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.On The Way

Emptying and Opening Body and Mind

- Hung-chih Cheng-chueh




All things originate from the mind. When the whole mind is silent, all appearances end. Which is other, which is self? When there is no sign of differentiation, not even a single atom can be established. When not a single thought is born, you penetrate through before the womb and after the skin bag; one point of inconceivable illumination, whole and undifferentiated, without corners, edge or traces that cannot be dimmed. What cannot be dimmed is called inherent knowledge; the point of inherent knowledge is called the fundamental endowment.

When you realize all things are empty you are free in all states of mind and penetrate beyond through every atom of dust. The primordial beam of light pervades everywhere and transforms according to the energies and situations. Everything it meets is the source, subtly illuminating all things. Empty, the wind in the pines and the moon in the water respond outwardly without getting confused. Live in clear harmony, without a wandering mind, not sticking anywhere. With a mind like spring bearing flowers, like a mirror reflecting images; in the midst of floods of tumult, you will naturally stand serene above it all.

When your state is thoroughly peaceful and your livelihood is cool and serene, you will see the emptiness of the ages; there is nothing to be troubled by, nothing that can obstruct. Empty, absolute and radiant; clear, complete and shining; it clearly exists for all ages, never dimmed. If you want to remain tranquil, cover and uphold in the same way as sky and earth - appearing or disappearing, shutting down or opening up, all are up to you.

Clean, pure, perfectly clear; the power of the eye cannot reach its bounds. Still, silent, empty and vast, the ken of the mind cannot find its edges. One who investigates sincerely and really arrives considers this the fundamental ground; neither buddhas nor demons can enter; neither dust nor dirt can defile it.

There is utterly no way to study this matter; the essence lies in emptying and opening body and mind so they are vast as space, then you will naturally be complete everywhere. This awareness cannot be dimmed, this clarity cannot be confused. The moon follows the flowing waters, the rain goes with the moving clouds. Each and every sense and sensation is immediate and absolute. Therefore it was said that a saint has no self, but there is nothing that is not himself. It is so obvious, so clear; you realize that gathered in or let out, it has become a white bull on open ground, which you cannot drive away even if you try.

- Collected writings and sayings of Hung-chih Cheng-chueh (1091-1157)
from "Timeless Spring - A Soto Zen Anthology"; Thomas Cleary (out of print)




There have been countless teachers through the centuries attempting to guide students to a point of awakening, going beyond the skinline. Many teachers and teachings have come about in response to students' varying abilities to comprehend the Indescribable Whole. Zen Master Hongzhi's unique message is richly interwoven with images from nature which speak to a more subtle part of us. There is a voice within the natural environment, quiet but ever present, always ready to profoundly affect us.

A person of the Way fundamentally does not dwell anywhere. The white clouds are fascinated with the green mountain's foundation. The bright moon cherishes being carried along with the flowing water. The clouds part, and the mountain appears. The moon sets, and the water is cool. Each bit of autumn contains vast interpenetration without bounds.

- From Cultivating the Empty Field - The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi translated by Dan Leighton and Yi Wu

Occasionally we melt through the skinline and enter the experience of the writer to see into another world.

The Evening Forest

The cool, dark fir forest was bordered by a lush green meadow and a rushing, roaring mountain stream. One sharp snowy finger of the mountain pointed skyward just visible above the tallest trees. The cold stream poured from a glacier somewhere behind that pinnacle.

The meadow was large and almost flat with islands of grey snags near the center and along two edges. A hundred years ago it was a swamp; a hundred years before that a watercourse of many small streams, streams that were just beginning to become clogged with reeds and dead grasses. Today it was a beautiful meadow filled with countless pink shooting stars. Someday it would be a fir forest.

Today it was a meadow, and its thick grass was a green that only can be seen at high altitudes on a clear day beneath an azure sky. The early evening light washed the meadow and the treetops in an orange glow. The roar of the rushing stream seemed both softened and broadened by that luminescence.

The stream was large enough that it was better crossed in the morning before the midday sun would wake and thaw the sleeping snowfields above. Then the melting snows of the warm afternoon would send forth torrents that coursed wildly down the mountainside. Then the falls just below the ford would literally boom. The booming resounded in the mountain valley, echoing, filling it like water fills a vessel.

Everything within that refreshing vessel of dark green forest was immersed in that steady reverberation. Immersed in a divine roar whose endless layers echoed off transparent walls. It's not the sort of sound you can hear solely with your ears. Even to bathe in it won't be enough, because there'll still be someone there to interfere, to interpret and create details.

It has to be felt deeper, below the surface, at the very point where all senses merge. Merge with them right there like a fleck of foam falling into a stream. Just by listening with your eyes you can fold back on yourself and merge into that primal stream of awareness like a river is swallowed by the immensity of the ocean. Only then will you know what point to live from. Only then will you be sure.

- From Journeys on Mind Mountain


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