Huang-Po’s Sermon (d. 850)

Huang-Po’s full title was Hsi-yiin of Mount Huang-po. He was called by the name of his monastery, Huang-po, after the custom of the day. Hsi-yiin was a Dharma heir of Po-chang Huai-hai (720-814), who himself was a Dharma heir of the famous Ma-tsu (709-788). Huang-po was also the first master of Lin-chi (d. 866).


“The Master is within; meditation is meant to remove the ignorant idea that he is only outside. If he were a stranger whom you were awaiting he would be bound to disappear also. What would be the use of a transient being like that? But as long as you think that you are separate or are the body, so long is the outer Master also necessary and he will appear as if with a body. When the wrong identification of oneself with the body ceases the Master is found to be none other than the Self.” – Ramana Maharshi

Sermon of Huang-Po

(Hsi-yiin of Mount Huang-po, died c. 850)

From “Treatise on the Essentials of the Transmission of the Mind”

The Master said to Pai-hsiu:

Buddhas and sentient beings both come out of the One Mind, and there is no other reality than this Mind. It has been in existence since the beginningless past; it knows neither birth nor death; it is neither blue nor yellow; it has neither shape nor form; it is beyond the categories of being and non-being; it is not to be measured by age, old or new; it is neither long nor short; it is neither large nor small. It transcends all limits, words, characteristics, and opposites. It must be taken just as it is in itself. When we attempt to grasp it in our thoughts, it eludes us. It is like space, the boundaries of which are altogether beyond measurement. No concepts are applicable here.

This One Mind Only (Cittamatra) is the Buddha, who is not to be differentiated from sentient beings. But because we seek him outwardly in a world of form, the more we seek him the farther he moves from us. For the Buddha to seek after himself, or the mind to take hold of itself—this is an impossibility to the end of time. We do not realize that as soon as our thoughts cease and all attempts at forming ideas are abandoned, the Buddha reveals himself before us.

Mind is no other than the Buddha, and the Buddha is no other than the sentient being. When Mind assumes the form of a sentient being, it has suffered no decrease; when it becomes a Buddha, it has not added anything to itself. Even when we speak of the six virtues of perfection (paramitas) and  myriad other meritorious deeds as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, they are all in the being of Mind itself; they are not something that can be added to it by means of discipline. When conditions are at work, the mind is set up; when conditions cease to operate, it is quiescent. Those who have no definite faith in this, that Mind is Buddha, and attempt to achieve something by means of a discipline attached to form, are giving themselves up to wrong ideas. They deviate from the right path.

This Mind is no other than Buddha; there is no Buddha outside of Mind, nor is there Mind outside of Buddha. This Mind is pure, and like space it has no specific forms. As soon as you raise a thought and begin to form an idea of it, you ruin the reality itself because you then attach yourself to form. Since the beginningless past there is no Buddha who has ever had an attachment to form. If you seek buddhahood by practising the six virtues of perfection and other myriad deeds of merit, this is gradation; but since the beginningless past there is no Buddha whose attainment was so graded. When you get an insight into the One Mind you find that there is no particular reality. This unattainability is no other than the true Buddha itself.

Buddhas and sentient beings emanate from the One Mind and there are no differences between them. It is like space, which is undivided, not subject to destruction. It is like the great sun, which illuminates the four worlds: when it rises, its light pervades the whole world, but space itself gains thereby no illumination. When the sun sets, darkness reigns everywhere, but space itself does not share this darkness. Light and darkness drive each other out and alternately prevail, but space itself is vast emptiness and suffers no vicissitudes.

The same may be said of Mind, which constitutes the essence of a Buddha as much as that of sentient beings. When you take the Buddha for a form of purity, light and emancipation, and sentient beings for a form of defilement, darkness and transmigration, however long [your striving] you will never be able to attain enlightenment. For so long as you adhere to this way of understanding you are attached to form, and in this One Mind there is no form to grasp hold of.

That Mind is no other than the Buddha is not understood by present-day Buddhists; and because of their inability to see into Mind as it is, they imagine a mind beside Mind itself and seek the Buddha outwardly in a form. This way of cultivating is an error; it is not the way of enlightenment.

It is better to give alms to a spiritual man who is free from attachment to the mind than to make offerings to all of the Buddhas in the ten directions. Why? Because to be free from attachment to the mind means to be free of all forms of imagination.

Suchness as it expresses itself inwardly may be likened to wood or stone (a wall upon which pictures are painted): it remains there unmoved, undisturbed. Outwardly suchness is like space—nothing is obstructed or limited. Suchness, as it is free from motion and stillness, is nowhere located, is formless, and neither increases nor decreases. Those who are running around dare not enter this path, for they are afraid of falling into an emptiness where there is no foothold to support them. They beat a retreat the moment they face it. They are, as a rule, seekers of learning and intellectual knowledge. Many indeed are such seekers, like the hairs on a beast, while those who see into the Dharma are as few as its horns.

Manjusri corresponds to li (principle) and Samantabhadra to hsing (life or action). Li is the principle of true emptiness and non-obstruction, hsing is life detached from form and inexhaustible. Avalokitesvara corresponds to perfect love and Sthamaprapta to perfect wisdom. Vimala-kirti means ‘undefiled name’: hence the name Vimala-kirti (‘pure-name’). All that is represented by each one of the great Bodhisattvas is present in each of us, for it is the contents of the One Mind. All will be well when we are awakened to the Dharma.

Buddhists of the present day look outward instead of inwardly into their own minds. They attach themselves to forms and to the world, which is the antithesis of the Dharma.

To the sands of the Ganges the Buddha refers to thus: these sands are trodden and passed over by all of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sakrendra and other devas, but the sands are not thereby gladdened. They are trodden by cattle, sheep, insects and ants, but they are not thereby angered. They may hide within themselves all kinds of treasures and perfumed substances, but they are not covetous. They may be soiled with all kinds of filth and foul-smelling matter but they do not loathe it. This is the mentality of one who has realized the state of no-mind (Japanese mushin, Chinese wu-hsien 無心).

When a mind is free from all form, it sees that there is no difference between Buddhas and sentient beings. Once this state of no-mind is attained, Buddhist life is complete. If Buddhists are unable to see into the truth of no-mind, aeons of discipline will not enable them to attain enlightenment. They will ever be in bondage with the notions of discipline and merit held by followers of the Triple Vehicle and never achieve emancipation.

In the attainment of no-mind, some are quicker than others. There are some who attain to a state of no-mind all at once by just listening to a discourse on the Dharma, while there are others who attain to it only after going through all of the ten stages of bodhisattvaship. More or less time may be required for the attainment of no-mind, but once attained it puts an end to all discipline, to all realization; and yet there is really nothing attained. It is truth and not falsehood. Whether this no-mind is attained in one thought or after going through the ten stages, its practical working is the same and there is no question of one realization being deeper or shallower than the other. Only the being has passed through long ages of hard discipline [but the quality of enlightenment is not thereby affected].

Doing good or bad deeds—both arise from of attachment to form. When one does bad deeds because of one’s attachment to form, one must suffer transmigration; when one does good deeds because of one’s attachment to form, one has to endure a life of suffering. It is therefore better to see all at once into the essence of the Dharma as you listen to it being taught.

By the Dharma is meant Mind, for there is no Dharma apart from Mind. Mind is no other than the Dharma, for there is no Mind apart from the Dharma. This Mind in itself is no-mind, but there is no such thing as no-mind either. When no-mind is sought after by a mind, this is making it a particular object of thought. There is only the testimony of silence; it goes beyond thinking. Therefore it is said that the Dharma blocks the way for words and puts an end to all forms of thinking.

This Mind is the source, the Buddha absolutely pure in its nature, and is present in every one of us. All sentient beings, however mean and degraded, are no different from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas—they are all of one substance. Only because of their false imaginings (parikalpita) and false discriminations do sentient beings create their karma and reap its fruits, while their buddha-nature itself is not affected by it. The nature is empty and allows everything to pass through. It is quiet and at rest. It is illuminating. It is peaceful and productive of bliss.

When you have within yourself a deep insight into this you immediately realize that all that you need is there in perfection, in abundance, and nothing at all is wanting in you. You may have most earnestly and diligently disciplined yourself for aeons and passed through all the stages of bodhisattvahood, but when you come to have a realization in one thought it is no other than this: that you are from the start the Buddha himself and no other. The realization has not added anything to you beyond this truth. When you look back and survey all of the disciplinary practices you have carried out, you find that they were no more than so many idle doings in a dream. Therefore, it is said by the Tathagata that when he attained enlightenment he attained nothing, and that if he had attained anything, Buddha Dipankara would never have testified to it.

It is told again by the Tathagata that this Dharma is perfectly empty and undifferentiated. By Dharma is meant bodhi (enlightenment). That is, this pure Mind, which is the source of all things, is perfectly undifferentiated in all sentient beings, in all of the buddha-lands, and in all realms together with their mountains, oceans, etc., in the form-realms and the formless realms. They are all the same, and there are no differences between one thing and another. This pure Mind, the source of all things, is always perfect and illuminating and all-pervading. People are ignorant of this and take what they see or hear or think of or know for Mind itself, and their insight is then veiled and unable to penetrate into the substance itself, which is clear and illuminating. When you realize no-mind without anything intervening, the substance itself is revealed to you. It is like the sun coming out in the sky; its light penetrates the ten directions and there is nothing that interferes with its passage.

For this reason, when followers of Zen fail to go beyond the world of their senses and thoughts, all their doings and activities are of no importance. When the senses and thoughts are shut out, all the passages to the Mind are blocked and no entrance then becomes possible. The original Mind is to be recognized along with the working of the senses and thoughts, only it does not belong to them, nor is it independent of them. Do not build up your views on your senses and thoughts, and do not carry on your understanding based on the senses and thoughts. At the same time, do not seek the Mind apart from your senses and thoughts, and do not pursue the Dharma by rejecting your senses and thoughts. When you are neither attached to nor detached from them, when you are neither abiding in nor clinging to them, then you enjoy your perfect unobstructed freedom; then you have your seat of enlightenment.

When people learn that what is transmitted from one Buddha to another is Mind itself, they imagine that there is a particular object known as a mind that they attempt to grasp or to realize; but this is seeking something outside of Mind itself, or creating something that does not exist. In reality, Mind alone is. You cannot pursue it by setting up another mind. For as long you pursue it, through hundreds of thousands of eons, you will never reach the point at which you say that you have it. Only when you have an immediate awakening to the state of no-mind do you have Mind for yourself. It is like a strong man seeking his own gem hidden within his forehead: as long as he seeks it outside of himself  he will not come across it in the ten directions. But let the wise one point to it where it lies hidden, and the man instantly perceives his own gem as having been there from the start.

That followers of Zen fail to recognize the Buddha is due to their not rightly recognizing where their own mind is. They seek it outwardly, set up all kinds of exercises which they hope to master by degrees, and work diligently through the ages; yet they fail to reach enlightenment. No works compare with an immediate awakening to the state of no-mind.

When you come to a clear understanding that all things in their nature are without possessions, without attainments, without dependence, without an abode, without mutual conditioning, you will become free from holding on to imagination, which is to realize bodhi. When bodhi is realized, your own mind, Buddha, is realized. All of the efforts of long ages are then found to have been not true discipline. When the strong man discovered his own gem in his own forehead, the discovery had nothing to do with all of the efforts he wasted searching without. So says the Buddha: “I have not attained anything in my attainment of enlightenment.” Concerned that we may not believe this, he refers to the five eyes and the five statements; but it is truth, not falsehood, for it is the first of his declarations of truth.

D. T. Suzuki (1935). Manual_of_Zen_Buddhism (pp. 78-82).

Watson, Burton (1999). The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi. New York: Columbia University Press.

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