Bodhi-dharma's Bloodstream Sermon

By Bodhi-dharma

Translated into English by Red Pine, 1987

(Inaccurate Translation)



Everything that appears in the three realms comes from the mind. Hence Buddhas of the past and future teach mind to mind without bothering about definitions.

Student: But if they don't define it, what do they mean by mind?

Bodhidharma: You ask. That's your mind. I answer. That's my mind. If I had no mind how could I answer? If you had no mind, how could you ask? That which asks is your mind. Through endless kalpas" without beginning, whatever you do, wherever you are, that's your real mind, that's your real buddha. This mind is the buddha" says the same thing. Beyond this mind you'll never find another Buddha. To search for enlightenment or nirvana beyond this mind is impossible. The reality of your own self-nature the absence of cause and effect, is what's meant by mind. Your mind is nirvana. You might think you can find a Buddha or enlightenment somewhere beyond the mind', but such a place doesn't exist.

Trying to find a Buddha or enlightenment is like trying to grab space. Space has a name but no form. It's not something you can pick up or put down. And you certainly can't grab if. Beyond mind you'll never see a Buddha. The Buddha is a product of the mind. Why look for a Buddha beyond this mind?

Buddhas of the past and future only talk about this mind. The mind is the Buddha, and the Buddha is the mind. Beyond the mind there's no Buddha and beyond the Buddha there's no mind. If you think there is a Buddha beyond the mind', where is he? There's no Buddha beyond the mind, so why envision one? You can't know your real mind as long as you deceive yourself. As long as you're enthralled by a lifeless form, you're not free. If you don't believe me, deceiving yourself won't help. It's not the Buddha's fault. People, though, are deluded. They're unaware that their own mind is the Buddha. Otherwise they wouldn't look for a Buddha outside the mind.

Buddhas don't ferry Buddhas to the shore of liberation. If you use your mind to look for a Buddha, you won't see the Buddha. As long as you seek Buddhas outwards, you'll never see that your own Heart is the Buddha. Don't use a Buddha to worship a Buddha, and don't use the mind to invoke a Buddha. Buddhas don't recite sutras, Buddhas don't keep precepts, and Buddhas don't break precepts, Buddhas don't keep or break anything. Buddhas don't do good or evil.

To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature. Whoever sees his nature is a Buddha. If you don't see your nature, being mindful of Buddhas, reciting sutras, making offerings, and keeping precepts are not equal to it. Being mindful of Buddhas results in good karma, reciting sutras results in a good intelligence; keeping precepts results in a good rebirth in heavens, and making offerings results in future blessings -- but no buddha. If you don't understand by yourself, you'll have to find a teacher to know the root of births and deaths. But unless he sees his nature, such a person isn't a good teacher. Even if he can recite the twelve groups of scriptures he can't escape the Wheel of Births and Deaths. He suffers in the three realms without hope of release. Long ago, the monk Good Star was able to recite the twelve groups of scriptures. But he didn't escape the Wheel, because he didn't see his nature. If this was the case with Good Star, then people nowadays who recite a few sutras or shastras and think it's the Dharma are fools. Unless you see your own Heart, reciting so much prose is useless.

To find a Buddha have to see your nature directly. Your nature is the Buddha. And the Buddha is the person who's free: free of plans, free of cares. If you don't see your nature and run outwards to seek for external objects, you'll never find a buddha. The truth is there's nothing to find. But to reach such an understanding you need a good teacher and you need to struggle to make yourself understand. Life and death are important. Don't suffer them in vain.

There's no advantage in deceiving yourself. Even if you have mountains of jewels and as many servants as there are grains of sand along the Ganges, you see them when your eyes are open. But what about when your eyes are shut? You should realize then that everything you see is like a dream or illusion.

If you don't find a teacher soon, you'll live this life in vain. It's true, you have the buddha-nature. But the help of a teacher you'll never know it. Only one person in a million becomes enlightened without a teacher's help. If, though, by the conjunction of conditions, someone understands what the Buddha meant, that person doesn't need a teacher. Such a person has a natural awareness superior to anything taught. But unless you're so blessed, study hard, and by means of instruction you'll understand.

People who don't understand and think they can do so without study are no different from those deluded souls who can't tell white from black." Falsely proclaiming the Buddha-Dharma, such persons in fact blaspheme the Buddha and subvert the Dharma. They preach as if they were bringing rain. But theirs is the preaching of devils not of Buddhas. Their teacher is the King of Devils and their disciples are the Devil's minions. Deluded people who follow such instruction unwittingly sink deeper in the Sea of Birth and Death. Unless they see their nature, how can people call themselves Buddhas they're liars who deceive others into entering the realm of devils. Unless they see their nature, their preaching of the Twelvefold Canon is nothing but the preaching of devils. Their allegiance is to Mara, not to the Buddha. Unable to distinguish white from black, how can they escape birth and death?

Whoever sees his nature is a Buddha; whoever doesn't is a mortal. But if you can find your buddha-nature apart from your mortal nature, where is it? Our mortal nature is our Buddha nature. Beyond this nature there's no Buddha. The Buddha is our nature. There's no Buddha besides this nature. And there's no nature besides the Buddha.

Student: But suppose I don't see my nature, cant I still attain enlightenment by invoking Buddhas, reciting sutras, making offerings, observing precepts, Practicing devotions, or doing good works?

Bodhidharma: No, you can't.

Student: Why not?

Bodhidharma: If you attain anything at all, it's conditional, it's karmic. It results in retribution. It turns the Wheel. And as long as you're subject to birth and death, you'll never attain enlightenment. To attain enlightenment you have to see your nature. Unless you see your nature, all the talks about cause and effect are the dharmas of the Exterior-Paths. Buddhas don't practice Exterior-Paths dharmas. A Buddha is free of karma, free of cause and effect. To say He attains anything at all is to slander a Buddha, how can the speaker achieve the Awakening?
If you are attached to even one thought, one ability, one understanding, or one view, you can not match the Buddha. A Buddha does not keep or break anything, the nature of His Heart is basically empty, neither pure nor impure. He is free of practice and realization, He is free of cause and effect.

A Buddha doesn't observe precepts. A Buddha doesn't do good or evil. A Buddha isn't energetic or lazy. A Buddha is someone who does nothing, if anyone is attached to anything, he cannot see the Buddha. A Buddha isn't a Buddha, don't interpret Him as a Buddha. If you dont see what I'm talking about, at any times and anywhere, you just don't realize your original Heart. People who don't see their nature and try to stop their thinkings all the time are great sinful poeple and fools. They will fall into the Memoryless-Emptiness. They're like drunks. They cannot tell good from evil. If you intend to practice non-doing, you have to see your nature before you can put an end to all states and conditions. To attain the Buddha's Way without seeing your nature is impossible. Still others commit all sorts of evil deeds, claiming karma doesn't exist. They erroneously maintain that since everything is empty committing evil isn't wrong. Such persons fall into a hell of endless darkness with no hope of release. Those who are wise hold no such conception.

Student: But if our every movement or state, whenever it occurs, is the mind, why don't we see this mind when a person's body dies?

The mind is always present. You just don't see it.

Student: But if the mind is present, why don't I see it?

Bodhidharma: Do you ever dream?

Student: Of course.

When you dream, is that you?

Student: Yes, it's me.

And is what you're doing and saying different from you?

Student: No, it isn't.

Bodhidharma: But if it isn't, then this body is your real body. And this real body is your mind. And this mind, through endless kalpas without beginning, has never varied. It has never lived or died, appeared or disappeared, increased or decreased. Its not pure or impure, good or evil, past or future. It's not true or false. It's not mate or female. It doesn't appear as a monk or a layman, an elder or a novice, a sage or a fool, a Buddha or a mortal. It strives ‘for no realization and suffers no karma. It has no strength or form. It's like space. You can't possess it and you can't lose it. Its movements can't be blocked by mountains, rivers, or rock walls. Its unstoppable powers penetrate the Mountain of Five Skandhas and cross the River of Samsara." No karma can restrain this real body. But this mind is subtle and hard to see. It's not the same as the sensual mind. Every I one wants to see this mind, and those who move their hands and feet by its light are as many as the grains of sand along the Ganges, but when you ask them, they can't explain it. They're like puppets. It's theirs to use. Why don't they see it?

The Buddha said people are deluded. This Is why when they act they fall into the river of endless rebirth. And when they try to get out they only sink deeper. And all because they don't see their nature. If people weren't deluded why would they ask about something right in front of them? Not one of they understands the movement of his own hands and feet. The Buddha wasn't mistaken. Deluded people don't know who they are. A Buddha and no one else know something so hard to fathom. Only the wise knows mind, this mind call nature, this mind called liberation. Neither life nor death can restrain this mind. Nothing can. It's also called the Unstoppable Tathagata," the Incomprehensible, the Sacred Self, the Immortal, the Great Sage. Its names vary but not its essence. Buddhas vary too, but none leaves his own mind. The mind's capacity is limitless, and its manifestations are inexhaustible. Seeing forms with your eyes, hearing sounds with your ears, smelling odors with your nose, tasting flavors with your tongue, every movement or state is your entire mind. At every moment, where language can't go, that's your mind.

The sutras say, "A Tathagata's forms are endless. And so is his awareness." The endless variety of forms is due to the mind. Its ability to distinguish things, whatever their movement or state, is the mind's awareness. But the mind has no form and its awareness no limit. Hence it's said, "A Tathagata's forms are endless. And so is his awareness." A material body of the four elements" is trouble. A material body is subject to birth and death. But the real body exists without existing, because a Tathagata's real body never changes. The sutras say, "People should realize that the buddha-nature is something they have always had." Kashyapa only realized his own nature.

Our nature is the mind. And the mind is our nature. This nature is the same as the mind of all Buddhas. Buddhas of the past and future only transmit this mind. Beyond this mind there's no Buddha anywhere. But deluded people don't realize that their own mind is the Buddha. They keep searching outside. They never stop invoking Buddhas or worshipping Buddhas and wondering Where is the buddha? Don't indulge in such illusions. Just know your mind. Beyond your mind there's no other Buddha. The sutras say, "Everything that has form is an illusion." They also say, "Wherever you are, there's a Buddha." Your mind is the Buddha. Don't use a Buddha to worship a Buddha.

Even if a Buddha or bodhisattva" should suddenly appear before you, there's no need for reverence. This mind of ours is empty and contains no such form. Those who hold onto appearances are devils. They fall from the Path. Why worship illusions born of the mind? Those who worship don't know, and those who know don't worship. By worshipping you come under the spell of devils. I point this out because 1 afraid you're unaware of it. The basic nature of a Buddha has no such form. Keep this in mind, even if something unusual should appear. Don't embrace it, and don't fear it, and don't doubt that your Mind is basically pure. Where could there be room for any such form? Also, at the appearance of spirits, demons, or divine conceive neither respect nor fear. Your mind is basically empty. All appearances are illusions. Don't hold on to appearances. If you envision a Buddha, a Dharma, or a bodhisattva" and conceive respect for them, you relegate yourself to the realm of mortals. If you seek direct understanding, don't hold on to any appearance whatsoever, and you'll succeed. I have no other advice. The sutras say, "All appearances are illusions." They have no fixed existence, o constant form. They're impermanent. Don't cling to appearances and you'll be of one mind with the Buddha. The sutras say, "'That which is free of all form is the Buddha."

Student: But why shouldn't we worship Buddhas and bodhisattvas?

Bodhidharma: Devils and demons possess the power of manifestation. They can create the appearance of bodhisattvas in all sorts of guises. But they're false. None of them are Buddhas. The Buddha is your own mind. Don't misdirect your worship.

Buddha is Sanskrit for what you call aware, miraculously aware. Responding, arching your brows blinking your eyes, moving your hands and feet, its all your miraculously aware nature. And this nature is the mind. And the mind is the Buddha. And the Buddha is the path. And the path is Zen. But the word Zen is one that remains a puzzle to both mortals and sages. Seeing your nature is Zen. Unless you see your nature, it's not Zen.

Even if you can explain thousands of sutras and shastras, unless you see your own nature yours is the teaching of a mortal, not a Buddha. The true Way is sublime. It can't be expressed in language. Of what use are scriptures? But someone who sees his own nature finds the Way, even if he can't read a word. Someone who sees his nature is a Buddha. And since a Buddha's body is intrinsically pure and unsullied, and everything he says is an expression of his mind, being basically empty, a buddha can't be found in words or anywhere in the Twelvefold Canon.

The Way is basically perfect. It doesn't require perfecting. The Way has no form or sound. It's subtle and hard to perceive. It's like when you drink water: you know how hot or cold it is, but you can't tell others. Of that which only a

Tathagata knows men and gods remain unaware. The awareness of mortals falls short. As long as ,they're attached to appearances, they're unaware that their minds are empty.

And by mistakenly clinging to the appearance of things they lose the Way. If you know that everything comes from the mind, don't become attached. Once attached, you're unaware. But once you see your own nature, the entire Canon becomes so much prose. Its thousands of sutras and shastras only amount to a clear mind. Understanding comes in midsentence. What good are doctrines? The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words.

They're not the Way. The Way is wordless. Words are illusions. They're no different from things that appear in your dreams at night, be they palaces or carriages, forested parks or lakeside ‘lions. Don't conceive any delight for such things. They're all cradles of rebirth. Keep this in mind when you approach death. Don't cling to appearances, and you'll break through all barriers. A moment's hesitation and you'll be under the spell of devils. Your real body is pure and impervious. But because of delusions you're unaware of it. And because of this you suffer karma in vain. Wherever you find delight, you find bondage. But once you awaken to your original body and mind," you're no longer bound by attachments.

Anyone, who gives up the transcendent for the mundane, ill any of its myriad forms, is a mortal. A Buddha is someone who finds freedom in good fortune and bad. Such is his power that karma can't hold him. No matter what kind of karma Buddha transforms it. Heaven and hell are nothing to him. But the awareness of a mortal is dim compared to that of a Buddha who penetrates everything inside and out. If you're not sure don't act. Once you act, you wander through birth and death and regret having no refuge. Poverty and hardship are created by false thinking. To understand this mind you have to act without acting. Only then will you see things from a Tathagata's perspective.

But when you first embark on the Path, your awareness won't focused. But you shouldn't doubt that all such scenes come from your own mind and nowhere else.

If, as in a dream, you see a light brighter than the sun, your remaining attachments will suddenly come to an end and the nature of reality will be revealed. Such an occurrence serves as the basis for enlightenment. But this is something only you know. You can't explain it to others. Or if, while you're walking, standing, sitting, or lying in a quiet grove, you see a light, regardless of whether it's bright or dim, don't tell others and don't focus on it. It's the light of your own nature.

Or if, while you're walking, standing, sitting, or lying in the stillness and darkness of night, everything appears as though in daylight, don't be startled. It's your own mind about to reveal itself.

Or if, while you're dreaming at night, you see the moon and stars in all their clarity, it means the workings of your mind are about to end. But don't tell others. And if your dreams aren't clear, as if you were walking in the dark, it's because your mind is masked by cares. This too is something of" you know. if you so your nature,, you don't need to read sutras or invoke buddhas. Erudition and Knowledge are not only useless but also cloud your awareness. Doctrines are only for pointing to the mind. Once you see your mind, why pay attention to doctrines?

To go from mortal to Buddha, you have to put an end to karma, nurture your awareness, and accept what life brings. If you're always getting angry, you'll turn your nature against the Way. There's no advantage in deceiving yourself. Buddhas move freely through birth and death, appearing and disappearing at will. They can't be restrained by karma or overcome by devils. Once mortals see their nature, all attachments end. Awareness isn't hidden. But you can only find it right now. It's only now. If you really want to find the Way, don't hold on to anything. Once you put an end to karma and nurture your awareness, any attachments that remain will come to an end. Understanding comes naturally. You don't have to make any effort. But fanatics don't understand what the Buddha meant. And the harder they try, the farther they get from the Sage's meaning. All day long they invoke Buddhas and read sutras. But they remain blind to their own divine nature, and they don't escape the Wheel.

A Buddha is an idle person. He doesn't run around after fortune and fame. What good are such things in the end? People who don't see their nature and think reading sutras, invoking Buddhas', studying long and hard, practicing morning

and night, never lying down, or acquiring knowledge is the Dharma, blaspheme the Dharma. Buddhas of the past and future only talk about seeing your nature. All practices are impermanent. Unless they see their nature people who claim to have attained unexcelled, complete enlightenment" are liars. Among Shakyamuni's ten greatest disciples, Ananda was foremost in learning. But he didn't know the Buddha. All he did was study and memorize. Arhats don't know the Buddha. All they know are so many practices for realization, and they become trapped by cause and effect. Such is a mortal's karma: no escape from birth and death. By doing the opposite of what lie intended, Such people blaspheme the Buddha. Killing them would not be wrong. The sutras say, "Since icchantikas are incapable of belief, killing them would be blameless, whereas people who believe reach the state of Buddhahood."

Unless you see your nature, You shouldn't go around criticizing the goodness of others. There's no advantage in deceiving yourself. Good and bad are distinct. Cause and effect are clear. Heaven and hell are right before your eves. But fools don't believe and fall straight into a hell of endless darkness without even knowing it. What keeps them from believing is the heaviness of their karma. They're like blind people who don't believe there's such a thing as light. Even if you explain it to them, they still don t believe, because they're blind. How can they possibly distinguish light?

The same holds true for fools who end up among the lower orders of existence or among the poor and despised. They can't live and they can't die. And despite their sufferings, if you ask them, they say they're as happy as gods. All mortals even those who think themselves wellborn, are likewise unaware. Because of the heaviness of their karma, such fools can't believe and can't get free.

People who see that their mind is the Buddha don't need to shave their head" Laymen are Buddhas too. Unless they see their nature, people who shave their head are simply fanatics.

Student: But since married laymen don't give up sex, bow can they become Buddhas?

Bodhidharma: I only talk about seeing your nature. I don't talk about sex simply because you don't see your nature. Once you see your nature, sex is basically immaterial. It ends along with your delight in it. Even if some habits remain', they can't harm you, because your nature is essentially pure. Despite dwelling in a material body of four elements, your nature is basically pure. It can't be corrupted.

Your real body is basically pure. It can't be corrupted. Your real body has no sensation, no hunger or thirst', no warmth or cold, no sickness, no love or attachment, no pleasure or pain, no good or bad, no shortness or length, no weakness or strength. Actually, there's nothing here. It's only because you cling to this material body that things like hunger and thirst, warmth and cold, sickness appear Once you stop clinging and let things be, you'll- be free, even of birth and death. You'll transform everything. You'll possess Spiritual powers " that cant be obstructed. And you'll be at peace wherever you are. If you doubt this, you'll never see through anything. You're better off doing nothing. Once you act, you can't avoid the cycle of birth and death. But once you see your nature, you're a Buddha even if you work as a butcher.

Student: But butchers create karma by slaughtering animals. How can they be Buddhas?

Bodhidharma: I only talk about seeing your nature. I don't talk about creating karma. Regardless of what we do, our karma has no hold on us. Through endless kalpas without beginning, its only because people don't see their nature that they end up in hell. As long as a person creates karma, he keeps passing through birth and death. But once a person realizes his original nature, he stops creating karma. If he doesn't see his nature, invoking Buddhas won't release him from his karma, regardless of whether or not he's a butcher. But once he sees his nature, all doubts vanish. Even a butcher's karma has no effect on such a person. In India the twenty-seven patriarchs only transmitted the imprint of the mind.

And the only reason I've come to China is to transmit the instantaneous teaching of the Mahayana This mind is the Buddha. I don't talk about precepts, devotions or ascetic practices such immersing yourself in water and fire, treading a wheel of knives, eating one meal a day, or never lying down. These are fanatical, provisional teachings. Once you recognize your moving, miraculously aware nature.

Yours is the mind of all Buddhas. Buddhas of the past and future only talk about transmitting the mind.

They teach nothing else if someone understands this teaching, even if he's illiterate he's a Buddha. If You don't see your own miraculously aware nature, you'll never find a Buddha even if you break your body into atoms.

The Buddha is your real body, your original mind. This mind has no form or characteristics, no cause or effect, no tendons or bones. It's like space. You can't hold it. Its not the mind or materialists or nihilists. Except for a Tathagata, no one else- no mortal, no deluded being-can fathom it.

But this mind isn't somewhere outside the material body of four elements.Without this mind we can't move. The body has no awareness. Like a plant or stone, the body has no nature. So how does it move? It's the mind that moves. Language and behavior, perception and conception are all functions of the moving mind. All motion is the mind's motion. Motion is its function. Apart from motion there's no mind, and apart from the mind there's no motion. But motion isn't the mind. And the mind isn't motion. Motion is basically mindless. And the mind is basically motionless. But motion doesn't exist without the mind. And the mind doesn't exist without motion. Theres no mind for motion to exist apart from, and no motion for mind to exist apart from. Motion is the mind's function, and its function is its motion. Even so, the mind neither moves nor functions, the essence of its functioning is emptiness and emptiness is essentially motionless. Motion is the same as the mind. And the mind is essentially motionless. Hence the Sutras tell us to move without moving, to travel without traveling, to see without seeing, to laugh without laughing, to hear without hearing, to know without knowing, to be happy, without being happy, to walk without walking, to stand without standing. And the sutras say, "Go beyond language. Go beyond thought." Basically, seeing, hearing, and knowing are completely empty. Your anger, Joy, or pain is like that of puppet. You search but you won't find a thing.

According to the Sutras, evil deeds result in hardships and good deeds result in blessings. Angry people go to hell and happy people go to heaven. But once you know that the nature of anger and joy is empty and you let them go, you free yourself from karma. If you don't see your nature, quoting sutras is no help, I could go on, but this brief sermon will have to do.

(Two verses omitted)


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