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Zen Teachings of Hongzhi Zhenjue
of Mt. Tiantong in Ming Province

Translated into English by Yi Wu
Compiled with a Preface by Monk Puqung


Hongzhi made vast and empty the bright mirror and saw through it and reflected without neglect. He manifested he mysterious pivot of subtle change, then trusted his fortune and certainly found the core. Only one who had the true eye and deep flowing eloquence could have mastered this!
My teacher lived below Taipai Peak. dragons and elephants tromped around. The hammer and chisel [of teaching[ chipped away. The meaning of his words spread widely but still conveyed the essence. Sometimes scholars and laypeople who trusted the Way (Tao) asked for his directions; sometimes mendicant monks requested his instructions. They spread out paper and wrote down his responses. He spoke up and answered their questions, producing appropriate Dhama talks. I have selected a few of these and arranged them in order.
Ah, the emptiness of the great blue sky, the flowing of the vast ocean.
I have not yet attained these utmost depths, so please excuse my attempt to record his talks. I must await the ones who mysteriously accord with spiritual awakening to pound out the rhythm of his words and appreciate their tones.

1. The Bright, Boundless Field

The field of boundless emptiness is what exits from the very beginning. You must purify, cure, grind down, or brush away al the tendencies you have fabricated into apparent habits. Then you can reside in the clear circle of brightness. Utter emptiness has no image, upright independence does not rely on anything. Just expand and illuminate the original truth unconcerned by external conditions. Accordingly we are told to realize that not a single thing exists. In this field birth and death do not
appear. The deep source, transparent down to the bottom, can radiantly shine and can respond unencumbered to each speck of dust without becoming its partner. The subtlety of seeing and hearing transcends mere colors and sounds. The whole affair functions without leaving traces, and mirrors without obscurations. Very naturally mind and dharmas emerge and harmonize. An Ancient said that non-mind enacts and fulfills the way of non-mind. Enacting and fulfilling the way of non-mind, finally you can rest. Proceeding you are able to guide the assembly. With thoughts clear, sitting silently, wander into the center of the circle of wonder.
This is how you must penetrate and study.

2. The Practice Of True Reality

The practice of true reality is simply to sit serenely in silent introspection. When you have fathomed this you cannot be turned around by external causes and conditions. This empty, wide open mind is subtlety and correctly illuminating. Spacious and content, without confusion from inner thoughts or grasping, effectively overcome habitual behavior and realize the self that is not possessed by emotions. You must be broad-minded, whole without relying on others. Such upright independent spirit can begin not to pursue degrading situations. Here you can rest and become clean, pure, and lucid. Bright and penetrating, you can immediately return, accord, and respond to deal with events. Everything is unhindered; clouds gracefully floating up to the peaks, the moonlight glitteringly flowing down mountain streams. The entire place is brightly illumined and spiritually transformed, totally unobstructed and clearly manifesting responsive interaction like box and lid or arrow points [meeting]. Continuing, cultivate and nourish yourself to enact maturity and achieve stability. If you accord everywhere with thorough clarity and cut off sharp corners without dependence on doctrines, like the white bull or wildcat [helping to arouse wonder], you can be called a complete person. So we hear that this is how one of the way of non-mind acts, but before realizing non-mind we still have great hardship.

3. Face Everything, Let Go, Attain Stability.

Vast and far-reaching without boundary, secluded and pure, manifesting light, this spirit is without obstruction. Its brightness does not shine out but can be called empty and inherently radiant. Its brightness, inherently purifying, transcends causal conditions beyond subject and object. Subtle but preserved, illumined and vast, also it cannot be spoken of as being or nonbeing, or discussed with images or calculations. Right in here the central pivot turns, the gateway opens. You accord and respond without laboring and accomplish without hindrance. Everywhere turn around freely, not following conditions, not falling into classifications. Facing everything, let go and attain stability. Stay with that just as that. Stay with this just as this. That and this are mixed together with no discriminations as to their places. So it is said that the earth lifts up the mountain without knowing the mountain's stark steepness. A rock contains jade without knowing the jade's flawlessness. This how truly to leave home, how home-leaving must be enacted.

4. Contemplating The Ten Thousand Years

Patch-robed monks make their thinking dry and cool and rest from the remnants of conditioning. Persistently brush up and sharpen this bit of the field. Directly cut through al the overgrown grass. Reach the limit in all directions without defiling even one atom. Spiritual and bright, vast and lustrous, illuminating fully what is before you, directly attain the shining light and clarity that cannot attach to a single defilement. Immediately tug and pull back the ox's nose. Of course his horns are imposing and he stomps around like a beast, yet he never damages people's sprouts or grain. Wandering around, accept how it goes. Accepting how it goes, wander around. Do not be bounded by or settle into any place. Then the plough will break open the ground in the field of the empty kalpa. Proceeding in this manner, each event will be unobscured, each realm will appear complete. One contemplation of the ten thousand years is beginning not to dwell on appearances. Thus it is said that the mind-ground contains every seed and he universal rain makes them all sprout. When awakening blossoms, desires fade, and Bodhi's fruit is perfected self.

5. Performing The Buddha Work

[The empty field] cannot be cultivated or proven. From the beginning it is altogether complete, undefiled and clear down to the bottom. Where everything is correct and totally sufficient, attain the pure eye that illuminates thoroughly, fulfilling liberation. Enlightenment involves enacting this; stability develops from practicing it. Birth and death originally have no root or stems, appearing and disappearing originally have no defiling signs or traces. The primal light, empty and effective, illumines the headtop. The primal wisdom, silent but also glorious, responds to conditions. When you reach the truth without middle or edge, cutting off before and after, then you realize one wholeness. Everywhere sense faculties and objects both just happen. The one who sticks out his broad, long tongue transmits the inexhaustible lamp, radiates the great light, and performs the great Buddha work, from the first not borrowing from others one atom from outside the Dharma. Clearly this affair occurs within your own house.

6. Forgetting About Merit Is Fulfillment

Separate yourself from disturbance and face whatever appears before you. Not one iota seeps through from outside. The two forms (yin and yang) have the same root, and the ten thousand images have one substance. Following change and going along with transformation the whole is not clouded over by previous conditions. Then you reach the foundation of the great freedom. Wind blows and moon shines, and beings do not obstruct each other. Afterwards, settle back within and take responsibility. Wisdom returns and the principle is consummated. When you forget about merit your position is fulfilled. Do not fall for occupying honorable stations, but enter the current of the world and join with the delusion. Transcendent, solitary, and glorious, directly know that transmitting is merit, but having transmitted is not your own merit.

7. The Ground That Sages Cannot Transmit

Cast off completely your head and skin. Thoroughly withdraw from distinctions of light and shadow. Where the ten thousand changes do no reach is the foundation that even a thousand sages cannot transmit. Simply by yourself illuminate and deeply experience it with intimate accord. The original light flashes through confusion. true illuminations reflects into the distance. Deliberations about being and nonbeing are entirely abandoned. The wonder appears before you, its benefit transferred out for kalpas. Immediately you follow conditions and accord with awakening without obstruction from any defilements. The mind does not attach to things, and your footsteps are not visible on the road. Then you are called to continue the family business. Even if you thoroughly understand, still please practice until it is familiar.

8. With Total Trust, Roam and Play in Samadhi

  Empty and desireless, cold and thin, simple and genuine, this is how to strike down and fold up the remaining habits of many lives. When the stains from old habits are exhausted, the original light appears, blazing through your skull, not admitting any other maters. Vast and spacious, like sky and water merging during autumn, like snow and moon having the same color, this field is without boundary, beyond direction, magnificently one entity without edge or seam. Further, when you turn within and drop off everything completely, realization occurs. Right at the time of entirely dropping off, deliberation and discussion are one thousand or ten thousand miles away. Still no principle is discernible, so what could there be to point to or explain? People with the bottom of the bucket fallen out immediately find total trust. So we are told simply to realize mutual response and explore mutual response, then turn around and enter the world. Roam and play in Samadhi. Every detail clearly appears before you. Sound and form, echo and shadow, happen instantly without leaving traces. The outside and myself do not dominate each other, only because no perceiving [of objects] comes between us. Only this non-perceiving encloses the empty space of the Dhama realm's majestic ten thousand forms. People with the original face should enact and fully investigate [the field] without neglecting a single fragment.

9. The Valley Spirit and the Wind Matter

Patch-robed monks practice thoroughly without carrying a single thread. Open-mindedly sparkling and pure, they are like a mirror reflecting a mirror, with nothing regarded as outside, without capacity for accumulating dust. They illuminate everything fully, perceiving nothing [as an object]. This is called taking up the burden from inside and is how to shoulder responsibility. Wisdom illuminates the darkness without confusion. The Way integrates with he boy and does not get stuck. From this unstuck place engaging and transforming at the appropriate opportunity, he wisdom dos not leak out, Clearly the Way does not get stained. Unobstructed and free, beyond restraints, they do not depend on even subtle indicators and their essential spirit cannot be eclipsed. Fulfilled, wander around and arrive at such a field. the entire place secure, the entire place at leisure, the open field of the white ox is plain and simple, of one color. If you chase the ox, still he will not go away. You must intimately experience and arrive here.

10. Simply Drop Off Everything

Silently dwell in the self, in true suchness abandon conditioning. Open-minded and bright without defilement, simply penetrate and drop off everything. Today is not your first arrival here. since the ancient home before the empty kalpa, clearly nothing has been obscured. Although you are inherently spirited and splendid, still you must go ahead and enact it. When doing so, immediately display every atom without hiding a speck of dirt. Dry and cool in deep repose, profoundly understand. If your rest is not satisfying and you yearn to go beyond birth and death, there can be no such place. Just burst through and you will discern without thought-dusts, pure without reasons for anxiety. Stepping back with open hands, [giving up everything], is thoroughly comprehending life and death. Immediately you can sparkle and respond to the world. Merge together with all things. Everywhere is just right. Accordingly, we are told that from ancient to modern times all dharmas are not concealed, always apparent and exposed.

11. The Ancient Ferryboat in the Bright Moonlight

A patch-robed monk's authentic task is to practice the essence, in each minute event carefully discerning the shining source, radiant without discrimination, one color unstained. You must keep turning inwards, then [the source] is apprehended. This is called being able of continue the family business. Do not wear the changing fashions, transcend the duality of light and shadow. Accordingly the ancestors' single trail is marvelously enacted. The residual debris of the world departs, its influence ended. This worldly knowledge does not compare to returning to the primary and obtaining confirmation. Observing beyond your skull, the core finally can be fulfilled and you can emerge from the transitory. The reeds blossom under the bright moon; the ancient ferryboat begins its passage; the jade thread fits into the golden needle. Then the opportunity arises to turn around, enter the world, and respond to conditions. All the dusts are entirely yours; all the dharmas are not someone else's. Follow the current and paddle along, naturally unobstructed!

12. The Gates Sparkling at the Source

All Buddhas and every ancestor without exception testify that they all arrive at this refuge where the three times [past, present, and future] cease and the ten thousand changes are silenced. Straight ahead, unopposed by the smallest atom, the inherently illumined Buddha spirit subtly penetrates the original source. When recognized and realized exhaustively, [this spirit] shares itself and responds to situations. The gates sparkle and all bens behold the gleamings. Then they understand d that from within this place fulfilled self flows out. The hundreds of grass-tips all around never are imposed as my causes and conditioning. The whole body from head to foot proceeds smoothly.

13. The Misunderstanding of Many Lifetimes

Emptiness is without characteristics. Illumination has no emotional afflictions. With piercing, quietly profound radiance, it mysteriously eliminates all disgrace. Thus one can know oneself; thus the self is completed. We all have the clear, wondrously bright field from the beginning. Many lifetimes of misunderstanding come only from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation. With boundless wisdom journey beyond this, forgetting accomplishments. Straightforwardly abandon stratagems and take on responsibility. Having turned yourself around, accepting your situation,
if you set foot on the path, spiritual energy will marvelously transport you. Contact phenomena with total sincerity, not a single atom of dust outside yourself.

14. Self and Other the Same

All dharmas are innately amazing beyond description. Perfect vision has no gap. In mountain groves, grasslands, and woods the truth has always been exhibited. Discern and comprehend the broad long tongue [of Buddha's teaching], which cannot be muted anywhere. The spoken is instantly hard; what is heard is instantly spoken. Senses and objects merge; principle and wisdom are united. When self and other are the same, mind and dharmas are one. When you face what you have excluded and see how it appears, you must quickly gather it together and integrate with it. Make it work within your house, then establish stable sitting.

15. Ten Billion Illuminating Spirits

The way wanders in the empty middle of the circle, reaching the vacancy where appearances are forgotten. The pure ultimate self blazes, brilliant simply from inherent illumination. Facing the boundary of the objective world without yet creating the sense gates, realize the subtlety of how to eliminate the effects of the swirling flow of arising and extinction! Rely only on the source of creation. If you feel a shadow of a hair's gap, nothing will be received. Just experience and respond appropriately. From this singular impact many thousands of roads open, and al things are preeminent. With this unification I radiantly speak the Dhama. The self divides into ten billion distinct illuminating spirits. Distinguish these without falling into names and classifications and accord fully without effort. The mirror is clear and magnanimous. The valley is empty, but echoes. From the beginning unbound by seeing or hearing, the genuine self romps and plays in samadhi without obstruction. When enacted like this, how could it not be beneficial?