Wu-Wei

30. “If you now set about using your minds to seek Mind, listening to the teaching of others, and hoping to reach the goal through mere learning, when will you ever succeed? Some of the ancients had sharp minds; they no sooner heard the Doctrine proclaimed than they hastened to discard all learning. So they were called ‘Sages who, abandoning learning, have come to rest in spontaneity’.1 In these days people only seek to stuff themselves with knowledge and deductions, seeking everywhere for book-knowledge and calling this ‘Dharma-practice’.2 They do not know that so much knowledge and deduction have just the contrary effect of piling up obstacles. Merely acquiring a lot of knowledge makes you like a child who gives himself indigestion by gobbling too much curds. Those who study the Way according to the Three Vehicles are all like this. All you can call them is people who suffer from indigestion. When so-called knowledge and deductions are not digested, they become poisons, for they belong only to the plane of samsara. In the Absolute, there is nothing at all of this kind. So it is said: ‘In the armoury of my sovereign, there is no Sword of Thusness’. All the concepts you have formed in the past must be discarded and replaced by void. Where dualism ceases, there is the Void of the Womb of Tathagatas. The term ‘Womb of Tathagatas’ implies that not the smallest hairsbreadth of anything can exist there. That is why the Dharma Raja (the Buddha}, who broke down the notion of objective existence, manifested himself in this world, and that is why he said: ‘When I was with Dipamkara Buddha there was not a particle of anything for me to attain.’ This saying is intended just to void your sense-based knowledge and deductions. Only he who restrains every vestige of empiricism and ceases to rely upon anything can become a perfectly tranquil man. The canonical teachings of the Three Vehicles are just remedies for temporary needs. They were taught to meet such needs and so are of temporary value and differ one from another. If only this could be understood, there would be no more doubts about it. Above all it is essential not to select some particular teaching suited to a certain occasion, and, being impressed by its forming part of the written canon, regard it as an immutable concept. Why so? Because in truth there is no unalterable Dharma which the Tathagata could have preached. People of our sect would never argue that there could be such a thing. We just know how to put all mental activity to rest and thus achieve tranquillity. We certainly do not begin by thinking things out and end up in perplexity.”

1 This passage contains another famous Taoist term-wu WEI, sometimes mistranslated ‘non-action’. In fact, it means no calculated action, nothing but spontaneous actions required to meet the demands of the passing moment.

2 Literacy is by no means essential to the mastery of Zen. The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation makes the same point.

Trying to seek for Mind in a cognitive-objective manner and clinging to the words of others, whether in the guise of a teacher or through personal book learning, will assure one nothing but utter failure in the Realization of Mind. The Ancient Sages soon discerned that awakening to the Way is a matter of spontaneity. This translates in the Chinese as “Wu-Wei”. Blofeld in his footnote correctly assesses that all too often this word is misinterpreted to mean exclusively “non-action.” Think of it, non-action is essentially the other side of a dualism: action/non-action. Huang Po goes on to relay the futility of ALL dualistic activities and instructions (using mind to realize Mind) that attempts to comprehend the inner-workings of the Unborn; the Self-Realization of Noble Wisdom alone holds the key to break the code that opens the imageless door into the Inner-Dharma-Chamber of the Tathagata-garbha. The Master states that within this Dharma-womb not “the smallest hairsbreadth of anything can exist there.” Thus no-created thing-ness, neither of form or no-form, has any existence in the Void of Suchness. All epistemological formulations as well fall-flat and cannot even begin to measure-up to the Luminous Void that swallows-up these vain attempts to stack-up knowledge against the ineffable Wisdom of the Unborn. Adherents to the Way of the Unborn know through un-knowing that just plain-sailing via the Imageless-Wind of Tathata (suchness) will swiftly avert any obstacles (mind-creations) that eventually do sink and dissipate within the dark-depths of the Primordial Ocean of Pure-Mind. Thus, not standing in the way of the dark-depths (the dark principle of wu-wei) through either action or non-action constitutes striking a spontaneous chord within the stateless state of ISNESS.  Accomplished musicians know what this is like when the music begins to play through-them—as if imageless hands take-over the playing. The Rhineland Mystic, Meister Eckhart, would refer to this as the moment when God begins to live through-us AS GOD.

31. “Q: From all you have just said, Mind is the Buddha; but it is not clear as to what sort of mind is meant by this ‘Mind which is the Buddha’.

A: How many minds have you got?

Q: But is the Buddha the ordinary mind or the Enlightened mind?

A: Where on earth do you keep your ‘ordinary mind’ and your ‘Enlightened mind’?

Q: In the teaching of the Three Vehicles it is stated that there are both. Why does Your Reverence deny it?

A: In the teaching of the Three Vehicles it is clearly explained that the ordinary and Enlightened minds are illusions. You don’t understand. All this clinging to the idea of things existing is to mistake vacuity for the truth. How can such conceptions not be illusory? Being illusory, they hide Mind from you. If you would only rid yourselves of the concepts of ordinary and Enlightened, you would find that there is no other Buddha than the Buddha in your own Mind. When Bodhidharma came from the West, he just pointed out that the substance of which all men are composed is the Buddha. You people go on misunderstanding; you hold to concepts such as ‘ordinary’ and ‘Enlightened’, directing your thoughts outwards where they gallop about like horses! All this amounts to beclouding your own minds! So I tell you Mind is the Buddha. As soon as thought or sensation arises, you fall into dualism. Beginningless time and the present moment are the same. There is no this and no that. To understand this truth is called compete and unexcelled Enlightenment.

Q: Upon what Doctrine (Dharma-principles) does Your Reverence base these words?

A: Why seek a doctrine? As soon as you have a doctrine, you fall into dualistic thought.

Q: Just now you said that the beginningless past and the present are the same. What do you mean by that?

A: It is just because of your SEEKING that you make a difference between them. If you were to stop seeking, how could there be any difference between them?

Q: If they are not different, why did you employ separate terms for them?

A: If you hadn’t mentioned ordinary and Enlightened, who would have bothered to say such things? Just as those categories have no real existence, so Mind is not really ‘mind’. And, as both Mind and those categories are really illusions, wherever can you hope to find anything?

It’s apparent through these dialog-dharma-sessions that Huang Po has a marvelous sense of humor. Indeed, in response to the question, “Which Mind is the Buddha?”, he aptly replies, “How many minds have you got?” There is also no such thing as an Ordinary mind vs. an Enlightened Mind. The Master says that this is clearly a mis-conception as all conceptions are. There is no-thing other than the Unborn Buddha Mind with no-other attributes of any kind lagging behind; coming to the Self-Realization of this timeless and Ultimate Reality is all that matters. Mind is neti, neti—neither this NOR that. One needs to come to tacitly accept this Truth and no-thing-more need be done. Once again this particular passage emphasizes the fact that Huang-po’s teaching is a doctrine-less doctrine.

32. “Q: Illusion can hide from us our own mind, but up to now you have not taught us how to get rid of illusion.

A: The arising and the elimination of illusion are both illusory. Illusion is not something rooted in Reality; it exists because of your dualistic thinking. If you will only cease to indulge in opposed concepts such as ‘ordinary’ and ‘Enlightened’, illusion will cease of itself. And then if you still want to destroy it wherever it may be, you will find that there is not a hairsbreadth left of anything on which to lay hold. This is the meaning of: ‘I will let go with both hands, for then I shall certainly discover the Buddha in my Mind.’

Q: If there is nothing on which to lay hold, how is the Dharma to be transmitted?

A: It is a transmission of Mind with Mind.

Q: If Mind is used for transmission, why do you say that Mind too does not exist?

A: Obtaining no Dharma whatever is called Mind transmission. The understanding of this Mind implies no Mind and no Dharma.

Q: If there is no Mind and no Dharma, what is meant by transmission?

A: You hear people speak of Mind transmission and then you talk of something to be received. So Bodhidharma said:

The nature of the Mind when understood, No human speech can compass or disclose. Enlightenment is naught to be attained, And he that gains it does not say he knows.”

If I were to make this clear to you, I doubt if you could stand up to it.”

The concept of “Illusion” itself is also something not rooted in Absolute Reality. With regard to all these exchanges, the Master says to “let-go of both hands”, meaning letting-go of ALL dualisms. Just turn-about from any-thing that is not Mind and then you will discover (awaken-Bodhi) the Buddha who’s been there all the while in your head! It’s literally Mind-Only and Mind needs no-form of externalized assertion that IT is enlightened. It’s really an oxymoron to assert that Mind the Self-Realized needs to somehow achieve enlightenment. Saying that one is “Enlightened” is the most stupid kind of assertion of all; and truly, as Huang Po states, the un-enlightened mind ( not a child of Bodhi) will never be able to measure-up to this.

33. “Q: Surely the void stretching out in front of our eyes is objective. Then aren’t you pointing to something objective and seeing Mind in it?

A: What sort of mind could I tell you to see in an objective environment? Even if you could see it, it would only be Mind reflected in an objective sphere. You would be like a man looking at his face in a mirror; though you could distinguish your features in it clearly, you would still be looking at a mere reflection. What bearing has this on the affair that brought you to me?

Q: If we do not see by means of reflections, when shall we see at all?

A: So long as you are concerned with ‘by means of, you will always be depending on something false. When will you ever succeed in understanding? Instead of observing those who tell you to open wide both your hands like one who has nothing to lose, you waste your strength bragging about all sorts of things.

Q: To those who understand, even reflections are nothing?

A: If solid things do not exist, how much the less can we make use of reflections. Don’t go about babbling like a dreamer with his eyes open (like a sleepwalker).

Stepping into the public hall, His Reverence said: Having many sorts of knowledge cannot compare with giving up SEEKING for anything, which is the best of all things. Mind is not of several kinds and there is no Doctrine which can be put into words. As there is no more to be said, the assembly is dismissed!”

This passage sums-up this particular Dharma-session with Huang-po concluding by expounding on the need to just stop the incessant-seeking that haunts and possesses the minds of the lesser-able who will never be able to measure-up to Mind As It Is In Itself. One who is in constant need of seeking for the truth only ends up time and time again just vainly looking at their own stupid image in a mirror. Mind is Void of all images. It’s unequivocally an imageless affair with no-thing arising nor cessating. Hence, incessant seeking is an affair of the dim-witted and is a useless activity that will never even reach the bottom slope of the Noble Ascent to the Unborn Mind.

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