The Teaching of Mazu

Translated by Thomas Cleary

The Way does not require cultivation – just don’t pollute it. What is pollution? As long as you have a fluctuating mind fabricating artificialities and contrivances, all of this is pollution. If you want to understand the Way directly, the normal mind is the Way. What I mean by the normal mind is the mind without artificiality, without subjective judgments, without grasping or rejection.

The founders of Zen said that one’s own essence is inherently complete. Just don’t linger over good or bad things – that is called practice of the Way. To grasp the good and reject the bad, to contemplate emptiness and enter concentration, is all in the province of contrivance – and if you go on seeking externals, you get further and further estranged. Just end the mental objectification of the world. A single thought of the wandering mind is the root of birth and death in the world. Just don’t have a single thought and you’ll get rid of the root of birth and death.

Human delusions of time immemorial, deceit, pride, deviousness, and conceit, have conglomerated into one body. That is why scripture says that this body is just made of elements, and its appearance and disappearance is just that of the elements, which have no identity. When successive thoughts do not await one another, and each thought dies peacefully away, this is called absorption in the oceanic reflection.

Delusion means you are not aware of your own fundamental mind; enlightenment means you realize your own fundamental essence. Once enlightened, you do not become deluded anymore. If you understand mind and objects, then false conceptions do not arise; when false conceptions do not arise, this is the acceptance of the beginning-less-ness of things. You have always had it, and you have it now – there is no need to cultivate the Way and sit in meditation.

Right this moment, as you walk, stand, sit, and recline, responding to all situations and dealing with people – all is the Tao. The Tao is the realm of reality. No matter how numerous are the uncountable, inconceivable functions, they are not beyond this realm. If they were, how could we speak of the teaching of the Mind-ground, and how could we tell of the inexhaustible lantern?

All phenomena are mental; all labels are labeled by the mind. All phenomena arise out of mind; mind is the root of all phenomena. A sutra says, ‘When you know mind and arrive at its root source, in that sense you may be called a devotee.

The Dharmakaya is infinite; its substance neither waxes nor wanes. It can be vast or minute, angled or smooth; it manifests images in accordance with things and beings, like the moon reflected in a pool. Its function gushes forth yet does not take root; it never exhausts deliberate action nor does it dwell in inaction. Deliberate action is a function of authenticity; authenticity is the basis of deliberate action. Because of no longer having fixation on this basis, one is spoken of as autonomous, like empty space.

The true Suchness of mind is like a mirror reflecting forms: the mind is like the mirror, and phenomena are like the reflected forms. If the mind grasps at phenomena, then it involves itself in external conditions and causes; this is what ‘the birth and death of mind’ means. If it no longer grasps at such phenomena, this is what ‘the true Suchness of mind’ means.

All dharmas are Buddhist teachings; all dharmas are liberation. Liberation is true Suchness, and not one thing is separate from this true Suchness. Walking, standing, sitting, and reclining are all inconceivable actions.