10: Return to the Source

歸根得旨     Return to the Source and gain what you seek

隨照失宗     Pursue enlightenment and you lose it

須臾返照     A flash of light

勝卻前空     And you are beyond emptiness and things


There are no skandhas in Nirvana, nor is there an ego-soul, nor any individual traits. To enter into the Mind-only, one must free himself from attachment to emancipation. – The Lankavatara Sutra

Transfer the focus of your attention from the creation to the Creator. – Lester Levenson

They all have a call to return whence they flowed forth. All their life and being is a calling and a hurrying back to what they came out of. – Meister Eckhart (Walshe, Sermon 22)


Ma-tsu (709-788):

All beings since the beginningless past have never been outside the Dharma-essence itself. Abiding forever in the midst of the Dharma-essence, they eat, they put on their clothes, they speak, they respond. All the functioning of the six senses, all their doings are of the Dharma-essence itself. Not understanding what it means to return to the Source, they follow names, pursue forms, allow confusing ideas to rise and cultivate all kinds of karma. Let them once, in one thought, return to the Source and their entire being will be of Buddha-mind. (Suzuki, Sayings of the Ancient Worthies)


Among men there are the deluded and the wise. The deluded are small, the sages are vast. If deluded ones ask the sages, the sages will expound the doctrine for them to enable them to understand and gain a deep awakening. If the deluded one understands and his mind is awakened, then there is no difference between him and the sage. Therefore we know that, unawakened, a buddha is a sentient being, and that a sentient being awakened in an instant of thought is a buddha, and he knows that the ten thousand dharmas are all within his own mind. Why not make your original nature, true reality, suddenly appear within yourselves? The Boddhisattva-sila-sutra says: From the outset our own nature is pure. If we look into our own mind and see our own nature, we have achieved the Buddha Way. At once, in an instant, we regain our original mind. (The Platform Sutra)

Lin-ji (Rinzai) (d. 866):

Just because your mind is ever running after every object that comes before it and knows not how to restrain itself, it is said by a patriarch that you are the foolish seeker of another head over your own. If you do as you are told and, without delay, turn your light within yourself and reflect, and stop looking for answers outside of yourself, you will realize that there is no difference between your own mind and that of the buddhas and patriarchs. When you thus come to a state of doing nothing, you are said to have attained the truth. (Suzuki, 2014, p. 178)

Kuoan Shiyuan’s Ten Bulls

Whip, rope, person and ox—all merge in no thing
This heaven is so vast, no distinction can mar it
How can a snowflake exist in a raging fire?
Here are the footprints of the ancestors

Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source
Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning!
Dwelling in one’s true abode, unconcerned within and without
The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red


Hear me as I explain to you. If men in later generations wish to seek the Buddha, they have only to know that the Buddha-mind is within sentient beings; then they will be able to know the Buddha. Because the Buddha-mind is possessed by sentient beings, apart from sentient beings, there is no Buddha-mind.

Deluded, a buddha is a sentient being;
Awakened, a sentient being is a buddha.
Ignorant, a buddha is a sentient being;
Possessing wisdom, a sentient being is a buddha.
If the mind is crooked, a buddha is a sentient being;
If the mind is straight, a sentient being is a buddha.
When a crooked mind is produced,
Buddha is concealed within the sentient being.
If for one instant of thought we straighten out,
Then sentient beings are themselves buddha.
In our mind itself a buddha exists,
Our own buddha is the true Buddha.
If we do not have in ourselves the Buddha-mind,
Then where are we to seek the Buddha? (Yampolsky, p. 180)


16. Returning to the Root

By attaining the height of detachment we gain fullness of rest.

All the ten thousand things arise, and I see them return. Now they burst into bloom, but each one homeward returneth to its root.

Returning to the root means rest. It signifies the return according to destiny. Return according to destiny means the eternal. Knowing the eternal means enlightenment. Not knowing the eternal causes passions to arise, and that is evil.

Knowing the eternal renders one comprehensive. Comprehensiveness renders one broad. Breadth renders one royal. Royalty renders one heavenly. Heaven renders one Tao-like. The Tao renders one everlasting. Thus the decay of the body implies no danger. (Suzuki & Carus, 1913)

Case 9: Daitsu Chisho Buddha

A monk asked Koyo Seijo: Daitsu Chisho Buddha sat in zazen for ten kalpas and could not attain buddhahood. He did not become a buddha. How could this be?

Seijo said: Your question is quite self-explanatory.

The monk asked: He meditated so long; why could he not attain buddhahood?

Seijo said: Because he did not become a Buddha. (The Gateless Gate)


Levenson, Lester (1998). The Ultimate Truth. Sherman Oaks, California: Lawrence Crane Enterprises, Inc.

Suzuki, D. T.; (2014). Selected Works of D. T. Suzuki, Volume I. (Richard M. Jaffee, editor). Oakland, California: University of California Press.

Suzuki, D. T. Sayings of the Ancient Worthies, fas. I (Ku tsun-hsiu yu-lu). (https://terebess.hu/english/mazu.html#1)

D. T. Suzuki and Paul Carus (1913). The Canon of Reason and Virtue (Tao Te Ching).

Yampolsky, Philip B. (1967). The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. New York: Columbia University Press. (http://www.fodian.net/world/Platform_Sutra_Yampolsky.pdf)

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