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.On The Way

Transmitting Wisdom

Yuanwu (1063-1135)




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 and grasses.

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 find them.

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.

Yuanwu (1063-1135)

— 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.

True Clarity

    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 to understand.

    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.

    -Maverick Sutras


your host, the monkess


Watching Clouds Again,
The Monkess


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