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 This Mind Is Buddha

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Daibai asked Baso: "What is Buddha?"


Baso said: "This mind is Buddha."

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Mumon's comment: If anyone wholly understands this, he is wearing Buddha's clothing, he is eating Buddha's food, he is speaking Buddha's words, he is behaving as Buddha, he is Buddha. This anecdote, however, has given many a pupil the sickness of formality. If one truly understands, he will wash out his mouth for three days after saying the word Buddha, and he will close his ears and flee after hearing "This mind is Buddha."


Under blue sky, in bright sunlight,
One need not search around.
Asking what Buddha is
Is like hiding loot in one's pocket and declaring oneself innocent.

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Sustaining the Nature of Mind Our nature does not go or stay anywhere since it is always with us. It does not become more present by going to the mountains and living in a hermitage. Our nature does not change according to circumstances. Therefore, moving about, staying somewhere, going or not going to the mountains – all these are superficial attributes that are not found in the basic nature itself.

As you know, Jetsun Milarepa sang many songs, which were very pithy and beneficial to those who listened and understood. Among those songs is one he sang for a woman called Paldabum. In the song she is referred to as being a female lay practitioner. In those days, there were women who would practice a lot but still led the life of lay people. They took vows to do intensive practice on the 8th or the 15thor the 30th day of the Tibetan month, and in between they would carry on their normal work. Milarepa had many such disciples. Paldabum was very bright and devoted, and she asked Milarepa many questions. (…) She asked questions about how she herself, being an ordained woman, could combine Dharma practice with her daily life. As she related, “In the daytime I have to work, at night time I sleep, in the morning and evening I need to cook. I am a servant to all these tasks that fill up my life. In spite of this, I still want to practice. How can I do this? Please give me some advice?’

In reply, Milarepa sang a song of four analogies and one meaning, five points. First he said, “Look at the mountain. The mountain is unshakable. Like that, train in being like a mountain, always steady and stable.” Then he said, “Look at the sun and moon. Though sometimes covered by clouds and haze, the sun and moon in themselves never change; their brilliance doesn’t increase or decrease, they’re forever the same. Train yourself in being constant, without waxing or waning.” The third analogy he gave was: “Look at the sky. Space is not made out of anything. Its nature is empty, and has neither centre nor edge. Train yourself in being free from centre and edge.” Then he said: “Look at the great lake: Though its surface ripples, the body of water remains unwavering. Train yourself in being unwavering.” Finally he gave the fifth point, the meaning, singing, “Your mind is the most important. Simply settle into yourself and look into your mind. Without being carried away by thoughts about this and that, be totally steady and meditate. That is the heart essence of meditation.”

Paldabum connected her next questions with the analogies Milarepa had just given. She said: “I can at times train in being as stable as a mountain. However, on the mountain various plants, shrubs and trees grow. What should I do? I can at times practice in a way which is unchanging like the brilliance of the sun and moon. But occasionally the sun and moon are eclipsed. When that happens, what should I do? I can at times train in being as steady and unchanging as the sky, but sometimes many clouds gather. At that time, what should I do? I can train in being as stable as the ocean, but sometimes great waves appear. At that time, what should I do? In the same way, when I’m simply looking into mind, sometimes many thoughts occur. At that time, what should I do?” Milarepa’s reply continued with these themes. He said: “When you practice in a way that is like a mountain, remember this: shrubs, trees and plants grow naturally on the mountain, sprouting, growing and perishing there. This arising, dwelling and ceasing of growth does not change the mountain in any way whatsoever. It is merely different expressions that don’t affect the stability of the mountain at all.

“Sometimes you are able to practice in a way that is unchanging, like the brilliance of the sun and moon. However, remember that the eclipsing of the sun and moon is not real and constant; it’s a momentary event that does not have any concrete substance in itself. It vanishes. It’s only the different expressions of the sun and moon, and does not affect the inherent nature, as they continue to shine naturally.

“Sometimes you are able to practice in a way that is unchanging, like the sky. Remember this: when clouds gather, they do not change the sky itself, no matter how dense or dark they are. The many different types of weather are a varied display, but the sky remains beyond change.

“Although you can practice like the ocean, remember this: when the surface is in turmoil with waves, there is no wave that exists apart from the ocean. It’s the ocean itself that manifests different expressions. No wave has a separate identity from the ocean.”

Milarepa continued:

“When different thoughts crowd your mind, remember that no thought has any existence apart from the empty cognisance of the mind nature. It is empty cognisance itself that takes the form of a thought, and is like varying facial expressions or moods, without any separate identity.” This is Milarepa’s instruction in sustaining the nature of mind.”

Bankei - Buddha Mind

When we look back on this life, we see that when people are born, no one has thoughts of joy, sadness, hatred, or bitterness. Are we not in the state of the buddha mind bequeathed by our parents? It is after birth that intelligence develops, and people learn bad habits from others in the course of seeing and hearing them. As they grow up, their personal mental habits emerge, and they turn the buddha mind into a monster because of biased self-importance.

People are born with nothing but the unconceived buddha mind, but because of self-importance they want to get their own way, arguing and losing their temper yet claiming it is the stubbornness of others that makes them mad. Getting fixated on what others say, they turn the all-important unique buddha mind into a monster, mulling over useless things, repeating the same thoughts over and over again. They are so foolish they will not give up on things even if getting their own way would in any case prove to be futile. Folly is the cause of animality, so they are inwardly changing the all-important unique buddha mind into a paragon of animality.

Everyone is intelligent, but through lack of under- standing they turn the buddha mind into all sorts of things hungry ghost, monster, animal. Once you've become an animal, even if you hear truth you don't listen, or even if you do listen, being animal-like, you can't retain what you've heard.

Going from one hellish state to another, from one animalistic state to another, from one ghostly state to another, from darkness to darkness in an endless vicious cycle, you go on experiencing infinite misery for the bad things you have done, with never a break.

This can happen to anyone, once you've gone astray. Just understand the point of not turning the buddha mind into something else.

As soon as a single thought gets fixated on some- thing, you become ordinary mortals. All delusion is like this. You pick up on something confronting you, turn the buddha mind into a monster because of your own self-importance, and go astray on account of your own ego.

Whatever it is confronting you, let it be. As long as you do not pick up on it and react with bias, just remaining in the buddha mind and not transforming it into something else, then delusion cannot occur. This is constant abiding in the unconceived buddha mind.

Everyone makes the mistake of supposing that acquired delusions produced by selfish desire and mental habits are inborn, and so they are unable to avoid confusion....

As I listen to the people who come to me, all of them make the mistake of turning the buddha mind into thoughts, unable to stop, piling thoughts upon thoughts, resulting in the development of ingrained mental habits, which they then believe are inborn and unalterable.

Please understand; this is very important. Once you have unconsciously drifted into delusion, if your state of mind degenerates and you flow downward like a valley stream in a waterfall, there is no way back after you have fallen into vicious cycles.

Again, suppose that you have developed mental habits based on selfish desires. When people criticize things that suit your selfish mentality, you become angry and defensive since they are, after all, bad things and you rationalize them as good. When people praise things that do not suit your selfish mentality, you reject them being, of course, good things and you retort that they are bad.

Everything is like this. Delusion can make a defect seem like a virtue. Having fallen into ignorance, you go through all sorts of changes, degenerating further and further until you fall into hell, with precious little chance of regaining your humanity.

The most important thing is not to be self-centered; then you cannot fail to remain in the buddha mind spontaneously.

To want to be at least as good as others in every- thing is the worst thing there is. Wanting to be at least as good as others is called egotistic pride. As long as you don't wish to be superior to others, then you won't be inferior either.

Also, when people mistreat us, it is because we have pride. When we consider mistreatment from others to be due to our own defects and so we exam- ine ourselves, then no one in the world is bad.

When angry thoughts arise, they turn the buddha mind into a monster. But anger and delight both, being self-centered, obscure and confuse the lumi- nous buddha mind, so that it goes around in vicious circles. Without subjective bias the buddha mind remains unconceived, so it does not revolve in circles. Let everyone understand this.

From: "Teachings of Zen" Ed. Thomas Cleary