On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

Mar 16 2005

Questions from the Wan Ling Record - Part 1

- Huang po (d.850)

Huang Po (d 850

Q: Why was the Bodhisattva of Infinite Extent unable to view the sacred sign on the crown of the Buddha's head?

A: There was really nothing for him to see. Why? The Bodhisattva of Infinite Extent WAS the Tathagata; it follows that the need to look did not arise. The parable is intended to prevent your conceiving of the Buddha and of sentient beings as entities and thereby falling into the error of spacial separateness. It is a warning against conceiving of entities as existing or not existing and thereby falling into the error of spacial separateness, and against conceiving of individuals as ignorant or Enlightened and thereby falling into that same error.

Only one entirely liberated from concepts can possess a body of infinite extent. All conceptual thinking is called erroneous belief. The upholders of such false doctrines delight in a multiplicity of concepts, but the Bodhisattva remains unmoved amid a whole host of them. "Tathagata" means the Thusness of all phenomena. Therefore it is written: "Maitreya is Thus; saints and sages are Thus."

Thusness consists in not being seen and in not being heard. The crown of the Tathagata's head is a concept of perfection, but it is also no-perfection-to-be-conceived. So do not fall into conceiving of perfection objectively. It follows that the Buddhakaya is above all activity: therefore beware of discriminating between myriads of separate forms.

The ephemeral may be likened to mere emptiness; the Great Void is perfection wherein is neither lack nor superfluity, a uniform quiescence in which all activity is stilled. Do not argue that there may be other regions lying outside the Great Void, for such an argument would inevitably lead to discrimination. Therefore it is written: "Perfection is a deep sea of wisdom; samsara is like a whirling chaos."

When we talk of the knowledge "I" may gain, the learning "I" may achieve, "my" intuitive understanding, "my"deliverance from rebirth, and "my" moral way of living, our successes make these concepts seem pleasant to us, but our failures make them appear deplorable. What is the use of all that? I advise you to remain uniformly quiescent and above all activity. Do not deceive yourselves with conceptual thinking, and do not look anywhere for truth, for all that is needed is to refrain from allowing concepts to arise. It is obvious that mental concepts and external perceptions are equally misleading, and that the Way of the Buddhas is as dangerous to you as the way of the demons.

Thus, when Manjusri temporarily entered into dualism, he found himself dwarfed by two iron mountains which made egress impossible. But Manjusri had true understanding, while Samantabhadra possessed only ephemeral knowledge. Nevertheless, when true understanding and ephemeral knowledge are properly integrated, it will be found that they no longer exist. There is only the One Mind, Mind which is neither Buddha nor sentient beings, for it contains no such dualism. 

As soon as you conceive of the Buddha, you are forced to conceive of sentient beings, or of concepts and no-concepts, of vital and trivial ones, which will surely imprison you between those two iron mountains.

On account of the obstacles created by dualistic reasoning, Bodhidharma merely pointed to the original Mind and substance of us all as being in fact the Buddha. He offered no false means of self-perfection; he belonged to no school of gradual attainment. His doctrine admits of no such attributes as light and dark. Since it is not light, there is no light; since it is not dark, there is no dark! Hence it follows that there is no Darkness, nor End of Darkness.

Whosoever enters the gateway of this teaching must deal with everything solely by means of the intellect. This sort of perception is known as the Dharma; as the Dharma is perceived, we speak of Buddha; while perceiving that in fact there are no Dharma and no Buddha is called entering the Sangha, who are otherwise known as "monks dwelling above all activity;" and the whole sequence may be called the Three Jewels in One Substance.

Those who seek the Dharma must not seek from the Buddha, nor from the Dharma nor from the Sangha. They should seek from nowhere. When the Buddha is not sought, there is no Dharma to be found! When the Sangha is not sought, there is no Sangha!

Huang Po ( d 850

Excerpted from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po-On the Transmission of Mind Trans by John Blofeld 1958


Sometimes it seems as if there are infinite ways to fool ourselves. Nevermind the slight of hand played by others along the Way; we seem to have a huge capacity for self-deception alone. It doesn't take Enlightenment itself to realize how to steer along the Way, but it does take a kind of sharpness and a few skills. Reading some of these pieces from Huang Po, it is easy to come away somewhat confused and left in that wonderful state of "not knowing." Most of us long to escape not knowing, longing to replace it with Knowing, Attaining, and Being!

Ironically though, not knowing itself is one of the safeguards along the Way…

What do I really know?

Mystery and wonder are intertwined. What we think we know becomes devoid of wonder, and a life without wonder becomes devoid of richness, depth, and of the Way itself.

This exercise is a return, through enquiry, to the wonder of not-knowing. Not-knowing is unlimited; knowledge is limited. Not-knowing is the ground of mystery, the land of wonder; a haven to be visited daily. It is the source of creativity, inventiveness, and tranquility all in one. Not-knowing is the only place from which freshness can emerge.

Of all the knowledge which you consider "yours," how much is merely the leavings, the transfusions of others? What have you truly learned on your own, through observation, intuition, enquiry? Return to Not-knowing! Rest there a while. Expect nothing. Then emerge gently to view the world with fresh eyes.

This is meditation, rejuvenation, the source of creativity all rolled into one.

"Maverick Sutras"

Spaciously attending,
The Monkess