Buddha's Enlightenment



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What Shakyamuni expounded that day of Vulture Peak Mountain was testimony of the Mind Seal. Ananda became Mahakasyapa's heir, and the lineage of the single transmission spread across 28 generations to the 28th Indian patriarch, Bodhidharma, who crossing over to China became the first patriarch there.

Bodhidharma was the third son of a king in what now is India. His teacher was Hannyatara. Outshining his teacher's Mind Seal, he set out for China at his teacher's request because there was fear that the True Dharma would parish in India since few people were truly seeking the mind of the Greater Vehicle [What was the reason for this? simply because of the greatness of the Dharma]. If the Dharma were to perish, people would no longer know the path to salvation. He arrived in Koshu, a part of China, three years after leaving India by boat. It is said that it was a difficult journey. He was already over 120 years old when he arrived in China about 1500 years ago.

In China, Buddhist temples had already been established throughout the country, and intellectual Buddhism (Buddhist thought and culture) was at its height. The mechanical explanation of Buddhism was well understood, but the real thing had not yet arrived. It had been rumored that a true man of the Dharma (in the name of Bodhidharma) had come. It probably would have been possible to form a large religious order in very little time.

Bodhidharma was invited to the castle of the emperor Butei, who called himself "Emperor of the Buddha-mind." But Bodhidharma, seeing that Butei was but an ordinary man in relation to the Dharma, fled the castle. [This was for the sake of the Dharma.] He then entered Shorin-ji, where he found the largest gathering of brillant minds and a center of Buddhist research and sutra translation.


"The Buddhadharma cannot be found in words. If an exceptional person does not appear, the Dharma cannot be transmitted. This is how it is conveyed." Because he had actually become such a person, Bodhidharma knew how rare the person who could accept the Dharma directly into his heart. He himself sat for nine years facing a wall, only sitting. Dropping off body and mind, both delusion and enlightenment had disappeared. When people came to hear Bodhidharma's teaching, for those dependent on words and letters he offered nothing to hold on to.

Finally a man of the Dharma had appeared in China after many years of futility. It was the man who sat facing a wall for nine years. It was the outset of winter. Even being beseeched, he sat immovable, just doing Zazen forgetting even Zazen itself.


His champion was standing outside waiting. He was a Confucianist scholar, a prodigy who had mastered the theory of the Dharma, who only wanted to received the teaching from Bodhidharma. The sun set and it became cold. It started to snow. The final ordeal had come. In the middle of the snow, he stood unmoving. The snow was now hip-deep and dawn started to break. A seeker of the Way must be steadfast in this way. Bodhidharma took a look at the pitiful sight and said, "What do you search for standing in the snow?" He said, "I would like to hear the Dharma's compassionate teaching so that it could disseminate widely. Bodhidharma said, "The various buddhas of the past devoted themselves earnestly. They practiced what was difficult to practice, and endured what was difficult to endure. One cannot be shallow, small-minded, proud, or complacent." The scholar listened to the motherly advice which Bodhidharma said only once. Then the scholar took out a knife and cut off his arm at the elbow, and displayed it to Bodhidharma who deeply consented. He took the scholar as a disciple. The disciple's name was Hui-K'o, to be the Second Chinese patriarch.

Not having resolved his problem, Hui-K'o was still deep in confusion. He entreated his teacher, "I have not yet found peace of mind. Please grant me peace of mind." Bodhidharma replied, "Bring me your mind and I will show you peace." Eka, "I cannot grasp it." Bodhidharma then said," Then I have shown you peace of mind."

Hui-K'o regarded the mind as something fixed that existed. Such a thing exists nowhere. It would be fine just to understand this fact. Eka saw that the mind of suffering didn't exist in a particular place. Here the final conclusion had been reached. The peace he attained was from the bottom of his heart. A fool among the foolish. The crystallization of the Way-seeking mind. For someone who is wholeheartedly seeking the Way, there is no space or time to rely on things. It is truth itself, reality itself. This is the true mind that seeks the Way; it is the everyday mind. It is frankness. It is the destination. It is called the Buddhadharma. It is called enlightenment. And that person is called Buddha. Really believe that everything is full and complete as it is, then practice. Not looking back, there will be no separation or gap. The main principle of our sect is thorough practice and the attainment of truth within truth. This is an example that, really throwing away this body in search of a resolution to the mind, anyone can accomplish it. When the ego and buddha really meet face to face, it will be the ultimate event of one's life.

Hui-K'o's scarlet fresh blood in the gleaming white snow is a symbol of Bodaishin. Life is short. In your time, when Death Has A Face, don't fall into confusion. Why don't you think a little about this armless man standing in the snow. This was the birth of the second Chinese patriarch. With great difficulty the true transmission has been passed down from Shakyamuni who sat for six years, through Bodhidharma's nine years of facing the wall, to one-armed Hui-K'o. That fresh blood in the snow and Shakyamuni's tears of blood are the tradition that has continued through the tears and toil for Awakening. The tradition has been conveyed for 28 generations in India, 23 generations in China, and then passed on to Japan.

Hui-k'o, the Second Patriarch of Zen passed on the bowl and robe to his successor, the Third Patriarch, Seng-ts'an, signifying the Transmission of the Dharma. Hui-k'o, who had received the seal of approval from Bodhidharma himself, then went everywhere drinking and carousing around like a wildman and partaking in the offerings of the brothel districts. When people asked how he could do such a thing, being a Patriarch of the Zen school and all, he would respond with: "What business is it of yours?" (source)




In 1224 Dogen at the age of 23 left Japan for China in search of a true teacher. His quest continued for three years before finding Master Nyojo, the 51st patriarch, under whom Dogen closely studied. Receiving Nyojo's Seal of Mind he returned home to Japan in 1227. Five years later he founded the zen monastery Kosho-ji in Uji, near Kyoto, becoming the founder of Japan's Soto Zen sect and spreading the lineage of Nyojo.

Here the gifted monk Koun Ejo appeared. Through great toil and diligence he was able to transmit the message of the mysterious mind of Nirvana. In his treatise, Zuimonki, Ejo writes:

In the second year of Katei (A.D.1236) on the evening of the last day of the twelfth month, Master Dogen appointed me [Ejo Zenji], to be shuso [head monk] of Kosho-ji. After an informal speech Dogen asked me as the shuso to take up the whisk and give a lecture for the first time. I was the first shuso of Kosho-ji. In his short speech Master Dogen brought up the matter of the transmission of the Buddhadharma in this lineage.

"The First Patriarch came from the West and stayed at Shorin Temple. He sat facing the wall waiting for someone to whom to transmit the Dharma and anticipating the time when the Dharma would spread. In December of a certain year Eka came to practice under him. The First Patriarch knew that he was a vessel of the Supreme Vehicle, so he taught and guided him; both the Dharma and the robe were transmitted. Their descendants spread throughout the country and the True Dharma has prevailed down to the present day.

"I have appointed a shuso for the first time at this monastery. Today I have asked him to take up the whisk and give a lecture. Do not worry about the small number in this sangha [the community of monks]. Ejo, do not mind that you are a beginner. On Funyo Mountain there were only six or seven people; at Yakusan there were only less than ten. Nevertheless, all of them practiced the Way of the buddhas and patriarchs. They called this 'the flourishing of the monasteries.' Ponder the fact that a student called Hsiang-yen realized the Way by the sound of bamboo; that another clarified the mind at the sight of peach blossoms. How could it be possible to differentiate smart bamboo trees from dull ones, or deluded ones from enlightened ones? How could there be shallow or deep, wise or stupid, among flowers? The flowers bloom every year, nevertheless, not everyone attains enlightenment by viewing them. Stones often strike bamboo, still not everyone who hears the sound clarifies the Way. Only through the virtue of long study and continuous practice with the assistance of diligent effort in the Way does one realize the Way or clarify the mind. This did not occur because the sound of bamboo was especially wonderful, nor because the color of peach blossoms was particularly profound. Although the sound of bamboo is marvelous, it does not sound of itself; it cries out with the help of a piece of tile. Although the color of peach blossoms is beautiful of themselves; they open with the help of the spring breeze. The condition of practicing the Way is also like this. This Way is inherent in each of us; still, our gaining the Way depends upon the help of fellow practitioners. Though each person is brilliant, still, our practicing the Way needs the power of other people in the sangha. Therefore, unifying your mind and concentrating your aspiration, practice and seek the Way together. A jewel becomes a vessel by polishing it; a human being becomes benevolent and wise by refining it. What jewel glitters from its inception? Who is brilliant from the outset? You must polish and refine. So, do not demean yourselves, and do not relax in your practice of the Way. An ancient said, 'Do not spend your time in vain.' Now I ask you, does time stop though you hold it dear? Or does it continue even though you lament? You must know that it is not time that passes in vain; it is the person who spends it in vain. This means that human beings, just the same as time, have to devote themselves to the practice of the Way instead of spending their time in vain.

"Thus, put your minds together in studying and practicing. It is not easy to uphold the Dharma by myself. The Way the buddhas and patriarchs have practiced has always been like this. There were many who attained the Way by following the teaching of the Tathagata, but there were some who ascertained the Way through Ananda. Shuso, you must not depreciate yourself saying that you are not a vessel of the Dharma. Give a lecture to your fellow practitioners on the story of Tozan's three pounds of flax. Dogen got down from his seat, the drum was struck again, and the shuso took the whisk. This was the first 'taking the whisk' at Kosho-ji. I was 39 years old.

Dogen was probably about 35 or 36 at the time, two years younger than his disciple Ejo.

When Dogen was three years old, he lost his father and eight when his mother died. At thirteen he entered the renowned temple Hiezan, and at fourteen formally became a monk. He was intimately acquainted with life's impermanence, and was an unparalleled genius. And he possessed an uncommon spirit for religious practice and study. He studied in detail everything he could at Hiezan. He reread the sutras three times but couldn't resolve his Great Doubt:

Shakyamuni Buddha said that all creatures in the three worlds are naturally and fully endowed with the Dharma. Why, then, did all the buddhas and patriarchs have to undergo religious practice?

If everyone, as they are, from the start is already buddha, why did all the patriarchs of the three worlds (past, present, and future) wholeheartedly do shugyo to awaken? Wasn't there a contradiction in what Shakyamuni said? Which one is the truth? What is the purpose of shugyo? What does one awaken to by doing practice?

Dogen had a complete mastery of the philosophy of Buddhism, but the discrepancy between the teaching of Buddha and the actions of the patriarchs confounded him. When he asked the high priests of Hiezan, he still didn't understand. Finally, he asked all of the eminent scholars and religious heads in Kyoto. But he was still unsatisfied. Finally, he obtained a invitation to meet Master Eisai, the first person to transmit zen in Japan. From Eisai he realized the formidability of zen practice. After Eisai's death, Dogen continued to study under Myozen, Eisai's disciple. At the age of about 23 he went to China to seek the Dharma. For three years he searched in vain for a teacher in China. Finally, giving up he returned to his ship.

An old monk came to the ship to buy a few Japanese mushrooms. Dogen must have felt something noble about that resolute old monk, for after talking with him Dogen abandoned his plans to return to Japan. He heard that on Mt.Tendo there lived a bright-eyed master named Nyojo. With delight, Dogen set out with the old monk for Mt.Tendo. Dogen had finally found a place to devote himself to serious practice.

For Dogen, encountering Nyojo gave him a certain peace of mind, but his doubt still laid unresolved. His mind was still in anguish. He understood all there was to understand, but deep in his heart he felt unsatisfied and helpless.

One summer day he encountered the old monk who had come to the ship, drying mushrooms in the scorching heat with his back bent in old age. He looked in pain. Dogen ran up to him and said," Venerable monk, it is a pity that you should do this. Allow me to call a younger monk to do the work." But the old monk's Bodaishin was still strong. He resolutely glared at Dogen saying: "Others are not me. I heard that you came to China for the purpose of the Great Way. You should thoroughly investigate the self. The moment you looked at me you were already looking the other way delusioning yourself. Losing sight of oneself by worrying about others is foolish. You don't understand the significance of seeing. Without engaging the self, just look. That is what shugyo is. You can't see that I am simply doing this, so don't say foolish things. Another person's practice is their own business."

Not understanding the meaning of the old monk's words, naively Dogen again said, "Why not just wait until the sun goes down a bit?" His kindness was worldly. When you don't understand, there's not much that can be done for you. The old monk should have picked up his cane and beaten Dogen until he did understand. Worldly kindness will destroy the Way; anger and harshness are great compassion for the Greater Vehicle.

The old monk continued, "You are half-hearted. For this, the Dharma will perish. Don't wait for a certain time." Shugyo is the present moment. If you don't even understand when worldly thoughts are arising, then you don't know what shugyo is. And you don't even know where to look. How pitiful. When are you going to begin to practice? There's nothing outside of now.

To resolve the mind, the gap must be removed. To do this, the key is to set your eyes on the present moment. It means that our whole lives, our existence and our practice is now, occurring just as it is. Disregarding this, we squander our lives.

So, in principle how should we breathe? Stand face to face with the breathing and investigate it.

What is walking? Take each step as the really first step and investigate and probe that single step as it is.

How do you eat a morsel of food? By actually doing and investigating, really investigating what a single bite is.

How do you really see? or hear? or taste? You mustn't lose even a single instant because unconscious or absentminded action is meaningless. When one's mind isn't one, it is separate from one's actions, it is no different than being a simple animal. As master Mumon Ekai wrote: "It is like the ghosts and spirits bobbing amongst the bushes and trees; you have no idea of what you are actually doing." [At this time, Mumon still had not yet arrived at being able to investigate the present moment and was still being tossed around by his senses and perceptions. His show of kindness was still worldly.]

Dogen had put himself in hot water twice. His roar once seemed to ring true, but that was gone now. One begins to think, Where?

When a person throws himself entirely into shugo, there is only one place to go: a shugyo dojo [training center]. The reason Dogen still hadn't yet brought his doubt to a conclusion was because he wasn't focused on the present moment where the ego dwells. Later, he was able to offer the kind counsel "The study of Buddhism is the study of the self" because he personally recognized that the cause of losing sight of oneself was due to reasoning arising first. He saw that one must never lose one's grasp of the present moment, where the six senses actually do function; that losing sight of one's present self, one merely becomes a creature of habit. Our practice is to break those habits. Doing this, all discrimination and right-and-wrong disappear because dropping off of body and mind is clarified.

Dogen had finally realized the gravity of his brazen defiance of the old monk's remarks. Without knowing it, his method of practice had been clarified. He was deeply grateful for the old monk's piercing remarks. Now his course, to maintain the present moment, was set.

One day in the meditation hall of the monastery, the monk sitting beside Dogen was nodding sleepily during zazen. Master Nyojo seeing this said:

"Soldiers give their lives guarding the country night and day. Farmers work hard from morning until night raising their crops. Monks feed and clothe themselves due to the efforts of others. It is a monk's duty to do shugyo and sit wholeheartedly. How can you sleep!"

Saying this Nyojo struck the monk with his stick out of pure love of the Dharma. From the sound of the impact, Dogen, dropping off body, utterly discarded the ego/self. The gap falling away, he was truly reborn. This trifling event which astonished him was the message of the accomplishment of "The eye and treasure of the True Dharma." It was the announcement of finally completely all his shugyo and resolving his great doubt, to obtain the Mind Seal of salvation. Then going to Master Nyojo's room, Dogen received his acknowledgement and approval. This event brought him no particular joy, for what was there to be joyful about?

On the morning Dogen left China, he said, "The Buddhadharma doesn't exist in the least. Only have a flexible mind. I only know that the eyes lay horizontal and the nose stands vertical."

His eyes and ears and mind were the same as before, and the world of the senses and perception didn't change. Only everything in nature was the very thing itself, just as it is. When the gap is removed, all concerns vanish and all is in ultimate peace. This is truly the Buddhadharma. Those who don't know this just don't know. This matter is outside words, cannot be explained with words, so there is nothing remaining to say. It is all a matter of practicing as if your head were on fire (as if your life depended on it).


The past several years has seen a proliferation of smartphone meditation apps come on the market, all designed in such a way to ease, assist, familiarize, and put into use meditation techniques for almost anybody interested in learning and implementing the various ins-and-outs of meditation, at least as the manufacturers of the apps view meditation.

Beyond the manufacturers advertisement and promotions, for every page that shows up on the internet or elsewhere in support of using the apps, there is an equal number of pages knocking their use. What the knocking their use people are selling varies, but the in support folk seem to be in line with the app builders and promoters because if nothing else, the apps sell --- and sell big time, especially so the two top brands, Headspace and Calm.

People use all kinds of things to enhance or increase their ability to accomplish things. They wear glasses to improve the clarity of their physical vision. Some use dental implants and dentures to chew, eat, or look better. The same for the use of prosthetics, crutches, canes, or wheelchairs. They help people get things done and walk or move about who otherwise might not be able to. But, if glasses to read or see aren't needed, or implants or dentures, or canes, crutches, or wheelchairs, why use them? Initially, with meditation, other than a coming to know what meditation is and what it can do if you do it, nothing much than the desire to do so and then doing it is required Painting legs on a snake doesn't make it walk any better. Electronically painting photon-pushing meditation legs to swath your synapses with trompe l'oeil may be for some, better than nothing. However, and this is one of the biggest however's ever, it is that better than nothing that makes it not, not nothing, the goal of meditation.





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.