This threefold world, with its irritations and afflictions, is like a flaming house; who can bear to stay here long, willfully going through endless pain? If you desire to avoid the rounds (of samsara), nothing is so good as seeking Buddhahood. If you want to seek Buddhahood, (know that) Buddha is mind. Does mind have to be sought far away? It isn't even apart from the body.
The body of form is temporary, and goes through birth and death. But, the true Mind is like empty space; never ending and changeless. So it is said, "When the body of form dies and returns to air & fire, one thing is still aware, containing the whole cosmos." Sorry to say, people today have been confused for a long time. They're not aware that their own mind is the true Buddha. They're not aware that their own essence is the true Dharma. Wanting to seek the Dharma, they ascribe it to ancient sages; wantng to seek Buddhahood, they neglect to observe the mind.
If you say that there is a Buddha outside of your own mind, and there is a Dharma outside of essence, and desire to seek the Path of Budhahood while holding on tightly to these feelings, even if you spend ages burning your body, branding your arms, breaking your bones and taking the marrow, hurting yourself and copying sutras in your own blood, sitting for long periods of time without getting up, eat only a single meal per day, or reading the whole Tripitaka and mastering different ascetic practices - it will all be like streaming sand to make rice; it only makes you tired. But, if you simply know your mind you will understand innumerable teachings and endless subtle meanings without even trying. This is why the World-Honored One said, "Observing all sentient beings, I see that they all are fully endowed with the knowledge and virtues of Buddhas." He also said, "All living beings, and all sorts of illusionary events are all born in the completely awake and subtle mind of those who realize Suchness." Thus we know that there is no Buddhahood separate from this mind. The Awakened Ones of the past were simply people who understood the mind, and the sages & saints of the present are people who cultivate mind; students of the future should rely on this principle. People who practice the Path should not search outside themselves. Mind-Essence has no defilement; originaly it is complete and perfect in itself. Simply detach from illusory objects and it is enlightened to Suchness as it is.
Q: If Buddha-nature is in our bodies at this moment, it is not separate from regular folk either. Then why don't we see this Buddha-nature at this moment?
A: It's in your body, but you don't see it yourself. At all times you know when you're hungry or thirsty, cold or hot; at times you're upset and at times you're happy - ultimately, what's doing all this? The body of form is made out of the four elements of earth, water, air and fire. They are insentient; how can they know or see? That which can know and see must be your Buddha-nature. This is why Lin-Chi said, "The four elements can't teach the Dharma of hear the Dharma. Space can't teach the Dharma of hear the Dharma. Only the lone light clearly in front of you, which is formless, can teach the Dharma and hear the Dharma."
What he called 'formless' is the seal of the truth of all Buddhas, and it's your original mind. The Buddha-nature is in your body at this very moment; why seek outside for it? If you don't believe me, let me quote some stories of how ancient sages entered the Path, so that you can make clear your doubt. You should believe with clear understanding of truth.
In Old Times, a king asked a Buddhist saint, "What's Buddhahood?"
The saint said, "To see the Essence is Buddhahood."
The king then asked, "Do you see the Essence?"
The saint replied, "I see the Essence of Enlightenment."
The king asked, "Where is Essence?"
The saint replied, "Essence is in Function."
The king then asked, "Why kind of Function is it if it's not visible now?"
The saint replied, "It's Functioning right now; only you can't see it."
The king then asked, "Is it in me?"
The saint said, "Anytime you do something, that's it. When you're not doing anything, the Essence is hard to see."
The king then asked, "When it's Functioning, how many places does it appear?"
The saint said, "When it appears, there must be eight places."
The king said, "Please tell me these eight places where it appears."
The saint then said, "In the womb, it's called the body. In the state, it's called a person. In the eyes, it's called seeing. In the ears, it's called hearing. In the nose, it tells the difference between smells. In the tongue, it talks. In the hands, it grabs and clings. In the feet, it walks and runs. It appears all over, containing all things; innumerable worlds are collected in one atom. People who can see know that this is Buddha-nature, the Essence of Enlightenment. Those who don't call it a 'soul'." When the king heard that, he opened up and understood.
Also, a monk asked Master Guizong, "What's a Buddha?"
Guizong said, "If I told you, you won't believe me."
The monk said, "If you speak the truth, how could I not believe?"
Guizong then replied, "You're it."
The monk asked, "How can I preserve it?"
Guizong said, "Where there is a single obstacle in the eye, there is a shower of flowers in the sky?"
The monk attained insight when he heard that. These stories I have told about the situations where the ancient sages entered the Path are clear and to the point. They really do save enerfy. If you gain true understanding with these stories, then you'll walk hand in hand with the ancient sages.
By Son (Zen) Master Chinul