D. T. Suzuki
A selection from
MANUAL OF ZEN BUDDHISM
Narrated by William Dufris
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One of the first lessons in the understanding of Buddhism is to know what is meant by the Buddha and by sentient beings. This distinction goes on throughout all branches of the Buddhist teaching. The Buddha is an enlightened one who has seen into the reason of existence, while sentient beings are ignorant multitudes confused in mind and full of defilements. The object of Buddhism is to have all sentient beings attain enlightenment like the Buddha. The question is whether they are of the same nature as the latter; for if not they can never be enlightened as he is. The spiritual cleavage between the two being seemingly too wide for passage, it is often doubted whether there is anything in sentient beings that will transform them into Buddhahood. The position of Zen Buddhism is that One Mind pervades all and therefore there is no distinction to be made between the Buddha and sentient beings and that as far as Mind is concerned the two are of one nature. What then is this Mind?
This One Mind only is the Buddha, who is not to be segregated from sentient beings. But because we seek it outwardly in a world of form, the more we seek the further it moves away from us. To make Buddha seek after himself, or to make Mind take hold of itself—this is an impossibility to the end of eternity. We do not realize that as soon as our thoughts cease and all attempts at forming ideas are forgotten the Buddha reveals himself before us.
This Mind is no other than the Buddha, and Buddha is no other than sentient being. When Mind assumes the form of a sentient being, it has suffered no decrease; when it becomes a Buddha, it has not added anything to itself. Even when we speak of the six virtues of perfection (paramitas) and other ten thousand meritorious deeds equal in number to the sands of the Ganges, they are all in the being of Mind itself; they are not something that can be added to it by means of discipline. When conditions' are at work, it is set up; when conditions cease to operate, it remains quiet. Those who have no definite faith in this, that Mind is Buddha and attempt an achievement by means of a discipline attached to form, are giving themselves up to wrong imagination; they deviate from the right path.
This Mind is no other than Buddha; there is no Buddha outside Mind, nor is there any Mind outside Buddha. This Mind is pure and like space has no specific forms [whereby it can be distinguished from other objects]. As soon as you raise a thought and begin to form an idea of it, you ruin the reality itself, because you then attach yourself to form. Since the beginningless past, there is no Buddha who has ever had an attachment to form. If you seek Buddhahood by practising the six virtues of perfection and other ten thousand deeds of merit, this is grading [the attainment of Buddhahood]; but since the begnningless past there is no Buddha whose attainment was so graded. When you get an insight into the One Mind you find there that is no particular reality
This unattainability is no other than the true Buddha himself.
Buddhas and sentient beings grow out of the One Mind and there are no differences between them. It is like space where there are no complexities, nor is it subject to destruction. It is like the great sun which illumines the four worlds: when it rises, its light pervades all over the world, but space itself gains thereby no illumination. When the sun sets, darkness reigns everywhere, but space itself does not share this darkness. Light and darkness drive each other out and alternately prevail, but space itself is vast emptiness and suffers no vicissitudes.
The same may be said of the Mind that constitutes the essence of Buddha as well as that of sentient being. When you take Buddha for a form of purity, light, and emancipation and sentient beings for a form of defilement, darkness, and transmigration, you will never have the occasion however long [your striving may go on] for attaining enlightenment; for so long as you adhere to this way of understanding, you are attached to form. And in this One Mind there is not a form of particularity to lay your hand on.
That Mind is no other than Buddha is not understood by Buddhists of the present day; and because of their inability of seeing into the Mind as it is, they imagine a mind beside Mind itself and seek Buddha outwardly after a form. This way of disciplining is an error, is not the way of enlightenment.
It is better to make offerings to a spiritual man who is free from mind-attachment' than to make offerings to all the Buddhas in the ten quarters. Why? Because to be free from mind-attachment means to be free from all forms of imagination.
Suchness as it expresses itself inwardly may be likened o wood or rock, it remains there unmoved, unshaken; while outwardly it is like space, nothing is obstructed or checked. Suchness, as it is free both from activity and passivity, knows no orientation, it has no form, there is in it neither gain nor loss. Those who are running [wildly] do not dare enter this path, for they are afraid of falling into an emptiness where there is no foothold to keep them supported. They beat a retreat as they face it. They are as a rule seekers of learning and intellectual understanding. Many are indeed such seekers, like hair, while those who see into the truth are as few as horns.
Manjusri corresponds to li (reason or principle) and Samantabhadra to hsing (life or action). Li is the principle of true emptiness and non-obstruction, hsing is a life of detachment from form, and inexhaustible. Avalokitesvara 'corresponds to perfect love and Sthamaprapta to perfect wisdom. Vimala-kirti means "undefiled name"; undefiled is Essence and name is form. Essence and form are not two different things, hence the name Vimala-kirti ("pure-name"). All that is represented by each one of the great Bodhisattvas is present in each of us, for it is the contents of One Mind. All will be well when we are awakened to the truth.
Buddhists of the present day look outward, instead of inwardly into their own minds. They get themselves attached to forms and to the world—which is the violation of the truth.
To the sands of the Ganges the Buddha refers in this way: these sands are trodden and passed over by all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sakrendra, and other devas, but the sands are not thereby gladdened; they are again trodden y cattle, sheep, insects, and ants, but they are not thereby incensed; they may hide within themselves all kinds of treasures and scented substances, but they are not covetous; they may be soiled with all kinds of filth and ill-smelling material, but they do not loathe them. A mental attitude Of this nature is that of one who has realized the state of mushin ("being free from mind-attachment").
When a mind is free from all form, it sees into [the fact] that there is no distinction between Buddhas and sentient beings; when once this state of mushin is attained it completes the Buddhist life. If Buddhists are unable to see into the truth of mushin without anything mediating, all their discipline of aeons would not enable them to attain enlightenment. They would ever be in bondage with the notion of discipline and merit as cherished by followers of the Triple Vehicle, they would never achieve emancipation.
In the attainment of this state of mind (mushin), some are quicker than others. There are some who attain to a state of mushin all at once by just listening to a discourse on the Dharma, while there are others who attain to it only after going through all the grades of Bodhisattvaship such as the ten stages of faith, the ten stages of abiding, the ten stages of discipline, and the ten stages of turning-over. More or less time may be required in the attainment of mushin, but once attained it puts an end to all discipline, to all realization and yet there is really nothing attained. It is truth and not falsehood. Whether this mushin is attained in one thought or attained after going through the ten stages its practical working is the same and there is no question of the one being deeper or shallower than the other. Only the one has passed through long ages of hard discipline.
When people learn that what is transmitted from one Buddha to another is Mind itself, they imagine that there is a particular object known as a mind which they attempt to grasp or to realize; but this is seeking something outside Mind itself, or creating something which does not exist. In reality, Mind alone is. You cannot pursue it by setting up another mind; however long, through hundreds of thousands of kalpas, you are after it, no time will ever come to you when you can say that you have it. Only when you have an immediate awakening to the state of mushin you have your own Mind. It is like the strong man's seeking for his own gem hidden within his forehead: as long as he seeks it outside himself in the ten quarters, he will not come across it; but let the wise once point at it where it lies hidden, and the man instantly perceives his own gem as having been there from the very first.
That followers of Zen fail to recognize the Buddha is due to their not rightly recognizing Where their own Mind is. They seek it outwardly, set up all kinds of exercises which they hope to master by degrees, and themselves work out diligently throughout ages. Yet they fail to reach enlightenment. No works compare with an immediate awakening to a state of mushin itself.
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