Essentials of the Transmission of Mind

by Huangbo

Translated from the Chinese by
John R. McRae

The Essential of the Transmission of Mind is a beautiful work of Zen Art.

The direct teaching echoes back to Bodhidharma’s insistence that “Beholding the Mind” is the quickest way to awakening.

The opening paragraphs of the Transmission of Mind text are like a lions roar declaring that your spiritual enlightenment project is a foolish endeavor and what is essential is to see that this very mind of yours is the Buddha.

Not when it’s caught up in its petty wants, or when it caught in a worry or anger loop.

But to see, know and abide in that open and spacelike mind that is there knowing when you are caught in those loops.

You’ve already experienced this in those thought-free moments of no-mind like when you’re staring at a sunset, listening to the birds or walking through a forest.

That fresh, open, wakefulness.

In our tradition we call it Radiance.

Haungpo opens with,

“The Buddhas and all the sentient beings are only the One Mind—there are no other dharmas.

Since beginningless time, this mind has never been generated and has never been extinguished, is neither blue nor yellow, is without shape and without characteristic, does not belong to being and nonbeing, does not consider new or old, is neither long nor short, and is neither large nor small. It transcends all limitations, names, traces, and correlations.

It in itself—that’s it!

To activate thoughts is to go against it!

It is like space, which is boundless and immeasurable.

It is only this One Mind that is Buddha.

There is no distinction between Buddhas and sentient beings.

However, sentient beings are attached to characteristics and seek outside themselves. Seeking it, they lose it even more. Sending the Buddha in search of the Buddha, grasping the mind with the mind, they may exhaust themselves in striving for an entire eon but will never get it.

They do not understand that if they cease their thoughts and end their
thinking, the Buddha will automatically be present.

This mind is the Buddha; the Buddha is the sentient being.


Let me get out of the way now and send you off on your way with a blessing.

May you love all beings, enjoy your life and awaken from moment to moment.

Zen Master e
Sending BIG LOVE!

zen master e

Essentials of the Transmission of Mind Contents
John R McRae’s Introduction
Preface by Pei Xiu of Hedong

  1. Mind Is Buddha
  2. No-Mind
  3. The Fundamentally Pure Mind
  4. This Mind Is Buddha
  5. The Teaching of the Mind-Ground
  6. Forget the Mind
  7. Be Enlightened to the Mind, not to the Dharma(s)
  8. On Cultivating Enlightenment
  9. Misspoken
  10. A Monk Is Someone Who has Ceased Thinking
  11. The Meaning of “This Mind Is the Buddha”
  12. Transmission of the Mind with the Mind
  13. Mind and Realms, Face and Mirror
  14. Not Seeking Anything
  15. Worthy of Respect Is the Truth of the Mind
  16. Why Huineng Was Able to Become the Sixth Patriarch
  17. Autonomy

John R. McRae’s Introduction

The Essentials of the Transmission of Mind (Chuanxinfayao) is a brilliantly insistent work.

From beginning to end it repeatedly espouses a single vision of religious training: one’s own mind, just as it is and without any qualification whatsoever, is the Buddha.

And to be a Buddha is to act in constant recognition of that fact, without ever generating any thoughts, intentions, or inclinations based on selfish dualistic conceptualization.

The text explains this simple doctrine in various different ways, concatenating iteration upon iteration in relentless exhortation: the one and only task of true religious practice is to simply cease discriminating between ordinary person and sage, between sentient being and Buddha.

The preface to the text describes the mind by means of the following image: The essence of the mind is empty, and the myriad conditions are all serene.

It is like the great orb of the sun climbing into space—the refulgent brilliance gleams in illumination, purity without a single speck of dust. .

Right now, and that’s it!

To activate thoughts is to go against it!

The use of the sun as a metaphor for the enlightened mind is known from the formative early stage of Chan or Zen Buddhism, the East Mountain teaching and Northern school phases of the late seventh and early eighth centuries.

A text attributed retrospectively to Hongren (600–74), the Fifth Patriarch of the traditional lineage and the teacher of the legendary Sixth Patriarch, Huineng, contains the image of an eternally radiant sun whose illumination is not destroyed but only adventitiously intercepted by the clouds and mists of this world. Just as the sun is always in the sky, even on cloudy and stormy days, so is Buddha-nature always immanent within us.

The admonition to avoid “activating thoughts” is also a hallmark of the early Chan tradition. The ideal was to avoid even the slightest trace of mental activity predicated on the ignorant conception of the self, the notion that “I” and “mine” somehow represent a domain cut off from the rest of the universe, a domain isolated and protected by the self-defense mechanisms of the ignorant ego.

As the Essentials of the Transmission of Mind says, Just do not generate conceptual interpretations on the basis of those perceptive faculties, do not activate thoughts on the basis of those perceptive faculties, do not look for the mind apart from the perceptive faculties, and do not reject the perceptive facul- ties in order to grasp the dharmas.

Yet this is not an early Chan text. On the contrary, it is perhaps the earliest reliable doctrinal treatise of the classical phase of Chan that began with Mazu Daoyi (709–88). The central element of “clas- sical”Chan was the use of oral dialogue between teacher and students as the primary mode of spiritual cultivation.

We may be sure that trainees in Mazu’s school still engaged in seated meditation (dhyåna), but there was a palpable taboo against even referring to this subject, let alone considering it the quintessential feature of Buddhist spiritual discipline.

Instead, the real locus of self-cultivation was to be found in the intimate interaction between teacher and student known as “encounter dialogues.”

Some excellent examples of encounter dia- logue occur in the Essentials of the Transmission of Mind, but there are also admonitions against being overly attached to the words and sounds of the teachings of the Buddhas and patriarchs.

Presumably, by the time this text was compiled there was already a need to warn against excessive dependence on the oral medium.

The Essentials of the Transmission of Mind is based on the teachings of Huangbo Xiyun, who is identified in the title of the Taishø shinshu daizøkyø text as Chan Master Duanji. Huangbo’s dates are unknown (he probably died in the mid-850s), but he was a disciple of Baizhang Huaihai (749–814), who was in turn a student of Mazu. Although not necessarily Mazu’s most important disciple, Baizhang Huaihai’s retrospective status became higher after his death.

Huangbo spent part of his career teaching in Hongzhou, and Zongmi’s use of the term “Hongzhou school” with regard to the teachings of Mazu seems to refer to Huangbo. Hence during his own lifetime Huangbo may well have represented the dominant Mazu lineage.

In later years Huangbo is remembered chiefly through his connection with the great Linji Yixuan (d. 867), who is regarded as the founder of the Linji (Rinzai) school. Although there is no substantial difference between the teachings attributed to Huangbo in the Essentials of the Transmission of Mind and the Recorded Sayings of Linji (Linji lu; translated by J. C. Cleary and published in Three Chan Classics, Numata Center, 1999), in the latter work he appears solely in his status as Linji’s teacher.

The nucleus of the Essentials of the Transmission of Mind was recorded by the literati Pei Xiu (797–870). Pei Xiu came from a family of devout Buddhists with long connections to the Chan tradition, and he was closely associated with the great Huayan and Chan scholar-monk Zongmi (780–848).

It is interesting to note that Pei Xiu’s evaluation of Huangbo would have been quite unacceptable to Zongmi, who posited sharp distinctions between mainstream and splinter interpretations of the Chan religious message. Zongmi was unready or unable to accept the novel spirit of Mazu’s Hongzhou school, and it is intriguing to wonder whether Huangbo was responding to Pei Xiu’s previous spiritual compatriot in some of the dialogues found in the Essentials of the Transmission of Mind.

Pei Xiu records in his preface that the teachings contained in the Essentials of the Transmission of Mind derive from discussions between him and Huangbo in 842 and 848, and that he sent the transcript of those discussions—as he had done his best to transcribe them—back to Huangbo’s religious community in 857. It is unknown precisely what editorial forces may have been at work after this, but it is certain that material has been added to Pei Xiu’s initial recension.

The air of dogged insistence that pervades the text may be due in part to the inclusion of variant renditions of the original (or extremely similar) dialogues.

This translation was originally prepared on the basis of the critical edition and modern Japanese translation in Yoshitaka Iriya’s Denshin høyø—Enryøroku, Zen no goroku, no. 8 (Tokyo: Chikuma shobø, 1969). This was actually a group project headed by Professor Iriya, under whom I worked briefly in the past and who I know to have been a consummate authority on Chinese literature. I have rendered Iriya’s headings into English and have included them in the text for the convenience of the reader; these divisions differ from those of the traditional text only in that the first three sections here represent one overly long section in the traditional version. For the purposes of this translation I have generally followed the text found in the Taishø shinshu daizøkyø where this differs from Iriya’s edition. However, the punctuation of the Taishø edition is frequently in error, and I have almost always followed Iriya’s lead in the grammatical interpretation of the text.

Except at the very early stages of this project, I have not consulted the only extant English translation, John Blofeld’s The Zen Teaching of Huang Po on the Trans- mission of Mind (New York: Grove Press, 1958). This is not to imply any undue criticism: Blofeld’s sensitive renditions of the classics of Chinese religious literature have proved to be extremely valuable over the years, but the intervening decades of development in Chan and Zen studies mandate the appearance of new translations.

Given the widespread efforts toward the international dissemination of Buddhism as a modern message of peace and spiritual well- being, I am honored to be able to offer this contribution to the Bukkyø Dendø Kyøkai for inclusion in its English Tripitaka series.

May it serve as a catalyst for the enlightenment of all sentient beings!

Preface by Pei Xiu of Hedong

There was a great Chan master of the religious name Xiyun, who lived beneath the Eagle Promontory of Mount Huangbo in Gao’an County in Hongzhou.

He was a direct successor to the Sixth Patriarch of Caoqi and the religious nephew of Baizhang [Huaihai] and Xitang [Zhizang].

Alone did he gird himself with the ineffable seal of the supreme vehicle.

He transmitted only the One Mind, other than which there are no other dharmas.

The essence of the mind is empty, and the myriad conditions are all serene.

It is like the great orb of the sun climbing into space—the refulgent brilliance gleams in illumination, purity without a single speck of dust.

The realization [of this mind] is without new or old, without shallow or deep.

Its explanation depends neither on doctrinal understanding, on teachers, nor on opening up the doors and windows [of one’s house to let in students].

Right now, and that’s it!

To activate thoughts is to go against it!

Afterward, [you’ll realize] this is the fundamental Buddha.

Therefore, his words were simple, his principles direct, his path steep, and his practice unique.

Students from the four directions raced to his mountain, where they looked on his countenance and became enlightened. The sea of followers who came and went always numbered more than a thousand.

In the second year of the Huichang period, when I (Pei Xiu) was stationed in Zhongling (Hongzhou), I invited [Chan Master Huangbo] down from his mountain to the prefectural city. He reposed at Longxingsi, where I inquired of him regarding the path morning and night.

In the second year of the Dazhong [period] (848), when I was stationed in Yuanling, I again respectfully welcomed him to my offices. He resided at Kaiyuansi, and I received the teachings morning and night.

After leaving his company I noted down [his teachings], although I managed to get [down in writing] only one or two of every ten things he said. I have girded myself [with these teachings] as my mind-seal, but I have not dared circulate them.

Now, fearing that these inspired ideas might not be known in the future, I have finally copied them out and am giving them to [Huangbo’s] disciples Taizhou and Fajian.

They will return to Guangtangsi on Mount Huangbo, where they will inquire of the congregation of elders as to whether [what I have written] is in accord with what they formerly heard themselves.

Preface done this eighth day of the tenth month of the eleventh year of the Dazhong period of the Great Tang

Mind Is Buddha

The master said to [Pei] Xiu,

The Buddhas and all the sentient beings are only the One Mind — there are no other dharmas.

Since beginningless time, this mind has never been generated and has never been extinguished, is neither blue nor yellow, is without shape and without characteristic, does not belong to being and nonbeing, does not consider new or old, is neither long nor short, and is neither large nor small.

It transcends all limitations, names, traces, and correlations.

It in itself — that’s it!

To activate thoughts is to go against it!

It is like space, which is boundless and immeasurable.

It is only this One Mind that is Buddha; there is no distinction between Buddhas and sentient beings.

However, sentient beings are attached to characteristics and seek outside themselves.

Seeking it, they lose it even more. Sending the Buddha in search of the Buddha, grasping the mind with the mind, they may exhaust themselves in striving for an entire eon but will never get it.

They do not understand that if they cease their thoughts and end their thinking, the Buddha will automatically be present.

This mind is the Buddha; the Buddha is the sentient being.

When it is sentient being, the [empty-luminous] mind is not lessened; and when it is [one of] the Buddhas, the mind is not increased.

And as for the six perfections (påramitås) and the myriad practices, and the types of merit as numerous as the [sands of the] Ganges River—[every sentient being is] fundamentally sufficient in these and requires no further cultivation.

If the conditions occur then give forth [one’s spiritual charity]; when the conditions cease then be silent.

If you are not able to believe resolutely that this [mind] is the Buddha but attempt spiritual training while attached to characteristics, your quest for spiritual efficacy will be entirely based on false thoughts and contrary to the enlightenment [of Buddhahood].

This mind is the Buddha; there is neither any separate Buddha nor any separate mind.

This mind is bright and pure and like unto space, without a single bit of characteristic.

To rouse the mind and activate thoughts is to go against the essence of the Dharma and to be attached to characteristics.

Since beginningless time, there has never been any Buddha attached to characteristics (i.e., any Buddha associated with or defined by phenomenal characteristics).

[The teaching that one can] cultivate the six perfections and the myriad practices in order to achieve Buddhahood — this is the progressive [gradual approach to Buddhahood].

Since beginningless time, there has never been a Buddha [who achieved that state] progressively. Just be enlightened to the One Mind and there will not be the slightest dharma that can be attained — this is the true Buddha.

The One Mind is undifferentiated in Buddhas and sentient beings.

It is like space, with no differences and no deterioration.

It is like the great orb of the sun that illuminates all beneath the four heavens: when the sun rises its brightness extends throughout all the heavens, but space itself does not become bright; when the sun sets darkness extends throughout all the heavens, but space itself does not become dark.

The realms of bright and dark besiege each other but the nature of space is expansive and unchanging.

The mind of Buddhas and sentient beings is also like this.

If you conceive of the Buddha in terms of the characteristics of purity, brilliance, and liberation, and if you conceive of sentient beings in terms of the characteristics of impurity, darkness, and samsara — if your understanding is such as this, then you will never attain bodhi even after passing through eons [of religious practice] as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River. This is because you are attached to characteristics.

There is only this One Mind and not the least bit of dharma that can be attained.

This mind is Buddha.

Trainees these days are unenlightened to this essence of the mind, and they generate mind on top of mind, looking outward in search of the Buddha, and undertaking spiritual cultivation in attachment to characteristics.

These are all bad methods (dharmas) and not the path to bodhi.


To make offerings to all the Buddhas of the ten directions is inferior to making offerings to a single religious person with no-mind.


No-mind refers to the absence of all [states of] mind.

The essence of suchness is unmoving like wood or stone within and unhindered like space without.

It is without subject and object, without location, without characteristic, and without gain or loss.

Those who would proceed [to enlightenment] are unwilling to enter this Dharma, fearing that they will fall into the void with nowhere to alight.

Therefore they gaze upon the precipice and retreat, then they all seek widely after conceptual knowledge. Therefore those who seek after conceptual knowledge are as [numerous as strands of] hair while those who are enlightened are as [uncommon as] horns.

Mañjushri stands for principle and Samantabhadra stands for practice.

“Principle” refers to the principle of unhindered true emptiness.

“Practice” refers to the practice of the inexhaustible transcendence of characteristics.

Avalokitesvara stands for great compassion, and Mahåsthåmapråpta stands for great wisdom. Vimalakirti means “pure name.”

“Pure” is [essential] nature, and “name” is characteristic; he is called Pure Name because of the nondifferentiation of nature and characteristic.

[The virtues] typified by the various great bodhisattvas are possessed by all people; they do not transcend the One Mind, so if you are enlightened to that then you’ve got it.

Trainees nowadays do not look within their own minds for enlightenment but become attached to characteristics and grasp realms outside the mind.

This is totally contrary to the enlightenment [of Buddhahood].

[Take the] sands of the Ganges River: the Buddha has preached that when the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, Indras, Brahmås, and the various gods walk on them, the sands are not happy.

And when cattle, sheep, worms, and ants step on them, the sands are not angry.

When there is the fragrance of precious treasures, the sands do not lust after them. And when there is the stench of excrement and urine, the sands are not displeased.

This mind is the mind of no-mind.

Transcending all characteristics, there is yet no difference between sentient beings and Buddhas.

If you can just [attain] no-mind, then that is the ultimate [state of enlightenment].

If a trainee does not instantly [attain] no-mind but spends successive eons in cultivation, he will never achieve enlightenment. He will be fettered by the meritorious practices of the three vehicles and will not attain liberation.

However, there is fast and slow in realizing this mind: there are those who attain no-mind in a single moment of thought after hearing the Dharma; those who attain no-mind after [passing through] the ten faiths, the ten abodes, the ten practices, and the ten conversions; and those who attain no-mind after [passing through] the ten stages [of the bodhisattva].

In spite of the length of time it takes them to [attain it, once they] reside in no-mind there is nothing else to be cultivated or realized.

Truly without anything to be attained, true and not false [is no-mind].

Whether it is attained in a single moment of thought or at the tenth stage [of the bodhisattva], its efficacy is identical. There are no further gradations of profundity, only the useless striving of successive eons.

The performance of good and evil is entirely [within the domain of] characteristics.

Being attached to characteristics and doing evil, one uselessly experiences samsara.

Being attached to characteristics and doing good, one uselessly experiences laborious suffering.

Neither alternative is equal to recognizing the fundamental Dharma at a word [from a true teacher].

These dharmas are the mind; there are no dharmas outside of the mind.

This mind is the dharmas; outside of the dharmas there is no mind.

The mind is of itself no-mind, yet it is without no-mind.

If you take the mind as no-mind, you make the mind into something that exists.

Just conform with it in silence, ceasing the various [types of] conceptualization.

Therefore it is said, “the way of words is cut off, and the activities of the mind cease.”

This mind is the fundamentally pure Buddha, which is possessed by both the Buddhas and [ordinary] people.

The wriggling insects and all that has life, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas — these are identical and not different.

It is only through false thoughts and discrimination that [sentient beings] create various types of karmic fruits.

The Fundamentally Pure Mind

There is truly not a single thing in this fundamental Buddha.

It is transparent and serene, brilliantly wondrous, at ease, and nothing more.

Become profoundly enlightened into [this truth] — right now, and that’s it!

Perfect and sufficient, nothing is lacking.

One may cultivate energetically for three eons, passing through the various stages.

Then in a single moment of realization one realizes only that originally one was oneself a Buddha, with not a single thing that could possibly be added.

Looking back on the efforts of those successive eons, [one realizes] they are all false activities of the dream [of delusion].

Therefore, the Tathågata has said, “I am really without anything that is attained in the ultimate bodhi. If there were something that was attained, then Dipamkara Buddha would not have conferred the prediction [of future Buddha- hood] on me.”

He has also said, “These dharmas are universally the ‘same,’ with neither high nor low; this is called bodhi.”

This fundamentally pure mind — whether in sentient beings or Buddha, in world-systems or the mountains and rivers, in that with characteristics and that without characteristics — throughout all the realms of the ten directions, it is always universally same, without the characteristics of self and other.

This fundamentally pure mind is always perfectly bright and uniformly radiant.

People of the world are not enlightened and only recognize their perceptive faculties as mind.

Since their [understanding] is obscured by their perceptive faculties, they therefore do not witness the pure and bright fundamental essence.

If one can only right now achieve no-mind, the fundamental essence will appear of itself.

It is like the great orb of the sun risen in the sky, which illuminates uniformly throughout the ten directions without being hindered at all.

Therefore, trainees only recognize their perceptive faculties and act [accordingly]. But if they render those perceptive faculties void, so that the pathways of the mind are eliminated, they will be without any way to enter [into enlightenment].

They should simply recognize the fundamental mind within their perceptive faculties.

Although the fundamental mind does not belong to those perceptive faculties, neither is it separate from the perceptive faculties.

Just do not generate conceptual interpretations on the basis of those perceptive faculties, do not activate thoughts on the basis of those perceptive faculties, do not look for the mind apart from the perceptive faculties, and do not reject the perceptive faculties in order to grasp the dharmas.

Neither identical nor separate, neither abiding nor attached, it is universally autonomous, and there is nowhere that is not the place of enlightenment (bodhimanda).

People of the world hear it said that the Buddhas all transmit the Dharma of mind, and they take it that there is a Dharma apart from the mind that can be realized and grasped.

They search for the Dharma with the mind, not understanding that the mind is the Dharma and the Dharma is the mind.

You cannot search for the mind with the mind — you will pass through a thousand and ten thousand eons [trying] and never get it. [Such useless efforts] are not equal to right now achieving no-mind — this is the fundamental Dharma.

It is like the warrior who was deluded regarding the pearl within his forehead and who searched for it elsewhere. He traveled about all the ten directions but was ultimately unable to recover it, whereupon a wise person pointed it out and he [then] saw for himself that the pearl [was on his forehead] as it had always been.

Thus it is that students of the Way are deluded as to their own fundamental mind, not recognizing it as Buddha. They search for it outside [of their own minds], generating effortful practices and depending on graduated increases in realization.

They pass through eons of diligent seeking but never achieve enlightenment.

This is not equal to right now achieving no-mind.

If one definitively understands that all dharmas are fundamentally nonexistent and that there is nothing that can be attained, with no reliance and no abiding, no subject and no object, without activating false thoughts — this is to realize bodhi.

And when one realizes enlightenment, this is only to realize the fundamental Buddha of the mind.

To pass through eons of effort is nothing but useless cultivation. Just as when the warrior attained his pearl he merely attained the pearl that was originally on his forehead, and this had nothing to do with his ability to seek elsewhere. Therefore the Buddha has said, “I have truly not attained anything in the ultimate bodhi.”

Out of the fear that people will not believe does he (i.e., the Buddha) invoke that which is seen with the five eyes and that which is said in the five [types of] speech. This is true and not false; this is the cardinal meaning.

This Mind Is Buddha

You trainees should have no doubts.

It is the four elements that make up your bodies, but the four elements are without a self and the self is without a master.

Therefore you should understand that this [human] body is without self and without master.

It is the five skandhas that make up the mind, but the five skandhas are without a self and without a master.

Therefore you should understand that the mind is without self and without master.

The six senses, six types of sense objects, and the six consciousnesses, which combine together in generation and extinction, are also like this.

These eighteen realms are empty, they are all empty.

There is only the fundamental mind, which is expansive and pure.

Şråvakas attain enlightenment on the basis of [the Buddha’s] voice, and so they are called “auditors.” They simply fail to comprehend that their own minds generate [conceptual] interpretations on the basis of the oral teaching.

Whether through [the Buddha’s demonstration of] supramundane powers or through his supernatural characteristics, words, or actions, they hear about bodhi and nirvana, cultivate over three immeasurable eons, and achieve the enlightenment of Buddhahood.

All such people belong to the path of Sråvakas, and so they are called Sråvaka-Buddhas.

To simply right now suddenly comprehend that one’s own mind is fundamentally Buddha, without there being a single dharma one can attain and without there being a single practice one can cultivate — this is the insurpassable enlightenment, this is the Buddha of suchness.

The only thing trainees should fear is having a single thought that [such things] exist, which is to be alienated from enlightenment (the Way).

For each successive moment of thought to be without characteristics, for each successive moment of thought to be unconditioned — this is Buddha.

Trainees who wish to achieve Buddhahood [should understand that] it is completely useless to study any of the Buddhist teachings — just study nonseeking and nonattachment.

Nonseeking is for the mind (i.e., moments of thought) not to be generated, and nonattachment is for the mind not to be extinguished.

Neither generating nor extinguishing — this is Buddhahood.

The eighty- four thousand teachings are directed at the eighty-four thousand afflictions and are only ways to convert and entice [sentient beings into true religious practice].

Fundamentally all the teachings are nonexistent; transcendence is the Dharma, and those who understand transcendence are Buddhas.

By simply transcending all the afflictions, there is no dharma that can be attained.

The Teaching of the Mind-Ground

Trainees who want to understand the essential determination [of the teaching] should simply not be attached to a single thing in the mind.

To say that the true Dharma body (dharmakåya) of the Buddha is like space is to say metaphorically that the Dharma body is space and space the Dharma body.

Ordinary people say that the Dharma body pervades space and that space contains the Dharma body, not understanding that space is the Dharma body and the Dharma body is space.

If you say definitively that space exists, then space is not the Dharma body. If you say definitively that the Dharma body exists, then the Dharma body is not space.

Simply refrain from creating an interpretation [of the existence] of space, and space will be the Dharma body.

Refrain from creating an interpretation [of the existence] of the Dharma body, and the Dharma body will be space.

Space and the Dharma body are without any dissimilar characteristics (lit., “characteristics of differentiation”).

The Buddhas and sentient beings are without any dissimilar characteristics, samsara and nirvana are without any dissimilar characteristics, and the afflictions and bodhi are without any dissimilar characteristics.

To transcend all characteristics is to be a Buddha.

Ordinary people grasp at [their sensory] realms, while religious persons grasp at the mind. For the mind and the realms to both be forgotten is the True Dharma.

To forget the realms is relatively easy, but to forget the mind is extremely difficult.

People do not dare to forget the mind, fearing that they will fall into the void (i.e., the emptiness of space) with nowhere to grab hold.

They do not under- stand that the void is without void, that there is only one true Dharma body.

This numinous awareness nature has since beginningless time been of the same lifespan as space.

It has never been generated and never extinguished, never existent and never nonexistent, never defiled and never pure, never disquieted and never serene, and never young and never old.

It is without location, without interior and exterior, without enumeration, without shape, without form, and without sound.

It cannot be seen and cannot be sought after.

It cannot be recognized with wisdom, cannot be grasped with words, cannot be conformed to realms or things, and cannot be arrived at with [religious] effort.

The Buddhas and bodhisattvas and all beings that harbor life, [even down to] the wriggling insects, all share this same great nirvana nature.

This nature is the mind, mind is the Buddha, and the Buddha is the Dharma.

If you depart from the true for a single moment, all is false thoughts.

You cannot seek the mind with the mind, you cannot seek the Buddha with the Buddha, and you cannot seek the Dharma with the Dharma.

Therefore, trainees should achieve no-mind right now.

Simply conform with [the mind] in silence — if you try to use the mind you will miss it.

To transmit the mind with the mind — this is the correct view.

I warn you, do not look outward and chase after realms but recognize that the realms are the mind. [To commit this error would be] to accept the thief as one’s own child.

Due to the existence of greed, anger, and delusion there are established morality (sila), meditation (samådhi), and wisdom (prajñå).

Fundamentally there are no afflictions, so how can there be bodhi?

Therefore the patriarch has said, “The Buddha has preached all the dharmas in order to eliminate all [states of] mind. If I am without all [the states of] mind, what use is there for all the dharmas?”

The fundamentally pure Buddha has not a single thing attached to it.

It is likened to space, and even if one [attempted to] adorn it with immeasurable precious treasures, there would never be any place to make them stay.

Buddha-nature is identical to space, and even if one [attempted to] adorn it with limitless [feats of] merit and wisdom, there would never be any place to make them stay.

It is only that if one is deluded as to the fundamental nature one will become increasingly unable to see.

The so-called teaching of the mind-ground is that the myriad dharmas are all established in dependence on the mind.

If a [sensory] realm is encountered they exist, and if there is no realm then they do not exist. You must not jump to the conclusion that the pure nature is a [type of] realm.

Sayings such as, “the functions of meditation and wisdom are mirrored in explicit clarity” and “the perceptive functions are serene and resplendent” are all interpretations of realms and may only be used as provisional teachings for those of mediocre and lesser abilities.

If you wish to experience realization yourself, you must not create any of these interpretations.

If all the realms and dharmas are to be buried somewhere, bury them in the earth of being.

To simply not create views of being and nonbeing with regard to all dharmas is to see the [true nature of all] dharmas.

Forget the Mind

On the first day of the ninth month, the master addressed [Pei] Xiu:

Ever since Great Master Bodhidharma came to China, [his followers in the Zen school] have preached only the One Mind and have transmitted only the One Dharma.

Transmitting the Buddha with the Buddha, [we] have not preached about any other Buddha.

Transmitting the Dharma with the Dharma, [we] have not preached about any other Dharma.

This Dharma is the Dharma that cannot be preached about, and this Buddha is the Buddha that cannot be grasped.

They are the fundamentally pure mind.

There is only this one reality, and any others are not true.

Prajñå is wisdom, and this wisdom is the fundamental mind that is without characteristics.

Ordinary people do not move toward enlightenment solely because they willfully [exercise] the six sensory capabilities and thus pass through the six modes of existence.

If a trainee considers birth and death for but a single moment he will fall into the way of Måra. If he activates the various ascriptive views for a single moment, he will fall into the way of heresy. If he perceives there to be generation [of the elements of reality] and moves toward [a state of] extinction, he will fall into the way of the Sråvakas. If he does not perceive there to be generation but only perceives extinction, he will fall into the way of the solitary enlightened ones (pratyekabuddhas).

The dharmas were originally not generated, and neither are they now extinguished.

Do not activate the two views, and neither detest nor enjoy [things].

All the myriad dharmas are only the One Mind, and after [one realizes this] they become the vehicle of the Buddhas.

Ordinary people all chase after the [sensory] realms and generate the mind, so that the mind [has feelings of] enjoyment and detestation.

If you would have there be no realms, then you should forget the mind.

When the mind is forgotten, then the realms are empty, and when the realms are empty the mind is extinguished.

If you do not forget the mind but only eliminate the realms, because the realms cannot be eliminated you will only increase your [inner] agitation.

Therefore, [you should understand that] the myriad dharmas are only the mind.

The mind is also imperceptible (lit., “unattainable”), so how can it possibly be sought?

Those who study prajñå do not perceive there to be a single dharma that can be attained.

They eradicate all consideration of the three vehicles—there being only a single truth, which cannot be realized.

Those who say they can realize and can attain [enlightenment] are all people of great conceitfulness.

All the [five thousand Hinayanists] who brushed off their robes and left the Lotus assembly were devotees such as this.

Therefore, the Buddha has said, “I have truly not attained anything in bodhi.”

There is only silent conforming [with the mind].

When an ordinary person is about to die, he should merely contemplate the five skandhas to be all empty and the four elements to be without self.

The true mind is without characteristics and neither comes nor goes: when one is born the [mind]-nature does not come [into one], and when one dies neither does the nature go [anywhere].

Peaceful, perfect, and serene, the mind and its realms are identical.

If one can only right now suddenly achieve comprehension in this fashion, you will not be fettered by the three periods of time (i.e., past, present, and future) and will be a person who has transcended the world.

You must definitely avoid having even the slightest bit of intentionality.

If you see Buddhas of excellent characteristics (i.e., in their resplendent superhuman forms) coming to greet [and escort you to the Pure Land], with all the various phenomena [involved in such visions], then have no thought of following them.

If you see various phenomena with evil characteristics, neither should you have any thoughts of fear.

Simply forget your mind and identify yourself with the dharmadhåtu,and you will attain autonomy.

This is the essential gist [of my teaching].

Be Enlightened to the Mind, Not to the Dharma(s)

On the eighth day of the tenth month, the master addressed [Pei] Xiu:

The “transformation city” refers to the two vehicles, the ten stages, and the [attainments of] equivalent enlightenment and wondrous enlightenment, all of which are teachings established provisionally in order to entice [sentient beings into undertaking spiritual training]. All of these are the transformation city.

The “location of the treasure” is the treasure of the true mind, the fundamental Buddha, the self-nature.

This treasure does not pertain to mental calculation and it cannot be established [anywhere as a discrete entity].

It is without Buddha and without sentient beings, without subject and without object, so where could there be any [transformation] city?

If you ask whether this is not already the transformation city, then where is the location of the treasure? It is impossible to point out the location of the treasure. If it could be pointed out, then it would have a location and would not be the true location of the treasure. Therefore, it is said only that it is close.

It cannot definitively be spoken of, but if you just conform with it in your entire being then that is it. They who are called icchantikas are those without faith.

All the sentient beings of the six modes of existence, even including those of the two [Hinayana] vehicles (i.e., the paths of the Sråvakas and the pratyekabuddhas), have no faith in the existence of the fruit of Buddhahood. They all may be called icchantikas who have cut off their good roots.

Bodhisattvas are those who have profound faith in the existence of Buddhism and do not perceive the existence of Mahayana and Hinayana, Buddhas and sentient beings, all of whom are of the same identical Dharma-nature. These may be called icchantikas of good roots.

In general, those who are enlightened on the basis of the oral teaching are called Sråvakas. Those who are enlightened through their contemplation of causality are called solitary enlightened ones.

If one is not enlightened with respect to one’s own mind, even if one attains Buddhahood one may be called a Sråvaka-Buddha.

Trainees frequently become enlightened to the teachings and are not enlightened to the mind.

Although they pass through eons of cultivation, this is never the fundamental Buddha.

If one is not enlightened to the mind but is enlightened to the teachings, this is to belittle the mind and emphasize the teachings.

Ultimately, this is to chase after a dirt clod [like a dog] because one has forgotten the fundamental mind.

Just conform yourself with the fundamental mind and seek not for the dharmas, for the mind is the dharmas.

Ordinary people frequently consider that the [sensory] realms hinder the mind, or [consider] that phenomena hinder the absolute.

They always want to escape from the realms in order to pacify the mind, to eliminate phenomena to reify the absolute.

They do not understand that it is the mind that hinders the realms and the absolute that hinders phenomena.

Simply make the mind empty, and the realms will be empty of themselves.

Simply make the absolute serene, and phenomena will be serene of themselves.

Do not mistakenly [attempt to] manipulate the mind.

Ordinary people are frequently unwilling to empty their minds, fearing that they will fall into the void.

They do not understand that their own minds are fundamentally empty.

The foolish person eliminates phenomena without eliminating the mind, whereas the wise person eliminates the mind without eliminating phenomena.

The mind of the bodhisattva is like space, which is completely detached from everything.

One should lust after none of the blessings and merit that may be created [through virtuous action].

However, there are three levels of detachment.

To be completely detached from everything within and without one’s body and mind, so that one is like space in having nothing to which one is attached but henceforth responding to beings in every direction, with subject and object forgotten: this is great detachment.

If on the one hand one undertakes religious practice and dispenses merit and on the other hand dispenses detachment, without any thoughts of longing: this is medium detachment.

If one extensively cultivates the various types of good while having longings but hears the Dharma and understands emptiness and thereby comes to be without attachment: this is small detachment.

Great detachment is like the flame of a candle that is in front of you, there being no further delusion or enlightenment.

Medium detachment is like a candle that is off to one side, which may be bright or dark.

Small detachment is like a candle that is behind you, so that you cannot see the hole [into which you may fall].

Therefore, the bodhisattva’s mind is like space, which is completely detached from everything.

“Past mental states are imperceptible”: this is detachment from the past.

“Present mental states are imperceptible”: this is detachment from the present.

“Future mental states are imperceptible”: this is detachment from the future.

This is called complete detachment from the three periods of time.

Ever since the Tathågata conferred the Dharma on Kåsyapa, [his successors] have used the mind to seal the mind, and the minds [of all those successors] have not differed [from one another].

If an [ordinary] seal were affixed to emptiness (i.e., space), the seal would not create a [written] character. If the seal [of the mind] were affixed to a thing, the seal would not create the Dharma.

There- fore, the mind is used to seal the mind, and the minds [of all thesuccessors] have not differed. The conjunction of sealer and sealed(i.e., teacher and student) is difficult, so those who attain [the transmission] are few.

However, the mind is without mind, and attainment is without attainment.

The Buddha has three bodies.

The Dharma body preaches the Dharma of the transparency of the self-nature, the reward body (sambhogakåya) preaches the Dharma of the purity of all things, and the transformation body (nirmånakåya) preaches the Dharma of the six perfections and the myriad practices.

The Dharma body’s preaching of the Dharma cannot be sought with word, voice, shape, or [written] character.

It is without anything that is preached and without anything that is realized, but is only the transparency of the self-nature.

Therefore it is said, “To be without any Dharma that can be preached is called to preach the Dharma.”

The reward body and transformation body both respond [to beings] and manifest [their teachings] in accordance with [the abilities of the] persons they teach.

The Dharmas that they preach are also responses to the [differing] roots [of sentient beings] in accordance with phenomena and are used to convert [people to Buddhism], and none [of these teachings] are the True Dharma.

Therefore it is said, “The reward and transformation [bodies] are not the true Buddha and do not preach the Dharma.”

In the saying “identically the one vital brilliance, divided into six that combine together,” the one vital brilliance is the One Mind and the six that combine together are the six sensory capabilities.

These six sensory capabilities each combine with sense objects: the eye combines with forms, the ear combines with sounds, the nose combines with fragrances, the tongue combines with tastes, the body combines with tactile sensations, and the mind combines with dharmas.

Between [these senses and sensations] are generated the six consciousnesses. These are the eighteen realms.

If you comprehend that the eighteen realms do not exist, [you will understand that] the six [sensory capabilities] combine together to forma single vital brilliance.

The single vital brilliance is the mind.

Trainees all understand this but they are merely unable to avoid forming the interpretation of the single vital brilliance and the combining together of the six [sensory capabilities].

They are thus fettered by the Dharma and do not conform themselves with the fundamental mind.

When the Tathågata was in the world he wanted to preach the True Dharma of the One Vehicle.

However, sentient beings did not have faith and reviled [the Dharma], thus drowning themselves in the sea of suffering.

If [the Buddha] had not preached anything at all he would have fallen into [the transgression of] parsimony and would not have [been able to] dispense entirely his wondrous enlightenment on behalf of sentient beings. Thus he adopted skillful means and preached the existence of three vehicles.

These vehicles include [both the] Great Vehicle and Small Vehicle and their attainments are shallow or profound, but they are all other than the fundamental Dharma.

Therefore it is said, “There is only the enlightenment (Way) of the One Vehicle; the other two are not true.”

However, [the Buddha] was ultimately unable to manifest the Dharma of the One Mind, so he called Kåsyapa to share his Dharma seat and individually conveyed to him the preaching of the Dharma that is of the One Mind and which transcends words.

He had this single branch of the Dharma carried out separately [from the rest of Buddhism].

If you are able to achieve harmony with and enlightenment to [the One Mind], then you have attained the stage of Buddhahood.

On Cultivating Enlightenment

Question: What is enlightenment, and how should it be cultivated?

The master said: What sort of thing is enlightenment that you would want to cultivate it?

Question: Masters all over China (lit., “in the various loca- tions”) have taught that one should practice Chan and study enlightenment. What about this?

The master said: These are sayings to entice those of dull capabilities and are totally unreliable.

[The questioner] said: If these are sayings to entice those of dull capabilities, then I wonder what Dharma would be preached to entice people of superior capabilities?

The master said: If [you are] a person of superior capabilities, why would you seek it through someone else (i.e., through the words of a teacher)? Even the self is unattainable, so how could there possibly be any other Dharma you could figure on? Have you not seen it said within the teachings, “What can the status of the dharmas be?”

[The questioner] said: If it is like this, then seeking is entirely unnecessary.

The master said: Since that is the way it is, you can save some energy.

[The questioner] said: If it is like this, is not everything annihilated and [turned into] nonbeing?

The master said: Who has made it into nonbeing? What is it that you would want to seek?

[The questioner] said: If you do not allow me to seek it, why do you then say not to eradicate it?

The master said: If you are not going to seek for it, then stop. But who is making you eradicate [anything]? You see the space right in front of you—how could you eradicate it?

[The questioner] said: Can this Dharma possibly be identical to space?

The master said: When has space said to you that it is identical to and different from [anything]? If I were to preach a bit like that, you would generate a [conceptualized] interpretation about it.

[The questioner] said: Should not one have people generate interpretations?

The master said: I have never caused you difficulties [in the past, so why do you pester me now]? The point is, interpretations pertain to thinking, and the generation of thinking means departure from wisdom.

[The questioner] said: So one is not to generate thinking about this, is that right?

The master said: If no one generates thinking, who is to say it is right?


Question: When I said something to you just now, why did you say “you’ve misspoken”?

The master said: You are unable to speak but how could you be at fault?

A Monk Is Someone Who has Ceased Thinking

Question: All of your many sayings up to now have been explanations based on relative distinctions, and nowhere have you indicated any True Dharma to us.

The master said: The True Dharma is without confusion but your question itself will generate confusion. What True Dharma are you seeking?

[The questioner] said: If my question itself will generate confusion, what about your answer?

The master said: You should get something to reflect your face. Don’t worry about others.

[The master] also said: You are just like a stupid dog—if you see something moving you bark, not even distinguishing whether it is just the wind blowing the plants and trees.

[The master] also said: In our Zen school, ever since it was transmitted from previous [generations], never have people been taught to seek after knowledge or to seek after [conceptual] interpretations.

We have only said that one should study enlightenment, and even this is a phrase that is meant [only] to entice [people into religious practice].

Even though [this phrase is used], enlightenment cannot be studied. The study of [conceptual] interpretations in the context of thinking and rationalization will on the contrary create delusion regarding enlightenment.

Enlightenment is without location and is called the mind of the Mahayana.

This mind does not reside within, without, or in an intermediate [location].

It is truly without location.

The most important thing is not to form conceptual interpretations and merely speak on the basis of your current thinking.

When your thinking, rationalizations and conceptualizations are exhausted, [you will realize that] the mind is without location.

Enlightenment is naturally true and is fundamentally without names.

It is only that people of the world do not recognize it and remain deluded within their thinking.

The Buddhas then appear [in the world] to destroy their misconceptions.

I am afraid that you people do not comprehend but provisionally establish the name “enlightenment.”

You must not generate interpretations so as to maintain this name.

Therefore it is said, “attain the fish and forget the trap.”

With body and mind as they are, penetrate enlightenment and recognize the mind.

It is because you penetrate the fundamental source that you are called a monk.

The fruit of monkhood is achieved through stopping thought, not by study.

How could you ever succeed in your present [attempts to] seek the mind with the mind, to rely on someone else’s teachings, and to try to get [enlightenment] merely by study?

The ancients were astute, so that by hearing just a single word [of the True Dharma] they immediately ceased studying. Therefore they were called “inactive and aimless religious persons who had ceased studying.”

People nowadays only want to attain great knowledge and many [different] interpretations [of the Dharma], and they seek extensively the meanings of texts.

They say they are practicing but they do not understand that great knowledge, and many interpretations will on the contrary form a barrier [to enlightenment].

It is like feeding a child great amounts of milk and yogurt while being completely unaware of whether or not he can digest it.

Trainees in the three vehicles are all of this sort — they all may be referred to as people who consume but do not digest [the Dharma].

As it is said, “conceptual interpretations that are undigested turn entirely to poison”—all [such efforts] are to be totally attached to samsara.

There is no such [mode of attainment] within true suchness.

Therefore it is said, “There is no such sword within my king’s storehouses.”

All of the interpretations you have [left over] from the past should be completely disposed of and eliminated, so that one is without discrimination: this is the tathågatagarbha of emptiness.

In the tathågatagarbha there exists not even a bit of dust — and this is for “the Dharma King Who Destroys Existence to appear in the world.”

Såkyamuni Buddha] has also said, “There was not the slightest Dharma for me to attain from Dipamkara Buddha.”

These words were aimed solely at eliminating your thinking and conceptual interpretations.

To simply meld together superficial and intrinsic [aspects of oneself], with thinking exhausted and entirely without dependency — this is to be a person beyond all affairs.

The teachings of the three vehicles are only medicines appropriate for [different] individuals, which have been preached as appropriate [in each situation. These teachings] have been administered as the occasion warrants, and each is different. If you are just able to comprehend, then you will not be deluded by them.

The most important thing is not to maintain the text or form an interpretation of a single [individual] case or a single teaching.


There is truly no definitive Dharma that the Tathågata can preach.

In our school we do not discuss these matters (i.e., the doctrines of Buddhism).

You should simply understand that we do nothing else but stop the mind.

There is no use in thinking about this and that.

The Meaning of “This Mind Is the Buddha”

Question: For some time everyone has been saying “this mind is the Buddha,” but I wonder which mind it is that is the Buddha?

The master said: How many minds do you have?

[The questioner] said: Is it that the ordinary mind is the Buddha, or that the sagely mind is the Buddha?

The master said: Where is it that you have these ordinary and sagely minds?

[The questioner] said: At present it is taught that within the three vehicles there are ordinary and sagely [minds]. How can you say these do not exist?

The master said: Within the three vehicles it is clearly said to you that the [concept of] ordinary and sagely minds is false. You misunderstand this now and insist on grasping onto [the mind as something that] exists, making that which is empty into something real. How can this [understanding] be anything but false? And since it is false you are deluded regarding the mind.

You should simply eliminate the thinking, rationalizing and conceptualizing of the ordinary [mind] and the [enlightened] realm of the sage — there is not any separate Buddha outside of the mind.

The patriarch [Bodhidharma] came from the west to point out directly that all persons are in their entireties the Buddha.

You fail to recognize this now but grasp onto the ordinary and the sagely, racing after the external and in turn being deluded as to your own mind.

Therefore, I say to you: this mind is the Buddha.

To generate a single moment of thinking is to fall into a different realm.

Since beginningless time, [this truth] has been no different from how it is today; there is no other Dharma. Therefore this is called the attainment of [the stages of] equivalent and correct enlightenment.

[The questioner] said: What do you mean when you say “is [identical to]”?

The master said: What meaning are you looking for? If there is the slightest bit of meaning, this is to be different from the mind.

[The questioner] said: You just said “Since beginningless time [this truth] has been no different from how it is today.” What did you mean?

The master said: It is only because of your seeking that you differ from it. If you don’t seek for it, then how could you be different?

[The questioner] said: Then if it [means] “not different,” why do you say “is”?

The master said: If you do not believe in the ordinary and the sagely, who will say “is” to you? If “is” is not “is,” then the mind is also not the mind.

If the mind and “is” are both forgotten, where will you try to look for them?

Transmission of the Mind with the Mind

Question: If the false is able to obstruct one’s mind, I wonder how one is then able to expel the false?

The master said: To activate the false in order to expel the false is to create the false.

The false is fundamentally without basis, and it only exists because of discrimination.

If you simply eliminate your thinking, rationalization and conceptualizations regarding ordinary and sagely you will naturally be without the false. Then how could you try to expel it?

To be entirely without even the slightest bit of dependency is called “I have cast off both arms and will certainly attain Buddhahood.”

[The questioner] said: If one is without dependency, how can [the mind of the patriarchs] be transmitted?

The master said: The mind is transmitted with the mind.

[The questioner] said: If the mind is transmitted, how can you say that the mind is also nonexistent?

The master said: To not attain a single dharma is called the transmission of the mind. If you comprehend this mind, then there is no mind and no dharma.

[The questioner] said: If there is no mind and no dharma, why do you call it a transmission?

The master said: You have heard me say “transmission of the mind” and have taken it that there is something that can be attained. It is for this reason that the patriarch said, “When one recognizes the mind-nature, it should be called inconceivable. Clearly and distinctly without anything that is attained, when one attains it one does not speak of it as understanding.”

If I taught this to you how would you be able to understand it?

Mind and Realms, Face and Mirror

Question: But can space, which is right here, be anything but a realm [of the mind]? How could you see the mind without pointing at its realms?

The master said: What mind is it that is causing you to look at the realms?

If you are able to see [something], this is only the mind that reflects the realms.

If you use a mirror to reflect your face, even if you are able to see your features clearly this is fundamentally only an image. How can it have anything to do with you?

[The questioner] said: If one does not depend on [the process of] reflection, when will one be able to see [one’s face]?

The master said: If you are going to depend on causes then you will always be dependent on things, and when will you ever comprehend?

Haven’t you had anyone say to you, “If I open my hand to show it to you, there is nothing there”?

It would be a use- less waste of effort to explain it to you several thousand times.

[The questioner] said: If someone recognizes it completely, wouldn’t there be no things to reflect?

The master said: If there were no things, then what use would reflection be? Don’t talk in your sleep with your eyes open!

Not Seeking Anything

[The master] entered the hall and said: Rather than the hundred varieties of erudition, to be without seeking is primary.

A religious person is someone who does nothing and is truly without the numerous types of mind.

There is also no meaning that can be preached.

There’s nothing else, so you may go.

Worthy of Respect Is the Truth of the Mind

Question: What is the conventional truth?

The master said: Why should I explain the tangled [predicament of this world]?

Given fundamental purity, why bother with explanations and dialogues?

Just be without all the [states of] mind, and this is called untainted wisdom.

In all of your daily actions (lit., “walking, standing, sitting, and lying down”) every day and in everything you say, simply do not be attached to conditioned dharmas.

Every utterance and blink of the eye is identical to the untainted [wisdom].

But now, when everyone is tending toward the final period of the Dharma, all those who study the enlightenment of Zen are attached to every sound and form.

Why do they pay no attention to their own minds?

When the mind is identical to space, when it is like a dead tree or a piece of rock, when it is like cold ashes or an extinguished fire—only then will one have the least bit of correspondence [with enlightenment].

If you don’t, then someday Old Man Yama (the king of hell) will beat [a confession out of] you!

If you simply transcend the various dharmas of being and non-being, so that your minds are like the orb of the sun — always in the sky, its brilliance shining naturally, illuminating without [intending to] illuminate — isn’t this a matter that requires no effort?

When you attain this, there is no place to rest.

This is to practice the practice of the Buddhas, and it is to “be without abiding and yet to generate the mind.”

This is your pure Dharma body, which is called the insurpassable bodhi.

If you do not understand this idea, then even if you study to the point of erudition, cultivating with diligent asceticism, robing yourself with grasses and eating trees, [yet] without recognizing your own mind: this is all false practice, and you will definitely become an attendant of Måra.

If you practice like this, what benefit could there be?

Baozhi has said, “The Buddha is fundamentally created by one’s own mind, so how can he be sought within written words?”

Even if you attain the three [stages of] sagehood and the four fruits [of the Hinayana] and complete the ten stages [of the bodhisattva], you will still remain within [the domain of] ordinary and sagely.

Haven’t you heard it said, “The myriad processes are impermanent, these being the dharmas of generation and extinction”?

Its energy exhausted, the arrow falls to earth.

You bring an untoward future birth [upon yourself]—how could this compare to the teaching of the unconditioned true characteristic, in which with a single leap one enters directly into the stage of the Tathågata?

Because you are not the right kind of person, you must extensively study conceptual interpretations based on the teachings of the ancients.

Baozhi has said, “If you do not encounter a teacher of wisdom who is beyond this world, you will uselessly partake of the Dharma medicine of the Mahayana.”

Now, at all times and during all your activities you should simply study no-mind, and eventually [your efforts] will bear fruit.

It is because your abilities are slight that you are unable to make the sudden leap.

If you can just get three years, five years, or ten years, then you will definitely be able to get a foothold (lit., a “place to insert the head”) and you will understand naturally.

It is because you are unable to do so that you must use the mind to study Zen and study enlightenment, but what connection does this have with the Buddha-Dharma?

Therefore it is said, “All that the Tathågata has preached was [stated] in order to teach people.”

For example, to say that a yellow leaf was gold stopped the crying of a little child, but it was certainly not true.

If [you think] there is something actually to be attained, then you are not a member of my school.

And what relationship will you ever have with the fundamental essence?

Therefore, the sutra says, “For there to be truly not the slightest dharma that can be attained is called the insurpassable bodhi.”

If you are able to understand the meaning of this, then for the first time you will understand that the way of the Buddha and the way of Måra are both wrong.

Fundamentally it is pure and bright, without square and round, without large and small, and without long and short and other characteristics.

It is untainted and inactive, without delusion and without enlightenment.

See it clearly and distinctly, without there being a single thing, as well as without people and without Buddhas.

The world-systems [as numerous as the] sands [of the Ganges River] are but as foam in the ocean, and all the sages are as [evanescent as] lightning.

These are all unequal to the truth of the mind.

Your Dharma bodies have been since ancient times until now the same as [those of] the Buddhas and patriarchs; where could they have even the slightest flaw?

If you understand what I mean, then you must make great effort for the rest of this lifetime.

Breathing out doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily breathe back in again.

Why Huineng Was Able to Become the Sixth Patriarch

Question: The Sixth Patriarch did not understand written scriptures, so why did he receive the transmission of the [Fifth Patriarch’s] robe to become a patriarch?

The elder [Shen]xiu was the chief monk among the five hundred [disciples]. He [served as] instructor for them, lecturing on thirty-two sutras and treatises. Why did he not [receive the] transmission of the robe?

The master said: Because he (i.e., Shenxiu) took the mind as actually existing and considered that there were conditioned dharmas to be cultivated and realized.

For this reason the Fifth Patriarch transmitted [the Dharma] to the Sixth Patriarch.

At the time the Sixth Patriarch simply conformed in silence and received the intimate conferral of the profound meaning of the Tathågatas. Therefore the Dharma was conferred on him.

Haven’t you heard it said that The Dharma is fundamentally the Dharma as non-Dharma; the non-Dharma is the Dharma and still the Dharma. In the present conferral of the non-Dharma, how can the Dharma ever have been the Dharma?

Only if you understand this idea can you be said to have “left home,” and only then is it well that you undertake spiritual training.

If you do not believe me, then why did head monk [Hui]ming chase after the Sixth Patriarch [all the way] to Mount Dayu?

The Sixth Patriarch asked him, “What did you come for? Do you seek the robe or the Dharma?”

Head monk [Hui]ming said, “I have not come for the robe but only for the Dharma.”

The Sixth Patriarch said, “You should concentrate your thoughts for just a short while, without thinking of good and evil.”

[Hui]ming did as he was told.

The Sixth Patriarch said, “Do not think of good and do not think of evil. When you’ve got it just right, show me the face you had before your parents were born.”

At these words, [Hui]ming suddenly [experienced a] silent conformity [with the Dharma].

He then paid homage and bowed[to the Sixth Patriarch] and said, “When a person drinks he automatically knows [whether the water is] hot or cold. When I was in the assembly of the Fifth Patriarch, I labored pointlessly for thirty years, and only today have I been able to eliminate my previous errors.”

The Sixth Patriarch said, “So it is. Only after coming here have you understood the ineffability of [the saying] ‘the patriarch [Bod- hidharma’s] coming from the west, directly pointing at people’s minds, and seeing [Buddha]-nature and achieving Buddhahood.’

Haven’t you heard of Ånanda asking Kåsyapa, ‘In addition to the golden-threaded [robe], what Dharma did the World-honored One transmit to you?’

Kåsyapa called to Ånanda, “Ananda!” and Ånanda responded [‘Yes?’].

Kåsyapa [then] said, ‘Knock over the standard-pole in front of the gate!’”

[Question:] How could Ånanda have served [the Buddha] for thirty years and been scolded by the Buddha for being only erudite in wisdom?

[The master] said: For you to study wisdom for a thousand days is not equal to studying enlightenment for a single day.

If you do not study enlightenment, how will you be able to use [even] a single drop of water (i.e., of what is naturally provided for you)?


Question: How can one avoid falling into the stages?

The master said: Always eating your meals without ever chewing a single grain of rice, always walking without ever stepping on a single bit of earth — when you [function] like this then there are no characteristics of self.

You are never separate from all the affairs [of life], and yet you are not deluded by the various realms. Only then may you be called an autonomous person.

Furthermore, at all times and in every moment of thought don’t perceive all the characteristics and don’t recognize past, [present,] and future, the three periods of time.

The past does not go, the present does not abide, and the future does not come.

Sitting peacefully upright, letting things happen as they will—only then may you be called liberated.

Make effort! Make effort! Of the thousand or ten thousand people in this school, only three or five [have really understood Buddhism].

If you do not take this seriously then you will suffer for it eventually (lit., “there will be a day when you experience a calamity”).

Therefore it is said, “Be diligent in taking care of this life, and how could you suffer misfortune in eons to come?”

End of Chan Master Duanji of Mount Huangbo’s Essentials of the Transmission of Mind