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Zen Ways Archives

25-1 “The Third Eye and Bent Elbow”

“With the forearm bending back to meet [the body] one can respond to every event. The third eye by itself illuminates the solitary casting off of the body. Both of these gather in or release with no inside or outside. Many thousands of realms emerge equally with oneself; the three times are naturally transcended.”


24-3 “Everyone Included in the Field”

“Their conduct and practice accord with the standard. With amazing effectiveness, as numerous as grains of sand in the river Ganges, they harmoniously mature each other. From this field our life arises; from this field it is fulfilled.”


24-2 “Everyone Included in the Field”

​”​Buddhas and demons cannot invade it, pollution cannot poison it. Square or round, they just enjoy the center.”



24-1 “Everyone Included in the Field”


Immaculate and dazzling, [the field’s] limits cannot be seen with the eyes’ strength. Serene and expansive, its directions and corners cannot be found with the mind’s conditioning. People who sincerely meditate and authentically arrive trust that the field has always been with them.


23-5 “Drop Off Your Skin, Accept Your Function”
 In the entire place you are not restricted; the whole time you still mutually respond. Right in light there is darkness; right in darkness there is light. A solitary boat carries the moon; at night it lodges amid the reed flowers, gently swaying in total brilliance.


23-4 “Drop Off Your Skin, Accept Your Function”
Drop off your own skin, and the sense-dusts will be fully purified, the eye readily discerning the brightness. Accept your function and be wholly satisfied.

23-3 “Drop Off Your Skin, Accept Your Function”

“You want to be rid of this invisible [turmoil],
you must just sit through it and let go of everything.
Attain fulfillment and illuminate thoroughly,
light and shadow altogether forgotten.”


23-2 “Drop Off Your Skin, Accept Your Function”

To gain such steadiness you must completely withdraw from the invisible pounding and weaving of your ingrained ideas.

23-1 “Drop Off Your Skin, Accept Your Function”

Drop Off Your Skin, Accept Your Function In daytime the sun, at night the moon, each in turn does not blind the other. This is how a patch-robed monk steadily practices, naturally without edges or seams.


22-3 “Rolling and Unrolling”

If you want to make appropriate changes, then you must transform majestically along with the ten thousand forms. If you want to be still and abiding, you must accord with the process of containing and covering like earth and heaven (yin and yang).


22-2 “Rolling and Unrolling”

The ten thousand ancients appear in succession, undisguised. If you know the whole story with a nod of your head, you will not chase after birth and death and will not dwell in nihilism or eternalism.


22- 1 “Rolling and Unrolling”

Where the field is secure and familiar, when the great work is like a clear, cool pond, then you will see the empty kalpa. Do not allow a hair to bind you or permit a fiber to screen you. Be supremely empty and bright, pure, round, and glorious.


21-4 “All Beings are Your Ancestors”

Essentially you exist inside emptiness and have the capacity to respond outwardly without being annoyed, like spring blossoming, like a mirror reflecting forms. Amid all the noise spontaneously emerge transcendent.


21-3 “All Beings Are Your Ancestors”

“Essentially you exist inside emptiness and have the capacity to respond outwardly without being annoyed, like spring blossoming, like a mirror reflecting forms. Amid all the noise spontaneously emerge transcendent.”


21-2 “All Beings Are Your Ancestors”

Subtly illuminate all conditions, magnanimous beyond all duality. Clear and desireless, the wind in the pines and the moon in the water are content in their elements. Without minds interacting, [wind and pines or moon and water] do not impede one another.


21-1 “All Beings Are Your Ancestors”
“Fully appreciate the emptiness of all dharmas. Then all minds are free and all dusts evaporate in the original brilliance shining everywhere. Transforming according to circumstances, meet all beings as your ancestors.”
20-2 “Breezing Through the World”

Since the inside is empty and can respond, absorbing or not absorbing is equal. Since the outside is interconnected and constantly vacant, abiding or not abiding is all the same. Patch-robed monks enter samādhi just like their home wind that breezes through the entire world.


20-1 “Breezing Through the World”
“Vast space is all-embracing, the same as ultimate emptiness. Developed skill is equally effective for all the ten thousand forms. If not a single dust is distinguished outside, then you can adapt to changing circumstances. If not one speck is left over inside, then immediately you can abide in meditation.”

19-3 “The Clouds’ Fascination and the Moon’s Cherishing”

“There is an excellent saying that the six sense doors are not veiled, the highways in all directions have no footprints. Always arriving everywhere without being confused, gentle without hesitation, the perfected person knows where to go.~Hongzhi

19-2 “The Clouds’ Fascination and the Moon’s Cherishing”
“The moon sets and the water is cool. Each bit of autumn contains vast interpenetration without bounds. Every dust is whole without reaching me; the ten thousand changes are stilled without shaking me. If you can sit here with stability then you can freely step across and engage the world with energy.”
19-1 “The Clouds’ Fascination and the Moon’s Cherishing”

“A person of the Way fundamentally does not dwell anywhere. The white clouds are fascinated with the green mountain’s foundation. The bright moon cherishes being carried along with the flowing water. The clouds part and the mountain appears. The moon sets and the water is cool.”


18-2 “The Mind Ground Dharma Field and the Single Seed”

“Directly arriving here you will be able to recognize the mind ground dharma field that is the root source of the ten thousand forms germinating with unwithered fertility. These flowers and leaves are the whole world. So we are told that a single seed is an uncultivated field. Do not weed out the new shoots and the self will flower.”


Leighton, Taigen Dan; Wu, Yi (2014-12-23). Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi (Kindle Locations 775-777). Tuttle Publishing. Kindle Edition.

18-1  “The Mind Ground Dharma Field and the Single Seed”

The field of bright spirit is an ancient wilderness that does not change. With boundless eagerness wander around this immaculate wide plain. The drifting clouds embrace the mountain; the family wind is relaxed and simple. 30 The autumn waters display the moon in its pure brightness.


17- 5 “Beaming Through All Gloom”

“How could there be an obstruction? Since [this mind] is entirely without obstruction, there is no difference between that one and me, self and other are not separated by their names. Sounds and colors crowd in together, carefree and transcendent, directly leaping into each other. So it is said that mountains and rivers are not separated. You should enact this like the brightness apparent everywhere.”


17- 4 “Beaming Through All Gloom”

“The jade vessel turns over on its side, at once dispensing energy for you to return, share yourself, and respond to the world. In this realm are the separate, limited forms, but all are only what the self establishes, arising along with our own four elements.”



17-3 “Beaming Through All Gloom”

“Constantly still and constantly glorious, the stillness is not extinguished by causes, the glory is not marred by shadows. Vacant, round, and pure, the empty kalpa will not shift, shake, or obscure [this source]. Able to be serene, and able to know, here you can walk securely.”


17-2 “Beaming Through All Gloom”

“Without pettiness, or weaving hairs to create an obstacle, be magnanimous beyond appearances. Splendid and lustrous like the waters moistening autumn, noble like the moon overwhelming the darkness, from the beginning just beam through all gloom, profoundly free from stain.”


17-1 “Beaming Through All Gloom”

“Study the Buddha and research his lineage’s subtlety. You must clarify your heart, dive into the spirit, and silently wander in contemplation, apprehending the dharma’s source.”


16-4 “The Backward Step and the Upright Cauldron”

Despite a hundred uglinesses or a thousand stupidities, the upright cauldron is naturally beneficent. 27 Zhaozhou’s answers “wash out your bowl” and “drink your tea” do not require making arrangements; from the beginning they have always been perfectly apparent. 28 Thoroughly observing each thing with the whole eye is a patch-robed monk’s spontaneous conduct.


16-3 “The Backward Step and the Upright Cauldron”

The empty valley receives the clouds. The cold stream cleanses the moon. Not departing and not remaining, far beyond all the changes, you can give teachings without attainment or expectation. Everything everywhere comes back to the olden ground. Not a hair has been shifted, bent, or raised up.


16-2 “The Backward Step and the Upright Cauldron”

Outstanding and independent, still you must abandon pretexts for merit. Carefully discern that naming engenders beings and that these rise and fall with intricacy. When you can share your self, then you may manage affairs, and you have the pure seal that stamps the ten thousand forms. Traveling the world, meeting conditions, the self joyfully enters samādhi in all delusions and accepts its function, which is to empty out the self so as not to be full of itself.


16-1 “The Backward Step and the Upright Cauldron”

With the depths clear, utterly silent, thoroughly illuminate the source, empty and spirited, vast and bright. Even though you have lucidly scrutinized your image and no shadow or echo meets it, searching throughout you see that you still have distinguished between the merits of a hundred undertakings. Then you must take the backward step and directly reach the middle of the circle from where light issues forth.


15-2 “Buddha Flowers, Leaves, Roots, and Dusts”

Constantly living apart from surface appearances is called being the ancestor. Simply certify and unite with it; you cannot be handed it. All buddhas arrive here and regard this as the ultimate. They respond to transformations and disperse their bodies as flowers, leaves, roots, and dusts. Wisdom enters the three times and the ten thousand changes do not disturb us, each dust is not outside us. This marvel is beyond the vast thousands of classical texts, so where could you hold on to the shadowy world?


The “backward step” is meditative introspection. This orientation is applied to all forms: sitting, standing, walking & reclining. [See Dogen’s “Zazenshin”]

15-1 “Buddha Flowers, Leaves, Roots, and Dusts”

The Way is not what the ancestors transmit. Before the ancestors come, it already pervades the whole environment. Emptiness is inherently without characteristics; spirituality cannot be imitated. On its own, illumination emerges from causes and conditions.


14-4 “Spectacular Images of Clouds and Dragons”

Clouds disperse and winds die down. The autumn sky clears and the moon sets. The waters of heaven are limitless. Where the ground is on its own the brightness begins to be realized.


14-3 “Spectacular Images of Clouds and Dragons”

Complete without a hair’s difference between them, springing forth with spontaneity, they clearly exemplify coming home, but still must investigate until they have eaten their fill.


14-2 “Spectacular Images of Clouds and Dragons”

 Arriving without display, emerging unconcealed, the wondrous [clouds and dragons] enter the whole scene and cannot be confused. Casually hanging above the ten thousand features, each distinctly presents a spectacular image.
14-1 “Spectacular Images of Clouds and Dragons”
In the wind abode clouds and dragons harmoniously follow each other. 24 Very naturally from the first they do not [need to] express their intentions to each other. Similarly, patch-robed monks are accommodating and, based on causes and conditions, can harmoniously practice together.”
Clouds: Traditional image for home-leaving monks. For us, the many individuals who come together to practice as sangha.
Dragons: Represent wisdom and realization
13-3 “The Whole Arrives in Original Brightness” 

“Smooth and level, magnificently peaceful, from north to south, from east to west, heaven is the same as heaven, people are the same as people, responsive with their bodies, visible in their forms, speaking the dharma. This ability is fully actualized, extensively obliterating obstacles.”~Hongzhi

13-2 “The Whole Arrives in Original Brightness” 

“The center is manifest and is celebrated. All the various events are consummated, with yin and yang balanced and the ten thousand representations equalized.”


13-1 “The Whole Arrives in Original Brightness” 

“The place of silent and serene illumination is the heavenly dome in clear autumn, shining brightly without strain, gleaming through both light and shadow. At this juncture the whole is supreme and genuinely arrives. The clear source is enacted with spirit, the axis is wide and the energy lively, everything apparent in the original brightness.”


12-3 “Return to the Source and Serve the Ancestors”

“Within each dust mote is vast abundance. In a hundred thousand samādhis all gates are majestic, all dharmas are fulfilled. Still you must gather them together and bring them within. To reach the time-honored, return to the source and serve the ancestors. Joined together into unity, scrutinize yourself and go on.”
12-2 “Return to the Source and Serve the Ancestors”
“Wake up and in turn the ground, the roots, and the dusts are clearly cast off. Although empty of desires, with deliberations cut off, transcendent comprehension is not all sealed up. Perfect bright understanding is carefree amid ten thousand images and cannot be confused.”
 12-1 “Return to the Source and Serve the Ancestors” 
“Those who produce descendants are called ancestors. Where the stream emerges is called the source. After beholding the source and recognizing the ancestors, before your awareness can disperse, be steadfast and do not follow birth and death or past conditioning. If you do not succumb, then all beings will show the whole picture.”
 11-3 “How to Contemplate Buddha”

“From the beginning the clouds leisurely release their rain, drifting past obstacles. The direct teaching is very pure and steady. Nothing can budge it. Immediately, without allowing past conditions to turn you, genuinely enact it.”


11-2 “How to Contemplate Buddha”
“Patch-robed monks silently wander and tranquilly dwell in the empty spirit, wondrously penetrating, just as the supreme emptiness permeates this dusty kalpa. Dignified without relying on others and radiant beyond doubt, maintaining this as primary, the energy turns around and transforms all estrangement.  Passing through the world responding to situations, illumination is without striving and functions without leaving traces.”
KalpaSanskrit meaning an aeon, or a relatively long period of time (by human calculation) in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology.
11-1 How to Contemplate Buddha
“Contemplating your own authentic form is how to contemplate Buddha. If you can experience yourself without distractions, simply surpass partiality and go beyond conceptualizing. All Buddhas and all minds reach the essential without duality.”
10- Sit Empty of Worldly Anxiety 
“If you truly appreciate a single thread your eye can suitably meet the world and its changes. Seeing clearly, do not be fooled, and the ten thousand situations cannot shroud you. Moonlight falls on the water; wind blows over the pines. Light and shadow do not confuse us; sounds or voices do not block us. The whistling wind can resonate, pervading without impediment through the various structures. Flowing along with things, harmonizing without deviation, thoroughly abandoning webs of dust, still one does not yet arrive in the original home. Put to rest the remnants of your conditioning. Sit empty of worldly anxiety, silent and bright, clear and illuminating, blank and accepting, far-reaching and responsive. Without encountering external dusts, fulfilled in your own spirit, arrive at this field and immediately recognize your ancestors.”
9- “The Billion Illuminating Spirits”
“The way wanders in the empty middle of the circle, reaching the vacancy where appearances are forgotten. The pure ultimate self blazes, brilliant simply from inherent illumination. Facing the boundary of the object world without yet creating the sense gates, realize the subtlety of how to eliminate the effects of the swirling flow of arising and extinction!”
8- Self and Other the Same
“All dharmas are innately amazing beyond description. Perfect vision has no gap. In mountain groves, grasslands and woods the truth has always been exhibited. Discern and comprehend the broad long tongue [of Buddha’s teaching], which cannot be muted anywhere. The spoken is instantly heard; what is heard is instantly spoken Senses and objects merge; principle and wisdom are united. When self and other are the same, mind and dharmas are one. When you face what you have excluded and see how it appears, you must quickly gather it together and integrate with it. Make it work within your house, then establish stable sitting.”
7- “The Misunderstandings of Many Lifetimes”

“Emptiness is without characteristics. Illumination has no emotional afflictions. With piercing, quietly profound radiance, it mysterioiusly eliminates all disgrace. Thus one can know oneself; thus the self is completed. We all have the clear, wondrously bright field from the beginning. Many lifetimes of misunderstanding come only from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation. With boundless wisdom journey beyond this, forgetting accomplishments. Straightforwardly, abandon strategems and take on responsibility. Having turned yourself around, accepting your situation, if you set foot on the path, spiritual energy will marvelously transport you. Contact phenomena with total sincerity not a single atom of dust outside yourself.”

6- The Gates Sparkling at the Source”
“All Buddhas and every ancestor without exception testify that they all arrive at this refuge where the three times [past, present and future] cease and the ten thousand things are silenced. Straight ahead unopposed by the smallest atom, the inherently illuminated Buddha spirit subtly penetrates the original source. When recognized and realized exhaustively, [this spirit] shares itself and responds to situations. The gates sparkle and all beings behold the gleaming. Then they understand that from within this place fulfilled self flows out. The hundreds of grass tips all around never are imposed as my causes and conditioning. The whole body from head to foot proceeds smoothly.”

5- “Simply Drop Off Everything”

“Silently dwell in the self, in true suchness abandon conditioning. Open-minded and bright without defilement, simply penetrate and drop off everything. Today is not your first arrival here. Since the ancient home before the empty kalpa, clearly nothing has been obscured. Although you are inherently spirited and splendid, still you must go ahead and enact it. When doing so, immediately display every atom without hiding a speck of dirt. Dry and cool in deep repose, profoundly understand. If your rest is not

satisfying and you yearn to go beyond birth and death, there can be no such place. Just burst through and you will discern without thought-dusts, pure without reasons for anxiety. Stepping back with open hands, giving up everything, is thoroughly comprehending life and death. Immediately you can sparkle and respond to the world. Merge together with all things. Everywhere is just right. Accordingly we are told that from ancient to modern times all dharmas are not concealed, always apparent and exposed.”

4- The Ground That Sages Cannot Transmit

“Cast off completely your head and skin. Thoroughly withdraw from distinctions of light and shadow. Where the ten thousand changes do not reach is the foundation that even a thousand sages cannot transmit. Simply by yourself illuminate and deeply experience it with intimate accord. The original light flashes through confusion. True illumination reflects into the distance. Deliberations about being and nonbeing are entirely abandoned. The wonder appears before you, its benefit transferred out for kalpas. Immediately you follow conditions and accord with awakening without obstruction from any defilements. The mind does not attach to things, and your footsteps are not visible on the road. Then you are called to continue the family business. Even if you thoroughly understand, still please practice until it is familiar”
Kalpa: is a Sanskrit word meaning an aeon, or a relatively long period of time (by human calculation) in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology.
Family Business: an image for the perpetuation and transmittal of the teaching, or lineage.

3- Performing the Buddha Work

“The empty field cannot be cultivated or proven. From the beginning it is altogether complete, undefiled and clear down to the bottom. Where everything is correct and totally sufficient, attain the pure eye that illuminates thoroughly, fulfilling realization. Enlightenment involves enacting this; stability develops from practicing it. Birth and death originally have no root or stem, appearing and disappearing originally have no defining signs or traces. The primal light empty and effective illuminates the headtop. The primal wisdom, silent but also glorious, responds to conditions. When you reach the truth without middle or edge, cutting off before and after, then you realize one wholeness. Everywhere sense faculties and objects both just happen. The one who sticks out his long broad tongue transmits the inexhaustible lamp, radiates the great light, and performs the great Buddha work, from the first not borrowing from others one atom from outside the dharma. Clearly this affair occurs within your own house.”

2-The Practice of True Reality

“The practice of True Reality is simply to sit serenely in silent introspection. When you have fathomed this you cannot be turned around by external causes and conditions. This empty, wide-open mind is subtly and correctly illuminating. Spacious and content, without confusion from inner thoughts of grasping, effectively overcome habitual behavior and realize the self that is not possessed by emotions. You must be broad-minded, whole without relying on others. Such upright independent spirit can begin not to pursue degrading situations. Here you can rest and become clean, clear and lucid. Bright and penetrating, you can immediately return, accord, and respond to deal with events. Everything is unhindered, clouds gracefully floating up to the peaks, the moonlight glitteringly flowing down mountain streams. The entire place is brightly illumined and spiritually transformed, totally unobstructed and clearly manifesting responsive interaction like box and lid or arrowpoints meeting. Continuing, cultivate and nourish yourself and achieve stability. If you accord everywhere with thorough clarity and cut off sharp corners without dependence on doctrines, like the white bull or the wildcat, helping to arouse wonder, you can be called a complete person. So we hear that this is how one on the way of non- mind acts, but before realizing non-mind we still have great hardship.”

1- The Bright, Boundless Field

“The field of boundless emptiness is what exists from the very beginning. You must purify, cure, grind down, or brush away all the tendencies you have fabricated into apparent habits. Then you can reside in the clear circle of brightness. Utter emptiness has no image; upright independence does not rely on anything. Just expand and illuminate the original truth, unconcerned by external conditions. Accordingly, we are told that not a single thing exists. In this field birth and death do not appear. The deep source transparent down to the bottom can radiantly shine and can respond unencumbered to each speck of dust without becoming its partner. The subtlety of seeing and hearing transcends mere colors and sounds. The whole affair functions without leaving traces, and mirrors without obscurations. Very naturally mind and dharmas emerge and harmonize. An ancient said that non-mind enacts and fulfills the way on non-mind. Enacting and fulfilling the way of non-mind, finally you can rest. Proceeding you are able to guide the assembly. With thoughts clear, sitting silently, wander into the circle of wonder. This is how you must penetrate and study.”


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