Bodhidharma’s Outline of Practice

There are many roads for entering the Way, but essentially there are only two: 

  • entering through the Principle 
  • and entering through practice.

Entering Through the Principle

‘Entering through the Principle’ is awakening to the essential by means of direct transmission. It requires a profound trust that all living beings, whether deluded or awakened, share the same true nature, which is obscured and unseen because it’s shrouded due to sensations and mistaken perception.

If you turn from the false to the true, meditate on walls, the absence of self and other, the oneness of mortal and sage and be unmoved even by the scriptures are in complete and unspoken agreement with the principle. 

Complete, ineffable accord with the Principle is without discrimination, still, effortless. This is entering through the Principle.

5 Contemplations of the Principle by zen master e

  1. turning from the false to the true – this is the insight into the two aspects of mind – changeless awareness and the ever changing small mind that is composed of thoughts, concepts, memories, cravings and aversions – to turn from the false to the real is to put it all down and no longer chase after the comings and goings of the small mind – stop grasping at composite everchanging things and rest in the clear light radiance of unchanging awareness
  2. meditate on walls – Bodhidharma also called this “nurturing awareness” it is where one allows the spins, tilts and twirling’s of the mind to settle into innate stillness by directing ones attention to the empty clear awareness that is with you always
  3. the absence of self and other – abiding in awareness all distinctions fade. There is no self and other for all share the same nature – suchness which one knows more and more deeply through nurturing awareness
  4. the oneness of mortal and sage – both mortal and sage are from the same source one nurtures awareness and abides in thought free state and the other is lost in thoughts and projections clinging and grasping or rejecting and pushing away – what really separates the two is just a thought – ignorance is just wisdom shrouded over through craving.
  5. and be unmoved even by the scriptures – the sage studies the mind this is the only scripture they need for their dharma is revealed in every moment

Entering Through Practice

‘Entering through practice’ refers to four all-encompassing practices: 

  • the practice of suffering injustice 
  • the practice of accepting one’s circumstances,
  • the practice of craving nothing, 
  • and the practice of accord with the Dharma.

The Practice of Suffering Injustice

What is the practice of suffering injustice? When experiencing suffering, a practitioner of the Way should reflect: ‘For innumerable eons, I have preferred the superficial to the fundamental, drifting through various states of existence, creating much animosity and hatred, bringing endless harm and discord. Though I have done nothing wrong in this life, I am reaping the natural consequences of the past offenses of my evil karma. It is not meted out by some heavenly agency. I accept it patiently and with contentment, utterly without animosity or complaint.’ 

A sutra says, ‘When you encounter suffering, do not be distressed. Why? Because your consciousness opens up to the fundamental.’ Cultivating this attitude, you are in accord with the Principle, advancing on the path through suffering. Thus it is called the practice of experiencing suffering

The Practice of Accepting Circumstances

Second is the practice of accepting circumstances. Living beings, having no [fixed] self, are entirely shaped by the impact of circumstances. Both suffering and pleasured by circumstance. If you experience such positive rewards as wealth and fame, this results from past causes. You receive the benefits now, but as soon as these circumstances are played out, it will be over. Why should you celebrate? 

Success and failure depend upon circumstances, while the Mind does not gain or lose. Not being moved even by the winds of the good fortune is ineffable accord with the Way. This is the practice of accepting one’s circumstances.

The Practice of Craving Nothing

Third is the practice of craving nothing. The various sorts of longing and attachment that people experience in their unending ignorance are regarded as craving. The wise awaken to the truth, going with the Principle rather than with conventional ideas. Peaceful at heart, with nothing to do, they change in accord with the seasons. All existence lacking substance, they desire nothing. [They know that] the goddesses of good and bad fortune always travel as a pair and that the Triple Word, where you have lived so long, is like a burning house. 

Suffering inevitably comes with having a body – who can find peace? If you understand this fully, you quit all thoughts of others states of being, no longer crave them. A sutra says, ‘To crave is to suffer; to crave nothing is bliss.’ Thus we understand clearly that craving nothing is the true practice of the Way.

The Practice of Accord With the Dharma

Fourth is the practice of accord with the Dharma. The principle of essential purity is the Dharma. Under this principle, all form is without substance, undefilable, and without attachment, neither ‘this’ nor ‘that.’ 

The Vimalakirti Sutra says, ‘In this Dharma, there are no living beings because it transcends the defiling [concept] of ‘living beings.’ In this Dharma, there is no self because it transcends the defiling [concept] of ‘self.’’ 

When the wise embrace and understand this principle, they are practicing accord with the Dharma. Since in the Dharma there is fundamentally nothing to withhold, [the wise] practice generosity, giving their bodies, lives, and possessions without any regret in their minds. Fully understanding the emptiness of giver, gift, and recipient, they do not fall into bias or attachment. 

Ridding themselves of all defilements, they aid in the liberation of living beings without grasping at appearances. In this way they benefit themselves and others both, gracing the way of Enlightenment. 

In the same fashion, they practice the other five perfections. To eliminate false thinking in practicing the six perfections means having no thought of practicing them. This is practicing accord with the Dharma.

(The Six Paramitas or Perfections are giving, virtue, patience, enthusiasm, calm and wisdom)

Zen master e’s comment

You yourself are a Buddha. Buddha means awake and our mission becomes to awaken moment to moment.

To enter through Principle is to find a good friend that points directly to mind so that you may see for yourself that your true nature is beyond thought, empty, spacious and still. This emptiness spaciousness if filled with the bright light of knowing.

Once introduced one knows the truth. That one’s very nature is Buddha. Once truth is known we just sit deeply and allow the discriminative, conceptualizing mind to dissolve and the Buddha essence permeates all because it is no longer covered over by thoughts.

Ideas of a self fade away like a dream in the morning. We no longer become attached and enchanted by form, feelings, sensations, thoughts, memories, perceptions. We see that all those things that we had previously mistaken for a self are merely dependently originated with no self to be found.

We discover our true self to be beyond all that. It is timeless, spacious, empty knowingness.

To enter through Practice is to be at ease in every moment. To see karma unfolding in its own way. To look upon the passions as no business of your own. Situations arise and we meet them with openness and spaciousness. An open spaciousness that we’ve nurtured every time we make time to sit. An open spaciousness that is revealed every time we chew the koan.

Life flows along as a unified field of experience yet no experiencer is found. We know that if it is changing and bound to other things that it is not the true self. The true self is free from all conditionings.

So a situation arises and we no longer resist. This is just karma unfolding. Like a story. Every story has a beginning, middle and end. When we rest in awakening then the story changes all by itself. And even as it’s unfolding we are free to allow each moment to be exactly as it is. The mind no longer is bound by wants and not wants and sees the timeless perfection just as it is. So we embrace our karma and karma is each moment and we welcome each moment allowing it to be. Function arises spontaneously and words and actions flow in accord with the way. So stop resisting each moment for each moment is for you to awaken to truth.

Adapting to conditions arises because we have embraced the moment. We hold each moment tenderly and lightly. Good and bad moments arise and we allow them to unfold knowing well that they have appeared because of some past actions. Rewards come and we share them. Adversity comes and we embrace it. To be in the human realm is to be touched by suffering in some way. No one is free from this fate. So adapt easily to the ever changing conditions of life.

To seek nothing is to no longer be attached to appearances. Karma is unfolding in such a way to enable you to awaken. You seek for blessings and to be free from burdens all the while missing the greatest achievement – a mind free in this very moment. To seek nothing is to find peace in every circumstance. The breeze blows, the sun shines and the birds sing off in the distance. Sipping tea and the world spins on and on.

To act in accordance with the Dharma is to see truth everywhere. A sentient being is merely an empty appearance. A coming together of a million different motions bound to a million different things. When we look at a tree – start to see the sun, the rain, the earth and time. Then when you look at a being try to find the moment when they truly came into being. The whole universe had to be for them to be. And what we call a person is merely a coming together of the elements. Breaking down those fleeting elements only emptiness remains.

A being is merely a label of a million different elements bound to a million different things. When did that person begin? When they were born? When their parents met? When their grandparents met? When their great grandparents met? When you trace it back you find an unbroken line of causes and conditions that goes back to the big bang.

If all things return to the one then where does the one return to?

Sunyata or emptiness is the source supreme of all. The one true mind is the Buddha and all things are nothing other than it. Seeing this then one acts in ways to bring benefit to all beings for all beings are Buddha and this is nothing other than a Buddha realm with karma unfolding to allow you to awaken to truth.

So join in the sport of the Buddha’s and awaken moment to moment.