The spiritual life is not prescribed for most people. It’s something that is very intuitive, dependent on something that is deep inside each one of us that causes us to take that step and enter the Way. We call it raising the bodhi mind, and it’s a recognizable event. That’s what the Guardian Council is looking for when people apply to become students of the Order—has the applicant raised the bodhi mind? Has she raised her aspiration? Is she responding to a calling? Calling is very subtle, very hard to describe. What is it pointing to?
The next line says, “Real form is all dharmas as they are.” “As they are” is nondual. Not two. All things are interconnected and not separate, while at the same time all things retain their own individuality.
From a Buddhist point of view, all material substances in the universe are called form, but form is a product of causal conditions. It has no independent existence, and therefore it has no true nature that can be grasped. Emptiness is not an absence of matter but rather a void that can embrace everything—open enough to receive everything. “As they are” is neither form nor emptiness. It’s not both. It’s not neither. All four of these states are still dualistic. But then what is it? Form, the Heart Sutra tells us, is emptiness. Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form. Real form is all dharmas as they are. As they are is neither form nor emptiness. Neither sentient nor insentient. Mountains and rivers are neither sentient nor insentient. The self is neither sentient nor insentient. When this is realized, the ten thousand things are the teacher, as well as the teachings and the student. The ten thousand things are realized as the body and mind of the universe—your body and mind. The insentient are neither ordinary nor holy, neither form nor emptiness. There is a reality that transcends all dualities. The truth is not to be found in unity and it’s not to be found in differentiation. We must look for it in the meeting place of nonduality.
Thusness—tatha—or suchness is a central concept in Buddhism as well as Hinduism. It expresses the appreciation of reality within a unique moment. No moment is actually the same as another. A moment arrives as it leaves, simultaneously. In the Mahayana text, Awakening of Faith, there is a more detailed description of this concept: “In it’s very origin, thusness is of itself endowed with sublime attributes. It manifests the highest wisdom which shines through the world. It has true knowledge and a mind resting simply in its own being. It is eternal, blissful, its own self-being, the purest simplicity. It is invigorating, immutable, free. Because it possesses all these attributes and is deprived of nothing, it is designated both as the womb of the Tathagatha and the dharma body of the Tathagatha.”
“Be that as it may,” the next line of the commentary says, “what is the meaning of Xuansha’s descending from the teaching seat, the monastic’s ‘I don’t understand…’?” Different translators have dealt with this in essentially the same way. Dogen says, “This ‘I don’t understand’ is the lifeblood of the buddhas and ancestors and it’s the bones and marrow of the treasury of the true dharma eye.” “I don’t understand” is intimacy. In intimacy there is no longer a reference point. There’s no longer this and that. There’s no longer you and it. There’s total merging, and that’s thusness. It’s not one side; it’s not the other side. You are exactly it. It is exactly you. The master said: “Go away. No one will believe you.” Believe what? That the monastic still had a question or that he was so intimate with the truth of the moment that it was inexpressible?