GUIDELINES FOR STUDYING THE WAY
You should arouse the thought of enlightenment.
The thought of enlightenment has many names but they all refer to one
and the same mind.
Ancestor Nagarjuna said, "The mind that fully sees into the uncertain
world of birth and death is called the thought of enlightenment."
Thus if we maintain this mind, this mind can become the thought
Indeed, when you understand the discontinuity the notion of self
does not come into being, ideas of name and gain to not arise. Fearing the
swift passage of the sunlight, practice the way as though saving your head
from fire. Reflecting on this ephemeral life, make endeavor in the manner of
Buddha raising his foot.
When you hear a song of praise sung by a kinnara god or a kalavinka
bird, let it be as the evening breeze brushing against your ears. If you see
the beautiful face of Maoqiang or Xishi, let it be like the morning dewdrops
coming into your sight. Freedom from the ties of sound and form naturally
accords with the essence of the way-seeking mind.
If in the past or present, you hear about students of small learning
or meet people with limited views, often they have fallen into the pit of fame
and profit and have forever missed the buddha way in their life. What a pity!
How regrettable! You should not ignore this.
Even if you read the sutras of the expedient or complete teaching, or
transmit the scriptures of the exoteric or esoteric schools, without throwing
away name and gain it cannot be called arousing the thought of enlightenment.
Some of these people say, "The thought of enlightenment is the mind
of supreme, perfect enlightenment. Do not be concerned with the cultivation
of fame or profit."
Some of them say, "The thought of enlightenment is the insight that
each thought contains three thousand realms."
Some of them say, "The thought of enlightenment is the mind of
entering the buddha realm."
Such people do not yet know and mistakenly slander the thought of
enlightenment. They are remote from the buddha way.
Try to reflect on the mind concerned only with your own gain. Does
this one thought blend with the nature and attributes of the three thousand
realms? Does this one thought realize the dharma gate of being unborn? There
is only the deluded thought of greed for name and love of gain. There is
nothing which could be taken as the thought of enlightenment.
From ancient times sages have attained the way and realized dharma.
Although as an expedient teaching they lived ordinary lives, still they had
no distorted thought of fame or profit. Not even attached to dharma, how could
they have worldly attachment?
The thought of enlightenment, as was mentioned, is the mind which sees
into impermanence. This is most fundamental, and not at all the same as the
mind pointed to by confused people. The understanding that each thought is
unborn or the insight that each thought contains three thousand realms is
excellent practice after arousing the thought of enlightenment. This should
not be mistaken.
Just forget yourself for now and practice inwardly--this is one with
the thought of enlightenment. We see that the sixty-two views are based on
self. So when a notion of self arises, sit quietly and contemplate it. Is
there a real basis inside or outside your body now? Your body with hair and
skin is just inherited from your father and mother. From beginning to end a
drop of blood or lymph is empty. So none of these are the self. What about
mind, thought, awareness, and knowledge? Or the breath going in and out, which
ties a lifetime together: what is it after all? None of these are the self
either. How could you be attached to any of them? Deluded people are attached
to them. Enlightened people are free of them.
You figure there is self where there is no self. You attache to birth
where there is no birth. You do not practice the buddha way, which should be
practiced. You do not cut off the worldly mind, which should be cut off.
Avoiding the true teaching and pursuing the groundless teaching, how could you
not be mistaken?
Once you see or hear the true teaching,
you should practice it without fail.
One phrase offered by a loyal servant can have the power to alter the
course of the nation. One word given by a buddha ancestor cannot fail
to turn people's minds. The unwise ruler does not adopt the servant's
advice. One who does not step forward cannot accept the buddha's
teaching. If you are unbending, you cannot stop floating along in birth
and death. If appropriate advice is not heeded, governing with virtue
cannot be realized.
In the buddha way, you should always
enter enlightenment through practice.
A worldly teacher says, "Through study one can gain wealth." Buddha
says, "Within practice there is enlightenment."
It is unheard-of that without studying someone should earn wealth or
that without practicing someone should attain enlightenment. Though practice
varies--initiated by faith or dharma knowledge, with emphasis on sudden or
gradual enlightenment--you always depend on practice to go beyond
enlightenment. Though study can be superficial or profound, and students can
be sharp or dull, accumulated studying earns wealth. This does not necessarily
depend on the king's excellence or inability, nor should it depend on one's
having good or bad luck. If someone were to get wealth without studying, how
could he transmit the way in which ancient kings, in times of either order or
disorder, ruled the country? If you were to gain realization without practice,
how could you comprehend the Tathagata's teaching of delusion and enlightenment.
You should know that arousing practice in the midst of delusion, you
attain realization before you recognize it. At this time you first know that
the raft of discourse is like yesterday's dream, and you finally cut off your
old understanding bound up in the vines and serpents of words. This is not
made to happen by Buddha, but is accomplished by your all-encompassing effort.
Moreover, what practice calls forth is enlightenment; your treasure
house does not come from outside. How enlightenment functions is through
practice; how could actions of mind-ground go astray? So if you turn the eye
of enlightenment and reflect back on the realm of practice, nothing in
particular hits the eye, and you just see white clouds for ten thousand miles.
If you arouse practice as thought climbing the steps of enlightenment, not even
a speck of dust will support your feet; you will be as far from true practice
as heaven is from earth. Now step back and leap beyond the buddha land.
This portion was written on the night day, third month, second year of
You should not practice Buddha's teaching
with the idea of gain.
The practice of Buddha's teaching is always done by receiving the essential
instructions of a master, not by following your own ideas. In fact, Buddha's
teaching cannot be attained by having ideas or not having ideas. Only when
the mind of pure practice coincides with the way will body and mind be calm.
If body and mind are not yet calm, they will not be at ease. When body and
mind are not at ease, thorns grow on the path of realization.
So that pure practice and the way coincide, how should we proceed?
Proceed with the mind which neither grasps nor rejects, the mind unconcerned
with name or gain. Do not practice buddha-dharma with the thought that it is
to benefit others.
People in the present world, even those practicing the buddha-dharma,
have a mind which is far apart from the way. They practice what others praise
and admire, even though they know it does not accord with the way. They reject
and do not practice what others fail to honor and praise, even though they know
it is the true way. How painful! You should try to quiet your mind and
investigate whether these attitudes are buddha-dharma or not. You may be
completely ashamed. The eye of the sage illuminates this.
Clearly, buddha-dharma is not practiced for one's own sake, and even
less for the sake of fame and profit. Just for the sake of buddha-dharma you
should practice it.
All buddhas' compassion and sympathy for sentient beings are neither
for their own sake nor for others. It is just the nature of buddha-dharma.
Isn't it apparent that insects and animals nurture their offspring, exhausting
themselves with painful labors, yet in the end have no reward when their
offspring are grown? In this way the compassion of small creatures for their
offspring naturally resembles the thought of all buddhas for sentient beings.
The inconceivable dharma of all buddhas is not compassion alone, but
compassion is the basis of the various teachings that appear universally.
Already we are children of the buddhas. Why not follow their lead?
Students! Do not practice buddha-dharma for your own sake. Do not
practice buddha-dharma for name and gain. Do not practice buddha-dharma to
attain miraculous effects. Practice buddha-dharma solely for the sake of
buddha-dharma. This is the way.
You should seek a true teacher to
practice Zen and study the way.
A teacher of old said, "If the beginning is not right, myriad practices will
How true these words are! Practice of the way depends on whether the
guiding master is a true teacher or not.
The disciple is like wood, and the teacher resembles a craftsman. Even
if the wood is good, without a skilled craftsman its extraordinary beauty is
not revealed. Even if the wood is bent, placed in skilled hands its splendid
merits immediately appear. By this you should know that realization is genuine
or false depending on whether the teacher is true or incompetent.
But in our country from ancient times, there have not been many true
teachers. How do we know this is so? We can guess by studying their sayings,
just as we can scoop up stream water and find out about its source. In our
country from ancient times, various teachers have written books and instructed
their disciples, offering their teaching to human and heavenly beings. Their
words are immature, their discourse has not yet ripened. They have not yet
reached the peak of study; how could they have come close to the state of
realization? They only transmitted words and phrases or taught the changing of
Buddha's name. They count other people's treasure day and night, not having
half a penny themselves.
Previous teachers are responsible for this. They taught people to seek
enlightenment outside mind, or to seek rebirth in another land. Confusion
starts from this. Mistaken ideas come from this.
Though you give good medicine, if you do not teach a method of
controlling its use it will make one sicker than taking poison. In our country
since ancient times it seems as though no one has given good medicine. There
are as yet no masters who can control the poisonous effects of medicine.
Because of this, it is difficult to penetrate birth and death. How can old age
and death be overcome.
All this is the teacher's fault, not at all the fault of the disciples.
The reason is that those who are teachers let people neglect the root and go
out on the limbs. Before they establish true understanding, they are absorbed
only in their own thinking, and they unwittingly cause others to enter a realm
of confusion. What a pity! Those who are teachers do not yet understand this
confusion. How could students realize what is right and wrong?
How sad! In this small, remote nation buddha-dharma has not yet spread
widely. True masters have not yet appeared here. If you wish to study the
unsurpassed buddha way, you have to travel a great distance to call on the
masters in Song China, and you have to reflect deeply n the vital road outside
thought. Until you have a true teacher, it is better not to study.
Regardless of his age or experience, a true teacher is simply one who
has apprehended the true teaching and attained the authentic teacher's seal of
realization. He does not put texts first or understanding first, but his
capacity is outside any framework and his spirit freely penetrates the nodes
in bamboo. He is not concerned with self-views and does not stagnate in
emotional feelings. Thus, practice and understanding are in mutual accord.