of the Way. Many of you seem perplexed about the idea of Buddha-nature. I know
that a number of you come from other Zen centers which teach the doctrine of Dogen
Zenji who believes that "all beings are Buddha-nature". And perhaps,
using Dogen's words, you also believe that a "donkeys' jowls are the Buddha-nature".
I will enlighten you with the truth of Buddha-nature. Then you can set aside the
belief that a donkey's jowl is the Buddha-nature, thereby coming to learn, for
the first time, where to begin your search for the authentic Buddha-nature which
is within yourself.
First, you should realize that the term "Buddha-nature"
refers to the very mind of the Buddha. Next, it is important to understand that
sentient beings have the potential to attain Buddha-nature, but have not yet actualized
For what is potential, in the example of a acorn, must still develop itself
into an oak tree which is its actuality. Keep in mind, too, that the little acorn,
more than likely, will be eaten by a squirrel or will be taken away by a woodpecker.
What I am driving at, is that many of you will not actualize your Buddha-nature,
even though you have the sentient potential to do so.
Hopefully, I can help
most of you become oak trees!
To realize our Buddha-nature, two general conditions
must be met. First, we must be sentient beings. Looking around, I think that we
all qualify! The Buddha calls this the "direct cause". It is analogous
to milk from which cream can be derived.
Next, it is important to know what
a sentient being is. A sentient being is, roughly speaking, "spirit".
Don't be confused and just assume that a sentient being is an animal or a plant,
or even the five aggregates. It isn't. Your thoughts, for example, are sentient
beings--but not a common fence post.
The second condition you must fulfill
in order to realize Buddha-nature is the "indirect cause". The indirect
cause refers to the six paramitas according to the Maahaparinirvaana Sutra. By
means of the six paramitas you will surpass the confines of the mortal body, in
addition to all levels of attainments, including those of the Hearers and the
What does the term "indirect cause" mean? It means
a cause that comes from the outside to do its work on the direct cause. This is
analogous to adding the juice of the p'o-chiu tree to milk, according to the Buddha,
which causes cream to be formed right away.
Turning to the indirect cause,
namely the six paramitas, let me briefly outline their meaning consistent with
the spiritual practice of Dark Zen.
According to our founder Bodhidharma the
paramitas are the means to the other shore, namely, Buddha-nature. They are intended
to help us surpass the six senses which Bodhidharma calls the "six robbers".
first paramita is charity. By mastering it, we surpass the robber of the visual
world and thereby become spiritually wealthy. This paramita destroys our desire
to cling to visual things as would a miser who clings to his property.
second paramita is discipline. By mastering it, we surpass the robber of the auditory
world and acquire good spiritual practices and concentration. It destroys our
desire to cling to acoustical determinations, thus becoming free of distractions,
being able to abide in stillness.
The third paramita is patience. By mastering
it, we surpass the robber of the olfactory world and acquire inner peace, both
for self and for others. It destroys our desire to investigates what is pleasant
and unpleasant in the example of a dog tracking scents. Thus, we come to abide
indifferently with regard to what is pleasant and unpleasant.
The fourth paramita
is strength. By mastering it, we surpass the robber of the world of taste and
acquire devotion. It destroys our desire for the appetites and various forms of
flattery that come from the tongue. Acquiring this paramita, we develop wholesome
The fifth paramita is meditation. By mastering it, we surpass
the robber of tactile sensations. It eliminates sensuous distractions. Acquiring
this paramita, we are able to focus mind on a sublime object.
The sixth paramita
is wisdom. By mastering it, we surpass the robber of consciousness. This paramita
eliminates all false views of the absolute. Acquiring this paramita, we are able
to distinguish our Buddha-nature from that which is empty of it.
has been said thus far, the actualization of our Buddha-nature is not easy to
accomplish. Grasses and mountains, it is evident, have not actualized the Buddha-nature.
What is more, grasses and mountains are not even Bodhisattvas who are the only
beings worthy to actualize Buddha-nature.
I see a real danger for some American
Buddhists who have been misled by deviant teachings which insist that temporal
conditions are Buddha-nature itself. Make no mistake about it, mountains, rivers,
and earth are not Buddha-nature. A mountain is a mountain because it is not Buddha-nature,
having never completed the six paramitas. A river is a river because it is not
Buddha-nature. And earth is not Buddha-nature. If earth were Buddha-nature, having
completed the six paramitas, then nothing with a body made of earth would ever
suffer or perish. Clearly, this is not the case.
To see Buddha-nature requires
extraordinary actions. Obstructions that hamper our supreme vision of Buddha-nature
must be removed by using the paramitas. In that respect, Buddha-nature does not
come easily or automatically.
I beg you to surpass the six senses which are
empty of Buddha-nature. Don't imagine that Buddha-nature can be seen. Don't search
for it as if it were a sound. Do go after it like a dog tracking a scent. Don't
imagine that the tongue can taste it or speak of it. Don't believe that it can
be touched or felt. Don't be misled and take Buddha-nature to be a mental representation.
Surpass all the senses. Leave everything behind so that you might awaken to that
which is the very source of all things.