Free Online Course: Classic Teachings of Zen Buddhism – Lesson 1 Part 1

Lesson 1

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Zen Practice Zen Enlightenment

A Free Course on the Essential Doctrines and Methods of Zen Buddhism.

The goal of this course is to provide a comprehensive presentation of the essential doctrines and methods of Zen Buddhism. To provide the most reliable account possible, this course appeals to the greatest authority available; the genuine teachings of the classic Zen masters.

New lessons to follow weekly (they will be linked to previous lessons)

In the interest of maintaing a logical structure and systematic advance, each lesson introduces a specific topic by opening with a brief excerpt from The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing: The Second Ancestor of Zen in the West. This is followed with a selection of related passages from the classic literature of Zen Buddhism.

The passages of each lesson offer an array of perspectives from a variety of classic Zen records. This provides a well rounded presentation of the specific subject and introduces the diverse teaching styles of the Zen records that serve as the foundation of Zen Buddhism. The selected passages also present various levels of difficulty. The easier, more accessible passages serve to illumine and bring into relief the significance of the more difficult expressions, while the latter serve to suggest the more subtle implications of the former.

Each lesson is designed to furnish two primary approaches of study; one basic, the other more involved. The basic approach can be followed by applying oneself to the lesson for about 20 minutes or less. The more involved approach will include additional material and references to both online and traditional resources allowing for expanded study suited to individual interests.

While some comment may be offered were clarification seems in order, in attempting to let the Zen masters “speak for themselves” every effort to refrain from “interpretative” commentary will be made. Any interpretive commentary that does seem appropriate will, as far as possible be confined to the “comment” field following each lesson. Please use this “comment” field to offer comments, questions, or suggestions.

Any and all constructive feedback is greatly encouraged and appreciated. If you have a comment, question, or suggestion you want to keep private, please email me at: tedbiringer@flatbedsutra.com

Lesson 1

Zen Meditation Part 1

Introduction from The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing: The Second Ancestor of Zen in the West

Good friends, all the sages and Zen ancestors declare that it is only through realization of our own true nature that prajna, the wisdom of practice and enlightenment, can be realized. After each of the sages personally realized their own identity with the unnamable void, they spent their lives helping others to realize this identity. As Buddhism evolved, the upaya, or expedient techniques to help others were refined and developed by the succeeding generations of ancestors down through the ages. All the techniques and methods of Zen can be generally defined as meditation.

The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing, Ted Biringer, p.25

Turning Words from the Classic Records of Zen

Buddha is Sanskrit for what you call aware, miraculously aware. Responding, perceiving, arching your brows, blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet, it’s all your miraculously aware nature. And this nature is the mind. And the mind is the buddha. And the buddha is the path. And the path is zen. But the word zen is one that remains a puzzle to both mortals and sages. Seeing your nature is zen. Unless you see your nature, it’s not zen.

 BodhidharmaThe Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma: A Bilingual Edition

The Zen founder did not come from India to China because there is something to be transmitted. He just pointed directly to the human mind for the perception of its essence and realization of awakening. How could there be any sectarian style to be valued?

Fa-yen – Five Houses of Zen (Shambhala Dragon Editions)

The way of Zen began without the establishment of any sect. It is simply a religion which points to the one original mind of all Buddhas and ordinary people. This mind is nothing other than Buddha nature. To see this nature is what is meant by religious practice. When you realize your Buddha nature, wrong relationships will instantly disappear, words will be of no concern, the dust of the dharma will not stain you. This is what is called Zen. Attaining Zen is becoming a Buddha. This real Buddha is none other than the heart of all beings, the master of seeing, hearing, and perceiving.

Bassui – Mud and Water: The Teachings of Zen Master Bassui

Is it that mind is buddha, or that mind makes buddha? We must realize that mind is buddha—outside of mind there is no other buddha. In brief, there are five types [of approaches to this truth].

One: By realizing that the mind-essence is by nature pure and clean, that this essence is the same as buddha.

Two: By realizing that the mind-function produces Dharma jewels and creates eternal quiescence, that the myriad forms of delusion are all Thus.

Three: By always awakening without stopping, so that the awakened mind is always present, aware that Reality is formless.

Four: By constantly contemplating bodily existence as empty and still, inner and outer pervaded and equalized, entering bodily into the realm of reality without obstruction.

Five: By preserving unity and not stirring, always abiding through motion and stillness, enabling the learner to clearly see buddha-nature and quickly enter the gate of concentration.

Zen Dawn: Early Zen Texts from Tun Huang (Shambhala Dragon Editions)

Here, I always urge people simply to live in the unborn Buddha-mind. I don’t try to make anyone do anything else. We haven’t any special rules. But since everyone got together and decided that they wanted to spend six hours each day (for a period of twelve sticks of incense) doing zazen, I let then do as they wish. That amount of time has been set aside for zazen. But the unborn Buddha-mind has no connection with those sticks of incense. It’s just being at home in the Buddha-mind, not straying into illusion, and not seeking enlightenment beyond that. Just sit in the Buddha-mind, stand in the Buddha-mind, sleep in the Buddha-mind, awake in the Buddha-mind, do everything in the Buddha-mind—then, you’ll be functioning as a living Buddha in all that you do in your daily life. There’s nothing further.

Now, in zazen, it’s a matter of the Buddha-mind sitting at rest. It’s the Buddha-mind doing continuous zazen. Zazen isn’t limited to the time you sit. That’s why, around here, if people have something to do while they’re sitting, they’re free to get up and do it. It’s up to them, whatever they’ve a mind to do.  Some of them will do kinhin for one stick of incense. But they can’t just continue walking, so then they sit down and for another stick of incense they do zazen. They can’t be sleeping all the time so they get up. They can’t talk constantly, so they stop talking and do some zazen. They aren’t bound by any set rules.

Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei, 1622-1693

If you want to be free to be born or die, to go or stay as one would put on or take off a garment, then you must understand right now that the person here listening to the Dharma has no form, no characteristics, no root, no beginning, no place he abides, yet he is vibrantly alive. All the ten thousand kinds of contrived happenings operate in a place that is in fact no place. Therefore the more you search the farther away you get, the harder you hunt the wider astray you go. This is what I call the secret of the matter.

The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi

When you realize the fundamental, you perceive the mind; when you perceive the mind, you see Buddha. This mind is Buddha; the Buddha is mind. Keeping mindful of the buddha mind, the buddha mind is mindful of Buddha. If you want to realize early attainment, discipline your mind, regulate yourself. When you purify your habits and purify your mind, the mind itself is Buddha; there is no Buddha other than this mind monarch.

If you want to attain buddhahood, don’t be stained by anything. Though the essence of mind is empty, the substance of greed and anger is solid. To enter this door to the source, sit straight and be Buddha. Once you’ve arrived at the other shore, you will attain the perfections.

People who seek the way, observe your own mind yourself. When you know the Buddha is within, and do not seek outside, then mind itself is Buddha, and Buddha is the mind. When the mind is clear, you perceive Buddha and understand the perceiving mind. Apart from mind is not Buddha; apart from Buddha is not mind. If not for Buddha, nothing is fathomed; there is no competence at all.

Teachings of Zen

It is tragic. People have been deluded for so long. They do not recognize that their own minds are the true Buddhas. They want to search for the dharma, yet they still look far away for holy ones. They want to search for the Buddha, yet they will not observe their own minds. If they aspire to the path of Buddhahood while obstinately holding to their feeling that the Buddha is outside the mind or the dharma is outside the nature, then, even though they pass through kalpas as numerous as dust motes, burning their bodies, charring their arms, crushing their bones and exposing their marrow, or else write sutras with their own blood, never lying down to sleep, eating only one offering a day at the hour of the Hare [5 to 7 A.M.], or even studying through the entire tripitaka and cultivating all sorts of ascetic practices, it is like trying to make rice by boiling sand—it will only add to their tribulation. If they would only understand their own minds, then, without searching, approaches to dharma as numerous as the sands of the Ganges and uncountable sublime meanings would all be understood. As the World Honored One said, “I see that all sentient beings everywhere are endowed with a tathagata’s wisdom and virtue.” He also said, “All the illusory guises in which sentient beings appear take shape in the sublime mind of the tathagata’s complete enlightenment.” Consequently, you should know that outside this mind there is no Buddhahood which can be attained. All the Buddhas of the past were merely persons who understood their minds. All the sages and saints of the present are likewise merely persons who have cultivated their minds. All future meditators should rely on this dharma as well.

I hope that you who cultivate the path will never search outside. The nature of the mind is unstained; it is originally whole and complete in itself. If you will only leave behind false conditioning, you will be “such” like the Buddha.

Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul’s Korean Way of Zen (Classics in East Asian Buddhism)

So buddha-bhagavats are the prajnaparamita, and the prajna paramita is “these real dharmas.” These “real dharmas” are “bare manifestations”: they are “neither appearing nor disappearing, neither dirty nor pure, neither increasing nor decreasing.” The realization of this prajnaparamita is the realization of buddha-bhagavats. We should inquire into it, and we should experience it. To serve offerings to it and to bow in veneration is just to serve and to attend buddha-bhagavats, and it is buddha-bhagavats in service and attendance.

Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo: Book 1

The subtle path of buddhas and Zen masters is not an irrational creation of knotty problems, nor is it eccentricity or weirdery. And it is not something that is very lofty and hard to practice: it is just what you presently use all the time in your everyday activities. If we have to give it a name, we might call it the natural real Buddha in you own nature, or the master within your own self.

In everyday terms, at all times and in all places, you see and hear with Shakyamuni Buddha’s eyes and ears, you speak and breathe with Zen founder Bodhidharma’s tongue and nose. In ultimate terms, the individual lives of all the buddhas and Zen masters of the ten directions are all in your grip—whether to gather them together or let them disperse is all up to you.

Teachings of Zen

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Supplemental Instructions For Advanced Study

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Wake-up Sermon, by Bodhidharma the First Zen Ancestor in China.

Translatied by Red Pine

The essence of the Way is detachment. And the goal of those who practice is freedom from appearances. The sutras say, Detachment is enlightenment because it negates appearances. Buddhahood means awareness Mortals whose minds are aware reach the Way of Enlightenment and are therefore called Buddhas. The sutras say, “Those who free themselves from all appearances are called Buddhas.” The appearance of appearance as no appearance can’t be seen visually but can only be known by means of wisdom. Whoever hears and believes this teaching embarks on the Great Vehicle” and leaves the three realms. The three realms are greed, anger, and delusion. To leave the three realms means to go from greed, anger, and delusion back to morality, meditation, and wisdom. Greed, anger, and delusion have no nature of their own. They depend on mortals. And anyone capable of reflection is bound to see that the nature of greed, anger, and delusion is the buddha-nature. Beyond greed, anger, and delusion there is no other buddha-nature. The sutras say, “Bu as have only become buddhas while living with the three poisons and nourishing themselves on the pure Dharma.” The three poisons are greed, anger, and delusion.

The Great Vehicle is the greatest of all vehicles. It’s the conveyance of bodhisattvas, who use everything wit out using anything and who travel all day without traveling. Such is the vehicle of Buddhas.

The sutras say, “No vehicle is the vehicle of Buddhas.”

Whoever realizes that the six senses aren’t real, that the five aggregates are fictions, that no such things can be located anywhere in the body, understands the language of Buddhas. The sutras say, “The cave of five aggregates is the hall of Zen. The opening of the inner eye is the door of the Great Vehicle.” What could be clearer?

Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen. To know that the mind is empty is to see the Buddha. The Buddhas of the ten directions” have no mind. To see no mind is to see the Buddha.

To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity. To transcend motion and stillness is the highest meditation. Mortals keep moving, and Arhats stay still.” But the highest meditation surpasses both that of mortals and that of Arhats. People who reach such understanding free themselves from all appearances without effort and cure all illnesses without treatment. Such is the power of great Zen.

Using the mind to look for reality is delusion. Not using the mind to took for reality is awareness. Freeing oneself from words is liberation. Remaining unblemished by the dust of sensation is guarding the Dharma. Transcending life and death is leaving home.”

Not suffering another existence is reaching the Way. Not creating delusions is enlightenment. Not engaging in ignorance is wisdom. No affliction is nirvana. And no appearance of the mind is the other shore.

When you’re deluded, this shore exists. When you wake tip, it doesn’t exist. Mortals stay on this shore. But those who discover the greatest of all vehicles stay on neither this shore nor the other shore. They’re able to leave both shores. Those who see the other shore as different from this shore don’t understand Zen.

Delusion means mortality. And awareness means Buddhahood. They’re not the same. And they’re not different. It’s ‘List that people distinguish delusion from awareness. When we’re deluded there’s a world to escape. When we’re aware, there’s nothing to escape.

In the light of the impartial Dharma, mortals look no different from sages. The sutras say that the impartial Dharma is something that mortals can’t penetrate and sages can’t practice. The impartial Dharma is only practiced by great bodhisattvas and Buddhas. To look on life as different from death or on motion as different from stillness is to be partial. To be impartial means to look on suffering as no different from nirvana,, because the nature of both is emptiness. By magining they’re putting an end to Suffering and entering nirvana Arhats end up trapped by nirvana. But bodhisattvas know that suffering is essentially empty. And by remaining in emptiness they remain in nirvana. Nirvana means no birth and no death. It’s beyond birth and death and beyond nirvana. When the mind stops moving, it enters nirvana. Nirvana is an empty mind. When delusions dont exist, Buddhas reach nirvana. Where afflictions don’t exist, bodhisattvas enter the place of enlightenment An uninhabited place is one without greed, anger, or delusion. Greed is the realm of desire, anger the realm of form, and delusion the formless realm. When a thought begins, you enter the three realms. When a thought ends, you leave the three realms. The beginning or end of the three realms, the existence or nonexistence of anything, depends on the mind. This applies to everything, even to such inanimate objects as rocks and sticks.

Whoever knows that the mind is a fiction and devoid of anything real knows that his own mind neither exists nor doesn’t exist. Mortals keep creating the mind, claiming it exists. And Arhats keep negating the mind, claiming it doesn’t exist. But bodhisattvas and Buddhas neither create nor negate the mind. This is what’s meant by the mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist. The mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist is called the Middle Way.

If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both. Those who don’t understand don’t understand understanding. And those who understand, understand not understanding. People capable of true vision know that the mind is empty. They transcend both understanding and not understanding. The absence of both understanding and not understanding is true understanding Seen with true vision, form isn’t simply form, because form depends on mind. And mind isn’t simply mind, because mind depends on form. Mind and form create and negate each other. That which exists exists in relation to that which doesn’t exist. And that which doesn’t exist doesn’t exist in relation to that which exists. This is true vision. By means of such vision nothing is seen and nothing is not seen. Such vision reaches throughout the ten directions without seeing: because nothing is seen; because not seeing is seen; because seeing isn’t seeing. What mortals see are delusions. True vision is detached from seeing. The mind and the world are opposites, and vision arises where they meet. When your mind doesn’t stir inside, the world doesn’t arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is true vision. And such understanding is true understanding.

To see nothing is to perceive the Way, and to understand nothing is to know the Dharma, because seeing is neither seeing nor not seeing and because understanding is neither understanding nor not understanding. Seeing without seeing is true vision. Understanding without understanding is true understanding.

True vision isn’t just seeing seeing. It’s also seeing not seeing. And true understanding isn’t just understanding understanding. It’s also understanding not understanding. If you understand anything, you don’t understand. Only when you understand nothing is it true understanding. Understanding is neither understanding nor not understanding.

The sutras say, “Not to let go of wisdom is stupidity.” When the mind doesn’t exist, understanding and not understanding are both true. When the mind exists, understanding and not understanding are both false. When you understand, reality depends on you. When you don’t understand, you depend on reality. When reality depends on you, that which isn’t real becomes real. When you depend on reality, that which is real becomes false. When you depend on reality, everything is false. When reality depends on you, everything is true. Thus, the sage doesn’t use his mind to look for reality, or reality to look for his mind, or his mind to look for his mind, or reality to look for reality. His mind doesn’t give rise to reality. And reality doesn’t give rise to his mind. And because both his mind and reality are still, he’s always in samadhi.

When the mortal mind appears, buddhahood disappears. When the mortal mind disappears, buddhahood appears. When the mind appears, reality disappears. When the mind disappears, reality appears. Whoever knows that nothing depends on anything has found the Way. And whoever knows that the mind depends on nothing is always at the place of enlightenment.

When you don’t understand, your wrong. When you understand, you re not wrong. This is because the nature of wrong is empty. When you don’t understand right seems wrong. When you understand, wrong isn’t wrong, because wrong doesn’t exist. The sutras say, “Nothing has a nature of its own.” Act. Don’t question. When you question, you’re wrong. Wrong is the result of questioning. When you reach such an understanding, the wrong deeds of your past lives are wiped away. When you’re deluded, the six senses and five shades are constructs of suffering and mortality When you wake up, the six senses and five shades are constructs of nirvana and immortality.

Someone who seeks the Way doesn’t look beyond himself. He knows that the mind is the Way. But when he finds the mind, he finds nothing. And when he finds the Way, he finds nothing. If you think you can use the mind to find the Way, you’re deluded. When you, re deluded, buddhahood exists. When you’re aware, it doesn’t exist. This is because awareness is buddhahood.

If you’re looking for the Way, the Way won’t appear until your body’ disappears. It’s like stripping bark from a tree. This karmic body undergoes constant change. It has no fixed reality. Practice according to your thoughts. Don’t hate life and death or love life and death. Keep your every thought free of delusion, and in life you’ll witness the beg- inning of nirvana and in death you’ll experience the assurance of no rebirth.

To see form but not be corrupted by form or to hear sound but not to be corrupted by sound is liberation. Eyes that aren’t attached to form are the gates of Zen. In short, those who perceive the existence and nature of phenomena and remain unattached are liberated. Those who perceive the external appearance of phenomena are at their mercy. Not to be subject to afflictions is what’s meant by liberation. There’s no other liberation. When you know how to look at form, form doesn’t give rise to mind and mind doesn’t give rise to form. Form and mind are both pure.

When delusions are absent, the mind is the land of Buddhas. When delusions are present, the mind is hell. Mortals create delusions. And by using the mind to give birth to mind they always find themselves in hell. Bodhisattvas see through delusions. And by not using the mind to give birth to mind they always find themselves in the land of Buddhas. If you don’t use your mind to create mind, every state of mind is empty and every thought is still. You go from one buddhaland to another. If you use your mind to create mind, every state of mind is disturbed and every thought is in motion. You go from one hell to the next. When a thought arises, there’s good karma and bad karma, heaven and hell. When no thought arises, there’s no good karma or bad karma, no heaven or hell.

The body neither exists nor doesn’t exist. Hence existence as a mortal and nonexistence as a sage are conceptions with which a sage has nothing to do. His heart is empty and spacious as the sky. That which follows is witnessed on the Way. It’s beyond the ken of Arhats and mortals.

When the mind reaches nirvana, you don’t see nirvana, because the mind is nirvana. If you see nirvana somewhere outside the mind, you’re deluding yourself.

Every suffering is a buddha-seed, because suffering impels mortals to seek wisdom. But you can only say that suffering gives rise to Buddhahood. You can’t say that suffering is Buddhahood. Your body and mind are the field. Suffering is the seed, wisdom the sprout, and Buddhahood the grain. The Buddha in the mind is like a fragrance in a tree. The Buddha comes from a mind free of suffering, just as a fragrance comes from a tree free of decay. There’s no fragrance without the tree and no Buddha without the mind. If there’s a fragrance without a tree, it’s a different fragrance. If there’s a Buddha without your mind, it’s a different Buddha.

When the three poisons are present in your mind, you live in a land of filth.

When the three poisons are absent from your mind, you live in a land of purity.

The sutras say, “if you fill a land with impurity and filth, no Buddha will ever appear.” Impurity and filth refer to on and the other poisons. A Buddha refers to a pure and awakened mind. There’s no language that, isn’t the Dharma. To talk all day without saying anything is the Way. To be silent all day and still say something isn’t the Way. Hence neither does a Tathagata speech depend on silence, nor does his silence depend on speech, nor does his speech exist apart from his silence. Those who understand both speech and silence are in samadhi. If you speak when you know, Your speech is free. If you’re silent when you don’t know, your silence is tied. If speech isn’t attached to appearances its free. If silence is attached to appearances, it’s tied. Language is essentially free. It has nothing to do with attachment. And attachment has nothing to do with language. Reality has no high or low. If you see high or low, It isn’t real. A raft isn’t real. But a passenger raft is. A person who rides such a raft can cross that which isn’t real. That’s why it’s real.

According to the world there’s male and female, rich and poor. According to the Way there’s no male or female, no rich or poor. When the goddess realized the Way, she didn’t change her sex. When the stable boy” awakened to the Truth, he didn’t change his status. Free of sex and status, they shared the same basic appearance. The goddess searched twelve years for her womanhood without success. To search twelve years for ones manhood would likewise be fruitless. The twelve years refer to the twelve entrances. Without the mind there s no Buddha. Without the Buddha there is no mind.

Likewise, without water there’s no ice, and without ice there is no water. Whoever talks about leaving the mind doesn’t get very far. Don’t become attached to appearances of the mind. The sutras say, “When you see no appearance, you see the Buddha.” This is what’s meant by being free from appearances of the mind. Without the mind there’s no Buddha means that the-buddha comes from the mind. The mind gives birth to the Buddha. But although the Buddha comes from the mind, the mind doesn’t come from the Buddha, just as fish come from water, but water doesn’t come from fish. Whoever wants to see a fish sees the water before lie sees the fish. And whoever wants to see a Buddha sees the mind before he sees the Buddha. Once you’ve seen the fish, You forget about the water. And once you’ve seen the Buddha, you forget about the mind. If you don’t forget about the mind, the mind will confuse you, just as the water will confuse you if you don’t forget about it.

Mortality and Buddhahood are like water and ice. To be afflicted by the three poisons is mortality. To be purified by the three releases” is Buddhahood. That which freezes into ice in the winter melts into water in summer. Eliminate ice and there’s no more water. Get rid of mortality and there’s no more Buddhahood. Clearly, the nature of ice is the nature of water. And the nature of water is the nature of ice. And the nature of mortality is the nature of Buddhahood. Mortality and Buddhahood share the same nature, just as Wutou and Futzu share the same root but not the same season. It’s only because of the delusion of differences that we have the words mortality and buddhahood. When a snake becomes a dragon, it doesn’t change its scales. And when a mortal becomes a sage, he doesn’t change his face. He knows his mind through internal wisdom and takes care of his body through external discipline.

Mortals liberate Buddhas and Buddhas liberate mortals. This is what’s meant by impartiality. Mortals liberate Buddhas because affliction creates awareness. And Buddhas liberate mortals because awareness negates affliction. There can’t help but be affliction. And there can’t help but be awareness. If it weren’t for affliction, there would be nothing to create awareness. And if it weren’t for awareness, there would be nothing to negate affliction. When you’re deluded, Buddhas liberate mortals. When you’re aware, mortals liberate Buddhas. Buddhas don’t become Buddhas on their own. They’re liberated by mortals. Buddhas regard delusion as their father and greed as their mother. Delusion and greed are different names for mortality. Delusion and mortality are like the left hand and the right hand. There’s no other difference.

When you’re deluded, you’re on this shore. When you’re aware, you’re on the other shore. But once you know your mind is empty and you see no appearances, you’re beyond delusion and awareness. And once you’re beyond delusion and awareness, the other shore doesn’t exist. The tathagata isn’t on this shore or the other shore. And he isn’t in midstream. Arhats are in midstream and mortals are on this shore. On the other shore is Buddhahood. Buddhas have three bodies: a transformation body a reward body, and a real body. The transformation body is also called the incarnation body. The transformation body appears when mortals do good deeds, the reward body when they cultivate wisdom, and the real body when they become aware of the sublime. The transformation body is the one you see flying in all directions rescuing others wherever it can. The reward body puts an end to doubts. The Great Enlightenment occurred in the Himalayas suddenly becomes true. The real body doesn’t do or say anything. It remains perfectly still. But actually, there’s not even one buddha-body, much less three. This talk of three bodies is simply based on human understanding, which can be shallow, moderate, or deep. People of shallow understanding imagine they’re piling up blessings and mistake the transformation body for the Buddha. People of moderate understanding imagine they’re putting an end to Suffering and mistake the reward body for the Buddha.

And people of deep understanding imagine they’re experiencing Buddhahood and mistake the real body for the Buddha. But people of the deepest understanding took within, distracted by nothing. Since a clear mind is the Buddha they attain the understanding of a Buddha without using the mind. The three bodies, like all other things, are unattainable and indescribable. The unimpeded mind reaches the Way. The sutras say, ” Buddhas don’t preach the Dharma. They don’t liberate mortals. And they don’t experience Buddhahood.” This is what I mean. Individuals create karma; karma doesn’t create individuals. They create karma in this life and receive their reward in the next. They never escape. Only someone who’s perfect creates no karma in this life and receives no reward. The sutras say, “Who creates no karma obtains the Dharma.” This isn’t an empty saying. You can create karma but you can’t create a person. When you create karma, you’re reborn along with your karma. When you don’t create karma, you vanish along with your karma. Hence, wit karma dependent on the individual and the individual dependent on karma, if an individual doesn’t create karma, karma has no hold on him. In the same manner, “A person can enlarge the Way. The Way can’t enlarge a person.”

Mortals keep creating karma and mistakenly insist that there’s no retribution. But can they deny suffering? Can they deny that what the present state of mind sows the next state of mind reaps? How can they escape? But if the present state of mind sows nothing, the next state of mind reaps nothing. Don’t misconceive karma.

The sutras say, “Despite believing in Buddhas, people who imagine that Buddhas practice austerities aren’t Buddhists. The same holds for those who imagine that Buddhas are subject to rewards of wealth or poverty. They’re icchantikas. They’re incapable of belief.” Someone who understands the teaching of sages is a sage. Someone who understands the teaching of mortals is a mortal. A mortal who can give up the teaching of mortals and follow the teaching of sages becomes a sage. But the fools of this world prefer to look for sage a away. They don’t believe that the wisdom of their own mind is the sage. The sutras say, “Among men of no understanding, don’t preach this sutra. And the sutras say, “Mind is the teaching.” But people of no understanding don’t believe their own mind or that by understanding this teaching they can become a sage. They prefer to look for distant knowledge and long for things in space, buddha-images, light, incense, and colors. They fall prey to falsehood and lose their minds to Insanity.

The sutras say, “When you see that all appearances are not appearances, you see the tathagata.” The myriad doors to the truth all come from the mind. When appearances of the mind are as transparent as space, they’re gone. Our endless sufferings are the roots of illness. When mortals are alive, they worry about death. When they’re full, they worry about hunger. Theirs is the Great Uncertainty. But sages don’t consider the past. And they don’t worry about the future. Nor do they cling to the present. And from moment to moment they follow the Way. If you haven’t awakened to this great truth, you’d better look for a teacher on earth or in the heavens. Don’t compound your own deficiency.

The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma: A Bilingual Edition

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Resources For Advanced Study

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1. Bendowa: A Discourse on Doing One’s Utmost in Practicing the Way of the Buddha, by Eihei Dogen. Translated by Hubert Nearman

2. Hsin-hsin Ming: (Faith Mind Inscription) By Third Ch’an Patriarch Chien-chih Seng-ts’an. Translated by Richard B. Clarke

3. Huang Po: The Dharma of Mind Transmission. Translated by John Blofeld

[Link to Lesson 1] [Link to Lesson 2] [Link to Lesson 3] [Link to Lesson 4] [Link to Lesson 5] [Link to Lesson 6] [Link to Lesson 7] [Link to Lesson 8] [Lesson 9] [Lesson 10] [Lesson 11] [Lesson 12] [Lesson 13] [Lesson 14]

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11 thoughts on “Free Online Course: Classic Teachings of Zen Buddhism – Lesson 1 Part 1”

  1. Hola Senior Ted~
    It is coming upon the 365th life as a child.TNH- One can not express the enormous gratitude. If there was any way to say so…I would. Nine full Bows 🙂 Thank You …I didn’t know nothing was missing 🙂 This book changed the WHOLE WORLD!

  2. Good Morning,

    How wonderful to be discovered by these lessons. Thank you, many bows.
    Tamar

  3. Good Evening

    The real essence can be felt if the teachings of Zen can be inculcated in everyday life. I shall revert to you after i have practised the above in my day to day life

  4. no words can begin to express my gratitude for the flatbedsutra.com and the subsequent Zen Lessons (of which I have just had my first official lesson ever)(. The Flatbed of Louie Wing was my initial intro to Zen (about a year and a half ago) and since then I have moved from an insane universe to a sane one. I can say that from experience and from no other source. Ted you are so precious as you have shown the way as I now am aware of my own precious nature of which I had no inkling of about a year and half ago when I was suffering from acute alcoholism and attached to a downward spiral of endless imageaging.(I worked without ceasing my efforts,(detoxed fully on my own) got a good dictionary so I could better receive written trasmissions, practice/enlightment. I did everything you said Ted and that’s why I have finally spoken up here. There were times when it was so tough but I was determined, so I persisted in trusting myself to be my own teacher. So finding the Zen Lessons tacked on to your newsletter was like wow so funny incredible wonderful for I wanted some outside instuction and now that it comes from you I trust it, so Ted you know I am onboard in everyway.to you my good friend many bows.Highest Regards,PS: I have read almost everything you had on your list so now these Zen lessons…..what could be next? I’m sure to discover for the spirit of play is upon me.
    Portia

  5. Hi Ted

    This here is great preachin’ !!

    However it is much to difficult for the likes of me.

    Could ya please just sum it up in one word?

    Much obliged.

    Pete

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