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Zen Ways Sanga Discussion

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.”


Previous Quotes

  1. Mike M permalink

    Thank you for sharing these insightful writings. I find them to be inspirational for meditation – a focal point to be absorbed. Words that express that which cannot be expressed. A catalyst of sorts.

    • Seiso Sensei permalink

      Hi Mike,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings regarding Hongzhi’s teachings. I’m glad they inspire and benefit you and your practice. I agree: A strong catalyst.

      For All Beings

  2. Kyoshin Lohr permalink

    “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!”

    Ok …. so I look at a circle … I just drew an enso …. in the circle is emptiness ….. I grok that …. I don’t know what “ultimate self” is …. and I cannot see any “blaze” …. I do not understand “inherent illumination” ….no matter how long I sit …. I do not see any blazing at all. “Facing the boundary of the object world” …. ok, I kinda get that, well maybe I do …. but what does “without yet creating the sense gates” allude to? and why do I want to “eliminate the effects of the swirling flow of arising and extinction” …. since that is the very thing that keeps me practicing. Obviously I need help …or a different brain.

  3. Kyoshin Lohr permalink

    ok …. I think I answered my own questions

    • Seiso Sensei permalink

      Great questions! I imagine that you answered them from reflecting on your own experience. Have you noticed that enzo’s are also empty on the drawn part? Take a close look at the one in the zendo.

    • Seiso Sensei permalink

      ps . . . I see your “questions” as insights that can challenge us to further introspection

      Thank you


  4. Sam M permalink

    “If you truly appreciate a single thread your eye can suitably meet the world and its changes.”

    This one sentence is exactly what I needed today to put things into perspective.

    • Seiso Sensei permalink

      Isn’t it just beautiful how such absract and often enigmatic teachings can have such practical lived value?

      Thanks,Sam, for sharing

  5. Before Dawn

    A priest in a Buddhist temple lifts,
    between his palms, a stick of incense
    to his forehead, holds it there
    for just a moment before he inclines his head.
    Another monk receives the stick
    and lights it.

    A thin swirl of jasmine rises
    to the bronze Buddha. It spreads
    throughout the zendo, clearing minds
    of clutter, raising emptiness. The fragrance
    fades. Resonance of chant lingers.
    The singing bowl is struck. Three times.

    Ankyo Pat Chaffee

    • Seiso Sensei permalink

      Dear Ankyo,

      Beautiful expression in response to Hongzhi’s teaching on Silent Illumination.
      For me the last line resonates in the non-duality of both ending and beginning
      as the three bells return to silence and the cleared minds sink into the samadhi
      of zazen.

      Thank you,
      Seiso Sensei

  6. A true story…

    I wanted to share this story with the sanga because it really pointed out to me the possible universality of the non-dual experience.
    Yesterday morning my friend Dolly, who is not Buddhist but definitely a bodhisattva, was doing volunteer work at an assisted living facility. Taking a break she went out back of the building and was enjoying a beautiful morning with the wind and birds in the trees, chipmunks scurrying on the lawn, under a cloudless sky.
    An elderly woman in a wheelchair was sitting there smiling and giggling while taking it all in. The picture of contentment. The woman had lost the power of speech due to a stroke but Dolly asked her anyway what it was that she was enjoying so much. The woman spread her hands out wide to indicate the entire panorama in front of them. She then turned her hands inwards pointing toward her herself. Dolly then asked her if she meant that all this was inside her. The woman just smiled and nodded yes.
    When Dolly finished the story I was kind of blown away. I couldn’t help wondering if this was all just the product of a poor old woman’s damaged brain or an example of a deep, natural samadi. Perhaps I’m just being sentimental but I preferred to believe the latter.
    Any comments or reflections would be appreciated.



    • Seiso Sensei permalink

      Lovely sharing!

      I am believing the latter along with you



    Is it me sitting on a cushion like a lump on a log,
    sometimes knowing I’m a lump…
    sometimes not?

    The bliss of doing something good for nothing?

    Or the cell tower outside my window…
    or a missing chess piece…
    or that thing on my friends neck that should really be checked out…?

    Is it seeing the leaves change
    and remembering the joy of a bag full of Halloween candy?

    Chanting the Heart Sutra?

    Or mom’s Alzheimer’s?

    What is Buddha-nature? Or is it, Buddha-nature IS What?

    The clear light or a stray thought, or both, or neither…
    or none of the above?

    Or all these things above… leaning in closer to me now.
    Whispering, “we are, all of us, intimate you know”



  8. Seiso Sensei permalink

    This is it . . .!!! Beautiful . Keep writing.


    A cloudless fall sky. Robin egg blue.

    Who can name it? Or name it Not … or other

    Reading sutras. Thinking about it. Or not. Or just chanting it perhaps.

    Using words to go beyond words to find THAT wordless word where silence reigns.

    Using tricks to trick ourselves out of the tricks we have used to trap ourselves since all time.

    A thorn to remove a thorn.

    To think the thought of no-thought.

    To stop clinging and fighting and JUST BE THE TRAP.

    To relax, because…

    Maybe, just maybe…

    The trick IS the treat.

  10. Joan Harvey permalink

    Using words to go beyond words… yes!

  11. On the recent passing of the creative genius and Zen master Leonard Cohen;

    In an interview on the meaning of his signature song Hallelujah he said ” It explains that many kinds of Hallelujahs exist, and all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have equal value.”
    I couldn’t help but think of the Sandokai. The equality of the relative and the absolute. The equality of the broken and the perfect. So broken, so perfect… so human. So beautiful.

    Karen, thanks for the invite to the to the Leonard Cohen vigil that inspired the above reflections. Hope to see you there.


  12. Seiso Sensei permalink


    Beautiful and thoughtful integration of Sandokai and Hallelujah. Reminds me also of Dogen’s shift from ‘stages” or “phases” of enlightenment to “qualities” or “aspects” of the ongoing activity of realization.

    For All Beings



    The World:

    A magic trick without a magician,

    An empty womb eternally giving birth to itself.

    Empty, yet not barren… fertile.

    No-Thingness leaping out of itself.

    The Logos, the Sacred Aum, The Word upon the Water.

    Fluctuations in the quantum field.

    Perturbations in the vacuum state.

    Vibrations, patterns… processes.

    That’s all we are.

    Coming together and falling apart.

    Full. Empty.

    If we can just let it be the treasury opens up to be used as we please.

  14. Seiso Sensei permalink


    Another creative and
    beautiful rendition of Hongzhi’s Silent Illumination teachings. Thanks for sharing.

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