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Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma
Book 9

Old Buddha Mind
(Kobutsu shin)

The dharma succession of the ancestral lineage is forty ancestors from the seven buddhas to [the Sixth Ancestor, Huineng of] Caochi. It is forty buddhas from Caochi to the seven buddhas. Since the seven buddhas all have the virtues of both ascent and descent, [the succession] reaches [down] to Caochi and [up] to the seven buddhas. Since Caochi has the virtue of both ascent and descent, [the lineage] is correctly transmitted [to him] from the seven buddhas, is correctly transmitted [to them] from Caochi, is correctly transmitted to later buddhas.<1>

[The relationship among the buddhas and ancestors] is not only a matter of before and after: at the time of the Buddha Shâkyamuni, there were the buddhas of the ten directions; at the time of [Huineng's disciple] Qingyuan, there was [his fellow disciple] Nanyue; at the time of Nanyue, there was Qingyuan. Similarly, at the time of [Qingyuan's disciple] Shitou, there was [Nanyue's disciple] Jiangxi. That they do no obstruct each other is not to say they are unobstructed. The fact that they have such a virtue is something to be investigated.<2>

Though we say of these forty buddhas and ancestors above that they are all "old buddhas," each has his own mind, his own body, his own radiance, his own realm; each is "long past," each is "never past". Whether it be "long past" or "never past," it is equally a virtue of the old buddhas. To study the way of the old buddhas is to verify the way of the old buddhas, in generation after generation of old buddhas. Though [the term "old" in] "old buddhas" is the same "old" as in "new and old," they go beyond past and present, they are straightforward in past and present.<3>

* * * * * *

My former master [Tiantong Rujing] said, "I met the old buddha Hongzhi." Thus, we know that there is an old buddha within the house of Tiantong, there is Tiantong within the house of the old buddha.<4>

The Chan master Yuanwu said, "I make prostrations to the true old buddha of Caochi." We should make prostrations realizing that the thirty-third generation after the Buddha Sâkyamuni is an old buddha. Because the Chan master Yuanwu has the adornments and radiance of an old buddha, when he meets an old buddha, he bows to him thus. This being the case, with Caochi's true head and tail as fodder, we should realize that old buddhas have this kind of grip. To have this grip is to be an old buddha.<5>

Sushan said, "There's an old buddha in the Dayu Range. He emits a light that reaches here." We should recognize that Sushan has already met the old buddha and should not seek him elsewhere. The Dayu Range is where the old buddha is. One who is not himself an old buddha cannot know where the old buddha appears. To know where the old buddha is is to be an old buddha.<6>

Xuefeng said, "Zhaozhou, the old buddha." We should realize that, while Zhaozhou may be an old buddha, if Xuefeng were not allotted the power of an old buddha, it would have been hard for him to master the form of an audience with an old buddha. Our observances are empowered by the old buddha, and therefore, in studying the old buddha, there is the concentrated effort that "does not answer." This is the old man Xuefeng, a great person. One who is not an old buddha cannot compare with, is no equal to, the house style of an old buddha and the comportment of an old buddha. Therefore, studying the virtue of Zhaozhou's beginning, middle, and end, we should study the lifespan of the old buddha.<7>

* * * * *

The National Teacher Dazheng, of Guangzhai monastery in the Western Capital, was the dharma heir of Caochi. He was revered and honored by the human sovereign and the divine sovereign, truly something rarely experienced in the land of Cînasthâna [i.e., China]. Not only was he the teacher to four emperors, but the emperor himself brought him to the palace in a cart pulled by his own hands. Moreover, receiving an invitation to Indra's palace, he ascended far into heaven, where amidst the gods, he preached the dharma for Indra.<8>

A monk once asked the National Teacher, "What is the old buddha mind?" The master answered, "Fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles." The question is saying "this may be so," "that may be so." It has taken up these expressions and made them a question, and the question has become an expression widely used in past and present. Therefore, the ten thousand trees and the one hundred grasses of "a flower opens" are an expression of the old buddha, are a question of the old buddha. And the nine mountains and eight seas of "the world arises" are the sun face and moon face of the old buddha, are the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow of the old buddha.<9>

Furthermore, it should be the case that the old mind is practicing the buddha, that the old mind is verifying the buddha, that the old mind is making the buddha, that "the buddha old" is forming the mind. We say "the old mind" because mind is old. Because the "mind buddha" is always old, the old mind is "a chair," "bamboo and wood." It is "I can't find a single person anywhere on earth who understands the dharma"; it is "Reverend, what do you call this?" Whether it be these times and circumstances or innumerable realms and empty space, it cannot be said that any are not the old mind. To maintain the old mind or to maintain the old buddha is, with one face, to maintain two heads, to depict two heads.<10>

The master answered, "Fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles." The main point here is that there is "one advance" that speaks to fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles: it is fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles. There is "one road" that speaks out. There is "one retreat" in which the fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles speak within the fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles.<11> In the round, full completion of what these sayings reveal are walls built to a thousand jin [i.e., 7-8,000 feet], ten thousand jin; fences built to encircle the earth and encircle the heavens; tile coverings of one piece or half a piece; pebbles pointed large and small. This is so not only of the mind; it is [true of] the body, it is [true of] the objective and subjective [results of karma].

Therefore, we should ask, we should say, "What are fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles?" In answering, we should answer, "old buddha mind." Maintaining it in this way, we should go on to investigate it. We should investigate in detail just what these fences and walls are, what it is we call "fences and walls," what form they have taken. Are fences and walls made to appear from our construction? Is our construction made to appear from fences and walls? Are they a construction? Are they not a construction? Are they sentient? Are they insentient? Are they immediately apparent? Are they not immediately apparent? Making concerted effort to investigate them in this way, [we should understand that] whether it appears among gods or humans, in this land or the other world, the old buddha mind is fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles. Nor has a single dust mote ever appeared to defile it.

* * * * *

Once, a monk asked the great master Jianyuan Zhongxing, "What is the old buddha mind?" The master answered, "The world collapses in ruins." The monk asked, "Why does the world collapse in ruins?" The master answered, "Better without my body." The "world" here means that the ten directions are all the buddha world; there is no non-buddha world. The state of its collapse should be studied throughout this world of the ten directions; do not study it in the self. Because we do not study it in the self, since the precise time of the collapse is one instance, two instances, three, four, five instances, it is inexhaustable instances. Each of those instances is "better without my body"; "my body" is "better without". Do not prize the present and take "my body" as not the old buddha mind.<12>

* * * * *

Truly, before the seven buddhas, the old buddha mind is already established; after the seven buddhas, the old buddha mind is newly arisen. Before the buddhas, the old buddha mind opens its flower; after the buddhas, the old buddha mind forms its fruit. Before the old buddha mind, the old buddha mind is sloughed off.

Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma, Old Buddha Mind
Presented to the assembly at Rokuharamitsu Temple,
on the 29th day of the fourth month of the first year of Kangen (1243)