddhism, like the ancient Vedas, came up with the notion that there is only one Root-Consciousness, one pure and radiant Light. According to this idea, the differences between you and me are trivial and insignificant when compared to our basic mysterious sameness.

Bodhidharma said, "You ask me a question. That's Mind in you. I reply. That's Mind in me." All that appears appears in and by this Light.

So, any appearance is a direct function of the mind-essence, which is "root-Bodhi" or original enlightenment. It is in this sense that "Enlightenment is all there is."

The sky allows many things to appear, but it is always just the sky. So instead of saying that this or that person is enlightened or not enlightened, we should say rather that people are or are not awakened to their originally enlightening mind-essence.

Zen "study and practice" is cutting off thought-discriminations and seeing It directly. Seeing what? The sky of reality itself.

So what is enlightenment? What is "not enlightenment"? It seems that everything arrives already enlightened. And Mind itself does all the enlightening, since it is the Light itself. Seeing is It, so is hearing. Wake up instantly to This!

Fuke




Fuke always used to roam about in the street markets, ringing a bell and shouting: "When it comes in brightness, I hit the brightness. When it approaches in darkness, I hit the darkness. When it comes from the four quarters and eight directions (of space), I hit like a whirlwind, and if it comes out of the empty sky, I thrash it like a flail."

The master made one of his attendants go there, instructing him to grab Fuke while speaking and ask him,"If it does not come in any of these ways, what then?"

Fuke freed himself from the grasp of the attendant and said: "Tomorrow is a vegetarian banquet in the monastery of Great Compassion."

The attendant returned and told the master, who remarked: "I was always intrigued with this fellow." - The Record of Linji

Kufu (Striving, Effort) in Zen


In Chinese and Japanese Zen there is a succinct teaching expressed in phrases such as, "Put down all entangling conditions, let not one thought arise."

Bodhidharma said, "One thought arises, the Triple World appears. One thought drops away, the Triple World subsides." Matsu said, "A single thought is the root of birth and death. Just don't have a single thought and you will be free of birth and death." The Shurangama Sutra teaches that the pure, bright and Profound Mind comes to mistake itself for illusions because of "one thought." Master Takuan Soho said, "One thought (ichi-nen) and the Mind King begins to transmigrate through the Six Realms."

Zen training involves effort and striving to "put a stop to the arising of conceptual thoughts" and make the mind "motionless" (Huang-Po). This is just training. It is not the goal or the ultimate in itself. Takuan Soho advised constant striving (kufu) to "let go of thought after thought and see directly to the place before Heaven and Earth separated." Eventually, there will be a breakthrough and what involved effort becomes relaxed and effortless. Then the stage of training is replaced by wu wei.

Let's say you want to take your rowboat out on the river. But it's tied by a knot you can't untie. You make the proper resolve, use some effort, and saw through the rope with your knife. Then the boat breaks free and you're drifting on the river, no effort. Wonderful! Did having to make an effort at the beginning spoil your experience? Not at all.

Suppose I asked you to balance a tea bowl on your head all day long while walking around, sitting, driving, whatever. At first it would feel like an incredible effort. You would have to think constantly about maintaining your balance. Every time you started to waver you would have to bring yourself back to awareness of the tea bowl. This would go on for days, then weeks. But one day, mysteriously, you would find that you could walk around all day balancing the tea bowl on your head without thinking about it, without even being aware of it.

This is similar to Zen training, except instead of holding a tea bowl on your head you are trying to achieve a state of wu-nien, "no-thought."

You know you've attained this because you can forget about it, and your mind can think or not think depending on circumstances, but there is no holding onto either thoughts or not-thinking. Everything is direct and spontaneous. This is what Hui-Neng in the Platform Sutra calls wu nien. It's the "non abiding mind" mentioned in the Diamond Sutra. It's no thinking even when there is mental activity because the idea of a "thinker" is absent.

In old China and Japan there were always people who'd heard about Zen and understood it in a superficial way by holding onto a particular "idea" such as, "My mind is already Buddha. So I don't need to make any effort. I'm completely free to do as I please, to think or not to think, right now." Then they'd go to a monastery and invite the Master to test them. This is the basic situation of many koans. So the Master would ask them a question and shout, "Answer directly!" -- and because they were so used to processing everything intellectually, they'd be bewildered, unable to so much as open their mouths, and would go away feeling resentful.

One often hears that it is enough to be aloof from one's own thinking, to just "look" at it without attachment or participating in the thoughts. In practice, there is no way to not participate in thinking as a thinker unless you are able first to suspend thinking at will. This is the classic way of Zen, which upholds the necessity of kufu, striving and effort. Cut the knotted rope and drift blissfully free.

Here is an exercise: Try not thinking at all for ten minutes. Set a timer. Are you ready? Go! If you cannot do it, why can't you do it? Thinking is an activity that involves energy. If you cannot stop an activity for even ten minutes, aren't you just its slave? You seem to feel that your thoughts are "yours." Are they yours in the sense that your right hand is yours? After all, if I tell you to clench your right hand into a fist and hold it like that for ten minutes, you can do it, but for some reason if I tell you to stop thinking for ten minutes, you can't! Interesting.

In Zen one "cuts off the way of thinking" long enough to see directly, which results in dropping away the user-illusion of a "thinker." Once the thinker is gone, thoughts are no-thought. An effect of Zen training is that one develops the ability to go without any interior chatter whatsoever (monologue or half-dialogue) for extended periods of time. This absence of chatter -- or "inner silence" -- allows you to develop a direct mode of perception and activity.

Free of thoughts, is there any such thing left over as "mind"?

Is It Wrong for Zennists To Feel Bliss?



Q: I've heard that experiencing "bliss" or "joy" or even "delight" in Zen meditation is wrong, since it can lead to attachments. Is that right?

A. No, it isn't. The "yellow-faced barbarian" himself (Gotama Buddha) says in a number of Pali suttas that Dharma practice is "delightful." "Delightful in the beginning, delightful in the middle, delightful at the end."

Gotama also describes, as one of the signs of successful meditation practice, pervasive feelings of lightness in the body, relaxation, happiness, kindness, contentment, joy.

Likewise, the various Mahasiddhas of northern India and the great Rinpoches of Tibet speak of meditation practice resulting in "Maha Sukha" (great ease, pervasive happiness, contentment and joy). Tilopa describes this in his "Ganges Mahamudra" talk:
"What joy!
With the ways of the intellect you won’t see beyond intellect.
With the ways of action you won’t know non-action.
If you want to know what is beyond intellect and action,
Cut your mind at its root and rest in naked awareness."
Besides repeating the words, "What joy!" at the start of many verses in his yoga instructions, Tilopa also says quite directly:
"When you are free from longing and desire, empty bliss awareness arises."
In Zen there are many similar statements. I will just cite a few and leave you to discover others. Master Joshu said, "He who dances and skips on the Great Way/is face to face with the Nirvana gate./Just sitting at ease with a boundless mind!/Next year, spring is still spring." Huang-Po said that the attainment of the goal of Zen results in contentment, ease, and bliss in which "all forms are Buddha forms, all sounds are Buddha sounds." And Zen Master Mumon Ekai spoke of attaining satori then "living out your life in a merry and playful samadhi."

The Zen Meditation Posture and Making Life a Joy

In all Zen monasteries and temples in history one could find a Dharma Hall, also known as a Zendo.

And all of the Zen Masters in all of Zen history did Zazen, sitting meditation, probably just about every day or night.

Even the Masters who said that "Bodhi," as such, is not a result of Zazen and can't be attained by means of it, because there is no such "thing" to be attained, did Zazen nonetheless.

Look at a photo of the mummified body of the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-Neng. Is it not sitting upright in a perfect meditation posture?

So, let's discuss the Zen meditation posture and how it can help people in their lives.

Of special interest to me, due to my own "yogic" explorations, is how the "right" meditation posture all by itself can resolve emotional stress (for example, the stress that comes from interpersonal conflict of any kind) and help to free the mind from getting "captivated" by various robotic, obsessive types of thinking.

Of particular importance in Zazen is how the shoulders are held. They should be relaxed and sloping down, as if you were dropping a heavy robe from them.

Emotional stress tends to make the upper body rigid (shoulders raised and tight, jaw clenched, mouth drawn in grimace -- just observe how people look when they are arguing, when they are upset and angry, or when they are being sarcastic). By dropping the shoulders in the simple Zen way, one allows energy to flow in a relaxed way back down to the lower body, the belly in particular. This revitalizes the whole body.

The Zazen posture is perfect training for "letting go" of emotional stress and stopping the mind from "sticking" to thoughts. Once you learn this posture, you can carry yourself that way in all of life, and your life will become a joy. This, I believe, is why Zazen was taught in all the great monasteries of China and Japan, and in all the Five Schools.

Take a look at your posture right now, as you read this. Are you off balance, leaning in toward the screen, with your jaw tight, trying to think of an argument or dismissive comment, or are you sitting with your back straight, natural and relaxed, at ease, fully aware, taking it in without holding onto it and letting yourself laugh? One may fool others, but there is no fooling oneself.

Every day is a good day for doing some Zen.

Master Zhiyi and the Thinking of the Unthinkable

Q: I notice that on your blog you often champion "cutting off the way of thinking" as a way to attain the "subtle realization" or "playful samadhi" state eccentric Zen Master Mumon Ekai talks about in the first case of the Mumonkan.

A: Of course. Your question?

Q: I recently ran across this passage from Zhiyi, a Tientai priest, and it got me thinking:
How could the coarse thinkable be different from the marvelous unthinkable? Without leaving words and letters we can thus speak the meaning of liberation. The crux is just to realize how the thinkable is identical to the unthinkable. 
So my question to you is just this -- how could Satori exist only outside of language? How could enlightenment not be able to manifest itself also in words and letters? Is it so limited?

A: That's a beautiful passage. Zhiyi was a great Master. What's more, it's entirely true. Zhiyi is right. But this is a yogic -- a procedural -- issue. The necessary separation from thought is not a permanent state. It's just a way to see It directly. Once you've seen it directly, there's no problem with thinking. Until you've seen it directly, there is. So, yes, enlightenment certainly manifests itself in words and letters, and also through and beyond words and letters. In an even more profound sense, since words and letters are nothing in themselves, they can manifest the through and beyond nature of enlightened being as nothing else ever can or will. But in Zen, it isn't by looking into manifestation, however brilliant, that one achieves Satori. The Zen yoga is to decisively cut one's perception off from names and forms. How should you do this? Just be thoughtlessly alert to how "all this" is appearing right now in your eyes, ears &c. Don't reject it because you think it's an illusion, don't hold onto it because you think it's real. Appreciate the sheer quality and energy of it, and how distinct it is from any possible "thoughts" one might form about it. If you stop at a window and see the rain, and your mind says, "It's raining," you should instantly make yourself alert to your instantaneous seeing of rain beyond any reflexive thinking about it. You should make yourself stand at the window for a little longer really looking on with alertness until something definite happens in your perception that separates it from any possible thought. You will know it when it happens, because you've experienced it before. In fact, it's your ancestral home.

Q: Won't this practice just destroy my ability to do any real thinking?

A: Let's say it will create a momentary separation from thought. If the separation is sudden and complete enough, this is Satori. Once you've had satori, you won't be confused. You won't think your thinking is anything other than unthinkable.

Along the Riverbank

My Way is eccentric --
neither master nor student:
just a person pretending to be crazy
so he can merge with mountains and clouds.
You won't hear of me anywhere you ask;
my name won't appear on the lists of great lamas, tulkus, roshis --
you'll find me along the riverbank
sitting in the warm grass, playing my bamboo flute.

Merging of Great Essence and Mysterious Function in the Space of Deep Bliss


There is a particular Zen in which satori occurs simultaneously with orgasm for two partners. This is not an ordinary orgasm but a total black out orgasm that is also a Zen Satori. The black out is not ordinary unconsciousness as it is appreciated in full and blissful yet nonconceptual and non-self awareness. The two partners who achieve simultaneous satori-orgasm in which satori cannot be distinguished from the orgasm and vice versa nor from "the universe" in all its physical and psychic dimensions are both awakened and instantly become Buddhas. Kyoge Betsuden, like water poured into water, or a universe into a universe. This is a Direct Transmission of the original Mind of the Ati-Buddha.

It Will Be As If a Blind Man Had Suddenly Received His Sight

Ho So said:

If you are hungry take food, but leave off before repletion.Then ramble about for long distances and make your stomach empty. Then enter into a quiet room, sit down in the correct posture and be silent. Count your inhalations and exhalations, beginning from one to ten, then on from ten to a hundred and from a hundred continue to one thousand. You will then find that your body will be as still and your spirit as calm as the void itself. When this state has been reached and has lasted for some time your breath will automatically stop. When your breathing in and out has stopped, your breath will come out like a steaming cloud of vapor from all the eighty-four thousand pores of your body. Then all illnesses, permanent and chronic,will automatically be eliminated and you will understand clearly that all your troubles and handicaps have been destroyed in a most natural way. It will be as if a blind man had suddenly received his sight; he will no longer have to ask someone to point out the way to him. All that you have to do then is to give up worldly speech and sustain your vital energy. For it is said: He who nurtures the eye-sense always keeps his eyes shut, he who nourishes his ear-sense is always sated (by noises), he who nourishes the heart is always silent.

-from Hakuin-Zenji's "Yasen Kanna"

Nan-chuan, Heartless Killer; Or, How "Not a Single Thought Arising" Can Save a Life


爾一念不生、便是上菩提樹、三界神通變化、意生化身、法喜
禪悅、身光自照。思衣羅綺千重、思食百味具足、更無橫病。
菩提無住處、是故無得者。
When not a single thought arises in your mind, then you go up the bodhi tree: you supernaturally transform yourself in the three realms and change your bodily form at will. You rejoice in the dharma and delight in samadhi, and the radiance of your body shines forth of itself. At the thought of garments a thousand lengths of brocade are at hand; at the thought of food a hundred delicacies are before you; furthermore, you never suffer unusual illness. "Bodhi has no dwelling place, therefore it is not attainable."  -The Record of Linji
When not a single thought arises, you see everything clearly, and you can even speak to people if you must. Your functioning is direct and unhesitating. That's why Zen was taught to swordsmen (in Japan). Nan-chuan's students, trying to respond to his demand for "a single word of Zen," couldn't say a word because they were thinking too hard, which makes you tongue-tied when a single word might make the difference of life or death. So, Nan-chuan turned himself into a heartless killer. Asked later what he would have done to save the cat, Joshu just put a straw sandal on his head and walked out slowly. He wasn't thinking -- he was just letting It function in a direct, fresh and beautiful way. Nan-chuan said, "If Joshu had been around earlier today, that cat would be drinking a dish of milk right now."

If You Ever Get to Zhenzhou, Try the Big Turnips!



Don't get confused! Even if you're having a deluded thought,
your perceiving of the deluded thought is Still, Clear & Bright,
can't be nailed down anywhere in ten directions, isn't born, doesn't die.
It's the One Great No-thing upholding both Heaven & Earth --
unmisted Dark Luminosity, agleam like black lacquer.

Won Hyo and the Skull


A Korean monk named Won Hyo was on his way with a companion to T'ang China to study Zen there. He spent one night in a cave, where he woke up in the dark suffering from intense thirst. He scrabbled around and soon located what seemed to be a bowl of water. He drank deeply from it -- it was cold and sweet -- and went back to sleep refreshed. When he opened his eyes in the dawn light, he saw that what he had drunk the water from was a human skull. He was seized by the most intense terror and revulsion, to the extent he started to tremble all over and broke out into a cold sweat. Then, all of the sudden, he woke up and knew fully that not a single thing in this world exists by itself, therefore nothing in our experiences is inherently pure or impure, clean or defiled. He sang the following enlightenment song to his companion:
The Triple World arises from Mind.
All so-called things are mere perceptions.
Thus, since everything is basically Mind perceiving Mind,
What is there left to seek?
I will not go to T'ang.

Riding Your Ox In Search Of


Enlightenment is your original nature (honshin) as a "sentient" (conscious) being. In itself it is clear and brilliant awareness-knowing-ability; it is not any particular object that appears in awareness-knowing, not even "your" body, thoughts, emotions, and so on. To taste and fully experience your original enlightenment in the deeply mysterious wordless understanding that it does not get born or die no matter how many universes ever get born or die is Satori. The classic method of the Zen Masters and Patriarchs such as Huang-Po was to help their students to "drop the thinking mind" in order to experience sudden awakening.

"Riding the Ox in search of the Ox" is a classic Zen description of a person searching for Enlightenment. It's not that the Ox doesn't exist -- it's that you don't see it because you're riding on it! So if you would just stop scanning the horizon and open your nostrils wide you would smell this muddy, dung-spattered, fly-tormented, stinking ox and know with certainty that you've been riding on it from day one.

The Zen of Impermanence

The mind cannot grasp impermanence. Knowing it all at once destroys the mind. 

When insight into impermanence suddenly destroys the mind, the mind's energy is unbound from minding. When the mind's energy is unbound from minding, it annihilates every last trace of "mind" along with all its objects. "Suddenly I was ruined and homeless." (Joshu)

A mallet hits a bell. The air resounds for miles. A crow screams in the big pine. Ants crawl out of a hole. Yellowjackets swarm around a pile of sand. This morning it was cool. This afternoon it is hot. Who is hot or cool? Someone is thirsty. Drink a gulp of cold water. What's the problem?

If you know this one thing, you know all things. What is it that instantly knows? For this question there is no answer, because there is no possible object or subject of the question, and therefore no need to ever ask it.

The Eye


It is as though you have an eye
That sees all forms
But does not see itself.
This is how your mind is.
Its light penetrates everywhere
And engulfs everything,
So why does it not know itself?


- Master Foyan

Huangbo's No-Mind Seal


Zen Master Huangbo outlined a clear Ch'an (Zen) practice. He said in all instants of life to keep the mind of discriminating thought from arising.

When the mind of discriminating thought does not arise, the whole mass of "thoughts" is cut off all at once -- just as, when you cut off a samurai's topknot, you cut off all the hairs tied into it. Then various wrong notions can no longer afflict you and you can act naturally.

The teaching can be summed up in this way: Do not hold onto any notions; put a stop to the rising of all concepts and in a single instant see your self-nature clearly.

Give rise to the non-abiding mind, which in Japanese Zen is called Mushin.

Huangbo speaks of a "determination not to stamp anything" which is a special kind of stamp -- the stamp of space itself, which is really "no-stamp." Zen is not adding anything, but cutting off all grasping at "is" or "is not." Wonderful!

"The Bodhisattvas are determined not to accept or reject anything in the three worlds as well as in the state of Bodhi. They do not accept anything and are free from the influences of the seven elements; so they cannot be found in these seven elements. They do not reject anything and are not caught by external demons. If you hold onto something, a seal is formed to imprint the six worlds of existence and four types of birth. If you cling to the void, the imprint of emptiness appears. You should know that when one is determined not to stamp anything this seal is space which is nether unity nor diversity, for space, though void, is fundamentally not empty and because the seal is basically non-existent."

"This is called sweeping up dung so that you will not set your mind on anything, and if your mind stops arising you will realize great wisdom which will decisively prevent you from differentiating . . . Only when differentiating ceases can you be initiated into our Ch'an sect."

(Note that Huangbo's master P'ai Chang taught three stages of Ch'an. This teaching seems to be the background of Huangbo's somewhat mysterious remarks on the "no-seal." "Your actual introspection into your inner self-Buddha is the first excellent stage; your non-holding onto this introspection (realization) is the intermediate excellent stage; and your freedom from even this idea of non-holding onto it is the ultimate excellent stage." P'ai Chang said that to teach only one of these stages would plunge living beings into hell.)

The Basic Ch'an Meditation Method and the Eye of Kensho

Unfortunately, it seems that Internet "Zen" forums spread mostly ignorance about the basic method of Ch'an meditation.

According to the Southern School, from Hui-Neng onward, the essential Ch'an method is to 1) empty your mind of the usual kinds of thinking, attachments, and mundane concerns; 2) give rise to "Great Doubt" by concentrating with one pointed energy on the question "Who is it here right now?" (or one of its variants) until 3) you attain kensho, sudden direct awakening.

Typically, the Great Doubt erases the question itself and kensho comes in a spontaneous, unexpected way, such as, in the instance of one Ch'an Master's Enlightenment, hearing a dislodged pebble strike a piece of bamboo.

At that moment, You are absolutely present in and as whatever is being experienced. At the same time, all ideas and expectations about the experience, your "self" or the universe are wholly absent. You are awakened in an electrifying way to the Buddha-Dhatu, to your "One Mind," to That Itself which cannot be exhausted or captured by anything that happens. You in essence are unchanging, mysterious, awake and ineffably clear, no object and no thought. How astonishing.

Zen meditation involves all of life: sitting, walking, standing and lying down, sleeping and eating and even lovemaking. It is not limited to plopping your ass down on a zafu or listening to a bald guy in a robe talk about supposedly profound shit. Nor are "emptying the mind," relaxation or stabilization ever considered to be goals in themselves. (This last point is what distinguished the Southern School from the Northern School.)

Practice hard in this direct, clear and energetic way and get kensho. Then you'll be free to live out your life "in a merry and playful samadhi."

Developing some intellectual ideas based on your reading of Zen books, even nice ideas such as that "the mundane and the super-mundane are really just the same," or "ordinary beings are no different from Buddhas," or "there's really nothing to attain," will definitely prevent you from attaining kensho, meaning that you will have missed your chance in this life to "resolve the great matter once and for all." And that would be such a pity!

Don't waste another day or night.

"You cannot use a single drop of the Buddha's wisdom until you have the eye of Kensho." (Hakuin-Zenji).

Talk to the Moktak




Zen is an earthy, direct and pragmatic way to actualize what is ultimately mysterious. Bypassing words and letters, dropping body and mind both. "Intoxicated by the moonlight!"

Only you can realize this, and you've got to realize it for yourself.

Life is enlightenment. Zen points to the bare living truth of what you have never lacked for a single instant. Why not wake up to it now?

The basis is meditation (dhyana, Ch'an, Zen). Sit down, face a wall, cut off all thinking, and see it directly! There are no shortcuts.

Go into it with sincerity and one-pointed will. Attain real freedom even if you have to sweat blood.

This directness has been lost in a maze of Dharma babble. Many "Zen practitioners" actually believe it is only a matter of memorizing some pungent sayings by the great Masters, or wearing a black robe, or getting hit by a bamboo stick when you start to drowse off in the Zendo!

Naturally, there are also those why deny that any Zen training is ever necessary. For them, this may well be the case. Maybe they woke up as soon as they heard the words "impermanent, no essence, Nirvana." If not, it is wildly foolish to disparage Zen's profound training methods.

Posturing on the Internet, being an expert in Zen or in Buddhism or in any sort of "spiritual" discipline, will not even remotely help you when you are confronted directly with a life or death situation. As you inevitably must and will be. As a matter of fact, here-now is always a life or death situation. The test of something like "Zen" is whether it helps you engage the reality, or fails you. Given that, what remains to be said?

There are Zen practices and forms of training that were effective in equipping people with the equanimity to cut their own bellies open when there was no other way to face reality. Do you have that? Do you even want it?

True equanimity is also compassion and love. Always living right in the storehouse of Awake nature, one finds one's true self by shattering or exhausting a small "self-consciousness" that distorts, perplexes and obstructs It. This happens in a hair-raising instant of satori. After satori, one trains in the art of living everyday life naturally with liberated awareness.

Zen study and training leads straight to dropping all study and training for the clear dark depth mirror of "wei wu wei" -- "the solitary splendor of non-action." But to drop Zen study and training before one has woken up and learned the art of integrating Awakeness with everyday life would be a big mistake.

In a garden, the tomato plants grow around sticks. The point is to grow tomatoes, not to collect sticks. The sticks only support the tomato plants so that you can eat fresh tomatoes. All the Zen techniques, including meditation and books of koans and so forth, are like these sticks. Techniques are not the ultimate point of Zen, but it would still be foolish to neglect using them.

This page is devoted to "direct entry using a sharp chopper" -- "seeing into the self-nature and becoming an Awakened One." Lacking such direct entry into true reality as experienced fact, "Buddhism" is just one more pretense-ridden social game involving robes and funny hats, designed to help pathetic, mentally confused "people" feel influential and important.

Realization self-realizes. Enlightenment is not about paper credentials and certifications. Dharma, the living truth of what IS, is omnipresent. It's closer to you than your own eyeballs and nostrils. Why do you need a "path" to it?

Satori is not just a myth or an extra "add on" to Zen or to Buddhism. It's the essence. Do not think you can skip this step and have a calm, self-satisfied and sophisticated intellectual talk about the Buddha Dharma. Your supposedly sharp intellect is of no use to you here.

And if you can't wake up please, for pity's sake stop talking about "Dharma" or "Zen" and pretending that you can help anybody else overcome "suffering." You're only polluting the well and leading other people down your personal karmic path to a ruinous mediocrity.

People have an unfortunate tendency to join religions so they can be treated like invalids But waking up requires boldness, decisiveness and even a kind of tigerish ferocity. Shed your idiotic religious delusions. Shed them all! Go right to the point!

The Forty Transmission Gathas of the Zen Patriarchs of India and China




1

Vipasyin Buddha, the 998th of the Glorious Aeon.

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to Sikhin Buddha:

The body is created out of nothing
A dream like product of illusion.
Once illusory mind and thought are not,
One leaves behind both weal and woe.

2

Sikhin Buddha, the 999th of the Glorious Aeon.

Gatha chanted when translating the Dharma to Visvabhu Buddha

Good Dharmas arise and evil karma too,
Yet both are but illusions.
The body is like foam, like wind and mind;
Illusion has no base and no reality.

3

Visvabhu Buddha, the 1000th of the Glorious Aeon.

Gathat chanted when translating the Dharma to Krakucchanda Buddha:

When uncreated mind is tied to body,
It works with things and so exists through them.
When objects disappear, so does mind.
Weal and woe arise and vanish like illusions.


4

Krakucchanda Buddha, the first of the Virtuous Aeon.

Gatha translated when transmitting the Dharma to Kana kamuni Buddha:

To see the body as unreal is to see the Body of the Buddha.
To know the mind as an illusion is to know the Illusion of the Buddha.
If a man sees clearly that the mind and body are not real
How does he differ from the Buddha?

5

Kamakamuni Buddha, the second of the Virtuous Aeon.

Gatha chanted by Kama kamuni Buddha when transmitting the Dharma to Kasyapa Buddha:

The real Buddha has a body that no one can perceive,
There is no other Buddha for him who knows himself.
The sage who knows that woe is devoid of nature
Lives at ease and fears not birth and death.

6

Kasyapa Buddha, the third of the Virtuous Aeon.

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to Shakyamuni Buddha:

Pure and clean is the nature of all living beings.
Since it never was created, it cannot be destroyed.
Body and mind are from an illusion.
In this changing shadow there is neither weal or woe.


7

Shakyamuni Buddha, the fourth of the Virtuous Aeon.

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the 1st Ch'an Patriarch Mahakasyapa:

The Dharma's fundamental Dharma has no Dharma,
The Dharma of no-Dharma is Dharma too.
Now that the Dharma of no-Dharma is transmitted,
Has there ever been a Dharma?


8

The First Indian Patriarch Mahakasyapa

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the second Patriarch Ananda:

The fundamental Dharma of all Dharma
Is beyond the Dharmas that are false and real.
Why in the one Dharma should
There be Dharma and Not-Dharma?


9

The Second Indian Patriarch Ananda

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Third Patriarch Sanakavasa:

At first there was a Dharma to transmit,
Transmitted it became that of No-Dharma.
Each man should realise the nature of his self,
And then there is not (even) a No-Dharma.


10

The Third Indian Patriarch Sanakavasa

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the fourth Patriarch Upagupta:

Dharma and Mind have no (reality)
For there is neither Mind nor Dharma.
When this Mind-Dharma is expounded,
This Dharma is not the Dharma of the Mind.

11

The Fourth Indian Patriarch Upagupta

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Fifth Patriarch Dhrtaka:

Mind is the primal mind
Which is devoid of Dharma.
If Dharma and primal mind exist,
Both mind and primal Dharma will be false.

12

The Fifth Indian Patriarch Dhrtaka

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Sixth Partriarch Miccaka:

When the Dharma of primal mind is really understood,
Neither Dharma nor Not-Dharma can remain.
(After) enlightenment it is the same as it was (before),
For there is neither mind nor Dharma.

13

The Sixth Indian Patriarch Miccaka

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Seventh Patriarch Vasumutra:

There is neither mind nor realisation,
While that which can be realised is not Dharma.
Only when mind is seen to be unreal
Can the Dharma of all minds be truly understood.


14

The Seventh Indian Patriarch Vasumitra

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Eight Patriarch Buddhanandi:

Mind and the vault of space are just the same,
The Dharma, spanning space, is now expounded.
When space is realised as such,
There is no Dharma, whether false or real.


15

The Eighth Indian Patriarch Buddhanandi

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Ninth Patriarch Buddhamitra:

Space and Dharma of the mind
Have naught within nor aught without.
If space is truly understood,
The principle of Suchness will be learnt.



16

The Ninth Indian Patriarch Buddhamitra

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Tenth Patriarch Parsva:

Truth in essence has no name,
Yet now because of name it can be known.
Whoever can receive the Dharma-truth
Will know that it is neither truth nor lies.


17

The Tenth Indian Patriarch Parsva

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Eleventh Patriarch Punyayasas:

The real body is reality existing by itself,
Because of it we can expound the fundamental law.
The apprehension of the Dharma of reality
Is beyond all change and changelessness.


18

The Eleventh Indian Patriarch Punyayasas

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twelfth Patriarch Asvaghosa:

Delusion and enlightenment are concealing and revealing,
(Like) light and darkness they depend upon each other.
This Dharma that I know transmit
Is neither one nor two.


19

The Twelfth Indian Patriarch Asvaghosa

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Thirteenth
Patriarch Kapimala:

Concealing and revealing are themselves the Dharma,
In essence light and darkness are non-dual.
The Dharma of enlightenment that I now transmit
Cannot be grasped nor can it be understood.


20

The Thirteenth Indian Patriarch Kapimala

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Fourteenth Patriarch Nagarjuna:

The Dharma which conceals not nor reveals
Expounds the region of reality.
To realise this Dharma
Is neither ignorant not wise.


21

The Fourteenth Indian Patriarch Nagarjuna

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Fifteenth Patriarch Kanadeva:

To explain the Dharma of concealing and revealing
The principle of liberation is now taught.
No mind is realised according to this Dharma
And so there is no (cause for) anger or for joy.


22

The Fifteenth Indian Patriarch Kanadeva

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Sixteenth Patriarch Rahulata:

To you who now receive the Dharma
Is taught the principle of liberation.
The Dharma does not realise anything,
For 'tis beyond the end and never had beginning.


23

The Sixteenth Indian Patriarch Rahulata

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Sevententh Patriarch Sanghanandi:

The Dharma does not realise a thing,
Nor can it be grasped or thrown away.
It is beyond what 'is' and what 'is not';
Within is nothing, nor is aught without.


24

The Seventeenth Indian Patriarch Sanganandi

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Eighteenth Patriarch Gayasata (Sanghayasas):

The ground of mind was never once created,
This primal ground results from a concurrent cause.
Both cause and seed do not each other hinder,
While flower and fruit do not obstruct each other.


25

The Eighteenth Indian Patriarch Gayasata (Sanghayasas)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Nineteenth Patriarch Kumarata:

The self-existing seed and ground of mind
Produce the sprout through a concurrent cause.
Concurrent cause and sprout do not each other hinder,
For that which is produced is not produciable.


26

The Nineteenth Indian Patriarch Kumarata

Gathat chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twentieth Patriarch Jayata:

Self nature in its essence never was created,
Or so we teach to those who seek (the truth).
Since Dharma does not lead to any gain,
Why think one or another way about it?.


27

The Twentieth Indian Patriarch Jayata

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-first Patriarch Vasubandhu:

Instant union with the uncreate
Is how to realise the Dharma nature.
Those who are able to experience this
Understand the oneness of relative and absolute.



28

The Twenty-first Indian Patriarch Vasubandhu

Gatha translated when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-second Patriarch Manorhita:

Bubbles and illusions are the omnipresent;
Why cannot this be understood?
The omnipresent Dharma in this world of change
Is not the present now and was not in the past.


29

The Twenty-second Indian Patriarch Manorhita

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-third Patriarch Haklena:

The mind follows externals in its changing,
While the real is dormant, hidden by their changes,
Yet through them one can find the nature of the self
Which is beyond all joy and sorrow.


30

The Twenty-third Indian Patriarch Haklena

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-fourth Patriarch Aryasimha:

(Only) when the nature of the mind is realised
Can one say that it cannot be conceived.
Nothing, clearly, can be realised
For if it be, there's no awareness of it.


31

The Twenty-fourth Indian Patriarch Aryasimha

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-fifth Patriarch Basiasita:

When speaking of awareness.
One finds it is but mind.
Since mind is but awareness,
Dharma is found by him who is aware.



32

The Twenty-fifth Indian Patriarch Basiasita

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-sixth Patriarch Punyamitra:

The saint speaks of awareness
Beyond both right and wrong.
I have realised the true (self-)nature
Beyond all truth and that which lies behind.


33

The Twenty-sixth Indian Patriarch Punyamitra

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-seventh Patriarch Prajnatara:

The true nature (of the self) lies in the ground of mind,
It has neither head nor tail.
It manifests to meet the needs of living beings,
For want of better words we call it wisdom.


34

The Twenty-seventh Indian Patriarch Prajnatara

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-eighth Patriarch Bodhidharma:

The mind-ground is the bed in which all seeds are sown,
Things as they really are can be deduced from their appearances.
When the fruit is ripe enlightenment is won,
When flower blooms the universe is seen.

35

The Twenty-eight Indian Patriarch Bodhidharma
(The First Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Twenty-ninth Patriarch Hui K'o:

My aim in coming to this country
Was to transmit the Dharma and liberate all beings.
A flower of five petals
Cannot fail to fruit.


36

The Twenty-ninth Patriarch Hui K'o
(The Second Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Thirtieth Patriarch Seng Ts'an:

From the seed-bed (of your mind)
(The Dharma) raises flowers.
Yet there is no seed
Nor are there flowers.


37

The Thirtieth Patriarch Seng Ts'an
(The Third Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Thirty-first Patriarch Tao Hsin:

The sowing of flower-seeds requires a causal ground
From which the flowers will grow.
If no one sows there will be
Neither ground nor flowers.


38

The Thirty-first Patriarch Tao Hsin
(The Fourth Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Thirty-second Patriarch Hung Jen:

Growth is latent in the seed
Which sprouts when planted in the causal ground.
This Great Cause unites with nature
At the time of growth, yet nothing growths.


39

The Thirty-second Patriarch Hung Jen
(The Fifth Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to the Thirty-third Patriarch Hui Neng:

The seed sown by a sentient being
In causal ground will soon bear fruit.
Without sentience there is no seed
And no fruit without nature.


40

The Thirty-third Patriarch Hui Neng
(The Sixth Patriarch of China)

Gatha chanted when transmitting the Dharma to his disciples:

The Mind-ground holds the (flower) seeds
Which sprout when falls the all-pervading rain.
The wisdom-flower of instantaneous awakening
Cannot fail to bear the Bodhi-fruit.

TRANSLATED BY CHARLES LUK

Wide-Open Clarity

All manifestations of phenomena are unrestricted within a state of wide-open clarity, the supreme equal purity of samsara and nirvana, the true nature of phenomena free of the limitations of conceptual elaboration. This is the wholly positive dharmakaya.

All the reflections of the moon and other objects in water are the display of the water and do not go beyond the water. The entire animate and inanimate universe is the display of space and does not go beyond space itself. The whole of samsara and nirvana is the display of the single nature of phenomena and does not go beyond that nature.

-Dudjom Lingpa

Shitcan Materialism

When a doctrine or assumption is definitely and repeatedly refuted by scientific experiments, it should be discarded. Hasn't even the Dalai Lama said so?

Well, then! "Atomistic materialism" has definitely been refuted by the "double slit" experiment.

Let's hear it again. The materialist assumption of an objective, massive "physical reality" independent of mind (observation) is definitely and for all time refuted by the double slit experiment.

Originally the double slit experiment was devised merely to find out if light is a wave or a particle. But the results of the experiment defied logic, and as a side-effect ended up undermining the notion of an objective physical reality.

For example, a recent refinement of the "double slit" experiment definitely shows that observation determines the physical state of things not just in the present, but in the most remote past.

What is the source of observation? Who is the observer? Where is this observer? When is the observer?

Don't know! The double slit experiment doesn't tell us any of that. Yet, isn't it clear that this "one" Awareness is closer to you than your own nostrils and eyelids?

Zen Mind, No Mind




Zen is not a religion. It is a practice with a goal.

What's the basic Zen practice? "Cast away all things, become without thought and without mind."

What's the goal? "Liberated right where you stand." Sokushin jobutsu -- Buddhahood in this life.

Zen is not concerned with past lives, future lives, karma, ideas and opinions, or anyone's level of so-called spiritual development. Cut all that away. Drop body and mind in a single instant.

"Body and mind dropped in a single instant."

Here it is! Wonderful! Yet -- where is it?

Can you grasp empty space? Does it have bones? Eyes? Ears? A mouth? Nostrils?

Buddha holds up a flower; Kasyapa smiles. A crow screams on the mountain. Ants crawl out of a hole in the ground.

"One thousand nights of cold rain." "Wearing a straw hat under the hot blue sky."

Zen Way, Headless Way



The best day of my life—my rebirthday, so to speak—was when I found I had no head. This is not a literary gambit, a witticism designed to arouse interest at any cost. I mean it in all seriousness: I have no head.

It was eighteen years ago, when I was thirty-three, that I made the discovery. Though it certainly came out of the blue, it did so in response to an urgent enquiry; I had for several months been absorbed in the question: what am I? The fact that I happened to be walking in the Himalayas at the time probably had little to do with it; though in that country unusual states of mind are said to come more easily. However that may be, a very still clear day, and a view from the ridge where I stood, over misty blue valleys to the highest mountain range in the world, with Kangchenjunga and Everest unprominent among its snow-peaks, made a setting worthy of the grandest vision.

What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: I stopped thinking. A peculiar quiet, an odd kind of alert limpness or numbness, came over me. Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down. For once, words really failed me. Past and future dropped away. I forgot who and what I was, my name, manhood, animalhood, all that could be called mine. It was as if I had been born that instant, brand new, mindless, innocent of all memories. There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in—absolutely nothing whatever! Certainly not in a head.

It took me no time at all to notice that this nothing, this hole where a head should have been was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was very much occupied. It was a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything—room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far above them snowpeaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world.

It was all, quite literally, breathtaking. I seemed to stop breathing altogether, absorbed in the Given. Here it was, this superb scene, brightly shining in the clear air, alone and unsupported, mysteriously suspended in the void, and (and this was the real miracle, the wonder and delight) utterly free of "me", unstained by any observer. Its total presence was my total absence, body and soul. Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.

Yet in spite of the magical and uncanny quality of this vision, it was no dream, no esoteric revelation. Quite the reverse: it felt like a sudden waking from the sleep of ordinary life, an end to dreaming. It was self-luminous reality for once swept clean of all obscuring mind. It was the revelation, at long last, of the perfectly obvious. It was a lucid moment in a confused life-history. It was a ceasing to ignore something which (since early childhood at any rate) I had always been too busy or too clever to see. It was naked, uncritical attention to what had all along been staring me in the face - my utter facelessness. In short, it was all perfectly simple and plain and straightforward, beyond argument, thought, and words. There arose no questions, no reference beyond the experience itself, but only peace and a quiet joy, and the sensation of having dropped an intolerable burden.

-DOUGLAS HARDING