Translated by John Blofeld
All the Buddhas and all sentient Beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists. This Mind, which is without beginning, is unborn and indestructible. It is not green nor yellow, and has neither form nor appearance. It does not belong to the categories of things which exist or do not exist, nor can it be thought of in terms of new or old. It is neither long nor short, big nor small, for it transcends all limits, measures, names, traces and comparisons. It is that which you see before you begin to reason about it and you at once fall into error. It is like the boundless void which cannot be fathomed or measured. The One Mind alone is the Buddha, and there is no distinction between the Buddha and sentient things, but that sentient beings are attached to forms and so seek externally for Buddhahood. By their very seeking they lose it, for that is using the Buddha to seek for the Buddha and using mind to grasp
Mind. Even though they do their utmost for a full aeon, they will not be able to attain to it. They do not know that, if they put a stop to conceptual thought and forget their anxiety, the Buddha will appear before them, for this Mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is all living beings. It is not the less for being manifested in ordinary beings, nor is it greater for being manifested in the Buddhas.
As to performing the six paramitas and vast numbers of similar practices, or gaining merits as countless as the sands of the Ganges, since you are fundamentally complete in every respect, you should not try to supplement that perfection by such meaningless practices. When there is occasion for them, perform them; and, when the occasion is passed, remain quiescent. If you are not absolutely convinced that the Mind is the Buddha, and if you are attached to forms, practices and meritorious performances, your way of thinking is false and quite incompatible with the Way. The Mind is the Buddha, nor are there any other Buddhas or any other mind. It is bright and spotless as the void, having no form or appearance whatever. To make use of your minds to think conceptually is to leave the substance and attach yourselves to form. The Ever-Existent Buddha is not a Buddha of form or attachment. To practise the six paramitas and a myriad similar practices with the intention of becoming a Buddha thereby is to advance by stages, but the Ever-Existent Buddha is not a Buddha of stages. Only awake to the One Mind, and there is nothing whatsoever to be attained. This is the REAL Buddha. The Buddha and all sentient beings are the One Mind and nothing else.
Mind is like the void in which there is no confusion or evil, as when the sun wheels through it shining upon the four corners of the world. For, when the sun rises and illuminates the whole earth, the void gains not in brilliance; and, w hen the sun sets, the void does not darken. The phenomena of light and dark alternate with each other, but the nature of the void remains unchanged. So it is with the Mind of the Buddha and of sentient beings. If you look upon the Buddha as presenting a pure, bright or Enlightened appearance, or upon sentient beings as presenting a foul, dark or mortal-seeming appearance, these conceptions resulting from attachment to form will keep you from supreme knowledge even after the passing of as many aeons as there are sands in the Ganges. There is only the One Mind and not a particle of anything else on which to lay hold, for this Mind is the Buddha. If you students of the Way do not awake to this Mind substance, you will overlay Mind with conceptual thought, you will seek the Buddha outside yourselves, and you will remain attached to forms, pious practices and so on, all of which are harmful and not at all the way to supreme knowledge.
This Mind is no mind of conceptual thought and it is completely detached from
form. So Buddhas and sentient beings do not differ at all. If you can only rid yourselves of conceptual thought, you will have accomplished everything. But if you students of the Way do not rid yourselves of conceptual thought in a flash, even though you strive for aeon after aeon, you will never accomplish it. Enmeshed in the meritorious practices of the Three Vehicles, you will be unable to attain Enlightenment. Nevertheless, the realization of the One Mind may come after a shorter or a longer period. There are those who, upon hearing this teaching, rid themselves of conceptual thought in a flash. There are others who do this after following through the Ten Beliefs, the Ten Stages, the Ten Activities and the Ten Bestowals of Merit. Yet others accomplish it after passing through the Ten Stages of a Bodhisattva’s Progress. But whether they transcend conceptual thought by a longer or a shorter way, the result is a state of BEING: there is no pious practising and no action of realizing. That there is nothing which can be attained is not idle talk; it is the truth. Moreover, whether you accomplish your aim in a single flash of thought or after going through the Ten Stages of a Bodhisattva’s Progress, the achievement will be the same; for this state of being admits of no degrees, so the latter method merely entails aeons of unnecessary suffering and toil.
Our original Buddha-Nature is, in highest truth, devoid of any atom of objectivity. It is void, omnipresent, silent, pure; it is glorious and mysterious peaceful joy and that is all. Enter deeply into it by awaking to it yourself. That which is before you is it, in all its fullness, utterly complete. There is naught beside.
I became ill and, receiving permission (from His Britannic Majesty’s Embassy) to rest for a few weeks in the country, I went to stay in an old monastery in the heart of the hills beyond Chungking…
… One day, while I was pottering about the monastery, I fell into conversation with the elderly monk in charge of the block-printing press which had for centuries been reproducing Buddhist works from heavy blocks of wood on each of which the text of a single page was beautifully hand-engraved. Thus a book containing one hundred pages required one hundred separate blocks of wood. The disadvantages of this method of printing are obvious; the advantage is that the lovely engravings are preserved virtually for ever, so that reprints can be made at any time. After showing me the press, my guide took me to the library and offered to lend me some of the volumes produced in that monastery during the last several hundred years. They included a work of one of the early Zen Masters, the Tun Wu Ju Chieh Yao Mên Lun, which title can be roughly translated as ‘The Path to Sudden Attainment’; it was composed by the T’ang scholar Hui Hai.
I carried this volume, excellently printed on soft paper, back to my cell and began to examine it. Presently it occurred to me that, though the content was very deep, the wording was such that a man with some knowledge of Zen would not find it too difficult to translate. It contained some very striking paradoxes, of which one caught my eye as soon as I opened the book for the first time.
A fool seeks for the Buddha, not for Mind.
A sage seeks for Mind, not for the Buddha.
… The more I read, the more I was tempted to essay a translation into English, which I finally produced. I know now that it was not a very good translation and that it contained far too many mistakes. Nevertheless, it did open up a new kind of work for me, culminating (up to now) in my new translation of the Dialogues and Sermons of Huang Po, one of the greatest of the early Zen Masters. It is a work which wonderfully expounds Zen, pointing directly to the way for us to come face to face with Reality! I feel that if I were to die tomorrow, at least my life would have produced one fruit of value to seekers after Truth. This is not a specially profitable thought, but somehow comforting. I often think that, if I had not fallen ill at that time and conceived the idea of translating Hui Hai’s book, I might never have thought of embarking upon this kind of work. That is why I feel sure that my Karma caused me that illness, not in the usual way of a penalty for disobeying some of nature’s spiritual or material laws, but that a great purpose might be fulfilled.