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

 If you are able to perform the correct technique, the method of turning around the light works whether you are walking, standing, sitting, or reclining. Previously I quoted the saying, the empty chamber produces white. Isn’t light white? There is an explanation of this; for one who hasn’t seen the light, this saying serves as a guidepost. If one has seen the light and later searches for white light with intent, then one falls 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 awareness (heart). This awareness (heart) is light and can also be medicine. Whenever people look at things and perceive them without discriminating, this is the light of essence. It is like a mirror reflecting without intending to do so. A moment later, it becomes the light of discriminating awareness. A mirror is not a mirror if it still contains the previous image. If there is discriminating awareness in light, then what kind of light is that?   


My fellow students, originally you have the light of essence. When this turns into thought, then it becomes discriminating awareness. Then the light is 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 of a manual on how to understand the Surangama Sutra says, neither in objects (dust) nor in discriminating awareness, only pay attention to the senses. What does this mean? Objects (dust) are external things, or the so-called material world. This has no actual connection with us. If you pursue objects, you are mistaking things for yourself. Things must have an attribution. Transmission of light is attributable to doors and windows; light () is attributable to the sun () and moon (). If one takes them for oneself, in the end you’ll find out it’s not you. As for that which cannot be attributed to anything, what else is it but yourself?


Light () is attributable to the sun () and moon (). However, the awareness of the light of the sun and moon cannot be attributed to anything. Sometimes there is no sun or moon in the sky, but there is never an absence of the awareness that sees the sun and moon. If the awareness was absent, then how could that which discriminates the sun and moon be considered one’s own? When both light and darkness are forgotten, I do not know where the discrimination is, that discriminates light and darkness. Therefore there is still attribution; this is internal dust. Only the real awareness of seeing cannot be attributed to anything. But when one sees with discriminating awareness, this is not the right awareness; then this seeing also has an attribution, which refers back to the discriminating awareness of the wandering consciousness, alluded to in the Surangama Sutra where it says, Ananda, what makes your consciousness wander are your mind and eyes.


When one first begins to study the awareness of seeing through “the eight attributions”, one understands that the first seven can be attributed to something. Not being able to understand the awareness of seeing yet, the practitioner uses it as a crutch. But ultimately 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 turning the light around, it is the primary unattributable light that needs to be turned around, so that not a single discriminating thought is applied. What causes you to flow and wander is just the six roots (sense organs); but what enables you to attain enlightenment is also just the six roots (sense organs). But the fact that dust (internal and external stimuli) and discriminating awareness are not used at all, means that rather than using the roots (sense organs), one uses the awareness 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 stick 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.