Outline of Practice

by Bodhidharma

Although many roads lead to enlightenment, they can all be traced back to either one of two categories: reason or practice.

By reason it means to realize the mind-essence through understanding that all things are of one single essence, that this truth is obscured because the mind is shrouded by earthly dust and delusion. If one turns away from delusion and returns to this truth, holding on to neither self nor other-than-self, neither duality nor oneness, remaining unmoved even by scriptures, then one is in accord with reason. Giving up duality, making no special effort, one enters by reason.

By practice it means to realize the mind-essence through cultivating four habits: accepting karma, adapting to conditions, seeking nothing, practicing the Dharma.

First, accepting karma. As a practitioner, when you experience hardship, you must think to yourself, “In countless past lifetimes, I wandered away from the essential and attended only to the trivial, indulging in all kinds of negativities. Now I am punished by my past. Neither gods nor fellow beings can prevent accumulated karmas from bearing fruit. I accept it fully with open heart, without flinching or complaining.” The sutras teach us, “Never fret about difficulties or tragedies.” Why? Because with such attitude you’re in harmony with reason, and by suffering hardship you walk the Path.

Second, adapting to conditions. In samsara, we don’t actually have control over our lives but are conditioned by karmas. Whatever pain and pleasure we experience depend on karmas. If you’re blessed with some privilege or fortune now, it’s the fruition of your past deeds. Once it’s exhausted, conditions will change. Why delight in fleeting pleasure? Gain and loss are subject to change, but the mind neither waxes nor wanes. Remain unstirred by the wind of joy, and you are following the Path.

Third, seeking nothing. People are always longing for something. An earthly life is full of greed and attachment. The wise choose reason over convention. They focus their minds on the sublime and let their bodies change with the seasons. They know all phenomena are empty and nothing is worth desiring. Happiness and suffering are always in tow. To dwell in the three realms (the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm) is like dwelling in a burning house. To have a body is bound to suffer. Does anyone with a body ever know peace? The wise realize this, so they detach themselves from it all and stop seeking anything. The sutras say, “To seek is to suffer. To long for nothing is bliss.” Seeking nothing, and you are on the Path.

Fourth, practicing the Dharma. The Dharma is the true nature of all things. By this truth, all things are of one single, pure essence; all appearances are empty. In this emptiness, there is neither subject nor object, neither self nor other-than-self. The sutras say, “The Dharma is free from discriminations between being and nonbeing, between self and non-self.” The wise realize this truth and practice accordingly. They give their property in charity, even offer their body and life, without attachment, without making distinction between giver and recipient. They inspire others without being attached to form. Through practicing the Dharma, they help others and honor the Path. Yet they do it without delusion, without self-centered striving. While practicing the Dharma they practice nothing at all – this is what is meant by practicing the Dharma.









附: 達摩大師碑頌