For Buddha’s pure transmission on Spirit Peak, for Bodhidharma’s secret
bequest on Few Houses Mountain, you must stand out beyond categories and
apart from conventions and test it in the movements of the windblown dust
With your eyes shining bright, you penetrate through obscurities and
recognize what is happening on the other side of the mountain. You swallow
your sound and eliminate your traces, without leaving behind anything
whatsoever. Yet you can set in motion waves that go against the current and
employ the ability that cuts off the flow. You are swift as a falcon that gets
mistaken for a shadow as it soars into the air with its back to the deep blue
sky. In the blink of an eye, it’s gone. Point to it, and it comes. Press it, and it
goes. It is unstoppably lofty and pure.
This is the way this true source is put into circulation, to serve as a model
and standard for later generations. All those who would communicate the
message of the source must be able to see through a person’s false
personality without blinking an eye; only then can they enter into it actively.
People with the will to reach the Truth must be fully developed and
thoroughly polished to be able to go beyond conventions and transcend sects.
They can only be seedlings of transcendence when at the subtle level they can
see through every drop, and at the expansive level the thousand sages cannot
Old Master Zufeng used to say, “Even Shakyamuni Buddha and Maitreya
Buddha are servants of the Way. Ultimately, what is the Way?” How can this
admit of arbitrary and confused probing? You will only get what you are
aiming for if you realize the Way.
In general, a good Zen teacher will energize the indomitable spirit of the
great person inside a student and cause them to move ahead into the superior
stream so that they cannot be trapped or called back. As a teacher helps
people respond to their potential, the process should all be clear and freeing.
If the supposed teacher uses contrived concepts of “mysteries” and
“marvels” and “the essence of truth,” how can this produce any genuine
expedient teachings? If they put a gleam in their eye and strut around
uttering apt sayings of doctrines they claim to be absolute reality, this is just
one blind man leading a crowd of blind people further into confusion.
When you make contact with Truth, then it covers heaven and earth.
Always nurturing it and putting it into practice, you discover an
extraordinary state. Only then do you share the understanding that comes
from Spirit Peak and Few Houses Mountain.
Who says that no one perceives “the priceless pearl?” I say the black
dragon’s pearl shines forth wherever it is.
— Excerpted from "Zen Letters - Teachings of Yuanwu"
Trans by J.C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary
Zen teachers of all times share the common theme of attempting to help
students realize their true nature. Finding a true teacher today can be quite a
challenge, but even in days long ago we find a similar situation as noted
above in Yuanwu’s letter. There are teachers lost in their role as teacher and
needing to teach for other reasons. To develop inner clarity, wherein one sees
without obstructions, is one of our challenges here. Whether in choosing a
teacher to study with or following a Way that takes us in other directions, the
same clarity is functioning to help us.
Many people today are practicing alone and seeking a teacher. Others are
finding a way to practice alone because finding a teacher of Yuanwu’s
qualifications can take years. Either way we all have within us Buddha
nature, and within Buddhism we recognize that it is within everyone’s ability
to realize that same inner nature.
Finding the genuine pearls of wisdom to help here is where our inner
wisdom/clarity comes to the fore.
Clarity is looking from the state before confusion arises,
Before opinions or compulsion arise. Paradoxically, clarity
is being able to watch confusion, opinions, or compulsions,
from the state before any of them arise.
The blue sky is independent of the billowing clouds, and this
prior, clear mind, this Blue Sky Mind, doesn’t get confused,
even when clouds of confusion are present. Even if our logical
mind has a problem with this, we still have to Return in order
Clarity. We just return over and over to this calm, unpressured
Blue Sky Mind. We begin to see that it’s always there even
when apparently obscured by passing clouds. That’s the way
no matter what our practice might be.
Watching Clouds Again,