Dark Zen

A dialogue between Master and Disciple

Bodhidharma: Today you have seen Mind which is not part of this world.

Hui-k’o: But is this all? To be sure, I see Mind’s incorporeal nature. I see that it is not here nor there. I see that it is measureless. But it seems that there is much more to learn.

Bodhidharma: You are wise, my student, to realize this at this stage. Most would believe that they were Buddhas and go off to preach. But they are unwise. This insight of yours is just the beginning. That is why I give you this copy of the Lankavatara Sutra, so that one day you might come to see the world the way a Buddha does.

Hui-k’o: How does a Buddha see the world differently than I do?

Bodhidharma: The Buddha has converted the Alaya.

Hui-k’o: What exactly do you mean by the Alaya being converted?

Bodhidharma: First, it is important to understand that the Alaya is like a receptacle in which all possible appearances are contained and reproduced. All that we perceive as human beings rests in the Alaya. But the Alaya is nothing itself except Mind’s defiled aspect, insofar as we cling to effects as being absolute. To further complicate matters, when Mind is in the Alaya mode it comes under the bondage of objectifying forces of which it knows nothing, being unable to fully realize that these forces are directly from Mind. What arises from this is the world of appearance, both external and internal which mutually conditions itself. Keeping this in mind, imagine converting this perception so that you are no longer a bondsman to the appearances of Mind. At this point, you actually merge with that wherefrom all things arise and to where they cessate. In other words, you become Mind!

Hui-k’o: From what you have said Master, I think my realization was merely an insight into the purified aspect of the Alaya, is that correct?

Bodhidharma: Yes, that is correct. But rather than this insight being nothing, you conceived the Tathagata embryo in the Alaya/ovary . And if you continue to nurture this holy conception, without fail, you will eventually generate Bodhicitta, becoming a true Bodhisattva.

Hui-k’o: Although I sense something wonderful has happened to me I still perceive the world in the same fashion. Will this change one day?

Bodhidharma: Yes, one day it will change. When, for example you break the spell of your visual perception, everything will look like images in a mirror. But in the mean time your vision is blocked by 4 things. First, you believe that what you see is ‘out there’; when it is merely an optical illusion as the images first appear on the back of your eyeballs. Second, you are habituated to ideas based on the belief that all is ‘out there’. Third, you are locked on the eye organ itself, and have no idea how to break its spell. Fourth, you are attracted to what you see and so you have a love affair with the visible world.

Hui-k’o: But Master everything seems so real.

Bodhidharma: what you see seems real is due to the mutual conditioning process between perceiver and perceived. In the past, as you have invested in the eye’s world and its ideas, you did not realize that the source of your eye’s images is not an image; over time you became gradually dependent on eye-consciousness originations, knowing no other way of ‘seeing’. Now, do thisfor me. Look at the cave wall. Now, put your finger next to your right eye and gently move the eyeball and tell me what you see.

Hui-k’o: It is strange Master. But as I gently press my eyeball looking at the cave wall, the entire wall moves. And, as I look to the shrine, it too moves as your body moves.

Bodhidharma: What does this tell you?

Hui-k’o: That what I see is beheld first in the eye organ; ‘that what I see to be ‘out there’ is not actually there.

Bodhidharma: Can you see that which makes the image of the cave wall appear on your eye?

Hui-k’o: But isn’t what I see the same as the real cave wall from which the image comes? Bodhidharma: How do you know that? Is the moon in the water exactly the same as the one above? Is the image of the world you see, the same as that which makes the image appear?

Hui-k’o: No. But now if all the senses are like visual consciousness, upon what does all this rest? Bodhidharma: That is the Alaya consciousness which I have been trying to explain. But now I want you to look at me sitting here. Do you see a robed monk?

Hui-k’o: Yes, Master, I do.

Bodhidharma: Do you hear my voice?

Hui-k’o: Yes, Master, I can hear your beautiful voice, so filled with the Dharma.

Bodhidharma: Hui-k’o, please understand that I am not in the body you see before you. I am completely detached from it. Like a flame gone from its fuel, my whereabouts cannot be discerned–yet the image you see, teaches Dharma through this corporeal body. How wonderful! I am able to use this body, but not be used by it. Unlike the common lot of mankind who are used by the body’s needs and as a result come into samsara, I come to rest in nirvana which is perfectly detached. Without further ado, take this Sutra and retire into the forest and study it for twenty or more years. Yes, master it my disciple.

Hui-k’o: Yes, Master, I will do as you say. I swear this to you.

Bodhidharma: Good,

Hui-k’o. You please your old master greatly.

* This is a fictional conversation created by Zenmar to correctly teach the Buddha-Dharma

Text by Zenmar, the Dark Zen mystic

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