Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Full Huang-Po

Here's a quote from Transmission of Mind by Huang-Po (who lived in China, they say, in the 9th century). Thanks to Daily Zen for posting this, and the NDHighlights Yahoo Group for pointing to it.

Yeah, yeah, when Huang-Po says things like "full understanding can come to you only through an inexpressible mystery," the words are a bit too beautiful and unnecessary. Truth has already appeared in this moment; why make anything? That being said, I've got a soft spot for this stuff, at least as poetry.
"Buddha" and "sentient beings" are both your own false conceptions. It is because you do not know real Mind that you delude yourselves with such objective concepts. If you will conceive of a Buddha, you will be obstructed by that Buddha! And when you conceive of sentient beings, you will be obstructed by those beings. All such dualistic concepts as "ignorant" and "Enlightened," "pure" and "impure," are obstructions.

Question: If our own Mind is the Buddha, how did Bodhidharma transmit his doctrine when he came from India?

Answer: When he came from India, he transmitted only Mind-Buddha. He just pointed to the truth that the minds of all of you have from the very first been identical with the Buddha, and in no way separate from each other. That is why we call him our Patriarch. Whoever has an instant of understanding of this truth suddenly transcends the whole hierarchy of saints and adepts belonging to any of the Three Vehicles. You have always been one with the Buddha, so do not pretend you can attain to this oneness by various practices.

Discuss it as you may, how can you even hope to approach the truth through words? Nor can it be perceived either subjectively or objectively. So full understanding can come to you only through an inexpressible mystery. The approach to it is called the Gateway of the Stillness Beyond All Activity. If you wish to understand, know that a sudden comprehension comes when the mind has been purged of all the clutter of conceptual and discriminatory thought-activity. Those who seek the truth by means of intellect and learning only get further and further away from it.

Were you now to practice keeping your minds motionless at all times, whether walking, sitting, standing, or lying; concentrating entirely upon the goal of no thought-creation, no duality, no reliance on others and no attachments; just allowing all things to take their course the whole day long, as though you were too ill to bother; unknown to the world; innocent of any urge to be known or unknown to others; with your minds like blocks of stone that mend no holes-then all the Dharmas would penetrate your understanding through and through. In a little while you would find yourselves firmly unattached.

Thus, for the first time in your lives, you would discover your reactions to phenomena decreasing and, ultimately, you would pass beyond the Triple World; and people would say that a Buddha had appeared in the world. Pure and passionless knowledge implies putting an end to the ceaseless flow of thoughts and images, for in that way you stop creating karma that leads to rebirth-whether as gods or men or as sufferers in hell.

The Void is fundamentally without spatial dimensions, passions, activities, delusions or right understanding. You must clearly understand that in it there are no things, no people and no Buddhas; for this Void contains not the smallest hairsbreadth of anything that can be viewed spatially; it depends on nothing and is attached to nothing. It is all-pervading, spotless beauty; it is the self-existent and uncreated Absolute. A perception, sudden as blinking, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deeply mysterious wordless understanding; and by this understanding will you awake to the truth of Zen.
Re-tweet from emptygatezen:
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains. -Li Po and Tu Fu


Andy said...

Hi Stuart,

The question/issue that continually arises for me is how to reconcile:

1. cultivating stillness through meditation and contemplation, and

2. navigating one's way through one's life and through the world.

On the one hand, certain teachings/practices would have us cultivate a "state of desirelessness" through cultivating stillness.

On the other hand, one still has a life, a job, and unless one has desires (goals, or intentions) how does one get anywhere? There is the teaching that thoughts create your reality (for example the teachings collectively called The Law of Attraction).

I am interested to know how you see the reconciliation of these.



Stuart said...

Hi, Andy, thanks for writing.

Buddha's teaching isn't so much about what we should or shouldn't do. It's about seeing things as they are, particularly how cause and effect operate. The metaphor of a mirror is often used. The mirror doesn't tell you to comb your hair or straighten your tie; it just shows you how it is.

I don't see Buddha's teaching as saying that desire is bad, but it does point to the cause/effect connection between the thought "I want" and suffering.

It may be useful to experience complete stillness (before-thinking mind) sometimes, but not all the time. Just like you don't spend all day looking at a mirror. Even when Zen teachers say, "Cut off all thinking," it may be a skillful means to help us to not cling to thinking as it appears and disappears.

So... I deal with the issue you bring up in a few different ways. When "I want" appears, sometimes I try to watch it like a cloud appearing and disappearing in the sky. What is this? Though if the situation becomes too painful, I will use some method to control my thinking/wanting, like repeating a mantra, keeping a big question, or consciously turning my attention to what I'm doing in the moment.

The other factor is compassion, which is more important for us lay Buddhists than it historically was for monks like Huang Po. That means that when "I want" appears, instead of watching it or controling it, I can try asking, "How can I use this desire of mine in a way that will benefit other beings?"

When the desire to "get anywhere" in a job or life appears, I can work with the intention behind it. If I strive to get somewhere for the sake of "I want," there will be suffering. But if I use my job and life etc to try to help others, maybe not.

Former Berkeley Girl said...

Thank you for the comments. When I first read the post, I didn't think I would relate beyond what draws me and frustrates me about zen. But in particular, Stuart's response to Andy's comment has been helpful.
I'm in Berkeley visiting an 87-yr-old friend whose health is in a fragile state. For some reason, the "I want" appears at times when I feel like my original intent has been compassion. (Mostly "I want" to be acknowledged emotionally)
So, thank you Stuart - your response to Andy has been helpful.

tazzy said...

Hi Stuart and co. The full Huang po is really sublime , I love this kind of pointing in any tradition .
Regarding you previous post Stewart [practice] what is there when there when thoughts cease to arise?
When conceptualizing ceases , what is?
Where is the I and my that practices when there are no thoughts .
Is there a thinker, apart from thought itself? Tazzy.

Stuart said...

When conceptualizing ceases, what is?

The sky is blue, sugar is sweet, a dog says 'woof,' and a quarter is 25 cents.

behalfacre said...

Ya gotta love that..lol.. Tazz.

Anonymous said...

It's nothing personal, but we hate your blog.


EzySpace said...

Hi Stuart,

On opening your site, the thought that came to mind was " Nirvana meant cessation ", and then I came across your beautiful post "The Full Huang-Po". Thanks a lot.

EzySpace said...

Hi Stuart,

On opening your site, the thought that came to mind was " Nirvana meant cessation ", and then I came across your beautiful post "The Full Huang-Po". Thanks a lot.