Dazhu Huihai

The Essential Gateway to Truth by Means of Instantaneous Awakening

Being a translation of Ch'an Master Hui Hai's own shastra, the Tun Wu ju Tao Yao Mên Lun or A Treatise on the Essential Gateway to Truth by Means of Instantaneous Awakening.


Humbly I prostrate myself before the Buddhas of the ten quarters' and the excellent company of Bodhisattvas. In setting forth this treatise, I am apprehensive that I may fail correctly to interpret the sacred mind. If so, may I be given a chance for repentance and reform. However, if I do succeed in imparting the sacred truth, I dedicate the resultant merit to all living beings in the hope that each of them will attain Buddhahood in their next life.


Q: What method must we practice in order to attain deliverance?

A: It can be attained only through a sudden illumination.

Q: What is a sudden illumination?

A: 'Sudden' means ridding yourselves of deluded thoughts' instantaneously. 'Illumination' means the realization that illumination is not something to be attained.

Q: From where do we start this practice?

A: You must start from the very root.

Q: And what is that?

A: Mind is the root.

Q: How can this be known?

A: The Lankavatara Sutra says: 'When mental processes (hsin) arise, then do all dharmas (phenomena) spring forth; and when mental processes cease, then do all dharmas cease likewise.' The Vimalakirti Sutra says:

'Those desiring to attain the Pure Land' must first purify their own minds, for the purification of mind is the purity of the Buddha Land. The Sutra (of the Doctrine Bequeathed by the Buddha) says: just by mind control, all things become possible to us.' In another sutra it says:

'Sages seek from mind, not from the Buddha; fools seek from the Buddha instead of seeking from mind. Wise men regulate their minds rather than their persons; fools regulate their persons rather than their minds.' The Sutra of the Names of the Buddha states: 'Evil springs forth from the mind, and by the mind is evil overcome.' Thus, we may know that all good and evil proceed from our minds and that mind is therefore the root. If you desire deliverance, you must first know all about the root. Unless you can penetrate to this truth, all your efforts will be vain; for, while you are still seeking something from forms external to yourselves, you will never attain. The Dhyana paramita Sutra says:

'For as long as you direct your search to the forms around you, you will not attain your goal even after aeon upon aeon; whereas, by contemplating your inner awareness, you can achieve Buddhahood in a single flash of thought.'

Q: By what means is the root-practice to be performed?

A: Only by sitting in meditation, for it is accomplished by Dhyana (Ch'an) and samádhi (ting). The Dhyana-paramita Sutra says: 'Dhyana and samádhi are essential to the search for the sacred knowledge of the Buddhas; for, without these, the thoughts remain in tumult and the roots of goodness suffer damage.'

Q: Please describe Dhyana and samádhi.

A: When wrong thinking ceases, that is Dhyana; when you sit contemplating your original nature, that is samádhi, for indeed that original nature is your eternal mind. By samádhi, you withdraw your minds from their surroundings, thereby making them impervious to the eight winds, that is to say, impervious to gain and loss, calumny and eulogy, praise and blame, sorrow and joy. By concentrating in this way, even ordinary people may enter the state of Buddhahood. How can that be so? The Sutra of the bodhisattva-Precepts says: 'All beings who observe the Buddha-precept thereby enter Buddhahood.' Other names for this are 'deliverance', 'gaining the further shore', 'transcending the six states of mortal being 'overleaping the three worlds',' or becoming a mighty Bodhisattva, an omnipotent sage, a conqueror'!


Q: Whereon should the mind settle and dwell?

A: It should settle upon non-dwelling and there dwell.

Q: What is this non-dwelling?

A: It means not allowing the mind to dwell upon anything whatsoever.

Q: And what is the meaning of that?

A: Dwelling upon nothing means that the mind is not fixed upon good or evil, being or nonbeing, inside or outside, or somewhere between the two, void or non-void, concentration or distraction. This dwelling upon nothing is the state in which it should dwell; those who attain to it are said to have non-dwelling minds—in other words, they have Buddha-minds!

Q: What does mind resemble?

A: Mind has no color, such as green or yellow, red or white; it is not long or short; it does not vanish or appear; it is free from purity and impurity alike; and its duration is eternal. It is utter stillness. Such, then, is the form and shape of our original mind, which is also our original body—the Buddhakaya!

Q: By what means do this body or mind perceive? Can they perceive with the eyes, ears, nose, sense of touch and consciousness?

A: No, there are not several means of perception like that.

Q: Then, what sort of perception is involved, since it is unlike any of those already mentioned?

A: It is perception by means of your own nature (svabhava). How so? Because your own nature being essentially pure and utterly still, its immaterial and motionless 'sub-stance' is capable of this perception."'

Q: Yet, since that pure 'substance' cannot be found, where does such perception come from?

A: We may liken it to a bright mirror, which, though it contains no forms, can nevertheless 'perceive' all forms. Why? Just because it is free from mental activity. if you students of the Way had minds unstained, they would not give rise to falsehood and their attachment to the subjective ego and to objective externals would vanish; then purity would arise of itself and you would thereby be capable of such perception. The Dharmapada Sutra says: 'To establish ourselves amid perfect void-ness in a single flash is excellent wisdom indeed!'


Q: According to the Vajra-body chapter of the Maha-parinirvana Sutra: 'The (indestructible) diamond-body is imperceptible, yet it clearly perceives; it is free from discerning and yet there is nothing which it does not comprehend.' What does this mean?

A: It is imperceptible because its own nature is a formless 'substance' which is intangible; hence it is called 'imperceptible'; and, since it is intangible, this 'substance' is observed to be profoundly still and neither vanishing nor appearing. Though not apart from our world, it cannot be influenced by the worldly stream; it is self-possessed and sovereign, which is the reason why it clearly perceives. It is free from discerning in that its own nature is formless and basically undifferentiated. Its comprehending everything means that the undifferentiated 'substance' is endowed with functions as countless as the sands of the Ganges; and, if all phenomena were to be discerned simultaneously, it would comprehend all of them without exception. In the Prajñā Gatha it is written:

Prajñā, unknowing, knows all,
Prajñā, unseeing, sees all.


Q: There is a sutra, which says that not to perceive anything in terms of being, or nonbeing is true deliverance. What does it mean?

A: When we attain to purity of mind, that is something which can be said to exist. When this happens, our remaining free from any thought of achievement is called 'not perceiving anything as existent'; while reaching the state in which no thoughts arise or persist, yet without being conscious of their absence, is called 'not perceiving anything as non-existent'. So it is written: 'Not to perceive anything in terms of being and nonbeing,' etc. The Shurangama Sutra says: 'Perceptions employed as a base for building up positive concepts are the origin of all ignorance (avidya); perception that there is nothing to perceive—that is nirvana, also known as deliverance.'


Q: What is the meaning of 'nothing to perceive'?

A: Being able to behold men, women and all the various sorts of appearances while remaining as free from love or aversion as if they were actually not seen at all—that is what is meant by 'nothing to perceive'.

Q: That which occurs when we are confronted by all sorts of shapes and forms is called 'perception'. Can we speak of perception taking place when nothing confronts us?

A: Yes.

Q: When something confronts us, it follows that we perceive it, but how can there be perception when we are confronted by nothing at all?

A: We are now talking of that perception which is independent of there being an object or not. How can that be? The nature of perception being eternal, we go on perceiving whether objects are present or not. Thereby we come to understand that, whereas objects naturally appear and disappear, the nature of perception does neither of those things; and it is the same with all your other senses.

Q: When we are looking at something, does the thing looked at exist objectively within the sphere of perception or not?

A: No, it does not.

Q: When we (look around and) do not see anything, is there an absence of something objective within the sphere of perception?

A: No, there is not.


Q: When there are sounds, hearing occurs. When there are no sounds, does hearing persist or not?

A: It does.

Q: When there are sounds it follows that we hear them, but how can hearing take place during the absence of sound?

A: We are now talking of that hearing which is independent of there being any sound or not. How can that be? The nature of hearing being eternal, we continue to hear whether sounds are present or not.

Q: If that is so, who or what is the hearer?

A: It is your own nature, which hears, and it is the inner cognizer who knows.

Q: As to the gateway of sudden illumination, what are its doctrine, its aim, its substance and its function?"

A: To refrain from thinking (nien) is its doctrine; not to allow wrong thoughts to arise is its aim; purity is its substance, and wisdom is its function.

Q: We have said that its doctrine is to refrain from thinking, but we have not yet examined the meaning of this term. What is it that we must refrain from thinking about?

A: It means that we must refrain from wrong thinking, but not from right thinking.

Q: What are wrong thinking and right thinking?

A: Thinking in terms of being and nonbeing is called 'wrong thinking', while not thinking in those terms is called, 'right thinking'. Similarly, thinking in terms of good and evil is wrong; not to think so is right thinking. The same applies to all the other categories of opposites—sorrow and joy, beginning and end, acceptance and rejection, dislikes and likes, aversion and love, all of which are called 'wrong thinking', while to abstain from thinking in those categories is called 'right thinking'.

Q: Please define 'right thinking' (more positively).

A: It means thinking solely of bodhi (enlightenment).

Q: Is bodhi something tangible?

A: It is not.

Q: But how can we think solely of bodhi if it is intangible?

A: It is as though bodhi were a mere name applied to something, which, in fact, is intangible, something that never has been nor ever will be attained. Being intangible, it cannot be thought about, and it is just this not thinking about it, which is called 'rightly thinking of bodhi as something not to be thought about'—for this implies that your mind dwells upon nothing whatsoever. The term 'not to be thought about' is like the various kinds of not-thinking mentioned earlier, all of which are but names convenient for use in certain circumstances—all are of the one substance in which no differences or diversities exist. Simply to be conscious of mind as resting upon nothing whatsoever is to be without thought; and whoever reaches this state is naturally delivered.


Q: What is the meaning of 'to act as the Buddhas do'?

A: It means total abstention from action, which is also termed 'right' or 'holy' action. It is very similar to what we were talking about before, for it means not acting as if things really are or are not, and not acting from motives of aversion, love and all the rest. The Great Canon (Monastic Rules says: 'The sages do not act like other beings; nor do other beings act like the sages.'


Q: What does right perception mean?

A: It means perceiving that there is nothing to perceive.

Q: And what does that mean?

A: It means beholding all sorts of forms, but without being stained by them, as no thoughts of love or aversion arise in the mind. Reaching this state is called 'obtaining the Buddha-eye', which really means just that and nothing else. Whereas, if the spectacle of various forms produces love or aversion in you, that is called 'perceiving them as though they had objective existence', which implies having the eye of an ordinary person, for indeed ordinary people have no other sort of eye. It is the same with all the other organs of perception.


Q: When you said that wisdom is the function, what did you mean by wisdom?

A: The knowledge that by realizing the void-ness of all opposites, deliverance is assured and that, without this realization, you will never gain deliverance. This is what we call 'wisdom' or 'knowing wrong from right'. Another name for it is 'knowing the function of the substance' Concerning the unreality of opposites, it is the wisdom inherent in the 'substance' which makes it known that to realize their void-ness means liberation and that there can be no more doubt about it. This is what we mean by 'function'. In speaking thus of the unreality of opposites, we refer to the non-existence of relativities such as 'is' and 'is not', 'good' and 'evil', 'love' and 'aversion', and so on.

Q: By what means can the gateway of our school be entered?

A: By means of the Dana paramita.

Q: According to the Buddha, the Bodhisattva path comprises six paramitas. Why, then, have you mentioned only the one? Please explain why this one alone provides a sufficient means for us to enter.

A: Deluded people fail to understand that the other five all proceed from the Dana paramita and that by its practice all the others are fulfilled.

Q: Why is it called the Dana paramita?

A: 'Dana' means 'relinquishment'.

Q: Relinquishment of what?

A: Relinquishment of the dualism of opposites.

Q: Which means?

A: It means total relinquishment of ideas as to the dual nature of good and bad, being and nonbeing, love and aversion, void and non-void, concentration and distraction, pure and impure. By giving all of them up, we attain to a state in which all opposites are seen as void. The real practice of the Dana paramita entails achieving this state without any thought of 'now I see that opposites are void', or 'now I have relinquished all of them'. We may also call it 'the simultaneous cutting off of the myriad types of concurrent causes'; for it is when these are cut off that the whole Dharma-nature becomes void; and this void-ness of the Dharma-nature means the non-dwelling of the mind upon anything whatsoever. Once that state is achieved, not a single form can be discerned. Why? Because our self-nature is immaterial and does not contain a single thing (foreign to itself). That which contains no single thing is true reality, the marvelous form of the Tathágata—it is said in the Diamond Sutra: 'Those who relinquish all forms are called "Buddhas" (enlightened ones).'

Q: However, the Buddha did speak of six paramitas, so why do you now say they can all be fulfilled in that one? Please give your reason for this.

A: The Sutra of the Questions of Brahma says: 'Jala-vidya, the elder, spoke unto Brahma and said, Bodhisattvas by relinquishing all defilement's (klesha) may be said to have fulfilled the Dana paramita, also known as 'total relinquishment'; being beguiled by nothing, they may be said to have fulfilled the síla paramita, also known as 'observing the precepts'; being hurt by nothing, they may be said to have fulfilled the kshanti paramita, also known as 'exercising forbearance'; clinging to nothing, they may be said to have fulfilled the virya paramita, also known as 'exercising zeal'; dwelling on nothing, they may be said to have fulfilled the Dhyana paramita, also known as 'practicing Dhyana and samádhi'; speaking lightly of nothing, they may be said to have fulfilled the prajña paramita, also known as 'exercising wisdom'. Together, they are named 'the six methods'. Now I am going to speak about those six methods in a way which means precisely the same—the first entails relinquishment; the second, no arising (of perception, sensation, etc); the third, no thinking; the fourth, remaining apart from forms; the fifth, non-abiding (of the mind); and the sixth, no indulgence in light speech. We give different names to these six methods only for convenience in dealing with passing needs; for, when we come to the marvelous principle involved in them all, we find no differences at all. So you have only to understand that, by a single act of relinquishment, everything is relinquished; and that no arising means no arising of anything whatsoever. Those who have lost their way have no intuitive understanding of this; that is why they speak of the methods as though they differed from one another. Fools bogged down in a multiplicity of methods revolve endlessly from life span to life span. I exhort you students to practice the way of relinquishment and nothing else, for it brings to perfection not only the other five paramitas, but also myriads of dharmas (methods).


Q: What are the 'three methods of training (to be performed) at the same level' and what is meant by performing them on the same level?

A: They are discipline (vinaya), concentration (Dhyana) and wisdom (prajña).

Q: Please explain them one by one.

A: Discipline involves stainless purity. Concentration involves the stilling of your minds so that you remain wholly unmoved by surrounding phenomena. Wisdom means that your stillness of mind is not disturbed by your giving any thought to that stillness, that your purity is unmarred by your entertaining any thought of purity and that, in the midst of all such pairs of opposites as good and evil, you are able to distinguish between them without being stained by them and, in this way, to reach the state of being perfectly at ease and free of all dependence. Furthermore, if you realize that discipline, concentration and wisdom are all alike in that their substance is intangible and that, hence, they are undivided and therefore one—that is what is meant by three methods of training performed at the same level.


Q: When the mind rests in a state of purity, will that not give rise to some attachment to purity?

A: If, on reaching the state of purity, you refrain from thinking 'now my mind is resting in purity', there will be no such attachment.

Q: When the mind rests in a state of void, will that not entail some attachment to void?

A: If you think of your mind as resting in a state of void, then there will be such an attachment.

Q: When the mind reaches this state of not dwelling upon anything, and continues in that state, will there not be some attachment to its not dwelling upon anything?

A: So long as your mind is fixed solely on void, there is nothing to which you can attach yourself. If you want to understand the non-dwelling mind very clearly, while you are actually sitting in meditation, you must be cognizant only of the mind and not permit yourself to make judgments—that is, you must avoid evaluations in terms of good, evil, or anything else. Whatever is past is past, so do not sit in judgment upon it; for, when minding about the past ceases of itself, it can be said that there is no longer any past. Whatever is in the future is not here yet, so do not direct your hopes and longings towards it; for, when minding about the future ceases of itself, it can be said that there is no future. Whatever is present is now at hand; just be conscious of your nonattachment to everything—nonattachment in the sense of not allowing any love or aversion for anything to enter your mind; for, when minding the present ceases of itself, we may say that there is no present. When there is no clinging to any of those three periods, they may be said not to exist. Should your mind wander away, do not follow it, whereupon your wandering mind will stop wandering of its own accord. Should your mind desire to linger somewhere, do not follow it and do not dwell there, whereupon your mind's questing for a dwelling place will cease of its own accord. Thereby, you will come to possess a non-dwelling mind—a mind that remains in the state of non-dwelling. If you are fully aware in yourself of a non-dwelling mind, you will discover that there is just the fact of dwelling, with nothing to dwell upon or not to dwell upon. This full awareness in yourself of a mind dwelling upon nothing is known as having a clear perception of your own mind, or, in other words, as having a clear perception of your own nature. A mind, which dwells upon nothing, is the Buddha-mind, the mind of one already delivered, bodhi-mind, un-create mind; it is also called 'realization that the nature of all appearances is unreal'. It is this, which the sutras call 'patient realization of the un-create'. If you have not realized it yet, you must strive and strive, you must increase your exertions. Then, when your efforts are crowned with success, you will have attained to understanding from within yourself—an understanding stemming from a mind that abides nowhere, by which we mean a mind free from delusion and reality alike. A mind disturbed by love and aversion is deluded; a mind free from both of them is real; and a mind thus freed reaches the state in which opposites are seen as void, whereby freedom and deliverance are obtained.


Q: Are we to make this effort only when we are sitting in meditation, or also when we are walking about?

A: When I spoke just now of making an effort, I did not mean only when you are sitting in meditation; for, whether you are walking, standing, sitting, lying, or whatever you are doing, you must uninterruptedly exert yourselves all the time. This is what we call 'constantly abiding' (in that state).


Q: The Vaipula Sutra says: 'Of the five kinds of Dharmakaya, the first is the Dharmakaya of the Absolute; the second is the Dharmakaya of merit; the third is the Dharmakaya of the Dharma-nature; the Dharmakaya of infinite manifestations is the fourth; and the Dharmakaya of the void is the fifth.' Which one is our own body?

A: To comprehend that mind is imperishable is to possess the Dharmakaya of the Dharma-nature. To comprehend that all the myriad forms are contained in mind is to possess the Dharmakaya of merit. To comprehend that mind is not mind is to possess the Dharmakaya of the true nature of all. To teach living beings according to their individual capacities for conversion is to possess the Dharmakaya of infinite manifestation. To comprehend that mind is formless and intangible is to possess the Dharmakaya of the void. If you understand the meaning of all this, it implies that you know there is nothing to be achieved. Realizing that there is nothing tangible, nothing achievable—this is achieving the Dharmakaya of the Buddha-dharma. Anyone who supposes they can achieve it by getting hold of, or grasping at, something is full of self-conceit—an arrogant person with perverted views, a person of heterodox beliefs. The Vimalakirti Nirdesha Sutra says: 'Shariputra enquired of a devakanya, "What is it you have won? What achievement has given you such powers of speech?" To which the devakanya replied, "It was my winning and achieving nothing which enabled me to reach this state. According to the Buddha-dharma, someone who wins and achieves things is a person full of self-conceit."'


Q: The sutras speak not only of Samyak Sambodhi (full enlightenment), but also of a marvelous enlightenment lying even beyond that. Please explain these terms.

A: Samyak-Sambodhi is the realization of the identity of form and void-ness. Marvelous enlightenment is the realization of the absence of opposites, or we can say that it means the state of neither enlightenment nor non-enlightenment.

Q: Do these two sorts of enlightenment really differ or not?

A: Their names are expediently used for the sake of temporary convenience, but in substance they are one, being neither dual nor different. This oneness and sameness characterize all phenomena of whatever kind.


Q: What is the meaning of a passage in the Diamond Sutra which states that 'having absolutely nothing describable in words is called "preaching the Dharma"?'

A: Prajñā (wisdom) is a substance of absolute purity, which contains no single thing on which to lay hold. This is the meaning of 'nothing describable in words'. Yet that immaterial and motionless Prajñā is capable of whatever functions are befitting—functions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges; so there is nothing at all which it does not comprehend; and this is what is implied by the words 'preaching the Dharma'. Therefore is it written:

'Having absolutely nothing describable in words is called "preaching the Dharma".'

Q: (The Diamond Sutra also says:) 'If a virtuous man or woman holds to, studies and recites this sutra, and is despised by others, this person, who was bound to suffer an evil destiny in retribution for his or her past sins and whose karmic sins are now eradicated by the others' contempt, will attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi.' Please explain this.

A: Their case resembles that of those who, not having met an enlightened teacher, continue building up nothing but evil karma for themselves, so that their pure original mind obscured by the three poisons stemming from primordial ignorance, cannot show forth, which is the reason for our calling them despicable. Then, just because they are despised in this life, they grow determined to seek out the Way of the Buddhas without delay; and, thereby, their ignorance is conquered so that the three poisons cease to be generated, whereat their original mind shines forth brilliantly. The tumult of their thoughts is thenceforth stilled, for all the evil in them has been destroyed. It is their having been despicable which has led to the conquest of ignorance, the cessation of their mental tumult and—as a natural consequence of that—to their deliverance. Therefore is it written that bodhi is attainable at the very moment we make up our minds to achieve it—that is to say in this life and not in some other lives to come.

Q: It is also written that the Tathágata has five kinds of vision. What are they?

A: The perception that all appearances are pure (i.e. real) is called 'earthly vision'. The perception that their substance is pure (real) is called 'heavenly vision'. Ability to distinguish the minutest differences among the appearances constituting our environment, as well as the smallest gradations of good and evil, and yet to be so entirely unaffected by them that we remain perfectly at ease amidst all of them—that is called 'the wisdom vision'. The perception that there is nothing to perceive is called 'the dharma vision'. No perception, yet nothing unperceived, is called 'the Buddha vision'.

Q: It is also written that there is a Great Vehicle (Mahayana) and a Supreme Vehicle. What are they?

A: The former is that of the Bodhisattvas; the latter is that of the Buddhas.

Q: By what means can they be attained?

A: The means for gaining the Bodhisattvas' vehicle are those of the Mahayana. Attaining to it and thenceforth remaining so free from discursive thought that even the concept of 'a means' no longer exists for you—such utter tranquility with nothing to be added to it, nothing to be taken away, is called 'attainment of the Supreme Vehicle', which is that of the Buddhas!


Q: The Maha parinirvana Sutra says: 'Excess of Dhyana (ting) over wisdom (hui) provides no way out from primordial ignorance (avidya), while excess of wisdom over Dhyana leads to piling up false views; but, when Dhyana and wisdom function on the same level, that is what we call "deliverance". What does it all mean?

A: 'Wisdom' means the ability to distinguish every sort of good and evil; 'Dhyana' means that, though making these distinctions, you remain wholly unaffected by love or aversion for them—such is the explanation of Dhyana and wisdom functioning on the same level.


Q: That sutra also says: 'No words, nothing to say—this is called "Dhyana".' But can we also speak of being in Dhyana while we are engaged in talking?

A: My definition of Dhyana just now referred to that perpetual Dhyana which is unaffected by speech or silence. Why? Since the nature of Dhyana functions even while we are engaged in speaking, or in making distinctions, our speech and those distinctions also pertain to Dhyana. Similarly, when we contemplate forms with our minds in a state of void-ness, the void-ness persists as much during the act of regarding those forms as when we are neither speaking nor engaged in any other kind of discursive activity. The same applies to our seeing, hearing, feeling and consciousness. How so? Because, as our own nature is void, it remains so in all situations; being void, it is free from attachment, and it is this detachment which makes possible the simultaneous functioning of Dhyana and wisdom on the same level. All Bodhisattvas employ this method of universalizing void-ness, which enables them to attain the final goal. Therefore is it written: When Dhyana and wisdom function on the same level, that is what we call "deliverance". Now I shall give you a further example in order to clarify this, so as to awaken your understanding and set your doubts at rest. Take the case of a bright mirror. When it is reflecting something, does its brightness waver? No, it does not. And when it is not reflecting some-thing, does its brightness waver, then? No. But why is this so? It is unwavering whether an object is present or not because it has the property of reflecting without any sensation being experienced. And so? Where no sensation is present there can be neither movement nor absence of movement. Or take the case of the sunlight. Do the sunbeams waver when they shine upon the earth? No. Or do they waver when they do not encounter the earth? No, they do not. Why? Because they are devoid of sensation. That they do not waver whether they encounter something or not is due to their property of shining without experiencing sensation. The quality of being able to reflect (or shine) pertains to wisdom, while that of perfect steadiness pertains to Dhyana. It is the Bodhisattvas' employment of this method of equalizing Dhyana and wisdom, which enables them to attain Sambodhi (supreme enlightenment). Therefore is it written: 'When Dhyana and wisdom are on the same level, that is what we call "deliverance".' However, when I spoke just now of absence of sensation, I meant freedom from ordinary sensations, not from holy sensation.

Q: How do they differ?

A: Ordinary sensations are those involving duality of feeling; holy sensation pertains to realization of the void-ness of opposites.


Q: The sutra says: 'The path of words and speech is cut off; the mind's activities cease.' What does this mean?

A: Words and speech are to reveal the Dharma's meaning; but, once that meaning is understood, speech is discarded. Meaning is immaterial; that which is immaterial is Tao (truth), and Tao is inexpressible. Hence 'the path of words and speech is cut off.' By 'the mind's activities cease' is meant that, upon actual realization of the Dharma's significance, no further contemplation is required. That which lies beyond our contemplation is the un-create. Being uncreated, the nature of all appearances is void. Because their nature is (seen to be) void, all their concurrent causes are eradicated, and that eradication involves the cessation of the mind's activities.


Q: What is Suchness (Ju-ju, Bhutatathata)?

A: Suchness signifies immutability. Since mind is immutable, we term it Suchness. Hence it can be known that all the Buddhas of the past attained enlightenment by conducting themselves in accord with this immutability. With the Buddhas of the present it is likewise and so will it be with the Buddhas of the future. Since all practice, whether past, present, or future, culminates in the same attainment of enlightenment, it is called 'the attainment of Suchness'. The Vimalakirti Nirdesha Sutra says:

'Thus has it ever been with all the Buddhas; thus will it be with Maitreya and with every other sentient being as well. Why so? Because the Buddha-nature is eternally and uninterruptedly self-existent.


Q: Does the (teaching concerning the) identity of matter and the immaterial (void), and that of ordinary and holy, pertain to the doctrine of sudden illumination?

A: Yes.

Q: What do you mean by the identity of matter and void and of ordinary and holy?

A: When mind is stained by attachment, materiality is there; when it is free from stain, immateriality is there. Stained mind is ordinary and unstained mind is holy. The Absolute is self-existent, which implies the identity of the immaterial and matter; but, since the latter is not discoverable it is in fact immaterial. Here, we are using 'immaterial' with reference to the void nature of form, not to mean (the kind of) void-ness which would result from form's annihilation. Similarly, we are using 'material' with reference to the nature of the immaterial, which exists of itself, not in the sense that the material can be matter (as ordinarily understood).


Q: What are the exhaustibles and the inexhaustibles mentioned in the sutra?

A: On account of the void nature of all dualities, when seeing and hearing no longer take place, that is exhaustion meaning the end of passions (asravaksaya). 'Inexhaustible' connotes the uncreated substance complete with marvelous functions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. These functions respond to all the needs (of sentient beings) without occasioning the smallest diminution of substance. Such, then, are the exhaustibles and inexhaustibles mentioned in the sutras .

Q: Are the exhaustibles and inexhaustibles really identical, or are they different things?

A: In substance they are one, but they are spoken of separately.

Q: Yet, if they are one in substance, why should they be spoken of separately?

A: 'One' denotes the substance of speech, and speech is a function of that substance; it is employed as circumstances require. That is why they are said to be of the same substance but spoken of separately. We may liken this to the fact that, although only the one sun appears in the sky above, its reflections are caught by water held by many different receptacles, so that each of those receptacles 'contains a sun' and every 'sun' is both complete in itself and yet identical with the sun in the sky. Therefore, although the suns are of the same substance, they are spoken of separately with reference to the various receptacles. Hence (things of) the same substance are spoken of differently. Moreover, although every one of the suns manifested below is perfect and entire, the sun in the sky is not in the least diminished by them—hence the term 'inexhaustible'.

Q: A sutra speaks of 'no coming into existence and no ceasing to exist'. To what sort of dharmas (phenomena) do these words apply?

A: They mean the not coming into existence of unwholesome phenomena and the never ceasing to exist of wholesome phenomena.

Q: What are wholesome and unwholesome phenomena?

A: A mind stained by attachments and leaking is unwholesome; a mind freed from these characteristics is wholesome. It is only when no stains or leaking occur that unwholesomeness does not arise; and, when freedom from stains and leaking is attained; there is purity, perfection and brilliance—a deep, everlasting and unwavering stillness. This is what is meant by 'wholesome phenomena not ceasing to be'; it explains the term 'no coming into existence, or ceasing to exist'.


Q: The Precepts of the Bodhisattvas says: 'When sentient beings observe the Buddha-precept, they enter upon the status of Buddhahood—a status identical with full enlightenment—and thereby they become true sons of the Buddhas.' What does this mean?

A: The Buddha-precept denotes perfect purity of mind. If someone undertakes the practice of purity, and thereby attains a mind unmoved by sensory perceptions, we speak of that person as one who observes the Buddha-precept. All the Buddhas up to this day have practiced purity unmoved by sensory perceptions and it was by means of this that they attained Buddhahood. In these days, if people undertake its practice, their merit is equal to and does not differ from that of the Buddhas; hence they are said to have entered upon the status of Buddha-hood. Illumination thus obtained is precisely the illumination of a Buddha, so such a person's status is said to be identical with full enlightenment. Those people really are sons of the Buddhas and their pure mind begets wisdom. One whose wisdom is pure is called 'a son of the Buddhas', or 'this Buddha son'.


Q: As to the Buddha and the Dharma, which of them anteceded the other? if the Dharma came first, how can there have been a Buddha to preach it; but, if a Buddha came first, then what doctrine led to his attainment?

A: The Buddhas anteceded the Dharma in one sense, but came after it in another.

Q: How is that possible?

A: If you mean the quiescent Dharma, then the Dharma anteceded the Buddhas; but, if you mean the written or spoken Dharma, then it was the Buddhas who came first and the Dharma, which followed them. How so? Because every one of the Buddhas attained Buddhahood by means of the quiescent Dharma—in that sense, the Dharma anteceded them. The 'teacher of all the Buddhas' mentioned in the sutra is the Dharma; it was not until they had attained Buddhahood that they first embarked upon their detailed exposition of the Twelve Divisions of the sutras for the purpose of converting sentient beings. When these sentient beings follow and practice the Dharma preached by previous Buddhas, thereby attaining Buddhahood that is also a case of the Dharma anteceding the Buddha.


Q: What is meant by 'proficiency in teaching, but not in transmission'?

A: It refers to those whose words are at variance with their deeds.

Q: And what is meant by 'proficiency in transmission and also in teaching'?

A: It refers to people whose words are confirmed by their deeds.


Q: What is meant by 'the reachable not reached' and by 'the unreachable reached'?

A: By 'the reachable not reached' is meant speech not supported by deeds; by 'the unreachable reached' is meant deeds performing what speech fails to reach; and, when both speech and deeds attain the goal, this is 'complete reaching', or 'double reaching'.


Q: Please explain the two statements: 'The Buddha-dharma neither annihilates the worldly (yu wei) nor gets bogged down in the transcendental (wu wei).'

A: The first means that the Buddha never rejected any thing phenomenal from the moment when he first determined upon his quest up to the time when he achieved enlightenment beneath the bodhi tree, and from then up to his entrance into parinirvana beneath the twin sala trees. This is 'non-annihilation of the worldly'. The other statement means that, although he achieved absence of thought, he never looked upon this as an attainment; that, although he reached immaterial and non-active bodhi and nirvana, he never held that these states marked an attainment. This is what is meant by 'not getting bogged down in the transcendental'.


Q: Is there really a hell?

A: There is and there is not.

Q: How so?

A: In that our minds have constructed many sorts of evil karma, there is hell; but, since everyone's self-nature is void, for those whose minds have been freed of attachment's stains there can be no hell.

Q: Do evildoers possess the Buddha-nature?

A: Yes, they have it too.

Q: Then, if they too have this nature, does it enter hell with them or not?

A: It does not enter with them.

Q: But, when they enter hell, where is their Buddha-nature?

A: It also enters hell.

Q: That being so, while they are undergoing punishment there, does their Buddha-nature share the punishment?

A: No. Although the Buddha-nature remains with these people while they are in hell, it is the individuals themselves who suffer; the Buddha-nature is fundamentally beyond punishment.

Q: Yet, if they enter together, how can the Buddha-nature not suffer?

A: Sentient beings possess forms and whatsoever has form is subject to formation and destruction; whereas the Buddha-nature is form-less and, being form-less, is immaterial, for which reason it is the very nature of the void itself and cannot be destroyed. Were someone to make a pile of faggots in a vacuum, the faggots could come to harm but not the vacuum. In this analogy, the vacuum symbolizes the Buddha-nature and the faggots represent sentient beings. Therefore it is written: 'They enter together but do not suffer together.'


Q: Regarding the quotation 'Transform the eight states of consciousness (parijnana) into the four Buddha-Wisdoms and bind the four Buddha-Wisdoms to form the Trikaya', which of the eight states of consciousness must be combined to form one Buddha-Wisdom and which of them will each become a Buddha-Wisdom in itself?

A: Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch are the five states of consciousness, which together form the perfecting wisdom. The intellect, or sixth state of consciousness, alone becomes the profound observing wisdom. Discriminative awareness, or the seventh state of consciousness, alone becomes the universal wisdom. The storehouse of consciousness, or eighth state, alone becomes the great mirror wisdom.

Q: Do these four wisdoms really differ?

A: In substance they are the same, but they are differently named.

Q: Yet, if they are one in substance, why do their names differ? Or, allowing that their names are given according to circumstances, what is it that, being of one substance (with the rest), is (nevertheless called) 'the great mirror wisdom'?

A: That which is clearly void and still, bright and imperturbable, is the great mirror wisdom. That which can face defilements without love or aversion arising and which thereby exhibits the non-existent nature of all such dualities is the universal wisdom. That, which can range the fields of the senses with unexcelled ability to discern things, yet without giving rise to tumultuous thoughts, so that it is fully independent and at ease, is the profound observing wisdom. That which can convert all the senses with their functions of responding to circumstances into correct sensation free from duality is the perfecting wisdom.

Q: As to 'binding the four Buddha-Wisdoms to form the trikaya', which of them combine to form one body and which of them each becomes a body in itself?

A: The great mirror wisdom singly forms the Dharmakaya. The universal wisdom singly forms the Sambhogakaya. The profound observing wisdom and the perfecting wisdom jointly form the Nirmanakaya. These three bodies are only named differently to enable unenlightened people to see more clearly. Once the principle is understood, there will be no more three bodies with functions responding to various needs. Why? Formless in substance and by nature, they are established in the basically impermanent, which is not their own (true basis) at all.


Q: What is meant by perceiving the real Buddhakaya?

A: It means no longer perceiving anything as existing or not existing.

Q: But what is the actual meaning of that definition?

A: Existence is a term used in contradistinction to, non-existence, while the latter is used in opposition to the former. Unless you begin by accepting the first concept as valid, the other cannot stand. Similarly, without the concept of non-existence, how can that of existence have meaning? These two owe their being to mutual dependence and pertain to the realm of birth and death. It is just by avoiding such dual perception that we may come to behold the real Buddhakaya.

Q: If even the concepts of existence and non-existence are invalid how can that of a real Buddhakaya have validity?

A: Only because you are asking about it! When such questions are not asked, the concept of a Buddhakaya is not valid. Why? Take the case of a mirror; confronted by objects, it reflects them; un-confronted, it reflects nothing.


Q: What is meant by 'being never apart from the Buddha?'

A: Having a mind freed from the going and coming of concepts, its stillness unaffected by environmental forms so that it remains eternally void and motionless—this is being never apart from the Buddha.


Q: What is the meaning of the transcendental (wu wei, unconditioned, asamskrta)?

A: It is worldly (yu wei, conditioned, samskrta).

Q: I enquired about the transcendental. Why do you say it is worldly?

A: 'Worldly' is a term valid only in contradistinction to 'transcendental'. The latter derives its meaning from the former. If you do not accept the one as a valid concept, the other cannot be retained. But if you are speaking of the real transcendental, that pertains neither to the worldly nor to the transcendental. Yes, the real transcendental is like that! Why? The Diamond Sutra says: 'If their minds grasp the Dharma, they will still cling to the notion of an ego (a being and a life); if their minds grasp the non-Dharma, they will still cling to the notion of an ego (a being and a life). Therefore, we should not grasp at and hold onto the notions either of Dharma or of not-Dharma.' This is holding to the true Dharma. If you understand this doctrine, that is true deliverance—that, indeed, is reaching the gate of non-duality.


Q: What is the significance of the term 'middle way'?

A: It signifies the extremes.

Q: I enquired about the middle way; why do you say it signifies the extremes?

A: Extremes are only valid in contradistinction to the middle way. If at first you do not postulate extremes, from what can you derive the concept of a middle way? This middle you are talking about was first used in relation to extremes. Hence, we should realize that middle and extremes owe their existence to their mutual dependence and that all of them are transient. The same rule applies equally to the skandhas—form, sensation, perceptions, impulses (or volitions) and consciousness.


Q: What are these things, which we call the five skandhas?

A: The propensity to allow the forms we encounter to set their stain upon us, thereby arousing forms in our minds, is called the skandha of form. As this leads to the reception of the eight winds which encourage the piling up of wrong notions, sensations are aroused, and this is called the skandha of sensation. Thereupon, the deluded mind takes to perceiving (individual sensations) and perception is aroused, and this is called the skandha of perception. This leads to the piling up of impulses (based on likes and dislikes) and this is called the skandha of impulse (or volition). Accordingly, within the undifferentiated substance, error gives rise to the notion of plurality and countless attachments are formed, whereat false consciousness (or wrong understanding) arises, and this is called the skandha of consciousness. It is thus that we define the five skandhas.


Q: A sutra says that there are twenty-five factors of existence. What are they?

A: This term refers to our having to undergo future incarnations or rebirths taking place within the six realms. Owing to the delusions filling our minds during the present life, we sentient beings have become closely bound by all sorts of karma and will receive rebirth in exact accordance with our karmic state. Hence the term 'reincarnation.' However, if during a given existence there are people determined upon doing their utmost to gain deliverance and who thereby attain to the state of no rebirth, they will leave the three worlds for ever and never more have to be reborn. This implies attainment of the Dharmakaya in the absolute sense of Buddhakaya.

Q: How do these twenty-five factors of existence differ from one another?

A: Their basic substance is one. However, when we name them in accordance with their various functions, there appear to be twenty-five of them. This figure really connotes the ten evils, the ten virtues, and the five skandhas.

Q: What are the ten evils and the ten virtues?

A: The ten evils are: killing, stealing, licentiousness, lying, voluptuous speech, slander, coarse language, covetousness, anger, and false views. The ten virtues may be simply defined as absence of the ten evils.


Q: A little while ago you spoke of refraining from thinking (nien), but you did not finish your explanation.

A: It means not fixing your mind upon anything anywhere, but totally withdrawing it from the phenomena surrounding you, so that even the thought (szu) of seeking for something does not remain; it means that your mind, confronted by all the forms composing your environment, remains placid and motionless. This abstaining from all thought whatever is called real thought; but to keep on thinking is deluded thinking and certainly not the right way to think. Why is that? A sutra says: 'If you teach people to entertain the six meritorious thoughts, that is called "teaching them to think in the wrong way".' So, even entertaining those six thoughts is termed 'deluded thinking', while abstaining from them is known as 'real thought'. A sutra says: 'O virtuous one, it is through abiding in the Dharma of no thought that we obtain this golden color and these thirty-two bodily marks of Buddhahood which emit an effulgent radiance that penetrates the entire universe.' Such inconceivable merits even the Buddhas cannot describe in full; how much the less can the devotees of other vehicles know about them! Those who achieve abstention from thought are naturally able to enter upon the Buddha-perception, for their six senses can no longer stain their minds. Such an attainment is called 'entering the treasury of the Buddhas', also known as 'the treasury of the Dharma', which enables you to perform the Dharmas of all Buddhas. How can that be so? Because of abstention from thought. The same sutra says: 'All Buddhas are produced by this sutra.'

Q: If we esteem absence of thought, how can the notion of 'entering upon Buddha-perception' have any validity?

A: Its validity stems from absence of thought. How so? A sutra says: 'All things take their stand upon the basis of non-abiding.' It also says: 'Take the case of a bright mirror; though it contains no forms, it can manifest a myriad forms.' Why is this? It is because of its brightness (stainless clarity) that it is able to reflect them. You disciples, if your minds are stainless, will thereby be freed from entertaining erroneous thoughts; the stirring of your minds by the notion of 'self' and 'others' will vanish; there will be nothing but purity (stainlessness) on account of which you will become capable of unlimited perception. Sudden illumination means deliverance while still in this life. How shall I make you understand that? You may be compared to lion cubs, which are genuine lions from the time of their birth; for, with those who undertake to become suddenly illumined, it is just like that. The moment they practice it, they enter the Buddha-stage, just as the shoots put forth by bamboos in spring will have grown to resemble the parent plants without the least difference remaining even before spring has departed. Why so? Because the minds of these people are void. Likewise, they who undertake sudden illumination cut off erroneous thoughts at a stroke, thereby eliminating the duality of selfness and otherness, so that perfect void-ness and stillness supervene—thereby parity with the Buddhas is achieved without one jot of difference remaining. Therefore it is written that the most ordinary beings are profoundly holy. Those who undertake sudden illumination transcend the three realms of existence within this very life! As a sutra says: 'Transcend the world from its very midst; enter nirvana ere ridding yourselves of Saṃsāra's moil.' If you do not employ this method of sudden illumination, you will be like a jackal following and imitating a lion but unable to become a lion even after hundreds and thousands of aeons.

Q: Is the nature of the Absolute (Chan-ju) a true void, or not really void? To describe it as not void is to imply that it has form; yet to speak of it as void implies extinction (mere nothingness) and what would then be left for sentient beings to rely on in their practice for attaining deliverance?

A: The nature of the Absolute is void and yet not void. How so? The marvelous 'substance' of the Absolute, having neither form nor shape, is therefore undiscoverable; hence it is void. Nevertheless, that immaterial, formless 'substance' contains functions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, functions, which respond unfailingly to circumstances, so it is also described, as not void. A sutra says: 'Understand the one point and a thousand others will accordingly grow clear; misunderstand that one and ten thousand delusions will encompass you. He who holds to that one has no more problems to solve.' This is the great marvelous awakening to the Way (truth). As one of the sutras says:

'The myriad forms dense and close bear the imprint of a single Dharma.' How then can so many sorts of views arise from the one Dharma? All these karmic forces are rooted in activity. If, instead of pacifying our minds, we rely on scriptures to achieve enlightenment, we are undertaking the impossible. Ourselves deceived, deceiving others our mutual downfall is assured. Strive on! Strive on! Explore this teaching most thoroughly! Just let things happen without making any response and keep your minds from dwelling on anything whatsoever; for they who can do this thereby enter nirvana. Attained, then, is the condition of no rebirth, otherwise called 'the gate of non-duality, the end of strife, the samádhi of universality'. Why so? Because it is ultimate purity. As it is free from the duality of selfless and otherness, it no longer gives rise to love and hatred. When all relativities are seen as non-existent, naught remains to be perceived. Thus is the undiscoverable Bhutatathata revealed. This treatise of mine is not for the skeptic, but for those sharing the same view and following the same line of conduct. You ought first to discover whether people are sincere in their faith and qualified to practice it without backsliding before you expound it to them so that they can be awakened to its meaning. I have written this treatise for the sake of those having a karmic affinity with it. I seek neither fame nor wealth. I desire only to emulate the Buddhas who preached their thousands of sutras and countless shastras just for the sake of sentient beings lost in delusion. Since their mental activities vary, appropriate teachings are given to suit individual cases of perverse views; hence the great variety of doctrines. You should know that setting forth the principle of deliverance in its entirety amounts only to this—when things happen, make no response: keep your minds from dwelling on anything whatsoever: keep them forever still as the void and utterly pure (without stain): and thereby spontaneously attain deliverance. Oh do not seek for empty fame, mouthing forth talk of the Absolute with minds like those of apes! When talk contradicts action that is known as self-deception; it will lead to your falling headlong into evil states of rebirth. Seek not fame and happiness in this lifetime at the cost of un-enlightenment and suffering for long aeons to come. Strive on! Strive on! Sentient beings must save themselves; the Buddhas cannot do it for them. If they could, since there have already been Buddhas as numerous as grains of dust, every single being must by now have been saved; then how is it that you and I are still being tossed upon the waves of life and death instead of having become Buddhas? Do please realize that sentient beings have to save themselves and that the Buddhas cannot do it for them. Strive on! Strive on! Do it for yourselves. Place no reliance upon the powers of other Buddhas. As the sutra says: 'Those who seek the Dharma do not find it merely by clinging to the Buddhas.'


Q: In the coming generation, there will be many followers of mixed beliefs; how are we to live side by side with them?

A: Share the light with them, but do not share their karmas. Although you may be staying with them, your minds will not dwell in the same place as theirs. There is a sutra, which says: 'Though it follows the current of circumstances, its nature is unchanging.' As to those other students of the Way, you are all studying the Way for the sake of that great cause—liberation; so, while never despising those who have not studied the Dharma, you should respect those who are studying it as you would respect the Buddha. Do not vaunt your own virtues nor envy the ability of others. Examine your own actions; do not hold up the faults of others. Thus, nowhere will you encounter obstruction and you will naturally enjoy happiness. I will summarize all this in the form of a gatha:

Forbearance is the best of ways;
But first dismiss both self and other.
When things occur, make no response
And thus achieve true Bodhikaya.

The Diamond Sutra says: 'If a Bodhisattva is thoroughly versed in the doctrine of the unreality of the ego and of all dharmas (things), the Tathágata will call him a true Bodhisattva.' It is also said that 'he who does not accept anything, has nothing to reject; he is free of samsára forever. He whose mind dwells on nothing whatsoever is called a son of the Buddha.' The Maha parinirvana Sutra says: 'When the Tathágata attained nirvana, he freed himself from samsára for ever.' Here are some more gathas:

So wholly good my present state of mind
That men's revilement cannot stir my ire.
No word shall pass my lips of 'right' and 'wrong'—
Nirvana and samsára form one Way—
For I have learnt to reach that mind of mine
Which basically transcends both right and wrong.
Erroneous, discriminating thoughts
Reveal the worldling who has still to learn.
I urge the errant folk of Kaliyug
To rid their minds of every useless straw.

How vast indeed my present state of mind—
My wordless unconcern ensures its calm.
At ease and free, my liberation won,
I roam at will without impediment.
In wordless silence all my days are passed,
My every thought fixed on the Noumenal.
In gazing on the Way, I am at ease
And unaffected by Saṃsāra's round.

So marvelous my present state of mind,
I need intrude no longer on the world,
Where splendor is illusion and a cheat;
The simplest clothes and coarsest food suffice.
On meeting worldly men, I scarcely speak,
And so they say that I am dull of wit.
Without, I have what seems a dullard's stare;
Within, my crystal clarity of mind
Soundlessly tallies with Rahul's hidden way
Which worldly folk like you have yet to learn.

For fear that you may still be unable to understand the real principle of deliverance, I shall demonstrate it to you once more.


Q: The Vimalakirti Nirdesha Sutra says: 'Whosoever desires to reach the Pure Land must first purify his mind.' What is the meaning of this purifying of the mind?

A: It means purifying it to the point of ultimate purity.

Q: But what does that mean?

A: It is a state of beyond purity and impurity.

Q: Please explain it further.

A: Purity pertains to a mind, which dwells upon nothing whatsoever. To attain to this without so much as a thought of purity arising is called 'absence of purity'; and to achieve that without giving it a thought is to be free from absence of purity also.


Q: For followers of the Way, what constitutes realization of the goal?

A: Realization must be ultimate realization.

Q: And what is that?

A: Ultimate realization means being free from both realization and absence of realization.

Q: What does that mean?

A: Realization means remaining unstained by sights, sounds and other sense perceptions from without, and inwardly possessing minds in which no erroneous thinking takes place. To achieve this without giving it a thought is called 'absence of realization'; and to achieve the latter without giving that a thought either is called 'freedom from absence of realization'.


Q: What is meant by 'a mind delivered'?

A: Having a mind free from the concepts of delivered and undelivered is called 'real deliverance'. This is what the Diamond Sutra means by the words: 'Even the Dharma must be cast aside, how much more so the not-Dharma!' Here, Dharma implies existence and not-Dharma implies non-existence—disengagement from both of which results in true deliverance.


Q: What is realization of truth (Tao)?

A: It means ultimate realization.

Q: What is that?

A: Ultimate realization is beyond realization and non-realization.

Q: And what is ultimate void-ness?

A: Ultimate void-ness is beyond void-ness and non-voidness.

Q: And what is the fixed Bhutatathata (Absolute)?

A: The Bhutatathata's fixity is neither fixed nor unfixed. The Diamond Sutra says: 'There is no fixed Dharma called anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (supreme enlightenment) and there is no fixed Dharma which the Tathágata can expound.' This is what another sutra means by: 'When meditating on the void, perception of the void should not be taken as realization.' This means abstention from the thought of void-ness. Similarly, although we practice fixing the mind, we do not regard (success in this practice) as realization, because we entertain no thought of fixity. Likewise, although we attain purity, we do not regard it as realization, because we entertain no thought of purity. Even when we attain to fixed concentration, to purity and to the state of letting the mind dwell upon nothing whatsoever, if we permit any thought of our having made progress to enter our minds, that thought will be an erroneous thought and we shall be caught in a net—that cannot be called deliverance! Moreover, if after attaining to all this we experience a lively awareness of being at ease and independent (of all conditioning factors and so on), we must not take this for realization, or suppose that deliverance can be won by thinking in this way. As the sutra says: 'Allowing the concept of progress to enter our minds is not progress but error; whereas, if we keep our minds free from error, progress is unlimited.'


Q: What is the middle way?

A: It is without middle or extremes.

Q: What are the two extremes?

A: They are that-mindedness (pi hsin) and this-mindedness (tzu hsin).

Q: What do those terms mean?

A: Being ensnared from without by forms and sounds is that-mindedness; allowing erroneous thoughts to arise within is this-mindedness. Being unstained from without by forms is called 'freedom from that-mindedness'; permitting no erroneous thoughts to arise within is called 'freedom from this-mindedness'. Such is the meaning of 'no extremes'. And, if your minds are without extremes, how can there be a middle? Reaching this state is called the 'middle way' or the 'true Way of the Tathágata's' by which completely awakened people reach deliverance. A sutra says: 'The void is without middle or extremes; with the Buddhakaya it is also thus.' The void-ness of all forms implies mind dwelling upon nothing whatsoever; and the latter implies the void nature of all forms—these are two ways of saying the same thing. This is the doctrine of the unreality of form, also called 'the doctrine of the non-existence of form'. If you people reject 'mind dwelling upon nothing whatsoever', then bodhi (enlightenment), still and passionless nirvana, and perception of your real nature through Dhyana samádhi, will all be closed to you. It is just by not allowing your minds to dwell upon anything whatsoever that you will perceive your own nature whenever you practice attainment of bodhi, deliverance, nirvana, Dhyana samádhi, or the six paramitas. Why so? The Diamond Sutra says: 'Realizing that there is not the smallest thing to be attained is called "anuttara-samyak-sambodhi" (supreme enlightenment).'


Q: If we have performed all (good) deeds successfully, shall we receive a prediction of our future Buddha-hood?

A: No.

Q: If we have gained ultimate achievement by refraining from the practice of any dharma (method) whatsoever, shall we receive that prediction?

A: No.

Q: In that case, by what dharma is that prediction to be obtained?

A: It is obtainable when you cease (clinging to) deeds and to no deeds. Why so? The Vimalakirti Nirdesha Sutra says: 'The nature and the phenomenal expression of all deeds are both impermanent.' According to the Mahapati-nirvana Sutra: 'The Buddha said to Kashyapa, "There is no such thing as permanence of the totality of phenomenal activity."' You must just avoid letting your minds dwell upon anything whatsoever, which implies (being unconcerned about) either deeds or no deeds—that is what we call 'receiving a prediction of Buddhahood'. What I mean by not letting the mind dwell upon anything what-so-ever is keeping your minds free from hatred and love. This means that you must be able to see attractive things without love for them arising in your minds, which is termed 'having minds free from love'; and also that you must be able to see repulsive things without hatred for them arising in your minds, which is termed 'having minds free from hatred'. When these two are absent, the mind is unstained and the nature of forms is seen as void. Perception of the void-ness of their nature leads to the cutting off of concurrent causes and thus to spontaneous deliverance. You must examine this thoroughly. If the meaning is not brilliantly clear to you, hasten to ask your questions. Do not allow the hours to pass in vain. If you people put your trust in this teaching and act accordingly, without being delivered, I shall gladly take your places in hell for the whole of my existence. If I have deceived you, may I be reborn in a place where lions, tigers and wolves will devour my flesh! But, if you do not put your faith in this teaching, and do not practice it diligently, that will be because you do not understand it. Once you have lost a human body, you will not obtain another for millions of aeons. Strive on! Strive on! It is absolutely vital that you come to understand.


The Great Pearl

The Tsung Ching Record [宗鏡錄 Zongjing lu; Jpn.: Sūgyō-roku]


When the Master first arrived in Kiangsi to pay his respects to Ma Tsu, the latter enquired, 'From where have you come?'

'From the Great Cloud Monastery at Yueh Chou,' answered Hui Hai.

Q: 'What do you hope to gain by coming here?'

Hui Hai: 'I have come seeking the Buddha-dharma.'

To this Ma Tsu replied, 'Instead of looking to the treasure house which is your very own, you have left home and gone wandering far away. What for? I have absolutely nothing here at all. What is this Buddha-dharma you seek?'

Hui Hai prostrated himself and enquired, 'Please tell me to what you alluded when you spoke of a treasure house of my very own.'

A: 'That which asked the question is your treasure house. It contains absolutely everything you need and lacks nothing at all. It is there for you to use freely, so why this vain search for something outside yourself?'

No sooner were these words spoken than the Master received a great illumination and recognized his own mind! Beside himself with joy, he hastened to show his gratitude by prostrating himself again.

The Master spent the next six years in attendance upon Ma Tsu; but, as his first teacher—the one responsible for his admission to the monastic order—was growing old, he had to return to Yueh Chou to look after him. There he lived a retired life, concealing his abilities and outwardly appearing somewhat mad. It was at this time that he composed his shastra—A Treatise for Setting Forth the Essential Gateway to Truth by Means of Instantaneous Awakening. Later this book was taken by Hsuan Yen, a disciple of his brother in the dharma, who brought it from the Yangtse region and showed it to Ma Tsu. Ma Tsu, after reading it carefully, declared to his disciples:

'In Yueh Chou there is now a great pearl; its luster penetrates everywhere freely and without obstruction.'

Now it happened that the assembly included a monk who knew that the Master had, in lay life been surnamed Chu (a word identical in sound with the word for pearl). In great excitement he hastened to communicate this information to some other monks, who went in a group to Yueh Chou to call on the Master and follow him. Thenceforth, the Master was called 'the Great Pearl.'


Once the Master began his daily address to his disciples by saying, 'I am no Ch'an adept; indeed, I have not a single thing to offer anyone, so I must not keep you standing here longer. Go and take a rest.'

In those days the number of people who came to study with him was gradually increasing. As day follows night, they came and pressed him for instruction; he was compelled to answer their questions as soon as asked, thus revealing his unimpeded powers of dialectic. Endless discussions took place with questions and answers following one another.

Once a group of Dharma masters sought an interview and said, 'We have some questions to ask. Are you prepared to answer them?'

Hui Hai: 'Yes. The moon is reflected in that deep pond; catch it if you like.'

Q: 'What is the Buddha really like?'

Hui Hai: 'If that which is facing the limpid pond is not the Buddha, what is it?'

The monks were puzzled by his reply; after a long pause, they enquired again, 'Master, what dharma do you expound in order to liberate others?'

Hui Hai: 'This poor monk has no dharma by which to liberate others.'

'All Ch'an masters are of the same stuff!' they exclaimed, whereat the Master asked them, 'What dharmas do you Virtuous Ones expound for liberating others?'

A: 'Oh, we expound the Diamond Sutra.'

Hui Hai: 'How many times have you expounded it?'

A: 'More than twenty times.'

Hui Hai: 'By whom was it spoken?'

To this the monks answered indignantly, 'Master, you must be joking! Of course you know that it was spoken by the Buddha.'

Hui Hai: 'Well, that sutra states, "If someone says the Tathagata expounds the Dharma, he thereby slanders the Buddha! Such a man will never understand what I mean." Now, if you say that it was not expounded by the Buddha, you will thereby belittle that sutra. Will you Virtuous Ones please let me see what you have to say to that?'

As they made no reply, the Master paused awhile before asking his next question, which was, 'The Diamond Sutra says: "He who seeks me through outward appearance, or seeks me in sound, treads the heterodox path and cannot perceive the Tathagata." Tell me, Virtuous Ones, who or what is the Tathagata?'

A: 'Sir, at this point I find myself utterly deluded.'

Hui Hai: 'Having never been illumined, how can you say that you are now deluded?'

So then the monk asked: 'Will the Venerable Ch'an Master expound the Dharma to us?'

Hui Hai: 'Though you have expounded the Diamond Sutra over twenty times, you still do not know the Tathagata!'

These words caused the monks to prostrate themselves again and to beg the Master to explain further, so he said, 'The Diamond Sutra states: "The Tathagata is the Suchness of all dharmas." How can you have forgotten that?'

A: 'Yes, yes—the Suchness of all dharmas.'

Hui Hai: 'Virtuous Ones, "yes" is also incorrect.'

A: 'On that point the scripture is very clear. How can we be wrong?'

Hui Hai: 'Then, Virtuous Ones, are you that Suchness too?'

A: 'Yes, we are.'

Hui Hai: 'And are plants and rocks the Suchness?'

A: 'They are.'

Hui Hai: 'Then is the Suchness of you the same as the Suchness of plants and rocks?'

A: 'There is no difference.'

Hui Hai: 'Then how do you differ form plants and rocks?'

This silenced the monks for some time, until at last one of them exclaimed with a sigh, 'It is hard to keep our end in discussions with a man so very much our superior.'

After a considerable pause, they enquired, 'How can mahaparinirvana be attained?'

Hui Hai: 'By avoiding all samsaric deeds—those which keep you in the round of birth and death.'

Q: 'What deeds are they?'

A: 'Well, seeking nirvana is a samsaric deed. Casting off impurity and clinging to purity is another. Harboring attainments and proofs of attainment is another, and so is failure to discard rules and precepts.'

Q: 'Please tell us how to achieve deliverance.'

A: 'Never having been bound, you have no need to seek deliverance. Straightforward functioning and straightforward conduct cannot be surpassed.'

'Ah, exclaimed the monks, 'People like this Ch'an Master are indeed rare!' then they bowed their thanks and left.