6. Mind of void and calm, numinous awareness

Question: When the superior man hears dharma, he understands easily. Average and inferior men, however, are not without doubt and confusion. Could you describe some expedients so that the deluded too can enter into enlightenment?
Chinul: The path is not related to knowing or not knowing.” You should get rid of the mind which clings to its delusion and looks forward to enlightenment, and listen to me.

Since all dharmas are like dreams or phantoms, deluded thoughts are originally calm and the sense‐spheres are originally void. At the point where all dharmas are void, the numinous awareness is not obscured. That is to say, this mind of void and calm, numinous awareness is your original face. It is also the dharma‐seal transmitted without a break by all the Buddhas of the three time periods, the successive generations of patriarchs, and the wise advisors of this world. If you awaken to this mind, then this is truly what is called not following the rungs of a ladder: you climb straight to the stage of Buddhahood, and each step transcends the triple world. Returning home, your doubts will be instantly resolved and you will become the teacher of men and gods. Endowed with compassion and wisdom and complete in the twofold benefit, you will be worthy of receiving the offerings of men and gods. Day after day you can use ten thousand taels of gold without incurring debt. If you can do this, you will be a truly great man who has indeed finished the tasks of this life.
Question: In our case, what is this mind of void and calm, numinous awareness?
Chinul: What has just asked me this question is precisely your mind of void and calm, numinous awareness. Why not trace back its radiance rather than search for it outside? For your benefit I will now point straight to your original mind so that you can awaken to it. Clear your minds and listen to my words.
From morning to evening, throughout the twelve periods of the day, during all your actions and activities―whether seeing, hearing, laughing, talking, whether angry or happy, whether doing good or evil―ultimately who is it that is able to perform all these actions? Speak! If you say that it is the physical body which is acting, then at the moment when a man’s life comes to an end, even though the body has not yet decayed, how is it that the eyes cannot see, the ears cannot hear, the nose cannot smell, the tongue cannot talk, the body cannot move, the hands cannot grasp, and the feet cannot run? You should know that what is capable of seeing, hearing, moving, and acting has to be your original mind; it is not your physical body. Furthermore, the four elements which make up the physical body are by nature void; they are like images in a mirror or the moon’s reflection in water. How can they be clear and constantly aware, always bright and never obscured― and, upon activation, be able to put into operation sublime functions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges? For this reason it is said, “Drawing water and carrying firewood are spiritual powers and sublime functions.”14
There are many points at which to enter the noumenon.15 I will indicate one approach which will allow you to return to the source.
Chinul: Do you hear the sounds of that crow cawing and that magpie calling?
Student: Yes.
Chinul: Trace them back and listen to your hearing‐nature. Do you hear any sounds?
Student: At that place, sounds and discriminations do not obtain.
Chinul: Marvelous! Marvelous! This is Avalokitesvara’s method for entering the noumenon.16 Let me ask you again. You said that sounds and discriminations do not obtain at that place. But since they do not obtain, isn’t the hearing‐nature just empty space at such a time?
Student: Originally it is not empty. It is always bright and never obscured.
Chinul: What is this essence which is not empty?
Student: As it has no former shape, words cannot describe it.
This is the life force of all the Buddhas and patriarchs―have no further doubts about that. Since it has no former shape, how can it be large or small? Since it cannot be large or small, how can it have limitations? Since it has no limitations, it cannot have inside or outside. Since there is no inside or outside, there is no far or near. As there is no far or near, there is no here or there. As there is no here or there, there is no coming or going. As there is no coming or going, there is no birth or death. As there is no birth or death, there is no past or present. As there is no past or present, there is no delusion or awakening. As there is no delusion or awakening, there is no ordinary man or saint. As there is no ordinary man or saint, there is no purity or impurity. Since there is no impurity or purity, there is no right or wrong. Since there is no right or wrong, names and words do not apply to it. Since none of these concepts apply, all sense‐bases and sense‐objects, all deluded thoughts, even forms and shapes and names and words are all inapplicable. Hence how can it be anything but originally void and calm and originally no‐thing?
Nevertheless, at that point where all dharmas are empty, the numinous awareness is not obscured. It is not the same as insentience, for its nature is spiritually deft. This is your pure mind‐essence of void and calm, numinous awareness. This pure, void, and calm mind is that mind of outstanding purity and brilliance of all the Buddhas of the three time periods; it is that enlightened nature which is the original source of all sentient beings. One who awakens to it and safeguards that awakening will then abide in the unitary, “such” and unmoving liberation. One who is deluded and turns his back on it passes between the six destinies, wandering in samsara for vast numbers of kalpas. As it is said, “One who is confused about the one mind and passes between the six destinies, goes and takes action. But one who awakens to the dharmadhatu and returns to the one mind, arrives and is still.”17Although there is this distinction between delusion and awakening, in their basic source they are one. As it is said, “The word ‘dharma’ means the mind of the sentient being.”18 But as there is neither more of this void and calm mind in the saint, nor less of it in the ordinary man, it is also said, “In the wisdom of the saint it is no brighter; hidden in the mind of the ordinary man it is no darker.” Since there is neither more of it in the saint nor less of it in the ordinary man, how are the Buddhas and patriarchs any different from other men? The only thing that makes them different is that they can protect their minds and thoughts―nothing more.
If you believe me to the point where you can suddenly extinguish your doubt, show the will of a great man and give rise to authentic vision and understanding, if you know its taste for yourself, arrive at the stage of self‐affirmation and gain understanding of your true nature, then this is the understanding‐awakening achieved by those who have cultivated the mind. Since no further steps are involved, it is called sudden. Therefore it is said, “When in the cause of faith one meshes without the slightest degree of error with all the qualities of the fruition of Buddhahood, faith is achieved.”19

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