26 July 2008

Ultimate Truth - Samyuktagama Sutra

"When one is born, one will die. 
One who admires high status will fall one day."

"Tell the Bhikku, the ultimate truth of emptiness, 
realized by the Enlightened Ones, 
corresponds to the Worldly Law."

"When the eyes see, the scene comes from nowhere.  
When they shut, it goes nowhere. 
Thus the eyes see unreality. 
All that arises will be destroyed.... 
except the truth of the Worldly Law.

"If I feel that nothing is obtainable, 
then there is no sin. 
If I am attached to form (and to other things), 
then it is sinful.....

The Worldly Law says that 
what this is, that is; this arising, that arises."

"To contemplate the unreal nature of all things, 
there is nothing real. 
Various names arise due to the coincidence of 
causes and conditions which are unreal. 
When one sees the truth of emptiness, 
one will realize that there is no Dharma 
(the perverted view of existence)
and non-Dharma 
(the perverted view of extinction)."

"If we can see the truth 
of the causes of worldly sufferings,
we will not be attached to the view of nothingness. 
If we can see the truth of cessation in the world, 
we will not be attached to worldly existence. 

By avoiding the two extremes, 
the Tathagatha teaches us 
the Middle Path, which is, 
what this is, that is; this arising, that arises…"

"All volitional actions are empty.
There is no law that is permanent and unchangeable. 
There is no I nor mine."

"One who thinks of impermanence 
will understand the truth of ego-lessness.

The Enlightened One 
lives in the state of ego-lessness,
renounces self-conceit 
and hence progresses towards liberation and Nirvana."

"The eyes (and all senses) are empty;  
The law of permanency and change is empty;
I and mine are both empty. 
Why is it so?
Because this is the nature of things."

"We should first rely on merits 
in order to get rid of sin.
Secondly, we should rely on equanimity 
and let the merits go.
Then we can attain the state of 
formlessness or Nirvana."

If one knows this,  
then one will not be attached to anything 
in this mundane world".

Translated by Shi Neng Rong

25 July 2008


A man got the idea in a dream that a snake had entered into his mouth, and that it was there in his stomach.  And he would feel the movement of the snake.  He became very disturbed.

He went to the doctors and was X-rayed, but, there was nothing.
He would say, "It is there, even if the X-ray is not showing it.  It doesn't matter.  I am suffering, my suffering is real."

Then he went to a Sufi master, the master said, "Right, I will do something.  Tomorrow moring it will come out."

The next morning, the master arranged it:  he found a snake, gave it to the man's wife and said, "Make arrangements so when your husband wakes up in the morning, he finds the snake crawling out of the bed."

And the man shrieked, and he screamed and jumped.  And he said, "Here!  Here it is!  That snake!  And those foolish doctors: they were saying that there is no snake, nothing.  And here it is!"

And since that day the problem disappeared. 

Our miseries, our hurts, our ambitions, our jealousies, our fears, our greeds, our hatreds, our attachments - they are all illusions.  Although they are illusions, we still believe our suffering is real!

Let the gone be gone

Once it happened that a man spat on Buddha's face.  Buddha wiped His face quietly and asked the man, "Have you anything more to say?"

The disciples of Buddha were very much shocked.  His chief disciple, Ananda, said to Him, "This man has spat on you.  We all felt angry, but you are asking him 'Have you anything more to say?'  We don't understand."

Buddha said, "Yes, because this is his way of saying something - spitting.  Maybe the man is so angry that words are not adequate; that's why he has spat.  That's why I'm asking 'Have you anything more to say?'"

Now after spitting on Buddha, the man himself was shocked because Buddha's question is not his expectation.  He could not sleep that night.  Again and again he thought about it.  It was so difficult for him to absorb it: "What kind of man is Buddha?  I spit, and He simply asks 'Have you anything more to say?'"

In the early morning he went back, fell at Buddha's feet and said, "Sir, excuse me, forgive me.  I could not sleep the whole night."

And Buddha laughed, and said, "You fool!  Why?  I slept perfectly well.  Why should you get so disturbed about such a small thing?  It has not hurt me.  You see my face is as it was before.  Why did you get so worried?"

And the man said, "I have come to become your disciple.  I want to be with you.  But first, forgive me."

And Buddha said, "This is nonsense.  How can I forgive you? I have not even taken any note of it.  I was not angry, so how can I forgive you?"

Sitting on the bank of the Ganges River, Buddha continued, "Look at how much water has passed down the Ganges River in every second; that much life has passed in you in every second; that much life has passed in me in every second.  It is no longer the same Ganges after a single second.  In fact, you had never spat on me, I am not the same man, it was something else - a day has passed. And you are not the same man who had spat  ... so who can forgive whom?  Let the gone be gone." 

21 July 2008


The text of this talk is from a version in the library of the Southwest Chogye Zen Center in Houston, Texas. Master Kyong-Ho (1849-1912) is considered one of the most significant Korean Zen teachers of the modern era. Among his important disciples was Mann-gong (1872-1946) who is the direct dharma ancestor of Hye-Am, teacher of Myo-Bong, who founded the Southwest Chogye Zen Center.

1. It is no small thing for a man to become a Bhiku. A man does not become a Bhiku to eat and dress well. Rather, he wants to be free from life and death by accomplishing Buddhahood.
 2. To accomplish Buddhahood, one has to discover his own Mind, which is already within his own body.
 3. To discover Mind, one should understand that his body is nor more than a dead corpse and this this world is, for good or bad, nothing but a dream. Man's death is like popping out in the evening of the same day that you have popped in during the morning. After death, sometimes one may be born in one of the hells, sometimes in the realm of animals and sometimes in the realm of ghosts. Then one must endure incalculable pains and sufferings.
 4. Since this is true do not concern yourself with the worldly life. Just examine and carefully observe your mind at all times. What does this which is now seeing, hearing and thinking look like? Does this have any form or not? It this big or small? Is this yellow or green? Is this bright or dark?
 5. Examine and observer this matter carefully. Let your examination and observation become like a mouse-catching cat; or like an egg-laying hen; or like a desperately hungry, old, crafty mouse gnawing a hole in a rice bag. Let your examination and observation be focused at one point and do not forget it. Keep it before you by raising doubt and by questioning yourself. Do not this this doubt go away while you are doing chores or the like. Do not let your question (doubt) escape from you even while you are not doing anything special. By eagerly and sincerely practicing in this manner, finally, there will be the moment of awakening to you own Mind.
 6. Study hard by raising your faith. Raising your faith is sincerely re-examining the matter just mentioned.
 7. To be born a human being is most difficult. It is even more difficult to be born into favorable circumstances -- harder still to become a Bhiku. It is the most difficult thing of all to find correct and righteous Dharma teaching. We should reflect on this matter deeply.
 8. Shakyamuni Buddha once said, One who is already a human being is like a speck of dirt clinging to a fingernail, while the one who has become an animal by losing his human form is as common as the dirt of the ground.
 If one loses the human form this time, then one will have to wait countless aeons to recover it. When someone is in the one of the many hells, he is unaware of it, as if playing games in a flower garden. Becoming a hungry ghost, asura, or animal, he acts like he is dwelling in his own home.
 9. However, if one is awakened and has accomplished Buddhahood, he does not have to live or die. That is, he does not have to endure any kinds of sufferings again. These words should be carefully considered one by one.
 10. Once Zen Master Kwon, a Bhiku, began meditating from morning to night. As soon as the sun would set, he would beat his fists against the ground in frustration and cry out, "I have lost another day without realizing my Mind." He continued this way every day until he was fully awakened. Since there are many who have exhibited the determination of Master Kwon, it is impossible for me here to cite everyone who has had the determination to meditate until enlightened.
 11. None of them were worried about living or dying, nor about eating, dressing well, nor sleeping. In our study, we should practice the same way. Consider this carefully!
 12. Once Zen Master Tung-san wrote: Do not seek noble titles nor wish to have possessions nor ask for prosperity. Wherever you happen to be, just live in accord with your karma here and now in this life. If your clothes wear out, patch them again and again. If there is no food, barely even search for it.
 When the warm energy under your chin grows cold, suddenly you become a corpse. What remains after death is only a hollow name. after all, how many days will this transient body live? Why work hard only to acquire useless things? That only makes your mind dark and causes you to forget about studying.
 13. After awakening one's on mind, one should always preserve its purity and tranquillity. Cultivate this mind without allowing it to be tainted by worldly things. Then plenty of good things (that is, pleasure which comes from the Awakening) will happen. Faithfully, trust in this. When you have to die, there will be no more suffering or sickness. You can go freely to Nirvana or anywhere else you chose (i.e., you control your own life as a free man in the world).
 14.Shakyamuni Buddha said, If anyone -- man or woman, old or young -- has faith in these words and studies, each will, as a result, become a Buddha.
 Why would Shakyamuni Buddha deceive us?  15.The Fifth Patriarch, Hung-yin, the Zen Master, said, By examination and observation of mind, one will become enlightened naturally.
 Then he further promised us that,  If you don't have faith in what I say, in future lives you will be eaten by tigers over and over again. On the other hand, if I have deceived you, I will fall into the dungeon of exitless hell.  Since the Patriarchs have said these words, should be not take them to heart?
 16. Those of you who are in this Study, do not agitate your mind; let it be like a mountain. Let your mind be like a wide and empty space and continue to reflect on enlightening Dharma like the moon reflects the sun. Whether others think that I am right or wrong is not your concern. Do not judge or criticize others. Just be at ease and go on mindlessly like a simpleton or fool. Or, be like one who is struck deaf and dumb. Spend your life like you cannot hear a thing or like an infant. Then, sooner or later, all the delusion will disappear.
 17. If one wishes to accomplish Buddhahood, it is useless to attempt to understand and master the worldly life. It would be like one trying to fix food out of dung, or like trying to cut jade out of mud. It is totally useless for the accomplishing of Buddhahood. there is no reason for occupying oneself completely and thoroughly with worldly affairs.
 18. See your own death in the death of others. Do not put your trust in this body. Rather, remind yourself again and again to not miss a moment to awaken your own mind.
 19. Ask yourself repeatedly, "What does this mind look like?" In your daily rounds, continue to ask yourself, "What does this mind look like?" Reflect upon this question so intensely that you are like a starving man thinking of nothing but good food. Do not loose hold of your questioning at any time.
 20. Buddha has said, Whatever has a form, that is, everything, is all delusory.
 He also said,  Everything that the ordinary human being does is subject to life and death. There is only one way for use to be a true man and this is Realization of our own mind.  21. It is said, "Do not drink liquor", since it will intoxicate and make your mind dull. Also, "Do not speak lies", since it will only accelerate delusive states of mind. Furthermore, "Do not steal", since it only helps to make your mind jealous and full of desires. You should observe these and all the precepts. Breaking the precepts can be very harmful for your cultivation and for your life itself. You should not cling to or incline yourself towards breaking any of them.
 22. Master Ox-herder, Mokguja (Chinul), once mentioned that, Indulging in craving and desire for property are as vicious as poisonous snakes. Watch your body and mind carefully when such desires arise and then understand them as they are. Detach yourself from them as much as possible.
 23. These words are very important and they should be remembered. They will make your study more effective. Buddha said,  Becoming angry even once raises ten million vicious sins.  A student simply must endure and tolerate the angry mind. Many masters have also said that because of anger, man becomes a tiger, a bee, a snake, or some similar stinging or biting creature. From foolish mindedness, man becomes either a bird or a butterfly. Depending upon his degree of low-mindedness, man becomes either an ant, mosquito or the like. From craving things, man becomes a hungry ghost. The type of desire or anger molds the nature of hell into which men will accordingly fall. Each and every state of mind determines the kind of creature man is to become.   24. However, if one's mind is unattached, one becomes a Buddha. Even a "good" or positive state of mind is useless. Even though such a condition of mind can create a heavenly future life, it is still limited. As soon as one reaches heaven, he immediately begins descending to the hellish or animal realms in successive rebirths. If no intention is held in the mind, then there is no place to be born again. One's mind is so pure and unconfused, it cannot go to the dark places. This pure and quiescent mind is the way of Buddha.
 25. If one questions with the one-pointed concentration, then this mind naturally settles down and become tranquil. By this he automatically realizes his own mind as quiescent and tranquil. This is the same as becoming a Buddha.
 26. This way is very direct and goes right to the point. It is the best way one can practice. Read and examine this talk from time to time and, on the right occasions, even tell other people. This is as good as reading eighty-four thousand volumes of scriptures. Studying in this manner, one will accomplish Buddhahood in this lifetime. Do not understand this talk to be some contrived encouragement or expedient deception. Follow these words with your whole-hearted mind.
 27. In the deep canyon where the clear stream is flowing continuously, all kinds of birds are singing everywhere. No one ever comes to visit this place. It is the so-called Bhiku's place (monastery) and is quiet and tranquil. Here is where I sit and contemplate and examine what this mind is. Now, if this mind is not what Buddha is, then what else it?
 28. You have just heard a very rare talk. You should continue to study this great matter enthusiastically. Do not hurry, otherwise you might become sick or get a terrible headache. Calm yourself, then ceaselessly meditate. Most of all, be careful not to force yourself. Rather, relax and let your right questioning be within! 

Zen Poems

The Ultimate Attainment

The past is already past.

Don't try to regain it.

The present does not stay.

Don't try to touch it.

From moment to moment.

The future has not come;

Don't think about it


Whatever comes to the eye,

Leave it be.

There are no commandments

To be kept;

There's no filth to be cleansed.

With empty mind really

Penetrated, the dharmas

Have no life.

When you can be like this,

You've completed

The ultimate attainment.

P'ang Yün ( Hõ Un)

Mind at Peace

When the mind is at peace,

the world too is at peace.

Nothing real, nothing absent.

Not holding on to reality,

not getting stuck in the void,

you are neither holy or wise, just

an ordinary fellow who has completed his work.

P'ang Yün ( Hõ Un) (The Enlightened Heart 34)


Versified questions and replies between T'ang emperor Shun-tsung (順宗) and Ch'an master Fo-kuang Ju-man (佛光如滿 Bukkõ Nyoman):


佛從何方來 From where did the Buddha come,

滅向何方去 To where did the Buddha go?

既言常住世 If the Buddha is still around,

佛今在何處 Where can be the Buddha found?             Shun-tsung


佛從無 From non-activity the Buddha came

滅向無 To non-activity the Buddha disappeared.

法身滿虚空 Cosmic reality his spiritual body is,

常住無心處 In no-mind the Buddha will appear.        Ju-man


山河與大海 Great mountains, rivers and seas,

天地及日月 Heaven and earth, sun and moon.

時至皆歸盡 Who says there is no birth and death?

誰言不生滅 For even these meet their end soon.        Shun-tsung


生亦未曾生 Birth is also before birth,

滅亦未曾滅 Death is also before death.

了見無生處 If you have attained no-mind,

自然無法説 Naturally there will be nothing left.        Ju-man 

Forgetting the Self

To learn Buddha Dharma is to learn the self.

To learn the self is to forget the self.

To forget the self is to become one with

endless dimension, Universal Mind.

Dõgen (Zen Word, Zen Calligraphy 23)

("Endless dimension, Universal Mind" is another name for Amitâbha Buddha)