Pure and Clear Luminous Awareness

Sometimes the sages compare the pure and clear luminous awareness of your true mind to a still pool, or a clear mirror; it reflects all things as they are, without changing its essential nature. This is true as far as it goes; yet, the luminous awareness of your own mind is much grander than a still pool or a clear mirror.

Once your mind has reflected something, you are able to recall it at will, even years later. How marvelous!

Moreover, though a mirror can perfectly reflect the pages of a novel, only the human mind can conceive a character there. How many times has Captain Ahab’s wooden leg thudded across the wooden decks of human minds? Not to mention the human mind that put Ahab’s leg into that book in the first place.

A mirror can reflect as many wolves as are presented to it, yet only human minds can work and accomplish the task of rein-troducing them into the wild. A still pond can perfectly reflect a Bald Eagle soaring above it, but only a human mind can go, ah!

From The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing

by Ted Biringer

6 thoughts on “Pure and Clear Luminous Awareness”

  1. Hi Yamakoa,

    Ha! No doubt! Not only nice and filling, but easier to catch!

    How marvelous too, that he can discern the fat one amongst all the others without a moment of deliberation…



    PS How is the weather there? Cold here. I expect the snow any time…

  2. Hello Yamakoa,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Dogen said that when Buddhas are Buddhas they do not know they are Buddhas. I wonder if he would apply that principle to Eagles? If so, what would an eagle (as an eagle not knowing itself to be an eagle) do if it looked down on a field and saw ten small mice and one big fat mouse?

    Thanks again.



  3. Ted,

    Not only is the mind like a mirror, it is also the fire, the sand, the rocks, the buffing and polishing. Interestingly, I wonder if it also know that it itself is the wolves in the mirror, the bald eagle flying high above the snow capped mountains. Even if there is no snow, mind is there!


  4. Hello Barry,

    Thank you for your comments.

    You are absolutely right. Activation of the “Universal Mirror Cognition” (or mirror wisdom, prajna, etc.) is simply the beginning.

    One way of talking about this is in terms of the Mahayana doctrine on the “Four Cognintions (Prajnas) of Buddhahood.” As Louie Wing was the speaker that instigated your observation, let’s see what he says. In The Flatbed Sutra, Louie gives a brief outline of each of the “Four Prajnas” at the head of his commentary. Here is an excerpt from that outline:

    …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…

    Ah! There is no ignorance, and no ending of ignorance… As the saying goes, “Shakyamuni Buddha is still practicing, and he is only half-way there.”


    Ted Biringer

  5. Once our mind can function as a clear mirror, then what? How do we harness true mind in the service of others? That’s the point of all this, it seems to me.

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