What is the point of the World-honored One's (Buddha's) words that
"All living beings totally exist as the Buddha-nature"?
It is the words "This is something ineffable coming like this " turning the Dharma wheel.
Those called "living beings," or called "the sentient," or called "all forms of life", or called "all creatures, " are living beings and are all forms of Existence.
In short, Total Existence" is the Buddha-nature, and the perfect-totality of Total Existence is called "living beings".
At just this moment, the inside and outside of living beings are the Total Existence of the Buddha-nature.
The state is more than only the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow that are transmitted one-to-one, because you have got my skin, flesh, bones, and marrow. Remember, 'the Existence, [described] now, which is totally possessed by the Buddha-nature, is beyond the "existence" of existence and non-existence. Total Existence is the Buddha's words, the Buddha's tongue, the Buddhist patriarchs' eyes, and the nostrils of a patch-robed monk.
The words "Total Existence" are utterly beyond beginning existence, beyond original existence, beyond fine existence, and so on. How much less could they describe conditioned existence or illusory existence? They are not connected with "mind and circumstances'' or with "essence and form" and
the like.
This being so, object-and-subject as living beings-and-Total Existence is completely beyond ability based on karmic accumulation, beyond the random occurrence of circumstances, beyond accordance with the Dharma, and beyond mystical powers and practice and experience. If the Total Existence of living beings were [ability] based on karmic accumulation, were the random occurrence of circumstances, were accordance with the Dharma, and so on, then the saints' experience of the truth, the buddhas' state of bodhi, and the Buddhist patriarchs' eyes, would also be ability based on karmic accumulation, the occurrence of circumstances, and accordance with the Dharma.
That is not so.
The whole Universe is utterly without objective molecules: here and now there is no second person at all.
[At the same time] "No person has ever recognized the direct cutting of the root"; for "When does the busy movement of karmic consciousness ever cease?"
[Total Existence] is beyond existence that arises through random circumstances; for "The entire Universe has never been hidden."
"The entire Universe has never been hidden" does not necessarily mean that the substantial world is Existence itself. [At the same time] "The entire Universe is my possession" is the wrong view of non-Buddhists. [Total Existence] is beyond originally-existing existence; for it pervades the eternal past and pervades the eternal present. It is beyond newly-appearing existence; for it does not accept a single molecule. It is beyond separate instances of existence; for it is inclusive perception. It is beyond the "existence" of "beginningless existence"; for it is something ineffable coming like this. It is beyond the "existence" of "newly arising existence"; for the everyday mind is the truth."
Remember, in the midst of Total Existence it is difficult for living beings to meet easy convenience.
When understanding of Total Existence is like this, Total Existence is the state of penetrating to the substance and getting free.
Hearing the word "Buddha-nature," many students have misunderstood it to be like the "Self" described by the non-Buddhist Senika. This is because they do not meet people, they do not meet themselves, and they do not meet with a teacher. They vacantly consider mind, will, or consciousness-which is the movement of wind and fire"-
to be the Buddha-nature's enlightened knowing and enlightened understanding. Who has ever said that enlightened knowing and enlightened understanding are present in the Buddha-nature? Those who realize enlightenment, those who know, are buddhas, but the Buddha-nature is beyond enlightened knowing and enlightened understanding.
Moreover, in describing the buddhas as those who realize and those who know, we are not describing the wrong views randomly expressed by those others as realization and knowing. And we are not describing the movement of wind and fire as realization and knowing.
When the sixth patriarch in China, Zen Master Daikan of Sokei-zan mountain," first visited Obai-zan mountain, the fifth patriarch,"' the story goes, asks him, "Where are you from?"
The sixth patriarch says, "I am a man from south of the Peaks. "
The fifth patriarch says, '"What do you want to get by coming here?"
The sixth patriarch says, "I want to become Buddha"
The fifth patriarch says, "A man from south of the Peaks is without the Buddha-nature, how can you expect to become buddha?
These words "A man from south of the Peaks is without the Buddha-nature" do not mean that a man from south of the Peaks does not have the buddha-nature, and do not mean that a man from south of the Peaks has the Buddha-nature.
They mean that the man from the south of the Peaks, being without, is the Buddha- nature.
"How can you expect to become buddha?"
means "What kind of becoming buddha are you expecting?" Generally, the past masters who have clarified the truth of the Buddha-nature are few. It is beyond the various teachings of the Agama-sutras and it cannot be known by
teachers of sutras and commentaries: it is transmitted one-to-one by none other than the descendants of the Buddhist Patriarch.
The truth of the Buddha-nature is that we are not equipped with the Buddha-nature before we realize the state of buddha; we are equipped with it following realization of the state of buddha. The Buddha-nature and realization of buddha inevitably experience the same state together.
We should thoroughly investigate and consider this truth. We should consider it and learn it in practice for thirty years or twenty years. It is not understood by [bodhisattvas] in the ten sacred stages or the three clever stages. To say "living beings have the Buddha-nature," or "living beings are without the Buddha-nature," is this truth.
To learn in practice, that [the Buddha-nature] is something which is present following realization of Buddha, is accurate and true. [Teaching] which is not learned like this is not the Buddha-Dharma. Without being learned like this, the Buddha-Dharma could not have reached us today.
Without clarifying this truth we neither clarify, nor see and hear, the realization of buddha. This is why the fifth patriarch, in teaching the other, tells him, "People from south of the Peaks, being without, are the Buddha-nature." When we first meet Buddha and hear the Dharma, [the teaching]
that is difficult to get and difficult to hear is "Living beings, being without, are the Buddha-nature." In sometimes following [good] counselors and sometimes following the sutras, what we should be glad to hear is "Living
beings, being without, are the Buddha-nature." Those who are not satisfied in seeing, hearing, realizing, and knowing that "All living beings, being without, are the Buddha-nature," have never seen, heard, realized, or
known the Buddha-nature. When the sixth patriarch earnestly seeks to become buddha, the fifth patriarch is able to make the sixth patriarch become buddha-without any other expression and without any other skillful means-just by saying "A man from south of the Peaks, being without, is
the Buddha-nature. "
Remember, saying and hearing the words "being without the Buddha-nature" is the direct path to becoming buddha.
In sum,
just at the moment of being without the Buddha-nature, we become buddha at once.
Those who have neither seen and heard nor expressed being without the Buddha-nature have not become buddha.
The sixth patriarch says "People have south and north, but the Buddha-nature is without south and north." We should take this expression and make effort to get inside the words. We should reflect on the words "south and north" with naked mind. The words of the sixth patriarch's expression of the truth have meaning in them: they include a point of view
"People become buddha, but the Buddha-nature cannot become buddha"
- does the sixth patriarch recognize this or not? Receiving a fraction of the superlative power of restriction present in the expression of the truth "being without the Buddha-nature," as expressed by the fourth patriarch and the fifth patriarch, Kasyapa Buddha and Sakyamuni Buddha and other buddhas possess the ability, in becoming buddha and in preaching Dharma, to express "totally having the Buddha-nature." How could the having of totally having not receive the Dharma from the being without in which there is no "being without"? So the words being without the Buddha- nature can be heard coming from the distant rooms of the fourth patriarch and the fifth patriarch. At this time, if the sixth patriarch were a person of the fact, he would strive to consider these words "being without the Buddha-nature." Setting aside for a while the "being without" of "having and being without," he should ask,
"Just what is the Buddha-nature?"
He should inquire, "What concrete thing is the Buddha-nature?" People today also, when they have heard of the Buddha-nature, do not ask further,
'"What is the Buddha-nature?" They seem only to discuss the meaning of the Buddha-nature's existence, non-existence, and so on. This is too hasty. In sum, the "being without" which belongs to various denials of existence
should be studied under the being without of being without the Buddha-nature. We should sift through two times and three times, for long ages, the sixth patriarch's words, "People have south and north, but the Buddha-
nature is without south and north. " Power may be present just in the sieved We should quietly take up and let go of the sixth patriarch's words "People have south and north, but the Buddha-nature is without south and north." Stupid people think, "The human world has south and north because it is hindered by physical substance, whereas the Buddha-nature, being void and dissolute, is beyond discussion of south and north."
Those who guess that the sixth patriarch said this may be powerless dimwits. Casting aside this wrong understanding, we should directly proceed with diligent practice.
The sixth patriarch preaches to disciple Gyosho, "That without constancy is the Buddha-nature. That which has constancy is the mind that divides all dharmas into good and bad. "That without constancy" expressed by the sixth patriarch is beyond the supposition of non-Buddhists, the two vehicles, and the like. Founding patriarchs and latest offshoots among non-Buddhists and the two vehicles are without constancy, though they cannot perfectly realize it. Thus, when that without constancy itself preaches, practices, and experiences that without constancy, all may be that without constancy. If people can now be saved by the manifestation of our own body, we manifest at once our own body and preach for them the Dharma.
This is the Buddha-nature.
Further, it may be sometimes the manifestation of a long Dharma body and sometimes the manifestation of a short Dharma body. Everyday saints are that without constancy and everyday commoners are that without
constancy. The idea that everyday commoners and saints cannot be the Buddha-nature may be a stupid view of small thinking and a narrow view of the intellect. Buddha is a bit of body, and nature is a bit of action. On this basis, the sixth patriarch says "That without constancy is the Buddha-
nature." "The constant" is the unchanging. The meaning of "the unchanging" is as follows: even though we turn it into the separating subject and transform it into the separated object, because it is not necessarily connected with the traces of leaving and coming, it is the constant. In sum,
that without constancy of grass, trees, and forests is just the Buddha-nature. And that without constancy of the body-and-mind of a human being is the Buddha-nature itself. National lands and mountains and rivers are that without constancy because they are the Buddha-nature. The truth of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, because it is the Buddha-nature, is that without constancy. The great state of parinirvana, because it is that without constancy,
is the Buddha-nature. The various people of small views of the two vehicles, together with scholars of the tripitaka who teach sutras and commentaries, and the like, might be astonished, doubting, and afraid at these words of the sixth patriarch. If they are astonished or doubting, they
are demons and non-Buddhists.

/Based on Master Dogen's SHOBOGENZO Book 2, "Bussho" translated by Gudo Nishijima & Chodo Cross, Windbell Publications