Neti, Neti

4. Bloodstream Sermon, Part 3

And this mind, through endless kalpas without beginning, has never varied. It has never lived or died, appeared or disappeared, increased or decreased. Its not pure or impure, good or evil, past or future. It’s not true or false. It’s not male or female. It doesn’t appear as a monk or a layman, an elder or a novice, a sage or a fool, a Buddha or a mortal. It strives for no realization and suffers no karma. It has no strength or form. It’s like space. You can’t possess it and you can’t lose it. Its movements can’t be blocked by mountains, rivers, or rock walls. Its unstoppable powers penetrate the Mountain of Five Skandhas and cross the River of Samsara.” No karma can restrain this real body. But this mind is subtle and hard to see. It’s not the same as the sensual mind. Everyone wants to see this mind, and those who move their hands and feet by its light are as many as the grains of sand along the Ganges, but when you ask them, they can’t explain it. They’re like puppets. It’s theirs to use… It’s also called the Unstoppable Tathagata, the Incomprehensible, the Sacred Self, the Immortal, the Great Sage. Its names vary but not its essence. Buddhas vary too, but none leaves his own mind. The mind’s capacity is limitless, and its manifestations are inexhaustible.

Bodhidharma breaks-down the workings of the Unborn Buddha Mind that are most subtle indeed—blink and you’ll miss it, yet its very dynamic stature initiates those blinking eyelids into movement. In Itself It does not move, thus is not phenomenal in essence; but it also cannot be defined within the parameters of the noumenal either—It cannot be pinned-down, scrutinized or studied as if under a microscope, but Its inexorable bodhipower penetrates the mass of the skandhas and It transverses the raging waters of Samsara as if stepping-over a puddle of water. The worldling is oblivious and dangles-about like a puppet by Its effervescent touch—if they only knew that this awesome bodhipower is theirs for the asking. As Bodhidharma states, It is the very “Sacred Self”—if one could only discern the true import of this there would no longer be any confusion over the nature of Self.

Even if a Buddha or bodhisattva should suddenly appear before you, there’s no need for reverence. This mind of ours is empty and contains no such form. Those who hold onto appearances are devils. They fall from the Path. Why worship illusions born of the mind? Those who worship don’t know, and those who know don’t worship. By worshipping you come under the spell of devils. I point this out because I’m afraid you’re unaware of it. The basic nature of a Buddha has no such form. Keep this in mind, even if something unusual should appear. Don’t embrace it, and don’t fear it, and don’t doubt that your Mind is basically pure. Where could there be room for any such form? Also, at the appearance of spirits, demons, or divine conceive neither respect nor fear. Your mind is basically empty. All appearances are illusions. Don’t hold on to appearances. If you envision a Buddha, a Dharma, or a bodhisattva and conceive respect for them, you relegate yourself to the realm of mortals. If you seek direct understanding, don’t hold on to any appearance whatsoever, and you’ll succeed. I have no other advice. The sutras say, “All appearances are illusions.” They have no fixed existence, o constant form. They’re impermanent. Don’t cling to appearances and you’ll be of one mind with the Buddha. The sutras say, “That which is free of all form is the Buddha.”

But why shouldn’t we worship Buddhas and bodhisattvas?

Devils and demons possess the power of manifestation. They can create the appearance of bodhisattvas in all sorts of guises. But they’re false. None of them are Buddhas. The Buddha is your own mind. Don’t misdirect your worship.

Bodhidharma offers great insightful advice in this passage. Don’t trust any appearance, i.e., DON’T TRUST ANY IMAGE. Mind is devoid of all phenomenal manifestations—It is totally empty of all of them. Many on the devotional path fall victim to this illusion—worshipping Idols (read IMAGES) and in doing so they are held spellbound by the imagery. Bodhidharma goes on to state that even if something “unusual” should appear—don’t pay any attention to it. This really hits home for me. The other evening while in that in-between state of consciousness and sleep, I turned over on my right side and there before me stood the figure of an elderly woman—it began to freak me out, but then I shook-free from its grasp; as Bodhidharma advises, this kind of stuff is not to be feared nor respected—it is a phantasmagorical mind image… no more, no less. This kind of a thing has nothing to do with the pure stature of the Unborn Mind—one’s true identity. Don’t even pay any attention should an image of a Buddha or Bodhisattva appear before you. The best rule of thumb? Remember that the true is imageless and the false always betrays itself as an image of some form. The Unborn Buddha Mind is neti, neti—neither this nor that.

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