On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

January 10, 2007

Three Sources of Truth

 Natural Real Buddha Nature

The natural, real Buddha nature is always inherently complete and luminous; it was thus before our parents gave birth to us, it is thus right now, and it will always be thus forever.

Originally there is not a single thing. Since there’s not a single thing, what is to be called original? If you can see into this, you will save the most mental energy. When divergent thoughts arise, adamantly cut them off yourself. This is expediently called concentration and insight, but it is not reality; this mind itself is inherently concentrated and at once insightful.

Huang-po said, “This mind is always intrinsically round and bright, illuminating everywhere. People of the world don’t know it, and just recognize perception and cognition as mind. Drop perception and cognition, and the road to mind comes to an end. If you want to know the mind, it is not apart from perception and cognition; and yet original mind is not limited to perception and cognition either.”

When you come to this, it is really essential for you to look into yourself; it is not a matter of verbal explanation. The more the talk, the further removed from the way. Those who are successful at introspection know for themselves when the time comes and do not need to ask anyone. All false imagination and emotional thoughts naturally disappear. This is the effect of learning the Way.

A thousand falsehoods do not compare to a single truth. If you are not thus, even if you consciously apply your mind, seeking effectiveness daily, it is all in the realm of impermanence, becoming and passing away.

– Ta-tu (17th century)

Real Truth

Generally speaking, on this path it is important to work on real truth. When real truth stamps the mind, the path becomes self-evident. If the mind is not true, then even if you attend lectures everyday and discuss the path constantly, this just provides topics of conversation and is ultimately of no benefit on the path.

So what is the real truth? It is just a matter of looking back into the purity of your own mind in the course of daily activities, not

being led astray by anything. That is because the mind is like a monkey, consciousness like a horse: without the tool of great awareness watching them, it will be truly hard to control them no matter how clever your devices.

But when the mind has been settled, so that it merges back into oneness, and all traces of birth and extinction disappear, then you naturally realize basic subtle illumination, thoroughly empty, yet uncannily penetrating and effective

– Hui-ching (1528-1598)

The Spiritual Light

The spiritual light shines independently, transcendentally liberated from organs and objects of sense.  This statement has said it all. If you can understand this, how could I presume to talk a lot?

If the light is not revealed, you need a method. The method is not asking someone to explain; it is not studying scriptures; it is not doing a lot of charitable acts; it is not closing the eyes and sitting as if dead. Just look intently into the question of what your original face is in the course of daily life. Don’t think about whether it is hard or easy, or remote or near; and don’t worry that your own faculties and potential are slow or dull, or that you are too heavily obstructed by past habits. Just go right ahead and do it; after a while, eventually you will bump into it all of a sudden.

– Yuan-hsien (1618-1697)

Three sources of truth excerpted from Teachings of Zen Translated by Thomas Cleary

The further we enter into any study, practice, the easier it is to see all paths converging with a central Truth that is expressed according to the listeners’ ability to understand.  These teachers’ messages all point within. It is amazing how such a simple sounding message can be so challenging to stay with at times.  The senses pull us outward; our thoughts pull us forward and backward; and our feelings seem so compelling at times.  And then there are the vasanas, our tendencies that lead us around our habitual ways.

All the stories, teachings and lessons are like crumbs left on the ground to guide us home as in the tale of Hansel and Gretel. We still have to make the effort to sit, pause, and remember who we are each day. With time the mind becomes stronger, and the tendencies can be felt to weaken. We take care of our responsibilities; we have activities we enjoy, but the attachment as the doer lessens and allows us to see more in perspective.

In this world of shifting standards, be true to your quest. Be someone with a code that encourages you to keep on when everything seems to be pulling you elsewhere. We are the doorways through which more Light can enter. Find a way to remember who you are.

Always here,


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