Zen practice is not clarifying conceptual distinctions, but throwing away one’s preconceived views and notions and the sacred texts and all the rest, and piercing through the layers of coverings over the spring of self behind them. All the holy ones have turned within and sought in the self, and by this went beyond all doubt. To turn within means all the twenty-four hours and in every situation, to pierce one by one through the layers covering the self, deeper and deeper, to a place which cannot be described. It is when thinking comes to an end and making distinctions ceases, when wrong views and ideas disajjpear of themselves without having to be driven forth, when without being- sought the true action and true impulse appear of themselves. It is when one can know what is the truth of the heart.
The man resolute in the way must from the beginning never lose sight of it, whether in a place of calm or in a place of strife, and he must not be clinging to quiet places and shunning those where there is disturbance. If he tries to take refuge from trouble by running to some quiet place, he will fall into dark regions.
If when he is trying to throw off delusions and discover truth, everything is a whirl of possibilities, he must cut off the thousand impulses and go straight forward, having no thought at all about good or bad; not hating the passions, he must simply make his heart pure.
Illusion is dark, satori is bright. When the light of wisdom shines, the darkness of passion suddenly becomes bright, and to an awakened one they are not two separate things.
This is the main point of meditation. But an ordinary beginner cannot mount to the treasure in one step. He moves from shallow to profound, progresses from slow to quick. When in the meditation sitting there is agitation of thought, then with that very agitated mind seek to find where the agitated thought came from, and who it is that is aware of it. In this way pressing scrutiny as to the location of the disturbance further and further to the ultimate point, you will find that the agitation does not have any original location, and that the one who is aware of it also is void, and this is called taking the search back.
If the press of delusive thoughts is very heavy, one of the koan phrases should be taken up, for instance seeing where it is that life comes from. Keep on inquiring into this again and again. An ancient has said, that while you do not yet know life, how should you know death? And if you have known life, you also know death, and then you will not be controlled by life-and-death, but will be able to rise or set as you will.
Hearing a sound, to take it simply as sound; seeing a form, to take it simply as form; how to turn the light back and control vision, and how to turn hearing within – these are the things which none of you understand. In hearing sounds as you do all day long, find out whether it is the sound which comes to the convolutions of the ear, or the ear that goes out to the location of the sound. If it is the sound which comes to the ear, there is no track of its coming; and if it is the ear that goes to the sound, there is no track of its going. The practiser of Zen should carefully go into this in his silent inquiry. In silent investigation, with great courage turn the hearing back till hearing comes to an end; purify awareness till awareness becomes empty. Then there will be a perception of things which is immediate without any check to it, and after that, even in a welter of sounds and forms you will not be swept away by them, even in a state of darkness and confusion you will be able to find a way. Such is called a man of the great freedom, one who has attained.
Whether you are going or staying or sitting or lying down, the whole world is your own self. You must find out whether the mountains, rivers, grass and forests exist in your own mind or exist outside it. Analyse the ten thousand things, dissect them minutely, and when you take this to the limit you will come to the limitless, when you search into it you come to the end of search where thinking goes no further and distinctions vanish. When you smash the citadel of doubt, then the Buddha is simply yourself.
The true nature is eternal and unchanging, and the same and equal in Buddhas and other beings. When wisdom illumines this sameness and equality, there is no appearance of ignorance. The words of the patriarchs are only a tile to knock on the gate; before entering, ‘see the nature to be Buddha’ is the ultimate word, but when inside there is no concern with any form, and ‘to be Buddha’ has no meaning.
A man of great faith, turning his gaze to before there are any indications to be distinguished, directing his will to wrhere action cannot reach, taking months and years to be at ease in it, using every means to intensify it, when the time comes finds a great laugh bursting out irresistibly, and a vastness of spirit like the great sky encompassing all. Approaching people with that in his grasp, he has an infinity of means to help them. It is called the gate of great liberation, the treasure of the great light, and he finds everywhere the opportunity to demonstrate inspired action. Right it is to call this state the void, right to call it existent, and here there is no bar to praising the Buddha or laughing at the patriarchs.
The two earholes hear sounds, and how this occurs is precisely satori; the two pupils see forms, and the heart is suddenly light. Among some old priest’s disciples up to eight thousand, if there is even one who when called individually does not turn his head, who when hit is not disconcerted, when that one comes to the state before sound is uttered, before forms have appeared, he will penetrate the high and low of it, and know how to return to where he stands.
When you set out to look for the way of the Buddhas and patriarchs, at once it changes to something that is to be sought in your self. When sight becomes no sight, you come to possess the jewel, but you have not yet fully penetrated into it. Suddenly one day everything is empty like space which has no inside or outside, no bottom or top, and you are aware of one principle (ri) pervading all the ten thousand things. You know then that your heart is so vast that it can never be measured. Johoshi says, ‘Heaven and earth and I of one root; the thousand things and I are one body.’ These words are of burning import and absolutely true.
The holy men and illumined ones who have this principle clear in them, find that past, present and future are like dream-stuff. Wealth and rank, gain and fame are all an illusion5 the mined gold and heaped-up jewels, the beautiful voices and fair forms, are illusion; joy and anger and sorrow and happiness are this illusion. But in all this illusion there is something which is not illusion. When even the universes crumble, how should that crumble? When at the end of the world cycle the universal fire blazes everywhere, how should that burn? That which is not illusion is the true being of each and every man. Every day go into the calm quiet where you really belong, face the other way and turn your gaze back; if you do this over the long years, that which is not illusion will of itself reveal itself before you. After that manifestation, wherever you stand Miroku is there, and when you turn to the left or glance to the right, it is Shakamuni everywhere.
Realization makes every place a temple $ the absolute endows all beings with the true eye. When you come to grasp it, you find it was ever before your eyes. If you can see clear what is before your very eyes, it is what fills the ten directions when you see what fills the ten directions, you find it is only what is before your eyes.
It is not, as some ancients and the Confucians taught, that you sweep away ordinary feelings and bring into existence some holy understanding. When ordinariness and holiness exist no more, how is that? An octagonal grindstone is turning in empty space; a diamond pestle grinds to dust the iron mountain.
The transcendent impulse is not from a source outside; the awareness of it is to be sought in movement and stillness both. When suddenly movement and stillness both cease to be, the vast blue ocean is dried up in one gulp.