Book of Moon-directing

Lecturer: Shang-te Chang

Recorder: Tian-yi

Translator: Wei Sheng

Lecture 1

Verses of Seven Buddhas (the seven past Buddhas)



To Rest is the Great and Deep Wisdom of Life.






Book of Moon-directing as pork wrapper

  Hello everyone,

  I reflected on how to interpret the Book of Moon-directing for a long while, and choose the form of Montage, that is, to focus on excerpts from the book as snapping photos. This is my first point.



  It has been over four hundred years since the first publication of the Book of Moon-directing in 1602, during the Reign of Wanli in the Ming Dynasty. Master Nan (Huai-Jin Nan) has said: 'The Book of Moon-directing is No.1 miraculous book in the world, even more extraordinary than Iching.' He had no book with him except a copy of the Book of Moon-directing when he left Mainland China for Taiwan in the past. Hearing his words, I paid special attention to this book. However, I was totally lost in the book until I was 48. Moreover, I made no sense of it. You know what? During 47/48 R.O.C (1958/59), the first print of the book in Taiwan was divided into five volumes and produced on rough paper in standard sizes. The sponsor, Mr. Gong-yang Nie, head of the social office in Feng-yuan City, raised fund from butcher’s union for charity, and then the union received some complimentary copies in return. Unfortunately, those butchers were ignorant of the book. At that period of privation, Taiwan was short of newspapers and papers, so the butchers tore pages from the book to wrap pork. Thus the Book of Moon-directing was used as pork wrappers in early years.



  Afterwards at the age of 48, I was took in by Master Nan. Under his mentorship, I dwelt on the Book of Moon-directing day and night. Anyway, I am not well learned. This is the second point I want to make.



Substance and Trinity (Threefold Body) of Buddha

  Third, the Buddhism comprises the Trinity of Buddha -- Dharma body, Retribution body, and Transformation body. To realize the Trinity, to transcend the Trinity, to accomplish Gaming Samadhi and further to be unconcerned about all the above, this is Zen.



  The Book of Moon-directing is the King of the Kings in Zen scriptures. It has always been studied by Zen trainees, and will be particularly concerned with in the future.



  The beginning of the Book of Moon-directing, verses of Seven Buddhas, talks about Dharma body, the 'substance' in philosophical words. The Dharma body is formless and illusionary, which is agreed by the Seven Buddhas. The flawless Retribution body, is the result of practice by Grand Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. The infinite Transformation body, is the interpenetrative salvation of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to serve sentient beings.



  The Fourth point, which I want to emphasize, is: the concept of 'substance' used to be ubiquitiously employed in the West and the East, to describe what exactly the existences (including human beings) are. 'Substance' is considered to be the ontological entity, while 'attributes' and 'function' are physical counterpart. On the whole, the philosophical terms of substance, attributes and function correspond to Dharma body, Retribution body, and Transformation body in Buddhism respectively. Traditionally, the word ’substance’ is commonly used to represent Dharma body in many ancient literatures of Buddhism.





  Master Nan also mentioned ‘substance’ in his works. However, he would add: 'Attachment to substance is even wrong.' (see the lectures on Vimalakirti-Nivdesa Sutra and others for his way of interpretation)



  Moreover, I gradually run into similar difficulty with the concept of 'Emptiness (Sunya)'. There are eighteen and twenty 'Emptiness' in Mahaprajna-paramita Sastra& Sutra, which are all denied at last.





  My understanding of philosophy was deepened via the means of linguistics, logics/dialectics, and empirical philosophy. I was interested in and focused on the morphology and semantics (constructs and meaning) of languages. A question came to me which puzzled me for decades: why do we deny 'Emptiness' ultimately since we have talked about it? Later, I gradually realized that emptiness in Buddhism is opposite to existence, in relation to the process of arising, abiding and changing. Emptiness is the consequence of arising, abiding and changing, nothing else. I found this knowledge in scriptures: whatever is contingently related, that is explained as emptiness; to transcend emptiness of 'whatever is contingently related', you will be Bodhisattva and Buddha. Bodhisattvas and Buddhas are existences, not emptiness. In conclusion:

  the ultimate Buddhism is about existence nor emptiness. Bodhisattva and Buddha in themselves are still existences.

  Without this insight, the Book of Moon-directing is hard to comprehend.












  We have just mentioned that nothing can be called as substance. Now let's see Grandmaster Fo-yan's teaching:

(Book of Moon-directing, Vol 29):

One day Zen Master Fo-yan turned arount, saw a saint, and was enlightened on a sudden. Then he said:

Turning around to percept oneself suddenly,

which is neither perception nor reality.

Taking the substance as reality,

You would suffer in cycles endlessly.

  There is no so-called substance. All in all, nothingness.

  Let's rehearse.

Turning around to percept oneself suddenly,

which is neither perception nor reality.

Taking the substance as reality,

You would suffer in cycles endlessly.

  There is no so-called substance, there is no so-called reality. If you attach to substance, go ahead to the endless cycles.












  One of the most important sutras by Shakyamuni Buddha, Jie-jie Sutra, also emphasized that there is no so-called substance. His Holyness said:

Donot talk about substance.

  The Great German philosopher, Kant, also said:

  Thing-in-itself is inexplicable.

  That is to say:

  There is no so-called substance.

  The modern scientific technologies further demonstrate:

  Zen is insubstantial, and formlessly changing.

  There is no so-called substance, there is no so-called emptiness. I have make the speech that Buddhism at last is about cultivation of existence and reversion to existence.



  Our present lecture is about verses of Seven Buddhas and Zen, from the beginning of the Book of Moon-directing. Before interpretation of the verses, by the way, Manjusri Bodhisattva has been Master of the Seven Buddhas. The ultimate Buddhism are compiled in Shurangama Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra, Vimalakirti-Nivdesa Sutra, Avatamsaka Sutra, Maha-prajna-paramita Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, and so on. All of these require the Four Unlimited Mind (kindness, compassion, delight, renunciation) and permanent cultivation in cycles of the universe, to achieve supernatural abilities of inexplicable realm. The supernatural abilities are from samadhi (concentration), which we will talk about later.







Verses of Seven Buddhas

 Book of Moon-directing, Vol. 1

The 1st Buddha, Vipasyin Buddha, said:

The body is born from formless,

As all forms are manifested as illusion.

The consciousness of the illusionary creatures is originally insubstantial;

Either sin or rightness is of emptiness and non-abiding.





  The body is born from formless. What is formless? As Shakyamuni Buddha said:

The Adana-vijnana, profound and subtle,

proceeds with all the Bija like a violent torrent.

Fearing that they may believe it to be Atman or the Self,

I have not revealed it to mediocre and ignorant people.

(tr. by Wei Tat)




  What is Adana-vijnana? All in all, including the human beings, are the manifestations of Adana-vijnana. Why formless? All dharmas are empty of characteristics. Existence and non-existence give birth the one to the other, Yin and Yang coordinate together, and whatever contingently related on heaven and earth transform back and forth. We have lectured here for over twenty years that Adana-vijnana of formless is beside you, is in you, in anything all around you within twenty-four hours, in your formless for generations. Therefore, Seng-zhao said in his Zhao-lun:

Man comes from the 'tract where there is nothing else'.




  Man comes from the 'tract where there is nothing else', I believe that. Anything is born from formless. All forms are manifested as illusion, without exception. Just as Kwang-tse (Kwang Kau) said, 'I did not know whether it had formerly been Kau dreaming that he was a butterfly, or it was now a butterfly dreaming that it was Kau.' Everything is transformed as illusion, and hence uncatchable. According to Kwang-tse, the situation that subject and object change formlessly is labelled as 'Transformation of Things'. (tr. by James Legge)






  The Story of the Stone also said:

Truth becomes fiction when the fiction's true;

Real becomes not-teal where the unreal's real.

  In addition:

Nü-wa’s stone-smelting is a tale unfounded:

On such weak fancies our Great Fable’s grounded.

 (tr. by David Hawkes)



  The consciousness of the illusionary creatures is originally insubstantial. What is the consciousness? The consciousness is the origination, function, and perception of the subjective existences. Originally insubstantial, all in all, nothingness. The consciousness, constituted by Alaya-vijnana, the seventh Manas-vijnana, later the pivotal sixth Mano-vijnana, afterwards the 'prior five consciousnesses' (visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory and tactile-vijnana), is insubstantial at first.



  That sin and rightness (evil and good) are of emptiness and nonabiding. Alaya-vijnana in itself is non-impedimentary moral neutral.











  Be careful, the verses of Seven Buddhas are all about Adana-vijnana in itself, about Dharma body other than Retribution body and Transformation body. Dharma body is formless, neither arise nor cease, as illusion. All existences are corresponding to Dharma body without exception. Therefore when I beat the ferule I say:

'Here it is!'

  It is Dharma body. This is that, and that is this. It is,

Unity of inside and outside

  How to beat the ferule?

The answer:

 to interpenetrate with Buddhas and to receive order from them,

to be with the Crowds of deva and nagas as well.

That's it.






  Shakyamuni Buddha said:

All beings conform to non-being in essence,

And non-being is in accordance with beings.

Now I entrust the teaching of non-being to you,

That both beings and non-being are dispensable.

  All beings conform to non-being at first, and non-being is in accordance with beings. Beings, existences, non-being, non-existence. Existences transform in non-existence back and forth.

  Now I entrust the teaching of non-being to you, that both beings and non-being in themselves are dispensable. Existences and non-existence are concomitant, and can be transcended via comprehension, cultivation and perception. So we can see all the Seven Buddhas have transcended Dharma body. How to transcend Dharma body?





  The first is perception (of Dharma body), and the second is cultivation in cycles of the universe, to achieve Retribution body and Transformation body. Dharma body is formless. Let's have a break, and you can not be sloppy. Note that:

Dharma body is beyond cultivation.

  Dr. Huang, stand up and talk out your understanding.



  Dr. Huang: Adana-vijnana is formless in itself. All beings originate from ‘a land of nothing’. They are non-impedimentary, moral neutral (neither good nor evil), and uncatchable. The verses of Seven Buddhas are all about reversion to Adana-vijnana, about realization of Dharma body, and subsequent cultivation in cycles of the universe to achieve Retribution body and Transformation body.







  Dr. Huang's understanding is correct.

  Our life comes from the 'tract where there is nothing else' at first. It is another realm once we have life and want to be Buddha. Well, we can make a conclusion on the first verse:

Provisional names are insubstantial.






The 2nd Buddha, Sikhin Buddha, said:

Action of the good is illusionary in essence,

And volition of the evil karma is also illusionary.

Both the foams like body and wind like mind,

Are out of illusion devoid of origin or reality.

  Action of the good is illusionary in essence, good is illusionary, and volition of the evil karma is also illusionary. Both the foams like body and wind like mind, body is illusionary, and mind is illusionary. Are out of illusion devoid of origin or reality, without origin. Who has excellently proved the 2nd verse in the Chinese stories of Zen? Who?













  The answer is:

Grandmaster Nan-quan

Nan-quan cuts the cat

  Nan-quan stepped on the lecture hall, holding a cat in hands in an attitude of respect.

  Please note:

in an attitude of respect

  Nan-quan said:

'Say! Say! I will cut the cat. If any of you say a word I will not cut, or else I will cut! Hurry up! Hurry up!'

  The little monks trembled with fear. Crack! It was cut.

  Grandmaster Nan-quan didn't cutting cat, did him?


  It is wrong to learn from Nan-quan to cut cat. You cannot play with this unless you are Grand Bodhisattvas proficient in the power of vows.




  The study of Zen and Buddhism is still on the good. How is the beginning of the Diamond Sutra?

A good man or good woman who resolves his mind on Anuttarasamyaksambodhi should thus rely and thus subdue his mind.

(tr. by the Buddhist Text Translation Society)






  In the beginning of the Diamond Sutra, It is finished: be good! Be absolutely good. Where do you locate the good? It's located in Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, namely, the unexcelled complete enlightenment. What is the unexcelled complete enlightenment? Permanent service to all creatures. How to rely your mind?

...should thus rely and thus subdue his mind.

  You should rely on the unexcelled complete enlightenment, rely on the good.




  Note again that we are talking about Dharma body, Adana-vijnana, of non-impedimentary moral neutrality, independent of definement or purity. However, the seventh consciousness is of impedimentary moral neutrality. Being impedimentary means defilement from Manas-vijnana (the seventh consciousness), which is independent of good or evil. Manas-vijnana is simply Manas-vijnana, the attachment to oneself, unconcerned about good or evil. The realms of animal, hungry ghost and hell are facts, good and evil are mental value judgement.

  Certainly, it is fictitious construction in human languages that hell is evil and heaven is good, as it's merely an expression.


第三佛 毘舍浮佛。偈曰:



The 3rd Buddha, Visvabhu Buddha, said:

The Four Elements are taken as the provisional body,

And objects unfold (are manifested by) the unarisen mind.

The mind is as unobtainable as the current objects,

That evil and good arise and cease as illusion.



  The Four Elements are emptiness in themselves. The Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind are not inexistence. The emptiness in essence is not inexistence, that the Four Elements transform, perish and exist together, especially in the development of physics, chemistry, and biology. I watch a film recently, Journey to the Center of the Earth, pretty interesting, that layers by layers one thousand and five hundred kilometres below the ground are explored, in which there are strange animals whose food is unknown. There are variety of changes in each layer, which are pretty enjoyable. Earth stands for bone, which is hard. Water, kinds of liquids. Fire, energy of motion. Wind, air and breath.






  The Four Elements are taken as the provisional body. When we human beings leave the world, the Four Elements lose efficacy in the beginning, and the Adana-vijnana (intermediate existence) departs in the end. Do you think that Adana-vijnana is material? Not necessarily. The intermediate existence departs in the end, as said in the Verses Delineating The Eight Consciousnesses:

After going and before coming, it's in control.

(tr. by Ronald Epstein)

which talks about the scatter of the Four Elements. The Adana-vijnana (intermediate existence) comes before the reincarnation, and departs after the scatter of the Four Elements. It is completely material at the moment of fertilization of parents in human beings (as well as creatures), and after the intercourse, in the case of healthiness, the intermediate existence will reincarnate inside. When to reincarnate? According to the interesting Buddhism, it depends on conditions of the parents, that boy is close to mother while girl is close to father. The Four Elements together converge into one element in itself, and the Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind transform mutually. As the Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind transform mutually as one element, they change back and forth, all over all, without exceptions, and therefore there is no such change. The Iching is also named the Book of Change. What's the end of change? There is no such Four Elements, said in the Buddhism, and hence we should transcend the Four Elements. The conclusion of the Doctrine of the Mean, following Iching, said:

'(The doings of the supreme Heaven) have neither sound nor smell.'

(tr. by James Legge)





  And objects unfold (are manifested by) the unarisen mind. The mind is as unobtainable as the current objects. This verse implies the Four Bases of Mindfulness:

contemplating one's body as defiled,

contemplating one's feelings as painful,

contemplating one's mind as constantly changing,

contemplating things as devoid of inherent existence.

  The Four Bases of Mindfulness of Dharma body are beyond object and subject.





The 4th Buddha, Krakucchanda Buddha, said:

It is Buddha's body to know the body as insubstantial,

And it is Buddha's illusion to perceive the mind as illusion.

Perceiving the emptiness of body and mind in essence,

There is no difference between him and Buddha.




  This 4th verse is very important. It is to certify oneself. To know is to certify, to certify yourself as Buddha. How to certify yourself as Buddha?

To know the body as insubstantial.



  It is Buddha's body to know the body as insubstantial.The body is insubstantial. To contemplate the body, you will find that the Four Elements are of emptiness in essence, and the Five Skandhas (matter or form, sensation, conception, volition, and consciousness) are illusionary. Everyday we are attached to our physiology and mentality, attached to east, to west, to south, to north, to above and below, and never satisfied. Shakyamuni Buddha said, since you are not satisfied with Buddhas in the four directions, I further offer the central Mahavairocana Buddha to you.



  It is Buddha's body to know the body as insubstantial. The body and mind are insubstantial in essence. Whatever life to be conceited? Whatever death to be abased? Being poor is as illusionary as being rich. The poorer the better. To meditate truthfully, to perceive truthfully, to understand truthfully, to awaken truthfully, you will be liberated a bit. It is easy to handle when one had nothing. Right. It is painful to be afraid of this and that day and night.















  And it is Buddha's illusion to perceives the mind as illusion.

  We can explain this with the conclusion of the Diamond Sutra:

All conditioned dharmas are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble or a shadow.

  The preliminary conclusion of Buddhism is:

All conditioned dharmas are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble or a shadow, like dew or like a lightning flash. Contemplate them thus.

(tr. by the Buddhist Text Translation Society)

  The body and mind are conditioned dharmas, not unconditioned dharmas. There are six unconditioned dharmas:

unconditioned empty space,

unconditioned extinction which is attained by selection,

unconditioned extinction which is unselected,

unconditioned unmoving extinction,

unconditioned extinction of feeling and thinking,

unconditioned True Suchness.

  The six unconditioned dharmas are beyond body and mind of the ordinary persons, and are immanent in Dharma body and beyond Dharma body. Dharma body is formless.

  As emphasized in the Samdhinirmocana Sutra:

  To achieve the unconditioned dharmas first, and to transcend the unconditioned dharmas next.

  That is:

  To Zen




  Perceiving the emptiness of body and mind in essence, there is no difference between him and Buddha.

  The nature of body and mind, the primitiveness of existences, the essence of ordinary persons and phenomena is empty, insubstantial, impermanent, in change. Before transcendence, it suffers in Reincarnation of Six Directions and Karma of Three Periods. Knowing and Perceiving the emptiness of body and mind in essence, there is no difference between him and Buddha.He is the same as Buddha. The 4th verse is extraordinarily important.






  Well, let's have a break.

  Shakyamuni Buddha said:

To rest is the Great and Deep Wisdom of Life.

To cast off with Transcendence is exactly to rest.







End of Part I.

Part II to be continued.



Dharma Academy

My Understanding to

Dr. Wei Sheng :

1.Hope you read the English book of Philosophy written by famous Professor Fang Dong-Mei, and the English translation of Chinese Classical books by James Legge --- to learn from these great scholars how to use English terms and forms of sentences.

2.Prepare to go teaching Vijnaptimatra and Zen abroad. This is an important lifelong career for you and Dr. Huang Gao Zheng in the future.

3.Coincide with deep solitude and lonely Universe. Truly enjoy transcendental happiness with your holy Mind.




Dharma Academy