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Deciphering master Huizhong of Nanyang
July 5th, 2013

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Deciphering master Huizhong of Nanyang:
Be bold, be free, look!

When discussing, analysing, enquiring with enthusiasm and diligence, you are susceptible to regularly come across people asking "do you ever consider you might think too much?"

This is to be expected because your enthusiasm basically promises that no dogma will forever escape the enquiry, a promise which constitutes a threat on what others believe in.

This is similar to people telling you that you could not possibly have an opinion if you're Zen ( it really just means "I want to be able to keep my certainties" and would rather avoid any enquiry too deep or question too unsettling.

Buddhist dogma

Funnily, the rejection of enquiry is often met on dogma (i.e. "conventional truth" at best) about the Absolute. For example, "Vairocana is 'Everywhere in All Places' " becomes seemingly unquestionable, unless one goes into "over-thinking" territory. Idem with buddha-nature, emptiness, impermanence… or suffering even!

Vairocana (the Illuminator) is a label given for the Dharmakāya (principle / potential of Awakening) in various sūtras, notably the Avataṃsaka (Flower Garland) sūtra and later Mahāvairocana sūtra. Vairocana is conceptualised in the Avataṃsaka sūtra as ruling a realm of abundant time and space, where all things emit light and everything is contained in everything else.

Bodhisattva vow

But is it pertinent to stop an enquiry, as a buddhist who has taken the bodhisattva vows (including "dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter/master them all")?

What would it mean to put judgements of 'over-thinking' on an enquiry, if Vairocana is found in such an enquiry just as much as anywhere else? 

If Vairocana is 'Everywhere in All Places', is there truly a limit on how deep you can enquire, is there truly a border you shouldn't cross because you'd then leave the 'right' place? Is there a point at which you should stop enquiring, stop paying attention, stop responding to whatever arises in order to cling back to some buddhist 'truths'?

"Main case" of kosoku 26 from Dōgen's Shinji Shōbōgenzō:

« Zen master Huizhong of Nanyang was asked by Tang emperor Suzong:
– What is the state of no conflict?
– Walk on, trampling on Vairocana’s head!
– I don't understand.
– Don't regard the self as the pure Dharma body. »

"Trampling on Vairocana's head" is hard when refusing to touch it out of deference. As long as you 'idealise' buddha-nature, regard it as some 'perfect' state, see it as 'unquestionable' (e.g. a promise you 'have' to believe in), you don't attain it!

Even writing "A equals B" requires a duality A/B, maybe two different perspectives on the same, maybe two approaches, two constructions, two paths to get to the same destination. "Don't regard the self as the pure Dharma body", or A as B: to do so is enough to separate them!

But should we stop looking? Should we then fall in the caricature of Zen, making it "anti-intellectual"?
If Vairocana rules a realm where everything is contained in everything else, enquiring into one single 'case' might open a path to the cessation of all illusions!
Isn't this similar to rejecting a whole curriculum of kōans and favouring the enquiry into one  wato? Isn't this similar to embodying one kōan and realising them all (sudden enlightenment)?


In Buddhism, insights come from enquiry, not from replacing old certainties by new (more 'buddhist') certainties.

This is why "insight meditation" leads to wisdom, while "concentration meditation" only helps one to control the mind: control is useful to avoid chaos and to allow dispassionate equanimous enquiry, but the enquiry or the "don't know" is the key to wisdom.
To be controlling is simply not to be free! The cessation of karma is not the perpetuation of karma (no matter how wholesome).
"Concentration meditation" via the jhānas leads the meditator to stop seeing the illusory 'self', that's the useful part of control: not buying into illusions. Without 'self', you "don't regard the self as the pure dharma body", you can simply look straight at the Dharmakāya, without inserting duality: concentration meditation is the best technique to empower insight meditation.

To respond appropriately requires to enquire, to pay attention, not to follow prejudices or one-size-fits-all answers (no matter how wholesome, no matter how 'buddhist').

Enquire without excuses, and without limits of depth or breadth!

Question buddha-nature, emptiness, Vairocana… Question the "four noble truths" (, question "dependent origination", question the "marks of existence"! Question! Don't know!
Question without a reference to yourself, to what it means for you or your suffering… i.e. don't bias the questions! Question the questions! Question the point of questioning! Be curious! Look!

All buddhist conventional 'truths' might well be conventionally true, but you will only establish them for yourself ( if you look, and look further, and look again! Look so hard that you forget yourself!

Dharma gates are boundless, master them all!   If someone tells you there are boundaries on 'the' path to nirvāṇa (such as "too much", "too little" or "too mundane" (, reject the idea!   If someone tells you there is only one path to nirvāṇa (whatever the proposed path might be), reject the idea (!

#Buddhism   #Zen  
Image: Google results, while searching for the author of a photo of the 14th Dalai Lama… I guess, that's the Google interpretation of universal buddha-nature!