Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Updated translation of Bodhidharma's Outline

Here's my recently updated translation of Bothidharma's Outline for Discerning the Mahayana and Entering the Way which is the document that is considered to be the most likely extant written example of Bodhidharma's teaching.  Bodhiharma was The Twenty-Eighth Ancestral Founder of the  Ekayana Lineage of Southern India and The First Ancestral Founder of the Zen Lineage of China.
Great Master Bodhidharma’s Outline
For Discerning the Mahayana and Entering the Way
By Four Practices and Contemplation

By Bodhidharma, (d. circa 532)

Translated by Gregory Wonderwheel ©  2008/2012

            Man enters the Way by many roads. But in summary we speak of not going beyond two kinds of cultivating. The first is entering by principle.  The second is entering by practice.

            That which is "entering by principle" designates reliance on the lineage of awakening to bear profound faith that the one true nature of beings is the same.  However, as a traveler is concealed in the dusts of delusion, it has been unable to manifest.  Even so, if one renounces the false, returns to the true, firmly abides in wall contemplation--without self and without other, with the ordinary and the sacred one and the same--solidly abides in the immovable, and furthermore, does not depend on written teachings, then one immediately takes part in a deep accord with principle without having discriminations. Being peaceful in this way is non-doing (wuwei) and has the name of "entering by principle."

            "Entering by practice" designates four practices, and of those remaining various practices, in all cases one enters within these [four]. What are the four classes?  First, the practice of retribution for wrongs. Second, the practice of according with conditioned causes. Third, the practice of nothing to seek.  Fourth, the practice of corresponding to Dharma.  What can be said?

            “The practice of retribution for wrongs” designates a person who is practicing cultivating the Way. If at the time of receiving suffering, we face ourselves and recall the words, “I’ve gone through past innumerable aeons (kalpas) abandoning the root and following the tips, existing in the various currents and waves, hating the many arising wrongs, and disregarding harms without limit.   Now, although I'm without offenses, indeed my former misfortunes have ripened as the fruit of evil karma, and neither heavenly beings (devas) nor humans are actually able to see where they are given out.  With a willing mind I willingly receive it, all without complaint of wrongs.”  A Sutra says, “On running into suffering do not grieve,"  Because how can you use it?  Because consciousness transcends it.  At the time this is born in the mind you take part in agreement with principle. In their essence, wrongs are progress in the Way. Therefore I articulate the words, "the practice of retribution for wrongs”

            Second, is that which is "the practice of according with conditioned causes."   The multitude of beings are without self and are unified with the karma of the conditioned causes that turn them.  Suffering and joy are received together, and in every case follow the conditioned causes of beings.  If we are able to win the rewards of honor and rank in affairs, it is our previous left over causes that are perceived.  Now in this manner the gains of our conditioned causes are exhausted, and there is no going back.  What then do we have of happiness?  While gain and loss follow conditioned causes, the mind is without increase or decrease.  The winds of joy do not stir the deep smooth flowing in the Way.   This is therefore the articulation of the words "the practice of according with conditioned causes."

            Third, is that which is "the practice of nothing to seek."  Worldly people, so long in confusion, desire attachments everywhere. It goes by the name of seeking.  Someone who is wise awakens to the truth, and principle will then flip-flop with the customary.  With the non-doing of the tranquil mind, forms follow the turns of fortune.  The myriad existences are thus empty, and the resolve for nothing is joy. Virtuous merit and darkness always follow and chase each other. As long dwelling in the Three Realms is like a house on fire, having a body in all cases is suffering. Who gains peace accordingly?  Completely reaching this point one therefore renounces the various existences and stops conceptualizations to have nothing to seek.  The sutra says, "If there is seeking, everyone suffers. If there is no seeking, then joy."  To discern and comprehend without seeking is a true act of the practice of the Way.  Therefore the words, "the practice of nothing to seek."

            Fourth, is that which is "the practice of corresponding to Dharma."  The Dharma is the activity of seeing the principle of the purity of the nature.  By this principle the multitude of characteristics are thus empty, without taint, without attachment, without this, and without that. The sutra says, “In the Dharma there is no multitude of beings, because it is free from the defilements of the multitude of beings.  In the Dharma there is no existing self, because it is free from the defilements of a self."  If those who are wise are able to have faith in and expound this principle, then they are necessarily corresponding to Dharma and practicing accordingly.  In the essence of the Dharma there is no stinginess. By the almsgiving (dana) charity of the practice of body, life, and wealth the mind is without parsimony, and one escapes and releases the three-fold emptiness [of giver, gift, and receiver].  When one is not dependent and is not attached,  and only acts to leave defilements, one corresponds to converting the multitude of beings yet does not grasp at appearances. This is practicing for oneself to repeatedly be able to benefit others, and likewise be able to dignify the Way of Enlightenment.  Since [the Paramita of] Almsgiving (dana) is like this,  the remaining Five [Paramitas] are likewise just so.  For eliminating delusions, one cultivates and practices the Six Paramitas, yet nothing is practiced.  This is doing "the practice of corresponding to Dharma."

The end of Great Master Dharma's "Four Practices and Contemplation"

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Booth At The End Is Back

The Booth At The End Is Back

The Booth At The End is absolutely my favorite telecommunications drama. It is not on television but on the internet at Hulu.com.  This is the second season and I said in the first season that it is a combination of “My Dinner With Andre” and “The Twilight Zone.”  So you should get the message that what makes this show so great is not the flash bang of explosions or the titillation of sexual suggestion. No, this is scriptwriting for the intellect and imagination at its best. 

The action sequences consist of people walking into a diner and sitting down at the booth at the end in order to make a deal with the man sitting there with the mysterious book.  The drama is entirely played out at the booth in two dimensions. First, there is the seeker who wants something and is willing to make a deal to get it and that person’s interaction at the booth with the man with the book.  He asks what they want and they tell him. On the principle of being careful about what you ask for because you just might get it, the man at the booth then asks follow-up questions, sometimes hinting and sometimes stating directly, that it would be a good idea to be specific about what it is they exactly want to get from the deal.  He then looks into the book and it tells him what the deal is in exchange for what the seeker wants, that is, it states what the seeker must do in order to get what they want.  There are no external moral commandments involved here.  If you want this, then you must do that.  Sometimes what the person must do seems to be relatively easy, but more often it is something that directly challenges their self-image and their own moral identity.

The second dimension of drama comes from the part of “the deal” that requires the seeker to return to the booth and give updates on how they are progressing toward fulfilling their part of the bargain.  We then get to hear the story of what is happening away from the booth, but we are still at the booth.  Also, this is when we get to see how the deal is affecting the seeker in unanticipated ways.  Sometimes the seeker realizes that they made a bad deal, and if so, they are free to walk away from it. The man in the booth simply says if they do what is asked then they will get what they said they wanted, and if they don’t do it, then there is no guarantee, but perhaps they may still get what they want from some other source or avenue, but not from the deal. 
So the great mystery is who is the man at the booth and what is the book?  In the first season we had very few clues.  But the story is enigmatic enough for everyone to fill the void of the unknown with our own imagination. For example, some people may think he is the devil while others may think he is an angel. For me, the mysterious book is all about karma. The book tells us what actions we can take that will definitely get us what we want. But the morality of the whole deal is not about what actions we must take as much as about what it is we want and why. 
One of the pleasures of the series is in seeing how some of the deals fit together.  One woman is told that to be able to learn unconditional love she has to disappear without a trace for three weeks. Then two boys are told that in order to get the absent father to show his love for one of the boys that they must find someone who is missing.  Of course after looking for an appropriate missing person to find and passing over some candidates, the two boys hear about the missing woman.  Will they find her?
If you like what are conventionally called cerebral dramas with a metaphysical context about the deepest issues of life and death, then you should love The Booth At The End.

The first episode of season one is titled “Start. See what happens.” and may be viewed at Hulu at http://www.hulu.com/watch/257155#x-0,vepisode,1,0


Friday, August 24, 2012

Who Determines What Buddha Dharma Is?

A person asked, "Who determines what Buddha Dharma is?

I responded:

As Donovan sang the haiku:

"The lock upon my garden gate,
a snail,
that's what it is."

A person then asked

So if everyone can determine what Buddhism is ... then how do we know which is the real one??
They can contradict each other even when they are trying to say the same thing.
Can a layman give advice on meditation? Or should it be a respected teacher?
Would the advice be the same or would it be so vastly different??
Who do we trust for the correct information??

This is a great question.  Now I ask, how can you tell whether the lock on the gate is a lock or a snail? You have to see, touch, work the function of the lock, etc.   This is not as simple as it may seem.  If one thinks this is a  simple matter theo one is missing the profound meaning of Zen.

We've gone over this question many times, and will continue to do so in the next 2500 years of Zen. Why? Because the interplay of delusion and awakening is unborn and undying.

So, is it a lock or a snail? 

Wŏnhyo (元曉 617-686) was the great Korean master who espoused and popularized the Buddhist ecumenical syncretism of the Ekayana (One Vehicle) based primarily on the [i]Flower Garland Sutra [/i](Avatamsaka, Huayan) and the [i]Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana[/i].  As the legend of Wonhyo's great awakening goes, it came when he was traveling from Korea to China to meet with the great masters of the Tang to ask exactly this sort of question about determining the basis of Buddha Dharma.  He specifically wanted to study the new translations by Xuanzang of the Yogacara sutras and shastras.  When he and his close friend and travelling companion arrived at the seaport they discovered their ship had been delayed by bad weather and they themselves had no place to stay as the storm was hitting the town. They found a cave in the dark and got out of the rain but became very thirsty. They groped in the dark and discovered gourd bowls filling with rainwater. They drank and their thirst was greatfully quenched and they slept peacefully. However, in the light of morning they discovered they had slept in a roadside tomb and that their bowls were actually skull caps and what they took for fresh rain water was the water collected in the skulls that still had bits of brain and flesh attached. Due to the storm they had to stay there a second night and again became thirsty.  Remembering his thirst quenched from the night before, Wonhyo attempted to drink from the same bowl but this time he reched in the attempt, and his sleep was disturbed by ghosts and nightmares.  As he pondered the difference between the two nights' experiences he had a great awakening to the meaning of mind-only (心量) knew the answer to the question "Who determines what is Buddha Dharma?"  Wonhyo composed a comemorative verse:


My translation:
“Because of the birth of mind,  every kind of thing is born;,
because of the extinguishing of mind, a shrine room and a tomb are not two.”

[There are several puns here in addition to describing his experience: first, the word 龕 for “shrine-room” or “stupa room” has the secondary meaning “to win, be victorious,” so “winning and the tomb (i.e., losing in death)” are not two; second the shrine-room when it is a stupa room is a place for the veneration of Buddha reclics and the regular tomb is the place for the corpses of common people, thus the meaning that the resting place of the Buddha and of common people are not two, i.e., the inherent nature of Buddhas and common people are not two.]

After this awakening, Wonhyo decided he no longer needed to vist "the Great Tang" and he returned home.

Likewise, the lock and the snail are not two.

Here's another story in the same vein:

Once there was a monk who specialized in the Buddhist precepts, and he kept to them all his life. Once when he was walking at night, he stepped on something. It made a squishing sound, and he imagined he had stepped on an egg-bearing frog. This caused him no end of alarm and regret, in view of the Buddhist precept against taking life, and when he finally went to sleep that night he dreamed that hundreds of frogs came demanding his life. The monk was terribly upset, but when morning came he looked and found that what he stepped on was a overripe eggplant. At that moment his feeling of uncertainty suddenly stopped, and for the first time he realized the meaning of the saying that there is no objective world. Then he finally knew how to practice Zen.
~ From the book: Zen Essence

The deeper we identify with the question, the more certain it is that no amount of thinking will resolve this question.  Only a direct experience that shows us the actual living meaning of the Diamond Sutra's admonition to "see all the world as a dream" and the Lankavatara Sutra's teaching that "everything is a discrimination of mind" can resolve this question to our heart's satisfaction.