A Special Transmission Outside the Scriptures

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A Special Transmission Outside the Scriptures
Tenshin Reb Anderson
No Abode 2013-02-02 AM


Transcribed by Karen Mueller


Ok. Here we are at No Abode on Planet Earth.  


Today I would bring up an expression that is used, has been used for quite a long time in the Zen tradition. The expression is “a special transmission, outside scriptures, not using words, seeing into nature, becoming Buddha”


So this talking about a transmission of the Buddha’s Truth. The transmission of the Buddha’s Mind or the Enlightened Mind. A special transmission of the enlightened mind, outside of scriptures and not using words.  Then it says, and in some sense, what comes next is the special transmission. It is, the special transmission is, looking at your mind, seeing its nature and looking at your mind and seeing its nature is becoming Buddha. The process of becoming Buddha, not just the process of waking up and being enlightened, but the process of becoming enlightenment, is through looking at the mind and realizing its nature.  


Another way to translate that would be to say looking at one’s own mind and realizing one’s own nature. You can add it the “own mind” and “”own nature”.  I don’t remember exactly but I think the Chinese says, “look at the mind, see nature, become Buddha”


So this teaching of looking at the mind, seeing its nature and becoming Buddha is a special transmission outside the Scriptures not using words. Well, we just used words to describe it, but the actual transmission is not the words I just said, but it is the actual looking at the mind, seeing nature and becoming Buddha. That is the transmission. These words are not the transmission. The transmission is actually this process of where we are living in such a way that we realize that we are looking at our mind. 


When we are in this transmission, we are in the looking at the mind, realizing its nature, becoming Buddha. Being in that process is being in that special transmission. 

And so one could say that all the Buddhas and all the Ancestors are just pointing to the persons mind. So their pointing isn’t the transmission. But when the person is looking at their mind and seeing its nature, that is the transmission and that’s becoming Buddha. So the Buddha’s Point the practitioner in the direction of the transmission. And somebody could also say, this alone is the transmission of the Buddha Mind. This is all there is. This is a simplified version, a simplified description, a simple description of what the Buddhas are up to.  This is their mind. This is what their mind is transmitting and this is how their mind is transmitted. Just simply to get beings to look at their mind, see its nature and join the Buddha-making process. There is no other Dharma. There is no other teaching.

Now this goes with the statement that this is a transmission that is outside the Scriptures. So if it’s a transmission outside the Scriptures so then one might think that there is some other teaching. But this special transmission IS actually what all the Scriptures are transmitting. But the Scriptures aren’t the transmission. The transmission is when the people who read the Scriptures study their mind while they are reading the Scriptures. Usually people read the Scriptures and they don’t realize that they are looking at their mind. The Scriptures are saying “hello”. “You are looking at your mind now”. Which is good…you’re looking at your mind. This is what we’re trying to get you to do. This Scripture is trying to point you to look at your mind when you are looking at the Scriptures. Look at your mind; see its nature.  

There’s many other ways that Buddhas and Ancestor have tried to help people look at their mind, see its nature, and become Buddha. There are many other words they have used. For example, they sometimes say, “Turn the light around and shine it back to see your nature”.  Another way they say it is, “Study your self”. And there’s no other teaching than “study your self”. Everyone you meet, study yourself. Everything you hear, everything you smell, everything you touch; study yourself. Which is to say, everybody you meet; look at your mind. When you look at somebody, you could say, look at your mind.   Or you could when you look at somebody; you are looking at your mind. The Buddhas are trying to remind us that when we are looking at other beings, when we’re looking at a tree; we are looking at our mind. So join that looking and see the nature of the mind and become Buddha.  

“There is no other Dharma than this,” means that all other Dharmas which you’ve ever heard about, those are all saying, pointing, “Look at your mind”. 

It’s difficult though for us to look at something and not get disoriented from looking at our mind when we are looking at something. We have… It’s hard for us to turn the light around, whatever we are looking at. But this is what we’re being encouraged to learn.  

There are many Zen stories about students and teachers working together.  So today I could say all of those stories are about the teachers studying themselves. All the Zen stories are about teachers who are studying themselves. When the teachers are not studying themselves, they are on vacation from being a teacher.  When teachers are on the job of being a teacher, the teachers are studying themselves. They are studying their own mind while they are talking to their students and they are trying to transmit the study of themselves to the student. So stories are about teachers who are studying themselves who are trying to support the student to study herself.  And these stories are offered so that we can study our mind. The meaning is not in the story. As we engage the story, we are instructed to realize we are studying our mind. The story helps you find a way to explore your mind and the story is about people who are exploring their mind, what they did while they are trying to explore their mind.  And what they did when they got distracted from exploring their minds. Sometimes the teacher basically says, “You’re not exploring your mind, student.” “You’re relating to me as though I was something other than your mind for you.” 

And so how does one become Buddha? By looking at our mind and seeing its nature, that’s how we become Buddha. But then we’ve also heard there’s another way of becoming Buddha. Or I should say, not another way.. Becoming a Buddha is also described as practicing the six bodhisattva training methods, the six perfections. That’s another way of becoming a Buddha.  It’s NOT another way; it’s the same way. Practicing generosity, ethical discipline, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom…these are, each one of them and all of them are “look at your mind”. Practicing giving; look at your mind. Practicing ethics; look at your mind and see its nature. Become Buddha. Practicing patience; look at your mind. It’s not just practice patience. It’s look at your mind and see its nature through the practice of patience.

14 min.

Now that I have said this, it’s fairly simple and you all look like you’ve understood perfectly.  And sentient beings, even though they understand this teaching, they are generally oriented towards the illusion that we are looking at something other than our mind.  We are deeply conditioned to think that the people we meet and the things we do are something other than our mind. So it’s hard for us to remember that we are looking at our self, that we are looking at mind.  It’s hard to remember to look at mind and even when you remember, than you look at something and you get distracted from what you just were trying to do. So it’s quite difficult to learn this and being patient with how difficult it is, is another way to look at your mind.

This morning I said, which I often say, enlightenment is living in stillness.  Living in stillness is enlightenment. It’s another way to say the same thing. Stillness is looking at your mind. Being with looking at your mind, you are not moving. That’s where enlightenment lives, in the stillness of studying your self.  And again. 

“Yes, but things are really turbulent and distressing right now”. Look at your mind that says that. You don’t have to move to look. And you don’t have to do anything to look and you don’t have to do anything to be still. 

Once again, it’s hard to be consistently mindful of looking at mind and seeing its nature. But how wonderful to hear about this and wish to practice it. And I would even say, wishing to practice it I feel fine about, but I would caution you about “trying” to practice it, because trying to practice it is a little bit like moving. So I don’t prohibit trying. I just say watch out for trying to do this thing because it’s effortless to look at your mind. It’s being given to you right now. You are actually looking at it right now. You don’t have to try to look at it. You just have to want to. You have to wish to do this special transmission. 

Wishing and “where is the mind?” Oh yeah. This is it. It’s right here, right now. Remember. Be mindful. This is what you should be studying. 

And if you hear someone say, “oh no, I think you should be studying something else.” At that time, it’s the same. Listen to them and study/look at your mind while you are listening. How wonderful to hear about this and wish to practice it. And wishing to practice it, is practicing it. 

I feel like saying you sort of need to wish but only because if you don’t wish to do this practice, you’re going to wish something else. And there is nothing else to wish! So line your wishes up with being your self. Line your wishes up with being still because there’s no alternative. Wish for what you have no alternative for, namely Buddhahood. The work of making a Buddha is to study your mind and see its nature. 

21 min.

So this wish, I’m telling you there is this special transmission which is outside the Scriptures. And what outside the Scriptures means that this transmission is that you don’t let the Scriptures distract you from the transmission.  That when the Scriptures are in front of you, you continue to look at your mind. So really, that’s what the Scriptures are telling you and there is no inside or outside.

So this is the message and the question is, is there a wish to enter this special transmission and become Buddha? This is a teaching for those who wish to become Buddha. There are other teachings for people who wish to become something else. This is a teaching for becoming Buddha. If you wish to do this transmission, then that wish would be appropriate to making a Buddha. This practice wouldn’t hurt anybody who didn’t want to be a Buddha though. If somebody didn’t want to be a Buddha, it wouldn’t hurt them. If they did this practice they would become Buddha, but that wouldn’t hurt them. 

So this brings the wish to make a Buddha, the wish to make Buddhas, the wish to become Buddha. That wish. I talked about that at the last one day sitting here in December. We didn’t have a sitting here in January, that I know of…maybe somebody came here and sat. But now we have a one-day sitting again and I am bringing up again the wish to become Buddha. The wish to realize Buddha in this world for the welfare of all beings. During January at GG, we had an Intensive and I discussed this with people in the Intensive. We chant these four bodhisattva vows, these four Great Vows, these four Universal Vows. We do them here; we do them all over the place. The last of the four vows is “The Buddha Way is unsurpassed. I vow to become it.” The Buddha Way is the Buddha. Also the word “way” in Buddhism, the Buddha Way, means enlightenment. The Tao, the Way, one meaning of it is a path, a practice. Another meaning is “to say”. Another meaning is enlightenment. “The Buddha’s enlightenment, the Buddha path, the Buddha practice is unsurpassable. I vow to become Buddha.” I vow to become Buddha’s practice. I vow to become enlightenment. We say that. 

So I asked the people in our Intensive, we’ve been saying this, would you please look to see if you mean that? And it brought up quite a bit. As they say, the devil is in the details. If you just say it and move on, fine. But if you stop and look and see “do I actually want that?” then we had some stress around that. I am bringing up it again now, this issue of the wish to practice becoming a Buddha, the wish to practice the Buddha Mind Seal.  What’s the Buddha Mind Seal? Look at your mind, see its nature, become Buddha.

We also chant at noon service at Green Dragon Zen Temple, we chant a description of the Buddha’s concentration practice. It says there, “When you express the Buddha Mind Seal in your three actions, by sitting upright in Samadhi, the whole phenomenal world becomes the Buddha Mind Seal and the entire sky turns into enlightenment”. So when you sit upright in Samadhi… And what is Samadhi? The Samadhi of, the concentration of, looking at your mind, seeing its nature and becoming Buddha. When you practice that Samadhi, when you do that when you’re sitting, whatever posture you are in, whatever you are thinking and whatever you are saying. If you remember no matter what action you are doing to express Mind Seal, the Buddha Mind Seal, at that time, the entire phenomenal world becomes the Buddha Mind Seal. When you study your self, the whole world studies with you.  And when you are concentrated, the whole world is in that concentration, that Buddha Mind Seal. Again this IS the Buddha Mind Seal. The simple transmission of Buddha is simply always studying your mind. All day long, you’ve got it; all day long, study it. 

I mentioned also that I found a description of a Bodhisattva Vow ceremony and I wasn’t able to actually tell people about the ceremony. But today I will tell you about the ceremony this afternoon and after I tell you about it, I will give you a copy of the ceremony and you can look at it and then we can see who wants to do the ceremony at some later date.  It’s a description of a ceremony for people who want to say they wish to realize enlightenment. They want to say that and be witnessed. We do bodhisattva initiation ceremonies at Zen Center but we usually do them in conjunction with bodhisattva precepts.  I am going to offer you a different ceremony where it’s just about the vow itself; not involve with the Precepts. So this afternoon I will tell you about this and I think we’ll put it on the Website so you can read it. So when people are familiar with it, it’s quite simple, then we’ll arrange a time at No Abode for people who wish to participate. 

For now I welcome your response to all this.  (Begin Q & A.)..

30 min.