On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

January 14, 2020

The Bright, Boundless Field

Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157)

The field of boundless emptiness is what exists from the very beginning. You must purify, cure, grind down, or brush away all the tendencies you have fabricated into apparent habits. Then you can reside in the clear circle of brightness. Utter emptiness has no image, upright independence does not rely on anything. Just expand and illuminate the original truth unconcerned by external conditions.

Accordingly we are told to realize that not a single thing exists. In this field birth and death do not appear. The deep source, transparent down to the bottom, can radiantly shine and can respond unencumbered to each speck of dust without becoming its partner. The subtlety of seeing and hearing transcends mere colors and sounds. The whole affair functions without leaving traces and mirrors without obscurations.

Very naturally mind and dharmas emerge and harmonize. An Ancient said that non-mind enacts and fulfills the way of non-mind. Enacting and fulfilling the way of non-mind, finally you can rest. Proceeding, you are able to guide the assembly. With thoughts clear, sitting silently, wander into the center of the circle of wonder. This is how you must penetrate and study.

The Practice of True Reality

The practice of true reality is simply to sit serenely in silent introspection. When you have fathomed this you cannot be turned around by external causes and conditions. This empty, wide open mind is subtly and correctly illuminating. Spacious and content, without confusion from inner thoughts of grasping, effectively overcome habitual behavior and realize the self that is not possessed by emotions.

You must be broad-minded, whole without relying on others. Such an upright independent spirit can begin not to pursue degrading situations. Here you can rest and become clean, pure, and lucid. Bright and penetrating, you can immediately return, accord, and respond to deal with events. Everything is unhindered, clouds gracefully floating up to the peaks, the moonlight glitteringly flowing down mountain streams.

The entire place is brightly illumined and spiritually transformed, totally unobstructed and clearly manifesting responsive interactions like box and lid or arrow points meeting. Continuing, cultivate and nourish yourself to enact maturity and achieve stability.

If you accord everywhere with thorough clarity and cut off sharp corners without dependence on doctrines, like the white bull or wildcat (helping to arouse wonder), you can be called a complete person. So we hear that this is how one on the way of non-mind acts, but before realizing non-mind we still have great hardship.

Zen Master Hongzhi (1091-1157)

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

Hongzhi is one of the most lyrical Zen masters we encounter. His prosaic expression is one found in the Chinese and Japanese poets, and his teaching style is the least dogmatic and cumbersome of all. Imagine what it would be like to hear teaching instructions from someone like this!

Within the imagery, though, are clear expressions of what we need to do.

You must purify, cure, grind down, or brush away all the tendencies you have fabricated into apparent habits.

Think New Year’s resolutions….commonly accepted ways to help break old habits and engender more expansive ways of being. Habits are so insidious in our everyday life, one can get overwhelmed. Instead of making enemies of them, we can just observe and sometimes the observation itself is the opener to change. First we have to see the habit itself before any beneficial change can occur.

With thoughts clear, sitting silently, wander into the center of the circle of wonder. This is how you must penetrate and study.

Ah, that “circle of wonder” or Emptiness from which all things emerge. Without over mystifying this “circle of wonder,” just pause and take oneself out of the action and return to the place before things and speech and actions emerge. Meditation helps us to taste this “sweet spot” of non-action; pausing in the midst of activity helps us to experience this in daily life.

You must be broad-minded, whole without relying on others. Such upright independent spirit can begin not to pursue degrading situations.

How many times have we wished we could call back our words spoken in haste or reactivity? No need to count the modes of communication that engender impulsive remarks.

What else is there to say?

If you accord everywhere with thorough clarity and cut off sharp corners without dependence on doctrines, … you can be called a complete person.

All my best for a fresh start!

Elana, scribe for Daily Zen

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