World Scripture


The passages in this section discuss the original mind or true self of the human being, which is the proper ground of enlightenment. The Original Mind is the intrinsic essence of mind, the true self. It is inherently pure and good, and in Christian terms it can be said to participate in the Kingdom of God. In Eastern traditions it is prior to thought, prior to desire, prior to any conceptualization at all. It is discovered by stripping away all sensation, desire, concepts, intellection, volition, and awareness of "I." It partakes of the Oneness of all. Buddhism calls this mind the Buddha Nature, and much of Buddhist practice is aimed at its realization. They also call it "no-mind" because it is without any grasping at a (selfish) self. Taoists agree, and seek to strip away all intellection and formalism in order to arrive at the spontaneous activity of the natural man who lives at one with the Tao of the universe. Some of the passages here criticize pious attempts to delineate a true nature of man based on doctrinal or formal criteria like Goodness or Benevolence, saying they only increase delusion by imposing artificial obstructions in the way of the functioning of the true self. Instead, all attachments must be stripped away until there is nothing but emptiness. Then the heart can be heard. Cf. Immanent, pp. 113-18.

That which is the finest essence--this whole world has that as its soul. That is Reality. That is the Self (Atman). That art thou.

1. Hinduism. Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7

For him who... knows his own mind and sees intuitively his own nature, he is a Hero, a Teacher of gods and men, a Buddha.

2. Buddhism. Sutra of Hui Neng 1

Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7: Cf. Isha Upanishad 15-16, p. 74; Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.7, p. 114; Mahj Ashtpadi M.3, p. 114. Sutra of Hui Neng 1: Cf. Sutra of Hui Neng 2, p. 536; 6, p. 116; Mumonkan 30, p. 116; Meditation on Buddha Amitayus 17, p. 646.

The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, "Lo, here it is!" or "There!" for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

3. Christianity. Bible, Luke 17.20-21

The Plain of High Heaven is not a specific place localized here or there, but refers rather to a pure state without any anomaly or excess. In terms of the human body, it is a state within the human breast without thought, contemplation, or passions.

4. Shinto. Masamichi Imbe, Secret Oral Tradition of the Book of the Divine Age

One may understand the true nature of the Tirthankara.... One may have interest in and devotion to the scripture. One may have self-control and penance. With all these, if one is not capable of realizing his own true self, to him Nirvana is beyond reach.

5. Jainism. Kundakunda, Pancastikaya 170

Ordinary men and ignorant people understand neither the Essence of Mind nor the Pure Land within themselves, so they wish to be born in the East or the West[ern Paradise]. But to the enlightened, everywhere is the same. As the Buddha said, "No matter where they happen to be, they are always happy and comfortable." If your mind is free from evil, the West is not far from here; but difficult indeed it would be for one whose heart is impure to be born there by invoking Amitabha!

6. Buddhism. Sutra of Hui Neng 3

Is it not the fact that there is in the body a clot of blood which, if it
is in good condition, the whole body is, too; and if it is in rotten
condition, so too is the whole body? Is not this the heart?

7. Islam. 40 Hadith of an-Nawawi 6

Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.

8. Christianity. Bible, Luke 11.34-36

Luke 17.21: This passage has been interpreted in various ways by exegetes. The words 'within you' can also be translated 'in the midst of you,' in which case the passage means that the people should regard Jesus and his community which dwells among them as the incipient kingdom. But the more mystical meaning of the passage is that the kingdom is within the minds and hearts of believers. Secret Oral Tradition: Cf. Records of the Enthronement of the Two Imperial Deities at Ise, p. 829. Pancastikaya 170: Cf. Tattvarthasutra 1.19-29, p. 800; Svetasvatara Upanishad 4.8, p. 804. Sutra of Hui Neng 3: Here is a criticism of Pure Land Buddhism with its emphasis on salvation by faith in the vow of Amitabha Buddha; cf. Larger Sukhavati Sutra 8.18, p. 639. 40 Hadith of an-Nawawi 6: Cf. Qur'an 22.46, p. 400; Black Elk, p. 536. Luke 11.34-36: Cf. Bhagavad Gita 5.15-16, p. 535.

As one not knowing that a golden treasure lies buried beneath his feet may walk over it again and again, yet never find it, so all beings live every moment in the city of Brahman, yet never find him because of the veil of illusion by which he is concealed.

9. Hinduism. Chandogya Upanishad 8.3.2

Every being has the Buddha Nature. This is the self. Such a self is, since the very beginning, under cover of innumerable illusions. That is why a man cannot see it. O good man! There was a poor woman who had gold hidden somewhere in her house, but no one knew where it was. But there was a stranger who, by expediency, speaks to the poor woman, "I shall employ you to weed the lawn." The woman answered, "I cannot do it now, but if you show my son were the gold is hidden, I will work for you." The man says, "I know the way; I will show it to your son." The woman replies, "No one in my house, big or small, knows where the gold is hidden. How can you know?" The man then digs out the hidden gold and shows it to the woman. She is glad, and begins to respect him. O good man! The same is the case with a man's Buddha Nature. No one can see it. It is like the gold which the poor woman possessed and yet could not locate. I now let people see the Buddha Nature which they possess, but which was hidden by illusions. The Tathagata shows all beings the storehouse of enlightenment, which is the cask of true gold--their Buddha Nature.

10. Buddhism. Mahaparinirvana Sutra 214-15: Parable of the Hidden Treasure

The Purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, in revealing Himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves.

11. Baha'i Faith. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 132

When you pursue your original mind, you should be able to hear moral laws and see divinity in your mind's eye. You should be able to feel and touch the heart of God with your mind.

12. Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 4-14-57

The Lord takes His stand upon
hearing, sight, touch, taste, smell,
and upon the mind.
He enjoys what mind and senses enjoy.

Deluded men cannot trace His course.
Only the eye of wisdom sees Him
clothed in the states of existence, going forth,
being in the body, or taking in experience.
Disciplined men can also make an effort
and see His presence in themselves.

13. Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 15.9-11

Chandogya Upanishad 8.3.2 and Mahaparinirvana Sutra 214-15: Variations of this parable are found in many Buddhist sutras--see the Parable of a Gem in the Lapel in Lotus Sutra 8, p. 537. On the original (divine) nature buried within, cf. Isha Upanishad 15-16, p. 74; Sutra of Hui Neng 6, p. 115; Mumonkan 30, p. 116; also Kena Upanishad 1.1-2, p. 117; Luke 11.34-36, p. 535. Bhagavad Gita 15.9-11: Cf. Isha Upanishad 15-16, p. 74; Qur'an 59:19, p. 396; Parable of the Anthill, Majjhimi Nikaya 1.142-145, p. 929.

Passions consist of conceptualizations. The ultimate non-existence of these conceptualizations and imaginary fabrications--that is the purity that is the intrinsic nature of the mind. Misapprehensions are passions. The ultimate absence of misapprehensions is the intrinsic nature of mind. The presumption of self is passion. The absence of self is the intrinsic nature of mind.

14. Buddhism. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 3

"What is the gist of your teaching?" said Lao Tzu.
"The gist of it," said Confucius, "is benevolence and righteousness."
"May I ask if benevolence and righteousness belong to the inborn nature of man?" asked Lao Tzu.
"Of course," said Confucius. "If the gentleman lacks benevolence, he will get nowhere; if he lacks righteousness, he cannot even stay alive. Benevolence and righteousness are truly the inborn nature of man. What else could they be?"
Lao Tzu said, "May I ask your definition of benevolence and righteousness?"
Confucius said, "To be glad and joyful in mind; to embrace universal love and be without partisanship--this is the true form of benevolence and righteousness."
Lao Tzu said, "Hmm--close--except for the last part. 'Universal love'--that's a rather nebulous ideal, isn't it? And to be without partisanship is already a kind of partisanship. Do you want to keep the world from losing its simplicity? Heaven and earth hold fast to their constant ways, the sun and moon to their brightness, the stars and planets to their ranks, the birds and beasts to their flocks, the trees and shrubs to their stands. You have only to go along with Virtue in your actions, to follow the Way in your journey, and already you will be there. Why these flags of benevolence and righteousness, so bravely upraised, as though you were beating a drum and searching for a lost child? Ah, you will bring confusion to the nature of man."

15. Taoism. Chuang Tzu 13

Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 3: Cf. Sutta Nipata 1072-76, p. 532; Anguttara Nikaya i.10, p. 453; Hevajra Tantra 8.32-33, p. 200; Sutra of Hui Neng 2, p. 536; 6, p. 399; Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines 12.3, p. 402. Chuang Tzu 13: Cf. Tao Te Ching 2, p. 801; 18-19, p. 294; 38, p. 165; 81, p. 797; Chuang Tzu 10, p. 799;, 11, p. 421; 31, p. 722; Sri Raga Ashtpadi, M.3, p. 722; Records of the Divine Wind, p. 722.

It is like a painter
Spreading the various colors:
Delusion grasps different forms
But the elements have no distinctions.

In the elements there's no form,
And no form in the elements;
Yet apart from the elements
No form can be found.

In the mind is no painting,
In painting there is no mind;
Yet not apart from mind
Is any painting to be found.

That mind never stops,
Manifesting all forms,
Countless, inconceivably many,
Unknown to one another.

Just as a painter
Cannot know his own mind
Yet paints due to the mind,
So is the nature of all things.

Mind is like an artist,
Able to paint the worlds:
The five clusters [aggregates] are born thence;
There is nothing it does not make.

As in the mind, so is the Buddha;
As the Buddha, so living beings:
Know that Buddha and mind
Are in essence inexhaustible.

If people know the actions of mind
Create all the worlds,
They will see the Buddha
And understand Buddha's true nature.

Mind does not stay in the body,
Nor body stay in mind:
Yet it is able to perform Buddha-work
Freely, without precedent.

If people want to really know
All Buddhas of all times,
They should contemplate the nature of the cosmos:
All is but mental construction.

16. Buddhism. Garland Sutra 20

One day the Fifth Patriarch assembled all his disciples and said to them, "Go and seek for Wisdom in your own mind and then write me a stanza about it. He who understands what the Essence of Mind is will be given the Robe and the Dharma, and I shall make him the Sixth Patriarch. Go away quickly. Delay not in writing the stanza, as deliberation is quite unnecessary and of no use. The man who has realized the Essence of Mind can speak of it at once."

Having received this instruction, the disciples withdrew, but none dared to write a stanza, as they all deferred to the head instructor Shen Hsiu... At 12 o'clock that night Shen Hsiu went secretly with a lamp to write his stanza on the wall of the south corridor, so that the Patriarch might know what spiritual insight he had attained. The stanza read,

Our body is the Bodhi tree,
And our mind a mirror bright,
Carefully we wipe them hour by hour,
And let no dust alight.

...When the Patriarch saw the stanza the next morning, he instructed that it be read and recited by all the disciples, so that they might realize the Essence of Mind. At midnight he sent for Shen Hsiu to come to the hall, and asked him if the stanza was written by him or not. "It was, Sir," replied Shen Hsiu. "I dare not be so vain as to expect to get the Patriarchate, but I wish Your Holiness would kindly tell me whether my stanza shows the least grain of wisdom." "Your stanza," replied the Patriarch, "shows that you have not yet realized the Essence of Mind. So far you have reached the 'door of enlightenment,' but you have not yet entered it. To seek for supreme enlightenment with such an understanding as yours can hardly be successful... You had better go back to think it over again for a couple of days, and submit to me another stanza."

I [Hui Neng] was pounding rice when I heard a young boy reciting the stanza written by Shen Hsiu... I asked him to lead me to the hall and show me the stanza. A petty officer who happened to be there read it out to me. When he had finished reading, I told him that I had also composed a stanza, and asked him to write it on the wall. "Don't despise a beginner," I said. "You should know that the lowest class may have the sharpest wit, while the highest may be in want of intelligence. If you slight others, you commit a very great sin." I dictated my stanza, which read,

There is no Bodhi tree,
Nor stand of a mirror bright.
Since all is void,
Where can the dust alight?

When he had written this, the crowd of disciples was overwhelmed with amazement, but the Patriarch rubbed off the stanza with his shoe, lest jealous ones should do me injury. The next night he invited me secretly to his room, and expounded the Diamond Sutra to me. When he came to the sentence, "One should use one's mind in such a way that it will be free from any attachment," I at once became thoroughly enlightened, and realized that all things in the universe are the Essence of Mind itself. "Who would have thought," I said to the Patriarch, "that the Essence of Mind is intrinsically pure!..." Thus, to the knowledge of no one, the Dharma was transmitted to me at midnight, and I became the Sixth Patriarch.

17. Buddhism. Sutra of Hui Neng 1

The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose;
Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear.
Make a hairbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are set apart;
If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.
The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease;
While the deep meaning is misunderstood, it is useless to meditate on Rest.
It [the Original Mind] is blank and featureless as space; It has no "too little" or "too much;"
Only because we take and reject does it seem to us not to be so.
Do not chase after entanglements as though they were real things,
Do not try to drive pain away by pretending that it is not real;
Pain, if you seek serenity in Oneness, will vanish of its own accord.
Stop all movement in order to get rest, and rest will itself be restless;
Linger over either extreme, and Oneness is forever lost.
Those who cannot attain Oneness in either case will fail;
To banish Reality is to sink deeper into the Real;
Allegiance to the Void implies denial of its voidness.
The more you talk about It, the more you think about It, the further from It you go.
Stop talking, stop thinking, and there is nothing you will not understand.
Return to the Root and you will find the Meaning;
Pursue the Light, and you will lose its source.
Look inward, and in a flash you will conquer the Apparent and the Void.
For the whirligigs of Apparent and Void all come from mistaken views;
There is no need to seek Truth; only stop having views.
Do not accept either position, examine it or pursue it;
At the least thought of "is" or "isn't" there is chaos, and the Mind is lost.
Though the two exist because of the One, do not cling to the One;
Only when no thought arises are the Dharmas without blame.
No blame, no Dharmas, no arising, no thought. ...
Let things take their own course; know that the Essence
Will neither go nor stay;
Let your nature blend with the Way and wander in it free from care.
Thoughts that are fettered turn from Truth,
Sink into the unwise habit of "not liking."
"Not liking" brings weariness of spirit; estrangements serve no purpose....
In the Dharma their are no separate dharmas (stations in life); only the foolish cleave
To their own preferences and attachments. ...
If the mind makes no distinctions all Dharmas become one.
Let the One with its mystery blot out all memory of complications.
Let the thought of the Dharmas as All-One bring you to the So-in-itself. ...
At the ultimate point, beyond which you can go no further,
You get to where there are no rules, no standards,
To where thought can accept Impartiality,
To where effect of action ceases,
Doubt is washed away, belief has no obstacle.
Nothing is left over, nothing remembered;
Space is bright, but self-illumined; no power of mind is exerted.
Nor indeed could mere thought bring us to such a place.
Nor could sense or feeling comprehend it.
It is the Truly-so, the Transcendent Sphere, where there is neither He nor I.
For swift converse with this sphere use the concept "Not Two;"
In the "Not Two" are no separate things, yet all things are included.
The wise throughout the Ten Quarters have had access to this Primal Truth;
For it is not a thing with extension in Time or Space;
A moment and an aeon for it are one.
Whether we see it or fail to see it, it is manifest always and everywhere.
The very small is as the very large when boundaries are forgotten;
The very large is as the very small when its outlines are not seen.
Being is an aspect of Non-being; Non-being is an aspect of Being.
In climes of thought where it is not so the mind does ill to dwell.
The One is none other than the All, the All none other than the One.
Take your stand on this, and the rest will follow of its own accord;
To trust in the Heart is the Not Two, the Not Two is to trust in the Heart.
I have spoken, but in vain; for what can words tell
Of things that have no yesterday, tomorrow, or today?

18. Buddhism. Seng Ts'an, On Trust in the Heart

Seng Ts'an: Seng Ts'an, the Third Patriarch of the line of Chinese Ch'an Buddhism, has left us this quintessential statement of Ch'an or Zen enlightenment. Cf. Lankavatara Sutra 78, p. 182; Diamond Sutra 14, p. 841; 21, p. 800; Garland Sutra 10, 799; Mumonkan 23, p. 470; 46, p. 773; Sutta Nipata 919-20, p. 553; Heart Sutra, pp. 589f.