Also see:
1) The Doctrine of No Mind by Bodhidharma (无心论)

2) Also, explanation of Bodhidharma by Dzogchen dharma teacher Abhaya Devi Yogini in Way of Bodhi
3) Some translations and commentaries of Bodhidharma's texts by John Tan can be found at Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma on the Inseparability of Awareness and Conditions

Bodhidharma is the first Ch'an/Zen Patriarch, the founder of Ch'an Buddhism in China (that later became Zen Buddhism in Japan).

A short biography:

Bodhidharma was a semi-legendary Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th or 6th century. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Chan Buddhism to China, and regarded as its first Chinese patriarch. Wikipedia

This is a very good text and highly recommended reading:


Translated by Red Pine 1987

Available at:

Being a Chinese myself and a Chinese reader, having read the Chinese version, I am not very satisfied with this English translation (a lot of liberties are taken, see my comments below), but still it is a nice attempt and the best we have yet in English, probably.

[6:28 PM, 11/27/2020] Soh Wei Yu: I'm reading through and listening to master hui lu explanation of bodhidharma texts
[6:28 PM, 11/27/2020] Soh Wei Yu:
[6:28 PM, 11/27/2020] Soh Wei Yu: I think its very nice. Focus is on realizing mind, then all is mind and realise no mind [Soh: as in, anatta insight]
[8:31 PM, 11/28/2020] John Tan: Yes.  Good site.
[8:33 PM, 11/28/2020] Soh Wei Yu: U mean the whole website or the bodhidharma page?
[8:36 PM, 11/28/2020] John Tan: Bodhidharma

Zen Master Hui Lu's commentaries on Bodhidharma's teachings (in Chinese):

Part 1:
Part 2:


Zen Master Hong Wen Liang's commentaries on Bodhidharma's teachings (in Chinese):

I just wrote to Mr. J today:

Right, they [consciousness and universe] are one and the same not because they both refer to some truly existing unchanging substance and substratum, but because no such 'unchanging substance and substratum' could be found other than a mere name designated upon presencing manifestation.

In the Bodhidharma text:

"At this, the disciple all at once greatly awakened and realized for the first time that there is no thing apart from mind, and no mind apart from things. All of his actions became utterly free. Having broken through the net of all doubt, he was freed of all obstruction."

--> reducing everything to mind is nondual, but anatta is also realising 'no mind apart from things'.

Bodhidharma said, "Whoever knows that the mind is a fiction and devoid of anything real knows that his own mind neither exists nor doesn’t exist. Mortals keep creating the mind, claiming it exists. And Arhats keep negating the mind, claiming it doesn’t exist. But bodhisattvas and Buddhas neither create nor negate the mind. This is what’s meant by the mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist. The mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist is called the Middle Way.

If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both. Those who don’t understand don’t understand understanding. And those who understand, understand not understanding. People capable of true vision know that the mind is empty. They transcend both understanding and not understanding. The absence of both understanding and not understanding is true understanding Seen with true vision, form isn’t simply form, because form depends on mind. And mind isn’t simply mind, because mind depends on form. Mind and form create and negate each other. That which exists exists in relation to that which doesn’t exist. And that which doesn’t exist doesn’t exist in relation to that which exists. This is true vision. By means of such vision nothing is seen and nothing is not seen. Such vision reaches throughout the ten directions without seeing: because nothing is seen; because not seeing is seen; because seeing isn’t seeing. What mortals see are delusions. True vision is detached from seeing. The mind and the world are opposites, and vision arises where they meet. When your mind doesn’t stir inside, the world doesn’t arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is true vision. And such understanding is true understanding."

Bodhidharma also said, "But this mind isn’t somewhere outside the material body of four elements.Without this mind we can’t move. The body has no awareness. Like a plant or stone, the body has no nature. So how does it move? It’s the mind that moves. Language and behavior, perception and conception are all functions of the moving mind. All motion is the mind’s motion. Motion is its function. Apart from motion there’s no mind, and apart from the mind there’s no motion. But motion isn’t the mind. And the mind isn’t motion. Motion is basically mindless. And the mind is basically motionless. But motion doesn’t exist without the mind. And the mind doesn’t exist without motion. Theres no mind for motion to exist apart from, and no motion for mind to exist apart from. Motion is the mind’s function, and its function is its motion. Even so, the mind neither moves nor functions, the essence of its functioning is emptiness and emptiness is essentially motionless. Motion is the same as the mind. And the mind is essentially motionless. Hence the Sutras tell us to move without moving, to travel without traveling, to see without seeing, to laugh without laughing, to hear without hearing, to know without knowing, to be happy, without being happy, to walk without walking, to stand without standing. And the sutras say, "Go beyond language. Go beyond thought." Basically, seeing, hearing, and knowing are completely empty. Your anger, Joy, or pain is like that of puppet. You search but you won’t find a thing."

"Once you know this, walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen. To know that the mind is empty is to see the Buddha. The Buddhas of the ten directions" have no mind. To see no mind is to see the Buddha."

John Tan wrote in 2011 to someone who just realised anatta, "Next step is not to stagnate in no-self and engage wholly and completely into actions and activities then "satori" has no entry or exit; when the thunder claps, the whole of "satori" is actualized!"

It is also the same realisation expressed here,

"At that point, is the observer—awareness—other than the
observed—stillness and movement—or is it actually that stillness and
movement itself? By investigating with the gaze of your own awareness,
you come to understand that that which is investigating itself is also
no other than stillness and movement. Once this happens you will
experience lucid emptiness as the naturally luminous self-knowing
awareness. Ultimately, whether we say nature and radiance, undesirable
and antidote, observer and observed, mindfulness and thoughts, stillness
and movement, etc., you should know that the terms of each pair are no
different from one another; by receiving the blessing of the guru,
properly ascertain that they are inseparable. Ultimately, to arrive at
the expanse free of observer and observed is the realization realization
of the true meaning and the culmination of all analyses. This is called
“the view transcending concepts,” which is free of conceptualization,
or “the vajra mind view.”

"Fruition vipashyana is the correct realization of the final conviction of the nonduality of observer and observed."

Khamtrul Rinpoche III. The Royal Seal of Mahamudra: Volume One: A
Guidebook for the Realization of Coemergence: 1 (p. 242). Shambhala.


p.s. my own translation from 1 year ago:

  • badge icon
    Bodhidharma is very clear in the 达摩祖师悟性论 (Patriarch Bodhidharma's Treatise of Realizing Nature aka The Wakeup Sermon - ) that 色不自色,由心故色;心不自心,由色故心 - form is not form in and of itself, form is due to mind; mind is not mind in and of itself, mind is due to form. This is the two-way dependency as discussed by Greg Goode -
    Other verses in the same treatise:
    If one knows that Mind is [merely] a false name [conventional designation], without a substantial existence, is to know that one's own mind is neither existent, nor [is it] non-existent.
    If within there does not arise Mind, then outside there will not arise environment, environment and mind both purified [emptied], this is called true seeing.
    Knowing Mind is empty, this is called seeing Buddha.

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    • 1y
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  • badge icon
    Seeing Mind as mere name/designation is similar to what Nagarjuna has taught:
    Nāgārjuna's Bodhicittavivaraṇa
    The cognizer perceives the cognizable;
    Without the cognizable there is no cognition;
    Therefore why do you not admit
    That neither object nor subject exists [at all]?
    The mind is but a mere name;
    Apart from its name it exists as nothing;
    So view consciousness as a mere name;
    Name too has no intrinsic nature.
    Either within or likewise without,
    Or somewhere in between the two,
    The conquerors have never found the mind;
    So the mind has the nature of an illusion.
    The distinctions of colors and shapes,
    Or that of object and subject,
    Of male, female and the neuter –
    The mind has no such fixed forms.
    In brief the Buddhas have never seen
    Nor will they ever see [such a mind];
    So how can they see it as intrinsic nature
    That which is devoid of intrinsic nature?
    “Entity” is a conceptualization;
    Absence of conceptualization is emptiness;
    Where conceptualization occurs,
    How can there be emptiness?
    The mind in terms of the perceived and perceiver,
    This the Tathagatas have never seen;
    Where there is the perceived and perceiver,
    There is no enlightenment.
    Devoid of characteristics and origination,
    Devoid of substantive reality and transcending speech,
    Space, awakening mind and enlightenment
    Possess the characteristics of non-duality.
    Those abiding in the heart of enlightenment,
    Such as the Buddhas, the great beings,
    And all the great compassionate ones
    Always understand emptiness to be like space.
    bodhicittavivarana_translation_by_thupten_jinpa [Ayurveda Healing Arts Institute - Ayurvedic Distance Learning of Medicine Buddha Healing Center]
    bodhicittavivarana_translation_by_thupten_jinpa [Ayurveda Healing Arts Institute - Ayurvedic Distance Learning of Medicine Buddha Healing Center]
    bodhicittavivarana_translation_by_thupten_jinpa [Ayurveda Healing Arts Institute - Ayurvedic Distance Learning of Medicine Buddha Healing Center]

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  • 1y

      , I also like Bodhidarma . Coincidentally I was reading him and I separated these two passages that somehow sounded strange to me. I am curious about how this is written in Chines. Both passages, indeed, reminds one of Advaita based ideas.
      From the Wake-Up Sermon:
      Here Bodhidarma is quoting (not criticizing): "And the Nirvana Sutra says, "All mortals have the buddha-nature. But it’s covered by darkness from which they can’t escape.Our buddha-nature is awareness: to be aware and to make others aware. To realize awareness is liberation," Everything good has awareness for its root. And from this root of awareness grow the tree of all virtues and the fruit of nirvana. Beholding the mind like this is understanding"
      "Worship means reverence and humility it means revering your real self and humbling delusions."


      badge icon
      And The Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra says: "All sentient beings have buddha-nature, but due to being obscured by ignorance, they are unable to be liberated." What is termed Buddha-nature is the nature of awakening/awareness. Simply to be self-awakened and awaken others, to clearly comprehend awake-knowing, is named liberation. One should know that all virtues have awareness/awakeness as its root; from this root of awakening/awareness, thereupon it is able to manifest various trees of merits. The merit of nirvana is thus accomplished. By contemplating mind as such is understanding/knowing
      (My comments: It should be noted that the 'awareness' here is actually more like the sanskrit term 'vidya' or the Tibetan term 'rigpa', which means more precisely - the knowledge of one's nature, although often incorrectly or inadequately translated as 'awareness'. Rather than simply the plain clarity aspect of our nature, the full understanding of our nature, the full maturation and ripening of vidya/awakening/rigpa includes the understanding of the *empty* and lucid nature of mind. Thus translating this as 'awareness' is a rather misleading way of translation that lends it towards Advaitic misinterpretations, and a better term would be 'knowledge' or 'awakeness' or something of that manner)
      礼 (courteous) is respect, 拜 is to submit/surrender (礼拜 is usually meant bow in veneration). What is known as respecting true nature, giving up/submitting/surrendering ignorance, is called "bowing in veneration".

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      • 50w
      • Edited

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      The term real self (真我) does not occur in Bodhidharma's text

      (Update: in the instances where the term 'real self' appears in the English translation, they are actually to be accurately translated as 'true nature' or 'true suchness' instead. 由彼染心,障真如体故。is translated as "their impure mind obscures their real self" by Red Pine, but its actual meaning is "due to defiling mind, obscuring the body of true suchness".  Bodhidharma did not hold the view of a self or atman, nor did he use those terms throughout his teachings.)

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      • 50w

    • Yea,
      , thanks for the hassle. I thought so. I imagined it should be a misinterpretation/mistranslation of ideograms. Its a matter of coherency with the rest of the text.

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      • 50w

      badge icon
      Buddhi (Sanskrit: बुद्धि) is derived from the Vedic Sanskrit root Budh (बुध् ), which literally means "to wake, be awake, observe, heed, attend, learn, become aware of, to know, be conscious again".)
      Buddhi is a feminine Sanskrit noun derived from *budh, to be awake, to understand, to know. The same root is the basis for the more familiar masculine form Buddha and the abstract noun bodhi.

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    • 50w

      Geovani Geo
      Soh, and/or other Chinese speaking dudes here. In the beginning of the Breakthrough Sermon, the first page ends as "(...)because their impure minds obscure their real self". I am interested in the expression "real self". Bellow I will post the original in Chinese for this first page. I wonder how would you translate this last expression.

      Soh Wei Yu
      Geovani Geo I think I replied you on that before
      But I need time to find out where i posted it in atr blog

    • Geovani Geo
      Soh Wei Yu, I think it was another passage. I am trying to post the image of the Chinese text

    • No photo description available.

    • Bodhidharma's Zen Teachings
      Bodhidharma's Zen Teachings
      Bodhidharma's Zen Teachings

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    • Soh Wei Yu
      As for your particular quote: "(...)because their impure minds obscure their real self"

    • Soh Wei Yu
      Because of impure mind, 障 obscure 真 true 如 suchness 体 essence
      In other words, "due to impure mind, the essence of true suchness is obscured"

    • Soh Wei Yu
      Bodhidharma never spoke a word about real self throughout all his texts. Always focused on no mind and anatta and emptiness.
      Usually the badly translated text is referring to 'true suchness' when incorrectly translating as real self.

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Also see:
1) The Doctrine of No Mind by Bodhidharma (无心论)

2) Also, explanation of Bodhidharma by Dzogchen dharma teacher Abhaya Devi Yogini in Way of Bodhi
3) Some translations and commentaries of Bodhidharma's texts by John Tan can be found at Zen Patriarch Bodhidharma on the Inseparability of Awareness and Conditions

1 Response
  1. javi gomez Says:

    I don't understand emptyness. What I realize is that awareness is aware. So from the side of awareness, there is no world. Nothing is happening. Awareness aware off is what the world is made out of. So emptyness, I think, is when all there is , is Mind, awareness. I am looking upp the word 'emptynes'on this site before I ask questions on facebook. I need to do the work first.