The Four Prajnas of Buddhahood – Lesson 13 – Free Online Course: Classic Teachings of Zen Buddhism

The Four Prajnas of Buddhahood – Lesson 13 – Free Online Course: Classic Teachings of Zen Buddhism

[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]

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.

In the interest of maintaining 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:


The Four Prajnas of Buddhahood : Lesson 13


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


Good friends, one way of talking about Zen doctrine is to break it down into levels, ranks, positions, stages, or other similar forms. The Ten Ox-herding Pictures, the Five Ranks, and the Three Stages of Mountains and Rivers are well known examples of this in the West. Today I will use a formula that has been largely neglected in the West: the Four Prajnas of Buddhahood.

Prajna is usually translated as wisdom or knowledge; however, like the terms “buddha” and “dharma”, “prajna” connotes much more than the usual English translations. The term four prajnas appears in English translations as four cognitions, four wisdoms, and four knowledges. The Four Prajnas of Buddhahood is one of the classic doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism used to describe various aspects of the enlightened mind or Buddhahood.

The first prajna is the universal mirror prajna. In English translations it appears as ‘great, perfect mirror cognition’, ‘great mirror wisdom’, ‘mirror-like wisdom’, and other similar terms. The universal mirror prajna is the aspect of your mind that, like a mirror, perfectly reflects the world as it is.

Through this prajna, the world is experienced in the immediate present, in its ‘thusness’ or ‘suchness’. Unlike an ordinary mirror, however, this prajna is not only reflective, but also luminescent. Your initial realization of this inherent characteristic of mind actualizes enlightened wisdom confirming your entrance into Zen awakening.

The second prajna is the prajna of equality. It is translated as ‘equality wisdom’, ‘wisdom of inherent equality’, ‘universal wisdom’, ‘cognition of equality’, ‘knowledge of equality’, and the like. The prajna of equality is actualized as the experiential realization of the void or oneness of essential nature. Through this prajna, the Buddhist formula that asserts ‘form is emptiness’ is transformed from an abstract theory to a lived experience. Experiencing the emptiness of all things, you realize the equality of all things, that is to say, the oneness of all space and time.

The third prajna is the observing prajna. Also called ‘subtle analytic knowledge’, ‘profound, observing cognition’, ‘all-discerning wisdom’, and so forth. The observing prajna is the actualization or the function of the enlightened mind. By employing this prajna, enlightened wisdom is deepened and refined, and the spiritual methods and techniques or the ‘skillful means’ of Zen are cultivated and mastered. The observing prajna is the active buddha. Realizing the equal or empty nature of all things you should not turn away from the world of differentiation, but instead, apply your realization within it.

The fourth prajna is the practical prajna. Also called, ‘knowledge of accomplishing tasks’, ‘accomplishment of action wisdom’, ‘practical cognition’, ‘perfecting wisdom’, ‘all-performing wisdom’, and other similar terms. This is the perfect actualization of Buddhahood, eternal peace, nirvana, and complete, perfect enlightenment. It is the condition where enlightenment and practice are in perfect accord; realization and action are simultaneous and spontaneous.

Good friends, the Four Prajnas of Buddhahood, like the doctrines of the Five Ranks, the Ten Ox-herding Pictures, and others, are, of course, conceptual constructs; however, their reference is to the reality of your own true nature, which Buddhists refer to as buddha-nature. The division into four aspects is arbitrary, and you should understand that each one of these prajnas contains, and is contained by, the other three.

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


Turning Words from the Classic Records of Zen


Hui Hai: On the Four Buddha Wisdoms

Q: Regarding the quotation ‘Transform the eight states of consciousness (parijnana) into the four Buddha-wisdoms and bind the four Buddha-wisdoms to form the trikaya, which of the eight states of consciousness must be combined to form one Buddha-wisdom and which of them will each become a Buddha-wisdom in itself?

A: Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch are the five states of consciousness which together form the perfecting wisdom. The intellect, or sixth state of consciousness, alone becomes the profound observing wisdom. Discriminative awareness, or the seventh state of consciousness, alone becomes the universal wisdom. The storehouse of consciousness, or eighth state, alone becomes the great mirror wisdom.

Q: Do these four wisdoms really differ?

A: In substance they are the same, but they are differently named.

Q: Yet, if they are one in substance, why do their names differ’? Or, allowing that their names are given according to circumstances, what is it that, being of one substance (with the rest), is (nevertheless called) ‘the great mirror wisdom’?

A: That which is clearly void and still, bright and imperturbable, is the great mirror wisdom. That which can face defilements without love or aversion arising and which thereby exhibits the nonexistent nature of all such dualities is the universal wisdom. That which can range the fields of the senses with unexcelled ability to discern things, yet without giving rise to tumultuous thoughts, so that it is fully independent and at ease, is the profound observing wisdom. That which can convert all the senses with their functions of responding to circumstances into correct sensation free from duality is the perfecting wisdom.

Q: As to ‘binding the four Buddha-wisdoms to form the trikaya’, which of them combine to form one body and which of them each becomes a body in itself?

A: The great mirror wisdom singly forms the Dharmakaya. The universal wisdom singly forms the Sambhogakaya. The profound observing wisdom and the perfecting wisdom jointly form the Nirmanakaya. These three bodies are only named differently to enable unenlightened people to see more clearly. Once the principle is understood, there will be no more three bodies with functions responding to various needs. Why? Formless in substance and by nature, they are established in the basically impermanent which is not their own (true basis) at all.

Hui Hai, The Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening, John Blofeld

 Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening


 Huineng: On the Three bodies and Four Wisdoms

 Bhikshu Chih-tung, a native of Shao-chou of An-feng, had read the Lankavatara-sutra a thousand times, but he could not understand the meaning of trikaya and the four prajnas. Thereupon, he called on the patriarch for an interpretation. “As to the three bodies,” explained the patriarch, “the pure dharmakaya is your [essential] nature; the perfect sambhogakaya is your wisdom; and myriad nirmanakayas are your actions. If you deal with these three bodies apart from the essence of mind, there would be bodies without wisdom. If you realize that these three bodies have no positive essence of their own [because they are only the properties of the essence of mind] you attain the bodhi of the four prajnas. Listen to my stanza:

The three bodies are inherent in our essence of mind,

By development of which the four prajnas are manifested.

Thus, without shutting your eyes and your ears to keep away from the external world

You may reach buddhahood directly.

Now that I have made this plain to you

Believe it firmly, and you will be free from delusions forever.

Follow not those who seek enlightenment from without;

These people talk about bodhi all the time [but they never find it].

“May I know something about the four prajnas?” asked Chih-tung.

“If you understand the three bodies,” replied the patriarch, “you should understand the four prajnas as well; so your question is unnecessary. If you deal with the four prajnas apart from the three bodies, there will be prajnas without bodies, in which case they would not be prajnas.”

The patriarch then uttered another stanza:

The mirrorlike wisdom is pure by nature.

The equality wisdom frees the mind from all impediments.

The all-discerning wisdom sees things intuitively without going through the process of reasoning.

The all-performing wisdom has the same characteristics as the mirrorlike wisdom.

The first five vijnanas [consciousness dependent respectively upon the five sense organs] and the alayavijnana [storage or universal consciousness] are transmuted to prajna in the buddha stage; while the klishtamanovijnana [soiled-mind consciousness or self- consciousness] and the manovijnana [thinking consciousness], are transmuted in the bodhisattva stage.

These so-called transmutations of vijnana are only changes of appellations and not a change of substance. When you are able to free yourself entirely from attachment to sense objects at the time these so-called transmutations take place, you will forever abide in the repeatedly arising naga [dragon] samadhi.

[Upon hearing this], Chih-tung realized suddenly the prajna of his essence of mind and submitted the following stanza to the patriarch:

Intrinsically, the three bodies are within our essence of mind.

When our mind is enlightened the four prajnas will appear therein.

When bodies and prajnas absolutely identify with each other

We shall be able to respond [in accordance with their temperaments and dispositions] to the appeals of all beings, no matter what forms they may assume.

To start by seeking for trikaya and the four prajnas is to take an entirely wrong course [for being inherent in us they are to be realized and not to be sought].

To try to grasp or confine them is to go against their intrinsic nature.

Through you, sir, I am now able to grasp the profundity of their meaning,

And henceforth I may discard forever their false and arbitrary names.

The Diamond Sutra & The Sutra of Hui-Neng, A. F. Price & Wong Mou-lam

 Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui-neng (Shambhala Classics)


The Three Bodies of Buddha and The Four Wisdoms of Buddhahood

Question: The Buddha has three bodies—how are they attained?

Answer: The three bodies of Buddha are attained from the eight consciousnesses, by transforming the eight consciousnesses into the four wisdoms. When you reach these four wisdoms, you soon achieve the three bodies. Proceeding from cause to effect, we distinguish the three bodies like this. The five consciousnesses of eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body become the subtle observing wisdom. The sixth consciousness, the conceptual consciousness, becomes the accomplishment of action wisdom. The seventh consciousness, manas, becomes the wisdom of inherent equality. The eighth consciousness, alaya, becomes the great mirror wisdom.

Question: What is the meaning of the “four wisdoms” that you can make this statement?

Answer: The first five consciousnesses are also called the five sense faculties. In this case the five sense faculties are the gates of wisdom through which wisdom is aware of the objects present, but without any falsity or defilement. Thus we take these five consciousnesses and make them into subtle observing wisdom. The sixth consciousness is also called the conceptual mind faculty. Here in the gate of wisdom we must work intently on awakening. Awakening means purity, and accord with the Dharma. With the real and the conventional equally in view, we perfect wisdom, transforming the conceptual mind into wisdom. Wisdom’s awareness is able to know clearly without differentiating, and transform knowledge into wisdom. This is called the accomplishment of action wisdom. When manas, the seventh consciousness, has no grasping, it naturally has no hate or love. Since there is no hate or love, all things are equalized. Thus it is called the wisdom of inherent equality. As for alaya, the eighth consciousness: when it is empty in the storehouse, defiled seeds are all pure. It is like a clear mirror hung in space. All the myriad images appear in it, but this bright mirror never thinks, “I can make images appear,” nor do the images say, “We are born from the mirror.” Since there is neither subject nor object, we call this wisdom the great mirror wisdom.

Question: If the four wisdoms are this way, what about the three bodies?

Answer: The great mirror wisdom is taken as the dharmakaya, the body of reality. The wisdom of inherent equality is taken as the sambhogakaya, the reward body. The accomplishment of action wisdom and the subtle observing wisdom are taken as the nirmanakaya, the physical manifestation, the transformation body.

Question: How do you know it to be so?

Answer: We say that the great mirror wisdom is taken as the body of reality because it is fully equipped with all stainless virtues, round and full with complete truth: it is like a worldly mirror that can show diverse images without differentiating.

The wisdom of inherent equality is taken as the reward body because when false mind is totally exhausted, everywhere-equal reality-nature is achieved and the myriad practices are perfected.

Accomplishment of action wisdom and subtle observing wisdom are taken as the transformation body because when the six sense faculties are stainless, you deliver sentient beings on a wide scale, detached from self and other, letting them share in your understanding and cultivate a basis [for enlightenment].

Zen Dawn,  J.C. Cleary 

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


Supplemental Instructions For Advanced Study



The Four Knowledges by Hakuin

Some ask, “Are the three bodies and four knowledges inherent, or are they in the sphere of knowledge attained after awakening? Are they realized all at once or are they cultivated gradually?”

The answer is that although these are fundamentally complete in everyone, unless brought to light, they cannot be realized. When the student has accumulated effort in study and investigation and the enlightened nature suddenly appears, all at once he realizes the essence of inner reality; when one is actualized, all are actualized. But though one reaches the stage of buddha-hood without passing through steps and stages, if one doesn’t cultivate practice gradually, it is impossible to fulfill omniscience, independent knowledge and ultimate great enlightenment.

What does realization at once mean? When the discriminating mind is suddenly shattered and the enlightened essence suddenly appears, the filling of the universe with its boundless light is called “the great perfect mirror knowledge, the pure body of reality.” This is the transmuted eighth [storehouse] consciousness.

That all things in the six fields of sense—seeing, hearing, discernment, and knowledge—are your own enlightened nature, is called “the knowledge of equality, the fulfilled body of reward.”

Discerning the principles of things by the light of true knowledge is called “the subtle analytic knowledge”; this is the body of reward and also includes the transformation body.

Coughing, spitting, moving the arms, activity, stillness, all doings in harmony with the nature of reality is called “knowledge of accomplishing tasks.” This is called “the sphere of freedom of the transformation body.”

However, even so, still your seeing the way is not yet perfectly clear and your power of shining insight is not yet fully mature. Therefore, if you don’t cultivate practice, you will be like a merchant who keeps his capital and doesn’t engage in trade; so he not only never gets rich, but eventually goes broke spending to keep up the pretense of wealth. What do I call gradual practice? It is like a merchant devoting himself to trade, spending a hundred gold pieces to make a thousand in profit, until he accumulates boundless wealth and treasure and becomes free to do what he wants with his blessings. Though there is no difference in the nature of gold, without this business it’s impossible to get rich; even if your perception of reality is genuine, when your power of shining insight is weak, you cannot overthrow the barriers of habitual actions. Unless your knowledge of differentiation is clear, you cannot benefit sentient beings in accord with their potentials. Therefore you must know the essential road of gradual practical cultivation.

What is the great perfect mirror knowledge? It means when the beginning student wants to comprehend this great matter, first he must conceive a great will, great faith, and, with the determination to see through the originally inherent enlightened nature, should always question who is the host of seeing and hearing. Walking, standing, sitting, reclining, active or silent, whether in favorable or adverse situations, plunge your spirit into the question of what it is that sees everything here and now? What is it that hears? Questioning like this, pondering like this—ultimately what thing is it? When you keep on doubting continuously, with a bold spirit and a sense of shame surging on, your effort will naturally become unified and solid, turning into a single mass of doubt throughout heaven and earth; the spirit is suffocated, the mind distressed, like a bird in a cage, like a rat that’s gone into a bamboo tube and can’t escape—at that time, if you keep on going without retreating, it will be like entering a crystal world; the whole mass, inside and outside, mats and ceilings, houses and pillars, fields and mountains, grasses and trees, people and animals, utensils and goods, all are as they are like illusions, like dreams, like shadows, like smoke. When you open your eyes clearly with presence of mind and see with certainty, an inconceivable realm appears which seems to exist yet also seems not to exist in a way. This is called the time when the conscious essence becomes manifest. If you think this is wonderful and extraordinary and joyfully become infatuated and attached to this, after all you will fall into the nests of the two vehicles, outsiders, or troublesome devils, and can never see the real enlightened nature.

At this point, if you do not fondly cling to your state but arouse your spirit to wholehearted effort, from time to time you will experience such things as forgetting you’re sitting when you’re sitting, forgetting about standing when you’re standing, forgetting your own body, forgetting the world around you. Then if you keep going without retreating, the conscious spirit will suddenly shatter and the enlightened nature will appear all at once—this is called “the great perfect mirror knowledge.” This is the meaning of complete perfect enlightenment at the first stage of inspiration; you can discern the source of eighty thousand doctrines and their infinite subtle meanings all at once. As one becomes, all become; as one decays, all decay—nothing is lacking, no principle is not complete.

Even so, as a newborn child of Buddha, the initiate bodhisattva reveals the sun of wisdom of the enlightened nature; but the clouds of his doings have not yet been cleared away. Because his power in the way is slight and his perception of reality is not perfectly clear, the great perfect mirror knowledge is associated with the eastern direction and called “the gate of inspiration.” It is like the sun appearing in the east; although the mountains, rivers, and land get some rays, they still are not yet warmed by the sunlight. Though one day you see the way clearly, when your power of shining insight is not great and strong, you are prone to hindrance by instinctual and habitual afflictions and are still not free and independent in both favorable and adverse circumstances. This is like someone looking for an ox who may one day see through to the real ox, but if he doesn’t hold the halter firmly to keep it in check, sooner or later it will run away.

Therefore, once you see the ox, you make oxherding methods your main concern; without this cultivation and practice after enlightenment, many people who have seen reality miss the boat. Therefore the knowledge of equality of reality does not linger in the great perfect mirror knowledge; going on and on, you concentrate on practice after enlightenment. First, use the intimate experience of the very essence you have seen to illumine all worlds with radiant insight. When you see something, shine through it; when you hear, shine through what you hear; shine through the five clusters of your own body, shine through the six fields of sense experience—in front’ and behind, left and right, through seven upsets and eight downfalls, entering absorption in radiant vision of the whole body, seeing through all things internal and external, shining through them, when this work becomes solid perception of reality is perfectly distinctly clear, like looking at the palm of your hand. At this point, using this clear knowledge and insight more and more, entering afflictions you shine through afflictions, entering enlightenment you shine through   enlightenment,   entering   favorable   circumstances  you  shine  through  favorable  circumstances, entering adverse situations you shine through adverse situations;  when  greed  or  desire   arises,  you  shine through greed and desire, when anger and hatred arise you shine through anger and hatred, when folly arises you shine through folly. When the three poisons of greed, hatred, and folly cease to exist and the mind is pure, then you shine through that pure mind. At all times, in all places, be it desires, senses, gain, loss, right, wrong, views of Buddha or of Dharma, in all things, shine through with your whole body; if your mind doesn’t regress from this, the nature created by your actions naturally dissolves, inconceivable liberation is realized, your actions and understanding correspond, principle and fact merge completely, body and mind are not two, essence and appearance do not obstruct each other—attaining this, managing to attain the realm of true equanimity, is called “the knowledge of the equality of the nature of reality.”

This does not mean the nondual merging into one view of equality of signlessness; what is called knowledge of equality of reality refers to the point of true – equanimous liberation, realized by constant refinement of one’s state. Though the range of the views are equal in principle, in actual fact they are not yet equal; if you get involved in objects of old habitual afflictions, your insight and power in the way will naturally get stuck and you won’t be completely free. Therefore this refined practice after enlightenment is called “knowledge of equality of real nature” and is associated with the southern direction and called “the gate of practice.” It is like when the sun is over the southern direction, its light full, illumining all hidden places in the deep valleys, drying up even hard ice and wet ground. Though a bodhisattva has the eye to see reality, unless one enters this gate of practice it is impossible to clear away obstructions caused by actions and afflictions, and therefore impossible to attain to the state of liberation and freedom—what a pity that would be, what a loss.

Next, the subtle observing analytic knowledge; having reached the nondual sphere of equality of true reality, the essential point is to clearly understand the profound principles of differentiation of the enlightened ones and master techniques for helping sentient beings. Otherwise, even if you have cultivated and attained unhindered knowledge, you will remain after all in the nest of the lesser vehicle and be unable to realize omniscience, unhindered knowledge, freedom to change in any way necessary to help sentient beings, enlighten yourself and enlighten others, and reach the ultimate great enlightenment where awareness and action are completely perfect.

For this reason, it is essential to conceive an attitude of great compassion and commitment, to help all sentient beings everywhere; in order to penetrate the principles of things in their infinite variety, first you should study them day and night through the verbal teachings of the buddhas and patriarchs. One by one ascertaining and analyzing the profundities of the five houses and seven schools of Zen and the wondrous doctrines of the eight teachings given in the five periods of Buddha’s teaching career, if you have any energy left over, you should clarify the deep principles of the various different philosophies. However, if this and that get to be a lot of trouble, it will just waste your faculties to no advantage; if you thoroughly investigate the sayings of the buddhas and patriarchs which are difficult to pass through, and clearly arrive at their essential import, perfect understanding will shine forth and the principles of all things should naturally be completely clear. This is called “the eye to read the scriptures.”

Now, the verbal teachings of the buddhas and patriarchs are extremely profound and should not be considered exhausted after one has gone through them once or twice. When you climb in the mountains, the higher you climb they higher they are; when you go into the ocean, the farther you go the deeper it is—it’s the same in this case. It’s also like forging iron to make a sword; it is considered best to put it into the forge over and over, refining it again and again. Though it is always the same one forge, unless you put the sword in over and over and refine it a hundred times, it can hardly turn out to be a fine sword. Penetrating study is also like this; unless you enter the great forge of the buddhas and patriarchs, difficult to pass through, and make repeated efforts at refinement, through suffering and pain, omniscience and independent knowledge cannot come forth. Just penetrating through the barrier locks of the buddhas and patriarchs over and over again, responding to beings’ potentials everywhere with mastery and freedom of technique, is called subtle observing analytic knowledge.

This is not investigation by means of intellectual considerations; knowledge to save oneself and knowledge to liberate others, when completely fulfilled and mastered, is called subtle observing analytic knowledge. This is the state of the perfectly fulfilled body of reward; it is associated with the western direction and called the gate of enlightenment. It is like the sun having passed high noon, gradually sinking toward the west. While the great wisdom of equanimity is right in the middle, the faculties of sentient beings cannot be seen and the teachings of differentiations among things cannot be made clear. If you do not stop in the realm of self-enlightenment as inner realization and cultivate this subtle observing analytic knowledge, you have done what you can do; having done your task, you reach the land of rest. This is not the meaning of the sun setting; it has the meaning of accomplishment of all the knowledges, the fulfillment of enlightenment, because enlightening self and others, fulfillment of awareness and action, is considered real ultimate enlightenment.

Next, the knowledge of accomplishment of works; this is the secret gateway of mental command, in the realm of ultimate liberation. This is called “undefiled knowledge” and also “uncreated virtue.” If you don’t realize this knowledge, you won’t be capable of great freedom in doing what is to be done to benefit yourself and others. So what is called effortless? Because the preceding subtle observing analytic knowledge is accomplished by successful practice and is in the realm of cultivation, realization, attainment by study, it is call called knowledge with effort. This knowledge [of active accomplishment] transcends the bounds of practice, realization, attainment through study, and is beyond the reach of indication or explanation. For example, the subtle observing knowledge is like the flower of complete enlightenment and practice blooming; while this knowledge of doing what is to be done is like the flower of complete enlightenment and practice dropping away and the real fruit forming. This you cannot see even in a dream unless you have passed through the final pass of transcendence of our school. That is why it is said that at the final word you come at last to the unbreakable barrier.

The way to point out the direction is not in verbal explanations; if you want to reach this realm, just refine your subtle observing analytic knowledge in the differentiating and difficult to pass through stories, smelting and forging hundreds and thousand of times over and over. Even if you have passed through some, repeat, over and over, examining meticulously—what is this little truth beyond all convention in the great matter of transcendence? If you don’t regress in your examination of the sayings of the ancients, someday you may come to know this bit of wonder.

Even so, if you don’t seek an enlightened teacher and personally enter his forge, you cannot plumb the profound subtleties. The only worry is that real teachers of Zen are extremely few here and hard to find. But if someone exerts his energy to the utmost in this and penetrates through clearly, he attains freedom in all ways, transcends the realms of buddhas and devils, yet roams freely in the realms of buddhas and devils, solving sticking points, removing bonds, pulling out nails and pegs, leading people to the realm of purity and ease. This is called “the knowledge to accomplish works”; it is associated with the northern direction and called “the gate of nirvana.” It is like when the sun reaches the northern quarter, when it is midnight and the whole world is dark; reaching the sphere of this knowledge, it is not within understanding or comprehension—even buddhas can’t see you, much less outsiders and devils.

This is the thoroughly peaceful state of pure reality of the buddhas and patriarchs, the forest of thorns which patch-robed monks sit, lie, and walk in twenty-four hours a day. This is called “great nirvana” replete with four attributes (self, purity, bliss, eternity), and also called “the knowledge of the essential nature of the cosmos,” in which the four knowledges are fully complete. The center has the meaning of totalizing the four knowledges, and the essential nature of the cosmos represents the sense of the king of enlightenment, master of the teachings, being king of the Dharma, free in all ways.

I hope that Buddhists with great faith will conceive great trust and commitment and cultivate the great practice for the fulfillment of these four knowledges and true enlightenment. Don’t lose out on the great matter of myriad eons because of pride in your view of the moment.

Hakuin, Originial Face, Thomas Cleary

 Classics of Buddhism and Zen, Volume 1: The Collected Translations of Thomas ClearyBuddhism Books)
Classics of Buddhism and Zen, Volume 2: The Collected Translations of Thomas ClearyBuddhism Books)
Classics of Buddhism and Zen, Volume 3: The Collected Translations of Thomas ClearyBuddhism Books)
Classics of Buddhism and Zen, Volume 4: The Collected Translations of Thomas ClearyZen Philosophy Books)
Classics of Buddhism and Zen, Volume 5: The Collected Translations of Thomas ClearyBuddhism Books)


Resources For Advanced Study


Chan and Zen Buddhism – Reference material, Sutras (Buddhist Scriptures), Writings of the Chan (Zen) Ancestors, and Original Articles – Compiled by Dr. Ron Epstein, Philosophy Dept. San Francisco State University

BuddhaNet’s Web Links – BuddhaNet™ is a non-sectarian on-line cyber sangha committed to facilitate a significant Buddhist presence in the ever-expanding realm of computer communications technology, applying this technology to helping make the Buddha’s teachings freely available to all.

The Zen Site (Massive Zen/Buddhism Resource Site – Bookmark It!


Glossary of Terms (Online at “The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel Mirror” Website)


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