Tathata or Suchness

Buddha in sitting posture.  © Victoria and Albert MuseumTathata means ‘Suchness’, or ‘as-is-ness of the moment’. When I first came across this word ‘Suchness’ in Zen literature, I thought, ‘What the heck is Suchness? Suchness! That’s nonsense! Can’t figure that one out.’ If we hold perceptions to be reality, then in order for our world to be real, we have to perceive it as something. It can’t be just what it is. We have to interpret it, or give it a name, or describe it in some way. We perceive the world through words, through ideas. This obsession with cameras and photography now, is just wanting to capture things, capture moments on film, petrify them in time, and make them fixed because everything is moving and changing. But Suchness, or Tathata, the Tathagata, is right now. This is the way it is. But sometimes, when I say, ‘This is the way it is,’ somebody will say, ‘You mean this is the way it is forever?’ No! RIGHT NOW — this is the way it is. The only way it can be is the way it is right now! It’s changing, but at this moment, the Suchness of this moment, is just this way. The thinking mind has to stop. Otherwise you will want to ask, ‘Where is it? What is he saying?’ You just have to stop your mind and listen, or watch. Then you will be relating to Suchness, the Suchness of the moment, the as-is-ness.

Ajahn Sumedho

Click here to read more teachings by Ajahn Sumedho.

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Million thanks to everyone _/\_

We had our millionth view this morning.

Our magazine had its millionth view this morning.  Million thanks to everyone _/\_
Million thanks to everyone _/\_

Meditation In Daily Life — emotional states, by Bhante Bodhidhamma

Creating a small space between tasks stops the accumulation of emotional states.

Pointing Artwork by © Marcelle HanselaarMissing the alarm in the morning and oversleeping, Jack suddenly wakes up and realizes he’s going to be late for work. Panic! From that moment on there’s a world-shattering rush to try and get there on time: the morning wash at top speed, water and soapsuds everywhere; breakfast shovelled in; scalding tea gulped down with a yelp; legging it to the bus stop; spending the ride tapping the fingers and biting the lip, or driving like a madman, swearing at friend and foe, prepared to run over man, woman, child, cat or dog and finally arriving at work. Is that the end of the panic? Of course not! Late or not he’s set the pace for the whole day which turns into a frenetic onslaught of rush, anger, frustration, anxiety and stress, at the end of which his only comfort is an aspirin! Continue reading

Brothers and sisters in suffering, old age, sickness and death, by Ajahn Sumedho

Buddha image. British MuseumThe Buddha pointed to an existential truth. It’s about existence. Suffering (dukkha) is about our human existence. And the actual meaning of `exist’ is to `stand forth’. What stands forth for us in our lives is suffering, isn’t it? We suffer a lot. We have a lot of existential suffering on this journey that we’re involved in from birth to death. And this suffering is common to every human being. It’s not just certain ones — it’s not just the poor, or just men or just women, or just Europeans or Africans or Asians — it’s everyone from the beginning of the human race, and will be to the end of it. As long as there’s ignorance, there’s going to be suffering. So this is a common experience we all share. When we talk about suffering, we don’t say, `I believe in it,’ or `I don’t believe in it.’ We know it because we suffer. You don’t have to believe in it — you already know you suffer. You have to believe in things you don’t quite know yet. Continue reading

Two Tibetan works on Chan from the Tenth-century

Cat 227: Chan text

Chan TextThis is a tenth-century collection of two Tibetan works on Chan (Zen) Buddhism. According to the later Tibetan tradition, Chan was expelled from Tibet following the great debate that was held in central Tibet around 797. The debate is said to have been sponsored by the Tibetan king Trisong Detsen to decide which Buddhist tradition Tibetans would follow, that of China or India. Later Tibetan accounts agree that the Chinese side lost, leading to expulsion of Chan Buddhism from Tibet. However, evidence from Dunhuang, such as this manuscript, suggests that Chan’s influence in Tibet continued well into the tenth-century.

Ink on paper The British Library, IOL Tib J 710

From The International Dunhuang Project: The Silk Road Online.

Birth and Death, by Shen Hui

Saidai-ji's (西大寺) green KannonMaster Kien asked Master Shen Hui: ‘However hard I practise seeing my true nature, I am always brought back into birth and death. What method must be practised in order to obtain the birthless and the deathless?’ Shen Hui replied:   ‘”Seeing” — that means the absence of birth and death. “Birth and death” — that means seeing people subject to birth and death. If there is absence of all birth and death as well as absence of birthlessness and deathlessness, then that is obtaining the birthless and the deathless.’


But for Shen-Hui Zen, as we know it today, would probably be quite different. He was one of the main students of the famous sixth patriarch Hui-neng. However, what is not very well known is that after Hui-neng’s death, the Zen patriarchship first pasted to the leader of the ‘gradual’ school of Zen Shen-hsiu. Shen-Hui went to the Chinese court and made the case for Hui-neng and the teaching of sudden awakening, and after many years had Hui-neng recognised as the sixth patriarch.

First published in the April 1989 Buddhism Now

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