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Abiding By The Rules Inside And Outside The Meditation Hall
Ch'an Master Ming Yi
(Ch’an master Ming Yi (明一) is a Dharma student of master Jing Hui – who received instruction from the great master Xu Yun himself. Today, master Ming Yi lives at the Fourth Ancestor Temple (Si Zu Si - 四祖寺), in Hubei province, but at the time of writing this blog entry he was residing at the Bailin Ch’an Temple (柏林禅寺), (situated in Hebei province). The blog entry is dated 2012.03.07 – but may refer to an earlier time.)
Abiding By The Rules Inside And Outside The Meditation Hall
As well as my usual duties at the Bailin Ch’an Temple (柏林禅寺), I was put in-charge of the meditation hall and had the responsibility of leading the meditation retreats. The post of administration master (or ‘weina’ - 维那) is a very real concern because it involves a great responsibility, but I am very happy to fulfil this role as I consider it a very great blessing to live and practice for extended time periods in the meditation hall. The monks come to this temple on the mountainside to seek inner truth through the practice of intense meditation. The Ch’an method is a direct pointing to the Mind Ground. Once a year the Bailin Temple closes its doors and enters a 35 day Ch’an meditation retreat – or 5 Ch’an Weeks in a row. On average, around nine hours is spent sitting in meditation, with the practice of being silent lasting for seven and a half hours each day. During the holding of Ch'an weeks, the time period spent on cultivating sitting and walking meditation is extended to around 12 hours each day.
The meditation hall is the heart of the great matter – where multitudes meet in focused, conscious effort. The meditation hall is the heart of the monastery and is regulated entirely by the temple clock (i.e. the regular burning of incense sticks to mark time). The administration master is responsible for the regulation of the entire monastery from the smallest to the largest detail – and nothing can function correctly without his good judgement and organisational skills. The administrative master is responsible for implementing and maintaining the monastic law practiced within Ch’an temples. Therefore a candidate for this position must have experience of how a temple is run, and how the meditation hall is regulated. In this regard the administration master must also be accomplished in Ch’an meditative practice. The meditation hall and the monastery are one in essence and when the administration master guides meditation, or regulates the day, he is expressing one and the same wisdom. Nothing is done, or left undone – without his knowledge or permission – this is why this post is so important and must be approached with great humility. The administration master serves the entire community. However, not only must the rules be effectively implemented within the temple, but they must be enforced as well. The administration master uses the ‘xiangban’, or ‘fragrant wooden stick’ to strike those who are not conforming to the rules, upon the shoulders or upper-back. This stimulates the qi flow and relieves tiredness as a result. The character of the master who uses the xiangban must be ‘pure’ and not corrupt. There is a saying within the temple; “He who uses the xiangban represents the purity of the Patriarchs.” This is why a pure character can enforce just laws that bring great joy to the people.
The venerable master Lai Guo said: “If there are no rules to regulate the day, then the guest will lead (and dominate) the host. If there are no rules to regulate the day, there will be no laws for people to follow, and nothing will be achieved. If there are no laws, there will be no order from top to bottom. If there are no rules, the mind and body can not be regulated and developed. If there are no rules, laws, or order, then Ch’an can not exist.” Rules based upon a deep spiritual insight create just laws in the world. Laws that are just bring great joy to the people. Righteous laws are revealed by the sages and those who have developed their characters correctly.
The implementation of the rules also allows for the concept of skilful means. Once, the Lord Buddha was approached by a horse trainer (named ‘Kesi’) – the Buddha knew that he was a horse-trainer, and asked him how he trained his horses? Kesi answered that there are three ways to train a horse;
a) Soft Method.
b) Hard Method.
c) Integrated Method (i.e. a mixture of soft and hard techniques).
The Buddha then asked what happens if a horse does not respond to the training? Kesi replied that in that case the horse is considered to be of no use and is killed. Kesi then asked the Buddha about the method he uses to train human beings. The Buddha replied that he also uses three distinct methods;
d) Soft Method.
e) Hard Method.
f) Integrated Method (i.e. a mixture of soft and hard techniques).
Kesi then asked what happens to the disciples if none of these methods work. The Buddha replied that in that case, he ‘kills them’. Kesi was shocked by this reply and asked how it was that the Buddha could say this, as he knew that the Buddha taught non-violence. The Buddha answered that it was true that the Tathagata does not kill, or cause to kill, but that when a disciple does not respond to the three methods of instruction, then that disciple is ‘ignored’ by the Buddha himself and his disciples. This is like being ‘dead’ to the spiritual community. The Buddha’s behaviour is based upon the manifestation of a deep compassion for the disciple as there is never a time that the disciple is not given an opportunity to spiritually grow and morally reform. Ignoring the disciple is a means to allow the disciple to grow out of and away from the ignorance that is preventing real growth. This is the use of skilful means and I am deeply appreciative of the Buddha’s compassion. With the careful application of skilful means to a community the individuals can be helped to over-come all the problems that they are experiencing. There is no conflict in the helping of others to transcend spiritual contradictions and every body must be helped equally within the community. The rules help people to quietly change during their meditative cultivation. Some times, however, people do not know the rules, or forget the rules and must be reminded. Other times there is confusion about this or that. On occasion a person should be corrected publically, at other times correction should occur in private, whilst at other times a mixture of the two can be employed. Skilful means requires that the right corrective method be applied to the right person, at the right time, and that the corrective method must be just and righteous. Whatever the case, what is important is that the example of the Patriarchs is continuously upheld for all to see. People should be correctly disciplined but never humiliated.
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2012.