Robinson Jeffers: 10 Essential Poems – Human Voices Wake Us
Along with my excerpts from Ramakrishna and the Desert Fathers, the following favorites from Zen Buddhism constitute just about all the religious wisdom I need. In one way or another, they are all expressions of humility and empathy, and upend the usual fundamentalist (and simple-minded, arrogant, and certain) approaches to scripture, discipline, knowledge, and to diversity of practice or belief.
A Word document of my favorite passages from all three traditions can be downloaded here.
All Zen passages are taken from the collected translations of Thomas Cleary, and volume and page numbers refer to the following:
And they are organized into the following categories:
Mazu: If you understand mind and objects, then false conceptions do not arise; when false conceptions do not arise, this is acceptance of the beginninglessness of things. You have always had it, and you have it now—there is no need to cultivate the Way and sit in meditation. (I, 134)
Foyan: Search back into your own vision—think back to the mind that thinks. Who is it? (I, 171
Foyan: You must know how to check yourself before you can attain Zen. It is because of confused minds that people strive on the Way; they go to mountains and forests to see teachers, on the false assumption that there is a particular path that can given people peace or comfort. (I, 179)
Dahui: “Don’t draw another’s bow, don’t ride another’s horse, don’t mind another’s business.”
Although this is a common saying, it can also help you penetrate Zen.
Just examine yourself constantly—from morning to night, what have you done that is beneficial to others and to yourself?
If you notice any partiality, you should alert yourself and not overlook it. (I, 182)
Dahui: If you think there are any verbal formulations that are special mysterious secrets to be transmitted, this is not real Zen.
Real Zen has no transmission. It is just a matter of people experiencing it, resulting in their ability to see each other’s vision and communicate tacitly. (I, 183)
Dahui: In Zen, there are no sectarian differences, but when students lack a broad, stable will, and teachers lack a broad, comprehensive teaching, then what they enter into differs. The ultimate point of Zen, however, has no such differences. (I, 187)
Hongzhi: When Zen practice is completely developed, there is no center, no extremes; there are no edges or corners. It is perfectly round and frictionless. (I, 189)
Hongzhi: The time when you “see the sun in daytime and see the moon at night,” when you are not deceived, is the normal behavior of a Zen practitioner, naturally without edges or seams. If you want to attain this kind of normalcy, you have to put an end to the subtle pounding and weaving that goes on in your mind. (I, 191)
Ying-an: If people want to learn Zen, let them learn the Zen of a lone lamp shining in a death ward. (I, 195)
Ying-an: If you have a single thought of eagerness to attain Zen mastery, this burns out your potential, so you cannot grow anymore. (I, 197)
Ying-an: Another classical master said, “I don’t like to hear the word ‘Buddha.’” (I, 198)
Yuansou: Those who meditate in silent stillness regard silent stillness as final, but it is not something to finalize in stillness. Those who assert mastery in the midst of busyness are satisfied with busyness, but it is not something to be satisfied with in the midst of busyness. Those who learn from the scriptures consider the scriptures basic, but it is not learned from the scriptures. Those who work with teachers and colleagues regard this as a profound source, but it is not attained from working with teachers and colleagues.
It is a formless, indestructible being that has always been like a fish hidden in a spring, that drums up waves and dances by itself. When you look for it in the east, it goes west; when you look for it in the south, it goes north. It can give names to everyone, but no one can give it a name. In all places and all times it is the master of myriad forms, the teacher of myriad phenomena. (I, 205)
Yuansou: There is no real doctrine at all for you to chew on or squat over. If you will not believe in yourself, you pick up your baggage and go around to other people’s houses, looking for Zen, looking for Tao, looking for mysteries, looking for marvels, looking for buddhas, looking for Zen masters, looking for teachers.
You think this is searching for the ultimate, and you make it into your religion, but this is like running blindly to the east to get something that is in the west. The more you run, the further away you are, and the more you hurry the later you become. You just tire yourself, to what benefit in the end? (I, 206-7)
Wuzu: The ancients were glad to hear of their own errors, delighted in doing good, were great in magnanimity, generous in concealing others’ wrongs, humble in association with companions, and diligent in helping and saving the people. They did not defile their minds, therefore their light was great, shining through present and past. (I, 26)
Baiyun said to the layman Yang Wuwei:
What can be said but not practiced is better not said. What can be practiced but not spoken of it better not done.
When you utter words, you should always consider their end. When you establish a practice, you must always consider what it covers.
In this, ancient sages were careful about their words and chose their acts.
When they spoke they did not just demonstrate the principle of Chan, they used it to open the minds of students who were not yet enlightened.
When they established their practices, they did not just take care of themselves, they used them to educate students who were undeveloped.
Therefore, when they spoke their words had standards, and when they acted it was with proper manners. So ultimately they were able to speak without trouble and act without disgrace. Their words thus became scriptures, their acts became standards.
So it is said, “Speech and action are the pivot of ideal people, the basis of governing one’s person.” They can move heaven and earth, touch even ghosts and spirits, so they should be respected. (I, 28-9)
Huanglong said to the great statesmen Wang Anshi:
Whatever you set your mind to do, you always should make the road before you wide open, so that all people may traverse it. This is the concern of a great man.
If the way is narrow and perilous, so that others cannot go on it, then you yourself will not have any place to set foot either. (I, 35)
Zhenjing: The rule for Chan practitioners is that their lifestyle should not be luxurious and filling, for if it is there will be excess. Pleasing things should not be striven for much, because much striving ends in failure. When you try to succeed in something, something will surely be ruined.
I saw my late teacher Huanglong deal with the world for forty years, and in his speech and silence, action and inaction, he never tried to captivate students with expressions, manners, or literary skills. Only those who certainly had insight and were truly acting on reality, he would carefully develop in every way. (I, 40)
A scripture says, “Do not fear the arising of thoughts, just beware of being slow to become aware of it.” How fitting this is—for who since the sages has ever been free from error? (I, 48)
Yuanwu: Who has no faults? To err and yet be able to correct it is best of all. Since time immemorial, all have lauded the ability to correct faults as being wise, rather than considering having no faults to be beautiful. Thus human actions have many faults and errors—this is something that neither the wise nor the foolish can avoid—yet it is only the wise who can correct their faults and change to good, whereas the foolish mostly conceal their faults and cover up their wrongs. (I, 54)
I hope you will forget about the outer expression of the words. (I, 54)
The small is a step of the great, the subtle is the sprout of the obvious. This is why the wise are careful of the beginning, sages are mindful of warnings. Even dripping water, if it does not stop, can ultimately turn a mulberry orchard into a lake. A flame, if not removed, will ultimately burn a meadow.
When the water is streaming and the fire is raging, the disaster is already happening—even if you want to help, there is no way. Of old it has been said, “If you are not careful about minor actions, ultimately they will encumber great virtue.” This is what is meant here. (I, 56)
Foijan said to Assembly Leader Ping:
Anyone called a chief elder should not crave anything at all, for as soon as one craves anything one is plundered by outside objects. When you indulge in likes and desires, then an avaricious mind arises. When you like getting offerings, then thoughts of striving and contention arise. If you like obedient followers, then petty flatterers will join you. If you like to score victories, then there is a gigantic rift between yourself and others. If you like to exploit people, then voices of resentment will be heard.
When you get to the bottom of all this, it is not apart from one mind. If the mind is not aroused, myriad things spontaneously disappear. Nothing I have ever realized in my life goes beyond this. You should be diligent and set an example for future students. (I, 58)
It seems that when the task is difficult the will is sharp; hardship makes the thoughts deep. Eventually one can turn calamity into fortune, turn things into the Way. (I, 60)
It has gotten to the point where there is nowhere that the ugliness of opportunism does not exist. How can we ever have the flourishing of ways to truth and the full vigor of spiritual teaching that we look for? (I, 65)
Gaoan: My late teacher once said, “When I set out on my pilgrimage, at many of the small temples I came to there were things that were not as I thought they should be. Then when I recalled that some of the greatest of the ancient masters met their teachers unexpectedly in the informal environment of a local temple, I no longer felt vexed.” (I, 69)
Xuetang: An iron dyke a thousand miles long leaks through anthills. The beauty of white jade is lost in a flaw. The supremely subtle Way is beyond iron dykes and white jade, yet greed and resentment are greater than anthills and flaws.
The essence of the matter lies in the will being true and sober, the practice being progressively refined, the perseverance being firm and sure, the cultivation being completely purified. After that it is possible to benefit oneself and benefit others. (I, 71)
Xuetang: When I was the leader of the community at Longmen, Iron Face Bing was leader of the community at Taiping. Someone told me that when Bing was first going on study travels, before he had been gone from his native place for long he suddenly took the notes of what he had heard from the teacher who had instructed him and burned them all to ashes one night. During that time, whenever he received a letter, he would throw it to the ground and say it was just uselessly disturbing people’s minds. (I, 71)
Sixin said to the lay student Chen Rongzhong:
If you want to seek the Great Way, first rectify the mind. If you have any anger you will not be able to rectify the mind, and if you have any craving you will not be able to rectify the mind.
However, who but saints and sages are able to be free from like and dislike, joy and anger? You just should not put these in the forefront, lest they harm rectitude—that is considered attainment. (I, 77)
Caotang Qing: The fire that burns a meadow starts from a little flame, the river that erodes a mountain starts drop by drop. A little bit of water can be blocked by a load of earth, but when there is a lot of water it can uproot trees, dislodge boulders, and wash away hills. A little bit of fire can be extinguished by a cup of water, but when there is a lot of fire it burns cities, towns, and mountain forests.
Is it ever different with the water of affection and attachment and the fire of malice and resentment? (I, 79)
People of wisdom and understanding know that trouble cannot be escaped, so they are careful in the beginning to guard themselves against it.
So when human life has some worry and toil, it may turn into happiness for a whole lifetime. After all, calamity and trouble, slander and disgrace, could not be avoided even by the ancient sage-kings, much less by others. (I, 92)
The sages are ever more distant, while those convinced of their own school of thought are ever more ubiquitous, causing the teaching of the sages of yore to go into submergence day by day. As Confucius lamented, “I would like to say nothing, but can I?” (I, 92)
In the beginning of the Shaoxing era (1131-1163), Yanwu’s enlightened successor Miaoxi went into eastern China and saw that the Chan students there were recalcitrant, pursuit the study of this book to such an extent that their involvement became an evil. So he broke up the woodblocks of The Blue Cliff Record and analyzed its explanations, thus to get rid of illusions and rescue those who were floundering, stripping away excess and setting aside exaggeration, demolishing the false and revealing the true, dealing with the text in a special way. Students gradually began to realize their error, and did not idolize anymore. (I, 108 )
Mian: The rise and decline of Chan communities is in their conduct and principles; the refinement or badness of students is in their customs and habits. Even if the ancients lived in nests and caves, drinking from streams and eating from the trees, to practice this in the present would not be suitable. Even if people of the present dress and eat richly, to practice this in ancient times would not have been suitable. Is it anything else but a matter of habituation? (I, 113-4)
Mian: In leadership there are three don’ts: when there is much to do, don’t be afraid; where there is nothing to do, don’t be hasty; and don’t talk about opinions of right and wrong.
A leader who succeeds in these three things won’t be confused or deluded by external objects. (I, 114-5)
Ta-mei: You should each individually clarify your own mind, getting to the root without pursuing the branches. Just get the root, and the branches come of themselves. (II, 14)
Pai-chang: Because disease is unreal, there is only unreal medicine to cure it. (II, 14)
A buddha is one who does not seek. In seeking this, you turn away from it. The principle is the principle of nonseeking; when you see it, you lose it.
If you cling to nonseeking, this is the same as seeking. If you cling to nonstriving, this is the same as striving. (II, 15)
Don’t seek a buddha, don’t seek a teaching, don’t see a community. Don’t seek virtue, knowledge, intellectual understanding, and so on. When feelings of defilement and purity are ended, still don’t hold to this nonseeking and consider it right. Don’t dwell at the point of ending, and don’t long for heavens or fear hells. When you are unhindered by bondage or freedom, then this is called liberation of mind and body in all places. (II, 15)
Te-shan: If there were any object, any doctrine, that could be given to you to hold on to or understand, it would reduce you to bewilderment and externalism. It’s just a spiritual openness, with nothing that can be grasped; it is pure everywhere, its light clearly penetrating, outwardly and inwardly luminous through and through. (II, 18)
T’ou-tzu: You come here looking for sayings and talks, novel expressions and elegant lines, uselessly taking to verbalization. I am old and my energy is not up to par; I’m a dull speaker and have no idle talk for you. If you ask me questions, I answer in accord with your questions, but I have no mysterious marvel that can be conveyed to you, and I won’t have you get fixated.
I never assert the existence of Buddha and Dharma, of ordinary person and sage, either in the beyond or the here and now; and I have no intention of sitting here tying you people down. You go through a thousand changes, but all of it is you people conceiving interpretations, carrying them with you, experiencing the results of your own doings. I have nothing here for you, and nothing exoteric or esoteric to explain to you, no appearance and intention to represent to you. (II, 21)
Ku-shan: Those who accept words perish; those who linger over sayings get lost. When you have caught the fish, you forget the trap; when you have gotten the meaning, you forget the words. We use a net to catch fish; the fish are not the net. (II, 24)
Chen-ching: I have no Buddhism to give anyone. I just have a sword—whoever comes, I cut down, so their lives cannot go on and their seeing and hearing disappear: then I meet them before their parents gave birth to them. If I see them go forward, I cut them off. (II, 32)
Chen-ching: There is no Zen to study, no Tao to learn. Abandoning the fundamental to pursue trivia, busily working on externals, is not as good as coming back to get to know your own citadel. (II, 33)
Fu-an: If we are to discuss this matter, the simple fact is that there is nothing whatsoever to point out to people. If there were anything at all to indicate to people, Buddhism would not have reached the present day. For this reason the successions of buddhas extending a hand and the successions of Zen masters passing on transmission have done so for lack of practical choice; there has never been an actual doctrine. (II, 42)
Ch’ih-chueh: When a master craftsman instructs people, he can give them compass and ruler but cannot give them skill. The function of Zen teachers is otherwise: first they take away your compass and ruler, then wait until you can cut squares and circles freehand, spontaneously conforming to compass and ruler; thus the skill is therein. Even so, this too is a temporary byroad, a little resting place. (II, 45)
Wu-chun: Once the mind is clear, this very word clarity doesn’t stick anywhere anymore; it is like a snowflake on a red-hot fireplace. (II, 48)
Wu-chun: The path cannot be sought—the important thing is just to stop the mind. However, this stopping is not to be forced. You need to search morning and night until you reach the point where the road of conception comes to an end, whereupon you’ll suddenly spontaneously stop. After this stopping, the racing and seeking mind stops.
It is like a traveler stopping at an inn. In his desire to get where he’s going, he puts his effort into travelling, for if he doesn’t travel he won’t get there. Once he’s arrived, all the toils and pains of the road come to an end and he goes running off no more. (II, 48)
Kao-feng: It is a pity that deluded people do not understand; they arbitrarily cling to doctrines and turn them into sicknesses, using sickness to attack sickness. They make it so they get further estranged from buddha nature the more they seek it. The more they hurry, the more they’re delayed. (II, 54)
Hai-yin: Clearly, clearly, there is no enlightenment; if there is any dogma, it is delusion. (II, 57)
Wu-chien: Every word uttered by sages of yore as expedient methods were medicines given in accordance with particular ailments—when was there ever any actual dogma to bind people?
If you are confused, there are a thousand differentiations, ten thousand distinctions. If you are enlightened, everything is the same one family. (II, 58)
Yuan-hsien: So if these are not the true mind, what is the true mind? Try to see what your mind is, twenty-four hours a day. Don’t try to figure it out, don’t try to interpret it intellectually, don’t try to get someone to explain it to you, don’t seek some other technique, don’t calculate how long it may take, don’t calculate the degree of your own strength—just silently pursue this inner investigation on your own: “Ultimately what is my own mind?” (II, 75)
Pao-chih: Seekers who disdain clamor to seek quietude are as it were throwing away flour but seeking cake. (II, 94)
Chao-chou: Since it is not gotten from outside, what is there to get wrapped up in or hung up on any more? Why go on being like goats, picking up things at random and putting them in your mouth? (II, 99)
Chien-ju: Do not just memorize sayings, recite words, and discuss Zen and the way based on books. The Zen way is not in books. (II, 122)
Ta-tu: Since it depends on one’s own self, how hard could it be? Attaining Buddhahood shouldn’t take even a finger snap. (II, 125)
Wei-tse: The Pure Land is only mind; there is no land outside of mind. In this land that is only mind, there is no east in the east, no west in the west—all directions are contained in it. (II, 144)
Wu-chien: Of old it has been said, “There are basically no words for the way, but we use words to illustrate the way.” It is also said, “If speech does not avoid cliché, how can it get you out of bondage?” (II, 144)
Pao-chih: If you do not understand that mind itself is Buddha, you are as if riding a donkey in search of a donkey. (II, 145)
Pao-chih: It is laughable how slovenly people are, each holding onto a different view. They just want to stand by the pan, expecting a pancake; they do not know how to go back to the root and see the flour. The flour is the root of right and wrong; it changes in a hundred ways, depending on how people prepare it.
What is needed is to free the intellect in all ways, not to become partial or obsessed. Freedom from attachment is itself liberation; if you seek anything, you will again meet a snare. With a loving heart, be evenhanded to all, and the enlightenment of reality as such will spontaneously appear; if you keep a dualistic consciousness of others and self, you will not see the face of Buddha right in front of you. (II, 145-6)
Dogen: If you think you can become enlightened just by worshipping images and relics, this is a mistaken view. This is actually possession by the poisonous serpent of temptation. (II, 148)
Dogen: If you insist upon disciplinary regulations and vegetarianism as fundamental, make them established practices, and think you can attain enlightenment that way, you are wrong. (II, 148)
Tung-shan: How could it be permissible to form a cult, gather followers and cronies, dash off writings, and toil in pursuit of objects for love of honor and advantage? (II, 152)
Shoitsu: After having killed all, you see that the mountains are mountains, rivers are rivers. (II, 154)
Shoitsu: Let go over a mile-high precipice, and appear with your whole body throughout the universe. (II, 154)
Torei: When you’re busy and easily distracted, question what it is that gets distracted. (II, 155)
Flowing water doesn’t go stale. (II, 156)
The hungry will eat anything; the thirsty will drink anything. (II, 156)
Just do good; don’t ask about the road ahead. (II, 156)
It seems that this clergyman had heard of the wealthy man’s selfless benevolence, unusual among the rich of his time, and had come to ask him for money to build a temple gate.
The philanthropist laughed in the friar’s face and said, “I help people because I cannot bear to see them suffer. What’s so bad about a temple without a gate?” (III, 637)
Zen master Taigu lived for a time deep in the mountains in the provincial countryside north of Kyoto. He wrote a pair of verses commemorating this abode:
No more troubles,
No contests in judgment:
in autumn I sweep
The leaves by the stream,
In spring I hear
the birds in the trees.
Spring comes to the human world
with vast and great kindness;
Every flower blossom
holds forth a Buddha.
Unawares, remaining snow
has melted all away—
Myriad forms unfurl their brows
in concert, all as one. (III, 646-7
Sonome was a well-known poetess and a profound student of Buddhism. She once wrote to Zen master Unkō: “To seek neither reality nor falsehood is the root source of the Great Way. Everyone knows this, so even though I may seem immodest for saying so, I do not think this is anything special. As goings-on in the source of one mind, the willows are green, the flowers are red. Just being as is, I pass the time reciting verse and composing poetry. If this is useless chatter, then the scriptures are also useless chatter. I dislike anything that stinks of religion, and my daily practice is invocation, poetry, and song. If I go to paradise, that’s fine; if I fall into hell, that’s auspicious.” (III, 648)
Gettan used to say to his companions, “When you have a talking mouth, you have no listening ears. When you have listening ears, you have no talking mouth. Think about this carefully.” (III, 679)
As Kokan was nearing death, his foremost disciple asked him for a final verse. He hollered, “My final verse fills the universe! Why bother with pen and paper!” (III, 695)
Though I’ve nothing to ask
for the self I’ve abandoned,
let me pray to the spirits
for the path of the heart. (III, 705)
Looking in through the gaps in the blind, Hakuin saw Hakuyūshi sitting there with his eyes closed. He had dark hair reaching to his knees and a healthy ruddy complexion. On a desk were three books: a Confucian classic, a Taoist text, and a Buddhist scripture. There were no utensils or bedding anywhere in sight. The whole atmosphere was one of purity and transcendence, beyond the human realm. (III, 706)
Just because disciplined behavior and vegetarian diet is to be maintained, yet if you therefore insist upon these as fundamental, establishing them as practice, and think that you can thereby attain the Way, this is also wrong. It is just that this is the conduct of the patchrobed monks, the tradition of the sons of Buddha; and therefore we follow and practice it. Do not take this to be fundamental just because it is a good thing. (III, 722)
Even worldly people, rather than study many things at once without really becoming accomplished in any of them, should just do one thing well and study enough to be able to do it even in the presence of others…. Even concentrating solely on one thing, those whose faculties and capacity are dull by nature will have difficulty in thoroughly mastering it. Strive, students, to concentrate on one thing only. (III, 731-2)
Even in a grass hut or under a tree, pondering even a single phrase of the Teaching, practicing a single period of sitting meditation, this is indeed the true flourishing of Buddhism. (III, 755)
Returning to it again and again, without forgetting this principle in the mind, just thinking for this day, this time only, without losing a moment, you should put your mind into the study of the Way. After that it is really and truly easy. As for natural superiority or inferiority, or the sharpness or dullness of faculties, they are not to be discussed at all.” (III, 763)
When I speak of Buddha, you think that it must have auspicious features and a radiant halo; when I explain the Buddha is tiles and pebbles, it startles your ears. (III, 796)
Only when one has cast body and mind into the Buddhist Teaching and practices it with no further hope of anything—even that he awaken to the Path and grasp the truth—such is called an Undefiled Wayfarer. This is the meaning of the saying, “Do not stay where there is Buddha; run quickly by where there is no Buddha.” (III, 826)
Students of the Way, whenever you are about to speak, you should reflect thrice as to whether it would be of benefit for self and others; if it would be beneficial, then say it. Words with no benefit should be left unsaid. Even something like this is difficult to attain all at once. Keeping it mind, you should practice it gradually. (III, 837)
The essential point in studying the Way is just to cast off your original attachments. If you first reform the comportment of your body, the mind also will reform along with it. If first you maintain the prescribed dignity and disciplined behavior, your mind too should accordingly reform. (III, 839)
Students of the Way, do not think of waiting for a later day to practice the Way. Without letting this day and this moment pass by, just work hard from day to day, moment to moment. (III, 840)
People practicing the Way should not think they will practice the Way only after having prepared a dwelling place and gotten together their robes and bowls and such. While someone in the extreme of poverty is waiting to get together the robes, bowls, and implements which he lacks, what about the gradual approach of death? Therefore, if you wait for a place to stay and wish to practice the Way after having gotten together robes and bowl, you would pass your whole life in vain. Though you may not have robes and bowl, just think that even in the household life, the Buddha-Way may be carried out and so you should practice it. (III, 84)
We die from moment to moment, ultimately not abiding even for a while. As long as you are alive for the time being, do not pass the time in vain. (III, 842)
Thomas Cleary: The underlying idea here is that ordinarily people readily fear harm from others without giving equal consideration to how much they harm themselves…. Similarly, the underlying idea here is that ordinarily people readily depend on others for their well-being without giving equal consideration to what they need to do, or should be doing, for themselves. Compassion for others is useless if you cannot first master your own life…. This chapter outlines the consciousness of the responsible individual, one who is fully aware of the consequences of action and thus is intelligently self-controlled. The need to master oneself before helping others, usually not expected or emphasized in altruistic teachings as ordinarily known or conceived, is introduced here. Unless the compassionate individual is already independent of personal needs by virtue of self-work, compassion degenerates into ineffective sentimentality. This may be seen on very level of human endeavor, from local interactions to international relations. (IV, 14, 38)
Pang Yun asked a Zen master: “Who is the one that does not keep company with myriad things?” “I’ll tell you when you swallow the water of the West River in one gulp.” (IV, 45)
Thomas Cleary: “Name and form mean ideas and objects in general. Clinging to ideas and objects as real or sacred in themselves, rather than as functional or dysfunctional in their place, is a form of idolatry.” (IV, 5)
Thomas Cleary: “‘One should arrange oneself such that wisdom increases.’ (Dhammapada 20:10) This is one of the simplest yet most sophisticated exercises; how to arrange the items of one’s life, including one’s thoughts and feelings, conversations and activities, such that they yield the maximum insight and understanding of life itself and the minimum unnecessary distraction and vexation. Among the problems people seem to experience in the process of self-renewal is to imagine they need to remove or replace what they only need rearrange, and imagine they need only rearrange what they need to remove or replace.” (IV, 63)
Thomas Cleary: “To pass beyond virtue does not mean to be inactive, but to pass beyond the state of expecting and demanding to be rewarded for virtue. This passing beyond is one of the entrances, or transition points, into the Greater Journey. The Taoist Huiana Masters say, “Making a big deal out of doing good is like making a big deal out of doing wrong, insofar as it is not near the Way.” (IV, 90)
Pai-chang: You should study in this way as attentively as you would save your head from burning. Only then will you be capable of finding a road already prepared to go upon when you come to the end of your life. (V, 44-5)
Someone asked T’ou-tzu, “How is it when there is no mistake moment to moment?”
T’ou-tzu said, “Bragging.” (V, 147)
Dogen: One need not necessarily depend on the words of the ancients, but must only think of what is really true. (V, 233)
Dogen: If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing. (V, 233)
Ying-an: Zen has nothing to grab on to. When people who study Zen don’t see it, it’s because they approach too eagerly. (I, 128)
Yuanwu: Set aside all the slogans you have learned and all the intellectual views that stick to your flesh. (I, 129)
Linji: Professional Buddhist clergy who cannot tell obsession from enlightenment have just left one social group and entered another social group. They cannot really be said to be independent.
Now there is an obsession with Buddhism that is mixed in with the real thing. Those with clear eyes cut through both obsession and Buddhism. If you love the sacred and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion. (I, 138)
Linji: Because you grasp labels and slogans, you are hindered by those labels and slogans, both those used in ordinary life and those considered sacred. Thus they obstruct your perception of objective truth, and you cannot understand clearly. (I, 138)
Linji: If you want to perceive and understand objectively, just don’t allow yourself to be confused by people. Detach from whatever you find inside or outside yourself—detach from religion, tradition, and society, and only then will you attain liberation. When you are not entangled in things, you pass through freely to autonomy. (I, 139-40)
Fayan: Zen is not founded or sustained on the premise that there is a doctrine to be transmitted. It is just a matter of direct guidance to the human mind, perception of its essence, and achievement of awakening. How could there be any sectarian styles to be valued?
There were differences in the modes of teaching set up by later Zen teachers, and there were both tradition and change. The methods employed by a number of famous Zen masters came to be continued as traditions, to the point where their descendants became sectarians and did not get to the original reality. Eventually they made many digressions, contradicting and attacking each other. They do not distinguish the profound from the superficial, and do not know that the Great Way has no sides and the streams of truth have the same flavor. (I, 144)
Huanglong: As for the pure knowledge that has no teacher, how can it be attained by thought or study? (I, 150)
Huanglong: Zen cannot be discussed by means of the knowledge or intelligence of the merely learned. (I, 150)
Huanglong: The Way does not need cultivation—just don’t defile it. Zen does not need study—the important thing is stopping the mind.
When the mind is stopped, there is no rumination. Because it is not cultivated, you walk on the Way with every step.
When there is no rumination, there is no world to transcend. Because it is not cultivated, there is no Way to seek. (I, 150)
Huanglong: Can anyone discern? If you can, you will recognize the disease of “Buddhism” and the disease of “Zen.” (I, 151)
Yuanwu: Many worldly intellectuals just study Zen for something to talk about, something that will enhance their reputation. The consider this a lofty interest, and try to use it to assert superiority over others. This just increases egotism. (I, 157)
Yuanwu: How could anyone show off and claim to have attained Zen? (I, 160)
Yuanwu: Cut through resolutely, and then your state will be peaceful. When you cannot be included in any stage, whether of sages or of ordinary people, then you are like a bird freed from its cage. (I, 162)
Yuanwu: Although the great Zen teachers did not establish clichés and slogans, eventually seekers misapprehended this and turned this itself into a cliché and a slogan—they made a cliché of no cliché, and a slogan of no slogan. They should not cling to the means as an end. (I, 166)
Yuanwu: If you have the idea of superiority and are proud of your ability, this is a disaster. (I, 167)
Yuanwu: To study Zen conceptually is like drilling in ice for fire, like digging a hole to look for the sky. It just increases mental fatigue. To study Zen by training is adding mud to dirt, scattering sand in the eyes, impeding you more and more. (I, 167)
Yuanwu: As soon as you try to chase and grab Zen, you’ve already stumbled past it. (I, 168)
Yuanwu: Set aside all the slogans you have learned and all the intellectual views that stick to your skin and cling to your flesh. Make your mind empty, not manifesting any thoughts on your own, not doing anything at all. (I, 168)
Foyan: As soon as you rationalize, it is hard to understand Zen. You will have to stop rationalizing before you will get it.
Some people hear this kind of talk and say there is nothing to say and no reason—they do not realize they are already rationalizing when they do this. (I, 171)
Dahui: In ancient times, Zen teaching was sometimes abstract, sometimes concrete, sometimes based on a particular time, sometimes transcendental. There was no fixed standard at all. (I, 183)
Hongzhi: The mind originally is detached from objects, reality basically has no explanation. This is why a classical Zen master said, “Our school has no slogans, and no doctrine to give people.” Hongzhi: Fundamentally it is a matter of people arriving on their own and finding out for themselves; only then can they talk about it. (I, 188)
Ying-an: A classical Zen master said, “Zen has no sayings, nothing at all to give people.” (I, 198)
Ying-an: [A]s the saying goes, “Although gold dust is precious, when it gets in your eye is obstructs vision.” Although buddhahood is wonderful, if you are obsessed with it it becomes a sickness. (I, 202)
Yuansou: If you rely on the differences in teachers and see the differences in persons, you are misled by blind teachers into reifying Buddha, Dharma, Zen, Tao, mysteries, marvels, functions, and states. One way and another this glues your tongue down, nails your eyes shut, and constricts your heart. (I, 205)
Huitang said, “Acknowledged accomplishment and excellent capacity are begrudged by Creation, and not given fully to humankind. What people strongly want, Heaven will surely take away.” (I, 30)
Foyan said to Gaoan:
One who can see the tip of a down hair cannot see his own eyebrow, one who can lift thirty thousand pounds cannot life his own body. This is like the student who is bright when it comes to criticizing others but ignorant when it comes to self-knowledge. (I, 63)
Shuian: In the old days when I was traveling in search of the Way, I saw Gaoan at an evening assembly. He said, “The ultimate Way is a direct shortcut not akin to human sentiments. Essentially you must make your heart sincere and your mind true. Do not be a servant of ostentation or partiality. Ostentation is near to deception, and when you are partial you are imbalanced—neither of these is meet for the ultimate Way.” (I, 101)
Jiantang: It is the ordinary condition of human beings that few are able to be free from delusion. Usually they are enshrouded by their beliefs, obstructed by their doubts, slighted by their contempt, drowned by their likes. (I, 123)
Bankei: As soon as a single thought gets fixated on something, you become ordinary mortals. All delusion is like this. You pick up on something confronting you, turn the buddha mind into a monster because of your own self-importance, and go astray on account of your own ego.
Whatever it is confronting you, let it be. As long as you do not pick up on it and react with bias, just remaining in the buddha mind and not transforming it into something else, then delusion cannot occur. This is constant abiding in the unconceived buddha mind. (II, 5)
Bankei: As I listen to the people who come to me, all of them make the mistake of turning the buddha mind into thoughts, unable to stop, piling thoughts upon thoughts, resulting in the development of ingrained mental habits, which they then believe are inborn and unalterable. (II, 5)
Ku-shan: Concepts act as robbers, consciousness becomes waves. (II, 23)
Fa-yen: What is disturbing you and making you uneasy is that there are things outside and mind inside. Therefore even when the ordinary and the holy are one reality, there still remains a barrier of view. So it is said that as long as views remain you are ordinary; when feelings are forgotten you’re a buddha. I advise you, don’t seek reality, just stop views. (II, 24)
Chih-men: If you want to seek too much, it may hinder the way. For your part, can you say your work is done? If not, then a thousand kinds of clever talk do not enhance your mind; what is the reason for ten thousand kinds of thought? (II, 25)
Ch’eng-ku: Even if you immediately have a great insight and a great awakening, and can talk like clouds and rain, all you have gained is a slippery tongue—you are further and further from the way. That’s what is called being a whore for appearances. (II, 28)
Ch’eng-ku: It is essential for you to cease and desist from your previously held knowledge, opinions, interpretations, and understandings. It is not accomplished by stopping the mind; temporary relinquishment is not the way—it fools you into wasting body and mind, without accomplishing anything at all in the end.
I suggest to you that nothing compares to ceasing and desisting. There is nowhere for you to apply your mind. Just be like an imbecile twenty-four hours a day. You have to be spontaneous and buoyant, your mind like space, yet without any measurement of space. You have to be beyond light and dark, no Buddhism, body, or mind, year in and year out. If anything is not forgotten, you’ve spent your life in vain. (II, 28)
Ch’eng-ku: Our eyes were originally right, but when wrong because of teachers. (II, 29)
Chen-ching: This cannot be learned, cannot be taught, cannot be transmitted; it can only be attained by individual realization. Once you’ve attained realization, you are content, unpreoccupied, thoroughly lucid, clear and at ease. All spiritual capacities and miracle working are inherent endowments and need not be sought elsewhere. (II, 31-2)
Yun-feng: If you can stop right now, then stop; if you seek a time of completion, there is no time of completion. If you make up intellectual understanding of this matter based on words, or try to figure out conceptually, you are as far from it as the sky is from earth. (II, 34)
I-ch’ing: Zen is not conceptual understanding; how can the way be sought by emotion? (II, 34)
Yueh-lin: What is true speech? Ninety percent accuracy is not as good as silence. (II, 42)
Wu-men: Once three scholars on the way to the civil service examination stopped to buy refreshments from a woman who sold pastries by the wayside. One man was calm and quiet, while the other two argued over literature. The woman asked where they were going. The latter two told her they were going to take the civil service examination. She said, “You two scholars won’t pass the exam; that other man will.” The two men swore at her and left.
When the results of the examination turned out as the woman had predicted, the two scholars who had failed went back to find out how she had known they would not pass, while the third man would. They asked her if she knew physiognomy. “No,” she said, “all I know is that when a pastry is thoroughly cooked, it sits there quietly, but before it’s finished it keeps on making noise.” (II, 50-1)
Hsueh-yen: If you want your mind to be clear, it is important to put opinions to rest. (II, 52)
Shu-chung: The way is the path of fundamental purity: for immense aeons, and even up to the present day, it has no gain or loss, no new or old, no light or dark, no form or name. It is not more in the buddhas and not less in ordinary people. To insist on calling it the way is already defiling; to say something is accomplished by methods of learning the way is what I have called mistakes. It was for lack of choice that the ancient referred to people heading for transcendence as students of the way. The study is that there is nothing to study; the way is that there is nothing to be a way. Since there is nothing to study, there is no clinging; since there is nothing to be a way, there is no following. If one idly slips and says the word Buddha, one must simply wash out one’s mouth for three years—only thus can one be called a real student of the way. (II, 68)
Pao-Chih: If you seek to gain by forming illusion and grasping awakening, how is that different from involvement in commerce? When movement and stillness are both forgotten, and you are ever serene, then you spontaneously merge with reality as it is. (II, 93)
Pao-Chih: The nature of things is empty and has no verbal explanation; there is nothing at all in interdependent occurrence. The hundred-year-old without knowledge is a child; the child with knowledge is a hundred years old. (II, 96)
Pao-Chih: How many ignorant people in the world try to seek the Way by means of the Way! Searching widely amongst a profusion of doctrines, they cannot even save themselves. Only pursuing the confused explanation of others’ writings, they claim to have arrived at the subtlety of noumeon. (II, 97)
I-ch’ing: Remain silent, and you sink into a realm of shadows; speak, and you fall into a deep pit.
Try, and you’re as far away as sky from earth; give up, and you’ll never attain.
Enormous waves go on and on, foaming breakers flood the skies: who’s got the bright pearl that calms the oceans? (II, 108)
Pai-chang: 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 or nonexistent, then from the past and the present the Buddha is just human, and humans are just Buddhas.
This is, furthermore, meditation concentration. Don’t use concentration to enter concentration, don’t use meditation to think of meditation, don’t use Buddha to search for Buddhahood. As it is said, “Reality does not seek reality, reality does not obtain reality, reality does not practice reality, reality does not see reality; it finds its way naturally.” It is not attained by attainment.
That is why awakening people should thus be properly mindful, subsisting along 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 essence, or the cluster of essence. It is not known by knowledge, not discerned by consciousness. It is entirely beyond mental calculation. Still and silent, essence totally realized, thought and judgment are forever ended. Just as if the flow of the ocean had stopped, waves do not rise again. (II, 103)
Ying-an: Those of superior faculties and great wisdom get the point right off the bat—guidance doesn’t mean gumbeating and lip-flapping. Truly awakened people with clear eyes would just laugh.
The great masters of India and China only met mind to mind—from the first there was never any “mind” to attain. But if you make a rationale of mindlessness, that is the same as having a certain mentality. (II, 110)
P’u-an: Primordially there is just a single energy, temporally expressed by means of provisional terms. It contains all things, and pervades all times. Beyond all natures and characterizations. It is a solitary light, the source of completeness, spiritual knowledge. From the eon of the void right up to now it has never perished and never been born, never increased and never decreased. (II, 110)
Huai-t’ang: Zen is not thought, the path has no achievement; yet if not thought it is not Zen, and without achievement it is not the path.
At this point, where do you arrive?
When you have cut through your conceptual faculty, how do you discriminate?
When you do not fall into consciousness, how do you approach?
As soon as you get into the clusters and elements, you’re already a lifetime away.
What you must do is cover the whole universe, with no opinion about Buddha or doctrine, bringing it up in the midst of sharp edges, putting it to use in heated situations. (II, 115)
Pai-chang: It is just because people themselves give rise to vain and arbitrary attachments that they create so many kinds of understanding, produce so many kinds of opinion, and give rise to many various likes and fears. (II, 116)
Ta-sui: As soon as you get some sense of contact, you want to be teachers of others. This is a big mistake. (II, 126)
Ying-an: To know by thinking is secondary; to know without thinking is tertiary. It is essential for the individual to directly bear responsibility and put down the two extremes of clarity and unclarity from your learning hitherto; when you reach the state of cleanness and nakedness, then you must go on over to the Beyond, where you kill Buddhas when you see Buddhas, kill Zen masters when you see Zen masters. (II, 129)
Hui-chung: It is not that knowledge is deep—things are deeper than knowledge. (II, 148)
Dogen: If the mentality that seeks honor and advantage does not cease, you will be ill at ease all your life. (152)
Shoitsu: Zen is not a conception—if you set up an idea of it, you turn away from the source. (II, 154)
Shoitsu: The Way is beyond cultivated effects; if you set up accomplishment, you lose the essence. (II, 154)
You are too intellectual to study Zen. (III, 662)
If you really want to practice Zen, then cast off everything you have studied and realized up until now and seek enlightenment single-mindedly. (III, 688)
The master used to tell people, “There are three things I very much dislike: the poetry of poets, the writing of writers, and the cuisine of cooks.” (III, 691)
Extensive study and broad learning is something that cannot succeed. You should firmly resolve to give it up altogether. Only in respect to one task should you learn the ancient standards of mental discipline. Seek out the footsteps of past masters, wholeheartedly apply effort to one practice, and avoid any pretense of being a teacher of others or a past master. (III, 724)
Even in studying the Buddhist Teaching and practicing the Buddha Way, still you should not study many things at once. So much the more should the Exoteric and Esoteric holy doctrines of the Scholastic schools be completely put aside. You should not fondly study many of the words of even Buddhas and Patriarchs. Even when concentrating solely on one thing, people who are of inferior capacity with dull faculties cannot succeed. So how much the more is it unsuitable to try to do many things at once and have the tone of our mind out of harmony. (III, 729-30)
Students now should consider this well. If you are determined to work at studying the Way, you should value time to study the Way: what leisure time is there to engage in disputation? After all it is of no benefit to oneself or others. (III, 814)
Ch’eng-t’ien was asked, “How should I apply my mind twenty-four hours a day?”
He replied, “When chickens are cold, they roost in trees; when ducks are cold, they plunge into water.”
The questioner said, “Then I don’t need cultivated realization, and won’t pursue Buddhahood or Zen mastery.”
Ch’eng-t’ien responded, “You’ve save half my effort.” (V, 61)
Wu-chien: How could it be possible to suppose that discoursing on mind and nature and lecturing on Zen and the path are effective vehicles to the source? (V, 174)
Han-shan: Just refrain from wanting or seeking spiritual experiences. (V, 190)
Ming-pen: Ever since there have been Zen schools, although they speak of simply pointing to the human mind, they have employed countless different methods. Relying on the one principle of simple pointing, the teachers have guided differently in accord with people’s dispositions as well as their own personal experience of enlightenment; yet in every case the supreme principle and the ultimate end were the same, the great matter of understanding and shedding birth and death, nothing else. (V, 202-3)
Wu-chien: If you understand by thinking and know by pondering, you’re a thousand miles away. (V, 208)
Pao-chih: It is laughable how slovenly people are, each holding onto a different view. They just want to stand by the pan, expecting a pancake; they do not know how to go back to the root and see the flour. The flour is the root of right and wrong; it changes in a hundred ways, depending on how people prepare it.
What is needed is to free the intellect in all ways, not to become partial or obsessed. Freedom from attachment is itself liberation; if you seek anything, you will again meet a snare. With a loving heart, be evenhanded to all, and the enlightenment of reality as such will spontaneously appear; if you keep a dualistic consciousness of others and self, you will not see the face of Buddha right in front of you. (V, 213-4)
Bunan: People think it is hard to perceive the essential human nature, but in reality it is neither difficult nor easy. Nothing at all can adhere to this essential nature. It is a matter of responding to right and wrong while remaining detached from right and wrong, living in the midst of passions yet being detached from passions, seeing without seeing, hearing without hearing, acting without acting, seeking without seeking. (I, 128)
Mazu: The Way does not require cultivation—just don’t pollute it.
What is pollution? As long as you have a fluctuating mind fabricating artificialities, all of this is pollution.
If you want to understand the Way directly, the normal mind is the Way.
What I mean by the normal mind is the mind without artificiality, without subjective judgments, without grasping or rejection. (I, 133)
Dazhu: My teacher said to me, “The treasure house within you contains everything, and you are free to use it. You don’t need to seek outside.” (I, 135)
Linji: There is no stability in the world; it is like a house on fire. This is not a place where you can stay for a long time. The murderous demon of impermanence is instantaneous, and it does not chose between the upper and lower classes, or between the old and the young.
If you want to be no different from the buddhas and Zen masters, just don’t seek externally.
The pure light in a moment of awareness in your mind is the Buddha’s essence within you. The nondiscriminating light in a moment of awareness in your mind is the Buddha’s wisdom within you. The undifferentiated light in a moment of awareness in your mind is the Buddha’s manifestation within you. (I, 136)
Linji: If you try to grasp Zen in movement, it goes into stillness. If you try to grasp Zen in stillness, it goes into movement. It is like a fish hidden in a spring, drumming up waves and dancing independently.
Movement and stillness are two states. The Zen master, who does not depend on anything, makes deliberate use of both movement and stillness. (I, 140)
Fayan: If you memorize slogans, you are unable to make subtle adaptations according to the situation. It is not that there is no way to teach insight to learners, but once you have learned a way, it is essential that you get it to work completely. If you just stick to your teacher’s school and memorize slogans, this is not enlightenment, it is a part of intellectual knowledge.
This is why it is said, “When your perception only equals that of your teacher, you lessen the teacher’s virtue by half. When your perception goes beyond the teacher, only then can you express the teacher’s teaching.”
The sixth ancestor of Zen said to someone who had just been awakened, “What I tell you is not a secret. The secret is in you.”
Another Zen master said to a companion, “Everything flows from your own heart.” (I, 145)
Xuedou: The river of Zen is quiet, even in the waves; the water of stability is clear, even in the waves. (I, 149)
Huanglong: To travel around to various schools looking for teachers is outward seeking. To take the inherent nature of awareness as the ocean and the silent knowledge of transcendent wisdom as Zen, is called inward seeking.
To seek outwardly busies you fatally; to seek inwardly while dwelling on mind and body binds you fatally.
Therefore Zen is neither inward nor outward, nor being or nonbeing, not real or false. As it is said, “Inner and outer views are both wrong.” (I, 151)
Wuzu: Talking about Zen all the time is like looking for fish tracks in a dry riverbed. (I, 156)
Yuanwu: Human lives go along with circumstances. It is not necessary to reject activity and seek quiet; just make yourself inwardly empty while outwardly harmonious. Then you will be at peace in the midst of frenetic activity in the world. (I, 158)
Yuanwu: If you have great perceptions and capacities, you need not necessarily contemplate the sayings and stories of ancient Zen masters. Just correct your attention and quiet your mind from the time you arise in the morning, and whatever you say or do, review it carefully and see where it comes from and what makes all this happen.
Once you can pass through right in the midst of present worldly conditions, the same applies to all conditions—what need is there to remove them?
Then you can go beyond “Zen,” transcend all parameters, and magically produce a sanctuary of purity, effortlessness, and coolness, right in the midst of the turmoil of the world. (I, 168)
Yuanwu: You do not have to abandon worldly activities in order to attain effortless unconcern. You should know that worldly activities and effortless unconcern are not two different things—but if you keep thinking about rejection and grasping, you make them into two. (I, 168)
Foyan: Why do you not understand your nature, when it is inherently there? There is not much to Buddhism—it just requires getting to the essential.
We do not teach you to annihilate random thoughts, suppress body and mind, shut your eyes, and say this is Zen. Zen is not like this.
You should observe your present state—what is the reason for it? Why do you become confused? (I, 170)
Foyan: An ancient said, “The Way is always with people, but people themselves chase after things.” (I, 175)
Foyan: My teacher said, “When you are asleep, study Zen as you sleep. When you are eating, study Zen as you eat.” (I, 178)
Dahui: The realm of the enlightened is not an external realm with manifest characteristics; buddhahood is the realm of the sacred knowledge found in oneself.
You do not need paraphernalia, practices, or realizations to attain it. What you need is to clean out the influences of the psychological afflictions connected with the external world that have been accumulating in your psyche since beginningless time.” (I, 181)
Dahui: The Flower Ornament Scripture says, “Do not see Buddha in one phenomenon, one event, one body, one land, one being—see Buddha everywhere.” (I, 181)
Dahui: Zen is not in quietude, nor is it in clamor. It is not in thought and discrimination, nor is it in dealing with daily affairs. But even so, it is most important that you not abandon quiet and clamor, dealing with daily affairs, or thought and discrimination, in order to study Zen. When your eyes open, you will find all these are your own business. (I, 184)
Dahui: People are backwards—ignorant of the true self, they pursue things, willingly suffering immeasurable pains in their greed for a little bit of pleasure. In the mornings, before they’ve opened their eyes and gotten out of bed, when they’re still only half awake, their minds are already flying about in confusion, flowing along with random thoughts. Although good and bad deeds have not yet appeared, heaven and hell are already formed in their hearts before they even get out bed. By the time they go into action, the seeds of heaven and hell are already implanted in their minds….
If you really see through this, you understand the meaning of impersonality. You now that heaven and hell are nowhere else but in the heart of the half awake individual about to get out of bed—they do not come from outside.
While in the process of waking up, you should really pay attention. While you are paying attention, you should not make any effort to struggle with whatever is going on in your mind. While struggling you waste energy. As the third ancestor of Zen said, “If you try to stop movement and return to stillness, the attempt to be still will increase movement.” (I, 185)
Dahui: To attain Zen enlightenment it is not necessary to give up family life, quit your job, become a vegetarian, practice asceticism, or flee to a quiet place. (I, 127)
Hongzhi: The original light is everywhere, and you then adapt to the potential at hand; everything you meet is Zen. (I, 190)
Ying-an: The beginning of cultivating yourself is right in yourself; on a thousand mile journey, the first step is the most important. If you can do both of these well, the infinite sublime meanings of hundreds of thousands of teachings will be fulfilled. (I, 193)
Ying-an: If you want to see the subtle mind of Zen, that is very easy. Just step back and pick it up with intense strength during all of your activities, whatever you are doing, even as you eat, drink, and talk, even as you experience the stress of attending to the world. (I, 199)
Ying-an: It covers form and sound, pervades sky and earth, penetrates above and below. There is no second view, no second person, no second thought. It is everywhere, in everything, not something external. (I, 202)
Yuansou: In Buddhism there is no place to apply effort. Everything in it is normal—you put on clothes to keep warm and eat food to stop hunger—that’s all. If you consciously try to think about it, it is not what you think of. If you consciously try to arrange it, it is not what you arrange. (I, 206)
Yuansou: An ancient philosopher had a saying, “It is hard to live long with a great name.” I carry out the plan of contentment in everyday life, and do not trouble myself for fame or gain. If such concerns press on your mind, when would you ever be satisfied? (I, 15)
And now, every move I make is also the living meaning of Buddhism. (I, 32)
My late teacher Ciming once said, “One who preserves the Way though old age to death in mountains and valleys is not as good as one who practiced the Way leading a group of people in a commune.” (I, 36)
Niu-T’ou Hui-Chung: It has been asked, “How should those who enter the path apply their minds?”
All things are originally uncreated and presently undying. Just let your mind be free; you don’t have to restrain it.
See directly and hear directly; come directly and go directly. When you must go, then go; when you must stay, then stay.
This is the true path. A scripture says, “Conditional existence is the site of enlightenment, insofar as you know it as it really is.” (II, 10-11)
Ma-tsu: The way does not require cultivation; just don’t defile it. What is defilement? As long as you have a fluctuating mind, artificiality, or compulsive tendencies, all of this is defilement.
If you want to understand the way directly, the normal mind is the way. What I call the normal mind is free from artificiality: in it there is no right or wrong, no grasping or rejection, no extinction or permanence, no banality or sanctity. A scripture says, “Neither the conduct of ordinary people nor the conduct of saints, it is the conduct of enlightening beings.”
Right now, as you walk, stand, sit, and recline, responding to situations and dealing with people, all is the way. The way is the realm of reality. No matter how many the countless inconceivable functions, they are not beyond the realm of reality. If it were not so, how could we speak of the teaching ground of mind, how could we speak of the inexhaustible lamp? (II, 11)
Ma-tsu: All things are Buddhist teachings; all things are liberating. Liberation is true suchness, and nothing is apart from true suchness. Walking, standing, sitting, and reclining are all inconceivable acts.
This does not depend on time: scripture says, “Everywhere, everyplace, is Buddha considered to be.” (II, 12)
Ma-tsu: What is fundamentally there is there now; you don’t need to cultivate the path and sit meditating. Not cultivating and not sitting is the pure meditation of those who realize suchness.
Now, if you see this principle truly and accurately and do not fabricate any actions but pass your life according to your lot, fulfilling your minimal needs wherever you are, disciplined conduct increasingly taking effect, accumulating pure actions—as long as you can be like this, why worry about not attaining mastery? (II, 13)
Tan-hsia: You guard a spiritual thing: it isn’t something you could make, and it isn’t something you can describe. In this ground of ours, there is no Buddha, no nirvana, and no path to practice, no doctrine to actualize. The way is not within existence or nonexistence—what method would one then practice? This abundant light, wherever you are, in every situation, is itself the great way. (II, 16)
Mu-chou: Productive labor as a means of livelihood is not contrary to the truth. (II, 19)
Hsuan-sha: If you have a great root of faith, the buddhas are just states of your own experience; whether you are walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, never is it not this. (II, 22)
Ying-an: When you get to the point where there is neither delusion nor enlightenment, you simply dress and eat as normal, without a bunch of arcane interpretations and lines of doctrine jamming your chest, so you’re clear and uncluttered. (II, 38)
Sung-yuan: Just manage to pay attention twenty-four hours a day, whatever you may be doing, stepping back into yourself and silently bringing up over and over again the contemplation “What is this?” Keep contemplating throughout your comings and goings, contemplating until you reach the point where there is no flavor, and no place to get a grip or a foothold, and your body and mind are like space, yet do not seem like space. Suddenly you lose your footing and stomp over the scenery of the original ground, breaking out in a sweat. This makes our life joyful!
Then you can respond to people according to potential, picking up what comes to hand, saying what comes to mind, putting to use what is right there, having a way out in every expression. Buddhism and things of the world become one. (II, 43)
Ch’ih-chueh: What is the realm of buddhahood? Basically it is the normal course of one’s own mind in everyday life; it’s just that one daily buries one’s head in things and events and is swept along under the influence of objects.
If you want to harmonize with the realm of buddhahood, if you can just keep mindful twenty-four hours a day, not giving up through every state of mind, one day it will be like meeting an old friend in a busy city: “Oh! So here you are!” (II, 45)
Ch’ih-chueh: If you can get rid of the veils over the mind, restore the root of nature, and clearly see the mind in the midst of everyday life, then emotions, thoughts, and desires; creation, subsistence, change, and extinction; earth, water, fire, and air, are all your own subtle functions. (II, 46)
Wu-chun: The path is in daily activities, but if you linger in daily activities, then you are taking a thief for your son. If you seek some special life outside of daily activities, that is like brushing aside waves to look for water. (II, 48)
Wei-tse: The subtle path of buddhas and Zen masters is not an irrational creation of knotty problems, nor is it eccentricity or weirdery. And it is not something that is very lofty and hard to practice: it is just what you presently use all the time in your everyday activities. If we have to give it a name, we might call it the natural real Buddha in your own nature, or the master within your own self…. In ultimate terms, the individual lives of all the buddhas and Zen masters of the ten directions are all in your grip—whether to gather them together or let them disperse is up to you. (II, 66)
Pao-Chih: Buddhahood and ordinary life are of one kind; ordinary beings are themselves Buddhas. The common man creates arbitrary distinctions, clinging to the existence of what has none, rushing in confusion. When you realize desire and wrath are void, what place is not a door to reality? (95)
If you really want to deal with birth and death, just avoid drifting off under any circumstances, whether you are dressing or eating, attending the calls of nature, walking, standing, sitting, or lying down.
Be like someone who sees a ferocious tiger, totally engrossed in getting away and escaping with his life. (II, 122)
Pao-chih: The Great Way is always present, but though it’s present, it’s hard to see. If you want to understand the true essence of the way, do not get rid of sound and form, words and speech; words and speech are themselves the Great Way. (II, 144)
Pao-chih: The ignorant fear hell, but the wise consider it no different from heaven. If the mind is never aroused toward objects, then wherever you walk is the site of enlightenment.
Buddhas are not separate from people, but people create disparity themselves. If you want to get rid of the three poisons, you will never leave the conflagration; the wise know that mind is Buddha, while the ignorant wish for paradise. (II, 146)
Daio: The great cause of the Buddhas is not apart from your daily affairs. (II, 153)
Daio: The sphere of perfect communion is clear everywhere—why are people in such a hurry? (II, 153)
Emyo: If you wish to understand yourself, you must succeed in doing so in the midst of all kinds of confusions and upsets. Don’t make the mistake of sitting dead in the cold ashes of a withered tree. (II, 153)
Torei: When you walk, practice while walking. When you rest, practice while resting. When you speak, practice while speaking. (II, 155)
The Zen master said, “Buddhism is not a matter of using your discursive intellect to govern your body. It is a matter of using the moment of the immediate present purely, not wasting it, without thinking about past or future.
“This is why the ancients exhorted people first of all to be careful of time: this means guarding the mind strictly, sweeping away all things, whether good or bad, and detaching from the ego.” (III, 640)
National Teacher Daitō Kokushi, whose honorific name means “Great Lamp, Teacher of the Nation,” was one of the founders of the renowned Ō-Tō -Kan school of Rinzai Zen. He died in the fourteenth century.
According to the custom of ancient Zen schools, Daitō disappeared from the monastery after his enlightenment, to mature his realization hidden in the midst of the world.
It was not until years later that he was discovered living under a bridge in Kyoto, in the society of homeless beggars. From there he became a teacher of the emperor.
Daitō once wrote a poem about his life as an outcast:
When one sits in meditation,
one sees the people
coming and going
over the avenue bridge
as trees growing deep in the mountains. (III, 641)
To manage a household and to govern a state are also religious practices. (III, 642)
Zen master Tenkei used to admonish his followers, “You should be genuine in all things. Nothing that is genuine in the world is not genuine in Buddhism, and nothing that is not genuine in Buddhism is genuine in the world.”
He would also say, “See with your eyes, hear with your ears. Nothing in the world is hidden; what would you have me say?” (III, 650)
Zen master Man-an wrote to a lay student of Zen, “If you want to quickly attain mastery of all truths and be independent in all events, there is nothing better than concentration in activity. That is why it is said that students of mysticism working on the Way should sit in the midst of the material world.
“The Third Patriarch of Zen said, ‘If you want to head for the Way of Unity, do not be averse to the objects of the six senses.’ This does not mean that you should indulge in the objects of the six senses; it means that you should keep right mindfulness continuous, neither grasping nor rejecting the objects of the six senses in the course of everyday life, like a duck going into the water without its feathers getting wet.
“If, in contrast, you despise the objects of the six senses and try to avoid them, you fall into escapist tendencies and never fulfill the Way of Buddhahood. If you clearly see the essence, then the objects of the six senses are themselves meditation, sensual desires are themselves the Way of Unity, and all things are manifestations of Reality. Entering into the great Zen stability undivided by movement and stillness, body and mind are both freed and eased.” (III, 651-2)
The sun my eyes,
the sky my face,
my breath the wind,
mountains and rivers
turn out to be me. (III, 702)
When you’re headed for good fortune,
don’t forget to remember
that the world is inconstant. (III, 705)
As an ancient said, if people today were eager for enlightenment as they are to embrace their lovers, then no matter how busy their professional lives might be, and no matter how luxurious their dwellings, they would not fail to attain continuous concentration leading to appearance of the Great Wonder.
Many people of both ancient and modern times have awakened to the Way and seen essential nature in the midst of activity. All beings in all times and places are manifestations of one mind. When the mind is aroused, all sorts of things arise; when the mind is quiet, all things are quiet. When the one mind is unborn, all things are blameless. For this reason, even if you stay in quiet and serene places deep in the mountains and sit silently in quiet contemplation, as long as the road of the mind-monkey’s horse of conceptualization is not cut off, you will only be wasting time. (III, 708-9)
Torio Tokuan said, “Do not consider yourself elevated in comparison to ordinary people. Those who are commonplace just rise and fall on the road of fame and profit, without practicing the Way or following the Way.
“They are only to be pitied, not despised or resented. Do not give rise to judgmental thoughts by comparing yourself to them; do not give rise to ideas of higher and lower.
“This is the attitude needed to enter the Way of the sages and saints, buddhas and bodhisattvas. Therefore we place ourselves in the state of ordinary people, assimilating to the ordinary, while our will is on the Way, and we investigate its wonders.” (III, 710)
When one is poor and covets nothing, he has already avoided these problems and is free and at ease. The proof is right before your eyes; don’t wait to find it in the scriptures. (III, 778)
An ancient saying has it, “The rat in the storehouse hungers for food; the ox pulling the plough hasn’t his fill of grass.” What this means is that one is hungry though in the midst of food, one lacks for grass while being in the middle of grass. People are also like this: though they are in the midst of the Buddha-Way, they do not merge with the Way. If the mind which seeks fame and profit does not come to rest, one will be ill at ease all his life long. (III, 843)
The Buddhas and Patriarchs were all originally ordinary men. While they were ordinary men, they could not but have done bad things, had bad thoughts, been stupid, been foolish. Nevertheless, because they all changed, followed wise teachers, and cultivated practice, they all became Buddhas and Patriarchs.
You people now should be likewise. Do not demean ourselves, saying that you are stupid and dull. If you do not arouse your minds in this life, when will you ever practice the Way? If you now practice insistently, you should not fail to attain the Way. (III, 847)
The Third Chinese Patriarch: “Do not despise the six senses, for the six senses are not bad; after all, they are the same as true awakening.” (IV, 16)
Thomas Cleary: “It is not that the senses are bad, as explained earlier, but compulsively following sense experience makes one vulnerable to external influences, even external control. That is why liberative nirvana is not destruction or obliteration of sense and perception, but freedom of mind and thought in the very midst of sense and perception.” (IV, 75)
P’u-an: There were some who went frantically seeking, clinging to forms; they took up walking sticks and traveled over a thousand mountains and ten thousand rivers, not knowing for themselves that the body is the site of enlightenment.” (V, 79-80)
Pai-chang: Things have never declared themselves empty, nor do they declare themselves form; and they do not declare themselves right, wrong, defiled, or pure. Nor is there a mind that binds and fetters people.
It is just because people themselves give rise to vain and arbitrary attachments that they create so many kinds of understanding, produce so many kinds of opinion, and give rise to many various likes and fears.
Just understand that all things do not originate of themselves. All of them come into existence from your own single mental impulse of imagination mistakenly clinging to appearances.
If you know that mind and objects fundamentally do not contact each other, you will be set free on the spot. Everything is in a state of quiescence right where it is; this very place is the site of enlightenment. (V, 99-100)