Also see: Problem with Many Zen Teachings

My opinion only. Feel free to refute me if you believe Shurangama Sutra does not preach a substantialist view. I'm all ears.


Soh Wei Yu: actually i suspect Shurangama Sutra (which experts say is a Chinese invention, and I dont think its found in Tibetan canon) is really only I AM and One Mind
Soh Wei Yu: which is why many chinese masters including the one i just visited that came to singapore got stuck.. he was using shurangama sutra to explain I AM as the host
Soh Wei Yu: but i need to read more
Soh Wei Yu: Shurangama Sutra, "All beings need to understand that whatever moves is like the dust and, like a visitor, does not remain. Just now you saw that it was Ananda's head that moved, while his visual awareness did not move. It was my hand that opened and closed, while his awareness did not open or close."
Soh Wei Yu: the whole host and dust that all those masters are talking about including Jax comes from Shurangama Sutra teachings.. it just reaffirms their substantialist views
Soh Wei Yu: Shurangama Sutra, "Your Majesty, your face is wrinkled, but the essential nature of your visual awareness itself has not wrinkled. What wrinkles is subject to change. What does not wrinkle does not change. What changes will perish. But what does not change neither comes into being nor perishes. Then how could it be affected by your being born and dying? So you have no need to be concerned with what such people as Maskari Gosaliputra say: that when this body dies, you ecease to exist."
Soh Wei Yu: "Clearly then, the mind that experiences these conditioned phenomena is not what is fundamentally you. But what is not these conditioned phenomena must be what is fundamentally you. If it is not you, what else could it be?"
Soh Wei Yu: "And since you cannot see my awareness when you and I are looking at different things, clearly my visual awareness cannot be an object. Therefore, how could your own visual awareness not be what is fundamentally you?"
Soh Wei Yu: "since beings have allowed their attention to be drawn to the sights and sounds and have allowed themselves to be carried along in their streams of thought, as it has been since time without beginning, they have not yet awakened and do not yet understand the purity, the wondrousness, and the permanence of their own essential nature. Instead of attending to what is everlasting, they attend to what comes into being and perishes, and as a result, in life after life, they are mired in impurity and are bound to the cycle of birth and rebirth. But if they turn away from what comes into being and perishes and hold fast to what is true and everlasting, then the light of the everlasting will appear, and as a result the faculties, their objects, and the sense-consciousness will fade away and disappear."
Soh Wei Yu: "We're capable of hearing sounds and silence both; They may be present to the ear or not. Though people say that when no sound is present, Our hearing must be absent too, in fact Our hearing does not lapse. It does not cease With silence; neither is it born of sound. Our hearing, then, is genuine and ture. It is the everlasting one."
Soh Wei Yu: "People say that hearing comes about because of sounds, Not on its own. If that's what you call 'hearing,' though, Then when you turn your hearing round and set it free from sounds, What name are you to give to that which is set free?

"Return just one of hte perceiving faculties Back to its source, and all six faculties will then be free. For what we hear is mere illusion, like the objects of our vision - like what is seen by one whose eyes are covered by a film. The Threefold Realm is like those flowers in an empty sky, But turn the hearing inward, and the faculties are cured. Their objects vanish, and awareness is completely pure.

"In perfect purity, the brilliance of awareness shines Unhindered and in still illumination of all space, In contemplating worldly things as the events of dreams. The young Matanga woman was a figure in a dream. Just who was really there with power to entice you?"
Soh Wei Yu: the whole focus on Shurangama is really to realise True Self, revert back to the Source, and subsume all objects to be merely illusory displays of the Source. IMO no different from Advaita Vedanta or Upanishads
Soh Wei Yu: its no surprise the majority of Chinese Mahayana is stuck at I AM and one mind
Soh Wei Yu: "All that you need to do is not allow your attention to be diverted by the twelve conditioned attributes of sound and silence, contact and separation, flavor and the absence of flavor, openness and blockage, coming into being and perishing, and light and darkness. Next, extricate one faculty by detaching it from its objects, and redirect that faculty inward so that it can return to what is original and true. Then it will radiate the light of the original understanding. This brilliant light will shine forth and extricate the other five faculties until they are completely free.

"If your six faculties are freed from the objects that they perceive so that the light of your understanding is not diverted into one or another of the faculties, then the light of your understanding will manifest through all the faculties so that all six of them will function interchangeably."
Soh Wei Yu: all moving objects are subsumed into the unmoving space of awareness -
Soh Wei Yu: "Given that the fundamental natures of visual awareness, awareness of sounds, and cognitive awareness are all-pervasive and do not change, you should know that the real natures of what we may consider to be the six primary elements - our visual awareness; infinite, motionless space; and earth, water, fire, and wind, which are in motion - are completely interfused with one another. In their fundamental natures, all are within the Matrix of the Thus-Come One, neither coming into being nor ceasing to be."
Soh Wei Yu: lol the description is no diff from one mind:
Soh Wei Yu: "All you good people! I have often said that all phenomena with physical form, all phenomena of mind, the conditions under which they arise, as well as the phenomena that interact with the mind and all other conditioned phenomena, are mere manifestations of true mind. Your bodies and your minds appear within the wondrous light of the true essence of that wondrous mind."
Soh Wei Yu: "What you do not know is that the true, wondrous, luminously understanding mind contains the body and everything outside the body - mountains, rivers, sky, the entire world. You are like someone who fails to see a boundless ocean a hundred thousand miles across and is aware only of a single floating bubble."
Soh Wei Yu: i flipped through the whole shurangama sutra. quite convinced now it is only about I AM and one mind


[7/6/19, 9:58:59 AM] John Tan: Dogen view is very anatta and non-dual
[7/6/19, 10:29:52 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Ya.. and He doubts Surangama like me lol
[7/6/19, 10:44:15 AM] John Tan: Surangama is not wrong
[7/6/19, 10:45:30 AM] John Tan: It is the over emphasis of 主.   Instead of understanding the relationship of host and guest as empty conventions.
[7/6/19, 10:47:07 AM] John Tan: Dogen's expressions also prone to expressions of experience (more towards anatta no mind) but the clarity of "y" such view isn't valid isn't there.
[7/6/19, 10:49:23 AM] John Tan: In other words, he is expressing experience is such as such and therefore he rejected object and subject duality...not even a hairline difference is allowed in that expression. But the "y" isn't clear.  However once we understand the conventional relationships among entities and their empty nature, it becomes clear.
[7/6/19, 10:50:33 AM] John Tan: In surangama if I m not wrong, such relationships r explored, outlined but somehow the host is being over emphasized, that is the only issue.
[7/6/19, 11:57:41 AM] John Tan: Is surangama the 7 asking by Buddha where is mind?
[7/6/19, 12:18:02 PM] Soh Wei Yu: You mean dependent designation?
[7/6/19, 12:18:20 PM] Soh Wei Yu: I think it is an affirmative negation
[7/6/19, 12:18:33 PM] Soh Wei Yu: Like shentong
[7/6/19, 12:18:43 PM] Soh Wei Yu: Not anatta or Madhyamika
[7/6/19, 12:19:08 PM] Soh Wei Yu: Hmm but Greg Goode said even at his I Am phase he realised non locality, rather than emptiness
[7/6/19, 12:19:17 PM] Soh Wei Yu: Means I think inherently existing mind that it not located anywhere
[7/6/19, 12:19:24 PM] Soh Wei Yu: I think shurangama is like that
[7/6/19, 12:20:02 PM] Soh Wei Yu: This is not the same as no mind or anatta
[7/6/19, 12:20:15 PM] Soh Wei Yu: It affirms an eternal unchanging mind that is not this and not that
[7/6/19, 12:20:20 PM] Soh Wei Yu: And nondual
[7/6/19, 12:26:53 PM] Soh Wei Yu: "Therefore, Ananda, you should know that when you see light, the seeing is not the light. When you see darkness, the seeing is not the darkness. When you see emptiness, the seeing is not the emptiness. When you see solid objects, the seeing is not the solid objects. “
[7/6/19, 12:26:59 PM] Soh Wei Yu: Indistinguishable from advaita lol
[7/6/19, 12:27:12 PM] Soh Wei Yu: Going through all the analysis in the end just to affirm awareness
[7/6/19, 12:27:20 PM] Soh Wei Yu: Self inquiry is more direct IMO
[7/6/19, 12:28:43 PM] Soh Wei Yu: “

"Therefore, you should know that in fact the colors come from the lamp, and the diseased seeing brings about the reflection. Both the circular reflection and the faulty seeing are the result of the cataract. But that which sees the diseased film is not sick. Thus you should not say that it is the lamp or the seeing or that it is neither the lamp nor the seeing. “
[7/6/19, 12:30:39 PM] Soh Wei Yu: “

"If you can leave far behind all conditions which mix and unite and those which do not mix and unite, then you can also extinguish and cast out the causes of birth and death, and obtain perfect Bodhi, the nature which is neither produced nor extinguished. It is the pure clear basic mind, the everlasting fundamental enlightenment. “
[7/6/19, 12:35:33 PM] Soh Wei Yu: But the part about the five skandhas are Buddha nature is good but I think can be one mind sort of understanding, idk
[7/6/19, 12:38:21 PM] Soh Wei Yu: I just saw an excerpt in shurangama sutra about whether light and seeing is different.. if seeing is different from light then there has to be a boundary.. but I think is more on nondual and seeing how all the skandhae are falsely imputed only
[7/6/19, 12:39:49 PM] John Tan: This is different.  Means conventional reality and the power of conventions to alaya consciousness is not understood.  Seeing self as truly existing but non-local is different.
‎[7/6/19, 12:40:35 PM] Soh Wei Yu: ‎image omitted
‎[7/6/19, 12:40:35 PM] Soh Wei Yu: ‎image omitted
‎[7/6/19, 12:40:36 PM] Soh Wei Yu: ‎image omitted
[7/6/19, 12:40:58 PM] John Tan: Yes they over emphasized on the host. Means 闻性 the hearing nature is permanent. Instead of empty.
[7/6/19, 12:41:05 PM] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[7/6/19, 12:43:20 PM] John Tan: Y when u look at what originates in dependence and even it is explained as such, it can be misunderstood as 实性 [real nature] instead of 空性 [empty nature]?

[7/6/19, 9:59:05 PM] John Tan: Btw dogen is good for u because dogen's expressions and practice r to b about full engagement -- being time.


Update, February 2019

Lopon Malcolm wrote that the Chinese Shurangama Sutra is a "Chinese Pseudographia", "and these ten Xian realms do not exist in Indian Buddhist cosmology at all."

Had a conversation with Thusness:

[15/2/19, 10:53:14 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Malcolm just said shurangama is a Chinese 伪经 (pseudipigrapha,
falsely attributed works, texts whose claimed author is not the true author)
 [15/2/19, 10:53:17 AM] Soh Wei Yu: As I thought
[15/2/19, 10:53:21 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Cos it sounds very advaita
[15/2/19, 10:53:22 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Lol
[15/2/19, 10:53:47 AM] John Tan: Not exactly lah
[15/2/19, 10:54:35 AM] John Tan: How many is from Buddha's own mouth
[15/2/19, 10:54:40 AM] Soh Wei Yu: It says seeing is eternal, awareness doesn’t age but body ages
[15/2/19, 10:55:08 AM] John Tan: I know it emphasizes a lot on host and guest
[15/2/19, 10:55:36 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Ya
[15/2/19, 10:56:34 AM] John Tan: I mean the issue of 伪经
[15/2/19, 10:58:19 AM] Soh Wei Yu: It is an invention of Chinese because it mentions Taoist immortals
[15/2/19, 10:58:20 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Lol
[15/2/19, 10:58:27 AM] Soh Wei Yu: It tries to integrate Chinese thought
[15/2/19, 10:58:36 AM] Soh Wei Yu: I think it’s developed in China and there is no such sutra in tibetan Canon
[15/2/19, 10:58:56 AM] John Tan: In fact most Mahayana sutra have this flavor
[15/2/19, 10:59:05 AM] John Tan: It is just how it presents
[15/2/19, 10:59:18 AM] John Tan: So it is not an issue of Wei jin
[15/2/19, 10:59:29 AM] John Tan: It is the wisdom in it (Soh: this issue is also discussed in
Yogacara vs Madhyamaka, Authorship of Mahayana Sutras and Sūtra of Definitive Meaning vs Sūtra of Provisional Meaning)
[15/2/19, 10:59:41 AM] Soh Wei Yu: If a sutra is not Wei Jing it should have a Sanskrit counterpart and a tibetan counterpart which is not the case for shurangama
[15/2/19, 10:59:43 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Oic
[15/2/19, 10:59:53 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Actually most Mahayana sutras lack mention of clarity aspect
[15/2/19, 11:00:04 AM] Soh Wei Yu: Just purely emptiness.. I think
[15/2/19, 11:00:21 AM] John Tan: Nen yen jing (Soh: he later clarifies he was referring to Leng Jia Jing - Lankavatara Sutra, as mentioning clarity but he is 'not sure' [whether the sutra talks about it])
[15/2/19, 11:00:40 AM] John Tan: Emptiness is the nature of mind and phenomena


Update by Soh, 25/11/2020:
The commentaries by Ven. Hui Lu 慧律法师 on Shurangama Sutra (and all other sutras) are very clear and good, due to his deep insights. Regardless of whether the original texts fall into the extremes, Ven. Hui Lu's explanations steer clear of the extremes (eternalism/nihilism/existence/non-existence/etc).

True Mind and Unconditioned Dharma 

Update by Soh, 20/06/2021:

Just saw this post by Malcolm in 2020:

There is a claim that a Sanskrit manuscript of this text exists somewhere in in China.
Li Xuezhu (李学竹) (2010). “Zhōng guó zàng xué — Zhōng guó fàn wén bèi yè gài kuàng” 中国藏学-中国梵文贝叶概况 [China Tibetan Studies — The State of Sanskrit Language Palm Leaf Manuscripts in China]. Baidu 文库. Vol. 1 №90 (in Chinese). pp. 55–56. Retrieved 2017–12–06. ‘河南南阳菩提寺原藏有1函梵文贝叶经,共226叶,其中残缺6叶,函上写有“印度古梵文”字样,据介绍,内容为 《楞严经》,很可能是唐代梵文经的孤本,字体为圆形,系印度南方文字一种,被国家定为一级文物,现存彭雪枫纪念馆。’(tr to English: Henan Nanyang Bodhi Temple originally had one Sanskrit language manuscript sutra, consisting in total 226 leaves, of which 6 were missing… according to the introduction, it contains the Śūraṅgama Sūtra and is most probably the only extant Sanskrit manuscript dating from the Tang Dynasty. The letters are roundish and belongs to a type used in South India and has been recognized by the country as a Category 1 cultural artifact. It is now located in the Peng Xuefeng Memorial Museum.

The notion of 55 stages is a Chinese Buddhist misreading of the chapters on the powers, dedications of merit, and so of the bodhisattvas on the ten stages in in Avatamska Sutra, embedded in a couple of Chinese authored texts posing as sutras.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."

Update, 2021:
Also, to be fair, I think there are chapters in Shurangama Sutra that refutes Brahman view:

Two Sutras (Discourses by Buddha) on the Mistaken Views of Consciousness

Also on a sidenote, there is another sutra called Surangama Samadhi Sutra that is of Indian origin, which Malcolm considers to be authentic. I believe it is this one,1998,BDK25.pdf

Update 9th June 2019:

Found some passages where it's explained how Dogen shares the same view as me regarding Shurangama Sutra:

Okumura, Shohaku. The Mountains and Waters Sutra: A Practitioner's Guide to Dogen's "Sansuikyo" (p. 117). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.  

"Here Dōgen says that this understanding is criticized by the Great Sage — actually, he said “scolded” — because it involves separation between mind and object. The Śūraṅgama Sūtra says, “From time without beginning, all beings have mistakenly identified themselves with what they are aware of. Controlled by their experience of perceived objects, they lose track of their fundamental minds. In this state they perceive visual awareness as large or small. But when they’re in control of their experience of perceived objects, they are the same as the Thus-Come Ones. Their bodies and minds, unmoving and replete with perfect understanding, become a place for awakening. Then all the lands in the ten directions are contained within the tip of a fine hair.”66 “Controlled by their experience of perceived objects” is more literally translated as “being turned by things”; “they’re in control of their experience of perceived objects” is “they turn things.” Here self (mind) and objects (things) seem separate; sometimes the mind is turned by objects and sometimes it turns them. So this sūtra says that people can actually see things as they are. Dōgen did not like the separation between mind and objects or between turning and being turned. As I said above, our view is created in the relationship between ehō and shōhō — we can’t have a view that is not subjective. Although
the Śūraṅgama Sūtra was valued in Chinese Zen tradition, Dōgen did not appreciate the sūtra. 

In Hōkyōki, Dōgen asked Rujing: “Lay people read the Śūraṅgama Sūtra and the Complete Enlightenment Sūtra and say that these are the ancestral teachings transmitted from India. When I opened up these sūtras and observed their structure and style, I felt they were not as skillful as other Mahayana sūtras. This seemed strange to me. More than this, the teachings of these sūtras seemed to me to be far less than what we find in Mahayana sūtras. They seemed quite similar to the teachings of the six outsider teachers [who lived during the Buddha’s time]. How do we determine whether or not these texts are authentic?” Rujing said, “The authenticity of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra has been doubted by some people since ancient times. Some suspect that this sūtra was written by people of a later period, as the early ancestors were definitely not aware of it. But ignorant people in recent times read it and love it. The Complete Enlightenment Sūtra is also like this. Its style is similar to the Śūraṅgama Sūtra.”67 

In Dharma Hall discourse 383 of Eihei Kōroku, Dōgen said, Therefore we should not look at the words and phrases of Confucius or Laozi, and should not look at the Śūraṅgama or Complete Enlightenment scriptures. [Many contemporary people consider the Śūraṅgama and Complete Enlightenment Sūtras as among those that the Zen tradition relies on. But the teacher Dōgen always disliked them.] We should exclusively study the expressions coming from the activities of buddhas and ancestors from the time of the seven world-honored buddhas68 to the present. If we are not concerned with the activities of the Buddha ancestors, and vainly make our efforts in the evil path of fame and profit, how could this be study of the way? Among the World-Honored Tathāgata, the ancestral teacher Mahākāśyapa, the twenty-eight ancestors in India, the six generations [of ancestors] in China, Qingyuan, and Nanyue [Huairang], which of these ancestral teachers ever used the Śūraṅgama or Complete Enlightenment Sūtra and considered them as the true Dharma eye treasury, wondrous mind of nirvāṇa?69

The two sentences between brackets are a note by the compiler of the volume. From these quotes,
it is clear that Dōgen was consistent in criticizing the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, from the time he was in China studying with Rujing until two years before his death when he gave this lecture from Eihei Kōroku. “[E]xplaining the mind and explaining the nature” is not affirmed by the buddhas and ancestors; “seeing the mind and seeing the nature” is the business of non-Buddhists. “Explaining the mind nature” and “seeing the nature” are essential points in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra. In “explaining the mind and explaining the nature,” mind is shin (心) and nature is shō (性).70 The nature of mind is sometimes called true self, original face, true face, or even buddha nature. Some people have thought that mind-nature (shinshō, 心性) is within ourselves, hidden in this body and mind, and that discovering such mind-nature is seeing true nature or enlightenment. But Dōgen said that such an idea is not affirmed by buddhas and ancestors. The expressions “seeing the mind” (kenshin, 見心) and “seeing the nature” (kenshō, 見性) actually mean the same thing. Dōgen Zenji didn’t like the term kenshō: it implies that our self (our body and mind, the five aggregates) is separate from nature and that our (nonphysical) eyes can see it. In reality the nature cannot be seen; it cannot be the object of the subject, because the nature is ourselves. We cannot see ourselves; our eyes cannot see our eyes. There’s no way we can see the nature; that is Dōgen’s point. This word kenshō is important in Rinzai Zen and is the source of the long discussion between Sōtō and Rinzai. In Rinzai practice kenshō, “seeing the nature,” is identical with satori. But for Dōgen, satori is exactly this mountain self. The walking of the mountain is great realization, or satori. Satori is not something we can see as an object, and it’s not something we can attain.71 This actually does not disagree with genuine Rinzai teaching, only with superficial ideas of Rinzai teaching. I’ll talk about this later when Dōgen discusses incomprehensible enlightenment in the section about Yunmen Wenyan."

~ Okumura, Shohaku. The Mountains and Waters Sutra: A Practitioner's Guide to Dogen's "Sansuikyo" (p. 120). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.  

Update 29/6/2019: Found another excellent passage by Zen Master Shohaku Okumura.


Rujing said that authenticity of The Shurangama Sutra has been questioned from ancient times, therefore ancestral masters in the early times never read this sutra. 

Anyway, Dogen has a doubt about the authenticity and quality of The Surangama Sutra and The Complete Enlightenment Sutra. Those are sutras I have introduced as the foundation of Zhongmi's and Xuansha’s usage of “one bright jewel”.

Dogen gives the question to his teacher. This is a very serious question. Dogen thinks that the teachings in these sutras are similar with the six outsider teachers. This means the sutras advocate non-Buddhist teachings such as Senika’s theory, which Dogen introduces in Bendowa. In this case, to be non-Buddhist means to go against the Buddha’s teaching of anatman (no permanent self). The teaching of the metaphor of the mani jewel (one bright8jewel) which is permanent and never changes, even though the surface color is changing is, according to Dogen, nothing other than atman. That is the problem in Dogen’s question. He is asking whether the theory included in these two sutras can be considered to be authentic Buddhist teaching or not.
This is a conversation that happened when Dogen was twenty-five years old. In China, it seems that the authenticity of these two sutras has not been questioned. However in Japan, in the 8th century, some Hosso School (Japanese Yogacara School) monks doubted whether The Surangama Sutra is an authentic sutra from India or not. Dogen and his teacher Rujing had the same question. In modern times, almost all Japanese Buddhist scholars think that The Surangama Sutra and The Complete Enlightenment Sutra were written in China. 

The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism says the following about the authenticity of The Surangama Sutra: 

Although Zhisheng assumed the Surangama sutra was a genuine Indian scripture, the fact that no Sanskrit manuscript of the text is known to exist, as well as the inconsistencies in the stories about its transmission to China, have led scholars for centuries to question the scripture’s authenticity. There is also internal evidence of the scripture’s Chinese provenance, such as the presence of such indigenous Chinese philosophical concepts as yin-yan cosmology and the five elements (wuxing) theory, the stylistic beauty of the literary Chinese in which the text is written, etc. For these and other reasons, the Surangama sutra is now generally recognized to be a Chinese apocryphal composition. 2
However, Chinese masters don’t agree. There is a Chinese temple in San Francisco named Golden Mountain Temple, and it has a big community called the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Ukiah, Northern California. The founder of that temple, Ven. Master Hsuan Hua, opposed those modern scholars:

“Where the Surangama Sutra exists, then the Proper Dharma exists. If the Surangama Sutra ceases to exist, then the Proper Dharma will also vanish. If the Surangama Sutra is inauthentic, then I vow to fall into the Hell of Pulling Tongues to undergo uninterrupted suffering.” 3 In a subsequent section of the introduction to the Surangama Sutra, Ron Epstein and David Rounds argue that it was written in India.4

So there is a controversy. Since I am not a Buddhist scholar, I cannot discuss which is right. Anyway, we are studying Dogen’s Shobogenzo, we need to hear what Dogen has to say on this point. We need to understand that Dogen questions not only about whether the Surangama Sutra was written in India or China but also whether the core teaching in the sutra is non-Buddhist theory.

Dogen’s criticism in Eihei Koroku 

Not only when he was young, but also in his later years, he repeats the same opinion regarding the two sutras in his Dharma discourse number 383 in Eihei Koroku (Dogen’s Extensive Record), the collection that includes9 more than five hundred formal discourses by Dogen. Because this is a long discourse on Dogen’s disagreement with the theory of the identity of the three teachings (Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism), I will only quote one paragraph of just a few sentences:

Therefore we should not look at the words and phrases of Confucius or Lao Tsu, and should not look at the Surangama or Complete Enlightenment Scriptures. (Many contemporary people consider the Surangama and Complete Enlightenment Sutras as among those that the Zen tradition relies on. But the teacher Dogen always disliked them.) We should exclusively study the expressions coming from the activities of buddhas and ancestors from the time of the seven world-honored Buddhas to the present. If we are not concerned with the activities of the buddha ancestors, and vainly make our efforts in the evil path of fame and profit, how could this be study of the Way? Among the World-Honored Tathagata, the ancestral teacher Mahakashyapa, the twenty-eight ancestors in India, the six generations [of ancestors] in China, Qingyuan, and Nanyue [Huirang], which of these ancestral teachers ever used the Surangama or Complete Enlightenment Sutra and considered them as the true Dharma eye treasury, wondrous mind of nirvana? 5

The italic sentences in the parenthesis are a note made by Gien, a disciple of Dogen who compiled volume 5 of Eihei Koruku. It is clear that he continued to dislike these two sutraseven when he was past his youth.

Dogen criticizes not only the two sutras but Guifeng Zongmi’s essential points in Dharma discourse number 447 of Eiheikoroku:

I can remember Guifeng Zongmisaid, “The quality of knowing is the gateway of all excellence.”

Zen master Huanrong Shixin [wuxin] said, “The quality of knowing is the gateway of all evil.” Later students have recited what these two previous worthies said, without stopping up to today. Because of this, ignorant people have wanted to discuss which is correct, and for hundreds of years have either used or discarded one or the other thing. Nevertheless, Zongmi’s saying that knowing is the gateway of all excellence has not yet emerged from the pit of those outside the way. What is called knowledge is certainly neither excellent nor course. As for Huanlong [Shixin]’s saying that knowing is a gateway of all evil, what is called knowledge is certainly neither evil nor good. 

Today, I, Eihei would like to examine those two people's sayings. Great Assembly would you like to clearly understand the point of this? 

After a pause Dogen said: If the great ocean knew it was full, the hundreds of rivers would all flow upstream.6

It is clear that Dogen knows what Guifeng Zongmi wrote about the one bright jewel. Zongmi said that everything good came from10 this knowing (chi) or the spiritual intelligence that is nothing other than the one bright jewel. Dogen also quotes another Zen master, Huanrong Shixin. They said completely opposite things and Dogen made a comment about these two opposite sayings.
Dogen says Zongmi’s saying has not yet emerged from the pit of those outside the way. This “pit of those outside the way” means the trap of non-Buddhist theory. Dogen is saying that Zongmi’s saying is non-Buddhist teaching. This dharma discourse 447 was probably given when Dogen was around 50 years old, a few years before his death. Dogen still thinks Guifeng Zongmi’s teaching based on the two sutras was not Buddhist. 

After a pause he said, “If the great ocean knew it was full, the hundreds of rivers would all flow upstream.” The ocean will never fill up, so water can flow from the mountains to the ocean continuously. However, if the ocean becomes full, water needs to flow towards the mountains. Such a thing can never happen. From these sayings of Dogen, it is clear to me that Dogen does not agree with what Guifeng Zongmi had written using the analogy of “one bright jewel”.

Dogen’s Comment on The Surangama Sutra in Shobogenzo Tenhorin (Turning the Dharma Wheel).

In Shoboenzo Tenhorin (Turning the Dharma Wheel) written in 1244, Dogen discusses several Zen masters’ comments on an expression from the Surangama Sutra as follows: 

The expression quoted now, that “when a person exhibits the truth and returns to the origin, space in the ten directions totally disappears” is an expression in the Surangama Sutra. This same phrase has been discussed by several Buddhist patriarchs. Consequently, this phrase is truly the bones and marrow of Buddhist patriarchs, and the eyes of Buddhist patriarchs. My intention in saying so is as follows: Some insist that the ten-fascicle version of the Surangama Sutra is a forged sutra while others insist that it is not a forged sutra. The two arguments have persisted from the distant past until today. There is the older translation and there is the new translation; the version that is doubted is [not these but] a translation produced during the Shinryu era. However, Master Goso [Ho]en, Master Bussho [Ho]tai, and my late Master Tendo, the eternal Buddha, have each quoted the above phrase already. So, this phrase has already been turned in the Dharma wheel of Buddhist patriarchs; it is the Buddhist Patriarch’s Dharma wheel turning.7

The translation produced in the first year of the Shinryu era (Shenlong in 705 CE) is the ten fascicle version of the Surangama Sutra. The older ones are entitled Surangama-samadhi sutra, translated by Kumarajiva; this is a different sutra from the Surangama Sutra, which is a Chinese apocryphal scripture. Here Dogen doubts the authenticity of the Surangama Sutra, but he says that once a sentence from the sutra is quoted and used by ancestors to express the Dharma, the statement can be thought of as turning the Dharma wheel.11

Similar criticism in Bendowa, Question Ten

In Bendowa and Shobogenzo Sokushinzebutsu (The Mind itself is Buddha), Dogen criticized the theory that the mind-nature is permanent and forms are arising and perishing. This teaching is what Dogen thought came from the same ideas Zongmi wrote based on the Surangama Sutra and the Complete Enlightenment Sutra. I think that to clearly understand Dogen’s points in these two writings, it is important to know why Dogen does not appreciate these two sutras. Question ten in Bendowa is about the problem. First Dogen formulated the question, then he wrote the reply to the question.

[Question 10] Someone has said, “Do not grieve over life and death. There is an instantaneous means for separating from life and death. It is to understand the principle that mind-nature is permanent. This means that even though the body that is born will inevitably be carried into death, still this mind-nature never perishes. If you really understand that the mind-nature existing in our body is not subject to birth and death, then since it is the original nature, although the body is only a temporary form haphazardly born here and dying, the mind is permanent and unchangeable in the past, present and future. To know this is called release from life and death. Those who know this principle will forever extinguish their rounds of life and death and when their bodies perish they enter into the ocean of original nature. When they stream into this ocean, they are truly endowed with the same wondrous virtues as the Buddha-Tathagatas. Now, even though you know this, because your body was produced by the delusory karma of previous lives, you are not the same as the sages. Those who do not yet know this must forever transmigrate within the realm of life and death. Consequently, you need comprehend only the permanence of mind-nature. What can you expect from vainly spending your whole life doing quiet sitting? “Is such an opinion truly in accord with the way of buddhas and ancestors?8

Life and death in this case refers to transmigration within samsara. In this teaching, we dont need to grieve over suffering in samsara, and we dont need to practice. This mind nature is shinsho (心性), shin is mind; sho is nature. This is one of the expressions Guifeng Zongmi used. We should see the permanence of mind-nature. Even though phenomenal body and mind are impermanent, this mind-nature is permanent. Just to see the permanence of mind-nature is an instantaneous method to become free from suffering. If this is true, it’s pretty easy to be released from samsara. We don’t need to practice.
This theory says that our life with this body is like a river. Until the river reaches the ocean, we are living as individual persons and experiencing different things and we attach to certain things and we hate certain things and we suffer. But once we return to the ocean, we become free from the body. The body is the source of delusions, but this mind nature is always pure. When this mind-nature returns to the ocean of original nature, we are free from the suffering12 of samsara and become like buddhas. Why do we have to go through a difficult practice such as zazen? 

According to this theory, we don’t need to practice. We just need to know that mind nature is permanent and undefiled, and even if we don’t practice at all, when we die we become buddhas. This is an interesting teaching. As long as we are living, we’re no good, and our practice doesn’t work. What we have to do is wait until we die. Then we become buddhas. It seems easy. However, this means that as long as we are alive we are deluded and we have to suffer. I don’t think this is an easy way of life. 

Bendowa: reply to Question Ten 

Dogen makes up this question and replies by himself as follows:
The idea you have just mentioned is not Buddha-dharma at all, but the fallacious view of Senika. 

This fallacy says that there is a spiritual intelligence in one’s body which discriminates love and hatred or right and wrong as soon as it encounters phenomena, and has the capacity to distinguish all such things as pain and itching or suffering and pleasure. Furthermore, when this body perishes, the spirit nature escapes and is born elsewhere. Therefore although it seems to expire here, since [the spiritual nature] is born somewhere, it is said to be permanent, never perishing. Such is this fallacious doctrine. However to learn this theory and suppose it is buddha-dharma is more stupid than grasping a tile or a pebble and thinking it is a golden treasure. Nothing can compare to the shamefulness of this idiocy. National teacher Echu of Tang China strictly admonished [against this mistake]. So now isn’t it ridiculous to consider that the erroneous view of mind as permanent and material form as impermanent is the same as the wondrous dharma of the buddhas, and to think that you become free from life and death when actually you are arousing the fundamental cause of life and death? This indeed is most pitiful. Just realize that this is a mistaken view. You should give no ear to it.9

Senika is one of the non-Buddhist teachers that appears in the Mahayana Parinirvana Sutra. What Dogen says here in Bendowa is the same as what he says in Eihei Koroku; this theory that insists that mind-nature is permanent is the same as the non-Buddhist teaching. 

This spiritual intelligence is a translation of reichi (霊知) and that is exactly the same word that Guifeng Zongmi used to describe one bright jewel in his writing when he compared the four lineages of Zen in the Tang Dynasty. When this spiritual intelligence encounters a certain object, it creates some discrimination. This spiritual nature escapes from our body when we die as the owner of a house goes out when the house is burned and gets a new house. 
Dogen repeats exactly the same discussion in Shobogenzo Sokushin-zebutsu (The Mind Itself is Buddha). There he quotes a long conversation between Nanyan Huizhong (Nanyo Echu,13675-775) regarding the same theory of Senika. The expression “mind itself is Buddha” is by Mazu (Baso), a disciple of Nanyan’s Dharma brother Nanyue Huairang (Nangaku Ejo,677-744). Dogen does not agree with the teaching of Guifeng Zongmi written in his text. 
If we interpret Xuansha’s saying, “The entire ten-direction world is one bright jewel,” according to the same usage of the analogy that appeared in Zongmi’s writing, then probably Dogen didn’t agree with it. What is Dogen’s understanding of Xuansa’s statement? Is there any difference between what Xuansha said and Dogen’s interpretation of Xuansha’s saying? This is the point of studying Shobogenzo Ikkamyoju (One Bright Jewel). What I have been discussing is a kind of preparation before starting to read Dogen’s insight about this analogy of “one bright jewel”. 

Dogen is really a difficult person with whom to practice. In a sense, he’s so stubborn and picky. Many Zen texts agree with this theory in these sutras and Zongmi’s. Dogen is a very unusual and unique Zen master. To be his student is a difficult thing. 

Shodoka, a poem by Yongjia Xuanjue

I pointed to the examples of usage of this analogy of “one bright jewel” in Zen Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty. I think Dogen didn’t agree the theory behind the expressions. He needed to make his own interpretation of what this bright jewel is. Obviously this bright jewel is a metaphor of Buddha nature, bussho in Japanese. We need to understand what Dogen’s understanding of Buddha nature is. 

Before I start to read the text, I’d like to introduce one more example of the same kind of idea in one of the famous pieces of Zen literature written in the Tang Dynasty. This is a very well known and important poem written by Yongjia Xuanjue (Yoka Genkaku, 665-713). This person was another disciple of the Sixth Ancestor Huineng (Eno, 638-713), and yet he stayed with Huineng only one night. On the day he visited the Sixth Ancestor, he attained enlightenment and he left. He is a Dharma brother of Nanyan Huizhong and Nanyue Huairang. He used to be a Tendai monk, a great scholar and also a very skillful poet. He wrote a long poem entitled Shodoka (Song of Enlightenment of the Way).

I found a translation by D. T Suzuki. In this poem Yongjia Xuanjue wrote about this metaphor of mani jewel as follows: 

The whereabouts of the precious mani-jewel is not known to people generally, Which lies deeply buried in the recesses of the Tathagata-garbha;
The six-fold function miraculously performed by it is an illusion and yet not an illusion, 
The rays of light emanating from one perfect sun belong to the realm of form and yet not to it.10

As it is generally said, people don’t see this bright jewel. It is something hidden deeply within us. In this translation it says “the sixfold function miraculously performed by it…” Six-fold function refers to the function of the six sense organs when they encounter the six14 objects of sense organs. This refers to what we do every day, the things happening between subject and object such as seeing, hearing, sensing and knowing. All these things we do are done by this hidden bright jewel, Buddha Nature. This bright jewel is the subject of seeing, hearing, etc. 

D.T. Suzuki translates, “…is an illusion and yet not an illusion.” I’m not sure if this is the right translation or not. The original word Xuanjue used is ku (􀀄) and fuku (􀀇􀀄). Ku isemptiness and fuku is not emptiness. This means that the conditioned color of blackness is empty but the bright jewel itself is not empty but substance as Zongmi said. 

The next line, The rays of light emanating from one perfect sun belong to the realm of form and yet not to it, is like this in Chinese:􀀂􀀈􀀃􀀅􀀆􀀇􀀆􀀁􀀂􀀈 is the same word as ikkain ikka-myoju, which means one piece. Even though D.T. Suzuki translated it as perfect sun, I think this one-piece refers to the mani jewel. 􀀆􀀇􀀆(shiki fu-shiki) is form and not form. I would translate this line : The perfect light of the one [bright jewel] is both form and not-form.

Of course ku and shiki came from the Heart Sutra,
shiki soku ze ku, ku soku ze shiki”. That is what this means. “Not ku” means shiki and “not shiki” means ku, so ku and shiki interpenetrate each other. That is what is said in the Heart Sutra. Form is nothing other than emptiness and emptiness is nothing other than form. The function between subject and object are performed by this hidden bright jewel. And these are at the same time emptiness (conditioned color) and not emptiness (bright jewel) and the light of the bright jewel is both form and yet not-form. That is what is written in this poem. So here we can see a kind of a combination between the teaching of emptiness and the theory of tathagata-garbha (buddha nature). The author of this poem or the theory in the Surangama Sutra and the Perfect Enlightenment Sutra combined these two. In a sense, this theory is an integration or mixture of theory of emptiness, Yogacara’s consciousness only, and tathagata-garbha. 

Dogen’s Understanding of the Bright Jewel
This poem is still considered as a classic of Zen Buddhism and no one thinks that this is a heretical teaching. This is considered an authentic Zen teaching. Probably Dogen is a rare Zen master who didn’t like this idea. The interactions of our six sense organs and the six objects of the sense organs are something we carry out day-to-day. Yet this poem says that there is something which is hidden and that that hidden thing called tathagata-garbha (buddha nature) is the subject that performs these day-to-day things. Here are two layers of reality; one is phenomena and another is probably, in Western philosophical world, called noumenon. Buddha Nature in this case is noumenon and things happening between subject and object are phenomena, and these phenomenal things are a function of the noumenon. That is the basic structure of this idea. I think this is what Dogen didn’t like, probably because viewing it from his practice of zazen, this theory is dualistic. There is the duality of phenomena and noumenon, or Buddha nature15and our day-to-day activities or one bright jewel and its conditioned black color. That is, I think, the basic problem for Dogen; thus he thinks this theory is not in accord with Buddhist teaching. 

Then, in the case of Dogen, what is this bright jewel? I think, the bright jewel in Dogen’s teaching is like a drop of water that is illuminated by moonlight. In the case of the structure of the theory of noumenon and phenomena, there’s no relation between phenomenal things. But as Dogen defines delusion and realization in his Genjokoan, delusion and realization are only within the relationship between self and myriad dharmas. In Genjokoan, Dogen used the word jiko(􀀂􀀁) and banpo(􀀄􀀃), and he said that conveying the self toward myriad things and carry out practice-enlightenment is delusion, and all myriad things coming toward the self and carrying out practice-enlightenment through the self is realization. 

In Shobogenzo Sokushinzebutsu (The Mind is itself Buddha), Dogen quotes Nanyan Huizong’s conversation with a monk from the south who criticizes the Zen teaching in the south, saying that the theory is the same as Senika’s, the non-Buddhist. Then the monk from the south asked Huizong, “Then what is the ancient Buddha mind?” Huizong replied, “Fences, walls, tiles and pebbles.” Dogen quotes this saying in Shobogenzo Kobutsushin (The Ancient Buddha Mind) and says at the end of Sokushinzebutsu, “The mind that has been authentically transmitted is one-mind is all things and all things are one-mind.” Here there is no duality between noumenon (the bright jewel) and phenomenal things (black color). I think Huizong and Dogen mention the interconnectedness of phenomenal things within the network of Indra’s Net. 
It’s not a matter of there being Buddha nature that is like a diamond inside the self and to find this diamond is realization. Dogen doesn’t like this idea. If this is the case, our practice is to find something inside ourselves, and we would be able to attain so-called realization or enlightenment when we’ve found this inner diamond. Then it would have nothing to do with our relationship with others. But in the case of Dogen, practice-enlightenment is to transform the way of our life. Transformation of our life can be only within the relationship between self and myriad things. 

In the same writing (Genjokoan), he says that the self is like a drop of water; it’s a tiny thing, and it is impermanent. The moonlight is the light of myriad dharmas. The self is a part of the network of interconnectedness of myriad things. This way of existing is the bright jewel. The bright jewel is not a permanent noumenon. We and all myriad things are born, stay for a while, and disappear; nothing is permanent. And yet this tiny drop of water is illuminated by all dharmas. There are numerous things and they are all interconnected with each other. Without this connection, this tiny drop of water cannot exist even for one moment. This bright jewel is like a knot of Indra’s net and each knot is a bright jewel. This bright jewel or drop of water is illuminated by everything, and this bright jewel or drop of water also illuminates everything. In this case,16this self is a part of the moonlight. This is like five fingers and one hand. One hand is simply a collection of five fingers. One hand is not a noumenon of five fingers. Practice-enlightenment or delusion and realization exist only within this relationship between self and all other beings. There is the difference of framework between the one bright jewel as noumenon and as a part of interdependent origination. I think this is the point Dogen wants to show us. 

When Dogen interprets Xuansha’s saying, “This entire ten-direction world is one bright jewel,” he is talking about the relationship between self and myriad things within the structure of the network of interdependent origination.

Everything is reflected in one thing and, because this is a net, when we touch the one knot we touch the entire net. There is no separation between self and myriad things. It’s really one seamless reality. And yet within our views it seems subject and object are separate. Unless we understand this point and interpret the title “One Bright Jewel,” we don’t really understand what Dogen is talking about and why he had to say it in this way. Dogen’s interpretation might be different from what Xuansha expressed with this expression as I interpreted in the last issue based on Zongmi’s comparison of the four lineages.

2 Responses
  1. There is new and important information about the authenticity of the Surangama Sutra. I wrote a long piece on it. It explains who translated it originally from Sanskrit into Tibetan. I put the link below.

  2. Soh Says:

    Thanks. Where is the link?