On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

July 09, 2010

Absorption in the Treasury of Light pt 1

 Master Ejo  (1198-1282)

There is a chapter on light in the Shobogenzo; the reason for writing this essay now is just to bring out this essential substance, the fact that the countenance of Buddhism is absorption in the treasury of light.

The so-called treasury of light is the root source of all Buddhas, the inherent being of all living creatures, the total substance of all phenomena, the treasury of the great light of spiritual powers of complete awareness.  The three bodies, four knowledges, and states of absorption numerous as atoms in every aspect of reality, all appear from within this.

This great light of Lamplike Illuminate pervades the universe, without differentiating between the mundane and the sacred. Because this one light extends throughout all time, if there were any attaining it, then it would have to be twofold.

The Scripture on the Miraculous Empowerment of Vairochana attaining Buddhahood says,

“Oh, Master of the Secret, what is enlightenment? 

“It means knowing your mind as it really is.  This is unexcelled complete perfect enlightenment, in which there is nothing at all that can be attained.  Why?  Because enlightenment has no form; it has no knowledge and no understanding.

Student:  If Buddha-nature is present now within the body, it is not separate from ordinary people. Then why can’t I see it?  Would you please explain this more?

The same scripture says, “Master of the Secret, the practice of the Great Vehicle awakens the mind that transports you to the unconditioned, guided by selflessness.  Why?

“Those who have cultivated this practice in the past have observed the basis of the clusters of mental and physical elements, and know they are like illusions, mirages, shadows, echoes, rings of fire, castles in the air.

“Thus they relinquish the selfish, and the host of the mind autonomously awakens to the fundamental nonarousal of the essential mind.  Why?  Because what is before mind and what is after mind cannot be apprehended.  Thus knowing the nature of the essential mind, you transcend two eons of yoga practice.” 

The Flower Ornament Scripture also says, “The body of Buddha radiates great light of infinite colors perfectly pure, like rainbows covering all lands. All who are illumined by the light rejoice; beings with pains have them all removed.  Everyone is inspired with respect and develops a compassionate heart.  This is the independent function of enlightenment.”

The knowledge of the enlightened is light, a concentration of the light of immutable knowledge beyond the two extremes of ordinary and holy, or absolute and conventional. It is the light of the nonconceptual knowledge of Manjushri, who represents great knowledge.  This becomes manifest in the effortlessness of simply sitting.

“The practice of the Great Vehicle awakens the mind that transports you to the unconditioned, guided by selflessness.”  The Third Patriarch of Zen said, “Do not seek reality, just stop views.”  Obviously there is no ego in the treasury of light, no opinionated interpretation.  Ego and opinions are different names of spirit heads and ghost faces.  This is just the light alone, not setting up any opinions or views, from the idea of self and ego to the ideas of Buddha and Dharma. 

So we should know that this light is the universal illumination of matchless, peerless great light completely filled with infinite meaning.   Sitting meditation is absorption in the treasury of light inherited directly from Shakyamuni.  This is the light that is not two in ordinary people and sages, that is one vehicle in past and present.  It does not let anything inside out and does not let anything outside in:  who would randomly backslide into cramped boredom within the context of discriminatory social and personal relationships?  It cannot be grasped, cannot be abandoned: why suffer because of emotional consciousness grasping and rejecting, hating and loving? 

In The Lotus Sutra Manjushri is told, “Great enlightening beings dwell in a state of forebearance, gentle, docile, and not rough, their minds undisturbed.  And they do not ruminate over things, but see the real character of things, and do not act indiscriminately.”  This is simply sitting: without acting indiscriminately, one thereby  goes along in conformity with great light.

A verse from the same book says:

“Delusion conceives of things as existent or nonexistent,

As being real or unreal, as born or unborn.

In an uncluttered place, concentrate your mind,

Remain steady and unmoving, like a polar mountain.

Observe that all phenomena have no existence,

That they are like space, without solid stability,

Neither being born nor emerging.

Unmoving, unflagging, abide in oneness:

This is called the place of nearness.”

This is a direct indication, “only expounding the unexcelled Way, getting straight to the point, setting aside expedients.”

In China, the great master Bodhidharma replied to the question of an emperor about the ultimate meaning of the holy truths, “Empty, nothing holy.”  This is the great mass of fire of the light of the Zen of the founding teachers: crystal clear on all sides, there is nothing in it at all.  Outside of this light, there is no separate practice, no different principle, much less any knowledge of objects; how could there  be any practice or cultivation, or deliberate effort to effect specific remedies?

The emperor said to Bodhidharma, “Who is it replying to me?”

Bodhidharma said, “Don’t know.”  This is simply the single light that is empty.

The light is everyone:  Shakyamuni and Maitreya are its servants.  What is not more in Buddhas or less in ordinary beings is this spiritual light, so it is existent in all; it is the whole earth as a single mass of fire.

 Master Ejo  (1198-1282)

Excerpted from Minding Mind – A Course in Basic Meditation translated by Thomas Cleary

“Sitting meditation is absorption in the treasury of light inherited directly from Shakyamuni.”

It is rare to hear in Zen anyone state exactly what meditation is; there are a lot of questions asked, and a little technique discussed, but originally students just sat and found out for themselves.  They would go to their Zen master and be tested from time to time, listen to numerous discourses on Buddhism, but the real work was still up to them; the realizations to be discarded so as not to cling to any still limited understanding.  There are many ways to stop being genuinely engaged in practice. 

This piece conveys the sense of what is inherently so in each person, obscured by conditioning, culture, the seductions of the thinking mind.  The treasury of light is still so wonderfully ungraspable, and yet what gets in the way of being absorbed in this light?  No where is Ejo asking us to visualize rays of light coming from anywhere or generating a light body; there is this sense of just resting in the already so. 

What can we “do” with this?

“In an uncluttered place, concentrate your mind,

Remain steady and unmoving, like a polar mountain.”

Begin and continue…

From the midsummer mountains,


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