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大毉道信 Dayi Daoxin (580-651)

(Rōmaji:) Daii Dōshin

Encounter Dialogues of Dayi Daoxin
compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha

Master Jianzhi Sengcan, the disciple of Master Huike, lived a life of wandering in the mountains. At one of his retreats in the “Hidden Mountains” (the Chienshan range), a fourteen-year-old novice named Daoxin once came to him seeking the teaching. Making prostrations the novice said, “I entreat the master, with your compassion, to teach me the truth-gate that provides release and liberation.”
The master said, “Who has bound you?”
The novice said, “Nobody bound me.”
The master said, “Then why are you seeking liberation?”
Daoxin, hearing these words, experienced a great awakening. He then stayed with the master as a disciple for nine years.

Dogen's verse:
A phoenix chick is born from a phoenix, but they are not the same.
A dragon gives birth to a dragon child, but they are not separate.
If you want to know the meaning of a wheel freely spinning,
Only someone turning somersaults can show you.

After leaving Master Sengcan, Daoxin spent ten years at Great Woods Monastery on Hermitage Mountain (Lushan) in northern Jiangxi. This monastery was a famous center of learning for the Tiantai School, and for the study of the Prajna Paramita scriptures, both of which likely influenced Daoxin's practice and teaching.
Eventually Master Daoxin was invited to teach in the Huangmei (Yellow Plum) region just north of the Yangtze in Hubei. He established and led a Zen training center at Secluded Abode Temple on Twin Peaks Mountain there for almost thirty years.
Up until that time, the newly emerging Zen movement was propagated amongst a small number of forest yogins and wandering mendicants. Daoxin helped give Zen teaching and practice a more stable and centralized home in a monastic community. The Lankavatara Sutra was already influential in Zen circles, and Daoxin added an emphasis on the Prajna Paramita scriptures, particularly the Heart and Diamond Sutras. Master Daoxin was also known as a skilled practitioner of traditional medicine and healing arts.
Upon Master Daoxin's death, he was succeeded by his most important disciple, Daman Hongren, a native of the region who had been with Daoxin from the beginning. Master Hongren continued Daoxin's work of establishing a monastic community focused exclusively on the study and practice of Zen. As the reputation of the master and community spread, the population greatly increased and Hongren started another center nine miles east at Fengmaoshan, which also came to be known as “East Mountain” (Dongshan). His community was known as the “East Mountain School” and out of this group came many prominent masters who spread the Zen movement throughout China including Masters Shenxiu, Hui'an, and Huineng.


Dayi Daoxin
Essentials of Entering the Way and Pacifying the Mind

compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha

First, as the body is fundamental, one should focus on a thorough awareness of the body...It is ultimately impermanent and never exists independently. Even though, while healthy, it seems to persist independently and substantially, it is (on closer inspection) ultimately insubstantial. The Vimalakirti Sutra says: “The body is like a floating cloud – in an instant it disappears.”
One should maintain an awareness of one's own body as without substance; as purely an experience like a shadow, which can be seen but not grasped. Wisdom-awareness appears within this shadow. Ultimately without location, wisdom is unmoving, yet responds to all things, forever transforming. It produces the six senses and their realms of perception – all insubstantial, like dreams or illusions.
...To “maintain the One without wavering” is to focus on remaining with this single awareness with the eye of non-grasping purity, and to be committed to this practice at all times without wandering off. When the mind tries to run away, bring it back quickly.
...When the eye sees something, there is actually no outside “thing” that enters the eye. Like a mirror reflecting a face – although perfectly clear, there is no “thing” within the mirror. A person's face doesn't enter into the mirror; the mirror doesn't reach out to a person's face...If the mind becomes aware of some sensory stimuli and perceives it as coming from outside oneself, then return to a view of that sense object as not ultimately substantive (or independent).
The conditionally generated experiences of the mind do not come from anywhere within the ten directions, nor do they go anywhere. When you can regularly observe thinking, discrimination, deluded views, feelings, random thoughts, and confusion as not individually substantive mental events, then your practice is becoming basically stable. If you can settle the mind and remain free of entanglement with this continual conditioned thinking, you will be serene and fully aware, and discover an end to your afflictions. This is called liberation.
If on observing the mind's subtle afflictions, and it's agonizing confusions, and even its deepest introspections, you can, in a single moment, let go of them all and return to gentle stability, your mind has naturally become peaceful and pure. Only you must be courageous...don't be lazy! Dive into it!
When you are beginning to practice seated mediation and mind observation, you should sit in solitary presence, unified with your place. First, sit upright in a correct posture, loosen your robe and belt, and relax your body, (perhaps) with some self-message. Exhale all the air out from your lower abdomen, and become simple and calm... Dissolving completely in deep unknowing, one's breathing becomes tranquil and ones mind gradually settled. Your energy becomes clear and sharp, your awareness bright and pure. Observing carefully, inside and outside become empty and pure, and the mind becomes still. From this stillness, the realization of the sage becomes manifest.
...The presently arrived body of true nature is pure, perfect, and complete. All forms are manifested within it, even though that nature is without mental effort. It is like a clear mirror suspended in the air – all the various objects are manifested within it, but the mirror is without any effort to generate them.

From the Ju Dao An Xin Yao Fang Pien Fa Men (early 700's) written by members of the “East Mountain School”as a summary of Master Daoxin's teaching. Based on a translation by John R. McRae.



Attributed to Dayi Daoxin
(spoken to Niutou Farong)

compiled by Satyavayu of Touching Earth Sangha

The hundred thousand gates of the Awakened Teaching all return to the one heart. The source of the countless sublime practices all come from this one mind. All of the precepts and ethical guidelines, the practice of meditation, the gate of primordial wisdom and all its miraculous manifestations are all your natural possession, not separate from your mind. Every type of misfortune and karmic impediment is fundamentally empty and without substantial existence. All causes and effects are simply dreams and illusions. There are no suffering worlds to escape from and there is no awakening to search for. The original nature, and the outer appearance of humans and all beings, are identical. The great way is empty and boundless, free from thought and anxiety. If you have merged with this truth, where nothing whatsoever is lacking, what difference is there between yourself and an awakened one? Here there is not a single teaching left. You are just free to abide in your own spontaneous nature. There is no need to contemplate your behavior, no need to practice purifying austerities. Free from desires, having a heart without anger or cares, completely at ease and without impediment; free to go in any direction according to conditions; with no need to deliberately take on any good or evil affairs. In walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, whatever meets your eyes is nothing other than the essential source; all of it just the sublime function of awakening; joyful and carefree. This is called "Buddha."

From Five Lamps Merged in the Source (Wudeng Huiyuan , 1253, using earlier materials). Based on translations by Andy Ferguson, Thomas Cleary, and C.H. Wu


The Spirit of Zen
by Sam van Schaik
Yale University Press, 2018, 272 p.

Leading Buddhist scholar Sam van Schaik explores the history and essence of Zen, based on a new translation of one of the earliest surviving collections of teachings by Zen masters. These teachings, titled The Masters and Students of the Lanka, were discovered in a sealed cave on the old Silk Road, in modern Gansu, China, in the early twentieth century. All more than a thousand years old, the manuscripts have sometimes been called the Buddhist Dead Sea Scrolls, and their translation has opened a new window onto the history of Buddhism.


Preface viii
PART I Introducing Zen 1
1 The Practice of Zen 3

2 Zen and the West 19
3 The History of Zen 31
4 The Lost Texts of Zen 47
5 Early Zen Meditation 63

PART II The Masters of the Lanka 83
6 Manuscripts and Translation 85
7 Jingjue: Student of Emptiness 88
8 Gunabhadra: Introducing the Lankāvatāra 102
9 Bodhidharma: Sudden and Gradual 114
10 Huike: The Buddha Within 129
11 Sengcan: Heaven in a Grain of Sand 141
12 Daoxin I: How to Sit 150
13 Daoxin II: Teachings for Beginners 168
14 Hongren: The Buddha in Everything 181
15 Shenxiu: Zen in the World 194

Notes 209
References 244
Index 000



How to Sit

Daoxin was the first Zen teacher who left clear and specific instructions on how to practise sitting meditation. These instructions survive thanks to their inclusion in the Masters of the Lanka. The way that the Masters of the Lanka includes only the bare minimum of Daoxin's biography but the whole of his teachings on meditation shows how much this text differs from the other Zen lineage histories from around the same time – both the Transmission of the Dharma Jewel and the Genealogy of the Dharma Jewel give more details from Daoxin's life, but nothing of his teachings.

The Transmission of the Dharma Jewel tells a story that is repeated in various forms in most later biographies. In the year 607, Daoxin travelled to a town near China's eastern coast. When he arrived a group of bandits had surrounded the town and were laying siege to it. The town's wells had run dry and the people were desperate. The town magistrate asked Daoxin for help, and he advised the local monks and laypeople to recite the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. They did, and this caused the bandits to see giant soldiers advancing on them; the soldiers fled and the city was saved. 1

Apart from stories such as this, about events which may or may not have happened, we know little about the activities of Daoxin. We do know that from 624 onwards, Daoxin settled on Shuangfeng Mountain (in English, Twin Peaks) where he built a monastery, the first teacher in this early Zen lineage to do so. In building his monastery, Daoxin established the model followed even more successfully by Hongren in the next generation, and with huge and lasting impact by Shenxiu in the generation after that.

In any case, this chapter of the Masters of the Lanka is dedicated to Daoxin's teachings. The way the text introduces these teachings has previously been translated as a single long title. 2 However, the text does actually indicate two things, the first of which is a volume with the title Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts. The text then goes on to state that Daoxin ‘also composed' teachings for novices on methods for attaining peace of mind. 3 I believe this should be read as a phrase rather than a title because of the previous statement that only a single book of Daoxin's survives. Then the teachings for beginners would refer to scattered records of Daoxin's teachings without specific titles.

Therefore what we appear to have here in Masters of the Lanka is the complete text of Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts followed by some of his shorter teachings. The Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts itself looks like a record of a sermon, along with several questions from students that are answered by Daoxin. If so, the text belongs to the genre of sermons given during the ceremony of bestowing the bodhisattva precepts, which would make it the first Zen text in this genre, later examples being Shenhui's sermon and the famous Platform Sutra of Huineng.

I suggest that the teachings for beginners that follow the Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts start with the sentence, ‘When you are beginning the practice of sitting meditation, you should stay in a quiet place and closely observe your own body and mind.' The instructions on meditation that follow overlap considerably with what came before, which suggests that this is another text. Furthermore, these instructions end with the words, ‘the above are the skilful means for novices'. Following this, the Daoxin chapter contains a few more miscellaneous teachings, including instructions on how to die, and critical comments on the Daoist classics Daodejing and Zhuangzi.

In this chapter I include the translation of the whole text of Daoxin's Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts . The translations of the instructions for novices and other supplementary material, including Daoxin's criticism of Daoist classics, are in the following chapter. As a sermon given at the ceremony for bestowing the bodhisattva vows, the Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts could be intended for a lay audience, or at least a mixed audience. At the beginning of the text, Daoxin says that his teachings are for those ‘who possess the appropriate conditions and fully ripened capabilities', a description that encompasses both monastics and laypeople.

The sermon covers several different meditation techniques, three of which are described in detail. Since I discussed these thoroughly in chapter 5 above, I will only mention them briefly here. The first is mindfulness of the Buddha, that is, visualization of a buddha and recitation of his name, leading to a state of nondual awareness. This is also called ‘the single practice concentration'. The second is simply becoming aware of and residing in mind's nature, which is clear and luminous. The third is the practice of analysing physical forms, particularly one's own body, in order to establish that they are empty, followed by resting in a state of oneness.


Chapter Five

The meditation master Daoxin became the successor to the meditation master Sengcan in the early Tang, at Shuangfeng Mountain in Jizhou. 4 He was a true master of meditation who reopened the gates to meditation practice, disseminating it widely across the land. One book of his, titled Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts , is extant, and he also composed teachings for beginners on methods for attaining peace of mind.

Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts

I shall explain these key methods to you who possess the appropriate conditions and fully ripened capabilities. This will be in accord with the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra , which says, ‘for all buddhas, the mind is supreme'. 5 It also accords with the Wisdom Sutra Taught by Mañjuśrī , which says that when you are mindful of the buddha in the single practice concentration, your mind is the buddha, but if you have deluded thoughts then you remain an unenlightened person. 6

The Wisdom Sutra Taught by Mañjuśrī says:

Mañjuśrī asked the Buddha: ‘Oh you whom the world honours, what is the single practice concentration?'

The Buddha replied, ‘The nature of reality exists in equality. Being connected to the nature of reality is called “the single practice concentration”. If you, sons and daughters of the noble ones, want to enter the single practice concentration, you must first study the perfection of wisdom, learning what the Buddha taught. Only after that will you be capable of the single practice concentration. 7 Stay connected in this way to the nature of reality. Without stepping away from it, or changing it at all, for it is beyond conceptualization, free from obstructions and categories.

‘Sons and daughters of the noble ones, if you want to enter the single practice concentration, you should remain quiet and unmoving, and let go of the multitude of confused thoughts. Do not grasp at appearances, focus your mind on a single buddha and only recite his name. Then, with an upright posture, facing towards the place where the buddha resides, stay constantly mindful of this single buddha. In this state of mind, you will be able to see every buddha of the past and future clearly manifest.

‘Why is this? The merits of mindfulness of a single buddha are immeasurable and unbounded, and no different from the benefits of all innumerable buddhas. This is one and the same as the nonconceptual buddhadharma itself, bringing all the vehicles together as one, the ultimate state of enlightenment to completion, replete with uncountable merit and immeasurable discernment. So, if you enter the single practice concentration then you will know for certain that all buddhas, as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges, are no different from the nature of reality itself.' 8

And so this very body and mind are always the site of awakening, in every step you take. 9 Whatever you do, wherever you go, it is all awakening.

The Samantabhadra-dhayana sūtra says:

The whole ocean of karmic obstacles
Originates from conceptualization.
Anyone who wants to repent
Should begin by sitting in mindfulness of the nature of things. 10

This is what we call supreme repentance, which is being mindful of the Buddha to eliminate the mentality of the three poisons, the mentality of grasping, the mentality of making judgements. 11 When you are mindful of the Buddha continuously through every state of mind, it will simply become clear and calm, and mindfulness will no longer be based on perceptual objects.

It says in the Mahāprajñāpāramitā sūtra :

When you have mindfulness without an object,
This is called mindfulness of the Buddha. 12

What does ‘mindfulness without an object' mean? Mindfulness of the Buddha is the same state of mind as that which we call ‘mindfulness without an object'. There is no separate buddha distinct from the mind, nor a separate mind distinct from the Buddha. So mindfulness of the Buddha is the same as mindfulness of the mind, and seeking the Buddha is the same as seeking the mind.

Why is this? Consciousness has no shape, and the Buddha has no qualities. 13 If you comprehend this principle, then you have peace of mind. In constant mindfulness of the Buddha, grasping does not arise. Then there is nondiscrimination free from categories, sameness free from duality. When you reach this stage the mentality of recalling the Buddha fades away, as it is no longer needed.

When we observe this state of mind, it is identical to the tathāgata's ultimate dharmakaya. It is also called the true dharma, the buddha nature, the ultimate truth that is the nature of all phenomena, the pure land. It is also called awakening, the vajra concentration, intrinsic enlightenment, and so on. It has been given names like the realm of nirvana, prajñā , and so on. Though these names are innumerable, they all refer to the same thing. There is no object which is observed or mind which observes. This state of mind needs to be kept clear, so that it is always apparent and you cannot be distracted from it by the variety of situations that arise. 14

Why is this? The variety of situations are just the single dharmakaya of the tathāgata. Through this oneness of mind all the knots of anxiety and irritation untangle themselves. A single particle contains worlds beyond measure. And worlds beyond measure are assembled on the tip of a single hair. Because all things have always been this way, they never obstruct each other. As the Avataṃsaka sūtra says: ‘In a tiny particle you can see everything in the universe.' 15

Peace of mind
Cannot be summed up in words;
True understanding of it
Comes from your own heart.

* * *

For the sake of the younger ones who might be harbouring doubts, Daoxin then took a question: ‘If the tathāgata's dharmakaya is like this, how is it that their bodies, endowed with all the excellent qualities of a buddha, can appear in the world to teach the dharma?' 16

Daoxin said –

It is precisely because the tathāgata's dharmakaya is pure that it is all-encompassing and manifests in everything. Yet the dharmakaya is not guided by thought. 17 Like a mirror made of sphaṭika crystal hung in a high hall, everything is visible within it. 18 The mirror has no mind either, but is still capable of making a multitude of things visible.

The sutra says: ‘Tathāgatas appear in the world to preach the dharma due to the conceptualization of sentient beings.' 19 If you modern practitioners cultivate the mind until it is completely pure, then you will know that tathāgatas never teach the dharma. This is the real meaning of learning – for those who truly learn, there are no categories at all.

As the sutra says:

The faculties of sentient beings are grasping by nature.
Because the types of grasping are innumerable,
I teach innumerable dharmas.
Because I teach innumerable dharmas,
There are also innumerable meanings.
Yet these innumerable meanings
Arise from a single teaching.
This single teaching
Is freedom from qualities.
This complete lack of qualities
Is what I call True Quality. 20

Thus everything disappears into purity.

The truth of these words
Must be experienced directly.
When you sit, you will become aware of it.
Recognize the first movement of your mind,
Then follow its constantly evolving flow,
Its comings and goings,
Being aware of everything as a whole,
Examining it with vajra wisdom.

This is similar to the way grass and trees do not distinguish between objects. Knowing the absence of knowing is what we call ‘being all knowing'. 21 This is how bodhisattvas teach sameness. 22

Another question was asked: ‘What is a meditation master?'

Daoxin replied –

One who is unconcerned by either serenity or disturbance. That is to say, a person who is good at applying the mind in meditation. If you always stay in calmness (śamatha), your mind will become drowsy. If you spend a long time practising insight meditation (vipaśyanā) your mind will become distracted.

The Lotus Sutra says:

The buddhas themselves abide in the great vehicle,
As their attainment of the dharma:
Arrayed with the power of concentration and wisdom,
Dedicated to the liberation of sentient beings. 23

Others asked: ‘How can we truly understand the nature of things so that the mind becomes luminous and clear?'

Daoxin said –

Don't be mindful of the Buddha;
Don't control the mind;
Don't examine the mind;
Don't speculate about the mind;
Don't deliberate;
Don't practise analysis;
Don't become distracted;
Just let it be.
Don't try to get rid of it,
Don't try to make it stay.

In solitude and peace, the mind will of itself become luminous and clear. If you can carefully observe the mind in this way, the mind will become luminous and clear, like a bright mirror. If you do this for one year, the mind will be even more luminous and clear. If you do this for three to five years, the mind will be yet more luminous and clear. This can be brought about by somebody teaching you, or you may attain liberation without ever having to be taught.

It is taught in the sutras that for sentient beings, the nature of mind is like a precious pearl sunk beneath the water. When the water is dirty the pearl is hidden; when the water is clear, the pearl can be seen. 24 Because sentient beings have slandered the three jewels and disrupted the harmony of the sangha, everything they see is tainted with irritation and distorted by desire, hatred and ignorance. They do not realize that the nature of mind has always been pure from the beginning. 25

Thus the way students attain this realization is not always the same, and these differences are due to the fact that currently their inner faculties and outer conditions are not the same. A person who wants to be a teacher must be capable of recognizing these differences. Among students there are four types of people:

• Those who practise and have understanding and experience are the best.

• Those who don't practise, yet do have understanding and experience are the upper middling type.

• Those who practise and have understanding, yet lack experience are the lower middling type.

• Those who practise, yet lack understanding and experience are the lowest type.

Another question was asked: ‘At this stage, should we practise analytical meditation?'

Daoxin said – The only thing you need to do is let it be. 26

And: ‘Should we practise facing the direction of the pure land in the west?'

Daoxin said –

Once you know that mind, from the start, has never arisen or ceased to be and is perfectly pure, and that it is identical with the pure lands of the buddhas, there is no longer any need to face the pure land in the west.

The Avataṃsaka sūtra says:

Immeasurable aeons exist in a single moment of thought,
And one thought lasts for immeasurable aeons. 27

Know that in any one direction there are immeasurable directions, and immeasurable directions are really one direction. When they spoke of facing the pure land in the west it was for the sake of sentient beings with dull faculties, and not for people with sharp faculties.

The Avataṃsaka sūtra says:

The physical qualities of Samantabhadra
Are like space.
Their location is in thusness,
Not in a buddha realm. 28

This means that the buddha realm is completely present right now; it is exactly the same as this realm but entirely free from clinging. 29 The Nirvāṇa sūtra says, ‘Limitless is the body of the bodhisattva, a body immeasurable as space', and ‘Because their bodies shine with virtue, they are like the summer sun.' It also says, ‘Because their bodies are limitless, this is called great nirvana ', and ‘This is the greatest kind of nirvana because its nature is vast and wide.' 30

* * *

Bodhisattvas at the stages of further progress engage with samsara in order to transform and liberate sentient beings. 31 Yet they do this without clinging to intellectual views. If I hold the view that sentient beings exist in samsara – that I am the one who can liberate them, while they are powerless – I should not be called a bodhisattva. Liberating sentient beings is like liberating emptiness: how could emptiness be liberated when it has already come and gone?

The Vajracchedikā sūtra says: ‘As for the liberation of innummerable sentient beings – in truth, there are no sentient beings who achieve liberation.' 32 A bodhisattva of the first level begins with the realization that everything is empty; later they come to the realization that nothing is empty. This is the wisdom of nondiscrimination. It is the same with form: form is emptiness, and it is not that form eliminates emptiness; rather, the inherent nature of form is emptiness.

A bodhisattva's cultivation of emptiness turns into realization. New students have only an intellectual view of emptiness. This intellectual view of emptiness is not true emptiness. Those who realize true emptiness on the path of practice do not hold views about emptiness or the lack of emptiness, or any other kind of view. 33 Thus it is important to understand exactly what ‘forms are empty' really means. 34

For those who are studying how to apply the mind, the key point is that the mind's flow should be clear and luminous. They should be aware of the qualities of phenomena in utter clarity and distinction. Only then will they be qualified to teach others. In addition, their outer behaviour should correspond with their inner state, and their practice should not contradict their principles. They absolutely must give up written and spoken words, which are the conditioned phenomena of the noble path. Instead, staying in solitude, they should realize for themselves the fruits of the path. 35

There are also people who have yet to comprehend the ultimate dharma, yet guide sentient beings for the sake of wealth and fame. Failing to recognize the sharp and dull faculties of students and make appropriate distinctions, they give their seal of approval far too easily. This is very distressing! 36 Some observe their students' minds, and if they seem to be luminous and clear, immediately give them the seal of approval. These people are ruining the Buddha's dharma, deceiving themselves and others.

People who apply the mind all have their similarities and differences. Everyone has their own personality, but all of them have yet to realize the mind. Those who have truly realized the mind have recognized it clearly for themselves. In the future, they will open the eyes of the dharma themselves and be able to see how their own good students are different from the empty counterfeits. 37

Some people believe that the body is empty in the sense of not existing and that the nature of mind is mere nothingness. These people are nihilists, no different from those who follow non-Buddhist paths. They are not followers of the Buddha. Some people believe that the mind exists in the sense of never coming to an end. These people are eternalists who are also just like the followers of non-Buddhist paths. Now, the intelligent disciples of the Buddha do not believe that the nature of mind is existent or nonexistent. 38

Always liberating sentient beings,
Without clinging to views.
Always acquiring wisdom,
In the sameness of wisdom and ignorance.
Always in the state of meditation,
Without the duality of stillness and wildness.
Always perceiving sentient beings,
Without reifying their existence. 39
Manifesting their bodies everywhere,
Yet showing that they have never truly existed.
Not seeing or hearing anything,
Yet aware of everything,
Without grasping or rejecting.
Never dividing their bodies,
Yet pervading the nature of reality.

Furthermore, wise and compassionate meditation masters of earlier times taught that when we are learning the dharma path, understanding and practice need to support each other. 40 First you recognize the mind's source, its essential nature and manifold activities, seeing appearances clearly and without confusion. 41 After this, you will be able to accomplish great things. If this one thing is understood, a thousand others will follow. But if you are mistaken about this one thing, ten thousand delusions will follow. Lose it by a hair's breadth, and you will go astray by a mile. These are not empty words!

The Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha sūtra says:

The dharmakaya of all buddhas
Is present in the mental activities
Of all sentient beings;
This mind makes the buddha. 42

Know then that ‘buddha' is identical with ‘mind'. Aside from the mind, there is no buddha.

* * *

Briefly, there are five general types of meditation: 43

• The first is to recognize mind's essence. This essence is naturally clear and pure, and this essence is the same as the buddha.

• The second is to recognize mind's activity. This activity gives birth to the jewel of the dharma, and is the manifest aspect of constant stillness, found within all the myriad delusions.

• The third is to be always aware without interruption. Awareness manifests as the mind, yet the phenomena of awareness cannot be categorized. 44

• The fourth is to see the physical body as empty. Inner and outer are interdependent, and the body is at the very centre of the phenomenal realm, without the least obstruction.

• The fifth is to maintain oneness without wavering, throughout both stillness and movement. 45 This allows the practitioner to see the buddha nature clearly and enter the gate of concentration quickly.

The sutras contain all of these types of meditation. Fu Dashi's teachings recommend just maintaining oneness without wavering, but one should begin with practice and close observation, taking the body as the basis for analysis, as follows. 46

This body is composed of four elements and five aggregates. In the end, it is impermanent, and it cannot be autonomous. Even while it has not yet perished it is ultimately empty. The Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa sūtra says: ‘This body is like drifting clouds that change and disappear in moments.' 47

Next, constantly perceive your own body in this way: it is empty and clear like a reflection; it can be seen, but not grasped. Wisdom is born in the midst of reflections; ultimately it has no location. It never moves, yet it responds to the needs of beings, manifesting without limitation. 48 The six senses come into being within emptiness. They are completely empty themselves, facing the six kinds of object, which should be understood as dreams and illusions. When the eye sees an object, that object is not located in the eye.

Just as a mirror reflects the image of a face with the greatest clarity, forms manifest within emptiness like reflections. There is not a single object in the mirror itself; we know that a person's actual face does not go into the mirror, nor does the mirror enter a person's face. Analysing in detail like this, we can see that the face in the mirror has never entered or departed, never come or gone. This is the meaning of tathāgata. 49

This kind of analysis shows that the eye, like the mirror, is and has always been empty. The reflection in the mirror and the reflection in the eye are the same. So, using this as a point of comparison, smell, taste and all the other faculties are the same. If you know that the eye is fundamentally empty, then for all forms the eye sees, you will know them to be the objectification of form. When your ears hear sounds, you will know them to be the objectification of sound. When your nose detects smells, you will know them to be the objectification of smell. When the tongue distinguishes tastes, you will know them to be the objectification of taste. When the intellect responds to phenomena, you will know them to be the objectification of phenomena. When the body receives sensations, you will know them to be the objectification of sensation. 50

To examine knowledge in this way is to meditate on emptiness and stillness:

• When you see forms, you know that those forms cannot be grasped.

• The forms that cannot be grasped are just emptiness.

• Emptiness is the nonexistence of categories.

• This nonexistence of categories is not something contrived.

Seeing this is the gate to liberation. When students attain liberation, all of their sense faculties are like this. To put it another way, they are always mindful of the emptiness of the six faculties. In this sense there is no hearing or seeing. As the Sutra of the Deathbed Injunction says: ‘At the hour of midnight, silence is undisturbed.' 51 This means that the tathāgatas teach the dharma by means of emptiness, and to be constantly mindful of the emptiness of the six faculties is to be always like the night. What you see and hear in the daytime are things external to your body.

That was the emptiness and purity of the body. Now for maintaining oneness without wavering. 52 With this pure and empty vision, concentrate your attention on a single object without concern for the passing of time. Continue to focus your energy without moving. If your mind wants to wander off, quickly take it in hand and gather it back, again and again, like using a string attached to a bird's foot to pull it back and catch it when it wants to fly away. Finally, after spending a day in uninterrupted attentiveness, you can stop and the mind will settle on its own.

As the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa sūtra says:

Gathering the mind is the site of enlightenment itself;
This is the dharma of gathering the mind. 53

And the Lotus Sutra says:

For incalculable aeons he tirelessly and continually gathered his mind. Because of this achievement he could generate all the levels of meditative concentration. 54

The Sutra of the Deathbed Injunction says:

The mind is the master of the five faculties. Once you capture this territory, there is nothing else to do, no more to be accomplished. 55

This is exactly it. These teachings on the five types of meditation are also the true principle of the great vehicle. They are all based on what is said in the sutras, not on mistaken non-Buddhist teachings. This is uncontaminated activity, the ultimate truth itself. 56 Going beyond the stage of a hearer, this is the real destination of the bodhisattva's path.

* * *

Listeners, do your practice properly and without even a moment of doubt! 57 Be like a person learning to shoot an arrow. They begin with a large target, then aim at a small target, then aim at a large circle, then aim at a small circle, then aim at a single piece of twine, then split the piece of twine into a hundred threads and aim at one of the hundred threads. Then they shoot their arrow into the previous one so that the arrow is fixed in the nock, preventing both arrows from falling.

This is a metaphor for a person learning the path. As the stream of consciousness flows through the mind, every moment of mind is continuous, without the briefest interval. True mindfulness is uninterrupted – true mindfulness is always there. 58 As it says in the sutras: ‘Using the arrows of wisdom, shoot at the nocks of the arrows that are the three gates of liberation, so that each arrow is fixed in the nock of the other without falling to the ground.' 59

It is also like rubbing sticks together to make a fire; there will be no heat if you stop, and however much you want to make a fire it will be difficult to achieve. It is also like the family that possessed a wish-fulfilling jewel and received whatever they wanted from it. One day they lost it, and after that there was never a moment when they didn't remember what it was like before they lost it. It is also like a person with a poison arrow in their flesh. When the shaft has been pulled out but the arrowhead remains embedded, they undergo agonizing pain. They cannot forget about it even for a moment; recollection is constantly in their mind. The way you practise should be like this.

The secret essence of the dharma is not transmitted to those who are not meant to hear it. It is not that we are stingy with the transmission of the dharma. We are just apprehensive that such people will have no conviction and will fall into the trap of slandering the dharma. We must choose people who will not teach the dharma as soon as they have got hold of it.

Take heed! Though the ocean of dharma may be immeasurable, it can be crossed with a single teaching. 60 Once you have grasped the intention, the teaching can be forgotten, for even a single teaching is of no use any more. 61 Attaining final realization is the same thing as grasping the Buddha's intention.



Teachings for Beginners

There is a colourful story about Daoxin that gives us the sense that he was known for just sitting, without engaging in other practices that would take him from place to place. The story is from the Genealogy of the Dharma Jewel and occurs late in Daoxin's life, in the year 643 when he had been living at his monastery on Shuangfeng Mountain for many years. The emperor Wenwu sent a messenger to the mountain to invite Daoxin for an audience at court. Daoxin refused, pleading old age, but the emperor sent the messenger back to insist on Daoxin travelling to the court. Daoxin refused again, sending a message back to the emperor: ‘If you want my head, you are welcome to behead me and take it, but I will not go.'

Undeterred, the emperor sent his messenger back with the sword, telling him to threaten Daoxin but not to hurt him. Upon seeing the sword, Daoxin still refused to obey the emperor's summons, and extended his neck to the messenger, saying, ‘Chop it off and take it!' The messenger then had to admit that he had been told not to harm Daoxin, who laughed and replied, ‘I've taught you to recognize someone who stays put!' 1 In this story ‘someone who stays put' suggests more than mere stubbornness; it implies the resolve and stability of someone who spends their time in meditation. 2

As we have seen, most of Daoxin's teachings in the Masters of the Lanka are from a text called Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts , which was translated in the previous chapter. The rest of the Daoxin section, which is translated here, contains his instructions for novices and other miscellaneous teachings. The word ‘novices' – literally ‘those who have entered the path' ( rùdào ) – indicates that these are teachings for newly ordained monastics.

While Daoxin's Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts is presented as a sermon given in the context of the ceremony for bestowing the vows of a bodhisattva, which may have been attended by lay Buddhists as well as monastics, the teachings for novices may have been written down in his monastery on Shuangfeng Mountain, and circulated among his students.

The teachings for novices are followed by advice on meditating during the process of death, some critical comments on the Daoist classics Daodejing and Zhuangzi , and a few lines on the idea that nonliving things have a buddha nature. As we have seen, other chapters in the Masters of the Lanka seem to have grown with additional material added at the end of the chapter in the process of manuscript transmission. We do not have the earlier, Tibetan translation to compare here, because that version does not extend this far into the text; however, it seems plausible that some of this material, particularly the comments on Daoism and the lines on the buddha nature, are similarly later additions.

The meditation instructions for novices begin with the phrase, ‘When you are beginning the practice of sitting meditation . . .' and end with, ‘the above are the skilful means for novices'. In this text, Daoxin outlines two meditation methods, both of which he has already taught in the Dharma Teachings for the Bodhisattva Precepts. The first meditation technique is the classic twofold Buddhist meditation practice of insight meditation (vipaśyanā) and calmness (śamatha). This begins with sitting and thinking about the nature of one's body and sensations. The resulting realization is that ‘upon examination, they are simply stillness, pure and free from the very beginning'.

Daoxin teaches that the realization of the emptiness of the body is the true form of repentance:

Then you will realize that your own body, for past immeasurable aeons, has ultimately never been born, and in the future there is ultimately no person who dies. To be able to carry out this observation at all times is the true practice of repentance.

This echoes his earlier statement in Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts that mindfulness is ‘the supreme repentance'. Fortnightly repentance ceremonies, for alleviating the negative karmic effects of one's past actions, are a part of life in most Buddhist monasteries and nunneries. As I discussed in chapter 3 above, these ceremonies often involved meditation, and the visions that arose in meditation could be taken as indications of the nature of one's past karma. In Daoxin's teaching, rather than meditation being part of the repentance ritual, the realization that comes from meditation is the true form of repentance.

The second meditation technique that Daoxin explains in his instructions for novices is ‘observing the mind'. Again, this is a condensed version of the teachings on the same practice in the Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts. One thing that Daoxin explains in more detail is how to actually assume the meditation posture and breathing – indeed, these are the most detailed instructions in early Zen:

To begin, sit with your body upright, in comfortable clothes without a belt. Relax your body and loosen your arms and legs by rubbing them seven or eight times. Allow your mind to come to rest in your abdomen, and let your breath out completely.

This is clearly an instruction on breathing from the abdomen, in which one's concentration is moved down to that point in the body (called in Chinese, hara in Japanese). Breathing in and out of the abdomen, and allowing one's consciousness to descend to that point in the body, is taught by modern Zen teachers, as well as in other contemplative, martial arts and medical traditions. 3 In one of the most popular twentieth-century books on Zen meditation, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind , Shunryu Suzuki gives this instruction:

Also to gain strength in your posture, press your diaphragm down towards your hara , or lower abdomen. This will help you maintain your physical and mental balance. When you try to keep this posture, at first you may find some difficulty breathing naturally, but when you get accustomed to it you will be able to breathe naturally and deeply. 4

Examples are to be found in the earlier Japanese tradition as well; for example, the influential masters Dogen and Hakuin both gave instructions on breathing from the abdomen. 5 However, the fact that this practice was also taught much earlier, here in the Masters of the Lanka, seems to have been missed. In Daoxin's teaching abdominal breathing leads to a calm and and lucid state, ‘with body and mind in harmony'. Once they have achieved this peace, the meditator is able to ‘turn the mind within', meaning to turn the mind away from external objects to rest in awareness of itself. 6

Similar instructions on observing the mind are found in a work by another early Zen teacher, Wolun. His Dharma of Observing the Mind has been studied by Carmen Meinert, who describes the technique taught there:

The inner, the nature of mind, is described as clear like empty space and without arising and ceasing, whereas mind is discursive on the outside. Whenever thoughts arise in the mind, the practitioner is asked to immediately turn to the inside of mind. 7

We can see this as an instruction to observe thoughts themselves, rather than be guided by thoughts towards their objects, which is the usual mental process leading to distraction and submergence in the constant production of thoughts. The result of this is that ‘the spiritual path will become clear and sharp, the mind's ground pure and luminous'. The mind's ground is the fundamental level of mind, known in Indian Yogācāra texts as the ālaya-vijñāna . 8 In Yogācāra, meditation practice leads to a transformation of the basis, from its usual function as the source of deluded awareness to its proper function as the source of enlightened awareness. Thus the practice is to realize that the external world consists of the manifestations of mind through the senses, and to trace these manifestations back to their source, the pure and luminous basic consciousness.

After the instructions for novices, there is another brief text of meditation instructions, this time for the process of dying. The practice for this process is to settle the mind, to become ‘absorbed in the pure sky-like mind'. At the moment of death, the meditator will ‘abide in the clarity of the dharmakaya and will not undergo another lifetime'. However, if this mindfulness is lost at any point, the process of rebirth and new life will start again.

Buddhist discussions of the process of death are best known from Tibetan literature, especially the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead'. These works describe the whole process in much greater detail, but they do share a significant feature with Daoxin's description: the vision of a clear light that is equivalent to the dharmakaya as the first manifestation of entering the state between death and the next rebirth, and the idea that if the consciousness of the dying person becomes distracted from nondual absorption in this clarity, they will go on to the next process of the intermediate state, leading to rebirth.

The Tibetan meditation teachings of Dzogchen, ‘the great perfection', put particular emphasis on recognizing this light at the moment of death; as Bryan Cuevas has written, in Dzogchen ‘emphasis was on the clear light as equivalent to the primordial ground's original pure radiance'. 9 Furthermore, in Dzogchen, meditators are taught to recognize this light as the dharmakaya at the moment of death. These similarities between Daoxin's brief instructions on dying and those in the later Tibetan tradition are intriguing.

The idea of an intermediate state between death and rebirth was discussed in the abhidharma literature of the Sarvāstivādins, and descriptions of the experience of dying appear in some sutras. However, as Stephen Eskilden has pointed out, techniques for actively directing one's experience of death seem to be found only in the Chinese and Tibetan traditions. 10 Perhaps they both grew from Indian Buddhist oral teachings on meditation techniques for the dying. In any case, Daoxin's instructions on dying are one of the earliest examples of this practice in Chinese Buddhism, though there are also Daoist texts containing instructions for dying which may be just as early. Later, the techniques for navigating the process of dying continued to be developed by Daoists, who often attributed the origins of the practice to Bodhidharma. 11

The instructions on dying for meditators conclude Daoxin's meditation teachings in this chapter. They are followed by some comments on Daoist texts. Daoxin does occasionally borrow phrases from Daoist literature, and seems to have been especially fond of the Zhuangzi , a book of teachings attributed to the sage of the same name, who lived in the third century BC. The Zhuangzi is a complex text, probably formed over centuries. It is difficult to sum up, but many chapters (including the one quoted here by Daoxin) present us with arguments suggesting that our concepts and judgements are merely conventions, relative and not absolute.

At times, the Zhuangzi sounds very like a Zen teaching. Perhaps the greatest difference is that in Zhuangzi the ultimate truth is oneness, whereas for many Zen teachers, the ultimate truth is emptiness. It is this idea of oneness that Daoxin criticizes here, quoting the cryptic lines:

Heaven and earth are one finger.
All things are one horse.

Here is the full passage from the Zhuangzi :

To use this finger to show how a finger is not a finger is no match for using not-this finger to show how a finger is not a finger. To use this horse to show that a horse is not a horse is no match for using not-this-horse to show that a horse is not a horse. Heaven and earth are one finger. All things are one horse. 12

This doesn't help much, but the following passage makes it clearer:

Something is affirmative because someone affirms it. Something is negative because someone negates it. Courses are formed by someone walking them. Things are so by being called so. 13

In other words, our logic is merely conventional; even the linguistic distinctions between a horse and what is not a horse only apply because we apply them. Ultimately horse and not-horse depend on each other and are one and the same thing. Daoxin then quotes from a Buddhist sutra to show the limitations of Zhuangzi, picking up on the idea of oneness:

‘One' does not just mean the number one;
It implies a refutation of phenomena being many.

To be honest, it is hard to see how this passage can be used to criticize the Zhuangzi ; the oneness of the Zhuangzi is very much ‘a refutation of phenomena being many'. Nevertheless, Daoxin's criticism that Zhuangzi gets ‘stuck' at the idea of oneness does have a point, as his text does not deconstruct the concept of oneness itself, which a Buddhist would.

Daoxin then turns to the Daodejing , the early Daoist classic attributed to the sage Laozi, which needs no introduction here. Daoxin quotes these lines:

So subtle! So profound!
Its essence is within.

In criticizing these words, Daoxin quotes from two sutras stating that the duality between internal and external is false. He accuses Laozi of doing away with the category of the external but keeping the idea of an internal essence. This criticism comes from the point of view of the classic Indian Yogācāra texts, such as those of Vasubandhu, in which it is often said that the true nature of consciousness is nondual, without internal or external elements. 14

Whether these criticisms are fair or not, they position Daoxin as a true Mahayana Buddhist by rejecting the emphasis in the Zhuangzi on oneness, and the privileging of the internal in the Daodejing . The final lines of the chapter seem to have little bearing on this, and go off on another tangent instead – the idea that the buddha nature resides in all things, not just sentient beings. This ties in with the teachings of Hongren in the next chapter, so we will consider it there.


Chapter Five


Instructions for Novices

When you are beginning the practice of sitting meditation, you should stay in a quiet place and closely observe your own body and mind. Observe and examine the four elements and five aggregates, the senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and intellect, up to greed, anger and ignorance – whether bad or good, hated or loved, ordinary or sacred – through to each and every aspect of existence. They are empty from the very beginning, neither coming into being nor passing away. In their sameness and nonduality, they have never had a defining feature. Upon examination, they are simply stillness, pure and free from the very beginning.

Don't ask whether it is day or night – just continue with this observation, whether you are walking, standing, sitting or lying down. You will come to realize that your own body is like the reflection of the moon in water, like the image in a mirror, like the heat of a fire, like an echo in an empty valley. If you say it is existent, why do you not see it when you search for it everywhere? If you say it is nonexistent, why does it appear with constant clarity before your eyes? The dharmakaya of all the buddhas is also like this.

Then you will realize that your own body, for past immeasurable aeons, has ultimately never been born, and in the future there is ultimately no person who dies. To be able to carry out this observation at all times is the true practice of repentance. 15 Millions of aeons' accumulation of the most serious karma soon vanishes on its own. This practice is only to remove doubt and confusion; it cannot give rise to conviction in people who are unable to truly grasp it. On the other hand, those sentient beings who do have the conviction to rely on this practice will always be able to enter into the uncreated true principle.

Next, when mental apprehension of external objects arises, observe it at the point of arising. 16 Ultimately it does not arise, for when this mental apprehension appears, it does not come from any direction, or arrive anywhere. Constantly observe how objects are apprehended, using your awareness to observe deluded consciousness, perception and distracted thoughts. 17 When mental disturbance ceases you will have attained basic stability. If you attain mental stability you will no longer anxiously dwell upon objects.

Then, depending on your ability in calmness meditation, you will attain the cessation of all emotional afflictions, and not create any new ones. This is known as liberation through observation. The mental shackles of unhappiness, turmoil and depression will then disappear by themselves, slowly, slowly, settling into peacefulness. When you give it the opportunity mind becomes peaceful and clear all by itself. Yet one must have a sense of urgency, as if saving someone whose hair is on fire. Don't become complacent – keep striving!

* * *

When you begin sitting in meditation to observe the mind, sit on your own in a single place. To begin, sit with your body upright, in comfortable clothes without a belt. Relax your body and loosen your arms and legs by rubbing them seven or eight times. Allow your mind to come to rest in your abdomen, and let your breath out completely. 18 You will suddenly realize your nature to be pure and lucid, calm and clear, with body and mind in harmony.

Then as you pacify mind and spirit, subtle and profound, with calm, refreshing breathing, gradually turn the mind within. 19 The spiritual path will become clear and sharp, the mind's ground pure and luminous. When you examine this luminosity, you find that both internal and external are empty and pure. This is mind's natural stillness.

This stillness is the manifestation of the Buddha's mind itself. Though it is formless in nature, it always has purity of intention. This spiritual energy is never exhausted; it is always present in its bright clarity. 20 This is what we call the buddha nature. Those who can see the buddha nature are for ever free from samsara, and their fame transcends that of worldly people. So when the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa sūtra speaks of ‘suddenly reacquiring your original mind', it speaks the truth. 21

A person who has realized the buddha nature is known as a bodhisattva. He or she is also called a person who has realized the path, a person with understanding, and a person who has actualized the buddha nature. So, as it says in the sutra: ‘This single phrase has a profound energy which is not depleted over an aeon.' 22 Novices who practise these skilful means should remember that all the skilful means taught on the path are joined in the mind of the Noble Ones.

Instructions on dying

Now, a summary of the dharma of giving up the body. 23 First settle the mind in complete emptiness. Let your mind and its objects become tranquil. Let your perceptions melt into deep quietude. Don't let your mind move about, and settle into the tranquillity of mind's nature, without the apprehension of objects, subtle and profound, absorbed in the pure sky-like mind, in peaceful, settled equanimity. When you pass away, at your last breath, you should abide in the clarity of the dharmakaya and will not undergo another lifetime. But if you give rise to thought and lose your mindfulness, you will not avoid undergoing rebirth, as previously determined by your mental attitude. 24

‘The dharma should be like this' – that is how the dharma is created. 25 Yet the dharma is originally non-dharma. Only dharma that is not dharma can be called ‘dharma'. Thus the dharma cannot be created. The true dharma jewel is the dharma which has never been created. That is why the sutra says: ‘Empty without formulation, without aspiration, without qualities.' 26 This is true liberation, and this is the reason that the real dharma cannot be created. What I call ‘the dharma of giving up the body' is a metaphor for the observation of the mind and its objects based on the body. 27 The level of illumination means using your luminous energy to decide your own fate. 28

Miscellaneous teachings

The great master said –

Zhuangzi taught:

Heaven and earth are one finger.
All things are one horse.

But the Dharmapada sūtra says:

‘One' does not just mean the number one;
The intention is the refutation of all numbers.
Only students of shallow intellect
Mean the number one when they say ‘one'. 29

Thus Zhuangzi seems to be stuck at the idea of ‘one'.

Laozi said:

So subtle! So profound!
Its essence is within.

Here, even though there are no categories outside, the mind is still preserved within. The Avataṃsaka sūtra says: 30

Do not be attached to dualistic entities,
As there is neither singularity nor duality.

And the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa sūtra corroborates this by saying:

Mind does not exist internally or externally,
Nor anywhere in between. 31

When we understand this, we can see that Laozi is stuck at the idea of the existence of an essential awareness.

* * *

The Mahāparinirvāna sūtra says: ‘All sentient beings have the buddha nature.' 32 How could we teach that walls, tiles and stones do not lack the buddha nature? How could they teach the dharma? Moreover, Vasubandhu writes in his commentary: ‘The physical manifestation of the buddha is not the true buddha and does not teach the dharma.'




1. McRae 1986: 262.

2. For example, Sharf (2014) has the title as Fundamental Expedient Teachings for Calming the Mind to Enter the Way. The assumption that the current chapter of the Masters of the Lanka represents a single text by Daoxin led John McRae (1986: 142) to call it ‘repetitive and occasionally confusing'.

3. The title Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts translates pú sà jiè fǎ 菩薩戒法. If those characters are not read as a title, this could be translated as ‘a book of dharma teachings [for] the bodhisattva precepts ceremony'. ‘Also composed' is jí zhì 及制 and ‘teachings for novices on methods for attaining peace of mind' is rù dào ān xīn yāo fāng biàn fǎ mén 入道安心要方便法門. Here, rù dào means ‘one who has entered the path' which in the Buddhist monastic context usually refers to novices.

4. Shuangfeng means ‘Twin Peaks' (it was previously known as Potou, ‘Broken Top').

5. T.16, no. 670, p. 481c2.

6. What Daoxin calls the Wisdom Sutra Taught by Mañjuśrī is the Saptaśatika Prajñāpāramitā, i.e. the Perfection of Wisdom in 700 lines, of which two translations (T.8, no. 232 and T.233) existed in Daoxin's time. What follows may be taken as Daoxin's summary of the passages of the Saptaśatika on the one practice concentration.

7. From ‘If you' to ‘single practice concentration' is missing in Or.8210/S.2054 and the Taisho edition.

8. See T.8, no. 232, p. 731a25–b9. The version in this text paraphrases the canonical sutra.

9. In this line, ‘body and mind' translates fāng cùn 方寸, literally ‘square inch'. In contexts such as this, ‘square inch' refers to the physical heart as the centre of a human being's body and mind. In Daoxin's text (he uses the term again below) it appears to refer more generally to the mental and physical bundle that makes up a person. ‘The site of awakening' is the bodhimaṇḍa , where Śākyamuni achieved enlightenment, and by extension, a place where the dharma is practised. In China, it was also used to refer to the platform on which the precepts were conferred. Here, Daoxin is saying that every individual person is, at all times, a site of awakening.

10. See T.9, no. 277, p. 393b10–11. Faure (1989: 142) states that this sutra played an important role in the development of the ceremonies of the bodhisattva vow.

11. ‘Judgements' here translates jué guān 覺觀; these two characters are equivalent to the Sanskrit vitarka and vicāra (DDB, Muller).

12. T.8, no. 223, p. 385c8.

13. This is the last line of the Tibetan translation of the Masters of the Lanka. Here, S.2054 (and Taisho) inserts ‘has no shape' again, which does not appear in P.3436, so I have ignored it as a probable scribal error.

14. Note the similarity between this passage and the famous verse attributed to Shenxiu in the Platform Sutra.

15. This quote is slightly different from what appears in the canonical sutras. The first and third lines are both on T.9, no. 278, p. 623c28 and at T.10 no. 279, p. 272c8; the middle line, with a different final character, is at no. 278, p. 624a9 and a10, and at no. 279, p. 272c18.

16. This sentence suggests a question and answer session in the course of a sermon; though the character jiǎ 假 would usually indicate a condition, and therefore a rhetorical question from Daoxin (‘if someone were to ask . . .'), I take it here to mean ‘concede, grant' (Kroll 2015: 193), indicating Daoxin's graciousness in allowing questions from the younger members of the audience.

17. The text here has fǎxìng zhī shēn 法性之身, literally Skt dharmatākāya.

18. The sphaṭika crystal is a colourless transparent stone. It is used in India for religious objects of devotion.

19. Compare the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra, T.16, no. 670, p. 506c7. On the other hand, Faure (1989: p. 144, n.23) suggests a connection to the Mahāparinirvāna sūtra.

20. This quotation is from the Amitartha sūtra, T.9, no. 276, p. 385c23–26. Some lines from the canonical sutra are omitted in the quotation. I have followed the canonical version in the first four lines, as the version in the Masters of the Lanka seems to be garbled.

21. Being all knowing or omniscienct (yīqiè zhì 一切智) is one of the characteristics of a buddha's wisdom.

22. Literally, ‘the single-form dharma method' (yīxiàng fǎmén 一相法門), this refers to a teaching based in the principle of nonduality.

23. See T.9, no. 262, p. 8a23–24.

24. This seems not to be a direct quote, though the first line occurs verbatim three times in T.9, no. 272, p. 349a29–b3. There is a similar metaphor in the Mahāprajñāpāramitā sūtra: see T.12, no. 375, p. 617c2–10.

25. To have slandered the three jewels and disrupted the harmony of the sangha are major violations of the monastic code. Here they stand for all negative actions in this and previous lives, which prevent sentient beings from realizing the nature of their minds.

26. This statement refers to the present context, the teaching on observing the mind. A little further in the text, Daoxin does teach analysis of the body as a preliminary practice.

27. T.9, no. 278, p. 672a27.

28. T.9, no. 278, p. 409b8–9.

29. Literally, ‘when there is no reliance': bù yī 不依.

30. In both manuscript copies this second quotation from the Avataṃsaka sūtra and the following quotations from the Mahāparinirvāna sūtra appear slightly earlier, in the discussion of different types of students, after the sentence ‘A person who wants to be a teacher must be capable of recognizing these differences', and before the sentence ‘Among students there are four types of people'. However, it is clear that the quotations relate to the discussion of the pure lands, not to the different capacities of students. Thus they seem to have been copied into a slightly earlier part of the text by mistake at some point in the manuscript transmission.

31. The stages of further progress are the second level (Skt bhūmi) of the bodhisattva path.

32. See T.8, no. 235, p. 749a9, though the text is slightly different.

33. The path of practice (or ‘cultivation') is the fourth of the five paths of progress for a bodhisattva.

34. Probably a reference to the Heart Sutra's famous phrase, ‘forms are nothing but emptiness; emptiness is nothing but form'.

35. ‘Conditioned phenomena' (yǒuwéi 有爲) refers to all of the phenomena of samsara; here Daoxin is saying that even the written teachings of the Buddha are conditioned phenomena, and one must realize for oneself the unconditioned state to which they point.

36. The text continues, ‘Distressing: a great calamity.' I suspect this may be an explanatory gloss that has been copied into the main text.

37. The eye of the dharma (fǎ yǎn 法眼; Skt dharmacakṣus) is the ability to perceive all things clearly, and is one of the qualities a bodhisattva requires in order to aid all sentient beings.

38. I have added ‘existent' here, which seems to be missing from this sentence, as a summary of the previous paragraph.

39. The text continues with a non-metrical line that may be another explanatory gloss: ‘Ultimately they neither come into being nor cease to be.'

40. The adjectives ‘wise and compassionate' (zhì mǐn 智 慜) may be read as the personal name Zhimin. However, no such person has been identified. Chappell (1983: 113) reads it as referring to Zhiyi (538–97), but there is no other evidence that he was known as Zhimin. Faure (1989: 149, n.50) mentions Famin (597–652), but this figure was a contemporary of Daoxin and does not qualify as being from ‘earlier times'.

41. This sentence contains two key terms in early Chinese Buddhist discussions of the mind. ‘Mind's source' (xīnyuán 心源) refers to the true nature of mind, which is experienced when one's attention is turned upon mind itself; though Daoxin does not discuss this, it is important to other instructions on the practice of ‘observing the mind' (see Meinert 2007: 12–15). The concept of essence and activity (tǐyòng 體用) goes back to early Chinese philosophy, and generally refers to the difference between the true nature of things and how they appear to be; see Cheng 2002.

42. See T.12, no. 366, p. 343a19. This is apparently a paraphrase rather than a direct quote.

43. Faure translates as five ‘points' but the character used here, zhǒng, specifically means types or classes.

44. ‘Awareness' is jué é. See the discussion of this term in chapter 5 above. As I mention there, this form of meditation seems to correspond to Daoxin's instructions earlier in the text on observing the mind (kànxīn 看心) and ‘letting it be'.

45. The phrase ‘maintain oneness' (shǒu yī 守一) may come from Daoism, as argued in McRae (1986: 138–9) and Sharf (2002: 182–4). This text is one of its earliest appearances in a Buddhist context. Here it refers to maintaining a single state of equanimity through both mental calmness (stillness) and turbulence (movement).

46. On Fu Dashi, or Fu Xi (497–569), see Broughton 2009: 283, n.344. Broughton translates a brief account of him from the Xu gaoseng zhuan (T.50 p. 650b1–6) and mentions that there are several manuscripts from Dunhuang containing his commentary on the Vajracchedikā sūtra. Here Daoxin states that Fu Dashi only taught the fifth method, but that he (Daoxin) will teach the fourth and fifth. Essentially Daoxin uses the fourth method of meditation as a preliminary practice to the fifth; this can be seen as a version of the classic pair of vipaśyanā and śamatha.

47. T.14, no. 475, p. 539b20.

48. While the previous passage establishes the physical body as composite, impermanent and lacking autonomy, this passage explains how to perceive one's own body as equivalent to the body of a buddha, empty but manifesting through the power of compassion.

49. Tathāgata means ‘thus-come/gone' (Skt tathā + āgata). The Chinese translation, rúlái 如來, preserves this meaning.

50. This paragraph follows David Chappell's translation of 他 (literally ‘other') as ‘objectified'. Chappell states that many comparable uses of were discussed by John McRae in an unpublished translation of Hongren's Treatise on the Essentials of Training the Mind. See Chappell 1983: 125, n.46.

51. T.12, no. 389, p. 1110c19.

52. This is the end of the teaching of the fourth type of meditation practice, and the beginning of the fifth.

53. This is not a direct quotation.

54. T.9, no. 262; the first line appears on p. 41a, the other three on p. 45a.

55. T.12, no. 389, p. 1111a15–20.

56. ‘Uncontaminated activity' (wéilòuyè 無漏業) is activity carried out without the conceptualization of actor, act and recipient. It does not generate further karma.

57. Though I take ‘Listeners' (wénzhě 聞者) here as a direct address, other translators have not. Cleary (1986: 60) has ‘those who hear' and Faure (1989: 154) ‘ceux qui en ont pris connaissance'.

58. ‘True mindfulness' (zhèng niàn 正念) is also translated ‘right thought' in the context of the noble eightfold path.

59. This does not appear to be a direct quote. Compare Mahāprajñāpāramitā sūtra, T.6, no. 220, p. 700c3–6. Faure suggests a Mahāprajñāpāramitā śāstra 18 (T.25, no. 1509, p. 197c).

60. Literally ‘a single word' (yī yán 一言). Faure (1997: 117) suggests that it refers to the visualization of a single syllable, as advocated by Hongren in the next chapter. However I think it can be safely translated as ‘a single teaching' as in the Buddhist context yī yán can mean ‘The same teaching, but which listeners may hear and interpret variously' (Muller, DDB).

61. As David Chappell (1983: 126, n.59) points out, this is very close to the closing lines of chapter 26 of the Zhuangzi.



1. Adamek 2007: 318.

2. The Chinese translated by Adamek as ‘someone who stays put' is yǒurén chù 有人處.

3. For an instruction on breathing in this way by a modern Japanese teacher, Maesumi Roshi, see ‘What Are We Ignoring About Breathing?', in Lion's Roar, 16 April 2017 (http://www.lionsroar.com/what-are-we-ignoring-about-breathing/). Maesumi's life and teachings are discussed in Wright 2010.

4. Suzuki 1991: 27.

5. Hakuin's instructions are quoted in Mohr 2000: 257. Dogen's, in his Eihei Kōruku, are translated in Leighton and Okumura 2010: 349. While Daoxin uses the Chinese word 腹, in these examples the term used is dāntián 丹田 (tanden in Japanese), a more technical term indicating a point below the navel, which seems to be derived from Daoism.

6. ‘Turn the mind within' translates liàn xīn 斂心. The character liàn means literally to fold back or withdraw. Again, translations of this passage seem to miss this subtlety; Chappell (1983: 19) has ‘you collect the mind', and McRae (1986: 142) has ‘mind [becomes] gradually regulated'. While liàn can certainly mean to collect or gather, the meaning of withdrawing or turning inwards accords better with the more detailed instructions in other early texts on the practice of observing the mind (kànxīn 看心).

7. Meinert 2007: 12.

8. The Chinese term used here by Daoxin is ‘mind's ground' (xīndì 心地). In Wolun's Dharma of Observing the Mind , it is ‘mind's source' (xīnyuán 心源); see Meinert 2007: 12. Both terms are synonymous with the ālaya-vijñāna. The use of the term ‘ground' is paralleled in the Dzogchen tradition, where the basis of all existence is simply known as ‘the ground' (Tib. gzhi).

9. Cuevas 2003: 63.

10. Eskilden 2006: 384–5. See also discussion in Cuevas 2003: 42–4.

11. Eskilden 2017: 130–42.

12. Translation in Ziporyn 2009: 12 (2.18–19).

13. Translation in Ziporyn 2009: 13 (2.19).

14. Yogācāra thinkers were criticized for positing an internal essence, in exactly the same way that Daoxin criticizes Laozi here. Nevertheless, the classic works of Yogācāra adhere to the principle of emptiness of all categories, including inner and outer. See for example the discussion in Gold 2017.

15. Note the equivalence of meditation with repentance here (cf. the meditation practice of the poṣadha ritual). Note also that meditation linked with repentance in the poṣadha ceremony and elsewhere in the early tradition involves the visualized deconstruction of one's body.

16. Here the instructions move from contemplation of the body to contemplation of the mind, a distinction most translators seem to have missed.

17. Deluded consciousness and perception are the fifth and third of the five aggregates.

18. Other translations do not mention letting the mind come to rest in the abdomen. For example John McRae has only ‘force all the air out of your abdomen'. The same interpretation is found in Chappell 1983: 119 and Faure 1989: 157. The difference may be explained by their relying on a version of the text in which the character xīn (‘mind') is missing from this passage (it appears in S.2504 but not Pelliot chinois 3436).

19. Here, I translate liàn xīn 斂心 as ‘turn the mind within'. ‘Subtle and profound' is yǎoyǎo míngmíng 窈窈冥冥, a phrase from the Zhuangzi.

20. ‘Energy' translates yōulíng 幽靈. Faure has ‘esprit transcendent'.

21. T.14, no. 475, p. 541a8.

22. I presume the ‘single phrase' mentioned in this quote is: ‘realization is acquiring your original mind'. The actual quote here is not found in the Vimalakīrti-nirdeśa sūtra, however. Note the similarity of this ‘single phrase' (yī jù 一句) to the ‘single teaching' (yī yán 一言), literally ‘single word', mentioned by Daoxin at the end of the Methods for the Bodhisattva Precepts.

23. The phrase shě shēn 捨身 is a reference to acts such as the bodhisattva giving up his body for the tigress and cubs; here, Daoxin seems to be using it as a euphemism for dying.

24. ‘Mental attitude' here translates xīn jìng 心境, literally ‘mind and its objects', indicating dualistic mental processes.

25. The tone of this sentence seems to be sarcasm, indicating that most people have a rigid, rule-based conception of what the dharma should be, and the remainder of the passage explains what dharma really means.

26. See the similar passage in the Mahāprajñāpāramitā sūtra, T.5, no. 220, p. 927c20, c23.

27. Here Daoxin appears to be suggesting that his teaching on dying (‘the dharma of giving up the body') need not be taken literally, and can be applied to meditation practice generally.

28. The ‘level of illumination' is the third of the ten bodhisattva levels (Skt bhūmi). ‘Decide your own fate' translates tuī cè 推策, a phrase literally meaning ‘to throw the divining sticks'. The meaning here is presumably an extension of the references above to not being compelled by karma into further rebirth in samsara.

29. T.85, no. 2901, p. 1435a24–25. On this text in early Zen, see McRae 1986: 202–5.

30. T.9, no. 278, p. 610a22.

31. T.14, no. 475, p. 541b19–20.

32. T.12, no. 374, p. 402c8–9.




Chappell, David, “The Teachings of the Fourth Ch'an Patriarch Tao-hsin (580-651),” in Whalen Lai & Lewis Lancaster, Eds., Early Ch'an in China and Tibet, Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1983, pp. 89-129. A key article showing what can actually be known with some degree of probability about the life and teachings of Daoxin (Tao-hsin; 580-651), who is revered as the “4 th Patriarch” or Ancestor of Chán. Yet, because there is not much link between him and the earlier figures Bodhidharma and Huike of the loose “proto-Chan” movement, and because there seems to be a link between Daoxin and the Tiantai Buddhist tradition, and, further, because of his own innovations of a settled, monastic life of meditation, he may be viewed as the 1 st Patriarch/Ancestor of a bonafide early “Chan Buddhist” institutional tradition, located at Huangmei in central China, where he taught from the early 620s onward until his death in 651. Chappell also introduces, analyzes and translates the Rudao anxin yao fangbian famen (Wade Giles: Ju-tao an-hsin yao fang-pien fa-men), a body of teachings attributed to Daoxin, put together in the early 700s as part of the Lengqie Renfa zhi (Leng-chia Jen Fa chi), the “Records of the Men and Teachings of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra,” by Xuanze, a disciple of Daoxin's successor, the 5 th Patriarch Hongren. Chappell's article is available on the internet as a PDF file. J.C. Cleary has translated the Lengqie Shizi ji, which included the Lengqie Renfa zhi and its subtext, the Rudao anxin yao fangbian famen of Daoxin, in his book Zen Dawn.


Teachings of the Fourth Patriarch Tao-shin (580-651)
Excerpted from Early Ch'an in China and Tibet (Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series 5, 1983), this selection translated by David Chappell

Rùdào ānxīn yào fāngbiàn fǎmén [Teachings about Expedient means for the Essentials of Entering the Way and Pacifying the Mind] 入道安心要方便法門 (Taishō; 85/2837: 1283-1290). Attr. to Dàoxìn (580-651); contained in LENGQIE SHIZI JI; tr. and annot. in Chappell, David W., 'The Teachings of the Fourth Ch'an Patriarch Tao-hsin (580-651),' in: Early Ch'an in China and Tibet, ed. Whalen Lai and ed. Lewis Lancaster (Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1983), 89-130.

“When you are sitting in meditation, watch carefully to know when your consciousness starts to move. Consciousness is always moving and flowing. According to its coming and going, we must all be aware of it. Use the wisdom of a diamond to control and rule it, since just like a plant, there is nothing to know. To know there is nothing to know is the wisdom to know everything. This is the Dharma-gate of One Form of a Bodhisattva.”

Question: “What kind of a person is a Ch'an Master?”

Tao-hsin: “Someone who is not disturbed either by chaos or serenity is a person with the know-how of good Ch'an practice. When one always dwells in tranquility, the mind perishes. But if you are always in a state of discernment, then the mind scatters chaotically. The Lotus Sutra says: ‘The Buddha himself dwells in the Great Vehicle. The power of meditation (ting) and of wisdom (hui) gives remarkable splendor to the dharmas which he has acquired. These he uses to save all beings.'”

Question: “How can we be enlightened to the nature of things and our minds attain lucid purity?”

Tao-hsin: “Neither by trying to meditate on the Buddha, nor by trying to grab hold of the mind, nor by seeing the mind, nor by analyzing the mind, nor by reflection, nor by discernment, nor by dispersing confusion, but through identification with the natural rhythms of things. Don't force anything to go. Don't force anything to stay. Finally abiding in the one sole purity, the mind spontaneously becomes lucid and pure.

“Some people can see clearly that the mind is lucid and pure like a bright mirror. Some need a year of practice, and then the mind becomes lucid and pure. Others need three or five years, and then the mind is lucid and clear. Or some can attain enlightenment by being taught by someone else. The Nirvana Sutra says: ‘The nature of the mind of beings is like a pearl which falls into the water. The water is muddy so the pearl becomes hidden. When the water is pure, the pearl is revealed.'

"Because the ways in which students attain enlightenment differ, there are distinctions like these. Therefore, we have now briefly pointed out the difference in capacities and conditions for enlightenment. Those who are teachers of the people must be very conscious of these differences.

Question: “The moment we are going to begin practice, how should we contemplate?

Tao-hsin: “We must identify with the natural rhythms of things.”

Question: “Should we face toward the West or not?”

Tao-hsin: “If we know our original mind neither is born nor dies but is ultimately pure and is identical to the pure Buddha Land, then it is not necessary to face toward the West. The Hua yen ching says: 'Unlimited kalpas of time are contained in a single moment. A single moment contains unlimited kalpas.' Therefore you should know that a single place contains an unlimited quantity of places, and an unlimited quantity of places is in one place.

“The Buddha causes beings who have dull capacities to face toward the West, but he does not teach people with keen abilities to do so. Bodhisattvas who have profound practice enter the stream of birth and death in order to save beings, and yet do not drown in desire. If you have the view that ‘beings are in samsara and I am able to save them, and these beings are capable of being saved,' then you are not to be called a Bodhisattva. ‘Saving beings' is similar to ‘saving the empty sky'. How could the sky ever have come or gone!

The Diamond Sutra says: ‘As for an infinite number of beings who have been saved, in fact there are no beings who have been saved.' As a whole, Bodhisattvas of the First Stage at the beginning have the realization that all things are empty. Later on they obtain the realization that all things are not empty, which is identical to the ‘wisdom of non-discrmination'. The Heart Sutra says: ‘Form is identical to emptiness.' It is not because form is eliminated and then there is emptiness. ‘The nature of form is emptiness.'

“All Bodhisattvas think that studying emptiness is identical to enlightenment. Those who have just begun to practice Buddhism immediately understand emptiness, but this is only a view of emptiness and is not true emptiness. Those who obtain true emptiness through cultivating the Way, do not see either emptiness nor non-emptiness. They do not have any views at all. You should by all means thoroughly understand the idea that form is emptiness. The activity of the mind of those who are really proficient in emptiness will definitely be lucid and pure.

“When you are awakened to the fundamental nature of things, when you completely understand and are clearly discerning, then later on you yourselves will be considered as Masters! Furthermore, inner thoughts and outward behavior must coincide, and there must be no disparity between truth and practice. You should sever relationships with written works and spoken explanations. In pursuing the sacred Way toward enlightenment, by staying alone in a place of tranquility you can realize by yourself attainment of the Way.

“Again there are some people who have not yet understood the ultimate truth, and yet for the sake of fame and wealth guide others. Although they do not know the relative keenness or dullness in the capacities of their followers, if it appears to them that there is something exceptional in their followers, they always give the seal of approval. Alas, alas! What a great calamity! Or seeing that the mental activities of their followers appear to be lucid and pure, they give their seal of approval. These people bring great destruction to the Buddha's Dharma. They are deceiving themselves and cheat others. Those who are proficient in practice consider that having such exceptional attainments as these is just an outer appearance, but that true mindfulness has not yet been attained.

“Those who have truly attained mindfulness are aware and discerning by themselves. Much later their Dharma-eye will open spontaneously, and they can skillfully distinguish non-substantiality from artificiality. Some people conclude that the body is empty, and the nature of the mind also disappears. These people have nihilistic views. They are the same as heretics and are not disciples of the Buddha. Some consider that the nature of the mind is indestructible. These are people with eternalistic views, and are the same as heretics.

“Now we shall describe the disciples of the Buddha. They do not conclude that the nature of the mind is destroyed. Although they are constantly bringing beings to enlightenment, they do not generate emotional attachment. They constantly cultivate insight, so that stupidity and wisdom are equalized. They constantly dwell in meditation, so that there is no difference between clarity and chaos for them. They constantly view sentient beings whom Bodhisattvas have vowed to save, and yet they know the beings have never had permanent existence and ultimately neither come into existence nor pass away. True disciples everywhere manifest form which is not seen nor heard. Completely understanding all things, they have never grasped or rejected anything. They have never transformed themselves into other bodily forms, and yet their bodies are everywhere in Ultimate Reality.”


The Fundamental Expedient Teachings for Calming the Mind which Attains Enlightenmentfor Calming the Mind which Attains Enlightenment
by Tao-shin (580-651)

The fundamental teachings of mind are (1) the mind of all the Buddhas is the First Principle, based on the Lankavatara Sutra, and (2) I-hsing san-mei means that the mind which is aware of the Buddha is the Buddha, whereas the mind which does false thinking is the ordinary person, based on the Wen shu shuo po jo ching.

The Wen shu shuo po jo ching says:

Manjushri asked the World Honored One the meaning of i-hsing san-mei. The Buddha replied: “Ultimate reality has a unified form (i-hsing). Fixing your awareness on ultimate reality is called i-hsing san-mei. If sons and daughters of noble families want to enter i-hsing san-mei, they should first listen to the Perfection of Wisdom teaching and cultivate their practice in terms of what it says. Later they will be able to enter i-hsing san-mei, and their awareness will be like ultimate reality: free from retrogression, indestructible, inconceivable, lacking obstructions and without form. Sons and daughters of noble families who want to enter into i-hsing san-mei but cannot, should stay in an enclosure empty of distractions, and give up all chaotic thoughts. Without grasping onto outward appearances, they should concentrate their minds on a particular Buddha and exclusively recite his name. By properly facing in the direction of the Buddha, having an upright body, and being able to continuously think on one Buddha thought after thought, means that in this contemplation they are able to see all Buddhas of the past, present, and future. Why?

“Contemplating the measurelessness and boundlessness of the merit of one Buddha is the same as the merit of countless Buddhas since they are non dualistic and inconceivable. The Buddha's Dharma is without distinctions. Everything conforms to the One True Suchness to achieve the most perfect realization. Therefore, everyone will attain unlimited merit and unlimited abilities by contemplating the merits of one Buddha.

Those who would enter i-hsing san-mei in this way exhaustively know ultimate reality and the undifferentiated forms of Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges.”

Every aspect of the mind and body, even lifting a foot and putting it down, always is a place of enlightenment. All of your behavior and actions are enlightenment.

The P'u hsien kuan ching says:

“The sea of all karmic hindrances totally arises from false thinking. Those who desire to repent should sit upright and contemplate true reality.” This is called Repentence according to the First Principle, which eradicates the mind of the three poisons, the grasping mind, and the conceptualizing mind. If one continuously meditates on Buddha thought after thought, suddenly there will be clarity and serenity, and still further not even an object of thought.

The Ta p'in ching says: “No object of thought means to be thinking on Buddha.”

Why is it called wu-suo-nien? It means the mind which is “thinking on Buddha” is called thinking on no object (wu-suo-nien). Apart from mind there is no Buddha at all. Apart from Buddha there is no mind at all. Thinking on Buddha is identical to the thinking mind. To seek the mind means to seek for the Buddha.

Why is this? Consciousness is without form. The Buddha lacks any outer appearance. When you understand this truth, it is identical to calming the mind (an-hsin). If you always are thinking on Buddha, grasping onto externals does not arise, and everything disappears and is without form, and thinking is impartial without false discrimination

To enter into this state, the mind which is thinking on Buddha disappears, and further it is not even necessary to indicate the mind as Buddha. When you see this, your mind is none other than the body of the real and true nature of the Tathagata. It is also called the True Dharma; it is also called Buddha Nature; it is also called the Real Nature or Real Ultimate of various dharmas; it is also called the Pure Land; it is also called enlightenment, the Diamond Samadhi, and original enlightenment; it is also called the realm of nirvana and wisdom. Although the names are innumerable they are all the same One Essence, and do not indicate a subject of contemplation nor an object of contemplation.

When the mind is impartial like this, without fail it is made clear and pure and always appears in front of you so that the various conditions are not able to become obstructive. Why is this? Because all these phenomena are the body of the One Dharma of the Tathagata. When one stays in this unified mind, all bondage and illusion spontaneously disappear. Within a single speck of dust are all innumerable realms. Innumerable realms are collected on the tip of a single hair. Because their original nature is suchness, there is not any mutual interference.

The Hua yen ching says:

“There is one volume of scripture explaining that ‘in a single speck of dust one can see the phenomena of 3000 chilocosms.'” As briefly pointed out, it is impossible to exhaust everything when it comes to describing the methods for calming the mind. In this, skillfulness comes from the heart.




Wuguan: The Five Gates 五關
by the Fourth Ancestor Dayi Daoxin
translated by Anzan Hoshin roshi and Yasuda Joshu Dainen roshi

Know this: Buddha is this mind. Outside of this mind there is no Buddha. Briefly, I suggest that there are five basic principles.

First: Know the essence of mind. The essential nature is pure. The essence is itself Buddha.

Second: Know the function of mind. Its function gives rise to the jewel of Dharma. It functions without obstruction, but is always still; even the ten thousand delusions are in essence just this.

Third: Constant Awakening is without end. The Awakening mind is always present. The Teaching of this Awakening is without form.

Fourth: Always know the body is empty and tranquil. Inside and outside are transparent to each other. Your body arises in the midst of ultimate reality. There have never been obstacles.

Fifth: Keep unified-mindfulness without deviation. Both movement and stillness go nowhere.

Those who practice this will clearly see their Buddha-nature and enter into the gate of practice without hesitation.



The Fourth Ancestor Meets Lazy Rong
from the Jingde Chuandeng Lu (Jingde Era Transmission of the Lamp)
translated by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi
(see the teisho "Daoxin's Encounter With Oxhead Farong" in the Lineage of Luminosity Part Two teisho series, Saturday, December 7th, 2013)

In the middle of the Zhenguan (Chen-kuan period [627-649]) of the Tang Dynasty, the Fourth Ancestor, Daoxin, saw strange signs in the sky over Niutou Mountain from a distance and conjectured that some rare person must be living there. He went by himself to the mountain to search for them.
Upon his arrival he asked a monk of the temple whether there was a person of the Way staying there. The monk answered that "All those who have left home are people of the Way." The Ancestor went on, "But which one is truly a person of the Way?" The monk made no reply. Then another monk directed him, "Ten kilometres (li) from here, deep in the mountain, there lives a man called Lazy Rong. He never stands up or joins his hands to greet those who approach. Is he this person of the Way?" Having learned this, the Ancestor immediately went there as directed.
On his arrival he saw Farong sitting upright and self-possessed, paying no attention to his visitor. The Ancestor asked him, "What are you doing here?''
"I am contemplating Mind."
Who is it that contemplates and what is the Mind that is contemplated?"
Farong had no answer, but immediately stood up and made a deep bow. Then he asked his visitor, "Where does this worthy one dwell?"
"I never remain in any one place, but wander here or there."
"Do you know the Chan Master Daoxin?"
"Why do you mention him?"
"I have always greatly admired him, and I intend to visit him that I may offer my respect."
"Daoxin is my humble name."
"Why have you come here?"
"I have come to look for you. Do you have a place where we can rest?"
Farong took his visitor to a hut behind the cave that was guarded by wild animals, tigers and wolves, and the Ancestor raised his hands as if frightened.
Farong remarked, "You are still like this?"
"What is 'this'?" replied Daoxin. Farong made no answer.
Later, the Ancestor wrote the character fo 佛, Buddha, on where Farong sat. When Farong saw this, he was shocked. The Ancestor said to him: "Are you still like this?"
Farong did not understand and so earnestly asked the Ancestor to explain what he meant.
The Fourth Ancestor said, "The hundred thousand gates of the Buddhadharma all return to Awareness, where measureless richness originates. The source of all subtleties is Awareness. The precepts and monastic standards, meditative practices, the Dharma gates of insight and wisdom, and all of their manifestations and wonders are not seperate from your mind and they never depart from this. All hindrances to the attainment of bodhi which arise from passions that generate karma are originally non-existent. Every cause and effect is but a dream. There are no three worlds to be dropped off. [ref to Lankavatara sutra] There is no bodhi to attain. The original nature and the outer appearance of people and the thousand things are not seperate. The Vast Way is formless and boundless, free from thought and anxiety.
"If you now realize this Dharma, then there is nothing lacking in you, and you yourself are no different from Buddha. There is no teaching left other than letting your mind rest in its own nature. You need not practise cultivation to purify your mind or undergo austerities. Live without craving and anger, without anxiety or fear. Be boundless and absolutely free from all conditions. Go freely in any direction you like. Do not try to do good or evil. Whether you walk or stand, sit or lie down, whatever arises before the eyes is nothing other than the essential source, the subtle activity of Awakening. It is joyful, free from care. This is called Buddha."
Farong asked, "If Awareness is complete in itself, then what is Buddha, and what is mind?"
The Fourth Ancestor answered, "If not for this mind, there is no asking about Buddha; in asking about the Buddha, it is nothing but this mind."
Farong continued, "If there is no meditation, what do you do when mental states emerge?"
The Ancestor replied, "Mental states are originally neither good nor bad; what emerges is due to your mind. If your mind is free from fabrication or conception, how could illusions occur? When illusions do not occur, actual awareness will freely be aware of everything. Just act in accordance with this Awareness as it is. Do not look for ways to manage it. This is called continuously abiding in the essence of things, the Dharmakaya which is motionless. I have received the teachings of sudden enlightenment from the Third Ancestor, Sengcan, and now I give them to you. Bear in mind what I have said. Stay in this mountain, and later there will be five sages that will succeed you in the profound Teaching."
There is a legend that after this, birds no longer carried flowers to Master Farong.
After this transmission of Chan to Farong, the Fourth Ancestor returned to Mount Shuangfeng and remained there for the rest of his life.
After taking this Dharma seat, Master Farong's teachings flourished widely.


PDF: The Provenance of the Damo Chanshi lun (The Treatise of Chan Teacher Bodhidharma)
by John Jorgensen
Pacific World: Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Third Series, Number 18, 2016
Special Issue: Essays in Honor of John McRae, pp. 121-144.


See more at:
PDF: Notes on Chan