Waking Up

by Bodhidharma

The essence of the Path is detachment; the method of practice is detaching from appearances. The sutras say, “Detachment is Bodhi (awakening / enlightenment), for it is no longer deluded by illusions.” Buddha means aware or awakened. Mortals who have realized complete awareness are called buddhas, just as the sutras saying, “Buddhas are those who free themselves from all appearances.”

The appearance of no appearance can’t be seen with eyes, but can only be known with wisdom. As you hear this teaching and give rise to faith, you embark on the Great Vehicle and leave the three realms (greed, anger, ignorance; the desire realm, the form realm, the formless realm) behind.

To leave the three realms means to replace greed, anger, and ignorance with discipline, meditation, and wisdom. Greed, anger, and ignorance have no nature of their own – their survival solely depends on their hosts. If you are capable of reflection and look into your own mind, you will see that the nature of greed, anger and ignorance is actually the buddha-nature. There is no buddha-nature separate from greed, anger, and ignorance. The sutras say, “Buddhas are those living with the three poisons yet nourishing themselves with purity and clarity.” The three poisons are greed, anger, and ignorance.

The Great Vehicle is the greatest of all vehicles, the conveyance of all bodhisattvas and buddhas, who use everything without using anything, who travel without traveling. The sutras say, “No vehicle is the vehicle of buddhas.”

If you realize that the six senses are not real, that the five skandhas are fictional, that nothing can be located anywhere, then you understand the teachings of the Buddha. The sutras say, “The cave of five aggregates is the Court of Zen. The opening of the inner eye is the door to the Great Vehicle.” How clear and concise!

Not holding on to anything is Zen. Once you realize this, everything you do – walking, standing, sitting, or lying down – whatever it is, is Zen. To see the mind is empty is to see the buddha. Why? The buddhas of the ten directions abide in no-mind.

To give up yourself without attachment is the greatest charity. To transcend motion and stillness is the highest meditation. Mortals are restless, and arhats are still. Yet the highest meditation surpasses both activity and passivity. People who realize this free themselves from all appearances without effort, and they cure all illnesses without treatment. Such is the power of great Zen.

To search for the Truth with the discriminating mind is confusion. Not giving rise to discrimination is enlightenment. Freeing oneself from words is liberation. Remaining untouched by the world of senses and ideas is guarding the Dharma. Transcending life and death is giving up earthly existence. Breaking off the cycle of samsara is realizing the Way. When the mind makes no more discriminations, it is nirvana. Not dwelling in ignorance is perfecting wisdom. Not suffering from affliction is abiding in nirvana. The place of no mind and no appearance is the other shore.

When you’re deluded, there is still a difference between this and that; once you wake up, this shore no longer exists. Only unenlightened mortals remain on this shore. Those who have realized the greatest of all vehicles, however, they are freed from bondage. So they dwell neither on this shore nor on the other shore. Anyone who sees the other shore as different from this one, their mind has wandered astray.

Delusion means mortality, and awareness means Buddhahood. They are neither the same nor different. The only difference lies in delusion or awareness. When one is deluded, there is a world to escape from; when one is enlightened, there is nothing to escape.

In the light of the non-dualistic Dharma, ordinary people look no different from arhats. The sutras say, “The non-dualistic Dharma is something that mortals don’t get, while sages don’t do.” Only great bodhisattvas and buddhas practice nonduality. To look on life as different from death, or to look on motion as different from stillness, is dualistic view. To be non-dualistic means to look on samsara as no different from nirvana. Because the nature of all phenomena is emptiness. Arhats imagine that they can end suffering by achieving nirvana, so they end up being trapped in nirvana.

Bodhisattvas know that suffering is empty, so by realizing emptiness they attain nirvana. Nirvana means non-duality, no birth and no death. It is beyond birth and death, and beyond nirvana. When the mind stops making discrimination, it enters nirvana. Nirvana is no mind. Buddhas abide in a place where delusions don’t exist, therefore they abide in nirvana. Bodhisattvas abide in a place where afflictions don’t exist, therefore they abide in the Way.

A place of leisure and freedom is one without greed, anger, and ignorance. Greed is the realm of desire, anger the realm of form, and ignorance the formless realm. When a thought arises, you enter the three realms. When a thought vanishes, you leave the three realms. The birth and death of the three realms, the existence or nonexistence of anything, depends on the mind. This applies to everything and all things, including stones and trees, sentient beings or insentient.

If you know that your mind is a fiction without real entity, you know that your mind neither exists nor doesn’t exist. Mortals keep giving rise to thoughts, claiming that mind exists. And arhats keep eliminating thoughts, claiming that mind doesn’t exist. Bodhisattvas and buddhas neither fabricate nor negate the mind, allowing it to neither exist nor non-exist. The state of mind that neither exists nor non-exists is called the Middle Way.

If you use your discriminating mind to study reality, you fail in both mind and reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll realize both mind and reality. Those who don’t understand, don’t understand awakening. Those who understand, understand not awakening. People who are awakened know that the mind is empty. They transcend both awareness and delusion. The absence of both right understanding and wrong understanding is true understanding.

Form doesn’t become form by itself; it has to depend on mind to become form. For the same reason, mind is not mind without form. Mind and form create and negate each other. Existence exists only in relation to non-existence. Likewise, non-existence exists only because of existence. This is true view. Seen with such vision, nothing is not seen, yet nothing is seen. It can penetrate the ten directions without actual seeing. Why? Because nothing is seen, not seeing is realized, and ultimately seeing is not seeing. What mortals see are all delusions. True vision is not defined by seeing or non-seeing.

The mind and the world are corresponding – the mind generates ideas and views, which manifest in the outside world. If your mind doesn’t stir inside, the world doesn’t arise outside. When the world and the mind are both undefiled and unmoved, it is called true vision. And such understanding is true view.

To see nothing is to realize the Way, and to intellectualize nothing is to know the Dharma. Why? Because true seeing is neither seeing nor not seeing, and true understanding is neither understanding nor not understanding. Seeing without seeing is true vision, and understanding without conceptualizing is true realization.

True vision isn’t just seeing it, but also seeing what lies beyond seeing. True realization isn’t just realizing realization, but also realizing what goes beyond realization. If there is something to realize, you still don’t realize. Once you find nothing to realize, you truly realize. To realize or not to realize, is not yet realization. The sutras say, “Clinging to wisdom is ignorance.” When the mind is empty, realization and non-realization are both the Way. If the mind still exists, however, either realizing or not realizing just gives rise to delusion.

If you truly realize, the world is shaped by you; otherwise, you are controlled by the world. When the world is in your sovereignty, everything becomes workable, and everything leads to nirvana. When you are controlled by the outside world, everything becomes limitation, and everything leads to samsara.

Therefore, the sages never use their mind to search for the Truth, neither do they use the Way to look for their mind, nor do they seek Mind with their own (discriminating) mind, nor do they seek Truth with the Dharma. Simply, their mind doesn’t give birth to reality, and reality doesn’t give rise to mind. Both their mind and reality cease to stir, thus they are constantly in samadhi (a state of utter concentration, a union state with the Divine).

When the ordinary (dualistic) mind appears, buddhas disappear. As soon as the ordinary mind ceases to be, buddhas appear. When attachment appears, the Truth disappears. Only when the mind lets go of clinging, the Truth appears. If you know that nothing is bound by anything, you have found the Way. If you know that the mind is unbound by anything, you abide in the Way.

When you don’t realize, you have defilements. Once you realize, you are purified. Why? Because the nature of defilement is empty. When you are in confusion, you see pure as impure. Once you understand, you know impure is empty and nothing is impure. Why? Because impure has no (permanent) dwelling place. The sutras say, “Nothing has a nature of its own. Stay mindful, don’t get lost in doubts. When you go astray, you have committed wrong.” Wrong is the result of a questioning, wandering mind. Once you realize this, all the wrong deeds of your past lives are wiped clean!

When you still linger in duality, the six senses and five skandhas are constructs of suffering and samsara. When you wake up though, the six senses and five skandhas are constructs of non-suffering and nirvana.

As a practitioner, you don’t go outside to seek the Way. You know that the mind is the Way. But when you search the mind, you find nothing. And when you realize the Way, you find nothing. If people say they find the Way using their mind, it’s just delusion. In delusion, there are buddhas and dharmas existing. In mindfulness, nothing exists. Because mindfulness itself is Buddhahood.

As a practitioner seeking the Way, you’ll see that the Way appears only when your body disappears. Like stripping bark from a tree, this karmic body has to undergo constant transformation. Because of the flickering nature of the (ordinary) mind, there is no fixed reality – you can only practice by going with the flow of your thoughts. Don’t hate anything, including life and death; don’t love anything, including life and death. Simply keep every thought free of delusion, then in life you’ll realize the dawning of nirvana, and in death you’ll attain complete liberation.

To see form but not be deluded by form, and to hear sound but not be deluded by sound, these are all liberation. Eyes that aren’t attached to form are the Entrance to Zen. Ears that aren’t attached to sound are the Entrance to Zen. To sum up, in the face of all phenomena, those who remain fully aware of their empty nature and remain unattached are liberated, and those who cling to appearances are still in bondage.

Liberation means being freed from the bondage to fears, worries, affliction of all sorts. There is no other liberation. When you look at form in a neutral, non-dualistic and unattached way, form doesn’t give rise to mind and mind doesn’t give rise to form. Both form and mind are pure and free.

Free of delusions, the mind is the land of Buddhas. Occupied by delusions, the mind is hell. Ordinary people create delusions with their minds and therefore always find themselves in hell. Bodhisattvas are mindful about delusions and not creating delusions with their minds, therefore they are constantly in the land of Buddhas. If your mind is not generating delusions, but simply being in a still, non-dualistic, empty state, you go from buddha-land to buddha-land. However, if your mind constantly gives rise to mind, then it is never still and always in motion, and you go from one hell to another. When a thought arises, it brings about good and bad karma, heaven and hell, and the cycle never ends. When no thought arises, no karma is created, giving rise to neither heaven nor hell, and liberation is reached.

The body neither exists nor not exist. For people in samsara it exists, for enlightened beings it doesn’t. The mind of a sage is as empty and spacious as the sky. Everything that follows hereafter is realized on the Way, no longer limited to the ken of arhats or mortals.

Once the mind reaches nirvana, one doesn’t see nirvana. Why? For the mind is already nirvana. If you see nirvana somewhere outside the mind, you’re deluded.

All suffering is buddha-seed; one seeks wisdom because of suffering. You can say suffering gives rise to Buddhahood; but you can’t equate suffering as Buddhahood. Therefore, your body and mind are the field, suffering is the seed, wisdom the sprout, and Buddhahood the harvest.

The Buddha in the mind is like the fragrance in a tree. When a mind is free of suffering, the Buddha shows up. In the same case, if a tree is free of decay, fragrance naturally occurs. Therefore, there’s no fragrance without the tree, and no Buddha comes from outside the mind. A fragrance that comes from outside the tree is not the tree’s fragrance. A Buddha that comes from outside the mind is not the mind’s Buddha.

When your mind still has the three poisons (greed, hatred, and ignorance), it is called a filthy land. When your mind is freed from the three poisons, it is called a pure land. The sutras say, “If you fill your land with impurity and filth, no Buddha will appear.” Impurity and filth refer to delusions and the three poisons. Buddha means a purified and awakened mind.

Both speech and silence are the Dharma. As long as you’re not attached to speech, even if you talk all day, you still walk the Way. If you’re attached to speech, even if you remain silent all day, you go astray. Therefore, a Buddha expresses nothing through either silence or speech, and a Buddha’s speech is no difference from silence – once you understand it, you are in samadhi (a realized state).

Spoken from a knowing mind, the speech is free. Silent with an ignorant mind, the silence is tied. Therefore, spoken without attachment, the speech is free. Silent with attachment, the silence is tied. Language is inherently free; what’s tied is the mind. Language has nothing to do with attachment; what’s attached is the mind.

There is no high path or low path. If you make the distinction between high and low, you’re lost. The Way is a raft not because it is a raft by itself, but because we use it as a raft. A person can cross the river riding it, therefore it becomes the Way.

From a worldly point of view, there’re male and female, rich and poor. According to the Way though, there’s neither male or female, nor rich or poor. In the Vimalakirti Sutra, when the goddess realized the Way, there’s no change to her gender or form. When the stable boy realized the Truth, there’s no change to his job title. No matter in what form or identity, they’re sharing the same inner nature. The goddess searched twelve years for her female form without success. She would be fruitless too if she searched twelve years for a male form. Those twelve years refer to the twelve entrances.

Without the mind there’s no Buddha; without the Buddha there’s no awakened mind. Likewise, without water there’s no ice, and without ice there’s no water. When we talk about leaving the mind, we don’t mean leaving the mind faraway; we mean detaching from all appearances of the mind. The sutra says, “When no appearance is seen, the Buddha is seen.”

Without the mind there’s no Buddha – it means that the Buddha is from the mind, that the mind gives rise to the Buddha. Although the Buddha comes from the mind, the mind doesn’t come from the Buddha. Just like fish come from water, but water doesn’t come from fish. If you want to see a fish, you see the water first. In the same way, if you want to see a Buddha, you see the mind first. Once the fish is seen, one forgets about the water. Likewise, once you have seen the Buddha, you forget about the mind. If you don’t forget about the mind, you are confused by the mind.

Ignorance and enlightenment are like water and ice. To be afflicted by the three poisons is ignorance. To be purified by the three releases (emptiness, formlessness, aimlessness) is enlightenment. What freezes into ice in winter is what melts into water in summer. Ice and water are inherently one; they share the same nature. Without ignorance there’s no enlightenment either, the very nature of ignorance is the nature of enlightenment. Just like aconite and monkshood come up in different season, but they share the same root. Because of discriminations, we name ignorance and enlightenment differently. When someone becomes enlightened, their look remains the same, just like a snake still has its scales after becoming a dragon. Through introspection we know our mind; through external exertion we shape our body.

Sentient beings liberate Buddhas and Buddhas liberate sentient beings – this is what Oneness means. Beings liberate Buddhas because suffering brings about wisdom. Buddhas liberate beings because wisdom ends suffering. Therefore both suffering and enlightenment are requisites for each other. If it weren’t for suffering, there would be nothing to give rise to awareness. And if it weren’t for awareness, there would be nothing to bring an end to suffering. When you’re deluded, Buddhas liberate you. When you’re awakened, you liberate Buddhas. Buddhas don’t become Buddhas on their own – they’re liberated by sentient beings. Buddhas regard ignorance as their father and greed as their mother. Ignorance and greed are different names for beings. Beings and ignorance are like the left hand and the right hand, otherwise they are exactly the same.

When you’re deluded, you’re on this shore. When you’re awakened, you’re on the other shore. If you know the mind is empty and you see no appearances, then you are beyond delusion and mindfulness. Once you are beyond delusion and enlightenment, the other shore ceases to exist. The tathagata is neither on this shore nor on the other shore, nor in midstream. Arhats are in midstream, and sentient beings are on this shore. The other shore is Bodhi.

Buddhas have three bodies: transformation body, reward body, and Dharma body. Transformation body is also called response body, which appears when mortals do good deeds, while reward body appears when mortals cultivate wisdom, and Dharma body when they realize emptiness. The transformation body is the one flying in all directions to rescue those in need. The reward body puts an end to your doubts and irresolution, spurs you on to liberation, and the Great Enlightenment Attained in the Himalayas suddenly becomes true for you. The Dharma body doesn’t say or do anything but resides in calm and clarity. Get to the bottom of it though, there’s not even one Buddha-body, where does three come from? It all depends on a person’s understanding. People have different levels of understanding, which can be upper, moderate, or lower.

People of lower level pray for worldly blessings and mistake the transformation body for the Buddha. People of moderate level seek for putting an end to suffering and mistake the reward body for the Buddha. And people of upper level try to experience nirvana and mistake the Dharma body for the Buddha. Only people of superior level turn inward, distracted by nothing, knowing that their mind is already the Buddha, that the so-called three bodies are as unreliable and pointless as the ten thousand things, and therefore they realize the Buddha’s wisdom mind, reach the Way, and attain liberation. The sutras say, “Buddhas don’t preach. They don’t liberate. And they don’t attain Buddhahood.” So it is.

Sentient beings create karma, not the other way around. They create karma in this life and receive its effect in the next. The cycle never ends. Only the enlightened no longer create karma and therefore cause no more effect. The sutras say, “Who creates no karma naturally realizes the Way.” Every word rings true! You create karma, not karma creates you; once you have created karma, karma follows you around; when you stop creating karma, karma and you cease to exist. Hence, mankind creates karma, which creates mankind. If mankind doesn’t create karma, then no karma will create mankind. Likewise, a person can promote and transmit Dharma, but Dharma can’t promote a person.

Unenlightened people keep creating karma, and refusing to believe in retribution, but can they deny suffering? Can they ever escape the fate that they reap what they sow? If the present state of mind sows nothing, the future state of mind reaps nothing.

The sutras say, “If you believe in Buddhas and imagine that Buddhas are ascetics, you are deluded. If you believe in Buddhas and imagine that Buddhas are filthy rich, you are deluded as well. You are simply incapable of faith.”

A sage realizes the way of sages. A mortal realizes the way of mortals. A mortal who gives up the way of mortals and follows the way of sages becomes a sage. But the fools of this world go outside searching for sages from afar, without realizing that the nature of their own mind is the sage. The sutras say, “Don’t preach this sutra among the fools.”

The sutras also say, “Mind is the teaching; a fool is whoever doesn’t realize their own mind. If only they could understand the teaching, they would become a sage. But they prefer to seek knowledge from faraway and pursue things in air, such as buddha-images, incense, lights and colors. They are lost in confusion and insanity.”

And the sutras say, “If you see that all appearances are not what they appear, you see the Buddha.” The countless manifestations all come from the mind; if the mind is as clear as the empty space, they can only come and go but never stay.

Our endless delusions are the roots of disease and illness. When mortals are living, they worry about dying. When they are full, they worry about hunger. Constantly they are in the Great Imperfection. Sages don’t regret about the past, they don’t worry about the future, and they don’t cling to the present. From moment to moment they simply follow the Way. If you haven’t awakened to this Great Perfection, you’d better hurry to pursue continued prosperity on Earth or in Heaven.