The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Beyond conceptual Buddha Mind
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I have come to the conclusion that many Zen practitioners do not understand the difference between a conception of Buddha Mind and Buddha Mind, itself. When somebody mentions the word “Buddha” up pops a fuzzy mental image of a Buddha. It could be a Buddha made of concrete sitting in the garden under a tree. It might be a Buddha statue on the shrine in our temple or Zen center. It could be the mental image of some old guy with his begging bowl walking with his attendant Ananda.
Whatever the concept, percept, mental image or idea, this is not the Buddha or Mind (both are used interchangeably in Zen). The task that lies before us is to somehow get past all these internal Buddha perceptions. We are only interested in what, exactly, generates these images which is absolutely pure and ungenerated. Here, by the way, is where the Five Aggregates are transcended. We can call it the âtman, the Dharma of the Buddhas or the Mind ground. Names are not important. It is only important that we are here which is independent rather than dependent as before.
It is difficult for us to accept the fact that we can directly intuit the source of our conceptions, hence, getting beyond their limitations. We make it almost impossible to do so by continually being fixated on all manner of perceptions from bare emotional ones to ideational ones. Our defiled mind, as the Buddha calls it, never stops interfering with our spiritual progress. It is almost untamable. At the back of all this, our Buddha-nature (still unrealized) is interfacing with all of this craziness, unable to get past it so that it might recognize itself. This would be the example of the pure subject meeting the pure object. But as long as the impure subject tries to imagine a pure object of its own devising, nothing succeeds. This is not pure enough.
Of course, every time we hear words like “Buddha-nature,” “Dharma,” “Bodhicitta,” “satori,” this triggers a web of concepts connected with other webs of concepts. We look more and more for suitable meanings, not realizing that we are moving further way from direct intuition of Buddha Mind. But this is all within the iron wall of conventionality which can only investigate to the level of concepts or ideas. Conventional thinking as never produced a Buddha. To discover true reality or Buddha Mind we have to go beyond conventional thinking.