prajna paramita


Once a student approached Zhimen and said, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West?” Zhimen said, “The eyes can’t see the nose.” When we become perfectly intimate, what remains? The eyes can’t see the nose, a flower doesn’t know its own scent. Zhimen says, “An oyster swallowing the bright moon.” This moon, a master said, “emanates the light that engulfs myriad forms.” Everything is illuminated, nothing is in darkness. Who could even speak of this “body of wisdom?” So Yuanwu says, “Why are you even using ‘body?’” “Body” is extra. In this place, there’s no understanding. Nothing is left out, yet nothing is known, which means there’s no response. There’s no compassion. Therefore the student says, “What is the functioning of wisdom?” He understands that there needs to be a functioning to this wisdom.

This is the essential point in understanding the mystic truth in Buddhism. “To realize the absolute is not yet enlightenment,” we chant in the Identity of Relative and Absolute. To experience the ground of being and see into the emptiness of self-nature is not yet enlightenment. One must unify this realization in our every thought, word and action until all traces of enlightenment drop away. This is the great imperative and the supreme challenge of our practice and yet, how many truly arrive at this place?

In the pointer, Yuanwu says, “This single thread right before us is perpetually unbroken.” This “light that engulfs myriad forms” is perpetually unbroken. This was the Buddha’s realization. An old master wrote a poem:

The mind-moon is solitary and full:
   Its light engulfs the myriad forms.
This light is not shining on objects,
   Nor do the objects exist—
Light and objects both forgotten,
   Then what is this?

What is this “body of wisdom?” It’s not light in the way we think of it. It’s not energy or cosmic consciousness. It’s not a thing, and it is perpetually unbroken. This is true whether or not we encounter the teachings or realize it for ourselves. It’s true in the midst of heaven and in the midst of hell, when we’re happy and sad, enlightened and deluded. To even say “the thread is unbroken” is wrong; for the nature of this is not something that has to do with is or is not, complete or incomplete. To discover this truth we must “engulf the myriad forms” or, as Master Dogen said, “be enlightened by the ten thousand things.” Let go of everything—the darkness of our self-clinging and the light of clarity—until “light and objects are both forgotten.”