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Old Master Ben Huan’s Dharma Talk Part 2
Master Ben Huan 1907-2012
This English translation has been drawn from the original
Chinese language text entitled ‘本焕老法师开示’, or ‘Old Master Ben Huan’s Dharma Words’, compiled and edited by Ming Yao (明尧居士整理). This is part 2 of a two part text. It concerns a seven day Ch’an Week Retreat held by master Ben Huan at the Ling Quan Temple (灵泉寺)in Taiwan, in 1995. At this time master Ben Huan was 88 years old. The photograph accompanying this translation features master Ben Huan applying the ‘discipline stick’ (香板 – Xiang Ban), or ‘fragrant wooden plank’ to invigorate a student.
Ch’an Week Retreat – Day 1 (禅七第一天– Ch’an Qi Di Yi Tian)
Today is the start of this Ch’an retreat. We must strive with diligence and enter the very essence of the Ch’an practice. This type of committed Ch’an practice is also known as a ‘life and death’ retreat. This is because at the end of the seven day retreat period, evidence of enlightenment is asked for. If there is enlightenment after such intense effort, then this is like being reborn; but if there is no evidence of enlightenment after such intense effort, then this is like experiencing death. In this Ch’an retreat I want everyone to be diligent and adhere to the principle of a life and death struggle. Everybody thinks that through this practice of purifying the mind, we can improve our lives, and gain a better rebirth in the world, assuring that we are always in contact with the Dharma, perhaps even becoming a Buddhist monastic. We have an excellent opportunity through this Ch’an Week to improve ourselves, but this is not an easy task. I hope you study hard and cherish this valuable co-operative karmic cause that brings us all together. A Buddhist monk leaves behind the trappings of material belongings, and the desire to have a family, but if we do not strive to realise enlightenment, what is it all for? It is to put an end to suffering in samsara and become an enlightened being, a Buddha. This is not a simple matter and can not be achieved if one is careless in life. We must strive with diligence and penetrate the essence of the mind, in this way we will perceive our ‘original face’ (本来面目 – Ben Lai Mian Mu). How then, do we practice with diligence? Even if we run into the meditation hall and sit all day long without any rest to recharge our energy, is this all there is to being diligent? True diligence is not just about what we do with our bodies, but also includes what we do with our minds. Although we may sit with strength, our minds must be strong also. If the mind is not strong and focused upon the correct method, then sitting will be ineffectual and achieve nothing. The way we think is the most important aspect of effort – this is the true diligence. Simply running to sit in the meditation hall will not have the required strength to uproot the old habits associated with delusion. If you do not focus the mind and apply the correct meditative technique, then a deep energising breath will not be accomplished, and mastery will not be achieved. Relying upon the discipline of the body alone is of no use in spiritual development. I hope that all those who are attending this diligent Ch’an Week have made a great and sincere commitment to this task. What does this commitment entail? From tonight, and for the next seven days, we must diligently strive to realise our ‘original face’. Every one must work hard, focus the will, and apply determination to realise the ‘original face’ - it is a possible achievement. Every one should make a great vow so that the utmost effort is made not only during formal meditation practice, but in all aspects of daily life, such as when we are moving around and when we are lying down. It is not enough to just study hard within the meditation hall, but effort should be made when we are going to the toilet, when we are sleeping and when we are eating. If we only have a powerful practice in the meditation hall during a Ch’an Week, then when we are moving around outside of practice, our attitude will be relaxed and no concentration will be maintained. This leads to all kinds of delusions and sufferings. This slackness leads to diminished energy and no training can be effective as a result. This is no good and should be avoided. Therefore everyone should generate a great and determined ambition to train hard during this Ch’an Week and realise their ‘original face’. Make the best effort you can! Do it now!
Ch’an Week Retreat – Day 2 (禅七第二天- Ch’an Qi Di Er Tian)
Yesterday I discussed with you the requirement to gain understanding during this Ch’an Week, and how evidence for this understanding must be demonstrated at its conclusion. By striving to follow the correct method of Ch’an development, the true path (道 –Dao) of the mind is attained. If the Dao of the mind is not attained, what is the point of all this effort? If we can not cultivate the Dao of mind, what is the point of being a Buddhist monastic? Surely it is not just to get a roof over our heads, or a regular daily meal? No, when we leave home, we should have a firm determination to attain to the Dao of the mind through hard and sincere effort. For a Buddhist monastic, there is only one function and that is to penetrate to the essence of the mind, and in so doing put an end to the cycle of rebirth, and become a Buddha. However, clearing the mind of all delusion, putting a stop to rebirth, and becoming a Buddha, is not an easy task. Why is this so? It is because now is the Dharma Ending Age (末法时代 – Mo Fa Shi Dai). When the Buddha was alive, the monastic practice was at its strongest and most effective; it had a strong root in the Dharma and a firm foundation. As soon as the Buddha called-out his teachings, disciples wanted to shave their heads and don the monastic robes. We do not live in such times today and we should bear in mind that much time has passed. We now live in a time of Dharma degeneration and decay. This time is called the Dharma Ending Age because our ability to practice the Dharma is shallow and weak. Our karma does not produce the good roots of virtue for the Dharma practice to be strong; therefore this is the time of ‘Dharma Ending’ (末法 – Mo Fa). When the Buddha was alive, people naturally had good karmic roots and were able to attain enlightenment with ease. There were many enlightened ancestors during the Tang Dynasty. Their practice was very powerful and often they attained enlightened with just a single word or sentence. Why is it that we study so much but still do not attain to enlightenment? We can only blame ourselves for this situation, as we have not generated enough good karmic roots for our practice to result in complete enlightenment. Although this is true, we can still set our minds upon producing good karmic roots by studying the Dharma, and becoming a Buddhist monk, although these things are not easy. We should guard and cherish our training which disciplines the mind and body, and creates good karmic roots. How should our practice be guarded and cherished? We must follow the rules as clearly laid-out in the Buddhist teachings, and discipline our minds so that its essence is clearly perceived. Like the ancestors we must realise the Dao of the mind and put an end to birth and death, this is why the ancestor said: “There should be a sense of immediate urgency and grief; as if stood on the edge of an abyss, or treading upon thin ice.” If you do not possess this intense sense of urgency and grief, then your training will have little effect and progress will be difficult!
I have heard that many of Taiwan’s university graduates and postgraduates (including PhD students) have become Buddhist monastics. I am very pleased that these students have been able to become monks. On the one hand, they possess good (karmic) roots, and on the other hand, their level and quality of cultural understanding is very high. This means that they can successfully cultivate the Dao of the mind (道心 – Dao Xin), but they must study hard to achieve this. They have to study Buddhism and learn the Dharma for the sake of all beings. At present it can be truthfully said that Buddhism is lacking this kind of good talent, but these people will eventually excel and become strong in their Dharma studies, becoming like dragons and elephants (道心 – Long Xiang). However, this is not the end of the story. After becoming monastics these students should develop a compassionate heart and cultivate the Dao with the utmost vigour! After all, a good background of culture and education means nothing if the Buddha Dharma is not studied or practiced effectively. There needs to be the development of a sense of modesty and humility, coupled with a distinct requirement to make the utmost and sincere effort. Consider the example of the Lord Buddha; he was a prince whose father was very wealthy. In his youth he had nothing but the experience of luxury, and yet he chose to leave this affluent life and become a poverty stricken monk. However, when living the life of an impoverished monk, his father sent fine food and good linen to him, but the Buddha would not accept these gifts. He stayed committed to the ascetic life and ate only hemp and wheat. If he had stayed in the world, he would have eventually become a worldly king, but he was not proud of this. As he possessed a very great and good virtue, he became a monk and was not arrogant with regard to his achievement. He left the world and went to live in the hills where he studied seated meditation for years, wearing out the reed mats with his knees. As we are all disciples of the Buddha, I think that we should continuously learn from the Buddha’s example. The point of this is to follow the correct Dao of mind development, so that the true nature of birth and death can be understood and transcended by looking within. This can only be achieved by whole-heartedly and sincerely following the Buddha’s path and correctly purifying the mind. Everyone should be familiar with the Lotus Sutra (法华经 – Fa Hua Jing), which says that Sakyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛 – Shi Jia Mou Ni Fo) gained enlightenment an immeasurably long time ago, but due to his compassion for the suffering of all sentient beings, he has taken rebirth hundreds of millions of times, and will appear in our own Saha World (娑婆世界 – Suo Po Shi Jie) many times over. Each time he only seems to be unenlightened so that he can practice the Dharma without fail and imbue all living beings with confidence and conviction on the path to Buddhahood. His example of pious conduct inspires us in the correct practice of the Dharma that purifies our minds.
When all this is considered, I hope that academic students and doctors are drawn to correct Buddhist practice, and in so doing they remain humble and avoid conceit or arrogant attitudes. This is important if they become Buddhist monks and wish to escape from birth and death. Eventually, through diligent practice, they will bring much honour to the Buddhist teachings and help innumerable beings. The same is true for those who originate from humble backgrounds. Regardless of where we are from, or our circumstances, it must be remembered that anyone can become a Buddha! It takes diligent practice and a strong mind to achieve enlightenment. The Buddha was a prince with good worldly and spiritual karma. He renounced the world, practiced with a strong commitment, and possessed a very great wisdom because he knew the Dao of the mind. When we compare ourselves with the Buddha’s wisdom it is clear that we are very far away from this exalted state. Use this knowledge to inspire your meditational practice, be diligent and strong, and do not waiver from your objective. Sit like a Ch’an monk and be strong in your practice! Finally it is important to remember that regardless of our level of Dharma understanding, we are all equal and there should be no favouritism whatsoever. Everyone can attain enlightenment, particularly if you set your mind on the monk’s path, then liberation is definitely possible. Simply cultivate the correct intention to follow the Dao and liberation will be won. However at no time must you think that monastics are superior to lay-people, this is incorrect. Buddhism teaches that we are all of equal worth without exception. Although people may respect the fact that you are a monk, you must never respond to this with conceit, as arrogance leads to complacency. This kind of attitude is not worthy of a Buddhist monk. Why is this so? There is a saying: “Humble people advance. Proud people regress.” A monk’s path is very difficult as all bad actions and thoughts must be thoroughly cleansed from the mind. If this does not happen, then Buddhism will be of no use to you. I hope that you will all strive every day during this Ch’an Week and rely completely upon your own efforts. No one else can do it for you – we all experience eating, living and dying on our own – no one can do these things for us. No one can replace us – study hard!
Ch’an Week Retreat – Day 3 (禅七第三天- Ch’an Qi Di San Tian)
Yesterday I spoke about developing the Dao, or ‘Way’ of the mind. How is this to be done? It is achieved through applying the right kind of sustained effort. If there is no sustained effort, the mind can not develop. We are now sitting with strength in the Ch’an hall (禅堂 – Ch’an Tang), and so we must strive to let go of all delusion. If the effort is not sustained in the right manner, then it will not be able to undermine and uproot delusion in the mind. Why do I say this? As deluded beings we have many worries in our minds – our delusion has existed for a very long time. Worries about other people, ideas of arrogance, and concerns about family disputes – all this is crammed into our heads causing confusion without end. This continuous confusion is a barrier to development. In the Ch’an hall this must be laid aside without pretence. Noise in the head is not a good thing, do you understand? This noise obscures the Dao and it can not be realised. In the meditation hall we must lay every thing aside in our application of correct effort. This is why effective Ch’an training is completely dependent upon generating a very good effort. Everyone here today has participated in many Ch’an retreats, and as experienced practitioners, you have already been instructed by many great masters. Today, I have come here merely to repeat this instruction. What does this instruction entail? As you all know, Ch’an training emphasises a profound ‘investigating’ of a single word which originates from the cultivation of an urgent ‘sense of doubt’ (疑情 –Yi Qing). What is this ‘questioning’ based upon? It is based upon the fact that we do ‘not see clearly’ (不明白 –Bu Ming Bai) into the essence of reality. We are unaware of our own nature, we do not know ‘who’ is speaking, or ‘who’ is reciting the Buddha’s name, and we do not perceive our ‘Original Face’ – as individuals we do not see clearly ‘who’ we really are. To remedy this we cultivate an urgent sense of investigation based upon a profound feeling of doubt. This is why the ancestors left many gong an (公案) – or ‘Public Records’ consisting of enlightened dialogues - as a means to assist us in the over-coming of our ignorance and delusion in the mind. It must be understood that although there are many gong an, in reality there is only one. This is because every single gong an, regardless of its structure and content, performs exactly the same function of penetrating ignorance and revealing the true nature of the mind (心性 – Xin Xing). Ignorance is not penetrated if the gong an is held in a superficial manner. Simply repeating the words of the gong an is of no use. Instead the words of the gong an should be used with a directional force of will that focuses the awareness back upon the true nature of the mind itself, so that its essence is directly perceived by the practitioner – an insight that penetrates the continuous stream of ignorance and brings it to an end. This technique is very powerful and effective. However, it is only an effective training method if pursued with vigour – without vigorous training, no benefit can be achieved. The more you train in this method, the more you will want to train, and the happier you will become. Remember that attachment to words and phrases is delusion in the mind. Generating a profound (and great) doubt during long hours of Ch’an practice will eventually free the mind from ignorance and delusion. It is the same when chanting the Buddha’s name; the reliance upon the words alone is not good enough. A great doubt should be generated that reveals ‘who’ is repeating the Buddha’s name. With the continuous practice of questioning ‘who’, coupled with the generation of a great doubt, all ignorance and delusion is focused into a single point in the mind, and this allows for the bottom of the barrel to fall out.
In the Ch’an hall, the meaning of the character ‘禅’ (Ch’an) can be described as ‘tranquil contemplation’ (静虑 – Jing Lu), and also as ‘contemplation continuous study’ (思维修 – Si Wei Xiu). These different words all refer to exactly the same process of meditating to realise our ‘original face’. If you study Ch’an, then the most important requirement is that you must arouse in your mind a great doubt. For this to be achieved a practitioner must develop and pursue the Dao of the mind with vigour. The sense of serious urgency required for Ch’an training is similar to mourning for ones parents, looking into an abyss, or walking on thin ice. It is only by developing this urgent sense of (questioning) doubt, that the scattered thoughts in the mind can be gathered together and controlled. Without vigilance and determination a diligent effort cannot be generated and sustained. If you are serious about developing the Dao of mind, then you must adopt a serious attitude to training. Even if you manage to arouse this great doubt, this is not the end of the matter. You must guarantee that the great doubt is maintained equally in all situations without exception. In this way the great doubt is put to very good use. There must be a great doubt when this incense stick, or that incense stick is burning. There must be a great doubt when we are quiet and still, or when we are moving – every where there must be this great doubt. If you can generate the great doubt, then there is hope for enlightenment. The ancestors said: “Whether walking, sitting, or lying down, all is Ch’an. When this is understood, every thing in life is Ch’an.” Knowing this, we should work hard to bring all circumstances into the Ch’an training method. This is because the great doubt questions and investigates all phenomena without exception. If you are walking, then walk with this investigating vigour; if you do not have this vigour, do not walk. When you eat, maintain the great doubt; if there is no great doubt, then do not eat. Whilst sleeping you should maintain the good effort; if there is no good effort, then do not sleep. Whether we are at peace, or engaged in physical activity, even if we are sleeping, there must be a continuous effort in our training. Only making effort when we are in quiet and calm situations ignores the requirement to practice at times of noise and movement – as practice must be all-inclusive. The ancestors said that when we are in quiet situations we make far more effort than when we are in dynamic situations, but that we should make a good effort even when we are moving about. It is the same when we are sleeping, as many can not make a good effort in this situation. It is important to remember that at the point of physical death that there will be a multitude of sufferings – to be strong enough to over-come these tribulations we must make a good effort in all situations without exception. The reality is that none of us is actually making the correct amount of effort in our training. With a correct and good effort all sufferings can be left behind, if you do not try hard enough then suffering will follow you around – you must let go of all delusive habits when training – in all situations.
If you do not apply the teachings correctly, then at the point of death you will not escape the clutches of Yama (阎王– Yan Wang). We must be able to lay down all our delude misconceptions. There is a gong an that tells a story about the Buddha. One day a disciple brought fresh and bright flowers to the Buddha as an offering. The Buddha told him to lay the flowers down. As the disciple was laying the flowers down, the Buddha told him to let go of the body. The disciple did not know how to ‘let go of the body’, so the Buddha told him to let go of the mind – at that instant the disciple was thoroughly enlightened! Think about this, if the Buddha had not assisted the disciple by calling to him, how could he have attained enlightenment? For us, we must make every good effort to realise enlightenment. We must lay down not only the body (and its habits), but also the mind (and its habits) completely – if we can do this, then we will escape the clutches of Yama at the point of death. If your effort is inconsistent, then you will not be able to achieve enlightenment, or escape the judgement of Yama. I would like to present a gong an to you at this point. There was an ancestor named Jin Bi Feng (金碧峰), and his practice was very powerful. Yama – the king of the dead –decided to try and capture Jin Bi Feng and so sent a small spirit (小鬼 – Xiao Gui) to harass him. However, despite asking many people, and looking everywhere, this spirit could not find him. Then he discovered Jin Bi Feng’s disciples, and asked them where their master had gone? A disciple replied that if the spirit wanted to find their master, he should strike the gold coloured begging bowl that he was very fond of. The spirit did as he was advised and struck the golden alms bowl. Immediately Ch’an master Jin Bi Feng appeared, and the little spirit caught hold of him, telling him that Yama wanted to see him. Jin Bi Feng asked the spirit to give him seven days, and said that he would voluntarily go to see Yama after that time. The little spirit did not agree, but master Jin Bi Feng made his request over and over again. Eventually the spirit agreed and after receiving the promise of Jin Bi Feng, he left. Jin Bi Feng thought that Yama wanted to see him because of his attachment to his golden begging bowl, and so he decided to smash it to pieces. After this the master assumed a state of very deep meditation and entered the void. When the little spirit reappeared to apprehend master Jin Bi Feng, he could not find him, or the golden begging bowl anywhere. Then he heard master Jin Bi Feng talking from the void: “The little devil can only take me when the iron chain of attachment (to the world) is not realised as empty. Once the iron chain of attachment is broken through the realisation of emptiness, then the little devil can not touch me!” You must consider this, how can one remain ‘attached’, after the realisation of the void? The little spirit went back to Yama and informed him of the situation, explaining why he had been unable to bring master Jin Bi Feng. Yama exclaimed: “Respect and happiness to him!” Think about it - master Jin Bi Feng was nearly taken to be judged by Yama simply because he was attached to a begging bowl - how many more attachments do we still possess? Why do we not learn from the examples of the ancestors? Perhaps it is because we have not yet realised the realm of non-form (无形无相 – Wu Xing Wu Xiang). Why is this? It is because we have not put enough effort into our training! How can we attain to this state when we do not try hard enough? Therefore I hope that from now on we can all try harder and lay down our attachment to money, fame and fortune, as well as the attachment of lust associated with the body and deluded thinking associated with the mind. Every single attachment must be dropped from the mind and body without exception. Good! Now we shall all work hard together.
Ch’an Week Retreat – Day 4 (禅七第四天- Ch’an Qi Di Si Tian)
Today is the fourth day of this Ch’an Week retreat and the time is passing very quickly. Discipline within the Ch’an hall is very important this is why there are many rules and regulations that have to be followed by all those who attend. All individuals have to subordinate themselves to the rules if the training is to be successful. Every one knows that this is the case during a Ch’an Week, as this training is a matter of life and death. Those who comprehend will live – whilst those who fail to attain comprehension will die. Such a serious situation requires the utmost concentration and effort. There must be no deviation away from this concentration and effort. Today, my speech is focused upon helping you attain enlightenment through right effort. You must be brave in this endeavour and continuously focus the mind and do not allow it to become scattered. Yesterday I spoke about laying down all attachments, and how we must put all our effort into this. Now I am going to talk about how to deal with deluded thought. You should be clear why we need to train so hard. Our deluded thoughts (in the mind) are continuously scattered and always spinning in cycles without end – similar to a ‘Running Horse Lamp’ (跑马灯 – Pao Ma Deng). We must train with a strong effort to put an end to this deluded activity, and ‘subdue the mind’ (降伏其心 – Xiang Fu Qi Xin). A powerful practice is required to turn the tide of the creation of bad karmic activity which has been accumulated over many lifetimes. We are quick to do bad, but slow to do good. Our mind has become full of worrying and anxiety, and it is this barrier of delusion that we must put an end to. Our original nature is not born, and does not die; it neither increases or decreases, but due to our own foolish thinking and deluded behaviour, we have built-up over-time a corrupting and obscuring barrier of suffering. This is why we must train so hard. If you do not train with right effort, then this delusion will not be over-come, and the original face will not be recovered. When Sakyamuni Buddha was sat under the Bodhi-tree he said: “How wonderful! How wonderful! All living creatures on earth possess the Tathagata Wisdom (如来智慧 – Ru Lai Zhi Hui), but its virtuous manifestation is obscured by deluded thought.” We are here today to train hard and remove this persistent, obscuring delusion. If we strive to remove our deluded thought, then we will discover that we truly possess the pure self-nature. “Buddhist cultivation reveals the original nature. If there is no Buddhist cultivation, then the original nature will not be revealed.” Although every one possesses the original nature, it is only discovered through hard work and right effort – without this the original nature can not be found. I want to make it clear that hardworking practitioners should not be afraid of delusion. The practitioner should not be frightened, and should not generate fear. This is because fear only assists the scattered nature of the deluded mind. Why is this the case? It is because we have had habits of delusion in the mind for an immeasurable amount of time that has produced worry, fear, anxiety, paranoia, and all kinds of troubles without end! There has never been a single moment free of delusional thinking; no, this is not possible. Knowing this, how should delusion be dealt with? It is simple; always use your directed strength in the face of delusional thinking, and delusional thinking will naturally fall away.
Here is an analogy. We are now living in the Ling Quan Temple (灵泉寺 – Ling Quan Si), but this temple was single-handedly built by master Wei Jue (惟觉法师) – Wei Jue Fa Shi). One day, without warning, a person of barbarous nature appeared outside. Due to his uncultured nature and unpredictable behaviour, he possessed the power to take over the temple and destroy its disciplined regime. He will surely not leave on his own accord, and his stubbornness will lead to violence and endless arguments. Therefore he must be driven away from the temple and his deluded influence removed – is this not the case? I want every one to think about this.
We need to be aware that our deluded thinking is entirely of our own making. Some times we chant the Buddha’s name in an effort to get rid of our delusions, do you think that the delusion will comply? It will certainly not – it will resist any attempt to eradicate it. Do not be afraid of this, do not be frightened. Instead use your determination in the correct manner to eradicate delusion. It must be uprooted with determination and the application of the correct method as no outside force can remove it for you. It is like the old Ch’an teaching which says that getting rid of delusion is like ‘lifting a rock that presses upon the grass’ (搬石头压草 – Ban Shi Tou Ya Cao) – when the rock is moved, the underlying grass is revealed. If you look at the rock, the grass is obscured, but lift the rock and all becomes clear. Do not stop here. The rock is representative of gross surface delusion – do not become attached to it. The grass is like subtle delusion which when revealed through training, must be thoroughly uprooted (斩草除根 – Zhan Cao Chu Gen). This is because the mind has been deluded for a very long time without exception. There is only one true mind, and this true mind must be revealed through continuous and committed Ch’an training. Delusion in the mind is a matter of fact based upon habit. When viewed in this way, the effort required to uproot habits that have existed without question for a very long time has to be immense, and this should not be viewed as strange, it is just the way things are. When I look around here, I see that many of you are 20, 30, or 40 years old, with some even older than this. When you think about it, have any of us been free from delusion for even a single day of our lives? We must take the initiative to transcend delusion, or delusion will carry-on regardless – as it will not transcend itself. The point is that we are accustomed to being in the deluded state, it is familiar to us. This is why very few people ever consider transcending the delusion they experience every day of their lives. As delusion is an ingrained habit, we must, through our Ch’an training, develop the habit of good and effective training. If we can achieve this, then the more we practice, the less delusion will be in our minds. This is the process of replacing bad habit with a good habit and may be considered the right attitude toward the care of the mind.
We have to be honest and ask ourselves whether we keep the same level of diligent effort in our training throughout the day. Are you really studying diligently? Are you actually trying your hardest? If you think that you do not have to train hard to prevent delusion from arising, then you are very mistaken indeed. There is an old Ch’an teaching which says: “A single person confronts 10,000 enemies!” (一人与万人敌 – Yi Ren Yu Wan Ren Di). As a single person, how are you to successfully confront 10,000 enemies? How are you to over-come this enemy and not allow it to prevail? You do what I do, and use your concentrative effort to continuously smash your delusion and over a long period of time you will prevail. For instance, if meditative effort and delusion shared the equivalent of a 10 point scale of influence, effective training would be a matter of securing all those points in favour of meditative effort. If delusion possesses 8 of those points, compared to just 2 points for meditative effort, then delusion would be winning, unless the share of the points could be increased for meditative effort, and taken away from delusion. If we tried really hard, then meditative effort could improve its share to 8 of those points, and leave delusion with just 2. With further effective effort delusion could be deprived of any share in the points and therefore be thoroughly wiped-out. I often use this example of a scale from 1 to 10 to measure the effectiveness of our effort – whatever we lack in effort directly benefits the delusion in the mind. A bad effort invariably equals a very strong delusive presence. Do not doubt this. This is because our minds have been full of a great delusive stream for immeasurable amounts of time. The great delusion will not end on its own accord, but will continue to perpetuate itself continuously, and without end, trapping us in a cycle of repeating suffering. This delusion is strong and requires an equally strong and sustained effort to uproot it. This will not be achieved easily. You must not be afraid, but remain determined to remove it without question or hesitation. All delusion must be ‘eliminated from the mind’ (除它之心 – Chu Ta Zhi Xin) – this point should be thoroughly investigated, and completely understood. Gather the thoughts together, do not let them scatter. In this practice you must be diligent and careful, do not give-in to bad habits, and always remain alert in your practice. Those who study hard, seek earnestly to transcend life and death. The entire energy of the mind and body is focused toward this important task. In this way the mind is taken care of during the process of hard training and such is the intention and commitment to training, that the eyes do not look left or right. If the eyes are moving left and right, then the good effort has already been lost. Those who apply themselves correctly to Ch’an training, always keep the Hua Tou (话头 – Word Head) clear and bright. The ancestor said: “Not afraid to study hard, but afraid to sleep late!” It might better be put as: “Afraid to sleep whilst studying” - as this is not allowed! If your thoughts scatter and you are unaware of it – then you are far from the objective – do not let this happen. If you study with the right amount of effort, and keep your concentration strong, then you will not be deceived. Good! Be strong in your practice!
Ch’an Week Retreat – Day 5 (禅七第五天- Ch’an Qi Di Wu Tian)
This evening I would like to say a word, but a word about what? The Buddha taught the Dharma for many decades and during this time developed the Tripitaka (三藏 – San Zang) teachings. This conveys the concept of ‘conduct’ (行 – Xing). On the Buddhist path conduct is very important indeed. Think about this, there is worldly conduct that is bad, and there is worldly conduct that is good. The correct type of good conduct can lead to the attainment of sagehood (圣人– Sheng Ren), and eventual Buddhahood (成佛– Cheng Fo). However, as we diverted from the path of good conduct many lifetimes ago, the way back to our true essence is very difficult and is a very long journey thwart with danger and uncertainty. In reality we can not get back home through worldly behaviour, but it is only through the correct following of the Buddhadharma that can help us in this task. Without the following of the Buddhadharma, there is no returning home. The Buddha defined exactly how our conduct should be, if we wish to escape suffering in the world. This is called ‘following the narrow path of enlightenment’ (经者径也 – Jing Zhe Jing Ye), and is the only effective method of returning home and attaining enlightenment. The Dharma is our only way, and if we abide by its teachings, then we will return home without a doubt. This is why I am talking about conduct because it is our conduct which decides our future. If we want to put an end to the cycle of birth and death, then we must reform our conduct and follow the Dharma exactly. Whatever we wish to achieve is entirely dependent upon the conduct we use to attain it. Our good conduct not only benefits ourselves, but also benefits all other beings. Through good conduct we can reform our characters and generate beneficial karma for ourselves and all beings. Good enlightened conduct is the basis of sagehood and benefits the entire world – it brings honour to our country. By cultivating the Dharma we develop the 32 major, and 80 minor characteristics associated with the character and appearance of the Buddha. Only by following the Dharma correctly can this be achieved. We must earnestly train to realise the true essence of the mind and in so doing cultivate great wisdom. Every aspect of our lives needs to be subject to the discipline of the Dharma – this is effective self-discipline. If we are serious and sincerely wish to escape the suffering of rebirth, we must follow the Dharma strictly. It is nonsense to think that Buddhahood can be achieved without following the Dharma. It is incorrect to think that one should not pursue the Dharma because of family matters. In reality, Buddhahood is far more important than perpetuating the family name, and if it is possible, one should leave home and become a monk. This is to say that worldly matters should be firmly given-up for the Dharma. The conduct must be straight and consistent –it is no good being correct in the meditation hall, but returning to the family and behaving in a worldly manner. What is the point of this? Practice should be comprised of hard work that never ceases. It will have no positive effect if the amount of effort is continuously varying all the time. This will not do. Effort should be very strong all of the time, day or night, whether sitting in the meditation hall, walking, or sleeping. It should be maintained so that good conduct creates the conditions for future enlightenment. By doing this we are working not only for ourselves, but for the well-being of all others. We develop compassion and wisdom step by step, day by day, slowly but surely, through the practice of good behaviour. It is a long and slow journey, certainly not as fast as travelling by plane, train or car! If we persist in our training, we will certainly find our way to our true home.
Of course, conduct is not blind, it has a definite goal. The goal is that of enlightenment achieved through the cultivation of right view and right understanding. Without the wisdom of the Buddha, conduct can not lead us to our true home. The wrong kind of conduct can take us further from our goal. This is why the ancestor said: “An error of a hair’s breadth and one misses the goal by a thousand miles!” This saying explains the point I am making. We must be committed to studying with diligence and ‘choose to develop the Dharma-Eye’ (择法眼 – Ze Fa Yan). This will give you the ability to correctly discern the correct path –do not be careless. Our past bad habits weigh heavily upon our lives. This is true for today and tomorrow unless we decide to follow the Dharma and reform our conduct. This can be achieved by understanding and following ‘Right View’ (正知 - Zheng Zhi). When we do this we reform our characters, create good karma, and begin the journey to our true spiritual home. Once the right Dharma-path has been chosen and followed with diligence, it becomes self-sustaining and we develop the ability to naturally ‘know’ what constitutes good behaviour. Abilities of this kind allow us to travel the spiritual path effectively, but we must not allow ourselves to become distracted with ‘thoughts of returning home’ (想到家 – Xiang Dao Jia). Such thoughts are merely obscuring delusion that if allowed to become strong in the mind, actually prevents the journey toward enlightenment. Why is this true? It is because thoughts of this nature are based upon desire which resides within the delusional realm of birth and death. The Dharma path, through cultivating right view and good conduct, naturally attains to Buddhahood – there is no need to think about it in a desiring manner. Desiring Buddhahood will not attain Buddhahood, but does create further delusive karma that hinders are progression. Therefore, I hope that you drop all thoughts about Buddhahood and birth and death, but just focus with strength upon the Ch’an training method and allow development to naturally unfold. If delusion runs around the mind all day long, then no matter how hard you train, enlightenment can not be achieved in any way. Why would you expect to attain Buddhahood? It is the same if you do not try hard enough in your training, nothing positive can be achieved. If you appropriately train, then you might gain understanding in 10 or 20 years, but if you do not train properly, then even if you practice for 80 or 90 years, no progression will be made. The Sixth Patriarch (六祖 – Liu Zu) gained enlightenment when he was very young, why was this? It is because he applied his strength exactly, and when he pushed the door, the door opened, and through he went. This means that he applied the Ch’an method, he did not hesitate in any way, and it worked perfectly with no trouble at all. Are we home yet, have we realised enlightenment? No, we have not. Many of us have not moved a single step toward enlightenment.
The Buddhadharma is equally accessible to all, regardless of whether you have trained for a long or short time, or whether your attainment of understanding is quick or slow. In the past, at the Gao Ming Temple (高明寺 – Gao Ming Si), the venerable monk Lai Guo (来果和尚 – Lai Guo He Shang), had an assistant who was only in his early teens – he was little more than a child. He told master Lai Guo that it was his time to leave his body, and shortly after he passed away. Master Lai Guo respectfully arranged the body within a tomb and had it sealed. Three years later the tomb was opened and the boy’s body was still sat upright and preserved. Master Lai Guo had the body covered in gold paste. Master Lai Guo commented that this was only a small child, and yet what a great effort in his training he must have made! After saying this, he had the sitting area also covered in gold paste as well, as a further sign of respect for the departed child. Then the tomb was sealed and buried, and master Lai Guo gave the matter no further thought. After a few years, the child and tomb appeared in a dream of master Lai Guo, who rushed to open the grave. In it he found the boy still preserved and sat in the upright position. Seeing this, the old master applied more gold paste to the body, and thinking that the body was a little crooked in its position, used a stick tied with string to prop the child’s head-up. That evening the child spoke to the old master in a dream, saying that the stick was causing pain! Later, the old master removed the stick and the head was not crooked. More gold paste was added, and the entire story caused quite a stir! Tens of thousands of people came to pay their respects at the tomb of this special child. One day, the old monk lost his temper. The child said that if this behaviour carried-on, then he would be thrown in the river and drowned. The next day no one came to pay their respects! You see, this young monk had many spiritual abilities because he had made very good progress in his short life. He had already found his way back to his true home, as you can see with the way he conducted himself. We are practicing Buddhists, but despite our diligent practice, we have not yet found our way back to our true home. We have to walk the path if we wish to attain enlightenment, there is no other way.
The venerable old master Xu Yun (虚云老和尚– Xu Yun Lao He Shang), once had a student who, like many people of the past, worked very hard indeed. He had no formal education, but practiced self-cultivation all day long without a break. He carried-out all the chores, as no one assisted him. He kept his will single-mindedly set upon the realisation of the Buddha regardless of circumstance, and his practice was very powerful indeed! Some times others looked down on him but he paid this no attention. He left to intensely study the Dharma and work on his self-cultivation for three years, and when he returned things were just the same - he did all the hard work! He lived in a small thatched hut and one day people saw that it was on fire, but when they ran over to help, he was already dead. He was not very old, perhaps 30 or 40 years old, but it seems that he had dressed in his robes as if going on a journey, choosing this time to leave his body. As the fire caught hold of the grass hut, the monk struck the ‘qing’ (著), a small musical instrument made of stone, whilst sat on a straw mat. Although his body burned through, he did not move from the spot – this means that he was a very good and virtuous person. When news of this happening spread, there was quite a stir in the local community. At that time there was a local warlord called Tang Ji Yao (唐继尧), when he heard of this happening, he wanted to see the evidence for himself. Tang Ji Yao saw the monk sat-up in meditation on his mat, but when he moved the hand of the monk slightly (to see the ‘qing’ that he still held), the entire body collapsed into ash! After this, Tang Ji Yao had the ‘qing’ displayed in a local museum. This story shows that for a person to be successful, a lot of knowledge is not required. Even if a person has not had a good education, hard work and diligent practice can still help them attain understanding and enlightenment. These two stories involving a child and a young monk serve to demonstrate the effectiveness of Dharma practice. With the use of right effort and right view, coupled with a consistently strong Ch’an practice, these attributes can lead us all back to our true home, regardless of our level of conventional education. Every body can succeed if they can apply themselves correctly. This is very good indeed!
Ch’an Week Retreat – Day 6 (禅七第六天- Ch’an Qi Di Liu Tian)
Why do we become Buddhist monks? It is because we have the intention of achieving Buddhahood at some time in the future. The attainment of Buddhahood benefits all living beings. Its attainment, motivated by compassion, is for the sake of all living beings who are our friends without exception. If Buddhahood is not attained, then all living beings can not be benefitted in any way. Where does this Buddhahood come from? Monks have a saying: “Through self-interest, all beings are benefitted.” By training with diligence and strength, we benefit all beings. When we use our training time well, we benefit all living beings. It should be understood that only by offering our cultivated virtue to all beings, can we truly follow the path of the Bodhisattva and attain to enlightenment. To assist us in this task the virtuous vows of Samantabhadra (普贤行愿品 – Pu Xian Xing Yuan Pin) are very effective. These vows teach us that all living creatures possess the ability to attain enlightenment, and that it is impossible for any living creature not to have the Buddha-nature. Therefore if we wish to attain enlightenment then we must follow the Bodhisattva path and dedicate our training to the benefit of all living creatures. If we do not do this, then we will be unable to attain Buddhahood.
Here is an interesting story. One day, Sakyamuni Buddha went with his disciples to beg for alms at a local village. They walked all around the village but the doors remained closed and no one would provide sustenance. The Buddha led his disciples to a nearby place, and using his enlightened vision saw that amongst his disciples it was the venerable Maudgalyayana (目键连尊者- Mu Jian Lian Zun Zhe) who had a karmic connection with these villagers, and sent him to beg for alms on his own. As a result every one on the village opened their doors and gave many offerings! The Buddha was asked why it was that one of his disciples could produce this response from the villagers, but that the Buddha could not. The Buddha replied that in past lives he had not cultivated direct karmic links with these villagers, and so could not move them to donate alms, but that the venerable Maudgalyayana had developed karmic links with these people and was able to influence them in this manner. The Buddha explained that as an enlightened being he can not have any attachment, but that Maudgalyayana’s connection had come about because in the distant past there was a farmer who followed the Dharma. One day he was cutting trees in the mountains to sell as fire wood and came upon a nest of wasps. When the wasps saw the farmer cutting down trees, they flew away from their nest. As a Buddhist the farmer had compassion for the wasps and chanted the triple gem refuge formula (三皈依 – San Gui Yi) to them. In this way the wasps became familiar with the Dharma and because of their belief in the Buddha, eventually took birth in human form. In the past, the wasps were these villagers, and the venerable Maudgalyayana was the farmer, this is why the villagers fill his bowl. From this story we can see that all living beings – including insects – share exactly the same Buddha-nature, and that whether big or small, there is no difference between any being. When we know this to be true, we can see why we must cherish one another and develop compassion. We must not treat other beings badly but approach them with understanding. Some times we can be reborn as insects or worms due to the bad karmic seeds we have sown in the past. This is why we should live a good life and avoid negative actions. A physical body, regardless of its gender or species (be it human, a dog, or a pig, etc), is the product of delusive desire and no one rebirth body should be considered better than any other. We are all the same and one species should not be despised because of a preference for another. In the Lotus Sutra (法华经 – Fa Hua Jing) the Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta (常不轻菩萨 – Chang Bu Qing Pu Sa) treats all living beings with great respect when he says: “I dare not disrespect any living being. One day all beings will attain to Buddhahood." Although others hit, criticised and despised him when he practiced the Dharma, he paid their actions no attention and maintained an attitude of respect. The Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta was the Buddha in one of his past lives. The name ‘Sadaparibhuta’ means he who ‘Never Disrespects’. So you can see that the Buddha attained enlightenment through never disrespecting any living being. As students of the Buddha, we should follow the same example. Isn’t this the essence of Buddhism? All beings contain the virtuous wisdom of the Tathagata but delusion in the mind obscures its presence. Once this delusion is removed through training, do we not become like the Buddha? In our current state we are unaware of our Buddha-nature and so must never cease in our training toward enlightenment. In this sense we will all eventually become a Buddha in the future.
In this endeavour it must be understood that it is not only men who can attain enlightenment, but women can also attain enlightenment. In the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra (维摩诘经 – Wei Mo Ji Jing) we see that Sariputra (舍利弗 – She Li Fu) disrespects a Devakanya, or Goddess (龙女- Long Nu) by suggesting that those who possess a female body can not attain enlightenment. At that exact moment the Goddess used her divine power to immediately assume the physical form of a man, and attained Buddhahood in a future birth. Never underestimate a woman, as a woman is able to attain Buddhahood, this is a fact that should not be doubted. Women should not underestimate their own abilities. Women can leave home and become nuns and do not have to take a husband. They should be confident and develop a compassionate heart, following the example of Avalokiteshvara (观世音菩萨 – Guan Yin Shi Pu Sa) who has attained enlightenment within a female body. This demonstrates that women can be free and attain enlightenment. Certainly history shows us that many women were successful in their self-cultivation and attained enlightenment. Taiwan has many women working in prominent and public roles such as healthcare professionals working in hospitals and carrying many other types of benevolent activities. In this way they are generating a very great Bodhicitta (菩提心 – Pu Ti Xin), or strong enlightened mind moved by compassion and wisdom. If you wish to follow the Dao (道 – ‘Way’) you must understand that it is a difficult path. It is difficult because a continuous and diligent effort must be maintained over a long period of time. Vows must be taken that allow the mind to be developed slowly but surely over-time, so that good karmic seeds can be planted. In this way a good and great karma is produced that assists in our self-cultivation leading toward enlightenment. We are not born with an innate good karma, but must slowly cultivate it through virtuous thoughts and actions. If good karma is not produced, then one’s self-cultivation will not succeed. It is crucial that you dedicate yourself to your training and naturally develop as a consequence. “The birth of a Buddha is sustained by a thousand Buddhas.” Those who develop good and virtuous karma live a very pious life, and because of this virtue, others provide support, sustenance, and encouragement. Without this development of virtue the path is just too difficult to traverse. We must not waste our valuable time, but use it wisely. Practice should be diligent, strong and long enduring. As Buddhists we should develop a boundless and compassionate heart, and always consider the needs of others, so that we can develop our minds with few distractions. If we do not ‘cultivate the root, the plant will be lost’, therefore we should develop a boundless mind, or Bodhicitta, that excludes no one. If we do not include all beings in our practice, then we can not become Buddhas.
We must use our available time very well, and put maximum effort into our training. That way our example will bring honour to Buddhism. If we do not train with the utmost diligence, then how are we going to save all living beings? If you want to become a Buddha you must certainly put in the greatest of efforts. If this is not done then a mockery is made of spreading the Dharma and benefitting all living beings. It is well known that there are the Five Great Mountains (五岳– Wu Yue) in China, and that in the past the religion of Daoism was very popular and prosperous. This led to the Daoists trying to build a temple on the Southern Great Mountain (南岳 – Nan Yue) and claim the area for their own exclusive use. Needless to say this situation caused a great struggle between the Daoists and the Buddhists. There was a well known Ch’an master called Hui Si (慧思) living on Nan Yue, whose practice was very strong and whose merit was very great. The Buddhist Dao Chang (道场 – ‘Way Place’) on Nan Yue had three pagoda towers on its premises, why three pagoda towers? Legend has it that the towers were built to commemorate the three battles that Ch’an master Hui Si had with followers of the Daoist religion. The first battle saw Daoism easily defeated and its practitioners scattered. The second battle ended the same way, but this time the old Daoists were more powerful – they could manipulate and ride the clouds! The third encounter saw master Hui Si and the Daoists approach one another, but both parties continuously disagreed - stating that Nan Yue was exclusively for the use of Buddhist monks, or exclusively for the use of Daoist priests. No settlement could be found, even when the local authorities became involved. After this both sides decided to approach the emperor for a final judgement, but how should they transport themselves to his palace? The old Daoists rode on the back of the clouds to get to the emperor, whilst master Hui Si sat in meditation and in an instant was in the emperor’s presence. Both sides presented their case to the emperor and continued to argue in front of him. The emperor decided to settle the matter by sending an imperial envoy to Nan Yue – if the envoy found the Buddhist monk (Hui Si) on the mountain first – then the mountain would belong to the Buddhists, but if he found the Daoist priest on the mountain first, then the mountain would belong to the Daoists. Needless to say both master Hui Si and the Daoist priest left straight away in an attempt to be the first to reach Nan Yue. The Daoist jumped onto a cloud and moved very quickly back to Nan Yue. Ch’an master Hui Si sat in meditation and immediately returned to Nan Yue, arriving instantaneously. Despite the Daoist flying quickly through the air, he arrived after master Hui Si. Obviously the power and speed of the mind is quicker than the ability to ride a cloud. Ch’an master Hui Si addressed the Daoists and said: “You have legally lost this matter. Quickly arrange to have your heads shaved, quickly shave your heads (and become Buddhists)! Your hair is not required! Quickly have it shaved!” The Daoist priests had their heads shaved and became Buddhist monks – this was witnessed by the imperial envoy and the matter was settled – Nan Yue officially became a Buddhist abode. You must understand that all this was possible through the power of the mind. Nothing can be achieved if the mind is not powerful, and this can only be achieved if the effort we put in to our practice is very strong and continuous. Thousands of miles can be travelled in an instant when the mind is used in a powerful and concentrated manner; this ability is far quicker than even the ability to ride the clouds! Therefore the descendents on Nan Yue built the three pagoda towers out of respect for Ch’an master Hui Si – who was also a highly respected Tian Tai lineage (天台宗– Tian Tai Zong) teacher. I tell you this story so that you appreciate the power of the mind and the effectiveness of meditation. Remember that there is no point arguing or competing with those from non-Buddhist sects who resort to magic and all kinds of desperate methods. The only method that you should use is that of Buddhist meditation, nothing else is needed. You should practice cross legged meditation day in and day out without a break and then you will develop the ability to travel thousands of miles in an instant! As soon as you think of the destination - and you will arrive! I hope that you will all train with the utmost vigour and make use of the wisdom of Buddhism that guides you; in this way you are sure to attain enlightenment. Of equal importance is the place of women in the meditation hall, and I hope that they make the effort to attain mastery in this skill. On the mainland of China there is not yet a very large presence of women in the meditation hall, but things are developing all the time. It all unfolds according to human effort, and women might well create their own meditation hall one day. We all have to focus our efforts on training the mind appropriately. Even if only a small number of women are training today they are sure to realise enlightenment. This is very good. Men and women can all equally attain enlightenment. We must make a vow to uproot our own hellish karma through Dharma practice, in this way good and virtuous karma is created. The attractions of the world are only illusions – they are not real. They are made by humans – what one human can make, we can all make – there is nothing special about worldly existence. Develop a great will power based upon the vows that you take, and this will allow you to develop a great and virtuous karma. You can be successful, you can become a Buddha! Well, now is the time to study hard, off you go!
Ch’an Week Retreat – Day 7 (禅七第七天- Ch’an Qi Di Qi Tian)
Today is different to the days that have already passed. Today is this Ch’an Week’s final day. This is a special day. This is the day that we see if our life and death struggle has been productive or has been in vain. It is time to examine the power and merit of our own efforts and to collect evidence of enlightenment. Have we attained enlightenment? Have we not attained enlightenment? If we are successful in the examination, then when we open our mouths we will make the earth shake! If we can not make the earth shake, then we have not realised enlightenment and should remain quiet. If you can not make the ground move, then this is like not living, this is like choosing to die. How is it like dying? The master in charge of the incense, the master in charge of the disciple, and the master in charge of the ‘fragrant board’, (or the ‘discipline stick’ 香板 – Xiang Ban), must all assist in (metaphorically) putting you to death. In this particular Ch’an retreat you must understand that today is a matter of life and death. You must practice with the utmost effort as the day will end with an examination of understanding. If you allow this sense of urgency to motivate your practice, then perhaps the bottom of the barrel can fall out for you. However, you must be cautious, like treading on thin ice, or standing on the edge of an abyss. This sense of urgency must be coupled with the utmost effort in our practice – the mind must be fully committed and focused to the task in hand. With this kind of effort, enlightenment can suddenly manifest. Use this to motivate your efforts in the time that you have left. You must understand that enlightenment can only be attained if the utmost effort and diligence is maintained throughout the practice. There must be no slacking at any time. Enlightenment is definitely possible, do not give up. I mentioned earlier that simply rushing around in a disorganised fashion will not do. The energy should be gathered and focused so that all of your activities become part of your effort to attain enlightenment. You should aim at achieving enlightenment in the time that is allocated, and then when it comes to the examination you will be able to participate fully. Today is the day of the examination and I hope that the bottom of the barrel will fall out for all of you.
In this Ch’an Retreat much money has been spent in supporting us all. We have all had very good food and drink, and we have all eaten and drank exactly the same kind of food – this is good as there has not been any discrimination. You must understand that there is no such thing as a free meal, and that every thing has to be paid for in the end. The examination at the end of a Ch’an retreat is the method of reckoning. The payment is not made in money, but rather in the effort that is made to realise enlightenment. As every one can achieve enlightenment, it is important that you try your hardest and bring your best effort to the meditation hall. Even if only one or two people manage to realise enlightenment, this is considered money well spent. As long as a single person realises enlightenment it does not matter how many people have to be fed. Ch’an master Wei Shan (沩山禅师 – Wei Shan Ch’an Shi) said: “A meditating monk can devour many pounds of rice.” If enlightenment is the objective, what does the expense of a few buns matter? Enlightenment is not a small undertaking, and should not be thought so as such. It is really a life and death activity. If you win enlightenment – that is life, if you do not win enlightenment, that is death. Therefore you should welcome the examination, as you have been granted ample time to make good progress in this matter. This is a very good thing; please pay attention to your own development. I want every one to make progress in their self-cultivation by using their time wisely. You must gain understanding so that when you are tested you can open your mouth and shake the ground with your understanding! If you do not gain understanding, then your mouth will remain closed and the ground will not shake, even when you are examined by the master. When tested, if you do not know, then you must remain silent! Gaining enlightenment through self-effort is likened to truly living, whilst failing in this task, and remaining in a deluded state is likened to being spiritually ‘dead’. There is only one way out of this situation that is to try with all your effort to gain enlightenment so that when you are tested you can express your understanding in a manner that causes the earth to shake. Your commitment to training should be like the fierce heat of an iron furnace. You must generate this fire in your training to create the transformation that is enlightenment – quickly go about your task! Run! Run! Make good effort! The examination is just around the corner!
Today I want to talk about the problem of careless study whilst developing the mind. There is diligence that is correct, and there is diligence that is not correct. The former facilitates the development of the mind, the latter definitely does not allow the mind to develop. What exactly constitutes ‘careless study of the mind’ (粗心用功 – Cu Xin Yong Gong)? When we first start our self-cultivation, the mind is over-come with deluded thoughts and feelings. The mind is unsophisticated and the essential life energy (气– Qi) is as yet undeveloped. All is confusion without end, and no clear thought is possible. Delusion often drags the mind all over the place, from here to there, and it is very difficult to apply the meditative technique properly – this is what constitutes ‘careless study’ (粗心用功 – Cu Xin Yong Gong). Careless Study at the beginning is due to the undeveloped nature of the mind and of the inherent life force in the body. This is very important and must be thoroughly understood. In this deluded condition it is difficult to concentrate the mind, and raise the great questioning doubt (疑情 Yi Qing) that is required to look into the situation effectively. It is difficult to raise this purposeful doubt, and even if it is generated, it is difficult to maintain and lasts for only a short time. At one moment the mind is focused on a single point and at another moment the concentration falls away. Therefore when we are stuck in the careless study of the mind, nothing can be achieved. Every thing is short in duration and ineffective for spiritual development. It is important to understand that this careless study is the product of an undeveloped mind and an unrefined essential energy.
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2012.