22 – Daoxin’s mystic fusion

A zen teaching (yulu) by Daoxin (580-651).

When mind of itself is peaceful and clean, then all that is needed is bold advance as if saving your head from burning. You must not slack off or get lazy. Try hard, try hard!

When beginners sit in meditation to contemplate mind: sit alone someplace. First straighten out your body and sit upright; let your robe be wide and your belt loose. Let your body relax: rub yourself down seven or eight times. Let the exhalations from the belly through the throat cease. Then you will find in abundance the purity, emptiness, and peace of inherent reality-nature.

When body and mind are properly attuned, when mind and spirit are at peace, then in deep mystic fusion, the breath is pure and cool. Slowly gather the mind until the path of the spirit is pure and sharp and the mindground is illumined and pure. As you perceive clearly and distinctly, inner and outer are empty and pure – this is the mind’s inherent nirvana. With this nirvana, the mind of the sages is manifest.

Though its real nature is formless, intent and proportion always remain. Thus, the profound luminous one never ends: it remains forever shining bright. This is called the buddha-nature, the enlightened real identity.

Those who see buddha-nature leave behind forever birth and death: they are called people who transcend the world. One who awakens to buddha-nature is called a bodhisattva.

Cleary, Jonathan C.: Zen dawn; early Zen texts from Tun Huang.
Boston 1986, p. 63


21 – Bassui’s inherent nature

A teaching (yulu) by Bassui (1327-1387).

Someone asked me: “If all existing form is possessed of the three poisons [greed, anger and delusion], who among buddhas, ancestors, saints, and wise men can escape them?”

I responded: “Just wake up to your own nature, and the three poisons will be transformed into obeying the precepts, meditation, and wisdom. The buddhas, ancestors, saints, and wise men have all seen into their nature. How could they commit any sins?”

Another person asked me: “A person who sees into his own nature transforms the three poisons into obeying precepts, meditation, and wisdom. How can one who suffers from the mind-sickness of deluded viewpoint be cured?”

I responded: “Seeing into your own nature is the one medicine for all diseases [of the mind]. There is no need for any other treatment. As I said before, that which knows the one who plays with reflections is the origin of all buddhas. One’s Buddha-nature is like the jewel-sword of the Vajra King, causing instant death to whomever it touches. It’s like a blazing fire taking the lives of all who come near.

If you see into your own nature even once, you will immediately sunder the ties of countless years of deluded karmic consciousness and lingering habits, as ice placed over a burning fire will instantly disappear. At this time you will not even have a view of the Buddha or the Dharma, much less any mind-sickness.

The reason all delusions resulting from karmic hindrances and various discriminating thoughts and ideas are not erased, is that you aren’t aware of your true inherent nature. Hoping to avoid countless transmigrations while not having realized your inherent nature is like trying to stop water from boiling without removing the burning firewood [below it]. It makes no sense.”

Braverman, Arthur: Mud and water; the collected teachings of zen master Bassui.
Boston 2002, p. 204-205


20 – Bodhidharma’s way

A teaching (yulu) by Bodhidharma (5th century), founding teacher of the zen tradition.

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


19 – Hakuin’s song of zazen

A zen teaching (yulu) from master Hakuin (1686-1769).

From the beginning all beings are Buddha.
Like water and ice, without water no ice,
Outside us no Buddhas.

How near the truth, yet how far we seek,
Like one in water crying “I thirst.”
Like a child of rich birth
wand’ring poor on this earth,
we endlessly circle the six worlds.

The cause of our sorrow is ego delusion.
From dark path to dark path we’ve wandered in darkness,
How can we be free from the wheel of samsara [birth and death]?

The gateway to freedom is zazen samadhi,
beyond exultation, beyond all our praises,
the pure Mahayana.
Observing the precepts, repentance and giving,
the countless good deeds and the way of right living
all come from zazen.

Thus one true samadhi extinguishes evils;
it purifies karma, dissolving obstructions.
Then where are the dark paths to lead us astray?
The pure lotus land is not far away.

Hearing this truth, heart humble and grateful,
to praise and embrace it, to practice its wisdom,
brings unending blessings, brings mountains of merit.

But if we turn inward and prove our True-nature,
that True-self is no-self,
our own Self is no-self,
we go beyond ego and past clever words.

Then the gate to the oneness of cause and
effect is thrown open.
Not two and not three, straight ahead runs the Way.

Our form now being no-form,
in coming and going we never leave home.
Our thought now being no-thought,
our dancing and songs are the voice of the Dharma.

How vast is the heaven of boundless samadhi!
How bright and transparent the moonlight of wisdom!
What is there outside us, what is there we lack?

Nirvana is openly shown to our eyes.
This earth where we stand is the pure lotus land,
And this very body, the body of Buddha.

Text: Hakuin (1686-1769)
McDaniel, Richard Bryan: Zen Masters of Japan;
The Second Step East. Clarendon 2014, p. 248-250;
and The zensite

New book by zen master Yamada Mumon:
Zen Master Hakuin’s Song of Zazen


18 – Baizhang’s awareness

A zen teaching (yulu) from master Baizhang (8th century).

When facing the end, all are beautiful scenes appearing – according to what the mind likes, the most impressive are experienced first. If you do not do bad things right now, then at this time, facing death, there will be no unpleasant scenes. Even if there are any unpleasant scenes, they too will change into pleasant scenes.

If you fear that at the moment of death you will go mad with terror and fail to attain freedom, then you should first be free right now – then you’ll be all right. Right now is the cause; the moment of facing death is the result. Since there has been enlightenment in the past, there must also be enlightenment in the present.

If you can attain now and forever the single moment of present awareness, and this one moment of awareness is not governed by anything at all, whether existent, nonexistent, or whatever, then from past and present Buddha is just human, humans are just Buddhas.

Also this is meditational concentration – don’t use concentration to enter concentration, don’t use meditation to conceive of meditation, don’t use Buddha to search for Buddhahood. As it is said, “Reality does not seek reality, reality does not see reality, but finds its way naturally.” It is not attained by attainment; that is why bodhisattvas should thus be properly mindful, subsisting alone in the midst of things, composed, yet without knowledge of the fact of subsisting alone.

The nature of wisdom is such as it is of itself; it is not disposed by causes. It is also called the knot of substance, also the cluster of substance. It is not known by knowledge, not discerned by consciousness – it is entirely beyond mental calculation.

(Cleary, Thomas: Sayings and Doings of Pai-chang;
Ch’an Master of Great Wisdom. Los Angeles 1978, p. 44)


17 – Huihai’s control

A zen teaching (yulu) from master Huihai (8th century).

Once a Taoist, happening to pass by, asked: ‘Is there anything in the world more marvellous than the forces of nature?’
M: ‘There is.’

Q: ‘And what is that?’
M: ‘The power of comprehending those natural forces.’

Q: ‘Is cosmic vitality the Way (Tao)?’
M: ‘Cosmic vitality is cosmic vitality. The Tao is the Tao.’

Q: ‘If so, they must be two different things?’
M: ‘That which knows does not proceed from two different persons.’

Q: ‘What is wrong and what is right?’
M: ‘Wrong is the mind that attends to externals; right is the mind that brings externals under control.’

(Blofeld, John: Zen teachings of instantanious awakening;
being the teaching of the Zen master Huihai. London 2007, p. 118)


16 – Torei’s embrace

A teaching (yulu) from Torei Enji, 1721-1792, a disciple and successor of Hakuin.

The monks of our school do not know how to set the body at ease and be obedient to the Dharma. Nowadays they often mistake their uninteresting views for ‘Zen’. They do not peruse the sutras and treatises [shastra’s], but rather query why in a ‘special transmission outside the teachings’ sutras and treatises should be used.

In particular, they do not know that in a special transmission outside the teachings the teachings are never an impediment. Unless the special transmission outside the teachings can embrace the teachings, it is not the genuine special transmission outside the teachings.

Therefore, if the mirror is clear, there is no need to choose what images and objects to reflect. If no image appears, then the mirror is not yet completely clear. To reject images and obects is only productive of even more dust and dirt covering the mirror, and is not the seeing of the Great Way.

Indeed, the sutras have a profound meaning and purport. They point out the manifold obstacles to your seeing. Just because the seeing is not clear, one may end up disregarding the golden words of the Tathagata [Buddha] and fail to probe into the depth of those profound principles of the sutras.

(Torei, Enji: Discourse on the Inexhaustible Lamp of the Zen School.
London 1996, p. 301)