THE WAN LING RECORD OF THE ZEN MASTER HUANG PO (TUAN CHI)
A collection of dialogues, sermons and anecdotes recorded by P’ei Hsiu during his tenure of the prefecture of Wan Ling
1. “Once I put this question to the Master. How many of the four or five hundred persons gathered here on this mountain have fully understood Your Reverence’s teaching?
The Master answered: Their number cannot be known. Why? Because my Way is through Mind-awakening. How can it be conveyed in words? Speech only produces some effect when it falls on the uninstructed ears of children.”
The Master totally wipes-clean any understanding of actual “numbers” of those who have tried to discern his teachings. Firstly, there is no-thing that needs to be understood in Mind; secondly, there is really no-one who grasps for the Nature of Self-Mind; hence, trying in vain to “understand” Mind is standing-outside Mind in the guise of a differential-phantom-other. The Way is Mind, freed from conceptual strangleholds, Fully Awakening and Recollecting Itself; all expedient means, in particular words and speech, are employed just to attract and illumine the lost children of bodhi.
3. “Q: Allowing that the Enlightened man who achieves the cessation of conceptual thought is Buddha, would not an ignorant man, on ceasing to think conceptually, lose himself in oblivion?
A: There ARE no Enlightened men or ignorant men, and there is no oblivion. Yet, though basically everything is without objective existence, you must not come to think in terms of anything non-existent; and though things are not non-existent, you must not form a concept of anything existing. For ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’ are both empirical concepts no better than illusions. Therefore it is written: ‘Whatever the senses apprehend resembles an illusion, including everything ranging from mental concepts to living beings.’ Our Founder1 preached to his disciples naught but total abstraction leading to elimination of sense-perception. In this total abstraction does the Way of the Buddhas flourish; while from discrimination between this and that a host of demons blazes forth!”
Huang Po basically says that all of his teachings of the unobstructed, conceptually free, Unborn Buddha Mind follow in the imageless footsteps of the Founding-Father of his Zen-sect, non-other than Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma indeed blazed-forth the Way that eliminated all mind-discriminations that harbor demons bent on disrupting Mind’s Recollection of Its Absolute Stature. The Master does not take this Mind-disruption lightly. Any-thing that the skandhic body-consciousness conveys are phantom-children of Mara who create mayhem and prevent Mind’s own Dharma-child from maturating into full-blooming-bodhi. This includes, as he says, the “full-range” of perceptions ranging from primary conceptual data to all sentient beings; all these sensate-perceptions need to be erased within Mind’s own Self-anamnesis, or the proficiency in preceding all karmic-based obscurations that blind Mind’s-Eye from Seeing the Dharmadhatu.
4. “Q: If Mind and the Buddha1 are intrinsically one, should we continue to practice the six paramitas and the other orthodox means of gaining Enlightenment?
A: Enlightenment springs from Mind, regardless of your practice of the six paramitas and the rest. All such practices are merely expedients for handling ‘concrete’ matters when dealing with the problems of daily life. Even Enlightenment, the Absolute, Reality, Sudden Attainment, the Dharmakaya and all the others down to the Ten Stages of Progress, the Four Rewards of virtuous and wise living and the State of Holiness and Wisdom are-everyone of them -mere concepts for helping us through samsara; they have nothing to do with the real Buddha-Mind. Since Mind is the Buddha, the ideal way of attainment is to cultivate that Buddha-Mind. Only avoid conceptual thoughts, which lead to becoming and cessation, to the afflictions of the sentient world and all the rest; then you will have no need of methods of Enlightenment and suchlike. Therefore is it written:
All the Buddha’s teachings just had this single object– To carry us beyond the stage of thought. Now, if I accomplish cessation of my thinking, What use to me the Dharmas Buddha taught?
From Gautama Buddha down through the whole line of patriarchs to Bodhidharma, none preached aught besides the One Mind, otherwise known as the Sole Vehicle of Liberation. Hence, though you search throughout the whole universe, you will never find another vehicle. Nowhere has this teaching leaves or branches; its one quality is eternal truth. Hence it is a teaching hard to accept. When Bodhidharma came to China and reached the Kingdoms of Liang and Wei, only the Venerable Master Ko gained a silent insight into our own Mind; as soon as it was explained to him, he understood that Mind is the Buddha,and that individual mind and body are nothing. This teaching is called the Great Way. The very nature of the Great Way is voidness of opposition. Bodhidharma firmly believed in being ONE WITH THE REAL ‘SUBSTANCE’ OF THE UNIVERSE IN THIS LIFE! Mind and that ‘substance’ do not differ one jot- that ‘substance’ is Mind. They cannot possibly be separated. It was for this revelation that he earned the title of Patriarch of our sect, and therefore is it written: ‘The moment of realizing the unity of Mind and the “substance” which constitutes reality may truly be said to baffle description.’”
Essentially, and this is fundamentally important, Huang Po along with Bodhidharma and other proponents of One Substance (Mind)—like Plotinus of the great Greek philosophical tradition—there is indeed fundamental accord that Substance constitutes the All in the fullness of Its own creative impetus, (Its outflowings) as well as the Voidness that comprises It’s Supraessential (empty of all that IS NOT IT’s OWN SINGULAR-NATURE) Singularity. In the words of Plotinus, “The One is not separated from other things, nor is It in-them: there is no-thing that possesses the One; on the contrary, it is the One that possesses All.”