On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

Aug 07 2011

Wake-up Sermon Part 2

- Bodhidharma (d 528)

Bodhidharma (d 528)

Seen with true vision, form isn’t simply form because form depends on mind.  And mind isn’t simply mind, because mind depends on form.  Mind and form create and negate each other. That which exists exists in relation to that which doesn’t exist.  And that which doesn’t exist doesn’t exist in relation to that which exists.  This is true vision.  By means of such vision, nothing is seen and nothing not seen.  Such vision reaches throughout the ten directions without seeing. Because nothing is seen.  Because not seeing is seen.  Because seeing isn’t seeing.  What mortals see are delusions.  True vision is detached from seeing. 

The mind and the world are opposites, and vision arises where they meet. When your mind doesn’t stir inside, the world doesn’t arise outside.  When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is true vision.  And such understanding is true understanding.

To see nothing is to find the Way. To understand nothing is to know the Dharma. Because seeing is neither seeing nor not seeing.  And because understanding is neither understanding nor not understanding.  Seeing without seeing is true vision.  Understanding without understanding is true understanding.

True vision isn’t just seeing seeing.  It’s also seeing not seeing.  And true understanding isn’t just understanding understanding.   It’s also understanding not understanding.  If you understand anything, you don’t understand.  Only when you understand nothing is it true understanding.  Understanding is neither understanding nor not understanding.

The sutras say, “Not to let go of wisdom is stupidity.”  When the mind doesn’t exist, understanding and not understanding are both true.  When the mind exists, understanding and not understanding are both false.

When you understand, reality depends on you.  When you don’t understand, you depend on reality.  When reality depends on you, that which isn’t real becomes real.  When you depend on reality,  that which is real becomes false.  When you depend on reality, everything is false.  When reality depends on you, everything is true.  Thus the sage doesn’t use his mind to look for reality, or reality to look for his mind, or reality to look for reality.  His mind doesn’t give rise to reality.  And reality doesn’t give rise to his mind.  And because both his mind and reality are still, he’s always in samadhi.

When the mortal mind appears, buddhahood disappears.  When the mortal mind disappears, buddhahood appears.  When the mind appears, reality disappears. When the mind disappears, reality appears.  Whoever knows that nothing depends on anything has found the Way.  And whoever knows that the mind depends on nothing is always at the place of enlightenment.

When you don’t understand, you’re wrong.  When you understand, you’re not wrong.  Because the nature of wrong is empty.  When you don’t understand, right seems wrong.  When you understand, wrong isn’t wrong.  Because wrong doesn’t exist. The sutras say, “Nothing has a nature of its own.”  Act. Don’t question.  When you question, you’re wrong.  Wrong is the result of questioning.  When you reach such an understanding, the wrong deeds of your past lives are wiped away.  When you’re deluded, the six senses and five shades are constructs of suffering and mortality.  When you wake up, the six senses and five shades are constructs of nirvana and immortality.

Someone who seeks the Way doesn’t look beyond himself.  He knows that the mind is the Way.  But when he finds the mind, he finds nothing.  And when he finds the Way, he finds nothing.  If you think you can use the mind to find the Way, you’re deluded.  When you’re deluded, buddhahood exists.  When you’re aware, it doesn’t exist.  Because awareness is buddhahood.

If you’re looking for the Way, the Way won’t appear until your body disappears. It’s like stripping bark from a tree. This karmic body undergoes constant change.  It has no fixed reality. Practice according to your thoughts.  Don’t hate life and death or love life and death. Keep your every thought free of delusion, and in life you’ll witness the beginning of nirvana, and in death you’ll experience the assurance of no rebirth.

To see form but not be corrupted by form or to hear sound but not be corrupted by sound is liberation.  Eyes that aren’t attached to form are the Gates of Zen.  Ears that aren’t attached to sound are also the Gates of Zen. In short, those who perceive the existence and nature of phenomena and remain unattached are liberated.  Those who perceive the external appearance of phenomena are at their mercy.  Not to be subject to affliction is what’s meant by liberation.  There’s no other liberation.  When you know how to look at form, form doesn’t give rise to mind, and mind doesn’t give rise to form. Form and mind are both pure. 

When delusions are absent, the mind is the land of buddhas.  When delusions are present, the mind is hell.  Mortals create delusions. And by using the mind to give birth to mind, they always find themselves in hell.  Bodhisattvas see through delusions. And by not using the mind to give birth to mind, they always find themselves in the land of buddhas.

If you don’t use your mind to create mind, every state of mind is empty, every thought is still.  You go from one buddha land to another.  If you use your mind to create mind, every state of mind is disturbed, every thought is in motion.  You go from one hell to the next.  When a thought arises, there’s good karma and bad karma, heaven and hell. When no thought arises, there’s no good karma or bad karma, no heaven or hell.

The body neither exists nor doesn’t exist.  Hence, existence as a mortal or non-existence as a sage are conceptions with which a sage has nothing to do. His heart is empty and spacious as the sky.

That which follows is witnessed on the Way.  It’s beyond the ken of arhats and mortals.

When the mind reaches nirvana, you don’t see nirvana.  Because the mind is nirvana.  If you see nirvana somewhere outside the mind, you’re deluding yourself.

Every suffering is a buddha-seed.  Because suffering impels mortals to seek wisdom.  But you can only say that suffering gives rise to buddhahood.  You can’t say that suffering is Buddhahood.  Your body and mind are the field.  Suffering is the seed, wisdom the sprout and Buddhahood the grain.

The buddha in the mind is like the fragrance in a tree.  The buddha comes from a mind free of suffering, just as fragrance comes from a tree free of decay.  There’s no fragrance without the tree and no buddha without the mind.  If there’s a fragrance without a tree, it’s a different fragrance.    If there’s a buddha without your mind, it’s a different buddha.

When the three poisons are present in your mind, you live in a land of filth. When the three poisons are absent from your mind, you live in a land of purity.  The sutras say, “If you fill a land with impurity and filth, no buddha will ever appear.”  Impurity and filth refer to delusion and the other poisons.  A buddha refers to a pure and awakened mind.

There’s no language that isn’t the Dharma.  To talk all day without saying anything is the Way.  To be silent all day and still say something isn’t the Way. Hence, neither does a tathagata’s speech depend on silence, nor does his silence depend on speech.  Nor does his speech exist apart from his silence.  Those who understand both speech and silence are in samadhi.  If you speak when you know, your speech is free.  If you’re silent when you don’t know, your silence is tied.  If speech isn’t attached to appearances, it’s free.  If silence is attached to appearances, it’s tied.  Language is essentially free.  It has nothing to do with attachment.  And attachment has nothing to do with language. 

Reality has no high or low.  If you see high and low, it isn’t real.  A raft isn’t real.  But a passenger raft is.  A person who rides such a raft can cross that which isn’t real.  That’s why it’s real.

According to the world, there’s male and female, rich and poor.  According to the Way, there’s no male or female, no rich or poor.  When the goddess realized the Way, she didn’t change her sex.  When the stable boy awakened to the Truth, he didn’t change his status.  Free of sex and status, they shared the same basic appearance.  The goddess searched twelve years for her womanhood without success.  To search twelve years for one’s manhood would likewise be fruitless.  The twelve years refers to the twelve entrances.

Without the mind there’s no buddha.  Without the buddha, there’s no mind.  Likewise, without water there’s no ice, and without ice there’s no water.  Whoever talks about leaving the mind doesn’t get very far.  Don’t become attached to appearances of the mind.  The sutras say, “When you see no appearance, you see the buddha.”  This is what’s meant by being free from appearances of the mind.

Without the mind there’s no buddha means that the buddha comes from the mind. The mind gives birth to the buddha.  But while the buddha comes from the mind, the mind doesn’t come from the buddha.  Just as fish come from  water, water doesn’t come from fish. . Whoever wants to see a fish sees the water before he sees the fish.  And whoever wants to see a buddha sees the mind before he sees the buddha.  Once you’ve seen the fish, you forget about the water.  And once you’ve seen the buddha, you forget about the mind.  If you don’t forget about the mind, the mind will confuse you.  If you don’t forget about the water, the water will confuse you too.

Mortality and Buddhahood are like water and ice.  To be afflicted by the three poisons is mortality.  To be purified by the three releases is buddhahood. That which freezes into ice in winter melts into water in summer.  Eliminate ice, and there’s no more water.  Get rid of mortality, and there’s no more buddhahood.  Clearly, the nature of ice is the nature of water.  And the nature of water is the nature of ice.  And the nature of mortality is the nature of buddhahood.   Mortality and buddhahood share the same nature; it’s only because of the delusion of differences that we have the words mortality and buddhahood.  When a snake becomes a dragon, it doesn’t change its scales. And when a mortal becomes a sage, he doesn’t change his face.  He knows his mind through internal wisdom and takes care of his body through external discipline.

Mortals liberate buddhas and buddhas liberate mortals.  This is what’s meant by impartiality. Mortals liberate buddhas because affliction creates awareness.  And buddhas liberate mortals because awareness negates affliction.  There can’t help but be affliction.  And there can’t help but be awareness.  If not for affliction, there would be nothing to create awareness.  And if not for awareness, there would be nothing to negate affliction.  When you’re deluded, buddhas liberate mortals. When you’re aware, mortals liberate buddhas.  Buddhas don’t become buddhas on their own.  They’re liberated by mortals.  Buddhas regard delusion as their father and greed as their mother.  Delusion and greed are different names for mortality.  Delusion and mortality are like the left hand and the right hand.  There’s no other difference.

When you’re deluded you’re on this shore. When you’re aware you’re on the other shore.  But once you know your mind is empty and you see no appearances, you’re beyond delusion and awareness. And once you’re beyond delusion and awareness, the other shore doesn’t exist.  The tathagata isn’t on this shore or the other shore.  And he isn’t in midstream.  Arhats are in midstream, and mortals are on this shore.  On the other shore is buddhahood.

Bodhidharma (d 528)

Excerpted from The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma translated by Red Pine 1987


Not all Zen teaching is immediately easy to grasp.  This is classic Zen delivered to us by the very famous patriarch of Zen, Bodhidharma.  However, it is like riding through rapids down the River of No Return and holding on for dear life at times!  The very nature of the paradoxes stops us on our ride through this teaching.  The mind literally is unable to grasp much of this at times.  And that’s just perfect; it is always a bit suspicious when we grasp anything too quickly or easily.  We so easily fool ourselves into a complacency of “getting it.”  What an illusion we create at times…

There are many lights that shine through this teaching.  Very smoothly he connects the relationship of affliction and liberation; he really seems to be trying to help us break through.

Suffering is the seed, wisdom the sprout and Buddhahood the grain.

I realize some of this reads like Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, in particular the poem Jabberwocky.  If you’ve never read that, pause a moment to read it online, then return to read this piece!

Dropping our understandings and maintaining an open mind are some of the most useful tools along the Way…..with the foundation being Trust in the Way.

Riding the waves together,