THE ESSENCE OF MAHAYANA PRACTICE (with Annotation)

BY MASTER BODHIDHARMA

Translated from Chinese by the Chung Tai Translation Committee


COMPLETE TITLE: "GREAT MASTER BODHIDHARMAS ESSENTIAL DISCOURSE ON

ENTERING THE MAHAYANA PATH BY PRINCIPLE AND BY PRACTICE"


Page 4

Third, to seek nothing. Ordinary people, in their perpetual ignorance, crave and form attachments to everything, everywhere. This is called seeking. The wise are awakened to the Truth, and choose reason over convention; their minds are at peace and wu-wei. All forms change with karma, all existence is empty, hence there is nothing to be desired. Blessing and Darkness always follow each other. This long sojourn in the Triple Realm is like living in a burning house; to have a body is to suffer, how can one attain peace? Those who understand this renounce all mundane existence, cease desires, and stop seeking. The sutra says, “To seek is to suffer, to seek nothing is bliss.” It follows that to seek nothing is to truly follow the Way. This is the practice of seeking nothing.

 

 

三無所求行者。世人長迷,處處貪著,名之為求。智者悟真,理將俗反,安心無為。形隨運轉,萬有斯空,無所願樂。功德黑暗,常相隨逐,三界久居,猶如火宅,有身皆苦,誰得而安。了達此處,故捨諸有,止想無求。經曰:有求皆苦,無求即樂。判知無求,真為道行。故言無所求行。

 

[Annotation]

Attachments:  To crave or desire anything, to cling to or despise anything, to dwell in the past or grumble about the present are all examples of attachment.

Reason over convention: Many common beliefs and practices are actually unwise, senseless, or even dangerous. Sometimes the truth is the opposite of what we believe. The wise can see what is real even if it means going against “conventional wisdom.”

All forms: All forms and appearances, all phenomena are driven by karma.

All existence is empty: Because all existence is dependent on conditions, there is no intrinsic, independent identity or “self.” The perceived qualities of objects or phenomena, whether desirable or undesirable, are conditional, relative, and impermanent, hence nothing is ultimately desirable.

Blessing and Darkness: The Maha-Pari-nirvana Sutra tells of the story of a pair of deva sisters named Blessing and Darkness; wherever Blessing goes, good fortune follows; wherever Darkness goes, misfortune follows. However, the two sisters are inseparable, one cannot receive one sister without the other.

Triple Realm: (1) The Realm of Desire (kāma-dhātu), where beings of the six spheres reside. They possess physical forms and have varying degrees of desires for wealth, lust, fame, food, and sleep. (2) The Realm of Form (rūpa-dhātu), attainable only by beings who have reached one of the four dhyāna stages (deep mental concentration states achieved with meditation). They have finer, uni-gender physical forms but not the desires of the lower realm. (3) Formless Realm (arūpa-dhātu), by more refined meditation, they are able to eliminate physical forms and exist in various extremely subtle consciousness states only. The two upper realms have only devas. All beings of the Triple Realm, regardless of their power of meditation, are still subject to karma and rebirth and therefore have not attained liberation.

Sojourn: In our endless rebirths, we have taken on all different forms of being and traveled through all of the Triple Realm. Without enlightenment, it is a journey without end or ultimate purpose.

Burning house: Each life in the Triple Realm will eventually end in death, so the world we live in is like a burning house that will turn into ashes sooner or later. Those who do not realize this are still busily stuffing things into this house, instead of thinking of ways to get out!

Body is suffering: Birth, aging, illness, and death are all afflictions of the body that are unavoidable as long as one has a physical body.

Mundane existence: The six spheres of existence in the Triple Realm.

Stop seeking: Seeking is defined here as the attachment to things and phenomena, to gratify the selfish ego. When one understands the underlying empty nature of these things, one can have true peace of mind and stop seeking. However, we can, out of compassion, seek to enlighten and benefit others without attachment to the ego.


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