Zazen Ron -
"Discussion of Zazen"
by Zen Master Enni (1202-1280)
The Zazen school is the way of great freedom. All myriad things come from this gate. All myriad practices are mastered in this way. The mysterious workings of prajna and psychic powers are born from within it; the world of gods and men have also come from this. Thus, the Buddhas live in this gate, and the Bodhisattvas practice to enter into this way. Even the Hinayana and infidels practice it, but are not yet in harmony with the true way. All the outer and inner (esoteric) schools have their validation by attaining to this way. Thus, the Patriarch says “All the wise ones in the 10 directions enter this school.”
Q: Why is it that you say this Zen gate is the source of all the teachings?
A: Zen is [just] the Buddha mind. Precepts are its outward characteristics, the teachings are its elucidation, and the recitation of the Name is the tool. These 3 religious practices all come from the Buddha mind. Thus, I say this school represents the source [of all the teachings].
Q: The Dharma of Zen has a signless essence. How does it account for the manifestation of spiritual qualities, and by what does one take as a verification of seeing one’s nature?
A: Your own mind is Buddha. What spiritual qualities are there beyond that? And what verification should we look for beyond the recognition of the mind?
Q: When we cultivate the mind, this is only one practice. But if we cultivate many practices and meritorious deeds, how could the merit from these be inferior to that of the one practice?
A: An ancient said, “At the time you suddenly see the Tathagata Zen, the six paramitas and the different [spiritual] practices are complete in your own body.” So, the one Dharma of Zen includes all things. Even in the world they have the saying, “Many talents are not as good as One Mind.” So, even though we cultivate different practices, if we cannot end the delusion of our One Mind, we will not be Enlightened. And, not being Enlightened, how could we become a Buddha?
Q: Why should we cultivate the Buddha-mind school? We cannot be certain we will be Enlightened even if we do, and if we can’t be certain what use is there in cultivating it?
A: As this school is the way of incomprehensible freedom, the one who lends ear to [it’s teaching] gives rise to an exceedingly [good] cause of Enlightenment, and if he then cultivates the school it will represent the ultimate Buddha Mind. The Buddha Mind is fundamentally free from ignorance and enlightenment; the mysterious practice of six years of sitting erect in the Snow-covered Mountains [Buddha’s practice] is evident in this school. Although you may not have attained the way, when you do Zazen for even as little as one sitting, you are a one-sitting Buddha. If you do Zazen for a day, you are a one-day Buddha. And if you do Zazen for a lifetime you are a one-lifetime Buddha. To possess such faith is to have very keen faculties, and to be a great vessel of Dharma.
Q: When we practice this way, what do we do with our minds?
A: The Buddha Mind is signless and free from attachments. The Diamond Sutra says that Buddhas are free from all characteristics. So, when we have no-mind and no-thought while walking, standing, sitting and lying down, this is what should be done with the mind, and is the true concentrated effort.
Q: It is hard to believe this type of cultivation and it is very hard to practice. What if I were to seek merit by reading sutras and reciting dharanis, keeping precepts and being mindful of Buddha by calling his name?
A: The sutras and dharanis are not words, but are the Primordial Mind of all beings. Though they are speech, they are intended only for those who have lost [sight of] the Primordial Mind, and teach us in different ways so as to bring about Enlightenment to this Primordial Mind and end the cycle of birth-and-death which is caused by delusion. If we just recite words with the mouth and say this is the highest, does it not also follow that we should get warm by saying “fire” or cool off by saying “wind”? When we are hungry, would we just say the name of the food we want and get it? So, even though we may say “fire” all day, we will not get warm. Even though we say “water” all night, our thirst will not be quenched. Words and speech are like the picture of a rice cake: though we say them with our mouths our whole life, our hunger will not be satisfied. It is a true pity that the ordinary person, having ignorant ideas of birth and death running very deep, is constantly thinking of attainment in regard to the Dharma. This is very foolish! To practice all things without thinking of attainment is called the Prajna of Mahayana. This is the Buddha Wisdom, pure and without thoughts. Because this wisdom cuts away the source of birth and death, it is called the Prajna-sword.
Q: But if we don’t gain merits and plant good spiritual roots, how can we arrive at Buddhahood which is endowed perfectly with the various virtues?
A: He who seeks Buddhahood by gaining merit and planting good spiritual roots might become a Buddha after 3 kalpas, but one who cultivates the direct pointing at one’s own mind, seeing into one’s nature and becoming a Buddha, knows that one is a Buddha from the very beginning. It is not that he attains the fruit of Buddhahood.
Q: Then do those who cultivate Zen reject the value of merits and good roots?
A: Even though such a one cultivates good roots to help others, because such a one has no aspirations one doesn’t seek any merits at all. He has no-mind at all times.
Q: If no-mind is represents the ultimate, who is it that knows the seeing of his nature and Enlightenment to the way?
A: The ultimate no-mind means to put a stop to all false knowledge and wrong views - all the discriminating activity of thought. As it does not give rise to a view of cultivation, it does not does want to become a Buddha. As it does not give rise to a view social engagement, it does not delight in praise and high standing; as it produces no such view of love or hate, it does not discriminate between closeness or aloofness between self and other. Don’t think of good & evil - such a one is called the one on the no-thought path. This path is not something that the ordinary person knows about, or even those of the two Vehicles.
Q: In the teachings (sutras), the merit derived from various good deeds and practices are explained many times; why then is the merit of no-mind not explained directly?
A: Because the Bodhisattvas of the Original Enlightenment already hold it in high esteem and understand it [directly], it isn’t explained. This is why the Lotus Sutra says, “Do not preach this sutra to those lacking wisdom.” Even though the teachings contain 84,000 dharma gates, if we trace them back to their source [we find] they do not go beyond the two things of form and emptiness. “Form” means the substance of the four great elements and five aggregates; “emptiness” is the true nature of affliction and enlightenment. Since this body has shape, it is called “form”; because mind has no shape, it is called “emptiness.” In all the worlds, there is nothing to be spoken of beyond this very body and mind.
Q: Are the shape & substance of the four great elements originally deluded or enlightened?
A: From the beginning there is no distinction between ignorance and enlightenment in body or mind. All things appear conditionally, like a dreams and hallucinations. Have no thought concerning the myriad things.
Q: The two-Vehicles also teach no-mind, along with enlightenment and Nirvana. How is the Mahayana different from them?
A: Originally, the Arhats of the sravaka and pratyekabuddha vehicles consider body and mind as an affliction and have aversion for them. They desire to extinguish body and mind and become like dead trees, bricks and rocks. Even though they practice like this, in the end they only become gods of the formless realms. This isn’t the true Dharma, but is rather the fruit of Hinayana. The no-mind of the Mahayana is not the same.
Q: Do Bodhisattvas of the Mahayana also have this way of no-mind?
A: Bodhisattvas have many defiling and obscuring obstacles in their consciousness and do not yet accord with no-mind until they reach the tenth Bhumi. These “defiling obstacles” means that, until the tenth bhumi, they still desire to seek the Dharma, and they do not accord with their original way. It’s only when they arrive at the tenth Bhumi and the virtual enlightenment that they arrive at the way of no-mind.
Q: If it is so difficult for even a Bodhisattva to accord with, how then could beginners so easily accord with this way?
A: True Dharma is inconceivable. The setting up of the Bodhisattva path is for those of dim spiritual vision. Those who are clear-sighted realize the true enlightenment of no-mind when they first give rise to the aspiration.
Q: One who see’s one’s true nature and awakens to the Buddha way is called a Buddha. Why then do they no also have psychic powers, show radiant lights, or perform the mystic feats of the Buddha which would distinguish him from a regular person?
A: Since this body has been built from ignorant thoughts from the past, even though we see our nature it does not show off the psychic power and radiance. Yet, is it not psychic power to be master over the six dusts of the senses and deluded thoughts? Without resorting to hard & painful practice, without passing through the 3 great incalculable eons, to cut off birth and death, see straight into one’s nature and become a Buddha - this are the mystic feats [of a Buddha]. And to employ the light of prajna that is the pure Dharmakaya to save all beings from the darkness of delusion - what other kind of radiant light do we need? To desire psychic powers other than great wisdom and understanding is the way of Mara and the infidels. Even foxes have these psychic powers and ability to transform themselves - but should we pay homage to them? Just cultivating no-mind, we can extinguish at once the three incalculable eons and suddenly see our nature, becoming Buddhas.
Q: What kind of wisdom should we use to awaken to the true meaning of “Seeing one’s true nature, becoming Buddha.”?
A: Knowledge you gain by studying sutras and shastras is called the knowledge of the senses. This might be considered knowledge to the ordinary, ignorant person, but it is not true knowledge. To recognize this inherent Buddha-nature by turning the light around and shining it back is called the Eye of Prajna. We use this prajna eye to see our natures and become Buddhas.
Q: What is this inherent Buddha-nature? And what is meant by “turning the light around and shining it back.”?
A: All being have self-nature (svabhava). This nature is intrinsically non-arising and non-ceasing; it always abides without change. Thus it is called the inherent self-nature. Both the Buddhas of the past, present and future and all beings have this same nature as the Dharmakaya of the Original Ground. The radiance of this Dharmakaya fills the entire Dharma realm, turning the light and shining it back on the darkness of delusion of all beings. Where this light does not reach is called Mara’s realm of ignorance. In this realm of Mara dwells the spirit of the afflictions, seeking to devour the Dharma nature. Those beings who are damaged by this spirit, taking their deluded thoughts as their Original Mind and enjoying the seeds of desire, constantly spin in the four kinds of birth and three evil destinies. When will they ever cut off birth and death?
Q: Since birth and death arise from deluded thoughts, when one awakens to the source from which these deluded thoughts arise, will birth and death naturally stop?
A: Throughout all hours of the day, beings are tainted by deluded thoughts, and their Original Buddha Nature is buried by afflictions. It can be compared to the bright moon hidden behind clouds. Once they have awakened to the source of these thoughts, it is like the bright moon emerging from out the clouds. It is like a mirror that, once cleaned, clearly reflects the myriad images. It has full mastery over all things and, though facing myriad objects, suffers not even a hair’s breadth of defilement. This is because the Original Buddha Nature has the freedom of psychic power.
Q: What does it mean that, while directing our mind in Zazen, we “should not think of good or evil.”?
A: This saying will directly cut off the root source of birth and death. Do not imagine that it is limited only to Zazen! One who arrives at this saying is a Buddha without beginning or end, and is practicing Zazen whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down.
Q: What are big and small thoughts?
A: Small thoughts are thoughts which arise from conditions, whereas big thoughts are desire, hatred and delusion since beginningless births and deaths. One who only puts an end to these thoughts while in Zazen - big or small - is one who lacks the true mind of the way, does not discern the root source of beginningless birth and death, and does not exhaust the consciousness characterized by desire, hatred and delusion. But when one has discerned this root source, afflictions are Bodhi, the three poisons are the three precepts, birth and death become Nirvana without beginning, and the six dusts become the six psychic powers.
Q: The mind of one who has long practiced Zazen will clearly be pure, but how does a beginner practice to put an end to the taint of deluded thoughts?
A: Don’t feel repulsed by the taint of deluded thoughts; just discern the mind’s nature. Because we are confused about the One Mind, we think that there is the taint of deluded thoughts when, in fact, it is originally pure. For instance, when sleeping we see various things in our dreams, but when we wake up from the dream all these are recognized as simple deluded thoughts. When we awaken to the One Mind, everything is empty, with nothing remaining.
Q: What does it mean to say, “affliction is Bodhi, birth and death is Nirvana.”?
A: Afflictions are foolishness and ignorance; Bodhi is the Buddha-nature of everything. Beings, not recognizing their own Buddha-nature, look for it outside themselves; they look at good and evil outside themselves and give rise to attachment to the aspects of these things. This is great foolishness! And then when those who manage to leave these things behind and seek out their own Buddha-nature give rise to some view of this awakening, distinguishing themselves from ordinary people, they will become proud of themselves and fall back into Mara‘s way. This is ignorance! Unaware that the One Mind is originally no-mind, we rouse the mind to seek the mind and, in doing so, give rise to the present taints. This is the seed of birth and death. But once we have awakened to the truth that from the beginning the One Mind neither arises nor ceases, then there is no difference between self and other, good and evil, love and hate; we are completely with no-thought and no-mind. This is what is meant by “birth and death is Nirvana.” Failing to awaken to the root source of the One Mind, we lose our permanent self and obscure our true Buddha nature. If we look back to the source of afflictions, they are like dreams, illusions, bubbles and shadows. Realizing the truth that the One Mind is originally pure is what is meant by “the afflictions are Bodhi.” And when we arrive at the source of the One Mind, the radiance of our inherent wisdom will be manifest to us. At that time, the myriad things will be at rest, and we will attain the ultimate emptiness of all Buddhas. For instance, suppose there is a dark cave, into which the light of the sun and moon does not go; yet when we take a lamp into it, the darkness of many years is naturally illuminated. In the same way, when the dark night is touched by the light of the moon, space naturally becomes bright without changing its substance. The mind’s things are like this; when beings, lost in the darkness of ignorance and afflictions, encounter the light of wisdom, they are naturally purified without changing body and mind. This is what is meant by “the afflictions are Bodhi, birth and death is Nirvana.”
Q: Even though the nature of mind constantly abides changelessly, and Buddhas are sentient beings are one and the same, sentient beings who have yet to master and realize this truth cannot avoid suffering and, because of this, must cultivate the way. But once they have seen their nature, should they still cultivate?
A: That Buddhas and sentient beings are one and the same is what is pointed out by wisdom. The teachings of the sutras are but fingers pointing to the moon. If we don’t see the moon, you should rely on the finger; after you’ve seen the moon, the finger is useless. When we have yet to awaken to the Buddha Mind, we should rely on the teachings; when we recognize the Buddha Mind, the eighty thousand dharma gates are all clearly apparent in one mind. After we have awakened to the one mind, there isn’t use for even a single teaching. The words of the Patriarchs are like a brick used to knock on a gate. Before you enter the gate, you take up the brick; once you’ve entered the gate, what still hold the brick? Thus, so long as we have yet to awaken to the original meaning of the Buddhas and Patriarchs, we should take up and investigate the phrase, “see your nature and become a Buddha.” But once we’ve already opened the gate of the great liberation and completely awakened to the original meaning of the Buddhas and Patriarchs, seeing one’s nature is nothing special and become a Buddha can’t be grasped. There is no Buddha, no sentient beings; from the beginning there is not a single thing, and the three worlds can’t be grasped.
Q: When we face the end of our lives not having clarified the important point of “seeing our nature and becoming a Buddha,” how should we direct the mind at the last?
A: When one mind arises, there is birth and death; when there is no-mind, there is no body that is born, and when there is no-thought, there is no mind that ceases. When there is no-thought and no-mind, there is no birth and death whatsoever. This body is like the dew that forms on grass; the dew is originally without a self. When we stop the mind that thinks we have a body and turn toward the truth that from the beginning there is not a single thing, when we no longer think that there is either birth and death and have no-mind and no-thought, this is equivalent to the Great Nirvana of the Buddhas of the past, present and future. Although the good and evil attributes of things appear to us in their variety, we should take no notice of them. If we give rise to even a hair’s breadth of mind, it is seed of Samsara. If we just cultivate no-mind and don’t forget it, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down, there is no special way to direct the mind at the last. When we truly abide in no-mind, we depart like blossoms that fall and leaves that scatter in the wind; like frost which melts in the morning sun. What is there that directs the mind in such events as these? When we truly arrive at no-mind, there are no three realms of being or six paths of rebirth, no pure or defiled lands, no Buddhas, no beings - not a single thing.
Of this mind that abides in the path of no-mind and makes an end of birh and death, the Buddha said at his death (in the Nirvana Sutra), “All compound things are impermanent; their nature is to rise and fall. When both rising and falling cease, their calm cessation is joy.” The phrase “all compound things are impermanent” refers to the conditioned things of all beings; they are like dreams, illusions, reflections, like the moon in a puddle. “Their nature is to rise and fall” means that, from sentient beings to plants, all things that are born must necessarily die. The mountains, rivers and great earth of this world will break down and disappear in the end. All things, wherever they may be, are things that arise and cease. This is merely birth and death from the continual transformations of one thought; none of it is real. “When rising and falling cease” means that when, because the true state of all beings is pure and signless, we reach the source of our signlessness, the beginningless, endless birth and death, coming and going, cease all at once, and the openness of the mind is like empty space. “Their calm cessation is joy” refers to the truth that Buddhas are no-mind, sentient beings are no-mind, mountains and rivers and the great earth, all the different phenomena arrayed are no-mind. When all beings are no-mind, hell is no-mind, heaven is no-mind; there is neither joy nor sadness. Trusting in the way like this, we see all things without seeing them in mind, and we hear all things without hearing them in the mind, and so too with the minds of tasting, smelling, etcetera. Just have no-mind in all circumstances. The mind of no-mind is the original teacher of all the Buddhas of the past, present and future. It is the fundamental Buddha. The realization of this original Buddha of no-thought is what is called the Supreme Perfect Enlightenment of the Buddhas. To wake up to the meaning of this is what is called “their calm cessation is joy.” Trusting in the Dharma like this and leaving the body behind, we should not think of anything for a single thought.
With all respect.
(A discussion of Zazen intimately revealed to the Prime Minister Kujo by the National Teacher Shoichi)
"If the Buddha-Nature is seen, there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing."
(Nirvana Sutra, T12n374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto)
"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)
"With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
The six paramitas and myriad means are complete within that essence."
(Yongjia Xuanjue, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom")