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. On The Way

Discourse of Master Han Shan



Concerning this great matter, the Tao, everyone has possessed it from the beginning. It is always with each of you. The difficulty is that from the very no-beginning-time the Wonderful Illumination has been covered over by seeds of passion, streams of thought, the flow of conceptualization, and deeply rooted habitual thinking. Therefore, we have never been able to grasp the actual realization itself, but instead have wandered among the shadows of delusory thoughts about mind, body, and the world.

Previously, the Buddha and Patriarchs who incarnated in this world, through the use of thousands of words and various methods, preached the Doctrine, or Zen. All their teachings were nothing but instruments to crush the habitual "clingings" infecting human thought. There is no Dharma in the sense of something real or concrete in that which they have handed down to us. The so-called practice or work is merely a method for purifying the shadows of our habitual thinking and flowing thoughts.

To concentrate all one’s efforts to this end is called "work." If suddenly the surging thoughts stop, one clearly sees that his self-mind is originally pure, genuine, vast, illuminating, perfect, and devoid of objects. This is called "Wu." There is nothing outside of the mind, nothing which can be worked upon, and nothing to be enlightened…. However, the egotistic passions, long-accumulated and rooted within us, are difficult to wipe out.

The first step you should take in Zen work is to forget about all understanding and knowledge and concentrate on one thought. Firmly believe that your self-mind is originally pure and clear, without the slightest trace of any existence – bright, perfect, and ubiquitous throughout the entire universe. From the beginning there was no body, mind, or world, nor any erroneous thoughts or infective passions.

Search out the point where your thoughts arise and disappear. See where a thought arises and vanishes. Keep this point in mind and try to break right through it. Take up this awareness as if holding a sharp sword in your hand.

Abruptly, the violence of mind stops;
Inner body, outer world -
both are transparently clear
After the great overturn
The great Voidness is broken through.
Oh! How freely the myriad
Manifestations come and go!

- Zen Master Han Shan (1545 - ?) from The Practice of Zen by Chang Chen-Chi (1959; out of print)




Concerning this great matter, the Tao, stops us as we try to understand the above passage. If we can pause and let everything just be as it is, there is the opportunity for the beginning of wisdom and freedom. In today’s world these big "understandings" can get in the way of true experience.

Too often we read or hear something so vast and spacious and then quickly place it in a pigeon-hole of our mind. We can easily confuse the comprehension of words with an experience they allude to and then settle for a shadow world of understandings. However…

It is imperative for those who practice the Way to believe in it. Those who have faith in the Way should know for certain that they are unfailingly in the Way from the very beginning- thus free from confusions, delusions, being upside down, increase and decrease, and errors. Believing in this manner and penetrating the Way thus, practice it accordingly. Such is the fundamental of learning the Way.

Dogen (1200-1253)


your host, the monkessMay your practice be strong,
The Monkess



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