This affair is a matter of people of sharp faculties and superior wisdom who do not consider it difficult to understand a thousand when hearing one. It requires a stand that is solid and true and faith that is thoroughgoing.
First in a perpetual-series of teachings from the Zen Masters; today’s lesson is from Yuanwu (1063-1135). Yuanwu’s take on Bodhisattvahood was an all-inclusive one: consisting of advanced adepts as well as seasoned lay-folk. All it requires, says Yuanwu, is that one has a solid foundation in the truth of the Buddhadharma and a resilient faith that never wavers, but is indeed persistent through thick and thin.
Then you can hold fast and act the master and take all sorts of adverse and favorable situations and differing circumstances and fuse them into one whole—a whole that is like empty space, without the least obstruction, profoundly clear and empty and illuminated, never changing even in a hundred aeons or a thousand lifetimes, unitary from beginning to end. Only then do you find peace and tranquility.
Whatever one encounters along the wailing wall of samsara needs to be fused-together as one Luminous Whole—One that is never afflicted by the changing and shifting sands of diverse patterns of human knowledge and experiential values. The wall never moves; just the passing shapes and shadows of sentient-based trials and tribulations that seek some unattainable solutions in a mass sea of discontent. Tranquility is never attained but only self-realized in conjunctive unitive-fashion with the Dharmatā of Truth.
I have seen many people who are intellectually brilliant but whose faculties are unstable and whose patience is shallow. They think they witness transformation on verbal statements, and they assume that there is no way to go beyond the worldly. Thus they increase the thorns of arbitrary opinion as they show off their ability and understanding. They take advantage of their verbal agility and think that the buddhadharma is like this. When situations are born from causal conditions, they cannot pass through to freedom, so they wind up vacillating back and forth. This is really a great pity!
So close in tone to what was just covered in the Surangama Sutra series, with regard to the seventh-demon state of the Sensate Skandha: Pseudo-Intellectualism at its worst. Ol’ Yuanwu pins it all down to lack of spiritual (faculties) stamina and an inability to get beyond the thorny-issue of their own ill-conceived verbosity. The result is just an endless vacillation through endless kalpas.
This is why the ancients went through all sorts of experiences and faced all sorts of demons and difficulties. They might be cut to pieces, but they never gave it a thought; they took charge of their minds all the way along and made them as strong as iron or stone. Thus when it came to passing through birth and death, they didn’t waste any effort. Isn’t this where special strength and generosity beyond emotionalism that truly great people possess lies?
The ancient Dharma-Warriors were not afraid to encounter such demons; they might be apparently and temporarily “cut to pieces” by the demon in dharma-combat, but their resilient spirit resists the temptation to “react” and succumb to the demon’s remonstrations as it remains “strong as iron”—Vajra-like in scope, UN-moving—much akin to Bodhidharma’s Wall. Oftentimes these demons try to weave “logical-spells” around their Dharma-adversaries, thinking that “logic-in-itself” is diamond-like and indestructible. Nāgājuna himself once totally dismembered such purported “logical-ramblings” of demons in the Vaidalya Sutra, revealing that logic-in-itself only exists in certain-particular-measures and IS NOT truly existent.
When bodhisattvas who live a householder’s life cultivate the practices of home-leavers, it is like a lotus blooming in fire. It will always be hard to tame the will for fame and rank and power and position, not to mention all the myriad starting points of vexation and turmoil associated with the burning house of worldly existence. The only way is for you yourself to realize your fundamental, real, wondrous wholeness and reach the stage of great calm and stability and rest.
Yuanwu is relating how the lay-folk will find it most difficult to cultivate what comes easier in a monastic environment; but if one’s spirit remains steadfast, the Element of Truth will shine Nobly in their hearts and homes, too, despite all that vies for the contrary—like societal status and the daily vexations of common life in the household. As long as one remembers the Fundamental Dark Principle, then the aforementioned calmness and stability of the Luminous Light of the Unborn will continue to shine, regardless of one’s status and position in life.
It would be best if you managed to cast off everything and be empty and ordinary. Thoroughly experience the absence of the conditioned mind, and observe that all phenomena are like dreams and magical illusions. Be empty all the way through, and continue on clearing out your mind according to the time and situation. Then you will have the same correct foundation as all the great enlightened laymen in Buddhist tradition.
This passage is Lankavatarian in scope, in that ALL PHENOMENA “are like dreams and magical illusions.” While this passage was intended for Buddhist layfolk, it can also encompass many Bodhisattvas from diverse traditions. A recent example of this is Pope Francis; indeed, all of his actions thus far is showing that Bodhisattvic Spirit to simply “cast off everything and be empty and ordinary”. He’s shunning all of the excessive royal trappings and special pampering that has always encompassed the papacy in the past. He’s even made a momentous breakthrough through a long-held “Rubric” that only “men” should have their feet washed on Holy Thursday; yesterday, he also incorporated two young women in the ceremony in the prison facility. I applaud his Genuine and spirit-led actions thus far; he’s fearless and authentic and is remaining empty and open to where the Bodhisattvic-Resolve is leading him.
According to your own measure of power, you will transform those not yet enlightened so you can enter together into the uncontrived, uncluttered ocean of true nature. Then your life here on this earth will not be a loss.
However the Unborn Spirit shapes your own Bodhisattvic-path, if you remain authentic and true and persevere daily—indeed through uncontrived and uncluttered Recollective-Resourcefulness, you too will not live this life in vain, but will also help those who are darkened with skandhic contamination by helping to transfigure them with compassionate Unborn Light.