Huáng Po is perhaps one of Zen Buddhism’s most brilliant Zen masters. One of the sample teachings (below) from Huang Po’s dialogues brings to light Zen Buddhism’s most esoteric theme concerning Buddha Mind. Much more vast than the Western concept of mind, Huang Po reveals the transcendent nature of Buddha Mind which traditional Zen Buddhists believe is the source of all things.
Huáng Po (d. 850) was noted for his outlandish manner of teaching, which incorporating hitting and shouting to awaken his students. There are a number of instances in the record of Huáng Po slapping students.
One time, the future emperor of China, hiding in the Chan community as a novice monk, received many slaps from Huáng Po for questioning why Huáng Po was bowing to an image of the Buddha.
Another instance was when Linji Yixuan was directed by the head monk to question Huáng Po on the meaning of Buddhism after he had been practicing hard in the monastery for three years without an interview. Three times Linji went to Huáng Po and three times the only answer he got was a slap.
“Now we are getting towards the end of the third period of five hundred years since the time of the Buddha, and most students of zen cling to all sorts of sounds and forms. Why do they not copy me by letting each thought go as though it were nothing, or as though it were a piece of rotten wood, a stone, or the cold ashes of a dead fire? Or else, by just making whatever slight response is suited to each occasion?
If you do not act thus, when you reach the end of your days here, you will be tortured by Yama. You must get away from the doctrines of existence and non-existence, for Mind is like the sun, forever in the void, shining spontaneously, shining without intending to shine. This is not something which you can accomplish without effort, but when you reach the point of clinging to nothing whatever, you will be acting as the Buddhas act.
This will indeed be acting in accordance with the saying: ‘Develop a mind which rests on no thing whatever.’ For this is your pure Dharmakaya, which is called supreme perfect Enlightenment.
If you cannot understand this, though you gain profound knowledge from your studies, though you make the most painful efforts and practice the most stringent austerities, you will still fail to know your own mind. All your effort will have been misdirected and you will certainly join the family of Mara. What advantage can you gain from this sort of practice?”