On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

Nov 21 2001

The Mind Monarch

Fu Shan-hui (487-569)

Observe the empty monarch of mind; mysterious, subtle, unfathomable, it has no shape or form, yet it has great spiritual power, able to extinguish a thousand troubles and perfect ten thousand virtues. Although its essence is empty, it can provide guidance. When you look at it, it has no form; when you call, it echoes.

Like salt in water, like adhesive in coloring, it is certainly there, but you don't see its form; so is the monarch of mind - dwelling inside the body, going in and out the senses, it responds freely to beings according to conditions, without hindrance. When it is carefree, without obstruction, all endeavors are successful.

When you realize the fundamental, you perceive the mind; when you perceive the mind, you see Buddha. This mind is Buddha; the Buddha is mind. Keeping mindful of the buddha mind, the buddha mind is mindful of Buddha. If you want to realize early attainment, discipline your mind, regulate yourself. When you purify your habits and purify your mind, the mind itself is Buddha; there is no Buddha other that this mind monarch.

If you want to attain buddhahood, don't be stained by anything. Though the essence of mind is empty, the substance of greed and anger is solid. To enter this door to the source, sit straight and be Buddha. Once you've arrived at the other shore, you will attain the perfections.

True aspirants of the Way contemplate their own mind. When you know the Buddha is within, there is no need to search outside. Right now mind is Buddha; right now, Buddha is the mind. The shining mind knows the Buddha; the enlightened one knows the mind. Apart from mind, no Buddha; apart from Buddha, no mind. If not for Buddha, nothing is fathomed; there is no competence at all.

If you cling to emptiness and linger in quiescence, you will bob and sink herein: the buddhas and bodhisattvas do not settle their minds this way. Great people who clarify the mind understand this mystic message; body and mind naturally sublimated, their action is unchanging. Therefore the wise release the mind to be independent and free.

Do not say the mind monarch is empty in having no essential nature; it can cause the physical body to do wrong or do right. It does not exist, nor is it nonexistent. It appears and disappears unpredictably. When the nature of mind departs from emptiness, it can be sacred or profane: therefore I urge you to guard it with care - a moment of contrivance, and you're back to bobbing and sinking.

The wisdom of pure mind is as precious as gold. The spiritual treasury of wisdom is all in the body and mind. The uncreated spiritual treasure is neither shallow nor deep. All buddhas and bodhisattvas have realized this original mind; for those who have the chance to encounter it, it is neither past, future, or present.

Fu Shan-hui (487-569)

excerpted from The Teachings of Zen by Thomas Cleary

The Mind Monarch was written by Master Fu, a lay practitioner also known as Fu Yu. It is not clear how he practiced or the circumstances under which he became enlightened, but we know that while he was farming an experience prompted this verse:

The empty hand holds the hoe
Feet walking, riding the water buffalo.
The man walks over the bridge
The bridge flows, the water does not flow.

The Mind Monarch describes the mind after enlightenment. It is not the rational mind of analysis or judgment; rather, this mind is the basis of all the Buddhas.



Many readers of DailyZen are new to meditation and many are searching for a group to practice with. We receive regular requests from readers to recommend a place to begin. In line with our intentions at DailyZen, we want to offer quality instruction for those who may or may not ever meet their teacher or practice. We are offering the following as a way to get started, and the material will be placed into our Practice Notes section of the DailyZen Library for future reference.

As with everything we choose for the Journals, much on meditation has been reviewed over the past months. It is a delicate matter to place instruction such as this before you. Let me first say that I have been privileged to study with someone who never tells the students too much. There has been more emphasis on learning how to learn, something uncommon in our culture where so much is described, we feel we "understand" something just from hearing the words describing it. This can rob us of the experience we need in order to see for ourselves and come to our own direct understandings. With that in mind let me give a framework in which you can explore, rather than telling too much about what you'll find therein. I trust this will go far to help cultivate the Mind that seeks the Way.

The following excerpt is taken from Zen Training - Methods and Philosophy By Katsuki Sekida (1975)

Zazen Posture

When doing zazen one normally sits on the floor, facing a wall, on a cushion or a folded blanket about three feet square. Another cushion or pad (zafu), smaller and thicker, is placed under the buttocks. It is important that the cushion be thick enough, otherwise it will be difficult to take up a correct, stable posture as described below. The cushion should be placed under the buttocks alone and should not reach under the thighs. (also one can use a meditation bench to keep the weight off the folded calves and knees)

A number of different postures can be used in zazen, and students should experiment to discover which suits them best. Some are easier than others, and can be used in the early stages of practice. (and in fact can be used throughout your practice; there is no goal to achieve here, rather find a position of ease and non-strain for yourself) Provided the student can maintain a stable, motionless position without discomfort for 20 to 30 minutes (or less), it does not matter much what posture is adopted. If it is found impossible to sit comfortably on the floor, one may try sitting on a chair or stool (or meditation bench), adopting the essential features of the postures described below as far as possible. One should wear loose clothes that do not constrict any part of the body. Much patient practice and experiment may be necessary in order to learn how to sit well.

Full lotus - symmetrical with the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh. The reverse position can also be adopted. In this, as in all other positions, both knees rest firmly on the cushion (or padded floor). The hands rest in the lap, usually with the right hand under the left and the palms turned upward. The thumbs touch at the tips forming a circle. (There are several mudras or hand positions one can use during sitting, but the above is basic to meditation.) Full lotus is a rather difficult position for most people when they start their practice (and some may never choose to sit full lotus finding other postures more conducive to ease).

Half lotus - Here the right foot is under the left thigh and the left foot is on the right thigh. Again the reverse is also possible. The hands are held the same as above. Half lotus is an asymmetrical posture and tends to pull the spine out of line, one of the shoulders being raised in compensation. It is possible to correct this with the aid of a mirror or another person, but it should be recognized that this position sometimes results in other defects in posture, notably certain slight distortions of the upper body. We cannot recommend this position very much. You might as well place the edge of one foot on the shin of the other leg. Then the style approaches the Burmese easy pose and can be recommended.

Modified Burmese style - Here both feet are flat on the floor (with the heels lined up with the center point of the groin). Take care not to fall into the cross legged tailor position in which the waist is lowered backward. The waist should always be pushed forward in the way that will be described below. This position is completely symmetrical and conducive to the relaxation of the upper body.

Seiza - A quite different position is one in which the student straddles the cushion, resting the weight on it and the knees. This style is very effective, especially for beginners wishing to learn how to stress the lower abdomen correctly. If you adopt this position and let the abdomen relax forward, the emphasis will naturally be thrown into the bottom of the abdomen.

In all these positions the stable base for the body is a triangle formed by the buttocks and the two knees. Hence, it is important to find a posture in which the knees rest firmly on the floor and bear the weight of the body. The pelvis is held (in a neutral and stable) position, and the trunk is placed squarely on it, not leaning in any direction.

taken from Zen Training - Methods and Philosophy By Katsuki Sekida (1975)

From unpublished papers on practice:

The essential point of any posture is that the hips are slightly higher than the knees, and that the center of gravity rests where it belongs, in the lower abdomen. Rather than get too much more detailed, just let me emphasize we are in a position of ease, not strain. Rather than push the pelvis forward which will cause some strain, find a neutral position in the lower abdomen which allows the breath to drop into a full, relaxed abdomen. If the posture is out of balance, tension will be felt in different muscles. With awareness while sitting, keep the shoulders, forehead, and chest relaxed on a firm foundation formed by the hips and legs. Heavy below, light above.

After balancing the body, we next balance the breath. Rather than trying to control the breath, just be aware of it.

"Knowing that a short breath is short
and that a long breath is long, breathe."

There is an intimate relationship of mind and breath. The breath and mind issue from the same source. When the breath becomes calm, the mind becomes calm. Both of these approaches can be studied deeply. The breath should be fine, inaudible, and taken through the nose. When both posture and breathing are not out of hand, the mind does not run rampant. The eyes are usually half-open, although the actual degree may vary according to the amount of light. In bright light, the eyes may be almost closed, while in a dark room, naturally opened. Allow the eyes to focus softly on a spot on the ground about a yard in front of you. Once you have found this spot, do not cast your eyes about restlessly.

Now that mind and body are balanced we Return. Let the consciousness fill the whole body. The mind is allowed to fold back onto itself to explore who we are before name and form. In the beginning thoughts will come and go quickly. With practice the space between thoughts will lengthen and a settling will occur.

In the beginning we still seem to need something to "do" and breath counting is an excellent practice to help settle the jumpiness of thoughts. Even after someone has meditated for a while, sometimes to return to counting the breath helps one to settle into meditation. This is just one of many places to start. The method consists of counting to oneself with each exhalation, one through ten. When you reach 10, return to start afresh. Don't be concerned if you lose place and wander in thought, bring your attention back to the process and begin again. Allow the rate to be what it will relative to you in that moment. The breath will slow down on its own; no need to control the breath.


This will serve to allow you to begin a practice on your own. In the next issues of the Journal we will continue building on the practice of meditation and fine points related to practice.

I trust this will allow you to proceed to a place of clarity and into the Mind of Readiness.

Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen