On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

October 21, 2002

Gunabhadra Tripitaka

Gunabhadra Tripitaka (435-?)

Records of the Teachers and Students of the Lanka

Since coming to this country, I have not even seen people who cultivate the Path, much less anyone who has pacified mind. I often see people who go along creating karma, who have not merged with the Path. Some are concerned with fame and reputation; some act for the sake of profit and support. They operate with the mentality of self and others; they act with the attitude of jealousy. Even if you scrupulously perform various practices day and night, cut off afflictions and clear away obstructions, with this kind of attitude, barriers to the Path arise one after another, and you do not find peace and stillness. This is just called “cultivating the Path,” it is not called “pacifying the mind.”

Those who intend to be buddhas should first learn to pacify mind. Before mind is pacified, even good things are not good. When mind becomes peaceful and still, neither good nor evil has any basis.

Just now I spoke of pacifying mind. In brief, there are four kinds of mentality. First, the mentality that turns away from the truth: this is the mentality of those who go through life as ordinary people. Second, the mentality that turns toward truth: this means loathing birth and death and so seeking nirvana and going toward stillness: it is called the sravaka mentality. Third, the mind that enters truth: though you cut off barriers to the Path and reveal inner truth, subject and object are not yet nullified: this is the bodhisattva mentality. Fourth, the mind of truth: not mind outside truth, not truth outside mind; truth is mind.

Mind is able to be everywhere equal, so it is called truth. Truth’s awareness can illuminate everything, so it is called mind. Mind and truth are everywhere equal, so it is called Buddha-mind, the mind of enlightenment.

Those who understand reality do not see any difference between birth and death and nirvana and ordinary and holy. Objects and knowledge are not two: inner truth and phenomena are fused. Real and conventional are viewed as equal; defilement and purity are one Suchness. Buddhas and sentient beings are fundamentally equal and at one.

It is like the sun hidden behind floating clouds: when the clouds are gone, the sun appears by itself. What’s the use of any more learning or views? Why become involved in written or spoken words, and come back again to the path of birth and death? Those who take verbal explanations and literary accounts as the Path covet fame and profit: they ruin themselves and ruin others. It is like polishing a mirror; when the dust on the surface has been totally removed, the mirror itself is bright and clear.

The sutra says: “The Buddha is not Buddha, nor does he save sentient beings. Sentient beings impose distinctions, and think that Buddha saves sentient beings; thus they do not realize this Mind and they have no stability.” With realization, there is awareness, and Great Function amid causal origination, penetrating perfectly without obstruction; this is called “Great Cultivation of the Path.” There is no duality between self and other. All practices are carried out at once; there is no before or after, and no in between. It is called the Great Vehicle.

If they do not first learn to pacify mind, those who seek the Great Vehicle are sure to err in their knowledge. The Lankvatara Sutra says:

“How can one purify one’s thoughts? Do not allow false thinking. Do not allow defiled thinking. Put your utmost energy into mindfulness of Buddha. Let mindfulness of Buddha continue without a break: you will be still, without thoughts, and you will witness the fundamental empty purity. Once this is received, you do not fall back from eternal stillness. Thus Buddha said, ‘You learn from the teacher, but enlightenment does not come from the teacher.’ Whoever would make people wise has never expounded the Dharma. It is verified in the event.

“Can you enter a jar? Can you enter a pillar? Can you enter fire? Can you go through a mountain? Do you enter bodily or do you enter mentally?

“The leaves of a tree can preach the Dharma. A jar can preach the Dharma. A pillar can preach the Dharma. A staff can preach the Dharma. A room can preach the Dharma. Earth, water, fire, and air can all preach the Dharma. Earth, wood, tile, and stone can also preach the Dharma. What is this?”

Gunabhadra Tripitaka

excerpted from Zen Dawn Early Zen Texts from Tun Huang-Translated by J. C. Cleary 1986

Gunabhadra Tripitaka was a man of South India. When he studied the Great Vehicle, he was called “Mahayana.” During the years 424-454 he translated the Lankavatara Sutra and was asked to give lessons on meditation but was embarrassed, because he did not speak Chinese well. One night he dreamed that a man took off his head with a sword: thenceforth he began to give lessons in meditation.

“The Three Sages Laughing”

The three sages are old friends. Two of them have come to visit the third, who has taken a vow to live as a recluse on a small island, never again to cross the bridge which seems to lead back to the world and the Rolling Mirror.
His two friends have brought food and wine, enough for a feast. They eat and drink, and drink some more, enjoying each other's company and the glow of the wine becoming just a bit tipsy in the process.
It's time now to leave.
The recluse walks his friends to the bridge. In the richness of the moment he forgets his solemn vow and leaves the island. Suddenly, halfway across the bridge they realize what has happened. They stop, standing stock still, at a loss for words.
A long moment passes. Then, improbably the recluse begins to laugh uproariously and is joined by the others. Now the three laugh so hard they must hold on to one another to keep from falling off the bridge and into the water.
The worldly and the island of purity have remerged. The island, the bridge, the vow – even the sages and their boisterous laughter are all, once again, shining and mysterious parts of the Sphere of the Rolling Mirror. 

— Taken from Life in the Rolling Mirror-Tales of Change and Flow – G.BlueStone

It's time for action. The three laughing sages are beckoning. Many paths to pacify the mind exist. And as the great sage said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

With Enthusiasm,
Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen

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