Tracing Back the Radiance by Chinul
(Edited and Translated by Robert E. Buswell, Jr. Published by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism)
Question: Through what expedients is it possible in one moment of thought to trace back [the radiance of one’s sense] faculties and awaken to the selfnature?
Chinul: [The numinous awareness] is just your own mind; what other expedients do you need?
If you think you need expedients in order to seek understanding, you are like a person who, because he does not see his own eyes, assumes that he has no eyes and decides to find some way to see. But since he does in fact have eyes, how else is he supposed to see? If he realizes that in fact he has never lost [his eyes], this is then the same as seeing his eyes, and he no longer would try to find a way to see. How then would he have any thoughts that he could not see?
Your own numinous awareness is exactly the same: since it is your own mind, how else are you going to understand?
If you seek some other way to understand, you will never succeed in understanding.
Simply knowing that there is nothing you need to understand is in fact seeing the nature.
Question: When a person of superlative ability hears the dharma, he understands easily. Average and inferior persons, however, are not without doubt and confusion. Would you explain some expedients that will enable the deluded too to gain access [to enlightenment]?
Chinul: The path is not related to knowing or not knowing.
You should get rid of the mind that clings to its delusion and waits for enlightenment to occur, and listen to my words.
Since all dharmas are like dreams or conjuring tricks, deluded thoughts are originally calm and the dusty sense-spheres are originally empty.
At the point where all dharmas are empty, the numinous awareness is unobscured.
That is, this mind of empty and calm, numinous awareness is your original face.
It is also the dharma-seal transmitted without a break by all the buddhas of the three time-periods, the successive generations of patriarchs and teachers, and the spiritual advisors of this world.
If you awaken to this mind, then this is truly what is called not climbing the rungs of a ladder: you ascend straight to the stage of buddhahood and each step transcends the three realms of existence [S. traidhātuka, of sensuality, subtle-materiality, and immateriality].
Returning home, your doubts will be instantly resolved, and you will become the teacher of humans and divinities.
Endowed with both compassion and wisdom and fully endowed with the twofold benefit [of oneself and others], you will be worthy of receiving the offerings of humans and divinities.
Each day you can use ten-thousand taels of gold [without incurring any debt].
If you can do this, you will be a great person who will have indeed finished the tasks of this life.
Question: For people like us, what is this mind of empty and calm, numinous awareness?
Chinul: What has just asked me this question is precisely your mind of empty and calm, numinous awareness.
Why don’t you trace back its radiance rather than looking for it outside?
For the benefit of people like you, I will now point straight to your original mind so that you can awaken.
You should clear your minds and listen to my words.
Tracing Back the Radiance Practice and Pointing Out Instructions
From morning to evening, throughout the twelve periods of the day, during all your actions and activities—whether you are hearing or seeing, laughing or talking, angry or happy, engaging in propriety or impropriety — speak! Ultimately who is it that is able to perform all these actions?
If you say that it is the physical body that is acting, then at the moment when a person’s life comes to an end, even though the body has not yet decayed, how is it that the eyes cannot see, the ears cannot hear, the nose cannot smell, the tongue cannot talk, the body cannot move, the hands cannot grasp, and the feet cannot run?
You should know that what is capable of seeing, hearing, moving, and acting is perforce your original mind; it is not your physical body.
Furthermore, the four elements that make up the physical body are by nature empty; they are like reflections in a mirror or the moon’s [reflection] in water.
How can they be clear and constantly aware, always bright and never benighted — and, when stimulated, be able to put into operation sublime functions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges?
For this reason it is said, “Superpowers and sublime functions are drawing water and carrying firewood.”
Now, there are many points at which to access the principle.
I will point out one approach that will allow you to return to the source.
Avalokiteśvara’s Method of Awakening to Intrinsic Awareness
Chinul: Do you hear the sounds of that crow cawing and that magpie calling?
Chinul: Trace them back and listen to your hearing-nature. Are there many sounds there?
Student: At that place, all sounds and discrimination’s are unascertainable.
Chinul: Marvelous! Marvelous! This is Avalokiteśvara’s method for accessing the principle. Let me ask you again. You said, “At that place, all sounds and discriminations are unascertainable.”
But since they are unascertainable, at such a time isn’t the hearing-nature just empty?
Student: Originally it is not empty. It is always bright and never shrouded in the darkness of ignorance.
Chinul: What is this essence that is not empty?
Student: As it has no form or shape, it is ineffable.
Chinul: This is the life force of all the Buddhas and Patriarchs — have no further doubts.
Since it has no form or shape, how can it be either large or small?
Since it is neither large nor small, how can it have any boundaries?
Since it has no boundaries, it cannot have either inside or outside.
Since there is no inside or outside, there is no far or near.
As there is no far or near, there is no here or there.
As there is no here or there, there is no coming or going.
As there is no coming or going, there is no birth or death.
As there is no birth or death, there is no past or present.
As there is no past or present, there is no delusion or awakening.
As there is no delusion or awakening, there is no ordinary person or sage.
As there is no ordinary person or sage, there is no purity or impurity.
Since there is no impurity or purity, there is no right or wrong.
Since there is no right or wrong, names and words do not apply to it.
Since none of these concepts apply, all sense-bases and sense-objects, all deluded thoughts, even forms and shapes, names and words are all inapplicable.
Hence how can it be anything but originally empty and calm and originally no-thing?
Nevertheless, at that point where all dharmas are empty, the numinous awareness is not obscured.
It is not the same as insentience, for its nature is spiritually alert and responsive.
This is your pure mind-essence of empty and calm, numinous awareness.
This pure, empty, and calm mind is that mind of outstanding purity and brilliance of all the Buddhas of the three time-periods; it is that enlightened nature which is the original source of all sentient beings.
One who awakens to it and safeguards that [awakening] will then abide in the unitary, “such,” and immovable liberation.
One who is deluded and turns his back on it cycles between the six rebirth destinies (S. s .ad .gati, K. yukch’wi 六 趣, viz., hell denizens, ghosts, asuras, animals, human beings, and divinities), wandering in sam . sāra for vast numbers of kalpas.
As it is said, “One who is confused about the one mind and cycles between the six destinies passes on and is active. But one who awakens to the dharmadhātu and returns to the one mind arrives and is still.”
Although there is a distinction between delusion and awakening, at their original source they are one.
Therefore, it is said, “The term ‘dharma’ means the mind of the sentient being.”24
But since there is neither more of this empty and calm mind in the sage nor less of it in the ordinary person, in the wisdom of the sage it is no brighter; hidden in the mind of the ordinary person it is no darker.
Since there is neither more of it in the sage nor less of it in the ordinary person, how are the Buddhas and Patriarchs any different from other human beings?
The only thing that makes them different is that they can protect their minds and thoughts, nothing more.
If you have sufficient faith and your doubts suddenly vanish, you will display the will of a great man and generate authentic vision and understanding; if you know its taste for yourself, arrive at the stage of self-affirmation [and thus gain understanding of your true nature], then this is the experience of the understanding-awakening achieved by those who have cultivated the mind.
Since no further steps or sequences are involved, it is called “sudden.”
Therefore it is said, “When in the cause of faith one meshes without the slightest degree of error with all the qualities of the fruition of buddhahood, faith is achieved.”