Student: Is it good to study the Sutras? As a master of the
Lankavatara School, would you tell me if it is beneficial?
Hui-k'o: Not if one is addicted to a literary understanding of Sutras.
Unfortunately, today, many students have failed to come to a real understanding of their
predecessor's words. They cling to the letter and forget the insight. In my own
transmission from Master Bodhidharma, the Lankavatara Sutra is meant as an aid for
transcending words and the mental pictures they create. In that way, Sutras are not an
Student: I must confess, I get confused reading scriptures. There is
so much to learn and so many important words which I don't understand.
Hui-k'o: How true! This reminds me of my youthful days as a student
when Bodhidharma set me straight. After I saw the inconceivable aspect of my true Mind for
the first time, I realized how dangerous clinging to words can be if one does not have a
Student: That is interesting. I am not at your level. For me, studying
the meaning of words is like counting the sands at the bottom of the ocean. There are so
many difficult ideas to learn-I shall never understand them all. I feel like I am drowning
Hui-k'o: This is because, as yet, you don't comprehend the single
principle which unifies the diverse aspects of the teaching and makes it coherent. I know
it is very difficult to do this. It was difficult for me. I had to remind myself what the
Lankavatara Sutra said: "Don't become attached to the letter and the conventional
view of reality."
Student: What should I do first, other than studying scripture,
becoming like a parrot?
Hui-k'o: First, it is important to realize our true essence-lineage,
called the gotra. This is a big accomplishment in itself!
Student: What exactly is the gotra?
Hui-k'o: It is like a precious jewel lying in the mind that is
entirely covered by the dirt of habitual mental-picturing and corporeal sensations. After
I had my initial glimpse into the gotra, it was easy for me to set aside those states
which didn't fit with its pristine nature. If you are fortunate, one day you will catch a
glimpse of it also.
Student: I hope so! Would you tell me more about it?
Hui-k'o: Surely. After we have an insight into this pea-size gotra,
we must direct our whole being towards it. In that regard, we are
becoming a member of the Buddha's lineage. At this stage, it is
only a tiny little spiritual embryo! As it grows, we get wiser,
eventually passing beyond corporeal conditions, abiding no longer
in this body, yet still able to work its fingers! This was what
Master Bodhidharma really taught me. I had no idea what the true
nature of Mind was at the time I met him. But when he asked me to
show it to him and I couldn't-well, instead, I saw the gotra, you
might say. In a split second, I passed beyond the pale of my worldly
body and its inner world of mental pictures and sensations. Then
after that, he gave me the Lankavatara Sutra as an aid; he then
told me to deepen and cultivate my insight.
Student: So there is more than just this insight?
Hui-k'o: Oh. yes. Much more. One does not stop with this insight. Seeing
an aspect of our Buddha Mind-the gotra-is like a seed which is yet
to reveal its spiritual contents-the big Bodhi-tree! As we progressively
cultivate it, we come to transcend ourselves and our previous old
ways of perceiving reality.
Student: Is this the implication behind Bodhidharma's Two Entrances?
Hui-k'o: Yes. We first enter by seeing the pure image of the absolute
which forms the basis of all existence. This is the gotra, or the
same, the embryo of the Tathagata. In a finger snap we see something
which is free from the veiling clouds of delusion.
Student: This is very interesting. So where does 'pi-kuan' (wall-insight)
figure into this scheme? I heard that Grandmaster Bodhidharma sat
facing a wall for many years.
Hui-k'o: As far as 'pi' is concerned, it is the 'unmoving' which is
like a wall, as opposed to the ever changing quality of phenomena.
Here, one sets aside the changing world of their corporeal body,
including its perceptions and emotions. When Bodhidharma sat facing
a wall, he actually faced the unmoving,, becoming the more of it.
Student: Ah! I get it now. Yes, pi-kuan is literally the insight into
Hui-k'o: Yes. 'Pi', means the unmoving principle. 'Kuan' means 'insight'.
In this case a direct insight into the unmoving. Remember, too,
kuan is Buddhist 'vipashyanâ' meditation. Pi-kuan is our version
Student: Ah! I get it. Is this like the practice of the 'one pointedness
of mind samadhi' meditation exercise?
Hui-k'o: Yes. You could say that. One mentally envisions an exceedingly
small point in which the content of it and its conceptual absence
become exactly the same. In this practice, one has penetrated through
a veil, you might say. It is like a little hole in a rice paper
screen, letting in the sun's light. Another way to think about this
subject is to realize that our sense organs have limits. The ear
cannot hear all sounds; nor can the eye see all forms. In this practice
we go beyond the sensory house. We leave by way of the sensory doors
and walk outside. To do this, as strange as it sounds, we drill
a tiny hole in the fabric of reality and keep our gaze steady on
this tiny hole for a long time! [laughing]
Student: That sounds interesting. What happens to you in 'one pointedness
Hui-k'o: First, samadhi means that spiritual light envelops us. As I
sit here before you, I am in samadhi. How do I know this? I feel
the dynamic light of the Buddha constantly energizing me. Why? Because
I am in harmony with it. Over the years, I have chosen to be more
of this mysterious light and less of this old mortal body. Now,
if I even think of 'one point', I am totally enveloped in a superessential
Student: That is fascinating. So, what is the second entrance about?
Hui-k'o: The second entrance is in response to the first. In a nutshell,
it means to cultivate and expand the first entrance. However, I
must caution you, both are coordinate. You can't really separate
Student: I think I see what you mean. The first entrance is like a seed.
The second entrance is like being a farmer cultivating that seed.
Hui-k'o: Yes. Even though we possess a tiny clue as to what the absolute
is, we are far from its blessed shore. We still have to fully actualize
the first entrance-bring it to a bloom, so to speak.
Student: In other words, we still have a lot of problems to overcome.
Is that what you are saying?
Hui-k'o: Yes. Habits run deep. What we did in the past is still with
us. In the mean time, we have to bear our past errors as we move
towards our true nature. This is where the Four Deeds come in, comprising
the second entrance.
Student: What is the first deed?
Hui-k'o: The first deed is learning to bear our suffering because, in
the past, we failed to have an insight into the absolute. So, we
have to pay the price. The second deed is to accept the outcome
of karma as we have, in the past, foolishly allowed ourself to become
conditioned and seduced by phenomenal conditions.
Student: It seems that the basis for these two deeds is our failure
to see and to cultivate our true nature-our gotra, as you put it
earlier. Instead, we believe our true nature is to be found in living
a worldly life, tied to possessions.
Hui-k'o: Yes, that is a good understanding. As regards possessions,
this concerns the third deed. We have to give up the habit of trying
to possess things. We must see that all things are empty-they're
not sacred. There is nothing worth possessing. This world is no
more than a burning house. So why stay in a burning house, hanging
on to a piece of furniture?
Student: What does the house mean from a spiritual standpoint?
Hui-k'o: It signifies our corporeal body in which we abide and play
like foolish spiritual children, unaware that the house is doomed.
In Buddhism, the 'house' is a symbol for the body. To take up a
house, therefore, means to take up a body so as to possess it and
deepen one's involvement in it.
Student: How does one stop this?
Hui-k'o: This is the fourth deed. This is to be in accord with the First
Entrance which is our gotric true nature. Some call this nature
the Tathagata-garbha, meaning the embryo of the Buddha. It is like
a Spiritual fetus which is immaculate; which all the time is maturing.
Eventually, it matures. We gain a spiritual body not having thirty-two
defiled marks. That is emancipation.
Student: Is this what Grandmaster Bodhidharma taught you?
Hui-k'o: Yes. He used to call this practice 'spiritual obstetrics'.
He said the story of the Buddha's birth was actually a mystery which
hid a Secret method for giving birth to a Buddha within oneself.
Student: This is fascinating. This would explain words like "Tathagata-garbha"
and others like it. What ther things did he teach you about spiritual
Hui-k'o: Many things, which at the time, I didn't understand. Foremost,
he said we must try to develop a Buddha-body which is essentially
self-actual light. I must say, I was amazed by his words. I thought
after my insight, I had really attained something big. But after
his lectures, all of a sudden, I felt humble. I knew I was just
a child in his presence.
Student: Was he a powerful person?
Hui-k'o: Yes. Just to be in his presence one felt a powerful energy.
I can't describe it. But you could feel something very intense and
at the same time blissful. It felt wonderful to be around this energy
of his. All my worries disappeared. He was a joy to be with. He
was like a warm fire in the winter.
Student: Did you ever ask him about this energy you felt?
Hui-k'o: Yes, of course I did. It was so strong at times I could barely
walk. Anyone would ask under those circumstances. Basically, he
said this is what comes from cultivation. He told me that his own
master had the same energy. Interestingly, he said that without
it, one is not much of a master of anything spiritual. [laughing]
Student: How true! What a wonderful insight. A spiritual master without
spirit is like a merchant without goods to sell!
Hui-k'o: That is about it. In my own case, I have been content just
to practice what my master wished. I had no goods to sell! [laughing]
Student: Well, I don't know about that! [laughing] What was it like
to meditate with Bodhidharma?
Hui-k'o: As an experience, it was blissful beyond words. We sat and
reclined our backs against meditation boards in the cave and abided
in exhilarating ecstasy. Often he would guide me in this state,
explaining various Buddhist subjects. Even when I read various Sutras
with him, the words threw me into an ecstasy beyond measure. For
many days after that, I would be in a rapture of sorts.
Student: Were you curious as to how he did this?
Hui-k'o: I must confess, I was devoted to figuring out how he radiated
such pure energy. I walked the hills for days, following mountain
streams, looking into my own mind for the secret. I remember that
he said it was a good sign that I wanted to know, despite the bliss
I felt around him. He said one day I would become a Buddha. I guess
this is relevant, but Bodhidharma also mentioned that this energy
is called Bodhisattva and without it, one could not achieve Buddhahood.
I must say, I was surprised by his words.
Hui-k'o: I guess like most monks I believed that being a Bodhisattva
meant that one acted like one. How wrong I was.
Student: What do you mean?
Hui-k'o: First, it is ridiculous to imagine that a Bodhisattva has two
legs! [laughing] I can remember one day sitting with Bodhidharma.
He was looking at me strangely, as if to focus on something. Then
suddenly I felt my heart open up like a flower! In the next moment
I felt intense energy engulf me. It melted all of my human ambitions.
I felt then like warm, wet clay. I was at a loss for words. So,
I just looked at Bodhidharma and smiled! Then he grinned at me and
said, "This is the Bodhisattva in you."
Student: I don't get it. I thought Bodhisattva was just a person who
tried to save all sentient beings. You mean this is not correct?
Hui-k'o: Your view is Buddhism for toddlers. When someone informs you
they are a Bodhisattva, run back to your house and hide your gold!
Student: I am confused. What do you mean?
Hui-k'o: Have you read the story of the Buddha's birth when he was a
Hui-k'o: Well, read it again and pay attention to some of the details.
The first one is that the Bodhisattva is born as a spiritual body
called the mano-maya-kaya. This is to say that the Buddha-to-be
was made of a spiritual substance. Next, consider the Buddha's birth
to be like a mystery play. It is telling us, using poetic images,
that we must go through some kind of spiritual transformation. This
is what I am driving at.
Student: So if the Bodhisattva doesn't have two legs, what about the
Hui-k'o: In the Sutras there are many clues as to what Buddha, otherwise
called the Illuminator, really means. Bodhidharma also taught me
that "Buddha" means "light-maker". In other
words, the Buddha is a sheer, spontaneous power from which spiritual
energy is born, you might say. When a master like Bodhidharma taps
into Buddha, the area surrounding him is flooded with bliss beyond
your wildest imagination. It is like a healing, compassionate force.
All who sense it are redeemed and are shown a new future. One of
emancipation. That is all I can say.
Student: So how does Buddha differ from a god?
Hui-k'o: All gods are just beings. They are different from us only in
that they live in exalted states of being. After their karma has
been used up they fall from their heavenly abodes. Buddha is not
such a being, or even a non-being. Yet, Buddha is real. Bodhisattvas
know Buddha is real because they could not be Bodhisattvas without
being sustained by a lineage of primordial Buddhas.
Student: Are you then saying that Buddhas are ever-present spiritual
Hui-k'o: Yes. They sustain us by a power we cannot imagine. Bodhidharma
says that a true sage just makes himself available to this power
and thus comes to know how it is generated.
Student: Are there any techniques for doing this?
Hui-k'o: When one is in harmony with the Buddha's teaching, that is
the best technique. But when studying the teachings, it is also
important to distinguish between mental concepts, true principles,
and direct contemplation. Many today are stuck in the family of
scripture interpretation-they have no idea about the family of direct
contemplation. They are deeply attached to such concepts as 'quality',
'negation', and 'relation'. Well, this attitude is not very effective
for insight into the Buddha's deep principles.
Student: Is it best to not follow the path of words?
Hui-k'o: It is best to use them as a means to realize one's true nature.
What is the point of spiritual words if one cannot manifest the
spirit within which liberates us from suffering? People who won't
go past words are no better than idle poets who recite poems; who
can only dream of sublime states.
* This is a fictional conversation created by Zenmar to correctly teach the Buddha-Dharma