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Hongren said…

Discussion of Chinese Chán (禪) Buddhism.

Hongren said…

Postby deci belle on Tue Aug 30, 2016 11:53 pm

In aiming for the enlightenment of sages to understand the true source, if the essential issue of cultivating the mind is not kept pure, there is no way for any practice to yield realization. If any good friends copy this text, be careful not to omit anything, lest you cause people of later times to err.

The basic essence of cultivating enlightenment should be discerned: it is the inherently complete and pure mind, in which there is no false discrimination, and body and mind are fundamentally pure, unborn, and undying. This is the basic teacher; this is better than invoking the Buddhas of the ten directions.


—from Thomas Cleary’s (1995) collection of treatises by Chan teachers on the correct approach to the authentic practice of meditation, published by Shambhala under the title, Minding Mind. ISBN 1-57062-004-0

Omitting the rest of the next section consisting of questions and answers, this is an excerpt of Hongren’s getting into the heart of the matter of life and death…

If you do not enter trance and do not see all sorts of visions, do not wonder; just keep the basic true mind perfectly clear at all times, whatever you are doing, so that errant thoughts do not arise and egoism and possessiveness disappear.


Really this is the basic function of enlightening being in all times and places. Hongren is most devious in the way he has introduced the necessary function of sages to students who might suppose that true meditation is all about formal postures and controlled circumstances. He is as dumb as a fox. The most astute will conclude that if in just abiding in this mind, as it is void of seeking trance and ephemeral (internal and external) visions, then one might as well carry out its cultivation in the midst of ordinary circumstances, simply by alighting in the subtle expression of the Unborn awareness as it already is twenty-four hours a day.

[If in so doing] If you comprehend the mind source, then all meaningful mental phenomena spontaneously appear, all vows come to fulfillment, all practices are completed. Everything is done; you are no longer subject to becoming. It is necessary that errant thoughts do not arise and egoism and possessiveness disappear; after you relinquish this body, you will certainly attain the uncreate, the inconceivable.


I assure you, there are no meaningful mental phenomena in terms of the absolute.

Therefore, comprehension of the mind source is enlightening mind, itself the teacher of those with the correct approach to authentic practice of cultivating one’s inherent unified awareness. If awareness were not inherently unified, then enlightenment would constitute a mind other than your own mind right now. One’s comprehension of the true mind source is not somewhere else, not some other time, place or person. One’s own mind source is not subject to time, place, or person. Its inherent unity is already yourself at all times. This is your own mind right now. Since it is not subject to one’s own person, those who comprehend this source immediately realize the Supreme Vehicle of buddhas in this lifetime. Therefore, in relinquishing (the conditional self-reifying sensory perceptions of) this body, you will certainly attain the uncreate, the inconceivable inherently complete and pure mind.

Again, Hongren is not at all referring to experience of sudden illumination in terms of the absolute— he says, “after you relinquish this body, you will certainly attain the uncreate, the inconceivable”. In terms of the absolute, relinquishing this body is itself attaining the absolute immediately— there is no after whereby one attains inconceivability. My point is, here he points directly to the insight of one’s basic inherent true mind right now, in the midst of ordinary circumstances. This is your unborn awareness nominally buried by conditioned deluded consciousness. Hongren uses the words “uncreate” and “inconceivable”, but the fact is that this is the nature of your own mind right now. True meditation is activating this mind in everyday ordinary situations without dwelling on its (deluded) contents. Chan man Hongren is as dumb as a fox!

As for relinquishing this body, when one sees through appearances themselves without denying their characteristics, and accepts one’s enlightening function in the midst of delusional affairs, one does not use the physical rat-eyes of the self-reifying sensory discriminations constituting one’s circumstantial personality; one uses the dharma eye of nonpsychological awareness. This is relinquishing (the sensual use of) this body. His words are straight-forward: “after you relinquish this body, you will certainly attain the uncreate, the inconceivable.” Your own aware mind is already uncreated right now. Attainment is seeing it as it is.

Attainment is seeing it as it is for the first time. Gradual refinement in the aftermath of insight is still necessary so that errant thoughts do not arise and egoism and possessiveness disappear; after you relinquish this body, you will certainly attain the uncreate, the inconceivable.

Attainment is not only recognition, it is the ability to use the knowledge at will. If you know but cannot act on the knowledge, it is the same as not knowing. If you have seen the real but still are overcome by errant thoughts, it is the same as not having seen in the first place.

Work! Don’t waste a moment. Words as true and undeceptive as these are hard to get to hear; those who hear them and actually put them into practice are extremely rare, and those who practice and actually attain them are even more rare.

Calm yourself, quiet yourself, master your senses. Look right into the source of mind, always keep it shining bright, clear and pure. Do not give rise to an indifferent mind.


Where Hongren says to “look right into the source of mind”, it is the same as the taoist guideline to “rest in the highest good.” This point is “the pivot of awareness”, it is “floating around in the center of the compass of the immaterial body of true awareness which has no location.” These phrases all refer to the incipient source of mind, whereby all those with the correctly oriented will to enlightenment observe the basic true mind right now, and gather its fathomless virtue in the midst of all times, places, people, events, situations and the totality of evolutionary karmic circumstances constituting the eternity of created particulates and their conditioned causes and ramifications.

Why? Because fathomless virtue is not separately construed vis-à-vis the totality of evolutionary karmic circumstance constituting eternity: the truth is that these are one and the same, therefore complete reality is neither one nor the other, not both, nor their annihilation. Is this not inconceivability?

Those who practice inconceivability in terms of the uncreate naturally transcend the karmic matrix consisting of incrementally created cause and effect while in its midst without entertaining the slightest notion of self-referenced escape from their ramifications. Why? It is just the way it is for no reason. And, for what it's worth, there is no reason for reality; it just is. Prior illuminates have left the secret of transcendence behind for those with the will to enlightenment. This way of transcendence within no escape is one’s inherently sincere intent of selfless enlightening function shared by all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sages, saints, wizards, adepts and prior illuminates from time immemorial and beyond.

To recap in Hongren’s own words…

If you comprehend the mind source, then all meaningful mental phenomena spontaneously appear, all vows come to fulfillment, all practices are completed. Everything is done; you are no longer subject to becoming.


The practice of true meditation is an endless process taoism calls the spiritual alchemy of immortality. It is not a matter of sitting in a certain posture on a prescribed type of pillow at certain times of the day or night void of external vexations. It is carrying out impersonal adaption in the midst of ordinary situations void of internal vexations according to the time unbeknownst to anyone.

Scripture says that if peoples’ true sincerity does not emerge from within, even if they meet countless buddhas past, present, and future, they can do nothing. Scripture also says that when people know the mind, they liberate themselves; buddhas cannot liberate people.


Self-liberation is a continuum of one’s spontaneous gathering of enlightening virtue inherent in all situations according to the time.

I tell you all clearly, preserving the mind is number one; if you do not make any effort to preserve the mind, you are extremely foolish. By not accepting the present, you suffer a lifetime of misery; by wishing for the future, you suffer calamity for myriad aeons. If I indulge you, I don’t know what more I can tell you.


Indeed. Preserving this mind is better than invoking the Buddhas of the ten directions. There follows a question:

Question: What is the disappearance of egoism and possessiveness?
Answer: If you have any desire to surpass others, or any thought of your own ability, this is egoism and possessiveness. These are sicknesses in the context of nirvana, so The Nirvana Scripture says, “Space can contain everything, but space does not entertain the thought that it can contain everything.” This is a metaphor for the disappearance of egoism and possessiveness, by which you proceed to indestructible concentration.


In concluding this treatise, Hongren saves the best for last and concedes that “I have composed the foregoing treatise simply by taking the sense of the scriptures according to faith; in reality, I do not know by perfectly complete experience” [italics mine].

Then again, Dogen describes his activity as “one continuous mistake.” As for Hongren’s not knowing by “perfectly complete experience”— he shows you there is nothing under this shell-game. He opens his fist and exposes nothing whatsoever by shrewdly divulging the open secret, saying that he does not know by perfectly complete experience. Even Bodhidharma said as much to the emperor who asked, “Who is speaking to me?” Old bug-eyes responded, “Don’t know.”

Seeing nature is the knowledge of nothing knowing. This one is surely as dumb as a fox! Perfectly complete experience is the spiritual movement within subtle adaption to ordinary circumstances that knows no cause. This is the same impersonally activated nonoriginated potential experienced in the sudden. This is how one acts without acting. By the power of selfless not-knowing, transformation is spontaneous without admitting one’s own power.

The knowledge of selfless nonpsychological awareness is already your own mind. It is not even necessary to experience the sudden to enter into its inconceivable enlightening function. It is only necessary to recognize and preserve the basic mind.

The basic essence of cultivating enlightenment should be discerned: it is the inherently complete and pure mind, in which there is no false discrimination, and body and mind are fundamentally pure, unborn, and undying. This is the basic teacher; this is better than invoking the Buddhas of the ten directions.
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Re: Hongren said…

Postby desert_woodworker on Wed Aug 31, 2016 2:20 am

It's a sweetheart of a little hundred-page book.

I've had my copy for 20 1/4 years, and it hardly seems possible it's that long (it seems like five or six years). But a lot's happened since then.

Dr. Cleary includes texts from seven masters, although no modern ones.

The sub-title of the book is important: the book's full title is: Minding Mind -- A Course in Basic Meditation.

The "course" -- should one want it to serve as a course -- is a wonderful survey. Yet, we all know it's not a substitute for having a living teacher who knows us, and whom we can ask questions of as they arise, and study with closely, along with his or her sangha, in the actual practices of Chan-, Zen-, Son-, and Thien-Buddhism.

To wit, D. T. Suzuki wrote, "Zen is understood from the inside, not the outside".

The 15-page Hongren selection, which you quote bits of, begins with an admonition:

"If any good friends copy this text, be careful not to omit anything, lest you cause people of later times to err" (an admonition and request that you have violated. And now, I've violated it, too!).

:blush:,
    --Joe
p.s. it seems you've written a school-essay or blog-post, there (do I guess correctly?).

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