Bodhidharma Dhyana


Some might suspect from reading this series that Tsung-mi was someone who only emphasized the scholastic-side of Ch’an Buddhism. They would be wrong. Tsung-mi’s spirituality was a healthily balanced one—one that took Sūtra Study very seriously, yet at the same time being willing to cultivate the full-import of Ch’an—which essentially refers to faithfully practicing Dhyana. In fact, his subtitle to the Ch’an Prolegomenon is, “COLLECTION OF EXPRESSIONS OF THE PRINCIPLE AND PRACTICE OF DHYANA” (Broughton). Here’s his wonderful definition for the Absolute make-up of Dhyana/Ch’an:

 “Dhyana” is a Sanskrit term. The full form of the Chinese transliteration is “channa.” The Chinese translation is “siweixiu [thinking practice]” or “jinglü [quieting thoughts].” The two translations refer to both concentration [samadhi] and wisdom [prajna]. The source is the original awakening or true nature of all sentient beings. It is also called the buddha nature or mind ground. To awaken to it is called wisdom; to practice it is called concentration. Concentration and wisdom together are referred to as “Chan.” Because this nature is the original source of Chan, I have also used the phrase “Chan Source.” I have used the phrase “Principle and Practice of Dhyana” [in my subtitle]. This original source is the principle of Chan, and forgetting feelings and coinciding with this is Chan practice. That is the reason for the phrase “Principle and Practice.” However, the writings of the various houses herein collected speak mostly of the principle of Chan, while saying little of the practice of Chan. This is the reason I have used the phrase “Chan Source” in my title. 
Broughton, Jeffrey Lyle (2012-08-14). Zongmi on Chan (Translations from the Asian Classics) (Kindle Locations 2817-2822). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition

Once again we see Tsung-mi’s undaunting refrain of the full Realization of Mind-Source being tempered with cultivated practice. In the True Spirit of Hua-Yen, Tsung-mi realized that the fruit of the Enlightened-Mind (the mind of Bodhi) could only be won after gradually cultivating the Primordial Soil—after removing All-Obstructions that stand in the way of embracing the “Totality” of the All-in All. Dhyana plays a key factor. Without it the key to opening the gateless-gate of the Dharmadhātu would be in vain. Tsung-mi stressed that there are “five grades of dhyana, with Bodhidharma Dhyana as the highest”:

The true nature is neither stained nor pure, neither common nor noble. Within dhyana, however, there are different grades, ranging from the shallow to the deep. To hold deviant views and practice because one joyfully anticipates rebirth in a heaven and is weary of the present world is outsider dhyana. Correctly to have confidence in karmic cause and effect and likewise practice because one joyfully anticipates rebirth into a heaven and is weary of the present world is common-person dhyana. To awaken to the incomplete truth of voidness of self and then practice is inferior-vehicle dhyana. To awaken to the true principle of the dual voidness of self and dharmas and then to practice is great-vehicle dhyana. (All four of the above types show such distinctions as the four [dhyanas of the realm of] form and the four [concentrations of the] formless [realm].) If one’s practice is based on having all-at-once awakened to the realization that one’s own mind is from the outset pure, that the depravities have never existed, that the nature of the wisdom without outflows is from the outset complete, that this mind is buddha, that they are ultimately without difference, then it is dhyana of the highest vehicle. This type is also known by such names as tathagata-purity dhyana, the one-practice concentration, and the thusness concentration. It is the basis of all concentrations. If one can practice it from moment to moment, one will naturally and gradually attain the myriad concentrations. This is precisely the dhyana that has been transmitted down from Bodhidharma.
Broughton, Jeffrey Lyle (2012-08-14). Zongmi on Chan (Translations from the Asian Classics) (Kindle Locations 2859-2860). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.

The “one-practice concentration, and the thusness concentration” referred to here is “biguan”: “Thus quieting the mind [rushi anxin] is wall viewing”, as found in the Bodhidharma Anthology. Jeffrey Broughton says that this particular quote “may be our earliest extant exegesis of ‘biguan’; wherein the word “yuan” means “objective support”, and to grab on to (Broughton, Zongmi on Chan, notes 123 &124). Of course, within UBM Zen biguan refers to the Dhyana-technique of the mystical supra-position (preceding phenomenal outflows) of mind; we can see the “link” here as a type of objective support—thus entering Bodhidharma’s permanent principle of the Mind AS a wall sees—unmoving amidst the shifting shapes and shadows of samsara; remember, NOT sitting and staring at a [phenomenal] wall.

One could also say that Bodhidharma-Dhyana is the basis for Tathagatagarbha-Zen, in that this Mind-Transmission from Bodhidharma empowers one to Yoke with the Unborn Buddha-Mind Substance. Tsung-mi stated that “this is like no other gate.” Although the one salient factor that makes Unborn-Mind Tathagatagarbha-Zen distinctive is the “direct-Realization of the inner-Bodhi-child”, that singular-seed of Luminous Light that grows, in cultivated ten-stages, towards the Full Stature of Tathagatahood. It can also be said that Hua-Yen Buddhism (Tsung-mi’s own school) is also in league with this Totalization of Self-Mind Realization, as the Real-Stuff of Suchness (Tathata) is the hallmark of spiritual-cultivation itself:

Enlightenment, therefore, cannot be said to be universally identical, for it can vary greatly-from a shallow glimpse of the “Suchness” (Tathata), to the complete unfolding of the Dharmadhātu. A tyro in music can “play the piano,” and so can a concert pianist, but there is a big difference between the two. [Emphasis mine] The initial Enlightenment often seems to come in an abrupt manner, but to deepen and consummate this realization, a long period of “fostering” and cultivation is required. Reality is like a bottomless pit or a roofless sky-the more you explore, the deeper it becomes. The pursuit of enlightenment is endless; the further you go, the longer the road, and the end seems never to come in-sight.

But, on the other hand, once the initial Realization is won, the rest of the journey will be much easier than before. Although the powers and functions vary greatly between the initial and advanced stages, the essence of the realization always remains the same. (Garma Chang—The Buddhist Teaching of Totality—The Philosophy of Hwa-Yen Buddhism, pg. 28)

Tsung-mi has thus revealed how Bodhidharma’s Dhyana is the direct-entrance to Total Self-Recollection and Liberation of Mind. It is also the Great Imageless Stargate to the Total Self-Realization of the Limitless Realm(s) of the Dharmadhātu Itself.

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