大道無門 The Great Way is gateless,
千差有路 Approached by a thousand ways
透得此關 Once past this checkpoint
乾坤獨歩 You stride through the universe
“From now on it is not necessary for you to study the Buddha-doctrine and to investigate to the limit the ancient and modern cases. It’s just a matter of eating when hungry and sleeping when tired.” – Gaofeng Yung
Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds
When he finds, he will become troubled
When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished
and he will rule over the All
– Gospel of Thomas (Lambdin)
“Don’t read the sutras, practice meditation; don’t sweep the floor, practice meditation; don’t plant the tea seeds, practice meditation; don’t ride a horse, practice meditation.” – The Priest of Shinju-an
When thus the Bodhisattva, discarding all effortful works (sarvdbhogavigata), attains to the effortless state of consciousness, he enters upon the eighth stage known as Acala, the Immovable. – Suzuki (1929, p. 225)
There are as many paths to enlightenment as there are seekers; each one must travel his or her own path, depending on no one. Enlightenment comes down to a decision, made in an instant of thought, to let go of the self. This can only happen when one has thoroughly let go of the ego. This means letting go of all feelings and all memories, which are nothing but images used by the mind to categorize feelings. This process of letting go is known as the purgation of attachments and aversions. As Lester Levenson said, “When the ego is zero, God is all.” Madame Guyon said, “The less there is of the self, the more there is of God.” Meister Eckhart said, “You must know, too, that to be empty of all creatures is to be full of God, and to be full of all creatures is to be empty of God.”
We must school ourselves in abandoning till we keep nothing back. All turbulence and unrest comes from self-will, whether we know it or not. We should place ourselves with all we have in a pure renunciation of will and desire, into the good and precious will of God, together with everything that we may will or desire in any form. – Meister Eckhart (Vol. III, p. 48)
If you are not already releasing, see Letting go of the ego. Releasing never stops until enlightenment. It is necessary to go through all memories, good and bad, all thoughts, good and bad, and let go of them. You may think there is nothing wrong with holding on to good thoughts and memories, but these too are samskara–defilements.
Dreams tell you about deeply buried feelings and desires. Begin releasing immediately when you wake up from a dream. If you have a dream of enlightenment, release the ego-desire for enlightenment. You are not a limited mortal self who longs to attain anything—you lack nothing. Read about the way Lester Levenson experiences the world, and view it in the same way: The world seen through the eyes of a master.
Viviktadharma: There is nothing out there but you
The process of purgation is nearly complete when the world seems dreamlike— mayopama. You have already had realizations that people and things don’t exist; but they aren’t nonexistent either. The initial euphoria you felt when you had your awakening may have subsided as you became accustomed to being free of anxiety and sorrow (see Buddhist Meditation: “The fourth jhana similarly lacks happiness, and possesses just one-pointedness and equanimity”). Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote in The Lotos-Eaters: “There is no joy but calm!”
From this point on you must focus only on what you really are—the one Self—and forget your ego-self. Lester Levenson said, “There’s neither a higher self nor a lower self. There’s only you, identifying with your limitless being or identifying with your limited being.” You may have begun your journey by asking your “higher Self” for help; gradually you should experience a shift in perspective, and you should begin to regard your ego-self as merely a body which is programmed to do certain things, and view “I” as the one Self, which means you are everyone and everything. As Huang-Po said, “When you come to have a realization in one thought it is no other than this: that you are from the start the Buddha himself and no other.” All of the masters of the past, present and future are you.
Sever yourself from all things in order to find all things
Sometimes I say, if the soul is to know God, she must forget herself and lose herself: for if she were aware of herself, she would not be aware of God: but she finds herself again in God. By the act of knowing God, she knows herself and in Him all things from which she has severed herself. To the extent that she has abandoned them, she knows herself totally. If I am truly to know goodness, I must know it there where it is goodness in itself, not where goodness is divided. If I am truly to know being, I must know it where being subsists in itself, undivided: that is, in God. There she knows total being. As I have perchance said before, all humanity does not exist in one man, for a single man is not all men. But there the soul knows all humanity and all things at their highest, for she knows in accordance with being. – Meister Eckhart (Walshe, Vol. II, p. 168)
- Go into seclusion and become nobody in this world. Close and delete social media accounts. Do not tell anyone that you have had an awakening because nobody will believe you. Lester Levenson said, “Self-realization is the temporary separation of a being from the world, only to become more closely and more intimately united with it by becoming one with it.”
- Detachment is key to to Self-realization. This is achieved by releasing all feelings, all memories, and finally by observing even the voice in the head as if it were a voice from another room.
- Keep your mind on the source of creation, and off of the created. A Japanese master named Kanzan was said to have walked the entire length of the Great Eastern Road twenty times without once looking up to notice Mount Fuji as he passed beneath it (Wild Ivy, p. 25). Meditate on “All dharmas are unworthy of attachment.”
- Do nothing. You must attain the ‘actionless state’ or the state of ‘non-doing’, so this is not the time to learn a new skill or start a new project of any sort. As Lester Levenson said, “If there’s effort, there’s ego.” Meister Eckhart said, “There is no outward work so perfect, but it hinders the inner life.” In everyday activities, be detached and mindful. “Homeward is the Tao’s course, Effortlessness is the Tao’s force.” (The Tao Te Ching)
- Always practice non-dual thinking: there is no self and other–there is nothing that is not you. Lester said that the experience of the highest state is to see everything and everyone as “I” (Love is absolutely necessary).
- Do not allow yourself to contemplate teaching; the ego-self is incapable of helping anyone. As Yeshua said, “The One is the only rabbi, the One is the only master.”
- Read the two posts on acceptance.
- Read The Perfection of Renunciation.
Renounce the renouncer
Let go of your desire for enlightenment: you lack nothing. All sentient beings are you. The sages and masters are all you, wearing different costumes (or robes, as Lin-chi said). One sage more or less in the world will make no difference in the world. Lin-chi repeatedly asks, “What is it that you lack?” Another way to put it is: “What is it that has a feeling of lacking?” The feeling of lacking, of wanting, is your ego, and must be released.
The last thing one lets go of is the mind itself. In order to “renounce the renouncer,” practice Bodhidharma’s Method for Quieting the Mind. You sit, and as each thought arises, you observe it as if it were a voice from another room which didn’t concern you. Who is speaking? Where do these thoughts arise from? Be mindful that there is no self from which they can arise: thoughts are only patterns formed by the recording of experiences over millenia: they are not you.
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Hung-Jen, Fifth Ch’an Patriarch:
When doing sitting after realization, the impression is like that of being located on a solitary, tall mountain in the midst of a vast field. You are sitting on exposed ground at the top of the mountain and gazing off into the distance on all four sides. It is limitless. When doing sitting, completely let go of body and mind to fill up the world and abide in the Buddha realm The pure Dharma-body is limitless; the impression is also like this. (Broughton, p. 110)
We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome. We are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for in our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.
I have read many writings of pagan masters, and of the prophets, and of the Old and New Testaments, and have sought earnestly and with all diligence to discover which is the best and highest virtue whereby a man may chiefly and most firmly join himself to God, and whereby a man may become by grace what God is by nature, and whereby a may come closest to his image when he was in God, wherein there was no difference between him and God, before God made creatures. After a thorough study of these writings I find, as well as my reason can testify or perceive, that only pure detachment surpasses all things, for all virtues have some regard to creatures, but detachment is free of all creatures. (Vol. III, “On Detachment“)
“As long as the least of creatures absorbs your attention, you will see nothing of God, however small that creature may be. . . . The soul must step beyond or leap past creatures if it is to know God.” (“Into the Godhead”)
“What is the poverty of the inner man? That lies in three things. The first is utter detachment from all creatures, in time and in eternity. The second is determined humility of the inner and outer man. The third is a diligent devotion and a continual raising of the mind to God.” (Vol. III, p. 140)
[A]t all times test to see whether you have lost it or have not lost it [the Tao]. This is the true practice of the sages of the past and of today. Tzu Ssu has said: “Do not deviate from the Tao even to the smallest degree. What can be deviated from cannot be called the Tao.” In the Li-jen chapter of the Analects we read: “In moments of haste he cleaves to it [the virtue of the Tao]; in seasons of danger he cleaves to it.” This teaches that not for a moment must one lose it. This Tao may be called the True Tao of the Doctrine of the Mean. . . . Placing the essential between the two states, the active and the passive, and being in a position to be able to move in any direction, with the true principle of pure, undiluted, undistracted meditation before your eyes, attain a state of mind in which, even though surrounded by crowds of people, it is as if you were alone in a field extending tens of thousands of miles. You must from time to time reach that state of understanding described by old P’ang, in which you are “with both your ears deaf; with both your eyes blind.” This is known as the time when the true great doubt stands before your very eyes. And if at this time you struggle forward without losing any ground, it will be as though a sheet of ice has cracked, as though a tower of jade has fallen, and you will experience a great feeling of joy that for forty years you have never seen or felt before. (Orategama)
17. If your mind values one thing, it will surely despise another. If your mind affirms anything, it must negate something. If your mind takes one thing to be good, then other things are bad. If your mind has more affection for one person, it despises others. The mind does not abide in forms, nor does it abide in formlessness. It does not abide in abiding, nor does it abide in non-abiding. If your mind abides anywhere, it cannot avoid being bound. If your mind functions anywhere, that is bondage. If your mind values dharmas, dharmas will bind you. If your mind values one dharma, other dharmas are inferior. When you try to grasp the meaning of the sutras and treatises you should not value understanding. If there are parts that you understand, then your mind is attached to something. If the mind is attached to anything, that is bondage. The sutra says: “It is not through inferior, average or superior dharmas that one attains Nirvana.” Even though the mind has entered delusion, do not push delusion away. Instead, when something arises from the mind, rely on the Dharma to gaze at the place from which it arises. If the mind discriminates, rely on the Dharma to gaze at the place of the discrimination. Whether greed, anger or ignorance arise, rely on the Dharma to gaze at the place from which they arise. To see that there is no place from which these can arise is to cultivate the Way. If there is anything arising from the mind, then investigate it, and relying on the Dharma, clean house!
21. Question: What is transcending the limits of the norms?
Answer: The spontaneously peaceful mind does not realize the understanding of the Mahayana or the Hinayana, does not raise the mind of enlightenment, even to the point of not wishing for the omniscience of a buddha, does not honor the person who is accomplished in samadhi, does not disdain the person who is attached and craving; he does not even wish for enlightenment. If one does not grasp for understanding and does not seek wisdom, he will avoid the delusions and confusions of the Dharma masters and meditation masters. If one can preserve mind and erect will, entertain no wish to be a worthy or a sage, not seek liberation, fear neither the cycle of birth and death nor the hells, and with no-mind directly perform his duties, then for the first time he will bring to perfection a dull mind of norms. If one is to witness all the transformations of the worthies and sages due to their supernormal powers through hundreds of thousands of eons without the arising of envy, then one should avoid the deceptions and delusions of others.
Another question: How does one produce the mind that transcends the limits of the norms?
Answer: When you do not produce the mind of the ordinary man, arhat or bodhisattva, and do not even produce a buddha-mind or any mind at all, then for the first time you can be said to have transcended the limits of the norms. If you desire that no mind at all should arise, that no understanding or delusion should arise, then for the first time you can be said to have transcended everything. (Bodhidharma’s Method of Quieting the Mind)
The soul, being turned in the direction of God, has a great facility for remaining converted to Him. The longer it is converted, the nearer it approaches to God and attaches itself to Him; and the nearer it approaches to God, the more it becomes necessarily drawn from the creature, which is opposed to God. But this cannot be done by a violent effort of the creature; all that it can do is to remain turned in the direction of God in a perpetual adherence.
God has an attracting virtue, which draws the soul more strongly towards Himself; and in attracting it, He purifies it.
We should be indifferent to all things, whether mundane or spiritual, for the body or the soul; leaving the past in forgetfulness, the future to providence, and giving the present to God.
The Lankavatara Sutra:
These and others, Mahamati, are the deep-seated attachments cherished by the ignorant and simple-minded to their discriminations. Tenaciously attaching themselves to these, the ignorant and simple-minded go on ever discriminating like the silk-worms who, with their own thread of discrimination and attachment, envelop not only themselves but others and are entranced with the thread; and thus they are ever tenaciously attached to the notions of existence and non-existence. Mahamati, here there are no traces of deep-seated attachment or detachment. All things are to be seen as abiding in oneness (viviktadharma) where there is no evolving of discrimination. Mahamati, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva should have his abode where he can see all things from the viewpoint of oneness. (Suzuki, 1932, p. 162)
Huang-Po’s Sermon (Huangbo)
This Mind is the Source, the Buddha absolutely pure in its nature, and is present in every one of us. All sentient beings, however mean and degraded, are not in this particular respect different from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas—they are all of one substance. Only because of their false imaginings (parikalpita) and false discriminations do sentient beings create their karma and reap its result, while their Buddha-essence itself is not affected by it. The Essence is empty and allows everything to pass through. It is quiet and at rest; it is illuminating; it is peaceful and productive of bliss.
When you have within yourself a deep insight into this you immediately realize that all that you need is there in perfection, in abundance, and nothing at all is wanting in you. You may have most earnestly and diligently disciplined yourself for aeons and passed through all the stages of bodhisattvahood, but when you come to have a realization in one thought it is no other than this: that you are from the start the Buddha himself and no other. The realization has not added anything to you beyond this truth. When you look back and survey all of the disciplinary measures you have gone through, you only find that they have been no more than so many idle doings in a dream. Therefore, it is told by the Tathagata that he had attained nothing when he had enlightenment, and that if he had really attained anything, Buddha Dipankara would never have testified to it. (Suzuki, 1935, p. 81)
For penetrating to the depths of one’s own true self-nature, and for attaining a vitality valid on all occasions, nothing can surpass meditation in the midst of activity. The Zen Master Ta-hui has said that meditation in the midst of activity is immeasurably superior to the quietistic approach. Po-shan has said that if one does not attain to this meditation within activity, one’s practice is like trying to cross a mountain ridge as narrow as a sheep’s skull with a hundred-and-twenty pounds load on one’s back.
This is why Myōchō has said:
Watch the horses competing at the Kamo racegrounds;
Back and forth they run—yet this is sitting in meditation.
The Priest of Shinju-an has explained it in this way: “Don’t read the sutras, practice meditation; don’t sweep the floor, practice meditation; don’t plant the tea seeds, practice meditation; don’t ride a horse, practice meditation.” This is the attitude of the men of old to true Zen study.
In the middle ages when the Zen Sect flourished, samurai and high officials whose minds were dedicated to the true meditation would, when they had a day off from their official duties, mount their horses and, accompanied by seven or eight robust soldiers, gallop about places crowded with people. Their purpose was to test the quality and validity of their meditation in the midst of activity.
In the past Ninagawa Shinuemon gained a great awakening while involved in a fight. Ota Dokan composed poems while held down by an opponent on the field of battle. My old teacher Shoju, at a time when his village was beset by an enormous pack of wolves, sat for seven nights in different graveyards. Although the wolves were sniffing at his neck and ears, he did this to test the validity of true meditation, continuous and without interruption. (Orategama)
Chan Master Dahui Gao of Jingshan
Even if you don’t obtain thorough awakening in the present life, when this life comes to an end, you certainly won’t be at the mercy of bad karma. When you raise your head on a future birth, you will certainly be within prajna. It will be ready-made enjoyment. This has already been determined–it’s nothing you should be worried about. (Broughton, 1999, p. 76)
100. Now, for the attainment of the aforesaid (knowledge), I shall expound the fifteen steps by the help of which one should practice profound meditation at all times.
101. The Atman that is absolute existence and knowledge cannot be realized without constant practice. So one seeking after knowledge should long meditate upon Brahman for the attainment of the desired goal.
102-103. The steps, in order, are described as follows: the control of the senses, the control of the mind, renunciation, silence, space, time, posture, the restraining root (Mulabandha), the equipoise of the body, the firmness of vision, the control of the vital forces, the withdrawal of the mind, concentration, self-contemplation and complete absorption.
104. The restraint of all the senses by means of such knowledge as “All this is Brahman” is rightly called Yama, which should be practiced again and again.
105. The continuous flow of only one kind of thought to the exclusion of all other thoughts, is called Niyama, which is verily the supreme bliss and is regularly practiced by the wise.
106. The abandonment of the illusory universe by perceiving it as the all-conscious Atman is the real renunciation honored by the great, since it is of the nature of immediate liberation.
107. The wise should always be one with that silence from which words, together with the mind, turn back without reaching it, but which is attainable by the Yogins.
108-109. Who can describe That from which words turn away? Or if the phenomenal world were to be described, even that is beyond words. This, to give an alternate definition, may also be termed silence known among the sages as present from the beginning. The observance of silence by restraining speech, on the other hand, is ordained by the teachers of Brahman for the ignorant.
110. That oneness is known as space, wherein the universe does not exist in the beginning, end or middle, but whereby the universe is pervaded at all times.
111. The non-dual that is bliss indivisible is denoted by the word ‘time’, since it brings into existence, in the twinkling of an eye, all beings from Brahman downwards.
112. One should know as true posture (Asana) that in which the meditation on Brahman flows spontaneously and unceasingly, and not any other that destroys one’s happiness (i.e., meditate in a way that works and don’t practice uncomfortable postures).
113. That which is well known as the origin of all beings and the support of the whole universe, which is immutable and in which the enlightened are completely merged, that alone is known as Siddhasana (eternal Brahman).
114. That which is the root of all existence and on which the restraint of the mind is based is called the restraining root (Mulabandha), which should always be adopted since it is fit for Raja-yogins.
115. Absorption in the uniform and ever-balanced Brahman causes the real balance and equipoise of the limbs and body (Dehasamya). Without this, mere straightening and stretching of the body like a dried-up tree is no equipoise at all. [Shankara redefines the physical practices of Asana and Pranayama (postures and breath suppression) so that the mind is cultivated instead. Hui-neng also redefined many practices by saying that their names meant something different–for example, that sitting was to be understood as ‘remaining undisturbed within’.]
116. Converting the ordinary vision into one of knowledge, one should view the world as Brahman itself. That is the noblest vision, and not that which is directed to the spot where the nose begins (in-between the eyebrows). [Once again re-orienting the focus of practice from the physical to the mental]
117. Or, one should direct one’s vision to That alone, where all distinction of seer, sight, and that which is seen ceases, and not to the spot where the nose begins.
118. The restraint of all changing states of the mind by regarding all mental states like the Chitta as Brahman alone, is called Pranayama. [Here Shankara redefines the practice of breath suppression to mean repression of changing mental states.]
119-120. The negation of the phenomenal world is known as Rechaka (breathing out), the thought, “I am verily Brahman”, is called Puraka (breathing in), and the steadiness of that thought thereafter is called Kumbhaka (holding the breath). This is the real course of Pranayama for the enlightened, whereas the ignorant only torture the nose (i.e., take ‘holding the breath’ figuratively, not literally).
121. The absorption of the mind in the Supreme Consciousness by realizing Atman in all objects is known as Pratyahara (withdrawal of the mind), which should be practiced by the seekers after liberation.
122. The steadiness of the mind through realization of Brahman wherever the mind goes, is known as the supreme Dharana (concentration).
123. Remaining independent of everything as a result of the unassailable thought, “I am verily Brahman,” is well known by the word Dhyana (meditation), and is productive of supreme bliss.
124. The complete forgetting of all thought by first making it immutable and then identifying it with Brahman is called Samadhi, known also as Prajna.
125. The aspirant should carefully practice this (meditation) that reveals his natural bliss until, being under his full control, it arises spontaneously in an instant whenever called into action.
126. Then he, the best among Yogis for having attained perfection, becomes free from all practices. The real nature of such a man never becomes an object of the mind or speech.
127-128. While practicing Samadhi there appear unavoidably many obstacles, such as lack of inquiry, idleness, desire for sense-pleasure, sleep, dullness, distraction, tasting of joy, and the sense of blankness. One desiring the knowledge of Brahman should slowly get rid of these many obstacles.
129. While thinking of an object the mind identifies itself with that, and while thinking of a void it becomes blank, whereas by thinking of Brahman it attains to perfection. So one should constantly think of (Brahman to attain) perfection.
130. Those who give up this supremely purifying thought of Brahman live in vain and are on the same level with beasts.
131. Blessed indeed are those virtuous persons who at first have this consciousness of Brahman and then develop it more and more. They are respected everywhere.
132. Only those in whom this consciousness, being ever present, grows into maturity attain to the state of ever-present Brahman; and not others who merely deal with words.
133. Also those persons who are only clever in talking about Brahman but have no realization, who are very much attached to worldly pleasures, are born and die again and again in consequence of their ignorance.
134. The aspirants after Brahman should not remain a single moment without the thought of Brahman.
135. The nature of the cause inheres in the effect and not vice versa; so through reasoning it is found that in the absence of the effect, the cause as such also disappears.
136. Then that pure Reality which is beyond speech alone remains.
137. In this way alone there arises in the pure-minded a state of awareness, which is afterwards merged into Brahman.
138. One should first look for the cause by the negative method (emptiness) and then find it by the positive method (dharmas), as ever inherent in the effect.
139. One should verily see the cause in the effect, and then dismiss the effect altogether. What then remains, the sage himself becomes.
140. A person who meditates upon a thing with great assiduity and firm conviction, becomes that very thing.
141. The wise should always think with great care of the invisible, the visible and everything else as his own Self, which is Consciousness itself.
142. Having reduced the visible to the invisible, the wise one should think of the universe as one with Brahman. Thus alone will he abide in eternal felicity with mind full of consciousness and bliss.
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