Bodhidharma’s Method for Quieting the Mind

The Long Scroll of the Treatise on the Twofold Entrance and Four Practices (Ta-mo lun) contains seven texts purporting to contain the teachings of the first Ch’an patriarch. The Long Scroll was compiled by T’an-lin, an eminent scholar and translator who was likely a pupil of the second patriarch, Hui-k’o. The third and fourth texts are letters, the first one possibly written by Hui-k’o or T’an-lin, and the second one addressed to Hui-k’o by a forest hermit named Layman Hsian. Jorgensen (1979) thought that the letters may have been written by T’an-lin himself as an introduction to the rest of the Long Scroll (See footnote, p. 366, also at the foot of this post). Texts five through seven, which Broughton calls Record I, Record II and Record III, contain the substance of Bodhidharma’s teachings. Those familiar only with the Twofold Entrance will be grateful to find that such an extensive and profound record of Bodhidharma’s teaching exists, and the translations by Broughton and Jorgensen are very readable.

Text no. 5 could be called a chapter: it consists of sections five through forty-nine of the Long Scroll.

Text no. 5 of the Long Scroll of the Treatise on the Twofold Entrance and Four Practices

(Broughton p. 14; Jorgensen p. 256)

5. Buddhas speak of the emptiness of dharmas in order to destroy views, but if you are in turn attached to emptiness, you are one whom the buddhas cannot convert. When there is arising, emptiness alone arises; when there is cessation, emptiness alone ceases. In reality not a single dharma arises, not a single dharma ceases. All dharmas arise due to craving. Craving is neither within nor without, nor does it lie in-between. Discrimination is an empty dharma, but ordinary people are burnt up by it. The false and the true (heterodox and orthodox views) are neither within nor without, nor in any of the ten directions. Discrimination is an empty dharma, but ordinary people are burnt up by it. All dharmas are likewise.

8. Tripitaka Dharma Master (Bodhidharma) says: “Lacking understanding, the person pursues dharma; when there is understanding, dharma pursue the person. When one understands, the senses (the vijnana) draw in forms; when one is deluded, forms draw in the senses. The non-arising of the senses (vijnana) due to forms is called not seeing forms.

When you are in tune and you have a thought, every atom in the universe moves to fulfill your thought. – Lester Levenson (Keys to the Ultimate Freedom, 1993, p. 25)

Whether there is not-seeking in your seeking or seeking in your not-seeking, you are still seeking. Whether there is not-grasping in your grasping or grasping in your not-grasping, you are still grasping. When the mind wants anything, we call it the desire realm (kamadhatu). When mind is not mind of itself yet still arises due to forms, we call it the form realm (rupadhatu). When forms are not forms of themselves but are forms due to mind, the fact that mind and forms are formless is called the formless realm (arupadhatu). (See the threefold world)

Separate individuality is the cause of body-form. When you see you are not a separate individual, you transcend them. You should see your self as the one Being. When you know what you are, you let go of all bodies. – Lester Levenson (1993, p. 42)

9. Question: “What is that which is called the mind of enlightenment?” Answer: “The mind free of marks of differentiation is called Tathata (suchness). The mind that is immutable is called the Dharma nature. The mind free of attachments is called liberation. The mind-nature’s freedom from limitations is called bodhi. The mind-nature’s quiescence is called nirvana.

10. Question: “What is that which is called a Tathagata (one who goes in suchness)?” Answer: “One who knows Tathata and yet responds to beings: this called a Tathagata.” Question: “What is that which is called an Awakened One (Buddha)?” Answer: “One who is awakened to the Dharma, awakened to the fact that there is nothing to awaken to: this is called an Awakened One.” Question: “What is that which is called the Dharma?” Answer: “Mind in accord with the Dharma does not arise, and mind in accord with the Dharma is not extinguished: this is called the Dharma.” Question: “What is that which is called the Sangha?” Answer: “Coming together according to the Dharma (Teaching): this is called the Sangha.” (The Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha)

11. Question: “What is that which is called the emptiness samadhi?” Answer: “Gazing at dharma (phenomena) yet abiding in emptiness: this is called the emptiness samadhi.” (Jorgensen: “To observe that phenomena rest on emptiness is called the meditation on emptiness.”)

Question: “What is that which is called abiding in the Dharma?” Answer: “Neither abiding in abiding (the world) nor abiding in non-abiding (emptiness), but abiding in the Dharma — this is called abiding in the Dharma.”

莫逐有縁     Neither follow existence
勿住空忍     Nor dwell in emptiness
一種平懷     Carry oneness serenely in your breast
泯然自盡     And dualism will vanish by itself
– The Hsin-Hsin Ming

12. Question: “What about the phrase ‘is male but not male, is female but not female?’” Answer: “When we analyze on the basis of Dharma, the characteristics maleness and femaleness cannot be apprehended. Should you ask how that can be known, it is because forms are not characterized by maleness or femaleness. If forms were characterized by maleness, all the grasses and trees would be male, or they would all be female. Deluded people do not understand and through false thought see maleness or femaleness, but this is an illusory maleness and an illusory femaleness, ultimately without reality. The Sutra of the Inactivity of All Dharma* says: ‘When one comes to know that all dharmas are like an illusion, one quickly becomes the foremost of persons.’”

[*Sarvadharmapravrttinirdesasutra. “If a man seeks bodhi he will not have bodhi, and he is as far away from bodhi as Heaven is from Earth. When he knows that phenomena are like illusions, he will become the foremost of men.” (Jorgensen, p. 267)]

13. Question: “When one realizes Nirvana while retaining the body (“with remainder”) and obtains the fruit of the Arhat (a sravaka), is it awakening or not?” Answer: “It is a dream realization.” Question: “When one practices the six perfections, fulfills the ten stages and the ten thousand practices, awakens to the non-arising and non-extinguishing of all dharmas, remains neither awakened nor knowing, has neither mind nor understanding, is it awakening or not?” Answer: “That is also a dream.” Question: “The ten powers and the four fearlessnesses, the eighteen exclusive dharmas (powers exclusive to a Buddha), the path culminating in perfect awakening under the bodhi tree, the capability of going beyond sentient beings even to the point of entrance into Nirvana — how could these not be awakening?” Answer: “They are also a dream.” Question: “All the Buddhas of the past, present and future in sameness teaching sentient beings, those who obtain the path being as numberless as the grains of sand of the Ganges — could this not be awakening?” Answer: “That is also a dream.”

“It is simply that whatever involves discrimination by the mind, intellection and the manifestations [projected] out of one’s own mind is a dream. When awakened, there is no dreaming; when dreaming, there is no awakening. These are false conceptualizations of thought, mind, and the vijnanas (senses). They are no more than insights in a dream. There is neither one who is awakened nor anything to awaken to. Awakened to the Dharma, the true awakening, there is no self-awakening at all, for there is no such thing as awakening. The perfect awakening of all the Buddhas of the past, present and future is but a conceptual discrimination of sentient beings. This is why I call it a dream. If the vijnanas (sense-consciousnesses) and thought are tranquilized, without a single thought being stirred, this is called perfect awakening. Similarly, whatever remaining thought and senses that have not been tranquilized is a dream.”

14. Question: “In cultivating the Way and cutting off delusion, what wisdom is employed?” Answer: “Use the wisdom of skillful means.” Question: “What is the wisdom of skillful means?” Answer: “Investigating delusion and realizing that from the outset there is no place from which delusion arises: by this device one is able to cut off doubt and delusion, so it is called skillful means.

Question: “What delusion does the mind that is in accordance with the Dharma cut off?” Answer: “The delusion that there are ordinary people, heretics, sravakas, pratyeka-buddhas, bodhisattvas, etc.”

15. Question: “What are the two truths?” Answer: “It is like a mirage. Deluded people see the shimmering of heated air and think it is water, but it is not really water; it is a mirage. The meaning of the two truths is also like this. Ordinary people see the reality of the highest meaning as the reality of the world, while sages see in worldly reality the reality of the highest meaning. [“The ignorant and the simple-minded, not knowing that the world is what is seen of Mind itself, cling to the multitudinousness of external objects . . .” — The Lankavatara Sutra]. Therefore, the sutra says: ‘When the Buddhas preach the Dharma, they always rely upon the two truths.’ The truth of the highest meaning is the worldly truth, and the worldly truth is the truth of the highest meaning. The truth of the highest meaning is emptiness. If you see characteristics of existence, then you must clean house!”

Question: “How does one clean house?” Answer: “If you rely upon the Dharma to gaze, then you will lose your way of looking at things and not see one thing. Therefore, the Tao Te Ching says: ‘Established virtue (te) is like indolence.’” [Verse 41: “Vigorous virtue seems like indolence.” One who is strongly drawn in by the Tao finds that moving around and engaging in the world requires much effort, so from the outside it looks like indolence. – the Editor]

16. Question: “What kind of mind is that which is called craving?”  Answer: “The mind of the ordinary person.” . . . Question: “What kind of mind is that which engenders neither understanding nor delusion?”  Answer: “The mind of the bodhisattva.”  Question: “What kind of a mind is that which is not awakened and does not know?”  There was no answer. The reason that there was no answer is because the Dharma cannot answer. This is because the Dharma is no-mind, and an answer is having a mind. The Dharma is wordless, and an answer is having words. The Dharma is without understanding, and an answer is having understanding. The Dharma is without knowledge, and an answer is having knowledge. The Dharma is without this and that, but an answer is this and that. Such minds and words are all prejudices. Because mind is not a form it is not attached to forms, yet mind is not formless and is not attached to formlessness. The mind’s not being attached to anything is liberation.”

“When one transgresses the precepts, one is uneasy; however, knowing that this anxious mind cannot be grasped, liberation can yet be attained; one will also know that birth in a heaven cannot be attained. Despite knowing emptiness, it cannot be grasped. Despite knowing that emptiness cannot be grasped, it still cannot be grasped.”

17. “If mind has something it values, it will surely have something it despises. If mind has something that it affirms, it must have something that it negates. If mind takes one thing to be good, then other things are bad. If mind has affection for one person, then other persons are despised. 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 mind abides anywhere, it will not avoid being bound. If mind has a place where it functions, then it is bondage. If mind values dharma, dharma will bind you. If mind esteems one dharma, other dharma are therefore inferior. When you try to grasp the meaning of the sutras and treatises, you should not esteem understanding. If there are parts that you understand, then your mind has something it is attached to. If mind has something it is attached to, it is bondage. The sutra says: “It is not through inferior, average or superior dharma that one attains Nirvana.” Even though mind has entered delusion, do not produce a thought of non-delusion. When mind arises, rely on the Dharma to gaze at the place whence it arises. If mind discriminates, rely on the Dharma to gaze at the place of discrimination. Whether greed, anger or ignorance arise, rely on the Dharma to gaze at the place whence they arise. To not see any place whence these can arise is to cultivate the Way. If there is arising of the mind, then investigate it, and relying on the Dharma, clean house!”

18. Question: “In cultivating and attaining the Way, are some slow and some quick?” Answer: “They are separated by millions of eons. In the case of those for whom mind is [the Way], it is quick. For those practitioners who produce the thought of enlightenment and practice, it is slow. People of keen abilities know that mind is the Way. People of dull abilities seek everywhere for the Way but cannot find it. Moreover, they do not know that mind from the outset is unexcelled, perfect enlightenment.”

Question: “How does one quickly attain the Way?” Answer: “Mind being the substance of the Way, one quickly attains the Way. When the practitioner himself realizes that delusion has arisen, then, relying on the Dharma, he gazes and causes it to vanish.”

Question:  “How is mind the substance of the Way?”  Answer:  “The mind is like a piece of wood or stone [i.e. a wall upon which a picture is painted]. It is as if someone painted dragons and tigers with his own hand, and yet upon looking at them became frightened. Deluded people are like this. The brush of mind and the senses (citta and vijnanas) paints Razor Mountains and Sword Forests (the hells), and yet the mind and the senses fear them. If you are fearless in mind, then false imaginings will be swept away.”

There is more pain from holding on to the thought of pain than there is in the situation itself. If you let the world strike you, it will do so less cruelly than your own imagination. – Lester Levenson

“The brush of mind and the senses discriminates and paints that which is seen, heard, smelled, tasted and touched, and upon perceiving them there arise greed, anger and ignorance. Attracted or repelled [finding things pleasurable (sukha) or painful (patigha)]  the mind and senses go on discriminating, creating all kinds of karma. If you realize that mind and the senses have been empty-quiescent from the beginning and do not recognize any basis for them [i.e. see that they do not arise from anywhere], you are cultivating the Way.”

“By the discriminations of their own mind some paint tigers, wolves, lions, poisonous dragons, evil spirits, the generals of the five paths of existence, Yama (god of death and judge of the dead), the ox-headed guardians of hell, and the Hell of the Sound of Cold (fourth of the eight icy-cold hells). These things are discriminated (created) by their own mind, yet they are bound by them and undergo sufferings. Realize that all that mind discriminates are merely forms. If you awaken to the fact that mind from the beginning has been empty-quiescent and know that mind is not matter, then mind is detached from [not subject to] it. Matter is not this matter; it is a creation of your own mind. Only realize that it is not real, and you will attain liberation.”

19. “Now whenever you rely on the Dharma’s three treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to practice the Way, do not have such views as good and bad, desirable and undesirable, cause and effect, right and wrong, keeping the precepts and breaking the precepts. If you make such calculations they are all bewildering delusions manifested by your own mind, and you will not know that the realm of sense-objects arises from your own mind. If you hold the view that things do not exist, it is likewise. The manifestations of your own mind are all the deluded mind creating right and wrong. If you say that the wisdom of the Buddhas surpasses all, it is likewise. One’s own mind creates existence and nonexistence and is in turn deluded by it.

“A sutra says, ‘If you rely on the Dharmakaya-Buddha to cultivate the Way [Pure Land practice], do not create illusory creatures or real creatures.’ Therefore, the realm of phenomena [dharmadhatu] is all the same, without gain or loss. . . . If you wish to rectify your mind, neither fear dharma nor seek dharma. If you rely on the Dharmakaya Buddha to cultivate the Way, your mind will be like stone — dark, unaware, unknowing, undiscerning, impassive about everything, like one who is stupid. Why? Because the Dharma lacks awareness and knowing.” [The Records were passed down by the Pure Land School, so this may be a later addition. – the Editor]

“Because the Dharma can give me fearlessness, it is a source of great peace. It is like someone who commits a capital crime and is to be beheaded, but then his king grants him clemency and he no longer fears dying. It is the same way with creatures. They commit the ten evils and the five deadly sins and must fall into a hell, but the Dharma King issues the grand clemency of quiescence, and so they are freed of all of their sins. If someone is a good friend of a king, and he ventures off to another country and there kills youths, and he is seized by locals who want to punish the crime, that man is trembling for fear because he has no one to help him. Suddenly he sees the great king and is instantly freed. If someone breaks the precepts, commits murder, sexual transgressions and theft and fears he will fall into a hell, when he sees his own Dharma King he will attain release.”

20. “In the Dharma of cultivating the Way, the vital energy of those who obtain their understanding through the medium of the written word is weak. If one obtains his understanding from events, his vital energy will be robust. Those who see Dharma from the medium of events never lose mindfulness anywhere. . . . With a deep understanding that events are the Dharma, ordinary people will not be able to fathom him. Even if the cultivator of the Way has his belongings stolen by thieves time and again, he will not have a mind of attachment and will not even be vexed. If he is cursed and slandered by others time and again, he will not be vexed. If one is like this, one’s mind of the Way will gradually strengthen. It will accumulate over years without end, until he spontaneously has no-mind toward any disagreeable and agreeable thing. Therefore, he who is not bound by events can be called a bodhisattva of great power. If one wishes to make the mind of cultivating the Way robust, one should transcend the boundaries of the norms.”

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 produce the thought 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, even to the point of not wishing for bodhi (enlightenment). If one does not grasp for understanding and does not seek wisdom (outside of oneself), 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:  “The Confucian virtues of humaneness, righteousness, ritual, wisdom, and faith are called the mind within the limits of the norms. If you wish to transcend the limits of the norms, even to casting aside ordinary person and sage, you must not know by having a method, you must not know by not having a method, you must not know by both having a method and not having a method. That which ordinary knowledge understands is also said to be within the limits of the norms. When you do not produce the mind of the ordinary man, sravaka 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. When the masses encounter a villainous charlatan who preaches an evil philosophy, they come up with an evil interpretation and use it as a guide. This is beneath comment. How can they reach the highest state? Hearing of one who led a group numbering one billion, mind was stirred into motion. Gaze well at the dharma in your own mind to determine whether it clings to the spoken and written word or not.”

22. Question:  “What is the mind of simplicity?” What is the mind of cerebration?” Answer:  “Spoken and written words are called cerebration. Things and concepts (dharma and adharma) are the same. Walking, standing, sitting or lying — maintain the mind of simplicity in all that you do. Even when it encounters unhappy or joyful events, the mind remains unmoved; only then can it be called the mind of simplicity.”

23. Question:  “What is called true (orthodox) and what is called false (heterodox)?” Answer:  “To have no mental discrimination is called orthodox; to have a mind that discriminates is called heterodox. Only when one is unaware of true and false can one be called orthodox. A sutra says: ‘He who abides in the true Way does not discriminate between true and false.’”

24. Question:  “What are sharp abilities and what are dull abilities?”  Answer:  “He who, without relying on the teaching of a master, sees the Dharma through [worldly] events is called one of sharp abilities. He who understands from the spoken teachings of a master is called one of dull abilities. In hearing the Dharma through the teachings of a master, there are also degrees of sharpness and dullness. Upon hearing the master’s words, if one is not attached to existence and yet does not seize nonexistence, if one is not attached to characteristics and yet does not seize upon [the truth of] no characteristics, if one is not attached to arising and yet is not attached to non-arising, he is a person of sharp abilities. To desire understanding and seek meanings, views such as right and wrong, are the understanding and meanings of a person of dull abilities. When the person of sharp abilities hears of the Way, he does not produce the mind of the ordinary person. He does not even produce the mind of the worthy or sage: ordinary and enlightened are both cast aside. This is how the person of sharp abilities hears of the Way. He does not desire material and sensual things, and he does not even desire enlightenment. If one desires enlightenment, he will reject activity and cling to quietude, reject ignorance and cling to wisdom, reject the conditioned (creations) and cling to the unconditioned (uncreated). He will not be able to cut off duality and be unlimited. Such is the person of dull abilities.”

“Getting rid of such is to transcend the realms of the senses of the ordinary person and the saint. He who hears of the Way without producing a covetous mind, without even producing right mindfulness or right aspiration, who upon hearing of the Way does not produce the mind of the sravaka nor even the mind of the bodhisattva, is called a person of sharp abilities. The bodhisattva takes the Dharma Realm as his home and the four immeasurables* as the place of the precepts. All actions, in the end, do not go outside of the Dharma-Realm mind. Why? Because the body is the Dharma Realm. Even if you say and do all sorts of things, leap or a prance like a horse, none of these things leaves the Dharma Realm, nor does it enter the Dharma Realm. One who attempts to grasp the Dharma Realm in order to enter the Dharma Realm is a fool. Because the bodhisattva clearly sees the Dharma Realm, it is said that his Dharma-eye is clear. Because he does not see dharma rising, subsisting and ceasing, it is said that his Dharma-eye is clear. A sutra says: ‘Not doing away with ignorance or defilements (klesa) he gives rise to liberation.’ Since defilements never arose in the first place, there is nothing to do away with. One [blinded by] ignorance and the defilements seeks them inside, outside and in-between, but he can neither see nor apprehend them. Even if he seeks them in the ten directions there is not the slightest trace to take hold of. Hence, it is unnecessary to do away with them in order to seek liberation.” [*love, compassion, bliss and equanimity]

25. Question:  “Worldly people apply themselves to various sorts of learning. Why do they fail to obtain the Way?”  Answer:  “Because they see a self, they do not obtain the Way. If they were able to avoid seeing a self, then they would obtain the Way. Self means ego. A sage encounters hardship without being despondent and pleasure without being joyful because he does not see a self. Therefore, one who is neither troubled nor pleased is so because he has let go of the self. Attaining emptiness, even though only the self is let go of, what more is left to let go of? In the world, those who have let go of the self are few.”

“If you can let go of the self, everything will be nonexistent from the outset. The self perversely produces mentation (a mind), and then one is affected by birth, old age, sickness, death, grief, sorrow, suffering, frustration, cold, heat, wind, rain, and everything that is not in accord with one’s desires. These are all manifestations of the imagination (parikalpita). Like illusions, their coming and going are not under the control of the self. Why? Perversely it opposes the coming and going and will not allow it. The defilements (klesa) exist because of grasping by the self, and from this arises coming and going. Those who know that coming and going are not under the control of the self know that that which the ego affirms (takes as real) are illusory phenomena that cannot be grasped. If one stops resisting the illusion, one becomes unlimited. If one stops resisting changes, then nothing that happens will be regretted.”

26. Question:  “Since all dharma are empty, who cultivates the Way?”  Answer:  “If there is someone, then it is necessary to cultivate the Way. If there is no one, then it is unnecessary to cultivate the Way. The someone is ego. If there were no ego, then upon contact with something affirmation and negation would not arise. Affirmation is the ego’s affirming something; things do not affirm themselves. Negation is the ego’s negating something; things do not negate themselves. This can be understood through such examples as wind, rain, blue, yellow, red, white, and so forth. When the ego is pleased by something, the things are not doing the pleasing. Why? This can be understood through such examples as the relation of the eye, ear, nose and tongue to color and sound, and so forth.”

27. Question:  “The sutra says: ‘Walking on no-path, one comprehends the path of the buddhas.'”  Answer:  “Walking on no-path is to reject neither names nor appearances. For the one who has understood, names are nameless and appearances are no-appearances. It further says: ‘One who walks on no-path rejects neither covetousness nor defilements (klesa).’ For the one who has understood, covetousness is  no-covetousness and defilement is no-defilement. When walking on no-path, suffering is no-suffering and pleasure is no-pleasure: this is called understanding. To reject neither birth nor death is called understanding. When walking on no-path, birth is birthless, and yet one does not cling to birthlessness. Ego is egoless, and yet one does not cling to egolessness. This is called understanding the way of the buddhas. If negation is non-negation, and yet you do not cling to non-negation, then this is called understanding the way of the buddhas. In summary, when mind is no-mind, this is called understanding the mind-way. [*According to the Lanka, ignorance and enlightenment are classified into five categories: names, appearances, discrimination, Suchness and Right Knowledge. In Sanskrit appearances are laksana (what you see) and characteristics are nimitta (traits that set one thing apart from another); however the Long Scroll is in Chinese, so these two can be used interchangeably. (Jorgensen, p. 293)]

28. Question:  “The sutra says: ‘Heretics take delight in the various views; the bodhisattva is unmoved by the various views. The Evil One takes joy in birth and death; the bodhisattva, while in the midst of birth and death, does not run away from it.'”  Answer:  “Because false views are the same as true views, the bodhisattva is unmoved. The views that heretics delight in are called seeing existence and seeing nonexistence. Understanding that existence is not existent, that nonexistence is not non-existent, is called being unmoved. To be unmoved is to neither abandon the true nor abandon the false. At the moment of true understanding, there is no false and true, so there is no need to abandon the false in order to seek the true. Since existence is not existent, he is unmoved when he sees existence. Since nonexistence is not non-existent, he is unmoved when he sees nonexistence. Because he relies on the Dharma to examine the lack of difference between the false and the true, he is said to be unmoved. Further, because it is unnecessary to him to reject the false in order to enter the true, he is said to be unmoved by the various views. A sutra says: ‘By false appearances enter the true Dharma.’ It also says: ‘Enter the eight forms of liberation without rejecting the eight heterodox practices.'”

30. Question: “Is the Great Way near or far?”  Answer: “It is like a mirage in the heat, neither near nor far. An image of a face in a mirror is also neither near nor far. Flowers, needles, etc., that henbane produces in the air are also neither near nor far. If you say that they are near, how is it that, when one seeks for them in the ten directions, one cannot grasp them? If you say they are far, they pass clearly and distinctly before the eyes. The treatise says: ‘Near and yet you cannot see them: this is the nature of the ten thousand things.’ If you see the nature of things it is called attaining the Way. To see Mind in things is [to see that] the nature of things is not characterized by thing-ness, that things are thing-less. This is called seeing the nature of things. As has been said, all that has the nature of form are things. To see the nature of things truly, without error, is called seeing the highest truth; it is also called seeing the Dharma. ‘Near and yet you cannot see them’ refers to the nature of things.”

“The sage lets things be and does not let himself be (i.e. does not indulge the self) and so he has no grasping and rejecting, no disapproving or approving.* The ignorant one lets himself be and does not let things be, and so he has grasping and rejecting, disapproving and approving. If you can empty the mind, be unhurried and free, and completely let go of the world, then you are one who lets events be and goes with the flow.** Letting events be and going with the flow is easy, while opposing, resisting, and changing things is difficult. When events will to come, let them be; do not oppose them. If they will to depart, let them go; do not pursue them. What has been done — move past it and do not regret it. Events that have not yet arrived — let them go and do not think about them. This is the person who is walking the path. If you can let events be, then you leave the world to its own devices. Gain and loss will not arise from the ego. If you allow events to happen and do not resist, if you let go and do not oppose them, where and when will you not roam in the beyond?”

In life itself, be not the doer — be the witness. Let things happen; allow life to be. That’s the way we are in the top state, and the best behavior in life is that which is characteristic of the top state. There are many other things which I’m sure you are aware of: humbleness, goodness, kindness, honesty, etc. All these things help, but the greatest aid is to be not the doer, but be the witness. – Lester Levenson (1993)

[* “Indeed, he who indulges himself is opposed to things, while he who is in accord with things does not oppose things.” Also: “Because I am not, I conform with things, and because I conform with things, the Principle is reached. When the Principle is reached, all traces of opposition are erased.” (Jorgensen, p. 301)]

[**”Therefore a sutra says, ‘The saint’s mind knows nothing and yet there is nothing that it does not know.’ I believe it! Therefore a saint empties his mind and fills his illumination. He knows all his days and yet has never known. Therefore he can dull his brilliance and sheathe his light and yet his empty mind mirrors profundity. He shuts out his wisdom and blocks off his intellect, and yet he alone is aware of the inscrutable.” (The Pan-jo wu-chih lun, quoted in Jorgensen, p. 301)]

31. Question:  “It said that the Great Way is very easy to find and easy to follow, yet no one in the world is capable of finding it and following it. Please explain this.”  Answer:
“These words are true. Being above the world, unmoved, letting go, indifferent to it, not doing a single thing, is called following the Way. Not seeing a single thing is called seeing the Way. Not knowing a single thing is called cultivating the Way. Not practising a single thing is called practising the Way. Thus it is said to be easy to enter and easy to follow.”

32. Question:  “The Tao Te Ching says: ‘The same diligence at the end as at the beginning; no failed endeavors.’  What does this mean?”  Answer:  “Once a person embraces faith in the Dharma and produces the thought of enlightenment he never regresses. There is past and there is present. The initial thought of enlightenment is the present. Looking back on the past from the present, and from the past looking to the beginning, is the present. One who focuses the mind on the Way from beginning to end is called one who has faith in the Buddha-Dharma. That past and present are unchanging is called fruit; that the unreal deceives is called flower.

33. Question:  “What is the bodhisattva practice?”  Answer:  “It is not the practice of the worthies and sages, nor is it the practice of the ordinary man: it is the practice of the bodhisattva. One who is training to be a bodhisattva neither grasps worldly things nor rejects worldly things. If you can enter the Way with thought and consciousness (the senses), there will be no one, unenlightened or sravaka, capable of taking your measure. It is said that wherever there are events, wherever there are forms, wherever there is sin, the bodhisattva uses them all and there does the work of the Buddha. They are all turned into nirvana; they are all the Great Way. Thus every place is no place, which is the realm of the Dharma and which is the realm of the Way. The bodhisattva regards the fact that every place is the place of the Dharma. The bodhisattva does not reject any place, does not cling to any place, does not choose any place, for everywhere is done the work of the Buddha. Thus in birth and death is done the work of the Buddha, and in delusion is done the work of the Buddha.”  Question:  “Dharma are not-dharma. How is the Buddha’s work done?”  Answer:  “The place where the work is done is not a place where work is done, and there are no dharma working; therefore, in good places and bad, the Buddha is seen.” [“Lord of Lanka, beings are appearances; they are like figures painted on a wall that is unmoved by them. Lord of Lanka, all that is in the world is devoid of work and action because all things have no reality. The teaching is thus: there is nothing heard, no one hearing.” (Suzuki, The Lankavatara Sutra, p. 20)]

 

Footnote (Jorgensen p. 366): Note that Ta-mo lun has usually been interpreted to mean II (Twofold Entrance). However the LCSTC (Leng-chia shih-tzu chi, compiled by Ching-chueh, b. 683-750) says, “These four practices are what Meditation Teacher Dharma personally preached; the rest is then a record by pupil T’an-lin of the master’s deeds and sayings, collected in one chuan (scroll) and called the Ta-mo lun.” This implies that the text as a whole was called the Ta-mo lun, perhaps following Tao-hsuan.

 

Broughton, Jeffrey L. The Bodhidharma Anthology. University of California Press, 1999.

Jorgensen, John A. The Earliest Text of Ch’an Buddhism: The Long Scroll. The Australian National University, 1979.

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