On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

February 15, 2024

Mind is the One Vehicle

Guifeng Zongmi (780–841)

Question: What is the One Vehicle?

Answer: Mind is the One Vehicle.

Question: How do we know that mind, which is empty and without anything here, is the One Vehicle?

Answer: It is obvious that mind, which is empty and without anything there, is the One Vehicle

Question: Do we become sages by completely perceiving that mind, being empty and without anything there, is the One Vehicle?

Answer: Yes, we become sages.

Question: Is the ordinary still there too?

Answer: The ordinary is still there too.

Question: Are ordinary and sage different or not?

Answer: There is no difference at all. With awakening, the person who is ordinary in the morning is a sage by evening. Without awakening, you are subject to birth in the six planes of existence.

Question: What is this awakening you mention?

Answer: Awakening to mind.

Question: Are ordinary mind and sage mind one thing or two?

Answer: They are one.

Question: How can they be one?

Answer: If you completely perceive that reality-nature is pure and clean and from the beginning free from defilements and attachments, then you will know they are one.

Question: Who knows that there are no defilements or attachments?

Answer: Mind knows that there are no defilements.

Question: How does mind know that there are no defilements?

Answer: All the buddhas of the past, present, and future explain that mind is formless, and its essential being is ultimately unattainable. Thus we know that it has no defilements.

Question: Since it is formless, how can we know it has no defilements?

Answer: We know it has no defilements precisely because it is formless. If it had form or aspect or location, it would have defilements.

Question: You have spoken of mind. How many kinds of mind are there in all?

Answer: If you awaken, one mind is attainable. If you do not awaken, then there are many kinds of mind, an incalculable number.

Question: What is ordinary mind? What is sage mind?

Answer: If you grasp form, this is ordinary mind. If you detach from form, this is sage mind.

Question: Please instruct us in the essentials of mind that grasps form and mind that does not grasp form.

Answer: When those cultivating the Path have views of mind coming and going, views of mind being long or short, views of good and evil, hateful views and loving views, angry views and joyful views, views of right and wrong, views of ordinary and sage, views of independence and dependence, views of nirvana, views of being liberated and of not being liberated, views of buddhas and bodhisattvas, views of meditative concentration, views of wisdom, and so on—all of these are instances of the mind of false thinking of ordinary people.

Question: What is the mind of people who are sages?

Answer: Not arousing a thought, not seeing a thing—this is the mind of the sages.

Question: Chan Master, have you attained the mind of the sages?

Answer: I have no attainment.

Question: If you have no attainment, how do you have knowledge?

Answer: Right now I have neither attainment nor knowledge. Thus the sutra says: “He has no knowledge and no attainment. By having no attainment, he is a bodhisattva.”

Question: Ultimately to whom does this truth belong?

Answer: It belongs to nothing at all. If it belonged to anything this would be more revolving in birth and death. Since there is nothing to which it belongs ultimately, it abides forever.

Guifeng Zongmi (780–841)

Excerpted from Zen Dawn- Early Zen Texts from Tun Huang trans by J.C. Cleary 1986

We have all asked questions of a teacher and kept on asking without pausing to experience the answer. It is like having a greed for views where there is this insatiable drive to collect answers without discovering anything for oneself.

Any one of the answers given above deserves contemplation; just understanding the conventional meaning of the words themselves does not reveal the experience behind the words.

Which of the answers above will you go deeper with, and how would you do that? They are like mountains to climb requiring a bit more effort than just a casual read through.

Exploring more depth together,

Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen