the essential thing

bottomless yuanwu

The essential thing in studying the Way is to make the roots deep and the stem strong. Be aware of where you really are twenty-four hours a day. You must be most attentive. When nothing at all gets on your mind, it all merges harmoniously, without boundaries — the whole thing is empty and still, and there is no more doubt or hesitation in anything you do. This is called the fundamental matter appearing ready-made.

As soon as you give rise to the slightest bit of dualistic perception or arbitrary understanding and you want to take charge of this fundamental matter and act the master, then you immediately fall into the realm of the clusters of form, sensation, conception, value synthesis, and consciousness. You are entrapped by seeing, hearing, feeling, and knowing, by gain and loss and right and wrong. You are half drunk and half sober and unable to clean all this up.

Frankly speaking, you simply must manage to keep concentrating even in the midst of clamor and tumult, acting as though there were not a single thing happening, penetrating all the way through from the heights to the depths. You must become perfectly complete, without any shapes or forms at all, without wasting effort, yet not inhibited from acting. Whether you speak or stay silent, whether you get up or lie down, it is never anyone else. 

If you become aware of getting at all stuck or blocked, this is all false thought at work. Make yourself completely untrammeled, like empty space, like a clear mirror on its stand, like the rising sun lighting up the sky. Moving or still, going or coming, it doesn’t come from the outside. Let go and make yourself independent and free, not being bound by things and not seeking to escape from things. From beginning to end, fuse everything into one whole. Where has there ever been any separate worldly phenomenon apart from the buddhadharma, or any separate buddhadharma apart from worldly phenomena?

This is why the founder of Zen pointed directly to the human mind. This is why The Diamond Sutra taught the importance of human beings detaching from forms. When a strong man moves his arm, he does not depend on someone else’s strength — that’s what it’s like to be detached from forms.

To develop this essential insight, it is best to spend a long time going back into yourself and investigating with your whole being, so that you can arrive at the stage of the genuine experience of enlightenment. This is what it means to study with boundless, infinite enlightened teachers everywhere in every moment.

Strive sincerely for true faith, and apply yourself diligently to your meditation work. This is the best course for you.


zen letters



gradual cultivation

lori andrews


You must keep this

mind balanced and equanimous,

without deluded ideas of self and others,

without arbitrary loves and hates, without grasping

or rejecting, without notions of gain and loss.

Go on gradually nurturing this for

a long time, perhaps twenty

or thirty years.


Whether you encounter

favorable or adverse conditions,

do not retreat or regress — then when you

come to the juncture between life and death,

you will naturally be set free and be not afraid.

As the saying goes, “Truth requires sudden

awakening, but the phenomenal

level calls for gradual




zen letters


the oneness gives birth


Nonbeing gives

birth to the oneness.

The oneness gives birth to yin and

yang. Yin and yang give birth to heaven,

earth, and beings. Heaven, earth, and

beings give birth to everything

in existence.


Therefore everything

in existence carries within it both

yin and yang, and attains its harmony by

blending together these two

vital breaths.


Ordinary people

hate nothing more than to be

powerless, small, and unworthy.

Yet this is how superior people

describe themselves.


Gain is loss.

Loss is gain.


I repeat what others have said:

The strong and violent don’t die natural deaths.

This is the very essence of my teaching.


The Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu,

Chapter 42


ebooks & apps of the Tao the Ching, I Ching,

Wei wu Wei Ching, Hua hu Ching, and

Art of War for iPad/Phone, Kindle,

Nook, or Android



can now buy

Tao te Ching as part of a

five-app bundle of Taoist classics 

for iPhone or iPad for less than

the cost of one hardcover



brian browne walker taoist app bundle ios ipad iphone