On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

May 07, 2012

Inner Constancy

Tao-shin (580-651)

Those who “maintain unified-mindfulness without deviation” use the eye which is empty and pure to fix the mind on seeing one thing constantly day and night without interruption, exclusively and zealously without moving. When the mind is about to gallop off, a quick hand still gathers it in, like a cord tied to the foot of a bird still controls and holds onto it when it wants to fly.

Throughout the whole day seeing has not been abandoned, disturbance is eliminated and the mind itself is settled. The Vimalakirti Sutra says: “The mind which is collected is the place of enlightenment.”

This is the method of collecting the mind.

The Lotus Sutra says: “For innumerable kalpas of time up to now through eliminating drowsiness and always collecting your thoughts, and by using all the various merits, you are able to attain various meditative states.”

True principles of the Great Vehicle:

Briefly, I suggest that overall there are five principles:

1. Know the essence of the mind. The essential nature is pure. The essence is the same as the Buddha.

2. Know the function of the mind. It functions to give rise to the jewel of the Dharma. It is always productive but constantly tranquil. The 10,000 delusions are all like this.

3. Constant awakening is unceasing. The awakening mind is always present. The teaching of this awakening is without form.

4. Always view the body as empty and tranquil. Inside and outside of yourself are transparent to each other. Your body enters into the center of Ultimate Reality. There never have been any obstacles.

5. Maintain unified-mindfulness without deviation. Both movement and stillness constantly remain. Those practitioners are able to clearly see their Buddha Nature and enter into the gate of meditation without delay.

All are based on that which is stated in the scriptures and commentaries, and none are false teachings contrary to the truth. This is not the activity of illusion but is the ultimate truth.

Those who hear these teachings should practice and not have any doubts. Moment after moment dwell in mind. Thought after thought continuously without even a short interval in awareness, practice correct awareness without interruption and correct awareness in the present.

This teaching is profound and significant. Although the sea of the Dharma is unlimited, in actual practice it is contained in a single word. When you get the idea, you can dispense with words, for then even one word is useless. When you understand completely in this way, you have obtained the mind of the Buddha.

Fourth Chan Patriarch Tao-shin (580-651)

Excerpted from Early Ch’an in China and Tibet -ed by Whalen Lai and Lewis Lancaster 1983

This is a teaching vast in scope, covering the beginning, middle, and end of practice.  Stunning to see the dates of the writing and to feel a deep connection with something so ancient/contemporary!  With each reading new insights jump out, and Master Tao-shin holds no secret teachings back from us.  He is at once clear for a beginner and very encouraging to those who seem stuck in practice and a bit discouraged.  This teaching bears up to continued contemplation.

“When the mind is about to gallop off, a quick hand still gathers it in”

Like riding a horse who wants to run away with us, we are tuned into the tendency and catch the intention before the action manifests, thus drawing in the energy before the full blown run has had a chance to take off. This is truly the ongoing practice of a lifetime.  And what attention this actually takes!

“If you achieve a calm mind and do not have the mind which clings to objectified phenomena, then your mind gradually becomes tranquil and stable and step by step eliminates the various passions.  Therefore, you finally do not create new illusions, and it can be said that you are free.  When you notice that your mind is becoming tied up with passions or sad and depressed and falling into a mental stupor, then you should immediately shake this off and readjust yourself.”

Once we recognize our error, we “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.”  We don’t give in to the distractions that pull us in every direction; for a while we may get caught up, but once we notice, then it’s time to return to our center point.

“Generally, in the practice of giving up attachment to your self, you should first of all calm and empty your mind in order to cause your mental phenomena to become tranquil and pure.”

Attachment to self seems to be the root of our suffering here.  We need just enough to maintain our practice and survival needs, but not so much that we believe everything we think or feel as real.  We need that right amount to feel compassion for others and ourselves, but not so much that we get lost and lose our Way.

Blooming together,


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