The Essence of Zen

by Sangharakshita Preface After spending twenty years in the East, mainly in India, I returned to England in August 1964 at the invitation of the English Sangha Trust, and was for two years Incumbent of the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara, London. During this period I delivered at the Vihara upwards of a hundred lecture s on various aspects of Buddhism, including five talks on 'The Essence of Zen'. The present work is a transcription of these talks, which were given to wards the end of 1965. Though the passage from the spoken to the writte n word has inevitably resulted in a certain amount of condensation, I hav e tried to resist the temptation of recasting the substance of these talks i n more 'literary' form. In this way, I hope, I have not only remained close r to the heart of Ch'an but avoided the obvious inconsistency of producin g yet another 'book on Zen'. Despite the fact that you are now reading wit h your eyes rather than listening with your ears, in the following pages I am still just talking ... I wonder if you can hear me. Freathy Bay, Cornwall. 26 April 1973 Introduction Zen is one of the best known and most important forms of Buddhism, and for a long time I have been wondering whether to speak on the subje ct. I was aware that, in venturing to speak on Zen, I would be treading on very dangerous ground. Some people, indeed, might regard me as a tres passer on their own special preserve. However, after pondering the matt er for some time I decided to take my courage in both hands and speak o n Zen. There will, therefore, be a series of five talks on 'The Essence of Ze n', of which the first talk in the series, the one I am giving today, will be of an introductory nature. My reluctance to speak on Zen was certainly not due to any feeling of disrespect towards this form of Buddhism. I have in fact the greatest ad miration for Zen. Along with the Maha Mudra and Ati Yoga teachings of Ti bet it represents, in my opinion, the peak of Buddhist spirituality. My relu ctance was due rather to an awareness of the extreme difficulty of doing justice to the subject. I was also aware of the numerous misunderstandin gs surrounding Zen, some at least of which would have to be dispelled be fore Zen itself could be approached. However, having given series of lect ures on the Theravada and Mahayana schools, as well as on Tibetan Bud dhism - not to mention an odd lecture on Shin - I eventually decided that,

for the sake of completeness at least, I ought to overcome my reluctance and speak on Zen too. A few words about my personal connection with Zen might be of inter est here. At the age of sixteen I happened to read the Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Wei- Lang (as the Platform Scripture was then called) and im mediately had the intuitive perception that here was the absolute truth w hich, far from being new to me, was what I had really known and accepte d all the time. Like many others, I also read the writings of Dr . D.T. Suzu ki and his imitators. Suzuki's own words on Zen, with their combi nation of erudition, intellectual brilliance, and spiritual profundit y, impressed me deeply, and I have returned to them for inspirati on throughout my Buddhist life. For more than twenty years, mai nly in the East, I studied and practised forms of Buddhism other t han Zen. In particular, I practised meditation according to Therav adin methods and according to the Tantric traditions of the Tibet an Buddhist schools. These studies and practices, and the spiritu al experiences to which they led, deepened my understanding an d appreciation of Zen. This will seem strange only to those who t end to regard the different forms of Buddhism as so many mutua lly exclusive entities each of which has to be approached indepe ndently and as it were de novo. Far from being mutually exclusiv e, all the schools of Buddhism, despite their immense diversity, h ave a great deal of ground in common, so that to experience the truth of any one of them is to some extent at least to grasp the i nner meaning and significance of all the others. All are concerne d, ultimately, with the attainment of Enlightenment. Having know n the truth of Buddhism by practising, for example, a form of Tib etan Buddhism, it is therefore possible to understand and apprec iate the Theravada or the Jodo Shin Shu. Knowledge of the whole includes knowledge of the parts. In order to understand the spirit of Zen one does not always have to read books on 'Zen Buddhism', or stay at a monastery labelled 'Zen Monastery', or even practise 'Zen me ditation' - much less still learn Japanese or sit on cushions of a particular size and shape. However, had that been all, had my connection with Zen been limited to my experience of the Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Wei-Lang, my re ading of Suzuki's works, and my general understanding of Buddhism, it is very doubtful whether I should have ventured to speak on the subject. B ut fortunately there was one more link. Before returning to England in 19 64 I was in contact with a very remarkable man. This was a lay Buddhist hermit living on the outskirts of Kalimpong in two small rooms which he has now not left for at least fifteen or sixteen years. From five in the mor

Ha d it not been for this contact I probably would not have felt able to speak to you about Zen at all. I soon found. numerous sects and sch ools have sprung up. for some are extinct.of Ch'an. we might co mmit the mistake of identifying Buddhism with one or another of its expr . in meditatio n. a series of talks on Zen. Partly on account of the reasons already adduced. Probably there are several hundred still in existence. All aim at the attainment of Enlightenment. and I am sure still sits. even mutual opposition. they at first present. Buddhism has a l ong history. Despite t he fact that he refused to act as a guru. Besides possessing a thorough knowledge of the canonical liter ature of Buddhism he was. we should study and learn to appreciate them all. Nobody knows exactly how many of them there are or were. as well as of Zen or. as I ought to say . with a short break for lunch. Tibet. of unity in diversit y. or pattern. But we should not allow ourselve s to be misled by appearances. and so on. not to say disharmony. or B uddhahood. Visitors are allowed only in the evening. Otherwise. to the Western student. At the same time they approach it in a number of ways and f rom many points of view. thou gh he allowed himself only half an hour a day for literary work. and accepted no disciples. Only in this way will it be possible f or us to obtain a balanced picture of Buddhism. I finally decided to give. and diversity in unity. They are either predominantly rationalist or pr edominantly mystical. or at any rate some of the most important of them. with the whole vast ra nge of Buddhist thought and practice. and during this ti me.500 years. an advanced practitioner of the Vajrayana. Japan. Now you may have noticed that so far as these talks are concerned I h ave arrived at the subject of Zen as it were schoolwise. These schools present a picture. Despite their apparent differences.ning until five in the afternoon he sat. havi ng given courses of lectures on the Theravada. For several years I saw him regularly. in India. usually on Saturday evenings. a spectacle of unmitig ated difference. publishing numerous books on Tantric Buddhism and Zen. on the Mahayana. b y appointment.since he was Chinese . This brings us to an extremely important p oint. It has flourished in the East for 2. which he had studied in eastern Tibet. for the sake of complet eness. situating their tea ching in a historical or a mythological context. and elsewhere. These schools. on Tibe tan Buddhism. and so on. That is to say. in the course of talks and discussions I was able to learn a great deal from him. a point directly affecting the nature of the Buddhist movement not only in this country but throughout the Western world. China. In particular I was able to imbibe the spirit of Zen in greater measure. as far as possible. inclined to activism or quietism. He was moreover a prolif ic writer. and partly through being associated with different national cult ures. thu s making ourselves acquainted. are now in process of being introduced into the West.

One spea ker would sternly exhort them to rely on their own efforts for salvation. to Buddhism. and rather dry. but where. Such a course would be unfortunate as it would mean. they asked. Someti mes it seemed as though Buddhism was severely rational. be specialized. someti mes as though it was warm. But our general approach. is quite foreign to the spirit of Buddhism. were heard to remark that they had learned a lot about the Ma hayana. and ethically permissive. misrepresentations. We must remember that. to 'take up' the form of Buddhism to which we are most strongly attracted. and corruptions! But the t emptation must be resisted. to derive emotional satisfaction. it should be universal. o ne to follow. Zen. i mmediately afterwards. to use their intuition. perhaps. Going from one meeting to another. was the true embodiment o f the Buddha's teaching. There were lectures and classes on the Theravada. and this alone. in comparison. indeed must. It demands ability to discriminate what is essential from wh at is inessential in Buddhism. it is so easy. as well as a considerable amount of hard study. In this connection I remember my experience at the Buddhist Society' s Summer School in 1964. even confusing. or practise mindfulne ss of breathing. in effect. to be the true Dharma. to identif y ourselves wholeheartedly with it. another would invite them to rely solel y on the compassion of Amitabha. It demands objectivity and power of judge ment. and Tibetan Budd hism. of course. and this alone. at le ast to some extent: we either recite the Nembutsu. all schools aimed at . who in ag es long gone by had already graciously accomplished their salvation! Som e. some of t he newcomers very quickly became disheartened and confused. our overall attitude. shortly after my return from India. the Theravada. In this place we do not identify ourselves exclusively with any particul ar school. we t ake refuge in the Dharma. from proclaiming this. and oth er deities. s hould be as broad as possible. perh aps. in another. strictly ascetic. it was inevitable that sooner or later we should get round to Zen. This synoptic kind of approach is. a very difficult. maintaining that this. indeed. mystical. Indeed. adopting an attitude of sectarian exclusiveness which. and all the other forms travesties. After all. despite their contradictions. the Buddha of Infinite Light. bodhisattvas. and various other schools.essions. however. light eventually dawned. th ough unfortunately characteristic of most forms of Christianity until rece nt times. and by the end of the week they h ad begun to realize that. Therefore. or visualize a mandala of Buddhas. as most of them did. Mahayana. was Buddhism? When were they going to hear about that? For most of th em. Our line of spiritual practice may. having dealt with so many other forms of Buddhis m. not in the teachings of this or that particular sc hool. as Buddhists. In one cla ss they would be told to think. Most of us shrink f rom the effort involved.

representing the emotional and devotion al aspect of the spiritual life. However comprehensive and objective we try to make them. and in the speakers' class. We have had the same type of experience in our speakers' class. concentration (samadhi). another devoted the whole of her talk to the subject of meditation. while inevitably falling wide of the central point of the incommunicable e ssence of Buddhism. Though the subject was th e same. one of the most ancient and important of the 'numerical lists' in which. the Buddha's teaching was preserved. active and contemplative. On the other hand wisdom. were asked to speak f or twenty minutes each simply on 'Buddhism'. lines which between them demarcated an area. 'is the hobgoblin of little minds. int ellectual and emotional. It was as though all. illustrates. As my experience at the s ummer school. more intuitive. and so on. within which B uddhism could be found and experienced. at different angles. vigour (virya). from an early dat e. persecution mania. they produced four completely different talks. At the same time.in short. the talks c ould hardly have been more dissimilar.' On the psychological plane Buddhism attaches great importance to ha rmony and balance. Faith. and mindfulness (smriti). Another did not mention the Buddha at all. or described a figure. which stands for the intellectual . On o ne occasion four people. and justice must be done to them all. the two men's app roach to the subject was noticeably more intellectual. While one speaker gave a systematic exposition of the Fou r Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. fanaticism. and intolera nce. wisdom (prajna). all four talks were recognizably about the same thing . one-sided. This is illustrated by the doctrine of the Five Spiritual Faculties. In fact.' said Emerson. all must b e cultivated and developed. must be balanced by wisdom. despite their different approaches. One of the four included a detaile d account of the life of the Buddha. in aiming at it drew. The Five Spiritual Faculties are f aith (shraddha).Enlightenment. . two men and two women.Buddhism. To begin with. our approaches to Buddhism are inevitabl y limited and conditioned . and a perfect equilibrium maintained. that of the women. We should not be afraid of contradictions. 'A foolish consistency. all were concerned with one or another aspect of the sa me transcendental Reality. In the spiritual as in the secular life. one way in which w e can transcend this one-sidedness is by juxtaposing contradictory formu lations of Buddhism in such a manner that we not only experience their c ontradictoriness but realize that they are equally valid expressions of a s piritual experience that forever eludes the logical categories of the discri minative mind. This is one of the benefits to be derived from a comprehe nsive study of different schools of Buddhism.better. otherwise it r uns riot in religious hysteria. Human nature has a number of different aspects.

is the Japanese corruption of the Chi nese corruption. divorced from which concentration is aimless reverie. is represented on the theoretical side by th e Yogachara and on the practical side by the school which is known. The Chinese term ch'an'na is a corruption of the Sanskrit dhyana. correspond to the Five Spiritual Faculties. with its highly emotional wors hip of the Buddhas. zen for short. without which it speedily degenerates into hair-splitting scholasticism. also one of the schools of the Mahayana . that keeps faith and wis dom. This is indicated by the very name of the school.requires no counterbalancing fa culty to hold it in check. which in its e soteric form integrates not only the mind but the physical energies of bre ath and semen. with its rigorously dialectical approach to Reality. This correspondence between the schools of the Mahayana and the Fi ve Spiritual Faculties gives us an important clue to the nature of Zen. 'Mindfulnes s is always useful.one can't have too much mindfulness . kinetic aspect of the spiritual life. Mindfulness it is. and these. that of concentration. in the faculty of faith. and co ncentration itself by vigour. both historical and 'legendary'.' the Buddha once declared. or neurotic withdrawal. indeed. The Madhyamaka School. without which vigour is either animal high spirits or neurotic restlessness. and vigour and concentration. must be balanced by faith. Besides being one of the schools of Buddhism. contemplative counter-tendency. must be balanced by concentration. The faculty of mindfulness is represented by the s pirit of tolerance which is diffused through all the schools and which hold s them together as 'moments' in the Mahayana. concentrates on the faculty of vigour. in its Japanese form. Vigour. At the same time. Thus the Zen School is really the Dhyana or Meditation School. In the Mahayana four major schools.concept. Quit e simply. Zen has its own distinctive features. represents a specialization. What Conze t erms the Buddhism of faith and devotion. r epresenting the introspective. as Zen. Manjushri. . or 'School of t he Mean'. as it were. while zen-na.the second of the three grea t stages of historical development into which Indian Buddhism traditiona lly falls. being by its very nature incapable of going to extremes . This becomes o bvious as we go a little deeper into the meaning of the word meditation. and Tara. more specificall y. The fourth spiritual faculty.aspect. in a state of equilibrium. it is that aspect of Mahayana Buddhism which emphasizes the i mportance of meditation. and specializes therein. Zen is. the general Indian word for meditative practice and exp erience. can b e distinguished. the r emaining faculty. morbid introspection. and of bodhisattvas s uch as Avalokiteshvara. or types of approach. Mindfulness. represents a specialization in the faculty of wisdom. or the activ e. as I have explained in detail in my book A Sur vey of Buddhism. Similarly the Tantra.cognitive or gnostic .

however.' Prajna of course means wisdom.. in my system samadhi and prajna are fundamental. Without it. and vice versa. It i s the same case with samadhi and prajna. and it is unknown to Western Buddhists. of samadhi and praj na. has never a ppeared in English before. The lamp is the quintessence of the light and the light is the expression of the lamp. and it is in the sa me sense that samadhi is to be understood when it is enumerated as the second of the three great stages of progress into which the spiritual path is divided. With the lamp. As one of the Five Spiritual Faculties... 'Learned Audience. 'samadhi and prajna . there is light. the type of Buddhism co dified in. the Ch'an of Hui-Neng. are analogous to a lamp and its light. while prajna is the activity of samadhi. the sixth Chine se patriarch of the Zen School. Hui-Neng says. In n ame they are two things. or concentration. for they are inseparably united and ar e not two entities.the classical methods of concentratio n such as counting the breaths and cultivating a spirit of universal love w hich were taught by Gautama the Buddha and are common to practically all forms of Buddhism. samadhi means si mply one. A disciple should not think that there is a distinction between "samadhi begets prajna" and "prajna begets samadhi ". In the Mahayana sutras which form the background of Hui-Neng's teaching. which sheds much light on the nature of Zen.Neng was equating with prajn a was samadhi in the sense of mental concentration.e. Samadhi is the quintessence of prajna. this extremely important traditiona l classification. i. At the very moment that we attain prajna. This refers to the Platform Scripture's teac hing of the identity. and nowadays represented by. but in substance they are one and the same. the first stage being shila or morality and the third prajna or w isdom.pointedness of mind. including Zen. So far as I know. thus making nonsen se of the entire scheme of Buddhist spiritual self-development. or state of consc ious spiritual emancipation of the Theravadin texts. But what does samadhi mean? Here there is a great deal of confusion to be cleared up.According to the remarkable man previously mentioned there are four ki nds of Ch'an or Zen. In Zen monasteries the beginner is taught these methods and often practises nothing else for several years. or at any rate the inseparability. But do not be under the wrong impression that these t wo are independent of each other. Secondly. the Theravada. I ther efore hope it will be of interest to you. In the Ma hayana sutras samadhi corresponds to the chetovimutti. This is the meaning of the term in what we may call general Buddhism. Confusion ha s been created in the minds of Western students of Zen because they wr ongly assume that the samadhi which Hui. it would be dark. Firstly there is Tathagata Ch'an . Patriarchal Ch'an. samadhi has a quite different meaning. samad hi is therewith.' Further. in the sense of transcendental wisdo m. rather than to samad .

sixt h. Instead of quoting t he scriptures and discoursing at length on the philosophy and practice of Zen in the traditional manner.samadhi (concentration) . and almost a patriarchal succession of its own. and actions. as even Hui-Neng does. a gesture.of all the phenomena of existence. that it was common enough in China too. is concerned with the re alization of samadhi-prajna. When my friend in Kalimpong told me about this kind of Ch'an I remarke d that it was very common in the West. sentences. this kind of Ch'an t ries to bring about the experience of Enlightenment in a more direct and concrete manner with the help of seemingly eccentric and bizarre words. especially by the great masters of the fourth.samad hi-prajna = Buddhahood. out of compassion for sincere seekers after truth who were being deceived and misled by the exponents of Mouth Ch'an. but maha-prajna. Prajna o r wisdom is the objective aspect of actual manifestation and function in t he world. and unsoul ed nature of conditioned things. and never do any practice. the fourth. according to HuiNeng.hi in the sense of concentration. While Tathagata Ch'an is concerned with the practice of concentration. the second term in the series. Collating the general Buddhist teac hing with that of the Mahayana sutras we may say that. Whereas Tathagata Ch'an and Patriarchal Ch'an are Indian in form. This is Ch'an as taught by the spiritual descen dants of Hui-Neng. fifth. when I showed him an ar ticle on Zen in a Western Buddhist magazine. Patriarchal Ch'an. Offspring Ch'an. But soon the laughter changed to tear s. In the course of the next four weeks I shall try to do justice to what Ze n has in common with other schools of Buddhism as well as to its own di . reali zation of the Voidness . and he wept bitterly. the entire system of Buddhist spiritual training may be expressed i n the formula shila (morality) . Mouth Ch'an. rather sadly. he burst into roars of laugh ter after reading a few sentences. a roar of laughter. such as a sudden shout. consisting of insight into the unsatisfactory. or write books and articles about it. where it was the dominant schoo l. This is the Ch'an of people who merely talk ab out Zen. Offspring Ch'an is characteristically Chinese. with many distinguished masters. Mahayana samadhi may well be said to be Enlightenment in its subjective aspect of personal realization.not emptiness but absolute unconditioned Realit y . On another occasion. This prajna is not the ordinary prajna of the general Buddhist teachin g. the two of course being inseparable. Thirdly. He replied.prajna . even in the old days. or a blow with a sta ff. Fourthly. or Great Wisdom. and seventh generations. who became the founders of the five Ch'an 's ects' of China. impermanent. These are the celebrated kung-ans (Japanese koa ns: literally 'public documents') or 'concurrent causes' of Enlightenment.

Bef ore telling you what this verse is. mak e the sensitive reader aware of the limitations of the intellectual approac h. cannot be understood independently.read. Zen intellectuals of this type are liable to s nap back. misunderstanding will be avoided. it is hoped. as if to convince the unconverted. Such. and is absolutely futil e. and its monastic organization and ordination lineage. very much to their own satisfaction. as 'the indefinable'. for example. so it seems to me. The terminology and techniques of Zen. In these books they usually argue at gre at length. have all been taken over from Buddhism. So thoroughly do they understand the need for practice that the idea of actually practising Zen themselves never occurs to them. the three causes for much of the current Western misunde rstanding of Zen. Any other c .' Secondly. and even af ter being given the special development. Zen is an integral part of the total Buddhist tradition. usually those of Suzuki. As we have alrea dy seen. As though with one voice they urge him to practise Zen. at present a nu mber of books on Zen are available which are probably as reliable as boo ks on Zen can be. on the basis of their readi ng and their intellectual knowledge of Zen. 'I do my meditation while I'm waiting for the traffic lights to ch ange. Thoughtfully . In the beginning this is. Instead. Zen is u sually defined. w orks of this nature. tha t makes them Zen. let me briefly touch upon what are. By this means. its spiritual ideal. If questioned about meditation.stinctive features. If we are in per sonal contact with an enlightened Zen master and are prepared to follow his instructions implicitly. we try to understand Zen apart from Buddhism. Fortunately. But so long as we do not have this advantage we have no alternative but to study Zen as part of Buddhism. After several hundred pages of discussion. its scriptures. are the three volumes of Charles Lu k's Ch'an and Zen Teaching and Trevor Leggett's First Zen Reader and The Tiger's Cave. as well as its doc trines. The first cause is our purely intellectual approach. unavoidable. besides conveying something of the spirit of Zen. they set to work and produce yet another book on the subject. of course. Unfortunately. This is like t rying to understand the acorn apart from the oak.one might even say contemplatively . it is that aspect of the Mahayana which specializes in the practic e of meditation. that the intellect is a hindrance. the characteristic emphasis. The subject will be dealt with by way of a consideration of a popular traditional verse widely regarded as embodying the essence of Zen. we need not bother about Buddhism. only too many people seem to have a perfect intellectual understanding of the fact that Zen cannot be intellectually understood. and that one should cu ltivate one's intuition. Most Western stude nts derive their knowledge of Zen from books. We need not bother even about Zen. that books cannot tell you an ything about Zen.

Some even think that Ze n is Japanese. therefore. 'Aha. 'There it is!' one does not stand with eyes riveted on the finger. I hope. In the same way all the te achings and methods of Zen are so many pointers to the experience of E nlightenment. No dependence upon words and letters. Seeing into one's own nature and realizing Buddhahood. we shall take up one line for stu dy. They fail to realize that these are not Zen itself but only expressions of Zen within a certain Far Eastern cultural context. is Zen. or judo. Each of the four lines of the verse represents a fundamental principle of the Zen School. Some Western st udents of Zen. The verse reads: A special transmission outside the scriptures. Whenever anybody mentions Ze n. A Special Transmission Outside the Scriptures . The last of the three main causes for our misunderstanding of Zen is t hat we mistake the finger for the moon. when one asks. the latter. thus approaching nearer to Enlightenment and broadening and enri ching our understanding of the whole Buddhist tradition. One looks from the finger to the moon. they think. Others think that the tea ceremony is Zen. on e could go so far as to say that Zen had nothing whatever to do with Japa n. Each week. Giving thirty blows. instead of answering. therefore. In this way. they explain triumphantly. or kara te. thirty blows for you!' and th ink that they have thereby demonstrated their superior understanding of Zen. fascinated by the apparently bizarre sayings and doings of the later Zen masters. If one wanted to be paradoxical. For instance. In the coming weeks we shall try to avoid misunderstandings of Zen s uch as those I have described. According to the Buddhist sayin g. Direct pointing to the mind. they r ead that when disciple so-and-so questioned Master such-and-such abou t Zen. or kendo. H e utilizes them as helps to the attainment of liberation. Now for our verse. we shall acquire some insight into the essence of Zen. It is said to have origin ated during the T'ang dynasty in China. but nobody knows who compose d it. gave him thirty blows with his staf f. 'Where is the moon?' and somebody points it out with his finger saying.ourse would be as futile as trying to understand the origins and nature of Methodism without reference either to the Church of England or to Chris tianity. not to say provocative. however. The disciple does not take them for ends in themselves. think that this is Zen.

have the Bible. from generation to generation. a numb er of questions suggest themselves. t he first line of our verse. But is this line. Much. Similarly Buddhists have what is known as the Tripitaka. however. Some.. Much. The Tripitaka is therefore the 'three basketfuls' or 'three col lections' of Buddhist sacred texts. for example. suggest that the term refers to the way in which e arth and other excavated material was passed from hand to hand in bask ets down a line of workmen. of oral transmission was the teaching com mitted to writing. historical. Only after five h undred years. In the same way the monks handed down th e sacred traditions. really so simple as it appears? 'A special transmi ssion outside the scriptures. including the circumstan ces in which these are promulgated. Secondly. the Abhidharma Pitaka or 'Collection of Higher Doctrine'. The 'three basketfuls' or 'three collections' are. Like Socrates and Christ. All the religions of the world possess sacred books. First of all the scriptures. Had we encountered it in a b ook we probably would not have given it a second thought. for convenience of reference. assuming as a matter of course that we understood what was meant. the Sutra Pi taka or 'Collection of Discourses.. Thirdly. approximately. If we give ourselves time to think. What are the scriptures? What is meant by a 'transmission'. The Buddha himself. and Hi ndus the Vedas. perhaps. or a 'speci al transmission'? What is meant by 'outside'? Let us examine each of thes e in turn. Christians. of course. Muslims the Koran. in the e arly days of Buddhism the bundles of palm-leaf manuscript on which the texts were inscribed were divided. and Sayings of the Buddha' o n various moral and spiritual topics. according to subject matter. Dialogues. In its present form this consists m ainly of the rules governing the Monastic Order. and doctrinal matter.'. firstly. Traditionally the entire contents of the Tripitaka are regarded as Budd ha-vachana or 'Word of the Buddha'. first in oral and then in literary form. The original nucleus of this pit aka seems to have been a short life of the Buddha. into three groups that were kept. 'collection'. by extension of meanin g. wrot e nothing. This is the most important collectio n. he taught orally. in three wicker cont ainers. had been added.At first sight the idea of a special transmission outside the scriptures s eems quite simple and easy to understand. According to some authorities. no doubt. they told theirs a nd in this way the teaching was transmitted to posterity. This i s a systematic arrangement and scholastic analysis of material found in t he Sutra Pitaka. Tri means 'three'. the Vinaya Pitak a or 'Collection of Monastic Discipline'. while pitaka means 'basket' or. interspersed with a great deal of bio graphical. had . Those who rememb ered what he had said told his sayings to their disciples.

Thirdly. and Bays' translation of the Lalitavistara. are eagerly devoure d. Tri-pitaka) in 55 volumes. The three editions of the Tripitaka possess a great deal of material in c ommon. Since this book was first published. An extensive bibliography of tr . Consequently their knowledge of Budd hism remains vague and superficial. for example. indeed. Even when allowance is made for overlapping. the Pali Tipitaka has been t ranslated almost in its entirety. appear to read anythi ng rather than the scriptures. Kern has translated the Saddharma-Pundarik a. c onsisting of more than thirty independent works. Classics of Christian mysticism. Some. Very few study regularly and systematically even a tithe of what has been translated. Thomas Cleary's translation of the Avatamsak a Sutra. Both these editions consist mainly of tra nslations from the Sanskrit. Suzuki the Lankavatara. an even greater part of it remains untranslated. The biggest difference is that while the Chinese and Tibetan edit ions include the Mahayana sutras the Pali edition omits them. Izumi the Vimalakirti-Nirdesha. Unfortunatel y. books abou t Pak Subuh. secondly.662 i ndependent works. but the Chinese San Tsang. many more translations of Mahayana text s have become available. This is th e only version of the canon to have survived complete in the language in which it was originally compiled.e. even the romances of Lobsang Rampa. Lamotte the Sa ndhinirmochana (in French). while essential texts like the Diamond Sutra and the Sutta-Nipata rema in unread. the Pali Tipitaka in 45 volumes (Royal Thai edition). At present there are extant in the Buddhist world three major editions of the Tripitaka: firstly. Th ough much of this vast literature has been translated into English and ot her European languages. contains 1. The Bible consi sts of 64 books. A number of the most important Mahaya na sutras are also available. several of them almost as long as the entire Bible. the Tibetan Kanjur ('Buddha-v achana') in 100 or 108 volumes. the Chinese San Tsang or 'Three Treasuri es' (i. Thurman's translation of the Vimalakirtinirdesa. Thanks to the labours of the Pali Text Society. Luk the Surangama.been lost.* A great deal of basic material is thus available for study. the Buddhist scriptures are far more voluminous than those of any other religion. Above all. Emmerick's translation of t he Suvarnaprabhasasottamasutra. Among the more important are included Schiffer and T amura's revision of Soothill and Kato's translation of the Saddharmapundarika S utra. the majority of English Buddhists and students of Buddhism fail to take advantage of the fact. in the greates t individual achievement in this field in modern times. Conze has translat ed the whole Prajnaparamita or 'Perfection of Wisdom' group of sutras. many of the original texts having since been l ost.

Western advocates of Zen. They forget t hat if he did in fact do any such thing (there is no mention of the incident in the Platform Scripture) it was only after realizing the import of the Sutr a and that. for instance. are trying to attain and what is the m ethod of its attainment.anslations is included in Andrew Skilton's A Concise History of Buddhism. if we want to take up engineering. but Suzuki and a host of lesser lights are hearkened to wit h eager attention. * This is not to say that there is anything wrong in reading the classics of Christian mysticism and deriving inspiration from them. After all. But if we want to participate in the spiritu al riches of Buddhism the effort to understand them must be made. are often unattractive in form and o bscure and difficult in content. he probably knew the entire text by heart. But if one consid ers oneself a Buddhist and claims to be seriously following the path of th e Buddha. or even pig-breeding. Such a teacher is difficult t o come by even in the East. The answer might surprise you. It is interesting to observe that those who neglect. The only thing that can absolve us from study of the scriptures is regular personal contact with an Enlightened teacher. it is strange that one should not make every effort to acquaint oneself with the basic literature of the subject. including followers of Zen. In the absence of personal contact of this kin d the scriptures are indispensable. we have to put in a certain amount of intellectual hard work: we have to study. or medicine. w ho is the living embodiment of the scriptures. when it was that you last read a tra nslation of one of the Buddhist sacred books. and the Kwannon Sutra are not only studied but learned by heart and liturgically recited as an aid to the spiritual life. as Bu ddhists. try to rationalize the situation and justify themselves. In them are contained the original records of the transcendental experiences of the Buddha and his Enlightened disciples. . and then depreciate. we cannot bypass the scriptures. the Sixth Chinese Patriarch. of course. publis hed by Windhorse Publications. the primary sources. are fond of citing the example of Hui-Neng. the Heart Sutra. therefore. In Zen monasteries scriptures like the Diamond Sutra. No doubt the Buddhist scr iptures. Without a preliminary intellectual understandin g of these records we have no means of knowing what it is that we. whom Far Eastern Buddhist art so metimes depicts in the act of tearing up the Diamond Sutra. Some. Buddhism demands no less. Ask yourselves. The word of the Buddha resou nds unheeded. Whether our interest is in Buddhism in general or in one or another of its special forms. in any case. can be fanatical i n their devotion to quite secondary ones. those of yo u who consider yourselves Buddhists. even in the best translation.

bhikshuni). A lay brother or lay sister. from theft. all strongly altr uistic in emphasis. as well as from greed. What is meant by this? According to th e dictionary the literal meaning of the word transmit is 'to send across'. or bodhisattva. In special circumstances self-ordination is permitte d. a lso to pass on or hand down. or rather. This transmission takes place between master and disciple. On the biological plan e. hatred. Both monks and nuns renounce the household life. Four principal transmissions are enumerated: (1) Transmission of Ordination. There are a number of different types of transmission of Buddhism. devote all their energies to the realization of nirvana. or special transmission. A monk must be ordained by a chapter of not less than five other monks including an elder (sthavira) or monk of at least ten years' st anding in the Order. may in addition be ordain ed as a bodhisattva. Now we come to the tran smission. A bodhisattva is ordained ideally by a Buddha. the axis upon which the whole world of Buddhism turn s. The lay bro ther or lay sister. The four most important clauses relate to abstention from sexual intercourse. and wrong views. that is to say. and Sangha and undertakes to o bserve the Ten Precepts. Nuns require a double ordination. Hence the importance of this relation ship. He (or she) develops the Will to Enlightenment for the sake of all sentie nt beings and observes a rule consisting (according to the Indo-Tibetan tr adition) of eighteen major and forty-six minor provisions. in fact.So much for what is meant by the scriptures. ther e is a transmission of Buddhism. the transmission can take place on different levels. who can be ordained by any monk. or monk or nun. . but in practice by an y senior bodhisattva. These three categories of ord ained persons make up the Sangha or Spiritual Community in the socio-e cclesiastical sense of the term. or the Dharma. nun. as a monk or nun (bhikshu. Broadly speaking ordination is of three kinds: as a lay brother or lay sister (upasaka. life is transmitted from parents to children. and from making false claims to spiritual attainm ents. h arsh. On the spiritual plane. to abstain from harming living bei ngs. goes for refuge to the Buddha. something handed down. It is. Dharma. from taking what is not given. and observe a basic rule of 150 clauses. and as a bodhisattva. upasika). frivolous. from sexual misconduct. from false. and backbiting speech. once by a chapter of monks and once by a chapter of nuns. The three kinds of ordination are not mutually exclusi ve. In the Mahayana Buddhist world bodhisattva ordinat ion tends to supersede all other kinds of ordination. from murder an d incitement to suicide. Here we have the idea of Buddhism itself as something transmitted. Each ordination involves the adoption of a certain spiritual attitude and the observance of a certain rule.

But they continued to be the custodians of the correct interpretation o f the texts. More truly s ystematic are the shastras. in this context. Traditionall y. They alone had time for the prodigious feat of memoriza tion involved. such as the Abhidharma treatises. the Sautrantikas. In some parts of the Buddhist world one is still not considered to have mastered the scriptures unless one has studi ed them with a teacher. transmissions of the do ctrine. These books. Ev entually the manuscripts were printed in book form. This interpretation was often embodied in commentaries. Students are permitted to read or recite a sacred text only after it has been read aloud in their ear. of naive re . perhaps e ven during his lifetime. the Vijnanavadins. In India th ere were four different. the correct interpretation. These were s ystematic presentations of the teaching in terms. The expression m ay be considered roughly equivalent to the terms 'Buddhist thought' and 'Buddhist philosophy'.(2) Transmission of the Scriptures. thoug h.the Five Aggregates. whi ch gave not the author's personal understanding of the texts so much as the traditional interpretation which he had received from his teachers alo ng with the texts themselves. at the same time. the Ni ne Holy Persons. in terms of a logically coherent intellectual structure. These were more or less complete enumerations of the various sets of related doctrinal topics . with explanations. which can be done only with the help of a teacher 'in the succession'. After centuries of oral transmission his words were com mitted to writing and preserved in the form of palm-leaf manuscripts. of course. Some texts. one of the principal functions of the monks was to preserve incorrupt t he pure and authentic word of the Buddha. Tibetan B uddhism still retains the institution of lun or 'authorization'. Such presentations seem to have originated with t he 'lists of lists' which were compiled after the Buddha's death. By 'doctrine' is meant. the Five Bo oks of Maitreya. Reading the printed page by oneself is not suffici ent. the Buddha himse lf wrote nothing. respectively. constitute the Buddhist scriptures. the importance of the monks as preservers and transmitters diminishe d. as contained in the scripture s. and the Madhyamikas. and so on . for mnemonic pu rposes. the Twelve Links. in the three editions described. by their teacher. but in all cases the principle of a pro per transmission of the scripture and its meaning is upheld. One has to learn. As we have seen. practically simultaneous. first in oral and subsequently in literary form. As presentations of the teaching the ' lists of lists' were systematic only in the purely formal sense. in the form of the four 'philosophical' schools of the Vaibhashikas. the teaching had been cast.in which. the systematic presentation of the teaching. (3) Transmission of the Doctrine. and The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana. re quire more explanation than others. Once the 'scriptures' had been committed to writing.

This is the most important transmission of all. The Buddha then said: 'I am the owner of the eye of the wonderful Dharma. famed for his austerity. from a supremely Enlightened mind to one that was almost s o. This is. one of the oldes t disciples. and absolutism. the Mind. between two people who understan d each other very well. What happened? It is very difficult to explain. suffices to convey a whole world of meaning.' This was the transmission. waiting for the Buddha to speak. It is to this type of transmission that the verse refers when it speaks of a special transmission outside the scriptures. of course. All were silent. monks and nun s. From Mahakashy apa in the fifth century BCE to Bodhidharma in the sixth century CE it con tinued to be transmitted down a long line of spiritual masters. Hundreds of bodhisattvas and arhants. and smiled. idealism. he to his disciple Sanakavasa. lay brothers and lay sisters. All four transmissions co ntinued. So it i s on the highest spiritual plane. but on this occasion. characterized respectively by Takakusu as the totalistic and phenomenological (Mahayanistic) schools. Only Mahakashyapa. the significance of which is a mys tery to everyone else. who had failed to understand the significance of his action) there took place a direct communication of truth from one mind t o another. which is nirvana. some othe . critical realism. and so on. the transmission is to be under stood as taking place outside ordination and outside doctrine as well. with amplifications and extensions. In China the Transmission of the Doctrine was safeguarded by the great indi genous schools of the Hua-Yen (the Avatamsaka or 'Flower-Ornament') a nd T'ien-T'ai. understood the meaning of the Buddh a's action. the Buddha was once seated in the midst of a great concours e of his disciples. at a n infinitely lower level of experience. the customary setting for a discourse by the Buddha. I now hand it over to Mahakashyapa. the mystery of Real ity and non-Reality. were present. and needing only the most delicate of touches to bring it to perfection. in Tibet and the Far East. (4) Transmission of the Spirit of Buddhism. as well as various orders of c elestial beings. instead of speaking. When the Buddha held u p the golden flower (not when he spoke.alism. How did this transmission of the spirit of Buddhism begin? According t o tradition. Mahakashyapa transmitted the spirit of the Dharma to Ananda. and the gate of the transcendental truth. A sign or a look. the Master simply held up amidst the silen ce of the assembly a golden flower. Though o nly the scriptures are actually mentioned. The transmission from the Buddha was analogous to what happens. which was only for the benefit o f the other disciples. who h ad been the Buddha's personal attendant during the last twenty years of his earthly life.

the sixth and last Chinese P atriarch. thus becoming the First Chinese Patriarch of the School. (4) Tao-Hsin. twenty-eight) Indian 'patr iarchs' of the Zen School. (12) Ashvaghosha (author of The Life of the Buddha. the Council of Kanishka). It was the celebrated Bodhidharma. . (2) Hui-K'o.. who are traditionally regarde d as the twenty-seven (including Bodhidharma. others among the most distinguished names in I ndian Buddhism. etc. A study of this list reveals the close connection between Zen and what may be termed the central tradition of Indian Buddhism. of course. (24) Arya simha.whom tradition depicts crossing the ocean on a reed . The list of these masters. c omplete with doctrines. but to forty-thre e. (7) Vasumitr a (the earliest historian of Buddhism). is as follows: (1) Mahakashyapa. (20) Jayata. (16) Rahulata. and so on down a succession of altogether six spiritual ma sters. (21) Vasubandhu (author of Abhidharma-Kosha. scriptures. (3) Sanakavasa. What h e took to China. (11) Punyayashas.who 'took' Zen to China. that he was able to transmit the spirit of Buddhism not to one di sciple only. (4) Upagupta (spiritual teacher of the Emperor Ashoka). (13) Kapimala.). (19) Kumarat a. the twenty-eighth Indian Patriarc h . (9) Buddhamitra. (27) Prajnatara. (5) Hung-Jen. was not the Zen School as we know it today. (17) Sanghanandi. but the livin g spirit of Buddhism. Thereafter there were many different lines of transmission. he to his disciple. (10) Parshva (?President of Fourth Council.rwise unknown to fame. (8) Buddhanandi. (15) Kanadeva (=Aryadeva. no one of which could be regarded as the main one. These t wo lines are represented by the Soto and Rinzai Schools of contemporary Japanese Buddhism. (6) Hui-Neng (Wei-Lang). (5) Dhritaka. (25) Basiasita. This spirit he transmitted to his disciple Hui-K'o. (18) Gayasata. as follows: (1) Bodhidharma. as the custom apparently had been hitherto. Five lines were however of spe cial importance. and fo under of the Vijnanavada School). co-founder of the Madhyam aka School). (26) Punyamitra. etc. and temple organization. Such was the spiritual genius of Hui-Neng. (3) Seng-Ts'an. (14) Nagarjuna (r ediscoverer of the 'Perfection of Wisdom' sutras and founder of the Mad hyamaka School). The A wakening of Faith in the Mahayana. (22) Monorhita. (23) Haklena. (6) Michchaka. and (28) Bodhidha rma. of which two continue down to the present day. These masters are known as the Six Chinese Patriarchs of the Zen S chool. (2) Ananda.

is the spiritual . the only thing that ultimately matters. Amending our pre vious definition. or doctrine. No Dependence on Words and Letters This week we are faced by a difficulty. 'No dependence on words and l etters. But it certainly does not dispense with them altogether. This transmission is made p ossible through the high level of spiritual communication existing betwee n master and disciple. or at any rate not so much as usual. The real thing. or rather. and have understood. And an e xcellent exposition it would be! But if I did this you would probably all be come restless and dissatisfied. they do not value silence.Zen is essentially concerned with the fourth type of transmission. we may now say of Zen not merel y that it is that aspect of the Mahayana which specializes in meditation. . Thirdly and lastly. Words convey ideas. never as ends in themselves. This is self-contradictory. but only as means to an end. Instead. People value words. Ordination and observance of the monastic discipline. the sense in which Zen is said to be 'a special transmission outside the scriptures'. we have se en. it follows a middle path. transcendental . b ut that it represents a transmission of the living spirit of Buddhism with t he help of the three main kinds of Ch'an described in the previous talk. the t ransmission of the living spirit of Buddhism. it is concerned with them onl y as a means to the experience of Enlightenment. Ideally I oug ht to expound the line by sitting in absolute silence for an hour. the experie nce of Enlightenment. So I suppose I shall have to try and do my best with words.experience. Distinguished from the script ures but not divided from them. scriptural studies. Zen. scriptures. but in so doing I shall in fact be dependent on words and letters. continuing its definition of Z en. what is meant by outside the scriptures? The scriptu res consist of words. In the case of the scriptures th ese ideas point in the direction of a spiritual experience. I hope. not as ends in themsel ves. It is not concerned with o rdination. and doctrinal knowledge are all important. which was provisional. is concerned primarily with this experience. If this is not transmitted the transmission of all the rest is a waste of time.' declares the second line of our verse. At best it is a cultural curiosity. and wouldn't put anything in the collectio n plate when you left.better. on principle as it were. This is what is meant by 'outside'. usually within a context of meditation and study. o r at least upon words and sounds. This means I shall have to talk about not depending upon words and l etters. We have now answered the three questions which suggested themselv es at the beginning of this talk. its own distinctive transmission makes u se of the scriptures without becoming attached to them and without bein g enslaved by them.

We would have fe wer thoughts. or any other branch of human knowledge. We would be able to li ve more intensely. We say we know this or k now that. moreover. This is true in all fields. we go through lif . from snatches of conversation overheard on the tube. and usually th at was all. Being less cluttered up mentally. greater now than ever before in history. what is happ ening in distant places . It is all based on hearsay. This was. surely. our ancestors knew very little of what was going on in the great world that lay outside the gates of their own village or towns hip. of course. on conjecture and gossip. Indonesia. From the radio and the n ewspapers. Occasionally men were conscripted. Hardly any of it is origi nal. How great is our dependence! The thought is q uite a horrifying one. We consider. is second-hand. Sometimes. Rhodesia. that we have re ad it somewhere. We have no d irect knowledge. I am not trying to idealize the pa st. Take the case of what we call our knowledge. if not the whole of it. that we know what is going on in the world at large. fewer ideas. on second-hand.'No dependence on words and letters. and so metimes armies devastated with fire and sword. a nd tenth-hand information. Vague rumours reached them from the distant capital. But what do we really mean? We mean. I am only trying to point out how much our knowledge depends upon words and letters and how little on direct personal experience. Compared with us. Supposing there were no radios. or seen it on television. w e would 'know' very little of what went on in the world. eve n as it is still the condition of many people in the 'undeveloped' countrie s. the stream of life flowed on placid and undisturbed from year to year and from generation to generation. no newspapers. fr om astronomy to zoology. we would be better able to concentrate on things near at hand. or the history of art. and that t his dependence is. By far the greater part of our knowledge of the se subjects. of course. apart from natural cal amities. from c hance remarks at parties. and th en with regard to our dependence on them where spiritual things are co ncerned. Take any subject that we think we 'know'. but despite beating dru ms and flying colours ordinary folk did not understand what the war was about or who was fighting whom. both proportionally and absolutely. Take botany. the result of our own independent thought and discovery. Perhaps we would be closer to Reality. etc.' The line suggests that usually t here is such a dependence. third-hand. for in stance. But whence is ou r 'knowledge' derived? From words and letters.India. Let us examine the matter a little. first with r egard to our dependence on words and letters in a general sense. the condition of our ancestors in bygone days. Inheriting as it were a great stockpile of knowledge from the past. they saw armies marching past. Otherwise. or heard about it.

without adding to it so much as a single grain of our own. personal experience and perception. In everyday life all this. Zen is concerned with the experience of the living spirit of Buddhism. We know about Buddhism. bodhisattvas. Until this obstacle ha s been removed. magazines. . more than anywhere else. Now the scriptures consist of words and letters. We should not think we have lost anything. Here... Forget even talks. Probably we shall have to discard quite a lot. however. of course. Now where has all this knowledge come from? From books and lectures. for the most part. however. Hence it is all second-hand. We should then realize how little we really know. To know t hat we do not know is the beginning of wisdom. telev ision. What a lot we know! We ev en know about Zen. S urely the greatest obstacle is to think that we know. is our knowledge o f Buddhism dependent. all that we have not experi enced and verified for ourselves. At the end of the experiment how much real know ledge is left? Perhaps none at all. Originality would seem to be the prerogative of genius. It might be interesting to perform an experiment. Let us perform another experiment.e. and the Pure Land. let us assume. Let us put aside all knowledge of Buddhism that depends on words and letters. and advertisements. We have. But what is it that comes in the way more than anything else? What is it t hat most of all prevents us from having a real knowledge of Buddhism. In fact there is a great gain. From the Zen point of vie w. You are all silent. As you sit here. Nothing must be allowed to stand in the way. On words and letters. radio. a certain amount of religious knowledge. does not matter v ery much. Do we really know what nirvana is? What about shunyata? Put them aside too if necessary. fo ld your hands and close your eyes. T his is what makes Zen so 'ruthless'. it comes from the scriptures. b ased on our own experience? Can anybody tell me?. therefore. not based on direct. nirvana and dependent origination. From our general dependence on words and letters let us now turn to our dependence on them where spiritual things are concerned. about karma and rebirth. If we w ere to perform the experiment regularly the experience would be a very salutary one. it is nevertheless important to realize what is actually happe ning. just as you do for meditation. and discussions. lectures. no progress is possible. though perhaps regrettable. a survey of which I attempted to give last week. As we saw last week. We know about the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfol d Path. abo ut shunyata. We manage to get along somehow. Forget a ll you have ever learned from books. newspapers. and with the transmission of that spirit. For Zen nothing else matters. Zen has no hesitation about burning holy Buddha-images or tearing up sacred books if these come in the way. Ultimately. H ow much knowledge would you then have left? Very little indeed.

it can be thought of in terms of the complete cessation of craving. Having failed to distinguish thoughts fro m things. by an Indi an friend of mine. It is also the beginning of Enlightenment. an elder brother in the Order. Unfortunat ely we are guilty of this confusion all the time. we come across the idea of freedom from craving. This i s what Zen means when it urges us not to confuse the two kinds of knowl edge. 'Ah yes. he aske d her to wait in an adjoining room. Since we understand what is meant by the words 'cessation of craving' we think that we know what nirvana i s! When. the beginning of progress: to know that we do not know. many years ago. in some non-Buddhist work. not only p hysical silence but the silence of thoughts. People talk far too much. and what we know from experience. At best we are dealing with thoughts about things. We think that i f we can label a thing we have understood it. This is essentially a spiritual principle. however. As he was in the midst of writing a letter. for example. Some years previously t his friend had paid a visit to Germany. It is as though they were unable to enjo y the beauty of a flower until they had given it its correct botanical classifi cation and a Latin name. Such knowledge involves distinguishing between what we know at sec ondhand. or sug . nirva na!' At once we slap on the label. as if to say. Take. or often with j ust words. when the door suddenly burst open. We are not dealing directly with things. and can be thought of in various ways. 'What hope is there of spreading Bu ddhism among such people?' Some things there are which can be experienced and also thought abo ut and described in words. we at once triumphantly exclaim. we then fail to distinguish words from thoughts. For instance. We have to learn the value of silence. All that we have in fact done is to equate thoughts and words. in fact. though capable of being experienced. the silence of the mind. If we do confuse them no spiritual progress is possible. nirvana. They always want to affix readymade labels to their experiences. and the German lad y violently exclaimed. He had only been writing for a few mi nutes. One morning a German Buddhist lady came to see him. Conceptualizing and verbalizing activity of this sort is only too commo n in the West. It is. part of our ge neral psychological conditioning. or transcendental Reality.is the beginning of wisdom. Others. at all. with realitie s. In this connection I remember an anecdote told me. 'I shall go mad if I stay here much longer. transcend thought and speech. and wanted to catch the post. from the scriptures. We think we 'know' that the state of fre edom from craving mentioned in the nonBuddhist work and the Buddhis t nirvana are one and the same. where he gave some lectures on B uddhism. therefore. There's n o one to talk to!' As he came to the end of the story my friend threw up hi s hands in mock despair. At best they can only be indicated.

'We use words to get free from wor ds until we reach the pure wordless Essence.gested. including th e bodhisattvas. All th ese terms are used only provisionally. Manjushri then asks Vimalakirti to speak. the great Bodhisattva of Wisdom. perhaps hundreds of tho usands. Hence in the Lankavatara Sutra the Buddha declares that from the night of his Supreme Enlighten ment to the night of his final passing away he has not uttered a single wo rd. or aspects of Reality.' Another says. All the other disciples. Se e the (true) nature of samsara. or hinted at. Yet in reality nothing had been said because not hing can be said about Reality. Various i nterpretations are given by those present. The great disciple declines. Between the two events lay forty-five years of untiring earthly ministr y. answers to questions. is sick. agrees to comp ly with the Buddha's request. This is entering the gate of the Not-Two Doctrine. They give us a certain amount of p ractical guidance. Eventually Manjushri. dialogue s. and for the same reason. Such are the realities. no bondag e. t herefore. 'Buddhahood'. is to enter the gate of the N ot-Two Doctrine. no showing and no awareness about any of the dharmas. So long as we are dependent on words and letters. As Ashvaghosha says. In using them we say. some idea of the quarter in which to look. at th .' Thi s is the 'thunderlike silence' of Vimalakirti.' Even better known and more striking is Vimalakirti's 'thunderlike silen ce'. no liberation. Vimalakirti. and t o keep away from all questions and answers. If you see the real nature of impurity.' His interpretation is greatly applauded. and the Buddha asks Shariputra to go and enquire after his health. and no cessation. however. of which we speak in such terms as 'Enlightenment'. 'nirvana'. Eventua lly the nature of the Not-Two Doctrine comes up for discussion. of people. the direction towards which we have to orient our spiritual strivings. the great householder bodhisattva of Vaishali. nothing at all. also protest their unworthiness. But 'Vimalakirti kept silent. as he had once been admonished by Vimalaki rti and feels unworthy of the mission. 'According to my idea. without a word. and you conform to the state of purity. but their validity i s only relative. then there is no state of purity. we shall be unable to realize that which transcends words and letters. We shall. All his words had been pointers to what is beyond words.' Finally Manjushri is asked for his opinion and replies. Hardly a day had gone by without discourses. They do not really define the goal. 'Samsara and nirvana make two. all have been severely discomfited by Vimalakirti at some time or anothe r. in the absolute sense. allowing ourselves to become enslaved by them instead of making use of them. During that period he had taught thousands. and goes to see Vimalakirti with a vast retin ue. and then there is no samsara. no burning. There is a great deal of discussion. and much subtle dialectic. One says. to have no word and n o speech. 'Purity and impurity make two.

for instance. confuse the two kinds of knowledge. in fact. Suzuki. we do not need to concern ourse lves with all of these. Some scholars. emotional and conative. But this is not so. thinking that we know something when we have merely heard it or read about it. Thus we find ourselves b ack where we started from. to consist of a quite simple and straight forward statement. much less sti ll on the part of Zen itself. something that everybody can understand. Broadly speaking hsin corresponds to the Indian (P ali and Sanskrit) word chitta. which it usually translates. such as his Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism and his tr anslation of Ashvaghosha's Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana regularly translates chitta as 'soul'. a certa in amount of obscurity to be resolved. when we consider the third line of our vers e. prefer to ren der chitta or hsin by 'heart'. As I have said at the beginning of the t alk. This obscurity is not due to any va gueness on the part of the unknown composer of the verse. At this point an important question arises. Direct Pointing to the Mind Today we are dealing with the third line of our verse. at first sight. Fortunately. if there is to be no dependence on words and letter s. however. The meaning of the line can be clarified by a consi deration of three questions. In the original Chinese. the line with which we are now concerned appears. N ot that words are entirely useless. in the present context.' and hoping to find there an answer to the question with whi ch we concluded last week's talk .the question of what. we are to depend on. Both renderings are apt to be misleading. all of which are interconnected. For this reaso n Zen insists that there must be 'No dependence on words and letters'. What is meant by 'mind'? Why does Zen insist on pointing to the mind rather than to anything else? What is the significance of direct pointing? First of all. in some of his early works. others by 'soul'. thi s is hsin. then on what are we to depend? This question will be dealt with next week. Like the two previous lines of the verse. but is simply the result of a characteristically C hinese attempt to pack the maximum amount of meaning into the minim um number of words. the meaning of the word 'mind'. Chitta is mind in the widest and most general sense of the term. When I was in Kalimpong the hermit friend about whom I told y ou in the first talk once gave me a detailed explanation of the nine princi pal meanings of the word in Chinese literature. If in Zen there is no depend ence on words and letters. In thi . as well as intellectual and rational. according to Zen. including Buddhist literat ure. in communicating the truth of no dependence on words and letters o ne is inevitably dependent on words and letters. Before its meaning can become clear to us there is.e same time. 'Direct pointing t o the mind.

Indeed it is necessary at all times. 'He who knows others is wi se. and so on. ultimate satisfaction. because this term has. They become bored and dissatisfied with their jobs. with the face of nature and the form of man. People who have reached a certain level of maturity. as it were. tend to become bored and dissatisfied. they start vaguely searching for s omething . Zen tells us. that is to say on second-hand knowledge of Reality. Look within. They even speak in ter ms of Zen. but rather the totality of mental life and activity which includes th em both. he who knows himself is enlightened.s context chitta or hsin is not heart as opposed to brain. Enlightenment. to depend on the mind. It runs through the whole of Buddhism. they call it Truth. Don't look without. Today we are therefore stickin g to 'mind' as the best working equivalent of both the Chinese and the In dian term. don't allow your attention to be distracted by the multiplicity of external phenomena. Eventually they become bor ed and dissatisfied with themselves. music. with radio and television. willing mind rather than to the external universe. This emphasis is by no means superfluous. in English. knowing. for instance. This idea is of course no t peculiar to Zen. Having warned us not to depend upon words and letters. with their wives and famili es. Giving it a name. In any case. It is more like the psyche in the Jungian sense of the term. with work and with play. and the general English term 'mind' will serve our purpose quite well. Y et others make use of a specifically religious terminology. In this state of boredom and dissatis faction. in effect. In the Dhamma pada. its own master. even. with poetry. Zen gives t he well-known idea its own special emphasis. the Buddha declares that self-conquest is the greatest of all victories. in the sense of in tellect. at this stage of our enquiry it is unnecessary for u s to pay much attention to subtle differences of psychological terminolog y. of weariness and disgust.they know not what. happiness. But however different the ways in which they speak of that for . They speak in t erms of God. Realit y.' In pointing to the mind. Simil arly chitta or hsin is not 'soul'. with books and theatres. and art. That is to say. and that pur ity and impurity depend upon one's own self. depend on your own mind. This answers the question with which we were left at the en d of last week.' and the Tao Teh Ching's saying. Si milar in spirit are the maxim inscribed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. with laughter and with tears. Others speak of it in terms of peace. ' Know thyself. salvation. depend on yourself. and su ggesting that we depend on that rather than on anything else. with the society to which they belong and the age into which they h ave been born.to the feeling. for psychologically speaking the mind is the s elf. Here attention is clearly dir ected to the subject of experience rather than to its objective content . that the self is its own refuge. connotat ions which are quite foreign to Buddhism. or who enjoy a certain amount of leisure. Zen declares.

If we are watchful we can often catch ourselves out. that they trample upon our feelings. they find what they are looking for and esta blish a relation of dependence on it. All that has happened is that they have f allen victim to a projection. that our friends and relations are unkind and unsympathetic.which they are searching. they all agree in searching for it outside thems elves. and possibly come to terms with. cold. or on to the outside world. truly receive it until we are able to give it. sometimes with bitterness. we unconsciously attribute it to other people. in fact. Not only bad qualities but good ones too can be projected. Though extreme cases are r are. These are not things of which we are ashamed or afraid. that they do not love us. the projecting of it. that boredom and dissatisfaction have been dispelle d. but capacities existing at a very deep level which we have so far been unable to develop. in fact. This rep ressed and projected factor is usually something that we experience as u npleasant or bad. All men are capable of developing their vague glimm erings of understanding and their intermittent impulses of kindness into the supreme wisdom and infinite compassion of perfect Buddhahood. We project. A little elementary self-analysis may reveal that those very qualities are hidden in the depths of your own mind and that in criti cizing others in this way you are. We may be. All . Good though a quality may be in itself. Sometimes. the quality of love. In o rder to avoid having to recognize. and selfish. It is possible to go even further than this. So we criticize other people for being like this. of course. Projection is not only psycho logical but spiritual. our own personal defects. unconsciously criticizing yoursel f. but being unable t o develop it within ourselves. They then think that they have succe eded in their quest. completely lacking in warmth an d affection. All that we are really doing is projecting on to other peopl e. in the course of the coming week try to disco ver what it is you most dislike in others. for example. This sort of psyc hological projection goes on the whole time. we try to find it outside and receive it from there. Feeling the need for love. Sometimes we may be unaware of the possibility of developing them. for example. We complain. an element of projection enters into almost all our negative assessm ents of other people. In the case of love we cannot. however. what you most often criticize and condemn them for. But in reality they have failed. hard. and we cannot give love until it has b een developed. is bad inasmuch as this projection stands in the way of full self-integration. As a psychological phenomenon projection is quite familiar to us. something of which we are ashamed or afraid. In other words we project. Just as another experiment. some thing in ourselves. We may even attribute feelings of coldness and hostility to the univer se as a whole.

So far we have considered Zen's pointing to the mind in a very general way. it has various aspects. Not that spiritual projection has no place at all in the religious life. or that faith and worship are all wrong. When we take . and then proceed to establish a relationship with it. depend on yourself. 'Depend on the mind. Meditation may be defin ed as the persistent and methodical attempt to see Reality within. 'Why does Zen insist on pointing to the mind rather tha n to anything else?' Mind is the point of contact with Reality. Zen points to Reality. The time has come to be more specific. we project our own potential Enlightenment as it were outside ourselves. as distinct from the external worl d. 'What is meant by mind?' starts overlap ping the second. which adopts the absolute standpoint. But we do not do this. of course.are capable of gaining Enlightenment. meditation is not just a matter of concentration exercises successfully performed.' Within this context Enlightenment could be defined as the complete a bsence of projection. Contrary to what is sometimes thought. poi nts to Enlightenment. We can understand why Zen is the Meditation School. Instead. But ultimately it is a hindrance. To which of these does Zen point? In a general way. psychological and spiritual. even a spiritual projection.but to which mind? Mind exists on many different levels. It calls for a complete withdrawal of all projections. It says. and tells us to rely upon that. For instance there are the pe rceiving mind. the thinking and considering mind. towards the world. It means that in the last resort we have to satisfy our need for Enlightenment by developing it within our selves rather than by becoming parasitic on the Buddha's Enlightenment. Zen. many different plan es. which is the experience of Reality. on to the figure of the Buddha for instance. Spiritual projection represents a very im portant stage. therefore points to the mi nd. that is to say. Ordina rily our attention is directed outwards. or that the Buddha-ideal of our religious imagination is nothing b ut a projection. But specifically it points to Absolute Mind. to mind as distinct from matter. points to the Bu ddha-nature. We can now see more clearly the nature of the connection between Ze n and meditation. it points to th em all. Absolute Mi nd is Reality. In pointing to the mind. to the Buddha-nature within. and Absolute Mind. Zen points to the mind . various functions. At this point our first question. This does not mean that the Buddha was not Enlig htened. positive and nega tive. It points to the Mind beyon d the mind. or at least to venerate him as the supremely wise and infinitely co mpassionate teacher. to worship the B uddha. therefore. and as such it has its legitimate place in the total scheme o f spiritual development. This is why it points to the mind in preference to anything e lse. on to another person.

however. it grows in intensity as the o ther factors are eliminated and it absorbs the energy invested in them. this transiti . therefore. the limits of meditation have not been reached. As relative mind and Absolute Mind are.perception. In the second of th ese states thought is eliminated. The next step we have to take is to make the mind progressively purer. absolutely discontinuous. on top of the crossed ankles. Even when the ascent has been made from the lower to the higher mi nd. and in the third. bliss. Having turned from the lower to the higher mind we must finally turn.up the practice of meditation. we now have to turn from the lower mind to the hig her mind. The eyes are closed. These names tell us very little about the real nature of these states. to disengage the senses from their respective st imuli. and the eight states of meditative consciousness have all been experi enced in their fullness. They are not absolu te. In the fourth. With pract ice it becomes possible to keep the mind centred within for longer and lo nger periods. having turned from the extern al world to the mind. not transcendental. so that even when we are engaged in external activities a degree of inner recollection and a wareness persists. This eventually results in a permanent shifting of the centre of attention from the external world to the mind itself. b liss is replaced by equanimity. representing the exclusion not only of visual stimuli. The first of the four states of meditative consciousness associated with the world of form consists of the five psychic factors of thought. T he eight states are relative or mundane in character. both initi al and sustained. One-pointedness is the only psychic factor which remains constant throughout. we learn to withdraw our attenti on from external objects. but of all sense impressions whatsoever. from t he standpoint of the relative mind. That is to say. this progress is represented by the four rupa-dhyanas. These are usually regarded as together constitut ing one continuous series. the Sphere of Infinit e Consciousness. rapture. and t he four arupa-dhyanas. rapture. or st ates of meditative consciousness associated with the world of form. The four states of meditative consciousness associated with the forml ess world are known as the Sphere of Infinite Space. and one-pointedness. In the general tradition which Zen shares with all other forms of Buddhism. and the Sphere of Neither Perception nor Non. and to centre attention within. which represent still higher and more refined experiences of one-pointedness and unification. Reality has not yet been seen. clearer. Indeed. and more luminous. the Sphere of No-thingness. when we sit wit h legs folded beneath us and hands resting. This attitude of withdrawal finds ex pression in the posture normally adopted for meditation. or states of meditative consciousness associated with the formless world. from relativ e mind to Absolute Mind. one above the other.

The path that we have so far followed ends at the brink of an abyss. is by asking questions. we find ourselves in the midst of the Voi d. The goal of meditation has now been reache d. at least it does not answer them on . when awareness means being aware that you are aware.on can be brought about only by means of a kind of existential leap from the one to the other. It means refusing to go from Hampstea d to Highgate via the whole universe. Reality has been 'seen'. They want to avoid it. They do not want to face up to the challenge of existen ce. brilliant. an d admittedly this does sometimes happen. Rather. Darkness changes to light. Even if they got it they would not know what to do wit h it. There are many ways in which this can be done. we come now to our third and last question: What is the significance of direct pointing? This is not v ery difficult to see. just the sort of detour that people love to make. of course. There is no longer any question of a path with clearl y marked steps and stages. What is the nature of n irvana? How can the law of Karma operate when there is no permanent s elf? What is the evidence for rebirth? How shall we know that we have gai ned Enlightenment? Where does ignorance come from? Can one really de sire not to desire? How is it possible to be fully aware. relative mind is replaced by Absolute Mind. they do not really want to get to Highgate at all. and so on ad infinitum? Has a do g Buddha-nature? Why did Bodhidharma come from the West? To questi ons of this kind Zen gives no answer. It means th rowing the disciple back again and again on his own personal problems a nd his own individual resources.referring it. especially in Western Buddhist circles. This Absolute Mind is not subject as opposed to object. Zen has pointed to Re ality. to Buddhahood. it is that pure. in the first place. Suddenly and mysteriously. nor can it be itself the object of thought. and why Zen insists on poi nting to the mind rather than to anything else. Taking the leap. But most of the time people a sk questions in order not to receive an answer. Having understood what is meant by mind. Probably they would feel like a small boy playing at hunting lions an d tigers in the garden who was confronted by a real live lion or tiger esca ped from the zoo. The latter is. One of the most popu lar ways. A real live answer is the la st thing they want. N ow you may have been thinking that people ask questions in order to dis pel their doubts and clear up mental confusion and arrive at the truth. and from here we have no alternative but to take a leap in the dark. and transparent awareness within which the distinction of subje ct and object does not exist. Despite protestations to the contrary. In pointing to the mind. to Enlightenment. So they go on asking questions. to the thinking and perceiving mind rather than to the object of its thought and perception. Direct pointing means referring everything back to the mind itself .

to gain some insight into the essence of Zen. but simply different aspects of one and t he same spiritual process. the rich merchant. more challengingly. Most people. One could. But Zen does not let them g et away with it so easily. do es not appear in the original Chinese. The scene of the sutra is laid at Shravasti. of the word 'and' suggests that 'seeing' into one's own nature or into one's own mind and 'realizing' Buddhahood are not two di stinct. it prefers to p ut a counter-question. and in this context stands for the mind on which the previous line aske d us to depend. The line reads. that far from being motivated by a disinterested 'scie ntific' desire for the truth he is influenced by factors of which he is largel y unconscious and that what he is really trying to do is to escape from th e truth. This is just what each one of you should do. even from Zen. 'Why do you ask the question?' O r. literally 'own-being' or 'self-nature '. during the past few weeks. Their own motives are t he last thing they are prepared to scrutinize. 'Seeing into one's o wn nature and realizing Buddhahood.their own terms or from their own point of view. it b eing the anniversary of his father's death. as being itse lf a direct pointing to the mind. Generally. it drags them back from philosophy and religion and psychology. Soon after the sutra begins t he Buddha and his disciples are all invited to a great feast by the king. resist this realization. and you will miss the whole point. in north-western Indi a. however dimly. therefore. of course. and compels them to look where perhap s they never thought of looking before . as w e would regard it. even if parallel. had acquired f rom Prince Jeta as a retreat for the Buddha. however. also render the line as 'Seeing into one's own mind and realizing Buddhahood. however. By one means or another.' The expression 'one's own nature' corresponds to the Sanskrit svabhava.at their own mind. What one has not divided on e is under no necessity of joining together again. with the help of slaps and shouts if words fail. In order to understand how this process takes place let us refer to the Surangama Sutra. Here the omission. At the appropriate time all ther . The questioner is forced to rea lize. in the orchard which Anathapindika. activities. I believe the Chinese langu age dispenses altogether with conjunctions. Otherwise this talk will ha ve been wasted. Take it as a talk about direct pointing to t he mind. What I have said should be taken.' The word 'and'. in effect. 'Who is it that asks?' In this way the exchange is at once placed on an entirely different basis. Seeing Into One's Own Nature and Realizing Buddhahood Today we come to the fourth and last line of the traditional verse with the help of which we have been trying. saying. From being abstract and theor etical it becomes concrete and existential. Indeed. one of the most distinguished of the great Mahayana s criptures.

without discri minating between rich and poor. and higher a nd lower states of consciousness. where he discourses to the king and other notabilities. To begin with. Head is still at w ar with heart. can be resolved only by the emergence of a highe r faculty. however. but rather an attack coming from force s deep within his own unconscious mind. represents transcendental wisdo m. forces with which he has not ye t come to terms. wherein the light of reason and the warmth of emotion are not . who have accompanied him back from the palace. though a conscientious monk. should not be repressed but brought out into the open and united with one's co nscious spiritual attitude. she may be said to repres ent the unrecognized or repressed side of one's nature. and the crestfallen monk and repent ant maiden accompany the great bodhisattva back to the feet of the Bud dha. Finding the monastery deserted. according to this tradition. Mata ngi is a low-caste woman. the Buddha's personal attenda nt. an d begs her mother to cast a love-spell upon him. and not only becomes fascinated by the maiden's charms but is lured i nto the house and into her room. Since there exists a clear correspond ence between the higher and lower castes. This Matangi does. is not proof against the assaults of mag ic. is missing. the Buddha has returned to his orchard retreat. The conflict between head and heart.efore depart for the palace. indeed. and returns only after the o thers have left. It is also significant that Matangi's daughter is c alled Prakriti. the low-caste woman is the regular symbol for all the crude. As soon as she sees the young and handsome monk Prakriti falls violently in love with him. on the other. He has not succeeded. Manjushri. an d in this way eventually comes to the house of a low-caste woman called Matangi who has a beautiful daughter called Prakriti. in integrating the different sides of his own being. conscious with unconscious. As soon as Manjushri does this Matangi's spell loses its power. Only Ananda. Being a conscientious monk. the embodiment of wisdo m. and nothing to eat. Ananda comes to his senses. Ananda is very learned and ver y conscientious but he is not Enlightened. Knowing all the time what was happening to Anand a. unsublimated psychic energies which. he begs from all alike. that is to say. for Prakriti means 'Nature'. Meanwhile. he calls the Bodhisattva Manjushri. Now all this obviously has an allegorical meaning. Anan da. he ta kes his almsbowl and goes begging from door to door in the streets of th e city. She occupies a place. The casting of the spell repres ents not an assault from without. on the one hand. or between high-caste and low-caste. In Tantric Buddhi sm. that is t o say. and bids him go and save Ananda by repeating the Great Dharani at Matangi's house. conscious and unconscious mind. of course. at the very bottom of the Indian social system. reason and emotion. He has gone out on an errand.

Usually. Ananda is a very learned man. a polite bow or a sudden b low. of course. or between one master and another. But it must be spontaneous. his intellectua l resources exhausted. very rare. and that the latter should answer spontane ously. Man jushri is no St Michael triumphantly holding down the powers of evil. or when deeply moved.whatever comes. from opinion and hearsay. is designed to elicit. On coming into the Buddha's presence Ananda prostrates himself bef ore him. He wants him to speak with his own voice. but the Bud dha does not want him to answer out of his acquired knowledge. Instead. but out of himself. In other words. It is in this manner that the Buddha wants Ananda to answer his quest ion. he can escape from the impasse only by waking up to the reality of his own true mind. saying . and speaki ng out from that. The Buddha says that he will question Ananda. Step by step. All his answers rejected. Only in moments o f crisis. So long as the disciple speaks from anything less than his own true mind. into an impasse. in a state of near collapse. It is thi s sort of spontaneity. he has 'heard much'. relentlessly. But he brings Prakr iti too. Nature is not to be repressed but recognized. The qualification is im portant.only fused but raised to the highest possible degree of intensity. Perhaps. confesses his shortcomings. out of his personal perception a nd realization. like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky come s the question. 'How did you become interested in Buddhism?' I n other words the Buddha recurs to fundamentals. coming from the ex istential depth of the disciple. That is to say. we reply from a comparatively superficial level of our being. his mind baffled. indeed. Only wh en the bodhisattva recites the Great Dharani does Matangi's spell lose its power. which is after all second-hand. and it must come from the deepest pos sible level of his being. 'How did you become interested in Buddhism?' As the im . without recourse to discriminative thinking. not a borrowed voice. that the Zen mondo or 'exchange' between master and disciple. or why he had not kept his eyes firmly fixed on his almsbowl while begging for fo od at Matangi's house. Ma njushri brings Ananda back to the feet of the Buddha. and the question is. from one made up of accretions from without rather t han creations from within. when ques tioned on matters of fundamental concern. the disciple is therefore forced into a corner. He does not waste ti me asking Ananda why he was late getting back from his errand. or Buddha-nature. This sort of spontaneity is. what comes will not be words at all. the master remains unsatisfied. and asks for help. But this does not mean that the natural forces which the spell rep resents are simply thrust back into the darkness of the unconscious. only coming from even deeper. we reply after much thought and deliberation. do we in a sense really speak out. but a laugh or a smile. not to be rejected but purified and assimilated.

to examine our reasons for following the path to Enlighten ment. First he sees the people sitting in the hall. Approving this declaration. to the attacks of the unconscious. If Ananda is desirous of more perfectly understanding Su preme Enlightenment he must learn to answer questions spontaneously. they have be en engrossed in deluding and transient thoughts which are nothing but f alsehood and vanity. and was i mpressed by his appearance. while the mind is hidden within the body. without recourse to discriminative thinking. the question is addressed not only to Ananda but to us. are located on the surface of th e body. he tells them. or its metaph ysics? Was it books that brought us to the feet of the Buddha or the living example of someone we know? Are we in search of psychological securit y? Has our Buddhist life become a matter of habit and routine? These are the sort of questions we should ask ourselves. how did he perceive him? Ananda replies that he perceived the Buddha with his eyes and his mi nd. And where are these located? The eyes. as he was liable. to explore the nature of our own commitment. On the contrary. not only to the Ananda on the stage of Buddhis t history but to the Ananda in our own minds. because he w as impressed by the personal appearance of the Buddha. When he saw him. It was on acc ount of this that he had admired the Buddha and it was this that had infl uenced him to become one of his true followers. periodically. and because he was convinced that the aureole of transcendentally pure and golden brig htness which he had seen emanating from his person could not originate in one who was not free from all sexual passion and desire. he says. like the other sense-organs. Well. how did Ananda become interested in Buddhism? The answer th at he gives to the Buddha's question is hardly one that it would be possib le for anyone to give today. to that aspect of ourselves which. the Buddha then solemnly addresses the w hole assembly. He became interested.port of the sutra is universal and timeless. He points out that Ananda is now sit ting in the hall of the retreat. thus preparing for themselves the conditions for re peated rebirth. This does not satisfy the Buddha. Sentient beings have been born and reborn since beginni ngless time. a . We too need. being unintegrated. is liable. or its ethics. and like Ananda we should try to answer them spontaneously. Having said this. t he Buddha asks Ananda a further question. because they have not realized the true Essenc e of Mind and its self-purifying brightness. for it is by reliance on their i ntuitive minds that the Buddhas of the ten quarters of the universe have been delivered from the cycle of conditional existence. Are we attracted to Buddhism by its art.

it may be concealed within the sense-organ itself.nd other things in turn. then what the mind perceives coul d not be felt by the body. and what the body feels could not be perceived by the mind. the eye. just as the eye would see the bowl before seeing mountains and riv ers. he ought to be able to see his own in ternal organs first and external objects afterwards. It may be like a lamp which would illuminate the inside of the room first and then. as step by step the Buddha leads Anand a to the highest realization. There is no time to follow the argument in detail. To this explanation the Buddha objects that if the mind were. This. it cannot r eally be perceived or seen. shining thro ugh the doors and windows. only afterwards does he see the grove and park o utside. but being concealed within the eye it can clearly perceiv e external objects. Indeed. One person's eating does not app ease the hunger of all. c ontained within the eye as the eye itself might be covered by a crystal bo wl. Being part of the eye it cannot see the in side of the body. fails to satisfy the Buddha. Ananda and the other members of the great assembly eventually realize that the mind. understa nding mind is really outside his body. illuminate the yard outside. being nothing else than the progressive revelat ion of the Buddha's crowning experience. in fact. not being a spatially conditioned phenomenon. T he mind may. but it does not ex ist as a thing among things at all. But the fourth line of our verse. it cannot possibly be said that the mind exists outside the body. too. . Rivalling even Plato in atmosphere and in beauty of setting. if Ananda's perceiving. if Ananda's mind were hidden within his body. Not being a thing. Mind and body are in mutual correspondence. In this way the dialogue proceeds. the line with which we are at present dealing. If mind and body are in mutual cor respondence. after all. Now the mind not only cannot be located anywhere. If it cannot exist either inside or outside the body it must be located somewhere in b etween. its co ntent is even profounder. cannot be located anywhere. Ananda still thinks the mind must be located somewhere. speaks of seeing into one's own nature. so the mind may be 'covered' by. Ananda tries again. his experience of the highest s amadhi. Just as the eye may be covered with a crystal bowl. Similarly. in the se nse of being spatially located there. but it should already have become evident th at the Surangama Sutra is one of the most magnificent of all Buddhist dia logues. as is proved by the fact that when Ananda's eyes are looking at the Buddha's hand his mind makes discriminations about it. an object. be located outside the body. in the same way. or contained within. then the mind ought to perceive the eye before perceiving external ob jects.

even meditation. which is like a man's going in search of himself. 'mind' to 'Buddha'. Perhaps I have just been talking in my sleep all this while. to a teaching of which Zen. yet no one seems to have woken up. the mind can not ever be perceived. By following this procedure we may discover many 'minds'. Not being a n object of perception but the principle of perception itself. it declares. however vaguely. Zen is simply a voice cr ying 'Wake up! Wake up!' Loud and clear though it resounds in your ear. are ultimately a waste of time. is simply a practical exemplification. s o deep are your slumbers that you hear it but faintly. As you sit here listening to these words you are not awake. This is what Zen calls 'using the mind to seek for the mind' and it is qui te useless. What has been said about 'seeing one's own mind' applies with equal f orce to 'realizing Buddhahood'. it sometimes happens that by talking in his sleep one sleeping person may rouse another. into one's mind. at its best. We can never know it by going after it with the mind . Obviously there is a contradiction here. that we are asleep. For five weeks now I have been talking about Ze n. Whatever is perceived is not the mind. so it is ridiculous for the mind to try to realize Buddhahood. Let us hope that as a result of these talks on the esse nce of Zen something of that nature may have occurred. the two are different aspects of the same process. Devotional practices. t hat is to say. First of all we have to realize. In fact it requires a great deal of ef fort to do so. Similarly with the mind. All that we have to do. bu t we shall not be able to discover the true mind. Zen tells us: You are Buddha. The true mind can be found only by not-finding. scriptural study. as per haps you had imagined. Ho w is it to be resolved? This brings us to one of the profoundest and most important teaching s of Mahayana Buddhism. and coming as it we re from a great distance. The only w ay in which the finger-tip can possibly 'touch' itself is by withdrawing fro m all contact with external objects and simply 'feeling' its own existence directly.as though it were an external object distinct from the min d. of a pure non-dual awareness without distinction of subject and object. is to wake up to th e significance of this supreme fact. by realization. Engaging in them is 'usin g the Buddha to realize the Buddha'. Perhaps I have not yet woken up myself. Howev er. . as we have already seen. but asleep. Just as it is ridiculous for the mind to try to see the mi nd. for. One sees the mind by not seeing. For the min d to try to perceive its own existence is therefore like the tip of the finger trying to touch itself.that is to say. Of course it is not easy to wake up. Whatever is touched is not the finger-tip. 'Seeing' corresponds to 'realizing'. sound asleep. the principle of percepti on itself.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful