Enlightenment indicates a state that is not restrained anywhere by the realms of calm or noise, good or bad, contrary or favorable. The enlightened do not dwell anywhere and are not trapped anywhere. No matter what they are doing or where they are, they are free, dignified and imposing, and even at death nothing can be done to them.
Grand Master Bodhidharma said that the enlightened enter (the Way) without choosing between the state of the saint or common person. He said that on entering into the world of the commoner they display the various characteristics of the commoner and they themselves become sentient beings. This is because they show an appearance that is uninvolved in order to save sentient beings.
Grand Master Bodhidharma also said, “The saint gains total freedom and independence in the contrary and favorable realms, and since (the saint) cannot be restrained by any karma, the state of the saint is eternal.” (Xuemolun)
Seon Master Honzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157) said concerning this state:
The awakened are not involved in any realm. They walk resolutely step by step without choosing any place and without discriminating between realms. They are free and independent, without obstacles, moving freely and at will and without any concerns in calm and noise, pain and peace. Even in a market district full of frustrations, noise and bustle, the house-style of the Buddha is fully revealed.
On the other hand, the mind that distinguishes between favorable and contrary realms intervenes and various obstacles arise continuously. Therefore one can set up the criteria of the examination for enlightenment as being whether or not one is free of the favorable and contrary realms. The reason for not being trapped by the favorable and contrary is because the relativistic world of the contrary realms and favorable realms is not two. The enlightened, because they dwell in the state that is not these two, are free of sorrow and happiness, like and dislike, and good and evil.
Good and bad things do not exist separately. They arise according to the mind, and that mind complies with enlightenment. Because the enlightened stop the functioning of the mind that distinguishes right and wrong, they are free from contrary and favorable. Therefore the world of enlightenment never discriminates between the contrary and favorable realms. Whatever realm it is, it becomes one with my mind and is free from coming and going. It does not have a set home and leaves no traces of having dwelt anywhere.
Seon Master Yuanwu spoke of this state in case 87 of the Biyanlu:
Mountains are mountains, water is water
Because the mind originally had nothing to be got rid of originally such as stain or dirt, frustrations do not exist separately. It is just because subject and object were divided and ‘cleverness’ produced that frustrations and wisdom, or samsara and nirvana appeared to be separate.
Deluded sentient beings divide I and objects. Therefore that is relativistic. That all things are not one but are seen as two is because of this. Because one thus divides into and sees and thinks and acts on (things) as two, there is war and strife, trouble and opposition.
If this cleverness is enlightened to conditional production and no-self, it will achieve a release in which life is equal and free, and know that samsara and nirvana, frustrations and wisdom are not two. This is called mountains are mountains and water is water.
Let us look at such a realm through the hall Dharma talk of Qingyuan Weixin:
Here, before he practiced, the stage of “mountains are mountains and water is water” again became mountains are mountains and water is water after enlightenment, which is the same as the reason why frustrations and wisdom and samsara and nirvana are not two.
The practical field of “frustrations as they are are enlightenment”
Those who are enlightened are Buddha. The Buddha is our mind. Because the mind and the Buddha are not different, the mind is the Buddha. There is no fixed Buddha apart from the mind. Seon Master Huangbo in his Chuanxin fayao clarified the phrases “frustrations are bodhi” and “delusions are enlightenment” as follows:
Seon Master Huangbo said, “When you are aware that false thoughts have arisen, that awareness is the Buddha.” Likewise, delusion and enlightenment do not exist separately. Since the moment one is aware of delusion transforms into awakening, one must not create the view that delusion and awakening exist separately.
Mountains are mountains and water is water. Frustrations as they are are enlightenment. All things of the world and all events and functions are the appearances of the Buddha. The moment the cleverness that (holds that) they are separate appears is the moment pain is born. One must know this principle well.
If one conquers the hwadu and is awakened, it is like waking from a dream or like the shining of 100,000 suns in the sky. That world, like space, is boundless and limitless. All the things that exist in it are equal, lacking superior or inferior, valued and despised, intimate and estranged, right and wrong. There is only a world of no oppositions or troubles, and no strife. Moreover, all existences being united into one, to do something for another is to do it for oneself, and to do something for oneself is to do it for another.
If one is enlightened, one is independent, autonomous, voluntary and positive, and for oneself and for others there is limitless benevolence, and in all favorable and contrary realms one becomes a person of great freedom who is independent and free. These dynamic phenomena cannot be explained with words and cannot be expressed in writing. It is the same principle as the person themselves having to drink the water themselves and only then do they know if it is hot or cold.
That being so, enlightenment does not mean that there is a separate world. It is only the characteristic of life that one obviously lives here and now. As this is only too obvious, even if one intentionally informs them, it is like to make a wound on bare flesh. This, as Seon Master Zhaozhou said, is going and drinking a cup of tea. There is nothing to be gained by adding anything more. As it is already itself perfect, it cannot be gained and cannot be spoken of.
If one is awakened, it is plainly clarified. There is not the slightest skerrick of doubt and one clearly sees definitely where one has to go, what one has to do, and the path to go. And so, not only is there no unease or aimless wandering, but also the characteristics of a perfect life where every place one stands or sits is clearly displayed. Moreover, one escapes from all restraints alone and there is nowhere at all to rely on. This is called esaping alone without action (doktal muwi). Because there is nothing to depend on and nowhere at all to be attached to, being unattached is to dwell spiritually in a quiet and calm condition.
Seon Master Dahui’s master, Seon Master Yuanwu Keqin, said that as soon as one thoroughly realized the original face of no-mind and no-thought, one is staightaway enlightened, and that this no-mind no-thought state is seeing the nature and becoming Buddha.
The enlightened are like space, nothing at all can confine them. The enlightened are not shackled by (the ideas of) ordinary person or saint, as they are free whenever and wherever. In this way, enlightenment, being an ever so great freedom, is not restricted by any realm at all. The enlightened rest the mind, and being persons of the Way who are mindless and without matters, even though they are approached by various affairs, are not disturbed in mind by these. And so people of the Way must not be thought of as akin to leisurely strolling immortals outside of this world with nothing to do. This is because the enlightened correctly handle all things ceaselessly with a mind that has nothing to do, a mind that is at leisure.
Moreover, enlightenment through hwadu has no distinction of lay and monastic, no discrimination of male or female. In this excellent Dharma all things are united without discrimination. All sentient beings, for the reason that they are originally Buddha, the moment they approach the opportune condition that informs them of that orginal news, will be enlightened.
After Patriarch Bodhidharma in Patriarchal Seon, if one looks at what structures the study through the hall sermon or dialogue had progressed through, one can confirm the universal procedures of examination and the seal of approval. The study of Patriarchal Seon passes through the process of mental resolution, consultation questions, investigation, inquiry and seal of approval. The spirit of Patriarchal Seon continued in this way, and Ganhwa Seon passes through the same process.
The mental resolution is the earnest thirst that one would be enlightened and escape all frustrations and without fail become a person of great freedom. Therefore the mental resolution can be the departure point of Seon practice. It is the way of life that has to continue constantly, and is the motive power for achieving the aim.
Consulting questioning means after having made the mind resolute, to find a teacher and request the teaching. It is also called requesting the question. In this way the teacher responds to the questions of the practitioners who come asking of the Dharma, and through various opportune conditions, directly try to show them their minds. Those concrete methods are the sermon and the dialogue. In the process of the sermon and the dialogue, the practitioner through the mediation of language comes to awaken the mind. And according to the case, through the shout or the staff or other direct actions, this was to explode open the original face. If the practitioners, in the process of the teacher’s replies, met with an opportune condition, they were directly enlightened. Such cases were called “enlightened at a word,” that is, “enlightened at the end of a word.” This corresponds to an excellent person of superior ability.
If the practitioner in the process of consulting and questioning the teacher cannot be enlightened at the end of a word, they will fall into doubt and confusion. In that case, one continues to cherish the doubt about the hwadu presented by the teacher and continues to investigate thoroughly. Such a process is called investigation. When there is no causation with the teacher one has first sought, here the practitioner wanting to resolve the doubt and confusion that is developed in one’s breast, seeks another teacher by going on pilgrimage. In cases that are not so, one serves the teacher and while vigorously practicing, one will gamble one’s life on resolving the questions that are blocking up one’s breast.
Inquiry means the definite discernment of the condition and extent of the practitioner’s enlightenment by the teacher. If the practitioner has gained enlightenment, he seeks the teacher in seeking the seal of approval, and at that time the teacher presents various problems and through the procedure of confirmation determines whether the practitioner’s enlightenment was sound or not. This was called inquiry.
Through the strict procedure of inquiry, if one had conquered the hwadu and the enlightenment was confirmed, the teacher handed down the seal of approval. If one received the seal of approval from the teacher, and the practitioner himself had not a spot of suspicion, and one had definitive, great enlightenment. However, if the practitioner cannot receive the seal of approval from the teacher, he must continue the investigation of the hwadu. This process continues on until the final moment of great enlightenment.
The examination is the practitioner being asked about the condition of his own study and having it confirmed by the teacher. If one tries to reach the state in which one is skilled in all the other things of the world, while one must receive an examination from the guide and must strive and endeavor, only when one has received a fine examination to make certain from a bright-eyed supervisor of Seon practice can one proceed along the correct path. In paricular, the path proceeding to enlightenment through the investigation of the hwadu may also develop into very detailed and unanticipated circumstances. The movements of the mind that may arise internally in a practitioner, if they are not guided by a teacher, may harbor the danger that can proceed in a mistaken direction.
Therefore the practitioner has to occasionally seek out the teacher to ask about whether his study is proper or whether it is or is not going along a mistaken path, and what points need repairing and what are to be perfected, and according to the master’s guidance he must correct them and in order to mature his study he must be examined. In cases when the examination between the master and the disciple does not go well, practitioners may not be able to have an interest in the hwadu meditation and may fall into outrageous paths. For that reason the examination is important.
The seal of approval means the final process of practice in which one receives recognition that one is enlightened through the examination of whether the practitioner is enlightened or not to the hwadu. That is, when the practitioner has conquered the hwadu, the teacher examines that realm and if the practitioner is correctly enlightened, then he gives his nod and the seal of approval.
In Seon the seal of approval has a very important meaning. It is indeed just like the instant when one dots the eyes of a painted dragon in which one dots the eyeball of the dragon to vivify it and make it move. In Seon this final nod of approval in particular is important because when a practitioner says he is enlightened, there are no objective criteria to confirm that enlightenment. In other words, there is no exeternally visible yardstick through which to verify and ensure whether the practitioner is truly enlightened, or mistakenly enlightened, or if not, still incomplete in enlightenment. Therefore there are cases when the person is under the illusion that he is enlightened according to his own opinion. By gaining a minor knowledgeable view through study and being attached to that, or by interrupting the study, one may fall into a side-track, and so a deluded person of the Way is produced.
And so the practitioners, no matter how sure they are that the enlightenment they have experienced is correct, must receive a formal seal of approval that confirms whether they are mistaken or correct. If not there will be the appearance of pseudo persons of the Way and the unfortunate situation can spread to themselves, or indeed even to other people, who will be driven out onto private paths. They are to be warned against and should be warned against.
And if so, can anyone receive the seal of approval? The Dharma that the Buddha gave to the Venerable Kāśyapa through the mind-to-mind transmission like a lamplight so that it would not die out, has passed through many teachers and has been inherited up till today. These teachers are called the proper masters of the lineage or true masters of the lineage. Patriarchal Seon and Ganhwa Seon have cherished the tradition that has transmitted the Dharma that has given the seal of approval to the state of enlightenment and the pride in that distinctive enlightenment. By doing so, in a desolate land, the water of truth has flowed and the great land has achieved a green forest and finally a brilliant bloom has blossomed.
When study matures, mystical phenomena such as seeing the Buddha and bodhisattvas or hearing mysterious voices can occur. When taking up the hwadu, such phenomena rarely appear and are not desirable states. If the mind is seduced by these things, one cannot see them as correct and vigorous practice. The seeing of these phenomena are representative symptoms of having put aside the hwadu and the irruption by sense realms. In the course of hwadu study, there are the ideal phenomena that appear in the empty gaps of the consciousness that has put down the hwadu. In other words, while advancing purely with the hwadu, should one look away for a moment, these phenomena arise in a trance.
If such phenomena occur, there is no better method than to take up one’s own hwadu again. Seon Master Taego said that if one took up the hwadu intensely and a thought other than that of the hwadu momentarily encroaches, one would be deluded by these “empty things” that one does not experience in the everyday in this hollow consciousness. Let us listen to his words:
In the course of conducting study, various realms arise, and also miraculous phenomena occur. No matter what realms arise, or what miraculous powers or marvellous phenomena are experienced, if the practitioner should not pay any attention at all to them or have any interest in them, to do so he must push on with the hwadu alone, diligently and to the utmost.
No matter how excellent the realm, even though it is the preaching of a marvellous lecture, one must know that they are all demonic realms. And the original cause for these realms spreading is that interruptions have occured in the mind that is doing the hwadu. That is, the roots of false thought remain, and to know that, the mind must be greatly turned around, and one must inquire into it strongly and in detail with study alone. Only then is it a good time to try and test it with wisdom and the courageous mind.
Seon Master Taego said if one wishes to be free from mystical realms that appear during the investigation of hwadu, do not be afraid of those notions that arise, but each time these notions arise, look at the hwadu. If the notions arise, and one is aware that these have arisen, that will immediately get rid of them.
Each time that these delusions, beginning with the mystical phenomena, arise, if one wishes to get rid of them, there is no excellent means other than the policy of resolving them by clearly taking up the hwadu. In Ganhwa Seon, when one meditates, all the malfunctions that are produced are produced when one has put down the hwadu. There is no other measure to be taken but the life-blood of solely taking up the hwadu again. Speaking of methods to deal with the above content and the appearance of the mystical phenomena, they are as follows:
First, if one has achieved the correct samādhi of the alert and tranquil samādhi, there will be no gap for those mystical realms to appear in. When the hwadu study is not distinct and one has lost focus, and the realms have spread, if one solely conducts study only and scrupulously, there is no gap for any realm to appear in.
Second, if there is in the practitioner’s mind something sought after or a false thought, the realms will spread. And so the practitioer must get rid of all thoughts that seek something. One must know that the mind that seeks to be awakened to the Way or hopes to meet the Buddha and patriarchs, or waits for the Way to be manifested before one, is called the demon.
Third, this is because one cannot deeply comprehend that the mind originally had no form or shape. “All dharmas arise in the mind. Even though the One Mind originally had no forms, how in the gate of the Way can realms appear?” One must know this principle well.
And so one must know that while on the path of study the appearnce of realms is due to a lack of correct understanding of study and that there are blind spots in the mental attitude of the practitioner. The spreading of realms and the study going into side-tracks means that to be enlightened one must proceed in detail and return the mind to the sole investigation of the hwadu alone. If one does so, even if one does not try to get rid of the various realms, they will thoroughly disappear and one will proceed to even deeper study. Knowing that one must proceed is the most critical thing in this study.
If one tries to practice, and just as the body disappears, there are times when one is entirely at ease just like sitting on a cloud. If one thus forgets the body and mind and is simply at ease, it is none other than the malfunction of no thought at all.
If one resides in the condition of just being at ease and not being devoted to the hwadu, this is a realm in which the practitioner has fallen wherein they are surrounded by that which should not be. If one tries to reside in such a place even in the slightest, all the things held in the mind will be lost, and one will be like a person who has produced cleverness that says the Way is keeping the calm condition that is empty and vacant.
Seon Master Jin-gak Hyesim of the Goryeo indicated this condition when he said, “Waiting to be enlightened while sitting in meditation in the demon cave beneath the pitch-black mountains calmly and emptying the mind and shutting one’s eyes and only overing them with the eyelids” is “this realm of being surrounded.” He warned against this by quoting the words of earlier people.
The words “Be careful of the realms of being at ease and calm” means that one must continuously doubt it. Even if suddenly the body and mind become calm, and the fore and after realms are cut off, the mind must not be seduced by that calm condition. Even in that calm condition, one definitely must not stop taking up the hwadu.
Seon Master Jingak Hyesim instructed as follows:
There is a point here that one must be careful of. The words said above, “One does not know even that there is a body,” when one is studying hwadu, that is different from the state in which one enters the hwadu-samādhi and forgets the body. If one is immersed in the hwadu-samādhi one cannot feel the movement of the body and one should continuously doubt the hwadu. Therefore Seon Master Taego said if one takes up the hwadu-samādhi one cannot be conscious of walking or sitting, and even when eating, one does not know whether the taste is salty or spicy hot, and one does not even feel the movement of the spoon at all.
Therefore when one says “it seems like the body is lost,” if that is not the state of samādhi in which one is immersed in hwadu, that condition is one in which one has fallen into the neutrality of no thought at all, and one falls into a realm of mind where one dwells in a calm place where the mind and body are at ease. According to the words of Seon Master Hyesim, if one dwells in that condition, that is like being in the pitch-black cave of the demons. One becomes a person like wood and stone that cannot be aware and there will be no progress in study. At such times, one should take up the hwadu again and use an earnest strength.