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Part1: The Road to the Other Shore 1-10

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Writer admin Date05 Jan 2006 Read9,502 Comment0



Within the green forest a golden oriole shuttles back and forth, weaving the silk of spring. This monk dozes during his sittings and a stone Buddha smiles. While I nap deep within the forest on Chogye Mountain, if the passing ‘clouds and water’ have something to ask, I reply to them; me, this useless, old and withered man.

Many types of people from several countries in the East and West have also come to see me. If they ask about the road to follow in life, I have tried to point out the direction; while at my side, some of my foreign disciples would take up the responsibility for translating. They have requested several times to have the words which they have heard during these discussions copied down; but knowing nothing about writing, I could not comply with their request. Nevertheless, as a gift to friends who have come from foreign lands many thousands of li distant, I have clumsily recorded a few words, to be made use of as they wish.

If a blind man leading a line of blind men should happen to fall into a ditch, all the others would follow him into it; so, since I am sure that I could not have but made mistakes, if there are points of controversy, I hope that you will scold me severely, and bestow on me the whip of guidance.
1. The Most Precious Thing in the World

Often when people have come to see me, I have asked them what the most precious thing in the world is. Some have said that it is world peace. Others have said that it is a friendship which knows no national boundaries. Still others have said position, art, wealth, peace of mind, or life. It is not that the things these people have said are not precious, but that there is something more precious than these. Isn’t it only me, who, in a variety of different ways, is liking and disliking, discriminating and judging as in the above manner? And how is this possible? Isn’t it because there must be an ‘I’ which can understand things and judge their value? If there is no ‘I’ wouldn’t there have to be something else? Yet how can there be something else, which in place of ‘I’, understands and judges?

If questioned in this manner, people cannot answer.
2. What Is ‘I’?

When I ask what ‘I’ is, everyone replies in such terms as ‘me-myself’. Of course that indeed is the ‘I’, but the ‘True-I’ must be distinguished from the ‘False-I’: that ‘True-I’ is not restricted by the physical body.

“When you dream, aren’t’ there mountains, rivers, your friends, and a whole assortment of other things appearing in those dreams?” Of course there are.

“In dreams is fire cold and ice hot; is sugar salty and salt sweet?” Most people answer that they do not have these kinds of experiences.

“If we are faced with unjust affairs in our dreams, do we just accept them no matter how unjust they are, simply because it is a dream, or do we resist them?” Regardless of however much it may be only a dream, at that time we do not even think about it being a dream, but naturally we resist those injustices.

“In dreams, what is the ‘I’? At the time of dreaming can we also point to our self and say that it is the ‘I’, or would we say that it is not the ‘I’?” If questioned in this manner, people answer that it is also the ‘I’.

“But then what difference is there between the ‘I’ in dreams and the ‘I’ now?”

“They are both ‘I’.”

“But can there be two ‘I’s’?”

“No, there cannot be two ‘I’s’.”

“Then, which one is the real ‘I’?”

“The one talking now is the real ‘I’.”

“Then, what about the ‘I’ which in dreams also knows bitter and sweet, and has likes and dislikes?”

“It is an illusion.”

“If it is concluded that the ‘I’ in dreams is an illusion, are we ourselves now real?”

“We are real.”

“Although undoubtedly it is ‘I’ in dreams, and ‘I’ now, we can quite easily reject the dreams of others as being illusory; but how can we conclude that those facts which we ourselves know to be true, are actually illusion? Dreams are clearly a functioning of the mind.”

[Thus it is apparent that the functioning of the mind is not limited solely to its operation through the sense-organs of the physical body; for when its physical sense-experience is completely cut off during sleep, the mind continues to encounter a whole realm of experience during dreams, which is entirely independent of the physical body. In the same way, even when the functioning of the physical body is ended at death, the mind, due to its ability to operate independently, can continue to function.] Therefore the body is the ‘False-I’ and the mind is the “True-I’.

3. Dreams

Dreams result due to the following process. Things experienced in the phenomenal world through the five sense-consciousnesses (eye, ear, nose, tongue and body) and mental objects experienced in the mind through the sixth sense-consciousness (the mind-consciousness) are discriminated into good and bad, and judged in relationship to ‘I’ by the seventh consciousness, the Governing-consciousness. The eighth, the Storehouse-consciousness, records the impressions of the things experienced up to and through the sixth consciousness, and of the various kinds of good, bad, right and wrong judgments made by the seventh consciousness and stores them away. The ninth, the Mind-King-consciousness, also called the Pure-consciousness, has control over all the consciousnesses up to the eighth. When we enter into sleep and the functioning of all the consciousnesses from the first to the sixth comes to a halt, the function of this ninth consciousness, and absorb them into itself. This process is analogous to projecting a movie: the seventh, eighth and ninth consciousnesses have, respectively, the role of the screen, the film and the reflecting-lens; and the defilements (the action on the screen) are what manifest as dreams during sleep, and are what distort the environment during the waking state.

Furthermore, even during one night, dreams appearing in the evening are related to past events, whereas those appearing in the early morning anticipate the future. Things never experienced by oneself which appear, are things which either occurred prior to the acquisition of this body, or which will occur either later in this life of after the dissolution of this body. This is possible because the ninth consciousness, the Pure Consciousness, permeates the three time-periods of past, present, and future. Undoubtedly, dreams are a functioning of the mind.

Though standard psychology has dealt with what is called the subconscious mind, exclusive of the sixth consciousness, the Mind-Only Doctrine (Vijnanavada) of Buddhism has analyzed it exhaustively into a number of consciousnesses as mentioned above.

In the general world we consider the physical body and the phenomenal world to be real; but let’s examine it more closely.
4. Illusion and Reality

What is subject to change is illusion; what cannot be changed is reality. Dreams are said to be illusory because after one dream appears, it vanishes and another one appears in a continual cycle. Further, this does not apply only to the world of dreams; because even though we call this body real, it too is clearly undergoing perpetual maturation and decay. A growing child doesn’t stop growing for even a second; but an old man doesn’t stop aging for even a second either. We are always changing. From the moment we are born into the world, as we are growing, we are simultaneously running towards death. If such a body is not an illusion, then what is it?

Men consider that everything appearing in the sense- spheres is real. For example there is a cake here. Is it something which exists or doesn’t? Is it real or is it illusion? We will answer that is certainly is real; but after a second, when the cake is eaten, would it still be real?

To extend on this, though this world seems to be stable, at sometime an island might suddenly appear out of the middle of the ocean, or a continent may abruptly sink into the sea. Thus, if our phenomenal world too is not an illusion, then what is it?

Though when this body is healthy we believe it could live for a hundred years, if only once after breathing out we cannot breathe in, or after breathing in we cannot breath out, then that is the hundred years. Thus this hundred years of life is dependent up on one breath. Consequently, where can we find a place of security? Where can the mind which is directing this body be settled? Ultimately, isn’t to believe in the body, finally to be cheated by the body?

Although everyone in his own way has loves,
This body is an illusion: how can it be believed in?
If we could awaken to the Mind,
Wouldn’t that be the greatest happiness?

Therefore not only dreams, but the phenomenal world also, is nothing else but illusion.
5. Subject and Object

I have asked many people if the subject or the object is first. Some answer that subject and object appear simultaneously. This answer completely disregards the ‘I’ present before the birth of this body, for it unmistakably implies that when the body dies, the mind accordingly dies also. Actually this view that the mind also dies at the moment of the body’s death, is the same as the annihilation view. Wouldn’t this view imply that the mind, being bound to the body, could not operate independently? Such a person could not have dreams, for dreams are a function which is separate from the body.

Others answer that the subject and the object cannot be divided. But, for example, this is the same as those who ask if the hen or the egg is first. Both the hen and the egg are illusory material things; therefore such proposals are the words of those who live entangled in illusion.

Others answer that the object is first. This person also wrongly perceives illusory material things to be the focus (of life). Fettered by material things, his world is a world no different from that of the animals, in which man’s true value is lost. All animals also have male and female distinctions, produce offspring, search for food for their subsistence, and try to live in freedom. But there is no etiquette or morality whatsoever to be found in them. Consequently they know absolutely nothing about parents, children or friends.

Others answer that the subject is first. Such an individual, without having rejected the phenomenal world, knows how to make use of it; and as he is able to adapt himself to the world, he can follow the right road.

It has also been asked whether, from the subject’s point of view, the body, the earth, and all of mankind are the same or different. As both the body and the world are compounded from the four great elements, this world, mankind and all the animals are no different from oneself. This is precisely the ‘Great-I’. And as we know that it is not possible to separate any component from the rest of the world, both objects and the relative ‘I’ cannot really exist. Therefore, the ‘Great-I’ is precisely ‘I-less’.

In this case, what is the ‘Small-I’? It is the view that only this physical body which does not exceed six or seven feet in height, is the ‘I’, and that everything apart from it is an object without relation to it. Since such a person only considers those things which he possesses personally to be his own, even though he has hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars worth of riches, essentially there is no way he can avoid complete destitution. And not only that, but even if he is amidst tens of thousands of people there is no way he can avoid loneliness, because all those people are just objects, and he is only this one body.

Thus if it is asked at what level we should live our lives, everyone would say that, of course, we should live out lives at the level of the ‘Great-I’. When from the level of the ‘Great-I’ we examine the external world, we see it as the world of true essence in which all discriminative knowledge (i.e. the distinctions between male and female, old and young, sangsara and Nirvana, religions, far and near, good or bad, right or wrong, the paradises, heavens, and our saha-world) comes to an end.

Usually it is said that images of the Buddha are idols, but these are the words of ignorant men who neither know themselves, nor know the great truth of the universe. If we know that we are the Absolute Ones who are sovereign over the world, we would not mare ourselves through suicidal, stupid actions, but would hurry to discover our ‘True-I’. Since the world, mankind, sentient beings and insentient objects, the universe and all of creation are ourselves, where in this universe can there be a Creator? The self-nature which superintends ourselves, is exactly the ‘True-I’.

In the garden at Song Kwang Sa ( 松廣寺 ) there is a dead juniper tree. The sign in front of it states: ‘If I live, you live; if I die, you die.’ This statement has been misinterpreted to imply that if the National Master Bo Jo (who planted the tree eight hundred years ago) returned to life, then this dead juniper tree would return to life also; but it means nothing like that. Rather it signifies that when we discover our ‘True-I’, and transcend birth-and-death, ourselves and everything throughout the entire universe simultaneously transcend birth-and-death. Consequently, as long as we are deluded, the subject and the object remain separate; but upon enlightenment, we transcend both subject and object and become an Outstanding Man.
6. The World of Sentient Beings (Sangsaric Existence)

As stated previously, the Mind is the Master which is directing all our actions. Though the world’s population is four billion, how many people have realized their ‘True-I’? If we presume that there are forty, then we can conclude that there would be one such person per every hundred million; if we presume that there are only four, then there would be only one per every billion. People who have not awakened to the Mind live enslaved by the environment; they dream not only when they sleep, but even with their eyes open they are living in a dream. How distressing it is! If we act while remaining ignorant of the ‘True-I’, we can do nothing but play the role of a blind man passing from east to west, through the past to the present. Therefore, every time we take a step or move the hands, there is no action which is no unskillful, and every time we give rise to a thought, there is no thought that is not defiled.

When the mind is dark, we say it is a sentient being; the world where sentient beings dwell, is named the Saha-world; and because we are unable to separate ourselves from the suffering of birth-and-death, we say there is the sea of suffering. And there is attachment to this because we delight in birth and grieve over death. If we make merit we arise in heaven; if we cultivate the good we are born as men; if we are jealous and envious, we are born as asuras; and if we are angry we fall into hell. If without discretion we give rise to craving and sensual desire, we appear among the hungry ghosts; and if while knowing what is right, we do not perform right actions, or while knowing what is wrong, we intentionally make transgressions, we are born into the animal realms. Thus, that day will never come when the sea of suffering which extends throughout the six regions of existence will dry up. All these blunders result from remaining ignorant of the Mind while living enslaved by the environment.

What is it that Buddhism wants to do? Buddha means enlightenment. Enlightenment means to awaken to the Mind. But for those whose minds remain in darkness, the sea of suffering of the six regions continues to exist. There is this world of pain and suffering for those who live in the six regions, either as gods, men, asuras, beings in hell, hungry ghosts or animals. Although it was not something which had to be, the world of sentient beings has expanded because everyone became habituated to being attached to the environment. Although people commonly believe heaven to be a separate and eternal world, it too is actually one of the regions within the three planes and is a world which is not free from birth and death. Though it is a place where happiness is received due to the merit which was made previously, when that merit is exhausted, we again according to karma made in the past, fall into one of the five other regions. Thus, though we can go from the hell, hungry ghost or animal regions straight up to heaven, we can also fall straight back down into these three bad regions. All this is called ‘the turning of Sangsara’s wheel’ through the six regions of existence.
7. The World of Enlightenment

When finally we awaken, after having cultivated the mind in order to become free from the sufferings of birth and death, the sea of suffering of the six regions will vanish. Sentient beings conceive that the sea of suffering of the six regions exists in reality, but this is wrong. While dreaming we perceive the dream world as existing in reality too, but at the moment of awakening from sleep we recognize it to be illusion. So, in the same way, when the mind is deluded we wrongly perceive that the sea of illusion exists, but if we awaken to the Mind, we clearly understand it to be illusory.

The eyes of the enlightened man who has awakened to the true-nature which is absolutely unchanging, have direct insight into the great truth of the universe. He has transcended the three time-periods of past, present and future; and by transcending both time and space he is not obstructed by being or non-being: this is called liberation. He sees all phenomena in the universe through the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, in the same manner as a mirror reflects everything in creation. He is without contamination or attachments; he is like white clouds over green mountains or falling rain on the blue sea. By staying within the mind of non-action (wu-wei), he has followed the stream and reached the marvel; he is vast and boundless. This is the man who is without any obstructions. All relativity is ended here; birth doesn’t matter and death doesn’t matter. Everyone is Vairocana Buddha and all is a store of flowers. There is nothing which is not sacred. One name for such a man is ‘a person who is beyond all things’.
8. Categories of Mind

There are the following five categories of mind: one, the illusory mind; two, the true mind; three, the small vehicle mind; four, the great vehicle mind; and five, the supreme vehicle mind.

The Illusory Mind is the mind which is dominated by the environment and subject to arising and ceasing.

The True Mind is the mind which is not dominated by the environment; and as it is the Mind which is present prior to the arising of joy and anger, and sorrow and happiness, it is also called the Imperturbable Mind or the Original Mind.

The Small Vehicle Mind is the mind which though awakened, is attached to voidness; looking upon all worldly forms as illusory, it enjoys selfish pleasure in the sphere of voidness. It is the mind which, having practiced the Path and destroyed all conditioned dharmas, first enters through the door of voidness and is immersed in quietitude. Although it is liberated from conditioned dharmas, it is still attached to unconditioned dharmas; and as there is little difference between the defects of either (attachment to) existence or non-existence, it is also defective.

The Great Vehicle Mind (which includes the Mind of Great Compassion and the Bodhisattva Mind) enters through the door of voidness, takes a step forward off the hundred foot high pole, and realizes the truth that all conditioned and unconditioned dharmas are non-dual. When all dharmas are observed from the level of Enlightenment, mundane and supermundane are not different, and the Buddha and sentient beings are not different. But all sentient beings have not realized this truth; and fettered by the three poisons of greed, hatred and delusion, they give rise to all manner of perverse views and conceive that the eighty-four thousand kinds of defilements are real. The Mind of Great Compassion feels pity for these sentient beings who are making all kinds of karma, and expounds the Dharma in order to save them. The Bodhisattva Mind is the mind which takes upon itself the sufferings of all sentient beings and leads them on the road to enlightenment. This is called the Great Vehicle Mind.

The Supreme Vehicle Mind initially has its faith aroused because of the fear of suffering, and eventually reaches the sphere of Nirvana. It examines all dharmas and sees that all sentient beings fundamentally are Buddhas, and that all conditioned and unconditioned dharmas cannot but be real. Thus it is equivalent to the Essential-Nature, within which there is no enlightened one who expounds the Dharma, there are no sentient beings who listen to the Dharma, and the expounding of the Dharma to save sentient beings is only a fantasy of the Buddhas and Patriarchs. Birth is the same as the Unborn; death is the same as the Deathless. There is no existence and yet there is existence; there is no non-existence and yet there is non-existence. Existence and non-existence are both without hindrances. It recognizes no difference between the ordinary man and the accomplished man. Delusion and Enlightenment are non-dual. Good and evil are rootless. The Saha-world and the Pure Lands are identical. Sangsara and Nirvana are fully fused. The noumenal and the phenomenal are indistinguishable. This is the Mind of Nirvana, the Mind of Complete Mastery and Freedom, the Mind of Great Liberation.
9. The Principle That Material Things Are Not Annihilated

When it is realized that the existence and non-existence of all dharmas is neither the same nor different, then there is no distinction possible between Sangsara and Nirvana, and even material things exist eternally. Therefore ‘Real-Mind’ or ‘Original-Nature’ refers to that non-duality of illusion and reality. The entire earth is the body of Vairocana Buddha.
10. The Range of the ‘I’

Since sentient beings and insentient things are not separate from the true-nature, the characteristic of this nature is simply ‘thus’. And because this nature can be neither added to nor taken away from, there is neither more of it in the accomplished man, nor less of it in the ordinary man. This nature encompasses limitless space; and the perfection achieved through seeing this nature simultaneously purifies the world of external objects. When the visual sense-base is purified the five other sense-bases (the ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) are also completely purified. Accordingly, the six sense-spheres are purified too. Thus the entire world becomes a pure Garden of Happiness. Further, as one’s mind is bright, the minds of sentient beings are also bright; and as the minds of sentient beings are bright, all sentient beings in the entire world are bright too. Therefore, this world is the world of Nirvana and all sentient beings are Buddhas.

How can we search
for the great truth of the universe
While staying at the surface?
Can we be separated for even a ksana
from this vivid spirit?
Leaning on an inverted moon-staff,
we go laughing loudly.

Consequently, the Buddha-dharma is not intellectual knowledge. There are some people who think that Buddhism is something which requires much scriptural study in order to understand; but while much study may expand ordinary knowledge, as far as the Truth is concerned, a wide gap will remain. The Buddha considered Enlightenment to be the core of His Dispensation.

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