Went to a Zen talk. I thought he had profound insights. Frankly disappointed. Only about I AM and One Mind. Profound dharma and realization is rare now, as it was rare in the past. (It's not that the past was any better, I don't fantasize the past)

By coincidence/sheer synchronicity, Jui returned a book on Zen Master Dogen that I passed him when I met him today (I read it about 7 years ago, forgot its contents). The first page I flipped to talks about the issue with lots of Zen masters clearly. I hope there are more Dogens around today. There are hardly any around. Told Jui, "Dogen dares to criticise sixth patriarch. Like me. I said before, even lineage heads I will criticise (when I find lack of clarity). Haha"

The page I flipped to in "Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist":
"Going a step further, Dßgen detected in Tsung-kao a dualistic presupposition
concerning the “serene and calm” essence of mind (shß) and the ordinary
functions of mind (shin); Tsung-kao believed enlightenment lay in the
former. Perhaps this criticism was related to Dßgen’s unusually severe disparagement
(as we saw previously) of the phrase “seeing into one’s nature”
(kenshß) in Hui-nêng’s Platform SÒtra—a phrase Dßgen believed inauthentic
and indicative of substantialistic thinking.55 Dßgen’s view supported the
nonduality of mind and its essence, which was said to be “the great foundation
of the Buddha-way.”56 In any event,Tsung-kao and the Senika view were
not far apart from one another at their deeper level—there was only the difference
of the substantialization of mind in opposition to body in one case,
and that of mental essence as opposed to mental functions in the other.57
It is patent in the foregoing observations that however we may interpret
the mind—whether as the knowing subject, the mind, or the spiritual
essence in relation to the known object, the body, or the mental functions,
respectively—its elevation to any metaphysical preeminence was radically
and definitively repudiated by Dßgen. The mind in Dßgen’s thought was
not an all-embracing and all-pervasive metaphysical principle (such as the
Absolute, the ground of being, etc.),58 nor was it a cosmic extension of the
ordinary mind (such as Spirit, Cosmic Consciousness, etc.).The mind came
into and out of being with the psycho-physical activities of the mind and the
creative activities of the physical universe. Yet it was not just coextensive with
them or in proportion to them; rather it transcended the sum total of them,
as we shall see later in connection with Buddha-nature. Hence, the depths
and mysteries of the mind were unfathomable by what Dßgen called “the
non-Buddhist view of naturalism” (jinen-gedß), from which he vehemently
disassociated himself (naturalism in Buddhism specifically referred to the
view that all things were generated spontaneously without karmic causation;
the devastating implication of this was that spiritual efforts were dispensable).
Dßgen frequently mentioned naturalism throughout his works, implicitly
and explicitly. In his criticism of Tsung-kao, which I quoted a moment ago,
the religion and metaphysics of buddha-nature 121
Dßgen charged him with subscribing to what essentially amounted to a naturalistic
view of the mind, in which activities of sensation and intellect were
the inert products of organismic and phenomenal conditions, rather than contributing
parts of them in a larger reality. In his discourse on “this mind itself
is Buddha” (sokushin-zebutsu), the Zen equivalent of the esoteric Buddhist
principle “this body itself is Buddha” (sokushin-jobutsu),Dßgen pointed out the
mistake of naively identifying the discriminating and individuating activities
of mind with Buddha.59 For them to be purified and reinforced by enlightenment,
the mind had to be redeemed by the mind that is Buddha in order to
say that it was “mountains, rivers, and the earth; the sun, the moon, and the
stars.”This was the truemeaning of the principle “thismind itself is Buddha.”
Thus, Dßgen’s position adroitly avoided any monistic or reductionistic
pitfalls, and abided, remarkably consistently, with the nonduality of mind
and matter, mind and body, spirit and mind, and so on. He wrote:
This mind [that is, the thought of enlightenment (bodaishin)] does not
exist intrinsically or rise suddenly in a vacuum. It is neither one nor
many, neither spontaneous nor congealed. [This mind] is not in one’s
body, and one’s body is not in the mind. This mind is not all-pervasive
throughout the entire world. It is neither before nor after, neither existent
nor nonexistent. It is not self-nature or other-nature; nor is it common
nature or causeless nature. Despite all this, arousing the thought
of enlightenment occurs where cosmic resonance (kannß-dßkß) is present.
It is neither conferred by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, nor is it
acquired by one’s own effort. Because the thought of enlightenment is
awakened through cosmic resonance, it is not spontaneously generated.60
Things, events, and beings of the universe were the expressions (setsu) of
mind without exception.61
Dßgen further discussed the classical Buddhist statement, “The triple
world is mind-only; there is no dharma other than the mind.Mind, Buddha,
and sentient beings—these three are no different from one another.” He
argued that we would not say “the triple world is mind-only” as if there were
the two separate entities of “the triple world” and “mind-only”—rather we
would say “the triple world of mind-only” and “the mind-only of the triple
world.”62 This notion was said to be the “total realization of the total
Tath›gata” (zen-nyorai no zen-genjß), beyond which there was no world whatsoever.
There was nothing outside the triple world (sangai wa muge nari)
122 eihei do–gen: mystical realist
any more than there were beings other than “sentient beings” (shujß), which
for Dßgen meant all beings—sentient and insentient alike. The triple world
was not to be seen in subjective or objective terms, but “in and through the
triple world” (sangai no shoken). Dßgen explained:
The triple world is not the intrinsic being nor the present being. The
triple world is neither newly formed nor born by way of causation. It is
not circumscribed by the beginning, middle, and end [of the time
scheme]. There is the triple world we transcend, and there is the triple
world we live in here and now. All its workings meet one another; all its
conflicts grow with one another [in perfect freedom]. The triple world
of here-and-now is seen in and through the triple world itself. To be
seen [in and through the triple world] means to see the triple world. To
see the triple world is the realization of the triple world and the triple
world of realization—the kßan realized in life (genjß-kßan).63
Mind-only was described as follows:
Mind-only is not one or two. It is not within the triple world, nor does
it leave the triple world. You should not err in this matter. It is at once
the conscious mind and the nonconscious mind. It is walls, tiles, mountains,
rivers, and the great earth.Mind is the “skin-flesh-bones-marrow”
and the “holding-up-a-flower-and-bursting-into-laughter.” There are
the mind of being and the mind of nonbeing; the mind of body and the
mind of nonbody; the mind prior to the physical formation and the
mind posterior to it.The body is variously begotten from either a womb,
eggs, moisture, or metamorphosis; the mind is created differently
through either a womb, eggs, moisture, or metamorphosis. Blue, yellow,
red, and white—these are mind; long, short, square, and round—
these are mind. Birth and death, and coming and going constitute this
mind; years, months, days, and hours form this mind. Dreams, visions,
and the illusory flowers in the sky are mind; bubbles and flames are
mind. The spring flowers and the autumn moon are mind, and topsyturvy
everyday life is mind. Despite being such trivialities, mind should
not be abandoned. For these reasons, it is the mind in which all things
themselves are ultimate reality (shohß-jissß-shin)—the mind that communicates
between a Buddha and a Buddha (yuibutsu-yobutsu-shin).64
the religion and metaphysics of buddha-nature 123
What emerges from these observations is that the triple world and mindonly
are not the two polar concepts of an epistemologically oriented idealism
or of a cosmological explanation. As I have alluded to earlier in this
chapter and shall make clearer later, any embryological, cosmological, emanationistic,
or causal outlooks are alien to the basic religious and philosophical
insight of Buddhism, and particularly to Dßgen’s thought. In his
exposition on the idea of dependent origination, Ui is emphatic in pointing
out that the original intention of dependent origination was not to probe
into the process or causation of origination so much as it was to envision the
state in which all the conditions and forces of the world were functionally
interdependent. The idea of dependent origination was not a theoretical
explanation but a soteriological vision.65 Thus, combined with the idea of
dependent origination and its twin idea of emptiness, Dßgen’s “idealism” of
mind-only provides a unique vision of reality in which mind-only is the one
and only reality that is both subject and object (the triple world) and their
ground. That is why “the triple world is mind-only” is also equated with “all
things themselves are ultimate reality” (shohß-jissß), “the kßan realized in life”
(genjß-kßan), and so forth.
At this juncture, we must further probe Dßgen’s view of mind as unattainable
(anupalambha; fukatoku), which is often associated with the negative
aspects of emptiness such as its being ineffable, nothingness, and an
innate endowment. However, Dßgen was openly critical of such a view.66 In
his discussion of extensive pilgrimages (hensan), which for him were not so
much about physical travel or visits to Zen teachers in the spatio-temporal
realm as they were about “nondual participation” (dßsan) in the enlightenment
of the Buddhas and ancestors, Dßgen had this to say:
When extensive pilgrimages are indeed totally exerted, so are they cast
off. [It is just like] the sea which is dried up, yet does not show its bed,
or the one who dies and does not retain mind. “The sea is dried up”
means the whole sea is totally parched. Nevertheless, when the sea is
parched, the bed is not seen [because it is of no-bed, empty, and unattainable].
Analogously, the nonretaining and the total retaining [of
mind]—both are the human mind. When humans die, mind is not
retained—because their dying is exerted, mind is not left behind.Thus,
you should know that the total human is mind and the total mind is
human. In such a manner, you can thoroughly understand both sides of
a dharma.67
124 eihei do–gen: mystical realist
Here, we have the application of Dßgen’s fundamental idea of “the total
exertion of a single thing” (ippß-gÒjin) to the theme of pilgrimages. Unattainability,
in Dßgen’s thought, was maintained less in the static and transcendent
mode of emptiness and more in the dynamic and creative mode in
which any single act (dying, eating, or whatnot) was totally exerted contemporaneously,
coextensively, and coessentially with the total mind—not
with a fragment of that mind.Thus in this moment, this single act alone was
the mind-only of the triple world, excluding all other acts and things. This
was Dßgen’s metaphysics of “mystical realism,” epitomized in the statements
“when one side is illumined, the other is darkened” (ippß o shßsuru toki wa
ippß wa kurashi) and “the total experience of a single thing is one with that
of all things” (ippßtsÒ kore mambßtsÒ nari). This was also what Dßgen meant
by “abiding in a Dharma-position” (jÒ-hßi). When viewed in this way,
Dßgen’s theory of mind was far from a dry, impersonal theoretical pursuit
of the nature of mind, but was a profoundly personal and existential concern
with the self, as expressed in the following:
To study theWay is to study the self.To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. To be
enlightened by all things of the universe is to cast off the body and mind
of the self as well as those of others. Even the traces of enlightenment are
wiped out, and life with traceless enlightenment goes on forever and ever.68
This was Dßgen’s answer to the dictum “Know thyself ” (the common heritage
of Greek and Buddhist philosophies).69 The net result of this approach
to the self and the world was Dßgen’s preeminent emphasis on a choice or
commitment—in creative activities (gyßji) and creative expressions
(dßtoku)—to live duality in the manner of “abiding in a Dharma-position”
and “the total exertion of a single thing,” rather than to flee or obfuscate it.
In this view, what duality implied was not necessary evil, but the necessary
(and only) habitat in which we lived and were enlightened.We are now prepared
to proceed to the pivot of Dßgen’s thought—Buddha-nature."


By the way I want to add that Dogen was not totally repudiative of Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng, maybe just some verses that he found to be lacking clarity. Dogen was not going "oh Hui-Neng is just another Senika teacher (non-Buddhist view, holding the view of eternal Atman)", of course not.

Here's another quotation from the same book Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist where Dogen was quoted as affirming Hui-Neng's teachings on 'Impermanence is Buddha-nature':

"If we consider this statement, along with the seed analogy discussed before,
Dßgen’s position is evident. Buddha-nature actualized itself not in such
the religion and metaphysics of buddha-nature 139
ways as from potentiality to actuality, from the not-yet to the already, from
the lower to the higher, from the hidden to the manifest—but rather,
Buddha-nature was always coeval and coessential with what we acted out
in our activities and expressions. In light of this, Dßgen’s paradoxical statement
quoted earlier makes sense: “The truth of Buddha-nature is such that
Buddha-nature is embodied not before but after becoming a Buddha
(jßbutsu). Buddha-nature and becoming a Buddha always occur simultaneously.”
113 Being Buddha and becoming Buddha (i.e. original enlightenment
and acquired enlightenment), although distinct, occurred simultaneously.
To the extent that we took risks when we chose to act, Buddha-nature
became visible, audible, and tangible. Until this happened, Buddha-nature
could not be said to exist or subsist in such forms as potentialities, innate
ideas, and eidetic forms.
The Buddha-nature of expression and the Buddha-nature of activity were
inevitably impermanent and temporal, and ultimately led to death. There
was no way out of this ultimate limitation. Thus, Dßgen expounded the
Buddha-nature of impermanence (mujß-busshß): If the world was as fleeting
and transient as the morning dew, and this was not a mere sentiment but a
fact of life, then how was one to commit oneself to specific expressions and
activities so that they were simultaneously one’s self-realization and selfexpression
of Buddha-nature?This was the ultimate question that concerned
Dßgen throughout his life, as has been pointed out so often in this work. For
Dßgen, it was not a matter of whether to commit, but how to commit—that
is, how to make a specific commitment in complete freedom. In his analysis
of the Buddha-nature of impermanence, Dßgen challenged the conventional
idea that Buddha-nature was permanent (ujß), and that religiosity
consisted in seeking and attaining such permanence by departing from
impermanence; consequently, he asserted that impermanence was Buddhanature,
and vice versa. Referring to Hui-nêng’s saying, Dßgen observed:
The sixth ancestor [Hui-nêng] once said to his disciple, Hsing-ch’ang:
“Impermanence is Buddha-nature. Permanence is the mind that discriminates
good and evil and all things.”
The “impermanence” the sixth ancestor speaks of is not like what
the non-Buddhists and those of the Lesser Vehicle conjecture. Although
their founders and followers talk about impermanence, they fail to penetrate
it thoroughly. Accordingly, impermanence expounds itself, enacts
itself, and verifies itself—all these are impermanent. Those who now
140 eihei do–gen: mystical realist
manifest themselves to save others are manifesting themselves [in their
myriad forms of impermanence] so as to expound Dharma for others.
Such is Buddha-nature. Sometimes they display a long Dharma-body,
and sometimes a short Dharma-body. A sage who is perpetually sagely
is impermanent; an ordinary person who is constantly deluded is also
impermanent. The unchangeability of both sagacity and delusion
should not be Buddha-nature.114
Hui-nêng’s statement was not only in opposition to the conventional view
of Buddha-nature as permanent and the discriminating mind as impermanent,
but could have been interpreted as saying that permanence and impermanence
were mutually exclusive. Dßgen, however, interpreted it as saying
that permanence and impermanence were equally Buddha-nature, for “permanence”
according to him was the state of “nonturning” (miten) or nonduality.
As Dßgen said: “Nonturning means that whether we overcome
delusions or are conditioned by them, we are never attached to the traces of
their coming and going. Hence, this is called permanence.”115 Dßgen
accepted Hui-nêng’s notion that Buddha-nature was impermanent, but also
reconciled permanence and impermanence, and Buddha-nature and the discriminating
mind.The following, then, can be understood in this context in
which impermanence and nonduality have been fused:
On this account, plants and trees, and thicket and forest are impermanent;
as such, they are Buddha-nature. Humans and things, and bodies
and minds are impermanent; thus, they are Buddha-nature.
Countries and lands, and mountains and rivers are impermanent
because they are Buddha-nature. Supreme enlightenment, because it is
Buddha-nature, is impermanent. The perfect quietude of nirv›°a,
because it is impermanent, is Buddha-nature.116
“Everything perishes as soon as it arises” (setsuna-shßmetsu) is a well-known
assertion in Buddhism. The corollary is that nothing in the universe
remains unchanged and unchangeable. Despite this metaphysical insight
into the scheme of things, Buddhists, more often than not, have betrayed
it by excepting ultimate reality from this principle. It seems to be an
almost universal philosophical temptation (in both the East andWest) to
revere “being” by degrading “becoming.” For Dßgen’s part, he refused to
exempt Buddha-nature. The universality of the momentariness of arising
the religion and metaphysics of buddha-nature 141
and perishing had to be applied to Buddha-nature as well. Hence, Buddhanature
was impermanent.
This thought was vividly expressed in the metaphors “the blue mountain
always walks” (seizan jß-umpo) and “the Eastern Mountain moves on the
water” (tßzan suijß-kß).117The mountain—regarded as immovable—was said
here to be walking and moving, thus alluding to the fact that nothing in the
universe was static and immutable; the universe was becoming in time.118
The impermanence of Buddha-nature was that aspect of Buddha-nature
which eternally came in and out of being with the universe and all existence
within it. At any given moment, it pulsated with the arising and perishing
of the universe, in accordance with the infinitely intricate dependent origination
of its constituents. Buddha-nature gave birth to a new creation
moment by moment and shared its fate with the universe. Being and becoming
were not two separate metaphysical realities but one and the same in the
process of impermanence. The religious and philosophical significance of
impermanence was the infinite versatility and dynamism of Buddha-nature
in its ever-changing and ever-becoming character.119"


I've read the Sixth Patriarch's Platform Sutra. In more than one instances he repudiated the dualistic, substantialist, non-Buddhist sort of views. But it is easy to misinterpret his words.


 LZG I know which event you are referring to, but disappointment in the Chan 'doha' or the person doing the exposition?
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu Both, unless he misunderstood the 'doha'
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TJH What's "doha"?
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu Songs of realization. Usually referring to Mahamudra. I very much prefer Mahamudra songs, usually expressing anatta, emptiness and spontaneous perfection rather than substantialist and dualistic.
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu I AM realization is important but he keeps reinforcing the view of permanence, doing listeners a disservice. This is no different from Advaita. Even when one gets to nondual one will be stuck there.
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LZG I wonder why or how a Buddhist meditator would espouse a view of permanence.
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu It is very common to fall into wrong interpretation after direct taste and realization of Presence-Awareness. Like I said, 85% of those who realise are at I AMness, 10% One Mind, 2-5% or less are Anatta/Emptiness... It applied now, it applied then. Unless there is a very clear teacher to point (like Dogen, etc) most likely will end up overlooking the subtle 'views' influencing experience. I'm most thankful for Thusness otherwise I will also be stuck 'forever'
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LZG But anatta view is pretty standard buddhist view, no? Especially in Theravada tradition.
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu Yes but in Theravada tradition, you will see that there are also tendency to fall into the eternalist or nihilist side. For example, Thai Forest Tradition tend to reify Awareness or That Which Knows -- although there are always exceptions, e.g. Ajahn Brahm calls reifying the Knower the last stand of Self and warned against that. A balanced view or middle way view free from extremes is rare. I have to say, putting aside the skepticism of Daniel M. Ingram's claim to 'arahantship' (whether or not it corresponds to arahantship as traditionally defined) which I do agree is a valid thing to question, his insights are still the clearest in Theravada that I've seen.
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu In China you also need to see the doctrinal influence... they do not emphasize Madhyamika as much as Tibetan Buddhism, they generally do not emphasize the 'view' aspect enough, although Tibetan Buddhism also have their 'extremes'. But Tibetan Buddhism may be more balanced (usually, generally speaking) by placing equal emphasis on view and meditative experience.

A lack of encounter with non-Buddhist doctrines may also lead to a lack of clarity of the differences.

Ven Hui Feng wrote this:

Before explaining how the sukha-tathagatagarbhikas ( tongue.gif ) explain the "apparent conflict", and Chan too, let's take a few steps back.

Even in the early sutras, there is the idea of certain teachings as being "fully drawn out" (nitartha), and others as "yet to be drawn out" (neyartha). We could say, "explicit" and "implicit". However, at first, which were which was not stated.

So, there were some "apparent conflicts" quite early on. The biggest by far was that of the "pudgala", which was kind of a synonym for "atman". In some sutras the Buddha says things like "the pudgala does this and that", "the pudgala is reborn in some place", and so forth; and in other sutras, the Buddha states that "there is no atman, no pudgala, no sattva..." and so forth.

Now, one school, the Pudgalavadins, tried to come up with a theory that kept all teachings on a similar "truth" level. They ended up with an "expressible pudgala", which was rather dubious. Still, they tended to fall towards the extreme of eternalism, rather than annihilism. So, although neither are correct, the former is better than the latter (see my signature).

The other schools, notably the Abhidharma groups, came up with the "dharma theory", which broke everything down into irreducible parts, each of which was impermanent, dissatisfactory and not self (and empty too). Now, based on a group of these irreducible dharmas, one could have a designation, but these desigations / names, etc. were not real per se. Classic example: The five aggregates are real, the "person" is a designation based on the aggregates.

They then used this theory to explain the apparent contradiction, ie. that teachings that spoke of a "pudgala", "atman", etc. were actually just "conventional designations" and thus "implicit" and "to be fully drawn out", whereas thos that taught in terms of "dharmas", were "ultimate teachings" and "already fully drawn out". (I've an essay in my Blog, see signature, on this one if you want more details.)

To seal this, the Abhidharma literature which is slightly later than the sutras almost always tries to use the "dharma" / "ultimate" terminology. Therefore, a bunch of later explanatory literature wins the day.

But, there were still some problems with this Abhidharma dharma-theory. In particular, the tendency towards explaining these irreducible dharmas as somehow substantial. In fact, even up to the point of the Sarvastivada considering dharmas as themselves little atman, etc. (Remember, the Sarvastivada is from a school closely related to the Pudgalavadins.) Again, a slight leaning towards eternalism.

Now, another body of literature starts to appear, ie. the Mahayana sutras. Once again, they have the advantage of being the latest texts, so they can make arguments against all the earlier material, and consolidate a complete systematic view. The emphasis is on the fact that even these so-called Dharmas are empty too, not just empty of an atman / pudgala, but empty of any sort of substantiality, eternality, and so forth.

But, again, this has the tendency towards nihilism in the eyes of some. So, yet another body of literature starts to appear. Well, two, actually. These are the Yogacara literature, stemming from the Sarvastivadins. And, the Tathagatagarbha literature.

Because they are now the newest stuff, they can explicity within the text themselves say things like "Oh, the XXX sutra is just a provisional teaching, this sutra that you are reading now is the real, true and ultimate teaching!!" And, of course, the XXX sutra doesn't say anything to the contrary - because this new Tathagatagarbha sutra didn't even exist at the time to be refuted!!

Every new batch of literature that came out stated that it (and usually, only it), was the "explicit" and ultimate teaching, etc. etc. and that everything that had come before was merely provisional.

In India, this was nitartha versus neyartha. But in China, slightly different. The Chinese for a start received a lot of their Buddhism "all at once", or, at least in a quite different order at first to the Indians. ie. they got Abhidharma stuff first, then some Mahayana stuff, and then the Agama sutras, and then mostly Mahayana stuff with some later commentaries of Abhidharma and Mahayana.

So, mainly starting from Tiantai Zhiyi, they started to make "doxographies", and try to put the various sutras in order - of time, and importance. Of course, they considered (almost) every text that had "Thus have I heard..." to be all taught during the Buddha's time. However, because the later texts claimed to be more ultimate, etc. they ended up being put later in the Buddha's career.

eg. whereas modern scholars would say that the range of sutras, early and Mahayana, took place over about 8 centuries, Zhiyi crammed them all within the life time of Sakyamuni. First, the Avatamsaka, then the Agamas, then the Prajnaparamita, then the Vaipulyas (other Mahayana sutras), then the Lotus Sutra and finally the Mahayana Parinirvana Sutra.

Actually, the Mahayana Parinirvana Sutra (not to be confused with the early Parinirvana Sutra) was a genius idea! If they set the sutra at the parinirvana of the Buddha, then obviously it would have to be the Buddhas last (and thus ultimate) teaching! And yes, this was a Tathagatagarbha text.

All these were already translated, and the Tiantai doxography already in place, by the time that Chan came on the scene. So, the Mahayana sutras, especially the Tathagatagarbha sutras, were supreme. For Chan at first, the Lankavatara Sutra was extremely important, but also the Parinirvana, etc. Lotus, etc.

During the first few generations of Chan, they mainly used these Mahayana sutras as the basis of their practice. Bodhidharma cites them, so do Daoxin, Hongren and Huineng. It's called "based on the scripture, realize the mind / truth". This later came to be called "Ruali Chan", "rulai" being the translation of "tathagata", referring to the Tathagatagarbha sutras.

Later, in the late Tang and Song, etc. there was a move towards "patriarch Chan". Though the Sutra content was there, it was less obvious, and there was usage of techniques like "silent illlumination", "word/thought watching", etc. Still, most of these were based around later Mahayana thought, especially Tathagatagarbha. There were some exceptions, but they were minor.

It was in this later period that Chan goes to Japan and we have Zen. Also, a lot of Zen in Japan is Tendai influenced, so the notion of the importance of the Lotus Sutra and Parinirvana Sutra is perhaps even stronger than in China.

These Chan and Zen boys and girls were largely not scholars by this stage. Thus, where the Indian pandits were quickly putting Tathagatagarbha at the bottom end of their doctrinal scale of "which teaching is ultimate", subsuming it under a Madhyamaka (and Yogacara) over-system, the Chinese (and Japanese) did not. Nobody was really going around noting that "Hey, these buddhists are talking like the Vedantins or Brahmins!?", because there weren't (m)any Brahmins in China! Everything Indian got subsumed into the Buddhist fold.

Also, around the late Tang, the routes to India were not as open, and so the latest Indian explanations did not make it to China. Unlike in Tibet, which is the time when Buddhism started there. Their Tathagatagarbha and Yogacara was already largely the later, pre-packaged in Madhyamaka outfit version, and so it stayed.


(If only I could usually write a 1000 word essay so quickly! hahahahaha!)

Huifeng namaste.gif
· Reply · 1h · Edited
TJH I really wonder sometimes if the "mind" concept that is so emphasized in the later schools is really more trouble than it is worth.
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu p.s. There are always exceptions, like Ven. Hui Lu (another Zen master) is very clear on view and realization.


Also I like Zen Master Hong Wen Liang, though he is more Soto Zen than Chinese Mahayana nowadays.
True Mind and Unconditioned Dharma
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TJH Haha, I kept thinking of some of master Hui Lu's words on the train back.
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LZG Interesting exposition of Buddhist doctrines and history......... So best view is "freedom from four extremes" view by Nagajuna(also official stance of Sakyapa in Tibetan Buddhism)?
Not really sure if I get your points, but for simplification: overemphasis on meditative experience w/o view would result in I AM eternalism, whereas overemphasis on anatta/emptiness view without enough meditative experience results in nihilism?
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu " I really wonder sometimes if the "mind" concept that is so emphasized in the later schools is really more trouble than it is worth."

Actually it is important. As much as we need to warn against the extremes, direct realization of Mind is important. Not just in Zen -- in Mahamudra, Dzogchen, etc. Even Daniel M. Ingram emphasizes that negating 'Awareness' is an extreme, just that it is to be understood non-substantially, in terms of no-self, impermanence, etc.
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu LZG Best is a synthesis of Madhyamika/Yogacara and direct pointing to mind-essence. IMO.

If we focus on only one, it can lead to extreme if one doesn't have a wider view. (like if one only learns tathagatagarbha without having the slightest concept of no-self and emptiness, what do you think will happen?)
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LZG Vajrayana?
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TJH Can you talk about why a synthesis of the two is preferred?
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LZG As compared to say studying Theravada Tripitaka?
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu Vajrayana generally always teaches a synthesis. Even Dolpopa teaches a synthesis (but the way he interpretes certain things I may not totally agree) and he calls it 'great madhyamika', just how is it interpreted that makes the difference
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LZG So best path in your opinion?
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu I do not want to go on a debate of best path. Best path is the path that works for you. But I think Vajrayana is quite balanced. Lol
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LZG i see lol
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu If one can incorporate Vajrayana views and direct pointing and Soto Zen, I think will be good.
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TJH Soh Wei Yu "Acutally it is important. As much as we need to warn against the extremes, direct realization of Mind is important. Not just in Zen -- in Mahamudra, Dzogchen, etc." <<< Yeah but people need to speak plainly about its emptiness IMO.
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu Actually I think Thusness told me he likes Tsongkhapa views (which many non-Gelug Tibetans don't), also he likes Mahamudra's dohas and Soto Zen. It's a weird combination for sure for some people. For Dzogchen, the translations and clarification by Malcolm are good, also I pointed out that I like the clarity of Yogi Prabodha and Yogini Abhaya Devi from that tradition

Also what you need at that moment may depend on where you are at -- in my earlier days I was really into self inquiry and Awareness teachings, including Advaita. You don't have to go through that path (unless so inclined)
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LZG Which part of Gelug's view does Thusness like?
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu Also, Thusness likes Mipham, so it's not like he prefers Tsongkhapa over Mipham and other traditions. I think he likes Tsongkhapa's exposition on two truths.
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu " Can you talk about why a synthesis of the two is preferred?"

All views are rafts, not to be clung to. To the extent that learning about view can help you deepen your realization of empty-clarity free from subject/object duality and inherency, effortless, spontaneous presence, free from any proliferations (clinging at I, me, mine and phenomena as truly existing), that is helpful. The purpose of view is not to be dogmatic but to help our investigation of reality and challenge all our unseen-before assumptions about reality, to clarify the nature of reality. Ultimately it should lead to 'freedom from views'. To learn why synthesis is preferred you can study Mipham more.

Mipham writes ‘The approach of the Chittamatrins regarding the conventional
relative truth is of enormous value. The only tenet of this school to be rejected is
that the self-knowing, luminous consciousness is truly existent’.6
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PC 禅宗 (Zen Sect) not suitable for u if u are seeking a shovel in yr intellectual hunger.

Soh Wei Yu

Soto Zen is very clear because of Dogen. I do not have intellectual hunger, I have direct realization of all the phases here -- http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/.../thusnesss-six...

I have to make this post because I was the one who recommended this teacher. I recommended him on the basis of some of his writings, which I thought showed clarity, but in the talk I realized his substantialist views.

If I do not clarify, people will mistake that I endorse this teacher as fully realized. So I have to take responsibility for my mistaken judgement. Most Zen teachers nowadays are at a Hindu level of realization.


My last comment on this particular teacher after attending his second day of talks at the Zen center:

Today the teacher talked about no self and emptiness of all aggregates. However, this is the 'view' aspect (which can be intellectual), and although he did have some direct experiential insight into no-self (Thusness Stage 4 mirror bright, not Stage 5 of no-mirror), he affirms the self-luminous Mind to exist substantially (unchanging, eternal) as opposed to thoughts which are changing, arising and passing away. This is like I said, no different from the non-Buddhist views of Advaita. Sure, it's a good realisation to have but I would not equate this to Buddhadharma.

He also discusses how Buddhism differs from those of other religions through its unique teachings of no-self, but he doesn't realise that his own realisation is no different from Advaita Vedanta.

He then differentiates Hinayana vs Mahayana teachings in this way:

In Hinayana, the practitioner, through dissociating from phenomena as non-self, impermanent and suffering, finally realises Mind-Essence -- which is the unborn, non-arising, without sense of self -- basically he is referring to the I AMness realization. He equates the Arhat's nirvana with the formless absorption into the formless Mind-Essence.

In Mahayana, the practitioner realises Buddha-Nature, as defined in Mahaparinirvana Sutra. That Mahayana nirvana (which a Bodhisattva/Buddha realises) itself has the capacity for infinite functions, just like a clear lake is without moon in it but can reflect the moon clearly (like I said, Thusness Stage 4's Mirror Bright), just like electricity is unseen but can light up the lightbulb, our Mind is formless but can produce limitless functions, in ears it can hear and in eyes it can see. As such, birth and death is nirvana, suffering is bodhi, thoughts are not to be get rid of, green bamboos are dharmakaya and chrysanthemum is prajna, both the waves of the ocean and a waveless ocean are both made of water (and thus neither is to be preferred). This is no different from the One Mind phase of realization. Non-dual is experienced but the reification of Mind and view of inherency is still strong -- still reifying Brahman.

He is not the first Mahayana teacher I have seen making this false equation. This misunderstanding is in fact, common. Unfortunately, as they are not exposed to the teachings and teachers from other religions, they seem to be unaware that all these realisations do not go beyond Hinduism's Atman-Brahman realisation. In Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is not merely static and formless, as Maya is the sport (lila) of Brahman, and the universe is finally realised to be nothing but Brahman. This is no different from this venerable's explanation of Ti (substance) and Yong (function).

There is a complete misunderstanding of Mahaparinirvana Sutra on his part, a very common issue which needs context and clarification as I discussed in http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2016/07/how-should-we-understand-mahayana.html

Basically, this Venerable (and many other teachers) make the mistake of attributing Hinayana to I AMness level of formless realisation, and Mahayana to One Mind where the Substance can produce infinite functions and is nondual with its functions. They get stuck between Thusness Stage 1 to 4. They didn't realise that 'Hinayana'/Theravada teachers like Daniel M. Ingram can have an effortless, constant nondual experience of 'Bamboos are dharmakaya' WITH Right View and realization of anatta which makes nondual even more effortless.
The Venerable didn't realise that the 'Hinayana sutta', Bahiya Sutta, is clearly not only non-dual but in fact taught the peak of non-dual experience, with right view, and Bahiya attained arahantship instantly upon hearing Buddha speak of that teaching. Bahiya Sutta, Kalaka Sutta, and many other suttas are all about this. Without the direct realisation of right view (anatta, dependent origination, emptiness), whatever nondual realisations cannot be considered Buddhadharma, even at the Hinayana level, let alone Mahayana which further elaborates on the direct realisation of the non-arising of all phenomena that are dependently designated/dependently originated.
The realization of anatta allows us to see through/penetrate the false view of 'Awareness' as existing changelessly and independently (even if inseparable from) apart from transient manifestation by realising that in seeing, there's only colors, no seer -- seeing is only colors without seer, in hearing only sounds, no hearer, hearing is only sounds -- there is no unchanging 'seeing essence' or 'hearing essence' permeating and yet remaining unchanged from the transient functions/experiences. Furthermore 'Awareness' is just another label like 'weather' as I have said many times. The Shurangama Sutra is very often misinterpreted and needs clarification, which I have also done elsewhere. The realization of anatta is the realisation that 'Buddha-Nature is Impermanence' as Zen Master Dogen and Ch'an Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng taught. This will free one from substantialist, eternalist, non-Buddhist views.

This mistaken attribution of Hinayana and Mahayana is also similar to Ken Wilber's mistaken understanding, again, of equating Hinayana to the Causal (I AM) level realization and the Nirvana of the arhat with the formless Hindu absorption in Self of Nirvikalpa Samadhi while Mahayana as his Non Dual (One Mind) level. Therefore, he sees Buddhism as no different from Vedanta and other religions. I don't mind that equation if that were true (seriously, if all religions are preaching the exact same realisations, wouldn't it be great? I would love it and prefer that to be true), but unfortunately it is not true. I love and respect all religions, but let's not confuse them up and get into the perennial philosophy.

Jui (who also went through I AM to One Mind to Anatta and was sitting beside me) also commented, "Disappointing man." 😂

TJ From a historical point of view, substantialist understanding became doctrinally dominant in China fairly early. For instance, from it's inception, even as Huayan emphasized the metaphor of Indra's Net, they taught that "all is mind" in a substantialist sense, and Zongmi was critical of a school of Chan that taught the emptiness of the enlightened nature.
With such a precedent, I think the fact that there are any Chan people at all getting anatta/emptiness is really marvelous. I'm glad you are finding them.
Guifeng Zongmi - Wikipedia
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu There are a number of Chinese Chan masters in history that were quite clear (and of course plenty of others that aren’t)

There is a text by the first Chan patriarch Bodhidharma called the doctrine of no mind (无心论) that was just such a clear exposition of Anatta in Chinese. Pity I can’t find an English translation of that text
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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu Oh apparently there is an english translation: https://terebess.hu/zen/bodhidharma-eng.html#app
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TJ Thanks for the link. By "fairly early" I mean something like the end of the Tang Dynasty. As you know, someone with a substantialist understanding will read a text that originally pointed to non-substantial understanding in a substantialist way.
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· Reply · 7h · Edited
Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu It's true that substantialist all-is-mind thinking is/has been quite common in China, though there are/have been exceptions.

The Tang dynasty Ch'an teacher Mazu was quite clear, I think. (Maybe he's still not at 'the end of the Tang dynasty', idk)


A monk asked, “Master, why do you say that mind is Buddha?”

Mazu said, “To stop babies from crying.”

The monk said, “What do you say when they stop crying?”

Mazu said, “No mind, no Buddha.”

The monk asked, “Without using either of these teachings, how would you instruct someone?”

Mazu said, “I would say to him that it’s not a thing.”

The monk asked, “If suddenly someone who was in the midst of it came to you, then what would you do?”

Mazu said, “I would teach him to experience the great way.”


The Buddha said, “It is just the dharmas that combine to form this body. When it arises, it is simply the dharmas arising; when it ceases, it is simply the dharmas ceasing. When these dharmas arise, [the bodhisattva] does not state, ‘I arise’; when these dharmas cease, he does not state, ‘I cease’.” “In prior thought moments and subsequent thought moments, the moments do not relate to each other; in prior dharmas and subsequent dharmas, the dharmas do not oppose each other. This is called the the ocean seal samadhi.
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