On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

June 22, 2000

The Practice of True Reality Part 1

Hung-chih (1091-1157)

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 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 illuminated and spiritually transformed, totally unobstructed and clearly manifesting responsive interaction like box and lid or arrowpoints 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.

The Bright, Boundless Field

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.

Hung-chih (1091-1157)

excerpted from Cultivating the Empty Field – The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi
Taigen Dan Leighton with Yi Wu

Hongzhi is a 12th century Chinese Zen Master who is mostly unknown to us today, but was an immense influence on Dogen. He was the first to articulate silent illumination, commonly known as “just sitting.” Although this meditation does not ultimately involve concentration on an object or stages of advancement, it is not without technique. In his Practice Instructions Hongzhi urges practitioners to “take the backward step and directly reach the middle of the circle from where light issues forth,” and elsewhere to “turn within and drop off everything completely, and realization will occur.”

Hongzhi’s meditation instructions describe, and evoke, the actual experience of enlightened, illuminating awareness. He wants each of us actually to experience for ourselves the vast empty shining field from which we have never been separate. “If you enact it in this way, how could it not be beneficial?”

To sit serenely as Hongzhi teaches seems a luxury of being and time that few esteem. Each day we can renew our commitment to the Way in our minds and actions through our sitting practice.  Take the time to rest serenely in Blue Sky Mind. Pause from the pressured seeking to Return to that field of boundless emptiness. Take refuge in an unpressured and serene existence.

“Nothing is worth the price of giving up your Blue Sky Mind. Nothing you can get done; nothing you think about; nothing….”

With deepest gratitude to that
Clear Circle of Brightness,

Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen

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