Mahāyāna (Sanskrit: महायान mahāyāna, literally the “Great Vehicle”) is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. Mahāyāna Buddhism originated in India, and is associated with the oldest historical sect of Buddhism, the Mahāsāṃghika.

The Mahāyāna tradition is the larger of the two major traditions of Buddhism existing today, the other being that of the Theravāda school. According to the teachings of Mahāyāna traditions, “Mahāyāna” also refers to the path of seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, also called “Bodhisattvayāna”, or the “Bodhisattva Vehicle.

Bodhidharma Sutra 9 : “The Wake-up Sermon”

The essence of the way is detachment. And the goal of those who practice is freedom from appearances. The sutras say, “detachment is enlightenment because it negates appearances.”    …the three realms are greed, anger and delusion. To leave the three realms means to go from greed, anger and delusion back to mortality, meditation and wisdom. The sutras say, “Buddhas have only become Buddhas while living with the three poisons and nourishing themselves on the pure dharma.” the three poisons are greed, anger and delusion ….

The great vehicle is the greatest of all vehicles. It’s the conveyance of bodhisattvas, who use everything without using anything, and who travel all day without travelling. Such is the vehicle of Buddhas. The sutras say, “no vehicle is the vehicle of Buddhas.”         …the sutras say, “the cave of five aggregates is the hall of zen, the opening of the inner eye is the door of the great vehicle.” what could be clearer?

Not thinking about anything is zen. Once you know this, walking, standing, sitting or lying down, everything you do is zen. To know that the mind is empty is to see the Buddha. The Buddhas of the ten directions have no mind. To see no mind is to see the Buddha.

To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity. To transcend motion and stillness is the highest meditation. Mortals keep moving while arhats stay still. But the highest meditation surpasses that of both mortals and arhats. People who reach such understanding free themselves from all appearances without effort and cure all illnesses without treatment. Such is the power of great zen.

Bodhidharma Sutra 10 : “Not to be in the mind is everything”

Using the mind to look for reality is delusion. Not using the mind to look for reality is awareness. Freeing oneself from words is liberation. Remaining unblemished by the dust of sensation is guarding the dharma. Transcending life and death is leaving home. Not suffering another existence is reaching the way. Not creating delusions is enlightenment. Not engaging in ignorance is wisdom. No affliction is nirvana. And no appearance of the mind is the other shore.

In the light of the impartial dharma, mortals look no different from sages. The sutras say that the impartial dharma is something that mortals can’t penetrate and sages can’t practice. The impartial dharma is only practiced by great bodhisattvas and Buddhas. To look on life as different from death or on motion as different from stillness is to be partial. To be impartial means to look on suffering as no different from nirvana because the nature of both is emptiness. By imagining they’re putting an end to suffering and entering nirvana, arhatas end up trapped by nirvana. But bodhisattvas know that suffering is essentially empty. And by remaining in emptiness, they remain in nirvana. Nirvana means no birth and no death. It’s beyond birth and death and beyond nirvana. When the mind stops moving, it enters nirvana. Nirvana is an empty mind.    …an uninhabited place is one without greed, anger or delusion.  …whoever knows that the mind is a fiction and devoid of anything real knows that his own mind neither exists nor doesn’t exist. Mortals keep creating the mind, claiming it exists. And arhats keep negating the mind, claiming it doesn’t exist. But bodhisattvas and Buddhas neither create nor negate the mind. This is what’s meant by the mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist. The mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist is called the middle way ….

When your mind doesn’t stir inside, the world doesn’t arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is true vision. And such understanding is true understanding.

Bodhidharma Sutra 11 : “Mind is the greatest enemy of man”

The sutras say, “not to let go of wisdom is stupidity.”

When the mind doesn’t exist,
understanding and not understanding are both true.
When the mind exists,
understanding and not understanding are both false.

When you understand, reality depends on you.
When you don’t understand, you depend on reality.

When reality depends on you, that which isn’t real becomes real.
When you depend on reality, that which is real becomes false.

When you depend on reality, everything is false.
When reality depends on you, everything is true

Thus, the sage doesn’t use his mind to look for reality,
or reality to look for his mind,
or his mind to look for his mind,
or reality to look for reality.

His mind doesn’t give rise to reality.
And reality doesn’t give rise to his mind.
Both his mind and reality are still,
therefore he’s always in samadhi.

The sutras say, “nothing has a nature of its own.”
Act. Don’t question.
When you question, you’re wrong.

When you’re deluded,
the six senses and five shades
are constructs of suffering and mortality.

When you wake up,
the six senses and five shades
are constructs of nirvana and immortality.

Someone who seeks the way doesn’t look beyond himself.
He knows that the mind is the way.
But when he finds the mind, he finds nothing.
And when he finds the way, he finds nothing.

If you think you can use the mind to find the way,
you’re deluded. When you’re deluded,
Buddhahood exists.
When you’re aware, it doesn’t exist.
Because awareness is Buddhahood.

… Don’t hate life and death or love life and death.

Keep your every thought free of delusion,
and in life you’ll witness the beginning of nirvana,
and in death you’ll experience the assurance of no rebirth.

To see form but not be corrupted by form or
To hear sound but not be corrupted by sound
is liberation.

Eyes that aren’t attached to form are the gates of Zen.
Ears that aren’t attached to sound are also the gates of Zen.
In short, those who perceive the existence of phenomena
and remain unattached are liberated ….

When delusions are absent,
the mind is the land of Buddhas.
When delusions are present,
the mind is hell.

Bodhidharma Sutra 12 : “Every suffering is a Buddha-seed”

That which follows is witnessed on the way.
It’s beyond the ken of arhats and mortals.

When the mind reaches nirvana, you don’t see nirvana.
The mind is nirvana.
If you see nirvana somewhere outside the mind
you’re deluding yourself.

Every suffering is a Buddha-seed.
Suffering impels to seek wisdom.
Yet you can only say that suffering gives rise to Buddhahood.
You can’t say that suffering is Buddhahood.

Your body and mind are the field.
Suffering is the seed,
Wisdom the sprout and
Buddhahood the grain.

When the three poisons are present in your mind,
you live in a land of filth.
When the three poisons are absent from your mind,
you live in a land of purity.

There’s no language that isn’t the dharma.
To talk all day without saying anything is the way.
To be silent all day and still say something isn’t the way.
Hence, neither does a tathagata’s speech depend on silence,
nor does his silence depend on speech.
Nor does his speech exist apart from his silence.

Those who understand both speech and silence are in samadhi.
If you speak when you know, your speech is free.
If you’re silent when you don’t know, your silence is tied.
Language is essentially free. It has nothing to do with attachment.
And attachment has nothing to do with language.

Bodhidharma Sutra 13 : “Mind is the bondage”

Without the mind there’s no Buddha means that the Buddha comes from the mind …. Whoever wants to see a Buddha sees the mind before he sees the Buddha …once you’ve seen the Buddha, you forget about the mind. If you don’t forget about the mind, the mind will confuse you ….

Mortality and Buddhahood are like water and ice. To be afflicted by the three poisons is mortality. To be purified by the three releases is Buddhahood. That which freezes into ice in winter melts into water in summer. Eliminate ice, and there’s no more water. Get rid of mortality, and there’s no more Buddhahood. Clearly, the nature of ice is the nature of water ….

Mortals liberate Buddhas and Buddhas liberate mortals. This is what’s meant by impartiality. Mortals liberate Buddhas because affliction creates awareness. And Buddhas liberate mortals because awareness negates affliction. There can’t help but be affliction. And there can’t help but be awareness. If not for affliction, there would be nothing to create awareness. And if not for awareness, there would be nothing to negate affliction. When you’re deluded, Buddhas liberate mortals. When you’re aware, mortals liberate Buddhas. Buddhas don’t become Buddhas on their own. They’re liberated by mortals. Buddhas regard delusion as their father and greed as their mother. Delusion and greed are different names for mortality ….

When you’re deluded, you’re on this shore. When you’re aware, you’re on the other shore. But once you know your mind is empty and you see no appearances, you’re beyond delusion and awareness. And once you’re beyond delusion and awareness, the other shore doesn’t exist. The tathagata isn’t on this shore or the other shore. And he isn’t in midstream. Arhats are in midstream, and mortals are on this shore. On the other shore is Buddhahood.

Bodhidharma Sutra 14 : “To face a Buddha is dangerous”

Buddhas have three bodies: a transformation body, a reward body and a real body. The transformation body is also called the incarnation body. The transformation body appears when mortals do good deeds, the reward body when they cultivate wisdom and the real body when they become aware of the sublime …. But actually, there’s not even one Buddha-body, much less three. This talk of three bodies is simply based on human understanding, which can be shallow, moderate or deep. People of shallow understanding imagine they’re piling up blessings and mistake the transformation body as the Buddha. People of moderate understanding imagine they’re putting an end to suffering and mistake the reward body as the Buddha. And people of deep understanding imagine they’re experiencing Buddhahood and mistake the real body as the Buddha. But people of the deepest understanding look within, distracted by nothing. Since a clear mind is the Buddha, they attain the understanding of a Buddha without using the mind ….

Individuals create karma. Karma doesn’t create individuals …. Only someone who’s perfect creates no karma in this life and receives no reward. The sutras say, “who creates no karma obtains the dharma” …. When you create karma, you’re reborn along with your karma. When you don’t create karma, you vanish along with your karma ….

Someone who understands the teaching of sages is a sage. Someone who understands the teaching of mortals is a mortal. A mortal who can give up the teaching of mortals and follow the teaching of sages becomes a sage. But the fools of this world prefer to look for sages far away. They don’t believe that the wisdom of their own mind is the sage. The sutras say, “among men of no understanding, don’t preach this sutra.”     …the sutras say, “when you see that all appearances are not appearances, you see the tathagata.” the myriad doors to the truth all come from the mind. When appearances of the mind are as transparent as space, they’re gone ….

When mortals are alive they worry about death. When they’re full, they worry about hunger. Theirs is the great uncertainty. But sages don’t consider the past. And they don’t worry about the future. Nor do they cling to the present. From moment to moment they follow the way.

Bodhidharma Sutra 15 : “The Breakthrough Sermon”

If someone is determined to reach enlightenment, what is the most essential method he can practice?

The most essential method, which includes all other methods, is beholding the mind.

But how can one method include all others? The mind is the root from which all things grow. If you can understand the mind, everything else is included. It’s like with a tree. All of its fruit and flowers, its branches and leaves, depend on its root. If you nourish its root, a tree multiplies. If you cut its root, it dies. Those who understand the mind reach enlightenment with minimal effort. Those who don’t understand the mind practice in vain. Everything good and bad comes from your own mind. To find something beyond the mind is impossible.

But how can beholding the mind be called understanding?

When a great bodhisattva delves deeply into perfect wisdom, he realizes …the activity of his mind has two aspects: pure and impure …the pure mind delighting in good deeds, the impure mind thinking of evil. Those who aren’t affected by impurity are sages. They transcend suffering and experience the bliss of nirvana. All others, trapped by the impure mind and entangled by their own karma, are mortals. They drift through the three realms and suffer countless afflictions. And all because their impure mind obscures their real self.

The sutra of the ten stages says, “in the body of mortals is the indestructible Buddha-nature. Like the sun, its light fills endless space. But once veiled by the dark clouds of the five shades, it’s like a light inside a jar, hidden from view.” and the nirvana sutra says, “all mortals have the Buddha-nature. But it’s covered by darkness from which they can’t escape. Our Buddha-nature is awareness: to be aware and to make others aware. To realize awareness is liberation.” everything good has awareness for its root. From this root of awareness grow the tree of all virtues and the fruit of nirvana.

Bodhidharma Sutra 17 : “Take the risk wholesale”

But the Buddha said, “only after undergoing innumerable hardships for three asankhya kalpas did i achieve enlightenment.” why do you now say that simply beholding the mind and overcoming the three poisons is liberation? The words of the Buddha are true. But the three asankhya kalpas refer to the three poisoned states of mind. What we call asankhya in Sanskrit, you call countless. Within these three poisoned states of mind are countless evil thoughts. And every thought lasts a kalpa. Such an infinity is what the Buddha meant by the three asankhya kalpas ….

But the great bodhisattvas have only achieved enlightenment by observing the three sets of precepts and by practicing the six paramitas. Now you tell disciples merely to behold the mind. How can anyone reach enlightenment without cultivating the rules of discipline?

The three sets of precepts are for overcoming the three poisoned states of mind. When you overcome these poisons, you create three sets of limitless virtue. A set gathers things together — in this case, countless good thoughts throughout your mind. And the six paramitas are for purifying the six senses. What we call paramitas, you call means to the other shore. By purifying your six senses of the dust of sensation, the paramitas ferry you across the river of affliction to the shore of enlightenment.

According to the sutras, the three sets of precepts are, “i vow to put an end to all evils. I vow to cultivate all virtues. And i vow to liberate all beings.” but now you say they’re only for controlling the three poisoned states of mind. Isn’t this contrary to the meaning of the scriptures?

The sutras of the Buddha are true. But long ago, when that great bodhisattva was cultivating the seed of enlightenment, it was to counter the three poisons that he made his three vows. Practicing moral prohibitions to counter the poison of greed, he vowed to put an end to all evils. Practicing meditation to counter the poison of anger, he vowed to cultivate all virtues. And practicing wisdom to counter the poison of delusion, he vowed to liberate all beings. Because he persevered in these three pure practices of morality, meditation and wisdom, he was able to overcome the three poisons and reach enlightenment. By overcoming the three poisons, he wiped out everything sinful and thus put an end to evil. By observing the three sets of precepts, he did nothing but good and thus cultivated virtue. And by putting an end to evil and cultivating virtue, he consummated all practices, benefited himself as well as others and rescued mortals everywhere. Thus, he liberated beings.

Bodhidharma Sutra 16 : “The courage to say ‘I don’t know’”

You say that our true Buddha-nature and all virtues have awareness for their root. But what is the root of ignorance? The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions and evils, is rooted in the three poisons: greed, anger and delusion. These three poisoned states of mind themselves include countless evils, like trees that have a single trunk but countless branches and leaves. Yet each poison produces so many more millions of evils that the example of a tree is hardly a fitting comparison.

The three poisons are present in our six sense organs as six kinds of consciousness, or thieves. They’re called thieves because they pass in and out of the gates of the senses, covet limitless possessions, engage in evil and mask their true identity ….

But if someone cuts off their source, rivers dry up. And if someone who seeks liberation can turn the three poisons into the three sets of precepts and the six thieves into the six paramitas, he rids himself of affliction once and for all. But the three realms and the six states of existence are infinitely vast.

How can we escape their endless afflictions if all we do is behold the mind?

The karma of the three realms comes from the mind alone. If your mind isn’t within the three realms, it’s beyond them.

And how does the karma of these six differ?

Mortals who don’t understand true practice and blindly perform good deeds are born into the three states …. Those who blindly perform the ten good deeds and foolishly seek happiness are born as gods in the realm of desire. Those who blindly observe the five precepts and foolishly indulge in love and hate are born as men in the realm of anger. And those who blindly cling to the phenomenal world, believe in false doctrines and hope for blessings are born as demons in the realm of delusion.     …if you can just concentrate your mind and transcend its falsehood and evil, the suffering of existence will automatically disappear. And once free from suffering, you’re truly free.

Bodhidharma Sutra 18 : “Wakefulness is awareness”

You should realize that the practice you cultivate doesn’t exist apart from your mind. If your mind is pure, all Buddha lands are pure. The sutras say, “if their minds are impure, beings are impure. If their minds are pure, beings are pure.” and, “to reach a Buddha land, purify your mind. As your mind becomes pure, Buddha lands become pure.” thus, by overcoming the three poisoned states of mind, the three sets of precepts are automatically fulfilled.

But the sutras say the six paramitas are charity, morality, patience, devotion, meditation and wisdom. Now you say the paramitas refer to the purification of the senses. What do you mean by this? And why are they called ferries?

In cultivating the paramitas, purification of the six senses means overcoming the six thieves. Casting out the thief of the eye by abandoning the visual world is charity. Keeping out the thief of the ear by not listening to sounds is morality. Humbling the thief of the nose by equating all smells as neutral is patience. Controlling the thief of the mouth by conquering desires to taste, praise and explain is devotion. Quelling the thief of the body by remaining unmoved by sensations of touch is meditation. And taming the thief of the mind by not yielding to delusions but practicing wakefulness is wisdom. These six paramitas are transports. Like boats or rafts, they transport beings to the other shore. Hence, they’re called ferries.

But when shakyamuni was a bodhisattva, he consumed three bowls of milk and six ladles of gruel prior to attaining enlightenment. If he had to drink milk before he could taste the fruit of Buddhahood, how can merely beholding the mind result in liberation?

What you say is true. This is how he attained enlightenment. He had to drink milk before he could become a Buddha. But there are two kinds of milk. That which shakyamuni drank wasn’t ordinary impure milk but pure dharmamilk. The three bowls were the three sets of precepts. And the six ladles were the six paramitas. When shakyamuni attained enlightenment, it was because he drank this pure dharmamilk that he tasted the fruit of Buddhahood. To say that the tathagata drank the worldly concoction of impure, rank-smelling cow’s milk is the height of slander. That which is truly-so, the indestructible, passionless dharma-self, remains forever free of the world’s afflictions. Why would it need impure milk to satisfy its hunger or thirst?

The sutras say, “this ox doesn’t live in the highlands or the lowlands. It doesn’t eat grain or chaff. And it doesn’t graze with cows. The body of this ox is the color of burnished gold.” the ox refers to vairocana. Due to his great compassion for all beings, he produces from within his pure dharmabody the sublime dharmamilk of the three sets of precepts and six paramitas to nourish all those who seek liberation. The pure milk of such a truly pure ox not only enabled the tathagata to achieve Buddhahood, it enables any being who drinks it to attain unexcelled, complete enlightenment.