Buddha's Enlightenment


This important discovery kept him on the direct path toward genuine religious training. He concluded that being "taken in," or deceived by the eyes and ears, the mind cannot then make the clear distinction between the reality of the present moment and the cognitive, conceptional world of the intellect. This identified why his religious investigation had come to an impasse.

He soliloquized:

Is there anything not real? If so, show me. How can you show what doesn't exist?! Moreover, reality is the present moment. It cannot be found outside of the utter present. And if this is so, then it must be that conceptional words, reasoning, imaginations and such, don't exist; or rather, they are adulterated, sullied forms, illegitimate interventions. If this untainted world of the present moment is grounded, it should likewise effect the working of the mind because reality is the present moment; and mind is its operation at that moment. Then, reaction to stimulation of the six senses is instinctive and impulsive, free of any manipulative chain of relationships. And the six senses momentarily arise as sense objects, then are finished. All things arise instantaneously. This in itself is proof of their total independence. Suffering simply arises because of entangling elements of some kind; the mind isn't dwelling completely in the moment, and is not the pure mind. Not knowing the true world of utterly dwelling in the moment, the happenings of the mind are temporary imaginings.

The real, perfect world of the present moment is the realm of eternity! What, then, is the present moment? It is the total existence of the cosmos, as it is. It is also the functioning of the senses, as they are. But if one acknowledges this fact, conceptional thought arises and that untainted world will be lost. So even acknowledging or recognizing this reality, the truth is lost. I see, here is the true world of the present moment. And if I don't immediately begin cultivating the habit of keeping the present moment always right in front of me, I'll never grasp the world of the present moment. What obstructs us is habitual thinking. We must endeavor to soon realize this and quickly get rid of the habit. Completely ridding ourselves of this habit should clarify the world of the present moment. It seems there's no other reality than this; and outside reality, nothing exists. For sure, the fact is that right now I'm thinking. But by the time I perceive this reality, the moment and the reality are already over. This means the mental function that recognizes reality cognition itself is also a hindrance. So we must utterly throw away knowing.

Finally, now I understand how to proceed: cut off and throw away everything that arises. Throw away utterly everything, even throwing away itself. Accomplishing this, everything from the past will be cut off and the present moment, now, will become clear. Then everything arising in the mind will be clear. All of my suffering and doubts can be resolved in the present moment.

This miraculous methodology of practical application was established in deep consideration based on constant observation, personal experience, and trial-and-error. It could never have been merely something he hit upon. It probably required two or three years. He was now able to proceed without doubt to thoroughly observe and polish his practice. Accordingly, this solidified his resolve and strengthened his confidence in genuine, pragmatic religious endeavor.

This is when the struggle began. In the coming days it was solely a battle with arising miscellaneous thoughts. The struggle is the same for anyone trying to continuously dwell in the present moment without the gap. But because he was Shakyamuni, his was no common endeavor or disposition; it was no ordinary doubt that gripped him. Naturally he poured his entire being into it. Acquired habits become forms that make up our nature. So when we lose the present moment, we lose sight of ourselves. The fierceness of transience washes away all.

The real world is this concrete world itself. It is a wondrous, baffling world entwined in infinite time and potential (causal conditions). Its true form is always as it is now. There's nothing other than that. One tries to keep and protect the present self, not being carried off by thoughts and passions. But it is really impossible to do before personally experiencing that world outside of self-consciousness previous to cognition. At first Shakyamuni was just like you and I are, always losing sight of himself, his present self.

Before long, the form and figure of random thoughts became clear to him, and he began to see the meaning of discarding them. He became able to arrest conceptional thinking and diffused, scattered thoughts. And his absentminded inattentiveness and ineptitude diminished. In other words, it started to be possible for him to view his mental workings like they were projected on a screen. In that alone, he was able to quickly and clearly recognize when he lost view of his condition in the present moment. Day and night he was fighting random, worldly thoughts and endeavored to return to the present moment whenever he lost himself. Just knowing what it was exactly that he was struggling against meant that he was able to cleanly discard it.

The result of his lengthy efforts was the ability to more quickly become aware of random thinking. And soon he could discern the instant the mind engaged, and even the commencement of the act of discarding itself. At long last, he was able to instantly cut off any activity of the mind as soon as it appeared.

His practice became so much easier and increasingly intriguing when he realized that he could at his willing discard and overcome the conceptualization and the scattered, diffused thinking that had been plaguing him. He was now able to take a deep breath in comfort. He now knew the serenity of his existence and sensed its preciousness and nobleness. I should say, he remembers some of the heart's joys. He had finally been released from the lifelong curse of suffering.

What happened was he understood the world of the very present, this very moment, before conceptualization begins, where nothing arises. It is the world of empty space where nothing exists. Because there is no gap, there is no opening for habits and scattered thinking to arise. He realized it was a world free of calamity. It was our original nature. It is the beginning instant of mind, where the mind functions. And he had the decisive realization that since there is nothing, there is nothing to do. He arrived at the revelation that perceiving a self actively participating in an action was the functioning ego itself. He knew things that exist are simply appearances in nature due to cause and effect. It amazed him. Forms and sounds appear to the eyes and ears. They have neither significance nor reason nor cause. They nobly, simply, utterly appear, as they are. It is their form and appearance before ego arises. He clearly understood the true form of nature, and the natural form of things.

He was finally able to distinguish between reality, or truth, and the world of thought; that it is was possible to detach the objectivity of the phenomenal, concrete world from the internal world of conception and sentiment. Being capable of doing this, he discovered that being able to leave random thoughts alone, not to recognize or get involved with them, the subsequent or following moment or instant would neatly extinguish, or lapse. Since he saw that conceptualization was nothing more than an instantaneous working, arising random thoughts no longer became a problem to him. Seng-ts'an, the Third Chinese Patriarch said, "Don't seek Truth; just simply give up opinions." And Yoka Daishi, a disciple of the Sixth Chinese Patriarch, admonished, "Without seeking Truth, get ride of delusive thinking." Arrive at the point where you can leave everything alone as it is, without turning to conception or sentiment. In the end, the natural conclusion lies at the source of conception and sentiment: the immovable world of the present moment. This is why this thesis was written, to be put into practice.

Truly the one who resolved this unexplored world of the mind and thoroughly investigated this decisive method was indeed Shakyamuni Buddha.

However, this was not the conclusion. Exhausting his efforts he was able to purify and simplify the mind. But beneath his effort still remained an ever-thin layer of the mind. Consequently, becoming negligent he was capable of losing himself. The accumulation of cultivated habits giving rise to the gap which is the source of delusion was soberly still alive. This Buddha-to-be, who harshly experienced and observed this fact to later thoroughly comprehend it, was not to be satisfied by a shallow understanding of it. Without an outright grasp of this, there would have been neither a Shakyamuni Buddha nor the Buddhadharma [the teaching of Buddha]. He was convinced as a result of personal experience and observation that he had reached the secret of religious practice: if you just completely discard everything arising in the mind, there you will find salvation and the fundamental resolution.

From then on, he increasingly forgot about food and sleep. Everyday he was absorbed only in throwing away everything. Regardless of good or bad, he discarded everything by utterly disregarding it. Or, rather, he constantly persevered to completely ignore everything. Random thoughts will exhaust themselves and die; consequently, he solely absorbed himself in leaving them alone. He managed to get to where sensation almost ceased. His face was totally without expression.

What the world calls "tranquility" is where the senses have become quiet. Then intellectual functioning naturally becomes still, and one's responses become extremely slow. One's condition becomes quiet and stately. Any number of people have experienced this. The result is that one can see himself exceedingly clearly. And, at the same time, one experiences the deep serenity of mind and body assimilating, becoming one. He, too, actually experienced this.

But that kind of tranquility is completely different. The makeup of the mind itself changes completely. Throwing away means unity and one-dimensionality. Utterly throwing away everything means becoming like a baby. It is the world before the mind takes shape. How difficult it is for a clever person to become a fool, an idiot. Those who have tried soon understand. It is awful hard. The phenomenon of conceptionalizing stimulates one thought after another. Breaking this chain and discarding it means cutting this invisible, incredible fast linking of thoughts. Furthermore, if one doesn't continue doing this until the adversary exhausts or consumes itself, the result will not be attained.

Explaining religious practice, or shugyo, one boldly speaks about conceptional and mental phenomenon of the mind in constricting technological and scientific terms. But if you are earnestly endeavoring, at first it is like doing martial arts. Discarding random thinking is like fighting a ghost that steals your presence of mind. At first, in the fight to remove the gap it is so insufferable that you think you may go mad. After a while, it becomes unnecessary to use any strength of your own at all. This is real strength and is where religious practice is conducted. Without relying on the power of the self, it is then possible to simply become the thing itself.

Before long, one comes to realize what the world of emptiness is and gradually learns to preserve that world, not falling into an opening where thought can arise. Body and mind begin to settle into one. Time is no longer long or short. Serenely, one simply, solely does Zazen. No longer does the gap exist. Once you have reached this far, there is nothing left to maintain or preserve. One's body immediately takes on a sense of transparency, purity, and lightness. All of one's own actions are rich and clear without assuming the least bit of significance. And one notices his awareness of this is continuous. Having vividly grasped all mental phenomenon, both mind and body are settled within the field of the intellect. One is not willfully set adrift.

Shakyamuni utterly became his senses and perception, but even his awareness of this fact disappeared because he had become one with his circumstances. Walking, sitting, eating, or sleeping, whatever affairs he was involved in no longer concerned him. He was able to simply, solely, just do things. His senses and perception had taken over his ego-self, and nothing was left of his personal self. In other words, seeing and hearing began and ended with the simple activity itself. He had almost come to the utter end of his investigation.

The effort needed to engage or raise mental phenomenon was vanishing. He was escaping from the world of attained knowledge and information, a world where words and concepts merge to form thought. He was becoming intimate with the source, the world of the present moment, separating from the concerns of a consciousness confined by the past. It was a dropping off process. The ego-self was dispersing, and all concerns were disappearing.

Zen Master Hakuin said that if one reaches this point, "Having ripped away both heaven and earth undoubtedly is Great Enlightenment." Hakuin's words ring true.

The result of long years of investigation resulted in oneness with nature, the universe. Shakyamuni completely forgot the self, became utterly captivated by the universe. Absolutely everything disappeared, vanished. Removing the gap, everyone, likewise, becomes such. In the state transcending both space and time, one loses all track of time.

Having forgotten and separated from both mind and body, naturally he transcended all perception. When mind and body have fallen away and nothing remains, an arising sound simply transilluminates the body with nothing remaining. If the eye picks up form or color, there is no viewer to deal with it; and no subsequent function operates. The borderline between consciousness and reality is clearly established. Or, rather, it is the function or operation of utterly casting off [everything].

Zen Master Dogen used the word non-thinking. It means that one's condition will never again be scattered or left adrift in thought, conceptualization, or consciousness. This message is called "mind-and-body dropped off," "no-self," "nothingness," or "emptiness." It is complete, or true emptiness. The expression "In selflessness, there is no room for the self to arise" is the power of those who have given personal testament of the real world. It is not a formula based on theory. Samadhi is imperceivable. Such things as time, of course, do not exist. Shakyamuni became utterly pure function and was absorbed right into the center of the cosmos. Shakyamuni, the man, altogether died.

But Shakyamuni in his present state was just like a dead-wood tree, like the rocks or clouds. Of course, this is the state of having forgotten the ego. And one time this state must be plunged into, or the habitual mind cannot be discarded. From within the gap where thought centered on personal opinion arises, one is dazzled by the truth of "the twirling flower and a smile." This falling indicates the final goal hasn't been reached. The purpose of shugyo is to discard the habitual mind. It is for this reason we do Zazen

In the still of early-morning Zazen he slowly opened his eyes, and the morning star entered his sight. At that instant, due to the condition of, or link provided by seeing the star, Shakyamuni returned to the True Self. The gap had dissolved and dropped away. Dying the Great Death, he was reborn with Great Life. "Eureka! Eureka!" he exclaimed. His momentous Great Doubt had in that instant been completely clarified. How clear was the world of truth! "Everything has always been fine just the way it is. There never was any problem."

He suffered the pain of throwing away his castle, wife, honor, and fortune, all the precious things of the regular world and the agony of his Great Doubt. Then through perseverance and diligence he resolved everything.

It was like he had just awakened from a dream. He exclaimed: "All beings, sentient and insentient, together attain the Way." "Mountains, rivers, the grasses, and trees: all realize buddha." "All things are originally gifted with their full endowment and true nature." The sound of his voice pierced to the bottom of hell through the bowels of demons and spirits alike. And it illuminated the three realms of existence, past, present, and future.

This was all due the link, or connection provided by seeing the morning star. It was the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha and the advent of the "Age of the Buddhadharma." It proclaimed the message of Enlightenment and the appearance of the Dharma. On the eighth of December some 2500 years ago the morning star started to shine through the morning fog. Truly a precious and noble event.

The grandeur of the faculty and function, as they are, of nature and the cosmos became apparent for the first time. Confirming the mysterious true nature of the universe, you realize that this supposed ego, or the existence of a self, was but a phantom; that nothing exists outside the functional relationships of nature; and that these, too, are constantly undergoing constant change and have no fixed form or their own, i.e., existing, without existing. This realm is the realization that only constant change exists. Things simply, momentarily take form at that point in space and time, then immediately vanish.

Because it is a functional relationship, no distinction exists between subject and object. The inevitable appearance of self and other (other people or things) is natural; this is due to the manifold differences in the circumstances or conditions under which things arise or take shape. There is nothing more to the self-and-other relationship. Things arise due to cause-and-effect: neither self nor other have any fixed- or self-nature. All else is nothing short of the realm of imagination. Once you have removed the gap or interval, this becomes clear. If the gap is not disposed of, this is impossible to understand. It is the same as a cicada, who for the first time can freely navigate the heavens only after shedding his shell. The shell is only a single layer, but the difference is as great as heaven and earth. Shakyamuni danced around in delight and shouted in jubilation. You can sense the freedom he experienced.

Through personal experience one testifies to discarding the gap. This is the message of the Dharma, and its lifeblood. Removing delusion and realizing Great Enlightenment is to clarify the border between: past and present; dream and reality; and function (reality) and conception (pretense). Realizing each moment is perfect and complete is clarifying these borders. This is enlightenment.

Because we don't understand the truth, we are confused by the fixed perception of concepts and definitions of such things as existence and non-existence, which then raises in consciousness the relative world of self-and-other. One discovers that these are nothing more than imagined constructs of the intellect. Removing the gap clarifies the world of self-and-other as one, not separate. When one acknowledges the existence of something, a subject-object point of view already arises. Shakyamuni realized this was an illusion of the intellect and sentiment arising due to the gap; and removing the gap, perfect peace would be found in its place.

Why did Shakyamuni suffer so greatly while living in his palace? Because of his unsurpassed intellect and sensitivity. He possessed great insight and judgement, and had a wonderful imagination which amplified his negative emotions and feelings to the extreme. But this was a necessary condition for the man who made 8000 voyages to the regular world to resolve the Great Doubt.

Gay dancing may look beautiful, feel wonderful and refreshing, and seem most satisfying. But Shakyamuni was different. He would think of the lives of those dancing, their birth and death. And he thought how such beautiful women would eventually grow old, bent, wrinkled, and willful. The image of death is most unpleasant. It was no mystery that he felt the futility of uncertainty, dread, and oppression. He had held a deep-seated doubt about the phenomenal world, and suffered for it because it actually is the real world. His intention was never to rid himself of the problem by diluting it, or by distracting himself. He met the problem head on and resolved his doubt at the source of his suffering.

Animals haven't the slightest concept of death: the intellectual capacity doesn't exist. They simply live according to circumstances. Their lives are exceedingly simple and frank; in the province of Nature not even peace exists. The only reason for wars and suffering is because man is tossed about by his intellect and senses. As long as man can't recognize his stupidity, the intellect doesn't sublimate in wisdom. All people are endowed with the same faculties and functions. It is a waste if we don't awaken to taste this wisdom for ourselves. If Shakyamuni had faced his problem frankly without reasoning or logic he would never have needlessly anguished. When he was absolved of the cursed gap, at the same time the mechanism of suffering was also clarified. He would no longer suffer again. We all owe a great debt of gratitude to the light of the world where ultimate peace can be found.

When he utterly discarded the perception or acknowledgement of a personal self, he realized he himself had always been one with nature, with truth; and his nature was, from the start, nature's form. "The same origin as the universe; one with all creation." In the natural order of things: there are no concerns or attachments; no good or bad; no self or other; and no delusion or enlightenment. Shakyamuni gave unshakable proof that all things manifested, fell away, and perished within the fundament of the present moment.

One time he utterly died and, becoming like a deadwood tree or rock, was resurrected to the world transcending ego/self. A deadwood tree or a rock is nature itself. This is the framework and fabric of spiritual salvation which transcends all attachments to self and other. Because of its faculty and function, naturally its character is completely different. This is the profound and precious reason for his Great Awakening. If anyone should doubt this, let it be known that doubt is due personal ignorance and blindness. Whether a monk or lay person, one's entire daily life is merely pure and simple function, as it is. It cannot be grasped nor perceived.

The Seal of Mind, born of six years of sitting under the Bodhi tree, is the message of forgetting the ego/self. "Dying the Great Death, being Reborn with Great Vitality." This has been since long ago the purpose of zazen practice. As Zen Master Dogen exclaimed:

Everyone is fully endowed with the Dharma. But without shugyo, it does not manifest; without actual proof, it does not become your own.

Another master of old said: Practice is real practice. Awakening is real awakening.

In this way, the Mind Seal has been passed down. It has been through the mind that seeks the Way and proper sitting.

Shakyamuni Buddha's raising the lotus flower was so clear and concise that Makakasho merely smiled. That was all he could do, it was so apparent. Practically speaking, it was simply a smile of understanding, consent, and admiration. Then, why did Shakyamuni pick up and display the flower? why did it have to be a flower? and, how did that become the circumstances or connection to Great Enlightenment?

In ancient China a great teacher, Gutei, lived who had truly removed all hindrances of the mind. When a seeker of the Way would inquire about the way, he would only raise his finger. No matter what the question might be, his one and only reply was his raised finger. Another renowned Chinese Buddha, Joshu, would reply, "The oak tree in the field." There happened to be an oak tree in the garden that he replied, that is it. Zen Master Ummon would say, "A shit stick." And Te Shan's reply was to dish out thirty blows with his rod.

There was no great meaning in Shakyamuni's action. In order to make sure of frankness or apparentness, just exhibit frankness as it is. There happened to be a flower at hand that by chance he raised it. It was the same with Ummon's Shit Stick and Gutei's holding up a finger. The words themselves Ummon dangled from his mouth was frankness itself. There was no meaning in the word itself. Thirty blows is thirty blows; the reality of the pain is frankness itself. There was nothing more or less to it. It was the thing itself. One can only clarify frankness by removing the gap. This is why "twirling the flower and a smile" is the ultimate link for enlightenment to happen.

Mahakasyapa had already cultivated or mastered the gap where the habitual mind arises, becoming a man of the Way. And he consented to and assimilated with Shakyamuni's frankness as it was. Shakyamuni was already aware of this and was delighted. Far from being uncertain and unclear, the message of frankness is absolute and total. Internalized evidence becomes an extremely objective reality. But a person who doesn't know this world or domain is not in possession of this objectivity or reality. He doesn't even see that it is outside the realm of understanding.

In short, nothing special was transmitted. Shakyamuni only wanted to convey that this great matter, the Dharma, is a realization based on actual experience of clarifying everything by resolving the gap whereby all things dissolve away. Buddhism is transmitted through the actual evidence of personally experiencing the emptiness of all things. In this way, the Mind of Buddha, as it is, is conveyed.

It was necessary for Shakyamuni to establish in a dignified way for all to see the existence of Mahakasyapa as truly a man who has attained the Way.

My eye and treasure of the True Law is the awakening of the mysterious mind. True form is without form: This is the subtle entrance to the Dharma. Independent of words and letters, it is transmitted outside the scriptures. It now belongs to Mahakasyapa.

Thus was testimony given and a heir established.

Zazen practitioners should feel the gravity of this transmission and truly practice to remove the gap. Without reawakening the mind of Mahakasyapa, we cannot be considered children of the Dharma. This should be the goal of religious practice. Becoming a person of the Way, we should then illuminate the path leading to a healthy, wholesome world and happiness for all mankind. This is truly called showing gratitude to the buddhas and patriarchs.

Is the plenitude we are experiencing today really a blessing? or tragedy? The outcome will be decided in the hearts of each one of us.

[The word "frankness" I've used often in this text. Other than how it is described above, no other meaning can be given to it. It is it itself pure, without additives. This is the world of buddha and the Buddhadharma (Law). It is by nature the resolution and the gap removed. The message of Nirvana is call frankness.]




Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.