of the Eye of the True Dharma
of Other Minds
by Carl Bielefeldt
The Tashin tsu is one of the later essays in the Shôbôgenzô,
composed according to its colophon, in 1245, while Dôgen
was residing at Daibutsuji (the monastery he would rename
as Eiheiji). The title theme of the essay concerns mental
telepathy, one of the supernormal powers (abhijna)
regularly said in Buddhist literature to be accessible to
those who have mastered the four basic levels of meditation
(dhyana). Here, Dôgen takes up the famous story
of a Zen masters test of the mind-reading powers of
an Indian monk. The story well reflects the Chinese Zen masters
doubts about the Indian tradition of such powers, and Dôgens
comments well reflect his own doubts about the understanding
of some of the Chinese masters.
to avoid overloading the text with technical detail, I have
limited the annotation here to a few notes on the more obscure
passages. The Soto Zen Text Project will be preparing a more
fully annotated version for its web site (www.stanford.edu/group/scbs/sztp3).
An earlier version of this translation appeared as Reading
Others Minds, in D. Lopez, ed., Buddhism
in Practice (1995), pp. 69-79. Some readers may also wish
to consult my discussion of this text, and the general issue
of the supernormal powers in Zen, which appeared in Disarming
the Superpowers: The abhijna in Eisai and Dôgen,
in Dôgen Zenji kenkyu ronshu, edited by Daihonzan
Eiheiji Daionki Kyoku (2002), pp. 1018-1046. If you have trouble
locating this article, feel free to contact me, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teacher [Dazheng] Huizhong [d. 775 C.E], of the Guangzhai
monastery in the Western Capital [Changan], was a native of
Zhuji in the province of Yue [modern Zhejiang]; his family
name was Ran. After receiving the mind seal [of enlightenment
from the Sixth Ancestor], he stayed at Dangzi Valley, Mount
Baiyai, in Nanyang [modern Henan], where for more than forty
years he never descended from his monastery. Word of his practice
of the way reached the imperial seat, and in the second year
of the Shangyuan era , the Tang Emperor Suzong [r. 756-762]
dispatched an imperial commissioner, Sun Zhaojin, to summon
him to the capital. There he was received [by the emperor]
with the etiquette due a teacher and installed in the Xichan
Cloister of the Qianfu Monastery. Upon the ascension of the
Emperor Daizong [r. 762-779], he was reinstalled in the Guangzhai
monastic complex, where for sixteen years he taught the dharma
in accord with the faculties of his audiences.
this time, a certain Master from the Western Heavens [i.e.,
India] named Daer [Big Ears] arrived in the
capital. He was said to have achieved the wisdom eye [that
knows] the minds of others. The Emperor ordered the National
Teacher [Huizhong] to test him. As soon as the Tripitaka Master
saw the Teacher, he bowed and stood [respectfully] off to
his right side.
Teacher asked him,
So, youve got the penetration of other minds?
Not really, he answered.
Tell me, said the Teacher,
wheres this old monk right now?
The Tripitaka Master said, Reverend Preceptor, youre
the teacher to a nation; how could you go off to Xichuan
to watch the boat races?
The Teacher asked again, Tell me, wheres
this old monk right now?
The Tripitaka Master said, Reverend Preceptor, youre
the teacher to a nation; how could you be on the Tianjin
bridge watching the playing monkeys?
Teacher asked a third time, Tell me, wheres
this old monk right now?
The Tripitaka Master said nothing for a while, not knowing
where the Teacher had gone.
The Teacher said, This fox spirit! Wheres
his penetration of other minds?
The Tripitaka Master had no response.
* * * * *
asked Zhaozhou [778-897],
I dont understand why the Tripitaka Master
Daer couldnt see where the National Teacher was
the third time. Where was the National Master?
Zhaozhou said, He was on the Tripitaka Masters
* * * *
asked Xuansha [835-908], If he was on his nose,
why didnt he see him?
Xuansha said, Because he was too close.
* * * * *
asked Yangshan [803-887], Why didnt the
Tripitaka Master Daer see the National Teacher the third
Yangshan said, The first two times were the
mind that plays across objects. After that, he entered
the samadhi of personal enjoyment; thats
why he didnt see him.1
* * * *
of Haihui [1025-1072] said, If the National Teacher
was on the Tripitaka Masters nose, why would it
be hard to see him? He is completely unaware that the National
Teacher was in the Tripitaka Masters eye.2
* * * *
summoned the Tripitaka Master, saying,
Tell me, did you in fact see the first two times?
[Of this,] the Chan Master Mingjue Zhongxian of Xuedou [980-1052]
said, Defeated! Defeated!3
* * * *
ago there have been many stinking fists who
offered comments and sayings on the case of the National Teacher
Dazheng testing the Tripitaka Master Daer, but in particular
we have these five old fists. Nevertheless,
while it is not the case that each of these five venerable
worthies is not on the mark, right on the mark,
there is much in the conduct of the National Teacher that
they do not see. The reason is that until now everyone has
thought that the Tripitaka Master correctly knew the whereabouts
of the National Teacher the first two times. This is a major
error by our predecessors °© one that their successors
should not fail to recognize. My doubts about these five venerable
worthies are of two sorts: first, that they do not know the
National Teachers basic intention in testing the Tripitaka
Master; second, that they do not know the National Teachers
body and mind.
I say that they do not know the National Teachers
basic intention in testing the Tripitaka Master, I mean this:
that his basic intention in initially saying, Tell
me, wheres this old monk right now? is to
test whether the Tripitaka Master is an eye that sees the
buddha dharma to test whether the Tripitaka Master has the
penetration of other minds in the buddha dharma. If at that
point the Tripitaka Master had the buddha dharma, when he
is asked to express Wheres this old monk right
now?, he would have some way out of the body,
would bring about some personal advantage.
The National Teachers saying Wheres
this old monk right now? is like his asking, What
is this old monk? [To say,] Wheres
this old monk right now? is to ask, What time
is right now? [To ask,] Where? is
to say, Where is here? There is a reason [to
ask] what to call this old monk: a national teacher is not
always an old monk; an old monk
is always a fist. That the Tripitaka Master
Daer, though he came all the way from the Western Heavens,
does not understand this is because he has not studied the
way of the buddha, because he has only learned in vain the
ways of the pagans and the Two Vehicles4.
Teacher asks again, Tell me, wheres this old
monk right now? Here again, the Tripitaka Master offers
the National Teacher asks, Tell me, wheres
this old monk right now? This time, the Tripitaka
Master is silent for a while but is at a loss and has no reply.
Then, the National Teacher rebukes him, saying, This
fox spirit! Wheres his penetration of other minds?
Yet, though he is thus rebuked, the Tripitaka Master still
has nothing to say, no reply, no penetrating passageway.
our predecessors all think that the National Teachers
rebuke of the Tripitaka Master is only because, although he
knows the National Teachers whereabouts the first
two times, he does not know and cannot see [where the Teacher
is] the third time. This is a big mistake. The National Teacher
rebukes the Tripitaka Master because, from the beginning,
the Tripitaka Master has never seen the buddha dharma even
in his dreams, not because, although he knows the first two
times, he does not know the third time. In short, he rebukes
him because, while claiming to have attained the penetration
of other minds, he does not know the penetration of other
the National Teacher tests him by asking whether there is
the penetration of other minds in the buddha dharma. He answers,
Not really, suggesting that there is. Thereafter,
the National Teacher thought, If we say there is the
penetration of other minds in the buddha dharma, if we attribute
this penetration to the buddha dharma, it would be like this.
A statement with nothing brought up is not the buddha dharma.5
Even if the Tripitaka Master had something to say the third
time, if it were like the first two times, it would not be
a statement; he would be rebuked for all [three answers].
The National Teacher questions him three times in order to
ask again and again whether the Tripitaka Master has really
heard the National Teachers question.
* * * *
point is that none of our predecessors has known the body
and mind of the National Teacher. The body and mind of the
National Teacher is not something that a Tripitaka dharma
master can easily discern, can easily recognize; not something
reached by the ten holy and three wise; not
something understood by the virtually enlightened
and heir apparent. How could a scholar of the Tripitaka
who is a commoner know the full body of the
get this principle fixed [in our minds]. To say that a scholar
of the Tripitaka could know or could see the body and mind
of the National Teacher is to slander the buddha dharma; to
consider that [the National Teacher] stands shoulder to shoulder
with the masters of the sutras and commentaries is the extreme
of madness. Do not think that those types who seek to get
the penetration of other minds can know the whereabouts of
the National Teacher.
of other minds is a local custom of the country of the Western
Heavens, and there are occasionally types there who cultivate
it. We have never yet heard of edifying examples of those
types who attain the penetration of other minds having verified
the buddha dharma on the strength of their penetration of
other minds, without depending on the production of the thought
of bodhi and the right view of the Greater Vehicle7.
Even after cultivating the penetration of other minds, they
must, like commoners, go on to produce the
thought [of bodhi] and cultivate the practice, and thereby
themselves verify the way of the buddha. If one could recognize
the way of the buddha simply on the strength of the penetration
of other minds, all the holy men of the past would have first
cultivated this penetration and used it to know the fruit
of buddhahood; yet this has never happened in all the appearances
in the world of a thousand buddhas and ten thousand ancestors.
If it cannot know the way of the buddhas and ancestors, what
good is it? It is useless to the way of the buddha.
who have attained the penetration of other minds and commoners
who have not attained the penetration of other minds are equal;
maintaining the buddha nature is the same for [those with]
the penetration of other minds and commoners.
Those who study the buddha [dharma] should not think that
those with the five penetrations or the six penetrations of
the way of the pagans and Two Vehicles are superior to the
commoner. Those who simply have the mind of the way and who
would study the buddha dharma are superior to those with the
five or six penetrations. They are like the kalavinka , whose
voice even inside the shell is superior to that of other birds.
what is called in the Western Heavens the penetration of other
minds ought to be called the penetration of others
thoughts. While it may manage to be cognizant of the arising
of thoughts, it is quite at a loss when thoughts have not
arisen. This is laughable. The mind is not necessarily thoughts;
thoughts are not necessarily the mind. When the mind is thoughts,
the penetration of other minds cannot know this; when thoughts
are the mind, the penetration of other minds cannot know this.
being the case, the five penetrations or six penetrations
of the Western Heavens are all quite useless, not the equal
of [the ordinary field work of] cutting the grasses
and cultivating the paddies in our country. Therefore,
from C nasthana [i.e., China] to the east, the worthies of
the past have not cared to cultivate the five penetrations
or six penetrations, since they have no function. Even a one-foot
jewel is functional, but the five or six penetrations
have no function. A one-foot jewel is not a treasure, but
an inch of shadow is pivotal. For those who
take seriously that inch of shadow, who would cultivate the
five or six penetrations?8
Thus we should be very firmly determined about the principle
that the power of the penetration of other minds cannot reach
the boundaries of the buddha wisdom.
nevertheless, as do our five venerable worthies, that the
Tripitaka Master knew the whereabouts of the National Teacher
the first two times he was asked is greatly mistaken. The
National Teacher is a buddha and ancestor; the Tripitaka Master
is a commoner. How could there be any question of his seeing
[the National Master]?
* * * *
the National Teacher asks, Tell me, wheres
this old monk right now? There is nothing hidden in
this question; it is a clear statement. That the Tripitaka
Master might not understand it is not so bad; that the five
venerable worthies do not hear it or see it is a serious mistake.
[The text says] the National Teacher asked, Wheres
this old monk right now? He does not say, Tell
me, wheres this old monks mind right now?
or Where are this old monks thoughts right
now? This is a statement that we should definitely
hear and understand, see and take to heart.
[the five venerable worthies] do not know or see it; they
do not hear or see the National Teacher statement.
Therefore, they do not know the body and mind of the National
Teacher. It is having a statement that makes [him] a national
teacher; for without a statement he would not be a national
teacher. How much less, then, can they understand that the
body and mind of the National Teacher are not big or small,
self or other. It is as if they have forgotten that he has
a head or a nose9.
the conduct of the National Teacher be unceasing, how could
he figure to make a buddha? Therefore, he
should not be compared with a buddha. Since the National Teacher
has the body and mind of the buddha dharma, we should not
measure him by the practice and verification of the spiritual
penetrations, we should not hem and haw over [the notion that
he is in a trance state of] severing considerations
and forgetting objects. [He] is not something that
can be determined either by deliberating or not deliberating.
The National Teacher is not one who has the buddha
nature or one who lacks the buddha nature;
his is not the [buddhas ultimate] body of
empty space. This kind of body and mind of the National
Teacher is something entirely unknown [to any of the five
venerable worthies]. In the community of [the Sixth Ancestor
at] Caoxi, apart from [the two disciples] Chingyuan [Xingsi]
and Nanyue [Huairang], only this National Teacher Dazheng
was a buddha and ancestor. Now we need to examine all our
five venerable worthies.
says that [the Tripitaka Master] did not see the National
Teacher because the latter was on his nose.
This statement has nothing to say. How could the National
Teacher be on the Tripitaka Masters nose? The Tripitaka
Master does not yet have a nose. If we admit that the Tripitaka
Master does have a nose, then on the contrary the National
Teacher should see him. Even if we admit that the National
Teacher does see him, this would only mean that they are nose
to nose; it would not mean that the Tripitaka Master
sees the National Teacher.
* * * * *
says, Because he was too close. To be sure,
he may be too close; but as for hitting it,
he still has not hit it. What is this too close?
I suspect that Xuansha still does not understand too
close, has not studied too close.
I say this because he understands only that there is no seeing
in too close; he does not understand that
seeing is too close. We have to say that,
in terms of the Buddha dharma, he is the farthest
of the far. If we say it was too close only the third
time, then it must have been too far the first
two times. Now, I want to ask Xuansha, What is it
that you call too close? Is it a fist? Is
it an eye? From now on, dont say theres nothing
seen too close.
* * * * *
says, The first two times were the mind that
plays across objects. After that, he entered the
samadhi of personal enjoyment [of enlightenment];
thats why he didnt see him. Yangshan,
while being from the Eastern Earth [i.e., China], you have
a reputation in the Western Heavens as a little Sakyamuni,
but your statement here has a big error. The mind that plays
across objects and the samadhi of personal enjoyment are not
different; hence, we cannot say that [the Tripitaka Master]
does not see him by reason of some difference between the
mind that plays across objects and personal enjoyment. Therefore,
though you set up the mind that plays across objects and personal
enjoyment as the reasons, your statement is still no statement.
If you say that when I enter the samadhi of personal enjoyment,
others cannot see me, then personal enjoyment would not be
able to verify itself, and there could be no cultivation and
verification of it.
if you think that the Tripitaka Master really saw the National
Teachers whereabouts the first two times, if you study
[this case] as if he really knew [the whereabouts], you are
not yet a man who studies the buddha [dharma]. The Tripitaka
Master Daer does not know or see the whereabouts of the National
Teacher not only the third time but the first two times as
well. From a statement like this, we have to say that it is
not just the Tripitaka Master who does not know the National
Teachers whereabouts; Yangshan does not yet know either.
Let us ask Yangshan, Where is the National Teacher
right now? If he thinks to open his mouth, we should
give him a shout.
* * * *
summoned [the Tripitaka Master], saying, Did you in
fact see the first two times? These words, Did
you in fact see the first two times? sound as if they
are saying what needs to be said. Xuansha should learn from
his own words. Granted that this phrase has its value, it
seems to be saying only that [the Tripitaka Masters]
seeing is like not seeing. Hence, it is not right. Hearing
this, Zhongxian, the Chan Master Mingjue of Mount Xuedou,
said, Defeated! Defeated! We may say this
when we have taken what Xuansha says as a saying but not when
we take Xuanshas statement as not a statement.10
* * * *
of Haihui says, If the National Teacher was on the
Tripitaka Masters nose, why would it be hard to see
him? He is completely unaware that the National Teacher was
in the Tripitaka Masters eye. This also only
discusses the third time. It does not scoff, as it should
scoff, at the fact that he never sees the first two times.
How can [Duan] know whether the National Teacher is on his
nose or in his eye? If this is what he says, we have to say
that he has not heard the words of the National Teacher. The
Tripitaka Master does not yet have a nose or eye. Even if
we were to say that he does maintain eye and nose, if the
National Teacher were to enter them, the Tripitaka Masters
nose and eye would burst on the spot. Since they would burst,
they are no burrow for the National Teacher.
* * * *
of the five venerable worthies knows the National Teacher.
The National Teacher is the old buddha of his age, the tathagata
of his world. He clarified and correctly transmitted the treasury
of the eye of the true dharma of the buddha; he surely
maintained the eye of the soapberry [the seeds
of which are used for the Buddhist rosary]. He correctly transmitted
[this eye] to his own buddhahood and to the
buddhahood of others. Though we may say that
he has studied together with the Buddha Sakyamuni,
he studied at the same time as the seven buddhas [of which
Sakyamuni is the last] and, in addition, has studied together
with the buddhas of the three ages [of past, present, and
future]. He realized the way before the King of Emptiness
[who rules in the eon when all is reduced to emptiness]; he
realized the way after the King of Emptiness; he practiced
together and realized the way precisely with the Buddha King
of Emptiness. Though we may say that of course the National
Teacher made this Saha world [of the Buddha Sakyamuni his
domain, Saha is not necessarily within the dharma realm; it
is not within the entire world of the ten directions. The
rulership of the Buddha Sakyamuni over the Saha domain does
not usurp or obstruct the National Teachers domain.
Similarly, for example, however many times the way is realized
by each of the earlier and later buddhas and ancestors, they
do not usurp or obstruct each other. This is the case because
all the realizations of the way by the earlier and later buddhas
and ancestors are obstructed by the realization
of the way11.
* * * *
the evidence that the Tripitaka Master Daer does not know
[the whereabouts of] the National Teacher, we should get clearly
and firmly fixed [in our minds] the principle that the sravakas
and pratyekabuddhas, the Lesser Vehicle types, do not know
the boundaries of the buddhas and ancestors. We should clarify
and study the essential point of the National Teachers
rebuke of the Tripitaka Master. It does not make sense that,
although being the National Teacher, he would rebuke [the
Tripitaka Master] for knowing his whereabouts the first two
times and merely failing to know the third time: [for purposes
of the test of his powers] knowing two parts out of three
is knowing it all, in which case [the National Teacher] should
not rebuke him. Even if he does rebuke him, it would not be
for failing to know at all; hence, from the Tripitaka Masters
perspective, it would be the National Teacher who is humiliated
[by the test]. Who would trust the National Teacher if he
rebuked [the Tripitaka Master] for failing to know only the
third time? [On the contrary,] the Tripitaka Master could
have rebuked the National Teacher, on the grounds that he
did have the power to know the first two times.
of the National Teachers rebuke of the Tripitaka Master
is this: he rebukes him because from the beginning, throughout
all three times, he does not know the National Teachers
whereabouts, his thoughts, his body and mind; he rebukes him
because he has never seen, heard, learned or studied the buddha
dharma. It is because of this essential point that, from the
first time to the third time, [the National Teacher] questions
him with exactly the same words. To the first [question] the
Tripitaka Master says, Reverend Preceptor, you are
the teacher to a nation; how could you go off to Xichuan to
watch the boat races? The National Teacher does not
acknowledge [the answer] by saying, Indeed you did
know where this old monk was. He simply repeats himself,
asking the same question three times. Without understanding
or clarifying the reason behind this, for several hundred
years since the time of the National Teacher, the elders in
all directions have been arbitrarily giving their comments
and explaining the reasons [behind the story]. Nothing that
any has said so far has been the original intention of the
National Teacher or in accord with the essential point of
the buddha dharma. What a pity that each of these venerable
old awls one after the next has missed [the mark].
buddha dharma, if we are going to say that there is the penetration
of other minds, there should be the penetration of other bodies,
the penetration of other fists, the penetration of other eyes.
If this is so, there should also be the penetration of ones
own mind, the penetration of ones own body. And once
this is the case, ones own mind taking up itself is
at once the penetration of ones own mind. To express
such a statement is the penetration of other minds as ones
own mind itself. Let me just ask, Should we take up
the penetration of other minds, or should we take up the penetration
of ones own mind? Speak up! Speak up! Leaving
that aside for the moment, you got my marrow
this is the penetration of other minds12.
of the Eye of the True Dharma
Presented to the assembly fourth day of the seventh month
the third year of Kangen  at the
Daibutsu monastery in the province of Etsu.
mind that plays across objects (shôkyô
shin) refers to ordinary experience; the samadhi
of personal enjoyment (jijuyu zanmai) is a technical
term for the state in which a buddha experiences his enlightenment.
is unclear from the original who is completely unaware;
most likely the subject is Zhaozhou.
is unclear who has been defeated; most likely it is Xuansha,
for his remark quoted above. In all of the text to this
point, Dôgen is quoting from Chinese Zen histories.
non-Buddhist religions and the lesser vehicle
Buddhist teachings of the sravaka and pratyekabuddha.
passage is usually interpreted to mean that someone like
Daer who attributes mental telepathy to the buddha dharma
is likely to have nothing significant to say. Here and below,
Dôgen will tend to use the term statement
in the sense having something significant to say.
expression ten holy and three wise refers
to the stages of the bodhisattva path; virtually
enlightened and heir apparent refers to the final
stage of the path, just before buddhahood; commoner
refers to one who has not yet reached the advanced stages
of the noble path.
the text could be punctuated to read here, They
do not rely on the production of the thought of bodhi; they
do not rely on the right view of the Greater Vehicle. We
have never yet heard of edifying examples of those types
who attain the penetration of other minds having verified
the buddha dharma on the strength of the penetration of
the old Chinese saying, "The sage does not value a
one-foot jewel but gives weight to an inch of shadow [i.e.
a moment of time]."
crown of the head and nose
are commonly used to indicate the person, especially the
point here seems to be that, just as Xuansha is wrong in
implying that the Tripitaka Master might actually have seen
anything, so Zhongxian is wrong in assuming that Xuansha
actually said anything worth criticizing.
sentence is usually taken to mean that each realization
is a complete expression of realization. At issue here is
the traditional question of how there could be more than
one buddha in a single buddha realm as, for example,
in our Saha realm of Sakyamuni.
got my marrow is the comment by Bodhidharma to Huike
when the latter expressed his understanding of the First
Ancestors teaching by a bow.