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 absense 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 twirlings of the mind to settle into innate stillness by directing ones attention to the empty clear awareness that is with you always
  3. the absense 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 nutrues 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 seperates 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 scritpure they need for their dharma is revelead 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)