The Light of Essence and the Light of Discriminating Awareness / 性光识光

 Eventually, the method of turning around the light applies to everything you do, whether you are walking, standing, sitting, or reclining. It is essential that you realize the unlimited potential for yourself. Previously I said, “White light comes about in the empty chamber.” Do not cling to the color or form. This saying serves as a guidepost only for beginners who haven’t seen the light. Once you see the light, you must not give rise to dualistic mentality. If you search for white light with intent, you then fall into discriminating awareness, which is not the light of essence.


 The Chinese character for thought () is made up of the characters for now () and mind (). So a thought is what is present in one’s mind. The mind is light; the mind is elixir. When we look at things and perceive them without discrimination, this is the light of essence. It is like a mirror reflecting without intention. But a moment later, the mind starts making distinctions, and it becomes the light of discriminating awareness. A mirror is not a mirror any more if the previous image still lingers in it. If there is discriminating awareness in light, the light is no longer the primordial light!   


My fellow practitioners, originally we all had the light of essence. But then it turns into discriminating awareness. The light is now obscured and cannot be found. It is not that there is no light, but that the light has become discriminating awareness. This is what is meant by the saying of the Yellow Emperor, “When sound moves, it does not produce sound, it produces echoes.”


The introduction to the Surangama Sutra says, “Pay attention neither to objects nor to discriminating awareness, but only to your inner senses.” What does it mean? Objects are external things, the so-called material world, which has no actual connection with us. If you pursue objects, you are mistaking things for yourself. Things must have an attribution. If you go after the air, it is attributable to doors and windows; if you go after the light, it is attributable to the sun and moon. Taking them for yourself, you’ll end up finding they are not you. Only when you follow your own senses, that they are attributable to yourself and nothing else.


Light is attributable to the sun and moon. However, the awareness of the sunlight and moonlight cannot be attributed to anything. Sometimes there is no sun or moon in the sky, but never there is an absence of the awareness. Otherwise how could that which discriminates the sun and moon be attributed to oneself? When both light and dark are forgotten, the discrimination that discriminates light and dark is not there anymore. As long as there is still attribution, there is internal dust. Only the essence of seeing cannot be attributed to anything. But when one sees with discriminating awareness, seeing is not seeing, and this seeing also has an attribution, which refers back to the revolving flow of the discriminating awareness, alluded to in the Surangama Sutra where it says, “Ananda, it is your wandering mind and eyes that are keeping your consciousness unrestful.”


When one first begins to study “the eight attributions”, one easily understands that the first seven are attributable. Not being able to grasp the essence of seeing yet, the practitioner uses it as a crutch. Ultimately though, as long as the awareness of seeing still carries the eight consciousnesses with it, it can still attributed. Only when this last point is broken through, does one reach real awareness of seeing, which cannot be attributed anymore.


When we talk about turning the light around, it means turning the primordial unattributable light around, so that not a single discriminating thought is applied. What causes your mind to flow and wander is the six roots (sense organs); but what enables you to attain enlightenment is also these six roots (sense organs). Here the dust (internal and external stimuli) and discriminating awareness are not used at all, meaning that we don’t use the roots (sense organs), but rather we use the essence (of seeing) in the roots (sense organs).


Now if you turn the light around without falling into discriminating awareness, you are using the original essence in the roots (sense organs). Herein lies the hairs-breadth’s distinction: using one’s mind is the light of discriminating awareness; let go, and it is then the light of essence. A hairs-breadth’s difference in the beginning leads to a thousand miles difference later, so discernment is necessary. If discriminating awareness is not interrupted, the spirit does not come alive; if the mind is not emptied, the elixir does not crystallize. When the mind is clean, that is the elixir; when the mind is empty, that is the medicine. When the mind doesn’t cling to anything at all, it is said that the mind is clean; when it doesn’t keep anything in it, it is said that the mind is empty. If emptiness is seen as empty, emptiness is still not empty. When one is empty and one pays no attention to emptiness, this is called true emptiness.