Thusness and I like this book very much. It discusses the energetics and somatic experience of Yoga practice in relation with the insight of Thusness's seven phases. As Thusness said, "This is a very good. To interprete yoga sutra in anatta insight is my practice... should not only see from anatta but must see from yoga also." "Realization is quite the same insight as the seven phases... ...This is a very good book written from very deep experiential insights."

The author, Godfrey Devereux, is a yoga teacher who was awakened under the guidance of Zen Master Genpo Roshi.

You can buy the book here:

His website:

Some of his writings: 

"click here to open a PDF excerpt from this book in a new window. Never before have the Yogasutras of Patanjali been cast into such a clear light.
Stripped of metaphysical jargon Yoga is revealed as a depth psychology as pragmatic as it is profound. In releasing Patanjali's analysis of human perception and cogntion from academic sepculation his vision becomes the perfect antidote to contemporary pop psychology and pseudo-spirituality.
The subtleties of human consciousness so tersely etched by Patanjali are fleshed out by Godfrey into a clear and relevant presentation of the pitfalls and possibilities of human intelligence. Just reading through the glossary of the technical terms will provide you with clear and profound insights into the subtleties of your own mind.
The short introduction provides a simple insight into the core of the text, before Godfrey original and provocative translation begins the process of demystifaction that then continues into his commentary. The sutras themselves are explained, either individually or in contextual groups, in terms that will make deep sense to anyone with a practical interest in yoga, meditation or human intelligence."
Also see: Fearless Samadhi

Very good text from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, translated with commentary by Francesca Fremantle and Chogyam Trungpa

Based on a text by


O child, whatever you see, however terrifying it is, recognize it as your own projection; recognize it as the luminosity, the natural radiance of your own mind. If you recognize in this way, you will become a buddha at that very moment, there is no doubt. What is called perfect instantaneous enlightenment will arise on the spot. Remember!

...At that moment do not be afraid of the yellow light, luminous and clear, sharp and bright, but recognize it as wisdom. Let your mind rest in it, relaxed, in a state of nonaction, and be drawn to it with longing. If you recognize it as the natural radiance of your own mind, even though you do not feel devotion and do not say the inspiration-prayer, all the forms and lights and rays will merge inseparably with you, and you will attain enlightenment...
~ Padmasambhava"

"May the element of space not rise up as an
may I see the Realm of the blue buddha.
May the element of water not rise up as enemy,
may I see the realm of the white buddha.
May the element of earth not rise up as an
may I see the realm of the yellow buddha.
May the element of fire not rise up as an
may I see the realm of the red buddha.
May the element of air not rise up as an enemy.
may I see the realm of the green buddha.
May the rainbow of the elements not rise up as
may I see the realms of all the buddhas.
May the sounds, lights and rays not rise up as
may I see the infinite realms of the Peaceful
and Wrathful Ones.
May I know all the sounds as my own sound,
may I know all the lights as my own light,
may I know all the rays as my own ray.
May I spontaneously know the bardo as myself,
may I attain the realms of the three kāyas.

...When the journey of my life has reached its
and since no relatives go with me from this
I wander in the bardo state alone,
may the peaceful and wrathful buddhas send
out the power of their compassion
and clear away the dense darkness of
When parted from beloved friends, wandering
my own projections’ empty forms appear,
may the buddhas send out the power of their
so that the bardo’s terrors do not come
When the five luminous lights of wisdom shine,
fearlessly may I recognize myself;
when the forms of the peaceful and wrathful
ones appear,
fearless and confident may I recognize the
When I suffer through the power of evil karma,
may the peaceful and wrathful buddhas clear
away suffering;
when the sound of dharmatā roars like a
thousand thunders,
may it be transformed into the sound of
mahāyāna teaching
When I follow my karma, without a refuge,
may the peaceful and wrathful buddhas be my
when I suffer the karma of unconscious
may the samādhi of bliss and luminosity arise
. "

Homage to Padmasambhava 🙏
Thusness wrote in 2009:

‘Psychological pain’ is directly related to our ‘sense of self’. The sense of self is directly related our deeply rooted ‘inherent and dualistic thought’. This pain is an indication that we have not fully recognized the cause and many faces of the arising ‘sense of Self/self’ and that includes the attempt to remain as an unaffected passive observer. If we prescribe the wrong medicine, then there is no cure. Therefore your experience that “remaining as a detach observer doesn’t seem to eliminate the pain and anxiety yet breathing exercises and some physical exercises do” is a precious realization. There are 2 parts to it.

First we must realize why we equate ‘detachment’ to this ‘unaffected and passive observer’. It is due to an incomplete insight of our pristine yet non-dual and empty nature of awareness. It is partly due to our direct and non-conceptual experience of our “Unborn, pristine and luminous nature “of awareness and partly due to the karmic tendency of solidify experience. When this direct experience is understood from the lens of a ”dualistic and inherent” framework, it is natural that we view “a passive observer” as the way to solve this psychological pain.

Second, in addition to the ‘unborn, pristine and luminous’ aspect of awareness, we must have a more thorough and deeper insight into our ‘intimate, inseparable, non-dual and dependent originated’ aspect of Awareness. This relates to why “breathing exercises and some physical exercises is able to relieve psychological pain". We must directly and deeply experience what is meant by “inseparable” from the transient and understand “beingness” is never apart from whatever arises.

Lastly what that is ‘unborn, pristine and luminous’ cannot be “dependent and inseparable from the transient” appears sound only logically but not experientially. It will first seem illogical and unnatural to accept such an idea, but when the tendency to dualify and solidify experience subsides, then scenery, taste, scent, sound, breathe, the sensation of our feet touching the ground…all arising will help lighten this psychological pain. Therefore fearlessly, unreservedly and completely open to whatever arises.
Thusness and I like the articles in this site very much.…/

Both dharma teachers (Yogi Prabodha Jnana and Yogini Abhaya Devi) are yogis that went for 9 years retreat and trained in the Nyingma lineage.

Their main practice is Dzogchen. They went for 9 years retreat and was encouraged by their gurus to teach. Their gurus are Kyabje Penor Rinpoche, Kyabje Karma Kuchen Rinpoche and the three Khenchens of Namdroling Monastery.

Here's the article "Bodhidharma Teachings":

Breaking the Silence – The Teachings of Bodhidharma

Bodhidharma Teachings
In this second part of the trilogy on Bodhidharma, let us go deeper into his teachings, including the two methods Bodhidharma taught for entering the Way of Awakening.  We shall also see how Bodhidharma’s teachings fit within the broader context of various Mahayana methods.

View other parts of this Trilogy at 

Bodhidharma Life StoryPart I – Transcending Movement and Stillness – The Life of Bodhidharma
Part III – The Wild Leaps of Awakening – Bodhidharma and Martial Arts

 Bodhidharma taught through silence and words, and through resting and movement. Sometimes he just sat silent and dissolved the conceptual proliferations of seekers in that silence. Sometimes, he used abrupt and loud words and expressions to totally shift the mindset of disciples and to bring to dust their  frames of reference. In resting like a mountain, gazing at the empty wall of mind’s nature, he showed how the mind of dualities and conceptual proliferations comes to rest in the basic space of the perception and the perceived1. In moving like a wild goose spreading its wings, he showed how the perception and the perceived never harm the silence of the basic space.

The View from the Summit

View from the Summit

In the view of awakening, as expressed by the Buddha in the Prajna-paramita-sutras, Lankavatara-sutra, and so on, the perception and the perceived are seen to be unborn, without a beginning. The perception and the perceived have never ever arisen as independent realities separate from the basic space of all phenomenal arising2.  Realizing this principle cannot be the result of seeking. It is rather like seeing the entire landscape from the top of a high summit by resting and not seeking. All teachings of the Buddha, and particularly Mahayana Sutras, skillfully take disciples to this summit. Bodhidharma’s teachings are in essence no different from this.

There are broadly two approaches to arrive at the summit. One is that of the Nalanda masters. It involves elaborate study and then using the sword of prajna (understanding) through logical reasoning and contemplations to cut one’s conceptual proliferation branch by branch. As the thoughts that proliferates with dualistic conceptions are gradually eliminated with the sword of prajna, one reaches the summit of non-conceptual view that is beyond seeking. The other approach is that of close master-disciple relationship. In this case, by following the skillful personal instructions of a master, the disciple quickly gains a glimpse into that non-conceptual view by instantaneously cutting through whatever obscured true seeing. Then, the disciple trains to rest at the summit of that non-conceptual view of the basic space, without taking recourse to elaborate reasoning and logic. Bodhidharma emphasized the latter.

Bodhidharma’s teachings, matching with his time, made sure that the skillful means of realizing the vast expanse of one’s own mind does not turn into mere religiosity. Buddha-dharma was already very popular by then and people were turning it into religious systems. So, for Bodhidharma, it was important to dismantle the religiosity to show the true meaning of the Buddha’s teachings.

He always emphasized that the purpose of practicing Dharma should be to tame and transform mind, and all the more to realize Buddhahood that is in one’s nature beyond all seeking and rejecting. He repeatedly made it clear that there is no use doing elaborate practices in a religious way if you miss this real meaning and purpose.

Finding the Buddha

Bodhidharma said,
To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature.
Whoever sees one’s own nature is a Buddha.
Invoking Buddhas, reciting Sutras,
Making offerings, and keeping precepts
Are all useless if you don’t see your nature.
Invoking Buddhas results in feeling blessed;
Reciting Sutras results in a good memory;
Keeping precepts results in a good rebirth;
And making offering results in good karma;
Yet, none of those result in finding the Buddha.

Seeking the BuddhaTo find a Buddha all you have to do is to see your own nature. Your own true nature is no different from that of a fully awakened Buddha. If you don’t see your nature, and instead run around all day looking elsewhere, you’ll never find a Buddha. In fact, there’s nothing to find. There is no Buddha to seek elsewhere. Just recognize your own innate potential and let it naturally flourish. There, you find the true Buddha. Invoking Buddhas, reciting Sutras, making offerings, keeping precepts and various other such activities are only to create conditions to get closer to that recognition and to make it easier for it to flourish. But, if you go on looking outwardly to see results from such actions without turning attention towards your own mind, then you won’t find a Buddha. The best one can gain by performing such acts religiously is some good karma, good memory, good rebirth, and feeling blessed, keeping the hope alive, but never Buddhahood!

Thus Bodhidharma’s style was to turn the attention of the disciple inward to the mind, and into its empty nature. The Master leads the disciple into realizing that one’s mind by its very nature is equal to that of a fully awakened Buddha. Yet, when one recognizes the nature of one’s own mind, nothing is found there to cling to as ‘this is mind’. Discovering one’s own Buddhahood in the empty-mind is the essence and the way of Mahayana Buddhism.

Bodhidharma said,
You should realize that the cultivation of the Way does not exist apart from your mind. If your mind is pure, everything is pure as buddha-fields. As sutras states, “If the minds of beings are impure, beings are impure. If the minds of beings are pure, beings are pure,” and “To reach a buddha-field, purify your mind. As your mind becomes pure, everything becomes pure as buddha-fields.” (from the Breakthrough Discourse)

Dissolving the Mind

Dissolving the mind
Though purifying mind is the essence of practicing the Way, it is not done by clinging at the mind as a glorified and absolute entity. It is not that one simply goes inward by rejecting the external world. It is not that the mind is pure and the world is impure. When mind is clear, the world is a pure-field. When mind is deluded, the world is Samsara. Bodhidharma said,
Seeing with insight, form is not simply form, because form depends on mind. And, mind is not simply mind, because mind depends on form. Mind and form create and negate each other.  …  Mind and the world are opposites, appearances arise where they meet. When your mind does not stir inside, the world does not arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is the true insight.” (from the Wakeup Discourse)

Just like the masters of Madhyamaka, Bodhidharma too pointed out that mind and form are interdependently arising. Mind and form create each other. Yet, when you cling to form, you negate mind. And, when you cling to mind, you negate form. Only when such dualistic notions are dissolved, and only when both mind and the world are transparent (not turning to obstructing concepts) the true insight arises.

In this regard, Bodhidharma said,
Using the mind to look for reality is delusion.
Not using the mind to look for reality is awareness.
(from the Wakeup Discourse)

So, to effectively enter the Way, one has to go beyond the dualities (conceptual constructs) of mind and form. As far as one looks for reality as an object of mind, one is still trapped in the net of delusion (of seeing mind and form as independent realities), never breaking free from it. In that way, one holds reality as something other than oneself, and even worse, one holds oneself as a spectator to a separate reality!

When the mind does not stir anymore and settles into its pristine clarity, the world does not stir outside. The reality is revealed beyond the divisions of Self and others, and mind and form.  Thus, as you learn not to use the mind to look for reality and simply rests in the natural state of mind as it is, there is the dawn of pristine awareness –  knowing reality as it is, non-dually and non-conceptually.

When the mind does not dissolve in this way to its original clarity, whatever one sees is merely the stirring of conceptuality. Even if we try to construct a Buddha’s mind, it only stirs and does not see reality. Because, the Buddha’s mind is simply the uncompounded clarity of Bodhi (awakening), free from stirring and constructions. So, Bodhidharma said,
That which ordinary knowledge understands is also said to be within the boundaries of the norms. When you do not produce the mind of a common man, or the mind of a sravaka or a bodhisattva, and when you do not even produce a Buddha-mind or any mind at all, then for the first time you can be said to have gone outside the boundaries of the norms. If no mind at all arises, and if you do not produce understanding nor give rise to delusion, then, for the first time, you can be said to have gone outside of everything. (From the Record #1, of the Collection of Bodhidharma’s Works3 retrieved from Dunhuang Caves)

Often, this approach of simply not using mind and the instruction to rest naturally, are confused with  simply sitting in tranquility or Shamatha. Particularly, those who did not obtain the direct and clear instructions confuse so. Then, though they keep meditating, they do not enter the Way. However, if one understands Bodhidharma’s approach properly, it is not about holding mind in a passive state. His Way is a union of Shamatha (pacification of mind) and Vipashyana (cultivating insight). For example, Bodhidharma gave the following instructions regarding how to work with the mind that arises,
When mind arises, rely on teachings to watch the source where it arises from. If mind discriminates, rely on teachings to watch the source of discrimination. If attachment, anger or deluded thoughts arise, rely on teachings to watch the source they arise from. [When nothing arises,] not seeking for their arisings is cultivating the Way. When there is arising of thought, then investigate, and by relying on teachings, clear it up!(From the Record #1, of the Collection of Bodhidharma’s Works retried from Dunhuang Caves)

As it is evident from the above, Bodhidharma’s approach of dissolving mind is through insight, and not that of holding mind in a passive state. Various states of meditation attained through simply pacifying mind into various states of absorption (dhyana) are merely temporary and do not lead to real insight and liberation. Whereas, when  the dualistic mind is dissolved through insight, and then by simply resting in that insight, there is the view of reality, and thus liberation.

Thus, Bodhidharma clarified,
Not creating delusion is enlightenment.
Not engaging in ignorance is wisdom
No affliction is Nirvana.
(from the Wakeup Discourse)

Breaking the Silence

Bodhidharma spent nine years meditating in a cave near Shaolin Monastery

Bodhidharma kept silence for many years and stayed in a Samadhi of clear insight. He said,
Freeing oneself from words is liberation. (from the Wakeup Discourse)

The words, even when not spoken out, are proliferations of a conceptual and dualistic mind. To dissolve mind, it is important to free oneself from such proliferations and be able to rest naturally. Yet, he cautioned that a dumb kind of silence should not be confused as the Way. So, in the same discourse, he mocked those who glorify the silence of stupidity,
Those who understand both speech and silence are in Samadhi. If you speak when you know, your speech is free. If you are silent when you don’t know, your silence is bondage. If your speech is not attached to appearances, it is free. If your silence is attached to appearances, it is bondage. Language by itself is not bondage. Because, language by itself is not attachment. And, attachment has nothing to do with language. (from the Wakeup Discourse)

Clearly, it does not matter whether you speak or keep silence as far as either of it is from a point of wisdom and understanding. And, even the silence can be bondage if there is attachment and the lack of insight. In fact, the depth of inner silence of realization can pervade every spoken word. Then, words transcend silence and stirring.

The Two Ways to Enter the Way

The wide-eyed yogi, Bodhidharma
Bodhidharma (Daruma) – a 15th Century painting. (Photo courtesy – Kyoto National Museum)

Bodhidharma’s approach to the Way can be classified into two methods. In one of his famed teachings in China, he spoke of these two kinds of entry to the Way. They are,
  1. Entering the Way through Insight – The instantaneous Entrance to the Way
  2. Entering the Way through Practice – The Gradual Entrance to the Way

Entering the Way through Insight

Entering the Way through insight happens when a disciple of high caliber listens to the instructions of the master, and then leaving behind all deluded pursuits, directly gains insight into the empty nature of mind. Then without making distinction between self and others, one maintains a stable and clear mind like a wall. This is the instantaneous entrance to the Way that Bodhidharma is most well known for. Relaxing in the stable and clear nature of the empty mind is the meditation that is unmoving like a wall. Unmoving does not mean that the mind is lost in vacuity with no thought and perception at all. It also does not mean that one is just sitting all the time. It is not that kind of unmoving. Even while various perceptions and experiences arise, one remains unmoving from the insight of the empty nature of mind and evenness of knowing that all beings possess Buddha-nature. As Bodhidharma said,
To transcend motion and stillness is the highest meditation. (from the Wakeup Sermon)

In this way, Bodhidharma’s approach is not that of just remaining still in body and mind, but that of meditation transcending motion and stillness. It is about maintaining unmoving realization of the reality throughout all actions of life, or simply, ‘unmoving meditation in action’.

Zen Master Dogen
Zen Master Dogen
The sitting meditation of Bodhidharma is also known as ‘Wall-gazing Meditation’ (Pi-kuan in Chinese). Though in certain traditions of Chan/Zen, it is practiced by facing a wall, its meaning is not limited to simply gazing at the wall. In this, one trains to abandon all conceptuality and relax in the utter clarity of mind. As a poetic expression, it is like directly ‘gazing’ into the empty wall of the  mind’s nature. However, in practice there is nothing to gaze as the nature of mind transcends object-subject dualities. So one simply relaxes in the natural clarity of mind.

Often, Bodhidharma’s approach of entering the Way through insight is confused with purely sitting meditation, devoid of everything else. In fact, his tradition got the name Zen School or Chan School (which literally means Meditation School) because ordinary people confused this to be just always sitting in meditation. As Dogen, a later master of Zen and the founder of Soto School of Zen in Japan pointed out in his Bendowa,
At first, while Master Bodhidharma sat facing the wall for nine years …, both monks and non-monastics … called him the sage who just practiced zazen (sitting meditation) as the essence. After that, his successors for generations practiced zazen. Seeing this, foolish worldly people, who did not understand what goes on in the sitting, in confusion [of seeing only the outer form] called this the ‘Zazen School’ (the school of sitting meditation). … Do not take zazen to be same as the samadhi [of the three trainings of discipline, samadhi and wisdom], or dhyāna (meditation) of the six perfections. [The true zazen practice is what] Tathagata in the assembly at Vulture Peak (Grhakuta Mountain of Rajgir) transmitted to Venerable Mahakashyapa, the unsurpassed great transmission of the wondrous mind of Nirvana, the vision of dharma-eye. … It is a complete Way of Buddhadharma 

Entering the Way through Practice

Though the instantaneous approach of entering the Way through insight appears simple, it is difficult to gain instantaneous insight for most people even when a Master guides them to the view. So, Bodhidharma also taught a gradual way of entrance to the Way that is easy for all. This is ‘entering the Way through practice’. This has four practices,
  1. Accepting Suffering
  2. Adapting to Conditions
  3. Seeking nothing
  4. To unite with the Way

The first step in the gradual way is to learn not to react foolishly to sufferings arising from karmic ripening of past deeds. By reacting negatively, we only add more fuel to the karmic ripenings. In the face of painful situations that life presents, a skillful practitioner spends his or her energy in creating positive conditions and doing positive deeds rather than lamenting or reacting to painful situations negatively. This brings a first level sanity to life.

From Bodhidharma's Wakeup DiscourseThe second step is a little more advanced. Adapting to conditions is about realizing that all painful and pleasurable incidents of life are conditional and would also go away as conditions change. A skillful practitioner learns to maintain evenness of mind during both happiness and suffering, without giving into excessive elations and depression. This leads to profound clarity and  peace of mind.

The third step is even more advanced. Seeking nothing means that one has already realized a mind of contentment and  sees the meaninglessness of all selfish pursuits. In this stage, one even abandons seeking enlightenment. It does not mean that one remains inactive or shies away from action. Rather, one enjoys engaging in heroic pursuits for the benefit of others. (same as relative bodhicitta.)

As the final stage of the gradual way, the practitioner unites with the Way by seeing the emptiness of Self and all phenomena and by recognizing the empty expanse of the ground of all phenomena.

Honoring the Words of the Buddha

Though Bodhidharma emphasized the need to go to the essential meaning than merely reading scriptures, he also valued scriptural knowledge. In fact, Bodhidharma held Sutras in high esteem. Particularly he held that Mahayana Lankavatara Sutra contains the essential teachings of the instantaneous realization tradition of Mahayana. When Bodhidharma made Huike his Dharma successor, along with his robe and bowl he passed on a copy of the scripture of Lankavatara Sutra.

The Teachings Go further East

Bodhidharma’s teachings spread mainly in China and further east in Korea and Japan. His teachings later evolved into the instantaneous tradition of the Southern Chan school of China and the gradual tradition of the Northern Chan school of China. These teachings reached Vietnam through an Indian master named Vinītaruci who was a disciple of the Chinese master Sengcan, who in turn was a disciple of Huike, the heart disciple of Bodhidharma.  In Vietnam this school came to be known as the Thien school. The Chinese Chan school propagated to Japan when Myoan Eisai learnt it in China and established the Rinzai Zen School, following the Chinese tradition of the Linji Chan school.  Further, Dogen learnt from the Chinese tradition of the Caodong Chan school and established the Soto Zen school in Japan. All of these schools practice the meditation of just sitting and resting in the unborn nature of all appearances without seeking or rejecting appearances. The difference among these schools is in the additional supports they use such as Sutra recitation, contemplation on koans (verses, often with seemingly paradoxical meaning, supposed to take the disciple beyond conceptuality), walking meditation, etc.

Placing in a Broader Context

During the 8th century CE, Bodhidharma’s teachings (Chan) reached Tibet from China. And that provides a unique opportunity to review Bodhidharma’s teachings in the context of many other Mahayana Buddhist teachings that arrived in Tibet. Tibetan Buddhism had both the pandita methods (those who made thorough scholarly study to enter the Way of awakening) and the kusulu methods (those who just practiced the essence of non-conceptual realization, without much scholarly study). These pandita and kusulu methods blended into an integral whole in Tibet with the same lineages and masters handling both kinds of methods together. Thus, the Tibetan scholars were able to come up with some of the best works of systematizing, contrasting and co-developing various methods of awakening, without denigrating one style for another. Since Chan tradition did not survive in Tibet for long, Bodhidharma’s teachings do not occupy a place in the analytical works of later Tibetan scholars. However, during the short period of the Chan presence in Tibet, some important scholarly works were composed that covered Bodhidharma’s tradition.

Nub Sangye Yeshe’s Classification of the Four Systems

Nub Sangye Yeshe
Nubchen Sangye Yeshe

Amongst those were Nubchen Sangye Yeshe’s composition of a very important work, with the name Samten Migdron (Lamp to the Eye of Meditation). Nubchen was a direct disciple of Guru Padmasambhava who brought Vajrayana Buddhism from India to Tibet. Nubchen’s work analyzed all the traditions of Mahayana Buddhist meditation into four systems with equal respect. This work also helps to distinguish between Chan / Zen and Atiyoga, and to avoid mixing up of the two methods.

Samten Migdron was lost for a long time. A manuscript of this text was recovered in early 20th Century from the Dunhuang caves in China. This became a very helpful source to see how Bodhidharma’s teaching style fits within the broader context of Mahayana Buddhism.

Nubchen classified Mahayana Meditation of the union of Shamatha (calm-abiding meditation) and Vipashyana (insight meditation) broadly into four systems. These are
Two methods of Sutrayana
  1. Gradual
  2. Instantaneous 
 and the two of Vajrayana
  1. Mahayoga (generation and completion stage practices of Mantrayana) 
  2. Atiyoga (the Great Perfection or Dzogchen practice). 

All of these four have their own respective ways of arriving at the union of shamatha and vipashyana on the unborn and empty nature of the basic space of all phenomena, and attaining liberation in that basic space.

According to Nubchen’s classification, the Gradual Sutrayana refers to the path of gradually abandoning various conceptual clingings and gradually realizing the unborn and empty nature of the space of all phenomena. Here, one cultivates non-conceptuality with respect to various phenomenal appearances, and that gradually leads to the basic space.

The second system, the Instantaneous Sutrayana, is what Nubchen identifies  primarily as the teachings of the Great Abbot Bodhidharmottara (or Bodhidharma), particularly ‘Entering the Way through Insight’ (Nubchen also deals with many other masters of Chan / Zen as belonging to this category). According to Nubchen, this method teaches the unborn nature of the space of all phenomena from the very beginning. The practice here is that of wall-gazing as the union of shamatha and vipashyana by training to rest in the unborn ultimate nature. According to Nubchen, this unborn nature is the parinishpanna svabhāva (Perfect Nature) of the unborn space as in Yogacara. Here one cultivates non-conceptuality with respect to the emptiness of all phenomena. In other words, one cultivates non-conceptuality with respect to non-appearances4, without clinging to a conceptual notion of emptiness.

The third, Mahayoga, refers to the generation and completion stage practices of the Vajrayana. Here, one cultivates the non-dual non-conceptuality of the inseparability of the unborn space and wisdom-appearances.

The fourth, Atiyoga, refers to Great Perfection or Dzogchen. Here, a disciple is directly introduced to the play of his or her pristine awareness that is inseparable from the unborn space of all phenomena. In Atiyoga, one directly rests in the spontaneously present non-conceptuality where there is no reference for meditation, such as the object or subject. In this spontaneously present non conceptuality, emptiness and appearances are naturally unified.

Prasangika Madhyamaka and Bodhidharma

In the context of the above analysis, it is also interesting to compare Prasangika Madhyamaka with Bodhidharma’s method. Though these two methods of entering the Way differ drastically, the qualities of their meditation are essentially the same.

Prasangika uses consequential reasoning (the logic of reduction-ad-absurdum) to see the absurdity of every possible conceptual elaboration. Here, conceptual elaborations include the views such as existence, non-existence, both and neither. As one studies scriptures and thoroughly analyzes, one gains certainty in the absurdity of all such conceptual positions. Having gained certainty through such analysis and contemplation, one’s mind comes to rest in the uncontrived nature of mind, giving rise to self-arisen wisdom that is in the nature of mind. (Nubchen Sangey Yeshe did not analyze Prasangika as a separate system in Samten Migdron. However, since the Prasangika approach is to cut all extremes of existence, non-existence and so on simultaneously, its meditation is the same as what Nubchen explains for the Instantaneous Sutrayana, namely, that of non-conceptuality of non-appearance.)

Unlike Prasangika, Chan / Zen does not use elaborate logic and reasoning to analyze every possible position. Instead, a disciple in this case relies on the individualized instructions of a realized Master to move from the position where he or she is stuck  to the point of gaining glimpse into the view of the unborn nature. The effectiveness of this approach depends on the ability of both the master and the disciple. Though a detailed Madhyamaka style analysis is not performed, some systems of Chan / Zen use riddles (koan). Riddles are chosen by the Master depending upon where the disciple is stuck currently. The real Chan / Zen according to ‘Entering the Way through Insight’ (Instantaneous Entrance) starts only when gradually the disciple arrives at the gate of having a glimpse of the unborn nature.

View the Complete Trilogy at 

Bodhidharma – a Trilogy on His Life and Teachings

Authors – Yogini Abhaya Devi Yogi Prabodha Jnana

Yogini Abhaya Devi
Find me at

Yogini Abhaya Devi





Yogi Prabodha Jnana wrote in


Dear Atul,
It is not only about recognizing the reflections as reflections, but also recognizing that there is no mirror (no mind)! Knowing that everything is a projection of mind, is just part of the hundreds and thousands of explanations that lead the disciple. Further, when you directly see and understand (recognize) the nature of yourself, the nature of your own mind, only then you see and truly understand the meaning of even the statement, “everything is projection of mind”.


The abbot of the Sanbô-Zen

    I think that there is no one who has not heard the name Descartes. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was a great philosopher and mathematician born in France. He was a contemporary with the great physicist, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), born in Italy Descartes, in Discourse on the Method, a work published in 1637, wrote, “I think, therefore I am.”1 These words, signifying the comprehension of the existence of the self as a reality beyond doubt, formed probably the most famous and most important proposition in the history of modern philosophy. For that reason Descartes is called the Father of Modern Philosophy.
    The process of Descartes’ cognitive methodology in the Discourse on the Method is, to put it simply: “If something can be doubted even a little, it must be completely rejected.” Those things which we usually think of as correct must be completely rejected should there be even the faintest doubt about them. In such a process even the proposition that 1 + 1 = 2, which seems to be self-evident reasoning, is rejected. However, Descartes asserts that the one thing that cannot be excluded and remains last of all is the perception “I think, therefore I am.” Is this true? Should this be rejected? Certainly there is a self which thinks about the self thinking. This fact cannot be denied.
    But was Descartes really right?
    Descartes was mistaken. I cannot help but say so. Perhaps someone will say to me, “Do you really think that you have the knowledge and intelligence sufficient to refute the conclusion drawn by one of the greatest thinkers known to us, someone who thoroughly thought through the problem and reached a conclusion affirmed by everyone?” It goes without saying that I do not have the knowledge and intelligence of Descartes. However, this is not a question of knowledge and intelligence. It is rather a question of the real world discovered through experience.
    Descartes is mistaken in a number of points.First of all, the proposition itself, “I think, therefore I am” is a tautological contradiction. The contradiction lies in the fact that while the proposition seeks to show the process whereby one can know the existence of “I,” already from the start it is presupposing that existence in the words, “I think.” This contradiction seems at first to be only a matter of word usage and not something essential to the argument. However, it is really closely tied up with the essence of the problem.
    To think about “Is this correct? Is this mistaken?” is something that cannot be denied. “Thinking” is a reality that cannot be excluded. Up to this point it is true just as Descartes maintained. However, the next step in which Descartes knows the existence of “I” by “therefore I am” is where Descartes fell into error. Where in the world did Descartes bring in this “I”? Where in the world did Descartes find this “I”? I must say that as soon as Descartes started with “I think,” he already had fallen into this error.
    “Thinking” is a reality that cannot be denied. But there is nothing beyond that reality of “thinking.” No matter where you look, something called “I” does not exist. No matter how much intellectual knowledge you may have, insofar as you do not have this experience, you cannot discover this world. “I think, therefore I am” must be re-phrased as “Thinking, but there is no I.”
    When Master Joshu was asked what was the world discovered by Shakyamuni (What was the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West?) he answered, “The oak tree in the garden.” This is a famous koan in the Gateless Gate (Mumonkan).Jôshû is presenting the world of “Thinking, but there is no I.” The oak tree in the garden, besides that tree nothing else exists in heaven or earth--an even less so, a “Joshu” who is looking at it. This is the world that is manifested in this utterance.
    “The oak tree in the garden, but there is no I.”
    1The original French is: Je pense, donc je suis. This was rendered into Latin by a priest friend of Descartes as “Cogito ergo sum.”
(translated by Jerome CUSUMANO with the assistance of SATO Migaku)

From the “Opening Comments”of Kyosho (Sanbo-Zen's official magazine) 342, 2011 (May/June)

Also see: Excerpts from the Jewel Mirror Samadhi

Hakuun Yasutani, "Flowers Fall: A Commentary on Zen Master Dogen’s Genjokoan”

Chapter 7

“In mustering the whole body and mind and seeing forms, in mustering the whole body and mind and hearing sounds, they are intimately perceived; but it is not like the reflection in a mirror, nor like the moon in the water. When one side is realized the other side is dark.”

Here Dogen Zenji shows the way in which one further actualizes Buddhahood. Body and mind are fundamentally one. Regarding them as two is a thought, a delusion. When you are happy, is it your mind that is happy or is it your body that is happy? When you are hungry, is it your body or your mind? If you say “My stomach has become empty, it must be my body,” don’t we also say, “I realize how hungry I was?” Then, it must be the mind. Don’t be asinine. It’s both. Both are one. When mind and body are working separately, neither of them is any good. They are utterly incomplete. The whole idea is extremely frivolous. Be serious. Mind and body are always one.

Here Dogen Zenji has shown the manner of earnestly practicing the Buddha way. In other words it’s completely mustering the whole body and mind. Seeing and hearing, standing and sitting, it’s completely mustering the whole body and mind. That’s “just,” wholeheartedly. It’s just walking, just working, just sitting. It’s just being in samadhi throughout the twenty-four hours of the day.

This is the way of practice of our predecessors, the buddhas and ancestors. In modern terms one can call this living fully.

When Master Hsiang-yen was sweeping the garden, he was just working with his whole body and mind completely mustered. Therefore at the single sound of a pebble striking bamboo, he attained great enlightenment. When the priest Ling-yun was on pilgrimage, with his whole body and mind mustered he was just making a pilgrimage and climbing up a mountain road.

Therefore, when he glanced at a peach blossom he attained great enlightenment. To intimately perceive is to realize the Way.

Now, between completely mustering the whole body and mind to see forms and to hear sounds, and intimately perceiving (attaining great enlightenment), there is a subtle turning point.

These two are not the same. And yet, of course, they are not unrelated. Therein is the subtle experience called “the single sound of enlightenment,” which is spontaneously expressed. Shakyamuni Buddha upon his enlightenment exclaimed, “How wonderful, how wonderful!” Hsiang-yen said, “One striking of the pebble on the bamboo and I have forgotten everything I knew.” Ling-yun said, “Having directly arrived at this moment, I have no further doubts.” Su Tuong-p’o sang out, “The sound of the mountain is this broad, long tongue of the Buddha.” Thus, seeing one’s true nature and realizing the Way is the basis of the Buddha way. You people of the Soto sect should once again clearly recognize, believe, and eagerly practice it. If within the sect there is no one with the actual experience of realizing the Way, and the Shobogenzo is dropped down to the level of thought and becomes a philosophy, I’m afraid Dogen Zenji’s Buddhadharma will vanish from the sect like clouds and mist.

Next he points out in detail how to realize the Way, to intimately perceive. “it is not like the reflection in a mirror, nor like the moon in the water.” Here, by means of a metaphor, he clearly points out that realizing the way is completely different from the realm of intellect and understanding.

The simile of the reflecting of an image in a mirror and the reflecting of the moon in the water mean that the mirror and the reflection, the water and the moon, are two separate things that have become one, but the actual experience of enlightenment is a completely different matter. Therefore, even if one can conceptually understand the principle of Zen or intellectually comprehend the meaning of manifest absolute reality (genjokoan), that is not enlightenment.

Enlightenment means waking up to the world of oneness. Unenlightened people look at everything dualistically: self and other, subject and object, delusions and enlightenment, this world and the Pure Land, unenlightened persons and buddhas, form and emptiness. Even if one tries to get rid of that duality by mouthing the theory that “form is emptiness,” the seam of “is” remains. It’s not the seamless stupa.

The actual experience of enlightenment comes springing forth in the realm of true oneness. And with that, one sometimes cries out in astonishment. One becomes aware that the whole universe is just the single seamless stupa. It's not some simplistic kind of thing like a reflection in a mirror.

"Mountains and rivers are not seen in a mirror." It's not that mountains, rivers, and the earth are reflected in one's mind-mirror. That's okay when we are using metaphors for thoughts and consciousness. But what we are speaking of now is the realm of the actual experience of enlightenment. The self is the mountains, rivers, and earth; the self is the sun and moon and the stars.

The great earth has not
A single lick of soil;
New Year's first smile.

"Not another person in the whole universe." One side is all there is, without a second or third to be found anywhere. If one calls this subject, everything is subject and that's all. There is no object anywhere. It's the true mind-only. It's snatching away the objective world but not the person. If one calls this object, everything is object and that's all. There is no subject anywhere. It's snatching away the person but not the objective world. It's the true matter-only. Whichever one you say, only the label changes and it is the same thing. While Dogen Zenji calls this completely self, he also calls it completely other. It's all self. It's all other. This is the meaning of "when one side is realized the other side is dark." This is also called "one side exhausts everything." It's the whole thing, being complete with one, exhausting everything with one.

Also see: Fully Experience All-Is-Mind by Realizing No-Mind and Conditionality

    Traditionally Zen is a form of Buddhism that strictly emphasises 'sitting meditation' for the realisation of Buddhist truths, particularly for realising the truth of no-self, emptiness, and the uncreated Mind. Zen is also a form of Buddism that emphasises the originally pure nature of the mind, much as other Mahayana schools of Buddhism.  As Bodhidharma, who is thought of as the first Chinese teacher of Ch'an (Jap: Zen), said:
Once mortals see their nature, all attachments end.  Awareness isn't hidden.  But you can only find it right now.  It's only now.  If you really want to find the Way, don't hold on to anything.
Zen Buddhism has gained a lot of popularity in the West partly because of this emphasis on the here and now.  It is very simple and straightforward.

"This mind is the Buddha.  I don't talk about precepts, devotions or ascetic practices such as immersing yourself in water and fire, treading a wheel of knives, eating one meal a day, or never lying down.  These are fanatical, provisional teachings.  Once you recognise your moving, miraculously aware nature, yours is the mind of all buddhas.  Buddhas of the past and future only talk about transmitting the mind. They teach nothing else.  If someone understands this teaching, even if [she's] illiterate [she's] a buddha.  If you don't see our own miraculously aware nature, you'll never find a buddha even if you break your body into atoms."  Bodhidharma (5th cent.)
     Zen teachings are said to be 'non-dual', emphasising that our usual way of being is like living in a trance of dualism.  The philosophy of emptiness -  no subject, no object -  has become the hallmark of Zen teachings.  (It should be said, however, that in calling into question the traditional, egological subject-object split, Zen is no different to other forms of Buddhism).
     In Zen there is an emphasis on the interdependence of body and mind. 13th cent. Japanese Zen master, Dogen Kigen: 

"You should know that the Buddha Dharma from the first preaches that body and mind are not two, that substance and form are not two." (Bendowa)
     Zen Buddhism affirms the body as the means of our self-realisation.  It is, perhaps, for this reason that so many westerners have found Zen attractive as a philosophy and spiritual practice.   From the Zen point of view, to live the body's life fully is to be self-realised: 
A monk asked Master Tung-shan, “Cold and heat descend upon us. How can we avoid them?”
Dongshan answered, “Why don’t you go to the place where there is no cold or heat?”
The monk continued, “Where is the place where there is no cold or heat?”
Dongshan said, “When it is cold, let it be so cold that it kills you. When hot, let it be so hot that it kills you.”
     In Zen practice freedom comes when identification with the body and body-image is ended; this is to transcend the 'fabricated body' and realise the 'true body' of grass, trees, and wall rubble; wind, rain, water and fire.  "The Buddha-body", says Dogen, "is the manifesting body, and there is always a body manifesting Buddha-nature."
     In the teachings of the Zen masters the Buddhist teaching of 'dependent-origination' takes on a decided ecological flavour:
"What we call the body and mind in the Buddha Way is grass, trees and wall rubble; it is wind, rain, water and fire." (Dogen, Hotsu Mujo Shin)
To be fully present in "the immediate presencing here and now of being-time," Dogen said, is to realise the presence-time of all life, "As self and other are both times, practice and realization are times; entering the mud, entering the water, is equally time." (Dogen, Being Time)
We cannot know the Buddha-nature through the sense-seeking ways of our ordinary individual mind:

When most people hear
That the Buddhas transmit the
Teaching of the One Mind,
They suppose that there
Is something to be attained
Or realized apart from mind,
And they use mind to seek the teaching,
Not realizing that mind and
The object of their search are one.
Mind can’t be used to seek mind;
If it is, even after millions of eons
Have gone by, the search will still not be over.

- Huang-Po
      So the task, as Zen conceives it, is to simply be attentive to our ordinary lives, becoming more and more aware of the delusions that we live by, and hence, while not suppressing the flow of an imaginary film that we mistake for 'self and world' , not depending on it either.  As someone said, "Enlightenment is an accident, and practice makes us accident-prone".  So, practice won't free us -  only realisation can do that -  but without practice one is likely to remain stuck in the cyclic existence of delusory consciousness.
"The great way of the Buddha and the patriarchs involves the highest form of exertion, which goes on unceasingly in cycles from the first dawning of religious truth, through the test of discipline and practice, to awakening and nirvana. It is sustained exertion proceeding without lapse from cycle to cycle. Accordingly, it is exertion that is neither self-imposed nor imposed by others but free and uncoerced. The merit of this exertion upholds me and upholds others."  Dogen