The wise throughout the ten directions
All enter this principle.
This principle is neither hurried nor slow --
One thought for ten thousand years.
The word translated here as "wise" has multiple meanings. In Sanskrit,
the word prajna can be used in the sense of worldly wisdom, or it can
be used in the sense of wisdom transcending the world. Finally, it can
be simultaneously worldly and transcendent. This is the highest prajna
referred to in Mahayana Buddhism. To determine which sense of prajna is
being used, you have to look at the context. Here, "wise" refers to the
highest prajna. All beings with prajna will have to enter through the
same door. Tsung, translated as "principle" here, can also be taken to
mean the Dharma Realm of true suchness that I spoke of yesterday.
This principle is neither long nor short in a temporal sense. If you
say that it is long, or lasting, you are falling into the "view of
constancy." Buddha Dharma does not accept the view that there is
something eternal and unchanging. On the other hand, if you say that it
is short, then you are prone to the "view of termination." In Buddha
Dharma both constancy and termination are considered extreme, or "outer
path" views. But Ch'an often speaks of that which is "beginningless"
and "endless." Does this contradict the Buddhist view of nothing being
eternal? You should understand that even though everything is in a
constant flux, the principle of change itself does go on indefinitely.
Thus to say that this principle is not eternal would also be incorrect.
There are two possible interpretations of the line "One thought for ten
thousand years." One is that the mind simply does not move. But is this
possible? Even in deep levels of samadhi, as long as it is a worldly
samadhi, the mind is still moving in a subtle way. In fact, as you get
into ever deeper levels, you may be aware of the movement of your mind
in the previous level, even if you are not aware of the movement at the
present level. You realize that what you took to be a still mind,
actually consisted of many minute fluctuations. Therefore, this
interpretation does not hold here.
The second explanation is that there is no mind. "Ten thousand years"
is a term used to indicate unlimited time. No mind is unlimited; one
instant can encompass ten thousand years.
Abiding nowhere yet everywhere,
The ten directions are right before you.
This single incense board is true suchness in its entirety. But if you
think that only the incense board is true suchness, you are wrong. True
suchness is everywhere; nothing is separate from true suchness. The
previous two lines referred to Ch'an as being unlimited by time. These
two lines are speaking of the limitlessness of space. If you can grasp
a small spot, you have access to totality. At the tip of a fine strand
of hair all the Buddhas of the three times and the ten directions are
turning the Dharma wheel. If a person who is thoroughly enlightened
reads these lines, he would say, "Indeed it is just like that! It is
not anything different." But for someone with only a theoretical
understanding, it is like gazing at flowers through a mist, obscured by
your own thoughts.
The smallest is the same as the largest
In the realm where delusion is cut off.
The largest is the same as the smallest;
No boundaries are visible.
In the state where the spot in front of your eyes is equivalent to
totality, there is no room for illusory dharmas. Illusory dharmas are
the dharmas of distinctions, of small and large, of positing one thing
against another. Usually, we see something as small because it is in
relation to something bigger than itself. To say that the largest is
equivalent to the smallest erases all boundaries. This refers again to
Someone asked, "After a person attains Buddhahood, where would he be?"
There are three bodies of the Buddha, the trikaya  -- the
transformation body, the reward body, and the Dharma body. The
transformation body appears in a particular time and place in the human
realm. The reward body also appears for the sake of sentient beings;
for this reason, it is limited in location. But the Dharma body of the
Buddha is not limited to any time or place. You cannot say it is here
or it is there. It is simultaneously the largest and the smallest. It
has the greatest power, but at the same time it has no power
whatsoever. It is smaller than anything we can know of, because it has
no self. But because the Dharma body of the Buddha has no self, all
sentient beings are identical to this body. Wherever sentient beings
need the Buddha, the Dharma body can function for their benefit.
Existence is precisely emptiness;
Emptiness is precisely existence.
The Dharma body of the Buddha, or true suchness, cannot be said to
"exist" because there is no self. However, it can be experienced
because if your practice reaches a certain depth. True suchness is not
identical to nothingness. Everything that exists in the three times and
ten directions is never separate from it. "Emptiness" refers to no self
and "existence" refers to causes and conditions.
Some Ch'an masters speak only of existence and some speak only of
emptiness. Others sometimes speak of existence and sometimes speak of
emptiness, depending on the audience. But they are all speaking of the
same thing. One time a monk complained to me, "In my opinion, most, if
not all, Ch'an masters are lunatics. If you talk to them about
existence, they uphold the idea of emptiness. If you talk to them about
emptiness, they affirm existence." Ch'an cannot be spoken or conceived.
Indeed, since it cannot be expressed in words, whatever you say about
it, as existence or emptiness, can be criticized.
If it is not like this,
Then you must not preserve it.
You have to let go of your previous views: self-attachment, attachment
to existence, emptiness, large and small, boundedness, unboundedness,
truth and illusion.
One is everything,
Everything is one.
True suchness is identical to all phenomena and all phenomena are never
separated from true suchness. It must be understood in this sense, and
not in the sense that all phenomena reduce to one. There is no
distinction between unification and non-unification in true suchness.
Otherwise, taking these two lines literally would imply that if one
person becomes a Buddha, everyone else has to become a Buddha. Or, all
sentient beings must attain Buddhahood before there can be even one
Buddha, since all sentient beings are one. This would not hold on a
common sense level, yet it can be understood on the deeper level just
If you can be like this,
Why worry about not finishing?
When you know that true suchness is identical to all phenomena, then
there are no worries about getting enlightened or attaining Buddhahood.
Faith and mind are not two;
Non-duality is faith in mind.
If you have faith in the mind of equanimity and non-distinction, you
have faith in no mind. However, the mind of the person who has faith is
the mind of an ordinary sentient being. What the poem says is that the
mind of faith is not separate from no mind, the mind that is the object
of the faith. This is the same as saying that true suchness is
identical to all phenomena. Although the two minds are identical, you
must begin with faith to give you direction in your practice. Not only
must you have faith in no mind, but you must have faith in every single
word of this poem and act accordingly. In this way, you can attain the
mind of no mind.
The path of words is cut off;
There is no past, no future, no present.
During the course of practice, we employ the use of words to guide us.
But when faith and mind are not separate, all words and language are
unnecessary, including the poem Faith in Mind. Again, during practice,
there is a distinction between past, present and future. Progress is
measured in terms of time, but when faith and mind are not separate,
these distinctions are abolished.
Once a monk asked Hsu-Yun, "Is there time in samadhi?" Hsu-Yun
answered, "If there is time in samadhi, it is not samadhi." The monk
asked, "In that case, can you say there is no time in samadhi?" Hsu-Yun
said, "If there is no time in samadhi, where is the person?" In samadhi
the mind is holding to one thought, so there is no awareness of time.
But the meditator is still in the present moment, not in the past or
the future. However, if you go one step further into no mind, you
cannot even be in the present. The present can only exist in the mind,
in relation to the past and the future.
* * *
 trikaya: (Sanskrit, "threebodies"). Mahayana doctrine of the
tripartite bodies of the Buddha: (1) nirmanakaya, the
transformation body, manifesting as a human being, as in Sakyamuni;
(2) sambhogakaya, the bliss body of the venerated Buddhas,
experienced only by enlightened bodhisattvas; (3) dharmakaya, the
supreme body of all the transcendent Buddhas.
* * * * * * * *