Listen carefully



The Master addressed the assembly: “Among all you people here today there’s not a single one who’s an unenlightened being. Everyone here is a buddha. So listen carefully! What you all have from your parents innately is the Unborn Buddha Mind alone. There’s nothing else you have innately. This Buddha Mind you have from your parents innately is truly unborn and marvelously illuminating. That which is unborn is the Buddha Mind; the Buddha Mind is unborn and marvelously illuminating, and, what’s more, with this Unborn, everything is perfectly managed. The actual proof of this Unborn which perfectly manages [everything] is that, as you’re all turned this way listening to me talk, if out back there’s the cawing of crows, the chirping of sparrows or the rustling of the wind, even though you’re not deliberately trying to hear each of these sounds, you recognize and distinguish each one. The voices of the crows and sparrows, the rustling of the wind—you hear them without making any mistake about them, and that’s what’s called hearing with the Unborn. In this way, all things are perfectly managed with the Unborn. This is the actual proof of the Unborn. Conclusively realize that what’s unborn and marvelously illuminating is truly the Buddha Mind, straightaway abiding in the Unborn Buddha Mind just as it is, and you’re a living tathagata from today forever after. Since, when you realize conclusively, you abide like this in the Buddha Mind from today on, my school is called the School of Buddha Mind.  

“Well, then, while you’re all turned this way listening to me talk, you don’t mistake the chirp of a sparrow out back for the caw of a crow, the sound of a gong for that of a drum, a man’s voice for a woman’s, an adult’s voice for a child’s—you clearly recognize and distinguish each sound you hear without making any mistake. That’s the marvelously illuminating dynamic function. It’s none other than the Buddha Mind, unborn and marvelously illuminating, the actual proof of the marvelously illuminating [nature of the Buddha Mind].  

“I doubt there’s anyone among the people here now who’d say: ‘I heard [what I did] because I was deliberately trying to hear it.’ If anyone says he did, he’s a liar. Wondering, ‘What’s Bankei telling us?’ all of you are turned this way, intent only on hearing what I’m saying; no one’s deliberately trying to hear the various sounds coming from out back. That’s why, when all of a sudden these sounds appear and you recognize and distinguish them, hearing them without any mistake, you’re hearing with the Unborn Buddha Mind. Nobody here can claim he heard these sounds because he’d made up his mind beforehand to listen for them when they were made. So, in fact, you’re listening with the Unborn.

There is need for a reflective pause when Bankei asserts that one has acquired the Unborn Buddha Mind from one’s parents at birth. He’s not referring to the carnal-mind (rūpacitta). On the contrary, THE Mind of which he speaks IS THE ONE that was and is Unborn and Deathless and Uncreate since well before one’s parents were even born. So, it’s not some kind of “mind” that’s passed down in genetic fashion.  The Mind of which he speaks is the One Absolute Mind of all Buddhas—the supra-genetic markless-mark of A Tathatic-Generation that soars like an eagle above the tangled jungle of all sensate-based phenomena. Bankei is a profound man of faith. He asserts that all one need do is to turn-inward and recognize the seed of Buddhahood that dwells therein. For Bankei, this “recognition” is essential and paramount in order for one to rise to the transcendent occasion and claim one’s own Buddha-nature. His is a path of total and unequivocal ascent—indeed, a Sudden-Ascent, and this does require great faith that by this simple Act of Recognition assures that one’s true parents are not of the corporeal variety, but are part and parcel of the Tathatic Family of Buddhas. And only an awakened seed (Bīja) of undivided awareness power (Bodhi) can authentically make this Act of Undivided Self-Recognition in the Unborn.

One of Bankei’s common refrains is that the “Unborn Buddha Mind is Marvelously Illuminating.” It’s within this Principle of Illumination that everything is perfectly resolved, as translated by Waddell, and perfectly managed, as rendered here by Haskel. This “Principle” of which Bankei finely articulates is in league with Hui-neng’s exemplification of the Dark Principle, or Wu-hsin, the intuitive trigger that spontaneously allows everything to unfold on its own accord (not getting in the way of Mind via action or non-action) in conjunction with Mind’s own prior-illuminative actuosity. Here is Bankei describing it all in common laymen’s terms. For instance, one automatically recognizes the sound of a cawing-crow without having to make some kind of a conjuncture to determine its origin. Here is that “Recognition” again. It’s “sudden” and automatic in that Mind doesn’t have to stop and speculate, “gee, what is the source of that sound?” IT recognizes Its own “Spontaneity” without getting in Its own way. It’s like having that spontaneous urge to urinate and not “thinking” about what’s happening during the act of urination—otherwise the “flow” will not happen of its own accord. Bankei is saying just let it all fly without gumming up the works. Don’t deliberately try to make sense of what’s happening because if you do so it ain’t gonna happen. Don’t try to second guess the Spontaneous Actuosity of the Unborn. Just “listen” freely to how the Unborn, in all circumstances, perfectly and marvelously illuminates all that is unfolding so naturally and freely in that Spontaneous Actuosity. So, the ultimate question is not, “What should I do”, but rather relegating all mind-numbing quentionicity to the waste-bin and just simply allow the Unborn to do Its own thing. Get out of the way stupid! And afterwards, just relish in that marvelous recognition of what the Unborn has just done (or not-done) under Its own accord.

“Everyone who conclusively realizes that what is unborn and marvelously illuminating is truly the Buddha Mind, abiding in the Unborn Buddha Mind, is a living tathagata from today forever after. Even ‘buddha’ is just a name given to traces that have arisen, so, from the standpoint of the Unborn, it’s only a secondary matter, a peripheral concern. The man of the Unborn abides at the source of all buddhas. That which is unborn is the source of all things, the starting point of all things. There’s nothing more original than the Unborn, nothing prior to it. That’s why, when you abide in the Unborn, you abide at the source of all buddhas; so it’s something wonderfully precious. There’s no question of’perishing’ here, so when you abide in the Unborn, it’s superfluous to speak about the Imperishable too. That’s the reason I only talk about the Unborn and don’t mention the Imperishable. What isn’t it’s imperishable without having to mention it. Isn’t that so?  

“Of course, the expression ‘unborn and imperishable’ has appeared here and there in the sutras and records from times of old—but not the actual proof of the Unborn. Everyone just learns the expression ‘unborn and imperishable’ and goes about repeating it; but when it comes to realizing conclusively and actually getting right to the heart of the matter, they haven’t any idea of what the Unborn is. “When I was twenty-six, I first hit on the realization that all things are perfectly managed with the Unborn, and, in the forty years since, I’ve taught everyone with the actual proof of the Unborn: that what you have from your parents innately is the Unborn Buddha Mind—the Buddha Mind which is truly unborn and marvelously illuminating. I was the first to teach this. I’m sure that even among you monks in the assembly now, and everyone else too, nobody’s heard of anyone before me who taught people with the actual proof of the Unborn—that the Buddha Mind is truly Unborn and marvelously illuminating. I was the first to teach this. If anyone claims he’s heard of somebody before me who taught people with the actual proof of the Unborn, he’s a liar!  

“When you abide in the Unborn, you’re abiding at the source of all things. What the buddhas of the past realized was the Unborn Buddha Mind; and what buddhas in the future will realize is the Unborn Buddha Mind too. We today are living in the Degenerate Age of Buddhism, yet when there’s even one man who abides in the Unborn, the true teaching has been restored to the world. All of you, isn’t it so? It certainly is! When you’ve conclusively realized this, then and there you’ll open the eye that sees into men’s minds, and that’s why my school is called the Clear-Eyed School. When the eye that sees into men is manifested, whenever it happens to be, that moment is the complete realization of the Dharma. I want you to know this. Whoever you may be, at that moment, you are my heir!”

After the Recognition of the Unborn’s Marvelously Illuminating Principle, one needs to make a choice to simply abide in IT. When one makes that choice, then one is living in IT, SUCH AS IT IS, and hence is forever associated as a child of the Unborn—a living Tathagata. Once you abide in IT, says Bankei, there is no longer any need for any discriminatory-peripheral concerns—all things are already perfectly resolved in the Prior-Illuminative Principle. One can even forget all nominally conceived notions of Buddha and Buddhahood since one now is IN UNION WITH the SOURCE of all Buddhas. One is now living as the Unborn. No-thing further need be done or undone. Bankei wants to take sole credit for this self-realization, yet he’s just expressing what others (like Hui-neng and Huang-Po) have expounded upon, too—albeit he did have a knack for articulating IT in a Sudden Flash of Mind Recognition that could be easily comprehended even by those outside of his own sect. When he speaks here of a “Degenerate Age of Buddhism”, he’s not referring to the “Dharma-ending-Age” per-se, but rather castigating all those formalized schools of his own age—like Sōtō Zen with its excessive and exclusive reliance upon zazen, something Bankei considered to be so inadequate and an obstacle to his “Sudden-Ascent to Mind-Recognition.” For him, the True and Authentic Buddhadharma was unequivocally articulated in the Unborn and no-where else. Living in the Unborn one is seeing through the imageless eyes of the Tathagatas themselves—the Clear-Dharma AND Tathatic Eye Itself.

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