One day, after taking his seat in the great hall, the Master began as follows. Since Mind is the Buddha, it embraces all things, from the Buddhas at one extreme to the meanest of belly crawling reptiles or insects at the other. All these alike share the Buddha-Nature and all are of the substance of the One Mind.
So, after his arrival from the West, Bodhidharma transmitted nothing but the Dharma of the One Mind. He pointed directly to the truth that all sentient beings have always been of one substance with the Buddha. He did not follow any of those mistaken “methods of attainment.”
And if you could only achieve this comprehension of your own Mind, thereby discovering your real nature, there would assuredly be nothing for you to seek, either.
Question: How, then, does a person accomplish this comprehension of his own Mind?
Answer: That which asked the question is your own Mind; but if you were to remain quiescent and to refrain from the smallest mental acitvity, its substance would be seen as a void—you would find it formless, occupying no point in space and falling neither into the category of existence nor into that of non-existence.
Because it is imperceptible, Bodhidharma said: “Mind, which is our real nature, is the unbegotten and indestructible Womb; in response to circumstances, it transforms itself into phenomena. For the sake of convenience, we speak of Mind as the intelligence; but when it does not respond to circumstances, it cannot be spoke of in such dualistic terms as existence or non-existence.
Besides, even when engaged in creating objects in response to causality, it is still imperceptible. If you know this and rest tranquilly in nothingness—then you are indeed following the Way of the Buddhas. Therefore does the sutra say: “Develop a mind which rests on no thing whatever.”
All dharmas such as those purporting to lead to the attainment of Bodhi possess no reality. The words of Gautama Buddha were intended merely as efficacious expedients for leading people out of darkness of worse ignorance. It was as though one pretended yellow leaves were gold to stop the flow of a child's tears.
Samyak-Sambodhi is another name for realization that there are no valid Dharmas. Once you understand this, of what use are such trifles to you? According harmoniously with the conditions of your present lives, you should go on, as opportunities arise, reducing the store of old karma laid up in previous lives; and above all you must avoid building up a fresh store of retribution for yourselves.
Mind is filled with radiant clarity, so cast away the darkness of your old concepts. Ch'ing Ming says: “Rid yourselves of everything.” The sentence in the Lotus Sutra concerning a whole twenty years spent in the shoveling away of manure symbolizes the necessity of driving from your minds whatever tends to the formation of concepts. In another passage, the same sutra identifies the pile of dung which has to be carted away with metaphysics and sophistry. Thus the 'Womb of the Tathagatas' is intrinsically a voidness and silence containing no individualized dharmas of any sort or kind. And therefore says the sutra: “The entire realm of all the Buddhas are equally void.”
Though others may talk of the Way of the Buddhas as something to be reached by various pious practices and by sutra study, you must have nothing to do with such ideas. A perception, sudden as blinking, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deeply mysterious wordless understanding; and by this understanding will you awake to the truth of Zen.
When you happen upon someone who has no understanding, you must claim to know nothing. He may be delighted by his discovery of some “way to Enlightenment” yet if you allow yourselves to be persuaded by him, you will experience no delight at all, but suffer both sorrow and disappointment. What have such thoughts as his to do with the study of Zen? Even if you do obtain from him some trifling “method,” it will only be a thought constructed dharma having nothing to do with Zen.
Thus Bodhidharma sat rapt in meditation before a wall; he did not seek to lead people into having opinions. Therefore it is written: “To put out of mind even the principle from which action springs is the true teaching of the Buddhas, while dualism belongs to the sphere of demons.”
Your true nature is something never lost to you even in moments of delusion, nor is it gained at the moment of Enlightenment. It is the Nature of the Bhutatathagata. In it is neither delusion nor right understanding. It fills the Void everywhere and is intrinsically of the substance of the One Mind. How, then, can your mind-created objects exist outside the Void? The Void is fundamentally without spacial dimensions, passions, activities, delusions or right understanding.
You must clearly understand that in it there are no things, no people and no Buddhas; for this Void contains not the smallest hairsbreadth of anything that can be viewed spatially; it depends on nothing and is attached to nothing.
It is all-pervading, spotless beauty; it is the self-existent and uncreated Absolute. Then how can it even be a matter for discussion that the real Buddha has no mouth and preaches no Dharma, or that Real hearing requires no ears, for who could hear it? Ah, it is a jewel beyond all price!
Huang Po (d. 850)
“Your true nature is something never lost to you even in moments of delusion”
When the vastness of the experience of our true nature seems simply beyond comprehension, similar to when we try to “grasp” a sense of the expanding universe or infinity, it is reassuring to remember it's always there whether we are aware of it or not. Of course those of us who feel the distraction of the world and relationships can become a bit discouraged at the immensity of our task.
Even in the process of trying to understand what Huang Po is communicating we will invariably hit that wall where we just can't seem to get it with our intellect. It doesn't mean we shouldn't try and give our best effort, but it somewhat akin to the harder we grasp, the further we push things away.
A way around this conundrum is to recall a gem from training, “great effort, no goal” We live with many paradoxes, and this one is especially challenging. We continue to sit because that is what we do, and in those times of spaciousness between thoughts there is a glimpse provided. However, we drop any holding onto any concept that arises and move on in our practice. Effectively that is one way to approach this. Certainly Huang Po might chastise me with calling this another “method of attainment,” but for many of us we need some kind of handle to pull ourselves forward with. Similar to the boat used to cross the stream; once you're on the other side there is no need for the boat, but while crossing a raging current, like life, it is lovely to have expedient means.
May our minds be clear!