Transcribing the oral tradition...

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The Intimate Mind

by Padmavajra

The Intimate Mind

By Padmavajra

Audio available at: http://www.freebuddhistaudio.com/audio/details?num=OM703
Talk given at Padmaloka Retreat Centre, 2004

01 The Jewelled Sword of the Diamond King

Thank you very much, Padmadaka, brothers in the Dharma. Brothers in the intimate
mind… Could be a long one. Could be a complex one. So, rouse yourselves, get here,
don’t drift. So yesterday we heard about Mahasattva Fu – Fu, Chih, and Wu. We heard
about how he expounded the Diamond Sutra, how he demonstrated the Diamond Sutra.
How he showed the Diamond Sutra’s great function of destroying, smashing like a
thunderbolt any fixed ideas about self, world, life, even spiritual life and spiritual
attainment. We saw how he showed to Emperor Wu the Great Emptiness, how he
destroyed in order to give life, as the Zen texts put it.

Yes, the Zen master is likened to the jewelled sword of the Diamond King. The Diamond
King is the enlightened mind itself – perfectly pure and clear, radiant mind, in which
there’s no separation between self and other. And this jewelled sword of the Diamond
King is the dynamic functioning and expression of that mind, of that enlightened heart.
And it’s a double-edged sword. It destroys - it cuts away - all that is false, all that is
confused, all that restricts, all that causes pain. But this sword also gives life. It restores,
it renews your true being. The “real human,” as the great Linji puts it, the true human.
That rises up when the jewelled sword of the Diamond Kind is wielded. The enlightened
mind is revealed as you. It’s a very important message there, I think. If you cannot
create, if you cannot give life, you cannot destroy. You must not destroy. It’s very easy
to go around seeing what’s wrong. It’s very easy to criticize. It’s very easy to carp. It’s
very easy to stand apart and fault-find. It’s very easy, it’s very safe. In the end, of
course, you only destroy yourself. You think you’re wielding a wonderful sword of
wisdom but you’re actually cutting yourself – a death by a thousand cuts. You can only
really cut if you can restore and renew. We go away on retreat at Christmas and the New
Year. We move away from the parties, and all the food and drink, and all the rest of it.
We cut away, we simplify, but only in order to restore ourselves, only in order to renew
ourselves. We go into the tiger’s cave. The cave up to which there are human footprints,
but which there are no human footprints coming back. We go into the tiger’s cave to be
consumed, but we return a different man.

So, I mentioned yesterday that the Diamond Sutra was hugely influential on the
development of Ch’an and Zen. I mentioned how it was recited, meditated upon, even
used to transmit the enlightened mind itself. I told you about Hui Neng, the sixth Ch’an
patriarch, going at night to his teacher Hung Jen and how during the recitation of the
Diamond Sutra Hui Neng was suddenly, immediately awakened. The words were used
by Hung Jen as a means, a vehicle, a medium to transmit the enlightened mind itself.

Now before the time of Hung Jen it seems that another Buddhist text was used in China
as the means to transmit enlightenment. And this text was the Saddharma Lankavatara
Sutra - The Sutra of the True Dharma’s Entry Into Sri Lanka. And this great sutra is
associated with the great figure of Bodhidharma, so let me say something about
Bodhidharma. Some of you heard about him last week, but you can’t hear too much
about Bodhidharma.

02 Bodhidharma and Emperor Wu

It has to be said that in terms of hard historical fact, Bodhidharma is a rather hazy figure.
He shifts through the mists of the past. But as a legend, as a myth, Bodhidharma is
immensely powerful. He is an enormous, a huge symbolic presence who looms over the
entire Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Zen traditions. In East Asian Buddhist art,
Bodhidharma is depicted as a very powerful figure, as many of these Zen and Cha’an
masters are. A very powerful figure in swirling robes with great bulging eyes and thick
tangled eyebrows and beard. He’s going along with a staff or is seated, rooted in

The question that is repeatedly asked in the Zen tradition, a kind of koan which you’re to
go away and meditate on, is “Why did Bodhidharma come from the West?” (the West
meaning India). Your master looks at you when he puts this question and he wants an
answer from your realisation. He is not interested in history or legend or facts or figures.
He wants you to tell him what the transmission was. He wants you to tell him, he wants a
direct response. Sometimes it’s clear that the response he wants, well, it got to come
from another dimension because if you speak in response to this question, you get fifty
blows. If you stay silent in response to this question, you get fifty blows. How will you
speak? [Noise of desperation] Probably run out of the shrine room.

Bodhidharma lived sometime in the 6th century and he was born into a royal family in
South India. At a young age he left home, he studied the Dharma in South India,
practiced under a number of teachers. And at some point, he received the special mind to
mind transmission that had started with the Buddha holding up the golden flower to
Mahakasyapa. Out of compassion, Bodhidharma undertook the dangerous sea voyage
from India to China. His first stop was the capital city of Yang. Here he was invited to
the court of our good friend Emperor Wu.

We’re not sure if this meeting with Emperor Wu occurred before or after the encounter
with Mahasattva Fu. The Emperor wanted to talk about Buddhism with Bodhidharma,
this new Indian monk, new in town, who had, apparently, something a bit special.
Something a bit fresh and new – the latest Indian teachings.

So, the meeting took place in the court and Emperor Wu sat on his great throne, with
Bodhidharma in his simple patched robes and his bulging eyes before him. And Emperor
Wu said:

“I’ve built monasteries, I’ve built temples, I’ve erected stupas, I support monks, I publish
texts. What merit, what virtue, have I gained?”

He’s very interested in merit because he’s done all these good deeds, he must have
accumulated good karma so he must be going to get a really good reward – heaven? Or
even some sort of spiritual attainment, or a special place in the Buddhist tradition, in the
Buddhist pantheon. So what merit have I gained from all this? And Bodhidharma just
said, flatly:

“No merit at all.”

And Emperor Wu was astonished.

“Why no merit?”

And Bodhidharma replied:

“All those things you’ve done are all very well, but they’re just shadows following the
form. For real, lasting virtue you need to know, to see directly, reality as it is.”

We can smile at Emperor Wu, but maybe just look into yourself. How much do you do
selflessly, out of your realization, such as it is, and how much do you do things for
reward? Maybe not heaven, but certainly being thought well of, and when we don’t get
the praise and the promotion that we think is our due, well, we can start having other

So then Emperor Wu, because Bodhidharma is speaking about reality, he thought he’d
shift the ground and get onto high, deep topics. Maybe that would open up another
discussion. So, he said to Bodhidharma:

“What is the highest meaning of the holy truths?”

Bodhidharma replied:

“Vast emptiness, no holiness.”

So, Emperor Wu, being a bit clever, said:

“Who is standing before me? If everything is vast emptiness, then who is standing before
me? Who are you?”

And Bodhidharma replied:
“I don’t know.”

And just left. He left, he crossed the Yangtze River, and he found his way to the remote
Shaolin Monastery. And Emperor Wu, after he’d gone, said to Master Chih:

“Well, what was all that about?”
And Master Chih said:

“Don’t you know? Don’t you know that was Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of
compassion, communicating the mind-seal of all the Buddhas, communicating

So, Emperor Wu thought, “Oh, I’ve really missed a chance.” So he said to Master Chih:

“Well, let’s send for him, let’s send an imperial emissary to bring him back!”

And Master Chih wisely said:

“Even if the whole country went to bring him, they would never bring him back.
Bodhidharma has left more than the country of Liang.”

So, this story is, by the way, another one of these kung’ans, another one of these stories
on which you have to meditate. You’re taught that you have to meditate on this to
penetrate its meaning. What did Bodhidharma mean in that conversation? In fact, they
even ask, “Well who got the best ...

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