Archive for the ‘Translations’ Category



Only a skillful flower arranger knows how to select from all the beautiful flowers the very best for their arrangements. But who can rightfully discern the choice flower of the Dharma from all the other tantalizing flowers that the world has to offer?


The learner who has dedicated themselves to this training will rightfully discern, as the flower arranger. The learner on this path will spot the correct Dharma teachings, it stands out among the others as plain as day to them, but to the rest it remains obscured and hidden.


Having learned that this body is as temporary as the foam produced by the waters, that it offers no more substance than a mirage, the learner has moved beyond the reach of the temptations and traps which ensnare.


The pleasures of the world are like beautiful flowers in the forest, one could become so absorbed in collecting them that they forget to stay alert of the dangers that are present, being easily swept into their downfall as a flood sweeps away a sleeping village.


The person immersed in gathering pleasures drowns in their own insatiable thirst, never satisfied, always reaching for the next and greater sensation.


As a bee travels from one type of flower to another, bringing out the honey but leaving each flowers own unique fragrance and color intact, so should a sage bring out the good in each village or person they meet without altering their uniqueness.


While working to bring out the good pay no attention the faults of others, or what they have haven’t done; instead, pay attention to your own faults and your own inactions.


For even a beautiful flower, full of color, but without scent is worthless, as worthless as your eloquent words if only spoken but never lived out personally.


But a beautiful flower, full of color, and full of scent is a joy to others, like one whose good words matches their own good deeds.


One may look at a heap of flowers, cut down and consider them futile, knowing they will soon wither and die, but a skillful flower arranger knows they can use the time they have left to make beautiful garlands. Just so, your own life is mortal and fleeting but you can still do many skillful things.


The scent of a flower cannot travel against the wind, not even the strongest incense or perfume can. But the fragrance of a person of virtue will spread to the ends of the earth, regardless of how the wind blows.


The aroma of flowers, incense or perfumes can be excellent, but the aroma of virtue surpasses them all.


Compared to virtue, whose scent reaches up to the heavens, even the strongest incense becomes nothing.


Living life as a fragrance, the virtuous have no body or home to be found in by their enemies, like a vapor they cannot be grasped by their snares, for they dwell in mindfulness and are freed by right understanding.


Every once in a while a beautiful flower sprouts forth out the piles of trash heaped on the sides of the road, and when it does it dazzles us all. Just so, you, the disciple of the Buddha have risen out of the heap, distinguishing yourself as a light to those still blind and bound to the limitations of this world.


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This lovingly made, non-literal, contemporary translation of the Dhammapada is provided for you as a free service. For those of you who are interested in the teachings of the Buddha on meditation, concentration, discipline and even the morals and ethics of Buddhism but who are turned off by “Religious Buddhism”, it is my hope that this more proverbial, even somewhat humanist translation will be of use to you. For others, who were leery of it such an old writing could be pertinent to them today, I hope this more modern translation will show you that it still is. For those who already know this text well, and even live by it, it is my hope that this may either challenge you to think of it anew, or at the very least may it refresh your spirits.




As one thinks, so one acts. Thought precedes action, gives birth to action, and brings it to maturity. Speak or act with impure thoughts and suffering follows, as the wheel of a wagon follows the ox which pulls it.


As one thinks, so one acts. Thought precedes action, gives birth to action, and brings it to maturity. Speak or act with a pure thought and happiness follows, as a shadow follows a traveler on a sunny day.


“I was hurt, I was mistreated, I was defeated, I was robbed!” Holding onto these thoughts only keeps the pain alive.


“I was hurt, I was mistreated, I was defeated, I was robbed!” Letting go of these thoughts releases you from suffering further.


For hating those who wronged you will not release you from hate, it will only create further suffering. The cycle of hatred will only be broken by non-hatred. This is an ancient truth.


Most do not live in the realization that life is short. For those who fully realize this, quarrels become unimportant.


One who lives for self gratification, is over-indulgent, uncontrolled, unrestrained, full of laziness and apathy, is easily broken by hard-times and temptations, just as a small storm can easily break a weak tree.


One who lives for a higher purpose, is moderate, controlled, restrained, not afraid of hard work and devout, cannot be easily broken by hard-times and temptations, as even a great storm still cannot move a mountain.


The robe does not make the monk. If the one wearing the robe lacks self-control and honesty, they have defiled it.


One who is free from inner defilements, having self-control, and honesty, standing strong in the precepts, only such a person is worthy of a monk’s robe.


Those who consider the unimportant things in life to be important and the truly important as unimportant will never find that which is important, for they were looking in the wrong place all along.


However, those who correctly see the important as important and the unimportant as unimportant will find the important, rightfully discerning where to begin their search.


As rain will always find the crack in a poorly-made roof, so Want will find its way into an undisciplined mind.


As rain cannot find a way through a well-made roof, so Want cannot find its way into a well-disciplined mind.


For those who do wrong to others it will only end in grief, grief in the present, grief in the future. In both states the wrongdoer grieves; from the initial seed, to seeing the seed come to bear fruit.


For the doer of good there is much rejoicing, rejoicing in the present, rejoicing in the future. In both states there is joy; seeing one’s own pure acts bear good fruit brings joy and delight to everyone.


Those who do wrong suffer in the present, suffer in the future. In both states there is suffering. Tormented today by the thought, “I have done wrong”, tormented tomorrow, having fallen into the cycle of suffering.


Those who do well to others delight in the present, delight in the future. In both states there is delight. Here they are delighted knowing, “I have treated others well”, and tomorrow for they have entered into the cycle of bliss.


One, who studies the teachings, memorizes them, quotes them often, but doesn’t do what they say, is like a banker, surrounded by other people’s wealth, counting it as their own, deluding themselves into thinking that they are now rich. Such a person does not gain any real benefit from their studies.


One, who knows little of the teachings, but still lives according to them, free of grasping, hate, and delusions; revering and discerning what truth they find, not clinging to this life or the next, such a person, will gain the benefits of the contemplative life.



Diligence is the path of liberation; negligence the path to bondage. The vigilant can never be truly bound; the negligent can never be truly free.


The wise, knowing this to be true, develop their diligence; consider it a joy to do so, having found their happiness in the wisdom of the noble ones.


Now awakened, dedicating themselves to meditation, striving forward with firm minds, they find the ultimate liberation.


The glory of a virtuous person is their reputation, and for one who is active in pursuing that which is good, diligent, pure and considerate to others, it is ever increasing.


The wise, by much effort, discipline, restraint and self-control, make for themselves an island which no flood can submerge.


The foolish surrender themselves over to negligence; while the one who is wise carefully guards their discipline as their most valuable possession.


Don’t give in to negligence; don’t look for pleasure in temporal desires — for it is the disciplined, who having absorbed themselves in meditation find true happiness.


The wise, drives out negligence with discipline, like a climb up a tall mountain; now free from sorrow, they see the sorrow of the masses in the valley from which they came.


The disciplined among the negligent, the awake among the sleeping — so the wise advance, like a well-trained racehorse surpasses the weak and untrained.


Even in the fable of Indra, it was through diligence that he became king of the gods, for even these gods praised diligence, and looked down on negligence with contempt.


A monk who delights in diligence and sees the danger in negligence advances like a fire, burning the ropes which bound them both great and small.


A monk who delights in diligence and sees danger in negligence is bound to never fall astray and is close to liberation.



As a skilled arrow maker knows to shape the arrow straight so that it will not waver, so does a skilled meditator know they must shape their wavering mind.


Like a fish when lured of its watery home thrashes about on dry land, so a mind thrashes about from thing to thing when lured into the land of pleasing the senses.


It is difficult to wrestle with the mind; it is hard to pin down, nimble and quick — wishing to wander wherever it pleases. Difficult but worth it, for a well disciplined mind brings much happiness.


The wise should pay close attention to what tries to slip into their minds, for its enemies are subtle and can be difficult to perceive. A mind well guarded brings much happiness.


The mind like a ghost is bodiless, strays far and wide, and can hide itself alone in secret chambers; however those who learn to restrain it will be freed from their bonds.


For a person with an unsteady mind, not knowing the true Dharma will be incapable of recognizing it until their mind and wavering faith has settled.


For the one who is awake, whose mind is calm and steady, having abandoned the dualities of good and evil, there is no more fear or danger to perplex their hearts.


Aware that this body is fragile like a clay jar, and that it is the mind which we must make strong like a fortress; fortify your mind, and then battle the enemy with the sword of truth, protecting the spoils you have won, knowing never to let your guard down, even in victory.


For soon this body will simply lie on the ground, lifeless, deprived of this consciousness, to be cast aside like a useless scrap of wood.


Think of two people who hate each other, or two mortal enemies locked in combat, then realize that your mind if not under your control can cause you more difficulties than either of these.


Think or a loving mother, father, or any friend or relative who cares for you, then realize that your mind if well-centered can do you more good than any of these.


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The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines, in short, stresses the importance of the perfection of wisdom in the practice; how all other elements of the practice must be coupled with it; how none can be truly achieved without it, and even, how all dharmas can be potentially fulfilled (are encompassed) by the perfection of wisdom.

So, that leads us to the question, “What is the perfection of wisdom anyway?”

I think the perfection of wisdom is Compassion. Living a life of perfect-compassion realizes all true dharmas. It is only through a life of compassion towards others that any of us will ever truly be able to fulfill the dharmas, and properly walk this path. Despite any other efforts or practices, if lacking compassion, one will never attain true enlightenment (or find any real meaning in this life either).

The following is a less strict (and slightly condensed) interpretation, by me, of the Eight Thousand Lines in its original verse form only. The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines is the earliest text of the Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom texts), which was later expanded. Please note that the Heart Sutra is not included in the Eight Thousand Lines, since it was written a couple hundred years afterwards. If you like this, I highly suggest getting your own hands on a traditional copy of the sutra. It makes for quite the nice read. Although, I know that it is a hard book to get your hands on, so that is why I took the time to write out a copy of it all for you all to enjoy online.

Chapter 1

Preliminary Admonition

1. Get your act together; muster up as much as you can of love, respect, and of faith! Remove your obstructions and anything that is holding you back! Listen to this Perfect Wisdom, (this Sutra) taught for the weal of the world, intended for the pure of heart indeed!

The Source of Subhuti’s Authority

2. Just like a river that flows and stems out, then giving life to all kinds of trees, plants, and vegetation across the land; so all the power and teachings of the pupils of the Buddha stem out from his power, and not their own power.

The Basic Teachings

3. There is no wisdom can we get a hold of, no highest perfection, no bodhisattva, and no thought of enlightenment either. When told of this, some get discouraged, some quit the path, but a bodhisattva on hearing this finds the path to the Buddha’s wisdom.

4. No form, no feeling, no will, no perception, no awareness; nowhere in them do these things find a foothold to latch on to. Without a home they wander, nothing has a hold on them, not even the dharmas, nor do they grasp for them.

5. They search and test everything in the pursuit of wisdom, and then finds that all the dharmas are empty—when fearless in the face of this discovery, they are not far from Buddhahood.

6. With no attachments to any of the Five Skandhas they now dwell tranquilly in themselves; absorbed in a trance (jhana or deep level of meditative concentration) or outside of it, it makes no difference to them for they know the true nature of all things.

7. What is this true nature? That what doesn’t exist, the foolish imagine, and what does exist they have also fashioned—existence and non-existence are both not real.

8. If they know the Five Skandhas as an illusion, but do make the illusion one thing and the Skandhas another; freed from the notion of multiple, separate things, they walk the path in peace, in the highest perfection of wisdom.

9. Those who have had good teachers will not be frightened by these teachings; those with poor teachers will be easily led astray, easily frightened away, and easily ruined.

Three Key Terms Defined

10. Why is it that we speak of the bodhisattvas so much? Because they are the example for us all, “Beings who strive for enlightenment”, desiring to extinguish all attachments.

11. Why is it that we think of them as “Great Beings”? Because they have cut off mistaken views, seeing all beings as a great illusion—like watching a magician work a large crowd, they know this whole living world as a mock show, and yet does not get discouraged by this knowing.

12. What is “the vessel that leads to enlightenment”? Walking in it one guides all beings to Nirvana; great is this vessel, vast like the vastness of space; those who travel upon it find safety, delight, and ease.

The Transcendental Nature of the Bodhisattva

13. The bodhisattva transcends the world, transcends and eludes our grasping and comprehensions. A fire has been extinguished, but where, do we ever ask, has it gone to? Likewise, how can we find those who have found Nirvana?

14. Pure, free from conditions, unimpeded, they reflect on non-production, but while doing so, produce such great acts of compassion. Thereby they are practicing the highest perfection of wisdom.

15. But when the notion of the suffering of beings leads them to think: “I will end this suffering. I will work to help these people.” Beings are now imagined, a self is imagined, and the highest perfection of wisdom is lacking.

16. They must know that all that “is” is no more real than they are, and that they are an illusion. The real and the illusion are no longer distinguishes, all words for things in use in this world are left behind, all things produced and which can be held must be transcended.

17. When free from doubts the bodhisattva carries on the path, skilled in this wisdom, knowing all dharmas as not really there, that their original nature is empty.

Chapter 2

Where the Bodhisattva Stands

18. Where does a bodhisattva stand? Nowhere, they have no footings. Not in will or in consciousness, or in any skandha whatsoever. Not in change or no-change, not in suffering or ease, not in self or no-self; the lovely and the repulsive are all suchness and emptiness to them, and they don’t take stand upon any of the fruits of which they have won—no Arhat, no Buddhahood, no enlightenment.

19. The Buddha himself did not take station in the realm which is freed of conditions, nor in the state of the conditionless, but freely wandered, like one without a home. Likewise, the bodhisattva positions themselves on a position devoid of any basis to be considered a position.

Where the Bodhisattva Trains

20. Those who wish to become a disciple of the Buddha, cannot reach the goal without a desire to do so, and great effort. However, they move across the shore, but without eyes on the other shore. (Literally: They move across, but their eyes are not on the other shore)

21. Those who teach the dharma, and those who listen; those who win the fruit of the Arhat, Buddhahood, or world-savior, or obtain Nirvana itself have learned that they are mere illusions, mere dreams—as the Buddha has told us.

22. Knowing this, a wise and learned bodhisattva, works not towards Arhatship, nor enlightenment, nor Nirvana. In the practice alone one trains for the sake of the practice.

23. Increase or decrease of forms is not the basis or aim of their training, nor does one set out to obtain merit or obtain a dharma. The “All-knowledge” alone does the bodhisattva hope to obtain through this training; to that goal alone they train, and delight in its virtues.

The Facts of Existence

24. Forms are not wisdom, nor is any wisdom ever found in form; in consciousness, perceptions, feelings, or will they are not wisdom, and no wisdom is ever found in them. Existence is like space, without a break or a crack.

25. “Perceptions”—are mere words, to the Buddha has told us. Those who succeed in ridding themselves of perceptions, they having reached the Beyond, have fulfilled their Teacher’s commandments.

26. If the Buddha himself could go back to the very beginning of time and say the word “be” over and over again, for all eternity, not even he could cause anything into being by his speaking (words). Knowing this is in the practice of the highest perfection of wisdom.

Chapter 3

The Merit Derived from Perfect Wisdom

27. For the one who takes up the Perfection of Wisdom, makes it their path, and constantly studies upon it; fire, poison, swords, and water will not come to harm them; as well as Mara (temptation) will find no entrance, no foothold on such a person.

28. How much merit will one gain from the Perfection of Wisdom? The devout could travel to a stupa to worship the holy relics; no, one could travel to the thousands of stupas spread across the globe, and worship with the most expensive of offerings and the longest of prayers. One could do so for all eternity, and the amount of merit that they would gain would be infinitesimal to one who had simply written down a single copy of this book, bearing it in mind, revering it wholeheartedly.

Perfect Wisdom a Great Lore

29. The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest of lore, appeasing all the dharmas, appeasing sorrow and ill in this world of beings. They who have trained in this lore have become the Great Physicians.

30. Those who make their course one in the practice of pity, and concern for the welfare of others; they, the wise, by having trained in this great lore, will experience enlightenment.

31. Those who have happiness based on conditions, and those who have discovered unconditioned happiness, all their happiness should be known as having resulted from this.

Perfect Wisdom and the Other Five Perfections

32. The potential for gems exists scattered and hidden throughout all the earth, and when the conditions are right, they grow in a great variety. All the qualities of enlightenment, the five perfections, they all grow from the same conditions—from the perfection of wisdom.

33. Wherever a king travels he brings with him his entourage; likewise, wherever the perfection of wisdom goes, it brings with it all the best of the dharmas.

Chapter 4

Relative Value of Relics and Perfect Wisdom

34. When asked about the holy relics, the wise Sakra answered: “If I could have fields as vast as the sands of the river Ganges, all of them filled to the brim with holy relics, I would still take this wisdom over them all. Why? It is not out of a lack of respect for the relics, but why are they worshiped in the first place? They are worshiped because they were given their worth only by the perfection of wisdom; just as a man given title by a king is paid homage to, but it is the king which gives him his worth—so it is the perfection of wisdom that made these relics holy.”

Simile of the Wishing Jewel

35. “A priceless gem, possessing all the finest qualities, the basket in which it is contained is also, indirectly, paid homage to. Just so it is with the qualities of wisdom, the foremost perfection, which gain worship for the relics as well. Therefore, let the one who wishes to win the highest levels of being take up the perfection of wisdom. This is where true liberation is found.”

Perfect Wisdom and the Five Other Perfections

36. The Buddha then said: “It is wisdom that is behind the one who gives gifts, has morality, patience, vigor and concentration. Wisdom takes a firm hold on the dharmas so that they may not be lost. Wisdom alone is also the one who reveals to us all the dharmas.”

Simile of the Shadows

37. There are many thousands of different trees, or different species, shapes and forms in the forest; but when the light is cast upon them we only see one shadow. In the same way, the five perfections come from the perfection of wisdom. When cast into the light of the all-knowledge, enlightenment provides one single principle for all six of them.

Chapter 5

The Counterfeit versus the True Perfection of Wisdom

38. When a Bodhisattva through their own reckoning knows form, perception, feeling, will, or thought as impermanent, claiming them destroyed—they do so falsely, walking on a counterfeit path, being fooled by their own considerations; because the learned never effect the destruction of a dharma.

39. Where there is no apprehension of form, of feeling, or perception, or consciousness, or will—by the method of emptiness and non-production one realizes all dharmas. This is the practice of the perfection of wisdom.

Perfect Wisdom Greater Than Any Other Spiritual Gift

40. If someone were to train into Arhatship as many beings as there are sands of the river Ganges; and another were to make a single copy of the Perfection of Wisdom, giving it to another being, theirs would be the more distinguished merit.

41. Why? Because our supreme Teachers trained in this way, made it so all dharmas would become intelligible in this emptiness. Upon knowing this way the disciples speedily experience their emancipation—for some, a partial enlightenment, and others, full enlightenment.

Importance of the Aspiration for Enlightenment

42. Where there is no sprout, there can in the world be no tree. How can there then be the production of branches, leaves, fruits of flowers? Without the aspiration for enlightenment there is no possibility of an enlightened being in this world. How then could wisdom, enlightenment, and the fruit of the practice manifest themselves without the sprout of aspiration?

43. When the sun comes out, it sends forth a multitude of light, and then beings know it is time to exert themselves in their daily work. So, when the thought of attaining enlightenment has come into being, through this thought all the dharmas of quality are assembled.

44. If there was no lake, then how then could there be the rivers? And if no rivers, then trees, fruits and flowers could not possibly come into being also. So, if there is no thought of attaining enlightenment, how could there be the flowing along of the cognition of the dharmas? And if there is no cognition, there can be no growth of the fruits and flowers of the virtues, no enlightenment, nor the vast, oceanlike dharmas of the Buddha.

The Sun and the Firefly

45. If all the fireflies in the world were to gather together in great multitude, for the purpose of trying to illuminate us all; one single ray of light, shed by the sun, would still outshine them, and infinitesimal would be all the luster of the great hosts of fireflies in comparison.

46. However much merit the entire hosts of disciples, both past and present, may earn by all their combined giving, morality, and meditation development; but if a bodhisattva rejoices with one single thought, it would still outshine them all, and infinitesimal would be all the luster of the deeds of the great mass of disciples in comparison.

Chapter 6

The Range of Jubilation

47. If we take hundreds of thousands of enlightened beings, who have passed on through the ages of time, those who have recently passed, and those who are still among us; if we consider the merit of all of those beginning from the first thought ever of enlightenment, until the time of the extension of all dharmas that awaits us in the future; and also the merit of all offspring of the Buddhas, and of all disciples, be they still in training or far along in their training – having gathered it all up together, the bodhisattva rejoices at it, and turns it all over to the world for the sake of its own enlightenment.

True and False Turning Over

48. If, when turning this over, there precedes even the slightest perception of a thought, or if the turning over of the perception of enlightenment involves the perception of a being to turn it over to; established in perception, false views, and thought, it is now tied down by the triple attachment. It does not become turned over to those, not even those who apprehend it.

49. But when one thus thinks: These dharmas are extinguished and stopped, and to those which it is being turned over to, are also extinguished; then it does become turned over in one who, has in this way, considered wisely.

50. When one sees a sign or a vision, this is not turning over into enlightenment, but if one turns to the signless, becomes turned over into enlightenment. Mistaking sign or vision as enlightenment is like mistaking food mixed with poison as still good to eat.

51. It is your merit that turns over into enlightenment; one who instructs you so, does not upset the teachings of the Buddha. As many as there are in the world of bodhisattvas, none are greater than the one who has turned over in this way.

Chapter 7

Perfect Wisdom Guides the Other Perfections

52. The world is lost, born blind, and wanders without a guide. How can those who cannot even see the path find an entrance into the city of refuge? Just so, without wisdom the five perfections are sightless; those who are without the guide of wisdom are unable to experience enlightenment. When their hand is held by wisdom, then, having gained its eyes, they do get to that destination. It is like great painting which has been completed, all except of the eyes. Only after the eyes are painted in can the painter collect their rewards.

The Attitude to Dharmas and to the Self

53. When one develops this wisdom they will not stumble and seize up over the crossing of the dharmas. In the perfection of wisdom all is like space, wherein nothing real is whatsoever established. If one thinks “I walk in the wisdom of the teachers of the perfect knowledge, I will set free thousands of beings who have been touched by suffering”; this bodhisattva still imagines the notion of beings, and is far from the practice of true wisdom, the foremost perfection.

Faith in the Perfection of Wisdom

54. The Bodhisattva who has observed this foremost perfection in the past, having been trained in this in the past, knowing it without doubt; as soon as they hear this wisdom again in the present, will immediately recognize the Teacher, and will swiftly come to the peaceful calm of enlightenment.

55. The Bodhisattva who has served and learned under millions of Buddhas in past lives, yet never held any faith in the perfection of wisdom, upon hearing it, will only cast it aside as nonsense; being a person of small intelligence; having casted it away, this one will enter into the realm of hell where no one can save them.

56. So have faith in the perfection of wisdom, if you wish to experience the enlightenment of the Buddha. It is like an island that is full of more treasure than you could possibly carry. Be like a seeker who had once found the great island full of treasures (in their previous life), and who now, having lost the goods they carried back, decides to return to the island once again (in this present life). Being a bodhisattva, you have discovered it before, now, have faith and discover it again.

Chapter 8

The Meaning of Purity

57. The purity of the form is known by the purity of its fruit. From the purity of form and its fruit comes the purity of all-knowledge. All-knowledge, fruit, and form: as with the sameness of space, they are not broken or set apart from one another.

58. Having transcended this triple-world, the bodhisattva’s fetters are removed; yet they still experience rebirth; although they have been freed from decay, illness and death, they still experience it. This is part of the perfection of wisdom in which the wise have made their path.

59. This world is attached to this mud, that we call name and form. The wheel of birth and death revolves, blown like a windmill. Having recognized this revolving world as a snare for the wild beasts walking the earth, the wise roam about like the birds of the air.

60. They, who make their course the perfectly pure, does not course in form, nor in consciousness, perception, feeling or will; this course shuns all attachments, and freed from all attachments travels in the wisdom of the Buddhas.

Chapter 9

All-round Purity

61. Then, traveling on this course, the wise and learned Bodhisattva, having cut off all attachments, marches on unattached to the world. As the sun, released from the night-sky, comes forth; or, as a fire let loose, burns up the grass, shrubs, and the forest.

Chapter 10

Qualifications for Perfect Wisdom

62. The king of the gods once asked the Buddhas: “If a bodhisattva is to be ‘joined’ to nothing, then how are they joined to the perfect wisdom, and can they actively ‘peruse’ it?”

63. The Buddhas replied: “One who is not ‘joined’ to the least thing whatsoever, be it skandha, or not; the one who is ‘perusing’ this way is ‘joined’ to wisdom. This one, having heard that these dharmas are fiction, like an illusion, does not hesitate, but makes ever effort to train themselves further.

The Simile of a Village

64. If a traveler were lost in a vast wilderness, full of dangers and thieves, were to finally see a clearing ahead—cattle, paths and fences; they would breath in a sigh of relief, knowing that these are the signs that the forest is coming to an end, that a village is near, and there is no more to fear. In the same way, the one who searches through the woods for enlightenment, when learning of this wisdom breathes in a sign of relief, knowing that they are also near.

The Simile of the Ocean

65. As a sailor longing to travel into the farthest reaches of the ocean, can still see horizon of land, the trees and the tops of the forest of the Himalayas, they know they are still far from it. But when they can no longer see these signs, they become free from doubt, knowing that the great ocean is not too far away. Just so should be the one who has set out for the farthest reaches of enlightenment; learning about this perfection of wisdom, knowing that ‘before long I will experience the Buddha-enlightenment.’

The Simile of Spring

66. In the beauty of springtime, when the stalks and leaves have sprouted, from the branches will soon, before long, spring forth many leaves, fruits and flowers. Just so, one who has been taken by the hand of this perfection of wisdom, before long will attain the foremost of enlightenment.

The Simile of the Pregnant Woman

67. When a pregnant woman is stirred by her contractions, one should know that the time to give birth is near at hand. Just so, will the bodhisattva, when stirred by the perfection of wisdom, delight in knowing they will soon experience the birth of their enlightenment.

How to Dwell in Perfect Wisdom

68. When the seeker is walking in wisdom, the supreme perfection, they do not see the rise of form, nor its demise. If someone does not see dharma, nor non-dharma, nor the element of dharma, and does not give themselves over to the Blessed Rest, then they truly dwell in wisdom.

69. When one dwells in such a course, one does not imagine visions, nor powers, nor psychic powers, nor do they imagine the peaceful calm of enlightenment. Not discriminating, free from constructions, walking on resolutely, that is the practice of wisdom, the foremost perfection.”

Chapter 11

The Theme

70. Subhuti asked the Buddha: “Are they any obstacles to the precious qualities?” “There will be many obstacles,” answered the Buddha. “Of them, I will only speak of a few:

Various Obstacles

71. Many diverse and wonderful ideas will arise in flashes before the one who studies and copies this wisdom, but they again will quickly vanish, like flashes of lightning; without ever giving any real benefit to the wellbeing of the world. This is a trick of the tempter Mara.

72. And there will be many doubts when it is being taught; people thinking, “This does not relate to or pertain to me.” Because of this many will not listen, and will reject it. This is also a trick of the tempter Mara.

73. Just as, in ignorance, one would give up taking care of the root of the tree, preferring the leaves and the branches; or, as one when receiving an elephant as a gift, would prefer an elephants foot instead – so would one be, who having heard the Prajnaparamita (this Sutra), and wishes for the lesser Sutras instead.

74. Just as one who had got superior food or a hundred different tastes and varieties, would, although already having the best food of all, still seek after the inferior food. So would be the bodhisattva who, having got this perfection, would seek to become an Arhat.

75. Those who desire honor, will desire personal gain, in their hearts is a longing for them; you will know them by their constant intent of becoming close to and seen with faithful and their families. Having rejected what is right, they do what is wrong; having left the right path, they have gone down the wrong road. This is also the doing of Mara.

76. Even though they may have at first produced faith, keen on hearing this most excellent dharma; when they find that the dharma-teacher will not do the work for them, they lose heart, and go away sad.

Mara’s Deeds and the Buddha’s Help

77. When these deeds of Mara take place, together with many other diverse and unspoken obstacles, many monks will become troubled – forgetting this Prajnaparamita. Wherever there a priceless jewels which are hard to get, their owners inevitably have many foes. Just so, this wisdom is a jewel that is hard to get, and it is connected with many troubles.

78. When a being has newly set out on this path, they are limited, and cannot grasp, all at once, this jewel which is so hard to get. Mara will then make every attempt to detour and discourage, but have faith, for the Buddhas in the ten directions are intent on helping them overcome.

Chapter 12

Perfect Wisdom the Mother of the Buddhas

79. If a good mother with many sons had fallen ill, they all, with her past kindness in mind, would busy themselves about taking care of her; just so, the Buddhas in this world of ten directions bring to mind this perfection of wisdom as their mother.

80. The Buddhas of the past, present (ten directions), and the future, have all sprung forth from her. She (wisdom) is the one which shows us the world for what it really is, she is the mother of all Buddhas, and she reveals the thoughts and actions of all other beings.

How the Wise See the World

81. Seeing all as one single Suchness, free from existence, unfaltering, has the perfection of wisdom been understood by the wise. Whether the wise abide in the world, or whether they abide in the final Nirvana, one thing remains the same; they always abide in knowing: “Dharmas are empty.” This is where all Guides abide, residing in the delightful forests of the perfection of wisdom. Although they fetch and bring in suffering beings from the places of woe, they never have any notion of a being.

Similes about the Buddha

82. When a lion, in his cave, roars fearlessly, the lesser animals tremble. Likewise, when the Lion of Men, full of the perfection of wisdom, roars fearlessly, the heretics tremble.

83. Just as the sun, supported by the sky, dries up this earth, revealing its form; just so, the King of the Dharma, supported by the perfection of wisdom, dries up the river of craving and reveals the dharma.

The Tathagata’s Vision of Dharma

84. Where there is no vision of form, no vision of feelings, no vision of perception, no vision of will, no vision of consciousness, thought or mind, this has been expounded as the vision of the Dharma by the Tathagata.

85. A vision in nothingness is still a being. A vision of that nothingness is still considered an object. This is the true vision of the Tathagata, but it is impossible to explain it without creating objects.

Chapter 13

Simile of the King and His Ministers

86. Whoever understands this, understands all dharmas. When the ministers do their jobs properly, the king is free to concentrate on ruling properly. Whatever Buddha-like actions there are, whatever dharmas, it is the perfection of wisdom which affects them all. A king does not scurry around to village after village to meet others; but in his palace is the meeting place where they all assemble before him. Just so, the bodhisattva does not move from dharmic-nature to dharmic-nature, but finds the qualities off them all in the assemblies of the perfection of wisdom.

Chapter 14

The Bodhisattva and Enlightenment

87. The bodhisattva of firm faith, who is resolute in their intent on the perfection of wisdom; who has gone beyond the first two levels of discipleship, will soon attain, unhindered, the enlightenment of the Buddhas.

The Simile of the Ship

88. When a ship breaks apart, sinking into the ocean, those who do not grab a hold of something — some floating scrap of wood, a log, or even a corpse; will reach their demise in that water, without reaching the other shore, but those who hold on to something, travel to the other shore and reach it.

89. Just so, those already endowed with a certain measure of faith are the ones traveling in the ocean; yet, if they reject the Mother, the perfection of wisdom, then in the ocean of birth, decay, death and sorrow they must wander in for ever and ever.

90. But those who have taken hold of the supreme wisdom, skilled in seeing the one-being of existence; they will speedily reach the other shore, being worthy of the vehicle who has collected the wealth of merit and applied knowledge, being worthy of Sugata-enlightenment.

The Simile of the Jar

91. It is as if someone were to try to carry water in a clay jar which was not fully baked and hardened; one should know well enough that it would break too easily. But when the water is carried in a fully hardened jar, there is no fear of its breaking, and it gets to the destination safely. Although a bodhisattva be full of faith, if their wisdom is not hardened they will swiftly reach their destruction. But when such faith is contained in wisdom, going beyond the two levels, this one will attain the supreme enlightenment.

The Simile of the Two Ships

92. When a ship, which was not ready yet to be seaworthy, is put hastily in the water, it goes to its destruction, together with any goods and persons inside it. But when a ship is well ready, and well joined together, then it does not break apart in the water, and everything makes it safely to the other shore. Just so, a bodhisattva, of much faith, but of little wisdom, swiftly comes to failure in their enlightenment. But one who is well joined to wisdom, the foremost perfection, experiences the enlightenment of the Jinas.

The Simile of the Aged Man

93. An old man, sick and ailing, of 120 years old, although maybe capable of getting up, is not capable of walking on their own; but when two people help him, one on his left and one on his right, he has no fear of falling, and moves along with ease of mind. Just so, a bodhisattva, who is weak in wisdom, although able to set out on the journey, breaks down midway; but when one takes a hold of skillful means and wisdom, then one does not breakdown; experiencing the enlightenment of the mightiest of beings.

Chapter 15

The Beginner and the Good Friends

94. The bodhisattva, who is still a beginner, but resolute in their intention to achieve the supreme enlightenment of a Buddha, in being discerning, should become good pupils of a Master—always tending to the needs of their new good friends (spiritual teachers). Why? For, from that tending come the qualities of a learned one. Good friends are those who teach the perfection of wisdom.

How a Bodhisattva Helps Beings

95. Giving, morality, patience and much effort will turn concentration and wisdom over into enlightenment. However, remember that one should never grasp for enlightenment, turning it into another hindering skandha. Demonstrate this way to the beginners.

96. Walking in this path, become a shelter to the world, a refuge, and a place of rest for others; become a path for their salvation, the intelligence, the islands, leaders who desire only others welfare.

97. It is like an armor that is difficult to wear, that only the determined can even put on; not armed with the skandahas, the elements, or the senses; they are free from the notion of the three vehicles, and do not grasp for it; they become irreversible, immovable, and steadfast in character.

98. Endowed with the dharma, held back by nothing, free from doubts, getting caught up in meaningless perplexities causing confusion and dismay, intent on only that which is beneficial, having heard the perfection of wisdom they do not despair. Incapable of being misled by others, this is the meaning of irreversible.

Perfect Wisdom and Its Conflict with the World

99. Deep and hard to see is this dharma, never obtained by anyone, never reached; for this reason, when one has obtained enlightenment, the enlightened being becomes unconcerned with such things. Regular beings delight in a place to settle in, they are eager for sense-objects, bent on grasping, unknowing, and walking in blindness. The Dharma should be attained as nothing to settle into and as nothing to be grasped. This is why it is in conflict with the way the world sees things.

Chapter 16

On Suchness

100. Space, in all directions, north, east, south and west, is boundless; above or below, in all directions, no difference, no dualities in space can be attained. Past Suchness, future Suchness, present Suchness, the Suchness of the Arhats, of the dharmas, of the Buddhas—all is Suchness, and not difference can be attained.

Wisdom and Skill in Means

101. If a bodhisattva wishes to reach Buddha-enlightenment, free from differentiated dharmas, practice the perfection of wisdom—joined together with skill in means. For, without wisdom there is no attainment.

102. A bird was to grow to body-size of one hundred and fifty miles large would still fall from the sky to its death, if its wings were still weak, having not grown proportionally with it. If one were grow in the five perfections for many thousands of years, spending all their time tending to the needs of the world with an over abundance of vows; but if without skill in means, lacking wisdom, will fall from their discipleship.

The Desirable Attitude to Other Beings

103. To go forth with a Buddha-like process of thought, one would need an equal and even mind towards the world and all beings; one would need to exert themselves towards thoughts of benevolence, and a friendly mind; willing to submit to others, and soft in their speech.

Chapter 17

The Theme

104. Subhuti the Elder asks the Buddha, “Teach me the characteristics of those who have become the irreversible, of how they became of such might. Please give me a brief outline of their qualities!” So the Buddha replied:

105. “They are free from the perception of dualities; they speak suitably; they do not take refuge in teachings or practices outside of the Way. The wise have avoided the three places of woe, and are well practiced in the ten wholesome paths of action. Free from self-interest they instruct the world in Dharma. They delight in the Dharma. They always speak gently. Standing, walking, lying down or sitting, they remain in their awareness.

106. They keep themselves clean and untouched; pure from the threefold detachment (body, speech and mind). Great people who want no personal gain, wanting only the Dharma; they have passed beyond the reach of Mara’s temptations, and others cannot lead them astray. They meditate in the four trances (the Four Jhanas), but no longer in seeking a favorable rebirth. They seek no fame, and their hearts are never overcome by anger. If a householder, they remain constantly unattached to their entire property. If working, they do not make their livelihood in the wrong way, by bewitching, seduction, misleading or telling plausible lies to men or women.

107. Well-practiced in the detachment that comes through wisdom, the best of perfections, free from quarrels and disputes, thoughts firmly set on friendliness, they only want to one day see the Buddha, so they never let their thoughts wander from anything that would take away from that. They avoid those people who would drag them down, they are free from doubts about themselves or what stage their practice is at. For the sake of Dharma they renounce their very life, caring about nothing but the practice. These should be known as the characteristics of the irreversible.”

Chapter 18

Deep Stations

108. Deep reaches our form, feeling and will, consciousness and perception. Like one who tries to reach the bottom of the ocean with a stick, so, when the skandhas have been revealed through wisdom, one does not attempt to reach the bottom of them. When the bodhisattva realizes that these dharmas in the ultimate vehicle become effortless, stainless; there being no skandha, no sense, no elements to strive against, how can there be a sense of them attaining anything by their own merit anymore?

The Simile of the Woman

109. A man, full of lust and longing, having made a date with a beautiful woman, would spend the day, having not met up with her yet, indulging in many thoughts; as many thoughts that would cross his mind during that day, so that many centuries does a bodhisattva strive to reach their goal.

Considerations of Merit

110. If a bodhisattva would for countless centuries give spotless gifts, and pay equal attention to guarding their morality; and, if another were to in one lifetime preach the perfection of wisdom–the merit gained by giving and morality would be infinitesimal by comparison.

111. When a bodhisattva, having meditated on the foremost wisdom, emerges preaching the stainless Dharma, and turns over their merit into enlightenment for the weal of the world; there is nothing that can be found in this entire world that is of more beauty than them. Knowing merit to be worthless, empty, insignificant, void and without substance; they walk in the path of wisdom–walking in this course, one gains immeasurable merit.

No Growth or Diminishing

112. As mere words the bodhisattva recognizes all these dharmas which the Buddha has revealed to us all; as do the five perfections of the Jinas. The bodhisattva who turns these over, without putting their mind to it, does not fail; but will experience the supreme Buddha-enlightenment.

Chapter 19

Conditioned Coproduction and the Simile of the Lamp

113. A flame burning the wick of an oil lamp has many instances and the destruction (end of) the wick does not come by the first instance (lighting) of the flame. It happened in many parts. Likewise, by the first thought of enlightenment ones does not experience enlightenment; however, without the first thought, or any instance, one is unable to experience it; nor can the last thought arrive at Nirvana.

The Simile of the Seed and the Fruit

114. From a seed trees, fruits, and flowers come; when it is obstructed, or absent, then no tree can come from it. Just so, the first thought is the foundation of enlightenment; but when it is obstructed or absent, then no enlightenment can come from it. From a seed grows barley, rice, fruits and vegetables, yet none of these things are inside the seed. As so, the enlightenment of the Jinas comes forth from its seed, which in its own-being is without existence.

The Simile of the Water Drops

115. Water drops fill a jar drop by drop, gradually, from the first instance to the last. Just so, the first thought is the initial cause of the supreme enlightenment; gradually are the qualities of a Buddha fulfilled.

The Meaning of Emptiness

116. They walk the path of the dharmas as empty, signless and wishless; but do not experience the Blessed Rest, as a skillful ferryman goes from shore to shore, but does not stand on either of them, nor do they stand in the great waters. They do not think, “I am predestined by the Buddhas, to achieve my enlightenment!” Nor do they tremble after seeing that enlightenment is not anything. This is the path of one who courses in the perfect wisdom.

The Attitude to Places Which Might Inspire Fear

117. When they see the world as it is, a wilderness, full of famine and disease, they have no fear, and go on putting on the armor. For the wise’s limit is always a bit further on, and fatigue does not produce in their minds.

Chapter 20

The Three Doors to Deliverance, and the Buddha-dharmas

118. Furthermore, the bodhisattva who makes the perfection of wisdom their course sees these skandhas as unproduced, empty from the very beginning. Even during a time where one lapses in their concentration, if one still manages to view the world of beings with compassion; one will not lose the Bodhi-dharmas that they have attained.

The Simile of the Hero

119. A skillful person, endowed with all good qualities, powerful, undoubting, well-qualified, instructed in many arts, perfect in archery, devoted to many crafts, knowing all kinds of magical illusions, keen on the welfare of the world; takes their mother and father, sons and daughters, and enters a wilderness full of hostile forces; can conjure up many warriors and champions, get away safely, and back to their home.

120. Just so, at the time when a wise bodhisattva extends compassion to all in the world of beings, having passed beyond the four Maras, and the two levels, then permanently abides in the best of concentrations, but does not experience enlightenment.

The Simile of the Cosmos

121. Air is supported by space, as well as the masses of water; by space again is this great earth and the entire living world supported. However, if everything finds itself supported by space, then how can one possibly outside of space to behold the object of space?

122. Just so, the bodhisattva, who is established in emptiness, manifests a manifold of various works to beings in the world, and their vows and realizations become a force which sustains beings. But such a one does not experience the Blessed Rest, for emptiness is not a place to stand on.

The Simile of the Flying Bird

123. A flying bird has no footing in the air. It does not stand on it, nor does it fall to the ground. Just so, the bodhisattva who courses in the doors to freedom does not experience the Blessed Rest, nor do they fall from the course.

The Simile of the Archer

124. A trained archer knows how to shoot an arrow upwards, then again and again, in succession, before giving the first one a chance to even hit the ground—not until it has happened as they planned. Just so, someone who walks the path of wisdom, who is accomplished in it, in skill in means—can choose when to obtain the most excellent emptiness.

The Simile of the Twin Miracle

125. A monk endowed with the great power to perform the Twin Miracle could stand in the sky endlessly, performing the miracle without ever feeling exhausted, no matter how long they may be doing it. Just so, the wise bodhisattva standing in emptiness, perfect in their understanding, wandering without a home, manifesting an endless variety of works unto the world and cannot become worn down or exhausted, not even from countless centuries.

The Simile of Parachutes

126. If a person were standing upon the highest of cliffs, overlooking a bottomless pit, was to jump with parachute in hand; their body would float down endlessly into the nothingness; experiencing the fall but never reaching the bottom. Just so, the wise bodhisattva, having stood on compassion, having taken hold of the parachutes of skill in means and wisdom, considers dharmas as empty, signless and wishless, though never seeing the bottom (Blessed Rest), experiences all the dharmas.

The Simile of the Merchant and the Jewel Island

127. A good person, searching for jewels for their family, having traveled to an island of treasure, and having obtained the jewels, would then return home to them. Although now they could live quite at ease alone, they still keep in mind the suffering of their families. Just so, the bodhisattva who has traveled to the treasure of Emptiness, and has obtained all the benefits thereof, although they could experience the Blessed Rest, would keep in mind the suffering of others.

The Simile of the Merchant and His Journey

128. A wise merchant, growing their business, travels into many cities, market towns and villages, which cross their path, so as to get acquainted with them but still does not abide in them, always keeping in mind the path which leads to home. Just so, the wise bodhisattva who becomes skilful in their understanding of the Teachings does not abide in this Buddha-cognition. Wise as to the path becomes the one who knows the method.

The Bodhisattva Undefinable

129. At the time when the bodhisattva has communed with all the world in friendliness, and makes their path in the concentration of emptiness, the signless and the wishless; it is impossible that such a one would have even the slightest inclination to enter the Blessed Rest, or that they could be defined by the conditioned.

130. As a magically created being, or one who has made their body  invisible, cannot be defined by words; just so, the bodhisattva who courses in the doors to freedom can also not be defined by words.

The Doors to Deliverance and the Irreversible Stage

131. If on being questioned about the practice and the faculties a bodhisattva is not able to show a true revelation of the deep dharmas, if one fails to show the dharmas which should be evident at the irreversible stage, they should not be considered as one destined for Buddhahood.

Tokens of Irreversibility

132. Not the level of an Arhat or the Pratyekabuddha, or what belongs to this triple world do they long for in their dreams; but seeing the Buddhas, and oneself as one who preaches Dharma to the world, predicted and irreversible should they then be known.

132. Having seen in their dreams all the beings who are living in the three places of woe, being moved, they instantly make the vow, “May I abolish these places of woe!” Predicted and irreversible should they then be known.

133. Those possessed by ghosts, with various diseases, in the world of mortals, through the power of this declaration of the Truth appeases them, being benevolent and compassionate. Never arising in them any self-consciousness of pride in doing so, predicted and irreversible should they then be known.

Chapter 21

Pride and Other Deeds of Mara

133. But when conceit rises up in them, thinking, “I have been predestined. I have made the declaration of Truth. I have made a vow to get things accomplished.” When a bodhisattva sets themselves above others as one who has been predestined, one should know that they are in conceit, and of little intelligence, lacking in wisdom.

134. Mara will say to them, “This is your proud family heritage.” Then, the lineage of your father and mother for seven generations back Mara will run through; “You will become a Buddha, this is your heritage, your birthright!”

135. Or, Mara will tell another who may be into more ascetic practices, the devout, “Formerly, in your past lives, you have attained already these very same qualities. You are a reincarnated bodhisattva.” The bodhisattva upon hearing this becomes conceited; one should know this one to be possessed by pride, and of little intelligence, lacking in wisdom.

Faults in Connection with Detachment

136. Even though one may practice quite detached from villages, cities or in a mountain cave, in a remote forest, or isolated in the woods, the bodhisattva who exalts themselves, and depreciates others, must be recognized as one possessed by Mara, of little intelligence, lacking in wisdom.

137. Although they may live constantly in a village, city or a market town; if even being there they do not generate longing for the vehicle of the Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas, but are devoted to enlightenment for the sake of others, they are truly the detached, the children of the Buddha.

138. Though one may live in mountain caves, crawling with wild beasts, for many years, that bodhisattva does not know this true detachment if they live contaminated by their conceit. When one feels superior to those who practice for the weal of the world, whose concentration, gifts and abilities are dedicated to benefit others, such a one is truly founded in the world of Mara.

139. Whether one in a village, or a remote forest, if they be free from the thought of the twofold vehicle and fixed on the supreme enlightenment, then this is the detachment of those who have set out for the weal of the world. As one whose self is extinct should that bodhisattva be considered.

Chapter 22

The Good Friends and the Perfections

140. The now learned who has destroyed their pride, resolved to take on the weight that comes with seeking the best enlightenment, should, as one earnestly seeks a doctor to be cured of their ailments, seek the good friends, earnestly.

141. The Buddhas, the bodhisattvas who have gone before you, those who have these perfections are your “good friends.” It is they who need to instruct those in these advanced stages, and who will help those realize their Buddha-enlightenment doubly quick.

142. The past, present, and future Buddhas, anyone reaching the best enlightenment, they all share this perfection as their path, and not other. As a brilliant light, a torch, a Teacher, have these perfections been shown to those who seek the best enlightenment—to show the way as a guide.

143. As one realizes the perfection of wisdom by the guide of emptiness, so by the same guide (literally: “mark”, an object or point that serves as a guide) one realizes all dharmas; when wisely knowing all dharmas as empty, on this path one walks in the wisdom of the Buddhas.

Defilement and Purification

144. In want of luxuries, indulging in their imaginations, beings always wander about in birth-and-death (Samsara), since their minds are attached. Both “I” and “Mine” as dharmas are unreal and empty. It is by one’s own foolish self that one becomes and stays entangled in this unreal and empty space.

145. As someone who thinks they have drank poison may very well fall down, grasp their throat or stomach, say they don’t feel well, and even act sick, although there is no poison in them; just so, a foolish person who has let into themselves the notions of “I” and “Mine” is forced by this unreal thought to act upon it—seeing death-and-rebirth again and again.

146. So it has been revealed, when one differentiates, there becomes defilement; the non-differentiation of “I” and “Mine” is the purification. But there is no one in this world who is defiled and no one who is cleansed. Knowing this, then the bodhisattva has understood the perfection of wisdom.

The Supreme Merit of Perfect Wisdom

147. If all the people of the world, across all seven continents, got together to seek enlightenment, not only for themselves, but the well-being of others, much merit would be made; but the amount of merit would still be infinitesimal compared to the one who understands and applies this perfection of wisdom, even if just for one single day.

Compassion and Perfect Wisdom

148. When a monk, dedicated to meditation (Yogin) walks in wisdom, the greatest of perfections, they embody compassion, and yet, with no notion of a being to be compassionate to. It is then that this wise one becomes worthy of what this world has to offer, never fruitlessly consuming the gifts given to them in this world. The Bodhisattva who wishes to set free the beings in the three places of woe, and to make clear to them the broad path that leads to the other shore, should be devoted to the perfection of wisdom day and night.

The Simile of the Pearl of Great Price

149. A person who having found a very fine jewel, which they have never had before, would become very content and happy. If, after just finding this jewel, they were to lose it by their carelessness, they would instantly feel loss, regret and sorrow, and a constant longing for the lost jewel would come upon them.

150. Just so, the meditative monk who has set out to find the best enlightenment should be careful to not let themselves ever be parted from the perfection of wisdom, which is their jewel, seizing the jewel which they have gained, ever harder, moving forward towards the state of Bliss.

The Superior Position of Bodhisattvas

151. When the sun rises, freed from the clouds that were binding it, dispelling all of the confusion of darkness with its rays ablaze, it outshines all other heavenly bodies, stars and the luster of the moon. Just so, the wise Bodhisattva, who walks in wisdom, the foremost perfection, having risen out of the jungle of views that were binding them, by setting their path on emptiness and the signless, outshines the luster of the whole world, including the Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas.

The Simile of the King and the Crown Prince

152. If there were a prince, in whom, with little authority and resources given him by his father the king, were generous, a giver of wealth, desiring the welfare of others, how much more so will he be established as a kind ruler when he has been given the crown? Just so, the wise Bodhisattva, who walks in wisdom, already now is concerned with the happiness of many others, how much more so will they be when established as a king of the Dharma!

Chapter 24

How Mara is Discomforted and Defeated

153. But Mara at that time will become like a person with a thorn stuck in their flesh, afflicted, miserable, displeased and feeling weak. Mara will make an illusion of an uncontrollable consuming fire, a hurling meteor, in order to confuse with fear. “How can this bodhisattva’s contemplative mind be broken?” Mara will say.

154. When the wise become unmovable in their intent, beholding the meaning of wisdom day and night, the foremost perfection; their bodies, thoughts and speech become free like a bird in the sky. How can Mara gain any entrance to them?

What Makes Mara Happy

155. When a bodhisattva gets involved in quarrels and disputes, and especially when two bodhisattvas become conflicted and angry with each other, then Mara becomes happy, and overjoyed thinking, “Both of these people are still very far away from realizing their Buddha-enlightenment. Ha! They are more like fighting animals, or demons than true bodhisattvas. I bet it will not be too much longer before they start to stray from their vows and pledges. Those who are full of hate, lacking in their practice, how can they attain enlightenment?” Now Mara is happy, as well as his helpers.

The Bodhisattva’s Price and Repentance

156. If a bodhisattva who is not yet predicted (on a last life) should have angry thoughts and bring about a dispute with another; for as many seconds as they persist in holding onto these negative thoughts, for that many thousands of years must they return as a bodhisattva (put on the armor of a bodhisattva).

157. Then, having properly establishes their mindfulness; one thinks to themselves, “These are not good thoughts. It is only by the perfection of patience that the Buddha’s ever experience enlightenment.” Such a person confesses their faults and restrains themselves. Or, better yet, they learn to give up on angry thoughts altogether, by training themselves in this Bodhi-dharma.

Chapter 25

How a Bodhisattva Is Trained

158. When training oneself, one never arrives at the training, one never arrives at a Teacher, and one never arrives at the dharmas which make up the training. Who trains themselves, without discriminating between “training” and “not training”, trains in this Bodhi-dharma.

159. This understanding, if true, should never result in the bodhisattva’s training becoming lax, lazy, or in a lack of morality. For the bodhisattva finds all pleasures in the dharma and in this training. They train themselves, skillfully, but without grasping. When they train this wisdom, the wise shedder of light, not even a single unwholesome thought arises; like the sun shedding its light into the sky: all darkness is dispelled, no darkness can stand up to its magnificent rays.

Perfect Wisdom Comprehends All the Perfections

160. To those who have made their training that of the perfection of wisdom, all other trainings (perfections) become perfectly comprehended and realized. Just as in one false view always lies all of the sixty-two false views, so in this one perfection lies all of the perfections. Just as when life has been stopped, all the other faculties associated with life are stopped; just so, when the best of the wise walk in this wisdom, all these perfections become fully comprehended.

Bodhisattvas and Disciples

161. In the qualities of the Disciples and the Pratyekabuddhas, the wise bodhisattvas have been trained, but they do not stand in them, nor do they long for them. “It is in this way that I need to be trained,” they think, and it is in this sense that they train themselves properly.

Chapter 26

Rejoicing and Perfect Wisdom

162. If someone rejoices in a bodhisattva who has set out for the best enlightenment and is irreversible; one may consider the sum size of an infinite number of galaxies as no greater than the tip of a piece of straw, as compared to the merit gained by their rejoicing.

163. For they are rejoicing in the combined heap of merit made from all beings who ever existed, who desire what is good, and who desire to see the emancipation from suffering. When, for the weal of others, they have reached the perfect enlightenment, they will give the Dharma to the world for the total extinction of suffering.

164. The bodhisattva who, not discriminating, sees all dharmas as empty, without any dualism seeks in wisdom for enlightenment. Devoted to the foremost perfection of wisdom is that Yogin (monk dedicated to meditation).

The Simile of Space and the Sky

165. A blocking, obstruction, or barrier between space and sky cannot be found anywhere by anyone. Just so, the wise bodhisattva, walking in wisdom, is in the open space, coursing calmly and quietly.

The Simile of the People Created by Magic

166. If an illusionary man were to be conjured up by a magician, having no real body, thought, or name, would not think to himself, “I will do something to please these people,” but still, nevertheless, can perform the various tasks assigned to him. Just so, it never occurs to the one coursing in wisdom, “Being enlightened now I will set the world free!” Even being associated with a manifold of works, considering them like magical illusions, one does not take on false discriminations.

The Simile of the Buddha’s Magical Creations

167. As a Buddha’s magical creation performs the Buddha’s work, but when doing so, no thought of self or conceit arises within it; just so, the wise bodhisattva, who walks in wisdom, manifests all works of the Buddha, but considers themselves a fictitious illusion.

The Simile of the Machine

168. An expert inventor has created a machine, able to perform any of the works that a man or woman could do. Just so, the wise bodhisattva, walking in wisdom, performs their works like the machine, without any sense of discrimination.

Chapter 27

The Bodhisattva Worthy of Homage

169. To the wise, who has made their course in this wisdom, even the great multitude of the gods will pay homage to. The Buddhas as well, as many as there have been realized through the ages, will also proclaim their praises of the wise ones qualities.

Mara Is Powerless Against Certain Bodhisattvas

170. If every person in the world, as countless as the number of sands by the river Ganges, were all to become Maras, and if every single hair on their bodies were to each become a snare; even they all combined could not snare the wise. For four reasons is the wise bodhisattva unshakable: becoming one who dwells in the empty, yet one who doesn’t abandon beings, acting as they speak, being sustained by the Buddhas.

The True Attitude to Suchness

171. The bodhisattva who believes with all their heart when this perfection of wisdom is being taught to them, and practices this path with the same attitude, such a one should be known as being close to the all-knowledge. But they do not come to a foot hold in Suchness to stand upon, instead they become like a cloud which stands in the sky with nothing to stand on. Or a sorcerer, who, like a bird, can fly on the wind with nothing to support them; or as one, who, by the power of their spells, can miraculously produce on a tree its flowers and fruits out of season.

The Bodhisattva Dwells Supreme

172. The wise and learned bodhisattva, who walks in this manner, does not arrive to the Buddhas, or the Buddha-dharmas, for this is the dwelling place of those who desire the calm of the release. As many as these dwellings are, they are all surpassed by this higher dwelling, the foremost and the unsurpassed.

How and Why One Should Dwell in Emptiness

173. A bird dwells in the air, but does not fall down. A fish dwells in the water, but does not suffocate. Just so, the bodhisattva who has gone beyond, dwells in the empty, but does not reach the Blessed Rest. One who wants to reach the peak of the summit of qualities of all beings, to experience the best, the exceedingly wonderful, Buddha-cognition, to give the best gift of the highest and supreme Dharma, should live in this, the best dwelling, which brings the most benefit.

Chapter 28

Whoever Trains in Perfect Wisdom Trains in Buddhahood

174. Of all the trainings which have been revealed to us by the Buddha, this teaching remains the best and unsurpassed. One, who, wise in the trainings, wishes to go to the Beyond, should train in this perfection of wisdom; it is the Buddhahood-training.

Inexhaustibility of Perfect Wisdom

175. This is the best container, a storehouse of the supreme Dharma, a treasury of happiness and ease of those belonging to the clan of the Buddhas. The past, present, and future world saviors (Buddhas), they have all come forth from this, and yet the Dharma-element of it never gets depleted or exhausted.

176. As many different kinds of shrubs, trees, fruits, and flowers there are, they have all come out of the earth and have all originated from it. And yet the earth does not get exhausted, it does not get tired, does not dwindle away, nor does it increase itself, making no discrimination. The Buddha’s offspring, and the dharmas—as many as there are, they have all been issued from wisdom, the foremost perfection, and yet wisdom does not ever get exhausted, nor does it increase.

177. As many beings as there are in the low, middle and high realms of the world, we know, from the Buddha, that all of them have been brought about by ignorance. This machine-like process of birth-and-death, is kept going continuously by ignorance, and yet the ignorance never gets depleted, nor does it grow. As many roots of skillful devices there are, of doors, paths and methods to proper understanding, they all have been issued from wisdom, the foremost perfection. This machine of cognition is kept going by the fuel of wisdom, which does not increase or become diminished.

Conditioned Coproduction

178. But the bodhisattva who understands conditioned coproduction as non-production and this wisdom as non-extinction; as the sun freed from the covering of the clouds, so has this bodhisattva dispelled the covering of ignorance, and become one Self-Extinct.

Chapter 29

The Perfection of Concentration

179. To those of great might who dwell in the four Trances (the Four Jhanas), do not settle there; do not make them your home. Instead, use these four Trances as a support, and they will become the basis for the attainment of the supreme and unsurpassed enlightenment.

180. One who is established in the Trances becomes one who obtains the foremost wisdom; also, when one experiences the four most excellent Formless Trances, they make these trances subservient to the best and foremost enlightenment. But it is not for extinction that the bodhisattva trains.

181. Wonderful and astonishing is this accumulation of precious qualities. When they have truly dwelled in the highest trance of concentrations, then there is no longer any mark (point of reference to guide). When the personality of those who have stood in the unsurpassed breaks apart, they are reborn again in the world of sense-desire, as they have intended.

182. Having dwelt in Trance and Concentration, being Yogins who have exerted themselves, they become yet again established in this sense-world, unstained; as a lotus in water, independent of the dharmas (laws, order) of the fools. Except in cases where working to mature other beings, these Great-souled ones no longer need to strive after rebirth, less there be a loss of the perfections and of the qualities of enlightenment they possess.

183. It is as if someone, searching for the greatest jewel, upon finding it, would no longer feel the need to covet for it. Fulfilled, and knowing that they cannot take this great jewel back home with them, they leave for home, and covet no more. Just so, the wise bodhisattva who has gained the calm concentration of the four Trances, which gives joy and ease, lets go of the joy and ease, so that they may again enter into the sensuous world, compassionate for all that lives.

184. When a bodhisattva dwells concentrated in the Trances, they no longer generate in their minds any longing for Arhatship or becoming a Pratyekabuddha; for if that were to happen, they would become unconcentrated, distracted in their thoughts and puffed-up, having lost the qualities of a Buddha, like a  sailor who suffers a shipwreck.

185. Although still connecting (choosing to apply them for a practical purpose) themselves to the five sense-qualities; to form and sound, smell, taste and touch; when free from the vehicle of the Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas, the joyous bodhisattva should, a hero, be wisely known as being constantly concentrated.

The Perfection of Vigor

186. The practice of the excellence of Vigor results in a pure and courageous mind that is linked to all other beings and persons. As a servant is submissive to their master who is not subject to anyone else, so do the firmly wise submit to subjection by all beings. The servant does not question their master, even when abused, struck or beaten. Trembling in mind, overcome by fear, they think, “If I talk back, surely I will be killed for that!”

187. Just so, the bodhisattva, who has set out for the foremost enlightenment, should behave towards the entire world as a true servant. In this they obtain enlightenment, and the fulfillment of the qualities takes place. Having renounced a happy destiny for oneself, practicing ones duty towards other beings, day and night, free from any hesitation in their thoughts of doing so, like a mother, taking care of her only child, the bodhisattva abides in their resolute intention unexhausted.

Chapter 30

The Perfection of Vigor (Continued)

188. The bodhisattva who intends to wander about in birth-death for a long time, a Yogin, dedicated to the purification of other beings, and who does not produce the least bit of weary in doing so, is endowed with the perfection of vigor.

189. The unwise bodhisattva counts their numbers of birth-and-deaths, and soon has the notion that it is too long until the full attainment of enlightenment—such a person is bound to suffer, moving slowly towards the Dharma, due to their laziness.

190. Beginning with the production of the first thought of the foremost enlightenment, until the unsurpassed Bliss, if night and day one would persevere single-mindedly, the wise and learned should be known as one who has shown vigor.

191. If someone would say, “On the condition that you shatter Mount Sumeru you will attain the foremost enlightenment,” the bodhisattva who would feel weary and discouraged of their limitations of their efforts, is affected by their laziness.

192. But if upon hearing that, there rises up in them the thought, “That is nothing difficult. In a mere moment I will break that mountain into dust,” then this is the bodhisattva who shows vigor.

193. If one were to exert themselves in body, thought and speech, thinking, “Having now reached full maturity, I will work for the weal of the world,” then, having established a notion of self, will be affected by laziness (disinclined to exert oneself).

194. When one has no notion of body, thought or a being, ridding themselves of all perception, coursing in the non-dualism Dharma—that has been called by Him who bestows the perfection of vigor of those who desire the blissful, imperishable, foremost enlightenment.

The Perfection of Patience

195. When the wise bodhisattva hears someone else speaking to them harshly and offensively, they think, “Who speaks? Who hears?” The discerning is then devoted to the foremost perfection of patience.

196. If a bodhisattva, devoted to the Dharma, remains patient, and if someone else were to give an infinite, uncountable amount of precious gifts to the Buddhas—infinitesimal by comparison would be the merit from that heap of gifts.

197. The personality of one who is established in patience is completely purified, exalted by the thirty-to marks, it becomes boundless. Preaching the best empty Dharma to all beings, dear to the entire world do the patient and discerning become.

198. If someone were to take a basket full of the best fragrances, and, with the utmost affection and reverence, lovingly pour it over the bodhisattva, and if a second one were to throw firey coals upon them instead—the bodhisattva should be of equal (the same) mind (attitude) towards the both of them.

199. Being patient with such a person, the wise and learned bodhisattva dedicates that production of thought to the foremost enlightenment. The hero, who remains patient in all circumstances, surpasses the Arhats and the Pratyekabuddhas.

200. One who is patient should produce this thought, “In hell, in the world of animals, and in the world of ghosts, there are many suffering. With the five skandhas being the true cause, these beings experience so much pain and suffering. It is better, for the sake of enlightenment, to be patient today! Hurt me as they will, with blows, whips, imprisonment, torture, or even murder—as many evil things exist that they could do, I will endure them all.” Thinking thus, this bodhisattva stands in the perfection of patience.

Chapter 31

The Perfection of Morality

201. By morality those who long for calm are lifted up, established in the realm of the Buddhas, unbroken in their morality. However many actions of restraint they submit themselves to, they dedicate them to enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.

202. When one generates a longing for the enlightenment of Arhats or Pratekabuddhas, one becomes immoral, unwise, and will be likewise faulty in their course. But when one turns over their merit into the utmost Bliss of enlightenment, then one is established in the perfection of morality, although still being joined to the world of the senses.

203. The Dharma from which comes the qualities of the enlightenment of the Gentle , that is the object of the morality of those who are endowed with the qualities of the Dharma. The Dharma which involves the loss of the qualities of the enlightenment of those who act for the weal of the world, as immorality has that been proclaimed by the Buddha.

204. When a bodhisattva tastes the five sense-qualities, but has gone to the refuge of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, and has turned their attention towards all-knowledge, thinking, “I will become a Buddha,” as established in the perfection of morality should that discerning one be known.

205. If, when coursing for aeons in the ten paths of wholesome actions, one gains a longing for Arhatship of Pratyekabuddhahood, then they become one whose morality is broken, and is faulty in their morality. The production of such a thought carries more weight to it than an offense that would carry with it the punishment of expulsion from the practice.

206. When one guards their morality, they turn the resulting merit over to the foremost enlightenment, but does not feel conceited about this, nor does one feel the need to be exalted (or exalt themselves). When one has gotten rid of the notion of “I” and the notion of other beings, established in the perfection of morality is that bodhisattva called.

207. If a bodhisattva, walking in the path of the Buddhas, makes a difference between beings practicing good morality and beings who are practicing immorality, now intent on the perception of dualisms the bodhisattva has become perfectly immoral.

208. One, who has no notion of “I” and no notion of a being, has performed the perfect withdrawal of perception, and has no more need for restraint. They will be proclaimed by the Buddha as restrained by morality.

The Perfection of Giving

209. But one, who endowed with morality, a pure being, becomes unconcerned about anything that one could consider to hold dear or undear; if, when renouncing their own very life (head, hands and feet), their thoughts remaining calm and unworried (undejected), they become one who has given up all that they have, never able to be intimidated or imprisioned again (uncowed).

210. And having known the essential original nature of dharmas as void and without self, would renounce their own flesh, unworried in thought, to say nothing of their renouncing property and gold. It is impossible that one should ever act out of greediness.

211. Through the notion of “I” comes about a sense of ownership, as well as greed. How then can the deluded have the resolve to renounce this? The greedy are reborn in the realm of the hungry ghosts, or at best, they come back human, but as the very poor.

212. Then, the bodhisattva, having understood why certain beings are stricken with poverty, becomes resolved to giving, always the generous giver. When they have given away the world, as if it were nothing but spit, they become elated, for they have not kept the world for themselves.

213. Having given gifts, the wise and learned bodhisattva, having brought to mind all the beings of this triple world, becomes to each of them their benefactor, and turns over that gift into the most excellent enlightenment, for the weal of the world. When having given a gift, they do not expect anything in return. Having so renounced, they become a renouncer of all. The little they have renounced becomes much and immeasurable.

214. If all the beings of the world, were to give gifts for all eternity, to the Buddhas, Knowers of the world, to Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas, but would wish for the virtues of the Disciples in return; and if a bodhisattva were to simply rejoice at their merit, and would for the weal of the world, turn it over into the best and most excellent enlightenment, by having turned it over they surpass the merit of the entire world.

215. If there were a large pile of beautiful glass (fake) jewels, one single real gem (semi-precious) would surpass them all in worth and value. Just so, the bodhisattva, who rejoices, surpasses the merit from the vast pile of gifts of the entire world.

216. If the bodhisattva, when giving gifts to the world remains unaffected by a sense of ownership or by affection for their belongings, from that wholesome root grows something of great might; as the moon, in the absence of clouds, is a circle of radiant light in the bright half of the lunar month.

Chapter 32

Rewards of the Six Perfections

217. Through Giving a bodhisattva escapes a rebirth as a hungry ghost. They also escape poverty, and all the defilements. When coursing in it (giving) one gains infinite and abundant wealth. Through their giving they help mature beings who are in trouble.

218. Through Morality they avoid rebirth as an animal, constantly gaining rebirth as a human at the proper moment. Through Patience they gain a perfect and exalted body, with good skin, dear for the world to look at.

219. Through Vigor they do not suffer the loss of the bright qualities; gaining the storehouse of the infinite wisdom of the Buddhas. Through Trance they cast off the sense-qualities in disgust, acquiring the legendary superknowledges and concentrations.

220. Having, through Wisdom, comprehended the essential original nature of dharmas, they completely transcend the triple world and the states of woe. Having turned the precious wheel of the Buddha, they demonstrate Dharma to the world for the complete extinction of suffering.

221. When the bodhisattva has fulfilled these dharmas, they still receive the purity of the field and the purity of the beings cultivated in it. They also receive the lineage of the Buddha, the lineage of the Dharma, and the lineage of the Sangha. They receive all dharmas.


222. The supreme physician who gives treatment to the sickness of the world, has taught this discourse on wisdom which is the path to enlightenment. It is called “The Path to enlightenment which is the Accumulation of Precious Qualities,” and it has been taught so that all beings may one day reach that Path.


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(The Meaning of Practice-Enlightenment)
New English Paraphrased Translation

By the late 1800’s a revolution had taken place in Japanese Zen—The Soto Zen practice had spread outside of the monasteries, becoming the popular home-practice of most of the commoners in the region. Many of the other schools of Japanese Buddhism, thinking Zen to be a thing for monks alone, not commoners, began referring to Soto as “farmer Zen” (as  derogatory term) due to its mass appeal. In 1888, an editor of Buddhist books and a devout Zen practitioner published the very first version of the Shusho-gi in the hopes of putting concise and highly readable literature into the hands of the lay workers; since up until this time most teaching resources were for monastery monks only. The idea of taking passages from Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo and regrouping them in order to offer a simple, basic but authentic digest of the Soto Zen teaching was so successful with lay practitioners that the Zenjis of both founding temples, Takushu Takiya Zenji for Eiheiji and Baisen Azegami Zenji for Sojiji, decided to take up the idea and rework it, thus creating the definitive version of the Shusho-gi that we have today. This reworking also served to further unify the Soto school in teaching and in, clarifying its official representation and a shared core of teaching to its ever-growing and diverse community.

1. General Introduction

The thorough understanding of what birth and death is—this is the most important question facing all Buddhists. If the Buddha lives both within birth (enlightenment) and death (delusion), then death (delusion) does not exist. Simply understand that birth and death are in themselves Nirvana; there being neither birth-death to be hated nor Nirvana to be desired. Then, for the first time, you will be freed from birth and death. Realize that this understanding is of the utmost importance.

It is rare to be born as a human being, and even more rare to find Buddhism in this lifetime. It is because of our good merit in the past that we have been able not only to be born as human beings but to encounter Buddhism as well. Within the realm of birth-death, enlightenment and delusion, then, our present life should be considered to be the best and most excellent gift of all. There is a purpose for your human body, do not waste it meaninglessly, being tossed to and fro by the winds of impermanence.

Impermanence can never be relied upon. We don’t know when or where this transient life will end. What happens to this body is already beyond our control; and life, is at the mercy of time, moving on without stopping for even an instant. Once the face of your youth has disappeared, it is impossible to find even its traces. When we think about time carefully, we see that time, once lost, never returns. When you are suddenly faced with the prospect of death, kings, state ministers, relatives, servants, spouse, and children, and all the money in the world are of no use. We all enter the realm of death alone, bringing nothing with us except our good and bad karma. You should avoid associating with deluded people in the present world who are ignorant of the law of causality and karmic retribution. They are unaware of the three stages of time and unable to distinguish right from wrong.

The law of causality is clear and impersonal: those who do harm inevitably fall; those who do good inevitably ascend. If this were not true, the various Buddhas would not have appeared in this world, nor would Bodhidharma have come to China. Karmic retribution occurs at three different periods of time: 1. In one’s present life; 2. In one’s next life; 3. In one’s subsequent lives. This is the first thing that needs to be studied and understood when practicing the Way. Otherwise many of you will make mistakes and come to hold wrong views. Not only that, but you may also fall into evil worlds, undergoing long periods of suffering. Understand that in this life you have only one life, not two or three. How regrettable it would be if not knowing the truth—thinking that you are not doing wrong, when, in fact you are. You cannot avoid the karmic retribution of your evil acts even if you did not know any better; even if you don’t recognize karma’s existence you subject to it.

2. Release through Repentence

The Buddhas and patriarchs, because of their great mercy, have gone before us—opening up a vast gate of compassion so that all beings—both human and celestial alike—may realize enlightenment. Although karmic retribution for harmful acts must, repentance lessens the effects, bringing release and purification. Therefore, let us repent in all sincerity. The power of repentance not only saves and purifies us; it also encourages growth within us of pure, doubt-free faith and earnest effort. When pure faith appears it changes others just as it changes us, its benefits extend to all things, both animate and inanimate.

The following contains the essence of the act of repentance: “Even though the accumulation of our past bad karma is so great that it forms an obstacle to practicing the Way. We beseech the various enlightened and compassionate Buddhas and Ancestors to free us from karmic retribution, eliminate all obstacles to the practice of the Way, and share with us their compassion, for it is through this compassion that their merit and teachings fill the entire universe. In the past the Buddhas and Ancestors were originally just like us; in the future we shall become like them. All our past evil deeds were the result of beginningless greed, anger, and ignorance: products of our body, speech, and mind. Of all these do we now repent.”

If we repent in this way, we will certainly receive the help of the Buddhas and patriarchs. Keeping this in mind and acting in this proper manner, make your repentance. The power of repentance can wipe out your wrongdoings at their roots.

3. Ordination and Enlightenment

Next, you should deeply revere the Three Treasures. They deserve our reverence and respect no matter what changes happen in our lives or to our bodies. The Buddhas and patriarchs in both India and China, and various other countries, correctly transmitted to us the knowledge of the need for reverence for the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

The unfortunate and the immoral are unable to even hear the names (comprehend) of the Three Treasures, let alone take refuge in them. Do not act like those who vainly take refuge in gods and ghosts or worship at non-Buddhist shrines, for it is impossible to gain release from suffering in this way. Instead, quickly take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha—seeking not only release from suffering but complete enlightenment as well.

Firstly, taking refuge in the Three Treasures means to come with a pure faith. Whether during the Gautama Buddha’s lifetime or after it, people should place their hands together in gassho (praying hands, bow), and with lowered heads recite the following: “We take refuge in the Buddha. We take refuge in the Dharma, We take refuge in the Sangha. We take refuge in the Buddha because the Buddha is our great teacher. We take refuge in the Dharma because it is good medicine. We take refuge in the Sangha because it is composed of excellent friends.”

It is only by taking refuge in the Three Treasures that one can become a disciple of the Buddha and become qualified to receive all the other precepts. The merit of having taken refuge in the Three Treasures inevitably appears when there is spiritual communion between the trainee and the Buddha. Those who experience this communion inevitably take this refuge whether they find themselves existing as celestial or human beings, dwellers in hell, hungry ghosts, or animals. As a result, the merit that is accumulated thereby inevitably increases through the various realms of existence, leading to the highest supreme enlightenment. Know that the Buddha has already given witness to the fact that this merit is of unsurpassed value and unfathomable profundity. Therefore all sentient beings should take this refuge.

Next, we should receive the Three Pure Precepts. The first of them is to refrain from all evil, the second is to do good, and the third is to keep the mind pure. We should then accept the Ten Grave Prohibitions: 1. Do not kill. 2. Do not steal. 3. Do not engage in improper sexual conduct. 4. Do not lie. 5. Do not indulge in intoxicating substances. 6. Do not speak of the faults of others. 7. Do not be too proud to praise others. 8. Do not covet. 9. Do not give way to anger. 10. Do not disparage the Three Treasures.

All Buddhas have received and observed the Three Refuges, the Three Pure Precepts, and the Ten Grave Prohibitions. By receiving these precepts one realizes the supreme Bodhi-wisdom, the unbreakable metal, the indestructible enlightenment of all the Buddhas in the three stages of time. Is there any wise person who would not gladly seek this goal? The Buddha has clearly shown to all sentient beings that when they receive the precepts, they enter into the realm of the Buddhas—truly becoming their children and realizing the same enlightenment. All the Buddhas dwell in this realm, perceiving everything clearly without leaving any traces. When ordinary beings make this their dwelling place, they no longer distinguish between subject and object. At that time everything in the universe –whether earth, grass, tree, fence, tile, pebble—functions as a manifestation of enlightenment; and those who receive the effects of this manifestation realize enlightenment without being aware of it. This is the merit of Nirvana, the merit of non-discrimination, and awakening to the Bodhi-mind.

4. Making the Altruistic Vow

To awaken to the Bodhi-mind means to vow not to cross over to the other shore before all sentient beings have found the Way. Every layperson, nun or monk, living in the world of celestial beings or of humans, subject to pain or pleasure, all should quickly make this vow. Even if they be a person of humble appearance, any person who has awakened to the Bodhi-mind is already the teacher to all mankind. A little girl of the age of seven can become the teacher of the four classes of Buddhists and the compassionate mother of all beings; for in Buddhism men and women are equal. This is one of the highest principles of the Way. After having awakened to the Bodhi-mind, even wandering in the six realms of existence and the four forms of life becomes an opportunity to practice the altruistic vow. Even though up to now you may have wasted your time in vain, you should quickly make this vow while there is still time. Though you have acquired sufficient merit to realize Buddhahood, you should place it at the disposal of all beings in order that they may realize the Way. From time beginning there have been those who have sacrificed their own enlightenment in order that they might be of benefit to all beings, helping them to cross over first to the other shore.

There are four kinds of wisdom that benefit others: Offerings, Loving words, Benevolence, and Identification, all of which are the practices of a Bodhisattva. Giving offerings means not to covet. Although it is true that, in essence, nothing belongs to self, this should not prevent us from giving offerings. The size of the offering is not the point; it is the sincerity with which it is given that is important. Therefore, even if one has nothing, one should be willing to give even a single verse or a phrase from the Dharma, for it becomes a seed of good in both present life and future life. This is also the case when giving of ones material posessions, whether it be a single coin or a blade of grass, for the Dharma is the treasure and the treasure is the Dharma. There have been those who, seeking no reward, willingly gave their help to others. Supplying a ferry and building a bridge are both acts of giving offerings as are earning a living and producing goods.

The meaning of loving words is that which comes from seeing that you and all beings are one—filled with compassion for them, talking with them affectionately. You could also say, one regards them as if they were ones own children. When full of Loving words the virtuous will be praised and the virtueless will be shown mercy. Loving words are the source of overcoming your bitter enemy’s hatred and establishing friendship with others. Directly hearing loving words spoken brightens the countenance and warms the heart. An even deeper impression is made, however, by hearing about loving words spoken about oneself in ones absence. You should know that loving words have a life-changing impact on others.

Benevolence means to purposefully come up with ways of benefiting others, no matter what their social position. Those who aided a helpless turtle or and injured sparrow do not expect any reward for their assistance; they simply acted out of their feelings of benevolence. The foolish believe that their own interests will suffer if they put the benefit of others first. They are wrong however. Benevolence is all-encompassing equally benefiting oneself and others.

Identification means nondifferentiation— to make no distinction between oneself and others. For example, Gautama Buddha led the same life as that of all other human beings. Others can be identified with self, and thereafter, self with others. With the passage of time both self and others become one. Identification is like the sea, which does not decline any water no matter what its source, all waters gathering, therefore, to form the sea.

Quietly reflect on the fact that the preceding teachings are the practices of a Bodhisattva. Do not treat them light. Honor and respect their merit, which is able to save all beings, enabling them to cross over to the other shore.

5. Constant Practice and Gratitude

The opportunity to awaken to the Bodhi-mind is reserved only for human beings living in this world. Now that we have had the good fortune not only to be born in this world but also to come into contact with Gautama Buddha, how can we be anything but overjoyed!

Quietly consider the fact that if this were a time when the true Dharma had not yet spread throughout the world, it would not have been possible for us to come into contact with it, even if we were willing to sacrifice our lives to do so. How fortunate to have been born in the present day, when we are able to find and hear the Dharma. Listen to what the Buddha said: “When you meet a master who expounds the supreme Bodhi-wisdom, do not consider the masters birth, look at the master’s appearance, dislike the master’s faults, or worry about the master’s behavior. Rather, out of respect for the master’s great wisdom, kneel before the master reverently three times a day— morning, noon, and evening–giving the master no cause for worry.”

We are now able to come into contact with the Buddha and hear the Dharma due to the compassionate kindness that has resulted from the constant practice of all the Buddhas and patriarchs. If the Buddhas and patriarchs had not directly transmitted the Dharma, how could it have come down to us today? We should be grateful for even a single phrase or portion of the Dharma, still more for the great benefit accruing from the highest supreme teaching— Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma (the Shobogenzo). The injured sparrow does never forget the kindness shown to it. If even animals show their gratitude for kindness rendered to them, how can human beings fail to do the same? The true way of expressing this gratitude is not to be found in anything other than our daily Buddhist practice itself. That is to say, we should practice selflessly, esteeming each day of life.

Time flies faster than an arrow: life is more transient than the dew. No matter how skillful you may be, it is impossible to bring back even a single day of the past. To have lived to be a hundred years old to no purpose is to eat of the bitter fruit of time, to become a pitiable bag of bones for nothing. Even though you have allowed yourself to be a slave to your senses for a hundred years, if you give yourself over to Buddhist training for even one day, you will gain a hundred years of life in the present life as well as in future life. Each day’s life should be esteemed; the body should be respected. It is because of our body and mind that we are even able to practice the Way and find enlightenment; that is why they should be loved and respected. It is through our own practice that the practice of all the Buddhas appears and their way teaches us. Therefore each day of our practice is the same as theirs, the seed of realizing Buddhahood. All the various Buddhas are none other than the first Buddha. The Buddha is nothing other than the fact that the mind itself is the Buddha. When the Buddhas of the past, present, and future realize enlightenment, they never fail to become the first Buddha. This is the meaning of the mind itself being the Buddha. Study this question carefully, for it is in this way that you can express your gratitude to the Buddhas.


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Gakudo Yojin-shu
(Things to look out for in your Buddhist training)
By Zen Master Dōgen
Original Translation by Yuho Yokoi, New English Paraphrased Translation by The New Heretics

This short, independent work of Dōgen was written for his disciples in 1234 CE, seven years after his return from China. Although it can be said that the content of Dōgen’s Shobogenzo is more profound philosophically, the Gakudo Yojin-shu has become highly esteemed as an essential training guide by the Sōtō Zen sect of Buddhism, as well as many others Zen practitioners. For those studying or practicing the Way this particular work of Dōgen deserves a regular and repeated reading, in conjunction with the deepening of one’s own daily practice; for although it may be relatively short in length, within it is nothing short than the blueprint to Zen and enlightenment.

I. The Need to Awaken to the Bodhi-Mind

The Bodhi-mind is known by many names, but they all point to the One Mind of the Buddha. As Nagarjuna said, “The mind that sees into the flux of arising and decaying and recognizes the transient nature of the world is also known as the Bodhi-mind.” Why, or how, then, can we call this transient mind Bodhi-mind? When the transient nature of this world is finally recognized, the ordinary selfish mind ceases to arise; as well as the mind that seeks after its own fame and profit – this is Bodhi-mind.

Aware that time is short, train as though you were attempting to save your own life—saving your head from being engulfed in flames. Mindful of the transient nature of this body and of life, exert yourself just even as the founder of Buddhism Gautama Buddha had to.

Even though you hear the enticing songs of the Siren or of the Angel’s themselves, pay them no mind, do not let them distract you, regarding them as merely an evening breeze blowing in your ears. Even though you see a face as beautiful as a goddess or of the Angel’s themselves, think of them as merely the morning sleep in your eyes that needs to be wiped away, clearing your  blocked vision.

When freed from the bondage of sound, color, and shape, you will naturally become one with true Bodhi-mind. Since ancient times there has been very few have seen this true Buddhism, and few who heard the scriptures. Not knowing true Buddhism, most have fallen, into pitfalls like fame and profit, losing the essence of the Way. What a pity! How regrettable!

Understand this well: even though you have read the true teachings of the scriptures or received the transmission of the esoteric and exoteric, unless you forsake fame and profit you cannot be said to have awakened, to have the Bodhi-mind.

There are some who say that the Bodhi-mind is the highest state of enlightenment, free from fame and profit. Others say that it is that which embraces the one billion worlds in a single moment of thought, or that it is the teaching that not a single delusion can arise from. Still others, that it is the mind which has entered directly into the realm of the Buddha. Those who say that they are followers of the Way, but have no understanding of Bodhi-mind wantonly slander it. They are indeed far from the Way.

Reflect on your ordinary mind, how selfishly it is attached to fame and profit. Is it endowed with the essence and appearance of the three thousand worlds in a single moment of thought? Has it experienced the teaching in which not a single delusion arises? No, there is nothing there but the delusion of fame and profit, nothing worthy of being called the Bodhi-mind.

Although there have been patriarchs since ancient times who have used unorthodox or even secular means to realize their enlightenment, not one of them were attached to fame and profit. They did not let themselves become attached to even Buddhism itself, let alone to such ordinary and common things of this world.

The Bodhi-mind is, as mentioned before, that which recognizes the transient nature of the world—one of the four insights. It is totally different from that referred to by madmen passing themselves off as knowing what Bodhi-mind is.

The non-arising mind and the appearance of the one billion worlds are fine things to practice after having awakened to the Bodhi-mind. Do not confuse the “before” with the “after”. Simply forget the self and quietly practice the Way. This is truly the Bodhi-mind.

The sixty-two viewpoints are all based on self; so when ego arises with its views simply do zazen and quietly observe them. What is the basis of your body, your inner and your outer possessions? You received your body, hair, and skin from your parents. You were made of your parents, all that you have your have received, there is no self here. Mind, discriminating consciousness, knowledge, and dualistic thought bind life. What, ultimately, is breathing—inhaling and exhaling? They are not self. There is no self to be attached to. The deluded, however, are still attached to self, while the enlightened are no longer. But still you seek to measure the self that is no self, and attach yourselves to arisings that are non-arisings, neglecting to practice the Way. By failing to cut off your ties to this world, you turn your back on the true teaching and run to embrace the false. How dare you say you are not demonstrating poor judgment?

II. The Need for Training upon Encountering the True Law

A king’s mind sometimes changes due to the good advice given by an advisor. If the Buddha and patriarchs offer even a single word to someone, that someone could help but to be converted. Only wise kings, however, listen to the advice given to them by others, and only good trainees of the Way hear the Buddha’s words being spoken to them.

It is impossible to sever the source of transmigration without casting away the delusions in our minds. In the same way, in a king fails to listen to the advice of advisors, good and just policies will never be made, and the country will not be governed well.

III. The Need to Realize the Way through Constant Training

Lay people believe that government office can be acquired as a result of hard work and study. Gautama Buddha teaches that training encompasses enlightenment. I have never heard of anyone who became a government official without study, and I have never heard of anyone realizing enlightenment without training.

Although it is true that different training methods exist—some based on faith or the Law, the sudden or the gradual realization of enlightenment—still one always realizes enlightenment as a result of training. In the same way, although the depth or people’s learning differs, as does their speed on comprehension, government office is acquired through accumulated work and study. None of these things depends on who is superior or not, or whether one’s luck is good or bad.

If government office could be acquired without study, who could transmit the method by which a former leader successfully ruled the nation? If enlightenment could be realized without training, who could understand the teaching of the Buddha, since it distinguishes the difference between delusion and enlightenment? Understand that even though you train in the world of delusion, enlightenment is already there. Then, for the first time, you will realize that boats and rafts (scriptures, sutras) are but yesterday’s dream and will be able to sever forever the old views that bound you to them.

The Buddha does not force this understanding on you. Rather it comes naturally from your own training in the Way, for training invites enlightenment. Your own treasure does not come from anything outside of you. Since enlightenment is the same as training, the action of enlightenment will leave no trace. Therefore, when looking back on your training with enlightened eyes, you will find that it all looks the same to you; there is no illusion to see, just as white clouds can cover an entire sky.

When enlightenment is harmonized with training, you cannot step on even a single spec of duct. Should you be able to do so, you are far removed from enlightenment—as far as heaven is removed from earth. If you return to your true Self, you can transcend all, even the status of the Buddha.

IV. The Need for Selfless Practice of the Way

In the practice of the Way it is necessary to accept the true teachings of our predecessors, setting aside our own preconceived notions. The Way cannot be realized with mind or without it. Unless the mind of constant practice is one with the Way, neither body nor mind will find peace. When the body and mind are not at peace, they become just another obstacle to finding enlightenment.

How are constant practice and the Way to be harmonized? To do so the mind must neither be attached to nor reject anything; it must be completely free from fame and profit. One does not undergo Buddhist training for the sake of others. The minds of Buddhist trainees, like those of most people these days, however, are far from understanding the Way. They do that which gains the praises of others, even though they know it to be false, to be delusion. On the other hand, they neglect to do that which others scorn even though they know it to be the truth, the true Way. How regrettable!

Reflect quietly on whether your mind and actions are one with Buddhism or not. If you do this, you will realize how shameful they are. The penetrating eyes of the Buddhas and patriarchs are constantly shining on the entire universe.

Since Buddhist trainees do not do anything for the sake of themselves, how could they do anything for the sake of fame or profit? You should train for the sake of Buddhism alone. The various Buddhas do not show deep compassion for all sentient beings for either their own or another’s sake. This is the tradition of Buddhism.

Even animals and insects are capable of giving to, caring for, and nurturing their young, enduring various hardships in the process – standing to gain nothing for their actions, even after their offspring have reached maturity. Even these small creatures, animals, are capable of deep compassion. How much more do the Buddhas have compassion for all sentient beings? The excellent teachings of the Buddhas are not even limited to compassion; rather, they appear in countless ways throughout the universe. This is the essence of Buddhism.

We are already the children of the Buddha; therefore we should follow in his footsteps. Trainees, do not practice Buddhism for your own benefit, for fame and profit, or for rewards or in seeking miracles and powers. Simply practice Buddhism for the sake of Buddhism; this is the true Way.

V. The Need to Seek a True Master

A former patriarch once said, “If the Bodhi-mind is untrue, all one’s training will come to nothing.” This saying is true indeed. In the same way, know that the quality of a disciple’s training depends on the quality of his master—on the truth or falsity of their enlightenment. The Buddhist trainee can be compared to a fine piece of timber, and a true master to a good carpenter. Even quality wood will not show its find grain unless it is worked on by a good carpenter. Even a poor piece of wood will, if handled by a good carpenter, soon show the results of good craftsmanship. The truth or falsity of one’s enlightenment depends on whether or not one has a true master. This should be well understood.

In our country, however, there have not been any true masters in a long time. We can tell this by looking at their words, just as you can tell the quality of a river by scooping up some if its water down-stream. For centuries, masters in this country have compiled books, taught disciples, and have led both human and celestial beings. Their words, however, were still green, unripe, for they had not yet reached maturity in their own training. They had not yet reached the sphere of enlightenment. Instead, they merely transmitted words and made others recite names and empty letters. Day and night they counted, were surrounded by, the treasure of knowledge of others, but they failed to gain anything for themselves.

These masters must be held accountable for this state of affairs. Some of them taught that enlightenment should be looked for outside of ourselves, outside of the mind; others that rebirth in the Pure Land was to be the goal. In this lies the source of some of your confusion and delusion about Buddhism.

Even if good medicine is given to someone, unless that person has also been given the proper directions for taking it matters may simply be made worse. In fact, it may harm you like taking poison if your take it without direction. There have not been any good doctors in our country who were capable of making the correct prescription or to properly distinguish between medicine and poison. For this reason it has been extremely difficult to eliminate life’s suffering and disease. How, then, can we expect to escape from the sufferings of old age and death?

This current situation is entirely the fault of the masters, not of the disciples. Why? Because they guide their disciples. They have taken care of the branches of the tree but have neglected, even destroyed its roots. Before they fully understand the Way themselves, they devote themselves to their own egotistic minds, luring others into the world of delusion. How regrettable is it that even these masters are un-aware of their own delusion. How can their disciples be expected to do any better?

Unfortunately, true Buddhism has not yet spread to this peripheral little country, and true masters have yet to be born. If you want to study the supreme Way, you would have to visit masters in faraway China, and reflect there on the true road that is far beyond the delusive mind. If you are unable to find a true master, it is best not to study Buddhism at all.

True masters are those who are fully realized and who have received the seal of a genuine master. It has nothing to do with their age. For them neither learning nor knowledge is of primary importance. Possessing extraordinary self-discipline and influence, they do not rely on selfish views or cling to any obsessions, for they have perfectly harmonized knowledge with practice. These are the characteristics of a true master.

VI. Advice for the Practice of Zen

The study of the Way through the practice of zazen is of vital importance. You should not neglect it or treat it lightly. In China there are legends (urban legend) of former Zen masters who even cut off their arms or fingers for the practice of zazen. Long ago Gautama Buddha renounced his home and the kingdom he would inherit—another fine example of how important the practice of the Way is. Men of the present day, however, say that one should only practice that which can be easily practiced. Know that their words are mistakes and that they are far removed from the Way. If you devote yourself to one thing exclusively and consider it to be training, even lying down can become tedious. If one thing becomes tedious, all things become tedious. You should know that those who like things easy are unworthy of the practice of the Way.

Our great teacher, Gautama Buddha, was unable to gain the teaching of the Way until he had undergone severe training and years of hardships. Consider how dedicated the founder of Buddhism was, can his students be any less so? Those who seek the Way should not look for easy training. Should you do so, you will never reach true enlightenment. Even the most gifted of the former patriarchs told us that they Way is difficult to practice. You need to realize how deep and immense Buddhism is.

If the Way were, originally, so easy to practice and understand, our former patriarchs would have not stressed to us so much how difficult it is. Compared to the former patriarchs, people of today do not amount to a single grain of sand on the seashore. That is to say, that modern people have added resources, materials, and years of former patriarchs to draw from; therefore, even if one today was to exert themselves to the utmost, their imagined difficult practice would still be nothing compared to that of the former patriarchs.

What is the easily practiced and easily understood teaching of which present-day people seem to be so fond? It is nothing. It is neither a great secular teaching nor a Buddhist one. Even a great secular teaching requires effort in practice. No, this easy practice is inferior—inferior even to those who still worship devils and evil spirits, as well inferior to any non-Buddhist religion and the two vehicles (those who strive for enlightenment but have no desire or compassion to help others–for selfish reasons alone). The promise of easy practice may be the greatest delusion out there for men and women. For, although they imaging that they have escaped the delusive world, they have, on the contrary, merely subjected themselves to a greater delusion, and endless transmigration.

Breaking one’s bones and crushing the marrow to be a Buddhist would seem like a difficult practice, would it not? It is still more difficult, however, to control the mind, let alone undergo prolonged meditation and real training–controlling one’s physical actions is the most difficult of all.

Gautama Buddha said, “Turning the sound-perceiving stream of the mind inward, forsake knowing and being known.” What does this mean? The two qualities of movement and nonmovement have not appeared at all; this is true harmony.

If it were possible to enter the Way on the basis of having a brilliant mind and a wide range of knowledge, high-ranking Shen-hsiu should have been able to do so. If common birth were an obstacle to entering the Way, then how did Hui-neng become one of the great Chinese patriarchs? Know from these and other examples that the process of transmitting the Way does not depend on either a brilliant mind or a noble birth. In seeking the Way, simply reflect on yourselves and train diligently.

Neither youth nor age are obsticles to entering the Way. Chao-chou was more than sixty years old when he first began to practice, yet he became an outstanding patriarch. Cheng’s daughter was only thirteen years old when she attained her deep understanding of the Way, so much so that she became one of the finest trainees in her monastery.

The majesty of Buddhism appears according to whether or not the effort is made, and differs according to whether or not training is involved.

Those who have long devoted themselves to the study of the sutras (scriptures), as well as those who are well versed in secular learning, should visit a Zen monastery. There are many examples of those who have done so. Hui-ssu of Mount Nan-yueh was a man of many talents, yet he still submitted himself to train under Bodhidharma. Hsuan-chueh of Mount Yung-chia was the finest of men; still he trained under Ta-chien. The understanding of the Law and the realization of the Way are dependent upon what you gain from training under Zen masters.

When visiting a Zen master to seek instruction, listen to his teaching without trying to make it conform to your own self-centered views; otherwise you will never be able to understand what they are saying. Purifying you own body and mind, eyes and ears, and simply listen to what is being said. Purifying you own body and mind, eyes and ears, and simply listen to the teaching, expelling any other thought. Unify your body and mind and receive the master’s teaching as though water is being poured from one jar into another. If you do so, you will be able to understand a master’s teaching, for the first time.

At present, there are some foolish people who devote themselves to memorizing the words and phrases of the sutras (scriptures) or they attach themselves to that which they have heard before. Having done this, they compare their “knowledge” with the teachings of a master. In this case though, there is no “knowledge” in their heads—only their own views on the words of old dead men. Because of this, the words of the master will be left unheard and not understood.

Others, attaching much importance to their own self-centered thinking, open up the scriptures and decide for themselves what it says, imagining this to be Buddhism. Later when they are taught by an enlightened Zen master, they only regard the master’s teaching as true if it corresponds with their own views on the matter; otherwise they regard it as false. Not knowing how to give up their mistaken way of thinking, they are unable to return to the true Way. They are to be pitied, for they will be subjected to delusion for an eternity. How regrettable!

Buddhist trainees should realize that Buddhism is beyond thought, beyond discrimination, beyond imagination, beyond insight, beyond perception, and intellectual understanding. If it were not so, then why is it that having been endowed with all these faculties since birth, you have still not realized the Way?

Thought, discrimination, and so on, should be avoided in the practice of the Way. This will become clear if using thought, and so on, you examine yourself carefully. The gateway to the Truth is known only to enlightened Zen masters, not to their learned counterparts.

VII. The Need for Zen Training in Buddhist Practice and Enlightenment

Buddhism is superior to any other teaching. It is for this reason that many people pursue it. During Gautama Buddha’s lifetime there was only one teaching and there was only one teacher (Buddha). The Great Master alone led all beings with his supreme Wisdom. Since then it has been passed down, unbroken, through twenty-eight generations in India, six generations in China, and to the various patriarchs of the five Zen schools who have transmitted it without interruption. Since 520 CE (the P’t-t’ung era) in the Chinese state of Liang all truly superior individuals—from monks to royals—have taken refuge in Zen Buddhism.

Truly, excellence should be loved because of its excellence. One should not love false dragons such as Yeh-kung; who spent his whole life carving and painting toy dragons, but when a real one finally appeared to him, he fainted, not knowing what to do. In the various countries east of China the net of scholastic-Buddhism has been casted over the seas and the mountains. It is spread over the mountains, but it does not contain the heart of the clouds; it is spread over the seas, but it lacks the heart of the waves. The foolish are fond of this false Buddhism. They are delighted by it like those who mistake a fish-eye for a pearl, or those who treasure a common stone, in the false belief that it is a precious jewel. Such people are only heading for a fall—into the pitfall of demons, losing their true Self.

The situation in remote countries like this one is truly regrettable; for here, where the winds of false teachings blows freely, it is hard to spread the true Law. China, however, has already taken refuge in the true Law of the Buddha. Why is it then that it has yet to spread to this country or to Korea? Although in Korea at least the true Law can be heard, in our country even this is impossible. This is because many of our teachers who went to study Buddhism clung to the net of scholastic-Buddhism. Although they successfully transmitted various Buddhist texts, they had forgotten the spirit of Buddhism. So of what value is this then? In the end it amounts to nothing. This all happened because they did not know what it means to study the Way. How regrettable it is that they worked so hard their whole lives, accomplishing nothing.

When you first begin to follow the path of Buddhism as a Bodhi-seeker and begin to study the Way, simply listen to the teaching of a Zen master and train accordingly. At this time you should know the following: that the Law can turn the self, and that the self can turn the Law. When the Law turns the self, the Law in you is strong and the self is weak. When the self turns the Law, the self in you is strong and the Law in you has become weak. Although Buddhism has known this truth since long ago, it can only be understood by those who have received a true transmission. Without a true master, it is impossible to hear even the names of these two aspects and understand them.

Unless one knows the essence of studying the Way, it is impossible to practice it; for how else can one determine what is right and what is wrong? Those who now study the Way through the practice of zazen naturally transmit this essence. This is why there have been no mistakes made in the transmission, something that cannot be said of the other Buddhist sects. Those who seek Buddhism cannot realize the true Way without zazen.

VIII. The Conduct of Zen Monks

Since the time of the Buddha the twenty-eight patriarchs in India and the six in China have directly transmitted the true Law, adding nothing new to it, not even as much as a thread or hair, nor allowing anything to corrupt it, not even a single particle of dust. With the transmission from the Buddha to Hui-neng, Buddhism spread throughout the world. Right now Buddha’s Law is flourishing in China. It is impossible to know what the Law is by blindly searching for it in the dark. Those who have seen the Way forget the Way, transcending relative consciousness.

Hui-neng lost his deluded self while training on the mountain. Hui-k’o showed his earnestness by cutting off his arm in front of Bodhidharma’s cave, realizing through this action his delusion and finding enlightenment. After this he prostrated himself before Bodhidharma, in thanks for being returned to his former Self—finding absolute freedom, dwelling in neither body nor mind, unattached and unlimited.

A monk once asked Chao-chou, “Does a dog have Buddha-nature?” Chao-chou replied, “Wu.” This word wu cannot be measured or grasped, for there is nothing to it to grab a hold of. I suggest that you try letting go! Then ask yourself these questions: What are body and mind? What is Zen conduct? What are birth and death? What is Buddhism? What is secular (worldly affairs)? And what, ultimately, are mountains, rivers, and earth—or men, animals, and houses?

If you continue to ask these questions, the two aspects—movement and non-movement—will clearly not appear. This non-appearance, however, does not mean inflexibility. Ultimately very few people realize this, while many are deluded by it. Zen trainees can realize this after they have trained for some time. It is my sincere hope, however, that you never stop training—even after you become fully enlightened.

IX. The Need to Practice in Accordance with the Way

Buddhist trainees should first take time to determine if their practice is headed towards the Way or not. Gautama Buddha was able to harmonize and control his entire body, speech, mind, and sat beneath a tree doing zazen. Upon seeing the morning star, he became enlightened, realizing the highest Way, which is far beyond that of the Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas (two vehicles). The enlightenment that the Buddha realized came from his own efforts, and has been transmitted from Buddha to Buddha without interruption to this very day. How, then, can those who have realized this enlightenment not be Buddhas? To be headed toward the Way is to know its appearance and how far it extends. The Way lies under the foot of every human. When you become one with the Way you find that it is right where you are, then realizing perfect enlightenment. If, however, you take pride in your enlightenment, even though it may feel quite deep, it will be no more than a mere partial enlightenment. These are the essential elements of being headed towards the Way.

Present-day trainees strongly desire to see supernatural things, even though do not understand how the Way functions. Who of these is not gravely mistaken? They are like a child who has a very wealthy father but forsakes him to run away from home and find riches somewhere else where they are not. Even though his father is rich, and they, as an only child, would inherit it all, they live as a beggar seeking out their own fortune in all the wrong places. This is truly the case.

To study the Way is to try to become one with it—to forget even a trace of enlightenment. Those who would practice the Way must first whole-heartedly believe in it. Those who believe in it should also believe that they have been in the Way from the very beginning—they should be subject to delusion, illusive thoughts, confused ideas, increase or decrease, and mistaken understandings. Bring into existence belief like this, clarify the Way and practice it accordingly—this is the essence of studying the Way.

The second method of Buddhist training is to cut off the function of discriminating thought and turn away from the road of intellectual understanding. This is the manner in which novices should be guided. Then they will be able to let body and mind fall away, freeing themselves from the dualistic ideas of delusion and enlightenment.

In general there are only a very few who really believe that they are in the Way. If you truly believe it, then you will naturally be able to understand how it functions, as well as the true meaning of delusion and enlightenment. Make an attempt at cutting off your discriminating thoughts; then you will have almost realized the Way.

X. The Direct Realization of the Way

There are many ways to realize enlightenment. One is to train under a true Zen master, listening to their teaching; the other is to do zazen whole-heartedly (with single-mindedness). In the former case you give full play to the discriminating mind, while in the latter, practice and enlightenment are unified. To enter the Way neither of these two methods can be dispensed with—both are necessary.

Everyone is given the same equal gift of body and mind at birth, although their actions in life inevitably vary; some being either weak or strong, some brave, and others cowards. It is through our daily actions of body and mind that we directly become enlightenment. This is known as the realization of the Way.

There is no need to change our existing body and mind, for the direct realization of the Way simply means to become enlightened through training under a true Zen master. To do this is neither to be bound by old views nor is it to create new ones; it is simply realizing the Way.


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