Springtime with Tozen

Every spring as the winter cold becomes a distant memory and everything about is brimming with life again, I like to take rides in the blossoming countryside. To accompany my reverie I always turn to the recordings of the Tozen teachings from our Bodhichild YouTube Channel, playing them from a memory stick implanted in my car’s dashboard. There’s a certain majesty about them, created back in the spring/summer of 2011 and originating from the teachings listed on the former Tozen Yahoo Group message board. These are archived now (*in our library) and measure in the thousands—from teachings, poems, interactions with students and even evolving insights from the students themselves. Riding along and listening to them brings new vitality to the spirit and even inspires new Buddhaic visions. This present series revisits those teachings and presents them in their original form, accompanied now with an exegesis of each invigorating lesson from the Mystic of the Unborn Buddha Mind himself. Enjoy the ride!

The Way of the Bodhisattva

The Diamond Sutra presents Bodhisattvahood in the best fashion: (from one of our series)

As the Diamond Sutra teaches, “no one is to be called a Bodhisattva, for whom there should exist the idea of a being or non-being, the idea of any form of living entity, or the idea of a person”. This is perhaps the most pivotal line in all Buddhism. One is in grave error if they even begin to conceive of such notions. The Lanka also sheds light on this whole business: There is no being or non-being or any form or formless entity, and certainly no idea of a skandhic “person” that has any innate self-nature; they are all totally devoid of Substance—of the Mind-Stuff that alone constitutes Reality (Dharmadhatu). Sentient beingness is not in need of salvation since there is really no-one there to begin with—only skandhic overflows. In point of fact, “True Compassion” is never about a person-thing, but rather about a Mind-thing. Thus empowering the Mind to awaken from its drunken stupor and to finally face-up to all that it created within the mad pluralized-dream of its own making. The Unborn Mind Alone is sufficient, with no-thing to grasp or strive for.

The following lesson from Tozen is one such portrayal of what constitutes Bodhisattvahood; he nicely joins it with the main impetus of the Lankavatara Sutra itself that bespeaks of one essential ingredient: Bodhipower, or the “undivided awareness power of the awakened mind.”

Many who have tried to penetrate the core of the marvelous Lankavatara Sutra are left wondering whether they properly understand it or not. Understanding, my friends, is today a widely misunderstood and misused word. Everything emanates from Mind. Everything is born there and everything returns to this source of origination. Cut and dry. End of story.

Tozen elsewhere taught that “all is Mind in a perfect state of Actuosity.”

Some understand this fact and what it signifies, perfectly. Others can read this a million times and yet not have the slightest clue of what it truly means. Foolishly they use Mind to grasp Mind. Much like lost wolves howling at the Full Moon which they perceive as far beyond themselves.

This is in league with what Huangbo taught:

“All the Buddhas and all sentient Beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists. This Mind, which is without beginning, is unborn and indestructible…The One Mind alone is the Buddha, and there is no distinction between the Buddha and sentient things, but that sentient beings are attached to forms and so seek externally for Buddhahood. By their very seeking they lose it, for that is using the Buddha to seek for the Buddha and using mind to grasp Mind.”

Huangbo also follows the Tathagata’s lead in expounding that Mind is originally Unborn: “There is, O Monks, an unborn, an unbecome, an unmade, an unconditioned…”(Udana, viii, 3)

Mind is condition-less and therefore transcends any categorical imperatives that rely exclusively upon nominalized characterizations. People fall into trouble, says Huangbo, because they begin to “reason about Mind” with their own limited phenomenal mind that is always conditioned and subject to the Five Skandhas for verification. Huangbo is also in league with The Dhammapada, which states that “mind cannot grasp Mind…Mind Alone Recollects Mind.”

This all creates needless anxiety, says Huangbo; all one need do is to simply put an end to the monster of conceptual thought altogether. Although as we shall see, it’s not just a simple matter as Huangbo has to pound this Realization again and again into the stupefied heads of his disciples. There is non-separation here in Mind’s Self-Recollection of Its own Un-bifurcated Absolute Reality; it is not less than Its animations, nor is It greater than as It Is In Itself.

Next, Tozen shifts to the heart of the lesson:

The power of Bodhi is perfectly intelligible and illuminative.

This is the crux of what really makes a Bodhisattva tick, and that is Bodhipower.

Since beginningless time Mind has “understood” everything that appears before itself. Perfectly and without interference. This is possible by its luminous deathless essence which we in this school call Bodhipower [or the undivided awareness power of the awakened mind]. This Bodhipower acts constantly within you, it flows naturally and encompasses you naturally like gravity encompasses this earth.

It sustains those ridiculous energy-signatures you worship as “human” bodies. It breathes this energy-signature; It makes its “brain” able to process data and all kind of phenomena [again energy in various forms.] It even illuminates the energy-signature known as LOVE to some who are lovestruck…

The source of Illumination itself is this Bodhipower; it’s also responsible for every movement you make, it also empowers you to remain quite still. Put quite simply, it is the mystical juice behind everything you do, or not do.

To SEE and understand this Bodhipower, to know how to correctly approach IT and allow the bodhichild in you to transform it by proper UNION with it, to USE it in wholesome and not unwholesome ways, to allow IT to erase all defilements in the alaya-vijnana and slowly allow the Tathagata of your Mind to come forth perfectly IS ALL what the Lankavatara Sutra is about. Is that so hard to understand?

Bodhichild: the mystically charged seed, or gotra within the womb of the Tathagata-garbha; in essence, the manifestation of Buddha-nature Itself, or for that matter the developing Bodhisattva himself. For Tozen, this is the process wherein all defilements in the Alaya-receptacle are rendered null and void. This thus releases the Tathagata of your mind to shine through: the most salient message in the Lanka.

Although this most marvelous Bodhipower, is right there before your blind eyes, you do not pay it notice or proper attention, as little as you pay notice to the gravity which keeps your imagined “legs and feet” firmly on this earth. Bodhipower is like gravity, it ACTS accordingly to your minds REACTIONS. Hence the laws of causality. Bodhipower encompasses all phenomena, whether they are of apparent, external, or internal nature.

To clearly see this beyond any doubt in an instant flash, to see its LAW in all ten directions and how it affects minds in all these ten directions, to UNIFY with its originative and incomparable creative power that continuously precedes this Universe and hence realize the deathless and marvelous nature of Mind, is called Universal Enlightenment.

En-lightenment in this sense is staying-put in the Undivided Light of the Unborn Mind; in effect, to precede everything in IT. The Antecedent Spirit reveals the enlightenment story.

Mainstream notions of what constitutes being a Bodhisattva consists in being overly familiarized with phenomenal mindstreams, which always engenders notions of feeble sentimentality and what they call “universal love”—all for the benefit of skandhic personas which in reality are flashing-impressions of being perpetually stuck in samsara, with its low energy fields creating ceaseless avidya and mindless dukkha.

But Universal Enlightenment is not the end station for a predestined Bodhisattva, once the Bodhisattva has truly attained this self-realization. IT knows the overwhelming joy of its mind’s limitless freedom and strives further towards PERFECT AND SUPREME ENLIGHTENMENT.

This concerns being in inseparable-bodhi, or Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.

For verily I tell you that a few WILL attain this Universal Enlightenment in this very life. While others, who still are in, the claw, of Mara’s internal and external phenomena, wallowing in sentimentality, self-pity, notions of universal eternal love and other illusions will still have to gain the proper merit and virtue of a Bodhisattva in order to reach a state of perfect clarity before UNION with this Bodhipower.

To the Blind and Feebleminded, It may look like the Bodhisattva is sleeping, but really he or she is not. For he or she has understood the supreme dharma of the Buddhas and takes every second, every minute and every hour of every day, month and year to STUDY the incomparable dharma with a joyous heart and most stubborn WILL for final fulfillment.

For the sensualists (puthujjanas), it appears that the Bodhisattva is indifferently asleep, oblivious to the affairs of others. In point of fact, the Bodhisattva is about the one necessary component—absorbing the Buddhadharma on a daily basis with resolute focus and intent, until all comes to fulfillment in it.

Such Minds are very hard to disturb or to shake out of balance. They have found peace and light in the dharma and they indeed need very little but food and roof in order to proceed with their studies until their “mortal” bodies naturally dies and decays. For to them DEATH is as little of an obstacle as Dreams are in Sleep.

This aptly describes what the life of the Unborn Mind adept (Lankavatarian) is all about. No longer concerned with the affairs of samsara and subsisting only upon what is necessary for survival—yea, just that food and roof and whose sole mission is the continuation of their studies until Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi.

The way of the supreme Dharma is not a short-term endeavor. Today, people start Zen meditation and after only two or three weeks or even years they claim that they have made the breakthrough to the realization of their own Buddha nature.

If you ever meet a Black Dragon, eye to eye, in order to test your level of Buddha-gnosis, the Dragon would probably confront you instantly with a koan [or a similar one] like this one:

“The physical body rots away fast. What is the hard and fast body of reality?”

ANSWER and I will hit you ten times, fail to answer and I will still hit you ten times!”

To hesitate even an instant, close your eyes to such a koan or to find an excuse to not answer is to instantly realize that you are indeed completely ignorant about your mind’s true nature and thus nothing but a squirming worm in the end of a fishing line, reaching deep into the volatile waters of samsara.

Perhaps some would respond to this with the shallow insights they have about the true depth and profound power of the Unborn Mind, but I can assure you that such petty attempts would not make much of an impression in the eye of a fire breathing Dragon of the Dharma. For a Black Dragon can SEE right through your Mind’s Energy signature, he or she can PROBE it in an instant and determine your level of gnosis before you even utter a SOUND, a thought or even your next breath of ignorance.

Black Dragonhood (those instilled with incomparable wisdom) is the noble prize for one who is earnest in their studies and meditations. It is an anointing and blessing that only the Tathagatas themselves can bestow.

Some may understand the importance of this and apply it accordingly within their dharma-training, while others will shrug their shoulders as usual and go on walking around like the living dead in the realm of Mara, perpetuating their need for illusions and dreams.

Now, it is up to you…

Because if you want to recollect your Unborn Buddha Nature (like Siddhartha Gautama once vowed to do when he left all behind) this is the only way…

For how can you save or benefit all these beings if you are yourselves blind as bats, before the obvious luminous Unborn Mind?

As our many blogs here at UnbornMind Zen have stipulated, Recollection is key in fine-tuning your innate Buddha-nature. If faithfully administered, the Luminous Light of the Unborn will be your constant companion.

If you understand this, you will succeed on your bodhisattva path. If you do not, you will remain in this wheel of Mara’s suffering realms for many kalpas ahead (together with all those who you could have stopped from any further suffering).

May you strive diligently ahead and do not allow anything at all to stop you.

All my hopes


A final note here on Tozen’s admonition: this inner-light teaching of the Unborn Mind has revealed the developing Bodhisattva to be none other than the Bodhichild itself.  As Tozen has stated elsewhere, “The moment will arise when the awakened spiritual child cuts off the cord, to its false “twin”, thereby partaking on the great path which is destined for all similar bodhisattvas before they fully recollect their Buddhahood. Thus, the once suffering and deluded dark self has given life to the luminous true self or spiritual child [bodhisattva] as the endless process of countless meaningless births has cessated.” This is quite a different and superior approach to those who believe that Buddha-nature resides in a whole host of karmic-defilements known as a human person needing to be saved by some pseudo-compassionate bodhisattva. It’s not a material, but a spiritual self-realization as the Spiritual Child of Unborn Light recollects its true and rightful inheritance in the company of countless Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. To be a Rightful Bodhisattva for others is empowering them to likewise Recollect this Bodhi/Being (light-bearer) within.

*As stated, the vast archive of the Unborn Mind School (2000-2019) is now in our library: TheUnbornMindArchive, first book (PDF) listed.

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