On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

June 07, 2012

Practice Instructions

Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157)

With Total Trust Roam and Play in Samadhi

Empty and desireless, cold and thin, simple and genuine, this is how to strike down and fold up the remaining habits of many lives.  When the stains from old habits are exhausted, the original light appears, blazing through your skull, not admitting any other matters.  Vast and spacious, like sky and water merging during autumn, like snow and moon having the same color, this field is without boundary, beyond direction, magnificently one entity without edge or seam.   Further, when you turn within and drop off everything completely, realization occurs.  Right at the time of entirely dropping off, deliberation and discussion are one thousand or ten thousand miles away.  Still no principle is discernible, so what could there be to point to or explain? 

People with the bottom of the bucket fallen out immediately find total trust.  So we are told simply to realize mutual response and explore mutual response, then turn around and enter the world.  Roam and play in samadhi.  Every detail appears before you.  Sound and form, echo and shadow, happen instantly without leaving traces.  The outside and myself do not dominate each other, only because no perceiving of objects comes between us. Only this non-perceiving encloses the empty space of the dharma realm’s majestic ten thousand forms.  People with the original face should enact and fully investigate the field without neglecting a single fragment.

Simply Drop off Everything

Silently dwell in the self, in true suchness abandon conditioning.  Open-minded and bright without defilement, simply penetrate and drop off everything.  Today is not your first arrival here.  Since the ancient home before the empty kalpa, clearly nothing has been obscured.  Although you are inherently spirited and splendid, still you must go ahead and enact it.  When doing so, immediately display every atom without hiding a speck of dirt. Dry and cool in deep repose, profoundly understand.  If your rest is not satisfying and you yearn to go beyond birth and death, there can be no such place.  Just burst through and you will discern without thought-dust, pure without reasons for anxiety.  Stepping back with open hands, giving up everything, is thoroughly comprehending life and death.  Immediately you can sparkle and respond to the world.  Merge together with all things.  Everywhere is just right.  Accordingly we are told that from ancient to modern times all dharmas are not concealed, always apparent and exposed.

The Ancient Ferryboat in Bright Moonlight

A patch-robed monk’s authentic task is to practice the essence, in each minute event carefully discerning the shining source, radiant without discrimination, one color unstained.  You must keep turning inwards, then the source is apprehended.  This is called being able to continue the family business.  Do not wear the changing fashions; transcend the duality of light and shadow.  Accordingly the ancestors’ single trail is marvelously enacted.  The residual debris of the world departs, its influence ended.  This worldly knowledge does not compare to returning to the primary and obtaining confirmation.  Observing beyond your skull, the core finally can be fulfilled and you can emerge from the transitory.  The reeds blossom under the bright moon; the ancient ferryboat begins its passage; the jade thread fits into the golden needle. Then the opportunity arises to turn around, enter the world, and respond to conditions.  All the dusts are entirely yours; all the dharmas are not someone else’s.  Follow the current and paddle along, naturally unobstructed!

The Misunderstanding of Many Lifetimes

Emptiness is without characteristics.  Illumination has no emotional afflictions.  With piercing, quietly profound radiance, it mysteriously eliminates all disgrace. Thus one can know oneself; thus the self is completed.  We all have the clear, wondrously bright field from the beginning.  Many lifetimes of misunderstanding come only from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation.  With boundless wisdom, journey beyond this, forgetting accomplishments.  Straightforwardly abandon stratagems and take on responsibility.  Having turned yourself around, accepting your situation, if you set foot on the path, spiritual energy will marvelously transport you.  Contact phenomena with total sincerity, not a single atom of dust outside yourself.

Self and Other the Same

All dharmas are innately amazing beyond description.  Perfect vision has no gap.  In mountain groves, grasslands, and woods the truth has always been exhibited.  Discern and comprehend the broad long tongue of Buddha’s teaching, which cannot be muted anywhere.  The spoken is instantly heard; what is heard is instantly spoken.  Senses and objects merge; principle and wisdom are united.  When self and other are the same, mind and dharmas are one.  When you face what you have excluded and see how it appears, you must quickly gather it together and integrate it. Make it work within your house, then establish stable sitting.

Ten Billion Illuminating Spirits

The way wanders in the empty middle of the circle, reaching the vacancy where appearances are forgotten. The pure ultimate self blazes, brilliant simply from inherent illumination.  Facing the boundary of the object world without yet creating the sense gates, realize the subtlety of how to eliminate the effects of the swirling flow of arising and extinction!  Rely only on the source of creation.  If you feel a shadow of a hair’s gap, nothing will be received.  Just experience and respond appropriately.  From this singular impact many thousands of roads open, and all things are preeminent.

With this unification I radiantly speak of dharma.  The self divides into ten billion distinct illuminating spirits.  Distinguish these without falling into names and classifications and accord fully without effort. The mirror is clear and magnanimous.  The valley is empty, but echoes.  From the beginning unbound by seeing or hearing, the genuine self romps and plays in samadhi without obstruction.  When enacted like this, how could it not be beneficial?

Sit Empty of Worldly Anxiety

If you truly appreciate a single thread your eye can suitably meet the world and its changes.  Seeing clearly, do not be fooled, and the ten thousand situations cannot shroud you.  Moonlight falls on the water; wind blows over the pines.  Light and shadow do not confuse us; sounds or voices do not block us.  The whistling wind can resonate, pervading without impediment through the various structures.

Flowing along with things, harmonizing without deviation, thoroughly abandoning webs of dust, still one does not yet arrive in the original home.  Put to rest the remnants of your conditioning. Sit empty of worldly anxiety, silent and bright, clear and illuminating, blank and accepting, far-reaching and responsive.  Without encountering external dusts, fulfilled in your own spirit, arrive at this field and immediately recognize your ancestors.

Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157)

Excerpted from Cultivating the Empty Field – The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongshi – translated by Taigen Dan Leighton 2000

While the tone of Hongzhi’s Practice Instructions is lyrical and evocative beyond ordinary “instructions,” this is a voice rarely heard in a teaching hall and immediately transporting.  While we think our own times are tumultuous and distracting, the human condition is ever the same.  We all come with our own unique baggage…

Many lifetimes of misunderstanding come only from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation.  With boundless wisdom, journey beyond this, forgetting accomplishments.

Sit empty of worldly anxiety, silent and bright, clear and illuminating..

Within the lines are straightforward instructions for us.

Welcoming another Solstice,


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