What are Dhyana and Samadhi (Zen/Chan Master Hui Neng, Platform Sutra) | Ramana Maharshi

The following is excerpted from The Sutra of Hui Neng (also known as the Platform Sutra), Chapter 5 entitled ‘On Dhyana’. My comments are interspersed in italicised red:

Learned Audience, what are Dhyana and Samadhi? Dhyana means to be free from attachment to all outer objects, and Samadhi means to attain inner peace. If we are attached to outer objects, our inner mind will be perturbed.

Tom: we can see Hui Neng has succinctly defined both Dhyana and Samadhi. In the next line he is essentially saying that these two are one and the same, in that when there is no attachment (ie. Dhyana), there will also be peace (ie. Samadhi):

When we are free from attachment to all outer objects, the mind will be in peace.

Tom: See if you can see the parallel with Sri Ramana Maharshi stating in ‘Who Am I?’:

‘Not to desire anything extraneous to oneself constitutes vairagya (dispassion) or nirasa (desirelessness). Not to give up one’s hold on the Self constitutes jnana (knowledge). But really vairagya and jnana are one and the same.’

Our Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure, and the reason why we are perturbed is because we allow ourselves to be carried away by the circumstances we are in.

He who is able to keep his mind unperturbed, irrespective of circumstances, has attained Samadhi.

Tom: Sri Ramana Maharshi states in ‘Who Am I?’: ‘If only the mind is kept under control, what matters it where one may happen to be?’

In the above two lines Hui Neng hints that your True Nature, or what Hui Neng refers to as Essence of Mind, is already ‘unperturbed’, and essentially is always undisturbed and ‘pure’. Realisation of this naturally leads to Freedom:

To be free from attachment to all outer objects is Dhyana, and to attain inner peace is Samadhi. When we are in a position to deal with Dhyana and to keep our inner mind in Samadhi, then we are said to have attained Dhyana and Samadhi. The Bodhisattva Sila Sutra says, “Our Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure.” Learned Audience, let us realize this for ourselves at all times. Let us train ourselves, practice it by ourselves, and attain Buddhahood by our own effort.

Quieten your mind! (Shankara on Nirvikalpa Samadhi and Brahma-Vidya/Self-Realisation) Swami Chinmayananda’s commentary on Vivekachudamani

Vivekacchudamani Vivekachoodamani Shankara Swami Chinmayananda

Tom: I highly recommend this version of Shankara’s Vivekachudamani, which is complete with detailed commentary by Swami Chinmayananda on every verse in case there is any doubt of the meaning of the text. You can download a copy of the text here but I recommend you buy a print copy:

Shankara’s Vivekachudamani, verse 366:

  1. By nirvikalpa samadhi the true nature of Brahman is clearly and definitely manifest, never otherwise, for then, the mind being unsteady, is apt to be mixed with other perceptions.

Swami Chinmayananda’s Commentary:

In the condition of nirvikalpa samadhi alone can this great Reality be apprehended with certainty. With cent per cent certainty you apprehend the Truth when all the waves and ripples in your mind have ended. Sankara is positive and declares, ‘Never by any other method’; bringing the mind to quietude is the only method.

To quieten the mind there are many methods. You may quieten your mind through devotion, or through knowledge, or through karma-yoga or through pranayama. Whether standing on the head or sitting down, whether by going to the Himalayas or by living in your own home – you have the freedom to choose these – but your mind you must quieten.

The mind’s nature is to be constantly active. ‘Thought flow’, it is called. Therefore, it is impossible to realise the changeless Self with the mind, which, by its very nature is unstable. Whenever you try to grasp anything through the mind and intellect, the object of knowledge gets entangled in your own thought patterns. Pure Self can never be understood, so all that you understand about the Atman through the mind and intellect is Saguna Brahman and not Nirguna Brahman.

The unconditioned Absolute is never understood; you just become It when the mind ends. As long as you look at It through the mind. It is only the conditioned, the limited (Saguna) version of the eternal absolute Self.

Ribhu Gita – Chapter 26 (as recommended by Sri Ramana Maharshi)

Sri Ramana Maharshi often mentioned the Ribhu Gita in his teachings. It is reportedly said that he especially recommended the recitation of chapter 26, and that reciting it could lead one directly to the natural state or sahaja samadhi.

I have subdivided the chapter into four sections: the introduction, ‘without a trace of sankalpa’, ‘I am that, that am I’ and the concluding portion of the chapter.

Recite and be free!

You can download the PDF version of Ribhu Gita Chapter 26 here:

PDF: Ribhu Gita Chapter 26

ramana maharshi eyes of grace

!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana!
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana!
!Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramayana!


RIBHU GITA

Chapter 26
‘Undifferentiated Abidance in the Non-Dual Nature’

Translated from the Tamil version of the Ribhu Gita

Introductory verses

1.

Nidagha! in this explanation,
I shall tell you about being established in the Undivided,
Which has nothing apart from itself, which is full of itself.
May you be in the Bliss of being That itself, as being proclaimed to you.
This teaching is highly secret and rare to come by
In the Vedas and the scriptures.
Moreover, this is rare to come by for even the gods and yogis
And is dear to their hearts.

2.

Son ! it has been said by those who know fully
That being at one with the perfectly full non dual Brahman,
The mass of Existence Consciousness Bliss, the immutable
The Self of all, the serene,
With the vikalpas (imaginations, notions) of the fickle mind ended
And thought dissolved wholly and indistinguishably herein,
Like a solute such as cumin seed dissolved in water,
Is the abidance in That itself.

3.

When inquired into deeply, all the multitude of differences
Will be seen to be never existent.
All is the undivided Supreme Brahman, which is not different from the Self,
And That am I.
Be always correctly practicing
In this exalted certitude
And relinquishing all else,
Be in the Bliss of being ever That itself.

4.

That in which all these apparent differences of duality
Cease to exist when inquired into,
In which all cause and effect –
Even a trace thereof – cease to exist,
And in which not a trace of this fear of duality exists
When the mind is merged therein –
Being that itself,
Ever abide in unwavering Bliss.

5.

That in which there is neither a sankalpa (intention) nor vikalpa (notion)
In which there is neither peace nor perturbance,
In which there is neither mind nor intellect,
In which there is no confusion or conviction,
In which there is no bhava (conviction or feeling) or absence of bhava,
And in which there is no cognition of duality at all –
Being as That itself, without the least fear of duality
Ever abide in unwavering Bliss.

‘Without a Trace of Sankalpa (intention, volition, will)’

6.

That in which there is nothing bad or good,
In which there is neither sorrow nor pleasure,
In which there is neither silence nor speech.
In which there are no pairs of opposites.
In which there is no distinction of ‘I’ or ‘body’ (or I am the body)
And in which there is not the least thing to perceive –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa (intention).
In That itself as That itself.

7.

That in which there is no activity of body,
In which there is no activity of speech,
In which there is no activity of any other kind,
In which there is nothing sinful or meritorious,
And in which there is no trace of desire or its consequences –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

8.

That in which there is never any imagination,
In which there is no one who imagines,
In which he universe has not arisen,
In which the universe does not exist,
In which the universe does not get dissolved,
And in which nothing exists at any time –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

9.

That in which there is no appearance of maya (illusion),
In which there are no effects of maya (delusion),
In which there is neither knowledge nor ignorance,
In which there is neither Lord (Isvara) nor individual (jiva),
In which there is neither reality, nor unreality,
And in which there is not the least appearance of the world –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

10.

That in which there are no manifold gods,
In which there is no worship or service to these,
In which there is no differentiation as the triad of forms (Brahma, Vishnu, Siva),
In which there is no meditation on the triad of forms,
In which there is no form of the Supreme Siva,
And in which there is no meditation on the Supreme Siva –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

11.

That in which there is no action suggesting differentiation,
In which there is neither devotion nor knowledge,
In which there is no result to be obtained,
Bereft of which there is no supreme abode
In which there is nothing of means for attainment,
In which there is nothing to be attained –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

12.

That in which there is nothing of the body or senses or life.
In which there is nothing of mind or intellect or thought,
In which there is nothing of ego or ignorance,
In which there is no experiencer of these,
In which there is no macrocosm or microcosm,
And in which there is not a trace of samsara (cycle of birth and death) –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa –
In that itself as That itself.

13.

That in which there is no desire and no anger,
In which there is no covetousness and deluded infatuation,
In which there is no arrogance and envious malice,
In which there are no other impurities of the mind,
And in which there is no delusive notion of bondage,
And in which there is no delusive notion of liberation –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

14.

That in which there is neither beginning nor end,
In which there is no bottom or middle or top,
In which there is neither shrine nor deity,
In which there is neither charity nor righteous conduct,
In which there is neither time nor space,
And in which there is no object to be perceived –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

15.

That in which the fourfold means for realisation of Brahman (sadhana chatushtaya) do not exist,
In which there is no Sadguru (true guru) nor diligent disciple,
In which there is no illustrious jnani (the Knower or sage).
In which there is neither of the two kinds of liberation (jivanmukti and videha mukti)
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa.
In That itself, as That itself.

16.

That in which there are no scriptures like Vedas and such,
In which there is no inquiring individual,
In which there is no confusion and clarification,
In which there is no position to be established,
In which there is no position to be rejected,
In which there is nothing at all except oneself –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

17.

That in which there is no disputation,
In which here are no victories or defeats,
In which there is no text or its meaning,
In which there are no words with which to give expression,
In which there is no differentiation of individual (jiva) and the Supreme,
and in which there are no conditionings –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa
In That itself, as That itself.

18.

That in which there is no listening (sravana) or connected practices (manana, nididhyasana),
In which here is no exalted samadhi,
In which there is no differentiation between objects of the same particular group,
In which there is no differentiation as affording pleasure or otherwise,
And in which there are no words or their meanings –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself, as That itself.

19.

That in which there is no trace of the fear of hell,
In which there is no pleasure of heaven, either,
In which there are no worlds of the Creator or others,
In which there are no fruits to be enjoyed there,
In which there are no other worlds,
And in which there exists no universe –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

20.

That in which there are no elements,
In which there is not even a trace of any derivatives of the elements,
In which there is no egoism or sense of possession,
In which there is no trace of the kingdom of the mind,
In which there is no defect of attachment,
And in which there is not the slightest trace of vikalpa
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

21.

That in which there is no triad of bodies (gross, subtle, causal),
In which there is no triad of states of existence (waking, dream and deep sleep),
In which there is no triad of souls (ever free, having attained freedom, bound),
In which there is no triad of afflictions, (caused by bodily and mental factors, caused by external factors, caused by supernatural and cosmic factors),
In which there is no pentad of sheaths, (physical, vital energy, mental, intellectual, blissful),
And in which there is no experiencer of any of these –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankapa,
In That itself as That itself.

22.

That in which there is no sentient being,
In which there is no power of veiling,
In which there is no array of differences,
In which there is no power of false projection,
In which there is no delusion of a manifest world –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

23.

That in which there is nothing of action,
In which there is no performer of action,
In which arises unsurpassed Bliss,
Which is, indeed, the changeless state,
Knowing and realizing which none returns (to mortality or illusion)
And becoming which one is freed from bondage of worldly existence –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

24.

That by realizing which and in Bliss of which
All other joys appear to be the joys of That,
That after realizing which with very firm certitude as oneself
Nothing else will be something apart,
That by realizing which with very firm certitude as oneself
All kinds of jivas will attain Liberation –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of a sankalpa
In That itself as That itself.

25.

That which by knowing firmly as oneself
One has no need to know anything else in the least,
By knowing which with full conviction as oneself
All is know for ever,
And by knowing which as oneself in complete certitude
All actions are accomplished in their entirety –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

26.

That which can be easily attained in an unimpeded manner
By the certitude that I am Brahman,
In which, by quiescence after such certitude,
One completely full, ineffable Bliss will reveal itself,
And by merger of the mind in which
One will be joined with unsurpassed, incomparable contentment –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

27.

That by merger of the mind in which
All sorrows will cease to exist in the least,
By merger of mind in which
Neither you nor I nor anything else will exist,
And by merger of the mind in which
All these differences will disappear –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

28.

That by merger of the mind in which
One abides as oneself with no sense of duality,
By merger of the mind in which
Not a trace of anything separate will remain,
and by merger of the mind in which
Incomparable Bliss alone will reveal itself –
Ever abide in Bliss, without a trace of sankalpa,
In That itself as That itself.

‘I Am That, That Am I’

29.

That which is, indeed, of the nature of undifferentiated Existence,
Which is, indeed, of the nature of undifferentiated Consciousness,
Which, is, indeed, of the nature of undifferentiated Bliss,
Which is, indeed, of the nature of non duality,
Which, is indeed, not different from the Self,
And which, indeed, is of the undivided Supreme Brahman –
In the firm certitude that ‘I am That’,
Abide in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

30.

That which, indeed, is ‘I’ and ‘you’,
Which, indeed, is everyone else,
Which, indeed, is the substratum of all,
Which, indeed, is One without a trace of anything else,
Which, indeed, is utmost purity,
And which, indeed, is the undivided, complete, perfect fullness –
By the conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

31.

That in which there are no varying modes,
In which there is not the least thing different,
In which all egoism is extinguished,
In which all desires or imaginings get destroyed,
In which mind and such perish,
And in which all delusion is destroyed –
By the firm conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

32.

That in which the body and others cannot be discerned,
In which there is no perception of manifestation whatsoever,
In which the thought itself is destroyed,
In which merges the jiva,
In which all the imaginings get dissolved,
And in which even certitude disappears –
By the deep conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of every being That itself.

33.

That in which all meditation is merged,
In which all yoga is obliterated,
In which all ignorance is dead,
In which all knowledge is nullified,
In which there are no interactions involved,
And which is the state of Absolute Truth –
By the very firm conviction that ‘I am That’,
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

34.

Merging in which one attains happiness always,
Merging in which one never experiences sorrow,
Merging in which one perceives nothing,
Merging in which one never takes birth at all,
Merging in which one never experiences a sense of being separate,
Merging in which one abides as the Supreme (Para) itself –
By this deep conviction of ‘I am That’
Be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

35.

That which is verily the nature of the Supreme Brahman,
Which is verily is of the nature of Supreme Siva,
What verily is of the nature of the Supreme State,
Which is verily of the nature of the Knowledge of Reality,
And which verily is of the nature of the Supreme Truth –
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

36.

That which is verily of the nature of the Pure Absolute,
Which verily is of the nature of a mass of Bliss,
Which verily is of the nature of the subtle Supreme,
Which verily is of the nature of the non dual,
Which verily is of the nature of self luminous,
And which verily is of the nature of the meaning of the undifferentiated –
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

37.

That which is verily of the nature of Truth,
Which is verily of the nature of the peaceful Absolute,
Which verily is of the nature of the eternal,
Which verily is of the nature of the attribute-less,
Which verily is of the nature of the Self,
Which verily is of the nature of the undivided Absolute –
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

38.

That, indeed, which constitute the entirety of interactions,
That even the least of which, cannot indeed, be conveyed by the ‘highest truth’,
Which, indeed, is the Existence Consciousness Bliss,
Which, indeed, is ever peaceful,
From which, indeed, there is nothing apart,
And which, indeed, abides self existent, all by itself,
That, indeed, am I.
By such conviction, be in the Bliss of ever being That itself.

Concluding Verses

39.

Thus, have I explained to you, Nidagha!
The state of being established as That itself, without any duality.
You shall enjoy perpetual Bliss
By attaining this state by constant
Continuous, changeless certitude
Of the undifferentiated Absolute
There are no more miseries of mundane existence at all at any time in the future
For you are Brahman alone.

40.

Casting aside all impure Vasanas
By the pristine tendency left by the practice of
‘The Absolute Existence Consciousness Bliss, is all,
And That I ever am’,
And subsequently effacing even that tendency,
Son! You will be established in the perfect, full absorption
In and as the non dual Supreme Brahman itself
And attain the Liberation of being the undifferentiated, undivided One.

41.

All impure vasanas are of a state of the mind.
The tendencies (vasanas) about the Pure Absolute are also of a state of the mind.
The Supreme has no such tendencies (vasanas).
Hence, be established in this state,
Without any tendencies (vasanas) of the mind,
Whether considered pure or considered impure,
Like a motionless piece of stone or wood
And without any strain, be in Bliss.

42.

Having disassociated from the imaginings of all other thoughts,
By the conviction (bhava) of being the undivided Absolute,
And forgetting even the said conviction (bhava) of being the Absolute,
You yourself abide as the perfectly full Supreme Brahman.
Even if a great sinner in this world
Hears this explanation now proclaimed
And understands it, he shall, rid of all the great sins of his ego,
Abide as the nature of the undivided, undifferentiated Absolute

43.

The endless Vedas
In revealing here and there,
The means of meditation for mental purification,
Have indicated only rock-like, motionless merger with and absorption in
The unafflicted mass of Bliss,
The undivided, completely, perfectly full Siva,
As the means for the happy Liberation
Of those who are mentally purified.

44.

Therefore, one can here attain
The undifferentiated Liberation by abiding as just That itself
And with a purified mind arising out of the practice of the meditation
That whatever is known is Siva
And that Siva am I.
Whatever stated here is the Truth
Thus, the Sage Ribhu explained in full to Nidagha
The abidance in the True State.

45.

It is the undivided form of our Supreme Lord in a state of sublime, joyous dance that says:
By the conviction that I am ever the Reality, which is Existence Consciousness Bliss,
And by the state of abiding at one with That being That itself,
The empty bondage of the world can be cut asunder and pure Liberation attained.

 

What is the difference between Laya, Nirvikalpa Samadhi and Sahaja Samadhi?

Question: Thank you for this post on Laya and Samadhi. What is the difference between ‘Laya’ and Samadhi? And what is the difference between Nirvakalpa Samadhi, and Nirvakalpa Sahaja Samadhi? Thank you. 🙏

Tom: There are several different definitions of each term, depending on the scripture and school (eg. yoga, vedanta, etc). However, in essence, when the mind has been made still but I-thought (ie. ego) has NOT been removed, that is laya, so the ego remains latent and does not end up being destroyed. Instead, once the samadhi is over, the ego sprouts up again and causes suffering. This ‘Laya’ is sometimes known as Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

Abiding as the self is to remain as the Self without the I-thought. This is called Mauna (Silence), and naturally, over time, leads to Moksha once the vasanas (egoic tendencies) are rooted out. This is because the root cause of suffering, namely ignorance or the ‘I thought’ is directly attacked in this practice. Moksha is also called Sahaja Samadhi (which roughly translated means ‘the natural state’), as it is unforced and natural, but there is no sense of egotism/I-thought.

Confusingly, these terms are often used in different ways, even within a single philosophical school such as Advaita Vedanta. Sometimes the word Laya is used to mean Moksha, for example, and Mauna, Self-Abidance and Nirvikalpa Samadhi are also equated at times. At these times it will be said that Nirvikalpa Samadhi does lead to Moksha.

Best wishes!

You should not go into Laya (trance)! Annamalai Swami | Ramana Maharshi

Here are some very important teachings from Annamalai Swami regarding some dangers of meditation and entering into laya, a trance-like state:

annamalai swami final talks

A foreign woman came to see Annamalai Swami. While she was prostrating to him she seemed to become unconscious of her surroundings and she remained lying on the floor at his feet for about ten minutes. This was not the first time that she had fallen into this state while in Annamalai Swami’s presence. After watching her for some time, he shouted at her:

Annamalai Swami: You should not go into laya [a trance-like state] like this! It is becoming a habit with you. It may give you some kind of temporary happiness, but it is not a happiness that helps you spiritually. It is the same as sleep. Even worldly activities are better than this laya. Get out of this habit!

[Addressing the other people present]

People occasionally went into states like this in front of Bhagavan [Sri Ramana Maharshi]. He never encouraged them, even the ones who appeared to be in deep meditation. I remember one occasion when Bhagavan noticed a man who had been sitting motionless in the hall for at least an hour, apparently in a deep meditation. Bhagavan was not fooled. He called to Kunju Swami and others who were present, ‘Shout at him, shake him, and when he wakes up, take him on giri pradakshina This is no better than sleep. This state is not good for him. He is just wasting his time sitting like this.’

Bhagavan warned us about this state, and he often cited stories of sadhus who had been stuck in this state for years. One of the most frequently told was a story about a sadhu who asked his disciple for a glass of water. While he was waiting for the man to return, he went into a deep laya state that persisted for many, many years. He was in this state so long, his disciple died, the river changed its course, and different rulers came and went. When he opened his eyes, his first comment was, ‘Where is my glass of water?’ Before he went into laya, this thought was uppermost in his mind, and decades later, this thought was still there.

Bhagavan’s comment on this story was, ‘These states are not helpful. They are not samadhi.’

[The woman who had been in laya then asked the next question:]

Question: Whenever I start meditating, soon after I start, I fall into these states. How can I prevent these laya states from coming and taking me over?

Annamalai Swami: Keep practising self-enquiry. This is the way to avoid laya. The mind usually has two habits; either it is occupied with many thoughts and engaged in activities, or it goes back to sleep. But for some people, there is this third option, falling into this laya state. You should not indulge in it because once it becomes a habit, it becomes addictive.

[Tom – note the habitual nature of going into laya which becomes familiar to the mind and so becomes a familiar state of consciousness:]

It is a pleasant state be in, but if you fall very deeply into it, it becomes very hard to get out of it. You know what this state is like because you have been in it many times. As soon as you feel the first symptoms of an approaching trance, get up and walk around. Don’t remain sitting or lying. Walk around or do some work, and above all, keep up the practice of self-enquiry.

If you practise self-enquiry constantly, you will never find yourself falling into laya. You can conquer this habit. You just need to be attentive and to do self-enquiry. 

[Tom – we see the same teachings in traditional Advaita texts too, eg. in Gaudapada’s commentary on the Mundakya Upanishad – see verse 3.44.]


Here Annamalai Swami gives a similar teaching, this time from the book Living by the Words of Bhagavan, page 345:

Questioner: It is clear that vasanas are not destroyed during sleep. Are they destroyed by nirvikalpa samadhi, or does this state have no effect on them?

Annamalai Swami: Bhagavan taught that we should aim for sahaja samadhi, not nirvikalpa samadhi. He said that it was not necessary to experience nirvikalpa samadhi prior to enjoying sahaja samadhi.

One form of nirvikalpa samadhi is like laya, like deep sleep. There is peace while the samadhi persists, but when the experience is over the mind rises and the vasanas become just as active as before.

Laya [temporary suspension of all mental faculties in a trance-like state] is virtually the same as sleep. Experiencing this state is not helpful to your sadhana. Laya is not meditation, it is unconsciousness; it is tamo-guna in a very strong form. Meditation needs an awake mind, not an unconscious one.

Sleep and laya increase the identification with the mind. You may feel a little peace during laya, but when you wake up from this state the mind becomes very active again and the peace is all lost.

Ramana Maharshi, Vedanta and Zen: Q: ‘What method must we practice in order to attain liberation?’ (Chan Master Hui Hai)

dazhu_huihai

Let us compare some Zen teachings with that of Advaita Vedanta and Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Hui Hai was one of the great Ch’an (Zen) masters from the 8th Century CE. This excerpt is taken from Hui Hai’s Text on the Importance of Sudden Enlightenment, Dialogue 2.

I have interspersed quotes from Ramana Maharshi and Shankara in red type to compare and contrast the teachings:

Question: what method must we practice in order to attain liberation?

Answer: It can be attained only through the gate of sudden illumination (or sudden enlightenment).

Q: What is a sudden illumination?

A: ‘Sudden’ means instantaneously ridding yourselves of deluded thoughts’. ‘Illumination’ or ‘Enlightenment’ means the realisation that illumination is not something to be attained.

[Tom – This can also be translated as ‘Enlightenment’ means the realisation there is no ‘Enlightenment’ to attain, there is nothing to attain’. Compare this with : ‘The benefit of this Light of Supreme Truth is the understanding that there is not the least thing such as ‘attainment’, since the Supreme Self is the Ever-Attained One Whole.’ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Guru Vachaka Kovai, Verse 8]

Q: From where do we start this practice?

A: You must start from the the beginning, the fundamental root.

Q: And what is that?

A: Mind is the fundamental root.

Q: How can this be known?

A: The Lankavatara Sutra says:

‘When mental processes (hsin) arise, then do all phenomena (dharmas) spring forth; and when mental processes cease, then do all dharmas cease likewise.’

[Tom – compare: ‘If the ego rises, all else will also rise; if it subsides all else will also subside.’ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?]

The Vimalakirti Sutra says:

‘Those desiring to attain the Pure Land’ must first purify their own minds, for the purification of mind is the purity of the Buddha Land.’

The Sutra of the Doctrine Bequeathed by the Buddha says:

‘Just by mind control, all things become possible.’

[Tom – compare: ‘If only the mind is kept under control, what matters it where one may happen to be?’ Sri Ramana Maharshi, Who Am I?‘]

In another sutra it says:

‘Sages seek from [their own] mind, not from the Buddhas; fools seek from the Buddhas instead of seeking from [their own] mind.’

and

‘The Wise regulate their minds rather than their body; fools regulate their body rather than their minds.’

The Sutra of the Names of the Buddha states:

‘Evil/sin springs forth from the mind, and by the mind is evil/sin overcome.’

[Tom – compare ‘…man’s bondage is caused by the mind, and Liberation too is caused by that alone.’ Shankara, Vivekachudamani verse 172]

Thus, we may know that all good and evil proceed from our minds and that mind is therefore the fundamental root. If you desire liberation, you must first know all about the root, mind. Unless you can penetrate to this truth, all your efforts will be vain; for, while you are still seeking something from forms external to yourselves, you will never attain.

The Dhyana Paramita Sutra says:

‘For as long as you direct your search to the forms around you, you will not attain your goal even after aeon upon aeon; whereas, by contemplating your inner awareness, you can achieve Buddhahood in a single flash of thought.’

[Tom – compare: ‘Let people quote the Scriptures and sacrifice to the gods, let them perform rituals and worship the deities, but there is no Liberation without the realisation of one’s identity with the Atman, no, not even in the lifetime of a hundred Brahmas put together.’ Shankara, Vivekachudamani verse 6]

Q: By what means is the root-practice to be performed?

A: Only by sitting in meditation, for it is accomplished by Dhyana (Ch’an) and Samadhi (Ting). The Dhyana-Paramita Sutra says:

‘Dhyana and Samadhi are essential to the search for the sacred knowledge of the Buddhas; for, without these, the deluded thoughts remain in confusion and tumult, and the roots of goodness suffer damage.’

Q: Please describe Dhyana and Samadhi.

A: When wrong thinking does not arise, that is Dhyana.

When you sit and see your original nature, that is Samadhi, for indeed that original nature is your eternal unborn mind. In Samadhi, there is the natural situational response of no-mind, and the ‘eight winds’ do not function.

The ‘eight winds’ are gain and loss, calumny and eulogy, praise and blame, sorrow and joy. By practising in this way, even ordinary people may enter the state of Buddhahood. How can that be so? The Sutra of the Bodhisattva-Precepts says:

‘All beings who observe the Buddha-precept thereby enter Buddhahood.’

There are those who in this way have crossed over to the other shore and attained liberation, transcending the six rafts (the six Paramitas), and freeing themselves from the three worlds (greed, anger and delusion). The great power of the ‘Enlightened Ones’ is the infinite power of the Honoured, the Courageous, the ‘Conqueror’!