The Place of Precious Things

19. “On the eighth day of the tenth moon, the Master said to me: That which is called the City of Illusion contains the Two Vehicles, the Ten Stages of a Bodhisattva’s Progress, and the two forms of Full Enlightenment.1 All of them are powerful teachings for arousing people’s interest, but they still belong to the City of Illusion.2 That which is called the Place of Precious Things is the real Mind, the original Buddha-Essence, the treasure of our own real Nature. These jewels cannot be measured or accumulated. Yet since there are neither Buddha nor sentient beings, neither subject nor object, where can there be a City of Precious Things? If you ask, ‘Well, so much for the City of Illusion, but where is the Place of Precious Things?’, it is a place to which no directions can be given. For, if it could be pointed out, it would be a place existing in space; hence, it could not be the real Place of Precious Things. All we can say is that it is close by. It cannot be exactly described, but when you have a tacit understanding of its substance, it is there.”

1 Including the form which leads to the awakening of others.

2 The City of Illusion is a term taken from the Lotus Sutra and here implies temporary or incomplete Nirvana. From the point of view of Zen, all the teachings of the many sects based on a belief in gradual Enlightenment are likely to lead their followers to the City of Illusion, because all of them apparently subscribe to some form or other of dualism.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic, The Hobbit, will be released in theaters soon. It is a prequel to his epic The Lord of the Ring trilogy and actually plants the seeds of what is the main focal point of his fantastic tales: the mystical ring that has the power to corrupt all those who use it, or “the one ring to enslave them all.” Actually its own literary genre owes its roots to Wagner’s Ring Cycle—wherein the main motif is the same, an enchanting ring’s power to corrupt even the best of sentient beings—the gods themselves included. In The Hobbit, the ring is first discovered in the subterranean lair of the impish creature, Gollum, by the main protagonist of the story, Bilbo Baggins. But it is Gollum who intrigues me more, with his incessant refrain of, “my precious, my precious!”—in reference of course to the ring that has actually drained him of his life-force energy, as his every moment is spent pining away in his self-made tomb since his spirit has totally succumbed to the evil power of this great symbol of materialism itself. In contrast to this nefarious ring stands Huang Po’s reference to “the Place of Precious Things”, which of course is a rich metaphor for the One-Mind that houses the very vivifying Self-Nature of our True Beingness in the Unborn; indeed, the Unborn Buddha Mind is the great mani-pearl that does not enslave, but rather luminously eradicates the dark evil one, Mara, whose own dictatorial and materialistic hold can render impotent one’s spirit that has forgotten its True Primordial Source. The Place of this Precious Mani-Pearl of Noble Wisdom is location-less, It is not determined in terms of any measurable quotient within the creative sphere; It is spacelessness and timelessness Itself. Yet, as the Master points out, It is always close by. The Place of Precious Things therefore is the exact antithesis to what he describes as “the City of Illusion”, which as Blofeld indicates in his footnote is a reference found in the Lotus Sutra that implies “temporary or incomplete nirvana.” Once again the Master speaks about the tomfoolery of those who are beholden to exoteric teaching-forms that only keep one entrapped between the Iron Mountains of dualism. What one need do, of course, is to inwardly turn-about from any discursive thought process and discover the True and Undivided Nirvanic Kingdom of Selfhood in the Unborn.

20. “Icchantikas are those with beliefs which are incomplete. All beings within the six realms of existence, including those who follow Mahayana and Hinayana, if they do not believe in their potential Buddhahood, are accordingly called Icchantikas with cut-off roots of goodness. Bodhisattvas1 who believe deeply in the Buddha-Dharma, without accepting the division into Mahayana and Hinayana, but who do not realize the one Nature of Buddhas and sentient beings, are accordingly called Icchantikas with roots of goodness. Those who are Enlightened largely through hearing the spoken doctrine are termed Sravakas (hearers]. Those Enlightened through perception of the law of karma are called Pratyeka-Buddhas.2 Those who become Buddhas, but not from Enlightenment occurring in their own minds, are called Hearer-Buddhas. Most students of the Way are Enlightened through the Dharma which is taught in words and not through the Dharma of Mind. Even after successive aeons of effort, they will not become attuned to the original Buddha-Essence. For those who are not Enlightened from within their own Mind, but from hearing the Dharma which is taught in words, make light of Mind and attach importance to doctrine, so they advance only step by step, neglecting their original Mind. Thus, if only you have a tacit understanding of Mind, you will not need to search for any Dharma, for then Mind is the Dharma.” 

1 Here meaning Buddhists

2 Commonly meaning those Buddhas who do not interest themselves in the Enlightenment of others.

3 Most of this paragraph is intended to make it clear that, though Buddhism of the gradual school does produce results, they take long to attain and are at least incomplete compared with results obtained through Zen.

Huang Po makes a pivotal point concerning the Icchantikas, or those who’s Buddha-nature does not come to fruition. As he indicates, he’s just not referring to the common lot (puthujjanas) but even all those who are well versed in the Mahayana, but have not yet consummated their quest for the Unborn. One also needs to discover their own Buddha-nature that lies dormant within the gotra, or bodhichild with mystical affiliation with the Tathagatas. Huang Po warns here that merely memorizing scripture or invoking mantras and engaging in soteriological practices will be a totally useless endeavor. Even if one find’s an erudite teacher, if he or she has not discovered their own hidden Buddha-nature, then their teaching is done in vain. The Mind-Dharma is knowing Mind As It Is In Itself.

21. “People are often hindered by environmental phenomena from perceiving Mind, and by individual events from perceiving underlying principles; so they often try to escape from environmental phenomena in order to still their minds, or to obscure events in order to retain their grasp of principles. They do not realize that this is merely to obscure phenomena with Mind, events with principles. Just let your minds become void and environmental phenomena will void themselves; let principles cease to stir and events will cease stirring of themselves.1 Do not employ Mind in this perverted way. Many people are afraid to empty their minds lest they may plunge into the Void. They do not know that their own Mind is the void. The ignorant eschew phenomena but not thought; the wise eschew thought but not phenomena.2”  

1 To FORCE the mind to blot out phenomena shows ignorance of the identity of the one with the other.

2 This profound teaching is aimed partly at those Buddhists who practice a form of meditation which aims at temporarily blotting out the material world.

Once again Huang Po masterfully teaches to avoid trying to eradicate outside phenomena; if one tries in vain to FORCE the issue, then one will become all the more entangled in phenomena’s unwholesome grip. Just Recollect Mind’s Voidness, then all phenomenalizations will begin to dissipate on their own, like the passing clouds against the backdrop of the boundless sky. One must not try to cut-off passing phenomena, this would be like trying to cut off one of the many heads of the Hydra; instead eschew the heart of the Demon (discursive thoughts) altogether.

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