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Question: If you say that the Buddha‐nature exists in the body right now, then, since it is in the body, it is not separate from us ordinary men. So why can we not see this Buddha‐nature now? Please explain this further to enlighten us on this point.
Chinul: It is in your body, but you do not see it. Ultimately, what is that thing which during the twelve periods of the day knows hunger and thirst, cold and heat, anger and joy? This physical body is a synthesis of four conditions: earth, water, fire, and wind. Since matter is passive and insentient, how can it see, hear, sense, and know? That which is able to see, hear, sense, and know is perforce your Buddha‐nature. For this reason, Lin‐chi said, "The four great elements do not know how to expound dharma or listen to dharma. Empty space does not know how to expound dharma or listen to dharma. It is only that formless thing before your eyes, clear and bright of itself, which knows how to expound dharma or listen to dharma."7 The "formless thing" is the dharma‐seal of all the Buddhas; it is your original mind. Since this Buddha‐nature exists in your body right now, why do you vainly search for it outside?
In case you cannot accept this, I will mention some of the events surrounding a few of the ancient saints’ entrance onto the path. These should allow you to resolve your doubts. Listen carefully and try to believe.
Once long ago, a king who believed in a heterodox doctrine asked the Venerable Bharati:
The venerable answered, "Seeing the nature is Buddha."
The king asked, "Has the master seen the nature yet, or not?"
The venerable answered, "Yes, I have seen the Buddha‐nature."
your majesty were not acting, its essence would be very difficult to see."
it is called seeing and in the ears it is called hearing. In the nose it smells, in the tongue it talks, in the hands it grasps, and in the feet it runs. When it is expanded, it contains worlds as numerous as grains of sand. When it is compressed, it exists within one minute particle of dust. Those who have recognized it know that it is the Buddha‐nature; those who have not call it soul or spirit."
As the king listened, his mind opened into awakening.8
In another case, a monk asked the master Kuei‐tsung:
The master answered, "I will tell you, but I’m afraid you won’t believe me." "How could I dare not believe the sincere words of the master?" The master said, "It’s you!" "How can you prove it?"9
These stories I have just told about the saints of old entering the path are clear and simple; they do not strain the powers of comprehension. If you gain some faith and understanding from these two kongan, you will walk hand in hand with the saints of old.