20 – Bodhidharma’s way

A dharma teaching by Bodhidharma (5th century):

There are many avenues for entering the Way, but essentially they all are of two kinds:
A. entering through the principle,
B. and entering through practice.

ad A. “Entering through the Principle” is awakening to the essential by means of the teachings. It requires a profound trust that all living beings, both enlightened and ordinary, share the same true nature, which is obscured and unseen due only to mistaken perception. If you turn from the false to the true, dwelling steadily in wall contemplation, there is no self or other, and ordinary people and sages are one and the same. You abide unmoving and unwavering, never again confused by written teachings. Complete, ineffable accord with the principle is without discrimination, still, effortless.
This is called entering through the principle.

ad B. “Entering through the practice” refers to four all-encompassing practices:

  1. the practice of requiting animosity,
  2. the practice of accepting one’s circumstances,
  3. the practice of craving nothing,
  4. the practice of accord with the Dharma.

What is the practice of requiting animosity?
When experiencing suffering, a practitioner of the Way should reflect: “For innumerable eons, I have preferred the superficial to the fundamental, drifting through various states of existence, creating much animosity and hatred, bringing endless harm and discord. Though I have done nothing wrong in this life, I am reaping the natural consequences of past offenses, my evil karma. It is not meted out by some heavenly agency. I accept it patiently and with contentment, utterly without animosity or complaint.” A sutra says, “When you encounter suffering, do not be distressed. Why? Because your consciousness opens up to the fundamental.” Cultivating this attitude, you are in accord with the principle, advancing on the path through the experience of animosity.
Thus it is called the practice of requiting animosity.

Second is the practice of accepting circumstances.
Living beings, having no [fixed] self, are entirely shaped by the impact of circumstances. Both suffering and pleasure are produced by circumstances. If you experience such positive rewards as wealth and fame, this results from past causes. You receive the benefits now, but as soon as these circumstances are played out, it will be over. Why should you celebrate? Success and failure depend on circumstances, while the Mind does not gain or lose. Not being moved even by the winds of good fortune is ineffable accord with the Way.
Thus it is called the practice of accepting one’s circumstances.

Third is the practice of craving nothing.
The various sorts of longing and attachment that people experience in their unending ignorance are regarded as craving. The wise awaken to the truth going with the principle rather than with conventional ideas. Peaceful at heart, with nothing to do, they change in accord with the seasons. All existence lacking substance, they desire nothing. [They know that] the goddesses of good and bad fortune always travel as a pair and that the Triple World, where you have lived so long, is like a burning house. Suffering inevitably comes with having a body – who can find peace? If you understand this fully, you quit all thoughts of other states of being, no longer crave them. A sutra says, “To crave is to suffer; to crave nothing is bliss.”
Thus we understand clearly that craving nothing is the true practice of the Way.

Fourth is the practice of accord with the Dharma.
The principle of essential purity is the Dharma. Under this principle, all form is without substance, undefilable and without attachment, neither “this” nor “that”. The Vimalakirti Sutra says, “In this Dharma, there are no living beings because it transcends the defiling [concept] of ‘living beings.’ In this Dharma, there is no self because it transcends the defiling [concept] of ‘self.'” When the wise embrace and understand this principle, they are practicing accord with the Dharma. Since in the Dharma there is fundamentall nothing to withhold, [the wise] practice generosity, giving their bodies, lives, and possessions without any regret in their minds. Fully understanding the emptiness of giver, gift, and recipient, they do not fall into bias or attachment. Ridding themselves of all defilements, they aid in the liberation of living beings without grasping at appearances. In this way they benefit themselves and others both, gracing the way of enlightenment. In the same fashion, they practice the other five perfections. To eliminate false thinking in practicing the six perfections means having no thought of practicing them.
This is practicing accord with the Dharma.

Foster, Nelson & Shoemaker, Jack:
The roaring stream; a new Zen reader. Hopewell 1996, p. 3-5