Thursday, August 19, 2010

Zen Words on Words

Here's a selection of words on words from various sources including Sutras, Treatises, and koans.

Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in the Great Vehicle
(Mahayana-Sraddhotpada Shastra 大乘起信論 Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun)
Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 32, No. 1666
Chinese Translation by Paramartha
Translated to English from the Chinese by A. Gregory Wonderwheel

[I. The Two Doors of the One Mind]

The basis of the Dharma of the One Heart-Mind has two kinds of doors. How are the two stated? That which is first is the door of the Heart-Mind’s True Suchness (bhûtatathatâ). That which is second is the door of the Heart-Mind’s birth and death. Indeed, the two kinds of doors, each and entirely, fully include all things (sarvadharma). How is this meaning stated? Because it is considered that the two doors are not mutually separable.

[A. The First Door of the Heart-Mind’s True Suchness]

That which is the Heart-Mind’s True Suchness, then, is the great universal characteristic and essential Dharma Door of the One Dharma-realm (dharmadhâtu). That which is designated the Nature of the Heart-Mind is not born and does not die. There is differentiation of all the various things only by relying on deluded thinking. If one is free from deluding thinking, then one is without the whole objective realm of appearances. This is because all things have already come from the root free from the characteristics of verbal expressions, free from the characteristics of names and words, and free from the characteristics of the mind’s cognition, and in the ultimate equality they are without the transformations of existence and are unable to be destroyed. Because they are only the One Heart-Mind, they are called True Suchness. By considering all verbal expressions to be relative they are called unreal, yet because they follow deluded thinking one is unable to get it.
In that which is the true suchness of words, likewise, there are no characteristics of existence. Designating the limit of verbal expressions causes words to banish words. Here, in the embodiment of True Suchness there is no existence able to be banished, because of considering all things as completely True; likewise nothing is able to be established because of considering all things in all cases as identical with Suchness. One should know that because all things are unable to be explained and unable to be thought they are called the activity of True Suchness.

The Lankavatara Sutra
A Mahayana Text
Translated from the original Sanskrit by

Further, Mahamati said: Blessed One, is it not because of the reality of words that all things are? If not for words, Blessed One, there would be no rising of things. Hence, Blessed One, the existence of all things is by reason of the reality of words.
Said the Blessed One: Even when there are no [corresponding] objects there are words, Mahamati; for instance, the hare's horns, the tortoise's hair, a barren woman's child, etc. (105)—they are not at all visible in the world but the words are; Mahamati, they are neither entities nor nonentities but expressed in words. If, Mahamati, you say that because of the reality of words the objects are, this talk lacks in sense. Words are not known in all the Buddha-lands; words, Mahamati, are an artificial creation. In some Buddha-lands ideas are indicated by looking steadily, in others by gestures, in still others by a frown, by the movement of the eyes, by laughing, by yawning, or by the clearing of the throat, or by recollection, or by trembling. Mahamati, for instance, in the worlds of the Steady-Looking and in those of Exquisite Odours, and in the Buddha-land of Samantabhadra the Tathagata, Arhat, Fully-Enlightened One, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas by steadily looking without a wink attain the recognition of all things as unborn and also various most excellent Samadhis. For this reason, Maha- [92] mati, the validity of all things has nothing to do with the reality of words. It is observed, Mahamati, even in this world that in the kingdom of such special beings as ants, bees, etc., they carry on their work without words.

Again Mahamati said: It is said by the Blessed One that from the night of the Enlightenment till the night of the Parinirvana, the Tathagata (143) in the meantime has not uttered even a word, nor will he ever utter; for not-speaking is the Buddha's speaking. According to what deeper sense is it that not-speaking is the Buddha's speaking?
The Blessed One replied: By reason of two things of the deeper sense, Mahamati, this statement is made. What are the two things: They are the truth of self-realisation and an eternally-abiding reality. According to these two things of the deeper sense the statement is made by me. Of what deeper sense is the truth of self-realisation? What has been realised by the Tathagatas, that is my own realisation, in which there is neither decreasing nor increasing; for the realm of self-realisation is free from words and discriminations, having nothing to do with dualistic terminology.

Further, Mahamati, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva who is conversant with words and meaning observes that words are neither different nor not-different from meaning and that meaning stands in the same relation to words. If, Mahamati, meaning is different from words, it will not be made manifest by means of words; but meaning is entered into by words as things [are revealed] by a lamp. It is, Mahamati, like a man carrying a lamp to look after his property. [By means of this light] he can say: This is my property and so is kept in this place. Just so, Mahamati, by means of the lamp of words and speech originating from discrimination, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas can enter into the exalted state of self-realisation which is free from speech-discrimination.

Blue Cliff Record
Translated by A. Gregory Wonderwheel

Case 65. One Outside the Way Questions Buddha

Raised: One outside the Way questioned Buddha, “I do not question with words; I do not question without words.”
The World Honored One was respectful a long time.
The one outside the Way said in praise, “The World Honored One’s great compassion and great pity have opened my clouds of confusion and allowed me to gain entry.”
After the one outside the Way departed, Ananda questioned Buddha, “What did the one outside the Way have in the place of evidence and accordingly the words ‘gaining entry’?”
Buddha said, “Like a fine horse of the world, he sees the shadow of the whip and goes accordingly.”

Blue Cliff Record
Translated by A. Gregory Wonderwheel

Case 84 Vimalakirti Sutra’s Non-Duality

[Yuanwu’s] Appended pointer says:

Just say, does this person also possess eye(s) or not? If you are able to judge this person, then I approve that you have come to personally see the people of old.


Vimalakirti asked Manjusri, “How do those ranked as being bodhisattvas enter the Dharma gate of non-duality?”
Manju(sri) said, “So this is my idea, in everything (sarvadharma) to be without words, without explaining, without instructing, and without knowledge, and to leave aside all questions and answers, is the act of entering the Dharma gate of non-duality.”
Thereat, Manjusri asked Vimalakirti, “Each and every one of those equally ranked and myself have explained already. You who are virtuous and equally ranked explain, how do those ranked as being bodhisattvas enter the Dharma gate of non-duality?”

Xuedou said, “What did Vimala(kirti) say?”
Repeating he said, “Investigate and expose completely!”

Gateless Checkpoint
Translated by A. Gregory Wonderwheel

Case 6. The World Honored One Picks a Flower

The World Honored One a long time ago at a convocation on top of Spirit Mountain* picked up a flower and showed it to the multitude. At that time all the multitude were thus silent. Only Arya Kashyapa gave a broad smile and laughed a little.
The World Honored One said, “I possess the storehouse of the correct Dharma eye, the wonderful heart-mind of Nirvana, the formless true form, the subtle Dharma gate, not established by written words, transmitted separately outside the teaching. I hand it over and entrust these encouraging words to Kashyapa.”

Wumen says: Golden-faced Gautama acted audaciously. He shelved the good to be cheap. He hung a sheep’s head and sold dog meat. How many are ready to say this is peculiar? But supposing at that place and time the great multitude had all laughed, how could he have put forth the storehouse of the correct Dharma eye in a living transmission? If Kashyapa was not caused to laugh, how could he have put forth the storehouse of the correct Dharma eye in a living transmission? If you say the storehouse of the correct Dharma eye can be imparted, then the golden-faced old mister gives deceiving advise at the village gate. If you say it is not imparted, then verily how can it be that Kashyapa alone was approved?

The Ode says:
As the flower was picked and raised,
The python’s tail was already revealed;
When Kashyapa cracked a smile,
People and gods [devas] were collected in the net.

[* Spirit Mountain is the euphemistic name for Vulture Peak (Mt. Gridhrakuta) where the Buddha taught several important sutras including the Heart Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. In Chinese lore the vulture is sometimes called the “spirit eagle” because it eats the dead, and a sort of euphemistic tradition developed of calling the site “Spirit Mountain” instead of Spirit Eagle Mountain or Vulture Peak.]

The Platform Sutra of the Dharma Treasure of the Great Master Sixth Ancestor
Translated by A. Gregory Wonderwheel

Chapter 10 Handing Down Instructions

"In the active functioning of your own nature and in conversations with people, while outwardly in appearances separate from appearances; while inwardly in emptiness separate from emptiness. If you wholly attach to appearances (i.e., hold materialist views), then your perverted views broaden. If you wholly grasp emptiness (i.e., hold a nihilist view), then your non-illumination (ignorance) broadens.

"People who grasp emptiness have slandered the Sutras (by saying) “straight words do not use written words.” Since they say “Do not use written words” these people too are not united with (their own) speech, simply as this speech then is the appearance of written words. Again, to say, “The straight Way is not established by written words,” then this “not established” are both words and are written words. On seeing a person who explains, then immediately they slander the other’s words as being attached to written words. You who are ranked (as Dharma heirs) must know self-delusion like this is able repeatedly to slander the Buddha’s Sutras. Do not desire to slander the Sutras; the hindrances of the sin are countless.

“Sayings and Doings of Pai-chang” (Baizhang)
Translated by Thomas Cleary

You must discern the words of the complete teaching and the incomplete teaching; you must discern prohibitive words and non prohibitive 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. (p. 37)

From The Record of Linji (Lin-Chi Lu).
Translated from the Chinese by Irmgard Schloegl

"Followers of the Way, do not seek for anything in written words. You will tire your heart and inhale icy air without profit."

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