Posted in lojong

Lojong Point 7: Guidelines of Mind Training

This point has to do with how we go further in our day to day life. This is connected to an understanding of how we can have better behavior in our relationships and in our lives in general.

 

39. All Activities Should Be Done With One Intention

The one intention is to cultivate bodhicitta, to have a sense of gentleness and kindness toward others. This is what the intention to walk the bodhisattva path is really all about. We can ask ourselves in any situation: “Is this helping or harming others?”

 

40. Correct All Wrongs With One Intention

We need to correct all the wrongs or bad circumstances that come up in our lives. If your practice is good when things are going well but falls off when things are hard, that isn’t good. Correcting all wrongs means overcoming our ignorance.

 

41. Two Activities: One At The Beginning, One At The End

Our lives should be founded in two things. One is the vow to put others before ourselves and the other is the cultivation of bodhicitta. We want to be fully committed to the practice and to stop blaming others for everything that happens all the time. Stop trying to make enemies out of the world.

 

42. Whichever Of The Two Occurs, Be Patient

Sometimes good things happen to us. Sometimes bad things happen to us. Whatever happens, we want to avoid letting our practice be swayed. We want to maintain patience, whether we are in a situation of great happiness or great suffering. This is called equanimity. The idea is to develop discipline in ourselves so that whether situations are good or bad we are able to be patient.

 

43. Observe These Two, Even At The Risk Of Your Life

You should maintain the vows you’ve taken. In this case it’s about the refuge and bodhisattva vows. But it can really apply to any vows or commitments you’ve taken. Take your commitments seriously.

 

44. Train In The Three Difficulties

The three difficulties relate to how we relate to our own weaknesses.

The first difficulty is realizing when we are being pulled around and controlled by our emotions.

The second difficulty is to manage our emotional baggage.

The third difficulty is to cut the continuity of our emotional baggage. That is, we don’t want things to spiral out of control, where we get madder and madder about something.

First it’s hard to recognize our neurotic emotional habits. Then it’s hard to overcome them. Then it’s hard to continue resisting their influence. When we practice lojong we are receiving transmission into the bodhisattva’s point of view. The idea is to transmit the dharma to yourself so that the way of the bodhisattva is constantly in your mind.

 

45. Take On The Three Principal Causes

Cause refers to the things that cause us to walk the path. The first cause is having a good teacher or example to follow. The second cause is being able to apply your focus to the dharma. The third cause is having a life that’s comfortable enough to practice and where the teachings are available.

To take the first cause is to realize how important it is to have an example to follow.

To take the second cause is to realize that you should have some control over your mind.

To take the third cause is to realize that we are fortunate to have this opportunity to practice.  Not only is human life more comfortable than any time in history, at least for everyone reading this, but also the teachings are more available. An overwhelming amount of dharmic material is available to you at any time with a simple search on the internet.

 

46. Pay Heed That The Three Never Wane

Don’t let devotion to your spiritual friends diminish over time. Having examples to follow and friends on the path is really important. Don’t let your positive attitude toward lojong practice diminish. Training our minds to be more compassionate and wise is the most important things we can do. Don’t let your conduct diminish. Behave in a way that is upright and helps others whenever you can.

 

47. Keep The Three Inseparable

Our practice of lojong should consist in practicing kindness with the body, speech, and mind.

 

48. Train Without Bias In All Areas.

Lojong practice includes all beings and all things. It’s important to include everyone. No one is left out.

 

49. Always Meditate On Whatever Provokes Resentment

Meditate on that which causes difficulty. If you don’t start with that, then when difficulties arise it will be more difficult to overcome them.

 

50. Don’t Be Swayed By External Circumstances

Circumstances in your life will change over time. But your practice should not depend on circumstances. Lojong is a mind training practice that we can do anywhere at any time.

 

51. This Time, Practice The Main Points

This time refers to right now. We have wasted much of our lives in not practicing. The three points are:

  1. The benefit of others is more important than yourself.
  2. Practicing the Buddha’s teachings is more important than study.
  3. Developing Bodhicitta is more important than any other practice.

 

52. Don’t Misinterpret

There are said to be six things we can misinterpret in our practice.

We can misinterpret patience by having great patience for everything but the dharma.

We can misinterpret yearning by yearning for material wealth instead of yearning to practice.

We can misinterpret excitement by getting excited about wealth and entertainment and not getting excited about practicing the dharma.

We can misinterpret compassion by only showing it to those who we think deserve it.

We can misinterpret priorities by working hard out of self interest but not working hard on our practice.

We can misinterpret joy by taking delight in the suffering of those we consider enemies and not taking joy in our practice.

 

53. Don’t Vacillate

Practice all the time. Don’t practice sometimes and take days off from practice at other times. Just concentrate on training the mind.

 

54. Train Wholeheartedly

Practice with all your heart. Train purely and with a single-minded focus.

 

55. Liberate Yourself By Examining And Analyzing

Look at your mind and pay attention to it. We learn so much just by perceiving our minds and where they take us.

 

56. Don’t Wallow In Self Pity

Don’t feel sorry for yourself because someone else has better circumstances with you. Just practice.

 

57. Don’t Be Jealous 

If someone else receives praise and you don’t, don’t let jealousy arise. It doesn’t help.

 

58. Don’t Be Frivolous

This one’s a bit hard to unpack. It’s tied to number 57. If someone succeeds and we are jealous, we shouldn’t pretend like their accomplishment wasn’t that special. We should congratulate them instead.

 

59. Don’t Expect Applause

Don’t expect to receive credit for even really important accomplishments. In fact, assume you won’t.

———————————————————–

That completes the 59 slogans. Thank you for taking this journey with me. These slogans are a method for transforming our lives into the path of the Bodhisattva. 

Posted in lojong

Lojong Point 5: Evaluation of Mind Training

This group of slogans is connected with the perfection of meditation. We are beginning to develop great awareness and mindfulness.

 

19. All Of The Teachings Are Really One

All of the teachings are rooted in taming the mind and managing the ego. That is the point of this slogan. We tame our wandering minds with mental discipline and we cultivate awareness to cut through our egoic minds. Then we start cultivating bodhicitta. But really these are tied together. We think of developing wisdom and compassion as separate, but they aren’t separate. Compassion develops from an understanding of Emptiness, because once we realize we have nothing to hold on to we aren’t trying to be against the world all the time. The one teaching is really opening up to the world instead of closing ourselves off.

 

20. Hold The Primary Witness

It’s said that in all situations there are two witnesses: other people’s point of view of you and your point of view of yourself. The primary witness is your insight. This slogan represents being true to yourself. Only you really know yourself and you know yourself at every moment. The only one who can judge how you are doing with your lojong practice, or with Buddhist practice in general, is yourself.

 

21. Maintain A Joyful Mind

This slogan means we want to maintain a sense of joyfulness and humor, in spite of all the little difficulties in life. We have the power to take unfortunate events as encouragement to our practice. We can maintain a sense of joy because we are on the path, because we are doing something to transform ourselves.

 

22. If You Can Practice Even While Distracted, Then You Are Well Trained

We have all kinds of distractions in life. The idea behind this slogan is that when situations come up that distract us, we should be able to bring awareness to them instead of getting frustrated. We can come to realize that we can practice in any situation, in spite of distractions and our wandering thoughts.

 

 

Posted in buddhism

On The Practice of Taking Refuge

Taking refuge is central to Buddhist teachings and practice. It’s referred to as “entering the gate”.

When we come to understand that taking refuge means that we are working on ourselves, then we understand that it’s a process of changing the directions of our lives. We work on ourselves by doing the practices that the Buddha taught to help us overcome the poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion.

We call it “taking refuge” because it is an active practice. Refuge isn’t something that happens to us. It’s something we decide to do. We are actively dedicating ourselves to walk the path. We can’t have someone else walk it for us. It’s easy to study Buddhism and to debate minute aspects of Buddhist philosophy. When we take refuge we are resolving to walk the path with diligent effort. The Dharma is something we are learning about. But it’s also something we are becoming.

Central to taking refuge is seeing the direction our lives are heading in. Do we want to continue dwelling in delusion or do we want to take steps to see things as they really are, to dwell in our Buddha nature?

Posted in enlightenment

Saving Ourselves

The path of Buddhism is called the Dharma. It is a method for saving ourselves.

I don’t mean that as a trite platitude. The Dharma will save you. Not save your soul from damnation. As Buddhists we don’t believe in that. The Dharma will save you from yourself. It will save you from your own greed and delusion. It will save you from that feeling that you are hopeless or broken or weak.

The Dharma is direct and precise. It can lead us to a state of realization that is beyond the state of delusion in which we spend most of our time. Practicing the Dharma is nothing less than the highest human aspiration. We are trying to attain Enlightenment and transcend our egoic self.
We use mind training to work on our poisons, these are the things that hold up back from our potential. Greed, hatred, and delusion are the things that feed our ignorance and keep us mired in suffering. We also work on transcending our habitual patterns, those old ways of thinking that are with us all the time, the preconceptions and baggage that we all carry that prevent us from seeing things as they really are.
We want to learn how to understand our own minds, how to accept what’s around us instead of rejecting it.

There is a truth about life that the Buddha realized and we need to realize it too. The truth is that life is painful with occasional moments of pleasure. The Dharma shows us that we can have a healthier relationship to that pain. We can experience it without letting it overcome us. We can get out of this ocean of suffering.

Enlightenment is like seeing the sun. It’s something you can do. It’s something we all can do. The most important thing about the Buddha’s life is that he was an ordinary person, like us. He wasn’t some kind of god or spirit. Because of that we can aspire to do what he did. You can do it. In fact, no one else can do it for you. It’s up to you to experience reality as it is.

 

——————————————————————————–

If you like this post, please consider leaving a small donation:

TIP JAR

Posted in buddhism, Uncategorized

This Precious Human Life

This is something we talk about in Buddhism sometimes. “This Precious Human Life.” We dwell in a vast ocean of suffering. The fires of greed, hatred, and delusion assail us throughout our lives. But when teachers talk about This Precious Human Life they’re saying that we are lucky to be here, that our presence in this world of suffering and delusion is a good thing, that we should be thankful.

It seems counterintuitive at first. One of the first things I ever wrote for the internet was an article about the Four Noble Truths. In that article I went on and on and on about the First Noble Truth, that Life is Suffering. I had evidence, examples, quotes, and charts. I really proved that Life is Suffering. But then when it came time to explain the way out of suffering I was spent. I had very little to say. I had difficulty putting any sense of positivity and hope in the Buddhist path and as a result my article was rejected and I was sort of insulted. I almost gave up writing.

(I did a rewrite and got it published almost a year later. I don’t have a copy of the rejected version, but here’s the one that got published: The Revolutionary Nature of the Four Noble Truths)

I had trouble because I wasn’t thinking in terms of This Precious Human Life. Yes, our lives are full of suffering and pain. But this human life is precious. We are lucky to be here because we have the Dharma. We are all fortunate to have been born into a time and place in which we can study and practice. People who are into teachings on rebirth will tell you that a human birth is very rare and it’s only in the human realm that enlightenment is possible. I’ll say something simpler than that and just say that we are lucky to be born in a time and place where Buddhist teachings are available and easy to find. Thousands of teachings are available to us now and for most of history they were not quite so accessible. We are lucky to live in this time. We are lucky that the path out of suffering is available.

Sometimes I wake up and I’m sad. My life hasn’t really gone the way I wanted it to and it’s not really going the way I want it to now. I suffer a lot and I think we all suffer. I can just be sad, sometimes that is what I do. I can also reflect on This Precious Human Life. That helps, knowing I’m lucky to be here now.

You should try it too.

 

Posted in heartland pagan festival

Pagan Festival 2016?

For two years in a row the Sacred Experience Committee of the Heartland Pagan Festival hired me to give Buddhist teachings during their event. It’s an outdoor camping festival in the Midwest that has been going on for 30 years. I takes place on Memorial Day weekend.

I enjoyed the first year. There was something special about giving teaching out in the woods, where people were celebrating life.

Dancing around bonfires. Walking around naked in the sunshine, in front of strangers with no sense of shame. Cavorting. Reveling. Just enjoying life and being happy. Being wild and free. Such a rare opportunity in the modern world.

Pagan camp can really be a wonderful thing and I really valued having the chance to go give Buddhist teachings in a place where other Buddhist teachers seemed unlikely to go.

And the people were really receptive. They wanted to learn about the Dharma. They wanted to meditate in the woods with me. The organizers of the festival wanted people from various religions to come give teachings, but in the 30 years of it’s existence they had never had a Buddhist teacher come  before.

So, last year when I was invited back I went again. Again I saw people who were wild and free. Again I delivered teachings to people who were unlikely to receive them otherwise.

But something else happened too.

My wife threw up in my tent. And she told me she didn’t really love me anymore. That’s the extent of what I have to say about the end of my marriage.

We are divorced now.

Now the Sacred Experience Committee has reached out to me once again.

I have a few months to decide, but I’m not sure if I’ll go. I probably won’t.

Bad memories weighing on my mind and all that.

And I’ve never camped alone.

But I do wonder if the people there really have a need for the teachings.

 

 

 

 

Posted in tattooed buddha

Perform Only Virtuous Actions

 

“Do not commit any non-virtuous actions.

Perform only virtuous actions.

Subdue the mind thoroughly.”

-The Buddha

 

This is chanted in a lot of Buddhist temples.

To me it’s the shortest possible explanation of Buddhism.

People sometimes ask me about Buddhism, mainly because I write about Buddhism on the internet and I have cool Buddhist tattoos (I think). When they do, I like to start by talking about that quote. Some people would start by talking about The Four Noble Truths or the Eightfold Path, or even the story of the Buddha’s life.

That quote written above, is direct and to the point.

The first two are pretty simple, in fact. Well, they sound simple. That last one sounds a little bit harder, which it is.

Do not commit any non-virtuous actions.

I’d like to explain this in terms of Sila, morality. In Buddhism we often talk about morality in terms of the Five Precepts (there are lots of lists in Buddhism. Get used to it).

The Five Precepts are:

1.  Abstain from killing any living beings.

2.  Abstain from taking what is not given.

3.  Abstain from sexual misconduct.

4.  Abstain from lying and false speech.

5.  Abstain from the abusive consumption of intoxicants and drugs.

These Precepts are not commandments. They’re rules that we observe only because we realize that such actions cause harm to others and to ourselves.

We can think of them in a positive way instead of a negative one:

1.  The practice of Harmlessness and Compassion.

2.  The practice of Kindness and Generosity.

3.  The practice of Faithfulness and Responsibility.

4.  The practice of Truthfulness and Pleasant Speech.

5.  The practice of Self-control and Mindfulness.

Perform only virtuous actions.

I’d like to explain this in terms of Dana, generosity. This means giving or helping others. This can be done in many ways. We can give kind and encouraging words, we can give someone our time and we can listen to someone who needs it.

Of course we can also volunteer our work to good causes and give material charity as well. There are so many ways we can help others.

Subdue the mind thoroughly.

I’d like to explain this in terms of Bhavana, mind cultivation/meditation. Meditation is said to purify the mind and make it easier to develop generosity, compassion and wisdom. Through deep meditation we can come to fully know ourselves. Through it we are able to really see things as they truly are.

Meditation is the form of spiritual practice that led the Buddha to Enlightenment. Even a short meditation, 20 minutes per day, can change your life.

All of Buddhist teachings can be summed up, I think, in these three things. Sometimes they’re written even more succinctly:

“To avoid all evil. To do good. To purify one’s mind.”

~ the Buddha.

This is it—the cultivation of morality, wisdom, and concentration.

It seems simple, but of course we can spend all of our lives cultivating these things. This is the simplest and most direct way to explain what Buddhism is all about.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

My Life

Do you know that my life exploded last year?

People reading this probably know I spend a lot of time at the local Buddhist temple these days. People reading this might also be aware that my life changed a lot last year. What you may not realize is that these things are connected.

I fell apart last year. By the end of the summer my life had exploded and everything was destined to be different. I could have made a few different choices, of course. We can always make different choices.

I don’t want to go into too much detail because I think it is too soon and it would be, at the very least, very rude. I just want to let you know that I was married and I’m not anymore.

It didn’t explode like a roman candle. It was more of a slow burn like one of those snake fireworks that just spreads out over the ground burning a slow silent death.

What I learned is that a loveless marriage can breed madness. People stay in loveless marriages every day, I think. And loveless relationships too, really. Even when it’s really easy to leave people sometimes don’t. But when it’s hard, it’s really hard. It’s easy to say, “unhappy people should leave,” but of course life is rarely that simple.

Looking back, I am so incredibly different now. I made plenty of decisions that make me think “why did I do that?”

I feel like I died and I was reborn.

Then I had to grow again.

I struggled a great deal in those first few weeks. I did things I shouldn’t have done. I made plenty of mistakes. My entire life was different and I didn’t have a clue what to do. If not for my two wonderful children I might have given up. I might have become an alcoholic or something worse.

I started working out and that’s done a lot for me. My body feels better than it ever has and I have plenty of energy. I don’t want to gloss over that because it is important. There’s a free gym in my office and I make use of it. Physical fitness was never important to me before but it is now.

Mental and spiritual fitness are important too.

I also threw myself into spirituality. I’ve always been a dedicated Buddhist, as anyone reading this knows. I spend an inordinate amount of time writing about it and reading about it too. Not a lot of things inspire me. I don’t just practice Buddhism and study it.

I love it.

 

Historically most of my Buddhist practice has been done on my own.

After my life exploded that changed.

I was just a casual visitor to the Rime Center before, as many are. I would go once in a while, but that was it. (although I did lead the children’s group for a while).

After my life exploded I became a regular. I became one of those people that goes all the time. I’m like those people who go to church twice a week and have bible study.

I go to the Rime Center three times a week, every week. And even more every time I can.

I’ve spent countless hours writing about Buddhism (as everyone reading this knows) but actually putting it into practice, especially with other people, is something different. I’m so happy to have a supportive spiritual community. Being able to go there, to add visits to the Rime Center to my regular routine really helped my put myself back together.

My community saved me. I had to put myself back together and I used the programs at the Rime Center to do it.

Now I’ve found ways to give back.

I’m leading a Zen practice group every Monday night. We’re sitting in the traditional Soto Zen style, which is completely unavailable in Kansas City. Which is weird. There are Soto Zen temples in Wichita and Omaha and Cedar Rapids, but we don’t have one.

And I’ve been given the title ‘Gegan’ which means teacher. I’m teaching classes too. I’m going to teach a class on the Diamond Sutra (the best Sutra ever) in the Spring and then more classes going forward. I’m really excited to share the teachings.

Dogen said, “The life of a Zen Master is one continuous mistake.”

I won’t go around calling myself a Zen Master. But I think I know what he meant. My life has been one continuous mistake.

But I’m getting better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in altar sutra

Altar Sutra: The Story of Hui-neng

This story was told by the Patriarch at Pao Lin Monastery and was transcribed by his students.
This teaching was attended by government officials, Confucian scholars, monks and nun, laymen and laywomen, and Taoist Philosophers.

The congregation asked him to give the most complete teaching he could and he told the story of how he came to be the sixth Patriarch.

“Our true nature is the seed of Enlightenment. It is pure and by making use of it we can Awaken.
Let me tell you about my life and how I came to be in possession of the Mystical teachings of the Ch’an School.
My father died when I was very young and my mother was poor.
We lived in Canton in bad circumstances.
I was selling firewood in the market one day when, outside a shop I heard a man reciting a Sutra.

So, Hui-neng’s mother didn’t have anyone to help her raise him after his father died. They were so poor that he had to go sell wood at the market to help support them. This was not an unusual condition for a poor family in this context.

As soon as I heard this text, I had an experience of Awakening. I asked the man what the name of the book was that he was reciting and he told me that it was the Diamond Sutra.

The Diamond Sutra is one of the most revered texts in all of Mahayana Buddhism. It is a classic of the world’s spiritual literature. It is a short text, around 6,000 words, but it has been interpreted in many different ways. The title in Sanskrit is Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra, which translates to ‘the diamond cutting perfection of wisdom Sutra. It’s been said that just hearing one line of the text can bring one to Enlightenment and that is the assertion Hui-neng is claiming.

I asked the man why he was reciting this Sutra and he said that he came from Tung Ch’an Monastery and he was being given lectures on the Sutra by the Abbot of the temple, Hung Yen, the Fifth Patriarch.
He told me that the Patriarch encouraged laity as well as monks to recite this Sutra, as by doing so they might become Enlightened.

I think it was because of good karma from past lives that I came upon this man. He gave me money to leave for my mother so I could go to the monastery and meet the Fifth Patriarch myself.
The journey to the Monastery took me thirty days.

I went to meet the Patriarch.

When I met him he asked where I had come from and what I expected to gain.

I replied, “I am a peasant from Kwangtung. I have travelled to pay you respect and I ask for nothing but Awakening.”

“You are a native of Kwangtung? A barbarian? How can you become Awakened?” asked the Patriarch.

I replied, “Although there are northern and southern men, north and south make no difference to their Buddha nature. A barbarian is different from you physically, but there is no difference in Buddha nature.”
I was given a job pounding rice in the monastery.

Eight months later the Patriarch assembled his students.

He said, “Whatever merits you gain in life are of no help if your Buddha nature remains obscured. Go look for Prajna within your own minds and write a gatha about it.”

Gatha is a Sanskrit word that means song. Students often write gathas when they gain Dharma Transmission.

“Whoever composes a gatha that demonstrates an understanding of their Buddha nature will be given Dharma Transmission and will become the Sixth Patriarch. Go.”

Dharma transmission is a custom in which a person is established as a successor in a spiritual bloodline, an unbroken lineage of teachers and students that is theoretically traced back to the Buddha himself. This system may have been created to reflect the importance of family structures in ancient China to form a symbolic ritual for the establishment of the spiritual family. Bodhidharma brought this lineage to China. He passed it on to Huike. Huike passed it on to Sengcan. Sengcan passed it on to Daoxin. Daoxin passed it on to Hung Yen, the Fifth Patriarch in this story.

The students left. They all thought that it would be Shen Hsiu, the Patriarch’s best student that would write the best gatha. They all believed in him. They decided it was not worth their time to even make an effort when they thought they knew what the outcome would be.

Shen Hsiu took notice. He saw that none of the other students were trying to compete. He was actually not as confident in himself as all of the other students were, but he decided to go ahead and compose a gatha.

He was nervous. He did not believe he was worthy of Dharma Transmission. But, at the same time, he couldn’t possibly pass up the opportunity to try.

In front of the Patriarch’s hall there were pictures from the Lankavatara Sutra as well as pictures of the Five Patriarchs. Across from these there was a blank wall.

The Lankavatara Sutra is another beloved Mahayana text. It takes places in Sri Lanka and involves a deep discussion between the Buddha and a Bodhisattva named Mahamati.

Shen Hsiu couldn’t summon the courage to submit his gatha, so he wrote on the blank wall instead. He thought that if the Patriarch read it and declared it was good, he could reveal that he had written it. And if the Patriarch said it was bad, he did not have to come forward.
At midnight he went with a lamp and wrote his gatha on the wall.
he course of four days he made altogether thirteen attempts to do so. 

The gatha read:
Our body is the Bodhi-tree,
And our mind a mirror bright. 
Carefully we wipe them hour by hour,
And let no dust alight.

The Patriarch saw the gatha and said that it was good. He had all of his students recite it.
Later, he asked Shen Hsiu in private if he had written it.

“I did,” replied Shen Hsiu, “I do not know if I deserve to be the Patriarch. Can you tell me if my gatha shows any sign of wisdom?”

“Your gatha shows that you have not yet unleashed your Buddha nature. So far you have reached the doorway to Enlightenment, but you have not entered.

To become Enlightened, one must know one’s own true nature. Once your true nature is known you will be free from delusion and will dwell in harmony.

Such a state of mind is the Truth. If you see things in such a state of mind, you will be Enlightened.
Go write another gatha and if it shows you have entered the door of Enlightenment, then I will transmit the Dharma to you.”

Shen Hsiu bowed and left.

For a few days he tried to write another gatha, but he could not.

Two days later a boy read the gatha and came to recite it for me.

As soon as I heard it, I knew that he hadn’t realized his true nature.

The boy told me about the Patriarch’s instruction to his students to write a gatha.
I composed a gatha of my own and asked him to write it next to the first one for me.

Hui-neng was raised in poverty. In that era, literacy was not the norm. Because he was raised in poverty he did not know how to read or write. This story gives us the important lesson that anyone can attain Enlightenment, regardless of education or social standing. Because Hui-neng could not read or write, he had to ask for help.

My gatha read:
There is no Bodhi-tree,
Nor stand of a mirror bright.
Since all is Void,
Where can the dust alight?

Shen Hsiu’s gatha was wise, but he was still thinking in duality. Hui-neng’s gatha tears through that duality to try to get to the truth.

Everyone that saw this was surprised. They wondered how such a wise and Enlightened individual was working for the monastery. Seeing that the crowd was overwhelmed, the Patriarch declared that I had not yet Awakened.
The next night the Patriarch summoned me to his room.

In his room, he gave teachings from the Diamond Sutra to me. When it came to the line, “One should use one’s mind in such a way that it will be free from any attachment,” I immediately became Enlightened and I realized that the whole universe is one, that when we realize our Buddha nature, we understand that we are one with everything.

“Our true nature is inherently pure. Free from the beginning, perfect. Everything is a manifestation of Buddha nature,” I said.
Knowing that I had Awakened, the Patriarch said, “For one who does not know his own mind, there is no use in learning Buddhism.
One the other hand, if one knows his own mind and intuitively sees their own nature, they are a hero, a teacher, a Buddha.”

So, he transmitted the Dharma to me and I inherited the lineage of the Patriarchs as well as his robe and begging bowl.

“You are now the Sixth Patriarch,” he said, “Take care of yourself and bring as many beings as you can to Enlightenment. Spread and preserve the teaching and don’t let it come to an end. Take note f my gatha:
Those who sow the seeds of Enlightenment will reap the fruit of Buddhahood.
Objects neither sow nor reap.

When the Patriarch Bodhidharma first came to China, most people had no confidence in him and his robe was handed down as testimony from one Patriarch to the next.
The Dharma is transmitted from one mind to another and the recipient must realize it by their own efforts. It has always been the practice for one Awakened being to pass on the teachings and the Dharma to a successor. And for one Patriarch to transmit to another a mystical teaching from one mind to another. This is the teaching of the Ch’an Patriarchs and Masters, which I have transmitted to you.

As there may be dispute among those who are jealous of you, you should leave immediately and preserve and protect this sacred Dharma. Go seclude yourself. You will know when the time is right to give teachings.”
Many jealous students of the Patriarch did pursue me. I went to a remote place to live.
A monk named Hui Ming found me. I thought he was coming to attack, but when he saw me he asked for teachings.
He said, “I haven’t come to take the robe and bowl from you. I have come to receive teachings.”
I replied, “Since you have come here for the Dharma, I will teach you. Clear your mind. When you are thinking of neither good nor evil, in that moment you are dwelling in your true nature, beyond duality.”
As soon as he heard this he became Enlightened. But he asked, “Apart from those mystical teachings and ideas handed down by the Patriarch from generation to generation are the any other secret teachings?”

“What I can tell you is not a secret,” I replied, “If you turn your light inward, you will find the secrets are within you.”
“In all of my time at the monastery I did not Awaken. Now, thanks to your teachings, I have. You are now my teacher.”
As I was not yet ready to teach, I sent him away.

I stayed in hiding for fifteen years, although occasionally I gave teachings to those I found in the wilderness.

One day, I knew it was the right time. I went to the Fa Hsin Temple in Canton.
When I approached two monks were looking at a flag that was blowing in the wind. One said it was the flag that was moving and the other said that it was the wind that was moving.
I declared that they were both wrong and the real motion was in their minds.
They were impressed by this and took me inside to meet Dharma Master Yin Tsung.
He questioned me about the Buddha’s teachings. Seeing that my answers were correct, he said,
“I was told long ago that the successor to the Fifth Patriarch would come here. Is this you?”
I nodded. He immediately bowed and asked me to show the assembled monks my robe and begging bowl.

He further asked what instructions I had when the Fifth Patriarch transmitted the Dharma to me.

“He told me that Buddha nature is all that there is, that duality is an illusion. Buddhism doesn’t really have two ways. From the perspective of the unawakened the component parts of an individual and factors of consciousness are separate, but Enlightened ones understand that they are not really separate. Buddha nature is non-duality.”

Yin Tsung was pleased with my answer.
“Your teachings are more valuable than mine.”

He ordained me as a monk and asked me to accept him as my student.

At this point Hui-neng reminds us that he was not a monk when he received Dharma Transmission. Enlightenment is available to everyone because at our core we all have Buddha nature.

Since then, I gave teachings.
We are fortunate to be here and able to lay the foundation for the successful propagation of the Dharma.
This teaching has been handed down from Patriarchs throughout history and is not my creation. Those who wish to hear it should first purify their minds. After hearing it they should each clear up their doubts in the same way that sages did in the past.”

The assembled students bowed and thanked me for my teaching.

Posted in altar sutra

Altar Sutra: The Sudden School and the Gradual School

While the Patriarch was living in Pao Lin Monastery giving teachings there was a competing teacher in the North of China named Shen Hsiu.

Shen Hsiu was a very accomplished and respected student of the Fifth Patriarch. Many people expected Shen Hsiu to receive Dharma Transmission, but it went to Hui-neng instead. Shen Hsiu’s Ch’an lineage died out, so all Ch’an lineages today descend from Hui-neng.

The two schools were sometimes called ‘Sudden’ and ‘Gradual’. Many Ch’an students wondered which school they should follow.

Seeing that many were having this difficulty, the Patriarch gave this teaching:
“The truth is there is only one School. Distinctions are not real. While there is only one Dharma, some students realize it more quickly than others.

As far as the Dharma is concerned, distinctions between Sudden and Gradual do not exist.”
Many of the followers of Shen Hsiu had negative things to say about the Patriarch and his teachings. Shen Hsiu himself, on the other hand, always said that the Patriarch was Enlightened and gave good teachings.

A student of Shen Hsiu named Chi Ch’eng came to learn from the Patriarch. They discussed the differences between the two Schools.

“How does your teacher give instructions?” the Patriarch asked.
“He tells us to meditate on purity, to keep up the sitting position all the time,” replied Chi Ch’eng.
“To meditate on purity and restrict ourselves to just sitting is not helpful,” Hui-neng replied, “Listen to my stanza:
A living man sits and does not lie down all the time
A dead man lies down and does not sit.
Why should we impose this task of just sitting?”

Bowing, Chi Ch’eng said, “Although I have studied Buddhism for nine years under the teachings of Shen Hsiu, my mind was not Awakened. But as soon as you gave this teachings I was Enlightened. Please teach me more.”

“Tell me how your teacher gives instructions in Morality, Meditation, and Wisdom,” Hui-neng replied.

“According to his teaching,” Chi-cheng said, “To refrain from all evil is Morality. To practice whatever is good is Wisdom. To purify one’s own mind is Dhyana. May I know your system of teaching?”

“I am not a teacher. I am an awakener. If I told you I had a system that I transmitted to others, that would not be correct. I liberate my students from suffering with whatever means the situation requires.
The way your master teaches Morality, Meditation, and Wisdom is wonderful, but my explanations are different. The teachings of your master are for followers of the Mahayana School. Mine is for those of the Supreme School. In expounding the Dharma I speak what I realize intuitively. I do not deviate from the Buddha nature that is inherent in all of us.
The true teaching of Morality, Meditation and Wisdom should derive from our Buddha nature.

Listen to my stanza:
To free the mind from impurity is the Morality of Buddha nature.
To free the mind from disturbances is the Meditation of Buddha nature.”

Addressing the assembly of students one day the Patriarch said, “I have an article which has no head or name, no front or back. Do any of you know it?”

A young student named Shen Hui came forward and replied, “It is the source of all Buddhas and the Buddha nature of Shen Hui.”

“I have told you already that it is without name and yet you name it.”

Again, from Taoist philosophy: “The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.” the truth is beyond words and labels.

Seeing that the students had many questions the Patriarch said, “One who walks the path should do away with all thoughts, good as well as evil. It is merely an expedient that we put a label on Buddha nature. This non-dual nature is our true nature upon which all Dharma systems of teaching are based. One should realize their Buddha nature as soon as they hear of it.”