On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

March 10, 2007

Anthology on the Cultivation of Realization

Author unknown Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)


It is said that the human mind is like water; when it is clear, it reflects every detail, but once it is disturbed, heaven and earth switch places. There are three paths to insights. The first is called insight into the emptiness of the person. This means realizing that there is no birth, no self, and no person.

The second insight is called insight into the emptiness of phenomena. This means realizing that the elements are conditional, temporary, and not actually real.

The third insight is called insight into the emptiness of emptiness. This means realizing cognition and objects both are empty, and this emptiness is also empty.


The whole Classic of the Mean is all about sincerity. To choose what is good and hold to it firmly is a matter of sincerity. Supreme sincerity is called sagehood; this is the celestial path. Maintaining sincerity is called wisdom; this is the human path. Only when we emulate the celestial can we attain the human; when we fulfill the human, we can accord with the celestial. Therefore it is said that they are one at the stage of attainment.

The Way of heaven and earth can give life to myriad beings only because of sincerity. The way of emperors and kings can govern people only through sincerity; the way of sages can provide myriad virtues only by sincerity.


Humanity is human; a human who is not humane yet wants to become a realized human being can in no way succeed. I consider what Confucians call humanity to be equivalent to what Buddhists call relics and Immortalists can the golden pill.

The mind is the house of humanity; humanity is the owner of the mind. Just clean your mind and you will accordingly sense basic energy coming back, filling your whole body; your turn around and look upon all things as one. This is a sign of self-realization. Therefore it is said, “If you master yourself and return to order one day, the whole world reverts to humanity.”

It is said the “the humane like mountains.” Mountains do not move over the ages; nothing is as long lived as a mountain. A mountain is always still; humane people are always calm.


A proverb says that sages accomplish the ultimate human attainment based on calmness. The ultimate attainment is great balance as a human being. Sages are based in calmness, not because they think calmness is good and so they focus on it, but because nothing disturbs their minds. They are naturally calm without seeking calmness.

People seeking calmness today have not gotten the true tradition. They all say to chain the mind-monkey tightly and tether the idea-horse fast. When they find they cannot chain or tether it down, finally they say the mind is ultimately ungraspable and thus calm. They do not even reflect that this practice is a mistake that is due to failure to attain knowledge.

When you attain knowledge, you are clear. When you are clear, you see that all truths in the world are settled and do not admit of any subjective ideas at all. This is what is known as having stability after knowing where to stop. After you are stable, you can be calm. After you are calm, you can be at peace.

Eventually if you forget fame and profit, your body will be at peace. Inwardly, if you forget cogitation and rumination, your mind will be at peace.

Everyone says that physical security is a blessing; I say that peace of mind is the Way. When Huike saw Bodhidharma, the founder of Chan, he said, “My mind is not yet at peace; please pacify it for me.”

Bodhidharma said, “Bring me your mind and I will pacify it for you.”

Huike said, “Having looked for my mind, I cannot find it.”

Bodhidharma said, “I have pacified your mind for you.”

Wenze said, “When you seek the mind in the past, present, and future, the mind is not there. When you look for delusion in the heart, delusion is originally not there. In the original nonbeing is enlightenment. This is called true attainment of the Way.”


No happiness is greater than attaining the Way. A day learning the Way is a day of happiness; every day learning the Way is everyday happiness; a lifetime learning the way is lifetime happiness. Learning the Way is basically a method of peace and happiness; that is why sages study it tirelessly.

Author unknown (1368-1644)

Excerpted form Taoist Meditation – Methods for Cultivating a Healthy Mind and Body-Translated by Thomas Cleary

Sometimes in practice it is refreshing to contemplate the qualities of a person of the Way.  In this piece an unknown Taoist has incorporated elements of Buddhism, Zen, and Taoism to express some of the qualities of a sage.  Meditation brings us close to the heart of calmness, insight, and sincerity as we develop our practice over the years.

Each day we are faced with challenges, and each time we have an opportunity to bring compassion and wisdom to the forefront rather than responding from monkey mind. It is like a true kind of human transmutation to find a deeper and kinder response, to be able to pause and give our heart instead of our habits to another.

                       Standing on a cliff,

                       Among the pines and oaks;

                       Spring has come

                       Clothed in mist.

                       Ryokan (1758-1831)

May all Beings have Happiness,


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