Zen Master Huang Po: how to remove our illusions

Q: Illusion can hide from us our own mind, but up to now you have not taught us how to get rid of illusion.

zen circle

A: The arising and the elimination of illusion are both illusory. Illusion is not something rooted in Reality; it exists because of your dualistic thinking.

If you will only cease to indulge in opposed concepts such as ‘ordinary’ and ‘Enlightened’, illusion will cease of itself. And then if you still want to destroy it wherever it may be, you will find that there is not a hairsbreadth left of anything on which to lay hold.

This is the meaning of: ‘I will let go with both hands, for then I shall certainly discover the Buddha in my mind’.

The arising and the elimination of illusion are both illusory…If you will only cease to indulge in opposed concepts such as “ordinary” and “Enlightened,” illusion will cease of itself.

Q: If there is nothing on which to lay hold, how is the Dharma [The Teaching, Enlightenment] to be transmitted?

A: It is a transmission of Mind with Mind [Tom – note that the Chinese word for ‘mind’ can also be translated as ‘heart’, so this could be ‘heart to heart’ transmission].

Huang Po Zen Teachings

Q: If Mind is used for transmission, why do you say that Mind too does not exist?

A: Obtaining no Dharma whatever is called Mind transmission. The understanding of this implies no Mind and no Dharma.

Q: If there is no Mind and no Dharma, what is meant by transmission?

A: You hear people speak of Mind transmission and then you talk of something to be received. So Bodhidharma [the first Zen patriarch, the ‘founder of zen’] said:

The nature of the Mind when understood,
No human speech can compass or disclose.
Enlightenment is naught to be attained,
And he that gains it does not say he knows.

If I were to make this clear to you, I doubt if you could stand up to it.

Taken from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po (Chun Chou record no. 32)

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3 thoughts on “Zen Master Huang Po: how to remove our illusions

  1. I respectfully disagree with this teaching. In my opinion, illusions do not ‘arise’, but we generate them. The same is true for the distinction between what is real and what isn’t, and for the difference between dualistic and non-dualistic. They are products of our thinking and will not ‘cease of themselves’, but only when we specifically acknowledge them as such. Finally, the mind has no distinct ‘nature’, because it, too, only exists as a product of our thinking. The tendency to suppress, belittle or deny our own essential role in our thinking is born of low self-esteem.

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    1. Huang Po conveniently forgets to mention that all illusions, without exception, are of our own making. We generate them, and only we can eliminate them again.

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