Tagged: Bodhidharma

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century CE. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Ch’an (Sanskrit: Dhyāna, Japanese: Zen) to China, and regarded as its first Chinese patriarch. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the Shaolin monks that led to the creation of Shaolinquan.

Bodhidharma Quotes Sutra 1 : “To seek nothing is bliss”

BodhidharmaBODHIDHARMA QUOTES – BodhiDharma’s outline of practice :
Many roads lead to the path, but basically there are only two: reason and practice.

To enter by reason means to realize the essence through instruction and to believe that all living things share the same true nature, which isn’t apparent because it’s shrouded by sensation and delusion. Those who turn from delusion back to reality, who meditate on walls, the absence of self and other, the oneness of mortal and sage, and who remain unmoved, even by scriptures, are in complete and unspoken agreement with reason. Without moving, without effort, they enter, we say, by reason.

To enter by practice refers to four all-inclusive practices: suffering injustice, adapting to conditions, seeking nothing and practicing the Dharma.

1 • First, suffering injustice. When those who search for the path encounter adversity, they should think to themselves, “In countless ages gone by, I’ve turned from the essential to the trivial and wandered through all manner of existence, often angry without cause and guilty of numberless transgressions. Now, though I do no wrong, I’m punished by my past. Neither gods nor men can foresee when an evil deed will bear its fruit. I accept it with an open heart and without complaint of injustice.” The sutras say, “When you meet with adversity, don’t be upset. Because it makes sense.” With such understanding, you’re in harmony with reason. And by suffering injustice, you enter the path.

2 •   Second, adapting to conditions. As mortals, we’re ruled by conditions, not by ourselves. All the suffering and joy we experience depend on conditions. If we should be blessed by some great reward, such as fame or fortune, it’s the fruit of a seed planted by us in the past. When conditions change, it ends. Why delight in its existence? But while success and failure depend on conditions, the mind neither waxes nor wanes. Those who remain unmoved by the wind of joy silently follow the path.

3 • Third, seeking nothing. People of this world are deluded. They’re always longing for something, always, in a word, seeking. But the wise wake up. They choose reason over custom. They fix their minds on the sublime and let their bodies change with the season. All phenomena are empty. They contain nothing worth desiring. Calamity forever alternates with prosperity. To dwell in the three realms is to dwell in a burning house. To have a body is to suffer. Does anybody with a body know peace?

4 • Fourth, practicing the Dharma. The Dharma is the truth that all natures are pure. By this truth, all appearances are empty. Defilement and attachment, subject and object don’t exist. The sutras say, “The Dharma includes no being because it’s free from the impurity of being. And the Dharma includes no self, because it’s free from the impurity of self.” Those wise enough to believe and understand this truth are bound to practice according to the Dharma. Since the embodiment of the Dharma contains nothing worth begrudging, they give their body, life and property in charity, without regret, without the vanity of giver, gift or recipient, and without bias or attachment. And they take up transforming others to eliminate impurity but without becoming attached to form. Thus, through their own practice, they’re able to help others and glorify the way of enlightenment. And as with charity, they also practice the other virtues. But while practicing the six virtues to eliminate delusion, they practice nothing at all. This is what’s meant by practicing the Dharma.

Those who understand this detach themselves from all that exists and stop imagining or seeking anything. The sutras say, “To seek is to suffer. To seek nothing is bliss.” When you seek nothing, you’re on the path.

› Bodhidharma: The Greatest Zen Master

Bodhidharma Sutra 2 : “The Bloodstream Sermon”

Everything that appears in the three realms leads back to the mind. Hence, Buddhas of the past and future teach mind to mind without bothering about definitions.

But if they don’t define it, what do they mean by mind?

You ask. That’s your mind. I answer. That’s my mind. If i had no mind, how could i answer? If you had no mind, how could you ask? That which asks is your mind. “Through endless kalpas without beginning, whatever you do, wherever you are, that’s your real mind, that’s your real Buddha. This mind is the Buddha, says the same thing. Beyond this mind you’ll never find another Buddha. To search for enlightenment or nirvana beyond this mind is impossible. The reality of your own self-nature, the absence of cause and effect, is what’s meant by mind. Your mind is nirvana. You might think you can find a Buddha or enlightenment somewhere beyond the mind, but such a place doesn’t exist.

Trying to find a Buddha or enlightenment is like trying to grab space. Space has a name but no form. It’s not something you can pick up or put down. And you certainly can’t grab it. Beyond this mind, you’ll never see a Buddha. The Buddha is a product of your mind. Why look for a Buddha beyond this mind?

Buddhas of the past and future only talk about this mind. The mind is the Buddha. And the Buddha is the mind. Beyond the mind there’s no Buddha. And beyond the Buddha there’s no mind. If you think there’s a Buddha beyond the mind, where is he? There’s no Buddha beyond the mind, so why envision one?

You can’t know your real mind as long as you deceive yourself. As long as you’re enthralled by a lifeless form, you’re not free. If you don’t believe me, deceiving yourself doesn’t help. It’s not the Buddha’s fault. People, though, are deluded. They’re unaware that their own mind is the Buddha. Otherwise, they wouldn’t look for a Buddha outside the mind.

Buddhas don’t save Buddhas. If you use your mind to look for a Buddha, you won’t see the Buddha. As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you’ll never see that your own mind is the Buddha. And don’t use a Buddha to worship a Buddha. And don’t use the mind to invoke a Buddha. Buddhas don’t recite sutras. Buddhas don’t keep precepts. And Buddhas don’t break precepts. Buddhas don’t keep or break anything. Buddhas don’t do good or evil. To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature. Whoever sees his nature is a Buddha. If you don’t see your nature, invoking Buddhas, reciting sutras, making offerings and keeping precepts are all useless. Invoking Buddhas results in good karma. Reciting sutras results in a good memory. Keeping precepts results in a good rebirth. And making offerings results in future blessings. But no Buddha.

Bodhidharma Sutra 3 : “Beyond this nature there’s no Buddha”

If you don’t understand by yourself, you’ll have to find a teacher to get to the bottom of life and death. But unless he sees his nature, such a person isn’t a teacher. Even if he can recite the twelvefold canon, he can’t escape the wheel of birth and death. He suffers in the three realms without hope of release.

Long ago, the monk good star was able to recite the entire canon. But he didn’t escape the wheel because he didn’t see his nature. If this was the case with good star, then people nowadays who recite a few sutras or shastras and think it’s the dharma are fools. Unless you see your mind, reciting so much prose is useless.

To find a Buddha, all you have to do is see your nature. Your nature is the Buddha. And the Buddha is the person who’s free, free of plans, free of cares. If you don’t see your nature and run around all day looking somewhere else, you’ll never find a Buddha. The truth is, there’s nothing to find. But to reach such an understanding you need a teacher. And you need to struggle to make yourself understand. Life and death are important. Don’t suffer them in vain. There’s no advantage in deceiving yourself. Even if you have mountains of jewels and as many servants as there are grains of sand along the ganges, you see them when your eyes are open. But what about when your eyes are shut? You should realize then that everything you see is like a dream or illusion. If you don’t find a teacher soon, you’ll live this life in vain. It’s true, you have the Buddha-nature. But without the help of a teacher you’ll never know it. Only one person in a million becomes enlightened without a teacher’s help.

If though, by the conjunction of conditions, someone understands what the Buddha meant, that person doesn’t need a teacher. Such a person has a natural awareness superior to anything taught. But unless you’re so blessed, study hard. And by means of instruction, you’ll understand. People who don’t understand and think they can do so without study are no different from those deluded souls who can’t tell white from black. Falsely proclaiming the Buddhadharma, such persons, in fact, blaspheme the Buddha and subvert the dharma. They preach as if they were bringing rain. But theirs is the preaching of devils not of Buddhas. Their teacher is the king of devils. And their disciples are the devil’s minions. Deluded people who follow such instruction unwittingly sink deeper in the sea of birth and death. Unless they see their nature, how can people call themselves Buddhas? They’re liars who deceive others into entering the realm of devils. Unless they see their nature, their preaching of the twelvefold canon is nothing but the preaching of devils. Their allegiance is to mara, not to the Buddha. Unable to distinguish white from black, how can they escape birth and death?

Whoever sees his nature is a Buddha. Whoever doesn’t is a mortal. But apart from our mortal nature if you can find a Buddha-nature somewhere else, where is it? Our mortal nature is our Buddha-nature. Beyond this nature there’s no Buddha. The Buddha is our nature. There’s no Buddha besides this nature. And there’s no nature besides the Buddha.

Bodhidharma Sutra 4 : “Buddhas don’t practice nonsense”

But suppose I don’t see my nature, can’t I still attain enlightenment by invoking Buddhas, reciting sutras, making offerings, observing precepts, practicing devotions, or doing good works?

No, you can’t.

And why not? If you attain anything at all it’s conditional, it’s karmic. It results in retribution. It turns the wheel. And as long as you’re subject to birth and death, you’ll never attain enlightenment. To attain enlightenment you have to see your nature. Unless you see your nature, all this talk about cause and effect is nonsense. Buddhas don’t practice nonsense. A Buddha is free of karma, free of cause and effect. To say he attains anything at all is to slander a Buddha. What could he possibly attain? Even focusing on a mind, a power, an understanding or a view is impossible for a Buddha. A Buddha isn’t one-sided. The nature of his mind is basically empty, neither pure nor impure. He’s free of practice and realization. He’s free of cause and effect. A Buddha doesn’t observe precepts. A Buddha doesn’t do good or evil. A Buddha isn’t energetic or lazy. A Buddha is someone who does nothing, someone who can’t even focus his mind on a Buddha. A Buddha isn’t a Buddha. Don’t think about Buddhas. If you don’t see what i’m talking about, you’ll never know your own mind. People who don’t see their nature and imagine they can practice doing nothing all the time are liars and fools. They fall into endless space. They’re like drunks. They can’t tell good from evil. If you intend to practice doing nothing, you have to see your nature before you can put an end to rational thought. To attain enlightenment without seeing your nature is impossible. Still others commit all sorts of evil deeds, claiming karma doesn’t exist. They erroneously maintain that since everything is empty, committing evil isn’t wrong.

Such persons fall into a hell of endless darkness with no hope of release. Those who are wise hold no such conception.

But if our every movement or state, whenever it occurs, is the mind, why don’t we see this mind when a person’s body dies?

The mind is always present. You just don’t see it.

But if the mind is present, why don’t i see it?

Do you ever dream?

Of course.

When you dream, is that you?

Yes, it’s me.

And is what you’re doing and saying different from you?

No, it isn’t.

But if it isn’t, then this body is your real body.
And this real body is your mind.
And this mind, through endless kalpas without beginning, has never varied.
It has never lived or died, appeared or disappeared, increased or decreased.
It’s not pure or impure, good or evil, past or future.
It’s not true or false. It’s not male or female.
It doesn’t appear as a monk or a layman, an elder or a novice, a sage or a fool, a Buddha or a mortal.
It strives for no realization and suffers no karma.
It has no strength or form. It’s like space. You can’t possess it.
And you can’t lose it.

Its movements can’t be blocked by mountains, rivers or rock walls.
Its unstoppable powers penetrate the mountain of five skandhas and cross the river of samsara.
No karma can restrain this real body.
But this mind is subtle and hard to see.
It’s not the same as the sensual mind. Everyone wants to see this mind.
And those who move their hands and feet by its light are as many as the grains of sand along the ganges. But ask them. They can’t explain it.
They’re like puppets. It’s theirs to use.
Why don’t they see it?

Bodhidharma Sutra 5 : “Suchness is our self-nature”

The Buddha said people are deluded. This is why when they act they fall into the river of endless rebirth. And trying to get out, they only sink deeper. And all because they don’t see their nature. If people weren’t deluded, why else would they ask about something right in front of them? Not one of them understands the movement of his own hands and feet. The Buddha wasn’t mistaken. Deluded people don’t know who they are. Something so hard to fathom is known by a Buddha and no one else. Only the wise know this mind, this mind called dharma-nature, this mind called liberation. Neither life nor death can restrain this mind. Nothing can. It’s    also    called    the    unstoppable    tathagata,    the incomprehensible, the sacred self, the immortal, the great sage. Its names vary but not its essence. Buddhas vary too, but none leaves his own mind.

The mind’s capacity is limitless, and its manifestations are inexhaustible. Seeing forms with your eyes, hearing sounds with your ears, smelling odors with your nose, tasting flavors with your tongue, every movement or mode, it’s all your mind. At every moment, where languages can’t go, that’s your mind.

The sutras say, “a tathagata’s forms are endless. And so is his awareness.” The endless variety of forms is due to the mind. Its ability to distinguish things, whatever their movement or mode, is the mind’s awareness. But the mind has no form and its awareness no limit. Hence, it’s said, “a tathagata’s forms are endless. And so is his awareness.”

A material body of the four elements is trouble. A material body is subject to birth and death. But the real body exists without existing because a tathagata’s real body never changes. The sutras say, “people should realize that the Buddha-nature is something they have always had.” Mahakashyapa only realized his own nature.

The sutras say, “everything that has form is an illusion.” They also say, “wherever you are, there’s a Buddha.” Your mind is the Buddha. Don’t use a Buddha to worship a Buddha. Even if a Buddha or bodhisattva should suddenly appear before you, there’s no need for reverence. This mind of ours is empty and contains no such form. Those who hold onto appearances are devils. They fall from the path. Why worship illusions born of the mind? Those who worship don’t know. And those who know don’t worship. By worshiping you come under the spell of devils. I point this out because i’m afraid you’re unaware of it. The basic nature of a Buddha has no such form. Keep this in mind, even if something unusual should appear. Don’t embrace it, and don’t fear it. And don’t doubt that your mind is basically pure. Where could there be room for any such form? Also, at the appearance of spirits, demons, or divine beings, conceive neither respect nor fear. Your mind is basically empty. All appearances are illusions. Don’t hold onto appearances.


Bodhidharma Sutra 6 : “Understanding comes in mid-sentence”

If you envision a Buddha, a dharma or a bodhisattva and conceive respect for them, you relegate yourself to the realm of mortals. If you seek direct understanding, don’t hold onto any appearance whatsoever, and you’ll succeed. I have no other advice.   …don’t cling to appearances, and you’ll be of one mind with the Buddha.

But why shouldn’t we worship Buddhas and bodhisattvas?

Devils and demons possess the power of manifestation. They can create the appearance of bodhisattvas in all sorts of guises. But they’re false. None of them are Buddhas. The Buddha is your own mind. Don’t misdirect your worship. Buddha is Sanskrit for what you call aware, miraculously aware. Responding, perceiving, arching your brows, blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet, it’s all your miraculously aware nature. And this nature is the mind. And the mind is the Buddha. And the Buddha is the path. And the path is zen. But the word zen is one that remains a puzzle. Seeing your nature is zen. Even if you can explain thousands of sutras and shastras, unless you see your own nature, yours is the teaching of a mortal, not a Buddha. The true way is sublime. It can’t be expressed in language. Of what use are scriptures? But someone who sees his own nature finds the way, even if he can’t read a word …. Everything the Buddha says is an expression of his mind. But since his body and expressions are basically empty, you can’t find a Buddha in words.

…the way is basically perfect. It doesn’t require perfecting. The way has no form or sound. It’s subtle and hard to perceive. It’s like when you drink water. You know how hot or cold it is. But you can’t tell others. Of that which only a tathagata knows, men and gods remain unaware. The awareness of mortals falls short. As long as they’re attached to appearances, they’re unaware that their mind is empty. And by mistakenly clinging to the appearance of things, they lose the way. If you know that everything comes from the mind, don’t become attached. Once attached, you’re unaware. But once you see your own nature, the entire canon becomes so much prose. Its thousands of sutras and shastras only amount to a clear mind. Understanding comes in mid-sentence.

What good are doctrines?

The ultimate truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They’re not the way. The way is wordless. Words are illusions. They’re no different from things that appear in your dreams at night, be they palaces or carriages …. Don’t conceive any delight for such things. They’re all cradles of rebirth. Keep this in mind when you approach death. Don’t cling to appearances, and you’ll break through all barriers. A moment’s hesitation and you’ll be under the spell of devils. Your real body is pure and impervious. But because of delusions, you’re unaware of it. And because of this, you suffer karma in vain. Wherever you find delight, you find bondage. But once you awaken to your original body and mind, you’re no longer bound by attachments.

Bodhidharma Sutra 7 : “Get ready and claim your inheritance”

Anyone who gives up the transcendent for the mundane, in any of its myriad forms, is a mortal. A Buddha is someone who finds freedom in good fortune and bad. Such is his power, karma can’t hold him. No matter what kind of karma, a Buddha transforms it. Heaven and hell are nothing to him.

…if you’re not sure, don’t act. Once you act, you wander through birth and death and regret having no refuge ….. To understand this mind, you have to act without acting. Only then will you see things from a tathagata’s perspective.

But when you first embark on the path, your awareness won’t be focused. You’re likely to see all sorts of strange, dreamlike scenes. But you shouldn’t doubt that all such scenes come from your own mind and nowhere else. If you see a light brighter than the sun, your remaining attachments will suddenly come to an end, and the nature of reality will be revealed. Such an occurrence serves as the basis for enlightenment. But this is something only you know. You can’t explain it to others. …or if, while you’re walking, standing, sitting or lying in the stillness and darkness of night, everything appears as though in daylight, don’t be startled. It’s your own mind about to reveal itself.  …if you see your nature, you don’t need to read sutras or invoke Buddhas. Erudition and knowledge are not only useless, they cloud your awareness. Doctrines are only for pointing to the mind. Once you see your mind, why pay attention to doctrines?

To go from mortal to Buddha, you have to put an end to karma, nurture your awareness and accept what life brings.     …once mortals see their nature, all attachments end. Awareness isn’t hidden. But you can only find it right now. It’s only now. If you really want to find the way, don’t hold onto anything. Once you put an end to karma and nurture your awareness, any attachments that remain will come to an end. Understanding comes naturally. You don’t have to make any effort. But fanatics don’t understand what the Buddha meant. And the harder they try, the farther they get from the sage’s meaning. All day long they invoke Buddhas and read sutras. But they remain blind to their own divine nature, and they don’t escape the wheel.

A Buddha is an idle person. He doesn’t run around after fortune and fame. What good are such things in the end?

Bodhidharma Sutra 8 : “Everybody has the right to be wrong”

Among Shakyamuni’s ten greatest disciples, Ananda was foremost in learning. But he didn’t know the Buddha. All he did was study and memorize. Arhats don’t know the Buddha. All they know are so many practices for realization, and they become trapped by cause and effect. Such is a mortal’s karma: no escape from birth and death. By doing the opposite of what he intended, such people blaspheme the Buddha. Killing them would not be wrong. The sutras say, “Since icchantikas are incapable of belief, killing them would be blameless, while people who believe reach the state of Buddhahood.”

…people who see that their minds are the Buddha don’t need to shave their heads. Laymen are Buddhas too. Unless they see their nature, people who shave their heads are simply fanatics.

But since married laymen don’t give up sex, how can they become Buddhas?

I only talk about seeing your nature. I don’t talk about sex simply because you don’t see your nature. Once you see your nature, sex is basically immaterial. It ends along with your delight in it. Even if some habits remain, they can’t harm you. Because your nature is essentially pure. Despite dwelling in a material body of five aggregates, your nature is basically pure. It can’t be corrupted.        …once you stop clinging and let things be, you’ll be free, even of birth and death. You’ll transform everything. You’ll possess spiritual powers that can’t be obstructed. And you’ll be at peace wherever you are. If you doubt this, you’ll never see through anything. You’re better off doing nothing. Once you act, you can’t avoid the cycle of birth and death. But once you see your nature, you’re a Buddha, even if you work as a butcher.

But butchers create karma by slaughtering animals. How can they be Buddhas?

I only talk about seeing your nature. I don’t talk about creating karma. Regardless of what we do, our karma has no hold on us.       …in India, the twenty-seven patriarchs only transmitted the imprint of the mind. And the only reason I’ve come to China is to transmit the instantaneous teaching of the Mahayana: this mind is the Buddha. I don’t talk about precepts, devotions or ascetic practices …. Language and behavior, perception and conception are all functions of the moving mind. All motion is the mind’s motion …. The mind neither moves nor functions. Because the essence of its functions is emptiness. And emptiness is essentially motionless. Hence, the sutras tell us to move without moving, to travel without traveling, to see without seeing, to laugh without laughing, to hear without hearing, to know without knowing, to be happy without being happy, to walk without walking, to stand without standing.

And the sutras say, “go beyond language. Go beyond thought.”

…i could go on, but this brief sermon will have to do.

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.