A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua


Chapter 5



The Master instructed the assembly: “The door of sitting in Ch’an consists fundamentally of attaching oneself neither to the mind nor to purity; it is not non-movement. One might speak of becoming attached to the mind, and yet the mind is fundamentally false. You should know that the mind is like an illusion, and therefore there is nothing to which you can become attached.”


Ch’an is not necessarily just sitting in meditation. One may practice Ch’an while walking, standing, sitting, and lying down. In his “Song of Enlightenment,” the Great Master Yung Chia wrote:

In Ch’an while walking and while sitting,
Speaking, silent, moving, still,
His body is at peace.

If you know how, you can practice Ch’an at all times, not just while sitting in meditation. But do not become attached to the mind or to purity. Becoming attached to the mind, you have two minds, and becoming attached to purity, you have two purities. Do not think, “I will sit here and not move.”

Becoming attached to the mind, you have two false minds, neither of which is the true mind. The mind is an illusion. Why attach yourself to it?


“One might say that to practice Ch’an is to attach oneself to purity, yet the nature of people is basically pure. It is because of false thinking that the True Suchness is obscured. Simply have no false thinking, and the nature will be pure of itself.

“If an attachment to purity arises in your mind, a deluded idea of purity will result. What is delusory does not exist, and the attachment is false. Purity has no form or mark and yet there are those who set up the mark of purity as an achievement. Those with this view obstruct their own original nature and become bound by purity.


Everyone’s self-nature is basically pure of itself, but when you cling to purity, you add a head on top of a head and create two purities, a true purity and a false purity. And so you stray from the original pure substance.

Though purity has no form or mark, you postulate a mark to it and in so doing add a head on top of a head. When you consider that to be skill, you obstruct your original mind and nature. Cultivation is for the purpose of breaking attachments. You should not be attached.


“Good Knowing Advisors, one who cultivates non-movement does not notice whether other people are right or wrong, good or bad, or whether they have other faults. That is the non-movement of the self-nature.

“Good Knowing Advisors, although the body of the confused person may not move, as soon as he opens his mouth he speaks of what is right and wrong about others, of their good points and shortcomings, and so he turns his back on the Way. Attachment to the mind and attachment to purity are obstructions to the Way.”


You cultivate non-movement? Non-movement of what? You shouldn’t just sit there and not move. You should cultivate non-movement in the midst of movement; in the midst of your daily activities, do not move. Do not insist on criticizing others and pointing out their faults. If you do nothing but censure and browbeat others, it is not non-movement.


The Master instructed the assembly, “Good Knowing Advisors, what is meant by ‘sitting in Ch’an?’ In this unobstructed and unimpeded Dharma-door, the mind’s thoughts do not arise with respect to any good or evil external state. That is what ‘sitting’ is. To see the unmoving self-nature inwardly is Ch’an.

“Good Knowing Advisors, what is meant by ‘Ch’an concentration?’ Being separate from external marks is ‘Ch’an.’ Not being confused inwardly is ‘concentration.’

“If you become attached to external marks, your mind will be confused inwardly. If you are separate from external marks, inwardly your mind will be unconfused. The original nature is naturally pure, in a natural state of concentration. Confusion arises merely because states are seen and attended to. If the mind remains unconfused when any state is encountered, that is true concentration.”


Sitting in one place is not necessarily “sitting.” You are said to be “sitting” when your mind is no longer disturbed by external conditions, be they good or bad. When you view the unmoving self-nature inwardly, you are practicing Ch’an.

When you are not attached to external marks, you have attained Ch’an. When inwardly you have no illusions or scattered thoughts, you have attained concentration.

Detach yourself from external marks, and your efficacious, bright, enlightened nature will be pure of itself. In that way you will attain concentration.


“Good Knowing Advisors, being separate from all external marks is Ch’an and being inwardly unconfused is concentration. External Ch’an and inward concentration are Ch’an concentration. The Vimalakirti Sutra says, ‘Just then, suddenly return and regain the original mind.’ The Bodhisattva-shila Sutra says, ‘Our basic nature is pure of itself.’ Good Knowing Advisors, in every thought, see your own clear and pure original nature. Cultivate, practice, realize the Buddha Way!”