The Noble Eightfold Path: Direct Path for Departing from Illusory Entanglements
Question: The Taoists seems to emphasize on sitting meditation in order to cultivate the energy channels, forming the elixir, and in this way one progresses to higher levels. ** Guru also emphasizes very much that one must have enough energy before one could let the mind consciousness come out, and this is only the first step of cultivation. However the school of Zen emphasizes on directly pointing out Mind and becoming Buddha, does this leap over the process of energy channels, energy, forming the elixir? Or does this process naturally exists?
阎浮提众生，根性不同，修同一 名相法门，所修不同。为什么呢？因为对同一概念理解不同。例如，神识——有人是修神识的，那么，什么是神识？如何修？神识是一个独立的事物，还是并无真 体、仅是诸缘和合假影？神识能出能入、能来能去吗？在做有关神识的修行之前，若不先了解这些问题，那么修行将陷入不正确的作为。
1. The sentient beings of Jambudvipa (the southern continent in Indian cosmology – where we’re at) have varying root faculties. Although we may practice a single dharma door in name, what one cultivates are different. Why is this so? This is because what we understand with regards to a single concept are different. For example, mind-consciousness – some people are cultivating mind-consciousness, then, what is mind-consciousness? How do we cultivate it? Is mind-consciousness an independent thing, or is it without any real substance and purely an illusory appearance out of the coming together of various conditions? Can mind-consciousness go out and come in, can it come and go? Before cultivating anything with relation to the mind-consciousness, if we do not understand these issues, our cultivation will sink into incorrect action.
神识说白了就是意识——不管六 识七识八识，还是一二三四五识。因为我们的意识能变能现，神通无比，故称神，曰为神识。那么，如果神识就是意识，意识是修出来的吗？很显然，你修不修，它 就在那里。一切万法，不假修行，皆在彼处，法住法位。所谓修行，只是认出，认出诸法实相，解脱它对你的束缚，获取人生自由的。若你不能认识到这点，那么修 行反倒变成了缠缚。你修什么物，什么物就变成你的主，而你变成了它的奴隶；你修什么法，什么法是了你的主人，而你成了它的家奴。
The spirit-consciousness spoken plainly is the mind-consciousness – no matter whether it is the sixth consciousness, or seventh consciousness or the eighth consciousness, or the first, second, third, fourth and fifth consciousness. Because our mind-consciousness can transform and manifest, its spiritual abilities are unparalleled, therefore it is called “spirit/god/divine”, therefore it is known as “spirit/god/divine consciousness”. Therefore, if this spirit-consciousness is mind-consciousness, is the mind-consciousness something that is the result of cultivation? Very evidently, regardless of whether you are cultivating or not cultivating, it is there. All ten thousand dharmas, without contrived practices, are at that place, the dharmas abide in their dharma position. Whenever you cultivate anything, that thing becomes your master, and you become its slave; no matter what dharma you cultivate, that dharma becomes your master, and you become its family bondservant.
所以，了解事物的实相，是真正 的修行。除此之外，皆是往头脑的深处去而不是往外来；如此，你又将卷入自己头脑创造的新故事了。在故事中千修万修，即使有所境界，也是虚假，不得解脱，最 终是枉费功夫；那样，如同猫在和自己造就的影子玩一样。神识不用你修，它本在那里。它不出不入，不来不去。看起来的出入来去，皆是幻影。那“出”去的肯定 是幻象，并且连那“出”也是假象。
Therefore, understanding the truth/reality of all things, is the true/correct practice. Anything else other than this is to walk into the deep reaches of the brain (i.e. entering into discursive thoughts) and not coming out of it; thereupon, you will again be drawn into the brain’s newly created stories.
意识如同镜子，镜像于镜子怎么 能出能入呢？镜子里有像，并不是有像“飞入”了镜子；镜子中无像，也并不是像又从镜子里“飞走”了。而镜子本身，也并无来去。因此，我们的神识没有个来 去。如果你认真深观的话，你会认识到，神识并没有独立的自体，诸缘和合才有神识。因为本没有独立的神识存在，所以谈论神识来去生灭等，皆成戏论了。
Mind-consciousness is just like a mirror, how can the reflection and the mirror be able to leave or enter? When the mirror has reflections, it is not that the reflection “flew into” the mirror; when the mirror does not have reflection, it is not the case that the reflection “flew out” from the mirror. As for the mirror itself, there is also no coming nor going. Therefore, our spirit/mind-consciousness does not have a coming or going. If you seriously contemplate, you will realize that spirit/mind-consciousness does not have any independent self-substance, there is spirit/mind-consciousness only when there is the coming together of conditions. Because there is originally no existence of an independent spirit/mind-consciousness, therefore discussing the coming and going, arising and cessation of spirit/mind-consciousness is simply mental proliferation.
When I “practice” spirit/mind-consciousness, firstly it is to recognise that spirit/mind-consciousness is dependently arisen and empty in nature, secondly it is to distinguish pure consciousness from defiled consciousness, and rest in the ever undefiled pure consciousness, upon rising up in the early morning from our sleep, during walking, standing, sitting and sleeping, within that non-defilement one merges with the brilliance and becomes one with the dust. This has nothing to do with body, energy, or dantien. At the place of the body, there is no body, in the midst of energy there is no energy, only true mind is the true dantien, I have deep affinity in this.
再说说身体。我以总相智，观身 体及世间万物，不见身体及万物，只见微尘；再观之，连微尘相也不见。我们的身体，以菩萨眼观之，是由无数无量微尘、极微尘，经由无数无量缘起、再缘起和合 而成。六地以上菩萨观之，只见微尘不见身体；再以甚深眼观之，微尘相也没有，唯有空相，唯识所显。
Let’s talk about the body. When I, with the wisdom that correctly understands the essence of the universe, contemplate/observe the body and the ten thousand things in the world, I do not conceive of a body or various ten thousand things, I only see micro-dust; upon further contemplation/observing, I also stop conceiving of the appearance of micro-dust. Our body when viewed with the eye of the Bodhisattva, is the result of countless and limitless dependent arising and formed in the aggregation of dependent origination through countless and limitless micro-dusts. The view of the Bodhisattva of the sixth bhumi and above, sees only micro-dusts but does not conceive of a body; and with further deep contemplation, there is not even the micro-dusts appearance, there is only empty-appearance, appearing due to consciousness only.
If we can understand all these, we shall know what exactly are those energy channels, energy, dantien etc. Speaking from truth’s perspective, the body is ungraspable/not-obtainable, let alone the other things that arise dependent on the body? If you think the body is really existent, and therefore practice based on that body (not that you aren’t taking care of it), then after a thousand births and ten thousand lifetimes, your ordinary mind will only be mutually entwined, unable to depart from birth and death.
于之解脱修行，身体不可执，意 识不可执。为什么呢？一、从实相法上讲，它们皆无常，它们皆无我。执著无常终将败坏之物，并在其之上要这要那，必将枉费功夫；如同在沙堡上雕龙雕马，并要 使它们常住一样。执无我之体而为实有，并就此谈这论那，必如玩笑；如同讲说石女子的儿子，高矮、胖瘦、大小一样。二、你若执著那些事物，决定不能完全解 脱。
As for liberation and practice, the body cannot be grasped, mind-consciousness cannot be grasped. Why is this? 1) From the perspective of the dharma of truth, they are all impermanent, they are all empty of self. Attaching to phenomena that are impermanent and eventually coming into decline, and desiring this and that over it, is surely a waste of time and energy; just like carving dragons and horses on sandcastles and wanting them to abide permanently. Attaching to what is without substance of self as really existing, and discussing this and that, is just like playing a joke; it is just like saying the son of a barren (stone) woman is tall or short, fat or thin, big or small. 2) If you attach to those events and phenomena, you will surely not be able to be completely liberated.
If you want to practice in that way, practising body, practising spirit, cultivating mind and cultivating consciousness, that would be like the precious pearl being at the south, yet walking towards the north, in the end there will be no result. Therefore, go and realize the truth of all dharmas, that is the key point about practice.
Among all the practices and liberation, the teaching method of the Zen school is the quickest and cleanest, it is liked by many people with superior wisdom and sharp faculties. For liberating from birth and death, it is indeed a direct/straight path. The Zen school’s teaching method is often described as: “Directly pointing to Mind, realizing one’s nature and attaining Buddhahood.”
那么，禅德们所指向的人心是什么呢？所见到的性又是何物呢？以我此时见，大德们所指的人心是指“不动心”。不动心，又名“真心”、“直心”、“无心之心”、 “觉心”、“菩提心”、 “净识”、“净土”、“大圆镜智”等。为什么要认出它呢？认出它，足以出离百千万劫亿的生灭苦恼。如果有修行者能够认出它，这已经不容易了；若再能常安于它，将得到巨大的利益。但即使是这颗心，也不能执著它；执著它，仍然不能彻底出离生死。还必须进一步见性，见什么性呢？
In that case, what is the “Mind” that the virtuous people of Zen are talking about? What is the “nature” that they have realized? Based on what I know now, the Mind that great virtuous men were pointing to is “unmoving mind”. Unmoving mind, is also called “True Mind”, “Straight/Direct Mind”, “The Mind of No-Mind”, “Awareness Mind”, “Bodhi Mind”, “Pure Consciousness”, “Pure Land”, “The Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom” etc. Why should we recognise it? Recognizing it is enough to depart from the billions of kalpas of arising and ceasing suffering. If a practitioner is able to recognise it, this is already not easy; if one is further able to constantly abide in it, one will obtain enormous benefits. However even this mind should not be attached to, if we are attached to it, we will still be unable to thoroughly leave behind birth and death. One still needs to go a further step and realize one’s nature, what nature is to be realized?
Realize that all dharmas are without self-nature. If our Minds are being seen as objects similar to tables, stools, teacups etc, then it is a bodiless, gleaming and shining divine lamp. Even though recognising this divine lamp will result in enormous benefits, still it should not be attached to. This is because: 1) It is not the ultimate truth of all things, its appearance does not represent the truth of all phenomena, or in other words it is not the truth of all phenomena itself; 2) Attaching to it as having self-nature would certainly beckon upon the judge of birth and death – the void of annihilation. Therefore, this mind cannot be attached to, if there are attachments there will be suffering. When all minds are not attached to, only then can one come out of birth and death.
When a practitioner recognises this gleaming and shining true mind, it is still actually not even attaining to the fourth bhumi of the Bodhisattva (stage). It is only at the third bhumi/ground – the ground of illuminating light. (translator’s note: this is just one of the many subjective interpretations of the bodhisattva bhumis, in general the first bhumi is already said to have realized twofold emptiness, and this author also posted a different and contradictory scheme elsewhere in which the first bhumi realizes firstfold emptiness and the sixth bhumi realizes secondfold emptiness) This is because you have not touched the no-self of person/subjective self. When one reaches the fourth bhumi/ground, when one then truly realizes the no-self of person/subject, only then will one be able to let go of this true-mind. If we use a four storey building as an analogy to the Buddhist system: if you recognise that all person/subject is empty of self, you have reached the first level of the Buddha-building, if you realize that all dharmas are empty of self, you have reached the second level of the Buddha-building; if you further realize that, although all dharmas are empty they are not nothing/void, although appearing they are without any reality (nature/substance) – you are not attached to presence and absence, being in accord with conditions without obstructions, living out that understanding, then you have arrived at the third level; when you pass through these three stages, then in the next stage, you can enter the hall of the patriarchs, enter into the room of the abbot, sit on the seat of the Tathagata (Buddha), and become the great abbot of the triple worlds, men and gods.
Seeing that all dharmas are without self-nature is to realize the nature (of all things). One who is able to realize the nature, is to see the Buddha. If we can act out (actualize/live out that understanding?) of the no self-nature of all dharmas (not empty, not not-empty), that is to become a Buddha. Pointing directly to Mind, the great virtuous people are talking about presence; realizing the nature and becoming Buddha, the patriarchs are showing emptiness. Displaying emptiness and displaying presence, not skewing and not leaning, is the complete/perfect teaching of Buddha, the truth/reality is just so.
If all practitioners can correctly practice throughout the way – right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration, etc, entering directly into the room of the Tathagata (Buddha), there will surely be no doubts that one will become Buddha and attain liberation. Otherwise, if we do not (practice) “right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration” etc, one will be placed at (cling to?) the body, mind consciousness, or even energy channels, energy, dantien etc – various illusory tree branches and leaves. Then, when will there come a time for the liberation from birth and death?
If we practice the Buddha’s right view and teachings, rely on the Buddha’s noble eightfold path and act accordingly, practicing and liberation is a straight and direct path. If we do not do so, one will surely twine around (go around in bends, like a vine entwining a tree), and if one desires to leave the entanglements, vines and cages, it is not an easy thing. All those who truly wishes to be liberated, should listen to the teachings of the Buddha, make use of right view to smoke out the mind of ignorance, act according to what the Buddha said, depart from birth and death and the sea of suffering, transcending the triple worlds and six realms. That achievement can be seen/longed for, and at the end of the road is heaven, when realizing reality it is liberation.
Having been entwined for ten thousand years, liberation is in an instant, this is the true “dying while sitting or standing”. Those who can truly drop while sitting and standing, from then on there is no birth nor cessation, the lifespan is equal to the infinite-life Buddha (Amitabha), this is true without falsity. The practitioner goes to the no-self of all dharmas, quiescent Nirvana. Ceasing worldly views, all Buddhas together appear in front. (Namo Amitabha Buddha!)