On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

November 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.

As one can see from the author above, the heights of practice can be experienced by lay people with or without a teacher or group to certify their experience. It is a challenge to practice on one’s own to be sure, but staying close to the mind that seeks the way and finding a practice to embrace can offer the ultimate fruits of meditation.

In the case of Fu Yu above he was the true person of no rank and serves to inspire us centuries later.

May our minds be clear

Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen

Recent Journals