Chapter 5: Non-attainment
There Is Nothing to Attain
Gentlemen of affairs often take the mind, which assumes there is something to attain, to seek the dharma, wherein there is nothing to attain. What do I mean by “the mind, which assumes there is something to attain”? It’s the intellectually clever one, the one that ponders and judges. What do I mean by “the dharma, wherein there is nothing to attain”? It’s the imponderable, the incalculable, where there’s no way to apply intelligence or cleverness.
Haven’t you read of old Shakyamuni at the assembly of the lotus of the true dharma? Three times Sariputta earnestly entreated him to preach, but there was simply no way for him to begin. Afterwards, using all his power, he managed to say that this dharma is not something that can be understood by thought or discrimination. This was old Shakyamuni taking this matter to its ultimate conclusion, opening the gateway of expedient means as a starting point for the teaching of the true nature of reality.
When Hsueh Feng, a truly awakened master, heard of the teaching of Chou, master of the adamantine wisdom scripture, on Te Shan, he went to his abode. One day he asked Te Shan, “In the custom of the school that has come down from high antiquity, what doctrine is used to instruct people?” Te Shan said, “Our school has no verbal expression, nor does it have any doctrine to teach people.” Later Hsueh Feng also asked, “Do I have any share in the business of the vehicle of this ancient school?” Te Shan picked up his staff and immediately hit him saying, “What are you saying?” Under this blow Hsueh Feng finally smashed the lacquer bucket of his ignorance. From this we observe that in this sect intelligence and cleverness, thought and judgment, are of no use at all.
An ancient worthy had a saying: “Transcendent wisdom is like a great mass of fire. Approach it and it burns off your face.” If you hesitate in thought and speculation, you immediately fall into conceptual discrimination. Yung Chia said, “Loss of the wealth of the dharma and destruction of virtue all stems from the mind’s conceptual discrimination.”
Once you have the intent to investigate this path to the end, you must settle your resolve and vow to the end of your days not to retreat or fall back so long as you have not yet reached the great rest, the great surcease, the great liberation. There’s not much to the buddha dharma, but it’s always been hard to find capable people.
One of the greatest contributions of Gautam the Buddha to humanity is that religion is not to attain something. That which you want to attain you already have, so any effort to attain it is simply stupid. You have got your illumination within, you have got your enlightenment ready to explode at any moment, but the problem is you are never here and now. You are wandering and searching all over the world, and this search, this constant urge to achieve, has a certain psychology in it.