Sitting-up with neck and back support in a comfortable chair can be useful - but lying down is just as good. Posture can involve any relevant position that you need rather than conformity to a universal standard. The Buddha talks of standing, walking, sitting and lying-down (he died lying on his right-side). The point is that a posture should allow an individual to 'forget' about the body.
Pain is one of the three stages of sensation mentioned by the Buddha - together with 'pleasure' and 'neurality'. A convenient meditation posture should generate either a relaxed 'pleasure' or an indifferent 'neutrality' to the body. However, pain has the ability to 'breakthrough' any indifference being cultivated - until the 'indifference' becomes stronger than the pain.
If you focus on 'Who is hearing?' and attempt to return all that is heard back to its non-perceptual essence - then the empty mind ground will be revealed. If a single sense can be 'returned' in this manner, then ALL of the other five senses (smell, touch, sight and touch) will automatically be returned generating a permanent unity of inner vision. Gone will be the duality that separates mind, body and environment. When this is achieved, pain is transformed into a distant 'drop' of water falling into the ocean...
Knowing when to ‘assert’ and when to ‘give-way’ are important attributes for any spiritual traveller. As human-beings, we can find ourselves in all kind of circumstance as the day unfolds and our life progresses. Much of this will be mundane, but occasionally reality will take a shocking turn for the worst! No one saw the Covid19 pandemic arriving and virtually everyone was taken by surprise – despite numerous horror films over the years expressing narratives involving dystopic futures on a planet ravished by some type of illness, plague or other torturous device! Usually, such story-lines involve society collapsing back into an armed feudalism where brutality is the order of the day. Only the strong survive by preying on the weak. Of course, due to poverty and asymmetric economic development around the world, many people already live in these hellish conditions. I would add that even within the so-called ‘civilised’ areas of the world – killing and barbarity still exists – although it is hidden to a far greater extent (like a bad dream that people would rather forget).
Most people grow-up in the world learning to survive. Indeed, this is a crucial and necessary skill. It is not the skill of the huntsman or gathering skills of the scavenger – but rather the ability to navigate the character and personality of our fellow human-beings. Children can be cruel and adults can be deceptive – for many these observations are facts of life. This imbalance in the inner and outer environment must be dealt with in one way or another. Ch’an is not an easy undertaking because it requires a devoted self-effort to take on our own inner world before we set about attempting to make changes in our outer worlds. Many will attack and ridicule any attempt at self-discipline – but for the world to be a better place – self-discipline is exactly what is required. Looking within with clarity and steadfastness eventually develops to looking without with wisdom and knowledge!
Our personal circumstance can vary wildly through our lives. Many will experience poverty, homelessness, abuse and all kinds of deprivations – whilst others will experience only affluence and relative well-being, etc. The point is that regardless of the differences that define our outer existence, the empty mind ground is exactly the same for all beings! Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) lived a life continuously ‘gazing’ at the empty mind ground without any deviation whatsoever! More to the point – Master Xu Yun integrated his expedient self (or that which will eventually fall away) with the permanent and ever-present empty mind ground! Regardless of the situation he found himself in, or the circumstances he had to traverse – Master Xu Yun judged human reality not from the ego infected with greed, hatred and delusion – but rather from the pure and clean empty mind ground which underlies all reality and permeates the universe without end! Knowing where to place oneself in the phenomenal world - so as to maximise compassion, wisdom and loving kindness – is exactly possessing the skill of ‘moving’ and remaining ‘still’ in all situations!
Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) inherited all Five Schools of Ch'an Buddhism. So respected was his spiritual attainments that he was even transmitted lineages that he had not formally trained within - but whose teachers recognised that his depth of insight, humility and compassion fully equalled the divine levels of attainment that their schools demanded! In other words, without going out of his room, he knew all things (to quote the 'Book of Changes'). Chinese culture is very different to that of the modern West - despite the obvious similarities and intersections.
Within the schools of Chinese spirituality - individuals can live very long periods time - and lineages can be passed from long-dead Masters to living Teachers and Practitioners! There is no need to justify any of this, it is just how things are - pure and simple. Lineages are like streams that flow into mighty rivers and then the sea! A genuine lineage should have a compelling force all of its own that propels adherents toward the intended spiritual goal! A true lineage is like an ever-moving conveyor-belt that moves everything along - continuously - and in the same direction! We must all set a good example for our colleagues, students and descendants! If we cultivate virtue and set a good example - then by our pure actions we are 'adding' momentum to the lineages we represent!
Many people are surprised to learn that Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) was subject to a more or less continuous stream of allegations claiming that he routinely ‘broke’ the Vinaya Discipline and the Bodhisattva Vows. These assertions were usually made by common people with an axe to grind for some reason or other. The fact that no one took these allegations seriously is simply because no one who mattered believed any of it to be true. Master Xu Yun was accused of seducing young girls and women, as well as pursuing homosexual relationships with young monks. When these reports were found to be groundless – Master Xu Yun was accused of amassing money and using it to lead a life of luxury and leisure! Again, no evidence was ever found and so these allegations were ignored like all the others. When he was married (in his late teens) Master Xu Yun never touched his two wives. Years later, this was confirmed by these (now elderly) ladies who had become ordained Buddhist nuns after their husband left to become a monk around 1858. These ladies were virginal when they entered the Buddhist nunnery.
My personal experience of Chinese monastic communities, as well as from the memories of other Western people who also lived as a Buddhist monk in China, confirm that homosexuality (as well as any type of sexual expression) was not present. This is because the facility of human desire is ‘turned inward’ and transmutated into pure spiritual light and energy that emanates from the centre of the forehead and from there permeates the entire body and environment. This process detaches sexual energy from the sexual organs and diverts the imagination of the mind away from sexual fulfilment through the sexual organ, focusing on ‘returning’ all this sensation back toward the empty mind ground. There is no outward sexual reaction or perversion within the average Chinese Ch’an monastery because the subject-object dichotomy that drives the sexual drive within delusive society no longer exists.
There is a point in this process where the sexual drive is transformed forever regardless of circumstance. Although a conducive environment is beneficially to start with, eventually, once the six senses are permanently ‘purified’ and ‘cleansed’, then a lay-men such as Vimalakirti and Hui Neng (prior to the latter’s eventual ordination) where able to live within ordinary society and yet never break their Vinaya Discipline. Vimalakirti had a number of wives and numerous children – and yet the Buddha stated that he ‘never’ broke the vow of celibacy. Vimalakirti also criticised the Buddha’s ordained disciple Upali (a Master of the Vinaya Disciple) for being attached (in the wrong) way to the ‘letter of the law’. Vimalakirti stated that being ‘attached’ to celibacy in such a one-sided manner was as bad as being mindlessly attached to sexual pleasure! The answer is that ‘pleasure’, ‘pain’ and ‘neutrality’ are all perceived to be equally ‘empty’ of any and all permanent reality. All emerge from the empty mind ground as karmic attributes that simply take the form that is implicitly conditioned within each strand of expression. This Mahayana penetrating of all phenomena is very different to Upali’s Hinayana notion of just avoiding ‘pleasure’, etc.
It is the same for ‘praise’ and ‘blame’, as both are equally ‘empty’ of any intrinsic or separate value. A practitioner who has penetrated the empty mind ground exists in a permanent state of divine indifference and are unmoved by either praise or blame. Reacting to the ignorance of others with the same ignorance does not happen because it cannot happen. Once the empty mind ground has been permanently penetrated, understood and integrated with, then there is never any slipping back to a more deficient position of understanding. People who operate through the ego are continuously attempting to make some kind of social gain through manipulating those around them. A Ch’an Master sees this straightaway and reveals the underlying reality of those who approach with ulterior motives. All is wisdom, loving kindness and compassion.
This will be the largest cultural exchange event held by the Shaolin Temple in the new era with the largest number of participants, the richest content and the most Diverse Form of Spiritual and Martial Arys!. diverse forms.
I have been engaged in the activity of Buddhist meditation for over three decades. In that time, I have experienced a number of ‘states’ marked by enhanced perception and awareness. These achievements have been confirmed by comparing their attributes with those described within Buddhist Sutras, and through examination by various Buddhist masters. The methods used has involved following the breath, chanting Pali and Sanskrit mantras, contemplating sections of Buddhist Sutras, considering the various ‘gong-an’ (Public Records) preserved within the Chinese Ch’an School, and the use of the ‘hua tou’ (word head) method. There has also been the direct instruction from a number of Buddhist Masters.
Today, whilst sat in deep meditative absorption, it is often the case that an intense sense of ‘pressure’ begins to be felt in the centre of the forehead (between the eyes). This pressure starts off slowly and builds in intensity so that a great physical pleasure and bliss is experienced. With practice, this feeling can manifest very quickly, often as soon as the eyes are closed and the meditation begins. It feels to me as if a matrix of small (but interconnected) muscles (laying across the flat-bone of the forehead) begin to gently ‘contract’ and resonate in a process that is something akin to sexual pleasure. As far as I am aware, this is a purely ‘physical’ response to the meditative process and although not easy to experience, is certainly not ‘mysterious’ in origin or manifestation.
What is its purpose? The experience of what is referred to as the ‘opening of the third eye’ seems to be designed to focus (and alter) the conscious patterning of the mind. Before these muscle contract in this manner, the surface (and deep mind) must have been previously ‘calmed’ and ‘stilled’ for quite some time, before this reaction can be triggered. The pleasurable feeling is intense when fully realised. Although similar to a continuous sexual orgasm experienced across the forehead, there is also a similarity with the effects of a very strong drug which produces a similar effect in the body. Unlike a drug, however, (or sexual experience), the ‘third eye’ can persist for hours producing continuous waves of physical bliss that only comes to an end when formal meditation ceases, and there are absolutely no side-effects as there is with medical stimulants.
These intense waves of physical pleasure (emanating from the centre of the forehead) focus the pure psychic energy and elevates the frequency of the mind patterning so that spiritual ‘light’ appears to flood the head, permeates the interior of the body, and then flows out into the environment. It is as if the muscular contraction of the forehead is a natural process that transforms the manner in which the mind functions and relates to the rest of the body and the environment.
I suspect the experience of the ‘third eye’ is a natural process of human evolution designed as a method that initiates personal healing and serves as a natural pain-killer (similar to teachings found within the Daoist traditions). As regards the broader subject of religious interpretation, the process of the contraction of the muscles across the forehead is often ‘mystified’ and associated with divine intervention and external spiritual stimulation. In this model, the opening of the ‘third eye’ is viewed as a non-physical event entirely dependent upon theistic entities and the suspension of physical laws, etc. I certainly have no problem with these interpretations – but such ideas do not tally with my personal experiences. Always think for yourself and find your own way.
Author’s Note: Charles Luk wrote this Foreword for the British Buddhist – John Blofeld – who had spent time in pre-Revolutionary China (working as an academic in the various Universities) studying Chinese Buddhism and Daoism in his leisure time. During that time, John Blofeld even had a personal encounter with Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) - the details of which are recorded in his biography entitled ‘The Wheel of Life’. John Blofeld also travelled all over Asia before marrying an Asian woman and settling in Thailand. The ‘materialism’ Charles Luk discusses requires clarification. The Buddha recognised that the physical world existed in-front of the senses and that the human mind was ‘attached to that which it ‘sensed’. This physical world, however, exists in a continuous state of flux (or ‘change’), and is ‘empty’ of any substantiality or permanent entity. In the enlightened state, the physical world does not ‘disappear’ as if by magic, but is rather transformed through the attainment and realisation that it is ‘free’ of self, ‘free’ of greed, ‘free’ of hatred and ‘free’ of delusion! The mind is disentangled from its habitual attachment to existing material externals, and the inherently ‘empty’ mind ground is realised, cultivated and developed (as described by the Cao Dong School’s Five Ranks). The Chinese Ch’an School combines the practical teachings of the Pali Suttas and the sublime teachings of the Mahayana Sutras and forms a perfect synthesis of understanding. Charles Luk uses the term ‘materialism’ to describe the mind’s attachment to physical externals, and humanity’s obsession with accumulation of wealth and material goods through the unbridled indulgence of ‘greed’. Charles Luk laments the fact that in the early 1960s, (the time of his writing), people were more interested in the accumulation of external profit, rather than the inner process of spiritual attainment. Whereas the exclusive possession of material goods seldom grants the assumed well-being associated with amassing profit – Charles Luk states that through the proper self-cultivation associated with the inner journey of Ch’an development, true peace of mind and relief from suffering is secured! This ability to ‘self-heal’ - Charles Luk says – resides in the minds of all human-beings! The material world is not necessarily or inherently ‘bad’ per se, but becomes so, depending upon how human-beings decide to relate to it. This is why the enlightened position of the Ch’an Master is described as being ‘neither attached to the (realised) void nor hindered by (the existing) phenomenal world’. Interestingly, Charles Luk discusses the concept of the ‘patient endurance of the uncreate’. After realising relative enlightenment, (or stage three of the Cao Dong School’s Five Ranks System), the perception of emptiness only exists within the mind (or ‘head’) of the individual practitioner. To traverse into the fourth and fifth positions of the Five Ranks – a practitioner must sit with ‘patience’ whilst contemplating the void with non-attachment and adjusting themselves to circumstances. This requires the maintaining of an ‘indifference’ to those circumstance. When this process is facilitated successfully, the emptiness within the head ‘expands beyond the bony limitation of the skull – and ethereally embraces the entire environment (and everything within it). Within phonetical Sanskrit the ‘patient endurance of the uncreate’ is written as ‘anutpattidharmakshanti’, whilst in Sanskrit script it is written as ‘अनुत्पत्तिधर्मक्षान्ति’. ‘Anutpatti’ translates as ‘unborn’, ‘non-born’ ‘uncreated’ - whilst ‘dharma’ represents the ‘entirety of reality’, and ‘kshanti’ equates with ‘patient endurance’. Material reality both ‘exists’ and yet is ‘uncreated’. It takes the practice of the right method of meditation to understand this reality - whilst abiding within the state of eternal patience and endurance (or perseverance). The Standard Sanskrit Dictionary describes this state as being a ‘preparation for a future state, and acquiescence in the state and moral condition which is yet to come.’ A possible Chinese translation is - anutpatti (uncreate) ‘起源’ (Qi Yuan) or ‘that which has not yet come to fruition – but which will eventually germinate and spring-up and sprout from the ground (when watered)’ - reality (dharma) ‘達摩’ (Da Mo) which means ‘unencumbered material reality which is realised (and encountered) everywhere without hindrance’, and ‘尚蒂‘ (Shang Di) ‘to continuously uphold and esteem without hindrance or obstruction’. Therefore, the Sanskrit term ‘अनुत्पत्तिधर्मक्षान’ (anutpattidharmakshanti) is translated into the Chinese language as ‘起源 達摩尚蒂’ - although, of course, there may be other examples generated at different times and in various places as Dynasties (and policies) came and went. Incidentally, the ‘Da Mo’ is exactly the same as that found in the Chinese translation of the name of the Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma - ‘菩提達摩’ (Pu Ti Da Mo). ACW (22.10.2020)
Respectfully dedicated to that true Buddhist, learned scholar, and author and translator of many valuable Ch’an texts, Charles Luk
FOREWORD by Charles Luk
The ancients had their unexcelled ways of teaching which seem strange to the people of this modern age of materialism, not only in the West but also in the East. For the human mind is now more concerned with material than with spiritual values; it seeks only the satisfaction of its ever-increasing desires – though these are the very cause of our sufferings – and it casts away ‘its own treasure house’, which is its paradise of eternal bliss. So long as we allow our minds to discriminate and to grasp at illusion, the ancient teaching will seem strange, even stupid and silly, to us. However, if we succeed in disengaging our minds from externals – that is if we stop all our discriminating and discerning – the profundity of that teaching will become apparent to us, for it inculcates not only theory but also that practice which will give immediate results in the sphere of reality; for a teaching cannot be regarded as complete unless it gives the practical method of reaching the ultimate goal. When the Great Pearl preached his Dharma of instantaneous Awakening, he taught its doctrine, its aim, its substance and its function; thus his teaching consists not only of the right interpretation and correct understanding of theory but also of the practical realisation of substance and function, which are the two essentials of complete enlightenment. In other words, he taught the right Dharma which is immanent in everyone and which does not come from outside.
The Master’s numerous quotations from Mahayana Sutras, together with his unsurpassed interpretations and comments, show that all great master read the whole Tripitaka before or after their enlightenment, and refutes the unjustifiable contention that sutra can be dispensed with in the Transmission of Mind introduced into China by the Twenty-Eighth Patriarch Bodhidharma.
The Great Pearl urged his listeners not to let their minds abide anywhere and at the same time to keep from illusory non-abiding, so that a state of all-pervading purity and cleanness would appear of itself. And even this pure state should not be clung to, in order to release the mind from all remaining relatives and thereby attain realisation of the ‘patient endurance of the uncreate’ (anutpattidharmakshanti) which is an essential condition of complete enlightenment. Thus, his instruction followed exactly the same pattern of the Dharma as laid down by the Buddha who said in the Sutra of Complete Enlightenment that his disciples should keep themselves again and again from all illusions, including the illusionary idea of keeping from them, so as to wipe out all traces of subject and object until nothing further remained to be avoided – for only then could bodhi appear in full.
Therefore, Part One of this book gives the Mahayana instruction for self-realisation of mind, for perception of self-nature and consequent attainment of Buddhahood. And Part Two contains the dialogues between the Great Pearl and those who came to him for instruction. If we seriously follow this teaching and practise self-cultivation, beginning with the mind as the starting point, there is every possibility that we shall succeed in reaching the same mental states as those described by the Great Pearl in his twenty-eight-line gatha.
(Upasaka Lu K’uan Yu)
'A monk asked, "What is upright listening? Xita replied, "It doesn't enter through your ear." Xita said, "How can that be?" Xita said, "Do you hear it?" Transmission of the Lamp
‘Now, as revealed in the original study, Buddha's fundamental teachings are clear, simple, and show the closest harmony to modern thought. There is no room for debate that Buddhism is the most transparent feat of intelligence known in the history of the world.’ (H. G. Wells)
‘’When Sansheng was at Xuefeng’s, he heard Xuefeng give a teaching that “all persons without exception have an ancient mirror. This monkey has an ancient mirror.” Sansheng stepped forth and said, “For endless kalpas it has been nameless. Why does the Master propose it to be an ancient mirror?” Xuefeng said, “It’s because of defective existence.” Sansheng said, “As for me, I don’t see where you came up with this.” Xuefeng said, ‘My mistake! I have many duties as Abbot.’ Transmission of the Lamp
The paradox of the Chinese Ch’an tradition is that it expects lay-people and monastics alike to realise full enlightenment - ‘here and now’. What does this mean? Regardless of the circumstances of an individual’s life, the insight capacity of the mind must be turned inward with such a high degree of focus and precision, that perception is permanently ‘altered’ so to ‘see’ and ‘understand’ more than what was understood before. Being a Buddhist monastic is no guarantee of success in realising enlightenment, just as being a lay-person should be no barrier. Individuals will learn at their own pace and in their own way, with all kinds of psychological and physiological factors coming into play (traditionally referred to as ‘personal karma’). The ‘language of the uncreate’ is unique to Chinese Ch’an Buddhism and uses language in such a way that does not allow the habitual ‘dualism’ of conventional communication to come into play during an ‘enlightening’ interaction or dialogue. The convention of ‘dualism’ preserves delusive states of mind, and prevents clarity of insight from developing. This is why Ch’an masters (in ancient times) developed this mode of non-communication, although when Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) taught during the 19th and 20th centuries, he often used a modern example of logic and reason to describe the history, method and purpose of the Ch’an School. Indeed, whilst encouraging his disciples to fully penetrate (and realise) the empty mind-ground, he would often warn against the cultural habit of many people attending Ch’an Week Retreats to descend into ‘mystical’, or ‘nonsensical’ states of mind, each of which was nowhere near the authentic realisation of the empty mind ground! Uttering nonsense about ancient masters, does go much beyond the nonsense being uttered! However, once the empty mind ground is realised, then every word spoken by the Buddha is understood exactly and clearly, as is every odd action and utterances of the ancient Ch’an masters!
Avoiding the Ten Evil Acts (Dasa Akusala)
A) The Three Evil Acts Associated with the Bodily-Action: 1) Killing 2) Stealing 3) Adultery
B) The Four Evil Acts Associated with Speech: 4) Lying 5) Slander 6) Harsh Words 7) Profitless Talk
C) The Three Evil Acts Associated with the Mind: 8) Greed 9) Hatred 10) Delusion
As Buddhism is a Form of Mental Hygiene – the Following Must Be Uprooted through Meditation:
1) Greed (Abhijjha), 2) Hatred (Vyapada), 3) Ill-Will (Kodha), 4) Enmity (Upanaha), 5) Belittling (Makkha), 6) Pretension (Palasa), 7) Envy (Issa), 8) Jealously (Macchariya), 9) Hypocrisy (Maya), 10) Craftiness (Satheyya), 11) Obduracy (Thambha), 12) Vieing (Sarambha), 13) Conceit (Mana), 14) Haughtiness (Atimana), 15) Infatuation (Mada), and 16) Unheedfulness (Pamada).
As these ‘darken the mind’ they must be ‘uprooted’.
Ten Moral Acts (Dasa Kusala)
1) Giving (Dana), 2) Moral Conduct (Sila), Meditation (Bhavana), 4) Respecting the Worthy (Apacayana), 5) Ministering to the Worthy (Veyvavacca), 6) Offering Merit (Pattidana), 7) Partakingbof Merit (Pattanumodana), 8) Hearing the Teaching (Dhammasavana), 9) Teaching the Dhamma (Dhamma Desana) and 10) Rectification of False Views (Ditthijjukamma).
The reality of living in the material world is entirely a matter of casual circumstance. Most people make their way through life in any way they can, regardless of the inherent conditions (good, neutral or bad, etc). The Ch’an masters in the old days were very strict and did not care whatsoever about casual circumstance. Their main emphasis was only to direct the attention ‘inward’ so that the empty mind ground can be fully cognised and integrated with. There is no gossip or discussion tolerated about the nature of the times, with only ‘looking within’ viewed as a valid approach to existence. The Ch’an masters advised that we must ‘adjust ourselves to circumstance’, whilst the mind is turned inward and the interior of conscious awareness illuminated through continuous concentration. This is the essence of the Buddha’s method. Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) lived an extraordinary life and was involved in very important times in historical development, but he was continuously ‘indifferent’ to what was happening around him, whilst taking every ‘correct’ action that was required at the time. Looking within with strength and purpose is not a denial of material reality, but is the acknowledgement of the Buddha’s method. The Ch’an method is nothing but the direct realisation of the empty mind ground so that it becomes the place of permanent abode – an abode which generates loving-kindness, compassion and wisdom!