Zen & Diamonds

The mods came down and dropped the hammer because there were no references to actual Zen texts in the original post. This is a repost under a different title. Take two.

“…coming here is just a habit.” But why tho.

It occurs to me now that it’s just what remains if you subtract everything. All gains and achievements are illusory. The fruits of such endeavors may be enjoyed for a time. But like waking up from a dream, ultimately there is not a thing to grasp, nothing whatsoever to hold on to, nothing to rely on. There is only the Dharma [of no dharma]. I come here every now and then to be a part of this timeless conversation when there is nowhere else to go. Lurking around here, seeing diligent seekers and wayfarers interacting like this in a community puts a smile on my face. I know you know that smile.

The sutras are talked about a lot around here. But I don’t see the Diamond Sutra getting much love. I would say that this text is at the top of my “best of all time” list. It is basically Buddha being Zen for thirty two pages. It can be read in less than an hour and for me, every time I read it is like the first time. There is that “something” that you can’t take away from it.

Therefore anyone who seeks total Enlightenment should discard not only all conceptions of their own selfhood, of other selves, or of a universal self, but they should also discard all notions of the non-existence of such concepts.

All that has a form is illusive and unreal. When you see that all forms are illusive and unreal, then you will begin to perceive your Buddha nature.

And yet, even as I speak, Subhuti, I must take back my words as soon as they are uttered, for there are no Buddhas and there are no teachings.

A disciple should develop a mind which is in no way dependent upon sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensory sensations, or any mental conceptions. A disciple should develop a mind which does not rely on anything.

Therefore, Subhuti, the minds of all disciples should be purified of all thoughts that relate to seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and discriminating. They should use their minds spontaneously and naturally, without being constrained by preconceived notions arising from the senses.

Subhuti, you should know that the meaning of this Sutra is beyond conception and discussion. Likewise, the fruit resulting from receiving and practicing this Sutra is beyond conception and discussion.

Okay, but how is this relevant to Zen? I call Baizhang up first.

To say that “the Buddha appears in the world and saves sentient beings” are words of the ninepart teachings; they are words of the incomplete teaching. Anger and joy, sickness and medicine, are all oneself; there is no one else. Where is there a Buddha appearing in the world? Where are there sentient beings to be saved? As the Diamond Cutter Scripture says, “In reality, there are no sentient beings who attain extinction and deliverance.”

He also said,

Only a Buddha alone is a great teacher, because there is no second person; the rest are all called outsiders, also called demons talking. Right now this is just to explain away dualism. Just do not be affected by greed for any existent or nonexistent things — when it comes to the matter of untying bonds, there are not special words or phrases to teach people. If you say that there are some particular verbal expressions to teach people, or that there is some particular doctrine to give people, this is called heresy and demon talk.

You must discern the words of the complete teaching and the incomplete teaching; you must discern prohibitive words and nonprohibitive words; you must discern living and dead words; you must discern medicine and disease words; you must discern words of negative and positive metaphor; you must discern generalizing and particularizing words.

To say that it is possible to attain Buddhahood by cultivation, that there is practice and there is realization, that this mind is enlightened, that the mind itself is identical to Buddha – this is Buddha’s teaching; these are words of the incomplete teaching. These are nonprohibitive words, generalizing words, words of a pound or ounce burden. These are words concerned with weeding out impure things; these are words of positive metaphor. These are dead words. These are words for ordinary people.

To say that one cannot attain Buddhahood by cultivation, that there is no cultivation, no realization, it is not mind, not Buddha – this is also Buddha’s teaching; these are words of the complete teaching, prohibitive words, particularizing words, words of a hundred hundredweight burden. These are words beyond the three vehicles’ teachings, words of negative metaphor or instruction, words concerned with weeding out pure things; these are words for someone of station in the Way, these are living words.

From entering the stream all the way up to the tenth and highest stage of bodhisattvahood, as long as there are verbal formulations, all belong to the defilement of the dust of the teachings. As long as there are verbal formulations, all are contained in the realm of affliction and trouble. As long as there are verbal formulations, all belong to the incomplete teaching.

The complete teaching is obeisance, the incomplete teaching is transgression – at the stage of Buddhahood there is neither obedience nor transgression, as neither the complete nor the incomplete teachings are admissible.

Again he [Baizhang] said

A Buddha is one who does not seek; seek this and you turn away. The principle is the principle of nonseeking; seek it and you lose it. If you cling to nonseeking, this is still the same as seeking; if you cling to nondoing, this is the same again as doing. Therefore the Diamond Cutter Scripture says, “Do not grasp truth, do not grasp untruth, and do not grasp that which is not untrue.” It also says, “The truth which those who realize thusness find has no reality or unreality.”

That’s all Baizhang. Here is Yunmen:

The Master asked a monk, “Are you reading the Diamond Sutra?” The monk replied, “Yes.” Quoting this scripture the Master said, “All objects (dharmas) are no-objects; just this is called “all objects”.” Then he held up his fan and said, “You call this a fan. That’s a concept. I hold it up — but where is it? What good is it to be overwhelmed by delusive thoughts from morning till night?”

One more Diamond Sutra reference for good measure:

Emperor Wu of Liang requested Mahasattva Fu to expound the Diamond Cutter Scripture. The Mahasattva shook the desk once, then got down off the seat. Emperor Wu was astonished. Master Chih asked him, “Does Your Majesty understand?” The Emperor said, “I do not understand.” Master Chih said, “The Mahasattva Fu has expounded the scripture.”

Huangbo is one whose lectures I find resonate with some of what Budda says in the Diamond Sutra. I mean literally every recorded master does at some point – which is why I thought that it was obvious that the Diamond Sutra is congruent with Zen texts. But some are more direct than others.

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

A bonus Linji just because

Someone asked “What are Buddha and devils?” The teacher said “A thought of doubt in your mind is the devil. If you actually realize that all things have no origin, that mind is like an illusory projection, there is no longer a single atom or a single phenomenon and everywhere is pure — this is Buddha. But Buddhahood and hell are two domains, purity and defilement. As I see it, there is no Buddha, there are no ordinary people, nothing ancient and nothing new. Those who get it, get it immediately, without taking time, without cultivation, without realization, without attainment, without loss. At all times there is nothing else anymore. Even if there were something beyond this, I say it is like a dream, like a projection. All I ever explain is this.

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The mods came down and dropped the hammer because there were no references to actual Zen texts in the original post. This is a repost under a different title. Take two. “…coming here is just a habit.” But why tho. It occurs to me now that it’s just what remains if you subtract everything. All…

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