Bodhidharma’s Sermon on the Mind


Question: What is called the mind of liberation?

The nature of the mind is that it is without a nature, which is [also] the nature of phenomena. Because the mind is formless, it does not exist. Because it functions ceaselessly, it is not nonexistent. And furthermore, because in its functioning it is always empty, it does not exist. Because in its emptiness it is always functioning, it is not nonexistent. Furthermore, being without a self-nature, it does not exist; but being conditionally arisen, it is not nonexistent.

The common people rest on existence, the Hinayanists rest on nonexistnce, and the todhisattvas do not rest on either existence or nonexistence. These are imaginings contrived by one’s own mind. Forms, being non-form, cannot affect forms. Forms, being non-formless, cannot affect the formless.

Furthermore, not seeing the seen and not seeing the unseen is called seeing the Dharma. Not knowing the known and not knowing the unknown is called knowing the Dharma. Such an interpretation is also said to be imagination.

This mind is no-mind, and because the mind is no-mind, it is called the Dharma-mind. Those who practise this nowadays use this to smash all delusions.

The mind is like the sky, which cannot be destroyed, and so it is called the adamantine-mind. The mind does not rest on a support, nor does it rest on a non-support, and so it is called the prajna-mind. The nature of the mind is vast, and its functioning is limitless, so it is called the Mahayana-mind. The nature of the mind is free, without interference or hindrance, and so it is called the bodhi-mind. The mind is everywhere, and is also no place. Since the mind has no attributes, it has no bounds. Since it functions unceasingly, it is not boundless. It is not limited, nor is it limitless; therefore it is called the mind of the highest existence (bhavagra).

“And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.”  1 Corinthians 12:6

The mind that lacks differentiation and lacks non-differentiation, that mind lacks a nature. Lacking differentiation, it lacks a non-nature. Lacking non-differentiation, it lacks differentiation and is undifferentiated; thus it is called the mind as it is. This mind’s changelessness is called differentiation, and its changing in response to things is called non-differentiation; thus it is called the mind as it truly is.

The mind is neither within nor without, nor in-between, nor is it in any place. The mind lacks a resting-place. That is the resting-place of the Dharma, the resting-place of the Dharma-realm, which is also called the Dharma-realm-mind.

The nature of the mind is neither existence nor nonexistence, and it does not change in the past or the present. Therefore it is called the Dharma-realm-nature-mind (Dharmatacitta). Because the mind is without arising or cessation, it is called the nirvana-mind. If one makes such an interpretation, it is imagination, an inversion (of the truth), and one has not realized that one’s own mind is projecting the realms of the senses. This is called the agitated mind. (J. 319-320)

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s