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I vow to free them

the Wanderling

Interestingly enough, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen, Hui-neng, in relation to the Bodhisattva Vow "Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to free them," in what seems to be in direct contrast to the intent of the vow, in his writings, refers to a twofold process of letting go of past misdeeds and guarding against future ones --- TASKS TO BE PERFORMED BY OURSELVES ALONE.

He goes on to say our Original Nature is not the source of our problems but rather of their solution. "Repentance" as described by the Sixth Patriarch in his writings DOES NOT REQUIRE ANOTHER TO WHOM OUR APPEAL IS DIRECTED, NOR ANYONE FROM WHICH FORGIVENESS IS RECEIVED. Although it involves a vow for the deliverance of an infinite number of sentient beings, the vow is similarly explained as being self-directed:

"Learned Audience, all of us have now declared that we vow to deliver an infinite number of sentient beings; but what does that mean? It does not mean that I, Hui-neng, am going to deliver them. And who are these sentient beings within our mind? They are the delusive mind, the deceitful mind, the evil mind, and such like minds --- all these are sentient beings. Each of them has to deliver himself by means of his own essence of mind. Then the deliverance is genuine."

The ultimate refuge, then, lies not beyond us, but rather in our Original Nature; each should take refuge in the Buddha within. No reference is made to any other Buddhas: "hence if we do not take refuge in the Buddha of our own Mind-essence, there is nowhere else for us to go." In this respect Hui-neng is in perfect accord with the teachings of Bodhidharma, the First Patriarch of Zen. (source)

Many years ago I lived in a former British island colony in the Caribbean. When the British ran the island, in the capitol, there was a people's commons they called Parade. It was a huge grass area they kept immaculately preened for their parades and various pomp ceremonies. After the British relinquished colony status, island folk from the hinterlands and elsewhere began using Parade to set up and sell their wares, turning it into a giant outdoor bazaar they called Jubliee Market or in the songs of the islands, Solas Market. The outdoor bazaar atmosphere was exotic in it's own way...the sights, sounds, the colors and general milieu...all thrown together and crawling with pickpockets, higglers, vagrants and just plain folk trying to make a buck or garner a bargin. However the vendors would continue to haul in loads and loads of stuff, bananas, coconuts, breadfruit, various animals to turn into meat, that sort of thing. The only thing is they never bothered to cart off any of the leftover residue and castoff garbage. It piled up and up into huge heaps, attracting flies, rats and other animals and insects, besides stinking to high heaven.

I lived high in the Blue Mountains in a pristine jungle secluded cliff-side overlook pushing close to a mile above the capitol. Every morning I got up and cleaned my OWN room, but wouldn't go down into the city and clean Parade.

The following from the Five Degrees of Tozan, the Fourth Degree The Arrival at Mutual Integration (The Absolute within the Relative) known as ken-chu-shi:

"He enters the market place with empty hands, yet others receive benefit from him. This is what is called to be on the road, yet not to have left the house; to have left the house, yet not to be on the road."

The point being people can do and what they will, with Buddhism, Zen, or anything else...even clean their own rooms or let the garbage pile up. Yet a true man of Zen can enter the market place with empty hands, yet others receive benefit from him. As D.T. Suzuki writes:

The creator may be found busy molding his universe, or he may be absent from his workshop, but Zen goes on with its own work. It is not dependent upon the support of a creator; when it grasps the reason for living a life, it is satisfied. Hoyen (Wu-tsu Fa-yen, 1024- 1104) used to produce his own hand and ask his disciples why it was called a hand. When we know the reason, there is Satori and we have Zen. Whereas with the God of mysticism there is the grasping of a definite object; when you have God, what is no-God is excluded. This is self-limiting. Zen wants absolute freedom, even from God. "No abiding place" means that very thing; "Cleanse your mouth when you utter the word Buddha" amounts to the same thing.

There is, or at onetime was, a newsletter titled THE MOUNTAIN PATH which offered itself up as an official publication of the Ramana ashram. The editor was a man of some renown in spiritual and Enlightenment circles by the name of Arthur Osborne, whose son Adam Osborne grew up at the Ramana Ashram and who I met and knew THERE in our childhood.(see) In Volume 1, April 1964, Number 2, he offers the following discourse in response to a letter from one of the readers:

(It is a) false idea that it is YOU who are doing it -- as if the Brutus in Shakespeare's play were to forget that it is a play and think that he was really the enemy of the stage Caesar. If he did he would have the 'I-am-the-doer' illusion and would be shut up in a mad-house. And he would not act his part any more efficiently, rather less so, because his ego-illusion would break through. In the same way efficient action in your allotted role in life is not at all dependent on the false idea that you are the limited individual who acts.

As (an) example: A murderer claiming impunity on the plea that he is not the doer. Why does he commit the murder? Necessary and harmonious actions CAN be performed without the intrusion of the ego, without any egoistic motive; BUT if a murderer has some ego-based motive or believes himself to be judging and deciding that the murder should be committed he also believes himself to be the doer.

Can you imagine somebody who is full of vasanas or latent tendencies attaining Realization? It follows, therefore, that in the course of practice they must be squeezed out. It is a good thing to see them; it enables you to recognize them and determine not to be influenced by them any more. In that way they are gradually cast out; but it often takes time and requires great perseverance.

One should never give way to despondency. It is one of the worst obstacles to progress and has to be fought. Religiously it is represented as a sin, a temptation of the devil, metaphysically it is an error. The whole purpose of the practice is to realize that you are not the individual self; so as long as you believe that you are and that this individual self is weak and sinful, how can you realize that you are not?

Carlos Castandea, the controversial author of eleven best selling books who is said to have apprenticed under a Yaqui Indian shaman-sorcerer called Don Juan Matus, who himself had studied under a Diablero, fell under the spell of despondency that almost curtailed his forward momentum. If it wasn't for the strength of Castaneda's ability to intuitively sense a potential positive and existent future from what some would call an Omen, but Buddhists would most likely harken toward dharmadhatu, he may have never published his first book or the additional ones that followed.

At age 17 just following his First Death Experience and Attainment, but well before his little known Second Death Experience, as a young boy the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was found in a dark, dank hole in the underground of a temple. He had been there for sometime and was being almost eaten alive from insects. His skin was raw and he was covered with infested wounds. However he never made an attempt to strike out or kill any of the bugs or vermin gnawing at him. Many years later when he was a venerated Maharshi and cared for by attendents and followers one of the books written about him mentions one of his attendents was going around the ashram spraying mosquitoes with an insecticide. When the Maharshi passed away his death was attributed to a malignant tumor. In both cases the Bhagavan did not intervene with the insects. He did however, not intercede with stopping the mosquito's premature demise...which by his word would have been followed. He treated both the same, with a detached non-interference. An Enlightened being is free from Karma since basic nature transcends all duality and is ultimate, therefore there is no one to receive the effect, whether it is good or bad, and no one to whom any effect can apply.

"In the morning I had darshan of Sri Bhagavan in the old Hall. As our eyes met, there was a miraculous effect upon my mind. I felt as if I had plunged into a pool of peace, and with eyes shut, sat in a state of ecstasy for nearly an hour. When I came to normal consciousness, I found someone spraying the Hall to keep off insects, and Sri Bhagavan mildly objecting with a shake of his head."

G.V. Subbaramayya, "Sri Ramana Reminiscences"

Paul Williams in ON REBIRTH: Buddhism and Reincarnation explains WE are made of five 'strands': physical matter, sensations, determinate perceptions, additional factors like volition (intentions), and consciousness. Hui-neng, above, speaking of sentient beings states: "who are these sentient beings within our mind? They are the delusive mind, the deceitful mind, the evil mind, and such like minds --- all these are sentient beings." Williams, writing of Buddhists, presents the following: "Let us understand by person --- as does the Buddhist --- ANY conscious subject of experience is a "person" (i.e., sentient being). Thus the mosquito or even a cockroach is a sentient being. Personally, vow or no vow, there has always been something intriguing about the concept and "coincidence" in the Bhagavan's case and Enlightenment nonwithstanding, in the use of an insecticide and the rise of his ultimate demise through a death-related tumor.

NOTE: A minor maelstrom was churned up following the posting of the sentence above revolving around "an Enlightened being is free from Karma." While it may be so that "syntax" or "word-wise" it may be somewhat more complicated (or simpler) than that, the ingrained thread remains. For those who may seek further clarification, please go to and read the following and any links included therein:

ENLIGHTENMENT AND KARMA: Their Role in the Awakening Experince






Zen and Western Psychotherapy:
Nirvanic Transcendence and Samsaric Fixation

Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal
by Sandra A. Wawrytko
Vol.4 July, 1991
pp. 451-494