Bodhidharma's Wake-Up Sermon

From the First Patriarch, Bodhidharma, in his Wake-Up Sermon (translated by Red Pine) Bodhidharma, founder of Zen, was born in the year 440. He came to China late in the fifth century of the common era.

"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 that 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 is 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." (p. 53)

This is a profoundly deep teaching. It at once delineates between an awakened person and a non awakened person, but goes beyond that to suggest that an awakened person must go past awakening to become a bodhisattva and a buddha. By a "mortal" Bodhidharma is referring to a ordinary person living in an ordinary life, unaware of his original nature. This is a sleeping person, a person on auto-pilot, going through the motions of living, but completely not present.

An awakened person, an arhat, is one who has attained awakening. This person's eyes are opened to the true nature of things. Self is extinguished, impermanence understood, and emptiness attained. Yet, this is not enough. Buddha was fully awakened, but he got up from his cushion and entered the world. He taught. He healed. He sat with every sort of person from pauper to king. He made a diffeence in the world through his work.

When we realize that subject and object have relational existance, that one is and is not at the same time, and that we are able to live within the vast and eternal processes of life, then we are both buddhas and bodhisattvas. Buddhas because we have realized and attained this highest teaching, bodhisattvas because we set our "selves" aside to be inservice to the entire universe throughout time.

One who attains this understanding recognizes there is no past, present or future; no you, no me, no subject, no object; yet lives at the same moment within time, subject and object, and does so without thought as hindrance.

Be well.


jeff said…
Hello Sensei, Have you seen that Brad Warner has posted again on his blog? It is a series of remarkable Q&A from his teacher Gudo Nishijima. I'm sure you will read the entire thing. Nishijima says at one point. "Those who randomly call themselves by the name "Zen Sect," which has never existed in India in the west or in eastern lands, from the past to the present, are demons out to destroy the Buddha's truth. They are the Buddhist patriarchs' uninvited enemies." Therefore we should be careful to use the word "Zen."

Any idea why he would make such a statement?
jeff said…
Daiho Hilbert-roshi, thank you for your post. How clearly you have stated the difference between being awake and not being present. Reading about being awake makes it seem almost simple to attain. :) But it seems like I have a thousand rubber bands on me that snap me back into ordinary mind during zazen. I seem to be able to stop thinking only for short periods. Then I am off thinking about what I need to do after sitting, or what happened yesterday. or what is going on in the yard. One thing after another. and yet, there are short periods when I am in a space that is very close to what you describe. I am hoping that my experiences are not so unusual.
Hello Jeff, I read this blog entry. Here's the deal, the reference is Dogen speaking, not Nishijima, and he is refering to Dogen's comments in the Bendowa (pursuing the truth) (vol 1, p.11. There is a context too elaborate to go into here, but if you get a copy of the Bendowa (perhaps online) the reference is in the front part before the questions begin.

Your experience is not unusual. Don't worry or thibk so much about awakening or enlightment, instead work on being present without effort.

Be well.

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