The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind

Zen Master Huang Po

As recorded by the scholar P'ei Hsiu of the T'ang Dynasty. Rendered into English by John Blofeld (Chu Ch'an) [Excerpts. Complete text (.pdf) HERE]

P'ei Hsiu's Preface – The great Zen Master Hsi Yun lived below the Vulture Peak on Mount Huang Po, [From which he takes his posthumous name] in the district of Kao An which forms part of the prefecture of Hung Chou [In the modern province of Kiangsi]. He was third in the direct line of descent from Hui Neng,[Wei Lang] the Sixth Patriarch, and the pupil of a fellow-disciple of Hui Hai. Holding in esteem only the intuitive method of the Highest Vehicle, which cannot be communicated in words, he taught nothing but the doctrine of the One Mind; holding that there is nothing else to teach, in that both mind and substance are void and that the chain of causation is motionless. Mind is like the sun journeying through the sky and emitting glorious light uncontaminated by the finest particle of dust. To those who have realized the nature of Reality, there is nothing old or new, and conceptions of shallowness and depth are meaningless. Those who speak of it do not attempt to explain it, establish no sects and open no doors or windows. That which is before you is it. Begin to reason about it and you will at once fall into error. Only when you have understood this will you perceive your oneness with the original Buddha-nature. Therefore his words were simple, his reasoning direct, his way of life exalted and his habits unlike the habits of other men.

Disciples hastened to him from all quarters, looking up to him as to a lofty mountain, and through their contact with him awoke to Reality. Of the crowds which flocked to see him, there were always more than a thousand with him at a time. In the second year of Hui Ch'ang (A.D. 843), when I was in charge of the district of Chung Lin, I welcomed him on his coming to that city from the mountain where he resided. We stayed together in the Lung Hsing Monastery where, day and night, I questioned him about the Way. Moreover, in the second year of T'ai Chung (A.D. 849), while governing the district of Wan Ling, I again had occasion to welcome him ceremoniously to the place where I was stationed. This time we stayed quietly at the K'ai Yuan Monastery, where also I studied under him day and night. After leaving him, I recorded what I had learnt and, though able to set down only about a fifth of it, I esteem it as a direct transmission of the Doctrine. At first I was diffident about publishing what I had written; but now, fearing that these vital and penetrating teachings will be lost to future generations, I have done so. Moreover, I gave the manuscript to the monks T'ai Chou and Fa Chien, requesting them to return to the Kuang T'ang Monastery on the old mountain land to ask the elder monks there how far it agrees with what they themselves used frequently to hear in the past.


[1] The Master said to me: All the Buddhas and all sentient beings are nothing but the One Mind, beside which nothing exists. This Mind, which IS without beginning, is unborn, unborn not in the sense of eternity, for this allows contrast with its opposite, but unborn in the sense that it belongs to no categories admitting of alteration or antithesis, and indestructible. It is not green nor yellow, and has neither form nor appearance. It does not belong to the categories of things which exist or do not exist, nor can it be thought of in terms of new or old. It is neither long nor short, big nor small, for it transcends all limits, measures, names, traces, and comparisons. It IS that which you see before you – begin to reason about it and you at once fall into error. It is like the boundless void which cannot be fathomed or measured. The One Mind alone is the Buddha, and there is no distinction between the Buddha and sentient things, but that sentient beings are attached to forms and so seek externally for Buddhahood. By their very seeking they lose it, for that is using the Buddha to seek for the Buddha and using mind to grasp Mind. Even though they do their utmost for a full aeon, they will not be able to attain to it. They do not know that, if they put a stop to conceptual thought and forget their anxiety, the Buddha will appear before them, for this Mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is all living beings. It is not the less for being manifested in ordinary beings, nor is it greater for being manifested in the Buddhas.

[3] Mind is like the void in which there is no confusion or evil, as when the sun wheels through it shining upon the four corners of the world. For, when the sun rises and illuminates the whole earth, the void gains not in brilliance; and, when the sun sets, the void does not darken. The phenomena of light and dark alternate with each other, but the nature of the void remains unchanged. So it is with the Mind of the Buddha and of sentient beings. If you look upon the Buddha as presenting a pure, bright or Enlightened appearance, or upon sentient beings as presenting a foul, dark or mortal-seeming appearance, these conceptions resulting from attachment to form will keep you from supreme knowledge, even after the passing of as many aeons as there are sands in the Ganges. There is only the One Mind and not a particle of anything else on which to lay hold, for this Mind is the Buddha. If you students of the Way do not awake to this Mind substance, you will overlay Mind with conceptual thought, you will seek the Buddha outside yourselves, and you will remain attached to forms, pious practices and so on, all of which are harmful and not at all the way to supreme knowledge.

[6] This Mind is no mind of conceptual thought and it is completely detached from form. So Buddhas and sentient beings do not differ at all. If you can only rid yourselves of conceptual thought, you will have accomplished everything. But if you students of the Way do not rid yourselves of conceptual thought in a flash, even though you strive for aeon after aeon, you will never accomplish it. Enmeshed in the meritorious practices of the Three Vehicles, you will be unable to attain Enlightenment. Nevertheless, the realization of the One Mind may come after a shorter or a longer period. There are those who, upon hearing this teaching, rid themselves of conceptual thought in a flash.There are others who do this after following through the Ten Beliefs, the Ten Stages, the Ten Activities and the Ten Bestowals of Merit. Yet others accomplish it after passing through the Ten Stages of a Bodhisattva's Progress. [...] But whether they transcend conceptual thought by a longer or a shorter way, the result is a state of BEING: there is no pious practicing and no action of realizing. That there is nothing which can be attained is not idle talk; it is the truth. Moreover, whether you accomplish your aim in a single flash of thought or after going through the Ten Stages of a Bodhisattva's Progress, the achievement will be the same; for this state of being admits of no degrees,so the latter method merely entails aeons of unnecessary suffering and toil. [...]

[8] Our original Buddha-Nature is, in highest truth, devoid of any atom of objectivity. It is void,omnipresent, silent, pure; it is glorious and mysterious peaceful joy--and that is all. Enter deeply into it by awaking to it yourself. That which is before you is it, in all its fullness, utterly complete. There is naught beside. Even if you go through all the stages of a Bodhisattva's progress towards Buddhahood,one by one; when at last, in a single flash, you attain to full realization, you will only be realizing the Buddha-Nature which has been with you all the time; and by all the foregoing stages you will have added to it nothing at all. [...] You will come to look upon those aeons of work and achievement as no better than unreal actions performed in a dream. That is why the Tathagata said: 'I truly attained nothing from complete, unexcelled Enlightenment. Had there been anything attained, Dipamkara Buddha would not have made the prophecy concerning me.' [...] He also said: 'This Dharma is absolutely without distinctions,neither high nor low, and its name is Bodhi.' It is pure Mind, which is the source of everything and which, whether appearing as sentient beings or as Buddhas, as the rivers and mountains of the world which has form, as that which is formless, or as penetrating the whole universe, is absolutely without distinctions, there being no such entities as selfness and otherness.

[9] This pure Mind, the source of everything, shines forever and on all with the brilliance of its own perfection. But the people of the world do not awake to it, regarding only that which sees, hears, feels and knows as mind. Blinded by their own sight, hearing, feeling and knowing, they do not perceive the spiritual brilliance of the source-substance. If they would only eliminate all conceptual thought in a flash, that source-substance would manifest itself like the sun ascending through the void and illuminating the whole universe without hindrance or bounds. Therefore, if you students of the Way seek to progress through seeing, hearing, feeling and knowing, when you are deprived of your perceptions, your way to Mind will be cut off and you will find nowhere to enter. Only realize that, though real Mind is expressed in these perceptions, it neither forms part of them nor is separate from them. You should not start REASONING from these perceptions, nor allow them to give rise to conceptual thought; yet nor should you seek the One Mind apart from them or abandon them in your pursuit of the Dharma. Do not keep them nor abandon them nor dwell in them nor cleave to them. Above, below and around you, all is spontaneously existing, for there is nowhere which is outside the Buddha-Mind.

[10] When the people of the world hear it said that the Buddhas transmit the Doctrine of the Mind, they suppose that there is something to be attained or realized apart from Mind, and thereupon they use Mind to seek the Dharma, not knowing that Mind and the object of their search are one. Mind cannot be used to seek something from Mind; for then, after the passing of millions of aeons, the day of success will still not have dawned. Such a method is not to be compared with suddenly eliminating conceptual thought, which is the fundamental Dharma. Suppose a warrior, forgetting that he was already wearing his pearl on his forehead, were to seek for it elsewhere, he could travel the whole world without finding it. But if someone who knew what was wrong were to point it out to him, the warrior would immediately realize that the pearl had been there all the time. So, if you students of the Way are mistaken about your own real Mind, not recognizing that it is the Buddha, you will consequently look for him elsewhere, indulging in various achievements and practices and expecting to attain realization by such graduated practices.

But, even after aeons of diligent searching, you will not be able to attain to the Way. These methods cannot be compared to the sudden elimination of conceptual thought, in the certain knowledge that there is nothing at all which has absolute existence, nothing on which to lay hold, nothing on which to rely, nothing in which to abide, nothing subjective or objective. It is by preventing the rise of conceptual thought that you will realize Bodhi; and, when you do, you will just be realizing the Buddha who has always existed in your own Mind! Aeons of striving will prove to be so much wasted effort;just as, when the warrior found his pearl, he merely discovered what had been hanging on his forehead all the time; and just as his finding of it had nothing to do with his efforts to discover it elsewhere.Therefore the Buddha said: 'I truly attained nothing from complete, unexcelled Enlightenment.' It was for fear that people would not believe this that he drew upon what is seen with the five sorts of vision and spoken with the five kinds of speech. So this quotation is by no means empty talk, but expresses the highest truth.

[11] Students of the Way should be sure that the four elements composing the body do not constitute the 'self', that the 'self' is not an entity; and that it can be deduced from this that the body is neither 'self' nor entity. Moreover, the five aggregates composing the mind (in the common six kinds of objects of perception, constitute the sensory world must be understood in the same way. Those eighteen aspects of sense are separately and together void. There is only Mind-Source, limitless in extent and of absolute purity.

[14] If you students of the Way desire knowledge of this great mystery, only avoid attachment to any single thing beyond Mind. To say that the real Dharmakaya of the Buddha [...] resembles the Void is another way of saying that the Dharmakaya is the Void and that the Void is the Dharmakaya. People often claim that the Dharmakaya is in the Void and that the Void contains the Dharmakaya, not realizing that they are one and the same.But if you define the Void as something existing, then it is not the Dharmakaya; and if you define the Dharmakaya as something existing, then it is not the Void. Only refrain from any objective conception of the Void; then it is the Dharmakaya: and, if only you refrain from any objective conception of the Dharmakaya, why, then it is the Void. These two do not differ from each other, nor is there any difference between sentient beings and Buddhas, or between samsara and Nirvana, or between delusion and Bodhi.

When all such forms are abandoned, there is the Buddha. Ordinary people look to their surroundings, while followers of the Way look to Mind, but the true Dharma is to forget them both. The former is easy enough, the latter very difficult. Men are afraid to forget their minds, fearing to fall through the Void with nothing to stay their fall. They do not know that the Void is not really void, but the realm of the real Dharma. This spiritually enlightening nature is without beginning, as ancient as the Void, subject neither to birth nor to destruction, neither existing nor not existing, neither impure nor pure, neither clamorous nor silent, neither old nor young, occupying no space, having neither inside nor outside, size nor form, colour nor sound. It cannot be looked for or sought, comprehended by wisdom or knowledge, explained in words, contacted materially or reached by meritorious achievement. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, together with all wriggling things possessed of life, share in this great Nirvanic nature. This nature is Mind; Mind is the Buddha, and the Buddha is the Dharma. Any thought apart from this truth is entirely a wrong thought. You cannot use Mind to seek Mind, the Buddha to seek the Buddha, or the Dharma to seek the Dharma. So you students of the Way should immediately refrain from conceptual thought. Let a tacit understanding be all! Any mental process must lead to error. There is just a transmission of Mind with Mind. This is the proper view to hold. Be careful not to look outwards to material surroundings. To mistake material surroundings for Mind is to mistake a thief for your son. [...].

[18] If an ordinary man, when he is about to die, could only see the five elements of consciousness as void; the four physical elements as not constituting an 'I'; the real Mind as formless and neither coming nor going; his nature as something neither commencing at his birth nor perishing at his death, but as whole and motionless in its very depths; his Mind and environmental objects as one – if he could really accomplish this, he would receive Enlightenment in a flash. He would no longer be entangled by the Triple World; he would be a World-Transcendor. He would be without even the faintest tendency towards rebirth. If he should behold the glorious sight of all the Buddhas coming to welcome him, surrounded by every kind of gorgeous manifestation, he would feel no desire to approach them. If he should behold all sorts of horrific forms surrounding him, he would experience no terror. He would just be himself, oblivious of conceptual thought and one with the Absolute. He would have attained the state of unconditioned being. This, then, is the fundamental principle. [...]



A collection of dialogues, sermons and anecdotes recorded by P'ei Hsiu during his tenure of the prefecture of Wan Ling

[42] Q: What is implied by 'seeing into the real Nature'?
A: That Nature and your perception of it are one. You cannot use it to see something over and above itself. That Nature and your hearing of it are one. You cannot use it to hear something over and above itself. If you form a concept of the true nature of anything as being visible or audible, you allow a dharma of distinction to arise. Let me repeat that the perceived cannot perceive. Can there, I ask you,be a head attached to the crown of your head? I will give you an example to make my meaning clearer.Imagine some loose pearls in a bowl, some large globules and some small. Each one is completely unaware of the others and none causes the least obstruction to the rest. During their formation, they did not say: 'Now I am coming into being': and when they begin to decay, they will not say: 'Now I am decaying.' None of the beings born into the six forms of life through the four kinds of birth are exceptions to this rule. Buddhas and sentient creatures have no mutual perception of each other. The four grades of Theravadin adepts who are able to enter Nirvana do not perceive, nor are they perceived by Nirvana. Those Theravadins who have reached the 'three stages of holiness' and who possess the 'ten excellent characteristics' neither perceive nor are perceived by Enlightenment. So it is with everything else, down to fire and water, or earth and sky. These pairs of elements have no mutual perception of each other. Sentient beings do not ENTER the Dharmadhatu, [Absolute] nor do the Buddhas ISSUE FROM it. There is no coming and going within the Dharmata, [Nature of the Absolute] nor anything perceptible. This being so, why this talk of 'I see', 'I hear', 'I receive an intuition through Enlightenment', 'I hear the Dharma from the lips of an Enlightened One', or of 'Buddhas appearing in the world to preach the Dharma'? Katyayana was rebuked by Vimalakirti [Ch'ing Ming.] for using that transitory mentality which belongs to the ephemeral state to transmit the doctrine of the real existence of matter.

I assure you that all things have been free from bondage since the very beginning. So why attempt to EXPLAIN them? Why attempt to purify what has never been defiled? Therefore it is written: 'The Absolute is THUSNESS--how can it be discussed? You people still conceive of Mind as existing or not existing, as pure or defiled, as something to be studied in the way that one studies a piece of categorical knowledge, or as a concept--any of these definitions is sufficient to throw you back into the endless round of birth and death. The man who PERCEIVES things always wants to identify them, to get a hold on them. Those who use their minds like eyes in this way are sure to suppose that progress is a matter of stages. If you are that kind of person, you are as far from the truth as earth is far from heaven. Why this talk of 'seeing into your own nature'?

[43] Q: You say that our original nature and the act of seeing into it are one and the same. This can only be so that nature is totally undifferentiated. Pray explain how it is that even allowing that there are no real objects for us to perceive, nevertheless we do in fact see what is near to us and are unable to see what is far away.
A: This is due to a misunderstanding arising from your own delusions. You cannot argue that the Universal Nature does in fact contain real objects on the grounds that 'no real objects to be perceived' would only be true if there were nothing of the kind we CALL perceptible. The nature of the Absolute is neither perceptible nor imperceptible; and with phenomena it is just the same. But to one who has discovered his real nature, how can there be anywhere or anything separate from it? Thus, the six forms of life arising from the four kinds of birth, together with the great world-systems of the universe with their rivers and mountains are ALL of one pure substance with our own nature. Therefore is it said: 'The perception of a phenomenon is the perception of the Universal Nature, since phenomena and Mind are one and the same.' It is only because you cling to outward forms that you come to 'see', 'hear', 'feel' and 'know' things as individual entities. True perception is beyond your powers so long as you indulge in these. [In this passage it is argued that, though individual entities do not exist in a certain superficial sense, they never lose their fundamental oneness.]

By such means you will fall among the followers of the usual Mahayana and Theravadin doctrines who rely upon deep PERCEPTION to arrive at a true understanding. Therefore they see what is near and fail to see what is far away, but no one on the right path thinks thus. I assure you there is no 'inner' or 'outer', or 'near' or 'far'. The fundamental nature of all phenomena is close beside you, but you do not SEE even that; yet you still go on talking of your inability to see what is far away. What meaning can this sort of talk possibly have?

[44] Q: What guidance does Your Reverence offer to those of us who find all this very difficult to understand?
A: I have NO THING to offer. I have never had anything to offer others. It is because you allow certain people to lead you astray that you are forever SEEKING intuition and SEARCHING for understanding.Isn't this a case of disciples and teachers all falling into the same insoluble muddle? All you need to remember are the following injunctions:


A single moment's dualistic thought is sufficient to drag you back to the twelve-fold chain of causation. It is ignorance which turns the wheel of causation, thereby creating an endless chain of karmic causes and results. This is the law which governs our whole lives up to the time of senility and death.

In this connection, we are told that Sudhana, after vainly seeking Bodhi in a hundred and ten places within the twelve-fold causal sphere, at last encountered Maitreya who sent him to Manjusri. Manjusri here represents your primordial ignorance of reality. If, as thought succeeds thought, you go on seeking for wisdom outside yourselves, then there is a continual process of thoughts arising, dying away and being succeeded by others. And that is why all you monks go on experiencing birth, old age, sickness and death-building up karma which produces corresponding effects. For such is the arising and passing away of the 'five bubbles' or, in other words, the five skandhas. Ah, could you but restrain each single thought from arising, then would the Eighteen Sense Realms be made to vanish! How godlike, then,your bodily rewards and how exalted the knowledge that would dawn within your minds! A mind like that could be called the Terrace of the Spirit. But while you remain lost in attachments, you condemn your bodies to be corpses or, as it is sometimes expressed, to be lifeless corpses inhabited by demons!

[45] Q: 'Vimalakirti dwells in silence. Manjusri offers praise.' How can they have really entered the Gateway of Non-Duality?
A: The Gateway of Non-Duality is your original Mind. Speech and silence are relative concepts belonging to the ephemeral sphere. When nothing is said, nothing is manifested. That is why Manjusri offered praise.
Q: Vimalakirti did not speak. Does this imply that sound is subject to cessation?
A: Speech and silence are one! There is no distinction between them. Therefore is it written: 'Neitherthe true nature nor the root of Manjusri's hearing are subject to cessation.' Thus, the sound of the Tathagata's voice is everlasting, nor can there be any such reality as the time before he began to preach or the time after he finished preaching. The preaching of the Tathagata is identical with the Dharma he taught, for there is no distinction between the preaching and the thing preached; just as there is none between such varied phenomena as the Glorified and Revealed Bodies of a Buddha, the Bodhisattvas,the Sravakas, the world-systems with their mountains and rivers, or water, birds, trees, forests and the rest. The preaching of the Dharma is at one and the same time both vocal and silent. Though one talks the day long, no word is spoken. This being so, only silence belongs to the Essential.


Source: IMG: PickPik. AWIP:


Health topic page on womens health Womens health our team of physicians Womens health breast cancer lumps heart disease Womens health information covers breast Cancer heart pregnancy womens cosmetic concerns Sexual health and mature women related conditions Facts on womens health female anatomy Womens general health and wellness The female reproductive system female hormones Diseases more common in women The mature woman post menopause Womens health dedicated to the best healthcare
buy viagra online