Awakening to the Way |
Blofeld's Commentary on the Treatise |
Buddha, Dharma, Sangha |
Confucianism, Taoism & Buddhism |
Deliverance: How Long? |
Can a Despised Man Find Enlightenment? |
Diamond Sutra |
Doubt of Absolute |
Effectual Answers |
Hound of Heaven |
Interview with Ma Tsu |
What is the Middle Way? |
Not Dwelling on Anything |
Refraining from Thinking |
The Six Heretics |
Interview with Ma Tsu
Hui Hai as a young man
traveled to the monastery of the renowned Ch'an Master Ma Tsu (d. 788)
and had the following first interview:
Ma Tsu: What do
you hope to gain by coming here?
Hui Hai: I have come seeking the Buddha-Dharma [the way to Truth].
Ma Tsu: Instead of looking to the treasure house which is your very own, you
have left home and gone wandering far away. What for?....
Hui Hai: Please tell me to what you alluded when you spoke of a treasure
house of my own.
Ma Tsu: That which asked the question is your treasure house. It contains
absolutely everything you need and lacks nothing at all. It is there for you
to use freely, so why this vain search for something outside yourself?
From Blofeld's commentary on the Hui Hai Treatise:
technique aimed at that perfect mind-control by which the achievementless
achievement is achieved is that of dhyana (here meaning
ch'an-ting or sazen [sitting meditation]), whereby the mind is
turned inward upon itself and the innermost recesses of our being are so well
explored that we at last come face to face with that unsullied Mind which is
neither yours nor mine, nor anybody else's, and yet discoverable in all of
The Hound of Heaven
does not flee from men, it is men who flee the Buddha.
The Diamond Sutra
The Diamond Sutra
says: "If their minds grasp the Dharma, they will still cling to the
notion of an ego (a being and a life); if their minds grasp the Non-Dharma,
they will still cling to the notion of an ego. Therefore we should not grasp
at and hold onto the notions either of Dharma or Non-Dharma." This
is holding the true Dharma. If you understand this doctrine, that is
true deliverance. That, indeed, is reaching the gate of nonduality. [Hui
Hai's treatise is packed with quotes. In addition to being named the Great
Pearl, he could be called the Great Quoter - another similarity to Yours
What is Awakening to the Way?
The nature of the
Absolute is void and yet not void.... A sutra says: "Understand
that one point and a thousand others will accordingly grow clear;
misunderstand that one and ten thousand delusions will encompass you. He who
holds to that one has no more problems to solve." This is the great marvelous
awakening to the Way (Truth).
Can a Despised Man Find Enlightenment?
attainable at the very moment we make up our minds to achieve it....
Q: Do Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism really amount to one doctrine
or to three?
A: Employed by
men of great capacity, they are the same.... all of them spring forth from
the functioning of the one self-nature.... Whether a man remains deluded or
gains Illumination depends upon himself, not upon differences or similarity
Once a commentator on the Vimalakirti Sutra said, It is
written in our sutra: "You should regard the six heretics
as your teachers. After you have joined the Order, you should be misled by them and take part in their fall.... You should vilify the Buddha and destroy the Dharma. You should not belong to the Sangha and you should not attain deliverance. If you can behave like this, you may take my food."
When Subhuti, one
of Buddha's disciples, knocked at Vimalakirti's door and asked for food, the
Upasaka [meditator] spoke the above words. The development of a
universal mind, which alone can enable them to reach their goal, is above
such dualities as avoiding heretics, revering the Buddha, protecting the
Dharma, joining the Order, and so forth. The six heretics are the six
senses; though they constantly mislead us, we cannot get away from them to
find the Absolute elsewhere. In other words, we should realize the Absolute
from the very midst of relativities and contraries.
Q: Please tell us how to achieve deliverance.
A: Never having
been bound, you have no need to seek deliverance. Straightforward
functioning and straightforward conduct cannot be surpassed.
Q: Does this
apply even to those who have yet to perceive their own nature?
A: Your not
having perceived your own nature does not imply that you lack that nature.
Why so? Because perception itself IS that nature....
John Blofeld, the translator of
The Zen Teaching of Hui Hai: On Sudden Illumination, tells us that Hui Hai [Ta-chu Hui-hai; 8th century A.D.; pronounced wee hi] entered a monastery in his home town as a child.
Later he journeyed to the monastery of Ma Tsu, a disciple of the sixth
patriarch Hui-neng. Hui Hai recorded his initial interview with Ma Tsu (see
left column), which shows the humor, confrontational style and ability to go
directly to the heart of the problem typical of the enlightened man who is
also a teacher.
Hui Hai said that
during the interview he realized his mind, becoming enlightened. He stayed
with Ma Tsu for six years then returned to his home monastery to care for its aging master. There he composed his famous sastra [scripture],
A Treatise on the Essential Gateway to Truth by Means of Instantaneous
The manuscript was
taken by another monk to Ma Tsu, who read it and declared, "In Yuëh Chou
there is now a great pearl; its lustre penetrates everywhere and freely
without obstruction." Hui Hai thus became known as the Great Pearl - pearl
also being a play on words with his lay surname (Chu), which has the same
sound as the Chinese word for pearl.
Several items of
the story don't add up for me. One is that after his supposed enlightenment
upon his first interview with Ma Tsu he stayed there for six years. Having
had an enlightened teacher, I can't see that happening. I think he would
have felt the need to go out on his own and find others to help, which seems
to be part of the awakening to our true nature. Another is that he didn't
compose his treatise until six years later, and this before he had any
pupils. A third is that Ma Tsu supposedly gave his seal of approval after
reading the treatise but not while Hui Hai was with him. I had the feeling
that Hui Hai's mentality was much like my own, and I (therefore?) found
myself suspicious of his reliability when I first read his treatise! There are obvious parallels with Hui-neng's autobiography, which
I assume was well-known to Ma Tsu and his disciples, so the idea of instant
enlightenment upon first contact with a teacher or his words, followed later
by a full realization of one's essential nature and then a long hiatus before
beginning to teach, may have been copied by Hui Hai or his biographer - or it
may represent the repetition of an actual pattern.
In any case, upon
review I find his treatise impressive and inspiring, and Blofeld was a
serious seeker and student of "the way" who respected Hui Hai's teaching (see
left column for his specific comment), so let's take a look at some of the
items in the treatise, which was done in question and answer form.
What is the Middle Way?
A: It signifies the extremes.
Q: I inquired about the middle way; why do you say it signifies the
A: Extremes are only valid in contradistinction to the middle way. If at
first you do not postulate extremes, from what can you derive the concept of
a middle way? This middle you are talking about was first used in
relation to extremes. Hence we should realize that the middle and extremes
owe their existence to their mutual dependence and that all of them are
Q: A little while ago you spoke of refraining from
thinking (nien), but you did not finish your explanation.
A: It means not
fixing your mind upon anything, anywhere, but totally withdrawing it from the
phenomena surrounding you, so that even the thought (szu) of seeking
for something does not remain; it means that your mind, confronted by all the
forms composing your environment, remains placid and motionless. This
abstaining from all thought whatever is called REAL thought.... If you do not
employ the method of Sudden Illumination, you will be like a jackal following
and imitating a lion but unable to become a lion even after hundreds and
thousands of aeons.
Do not vaunt your
own virtues nor envy the ability of others. Examine your own actions; do
not hold up the faults of others. Thus nowhere will you encounter
obstruction, and you will naturally enjoy happiness. I will summarize all
this in the form of a gatha:
Forbearance is the best of ways;
But first dismiss both 'self' and 'other.'
When things occur, make no response -
And thus achieve true Bodhikaya.
Q: What are the Buddha, Dharma and
Sangha? What are the Three Jewels in One Substance? We beg you, Master, to explain.
A: Mind is the Buddha, and it is needless to use this Buddha to
seek the Buddha. Mind is the Dharma, and it is needless to use
this Dharma to seek the Dharma. Buddha and
Dharma are not separate entities, and their togetherness forms the
Sangha. Such is the meaning of the Three Jewels in One Substance....
Our Nature, which is intrinsically pure, does not rely on any practice in
order to achieve its own state. Only the arrogant claim that there are
practice and realization. The real world is without obstruction and its
function is, under all circumstances, inexhaustible. It is without beginning
or end. A man of high spirituality is capable of sudden Illumination....
A monk, doubting the existence of Mind [Absolute],
demanded that, if Hui Hai maintained its existence, then bring it forth and
Do you believe
there will be a morrow? Hui Hai asked.
Bring it forth and
show it to me!.... You personally do not perceive your own nature, but this
does not mean that your nature does not exist.... Yours is a case of not
seeing the sun, not of there being no sun.
Q: I am always hearing talk of The Way (Tao), but I do not know who can perceive it.
A: Those possessing the Wisdom Eye can perceive it.
Q: I am very fond of the Mahayana, but how shall I study it with
A: He who awakens (to Mind) can achieve success; he who is not awakened to it
Q: What shall I do to be awakened to it?
A: It comes only by true intuition.
Q: What is it like?
A: It resembles nothing.
Q: If so, it should be ultimately non-existent.
A: That which is non-existent is not ultimate.
Q: Then it must exist.
A: It does exist, but it is formless.
Q: If I do not awaken to it, what shall I do?
A: It is of your own accord that Your Reverence [a visiting Dharma
Master] fails to awaken to it; nobody is preventing you.
made of paper covered with words printed in ink, but printed words, paper and
ink are without self-nature; so from whence will those divine responses
capable of fulfilling your wishes come? Effectual answers come from proper
use of the mind by the person who reads the sutras; and this explains
how the divine power works in response to an appeal from a living being.
Q: How much time do we need to attain
deliverance by setting our minds on the practice of the
A: Using the mind for practices is like washing dirty things in sticky mud.
Prajna is mysterious and wonderful. Itself unbegotten, its mighty
functioning is at our service regardless of times and seasons.
Not Letting the Mind Dwell on Anything
You must avoid
letting your minds dwell upon anything whatsoever, which implies (being
unconcerned with) either deeds or no deeds....
What I mean... is
keeping your minds free from hatred and love. This means that you must be
able to see attractive things without love for them arising in your minds...
and also you must be able to see repulsive things without hatred for them
arising in your minds.... You must examine this thoroughly.... Once you have
lost a human body, you will not obtain another for millions of aeons. Strive
on! Strive on! It is absolutely vital that you come to understand this.