Great Master Bodhidharma’s Outline For Discerning the Mahayana
Entering the Way By Four Practices and Contemplation
By Bodhidharma, (d. circa 532)
The Twenty-Eighth Ancestral Founder of the Dhyana
Lineage of the Ekayana
The First Ancestral Founder of the Zen Lineage of
Translated by Gregory Wonderwheel © 2008/2012
enters the Way by many roads. But in summary we speak of not going beyond two kinds
of cultivating. The first is entering by principle. The second is entering by practice.
That which is "entering by principle" designates awakening to the lineage by relying on the teaching with profound faith that holds the one true nature of beings is the same. However, as a traveler is actually concealed by the dusts of false conceptions and is unable to show completely, even so, if one renounces the false, returns to the true, firmly abides in contemplation of the walls--without self and without other, with the ordinary and the sacred one and the same--solidly abides in the immovable, and furthermore, does not depend on written teachings, then one immediately takes part in a deep accord with principle without having discriminations. Being peaceful in this way is non-doing (wuwei) and has the name of "entering by principle."
"Entering by practice" designates four practices, and of those remaining various practices, in all cases one enters within these [four]. What are the four classes? First, the practice of retribution for wrongs. Second, the practice of according with conditioned causes. Third, the practice of nothing to seek. Fourth, the practice of corresponding to Dharma. What can be said?
“The practice of retribution for wrongs” designates a person who is practicing cultivating the Way. If at the time of receiving suffering, we face ourselves and recall the words, “I’ve gone through past innumerable aeons (kalpas) abandoning the root and following the tips, existing in the various currents and waves, hating the many arising wrongs, and disregarding harms without limit. Now, although I'm without offenses, indeed my former misfortunes have ripened as the fruit of evil karma, and neither heavenly beings (devas) nor humans are actually able to see where they are given out. With a willing mind I willingly receive it, all without complaint of wrongs.” A Sutra says, “On running into suffering do not grieve," Because how can you use it? Because consciousness transcends it. At the time this is born in the mind you take part in agreement with principle. In their essence, wrongs are progress in the Way. Therefore I articulate the words, "the practice of retribution for wrongs”
Second, is that which is "the practice of according with conditioned causes." The multitude of beings are without self and are unified with the karma of the conditioned causes that turn them. Suffering and joy are received together, and in every case follow the conditioned causes of beings. If we are able to win the rewards of honor and rank in affairs, it is our previous left over causes that are perceived. Now in this manner the gains of our conditioned causes are exhausted, and there is no going back. What then do we have of happiness? While gain and loss follow conditioned causes, the mind is without increase or decrease. The winds of joy do not stir the deep smooth flowing in the Way. This is therefore the articulation of the words "the practice of according with conditioned causes."
Third, is that which is "the practice of nothing to seek." Worldly people, so long in confusion, desire attachments everywhere. It goes by the name of seeking. Someone who is wise awakens to the truth, and principle will then flip-flop with the customary. With the non-doing of the tranquil mind, forms follow the turns of fortune. The myriad existences are thus empty, and the resolve for nothing is joy. Virtuous merit and darkness always follow and chase each other. As long dwelling in the Three Realms is like a house on fire, having a body in all cases is suffering. Who gains peace accordingly? Completely reaching this point one therefore renounces the various existences and stops conceptualizations to have nothing to seek. The sutra says, "If there is seeking, everyone suffers. If there is no seeking, then joy." To discern and comprehend without seeking is a true act of the practice of the Way. Therefore the words, "the practice of nothing to seek."
Fourth, is that which is "the practice of corresponding to Dharma." The Dharma is the activity of seeing the principle of the purity of the nature. By this principle the multitude of characteristics are thus empty, without taint, without attachment, without this, and without that. The sutra says, “In the Dharma there is no multitude of beings, because it is free from the defilements of the multitude of beings. In the Dharma there is no existing self, because it is free from the defilements of a self." If those who are wise are able to have faith in and expound this principle, then they are necessarily corresponding to Dharma and practicing accordingly. In the essence of the Dharma there is no stinginess. By the almsgiving (dana) charity of the practice of body, life, and wealth the mind is without parsimony, and one escapes and releases the three-fold emptiness [of giver, gift, and receiver]. When one is not dependent and is not attached, and only acts to leave defilements, one corresponds to converting the multitude of beings yet does not grasp at appearances. This is practicing for oneself to repeatedly be able to benefit others, and likewise be able to dignify the Way of Enlightenment. Since [the Paramita of] Almsgiving (dana) is like this, the remaining Five [Paramitas] are likewise just so. For eliminating delusions, one cultivates and practices the Six Paramitas, yet nothing is practiced. This is doing "the practice of corresponding to Dharma."
The end of Great Master Dharma's "Four Practices and Contemplation"
This translation is of the version at Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association (CBETA). http://w3.cbeta.org/result/X63/X63n1217.htm
The Six Paramitas are the Six Transcendences or practices for crossing over the ocean of worldly confusion. In the Mahayana they are the practices of Charity (dana), Morality (sila), Patience (kshanti), Effort (virya), Meditation (dhyana) and Wisdom (prajna). As indicated by Bodhidharma, in accordance with the One Vehicle (Ekayana), the Six are manifested simultaneously in the practice of corresponding to the Dharma.
Page last edited on August 26, 2012.