Contemplating the mystery – Part 3


Without true Jhana [1], the Imageless reality of Zen remains a lifeless mystery. Because it is lifeless to any worldling devoting its mind to follow images of a myriad shapes and functions, it carries no attraction to them since they refuse consciously or subconsciously be Mind-full (of its nature).

What has no [force/light of] life, is empty of Truth, and what is empty of truth brings inevitably misery and suffering to the mind. Spirit [2] defiled, means birth and death, while Spirit that is pure, means enlightenment and deathlessness.

What stands face to face with the imageless reality of Zen knows the living mystery of the Imageless Mind. To such a great being this Mind permeates the all, not as the all, but as purely ITSELF. For where the worldling is bewitched by the wave-forms, that never ends to change form, the student of the way knows the pure, unborn Essence of the One Mind is behind them all.

Original self-nature is the Mind; the Mind of your true self is the very self-nature all Buddhas and Mind Masters have spoken about at great length. This Buddha’s mind, the former Buddha and later Buddha, are all transmitting the same mind. Beyond this Imageless Mind, of no birth and no death, there is only instantenuous becoming, of any-thing, be it a breath, a thought, a memory, a feeling or even a doubt.

The path into the heart of this Mind, is one of a onepointedness. To most this path is dead and filled with darkness, but to a few it is filled with a great bright light, the closer they approach the other shore.

Whether you raise a Katana, make a swift motion with a brush over a white sheet of paper, take a singel breath, or step, whether you produce a single thought, or instant fear, or doubt; behind all these phenomena, IT is instantly there serving the desiring Self as its great Imageless Master.

It is flawless; perfectly dynamic, proven instantly by any of its born positions originating simultaneously from its originally supra-positional state, and as such it stands as the Alpha and Omega behind all things. Not a god, not a thing, but Mind Only.

It is this Mind all Mind Masters have come to know  directly and unequivocally as the One Mind, the Unborn Mind, the First Principle, the Uncreated, and so on.

A Mind Student of good merit, possessed with a sharp faculty, a strong Spirit, one of no major divisions, not easily distracted, able to focus his mind on THAT which precedes any given action or phenomenon at any given moment, is considered one able to cross over Hakuins life-taking log bridge, to the other shore of deathlessness and nirvana.

Let your one-pointed practise begin with a single step and discover instantly with this single step, or motion of your Mind´s  sharp blade, that fears nothing in the realms of birth and death, the True Body-of-the-Sage.


[1] Etymology; From Sanskrit ध्यान – dhyāna, Ancient Chinese 禪 ɖjen, Mandarin 禅 Chán which is an abbreviation of 禪那 (ɖjenna), evolving into Japanese 禅 zen

[2] Spirit= Pure Will – Life force .

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9 Responses to Contemplating the mystery – Part 3

  1. Mahasidhra says:

    “I thought: ‘I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?’ Then, following on that memory, came the realization: ‘That is the path to Awakening.’ I thought: ‘So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?’ I thought: ‘I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities, but it is not easy to achieve that pleasure with a body so extremely emaciated. Suppose I were to take some solid food: some rice & porridge.’ So I took some solid food: some rice & porridge. Now five monks had been attending on me, thinking, ‘If Gotama, our contemplative, achieves some higher state, he will tell us.’ But when they saw me taking some solid food — some rice & porridge — they were disgusted and left me, thinking, ‘Gotama the contemplative is living luxuriously. He has abandoned his exertion and is backsliding into abundance.’

    — MN 36

    • Mahasidhra says:

      Thanks to Tozen for the teaching.

      Perhaps the below comment won’t be useless. Even though I’m just a beginner in dhyāna practice I think I can offer a little bit of encouragement, if it’s not useful to anybody else reading, then the advice is for my own self!

      Gotama stumbled into the jhana as a kid; later he remembered it, realizing it has nothing to do with austerities, with ascetic living, with torturing one’s body. The others judged this inappropriate because they saw the contemplative life as something merely external, based in withdrawal from worldly activity. This really shows it all boils down to dhyāna.

      I think many of us, even those who haven’t practiced Buddhism yet, have perhaps stumbled into the dhyāna state, at least glimpses of it, perhaps in childhood, and we seek of ways of going back to it. But often we go about it the wrong way and only accumulate intellectual analysis and various mechanical techniques. The Zen masters warned against this; the Way is close, but seeking it, and it will withdraw further away from us.

      As Tozen once explained, each phenomenon goes through three phases; arising, abiding & decaying. Each thought has its own lifetime. After the death of a thought, there is a space – just before another thought arises again. In that space, there is a narrow entrance … the grace from the Self, the surrender to the Self, come from that interval. Each thought is a new master to which we voluntarily submit. How foolish, when we are the true host, the true master!

      But in that interval – the grace! Why not return back to it often? The surrender! The positive aspect of Buddhism in dhyāna! The flowering of the mind – the fragrance of light – how they repair this wounded soul and lift it from its miserable existence.

      An anonymous yogi said:

      “I won’t teach you how to meditate. You already know how to meditate. Without meditation, you can’t even learn to drive a car. You need that kind of concentration to do most of the tasks in your life! What I can teach you is how to meditate on the Self.”

      • Mahasidhra says:

        (I apologize for the many grammatical errors and typos, I hope it’s understandable anyway – as there’s no “Edit” function.)

      • n. yeti says:

        Here is a verse from Chan Master Wo Lun, who realized only imperfectly the essence of mind:

        Wo Lun has ways and means
        To cut off the movements of many thoughts
        When the mind does not rise in reaction to circumstances
        The tree of enlightenment will steadily grow.

        Here is a verse from the Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng, who perceived Wo Lun’s error:

        Hui Neng has no ways and means
        To cut off the movements of many thoughts
        The mind is often rising in reaction to circumstances
        How then, can enlightenment grow?

        • Mahasidhra says:

          Thank you for the nice quote.

          Basically, they are both right.

          Like in the other popular quote, Zennists wrongly conclude that only Hui Neng is right and the person he’s replying to, is wrong. But that’s not the point at all in my humble opinion.

          They’re just speaking from different levels. Wo Lun from the relative level of a practitioner and Hui Neng from a realized level. From a realized person’s PoV, he knows all thoughts are projections of his own Self playfully displaying the thoughts on the screen of mind, so he has no reason to reject any thought. He does not even think of them in terms of “good” or “evil” thoughts or “sacred” and “mundane”.

          From the PoV of a practitioner caught in the dialectically produced mind, he still sees an essential difference between thought and no-thought. So he has to “collect” many “no-thought” moments (either through breath-meditation, mantra, etc.) so that the “no thought” leaves an impression of his mind. This impression becomes stronger and stronger with time and some day culminates in a complete-stopping of mind event, which allows one to experience full blown disembodied kenshō.

          All thoughts are fundamentally a playful projection of the Power (shakti) of the Self (Ātman), however that is realized only partly by an aspiring practitioner who has still not reached Self-recognition and is in the process of self-enquiry (ātma-vichāra). Such a beginner or intermediate level practitioner should seek to collect and plant the seed of a calm mind of “no thought” as much as he can, through either dhāraṇī , mantra, or breath-meditation (done right; not as it is commonly taught in Theravada).

          My 2 cents!

          Sarva Maitri,

          • Mahasidhra says:

            PS: For us beginner and intermediate level practitioners, Hui-neng’s words should be just a picture of an ideal; his own PoV; not a PoV we can take for ourselves. So we still have to strive on the cushion and practice. However it is useful to hear about the “realized level” because otherwise we could become obsessionally fixated on practice and create some kind of “cult of practice” (the idea that practice itself is enlightenment). Instead I do firmly believe that ultimately, the last experience of liberation comes as a an act of grace. Not from some external god or Buddha, but from our own Self. It is the Self that liberates the Self. It’s like a sudden thunder in good weather (śaktipāta). So even if it ultimately doesn’t depend on our effort, and it’s wholly an Event outside of our reach, we still should not perversely conclude that practice is therefore unecessary and just wait for that act of Grace. Paradoxically, it’s a Grace that has to be earned with hard work, through the help of an enlightened teacher.

          • n. yeti says:

            It seems to me that Hui Neng has transcended the limitations of consciousness, and made the manas (thinking mind) his perfect tool of enlightenment while Wo Lun has merely attained bliss of an initial nature by breaking the habit of mentation. Thus he deceives himself into thinking truth can be brought down or grown up by the senses, a falsehood – the same reason I consider Kundalini to be such utter nonsense. I think it is pretty clear that where dhyana leads is quite beyond the ordinary senses or habits of thought or what can be felt or comprehended or put into words.

            While I say this I observe in my own attempts I have experienced trembling, even violent rebellion of the body, during meditation which is most disturbing and I attribute this to my own psychic impurities and deep – perhaps even incorrigible – ignorance, and not due to the rising of Kundalini or anything of the sort. So to remedy this unfortunate fact I have been using (once the mind is stilled) one-pointed concentration to rid myself of the grosser defilements, slashing them down one by one so to speak, as to permit more stable meditation where I do not suffer such unfortunate blockages and expulsion from the session. And by this I mean pushing thought onward, just like riding a wild animal, taming it as it were and forcing this unruly beast into the destination I will it, and not where it habitually leads – to discover for myself what it is that is preventing liberation and to shatter the bonds which bind me to this world of tears. This may seem like no small thing to more advanced meditators or those of greater merit, and others will have no clue what I am talking about, but for me it has required discipline, importunity and no small amount of sheer ferocious will to vanquish delusion once and for all – alongside continuous restraint in my excesses and commitment to the precepts outside of the meditative efforts. Unfortunately I have yet to achieve the lion’s roar, and it is certainly possible I never will, but I have made modest progress in this way and am encouraged. I could tell you more but it is not of consequence.

            Back to the pair of verses, I see them as a reminder that halting the cycle of mind for a while is but a preliminary step by the sravaka, who is still trapped in birth and death, but now determinedly on his way toward moksha (liberation). The mind of birth and death is like a wild beast: Wo Lun has subdued it under his feet for a time. Hui Neng has gone beyond this exalted state; he has become its perpetual master and can now put the rising of thought to work toward the ending the cycle of birth and death.

            This interpretation is supported by the Lankavatara sutra, where we find this verse, when the Bhagavan responds compassionately to Mahamati’s request for instruction:
            “Entering upon this state of mental concentration the Sravakas will attain the blissful abode of exalted self-realization in which there is the emancipation belonging to a Dhyana, the path and fruit of a Samadhi, and the deliverance of a Samapatti, but in which there is as yet no discarding of habit-energy and no escape from the imperceivable transformation of death.”

            Note as well in the famous Pali scripture you cite (MN 36), we find that Shakyamuni not only interrupted the mind of birth and death in rapturous bliss, but simultaneously used his mind and the power of contemplation to reach the other shore. I am reminded of the parable of the lute strings, being neither too tight not too loose, that is how I see directed thought in meditation. In Samadhi we find spiritual restoration in the blissful state, but it is important to direct the mind towards its ultimate liberation too. Otherwise it is not really Zen (dhyana), it might as well be any of the various forms of meditation described in the Upanishads, or the sense of physical/mental wellbeing one can achieve with vigorous exercise or yoga. That is how I see it.

  2. Mahasidhra says:

    N. Yeti the bottom line is, we are the Self (= Buddha; Ātman; etc. ) dreaming he is not Himself but something else. This dialectical play scatters reality into a multiplicity. The same power (shakti) that scatters the world into a matrix of multiplicity (matrika) exactly the same power can restore it to unity (matri). From this it’s clear that awakening is always in our power. We don’t have to eternally battle against the illusions we ourselves created, because we will multiply them endlessly. What is amazing is that the same “matrix” that creates the delusion, can also undo it. So within delusion, the production of delusion, that power that produces delusion, is the same power that can undo it. Tozen has confirmed this in a chat we had. Hopefully he will correct any mistakes I make in my post.

    The kundalini aspect of practice is definitely a reality and a phenomenological description of what happens during the process. The whole kundalini thing happens within the sphere of māyā. But we have to practice “within the dream”! We practice within the dream. And kundalini awakening is real within the dream. That’s what I believe. It’s not ultimate reality, but it’s part of the process. The energetic level is below the mental, it’s more subtle than gross mental objects and we all know what the bliss feeling is like; since we have had contacts with enlightened teachers that can bestow it (śaktipāta).

    The sages of the Vedic lineage of the Upanishads have constantly taught about Self-recognition, and I don’t see Zen being about anything else than that. It’s all about the Self and realizing it, in both traditions. Speaking from my personal experience, the first time one gets a glimpse of that Self, it is like being hit by a thunder; it’s unexpected and it doesn’t feel like it’s due to one’s effort. It feels almost like an accident. It’s certainly not something trivial like a little bliss and peace or relaxation. The experience was hinted at in various Zen texts and it’s more akin to Krishna showing his true form in the Gita than relaxation. I imagine many meditators spend their whole lives without this exp. It must be due to merit that one suddenly experiences it, it’s indescribable except saying it is bliss, eternity, purity and Self.

    However, it’s more important what happens after that exp. – speaking in movie language: OK you’ve seen outside the Matrix, now you have to be back into it – now what? That’s when the real battle begins. You have to make your relative self into a vessel that can receive more of that honey from the true Self. IMO it doesn’t have to do a lot becoming a “good person” because if we had to be perfectly “good people” (whatever that means) before it happens, then we would have to wait forever. Instead, it has more to do with rectifying intellect (buddhi) and also … practice with sitting and breathing but not because sitting and breathing can produce it, far from it… more like … we’re just creating a nice stable space so that the experience can come. Because we will be sitting for hours zonked out with breath reduced to minimum and so the body has to learn how to be in “parked” mode before that happens.

    Otherwise I think it’s useless to focus too much on “removing obstacles” because the more you try to fight obstacles or fight your own ego, the more you magnify them. As the Unbornmind Mantra says: what the Mind focuses on, determines its reality. I think it goes even further: Mind creates the reality it focuses on. The more we focus on Ego, the more we create it. It doesn’t matter if we focus on it positively or negatively. “My Ego is beautiful!” or “My Ego is bad I have so many kleśas!” – both put more energy into it.

    So it’s just about acquiring correct understanding ( – seeing that all is a projection of the Absolute Mind ) , and then preparing your body to receive that Grace through learning yogic breathing and a good sitting posture.

    I am going on a sabbatical too like our dear Vajragoni — I will stop posting for the foreseeable future; I need to focus more on practice and have some seclusion from Internet for a while. Good luck N. Yeti and I send blessings to master Tozen & Vajragoni, may their Dharmic activities flourish further.

    Sarwa Maitri,

  3. n. yeti says:

    I’m glad you’ve given some thought to the variegated world, and receive your words with the intent they were offered. Good luck in your retreat.

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