Entering Completely

Commentaries on Bodhidharma's "Two Entries and Four Practices"

by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi

Portrait of Bodhidharma, calligraphy by Zen Master Anzan Hoshin‚Äč

1: Introduction and reading of the text; Commentary on Danlin's Preface

by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi

Daijozan, January 15, 1989

Good morning.

The snow fell last night to cover the trees, the rooftops and the ground. Coming to the Zendo earlier this morning, I'm sure that when you took a step into that snow, you saw that there were no footprints yet. And there was perhaps a certain delight at stepping into the snow, taking a step, feeling the step, being aware of taking a step. At that moment, taking a step comes alive. At that moment, the snow comes alive.

Now this morning, the black of the branches is still lined with white. And the morning is alive, and the grey sky is lit by the sun. Just as you felt taking that step in that fresh snow, just as there was that sense of wonder and joy, attend to this breath, take this breath completely. Hear this sound completely. Awaken to your life completely, and your life becomes alive.

If you were alive to taking that step in the snow this morning, at that moment there wasn't even any thought of how early it was or of where you were going. There was just enjoying that step. And your life was completely there and whole. In this moment, please uncover the whole bodymind, live the whole bodymind. You have never taken this breath before. You have never heard this moment of birds singing before. You have never been here before. You have never seen this wall before. This is such a tremendous opportunity. Every moment has this tremendous opportunity. When we meet it and explore it with this whole bodymind, then we find that this whole bodymind and this moment are seamless. This whole bodymind is the mind of snow, the mind of sky, the mind of breath and step, the mind of stars, sun, and starving millions. Becoming alive with this whole body, our practice has just begun. What is this living? How is it that there is this stepping, this seeing and hearing, this breathing out, this being born and dying? This is the essence of our practice.

Many centuries ago, an Indian monk named Bodhidharma arrived in China after a long journey. Coming to that land he presented the essence of the Buddha Dharma, the essence of the way of waking up. And so we call him Bodhidharma daishi - which means Great Master, Great Founder. Our Lineage began at the moment when Sakyamuni Buddha looked up and saw the morning star, and in that seeing, saw all the way through. The transmission of this experience of Buddha was passed from Buddha to Buddha, Dharma Ancestor to Dharma Ancestor, until it reached Bodhidharma Daishi, who then carried this, with his whole bodymind, to China. Where of course it always already was. Just as it is always, and always has been, and always will be, in every land, in every drop of water, and in every breath. And yet there is a need to point this out, and so Bodhidharma made this long journey.

This morning we are going to begin to consider a text called Two Entries and Four Practices, or the Errusixing lan which is attributed to Bodhidharma. There are many texts and many teaching stories which are attributed to Bodhidharma, and yet many of the facts, almost all of the facts of his life and teaching, are lost in history.1 And while that really doesn't matter, because what matters is the present transmission to each and every one of you, of each and every one of you, still it is good to hear from our old friends. It is good to listen to their Teachings, because their Teachings point to listening itself, to seeing itself, to living itself. And so this morning, we will hear first from the disciple Danlin, who composed a preface to the text. It is indeed possible that the text itself was authored by Danlin, based upon Huike, or Bodhidharma's Dharma Ancestor's, presentation of Bodhidharma's original teachings, which Danlin then compiled together in this form. It is doubtful that Bodhidharma actually wrote this text because it is in rather polished Chinese, rather literary Chinese, which would be rather difficult for an immigrant such as Bodhidharma to master. And yet in this very simple text, many of the essential points of the Teachings are to be found. Perhaps they are a representation of Bodhidharma's actual teaching style, of things that he actually said. But in any case, the text discusses things that are of primary importance in the practice of each and every one of you.

Two Entries and Four Practices2

Errusixing lan (Erh-ju-ssu-hsing lan); Nishu-nyu by Bodhidharma daishi

Translated by Yasuda Joshu Dainen roshi and Anzan Hoshin roshi

 

Preface by the Disciple Danlin

The Dharma Master Bodhidharma came from a country in southern India. The third son of a great Brahmin king, he was of bright intelligence and understood whatever he was taught. Aspiring to the Mahayana, he set aside the white robes of a layperson and took on the black of a monk so that he might transmit the tradition of the sages. His mind deepened into stillness, his understanding penetrated the events of the world. His wisdom was both inside and out and his virtue was beyond common standards.

His compassion and concern ached at the decline of the True Teaching in this obscure corner and so, crossing mountains and seas, he came to teach in this distant land of Han and Wei. Those who had stilled their minds had immediate faith but those who grasped at forms and fixed views despised him.

At this time only Daoyu and Huike were with him. These monks had strong determination though they were young and, having had the great fortune of meeting the Dharma Master, served him for many years. Respectfully requesting teaching, they studied deeply the Master's essence. Responding to their whole-heartedness, the Dharma Master taught them the Path of Truth. He taught them the pacification of mind, the development of practice, according to circumstances and skillful means.

This is the teaching of mind in the Mahayana. Practice it without deviation. The pacification of mind is this "wall-gazing" (biguan). The development of practice is these Four Practices. According to circumstances is freedom from slander. skillful means is the dropping of attachment to fixed forms. This is my summary of the text which follows.

The Treatise

There are many Dharma gates but they are all of two kinds: entry through the Nature and entry through conduct.

Entry through the Nature means the realization of the truth of the Teachings. The basis of this is Great Faith in the Actual Nature of all living beings, usual people and sages both. The reason it is not manifest is only due to it being wrapped in external objects and deluded views. If you abandon the false and turn to the true and practise this samadhi of "wall-gazing" (biguan), you will find no "self" or "other" and that the usual person and the sage are of one essence. Abide in this and you will not be swayed. You will then be free from "words" because you will be intimately merged with the Nature and free of conceptual distortion. This is to be at ease, free from activity. This is called "entry through the Nature."

Entry through conduct refers to the Four Practices which embrace all activities. These are: knowing how to answer enmity, according to circumstances, being free of craving, and being in accord with the Dharma.

What is meant by knowing how to answer enmity? Finding oneself in adverse circumstances, one who practises the Way should consider: From beginningless time I have wandered in countless states, concerned only with the branches and missing the root. Thus I have given rise to numberless instances of hatred, anger, and wrong action. While I might not have committed violations in this lifetime, the fruits of wrong actions of the past are being harvested now. This suffering has not been given to me by gods or by humans and so I will patiently accept all ills that occur without grudge or complaint. As well, the sutras teach that when situations are penetrated with prajna (radical insight) the basic root is known. Awakening this thought, one will be aligned with prajna and use enmity by bringing it into the Way. This is called knowing how to answer enmity.

According to circumstances means: There is no self in whatever arises as the play of causal conditions. Feeling good or feeling bad are both born from previous activities. If I wind up with name and fame this is in response to past actions; when the momentum of these conditions gives way, whatever I might presently enjoy will decay. Why rejoice about it? Win or lose, let me work with whatever conditions may arise. Awareness itself does not increase or decrease. I will not be swayed by the winds of fortune for I am intimately aligned with the Way. This is called according to conditions.

Being free of craving means: The usual person, through basic ignorance, fixates on one thing and then another; this is called craving. The sage however, understands truth and is free of ignorance, mind abiding evenly in non-action, and body moving in accord with the principle of causality. All dharmas are empty and there is nothing to crave or grasp. Merit and darkness follow each other. These three worlds (of desire, form, and formlessness), in which we have strayed altogether too long, are like a house on fire; all that is conditioned is dukkha (suffering) and no one knows true peace. Realizing this, be free from fabrication and so never grasp at the various states of becoming. The sutra says, Where there is craving, there is dukkha; cease from craving and there is joy. Know that being free of craving is the true practice of the Way.

Being aligned with the Dharma means the intimate knowing that what we call Dharma is in essence stainless, and knowing the emptiness of all that arises. It is undefiled and without attachment, and has no this or that within it. The sutra says; In the Dharma there are no sentient beings because it is free of any trace of being. In the Dharma there is no self because it is free of any trace of self-nature. The sage realizes and maintains this truth and is aligned with the Dharma. As in the Essence of Dharma there is no cherishing or possessing, the sage always practises generosity of body, life and property, and never grudges or knows the meaning of ill-will. With perfect understanding of the threefold emptiness of giving (no giver, gift, receiver), one is unswerving and free of grasping. One uses forms to free beings of stains, to embrace and transform them; one is unattached to fixed forms. This is benefiting oneself and others and adorns the Path of Awakening. As with the paramita (transcendent activity) of dana (generosity), so with the other five paramitas. The sage practises the six paramitas to exhaust deluded views and yet has nothing to practise. This is called being in accord with the Dharma.

And so this very brief text comes to us from the beginnings of Zen in China, before Zen was called "Zen", before koan, before katsu. In this brief text, we see little trace of the broken nosed barbarian Bodhidharma, in his smelly tattered robes and his earring, scowling at Emperor Wu and saying, "Don't know." There is very little in the text that smacks of what we often consider to be Zen, in that it's somewhat heavy handed, somewhat conventional. But since it does speak clearly of issues that arise in the lives of all Zen practitioners, this text has much to tell us.

So to begin to understand the text, first let us consider briefly the various kinds of Teachings. I have spoken in the past of Tathagata Zen and Ancestral Zen, or the Gradual Teachings and the Direct Teachings.3 Zen itself is of course essentially the Direct Teachings, directly pointing to the mind of each and every one of you; directly pointing to Buddha, without taking shortcuts. It grabs you by the throat and says, "Well? Well?" This is the Direct Teaching. Tathagata Zen, or the Gradual Teachings, try to explain things to you, try to lead you through step by step, saying, "Well first you do this, and then you do this," and "It's okay. Don't worry. It'll all work out." The Direct Teachings say, There is nothing to attain, because nothing has ever been lost. This is Buddha. The Gradual Teachings tell you how you can "become" Buddha.

But as I have pointed out in the past, there is no necessary conflict between the Gradual Teachings and the Direct Teachings. There might be from the point of view of the Gradual Teachings in that they would say, "What do you mean 'this is Buddha?' You have to become Buddha." But from the point of view of the Direct Teachings, there is the direct pointing to what is present in this moment, to the arising of this moment, and to actualizing this moment. Which means not just a sudden burst of insight but standing up, sitting down, breathing in and breathing out, and actualizing being Buddha, taking responsibility for being Buddha, through seeing all of the ways in which one hides from being Buddha and opening each of those ways and finding Buddha inside. And so just because this text contains not a single katsu, not a single curse word, not a single fist upraised, a single broken leg, it is still a Zen text. Bodhidharma himself, in this text, presents both Direct and Gradual Teachings - speaking of directly realizing the Way, and gradually cultivating the Way through conduct.

We will begin with the preface. So Danlin tells us about Bodhidharma, that he was from a small country in southern India, and was the third son of a great Brahmin king (although the phrase "king" was rather loosely used in those days, and could refer even to a kind of tribal leader). But in any case, it seems that Bodhidharma came from a fairly auspicious segment of the populace. Leaving that though, he entered practice, first as a lay person, and then, wishing to completely marinate himself in the Way, he put aside the white of a lay person, and took on the black robes of a monk. The text says, His mind deepened into stillness. His understanding penetrated the events of the world. The first thing I would like to point out is that the mind deepening into stillness and having an understanding which can penetrate the events of the world, are not two separate things. And it is not that only when you sit and only when your sitting is "good" can you have an understanding which penetrates the events of the world. Prajna and realization are not only matters for the cushion. It is through the mind deepening into stillness, into clarity, that one gets out of one's own way. And in that stillness opens the clarity which penetrates all dharmas arising, dwelling, and decaying as one's world. The mind deepening into stillness means to penetrate this breath, to penetrate this body, penetrate this mind, this wall, this floor; to penetrate into one's world. And then when one gets up from the zafu and walks, one is still walking in one's world. All beings that are met, all events that arise, are one's world, and this penetration into one's world is the essence of practice. It is often so easy for us to think that our practice is completely separate from the world, but our practice is entering into our world, to see how mind arises as world and world arises as mind.

The text goes on to say that through such deepening and such understanding, Bodhidharma's wisdom was both inside and out, and his virtue was beyond common standards, and blah, blah, blah, these little praises here. And then it goes on to say that his compassion and concern ached at the decline of the True Teaching in this obscure corner, and so, crossing mountains and seas, he came to teach in this distant land of Han and Wei. It is interesting that Danlin refers to China here as "this obscure corner", since in China, the word for the nation was "the middle kingdom" or "the centre of the world," and everything else was of course merely an obscure corner. I think this is why Buddhism wound up being persecuted so much in China during these years. Chinese Buddhists just couldn't take China seriously enough. But there is something about practice that makes it very difficult to take such things seriously; makes it very difficult for us to take nations seriously. Very difficult for us to take our own games seriously, our own strategies seriously. There is something about practice that won't allow us to rest on our assumptions of being the centre of the world. In any case, when Bodhidharma reached China, he had a bit of a hard time. Whereas previously, monks and translators from India, or Chinese monks and teachers, would fasten upon a particular text, and lecture on it day after day without end and encourage the building of monasteries and stupas, the copying forth of texts, the performance of meritorious actions, Bodhidharma came to teach sitting. In China, there were other schools that placed emphasis upon practice, such as the Tientai school's zhiguan which literally translates as samatha and vipasyana, or calming and insight. But the practice that Bodhidharma came to bring was somewhat different, it was biguan, "wall gazing"; which refers not even to the fact that one sits facing the wall, just that "wall gazing" means [strike] this. No calming, no insight. [strike] This. Look.

But people then as now are often more interested in things to see rather than in looking, rather than in seeing. They would like some bright shiny ball, to console them for the horrible and awful fact of having being born. They would like some justification for their existence. They would like to build themselves up by being in a relationship with something greater than themselves, something holier than themselves, so that they can crawl around at the feet of this idol and feel special because they are in relationship to it. And we search moment after moment in our practice for something to make ourselves feel better. We search for something to see, something to entertain us, something to make us better people. But Bodhidharma says, "Look! What is it that sees? What is it that hears? What is it that searches and craves? Who are you?" It is said in fact that Bodhidharma was poisoned several times, and that his nose was broken and some of his teeth knocked out by jealous lecturers. Or perhaps it was simply irate pilgrims and so on who might have come see this monk who had traveled all the way from India, and instead of being given a blessing or something of this nature were simply asked: "Who are you? What is this?"

The text now mentions that he had two students, Daoyu and Huike. Other texts name other students, but it seems that Bodhidharma never had a very large following. He simply worked with only those who would work very seriously with their lives. These two monks, Daoyu and Huike, served and studied under Bodhidharma and learned and realized the pacification of mind, the development of practice according with circumstances and skillful means. This pacification of mind does not simply mean calm and quiet. We can perhaps begin to understand what this pacification of mind means when we remember the koan concerning Huike's meeting with Bodhidharma. Huike was standing outside in the snow as Bodhidharma sat in the cave near Shaolin temple, facing the wall. When Bodhidharma finally paid some attention to Huike, he more or less just asked him, "What the hell do you want?", and Huike said, "I am diseased. I am confused. Please pacify my mind." And Bodhidharma says, Show me this mind. Huike said, I cannot find it. And Bodhidharma says, The mind is pacified. Danlin says, This is the teaching of the pacification of mind in the Mahayana. Practise it without deviation.

Please, without swerving from this breath, from this moment, enter into your practise most completely. Enter into your lives most completely. Take each step, breathe each breath, meet each person completely.

Please, enjoy yourselves.

  • 1. The teisho series Bodhidharma's Eyes presented by Roshi from October through December 2000 at Dainen-ji goes into great detail on the history, legends, and many koan associated with Bodhidharma.
  • 2. Originally published in Zanmai 4, Winter/Spring 1990.
  • 3. Nyorai-Zen and Soshi-Zen.

2: Entry Through the Nature (as basis of both the Direct and Gradual paths)

by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi

Daijozan, January 22, 1989

The birds are singing that it is a good morning, and it is a good morning because the birds are singing. It is a good morning because there is this breath, there is this seeing, this hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, thinking. It is a good morning because there is this world, arising in this moment. Sitting in the midst of this, is practice. And so this morning, we will continue to hear from Bodhidharma Daishi in this text on the Two Entries and Four Practices.

There are many Dharma gates but they are all of two kinds: entry through the Nature and entry through conduct.

Right here in this phrase, long before the debate arose as to whether enlightenment was sudden or gradual, Dogen zenji, Huineng, Keizan zenji, and other Dharma Masters have presented a Direct Way which goes back to Bodhidharma's expression in this text, entry through the Nature and entry through conduct. There is a direct method, and a gradual method. There are many Dharma gates but they are all of these two kinds. Practising the Direct Way means to pay attention directly to what is arising in Awareness now, waking up to this arising, recognizing that this arising is the display of wakefulness, and practising this moment after moment is the expression of this realization. So in terms of the Direct Path, there is nothing gradual about it. There are no stages. It is just this. The direct method says, "This is Buddha." The Gradual Path, on the other hand, says, "You must become Buddha, and this is how you will do it."

But this effort to "become" Buddha, if we're going to be honest about it, is really just another way of trying to put off being Buddha; just stalling for time. What are you waiting for? How is it that you hear these words? How is it that there is hearing, that there are words? What is it that is aware of this?

This moment has nothing gradual about it. It doesn't sort of inch its way in and then exert itself and then slip out. Its coming and going is the dynamic arising of this experiencing. In Bodhidharma's teaching here, he speaks of entry through the Nature, which means entering into that which has no gate, which has no barrier, which has in fact no entry. Entry into the Actual Nature. We can call it Buddha Nature, enlightenment, Things as They Are, but fundamentally it is who and what you are.

And then Bodhidharma says there is entry through conduct. Entry through conduct means to cultivate one's enlightenment through practice, to gradually become Buddha. But if we practise in this moment, and as this moment, then we continually, with each breath, with each action, conduct ourselves as Buddha. We continually enter into Buddha. Bodhidharma, recognizing that many beings are trying to put off being Buddha as long as is possible, takes this view into account and describes entry through conduct. And yet, within his description of these stages, within his description of these four practices of entry through conduct, he continually points back to entry through the Nature, as we will see as we continue to discuss this text.

So the text continues:

Entry through the Nature means the realization of the truth of the Teachings. The basis of this is Great Faith in the Actual Nature of all living beings, usual people and sages both. The reason it is not manifest is only due to being wrapped in external objects and deluded views.

Entry through the Nature means to realize the Teachings, not to study the Teachings, not to think about the Teachings, but to realize the Teachings. And the Teachings of Buddha Dharma point directly to the mind of each and every one of you; point to this breath; point to this wall, to this stepping, to the arising of this thought, of this moment of fear, this moment of joy. The basis of this, Bodhidharma says, is Great Faith1 in the Actual Nature of all living beings.

Great Faith is not a belief in something. Great Faith is not a conviction. Great Faith is not a point of view. Great Faith is practising being Buddha. We say "Faith" because it has this heart quality. And "Great" because it is unconditional. It is not based on being convinced of something. It is as direct as feeling the cold in wintertime. It is as direct as breathing in and out. Great Faith is the basis of realization of the truth of the Teaching.

Great Faith is entry through the Nature, the Actual Nature of all living beings, usual people and sages both. You don't have to be particularly wise. You don't have to be particularly good-looking. You don't have to be particularly successful, or particularly artistic, or particularly anything. You just have to be to be Buddha, to be unconditionally free.

The reason it is not manifest, Bodhidharma explains, is only due to being wrapped in external objects and deluded views.

Only, or merely. Not truly.

A thought comes up, and we think that we have thought it, even though we don't know where that thought has come from, or where it goes. We pretend that we have thought the thought. We pretend that we are the thinker. And we are coloured by the contents of that thought, as we propagate the next thought, and the next thought, and the next thought, and continue this game of dancing around pretending that we are the thinker, pretending that we are the contents of the thoughts. We bind our experiences together into lumps and heaps, into piles of junk.

We get up in the morning, and once we get over that moment of panic of the first opening our eyes and realizing that there's a world there, and we collect together all of our thoughts and feelings for the day. We start to ramble around inside of our head, feeling a grudge about this, feeling anxious about that. We wake up in our usual bed, in our usual way, get out of bed into our usual room, and wander around through our usual world for the day, looking for some kind of satisfaction someplace, something interesting to happen to cut through this usualness, this pettiness. Desperately searching for something to make us happy, or at least give us some sense of being alive.

And yet, things are not bound together, nor are you tied. Sounds come and go. Thoughts come and go. The world comes and goes over and over and over again. When a thought comes up it is instantly gone. It is impossible for you to hold onto a thought. It is impossible for you to hold onto a sound. It is impossible to find any place to hold on, let alone to be able to pile things up in ugly heaps.

The world is not usual. The world is amazing. The world exerts itself as world, simply for the fun of it. In our search for something to make us happy, we pass over this basic joyfulness that is existence. And so the reason it is not manifest is only due to being wrapped in external objects and deluded views. We have a deluded view if we think that the world is the same moment after moment. We have a deluded view if we think that we can hold onto anything. We have a deluded view if we think that we are anything at all. We have a deluded view if we believe in time and space and body and mind and self and other. We have a deluded view if we think that we have to become Buddha. We have a deluded view if we think that we are not Buddha. We wrap ourselves in external objects when we hope that something will make us happy. Wrapping ourselves in external objects does not just mean collecting cars, and houses, and mink coats. Giving up wrapping ourselves in external objects is not as easy as selling your property and going off to live in a cave. Ceasing to wrap oneself in external objects means to come out into the open, to stop hiding, and to come out and play.

Bodhidharma goes on: If you abandon the false and turn to the true and practise this samadhi of wall-gazing (biguan), you will find no "self" or "other" and that the usual person and the sage are of one essence.

True samadhi or zanmai is complete practice. It is not fixating on a particular state. It is practising as hishiryo, not just shiryo, thinking, or fushiryo, not thinking, cutting off thought, blanking out into some concentration state. But being hishiryo, before thought, is samadhi, is zanmai.2 It is to stand at the heart of all worlds, to sit as sitting, to live this life, to know this living, to be this living that exerts itself as free of strategy, as free of intention, as free of goal, as a flower opening, as the wind rising. This is samadhi. It is not that we will find no self or other if we simply ignore them through hiding within minor meditational states that might arise in one's practice. Finding no self or other means to recognize Things as They Are, to recognize the radical impermanence of this existing, of this living. To realize and actualize practising the samadhi of wall-gazing you will find no "self" or "other" and that the usual person and the sage are of one essence. This essence is the actual Nature, and it is an essenceless essence. Entering into this Nature, one finds that all forms are formless. There is no self or other to be found, no time, no space, no body, no mind. There is nothing at all.

Abide in this and you will not be swayed, says Bodhidharma. You will then be free from 'words' because you will be intimately merged with the Nature and free of conceptual distortion. This is to be at ease, free from activity. This is called 'entry through the Nature.

Being "free from words" here means, free from trying to talk oneself into waking up, trying to talk oneself out of confusion, trying to think one's way out of thinking. To be free from words means to see what the words of the Teachings point to. In this freedom, there is intimate merging with the Nature, so intimate that there is no merging. There is just this. And this is at ease, free from activity. There is no need to do anything, because nothing has ever been done. There is just this breathing, this seeing, this hearing, this wall, this world. So "no activity" means "complete activity." It means doing what needs to be done, because there is nothing at all. This is the practice of the bodhisattva. This is called entry through the Nature.

To practise is to enter again and again into our lives. To enter into the open space in which we realize there's no place to hide, and it is the moment of realizing there is no need to hide. Practice is entering again and again into this moment. Practice is hearing the birds singing. It is the singing of the birds.

The birds, the wall, the altar, the floor, and I, all wish you a good morning.

  • 1. Daishinkon.
  • 2. Roshi is referring to Dogen zenji's phrase in the Fukanzazengi, It is not a matter of thinking or not-thinking. Be before thinking.

3: Entry Through Conduct: How to Answer Enmity; The Wheel of Birth and Death

by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi

Daijozan, January 29, 1989

Good morning and welcome to the January 1989 sesshin.

This is our first sesshin of the year, but it is not the first sesshin for any of you sitting here. So there's nothing new. We've all done this before. And yet everything is completely new. The birds are singing outside, and across the road black squirrels are jumping from tree to tree. Sitting on your zafu, thoughts and feelings and sleepiness are jumping, leaping, shifting and changing. Cricks in your back, blurry vision.

But good morning. Because this is the first time you've ever breathed this breath. This is the first time that this thought has ever arisen. So here we are again, where we always were. Right in the midst of our lives.

Sesshin, this "gathering together of the heart," "gathering together of the mind," is entering into the heart of our lives, practising the heart of our lives. And sesshin is the heart of our practice. It is the place in which we come face to face with ourselves. Sesshin is where we can truly allow ourselves to hear the birds cry outside the window, allow ourselves to truly feel a step. To see how we tie ourselves hand and foot with patterns of behaviour, patterns of attention.

Coming into this moment we often see how we are living our lives from the past, a past that is nowhere to be found, waiting impossibly, perching on the edge of this moment, waiting for something to happen, sometime in the future. And yet, no matter how many patterns might arise, no matter how bound we might feel, no matter how much of the past or the future we might carry around with us as we lurch from step to step in kinhin, we are right here. Right here for the very first time.

Each time that we realize that we are here, we begin to recognize an inexpressible freshness, a vividness; nothing extraordinary, but something beyond price, something beyond boundary. We begin to sense being alive. We begin to come into contact with this livingness, this being. And yet even this is not enough. We must go yet further into our own hearts, into our own minds and bodies, further into this moment, to find what this living is. Not what this living "means", but what this living is, what this wall is, what this body is, what this mind is.

Bodhidharma advises each and every one of you to practise biguan, wall-gazing, to sit like a wall, like a blank wall. Not to make your minds a blank, but to just sit with the thoroughness of a wall. A wall does not isolate itself from anything. A wall supports the ceiling. A wall extends. A wall doesn't need to move in order to be so useful. It's just [strike] there. So sit here, facing this wall, feeling this breath, hearing this sound, for the very first time, and again and again for the very first time. Sit.

This practice of zazen is beyond measure, beyond understanding, beyond concept, beyond strategy. This zazen is the manifestation of the mind of the Buddhas. Realizing this posture of zazen, this posture of body and mind, this posture of wall, of floor, this posture of Zendo, perhaps we can hear the posture of the bird's song, the presentation of bird as bird, song as song, and hearing as hearing. What is it that presents itself to us in this way? What is this presenting? Birds cry out in this warm January morning. No matter how you are this day, sit like a wall, see how you are, without reactivity, without hiding, without pretences of holiness, or pretences of profanity. Each and every one of you thinks that you are the best and the worst here, but you're not fooling anyone. So let's stop all this and sit.

This morning we will continue to hear from Bodhidharma, from his treatise Two Entries and Four Practices. Having discussed the entry of no entry, or entry through the Nature, we will now go on to discuss what Bodhidharma calls the second entry, "entry through conduct."

Entry through conduct refers to the Four Practices which embrace all activities. These are: knowing how to answer enmity, according with circumstances, being free of craving, and being in accord with the Dharma.

"Conduct", in this sense, means this endless doing which arises moment after moment, this breathing in and breathing out, this stepping and walking, this meeting and leaving. Conduct means the deportment of this bodymind. And so these Four Practices embrace all activities.

To truly practise, to practise completely, we must do whatever we do completely. We must realize and embrace our lives, and embrace each and every activity completely, thoroughly. So please, take care of everything. Give care, thoroughly. Care for your zafu and zabuton when you fold it and place it against the wall, for your oryoki set, for your neck and shoulders, for your neighbour, for your breath, for the wall, for each and every step you take, for each and every feeling or thought that arises, dwells, and decays. Be very careful. Care completely; so completely that there is no limit to this caring. There is just an open heart which embraces all activities because it knows that whatever is done, it is doing.

Bodhidharma goes on:

What is meant by knowing how to answer enmity? Finding oneself in adverse circumstances, one who practises the Way should consider: From beginningless time I have wandered in countless states, concerned only with the branches and missing the root. Thus I have given rise to numberless instances of hatred, anger, and wrong action. While I might not have committed violations in this lifetime, the fruits of wrong actions of the past are being harvested now. This suffering has not been given to me by gods or by humans and so I will patiently accept all ills that occur without grudge or complaint. As well the sutras teach that when situations are penetrated with prajna the basic root is known. Awakening this thought, one will be aligned with prajna and use enmity by bringing it into the Way. This is called knowing how to answer enmity.

In this first practice of the second means of entry, the entry through conduct, Bodhidharma brings together both the gradual and direct approach, and merges them. The gradual approach trying to be better than we are through giving rise to patience with whatever situation we might find ourselves in, to free ourselves from struggle, jealousy and anger, and yet at the same time to realize that all situations can be penetrated with prajna, and the basic root known right there.

Now I'll repeat myself once more. If you penetrate any cloud in the sky, no matter how dark, or large, no matter its shape, penetrate any cloud and you reach only the sky. The sky which is beyond grasping, that extends in all directions, and that appears as clouds of many different shapes, that folds in upon itself and plays with itself as clouds. But penetrate any of these clouds, even a sky overcast and grey and heavy, penetrate that in any place and you find only this sky.

Concerning the gradual approach, Bodhidharma recommends that, finding oneself in adverse circumstances, you should take a look at the situation. You should realize that from beginningless time there has been this wandering in countless states.

Here Bodhidharma is talking about the rising and falling of bodies and minds through the wheel of birth and death. The wheel of birth and death, though, arises in this lifetime, in this body and mind, in this moment, as you wander through the hell-realm of claustrophobia and anger, through the god-realm of bliss and momentary ecstasy, through the hungry-ghost realm of poverty and self-consciousness and hesitation. Wandering through all of these states one was lost and tangled in the branches and leaves, and missing the very root of things, the very root of your existence, the very heart of your life. And this has been beginningless; which means one can't find any particular situation to blame, any particular thing that you have done.

Bodhidharma says you can't blame anybody else either, gods or humans. Thoughts arise, dwell, and decay. Feelings swell and shift like tides. And you never know what thought is going to come up, what feeling will arise, because this process of grasping, of solidifying, of freezing, that we call self-image, is completely random. It has no reason; it follows no plan. It simply schemes and engages in strategies. So hatred, anger and wrong action, boredom, lust, fear, joy, kindness, any of these states might arise, and this is beginningless. You have no place for your blame to rest. You did not choose for this thought to arise, and so there is no blame. The arising of these one hundred thousand dharmas is completely free of blame, free of guilt, and yet we have this responsibility to live, this responsibility to pay attention.

So in the midst of this adverse circumstance, in the midst of confusion, in the midst of fear, in the midst of poverty, in the midst of aching shoulders and knees, ankles and minds screaming out in the afternoon, in this sesshin, there is no blame, no guilt. But there is responsibility. Everything that we have done makes us who and what we are, and yet there is so little that we have actually truly done, since most of our activity has simply been habit, simply a playing out of patterns of reactivity and endless interpretations.

This beginningless though also refers, I believe, to that place which is completely without beginning, completely without end. This beginningless is the heart of our lives, the Actual Nature of this moment of experiencing. It is that which experiences. It is this moment, which has no beginning, and no end. Because in this moment there is not a scrap or a shred of time to be found. In this moment the whole body arises and exerts itself, the whole world arises and exerts itself as this very moment.

So in whatever arises, practise thoroughly, which is the characteristic of the gradual path: thoroughness, step by step. And yet at the same time, with each step penetrate into the root, penetrate into the groundlessness of this moment, into the formlessness of form, into the forming of this formlessness, and its spontaneous passing. See that the wheel of birth and death revolves around a point that does not turn. Sit in that place, and you will understand the Way.

But whether you understand or don't understand, understand that it is this moment of your life. Practise this moment of your life and all understanding will open for you, as this moment opens, as this breath opens, as again and again you experience your life for the very first time.

Take care, and give care.

Please, enjoy yourselves.

4: Entry Through Conduct: According With Circumstances

by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi

Daijozan, January 29, 1989

Good evening.

Some of you might feel relieved that it's evening, and there are only a couple of hours left in this sesshin. But please, do not waste your time by waiting for something to happen, even for this sesshin to end. Instead of waiting your practice out, measuring the time with your breath, breathe this breath, practise this moment, this moment of breath, of sitting, recognizing the mind of Awakening, coming back to the breath in this moment. Tender joints, tender mind. Even the aching of your ankles and knees seem to know something that your thoughts and strategies don't know. They know and they proclaim that it is this moment. So instead of avoiding your aches and pains, simply come back to them. Come back to feeling with the whole body, from crown to toe.

We will continue to hear from Bodhidharma daishi and Two Entries and Four Practices:

According with circumstances means: There is no self in whatever arises as the play of causal conditions. Feeling good or feeling bad are both born from previous activities. If I wind up with name and fame, this is in response to past actions; when the momentum of these conditions gives way, whatever I might presently enjoy will decay. Why rejoice about it? Win or lose, let me work with whatever conditions may arise. Awareness itself does not increase or decrease. I will not be swayed by the winds of fortune for I am intimately aligned with the Way. This is called according with conditions.

In the previous practice of the entries through conduct, we spoke of knowing how to answer enmity, being open to our confusion, being open to our doubts and hesitations, being open to our fears, yet without being consumed by them, without becoming attached to them. This is the beginning of maitri or metta, fundamental warmth or friendliness, which is the basis of karuna, or Buddhist compassion.

Coming face to face with ourselves, we find ourselves often scurrying away into a corner just as we begin to get a glimpse. Coming face to face with ourselves often we find only a parade of costumes and tricks. But to see clearly means to see all of how we are, and it is difficult, because we've spent so much time refusing to see or to be seen as we fear we really are. Metta or maitri, this fundamental warmth or basic friendliness, is itself actually an aspect of wisdom, an aspect of clear seeing. It is seeing that gives rise to maitri, and it is maitri that allows deeper and more complete seeing. So maitri is recognizing a game for a game, and perhaps in the midst of the game, recognizing the groundlessness of all games, of all pretences, of all strategies, and the groundlessness of experience itself.

In the first entry through conduct, of knowing how to answer enmity, Bodhidharma advises you to free yourself from holding a grudge about your experiencing and to simply experience what is being experienced, and this is difficult for us, to let go of our attachment to our own pain; difficult for us to free ourselves from attaching blame.

In this next practice, which here is called according with circumstances, we are asked to let go as well of the various ways in which we congratulate ourselves, to let go of our attachment to fame, happiness, and joy. We are asked to let go of our pain, our fear, and also to let go of our ceaseless search for happiness, to let go of hope, so that we can see clearly what is present, completely without distortion, completely without jumping the gun or feeling backed into a corner.

According with circumstances, Bodhidharma points out, begins with the realization, or at least the understanding, that there is no self, no entity in either the observer or what is being observed, in the experience or in the experiencer. That is to say, there is no experiencer. There is no experience. There is simply the display of experiencing. There is no knower, nothing which is known. There is simply the unfolding and opening of this process of knowing: Knowing the Dharma, knowing a cup of coffee, knowing a friend, knowing the feeling of the sun on your cheek, and knowing that whatever arises is the play of causal conditions. That is to say that everything interacts, everything arises together, that each thing makes every other thing what it is.

And so having developed some ability to feel our own pain without avoiding it and without attaching to it, having uncovered the possibility of not being afraid of our fear, we must look very closely at what is arising. We must understand that just as we place blame, we also try to take or give credit.

People will take credit for the silliest things. They will say thing like, "Well, I've been able to grow a beard since I was twelve," as if they have somehow had something to do with that. They will place credit on somebody else for making them feel good, for making them feel confident. They will think that it is they who are thinking the thoughts that are arising.

Whatever arises simply plays itself out. It simply, at some point, gives way. So Bodhidharma says, Why rejoice about it? Why lament over it?This doesn't mean don't pay any attention to it, hide yourself from it, become withered and dry by avoiding pleasure, avoiding joy, but simply give and take no blame, nor credit.

Win or lose, may I work with whatever conditions may arise. The arising of these thoughts and these experiences, directly in this arising, directly in what we are experiencing now, we can unfold and experience the Way itself; we can establish our practice there. We can clarify these vital questions of: Who is it? What is it?

Directly, in whatever is present, the Actual Nature of experiencing presents itself, sometimes as wall, sometimes as breath, sometimes as floor, as attention skips from one to the other. But although attention might become lost in a thought, might be mindful, Awareness itself does not increase nor decrease. Just as no matter how many objects are shown to a mirror, this showing does not wear out the mirror, the mirror doesn't lose anything when it reflects a hand, and then a face, and then a field of swaying grass, and then the sun, and then a bird. It does not lose anything each time it reflects. It does not gain anything either. The reflections arise and then are gone. No matter how many clouds fill the sky, the sky is still open in all directions.

Bodhidharma says: Why rejoice about it? Win or lose, let me work with whatever conditions may arise. Awareness itself does not increase or decrease. I will not be swayed by the winds of fortune for I am intimately aligned with the Way.

Being intimately aligned with the Way is to be intimate with our own selves, intimate with our own experience, meeting whatever arises fully, openly, with complete maitri. Can we be so intimate with ourselves, so intimate with our experience, so intimate with our world that we can live free of guilt and blame, and credit and searching? Can we simply live our lives that much? One doesn't need to hide in the lotus posture, facing a wall, in order to avoid the winds of fortune by searching for some subtle blissful state and attaching to that and being Buddha. Being Buddha is to realize the nature of the arising of all experience. To practise this is to align oneself with the Way, whether facing the wall in the Zendo, or facing a friend, facing one's own fear.

Sitting in this Zendo we sit in the place where we can allow ourselves perhaps to begin to experience this maitri, this freedom from hope and fear. So do not come here to hide. Come here to understand and release your deceptions. The ways in which you perhaps have been deceived by others, perhaps the ways in which you deceive others. But regardless of whether we regard our conditioning as social conditioning, or the conditioning that arises through our own habits, the truth is that there is simply conditioning. There is simply living one's life as one was, instead of as one is: living one's live on the basis of memory and expectation, and deceiving oneself about one's life.

Practice is simple honesty. Honesty with the breath, honesty with the moment, honesty with one's own motives, honesty with the coming and going of the ten thousand dharmas, honesty with the fact that this is Buddha, honesty with one's own fundamental freedom. Which can only be seen through being honest about one's myriad deceptions. As we sit, knees aching, mind aching, somehow our heart begins to ache. Somehow our heart begins to beat. Somehow our heart begins to break through its armour. And we can feel the currents of the open air. This aching of the heart means opening the ways in which we isolate ourselves from others, the ways in which we isolate ourselves from ourselves. This ache is the recognition of the boundaries that we have drawn, that we have enclosed ourselves in. And this ache is the beginning of the recognition that there is no barrier.

Dogen zenji in Fukanzazengi says, traps and cages spring open when you realize that there is only Dharma here. There is only this moment. There is only this seeing, this hearing, there is only Buddha is all directions. There is only the vast wealth and spaciousness of our lives. A vastness so without limit, so without boundary, that we felt we had to limit it somehow, we had to hide from it, because we didn't know what to do with it. And so we drew these boundaries. We set up these walls. We lost ourselves within hope and fear.

But the aching of our heart stirs in the midst of our confusion. And we begin to recognize, truly recognize, that the recognition of confusion is the germinal stirring of wisdom, of clarity. And that this clarity is present in just simply attending.

Through simply attending, we free our attention from structures and barriers and boundaries and habits. We can release projections and transference, blame and credit. And we can come into our lives as they are, and realize this single bodymind, right here and now, whole and healed. And when we can stand up and truly stand up, and sit down, and truly sit down, then we can also question into and unfold the actual nature of this body and mind, and realize that "Oh shit..." it's even vaster than we thought. We call this dropping body and mind.1

There is never any place to hold to in this practice. Every time that you think you've thoroughly penetrated, you've just begun. And so now, let's begin again. Don't wait. Don't wait for your knees to feel better. Don't wait for your mind to feel clearer. Don't wait for your life to come up upon you and give you a hand with your living.

Here is your life. Here there is this seeing, this hearing, this knowing which arises as this very world. To penetrate into the nature of this world, just see, just hear, just practise like a blank wall, blank because it is featureless, free of strategy, not because it is blank of thought, blank of experiences. This biguan, this shikantaza, this realization of the display of emptiness and Awareness, is as close as this breath.

So what are you waiting for? Perhaps you're waiting for your image of what this Actual Nature might be, just as you wait for something to come along and make you feel better, just as you wait your lives away.

Please, let's begin again, with the freshness of this breath.

Please, enjoy yourselves.

  • 1. Shinjin-datsuraku.

5: Entry Through Being Free from Craving: Flick of a Bird's Wing; Entry Through Aligning With the Way; The Paramitas

by Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi

Daijozan, February 26, 1989

Good morning.

Through the rice paper blind over the dokusan room window, I can see birds falling from the branches, jumping from the roof, into midair, and flick their wings, and vanish. Each moment of flicking the wing, a moment of flying, arises and passes. Each moment of flight, flight is gone and renews itself. And the sun shines this bright morning, on the branches, and snow and ice, and birds, and buildings. It's a beautiful morning.

This beautiful morning we are gathered here, the harmonious community,1 gathered together to practice. In this gathering together there can be no holding. When there is no holding, then things can truly come together in harmony, and this can truly be Sangha. And where there is Sangha, there is the proclamation of Dharma. And where there is the proclamation of Dharma, there is awakening to the realization that this is Buddha.

Each moment of our lives let us recognize this harmony, this Sangha. In each moment of our lives, let us attend to and proclaim the Dharma. And in each moment let us wake up to this moment, and penetrate into this moment.

To penetrate means to fully enter into, to not stand outside of. To fully enter into, so fully that there is no entering. Entering into this coming, this going; entering into this moment; penetrating this moment, we are nowhere to be found.

This unfindability is like the flick of a bird's wing. Entering into this is like leaping from branch into midair, sheerly for the joy of it.

And so let us gather together and practise joyfully. Enter into this moment joyfully. This joy is not a matter of cranking up any good feeling. This joy is simply the expression of the freedom of the moment itself. Let us express this moment, express this practice, and celebrate this practice on such a beautiful morning.

On this beautiful morning, my back is wracked with pain.2 If I move to the right or the left, there's pain. And this pain flashes out, like the flick of a bird's wing.

It is a beautiful morning, and a good time to hear from our Ancestor Bodhidharma daiosho, and so we will continue to examine this text Two Entries and Four Practices.

The text states:

Being free of craving means: The usual person, through basic ignorance, fixates on one thing and then another, this is called craving. The sage however, understands truth and is free of ignorance, mind abiding evenly in non-action, and body moving in accord with the principle of causality. All dharmas are empty and there is nothing to crave or grasp. Merit and darkness follow each other. These three worlds (of desire, form, and formlessness), in which we have strayed altogether too long, are like a house on fire; all that is conditioned is dukkha and no one knows true peace. Realizing this, be free from fabrication and so never grasp at the various states of becoming. The sutra says, "Where there is craving, there is dukkha; cease from craving and there is joy." Know that being free of craving is the true practice of the Way.

Previously, we spoke of according with circumstances, and knowing how to answer enmity, and spoke of how these were related to the development of maitri, or metta in Pali. Maitri is a fundamental warmth, a fundamental joy or friendliness toward whatever is arising; bearing no grudge against one's life, but seeing that one's life is one's life, and that there is this living, and attending to this living. Facing our fear of being alive. Facing our fear that our life is not truly our life. Facing the fear of that which we already deeply know somewhere, that this life is not our life. This is life. Maitri is the awakening of some sense of the vibrancy of this life, and compassion for our fear, compassion for our fear of being who and what we are in any case. Maitri is the realization of the groundlessness of this fear, and the groundlessness of life itself, death itself, existence itself, non-existence itself.

So first, it is often necessary for us to accept adverse circumstances as being the case. And this is very difficult for us, but not quite as difficult as letting go of that which we cherish, and this is what Bodhidharma is addressing here, this being free of craving.

Bodhidharma says, The usual person through basic ignorance fixates on one thing and then another. This basic ignorance is the root of self-image, avidya, basic ignorance, ignoring the fact that one is already fundamentally free and pretending to be bound. In the midst of space, trying to carve out some territory, as if one could build walls out of the sheer air, as if one could tie knots in the air, nail clouds in place.

This tying of knots, this erecting of walls, this nailing things down, is this fixating on one thing and then another, grasping at thought, grasping at sounds and feelings, grasping at forms, and names. This is called craving.

And so the craving that we need to address in our practice is not just a matter of giving up our attachment to fashion or a beautiful house, a beautiful wife, a beautiful husband, beautiful children, a beautiful life in which there are no problems. Dropping that does not liberate, because all craving, all greed, all lust, all anger, are rooted in this fundamental strategy of self-image to contract and localize, to create boundaries within emptiness, to grasp at emptiness. And so we must understand this process of fixation as it arises, and it arises not in a beautiful house. It arises in this moment of seeing and hearing. It arises as mind moments display themselves, and as this display is interpreted to be self and other, time and space, body and mind. This is the craving that we must understand and release.

Bodhidharma goes on, The sage however, understands truth and is free of ignorance, mind abiding evenly in non-action, and body moving in accord with the principle of causality.

This mind which abides evenly in non-action is like the phrase in the Diamond Sutra which calls for giving rise to a thought which dwells nowhere. This is the immovability of Things as They Are. Dharmas arise, dwell and decay. The moment arises, dwells, and decays. Birth and death, bodies and minds, arise and fall continually. Yet there is something which never moves. What is this? This "not moving" is not a matter of staying, not a matter of holding or grasping. This "not moving" is not any place. It is not any thing. There is this seeing and hearing going on. There is this body and mind. There is this life. But what is it that lives? What is it that knows all of these objects of knowledge? Realizing this, one has a mind which abides evenly in non-action and the body moves in accord with the principle of causality, the principle of causality being karma or cause and effect.

This moving in accord with the principle of causality arises free of effort, free of struggle, because it is simply the easy and natural flow of dharmas. But fixating simply on this flow one is simply riding along on the surface. One can only be truly without effort when one realizes this non-moving mind. This non-moving mind cannot be realized through any strategy of contraction, cannot be realized through concentration, cannot be realized through anything at all because this non-moving mind is realization itself, and cannot be realized through anything. Whatever arises, arises as the expression of this non-moving mind.

In our practice we must open all boundaries, see all structures of attention and release them, recognize all strategies of contraction through direct penetration, direct insight, radical insight. Dogen zenji says, This practice is not gaining concentration by stages and so on. It is simply the easy and joyful practice of the Buddha. There is ease and joy in the recognition of the coming and going. This coming and going arises without effort. Practise in this way, in the midst of this coming and going, directly penetrating this coming and going, to realize this non-moving mind. And then you can act freely because there is nothing being done, nothing to hold you, nothing to be held.

Bodhidharma goes on, All dharmas are empty and there is nothing to crave or grasp. Merit and darkness follow each other.

If one grasps at a moment of joy, this strangles the moment of joy. Whatever name or fame might arise for you go just as easily. Realize that in this moment all dharmas are empty and ungraspable, and you will realize that it is not even a matter of letting go. It is a matter of realizing that there is no holding.

These three worlds [of desire, form, and formlessness], in which we have strayed altogether too long, are like a house on fire; all that is conditioned is dukkha and no one knows true peace.

The three worlds of desire, form, and formlessness, are all the permutations of possibility within self-image, and all of these possibilities are simply rearranging conditions in different patterns. To realize the unconditioned one must not operate within the realm of conditions, in a conditioned manner. These conditions are like a house on fire.3 There is no safe place because every time you try to hold on, the ungraspability of Things as They Are exerts itself. And the more that you are determined to hold, the more that you suffer. To exit this house on fire, to leave the realm of conditions, does not mean to go any place. It simply means to see without conditions, to see the conditions without conditions. And then one realizes that there are no conditions, that Awareness is not what it is aware of, that this unfindability, this ungraspability, this boundarilessness, is this life.

Bodhidharma says, Realizing this, be free from fabrication and so never grasp at the various states of becoming.

These states of becoming are again these three worlds, or the six realms, or the twelve links of interdependent emergence, pratitya-samutpada, or the five skandhas of form, basic reactivity, symbolization, patterning, and consciousness. These various states of becoming are simply this process of fixating on one thing and then another. Trying to fixate on that so that one can maintain this, but since that is always coming and going, the sounds are always coming and going, this is always coming and going, always struggling to become something, to define itself in some kind of way, to locate itself, to prove to itself that it exists. But it doesn't. Being free from fabrication, free from complexity, free from struggle and strategy, is to accord with Things as They Are, and to realize that Things as They Are, are free of craving because they are free of being anything at all.

The sutra says, Where there is craving, there is dukkha; cease from craving and there is joy. Know that being free of craving is the true practice of the Way.

Being aligned with the Dharma [the text goes on] means the intimate knowing that what we call Dharma is in essence stainless, and knowing the emptiness of all that arises. It is undefiled and without attachment, and has no this or that within it. The sutra says; In the Dharma there are no sentient beings because it is free of any trace of being. In the Dharma there is no self because it is free of any trace of self-nature. The sage realizes and maintains this truth and is aligned with the Dharma. As in the Essence of Dharma there is no cherishing or possessing, the sage always practises generosity of body, life and property, and never grudges or knows the meaning of ill-will. With perfect understanding of the threefold emptiness of giving [no giver, gift, receiver], one is unswerving and free of grasping. One uses forms to free beings of stains, to embrace and transform them; one is unattached to fixed forms. This is benefiting oneself and others and adorns the Path of Awakening. As with the paramita [transcendent activity] of dana, so with the other five paramitas. The sage practises the six paramitas to exhaust deluded views and yet has nothing to practise. This is called being in accord with the Dharma.

The six paramitas, or six transcendent activities of the bodhisattva, are how the bodhisattva manifests and actualizes the Dharma for all beings. What is transcendental about these activities is that they occur beyond the range of this and that, beyond the range of self and other, and so are completely ungraspable by the usual mind. And yet not truly "transcendental" because they are simply based upon how things are, based upon tathata4, on Things as They Are; based and rooted within the groundlessness of this life.

Entering into this life, directly, or through these four practices is fundamentally the same, because they are all based upon this life. Our practice is simply a matter of the direct transmission of realizing that this is Buddha, this is Dharma, and this is Sangha. And so fundamentally, we are not even transmitting any particular practice. We are not transmitting following the breath, or working with koan, or even shikantaza, as a practice. Fundamentally we practise no-practice, we practise this Transmission, by entering most directly into this life. Bodhidharma is said to have described this Lineage as a fundamental Teaching, the essence of Dharma, because this Lineage, this practice of Zen, transmits to us the essence of who and what we always already were, always are, and always will be. And Bodhidharma has also said, A Teaching outside the Sutras, directly pointing to the Mind. This pointing to the Mind of course also points to the body, points to the wall, points to the floor, points to this moment of knowing, and asks: What is this? Who is this? To receive this Transmission we must answer this question. In answering this question we have received this Transmission. And we will have had Transmitted to us nothing at all.

This nothing at all is simply our life. This nothing at all is a place without boundary. This nothing at all is each and every thing.

I thank you, dear friends, for listening. May you be well, may you liberate all beings.

Please, enjoy yourselves.

  • 1. Sangha.
  • 2. Roshi had slipped on icy stairs and fallen, injuring his back for a few weeks.
  • 3. In the Lotus sutra the Buddha speaks of samsara as being like a house on fire.
  • 4. Immo. Suchness or Thusness or Things as They Are.