Bodhidharma’s Method for Quieting the Mind

More than a thousand years ago, an extraordinary trove of early Buddhist sutras and other scriptures was secreted away in caves near the Silk Road city of Tun-huang. This trove included scrolls that purported to contain of the teachings of Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of Ch’an Buddhism. D.T. Suzuki learned of this and in 1935 he traveled to China, where he located these manuscripts in the Peking Library. He published a facsimile of them soon after–it was Suzuki who called them “Long Scroll of the Treatise on The Twofold Entrance and Four Practices” (Ta-mo lun). Yanagida Seizan published the first translation of the manuscripts into modern Japanese in 1967, and he was able to identify most of Bodhidharma’s scriptural references. Despite Bodhidharma’s esteem for the Lankavatara, he frequently quoted the Vimalakirti Sutra.

The Long Scroll contains seven texts. It was compiled by T’an-lin, an eminent scholar and translator who was likely a pupil of the second patriarch, Hui-k’o. The first and second texts are well known: they are a brief biography of Bodhidharma, and The Twofold Entrance. 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. John 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, J. p. 366, which is at the end of this post). Texts five, six and seven, which Jeffrey Broughton (1999) calls Record I, Record II and Record III, contain the substance of Bodhidharma’s teachings. It should be noted that this instruction is for advanced pupils.

John Jorgensen published the first translation into English, acknowledging the excellent work done by Yanagida Seizan twelve years before. Jeffrey Broughton (1999) has also done a scholarly translation, which has many insights. What follows is this editor’s interpretation of these two translations, which relies primarily on Jorgensen simply because his translation is the more literal of the two.

Record I consists of sections five through forty-nine of the Long Scroll.


Record I of the Long Scroll of the Treatise on the Twofold Entrance and Four Practices



Buddhas speak of the emptiness of phenomena 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 phenomenon arises, not a single phenomenon ceases. All phenomena arise due to craving. Craving is neither within nor without, nor does it lie in-between. Craving is an empty phenomenon, but ordinary people are consumed by its flame. The false and the true are neither within nor without, nor in any of the ten directions. Discrimination (samjna) is an empty phenomenon, but ordinary people are consumed by its flame. All phenomena are likewise. (J. 254)


Because the Dharma-body is formless, one sees it by not seeing. Because the Dharma is without sound, one hears it by not hearing. Because insight (prajna) is without knowledge, one knows by not knowing.

If you take seeing to be seeing, there is something that you do not see. If you take not seeing to be seeing, there is nothing that you do not see.

If you take knowing to be knowing, there is something that you do not know. If you take not knowing to be knowing, there is nothing that you do not know.

Insight cannot know, so it is not something that has knowledge; but because it comes about by way of things, it is not something that lacks knowledge.

If you take obtaining to be obtaining, there is something that you do not obtain. If you take not obtaining to be obtaining, there is nothing that you do not obtain.

If you consider right to be right, there is something that is not right. If you consider wrong to be right, there is nothing that is not right.

One gate of wisdom leads to one hundred thousand gates of wisdom.

If one sees a pillar and interprets it to be a pillar, this is to see the appearance of a pillar, and so interpret it to be a pillar. Observe that the phenomenon of pillar is in the mind without the appearance of the pillar. Therefore, as soon as one sees a pillar, one seizes the phenomenon of pillar. See all forms likewise.

“The Blessed Path leads where there is no path. It is not attained by attaining. The Blessed Knowledge is ignorant of facts. Knowing it is knowing not. The Cosmic Form is hidden in the formless; seeing it is seeing not. The Cosmic Sound is hidden in silence; hearing it is hearing not.” Nieh-p’an Wu-ming Lun (quoted by Yanagida in J. 258)


Someone said: No phenomena exist.
Answer: Do you see existence or not? Whether you think that no phenomena exist because there is such a thing as existence, or that they exist because there is such a thing as nonexistence, you still have existence.

Someone said: No phenomena arise.
Answer: Do you see arisal or not? Whether you think that no phenomena arise because there is such a thing as arisal, or that they arise because there is such a thing as non-arisal, you still have arisal.

Again he said: I see that all is no-mind.
Answer: Do you see mind or not? Whether you think that there is no-mind because there is such a thing as mind, or that there is mind because there is such a thing as no-mind, you still have mind. (J. 259-260)


The Tripitaka Dharma Master says: Not understanding, the man pursues phenomena; understanding, phenomena pursue the man. Understanding, consciousness draws in forms; deluded, forms draw in consciousness. To not produce any consciousness caused by forms is called not seeing forms.

Whether there is non-seeking in your seeking or seeking in your non-seeking, you are still seeking. Whether there is non-grasping in your grasping or grasping in your non-grasping, you are still grasping.

When the mind needs something, it is called the desire realm (kamadhatu). When the mind is not mind of itself, but is a mind produced from forms (i.e., a mind that is suitable for each incarnation), it is called the form realm (rupadhatu). When forms are not forms of themselves, but are forms because they are from the mind, then the mind and forms being formless, it is called the formless realm (arupadhatu). (J. 260)


Question: What is that which is called the Buddha-mind?
Answer: If the mind is without differentiation, it is called suchness. If the mind is changeless, it is called Dharma-nature. If the mind is governed by nothing, it is called liberation. If the mind’s nature is unlimited, it is called enlightenment. If the mind’s nature is quiescent, it is called nirvana.


Question: What is that which is called a tathagata (one who goes in suchness)?
Answer: One who knows suchness and yet responds to beings: this one is called a tathagata.
Question: What is that which is called (the treasure of the) Buddha?
Answer: One who is awakened to the Dharma, awakened to the fact that there is nothing to awaken to: this one is called Buddha.
Question: What is that which is called the (treasure of 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 (treasure of the) Dharma.
Question: What is that which is called the (treasure of the) Sangha?
Answer: Coming together according to the doctrine: this is called the (treasure of the) Sangha.


Question: What is called the meditation on emptiness?
Answer: Gazing at phenomena yet abiding in emptiness: this is called the meditation on emptiness. (B. 16)

Question: What is called abiding in the Dharma?
Answer: Neither abiding in abiding nor abiding in non-abiding 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 the One serenely in your breast
泯然自盡     And dualism will vanish by itself
– Hsin-Hsin Ming


Question: What about the phrase: is male yet not male, is female yet not female?
Answer: Male and female characteristics cannnot be known from an examination of forms. How can they be known, given that forms do not possess male and female characteristics? If a form could be male, then all grasses and trees would be male, and likewise with female. Deluded people do not understand, and through false thoughts see male and female, but this is an illusory maleness and an illusory femaleness, ultimately without reality. The Chu-fa Wu-hsing Ching (Sutra on the Inactivity of All Things) says: Know that all phenomena are like illusions and you will quickly become the foremost of men. (J. 266)

“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.” Sarvadharmapravrttinirdesasutra (J. 267)


Question: Those who realize incomplete nirvana and attain the fruit of arhat, are they awake or not?
Answer: This is a dream realization.
Question: The practice of the six paramitas, the fulfillment of the ten stages and all their disciplines, the awareness that all phenomena neither arise nor cease, are neither aware nor knowing, are mindless and without understanding—is this awakening or not?
Answer: These are also dreams.
Question: The ten powers and four fearlessnesses, the eighteen buddha-attributes, the perfect awakening that completed the Way under the Bodhi tree, the ability to liberate sentient beings and even the entrance into nirvana—can this not be awakening?
Answer: These are also dreams.
Question: All the buddhas of the past, present and future in (the highest state of) sameness teaching sentient beings, those that have obtained the Way being as numerous as the sands of the Ganges—can this not be awakening?
Answer: This is also a dream. Again, the discrimination and thinking and the objectifications out of one’s own mind are all a dream. One who is awake is not asleep; one who is asleep is not awake. These imaginings of thought, mind and consciousness are the wisdom in a dream; there is no one who is awakened nor any object to be awakened to. The moment one is awakened to phenomena as they are, one is awakened to true reality. There is no self-awakening at all: ultimately there is no awakening.

The perfect awakening of all buddhas of the past, present and future are only the memories and discriminations of sentient beings: therefore I call them dreams. If the conscious mind is quiescent and has no place for the stirring of a single thought, this is called perfect awakening. Anything in which the mind and consciousness are not extinguished is a dream. (J. 267-268)

“All things have the nature of a dream; all will become Buddha. What the Buddha is aware of is no thing . . . What liberates man is that there is no one to be saved. . . . There is no ego-soul, no man. Empty, nothing to be attached to—this is nirvana.” Seng-fu, Hui-yin San-mei Ching (J. 163-164)


Question: What is the wisest method to cultivate the Way and cut off delusion?
Answer: One uses the wise method of expedient devices.
Question: What is this expedient device?
Answer: It is contemplating and knowing that from the beginning delusion has no place from which to arise. With this expedient device one can cut off delusions, so it is called wise.

Question: What delusion is cut off by the mind that is in accord with the Dharma?
Answer: The delusion that ordinary men, heretics, sravakas, solitary buddhas, bodhisattva and so forth attain liberation. (J. 270)


Question: What are the two truths?
Answer: It is like a mirage. Deluded people see the air waving due to the heat and take it to be water, but it is not really water—it is the shimmering of heated air. The meaning of the two truths is also like this. Ordinary men see the primal truth as relative truth; sages see relative truth as the primal truth. Therefore, a sutra says: The buddhas always rely on the two truths to preach the Dharma. [Asked about] the primal truth, they speak of relative truth; [asked about] relative truth, they speak of the primal truth.1 Truth is empty. If you see (good and bad) attributes, then you must resolve them! If there is self and a mind, there is arising and cessation. These also must you resolve.

Question: How does one resolve (arising and cessation)?
Answer: If you rely upon the Dharma to gaze, then you will lose your truth-sight and not see one thing. Therefore, the Tao Te Ching says: Vigorous virtue is like indolence.
It draws one into emptiness (later commentary).

1. This is part of a verse from Chung-lun IV, “Examination of the Four Truths”:

The teaching of the Dharma by the various buddhas is based on the two truths; namely the relative truth and the primal truth. Those who do not know the distinction between the two truths cannot understand the profound nature of the buddhas’ teaching.

“The worldly truth produces the world of illusion because of the inversion of worldly knowledge. Although all existence is empty, and although it is taken to be real in the world, the saints clearly know the nature of this inversion. So all existence is empty, and one knows there is nothing born. For saints this is the primal Truth, and is called True Reality. . . . But if one thinks that the second truth, worldly truth, is not necessary because the non-arisal of all existence is the primal Truth, one is mistaken. Why? Because,

Without relying on the worldly truth, the primal Truth cannot be attained. Without attaining the primal Truth, nirvana cannot be attained.

The primal Truth is (taught) via words, but words are worldly. Therefore, if it is not via the worldly, the primal Truth cannot be taught. If one cannot attain the primal Truth, one cannot in any way reach nirvana. So, although the various beings were not born, still [out of compassion for them] it is said that there are two truths.” (Yanagida, J. 271)


Question: What sort of a mind is called craving?
Answer: The mind of ordinary people.
Question: What sort of a mind is that which leads to non-birth?
Answer: The mind of the sravaka.
Question: What sort of a mind is that which understands that phenomena lack a nature of their own?
Answer: The mind of the solitary buddha.
Question: What sort of a mind is that which does not create awakening and delusion?
Answer: The mind of the bodhisattva.
Question: What sort of a mind is that which is not aware and does not know?
There was no answer. The reason that there was no answer is because Dharma (Bodhidharma) cannot answer. This is because Dharma is mindless, and with an answer, there is mind. Dharma is wordless, but with an answer there are words. Dharma is without understanding, but with an answer there is understanding. Dharma is without knowing and seeing, but with an answer there is knowing and seeing. Dharma is without this and that, but with an answer there is this and that. Such minds and words are all discriminations. Because the mind is not a form, it is not governed by forms. Mind is not formless, so it is not governed by the formless. A mind not governed by anything is liberation.

When one transgresses the precepts he is distressed, yet if he knows that this apprehensive mind cannot be grasped, he can still attain liberation. He will also know that birth in a heaven cannot be attained. Even if one knows of emptiness, emptiness cannot be attained. Even if one knows that it is unattainable, the unattainable cannot be attained.


If the mind reveres something, it must despise something. If the mind affirms something, it must negate something. If the mind takes one thing to be good, all things are not good. If the mind loves one thing, all things are disliked. With your mind neither abide in forms, nor abide in the absence of forms. Neither abide in abiding, nor abide in non-abiding. If the mind abides in anything it will not escape bondage. If the mind functions anywhere, then it is bound.

If your mind values phenomena, phenomena will bind you. If the mind reveres a single thing, the mind must despise something Trying to grasp the meaning of the sutras and treatises, do not revere the understanding of them. If the mind understands something, it is attached to something. If the mind is attached to something, then it is bound. The sutra says: It is not through learning about inferior, average and superior that one attains nirvana.

“The sravakas and solitary buddhas do not perfect them for the reason that one cannot understand the realm of nirvana by understanding qualities such as superior, average and inferior.” Srimala Sutra (J. 276)

Even though thoughts have entered delusion, do not counter them with thoughts of non-delusion. Instead, when a thought arises, rely on the doctrine to gaze at the place from which it arises. If the mind discriminates (judges), rely on the doctrine to gaze at the place from which discrimination arises. Whether it is greed, anger or delusion that arises, rely on the doctrine to gaze at the place from which it arises. To see that there is no place from which they can arise is to cultivate the Way. If there is arising of the mind, then investigate it, and relying on the doctrine, resolve it!


Question: In the cultivation and attainment of the Way, is there quickness and slowness?
Answer: It spans millions of years. For those who accept that their own mind is the Way, it is quick. For those who have made up their mind to carry out the practices, it is slow. People of sharp abilities know that their mind is the Way; people of dull abilities seek everywhere for the Way, but don’t know where it is. Moreover, they do not know that from the beginning, their mind is unexcelled perfect enlightenment.

Question: How does one quickly attain the Way?
Answer: The mind being the nature of the Way, the Way can be attained quickly. When the practitioner himself knows that delusion has arisen, then, relying on the Dharma (teaching), he observes it and causes it to vanish.

Question: How is the mind the nature of the Way?
Answer: The mind is like wood or stone (i.e., a surface for a painting). For example, it is like a man who paints a picture of tigers and dragons with his own hand, yet, when he sees it he is frightened. A deluded man is like this. The brush of thought-consciousness paints the Razor Mountain and the Sword Forest, and yet thought-consciousness is afraid of them. If you can get rid of the mind’s fear, false imaginings will be swept away. Although the brush of expectations discriminates and paints forms, sounds, smells, tastes and touch, still greed, anger and stupidity arise when one sees them. Attracted and repelled, the mind, thoughts and sense-consciousness continue to discriminate, producing all sorts of karma. If one knows that the mind-consciousness has been empty and quiescent from the beginning and does not recognize any basis (for the painting), this is the practice of the Way.

Some discriminate with their own mind and paint tigers, wolves, lions, venomous dragons and evil fiends, or the general who keeps the book of life, Yama, and the ox-headed demons of hell. If one discriminates them with one’s own mind and is governed by them, this is [the cause of] hardships. But know that all that the mind discriminates are forms. If you awaken to the truth that your mind has been empty and quiescent from the beginning, you will know that your mind is not a form and is not governed by forms. Forms are non-forms, for they are creations of one’s own mind. Only realize that it is not real, and you will attain release. ( J. 277-278)

“If a man paints an image on the wall, the wall is the support of the image; so, if anybody loves the image on the wall, he loves the wall as well. If you took the wall away, the image would be removed as well.” Meister Eckhart


Now when 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 evil, superior and unworthy, cause and effect, right and wrong, keeping the precepts and breaking the precepts. If you make such calculations, they are bewildering delusions manifested out of your own mind, which doesn’t know that the realms of senses arise from your own mind. Even the knowledge that no things exist is likewise (a delusion). The manifestations of one’s own mind are all the deluded mind creating right and wrong. If you say that the buddha-wisdom surpasses all, it is likewise. One’s own mind creates existence and nonexistence and yet is deluded (by it).

The Royal Pardon of Quiescence

Because the Dharma can give me fearlessness, it is a source of great security. It is like someone who commits a capital crime and is to be beheaded, but then his king grants him a pardon and instantly he has nothing to fear. It is the same way with beings. They commit the ten evils and the five deadly sins and must fall into a hell, but the Dharma-king issues the royal pardon of quiescence, and so they are freed of all of their sins. If one is a good friend of a king, and he ventures off to another country and there kills men and women, and he is seized there, and they want to avenge their grievances, that man is trembling for fear because he has none to help him. Suddenly he sees his great king and is instantly released. If someone breaks the precepts, commits murder, sexual transgressions and theft, and he fears he will fall into a hell, when he sees his own Dharma-king he will obtain release.


If one has a deep understanding that events are the Dharma, then worldly people will not be able to fathom him. Despite being repeatedly robbed by bandits and stripped of all of his possessions, a practitioner of the Way has no mind of attachment and does not feel vexed. Even if he is repeatedly abused and slandered by others, he still does not feel vexed. If he is like this, his mind of the Way gradually becomes stronger, accumulating over years without end until spontaneously he has no mind for any disagreeable or agreeable thing. Therefore, he who is not ruled by these events can be called a bodhisattva of great strength. One who wishes to expand his mind of cultivating the Way should direct his mind beyond the circumscribed. (J. 282)


Question: What sort of thing is called beyond the circumscribed?
Answer: Not realizing the understanding of Mahayana or Hinayana, not raising a mind of enlightenment (Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra), nor even wishing for omniscience; not revering him who is accomplished in tranquility, not despising him who has attachments and cravings, nor even vowing to attain Buddha-wisdom. This mind is naturally at peace. If one does not grasp for understanding and does not seek wisdom, such a one will most likely avoid the delusions and confusions of the Dharma masters and meditation masters. If one can maintain a mind that does not wish to be a sage or saint, of not seeking liberation, of not fearing birth and death nor the hells, and can with no-mind directly carry out his duties, only then has one formed a mind beyond the circumscribed. If one can witness all the transformations of the saints and sages by means of their divine powers over millions of years without producing a covetous mind, he will most likely avoid the deceptive delusions of others.

Again it was asked: How does one produce this mind beyond the circumscribed?
Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and faith are called the circumscribed mind (Confucian virtues). Birth-and-death and nirvana are also called the circumscribed mind. If you wish to transcend the circumscribed mind, even the words ordinary man and sage must be gotten rid of. It cannot be known through things, nor can it be known through concepts, nor can it be known through both things and concepts. That which ordinary knowledge understands is also called within the circumscribed. Not producing the mind of the ordinary man or the arhat or the bodhisattva, nor even setting one’s mind on [attaining] the Buddha-mind or any mind at all, only then can one be said to have transcended the circumscribed.

If you wish that no mind at all should arise, avoid interpretations and do not allow delusions to arise: only then are you said to have transcended everything. When the stupid of the world encounter a charlatan who preaches an evil message, they take away an evil interpretation and use it as a guide. This is unspeakable. How can one influence so many? I have heard of a man who leads a horde of a thousand million: his mind moves them [all]. Carefully examine your own mental phenomena to see whether there are any spoken or written words there. (J. 283-285)


What is called the mind of equanimity? What is called the mind of artifice?
Letters and speech are called artifice. Forms and formlessness and so forth, walking, standing, sitting and lying down: all action and conduct are plain. Even when it encounters all manner of unhappy and joyful events, this mind does not move; only then is it called the mind of equanimity.

(Meister Eckhart called this the just mind; Hui-neng, the straight mind.)


Question:  What is called true (orthodox) and what is called false (heterodox)?
Answer: To have no mental discrimination is called true; to have a mind that discriminates is called false. When one arrives at the state of being unaware of false and true, then for the first time one can be called true. A sutra says: He who abides in the true Way does not discriminate between false and true (Vimalakirti).

“The bodhisattva Jewel Crowned King said: The true and the false way constitute a dualism. But one who dwells in the true way does not discriminate thus: This is false, this is true. By removing oneself from both, one may thereby enter the gate of nondualism. The Vimalakirti Sutra, “Entering the Gate of Nondualism”

When a thought arises, rely on the Teaching to gaze at the place from which it arises. If your mind discriminates, rely on the Teaching to gaze at the place of the discrimination. Whether greed, anger or delusion arise, rely on the Teaching 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 arising of the mind, then investigate it, and relying on the Teaching, resolve it! (J. 286)


Question: What are sharp abilities and what are dull abilities?
Answer: He who, without relying on the teaching of a master, sees the Dharma in the midst of 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 upon nonexistence, if one is not attached to attributes and yet does not seize upon (the idea of) no attributes, if one is not attached to arising and yet is not attached to non-arising, he is a person of sharp abilities.

If one seeks understanding and knowledge, views such as right and wrong are the understanding and knowledge 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 crave material and sensual things, and he does not even crave enlightenment. If he craves enlightenment, he will reject activity and cling to quietude, reject ignorance and cling to wisdom, reject the conditioned and cling to the unconditioned. One who is unable to cut off these dualities and be unlimited is the person of dull abilities.

Getting rid of such is to transcend the desire-realms and the sense-realms 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 determination, who upon hearing of the Way does not produce the mind of the arhat nor even the mind of the bodhisattva, is called a person of sharp abilities.

The bodhisattva regards the realm of phenomena as his home and the four immeasurable minds as the place where he receives the precepts. All actions in the end do not leave the realm of the phenomenal mind. Why? Because the body is the realm of phenomena. Even if you say and do all sorts of things and leap and prance around, nothing leaves the realm of phenomena, nor does anything enter the realm of phenomena. He who grasps the realm of phenomena to enter into the realm of phenomena is a fool. Because the bodhisattvas clearly see the realm of phenomena, it is said that their eye is clear regarding phenomena. Since they do not see phenomena rising, existing and ceasing, it is said that their eye is clear regarding phenomena (parinishpanna-svabhava).

A sutra says: Do not extinguish ignorance or passion, for since passion never arose in the first place, there is nothing that can cease. In ignorance one seeks his passions inside, outside and in-between, but he cannot see them and he cannot grasp them. Even if he seeks for them in the ten directions, he will not be able to grasp even an iota. Therefore, one need not extinguish them to seek liberation. (J. 287-288)


Question: Worldly people apply themselves to all sorts of learning. Why do they fail to attain the Way?
Answer: Because they see a self, they cannot attain the Way. If one does not see a self, one has attained the Way. Self means ego. A saint is one who upon encountering hardship is not despondent, and upon encountering pleasure does not rejoice, for he does not see a self. Therefore one who has neither suffering nor pleasure is so because he has lost the self. Attaining to emptiness, although only the self is lost, what else can there be that is not also lost? In the world, those who have lost the self are few. If one can lose the self, everything will be seen as nonexistent from the beginning.

The self perversely produces a mind, and then one is affected by birth, old age, sickness, death, grief, sorrow for others, hardship, defilements, cold, heat, wind and rain, and everything that is not in accord with one’s desires. All of these are projections of the imagination. Just as with illusions, their going and coming are not under the control of the self. Why? Perversely it opposes the going and coming and will not accept it. The defilements (klesa) exist because of grasping by the self, and so there is going and coming. Those who know that going and coming is not under the control of the self know that what the ego takes as real are illusory things which cannot be grasped. If one does not resist the illusion, one becomes unfettered in all things. If one does not resist the changes, one regrets nothing that happens.

“Form, O monks, is not Self. If form were Self, then form would not lead to passions, and one would be able to will regarding form: May my form be thus, may my form not be thus. And indeed, O monks, since form is not Self, therefore form leads to passions and one cannot will regarding form: May my form be thus, may my form not be thus.” – Anatta Lakkhana Sutta


Question: Since all phenomena are empty, who is it that cultivates the Way?
Answer:  If there is someone, he must cultivate the Way. If there is no one, there is no need to cultivate the Way. That someone is the ego. If there is no ego, then when there is contact with things, existing and not existing do not arise. If something is, it is the ego that sustains it; the thing does not sustain itself. If something is not, it is the ego that negates it; the thing does not negate itself. This can be understood through such examples as wind, rain, green, yellow, red and white, and so forth. If it is pleasant, the ego itself is pleased; the thing is not pleasant. Why? This can be understood through such examples as the relations of the eye, ear, nose and tongue to color and sound, and so forth. (J. 292)


Question: The sutra says: Walking in the non-way, one comprehends the Buddha-way. (Vimalakirti)
Answer:  Walking in the non-way means to reject neither names nor forms. For the one who has understood, names are non-names and forms are non-forms. It further says: One who walks in the non-way rejects neither greed nor defilements. For the one who has understood, greed is non-greed and defilements are non-defilements. When walking in the non-way, suffering is non-suffering and pleasure is non-pleasure: this is called understanding. To reject neither birth nor death is called understanding. When walking in the non-way, 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 Buddha-way.1 In summary, when mind is no-mind, one is said to have understood the mind-way. (J. 293)

1. To negate is to understand that things are not real; to not negate means you understand that things are, even though their arising depends entirely on the thoughts of sentient beings. To not cling to non-negation means you aren’t conceited. You understand that your mind, which has this understanding, isn’t real, either.


Question: What is the penetration of all phenomena?
Answer: When things do not give rise to seeing, this is called penetration. When things do not give rise to the mind, when things do not give rise to greed and when things do not give rise to vexation, all these are called penetration. When form is formless, it is called penetrating form. When existence is nonexistent, this is called penetrating existence. When birth is birthless, it is called penetrating birth. When phenomena are non-phenomena, it is called penetrating phenomena. When someone comes into contact with things and directly penetrates them, that person’s wisdom-eye is open. Also, not being able to see differences or no differences in appearances is called penetration. (J. 294)

“The Bodhisattva Priyadarsana said: Form and the emptiness of form are a duality. Form is emptiness, but form is not extinguished by emptiness, for the nature of form is that it is emptiness. So are feeling (vedana), differentiation (samjna), expectation (samskara) and consciousness (vijnana). Consciousness and emptiness are a duality. Consciousness is emptiness, but consciousness is not extinguished by emptiness, for the nature of consciousness is that it is emptiness. To penetrate this is to enter into the non-dual Dharma-gate.” (Vimalakirti)

“Form is empty, so there is no need to wait for form to cease in order for it to be empty. Therefore, to see form as different from emptiness is to create duality in the attributes of phenomena.” Seng-chao (Yanagida, J. 294)


Question: The sutra says: Heretics take delight in the various views; the bodhisattva is unmoved by the various views. The Evil One delights in birth-and-death; the Bodhisattva, while in the midst of birth and death, does not reject it.
Answer: The bodhisattva is unmoved because false views are the same as true views. The views in which heretics delight are called seeing existence and seeing nonexistence. Understanding that existence is nonexistence and that nonexistence is not nonexistent* is called being unmoved. To be unmoved is to neither reject the true nor reject the false. At the moment of true understanding, there is no false and true, so there is no need to reject the false in order to enter the true. Since existence is nonexistence, he is unmoved when he sees existence. Since nonexistence is not nonexistence, he is unmoved when he sees nonexistence. Because he relies on the Dharma to investigate 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, 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 wrong practices.

Because birth-and-death and nirvana are identical, do not reject it. Birth in non-birth and death is non-death. Do not depend on the rejection of birth to enter non-birth, nor the rejection of death to enter non-death, for they are quiescent and therefore nirvana. A sutra says: All creatures are quiescent from the beginning and do not have to become so again. It also says: All things are nirvana. There is no need to reject birth-and-death for they are nirvana from the beginning. It is just like a person who has no need to reject an icicle, since it is water from the beginning and their natures are identical. Because birth-and-death and nirvana are identical in nature, there is no need to reject it. Therefore, a bodhisattva, while in the midst of birth-and-death, does not reject it.

That a bodhisattva relies on being unmoved means that he relies on self-reliance, which is called (true) reliance.

Because the heretics take delight in views, the bodhisattva teaches them that a view is a non-view, and not to labor at abandoning views in order to one day be free of them.

That the Evil One delights in birth-and-death and the bodhisattva does not reject them means that the bodhisattva wishes to awaken them to the fact that birth is non-birth, and not to rely on rejecting birth in order to enter into non-birth. In the same way it is not necessary to reject water while seeking moisture, or rejecting fire while seeking heat. Water is moist, fire is hot, and birth-and-death is precisely nirvana. So a bodhisattva does not reject birth-and-death in order to enter nirvana, for the nature of birth-and-death is nirvana.

Do not depend on cutting off birth-and-death to enter nirvana. A sravaka cuts off birth-and-death and enters nirvana, but because a bodhisattva fully understands that their nature is the same, he can, through great compassion, give to the masses by adopting their ways. Birth-and-death are two words that signify the same thing. (J. 295-296)

“All the demons and heretics are my servants. Why? Because demons delight in birth and death, which the bodhisattva does not reject; heretics delight in views, in the midst of which the bodhisattva remains unmoved.” (Vimalakirti)

“Because of his great kindness and compassion, he does not remain in the supramundane; fulfilling his vows, he does not extinguish the mundane. Gathering Dharma-medicines, he does not remain in the supramundane; administering medicines he does not extinguish the mundane. Knowing the illnesses of all living things, he does not remain in the supramundane; wishing to cure their illnesses, he does not extinguish the mundane.” (Vimalakirti)


Question: Is the Great Way near or far?1
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., in the air that henbane produces 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 has patience with things and is impatient with himself,2 and with him there is no grasping and rejecting, disliking or liking. The stupid one has patience with himself and is impatient with things, and with him there is grasping and rejecting, disliking and liking. If you can empty your mind, be unhurried and free and completely forget the world, this is having patience with things and going along with events, which is easy.3 Opposing, resisting and changing things is difficult. If something wills to come, let it come and do not resist it; if it wills to depart, let it go and do not chase after it. Whatever you have done is past and not to be regretted. That which has not yet happened, let go of it and do not think of it. This is to be a practitioner of the Way. Having patience, one leaves the world to its own devices, and gain and loss do not arise from the self. If you have patience and do not oppose what comes, if you let go and do not resist what departs, where and when will you not roam in the beyond? (Jorgensen 299, Broughton 31)

1. Seng-chao’s Chao-lun, “Near and yet you cannot know them; Just this is the nature of dharmas.”

2. To have patience or leave it up to things is to mindlessly conform with things. . . . In Kuo Hsiang’s Chuang-tzu Chu (Free and Easy Wandering) he says: “Indeed he who is patient with himself is opposed to things, while he who is in accord with things is not opposed to things.” And “Because I am not, I conform with things, since I conform with things the Principle is reached. When the Principle is reached, all traces of opposition are erased.” (J. 301)

3. “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.” Pan-jo Wu-chih Lun (J. 301)


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.
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.


Question: The Tao Te Ching says: The same diligence at the end as at the beginning; no failed endeavors.
Answer: Once a person embraces faith in the Doctrine and produces the mind of enlightenment he never regresses. There is past and there is present. The initial thought of enlightenment is the present. From the present to the past, and from the past going back to the beginning, it is still the present. One who focuses the mind on the Way from beginning to end is called one who has faith in the Buddha-doctrine. Knowing that past and present are unchanging is called fruit; knowing that the unreal deceives is called flower.


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 arhat, 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 Dharma-Realm 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: Forms are non-forms: what is it that does the Buddha’s work?
Answer: This place of work is a non-place of work, and there are no forms working. Therefore, in good places and bad, the Buddha is seen. (J. 304)

“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.” The Lankavatara Sutra (Suzuki, p. 20)


Question: What is seeing the Buddha?
Answer: Craving, one does not see the appearance of craving; rather, one sees craving as a phenomenon. [Suffering] one does not see the appearance of suffering; rather, one sees suffering as a phenomenon. [Dreaming], one does not see the appearance of the dream; rather, one sees the phenomena of the dream. This is called seeing the Buddha everywhere. When one sees appearances, one is seeing demons everywhere. (J. 305)


Question: Where is the essence of the Dharma-realm?
Answer: Every place is the essence of the Dharma-realm.
Question: Is there observance of the precepts and breaking of the precepts in the essence of the Dharma-realm?
Answer: In the essence of the Dharma-realm, there is no ordinary or saintly, no heavenly mansions or hells. Right and wrong, suffering and pleasure, etc., are as spotless as the sky. (J. 305)


Question: Where is the place of bodhi?
Answer: Where one walks is the place of bodhi; where one sits is the place of bodhi; where one stands is the place of bodhi. Tramping everywhere, all places are the place of bodhi. (J. 306)


Kindly tell me about the desire-realms of the buddhas.
Answer: Phenomena are neither existent nor nonexistent, so the understanding that is not a slave to (ideas such as) neither-existent-nor-nonexistent is called the desire-realm of the buddha. Since the mind is like wood or stone (i.e. the base for a painting), one cannot know by using the intellect, nor can one know by not using the intellect (i.e., one needs intellect for discernment, direction and discipline).

The intellect can get us in the right direction to find it. The right direction is turning within, stilling the mind and experiencing this truth, this knowledge, and only by experience can we get to know it.
Lester Levenson

The Buddha-mind cannot be known from existence and the Dharma-body cannot be seen in images. That which ordinary knowledge understands is imagination and discrimination. For instance, although you make all sorts of interpretations, they are all the calculations of your own mind; they are all the imaginings of your own mind. The wisdom of the buddhas cannot be demonstrated to people, nor can it be hidden from them, nor can one use meditation to fathom it.

The renunciation of understanding and of knowledge is called the desire-realm of the buddhas. That which cannot be measured is called the Buddha-mind. Whoever believes that the Buddha-mind is thus has extinguished frustrations as incalculable as the sands of the Ganges. Whoever remains mindful that the buddha-wisdom is thus, that person’s mind of the Way will be daily strengthened. (J. 306-307)


Question: What is meant by the saying: The sun of the Tathagata’s wisdom sets behind the land of existence?
Answer: If one sees existence where there is no existence, the sun of wisdom sets behind that land of existence. To see appearances where there are no appearances is likewise.
(J. 308)

“If one has the realization and knowledge, the sun of wisdom will set behind the land of existence. If there is no illumination and no awakening, the darkening clouds will conceal the gate of emptiness.” Ching-te Chuan-teng Lu (Yanagida, in J. 308)


Question: What is called the appearance (attribute) of the unmoved?
Answer: It cannot be in existence, for there is nothing existent that can move. It cannot be in nonexistence, for there is nothing nonexistent that can move. This mind is no-mind, and the no-mind can move. This appearance is non-appearance, and non-appearance can move; therefore it is called the appearance (attribute) of the unmoved. To come to such a realization is to deceive and delude oneself. The above is not understanding, for when one understands, there is nothing to be understood.

“Unmoved means that all phenomena have no basis (asraya), and all phenomena having no basis means that he has no fixed rest for his mind.” – Sarvabuddhavisayavatara II (Yanagida, J. 308-309)


Question: We see the manifestations of arisal and cessation. Why is it said that there is no arisal or cessation?
Answer: If something has arisen from a condition it is said to be non-arisal because it is conditionally arisen. If something has ceased because of a condition it is said to be non-cessation because it is conditionally extinguished.
Question: Why is it that something that is conditionally arisen is said to be non-arisal?
Answer: In being conditionally arisen, it has not arisen from another, nor has it arisen of itself, nor has it arisen from both, nor has it arisen without a cause. Furthermore, there are no phenomena that have arisen, there is nothing producing them, and there is no place of arisal. Therefore, know that they have not arisen. That which we see arising and ceasing is illusion arising, which is non-arisal; it is illusion ceasing, which is non-cessation. (J. 309)


Question: Why does the ordinary man fall into evil rebirths?
Answer: Because he has an ego, he is stupid, and therefore says: I drink wine. The sage says: Given that what you have is no-wine, why don’t you say that you drink no-wine? Even if he were to say: I do drink no-wine, the sage would say: Where is your I?

The stupid one also says: I have sinned. The sage says: What sort of thing is your sin? All of this is conditioned arising, lacking an essence. When it arises, you already know there is no ego, so who commits the sin and who suffers punishment?

A sutra says: Ordinary men insist on discriminating: I crave, I am angry. Such ignorant ones fall into the three evil rebirths. A sutra says: The nature of sin is neither within nor without, nor is it between the two (Vimalakirti). This shows that sin is no-place, and no-place is the place of quiescence.

When beings fall into a hell, from the mind they create an ego. They remember and discriminate, saying: I do evil deeds and I receive punishments; I do good deeds and I receive rewards. This is the evil karma. From the very beginning no such things have existed, yet perversely they remember and discriminate, saying that they exist. This is the evil karma. (J. 310-311)


Question: Who can save one from the hell of believing that that which is non-self (i.e. not real) is self (real)?
Answer: Phenomena can help one to extinguish the discriminations of the self. How can one understand this? It is because one grasps at forms that one falls into hell; but by investigating phenomena, one is liberated. If one sees forms, and remembers and discriminates them, one will suffer the boiling cauldrons, blazing furnaces, ox-headed demons, the Hell of the Sound of Cold, and so forth, seeing the apparitions of birth-and-death become manifest. But if one sees that the nature of the phenomenal realm is precisely the nature of nirvana, one will free himself of memory and discrimination, they being the cause of the phenomenal realm. (J. 312)

“The more he regards everything as divine—more divine than it is of itself—the more God will be pleased with him. To be sure, this requires effort and love, a careful cultivation of the spiritual life, and a watchful, honest, active oversight of all one’s mental attitudes toward things and people. It is not to be learned by fleeing from the world, running away from things, turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, one must learn an inner solitude, wherever or with whomever he may be. He must learn to penetrate things and find God there, to get a strong impression of God firmly fixed in his mind.” Meister Eckhart, The Talks of Instruction


Question: What is the nature of the one Dharma-realm?
Answer: The nature of the mind is precisely the nature of the one Dharma-realm. This Dharma-realm is devoid of self. It has no boundaries, is as expansive as space, and is invisible. This is what is said to be the nature of the Dharma-realm. (J. 312)


Question: What is it like to know the Dharma?
Answer: The Dharma is said to be non-awakening and unknowing. One whose mind is non-awakened and unknowing is a person who knows the Dharma. The Dharma is called unknowing and unseeing. If the mind is unknowing and unseeing, this is called seeing the Dharma. Not knowing any thing is called knowing the Dharma. Not grasping any thing is called grasping the Dharma. Not seeing any thing is called seeing the Dharma. Not discriminating any thing is called discriminating the Dharma.


Question: The Dharma is said to be unseeing: what is unobstructed knowing and seeing?
Answer: Unknowing means unhindered knowing; unseeing means unhindered seeing.

Question: The Dharma is said to be non-awakening, yet buddha means awakened one.
Answer: The Dharma is said to be non-awakening, yet buddha means awakened one, because non-awakening is awakening, and awakening to the sameness of the Dharma is the buddha-awakening. Be diligent in gazing at the appearances of the mind and see the appearances of phenomena; diligently observe that the place of the mind is the place of quiescence, is the place of nonarising, the place of liberation, the place of emptiness, the place of enlightenment. The place of the mind is no place. It is the place of the Dharma-realm, the place of the seat of enlightenment, the place of the Dharma-gate, the place of wisdom, the place of unlimited absorption. When one has this sort of realization, he is as one who has fallen into a pit or slid into a ditch. (J. 313-314)


Question: The Six Paramitas can produce complete wisdom.

Answer: In the Six Paramitas there is neither self nor other, so who receives and who attains?

The various kinds of creatures all share in collective karma and the fruits thereof;1 therefore, there is to be no discrimination in blessing them based on appearances. A sutra says: Treating the invincible Tathagata and the lowest beggar in the assembly equally and with great compassion; this is the complete bestowal of the doctrine.2 This is called Danaparamita.

Lacking events and causes, having neither delight nor weariness, the Essence is just so. Ultimately there is no wrong, so who would seek to do right? When right and wrong do not arise, the embodiment of the precepts is pure; this is called Silaparamita.

Mind lacks an inner and an outer, so where do this and that abide? The nature of sound has nothing that is offensive, is spotless like the sky; if the mind is thus it is called Ksantiparamita.

When the mind is divorced from the discrimination done by the faculties, ultimately matures, and does not depend on forms, this is called Virayaparamita.

When past, present and future are without attributes, when there is no resting place for even a moment (ksana), when events and phenomena do not dwell in stillness or motion, and one’s nature is thus, it is called Dhyanaparamita.

When the substance of nirvana and thusness cannot be seen; when false reasoning does not arise; when one is divorced from thoughts, mind and consciousness; when one does not rely on expedient means; it is called thusness. There is nothing that can be used, but it is used without being used. A sutra says: Expedient means with wisdom is liberation. This is called Prajnaparamita.

1. “People influence each other through negative actions especially, which are a governing action more powerful than an individual’s strength.” There is both collective action and the sharing of the results. (Yanagida, J. 316)

2. “Upon receiving a necklace from the bodhisattva after preaching on the Paramitas, Vimalakirti divided the necklace in two, giving half to the Invincible Tathagata, and half to the poorest beggar. He said: He who gives alms to the poorest beggar with an impartial mind performs an act which does not differ from the field of blessings of the Tathagata, for it comes out of great compassion with no expectation of reward. This is called the perfect bestowal of the doctrine.” – Vimalakirti (Yanagida, J. 316)


Question: What is called the mind of liberation?
Answer: Because the mind is not form, it is not subject to forms. Because it is not formless, it is not subject to any formless thing. Even though the mind illuminates form, it is not subject to forms. Even though the mind illuminates the formless, it is not subject to any formless thing. The mind is not a form-appearance that can be seen. Even though the mind is not form, the formless realm is not empty. Mind is not form, but neither is it empty like space. The bodhisattva makes clear that emptiness is not empty. Although the Hinayanists teach about emptiness, they do not teach about its non-emptiness. Although the sravaka attains to emptiness, he does not attain to non-emptiness.


What does one’s mind project?
Answer: When you consider that all phenomena exist, that existence does not exist of itself: your own mind has constructed that existence. When you consider that all phenomena are nonexistent, that nonexistence is not nonexistent of itself: your own mind has constructed that nonexistence. And the same applies to all phenomena, for one’s own mind has constructed both existence and nonexistence. What sort of thing is greed that one makes the interpretation of greed? Because all of these views that one’s own mind has given rise to, one’s own mind contrives that which has no place. This is called imagination. To regard oneself as one who has left behind all of the contrived views of the non-Buddhists is also imagination. To regard oneself as lacking thought and discrimination is also imagination. When one is walking it is a phenomenon walking: there is no I walking nor is there an I not walking. When one is sitting, it is a phenomenon sitting: there is no I sitting nor is there an I not sitting. Such an explanation is also imagination. (J. 323-324)



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. (1999). The Bodhidharma Anthology. University of California Press.

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

Yanagida Seizan (1967). Zen no Goroku I, Daruma no Goroku. Kyoto.

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