The following is taken from The Sutra of Hui Neng (also known as the Platform Sutra), Chapter 2 entitled ‘On Prajna’. My comments are interspersed in italicised red:
The wisdom of Buddhas, past, present and future, as well as the teachings of the twelve sections of the canon are immanent in the mind, but in case we fail to enlighten ourselves, we have to seek the guidance of the pious and learned.
Tom: the essential teaching is within ourselves or ‘immanent in the mind’. Only if we do not enlighten ourselves with our own inner wisdom do we need the external teacher (‘the pious and the learned’)
On the other hand those who enlighten themselves need no extraneous help. It is wrong to insist upon the idea that we cannot obtain liberation without the assistance of the pious and learned. It is by our innate wisdom that we enlighten ourselves, and even the extraneous help and instruction of a pious and learned friend would be of no use so long as one is deluded by false doctrines and erroneous views.
Tom: ie. it is possible for illumination to occur without an outer teacher as the true wisdom of enlightenment is our very nature. How can this be done? All we have to do is realise our true nature, what Hui Neng here calls ‘Essence of Mind’, and we will certainly and immediately be Buddhas, let us see:
As we introspect our minds with Prajñā, all erroneous views will disappear of themselves, and just as soon as we realise Essence of Mind we will immediately arrive at the Buddha stage.
Tom: Hui Neng states that if we look within at our true nature or ‘minds’ with Prajna, all erroneous views or ignorance will disappear spontaneously, and this is realisation of Essence of Mind or True Nature, and this is also the same a Buddhahood or enlightenment. So, how ‘introspect with prajna’? Hui Neng will explain. Prajna means wisdom or insight:
When we use Prajñā for introspection we are illuminated within and without and are in position to know our own nature. To realise our own nature is to obtain fundamental liberation. To obtain liberation is to attain the Samadhi of Prajñā, which is ‘thoughtlessness’.
Tom: Hui Neng explains that realising our true nature is liberation. This is also known as ‘thoughtlessness’. What is this ‘thoughtlessness’? Let us see:
What is ‘thoughtlessness? ‘Thoughtlessness’ is to see and to realise all dharmas (things) with a mind free from attachment. In action Prajñā is everywhere present yet it “sticks” nowhere. What we have to do is to so purify the mind that the six vijnanas (aspects of consciousness sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, mentation) in passing through their six sense-gates will neither be defiled by nor attached to their six sense-objects. When our mind works freely without any hindrance and is at liberty “to come” or “to go, “then we have attained the intuitive insight of Prajñā, which is emancipation. To enable one to attain such a mental state of freedom is the function of intuitive insight.
Tom: In summary Hui Neng is stating that when the mind functions free from attachment to both gross and subtle objects, that is liberation. This non-attachment is also known as ‘thoughtlessness’. We can see this is in keeping with the Buddha’s more classical teachings which essentially state the same. We can also see this is in keeping with the Vedanta teachings in which lack of identification with and attachment to the body, mind and world is the same as Self-Realisation.
Sri Ramana Maharshi states the following in Maharshi’s Gospel, Chapter 3 entitled ‘Mind Control‘:
Questioner: Does Bhagavan condemn dvaita Philosophy?
Sri Ramana Maharshi :Dvaita can subsist only when you identify the Self with the not-Self. Advaita is non-identification.
Now Hui Neng will tell us what not to do:
To refrain from thinking of anything, in the sense that all mental activity is suppressed, is to be Dharma-ridden; this is an extremely erroneous view. (Discriminative thought which leads to desire and attachment, or to aversion and defilement, is to be controlled in the interests of intuitive thought which leads to self-realisation and freedom.)
Those who understand the way of ‘thoughtlessness’ will know everything; they will have the experience that all the Buddhas have had, and they will attain Buddhahood.
Tom: later on in the same chapter Hui Neng quotes a long verse that he composed himself for the benefit of those listening to him – here are a couple of excerpts I have chosen to quote here:
To illumine our gloomy tabernacle, which is stained by defilement,
We should constantly set up the Light of Wisdom.
Erroneous views keep us in defilement
While right views remove us from it,
But when we are in a position to discard both of them
We are then absolutely pure.
Right views are called ‘transcendental’;
Erroneous views are called ‘worldly’.
When all views, right or erroneous, are discarded
Then the essence of Bodhi appears.
This stanza is for the ‘Sudden’ School.
Question: A well-known author has written a great deal about the use of certain drugs which enable man to arrive at some visionary experience of union with the divine ground. Are those experiences helpful in finding that state of which you speak?
Jiddu Krishnamurti: You can learn tricks, or take drugs, or get drunk, and you will have intense experiences of one kind or another, depressing or exciting. Obviously the physiological condition does affect the psychological state of the mind; but drugs and practices of various kinds do not in any way bring about that state of which we are talking. All such things lead only to a variety, intensity and diversity of experience – which we all want and hunger after, because we are fed up with this world. We have had two world wars, with appalling misery and everlasting strife on every side; and our own minds are so petty, personal, limited. We want to escape from all this, either through psychology, philosophy, so-called religion, or through some exercise or drug – they are all on the same level.
The mind is seeking a sensation; you want to experience what you call reality, or God, something immense, great, vital. You want to have visions; and if you take some kind of drug, or are sufficiently conditioned in a certain religion, you will have visions. The man who is everlastingly thinking about Christ, or Buddha, or what not, will sooner or later have experiences, visions; but that is not truth, it has nothing whatever to do with reality. Those are all self-projections; they are the result of your demand for experience. Your own conditioning is projecting what you want to see.
To find out what is real, the mind must cease to demand any experience. So long as you are craving experience, you will have it, but it will not be real – real in the sense of the timeless, the immeasurable; it will not have the perfume of reality. It will all be an illusion, the product of a mind that is frustrated, that is seeking a thrill, an emotion, a feeling of vitality. That is why you follow leaders. They are always promising something new, a Utopia, always sacrificing the present for the future; and you foolishly follow them, because it is exciting. You have had that experience in this country, and you ought to know better than anyone else the miseries, the brutality of it all. Most of us demand the same kind of experience, the same kind of sensation, only at another level. That is why we take various drugs, or perform ceremonies, or practise some exercise that acts as a stimulant. These things all have significance in the sense that their use indicates that one is still craving experience; therefore the mind is everlastingly agitated. And the mind that is agitated, that is craving experience, can never find out what is true.
Truth is always new, totally unknown and unknowable. The mind must come to it without any demand, without any knowledge, without any wish; it must be empty, completely naked. Then only truth may happen. But you cannot invite it.
Hamburg, Germany 4th Public Talk 14th September 1956
A visitor asked, “What should one, who is an absolute beginner, do in this (i.e., spiritual) line?”
Bhagavan: The very fact that you put this question shows you know what to do. It is because you feel the want of peace, that you are anxious to take some steps to secure peace. Because I have a little pain in my foot, I am applying this ointment.
Visitor: What is the method to be adopted for securing peace?
B: The conception that there is a goal and a path to it, is wrong. We are the goal or peace always. To get rid of the notion that we are not peace is all that is required.
V: All books say that the guidance of a Guru is necessary.
B: The Guru will say only what I am saying now. He will not give you anything you have not already. It is impossible for anyone to get what he has not got already. Even if he gets any such thing, it will go as it came. What comes will also go. What always is will alone remain.
The Guru cannot give you anything new, which you have not already. Removal of the notion that we have not realised the Self is all that is required. We are always the Self. Only, we don’t realise it.
The Asramam compounder asked some questions about his experiences during meditation. Bhagavan explained that the Self is the one reality that always exists and it is by its light all other things are seen. We forget it and concentrate on the appearances. The light in the hall burns, both when persons are present there and when they are absent, both when persons are enacting something as in a theatre and when nothing is being enacted. It is the light which enabled us to see the hall, the persons and the acting.
We are so engrossed with the objects or appearances revealed by the light that we pay no attention to the light. In the waking state or dream state, in which things appear, and in the sleep state, in which we see nothing, there is always the light of consciousness or Self, like the hall-lamp always burning.
The thing to do is to concentrate on the seer and not on the seen, not on the objects, but on the Light which reveals them
Day by Day with Bhaghavan, 16th September 1945, Afternoon
Ultimately, it is all just due to Grace. Hearing the teaching, being interested in it, meeting a teacher… It is all due to Grace. Just be open and receptive to it.
True courage is not what we think it is. The real courage is not what we usually refer to in our everyday life. The real courage is to abide as the Self.
We are lucky to have Ramana and his teaching that give us all the needed instructions on how to do it and overcome potential difficulties with our practice.
So, the key is in our hands, to follow the teaching and end our suffering or not and see from your experience what that brings with it.
This video was recorded live during a Satsang meeting with Tom Das.
Question: Are there levels or stages of Realisation?
Tom: Realisation is one, there are no degrees of realisation, it has no levels. There is no really such thing as realisation. The whole point of the teachings are just to get us to abide as the Self, to turn within, to be. Not to be this or that, just TO BE. And when you realise the Self, it is just Self being the Self. You realise this has always been realised.
You don’t even realise in words, that’s just the way it has always been. It appears in ignorance that there are different levels of realisation. You can say Ramana is more realised than someone else, but there is no Ramana who is realised really. The body-mind doesn’t attain liberation. It is just Self-being the Self. There can be degrees of insight, but that is all on a level of ignorance.
Ramana said that Realisation is one, there are only levels of ignorance. So you can have thick dense ignorance and you can have very fine subtle ignorance. And thick dense ignorance will cause much more suffering, much more delusion, much more distortion than the fine silky veil of ignorance that is barely there.
The distorting capacity of the small subtle ignorance is very small. There is minimal distortion there, minimal suffering, but it’s still ignorance. When our suffering gets less and less, it gets finer and finer. Subjectively to that person, it’s still suffering. If someone else is looking at that person, he/she could think they have a great life, but from their point of view, they are still suffering.
The above conversation was transcribed by a volunteer from a live Satsang meeting with Tom Das. If you are interested in joining, please see www.tomdas.com/events