On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

Jan 22 1999

On Transmission of Mind

Huang-po (d. 850)

All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists.

This Mind, which is without beginning, is unborn and indestructible. It is not green nor yellow, and has neither form nor appearance. It does not belong to the categories of things which exist or do not exist, nor can it be thought of in terms of new or old. It is neither long nor short, big nor small, for it transcends all limits, measures, names, traces and comparisons. It is that which you see before you—begin to reason about it, and you at once fall into error. It is like the boundless void which cannot be fathomed or measured.

The One Mind alone is the Buddha, and there is no distinction between the Buddha and sentient things, but that sentient beings are attached to forms and so seek externally for Buddhahood. By their very seeking they lose it, for that is using the Buddha to seek for the Buddha and using mind to grasp Mind. Even though they do their utmost for a full aeon, they will not be able to attain it.

They do not know that, if they put a stop to conceptual thought and forget their anxiety, the Buddha will appear before them, for this Mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is all living beings. It is not the less for being manifested in ordinary beings, nor is it greater for being manifested in the Buddhas.

As to performing the six paramitas and vast numbers of similar practices, or gaining merits as countless as the sands of the Ganges, since you are fundamentally complete in every respect, you should not try to supplement that perfection by such meaningless practices. When there is occasion for them, perform them; and, when the occasion is passed, remain quiescent.

If you are not absolutely convinced that the Mind is the Buddha, and if you are attached to forms, practices and meritorious performances, your way of thinking is false and quite incompatible with the Way.

The Mind is the Buddha, nor are there any other Buddhas or any other mind. It is bright and spotless as the void, having no form or appearance whatever. To make use of your minds to think conceptually is to leave the substance and attach yourselves to form. The Ever-Existent Buddha is not a Buddha of form or attachment.

To practise the six paramitas and a myriad similar practices with the intention of becoming a Buddha thereby is to advance by stages. Only awake to the One Mind, and there is nothing whatsoever to be attained. This is the real Buddha. The Buddha and all sentient beings are One Mind and nothing else.

Huang po

excerpted from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po On the Transmission of Mind Trans by John Blofeld

Elana

Huang-po is recounting for his students an ultimate state of awareness and being. How does this apply to those of us who "practice" here and now?

There’s practice and there’s Practice. One seems to keep us enmired in the world of relativity and gaining mind, levels, and stages. If not careful we can become lost in initiations and rituals that become repetitive and dull over time and fail to deliver that essence we long for. First we must examine our own intent in practice. Gaining mind is subtle to see in oneself, but all of us have experienced this with practice.

To really enter the realm of Practice we have to find a way to do without doing, to do without the feeling of doing and to discover a kind of pure intent which allows us to throw ourselves into practice simply for the joy of participation in the whole and not to get just another understanding.

True practice is a way for returning to who we are before our sense of limitation arises; to return to that state before the beginning, before gaining mind confuses everything. Huang-po is reminding his students about practices and Practice – One Mind.

What is your practice based on? Examine for yourself your intent in practice. Pause now and return to the before-mind, the blue sky mind. Look out from the window of the mind. Discover Practice before beginning to practice.

Dedicated to a life of Practice,
Elana

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