On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

October 12, 2020

Mind of Enlightenment, Great Compassion, and Skillful Means


One day….

Guhyakadhipati asked the Buddha, “O World-Honored One, the buddhas have realized omniscience and are now propagating this insight for all sentient beings according to their individual capacities. They manifest themselves in varied human forms, using varied languages of respective worlds.

“And yet, the path that all the buddhas teach is the same and is of a single universal taste. It is totally free from all differentiation like empty space and is the ground of all things like the great earth. And like fire, it burns away the firewood of ignorance; and like the wind it eliminates the taints of passion. But what is this omniscience grounded on? And what ultimate goal does this omniscience have?”

Mahavairocana Buddha said, “…this omniscience has its ground in the mind that seeks enlightenment, has its root in the Great Compassion, and has its ultimate goal in skillful means. Enlightenment, like empty space, has no determined form. It cannot be recognized by the senses or explained. There is no definite form as such in every and all things; everything is like empty space.”

Guhyakadhipati asked, “…then who seeks omniscience and realizes supreme enlightenment?”

The Buddha said, “One’s own mind is the seeker, and that itself is enlightenment. Again, it is omniscience. Why? It is because the essence of the mind is pure and totally free from defilement. Now the mind is neither within nor without nor in between; it transcends totally every and all form and color; hence, it cannot be recognized by the six senses.

“Why? It is because the mind is free from conceptual discrimination and is identical with empty space. The nature of enlightenment is also identical with empty space because the latter is identical with the mind.

“Accordingly, the mind, empty space, and enlightenment, though being three, are one. These three have the Great Compassion as their root and are perfectly endowed with skillful means.

“O, Guhyakadhipati, the reason that I teach is to let people know that their own minds are themselves the pure minds of enlightenment. If anyone wishes to attain enlightenment, he should understand it as I have said.

“Then, how does one know one’s own mind? This mind cannot be sought in any objective sphere, nor can it be sought in one’s body or mind, or even in one’s self or in things regarded as one’s own, and so on. One who sees things in this way can attain the first path for understanding the Dharma. If s/he thus practices the path, s/he will be able to eliminate all hindrances of the mind before long, and thereby will understand innumerable words just as the buddhas do.

“Thus, s/he will be able to know the minds and actions of people, and under the Buddha’s protection will not be stained while staying in the state of delusion. S/he will never become weary of serving others; and, staying with right views, will be able to acquire innumerable virtues.”

Guhyakadhipati asked, “O World-Honored One, how is enlightenment born from this mind? In what way is it known that the mind of enlightenment has arisen? Again, by what steps will the mind proceed toward the path?”

The Buddha replied, “The ordinary person who has been sunk in the state of delusion from the immemorial past is entrapped by passion, attached to a sense of self, and to the things regarded as their own.

“This is because s/he does not yet see what the essential nature is. As a result, they hold wrong views on human existence and regard themselves as being transcendent, beyond space and time, or they believe in a god and his power of creation, or else they maintain the objective reality of the external world, or they claim that there is a soul internally and that it is really the agent of knowing, seeing, and existing.”

Guhyakadhipati asked, “Will you explain the mind for us?”

The Buddha answered, “The modes of mind are many, namely, the mind of greed, of non-greed, of anger, of affection, of ignorance, of insight, of confidence, of doubt, of darkness, of brightness, of dispute, of reflection, of a god, of a Mara, of a Naga, of a man, of a woman, of a merchant, of a farmer, of a river, of a pond, of a well, of protections, of stinginess, of a dog, of a badger, of a mouse, of singing, of dancing, of drumming, of a lion, of an owl, of a crow, of wind, of water, of fire, of delusion, of trapping, of fetters, of clouds, of rice fields, of salt, of a razor, also the mind equivalent to Mt Sumeru, to the ocean, to a hole in the ground, also the mind receiving rebirth, and so on.

“O Guhyakadhipati, the mind of greed means the mind that indulges in passion, while the mind of non-greed is the mind that does not indulge in passion. The mind of anger is the mind that follows the way of anger, while that of compassion is the mind that follows the way of compassion.

“In a similar way, the mind of ignorance has no idea of practicing the path, whereas that of insight proceeds in practicing the superior Dharma. The mind of confidence is to practice the noble teaching exactly as it is taught, whereas that of doubt is to have thoughts of indetermination.

“The mind of darkness is to hesitate upon things on which there is no need for hesitation, whereas that of brightness is to practice the path with no hesitation The mind of dispute is to argue with others as to right and wrong, while that of reflection is to judge oneself as to right and wrong.

“…The mind of delusion is to create discrepancy between one’s intention and reality. The mind of trapping is to entrap oneself everywhere; that of fetters is to have both feet fettered. The mind of clouds is to have always the thought of inducing rain….

“O Guhyakadhipati, next, by discarding the three kinds of attachment, one attains the transcendental mind. This mind understands that there is no abiding entity in either body or mind; it is engaged in the practice of the path by renouncing the feelings of suffering and enjoyment; and it escapes from the twelve-linked chain of dependent origination that arises from karma, thirst, and ignorance.

“Next there is the practice of the Mahayana, according to which all things are known to have no reality that exists forever; hence they are like illusions, mirages, shadows, and echoes. When thus one is rid of the mind of self, this mind becomes the agent of freedom and will realize the truth that one’s own mind is essentially neither born nor perishing and hence has no origination.

“The reason for this is that there is no mind in the past, neither is there one in the future, where nothing has yet occurred. Neither can it be grasped in the immediate moment of the present, because it is instantaneously passing away.

“To explain this differently, all the Buddha-Dharma is like empty space, which is totally free from sense faculties and objects, is successively born on account of its empty nature, and begets the mind that is totally free from any determination, namely the mind without a self-nature. Such an initially resolved mind is called the cause for becoming a buddha. Moreover, though it is free from karma, passion, and attachment, it becomes the basis of karma and passion.

“O Guhyakadhipati, one must observe the three minds, namely, the mind of enlightenment, the mind of great compassion, and the mind of skillful means, in the states of aspiration. These principles enable a bodhisattva to proceed from the initial stage up to the tenth stage.”

The Buddha towards the end of his life and teaching

Excerpted from Buddha-Dharma The Way to Enlightenment – Numata Center 2003

In the Buddha-Dharma the above teaching is recounted as happening the day before he died. It represents one of the higher discourses on the mind of enlightenment. While it is not as well known as many of his teachings, it points to the state realized by someone who has devoted their life to the teachings and meditation.

To explain the modes of mind encompassing the many facets of sentient and non-sentient beings brings one to a sense of the interpenetration of existence and oneness of life. This is a rare state, indeed, but to one who aspires to follow the mind that seeks the Way, it is a natural sounding result of that aspiration.

May these seeds fall upon the fertile grounds of our pure intent!

Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha…

Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen

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