Tuesday, December 31, 2013

profisee 38 - now where's eve

the person is prologue
to no beginning—

the whole orange of it all
is just to see an apple
through the ripe bananas—

getting stuck
in unbecoming the false is not
unbecoming the false
but being the true is—

one cannot feed the tiger
nickels forever—

i am infinity of the power
and potentiality of the station

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Balancing Chan: Southern—Northern; Sudden—Gradual; Wu-nien—Li-nien; Knowledge—Purity

These three paragraphs by Yanagada Seizan may be the most concise, clearest, balanced view of the complex dialectic involved in early Chan and its later development that I've yet come across, and in turn, sharp pointed guidance to the inherent errors involved in following any concept of the non-conceptual too far in any way.

from: Yanagida, Seizan. "The Li-tai fa-pao chi and the Ch'an Doctrine of Sudden Awakening." Transl. Carl Bielefeldt. in Early Chan in China and Tibet
The teaching of sudden awakening, which split the Ch'an movement in the eighth century, finds its most concrete expression in Shen-hui's central doctrine of "no-thought" (wu-nien). This doctrine was originally put forward as a criticism of the Northern school's teaching of "detachment from thought" (li-nien). The notion of li-nien is later described by Shen-hui's follower Tsung-mi (780-841) as the practice of "wiping away defilements and viewing purity" (fu-ch 'en k'an-ching), a characterization based  on the famous verse attributed to Hui-neng's Northern school rival Shen-hsiu (606?-706) in the Liu tsu t'an ching. The Northern school believed in the original purity of the mind—that is, in an original self free from all defilements; its practice was to maintain and to magnify this self. This teaching is common to the Ta sheng ch'i hsin lun [*Mahayana-sraddhotpada, T.1666], the Vimalakirti-sutra [T.475], and many other basic Mahayana texts. But the belief in the original purity of one's own mind can itself become a form of attachment, in which one becomes bound by the notion of purity. The danger of such attachment is recognized in the Vimalakirti-sutra itself, and the Northern school was by no means unaware of it. In fact, despite the criticism leveled against it by the followers of Hui-neng, the Northern school taught a sophisticated and coherent system of Buddhist philosophy. Nevertheless, by emphasizing purity it seemed to be in danger of falling into a form of quietism. It was this point which Shen-hui attacked.
Shen-hui summarized what he considered the mistaken practice of the Northern school masters in a four-line maxim, which was later used by Lin-chi (d. 866) as well: "To concentrate the mind and enter samadhi, to settle the mind and view stillness, to arouse the mind and illumine the outside, to control the mind and verify the inside" (ning-hsin ju-ting chu-hsin k'an-ching ch'i-hsin wai-chao she-hsin nei-cheng) According to Shen-hui, the Northern school's doctrine of li-nien, taught on the basis of the Ta sheng ch'i hsin lun and the Vimalakirti-sutra, involves a bondage to purity: it is the practice of intentionally attempting to look at one's own pure mind. Shen-hui's summary of the Northern school teaching is, in fact, a criticism of a form of Ch'an sickness, in which one is attached to the detachment from thought and the contemplation of the pure original mind. Historically it does not seem that the masters of the Northern school were particularly attached to the practice of li-nien, but it must be admitted that philosophically their thought left them open to such criticism. At least Shen-hui saw the school as attached to li-nien, and taught his own doctrine of wu-nien in opposition to it.
Shen-hui's wu-nien doctrine is based on the notion of "natural knowledge" (tzu-jan chih) or "original knowledge" (pen-chih). The emphasis on such knowledge is the key issue separating the Northern and Southern schools. For Shen-hui, no-thought is itself sudden awakening, and as such there must be knowledge at work within it. The centrality of original knowledge for the Southern school's wu-nien dotrine was later recognized by Tsung-mi, who held that "the single term knowledge is the gateway to all mysteries" (chih chih i-tzu chung-miao chih men) Tsung-mi's emphasis on original knowledge was an attempt to defend Shen-hui's concept of wu-nien from misinterpretation by his contemporaries. On the one hand he was warning against the rise of the Ma-tsu school of Ch'an, which had transformed the teaching of no-thought into an emphasis on vital activity within everyday life. Such was the thrust of the school's famous sayings, "The ordinary mind is the Way" (p'ing-ch'ang hsin shih tao) or "This very mind is the Buddha" (chi hsin chi fo). For Tsung-mi this emphasis on the concrete function of the mind suggested blind activity devoid of original knowledge. At the same time, as we shall see, Tsung-mi's teaching was a criticism of the followers of the LTFPC [Li tai fa pao chi] who, while adopting Shen-hui's doctrine of no-thought, had in Tsung-mi's eyes forgotten that wu-nien is based on the functioning of knowledge.

Friday, December 20, 2013

profisee 37 - see saw sea

a wave of lost


which on self-

is unseen

and seen through
by the sea

one is

that’s always

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Early Chan Meditation 2: Daoxin (Tao-hsin) — practice, with understanding, and with realization

A Radical Edit of 'Pacifying the Mind' contained in 
'Record of the Lanka Masters and Disciples'

There is no separate Buddha apart from mind, and no other mind apart from Buddha. To be mindful of Buddha is to be mindful of mind. To seek mind is to seek Buddha. Why? Consciousness has no shape, Buddha has no form. Knowing this truth is pacifyng mind. With constant mindfulness of Buddha, grasping at objects does not arise. Then it is totally formless, everywhere equal and without duality. When you enter this station, the mind that [actively] remembers Buddha fades away and no longer has to be summoned. When you witness this type of mind, this is the true reality-nature body of the Tathagata. It is also called the Correct Dharma, buddha-nature, the real identity of all phenomena, reality itself. It is also called the Pure Land. It is also called bodhi, diamond samadhi, fundamental enlightenment, and so on. It is also called the realm of nirvana, and prajna, and the like. Though the names are countless, they all share one and the same essence. There is no sense of the subject observing and the object observed.


There are four kinds of people who study. The highest are those with practice, with understanding, and with realization. Next are those with understanding and realization but without practice. Next are those with practice and understanding but without realization. Lowest are those with practice, but without understanding or realization. Question: In the moment, how should we practice contemplation?

Daoxin said: You must let it roll.


Is it that mind is buddha, or that mind makes buddha? We must realize that mind is buddha-outside of mind there is no other buddha. In brief, there are five types [of approaches to this truth] .

One: by realizing that the mind-essence is by nature pure and clean, that this essence is the same as buddha.

Two: By realizing that the mind-function produces Dharma jewels and creates eternal quiescence, that the myriad forms of delusion are all Thus.

Three: By always awakening without stopping, so that the awakened mind is always present, aware that Reality is formless.

Four: By constantly contemplating bodily existence as empty and still, inner and outer pervaded and equalized, entering bodily into the realm of reality without obstruction.

Fifth: By preserving unity and not stirring, always abiding through motion and stillness, enabling the learner to clearly see buddha-nature and quickly enter the gate of concentration.


Those who hear should practice: don't be doubtful and confused. It is like a person learning archery. At first he shoots at large targets. By and by he can hit smaller and smaller ones. Then he can hit a single feather, then hit and smash it into a hundred pieces, then hit one of the hundredths. Then he can shoot the arrow before with the arrow after, and hit the notch, so the arrows line up one after another and he does not let any arrows fall.

This is a metaphor for practicing the Path, concentrating the mind from thought-instant to thought-instant, going on continuously from mind-moment to mind-moment without any interruptions, so that correct mindfulness is not broken and appears before you.


When beginning students sit in meditation, in undivided stillness they directly contemplate body and mind. They must investigate the four elements and the five skandhas, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body feeling, and conceptual mind, greed, anger, and ignorance, along with all phenomena, whether good or bad, hostile or friendly, ordinary or holy. They must observe that all these are originally empty and still, unborn and undestroyed, everywhere equal and without duality. Since the beginning there has been nothing at all, just ultimate quiescent extinction. Since the beginning, just pure liberation. You must do this contemplation always, no matter whether day or night, whether you are walking, standing, sitting, or lying down.

If you do, you will realize that your own bodily existence is like the moon in the water, like an image in a mirror, like a mirage when it is hot, like an echo in an empty valley. If you say it exists, wherever you seek it, it cannot be seen. If you say it does not exist, when you comprehend completely, it is always before your eyes. The buddhas' body of reality is also like this. Then you come to know that from countless ages past your own body has ultimately never been born, and that in the future ultimately there is no one who dies. If you can always do this contemplation, this is true repentance: the heavy evil karma of thousands of ages dissipates of itself.


When beginners sit in meditation to contemplate mind: Sit alone someplace. First straighten out your body and sit upright; let your robe be wide and your belt loose. Let your body relax: rub yourself down seven or eight times. Let the exhalations from the belly through the throat cease. Then you will find in abundance the purity, emptiness, and peace of inherent reality-nature.

When body and mind are properly attuned, when mind and spirit are at peace, then in deep mystic fusion, the breath is pure and cool. Slowly gather in mind until the path of the spirit is pure and sharp and the mind-ground is illumined and pure. As you perceive clearly and distinctly, inner and outer are empty and pure-this is the mind's inherent nirvana. With this nirvana, the mind of the sages is manifest. Though its real nature is formless, intent and proportion always remain. Thus, the profound luminous one never ends: it remains forever shining bright. This is called the buddha-nature, the enlightened real identity. Those who see buddha-nature leave behind forever birth and death: they are called people who transcend the world.

 from Zen Dawn translated by J.C. Cleary (bold formatting by aumdada)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Early Chan Meditation 1: Bodhidharma, Wall-Examining, and Broughton’s Commentary on Tibetan Abiding in Brightness

Bodhidharma - from Two Entrances

Entering by principle means that one awakens to the thesis by means of the teachings, and one deeply believes that all living beings, common and sagely, are identical to the True Nature; that it is merely because of the unreal covering of adventitious dust that the True Nature is not revealed. If one rejects the false and reverts to the real and in a coagulated state abides in wall-examining, then self and other, common man and sage, are identical; firmly abiding without shifting, in no way following after the written teachings-this is mysteriously tallying with principle. It is nondiscriminative, quiescent,  and inactive; we call it entrance by principle.

tr-Jeffrey Broughton (bold formatting by aumdada)

Commentary on Wall-examining (by Jeffrey Broughton)

The elusive term wall-examining has been the subject of countless exegeses, from the most imaginative and metaphorical to the suggestion that it refers to the simple physical act of facing a wall in cross-legged sitting posture. Tibetan Ch'an, a new and exciting subfield of early Ch'an studies, offers us one more. Various Ch'an texts were translated into Tibetan, one of the most important being the Bodhidharma Anthology, which in Tibetan is usually referred to as the Great Chinese Injunctions (Rgya lung chen po). The recently discovered ninth-century Tibetan treatise Dhyana of the Enlightened Eye (Bsam gtan mig sgron) contains translations of some of the Two Entrances, some material from Record I, and the whole of Record III. Early on the Dhyana of the Enlightened Eye gives summaries of four teachings known in early Tibet: the gradualist gate; the all-at-once gate (Chinese Ch'an); Mahayoga; and Atiyoga (Rdzogs-chen).

The summary of Ch'an ends with a series of quotations from Ch'an masters, the first of whom is Bodhidharmatara, the version of the name that is encountered in Tibetan sources: "From the sayings of the Great Master Bodhidharmatara [Bo-dhe-dar-mo-ta-ra]: 'If one reverts to the real, rejects discrimination, and abides in brightness, then there is neither self nor other. The common man and sage are equal. If without shifting you abide in firmness, after that you will not follow after the written teachings. This is the quiet of the principle of the real. It is nondiscriminative, quiescent, and inactive. It is entrance into principle.' " A Tibetan Tunhuang manuscript gives a virtually identical rendering. This understanding of wall-examining must have been widespread in early Tibet.

The Tibetan closely follows T'an-lin's Chinese with one exception, the line "in a coagulated state abides in wall-examining" (ning chu pi-kuan), for which the Tibetan reads: "rejects discrimination and abides in brightness" (rtogs pa spangs te I lham mer gnas na). This is a curious and consistent divergence. Why not a literal rendering, since the Tibetan translations of Chinese Ch'an materials are as a rule quite literal? We have the gloss of a Tibetan commentator.

The subsequent summaries of Mahayoga and Atiyoga give us the context of this gloss, since both of these tantric teachings center on luminosity (gsal ba). Of the Mahayoga thesis it is said: "All dharmas are a self-knowing brightness wherein the two truths do not exist. It is not made by a maker. The universal bright light and the infinity of gnosis are nondual. " Of the Atiyoga thesis it is said: "What is there to cultivate in the bright, bright [lhan ne lhang nge = lham me lham me] primordial light that is self-knowing, does not split, does not move, is undefiled, and does not abide?" The translator most certainly did not see wall-examining as a practice of sitting cross-legged facing a wall-an interpretation that often appears in later Ch' an texts. He saw it not as a physical posture but as an analogue of tantric teachings on all-at-once perfection. 

(bold formatting by aumdada)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Moheyan: Timeline and Timeless Zen Teaching

“There is evidence of human habitation in the Dunhuang area as early as 2,000 BC, possibly by people recorded as the Qiang in Chinese history.” ~Wikipedia

To set the stage: Dunhuang, Mogao Caves. Caves of the Thousand Buddhas. The first one is dug out in 366. Thereabouts. For Buddhist meditation and worship.

A Chan monk, Moheyan (Wade-Giles: Mo-ho-yen) travels to Dunhuang, once and future part of China but for the time being part of Tibet, in 781 or 787, to spread the Dharma. He has been schooled in East Mountain Teaching by what are now called Northern School teachers, which is not, despite belief, a gradual teaching.

In 793, the Council of Lhasa Debate between Moheyan and an Indian monk named Kamalasila takes place, although it actually took place in a monastery at Samye (where Moheyan was now situated). After the debate, which may or may not have even taken place, King Trisong Detsen of Tibet declares for Indian gradualism over Chinese subitism. Or maybe he did, and then again, maybe not.

Dunhuang, because it was not part of China at the time, escapes the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution initiated by Tang Emperor Wuzong in 845 CE. For our timeline, this turns out to be a key exemption. Nothing is destroyed.

Tenth or Eleventh century. For some reason, an abundance of Buddhist manuscripts, some of which are Chan-related, transcribed in either Chinese or Tibetan script, are sealed up in one of the caves, and forgotten until…

June 25, 1900: documents are discovered in a sealed cave, Cave 17, to be known as the Library Cave, by the Daoist monk, Wang Yuanlu.

1907: Aurel Stein purchases a selected assortment and takes them back to England. Months later, Paul Perriot, in a similar fashion, buys and transports a number back to France.

1983. One of the documents, coded S-468, revealing Moheyan’s teaching, is translated by Luis Gomez and published in Studies in Ch'an and Hua-Yen, along with other Dunhuang texts, which, Gomez speculates, partially comprise a work entitled Gate of Immediate Access to Meditation.

2013: merely copying a portion of the first section of said work here:

from Gate of Immediate Access to Meditation
(Stein 468:1 "The Sudden Path.")

1.1. The cause of transmigration.

The root of the wheel of birth and death in the world is the discriminating mind. Why is this? The discriminating mind arises from habitual tendencies [that have grown since] beginningless time. Because of this, one perceives [everything] in accordance with the [conceptualizations] that arise [in the mind], and one acts in accordance with that perception, producing fruits that agree with such actions. Therefore, from the highest Buddha down to the lowest hell, one perceives only what is magically generated by one's own discriminating mind. [On the other hand], if the [discriminating] mind does not arise, one cannot find even an atom of a dharma [on which to settle].

1.2. Sitting in meditation.

A person who understands that this is so should give up other activities, sit alone in a place that is isolated and free from noise, cross his legs and keep his back straight, without sleeping morning or evening.

1.3. No-mind.

When he enters a state of deep contemplation he looks into his own mind. There being no-mind he does not engage in thought. If thoughts of discrimination arise, he should become aware of them.

1.4. Practice of no-mind: no-examination.

How should one practice this awareness? Whatever thoughts arise, one does not examine [to see] whether they have arisen or not, whether they exist or not, whether they are good or bad, afflicted or purified. He does not examine any dharma whatsoever.

1.5. The "path of dharma.”

If he becomes aware in this way of the arising [of thoughts, he perceives] the absence of self-existence.This is called "The Conduct of the Path of Dharma."

1.6. Erroneous meditation.

If one fails to have this awareness of the arising of thoughts, or if the awareness is incorrect, one will act accordingly, cultivate meditation in vain (or, cultivate an inexistent object!), and remain as a common man.

1.7. Conceptualizations.

When a person who cultivates meditation for the first time looks into the mind, there arise conceptualizations. To this one should apply the same principles as above.

1.8. Awareness.

After sitting [in this manner] for a long time, the mind will become tame, and one will realize that his awareness is also discriminating mind. How does this occur? It is comparable to becoming blemished by bodily actions, it is only on account of the blemish that one knows that one is blemished. In the same way, one has an awareness due to the blemished of the arising of thoughts. It is on account of this [arising] that we know that we have an awareness.

1.9. Awareness is to be abandoned too.

Awareness itself is without name or form, one cannot see the place whence it originally came, nor can one discern whither it will finally go. The awareness and place where it occurs cannot be obtained by any search. There is no way of reflecting on the inconceivable. Not to cling even to this absence of thought is [the immediate access of] the Tathagatas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

More Dunhuang Yuan, the Lost Chan Master

I have previously offered selections of Yuan from Record II of the Bodhidharma Anthology (a Dunhuang text) there (where I also included extensive quotations from the translator, Jeremy Broughton) and there, but I would like to include three additional dialogues here.

The first dialogue describes seeing transgression and transcending seeing. The second concerns the view of no view. And the third describes the critical failure of all words. All three speak to seeing through all the subtle deceptions of conditionality.

Note the directness of Yuan’s language. In fact, the one Master who sermonizes is not Yuan but Chih. And Yuan blows him off accordingly. When Yuan finally speaks at length in the third dialogue, it is only to thoroughly disavow “terms and written words.” And when questioned again, Yuan simply refuses to respond, a silent ‘keep quiet.’

Dharma Master Chih saw Dharma Master Yuan on the street of butchers and asked: "Do you see the butchers slaughtering the sheep?" Dharma master Yuan said: "My eyes are not blind. How could I not see them?" Dharma Master Chih said: "Master Yuan, you are saying you see it!" Master Yuan said: "You're seeing it on top of seeing it!"

Master Chih again asked: "If you hold a view with characteristics, it is the view of a common man. If you hold a view of voidness of essence, it is the view of the two vehicles. If you hold a view of neither existence nor nonexistence, it is the view of a solitary Buddha. If you hold a view of pity and sympathy, it is the view of compassion with love. If you use mind to view, then it is the view of the followers of the non-Buddhist paths. If you make use of the consciousnesses to view, it is the view of the Heavenly Evil One. If you do not see forms and formlessness, you will no longer have views. How should one view in order to be free of all these errors?" Master Yuan said: "I have nothing whatsoever to do with these sorts of views at all, and that is what is properly called taking a view. Because you create various false thoughts such as these, you are deluding and confusing yourself."

A certain person asked Master Yuan: "Why do you not teach me the Dharma?" Answer: "If I were to set up a Dharma to teach you, it would not be leading you. If I were to set up a Dharma, it would be deceiving you; it would be failing you. If I had a Dharma, how could I explain it to someone else? How could I speak of it to you? It comes down to this: If there are terms and written words, all of it will deceive you. How could I tell you even a mustard seed's worth of the meaning of the great path? If I could speak of it, what purpose would that serve?" When asked again, [Master Yuan] did not reply.

Friday, December 6, 2013

profisee 36 - heart sonnet

some not encountering
unconditional love
confusing its truth
thought romantic love
rebel against love
and throw it away—

most mothers fathom
unconditional love
wild sharp and tough

no remembering the past
no thinking the present
no forgetting this practice

gone beyond words

Sunday, December 1, 2013

profisee 35 - song ray

visualization meditation is not
a trick of illusion
but a means to convince
what's thought reality is actually

a trick of illusion

one never knows why
but always is—
without question
rest in that declaration

earth is
and space is
and the light
of the sun
is the ray
to follow