Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
The sweet dew from the Bodhisattva’s willow branch
Can cause one drop to pervade the ten directions.
All filth and dirt are completely wiped away…
With these words, in June of 1970, the Kuan Yin recitation session was opened. It was the first such session ever held in the western world, and those attending, inspired by the Venerable Master Hua’s daily instructional talks, worked to their utmost reciting the name of the Bodhisattva.
In 1962 the Venerable Master Hua brought the banner of the Orthodox Dharma to the West. In 1968 a group of young Americans asked him to speak the Shurangama Sutra. The Master consented and the Sutra Study and Practice Session lasted for ninety-six days. From that time onwards, the Master has continued to lecture daily on the Dharma, expounding such Sutras as: The Lotus Sutra, The Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra, The Earth Store Sutra, The Vajra Sutra, The Heart Sutra, and many others. Currently, at the newly established City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the Master continues to explain the King of Sutras, The Great Avatamsaka Sutra.
In our age of moral and spiritual decay, many bemoan the advent of the “Dharma-ending Age.” But the Venerable Master has made a vow that he will not allow theDharma-ending Age to descend. Because he has taken the maintaining of the Orthodox Dharma as his personal responsibility, from the very beginning he has taught his students the fundamental importance of practicing what they learn.
During the 1968 Study and Practice Session he spoke to his freedom-loving American disciples, telling them, “It is absolutely essential for people who want to cultivate the Way to receive the precepts…From the lectures we derive understanding, and we practice by investigating Ch’an. Through the combination of practice and understanding we can stride forward…
An example will help to illustrate the value of combining understanding with practice. A blind man and a cripple lived together in a house. One day it caught on fire. The blind man couldn’t see and had no way to get out. The cripple could see, but he didn’t have any legs. What a predicament! Then a wise advisor told them, ‘You two can get out of this burning house. How? Cripple, let the blind man use your eyes. Blind man, let the cripple use your legs.’ They followed his advice and made the best of their situation. The cripple climbed on the blind man’s back and told the blind man where to walk. Thanks to the timely advice, they managed to save themselves.”
From the Sutras and the teachings of the Buddha we gain understanding. From holding the precepts and through meditation we put that understanding into practice. As his students tackle the often elusive principles of the Doctrine the Master encourages them. “Do not be afraid of not understanding,” he will say. “Just be afraid that you will not practice what you know. If you do not practice, you are useless…”
As long as there are those who practice the teachings, the Orthodox Dharma remains. In the final analysis there is no Orthodox or Dharma-ending Age. Those who practice the Orthodox Dharma live in the Orthodox Dharma Age. Those who practice deviant dharmas live in the Dharma-ending age. Those who follow the Buddha’s precepts, study the teachings, and practice them, are certain to gain wisdom and eventually reach enlightenment, even now, in our “corrupt” age. On the other hand, those who do not follow the Buddha’s instructions could not be saved, even if they were face to face with Shakyamuni Buddha himself!
The present volume contains the Master’s lively and practical instructions given to a group of hard working cultivators of both recitation and Ch’an. As you find this volume in your hands, you can be assured of your affinities with the Dharma. In 1968 the Master said, “We have karmic connections with Shakyamuni Buddha and the Dharma which he proclaimed and which remains in the world. So now we have the opportunity to understand the doctrines. We are now in an advantageous position, even though we have been born after Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma.”
The Master has brought the Orthodox Dharma to the West. We now can hear, study and practice it. The house of the Triple World is on fire. Crippled and blinded as we may be by our degenerate age, we have been shown a way out. The world needs the light of Dharma and there is really no time to stand on the sidelines “bemoaning the descent of the Dharma-ending Age.” It is time we got down to the work at hand.
Bhikshuni Heng Yin
Buddhist Text Translation Society, July 1978
This seven-day intensive session devoted to mindfulness of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva was held in June of 1970 at the Buddhist Lecture Hall in San Francisco. Since it was the first session of its kind sponsored by the Sino-American Buddhist Association, the instruction given by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua was particularly detailed and informative, as young Americans discovered the wonder of this Dharma-door of Great Compassion.
During the week, participants practiced sitting and walking meditation while chanting aloud and silently “Na Mwo Kuan Shih Yin Pu Sa”—Namo to the Bodhisattva who Contemplates the Sounds of the World.
Sweet Dew Hand and Eye
“NAMO TO THE GREATLY COMPASSIONATE KUAN SHIH YIN”
Today is Sunday and this evening we will purify the boundaries. Tomorrow we will begin the Kuan Yin Recitation Session.
Among all the Bodhisattvas, Kuan Shih Yin has the most compassionate heart and so we say “Namo to the Greatly Compassionate Bodhisattva Kuan Shih Yin.” Namo is a Sanskrit word. Translated it means “to return the life and submit respectfully.” To return your life means to offer up your heart, mind, body, and nature to Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. To submit respectfully is to bow reverently to the ground to Kuan Yin.
Great Compassion is great kindness and great sympathy. It is great kindness towards those for whom you don’t have an affinity, and great sympathy for those with whom you are of the same substance. You might also say there is an affinity even with those who have no affinity because there is not a single living being who does not have an affinity with Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. Even those who have no affinity are recognized by Kuan Shih Yin as having an affinity. Most people say, “I can be compassionate towards the people I am close to.” This is not the compassion of Kuan Shih Yin.
The great compassion towards those of the same substance means that Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva is united with all living beings; there is no discrimination between this and that, no you and no me.
The word “compassion” includes the two concepts “kindness” and “sympathy.” What is kindness? Kindness bestows happiness on others. This is not to say, “You should invite me to lunch so I can get full and bliss out.” That’s not it at all! True kindness means that, even if you have to give your own lunch away and go hungry, you do it just to make someone else happy. Great kindness differs from the limited kindness of ordinary people. Kuan Shih Yin has no limits, no boundaries.
Sympathy is having pity on all people under heaven. The Compassionate Lord, Kuan Yin, pities all people and relieves their suffering. That which can get rid of all the suffering of living beings is great sympathy. So, in general, the two words “kindness” and “sympathy” combine to make up the word “compassion.”
In the name Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva, “Kuan” means “to contemplate.” It refers to a kind of wisdom which enables one to contemplate. Most people can contemplate, but they don’t have wisdom. Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva has contemplative Prajna wisdom.
The second word of the Bodhisattva’s name, “Shih” means “world.” Kuan Yin Bodhisattva contemplates all the sounds of the world. What sounds? All the sounds made by living beings – sounds of suffering, sounds of joy, sounds of right, sounds of wrong, good sounds, bad sounds, happy sounds, and sad sounds. Kuan Shih Yin follows the sounds, seeking out the living beings who make them, in order to rescue them from their suffering.
If you are undergoing suffering, Kuan Yin Bodhisattva will contemplate the causes and conditions and say, “Why is that person suffering? It’s because in the past he did not do good deeds. The retribution he must suffer has not yet ended, so I’ll have to wait a bit.” Then, after a while, when the suffering is just about to come to an end, if there’s not a lot left over, Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva will bring it to an end and pull that living being out of the sea of suffering.
Why are beings happy? It is because in the distant past they cultivated good roots, cultivated many blessings. So Kuan Shih Yin thinks, “I should go and cross him over and then he’ll be even happier. He will bring forth the resolve for Bodhi and eventually realized proper enlightenment.”
Kuan Shih Yin is a Bodhisattva; “Bodh” means “enlightenment,” and “sattva” means a “living being.” A Bodhisattva is an enlightened living being; a Bodhisattva is also one who enlightens living beings. If you are able to enlighten yourself then you will be able to enlighten others.
Among living beings, Bodhisattvas are enlightened. Basically, they are living beings, just like you and me, but they’ve chosen to cultivate the four infinite hearts: kindness, compassion, joy, and giving, and as a result they have become Bodhisattvas. If you and I and all living beings cultivate kindness, sympathy, joy, and giving, and if we practice the six perfections and the ten thousand conducts of a Bodhisattva, we, too, can become Bodhisattvas, and we will be the same as Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.
Why haven’t we become Bodhisattvas? Simply because we do not cultivate. Today we cultivate, but tomorrow we don’t. The day after we want to cultivate again, but the following day, after lunch, we begin to retreat. We go forward a bit, then back a bit, forward a bit, then back a bit, back and forth, and we don’t become Bodhisattvas.
Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva is Amitabha Buddha’s foremost disciple. If you recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name, the merit and virtue derived from the recitation is the same as if you had recited Amitabha Budddha’s name. If you recite Amitabha Buddha’s name you will be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss; the same is true if you recite the name of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. Reciting Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name for seven days is the same as reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name for seven days.
We now begin a Kuan Yin Bodhisattva recitation session and will recite the Bodhisattva’s name for seven days. In the Amitabha Sutra, it says, “If a good man or good woman hears spoken ‘Amitabha’ and holds the name, whether for one day, two days, three days, four days, five days, six days, as long as seven days, with one heart unconfused, when that person approaches the end of life, before him will appear Amitabha and all the assembly of Holy Ones. When the end comes, his heart is without inversion; in Amitabha’s land of Ultimate Bliss he will attain rebirth.” Reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha for seven days is the same as reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva for seven days and both lead to rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Recently, one of the people attending the summer session asked me a question. I replied, “Don’t ask me. I’m not paying any attention to such matters. The Americans here can speak English and they know what’s going on. I have given my authority to them, just like Amitabha Buddha gives his authority to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.” The summer session combines study and cultivation. If you cultivate but do not study, you are practicing blindly and you will never manage to cut off the “affliction obstacle.” If you study but do not cultivate, you will never cut off the “obstacle of what is known.” If you can’t cut off the “affliction obstacle,” you still have a self, and if you can’t cut off the “obstacle of what isknow,” you still have dharmas.
If you have dharmas, then you have the dharma-attachment; if you have a self, you have the self-attachment and you have not realized that basically self and dharmas are empty. Therefore, you must combine study and practice. The understanding derived from study aids us in our practice and the practice aids us in our study. They harmonize. You shouldn’t cultivate your whole life away and then find that when someone asks you how to explain a sentence of Dharma, you don’t know what to say! On the other hand, you shouldn’t simply study and listen to a lot of lectures on the Sutras and then find that, when someone asks you how to cultivate, you’re speechless!
The Kuan Yin recitation Session will last for seven days. The Amitabha Sutra says, “…whether for one day, two days…” but we will change it slightly. The Chinese word for “whether” looks like this…We are going to move the middle line a bit to the right a bit it turns into the word “suffering” So the text now reads, “…suffering for one day, suffering for two days…”
If you don’t suffer for seven days, you’ll never be free from suffering. If you suffer through these seven days, you’ll be able to end it. If you’re afraid of suffering, you should say so right now. If you aren’t afraid, then don’t be lazy for even a second. Those who don’t want to suffer for seven days can back out and be happy for seven days. But if you are happy for seven days, in the future, you won’t be happy. On the other hand, if you suffer for seven days now, later you’ll be happy. Whether you want to be happy for seven days now and then be sad, or suffer for seven days now and then be happy, is all up to you. I won’t offer my opinion because we talk about true freedom here.
We’re going to suffer for seven days reciting the name of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. You may wonder, “What is the advantage of all this suffering?
I answer, suffering itself is an advantage. If before you couldn’t stand to suffer, but you learn to endure suffering, that, in itself, is an advantage. Some people say that when the suffering ends, the advantage is obtained, but I don’t agree. I say that suffering is itself an advantage. If you’re able to be patient and bear weariness and suffering, you’ll find it is a great help in your cultivation of the Way. When the weariness is over, the sweetness comes.
During these seven days, perhaps you’ll be enlightened. I shouldn’t tell you this because if I do, on the one hand you’ll be greedy. If you are greedy, you won’t be sincere in your recitation and you won’t become enlightened. So I’m not going to talk about how many good points may be obtained. You should find them yourself. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want you to get greedy.
In general, cultivate according to the Dharma and you will obtain a response. When you’re done reciting, Kuan Yin Bodhisattva will always protect you and say, “This American isn’t bad at all. He recited my name for seven days and so I will protect him because I protect the Proper Dharma.”
I’m telling you just a little bit. If I spoke in details, I’d never finish. I wouldn’t want you to get arrogant, either, and think, “I’ve recited for seven days and Kuan Yin Bodhisattva will certainly protect me. I’m not afraid of anything. I’m really fine,” If you indulge in that kind of pride, a demon will come to hassle you and Kuan Yin Bodhisattva won’t do anything but say, “he’s really worthless. Look how arrogant he is.”
People who cultivate must not be arrogant or self-satisfied. So it is said, “You can go ahead and eat too much. It’s not important. But if you talk too much you’re in for trouble.” If you eat too much, at the very most you’ll be uncomfortable and have to make arrangements to move the food. But if you talk too big, say you brag that you can lift five hundred pounds, you’ll go to lift it, strain something, and spit blood. What I’m getting at here is, if you have not yet realized the karma of the Way, do not talk arrogantly, whatever you do.
Don’t say, “I can do everything,” because as soon as you say it, a demon will come to test you. The demon, however, is really an aid to your progress in the Way. As soon as you say that you have put everything down, the very thing that you can’t put down will arrive to test you; it will come to see what you will do. At that time, if you’ve really put it down, you will know. If you haven’t put it down, you’ll be pretty clear about that too.
Once I said a very arrogant thing. I said, “I’m not afraid of demons. Cultivators fear demons, but I don’t . I don’t fear any demons at all – earth demons, heavenly demons, human demons, or ghostly demons.’” As soon as I said it, a sickness demon got me so sick that I didn’t know anything at all. After that, I understood that you have to be careful in everything that you do never to boast.
Now, I have something to say that’s very arrogant, but I don’t pay attention to how arrogant it is; I just go ahead and say it: “Everything’s okay.” Good and bad, birth and death – I see them all as the same. They are no problem at all. Whether people believe in me or not makes no difference. Even sickness and death is no problem. I just don’t see them as problems. I’ve said this many times, and have run into no difficulty.
Tonight we will begin the session. This is the first time a Kuan Yin Session has been held in America and the participants must all be number one. No one can be number two. Everything I do has to be tops, with no runners-up. And I don’t want anyone else to trail behind either.
You may think, “You just like to be No. 1!”
Of course I do! If I didn’t like to come out on top, how could I teach all of you to be Number Ones, too?
Now, let’s begin the session!
Kundi Hand and Eye
The Summer Sutra Study and Recitation Session is a method of cultivation for the summer months. This winter we will begin a period of fourteen Ch’an weeks—ninety-eight days, two days short of a hundred days. It will be much harder than the Summer Session, which is merely an entrance exam for the big meditation session. How can you pass? You should not even want your own life; just insist on cultivating.
“isn’t this insanity?” you may ask, “cultivating to the point of going nuts, cultivating until you don’t even want to live anymore? Wanting to do nothing but cultivate?”
Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. Everyone is crazy these days. If you’re not crazy, they think you are. Maybe it is true and maybe it isn’t. although practically everyone is crazy, they just don’t realize they’re crazy.
Some people accuse me of being crazy, and I say, “Maybe I am and maybe I’m not,” because there are no fixed dharmas. Everything is made from the mind. If there is craziness in your mind, you’re crazy; if there is no craziness in your mind, you’re not. All dharmas arise from the mind. When the mind arises all dharmas arise; and when the mind does not arise all dharmas perish. Now, during the session, the mind will not arise and dharmas will not arise. The state of non-production and non-extinction will manifest.
We just completed a ceremony which is called “sprinkling clean.” Those who have studied Buddhadharma know what “sprinkling clean” means, but those who have not studied Buddhadharma don’t know what we are doing—muttering “Na mwo Na mwo, Mwo la Mwo la,” taking a bowl of water and sprinkling it all over. Someone says, “I know. You were getting ready to sweep the floor and so you sprinkled water on the ground so the dust would not fly around.”
No. It’s not to keep the dust down, but rather to keep the demons from flying around, because there are demons everywhere. Whenever one convenes a Dharma assembly in a Bodhimandala, one should sprinkle it clean. Otherwise demons may come to disturb the Bodhimandala and cause a lot of trouble. “Sprinkling clean” keeps them away.
The water is called “sweet dew,” Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s sweet dew. It chases out all demons and ghosts so that the Bodhimanda says,
The sweet dew from the Bodhisattva’s willow branch
__ Can cause one drop to pervade the ten directions.
All filth and dirt are completely wiped away.
Causing the platform to be totally clean and pure.
Although we are sprinkling clean, it is not that we are actually using water. This is the verse that we recite when “sprinkling clean.” Now that I have explained it, you understand what we are doing.
Willow Branch Hand and Eye
You have already suffered for one day. If you think it’s suffering, it’s suffering. If you think it isn’t suffering, then it isn’t. Reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name is not really suffering, for it plants many good roots and the seed of Bodhi.
You should not only not think of it as suffering, but you should be very happy. Why? Because in a hundred thousand ten-thousand aeons, it is difficult to encounter this Dharma door. How many times have you gone around on the wheel of rebirth, spinning in the six paths, and never encountered this Dharma door? Confused, we have passed through aeons as many as the number of dust motes in the Ganges River. Now, having met the Buddhadharma, we should be happy.
The power of the function of reciting Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name is inconceivable. If someone has a demonic obstruction and recites Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, the demons will run away. If someone seeks anything at all, and continually recites Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, he will succeed. In the Universal Door Chapter of the Lotus Sutra it is said that those who have a lot of desire and constantly recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name will be able to separate from their desire.
Desire is greed—greed for wealth, sex, fame, food, or sleep. Whether or not greed is good is a matter you must decide. If you think it is good and I tell you it is not, you will want to argue with me and will thereby waste a lot of energy. In the end, you’ll still think greed is good. There is no way that I can convince you it is not good.
If you think it is not good, and if you want to put it down, you have already found a way. What is the way? Recite “Namo Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva,” and you’ll be able to put down your thoughts of greed and desire, your defiled thoughts, and your ignorant thoughts. Recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name and you will be able to break through ignorance and realize genuine wisdom. If you would prefer wisdom to your present state, you should recite “Namo Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva” and bow to Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. Constantly reciting, “Namo Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva,” your thoughts of greed and desire will gradually melt away and you won’t even know how it happened.
Right now you have many greedy thoughts, but you are not aware of them. In the same way, you won’t be aware of them as they lessen. Although you won’t be aware of them, the lack of greed is actual proof of the efficacy of recitation. Rid of greed and desire, your thoughts of hate will also disappear. It is said, “If someone has much hatred and continually recites “Namo Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva,” thoughts of hate will disappear.
Just recite. You don’t have to pay a fee to do it, and you don’t have to do any work. Just repeat, “Namo Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva,” very, very respectfully with all your attention focused on it. You will feel as if Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva is right on top of your head, on your right and on your left, in front of you and behind you. Kuan Yin will give you a prediction of Buddhahood and manifest before you saying, “Good woman, good man, your thoughts of greed and hatred are gone. You’ve brought forth the Bodhi-Mind, and in the future you’ll certainly obtain the Bodhi-Way.” If you truly concentrate and are mindful, Kuan Yin will come to you and say this.
Everybody has a temper. If you’re not mad at this person, then you are mad at that situation. Anger can upset you to the point that you can’t even eat or sleep. This is just punishing yourself. You recite Kuan Yin and yet think you suffer, whereas people who suffer from anger don’t feel like they are suffering. Getting angry is much more suffering than reciting.
If you recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name, all you have to lose is your stupidity. Stupidity is taking what is right as wrong and what is wrong as right, taking the deviant as proper and the proper as deviant. This happens because you don’t understand, because you are too stupid. Stupidity obstructs wisdom, and anger obstructs compassion. In one thought of stupidity, prajna is cut off. In one thought of wisdom, prajna manifests. If we want to have wisdom we should not be stupid. What is stupidity? It is just whatever you don’t understand.
“What don’t I understand?” you may ask.
How should I know what you don’t understand? Ask yourself. If you don’t know I will give you a little news. You don’t understand how to cultivate. You don’t understand how to let go of your hate and greed. You don’t understand how to let go of your stupidity. Right? If you really understood, you would have let it go long ago. You wouldn’t have had to wait to recite “Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva” in order to let it go. I think that you probably agree with what I have said.
Further, you don’t understand what ghosts are. Many people say that there are no ghosts. Some religions spray poisons in people’s minds, doctrines which seem to be reputable but which in fact are not. They say there are no ghosts. They are able to poison people’s minds with these ideas, because many people are taken in by the persuasiveness of their arguments. And so most people don’t understand about ghosts.
We don’t even need to speak of ghosts—they don’t even know about animals. How did they get here anyway? How did animals get to be animals? They don’t know that either.
But let’s not even consider animals, after all, they are only animals. But they don’t even know how they got to be people. They don’t know where people came from or where they are going. They don’t know about ghosts, they don’t know about animals, they know nothing about people and even less about asuras and gods.
“Oh, yes,” they argue, “I know about heaven. Heaven is up there and God is in it.”
Have you ever been there? If so, what did you see? If not, what proof do you have that there are heavenly gardens and God up there?
Do you know about Sound Hearers or the Conditionally Enlightened Ones? Do you know about the Bodhisattvas? How much the less do you know the Buddha. Is that anything but stupidity?
“Dharma Master,” you ask, “do you know about them?” Don’t ask me. I’m me and you are you. Why should you care about what I know? Isn’t that really just going too far?
“Well,” you say, “you brought it up.”
Yes, but you don’t have to listen.
If you’re stupid, does that mean you will be stupid till the end of time? Must you hold on to your stupidity like it was a treasure? I believe that no matter how stupid someone is, if he realized what he was doing he no longer would hold on to his stupidity like a treasure, but would want to get rid of it. So, those who want to cut off relations with stupidity, anger, and greed now have the opportunity to do so.
Now, your good roots are deep and thick. They were in the past, they are now, and they will be in the future, when they will certainly mature. Having met the wonderful Dharma, recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name. In this way your wisdom will open and your stupidity will disappear.
Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva will help increase our wisdom, our compassion, and our heart of Bodhi.
Not only that, but through our recitation of the name of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva, the people in the four directions can benefit from his kindness and wisdom. When people recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva, know that for a space of forty yojanas, 3,200 miles, there will be peace and no calamities. I don’t want to keep this treasure to myself and so now I wish to transmit it to all who have gathered here to recite.
Vajra Pestle Hand and Eye
Good Knowing Advisors: Why do I call you Good Knowing advisors? If you weren’t Good Knowing advisors you wouldn’t be able to recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. Since you have come to recite, you must be Good Knowing Advisors.
Where did you Good Knowing advisors come from? In past lives, you created an affinity with the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Think it over: previously in America there weren’t any left-home people, and there was nowhere to go to attend a Kuan Yin Session. Now, here you are.
We say we “strike up” a session, and that means that we do battle with our false thinking. Our false thinking is continuous from morning to night; there’s just no way you could count all your false thoughts which are as many as specks of dust in empty space. See the dust on the window? We have just that many false thoughts.
“Well,” you say, “I didn’t know that.”
Of course not. When everything is black and the sunlight isn’t streaming in, you cannot see the motes of dust. Your recitation of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name has given you the sunlight of wisdom with which to reveal your false thoughts.
“My mind is running wild. I’m sitting here reciting Kuan Yin bodhisattva’s name and at the same time I’m having false thoughts about going out for a beer. I recite a bit more and then I have a false thought to go have a steak. I recite a little more and then I think I would like to go out and get stoned.”
Now that you know you have false thoughts, where do these thoughts come from? The sun of wisdom shines on your dusty false thoughts so that all of you now know you have them and since you are determined to bring them to a stop, I call you all, “Good Knowing Advisors.”
Do you all consider yourselves Good Knowing Advisors?
Someone is thinking, “I am not a Good Knowing Advisor.”
It doesn’t really matter whether you consider yourself as one, because you already are one. Not only can you consider yourself a Good Knowing Advisor, but you can also become a Buddha. But don’t consider yourself a Buddha already. Don’t be like those stupid people who say, “Hey, everyone is a Buddha. We are all Buddhas.”
What kind of Buddha are you? You are a meat Buddha, a bone Buddha. You are a Buddha whose belly is full of hate. You are a Buddha whose belly is full of greed. You are a Buddha whose belly is full of stupidity. If you are greedy, you are a greedy Buddha. If you do not want other people to be Buddhas, then you are a hateful Buddha. If you think everyone is not as good as you and that you are number one, then you are a stupid Buddha. Take a look at yourself. Are you one of those kinds of Buddhas? Take a look at the Buddha: he is not angry, greedy, or stupid. You can scold him and he is still happy; he does not lose his temper. You can hit the Buddha and he still does not get angry.
You say, “I think I’ll take a slug at the Buddha.”
You have to see him first! If you cannot see him, how can you hit him? Besides, you cannot hit a Buddha. Just thinking about hitting a Buddha is an offense. So don’t follow the demon kings. Don’t be like those faceless people who say, “Everybody is a Buddha.”
When I spoke at Redwood City I said that the word Buddha means “BU DA.” “not big.” Don’t think you are as big as Mount Sumeru. If you think that way you certainly are not a Buddha. The Buddha does not have any big status, and he does not have any special style. Although he has thirty-two marks and eighty minor characteristics, that is from the point of view of living beings. It is living beings who think that the Buddha is either present or not present.
In actuality, the Buddha is not big or small, he is not inside or outside, he is not produced or destroyed, he does not come or go, and he is not defiled or pure. So, if you say that you are a Buddha, and yet when I scold you you cannot take it, when I hit you you get angry just the same, then you’d better not say that you are a Buddha. When you have become a Buddha you won’t have to say that you are a Buddha. To say that you are a Buddha before you have realized Buddhahood is like an old farmer who goes around saying, “I am the emperor.”
Really? Who is going to look out for you? If you don’t have any subjects what is the use of being an emperor?
I call you all Good Knowing Advisors because in the first thought you had to attend the Kuan Yin Session you were already Good Knowing Advisors. You have now been here for two days and have been extremely reverent and respectful in reciting Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name.
You’re probably thinking. “How does the Master know my thoughts? Can he read my mind? Someone was thinking about drinking and the Dharma Master knew. Someone also wanted to go get stoned and the Dharma Master knew. The Dharma Master is probably not an ordinary person, not ordinary at all!”
You’re wrong, If you think that, that is a false thought. I’ll tell you some more about your thoughts. I don’t have to wait for you to have your false thoughts, I know them before you even think them! Why? Because in the past I was just like you, and I had false thoughts, too. Now I know your false thoughts without having to read your mind. I don’t need the penetration of others’ thoughts, I just listen to you recite, “Namo Kuan Shih Yin Pu Sa,” and it sounds very sincere. This means that in the past you created an affinity with the Sangha.
Now, there are genuine left-home people in America who only eat one meal a day. Do they wait until you are not looking and then steal food? I don’t think so. Why? Because in America everything is very democratic. No one forced them to eat one meal a day. They decided to do it on their own. It is very rare for Westerners to be able to cultivate this way. You shouldn’t think that I’m exaggerating. I’m not at all. Also, at night they sleep sitting up. This is very uncomfortable. I have tried this myself and it is not easy.
You have an affinity with the Sangha and you have an affinity with the Dharma. Reciting Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name is a dharma, a method for cultivation. Seeking rebirth in the Pure Land and reciting Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name to get rid of your sickness and pain is also a dharma. You also have an affinity with the Buddha. Understanding the Dharma, you will certainly be able to become a Buddha. So I’m very happy. You have an affinity with the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. You will certainly be able to cultivate morality, samadhi, and wisdom.
Reciting Kuan Shih Yin’s name is called “cultivating the precepts of no-precepts.” In other words, “the maintaining of no-maintaining.” Although you have false thinking, you are still sitting here and being very respectful. You are respecting the Bodhisattva and so are in accord with the precepts. The precepts are: no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying and no taking of intoxicants. Since you are sitting here, you’re not going out to kill anyone, and so you are holding the precept against killing.
You might think, “I’d like to go to the store and rip off a bottle of beer, a pack of cigarettes, a piece of fruit, or some candy,” but although you might think about it, you’re not going to do it and so you are holding the precept against stealing. Reciting, you don’t have sexual desire, and all day long you don’t even talk, so how could you lie? There is no wine here. Although we have a little milk, it’s not going to get you drunk, and the apples haven’t been made into wine, so you are not breaking precepts. Not breaking the precepts is the same as holding the five precepts. Although you haven’t formally received the five precepts, you are cultivating them all the same. If you do not break the five precepts, you will be able to develop samadhi.
In the past two days some of you may have seen flowers or have smelled a rare fragrance. Although we are all in the same hall, everyone’s state is different. Some people see light and some don’t. Some people see flowers and others do not. Some people may see a big lotus flower in the hall. In the future they will have an opportunity to sit in one of them. Some may see Bodhisattvas; some may see Buddhas.
But whatever you see, don’t be afraid. It comes from your holding of the precepts. It’s a kind of auspicious state which purifies your body and mind. Kuan Yin Bodhisattva may pour an entire bottle of sweet dew water over your head, and you will be so clean that you won’t know where your false thinking ran off to, but it will disappear. Is that wonderful or not? Some people experience such states and others don’t. If you do, don’t be afraid. If you don’t understand you can come and see me. It’s not for sure that I’ll know, but I may know a little more about it than you—not a whole lot more, just a little bit—and I’ll be able to answer your questions. Then you’ll really be Good Knowing Advisors.
Why can you be called Good Knowing Advisors?
It is because of holding precepts that you have given rise to samadhi; from samadhi, wisdom has arisen. This is genuine wisdom, not the kind of false, unreal states stupid people obtain from dope. What you have is real. You don’t have to take dope. All you have to do is recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, hold the precepts, give rise to samadhi, and open your wisdom. The wisdom is genuinely yours; it is inherently yours. To depend upon the strength of a drug is to turn yourself upside down so that you even think to kill yourself in order to get reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, and is extremely perverted. So you young people should become truly wise. The young people in this country have an affinity with me. When I talk, many of them believe me. Not only do they believe me, but they come along with me to undergo bitterness.
You may say, “Not me. I’m leaving tomorrow. I’m not going to suffer with this Dharma Master.”
If you don’t want to undergo suffering, I’m certainly not going to force you to do so. But you should know that if you undergo suffering you will be able to put an end to suffering. If you don’t enjoy your blessings you will not destroy your blessings. If you understand what this means, you will follow me. Now we should recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name and do the Great Transference of Merit.
Tin Staff Hand and Eye
To recite the name of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva once can eradicate limitless kalpas of karma of birth and death. But you must recite with a sincere heart. Why? To recite the name of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva without a heart of faith is just the same as not reciting. The Buddhadharma is like the waters of a Great Sea, but in order to enter it, you must have a heart of faith. Without faith you will be unable to enter the waters of the Buddhadharma.
Once you have faith, you then make vows.
LIVING BEINGS ARE BOUNDLESS; I VOW TO SAVE THEM.
Ask yourself, “Have I saved them or not? If I’ve already saved some, I should save some more. If I haven’t saved any, I vow to save some.”
AFFLICTIONS ARE INEXHAUSTIBLE; I VOW TO CUT THEM OFF.
Ask yourself, “Have I cut them off? Do my afflictions get less day by day? If that’s the case, then I vow to cut them off more and more day by day.” Do not treat your afflictions as you would eating some very good food, eating too much of it. If you eat too many afflictions they will make you very uncomfortable.
DHARMA DOORS ARE LIMITLESS; I VOW TO STUDY THEM.
The Buddhadharma-doors are limitless and boundless. I vow to study them all. There are eighty-four thousand Dharma-doors. Some people say there are forty-eight thousand but this is incorrect. There are eighty-four thousand Dharma-doors, not forty-eight thousand.
THE BUDDHA WAY IS UNSURPASSED; I VOW TO ACCOMPLISH IT.
Now, we recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name and Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva has even greater spiritual powers than Master Chih Kung and is even more inconceivable.
How is Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisttva inconceivable?
Kuan Yin follows the sounds beings make when they are suffering, and wipes their suffering away. We recite Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva’s name in order to get rid of all our problems.
Among Chinese people husbands and wives must strictly adhere to social mores. If they don’t, they are breaking the law and no one will speak to them. Once, there was a businessman who went out on business trips and left his wife alone. Often he was gone for three or even five months. His wife finally could not bear the loneliness. In China it is not permissible, but she got herself a lover because she was so lonely. The two of them decided that when her husband returned, her lover would murder her husband and then they could get married.
It so happened that the businessman sincerely believed in Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. He made offerings to Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva and kept an oil lamp burning in front of the Bodhisattva’s image in his home. When he returned he travelled by ship and on the voyage he had a dream. In the dream Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva came to him and said, “Good man, you’re very sincere. I’m going to tell you a couple of sentences and you should remember them and when the time comes to use them they will be effective.
When you meet the bridge, don’t anchor the boat.
Encountering the oil, smear it on your head.
A peck of grain yields three cups of raw rice.
The houseflies gather on the end of the brush.
And then he woke up.
The next day they ran into a heavy rainstorm and the captain anchored the boat beneath a bridge to avoid the downpour. Sitting there, the merchant suddenly remembered the poem: “When you meet the bridge don’t anchor the boat.” He finally convinced the captain to continue, and the moment the boat pulled out from under the bridge, it collapsed. Had they been under it the people and cargo would have all been crushed. “Oh!” he cried, “Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva, you are really something! Really magic! If you hadn’t told me not to anchor the boat under the bridge the boat would have been sunk and we all would have been killed and the wealth lost.” He bowed to Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva most respectfully.
When he arrived home, he told his wife, “I just about lost my life today. I had a dream in which Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva said, ‘When you meet the bridge, don’t anchor the boat,’ so when the captain anchored the boat under a bridge I made him move it and then the bridge collapsed. So, because of Kuan Yin, I am able to come back and see you.” He said congenially to his wife.
His wife thought, “If he had been smashed beneath the bridge that would have suited me just fine. I’d hoped he wouldn’t come back at all. If he had been killed then I wouldn’t have had to do it now…”
Then they had dinner and she managed to get him slightly drunk. However, before the meal he had gone before Kuan Yin’s image to bow and had knocked over the oil lamp. He remembered the second line of the verse. “When you meet the oil, smear it on your head,” and so he did. In those days the men wore their hair in long neat plaits. The women, however, sometimes wore cream dressings on their hair. After dinner and a lot of wine, he dozed off. That night his wife’s lover snuck in carrying a knife. He patted the man’s head and feeling the oil smeared on it, figured it must be the woman. Convinced that the other person in the bed was the husband, he deftly performed the decapitation.
The next day he found out that he had killed his lover and not her husband. He wrote a letter to his girlfriend’s parents saying that her husband had returned that night and killed their daughter. The parents had the husband arrested. Although he denied it, the evidence was stacked heavily against him. “You must have killed her,” they said. “Why else did the murder take place on the very day you returned?” He couldn’t talk his way out of it, and they gave him the death penalty. He continued to deny it, but they all said, “If you didn’t kill her, who did?”
In ancient times they wrote out the death sentences with a brush, saying when the person was going to be beheaded. Just as this was being written out, however, a swarm of flies gathered on the tip of the brush, making it impossible to write. They brushed the flies away but they kept coming back. Seeing this, the businessman laughed and laughed, and thought, “Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva, you’re really magical.” The jailor said, “What are you laughing about? We are going to cut your head off, and you’re laughing. You’ve killed your wife and even as you die for it you are self-satisfied!”
“No, that’s not why I’m laughing,” said the man. “I’m laughing because I had a very efficacious dream in which I heard four sentences, and the first two sentences have already turned out very auspiciously.
The jailor said, “What two sentences?”
He replied, “I believe in Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. Two days ago I had a dream in which Kuan Yin told me:
When you meet the bridge, don’t anchor the boat.
Encountering the oil, smear it on your head.
A peck of grain yields three cups of raw rice.
The houseflies gather on the end of the brush.
The next day when we stopped under the bridge to wait out the storm, I told the captain to move on. As soon as we pulled out, the bridge collapsed. We barely escaped with our lives! That first sentence was magic.
“When I got home, I bowed to Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva and the oil lamp got broken. Remembering the second sentence, I rubbed oil on my head. So when the murderer felt my head he figured I was a woman. Instead of murdering me, he killed my wife, who was lying beside me, figuring she was me. Now, I can’t keep from laughing because Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva is just too magical. See! The flies are gathered on the brush-tip, just like the last sentence says. However, I still haven’t figured out the third line.
“What was it again?”
“ ‘a peck of grain yields three cups of raw rice,’” said the man.
“Oh!” said the jailor, “I know who did it,” and he ordered the sheriff to go find out if there was anyone name K’ang Ch’i (“seven parts chaff”) living in the county. They did in fact find one such man and arrested him. He turned out to be the dead woman’s lover.
The police questioned him and said, “We know that you killed this woman.”
“Since you arrested me,” he said, “I might as well admit it. I didn’t want to kill the woman. I wanted to kill the man. But I made a mistake. My conscience has suddenly got the best of me, so I’ll plead guilty. But tell me, how did you know it was me?”
The man related his dream and the jailor said, “The sentence ‘a peck of grain yields three cups of rice’ gave me the murderer’s name. Peck is ten cups: subtract three cups raw rice and that leaves ‘seven parts of chaff!—Ch’i K’ang.”
So we know that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s realm is truly inconceivable and the response evoked is also inconceivable—too vast to narrate in detail. This is just an inkling. We should now perform the Great Transference of Merit and ask Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva to help us eradicate our karmic obstructions.
Jeweled Seal Hand and Eye
“In this region the true substance of the teaching is purely found within sound. Return the hearing to hear the self-nature and the nature realizes the supreme Way.” This is the Dharma-door which Kuan Yin Bodhisattva cultivated, the Dharma-door of returning the hearing to hear the self-nature.
Do not seek outside. Most living beings listen outwardly to the sounds around them and are unable to return the hearing within. Now we cultivate to return the hearing, and not seek outside. So it is said, “Return the hearing to hear the self-nature and the nature realizes the supreme path.” Kuan Yin Bodhisattva certified to perfect penetration of the ear organ by entering the stream and forgetting the place of entry. “Entering the stream and forgetting the place of entry” refers to entering the Dharma nature stream of the sage. This involves moving against the stream of common people, which consists of the flow of sense impressions.
Entering the Dharma nature stream of the sage is called “entering the stream.” Going against the stream of the common person, which consists of the six sense objects, is what is meant by “forgetting the place.” This is entering the stream and forgetting the place. “Forgetting the place” also means coming from nowhere and going nowhere. In your cultivation you should imitate Kuan yin Bodhisattva. Imitating Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is to enter the stream and forget the place.
Now as we recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, our mouths recite, clearly and distinctly “Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva.” In our hearts we think very clearly and distinctly of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, and our ears hear very clearly. If your mouth recites, your heart recollects, and your ears listen with careful attention, you will be unable to have false thinking. When you don’t have false thinking you will not feel tired, you will not feel weary.
During the past two days, I’ve heard the sound of your recitation of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. You are reciting but you are not as sincere as you were the first two days. How so? I’ve listened to each of you recite, and you sound like you are about ready to doze off, weak and tired. This means that you are being turned by states. Turned by what states? Turned by the sate of fatigue. You feel, “I have recited one day, two days, three days, four days, recited so many days and I think it is unbearable suffering. I’ve suffered for three days, suffered for four days. It’s a lot of suffering.” Your sound says you are tired.
When you recite, you shouldn’t do it too loudly or too softly. If it’s too loud, you waste a lot of energy; if it is too soft, it’s very easy to nod off and go to sleep. Another problem arises when it’s as if you are reciting but you aren’t. You don’t even hear yourself clearly. Why not? There are two reasons. First, you’re doing a lot of false thinking and so you don’t know whether in fact you are reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. What false thinking? You know that yourself. I don’t need to tell you in detail. Second, you want to sleep. When you sleep, when you nod off, you plunge into one of the eight great following afflictions.
There are three days left, and in these three days everyone should obtain the aid of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. To do so, you must recite sincerely. You can’t be sloppy about it, and you can’t be lax or lazy. In cultivation, the harder you work, the more response you will obtain. If you are sincere, there will be a response and the more true-hearted you are, the more of a response you will obtain. You must have a true heart and a true will. True, not false. You must have nothing false, nothing phony.
Use a true heart to recite, and recite to the level where the wind blows with the sound of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, the rain falls with the sound of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva too. The wind blowing, the grasses waving, and even the door when it rattles—what are they doing? They are saying, “Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.” The pigeons walking around, “Teng, teng, teng!” What are they doing? They’re reciting, “Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.” If you can, at all times, in all places, and in all states of mind, hear the sound of the recitation of kuan Yin Bodhisattva, then you will have attained the Kuan Yin Recitation Samadhi. You won’t know whether or not you’ve eaten. You won’t know whether or not you’re wearing clothes. You won’t think of anything at all, and you won’t know anything at all. Your true heart will then manifest, and your nature will realize the supreme Way.
Now we are reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva together in this hall. Those who are reciting in accord with Dharma will be able to attain a response. Those who are not reciting in accord with Dharma, in accord with the rules of cultivation, may recite for any length of time, but it will be useless.
What is meant by reciting in accord with Dharma? It’s what I just said. Your mouth recites clearly, clearly and distinctly. Your mind thinks of it clearly and distinctly. Your ears listen clearly and distinctly. No other false thoughts are entertained. Your sound is neither loud nor soft. Then you are reciting in accord with Dharma. If you recite in accord with Dharma, your heart will be clear and pure, and not a single thought will be produced. When one thought is not produced, you’ll be able to see your original self-nature. If you produce a thought, a cloud appears in empty space covering the sun. and so it is said,
When the six roots suddenly move
There is a covering of clouds.
When one thought is not produced,
The complete substance manifests.
When the six roots move, there is suddenly a covering of clouds. The six roots are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. When the eyes see forms, they follow the forms and run off after them. When the ears hear sounds and are unable to return the hearing to the self-nature, they run outside after them. When your eyes see something, you should return the light and reverse the illumination. When your ears hear something, you should return the hearing to hear the self-nature.
When your nose smells, you should know where the objects of smell come from. When your tongue tastes, you should know where the tastes come from and how they arise. You should return the light, reverse the illumination, return the hearing to the self-nature, and seek it within yourself. Ask yourself, “Why does my body crave touch and smoothness? Why? What’s the reason for this?” If you don’t understand, ask. Ask your self-nature.
Your mind conceptualizes dharmas and runs off after ideas. Use the wisdom sword of your enlightenment to cut through them. If, at the gates of the six organs, you can apply effort, then the gates of the six sense organs will emit light, and the earth will shake. This light will illuminate the peak of existence, and below will illuminate the unspaced hells. What is meant by the peak of existence? It refers to the Heaven of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception. And so you illumine the heavens, and illumine the avici hells. If you can cultivate to this level, you won’t have wasted your time. So when working, don’t start getting lazy after only a little time has passed. The harder you work, the harder you should want to work and the more vigorous you should be. You should work every day. This is not just something you can accomplish in a single day and night.
The Kuan Yin session is just a battle. We are battling with karmic obstacles which have come with us from limitless kalpas in the past. We don’t know how many karmic obstacles we have. They goad us saying, “Don’t cultivate! Don’t recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. Come on, rest a little bit, sleep a little more. Sleep is a real tangible comfort!” If you go through so much bitterness to recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, your karmic obstacles will have a meeting with you. You will have to object to them because they will tell you not to cultivate. You will have to say, “You don’t want me to cultivate? Fine, I’ll cultivate even harder! I will work a little harder just to show you. You don’t want me to cultivate, but I’m telling you I’m going to cultivate.”
There was once a gluttonous old cultivator who had quite a bit of skill. One day he had a false thought. He said, “Vegetable dumplings are really good to eat. I must eat a meal of vegetable dumplings and then my stomach will be satisfied,” so he made some. What did he do? He had a good method. He chopped up the vegetables and he used rice husks to make the wrappers for the dumplings. He wrapped them up and cooked them. When they were ready he said to himself, “Okay, come on and eat these vegetable dumplings. Come here, come on over here,” the old cultivator said to himself, “Come and eat.” And he ate them. And ugh! The more he ate of the chaff-skin dumplings the worse they were. But he said, “Ugh! They’re terrible, but I have to eat them. Even if I don’t want to, I have to eat them. I must eat them. I wanted them and now I’ve got them. I’m not going to be polite about this. There they are, vegetable dumplings! Go on! Eat them!” He ate them and then he never wanted to eat vegetable dumplings again.
He realized that basically, originally the vegetable dumplings were just like that. And he never wanted to eat them again. This is called, “curing your own sicknesses.” But not only did he not like these vegetable dumplings, I don’t think anybody would have wanted to eat such vegetable dumplings. This is also called the skill of being able to discipline yourself. Cultivation has to be that way. Whatever false thought you may have, you should not follow it. If you want to follow your false thinking you should find a way to cure it. Be like the old cultivator, who, for some unknown reason, got greedy for vegetable dumplings and used husks to make the wrappers. He cured himself of his own false thinking.
You say, “He was really stupid.”
Of course he wasn’t as smart as you are. If he had been as smart as you, he wouldn’t have eaten those vegetable dumplings. But although the old cultivator was very stupid, he still knew how to cultivate. Consequently, he realized his Way karma and became greatly enlightened. On the other hand, you’re so intelligent, but you still haven’t gotten enlightened. You’re still a common ordinary person and you haven’t obtained the sagely fruit. Stupidity may be true intelligence and intelligent people can sometimes be really stupid.
You say, “What is stupidity and what is intelligence? What is wisdom?”
Stupidity is just stupidity and wisdom is just wisdom. Wisdom is just stupidity. Stupidity is also just wisdom.
You say, “This is entirely too illogical. It’s not in accord with either philosophy or psychology. This is a dharma I most certainly do not believe.”
Of course you don’t believe it. If you believed this dharma, you would be able to be perfectly fused without obstruction. If you don’t believe in this dharma, you must study it. All dharmas must be studied. If you believed in this dharma, you wouldn’t have to study any dharma at all because they would all be yours. But you don’t recognize this dharma, and so now all I can do is recite the names for you and let you listen to them. I don’t care whether you disagree or agree with them. In the future when you become enlightened you’ll know that it is truly that way—no problem. Now, you have a whole lot of problems and I can’t solve them. When the time comes when you have no problems, you will need me even less to solve them. Is this right or not? Okay, now we’ll do the Great Transference of Merit and work hard at our cultivation.
Blue Lotus Hand and Eye
Reciting Kuan yin Bodhisattva’s name is a Dharma-door which is perfectly fused without obstruction. If you can recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, you will enlarge your Bodhi-heart. In the future you can be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Some people say, “Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is just you, yourself.” Other people say, “Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is simply Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. There is a Bodhisattva with that name.” If you recognize that you, yourself are Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, then your attachment to self has not been emptied.
If you recognize that outwardly there is a Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, then your attachment to dharmas has not been emptied. Since you have an attachment to self and an attachment to dharmas, then “people” have not been emptied and dharmas have not been emptied. When people and dharmas have not been emptied, your recitation plants good roots and develops your Bodhi-heart, but it is still not genuine recitation of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. With true recitation of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, inside you view no self and outside you view no Bodhisattva; there’s no self, and there’s no Bodhisattva.
You say, “If there’s no Bodhisattva then how can I recite the Bodhisattva’s name?” There doesn’t necessarily have to be a Bodhisattva in order for you to recite a Bodhisattva’s name. If you can arrive at the state where you recite and yet do not recite, then you can recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name without even realizing that you are reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. And when you are not reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, it recites itself. You may want to stop, but you can’t. It’s like flowing water; you can’t stop it even if you want to. So, you recite, and yet do not recite; you do not recite, and yet you recite. This is genuine recitation of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. By not reciting and yet reciting, you get rid of the attachment to self. By reciting and yet not reciting, you get rid of the attachment to dharmas.
Thus, people are empty, and dharmas are also empty. People empty, dharmas empty. When you get to this state then you are truly, genuinely reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. You are not saying, “I, myself, recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.” Where is this “self?” Didn’t I say to you a few days ago, “If you search over your entire body you won’t find a single thing that is, “I.” Why do you insist on having an “I”, a self? If you have an “I”, you have a lot of trouble, a lot of problems. Without a self, an “I”, there’s no trouble. Pigeons think about eating all day long because they can’t put down the self, the “I.” If they had put down the self, the “I”, then why would they run around looking for food? Have you put it down? Not necessarily. If you wait a while, it will return. Why will it return? Because the self hasn’t really been renounced. If you put down the self, the “I,” then it’s all the same thing whether you eat or not.
In reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, you recite to “people empty and dharmas empty” and, at that point, you fuse into a unity with the whole universe. And so you can say it is great, since there’s nothing greater than it. Or, you can say it is tiny, since there is nothing smaller than it. This is the genuine state of reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. What can’t we put down? We can’t put down the false. What can we not pick up? We can not pick up what is true. What is false? Your body, which is a combination of the four elements, is false. People say, “My body is what is real at present. How can you say it’s false?” On the other hand, what is true? Your inherent Buddha nature is true, but people say, “ The Buddha nature is just something you talk about. How can you say it’s true? If it’s true, then I should be able to see it. Why can’t I see my Buddha nature? You say that my body is false, but every day I can see it, at any time. How can you say it is false?”
I’ll tell you something very straight-forwardly now. Your body is a false combination of the four elements. What are the four elements? Earth, water, fire, and air. Our bodies have flesh, muscles, and bones. These are the solid parts, and are composed of the element earth. The temperature of our bodies is the element of fire. Our breath is the element air. The sweat on our bodies and all the liquids that flow out of it belong to the element water. When it’s time for you to die, the four elements all go back to where they came from. The water goes back to the water, the fire returns to the fire, the air returns to the air, and the solid earth parts return to the earth. They all return to where they came from, but your Buddha nature has no “where” that it goes back to. So it says, “The Buddha nature is true.” “
Our body is just like a house:
Our human body is like a house.
The mouth is the door, and the eyes are like windows.
The four limbs are like the pillars;
The hair is like the thatch on top.
In the morning and evening keep it in good repair.
Don’t wait until it falls apart,
And then run around and busily try to fix it.
Our bodies are like houses. You can only say that the house is “my house.” You can’t say that the house is “me.” For example, if you visit a house and someone asks you, “Whose house is it? Do you rent it or do you own it?” even if you own the house, you can’t say, “The house is me.” If you said that the house is you, would you be smart or stupid? You can only say that the house is “mine.” Our bodies are the same way. You can only say that the body is “mine,” it’s your body. You can’t say that the body is “me.” So this is a point that you should understand clearly. If you understand this clearly, then you won’t simply do the bidding of your house. We shouldn’t freeze our bodies to death, or starve them to death. If we can keep our bodies, our houses, from falling apart, then that is sufficient.
What is it we should be doing? We should be cultivating the Way. This is the number one most important thing. Secondly, we should be establishing merit, establishing virtue, and establishing literature. These are the three important responsibilities in human life. Establishing merit. How does one do this? For example, if there is something you can do which will benefit everyone, your accomplishment of this task will accrue merit for you. When this extends even to giving up your own money to do good things without any hope of gaining any recompense, then you have a virtuous nature. Establishing literature means that your words are so valuable that they cause everyone in the world who hears your words or reads your writings to wake up. Once they wake up they won’t be able to do muddled things. For people in the world, establishing writing is very important.
You can’t live as if drunk and die in a dream, thinking, “If I have wine today, tonight I’ll get drunk,” paying no attention to whether or not it will be right or wrong tomorrow. “Today I have wine, and I’ll drink till I get drunk and don’t know anything at all; let tomorrow take care of itself.” This is a mistaken way of thinking. People in the world must be of benefit to other people. One must benefit oneself and benefit others to practice the Bodhisattva path. This is our responsibility as people.
Therefore, in his life every person should go down a road that is meaningful and not walk a road which has no meaning. This is also to say that we should walk down the brightly lit road, and not go down the dark and twisted path. The brightly lit, proper path means following the regulations, doing things in accord with the rules. The black road, the dark road means not following the rules. Not following the rules means doing anything at all with a total lack of concern for the consequences, such as committing arson and theft or using drugs. All those improper things are the black, twisted path.
Students of the Buddhadharma must recognize these two roads clearly; one is proper and one is deviant. Be careful not to have stupid thoughts about doing deviant actions. To go down the proper path you have to follow the rules, so many people think, “I’d like to go down that wrong path.” It’s blissful for a while—there are no hindrances, nothing to tie you down, and you don’t have to follow the rules, but in the future it will be extremely painful. For people who go down the right road, although for a while it’s a bit difficult and not quite so blissful, in the future there will be eternal happiness.
Just as I have said, if you want to undergo suffering, then during this week you can have seven days of suffering. This is going down the proper road. In the future you will obtain the brightness of your self-nature and be without suffering. If, on the other hand, you don’t go down the proper road in these seven days, perhaps you will take some drugs, drink some wine, or casually waste your precious time. This is all considered to be going down the improper path. Although for a while you may feel very free and independent, you won’t be able to end your suffering and stupidity. You won’t be able to leave your ignorance behind.
If you recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, and continue reciting until you recite even when not reciting and are as if not reciting when you recite, then your recitation accomplishes the samadhi of reciting Kuan Yin’s name. This samadhi is the attainment of genuine concentration. It is the absence of stupidity and the birth of wisdom. Now as we recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva we are travelling down the great, bright, upright path. We are running down the great, bright, upright path. All day we circumambulate the Buddha, and for every step we take a large, brilliant lotus flower blossoms forth. As you sit there you are sitting on the lotus blossom which you have created from your recitation of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. When you walk around you are walking on the lotus blossom too. However, do not get arrogant and think, “I am a Bodhisattva,” because the time has not come yet. Slowly, slowly.
Yesterday I said that there were three days left, and that within these three days everyone should recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva until light comes forth to illumine them. If you have good experience, don’t be overly happy about them. If you don’t have those experiences don’t worry about it. The only think to worry about is that you won’t believe in this Dharma-door. If you have a heart of faith, Kuan Yin Bodhisattva will always be right above you, right in front of you, right behind you, as well as on your left and on your right, helping you. And the day will certainly come when you will personally see Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s original face. All you have to do is cultivate, make vigorous progress, and not be lazy, and you will obtain a response.
Time is very precious. There are two days left and we must certainly have some accomplishment in these two days. Then we will not have wasted our time. This is my hope for all of you, and I believe that each one of you also has this hope; that is why you have come to attend this Kuan Yin session. You may not know what benefits or how much advantage you have gained from this session. After this your thinking will be altered, your behavior will be different from what it was before. You will use genuine wisdom in whatever you do, and you won’t be able to do muddled things ever again. This is the very least advantage you will obtain. You will not have any more upside-down, dream-like fantasies and thoughts. You will leave behind upside-down dream-thinking, and in the future you will be able to obtain Ultimate Nirvana.
Recitation Beads Hand and Eye
We have already come to the final day of the Kuan Yin Session, and, on this last day, have we who are attending this Kuan Yin Session put to rest the mad heart? If you can put the mad heart to rest, then the Bodhi heart grows big. If you have not put to rest the mad heart, you must continue to apply effort. Now, all of you are in the Buddhist Lecture Hall learn how to recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. And after this you should always, always recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. By reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, on the one hand you obtain the protection of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. On the other hand, you cure yourself of your false thinking. The mad heart, the greed heart, the hate heart, the stupid heart can all be counteracted.
You shouldn’t consider this very simple and of no use, because if you use effort for a long time you will naturally be able to attain good points. For example, you recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. You recite continually until you feel that a light is coming forth from within your heart. The heart’s light illumines the entire Dharma Realm, and after that your stupidity vanishes.
Sometimes you recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name until the inside of your mouth becomes even sweeter than if you were eating sugar. It can also happen that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva pours sweet dew-water upon the top of your head. When your head has been anointed in this way with dew-water, your karmic obstacles which have accumulated for limitless kalpas are eradicated. At other times you may recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name and come to know in advance something that’s going to happen tomorrow. You’ll know, for example, “Tomorrow somebody is going to come and visit me. This person may be someone I knew before or perhaps it is someone I don’t know.” You will know something that is going to happen the next day.
However, when you know something like that, you shouldn’t consider it stupendous. It’s just a small-scale experience. Then what’s a large-scale experience? A large-scale experience is knowledge of ten thousand ages past; and ten thousand ages hence. You have knowledge of the eighty-four thousand great eaons that lie before you and knowledge of the eighty-four thousand great aeons past. You could say there is nothing you don’t know. There is nothing you are not aware of. Yet even that is not counted as a large-scale experience when compared to the state you experience after attaining that which is the very greatest.
And so now that you have learned the Dharma-door of reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, you should always recite it. After this, wherever a Kuan Yin Session Dharma Assembly is being held, you should go and take part, lending support to the Dharma Assembly, because to support the Dharma Assembly is just to revere Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. Wherever there is a Buddha recitation or a Kuan Yin Recitation Session, you should go there to follow and rejoice in merit and virtue, and recite along with everyone.
You may say, “I already know how to recite, so why do I still have to go and recite?” You should go to be part of the influential assembly. You should influence those who don’t know how to recite by going there and reciting Kuan Yin Bodhistattva’s and Amitabha Buddha’s names. Because you already know how to recite, you can cultivate, and you also can help other people to cultivate. That is called being part of the influential assembly. In that way, bit by bit, Buddhism will flourish and everyone will come to understand the genuine Buddhadharma.
This does not just mean “intellectual zen” like those who understand whatever you say to them, but if you tell them to apply it, they can’t do anything at all. They understand with their heads and mouths, but if you tell them to apply it, they can’t. That is called head-mouth samadhi, and it’s useless. We should reliably, actually, truly understand the Dharma and really learn to apply effort, and then there will be a way.
Now, what aspect of this world causes the most suffering? What aspect brings the most bliss? Can any of you answer this question for me? No one answers? You’ve recited Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name for six days so you should have some wisdom. You should understand what causes the most suffering and what brings the most bliss. Now I’m giving you a test, and whoever can answer the test question will pass. Whoever can’t answer has to continue with the session.
If you can’t answer, you will have to keep up this Kuan Yin Session forever. When this Kuan Yin Session is over, another one will come along, and when that Kuan Yin Session is over another one will follow it. We’ll just continue having them without any interruption and nobody will be allowed to leave. If you want to leave, you are going to have to answer my question first. What about it? Don’t be afraid, I’m not going to force you. If you want to go you can go, if you don’t want to go you don’t have to go, since the Buddhadharma is not bound, fettered, or blocked up.
I say I’m not going to let you go, but if you want to go, you can go ahead and go. Besides, no one is answering the question, so I will tell you: What causes the most suffering is not to understand the Buddhadharma, and what brings the most bliss is just to understand the Buddhadharma. You say, “No, Dharma Master, previously I heard you say the happiest thing was not that but something else.” Well, now I’m saying it this way. Before was before and now is now. You can’t take the past and drag it into the future for the same explanation. Why not? Because there are no fixed dharmas. If you think about it, what I said before was probably not exactly perfect. So I’ll tell you once more.
What I was talking about before was Confucius and how when Confucius was stopped by Kuei Lien, he had nothing to eat. Therefore he told Tzu Lu to go to Fan Dan to borrow rice. Now Tzu Lu was very coarse. All he knew how to do was kung fu, at which he was very good. So Tzu Lu was told to go borrow rice from Fan Dan who asked him, “Where do you come from?”
He said, “I’m Old Confucius’ disciple and my teacher now has no food to eat. He’s in between Ch’en and Ts’ai countries, right in the middle, and he has no food to eat, no rice. There’s also an assembly of over three thousand with nothing to eat. This is a very dangerous situation, so I’ve come to borrow a bit of rice from you.”
Fan Dan said, “Okay, you can borrow rice, but I have a question I want to test you on. You’re Confucius’ disciple and Old Confucius is very learned so naturally since you have been studying with him, you must be learned too. So I will ask you a question, and if you can answer it I will lend you the rice, and if you can’t then I’m afraid I won’t lend it to you.”
Tzu Lu said, “Okay, what is it?”
Fan Dan asked, “In the world, what is the most and what is the least? What is pleasant and what is a bother?” That’s the way he put it.
Tze Lu thought about it and he just brashly stepped right up and said, “There is absolutely nothing difficult about a question like that. It’s very easy to answer.”
Fan Dan said, “Well, then, answer it.”
Tzu Lu said, “Yes, I’ll answer it. It’s that stars are the most and the moon is the least. Marriage is pleasant and death is a bother.”
Fan Dan said, “You’re wrong. You answered wrong.”
Tze Lu said, “But no, I’m absolutely right. Can you say that there are few stars and more moons? Can you say that people like death and find marriage a bother? My doctrines are the most correct!”
“You ask your teacher whether they are correct or not.”
So Tzu Lu—was he ever displeased!—said, “You’re too unreasonable. I’m talking very much in accord with principle, but you say I’m wrong.”
Tze Lu then went back to Confucius who asked, “How did you do borrowing the rice?”
To which the disciple replied, “That Fan Dan is totally unreasonable. I went there to borrow rice and first he had to give me a question to test me out, and I answered it very well. I wrote my essay just very much in accord with principle, and he said I was wrong. He said I answered the question wrong. Ha! He just didn’t want to give me the rice.” That’s what Tzu Lu said to Confucius.
The Old Master replied, “Well, what was the question and how did you answer it?”
Tzu Lu reiterated the question and his answer to which Confucius replied, “Oh! You were really wrong. You did do it all wrong.”
Now when Fan Dan said he was wrong, that was one thing, but for his teacher to tell him he was wrong…So Tzu Lu asked, “Well, if that’s wrong, how should I have answered it?”
Confucius said, “You go right back and ask him for the rice again and if he asks the question again tell him this: In this world there are a lot of petty people and few superior ones. If I borrow the rice I’m pleased. If I have to beg it’s a bother.”
Tzu Lu thought, “How can an answer like that be correct?” He still didn’t believe it would work. He didn’t believe his own teacher, but he said, “Well I’ll go try it out and see what happens.”
Tzu Lu went back to Fan Dan to borrow rice again and Fan Dan said, “If you answer my question right, then I’ll give it to you.”
Tzu Lu said, “My teacher told me how to answer your question. He said to say this: ‘In this world there are lots of petty people and few superior ones. If I borrow the rice I’m pleased, if I have to beg it’s a bother.’”
Fan Dan said, “Fine. I will lend the rice to your teacher. No wonder he’s a teacher, he’s very learned. I’ll lend it to you now, and no doubt in the future when you pay me back it’s not going to be a bother.”
“No, it’s not.” Tzu Lu said.
Now, in this world, I’ll ask you again, “Who are the most stupid people and who are the most intelligent?” No one is going to answer my question. I don’t have any rice to lend you anyway. I’ll tell you, the stupidest people are those who do not study the Buddhadharma, who do not believe in the Buddhadharma. The most intelligent people are their opposites. They are the ones who like to study the Buddhadharma, who like to believe in the Buddhadharma. These are the most intelligent people.
That is the reason why a few days ago I called you all Good Knowing Advisors, and afterwards, when I certify you, you will be genuine Good Knowing Advisors. This is not merely casually giving you a good name, calling you Good Knowing Advisors. It’s because you want to study the Buddhadharma, because you have faith, that I can call you all Good Knowing Advisors.
In the Sixth Patriarch Sutra, the Sixth Patriarch called everyone who sat beneath his Dharma seat to hear the Dharma, a Good Knowing Advisor. He considered everyone a Good Knowing Advisor. And it’s just because of that, that everyone considered the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, a Good Knowing Advisor. You say, “Now I understand. You’re calling us all Good Knowing Advisors so we’ll call you one, right?” If you think it’s that way, that’s the way it is. If you don’t think it’s that way, then it’s not that way. That’s because I don’t actually think that way. It’s just what you, on your part, are thinking. Rather, it’s like the Buddha. The Buddha said, “All living beings have the Buddha Nature; all are able to become Buddhas.” Consequently he became a Buddha himself.
So if you call me a Good Knowing Advisor, then I can call you a Good Knowing Advisor too. If you are all Good Knowing Advisors, then how can I fail to be one, because we’re all the same, aren’t we, anyway? This Dharma is level and equal with nothing above or below it, and so you Good Knowing Advisors are born from me, this Good Knowing Advisor. Therefore, I’m an Old Good Knowing Advisor, and you are young Good Knowing Advisors, we’re all the same. This Dharma is level and equal with nothing above or below. Didn’t I tell you not only you can be Good Knowing Advisors, but in the future you can all become Buddhas. Thus I’m just like you, and you are not different from me; so we are all equal.
However, don’t go out and say, “Our Good Knowing Advisor is an enlightened Good Knowing Advisor, and I am just the way he is.” That’s because so doing is showing yourself off as enlightened. But I apologize, I’m very ashamed, that I myself am not really enlightened. Because I’m not enlightened, I’m the same as all of you who are not enlightened. And if you say that I’m enlightened and you’re the same as I am, then you’re lying. Why? Because it’s not fixed: you don’t know for sure that I’m enlightened. And anyway, if you truly were enlightened, you wouldn’t say you were enlightened. So I know, really, truly, actually, for certain it’s a lie. If you said it to a genuine Good Knowing Advisor, he’d laugh his teeth out.
Think about it. People who are enlightened who tell other people that they’re enlightened, saying, “Do you know me, I am enlightened?” What meaning is there to that? If you’re enlightened, you’re enlightened yourself. What are you doing telling other people about it? Do you do it so that when you tell people you’re enlightened then those people will immediately become enlightened too? Do you think that if you go up to someone and say, “Do you know what, I’m enlightened!” that they will immediately become enlightened? If that’s the case, then it’s okay. But if you’re enlightened and tell someone else you’re enlightened and they don’t become enlightened, how are they going to know whether or not you’re enlightened? For how can people who are not enlightened know whether or not you are truly enlightened or falsely enlightened?
An example of this is a person who sells medicinal plasters, who tells people, “My plasters cost me so much money, and they can cure such and such illnesses. Take them with you and, if people are dead they will come back to life.” If that’s really the case then okay, you can sell them for ten thousand dollars each. If your plasters applied to dead people do not bring them back to life, you take the money. But does the person who buys the plaster know whether or not the plaster has the power to do what you say or not? He has no way of knowing. That is the same as your saying you’re enlightened, telling someone that. That’s like selling plasters: whether it’s true or false, nobody knows.
However, the person who sells the plasters of course knows that they are phony. But no one else knows. This is like your saying you’re enlightened. You tell people you’re enlightened, and they don’t know whether you’re enlightened or not. But do you know yourself? If you get enlightened, then you don’t need to tell people that you’re enlightened. If you aren’t enlightened, and you tell people that you’re enlightened, then you are just a phony. Do you understand? Therefore, talking around and around, talk is useless. What is useful is doing, not just talking. To speak a foot is not as good as to practice an inch, and so we should all do the Great Transference of Merit.
White Lotus Hand and Eye
EXPLANATION OF THE GREAT TRANSFERENCE OF MERIT
This text is called a text for contemplating, the same “contemplate” as in Contemplator of the World’s Sounds, that is Kuan Yin. It means that you contemplate the meaning contained within the text.
It says, WE DISCIPLES OF THE ASSEMBLY We call ourselves disciples because we are disciples of the Buddha. Who are the disciples? There is not just one disciple, but very many. An entire assembly together, so it says, “We, disciples of the assembly.” NOW MANIFEST AS COMMON PEOPLE IN BIRTH AND DEATH We, disciples of the assembly, now, at present, have not accomplished our Way karma. We are born and then die; die and are reborn; we are common people who have not certified to the attainment of the Sagely Fruit.
Why are common people common people? It is because WITH KARMIC OBSTACLES EXTREMELY HEAVY Our karmic obstacles are at the same time both deep and heavy, and because they are deep and heavy WE REVOLVE IN THE SIX PATHS In the path of the gods, in the path of humans, in the path of asuras, in the path of the hells, in the path of hungry ghosts, and in the path of animals. In the six paths we turn around and around, revolving without cease.
AND THE SUFFERING IS UNSPEAKABLE In the six paths, if one is a hungry ghost, there is nothing to eat. For animals, there is food, but the stuff they eat is very filthy. And dogs eat manure, pigs eat stinking things, and birds, though they can fly, eat raw food. They don’t eat cooked food and that’s not really too good. So it says it is unspeakable suffering. As a person, sometimes one eats well and dresses well and everything is fine, but one is still subject to all kinds of very unfortunate circumstances, so it says the suffering is unspeakable. Suffering can’t be talked about to the end.
NOW WE’VE MET A GOOD ADVISOR It is not easy to meet a Good Knowing Advisor. For many lives, in many kalpas, we’ve planted a lot of good roots and so we have been able to meet a Good Learned Advisor who understands the Buddhadharma. AND GET TO HEAR THE NAME OF AMITABHA BUDDHA The Good Knowing Advisor teaches us, transforms us, leads us to recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, to recite Amitabha Buddha, to hear Amitabha Buddha’s name; Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. AND THE MERIT AND VIRTUE OF THEIR BASIC VOWS Amitabha Buddha’s basic vows are forty-eight in number. Kuan Yin Bodhisattva also made great vows. This is merit and virtue. AND WITH ONE HEART WE RECITE
Because we call on the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva we can lessen our greed, decrease our hatred, and diminish our stupidity. So with one heart we recite the name of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. AND SEEK TO GO OFF TO BE REBORN We earnestly seek to make the vow to go off to rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss in the West. WE PRAY THAT THE BUDDHA, OUT OF COMPASSION, WILL NOT CAST US ASIDE We hope that Amitabha Buddha will be greatly compassionate and not cast us aside. We pray that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva will be greatly compassionate and not cast us aside, but will take pity on us and receive us. BUT WILL MERCIFULLY RECEIVE US We hope that they will pity us, will have mercy on us, will receive and gather in all of us who are assembled as disciples here.
WE, DISCIPLES OF THE ASSEMBLY Again it says, all of us here in the assembly DID NOT RECOGNIZE THE BUDDHA’S BODY We didn’t recognize the Buddha’s body WITH ITS BRIGHT LIGHT AND FINE MARKS. The Buddha has thirty-two fine marks and eighty minor characteristics, and this light, and we didn’t recognize it. WE PRAY THAT THE BUDDHA WILL MANIFEST We hope that the Buddha Amitabha and the Bodhisattva Kuan Shih Yin will cause their wonderful marks and their bright light to appear AND ENABLE US TO VIEW let us be able to see the fine marks and light of the Buddha and those of the Bodhisattva.
AND TO SEE KUAN YIN AND SHIH CHIH Not only do we want to see Amitabha Buddha, but we want to see Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and the Bodhisattva Ta Shih Chih. AND THE ASSEMBLY OF BODHISATTVAS and also the entire assembly of the pure, great, ocean-wide assembly of Bodhisattvas. AND IN THAT LAND In that Land of Ultimate Bliss, THE PURE ADORNMENTS THERE in the land of Ultimate Bliss, the pure adornments, wonderfully fine appearance THE BRIGHT LIGHT, THE WONDERFUL MARKS AND SO FORTH The bright light, the wonderful marks and so forth refers to the seven tiers of railings, the seven layers of netting, the seven rows of trees, and all the other things CAUSE US TO CLEARLY UNDERSTAND. Cause all of us disciples to very clearly and distinctly understand. Clearly understand means to understand and then understand again, very, very clearly. AND GET TO SEE AMITABHA BUDDHA And get to view those fine marks, the dharma body.
The second contemplation text goes: I VOW AT THE END OF LIFE TO BE WITHOUT OBSTRUCTION. AMITABHA WILL WELCOME ME FROM AFAR. We who cultivate the Way—why do we cultivate the Way? It’s just because we want the end of our lives to be without obstruction. I vow at the end of life…The end of life is just the time when one’s life draws to a close—the time of death. When people are born it’s like a live turtle having its shell ripped off. Like taking a live turtle and ripping off its shell. And the time of death is just like a cow having its skin ripped off, that painful. A live cow which you don’t kill first, but just rip its skin off. How painful do you think that is? It’s agonizing; and the time of death is that way.
When the seventh consciousness has already departed, the eighth consciousness, the alaya consciousness, is the last to leave. And as the last to go it can’t just take off easily. There are a lot of obstacles, and as to these obstacles, how many are there? In general you can say there are eighty-four thousand kinds—that many. If it’s not a human obstacle, it’s a material obstacle. Wealth presents the obstacle of wealth, and people present the obstacle of people. When you have human obstacles at the time of death you think, “I have relatives and I’m so fond of them, I can’t let them go.” Or, “I have a child who hasn’t left home and set up his own business yet, his own work, so I can’t put him down.” Or else you have friends that you can’t part with. Your not being able to part with them is just pain, is just obstruction. The obstruction of people.
There are many kinds of obstructions like this. Men can’t put down women, women can’t put down men. Most ordinary stupid people find this is the hardest fault not to have. They think it’s real. People have human obstacles, and also material obstacles. Maybe at the time of death you really can’t put down your car. Or you can’t put down your plane, or you can’t put down your big beautiful house, you big building, or maybe you can’t put down your business. You say, “I’ve opened up so many companies. If I die, what’s going to happen to them?” This is an obstruction. In general there are too many of them. So now, we make a vow to be without obstructions, to get rid of these obstructions, and when the time comes we will see all these things as an illusion, a magical transformation. They present no problem, they’re just like a dream.
Cultivating the Way is very difficult for people. When you’re very clear and aware you say, “I see everything as empty. I’ve put everything down. No problem. Nothing matters to me.” You’re very nonchalant. But when you dream, you can’t put it down. You have a dream and then it isn’t so that nothing matters. A woman comes and you like the woman; wine comes and you like the wine; things come and you want to steal them; drugs come and you want to take them. And you think in your dream, “Oh, not bad.” And you can’t keep in control.
You say, “Yes, I can, and in dreams it’s no problem either. When I see a woman I’m not lustful, when I see wealth I’m not greedy, when I see wine I don’t drink it. No matter what I see, I’m not moved. In my center I do not move.” Don’t think you’re so fine and outstanding, because this is still just a tiny, minute state. Don’t be self-satisfied and say, “Look at me. Ha. I have taken over Mount Sumeru’s position. I stand where Mount Sumeru used to stand. See, in cultivating the Way, I am number one. In cultivating the Way I’m first.” That’s being arrogant. Even if you have control in your dreams, when you’re sick you won’t have control.
When you’re sick, your legs hurt. You can’t stand it. You say, “My legs, how can they hurt like this? Oh!” Or, “My back hurts an awful lot. I can’t stand it. My stomach hurts even worse. And my head. Oh, oh!” Everybody has headaches. Everybody knows what headaches are. But this headache is very bad and you can’t stand it. And when you can’t stand it, then you scream for your teacher. You say, “Teacher, help me, I can’t stand it.” And in your heart you just call for your Teacher. Those are people who have taken refuge with the Triple Jewel. Those who haven’t taken refuge with the Triple Jewel and who are at home and don’t have a Teacher, call for their mothers. They cry, “Mommy, Mommy,” and they can’t stand it. At that time they are turned by the state, and they can’t break through this obstacles.
If you can have control in dreams, and sickness is also not too much for you to cope with, then you think your endurance is very great, and you say, “Go ahead and hurt. Hurt all you want. It doesn’t matter. Go ahead and hurt. I’m not going to pay any attention. That’s just the way it is. What problem could there be?” Then you have samadhi power, and sickness is not a problem. Well, don’t think you’re out-of-sight and get self-satisfied, because when the time comes for you to die, I’m afraid you won’t be in control then.
This is because all the debts of resentment and evil which you have incurred over many aeons come to collect. They will say, “You borrowed so much money. Give it back now.” Someone else will say, “You gave me this karmic obstacle. Here it is right back again. You should receive this retribution.” And at that time your body of six organs, your eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, is without a lord. Your thoughts won’t be in control. Your eighth consciousness will not be in control. And it’s very dangerous at that time. So now we vow at the end of life to cut off obstruction, to get rid of all these impediments.
AMITABHA COMES FROM AFAR TO WELCOME US When we are without obstructions, Amitabha Buddha comes from one hundred thousand million Buddhalands with his hand outstretched to receive us. Why does he want to receive us? Because he made a vow. He said, “If all living beings who recite my name are not reborn in my land, I vow not to attain the Right Enlightenment.” All living beings, if they recite Namo Amitabha Buddha, my name, my Buddha name, and are not reborn in my country, I also will not realize the Right Enlightenment.
Enlightenment is not just getting enlightened. You don’t explain it that way. It means becoming a Buddha. Right Enlightenment is the status of Buddhahood. I vow not to attain Buddhahood. I vow not to realize the Utmost Right and Perfect Enlightenment. It’s not just getting enlightened. That is a small matter. You’re not properly enlightened if you don’t say “Right Enlightenment,” but just translate it, “Get enlightened.” That is not sufficient because there are also evil enlightenment.
For instance, demons have a kind of enlightenment, but it’s an enlightenment to all evil. They have an enlightenment to think improper things. Now we want to have Proper Enlightenment, Right Enlightenment, Proper, Equal and Right Enlightenment, so if you just say, “enlightenment,” you don’t specify whether it is proper Enlightenment or Improper Enlightenment.
As before, when I told you this story which you probably all remember—at New Year’s I wrote this on a piece of paper—I was writing characters, and I wrote some very cursive scripts that said, “wisdom like the sea.” And the script looked like a dragon—it was really wonderful. I wrote it with my eyes shut. I wrote, “wisdom like the sea,” those four words. And because someone knew I’d written it with my eyes closed, the more he looked at it the better he liked it. And he kept saying, “wisdom like the sea, wisdom like the sea, wisdom like the sea.” He recited it about twenty or thirty times and I just detested it. I said, “How can you do that?” I really didn’t like it. I said, “I see that your karma power is like the sea.”
Then that person blew his top. “How can you say my karma power is like the sea?” He wanted to fight on the spot.
I said, “Don’t get mad. Wait a minute, calm down. I said your karma power was like the sea, but as to your karma power, I haven’t told you clearly. When I tell you, I guarantee you’ll be happy, you’ll like it. You won’t be like you are now, so angry.”
He said, “You said my karma power is like the sea. How can I be happy? What in the heck!” and he really got mad.
I said, “Come here, and I’ll tell you,” and in a very low whisper I said, right in his ear, “Your karma power—there’s good karma and there’s bad karma. I was talking about your good karma being like the sea. Don’t you like that?”
Then he said, “Ohhh, how can you say that? Oh well, that’s all right.”
See? Just one word. Just the difference of one word. I said, “Karma power like the sea,” and when he heard it, he was not happy. When I said it was his good karma power that was like the sea, then he was delighted. And I said, “I didn’t say your evil karma power was like the sea, so don’t get mad. If you get mad, then it will turn into evil karma power like the sea.” So he didn’t dare get angry with me.
KUAN YIN’S SWEET DEW IS SPRINKLED ON MY HEAD Kuan Yin is Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. Kuan Yin has a pure bottle and also a willow branch. Kuan Yin puts the willow branch in the pure water bottle and then sprinkles the water on top of our heads. Last night didn’t I say that if you have a sweet taste in your mouth that’s Kuan Yin Bodhisattva sprinkling sweet dew on your head? And SHIH CHIH’S GOLD PAVILION IS BENEATH OUR FEET. Bodhisattva Great Strength has a gold lotus platform which will be lent to you so that you can ride upon it to the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
AND IN THE SPACE OF KSHANA WE LEAVE THE FIVE TURBIDITIES. A Kshana is a very short space of time, even less than a second. You leave the five turbidities, the world of five turbidities—the turbidity of time, the turbidity of views, the turbidity of afflictions, the turbidity of living beings and the turbidity of life. These are the five turbidities. They are spoken of in the Amitabha Sutra. AND IN THE FLICK OF A WRIST WE ARRIVE AT THE LOTUS POOL Then it’s just like sticking out your arm. Just sticking it out and bringing it back in again, or flicking your wrist. In such a short space of time you arrive at the Lotus Pool, you arrive at the Lotus Pool by transformation birth.
If you recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha, you recite in the Saha world; and in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, in the West, there is a lotus blossom in the seven-jewel lotus pool that blooms. The more we recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha, the bigger the lotus flower grows. The less you recite, the smaller it gets. If you just recite a little, then when you’re a Buddha you’ll be a little Buddha, and when you become a Bodhisattva, you will be a little Bodhisattva. If you recite a lot, the lotus flower will be very big. When you recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and the Buddha’s name, you are pouring water on the lotus flower. You recite here and in the lotus pool in the West the lotus grows. If you don’t recite, the lotus flower dries up. There is an interrelationship between the Land of Ultimate Bliss and the Saha world.
WHEN THE LOTUS FLOWER BLOOMS YOU WILL SEE THE COMPASSIONATE HONORED ONE Having arrived in the Land of Ultimate Bliss by birth in a lotus flower, you will see Amitabha Buddha when the lotus opens. The Compassionate Honored One is Amitabha Buddha. AND PERSONALLY HEAR THE DHARMA SOUND AND COMPREHEND IT CLEARLY. You will personally hear Amitabha Buddha speak the Dharma, and his sound is very clear and distinct.
HAVING HEARD IT, WE WILL AWAKEN TO THE PATIENCE OF UNPRODUCED DHARMAS After hearing it you will obtain the patience of the non-production of dharmas, and when you are enlightened to that, there will be no production and extinction. AND NOT GOING AGAINST THE COMFORTABLE SUPPORT, WE WILL ENTER THE SAHA. At that time, you will still be in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, sitting in the Lotus Flower, but your transformation body can go to the Saha world. This is called not going away from the peaceful support. That means not leaving the Land of Ultimate Bliss, but being able to go to the Saha world.
WITH GOOD KNOWLEDGE AND EXPEDIENT DEVICES WE CROSS LIVING BEINGS OVER You’ll be able to use sound understanding and expedient devices, all kinds of methods, to be a Good Learned Advisor. You can use good knowledge and expedient devices as doctrines to save and liberate living beings. AND CLEVERLY TURN THE WEARISOME DUSTS INTO BUDDHA AFFAIRS. At that time, everything you do, all your practices, on the one hand will be the wearisome dusts, that is, form, sounds, tastes, touchables, and ideas: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. But although your activities will be the same as those of other people, the things that you do will be things for the Buddha, Buddha affairs.
You won’t be selfish, and seek self-profit; you’ll always be able to benefit living beings, not yourself. You use the wearisome dust to do the Buddha’s work,. You won’t leave the wearisome dust to do Buddha affairs. It is right within the wearisome dust that you will teach and transform living beings and cause them to obtain enlightenment. This is called cleverly turning the wearisome dust into the Buddha’s work. Wearisome dust: For people who are able to practice or cultivate the Dharma, wearisome dust is wearisome dust, and the Buddha’s work is the Buddha’s work.
But for people who are perfectly fused without obstruction, everything’s okay, and although it’s wearisome dust, it’s also the Buddha’s work, and what you do is just Buddha work. You do the same things that other people do, but the merit and virtue is different. And this is because you are one who is experience; you are manifesting a great, provisional device. A Bodhisattva who has come back, or a Buddha who has come back again, is different from ordinary people. You do the same things, like maybe feeding pigeons. Take that, for example.
The pigeons are wearisome dust, but if you infuse their food with wonderful secret dharma, bit by bit, gradually they will bring forth the Bodhimind, and little by little they will grow good roots. If you don’t understand, you can go ahead and give them food too, but you’ll just feed them and get them fat and they won’t be of any use. Do you understand? This is called cleverly taking the wearisome dust and turning it into the Buddha’s work.
Even feeding pigeons is Buddhadharma. Don’t think that feeding pigeons is not Buddhadharma. See, that one was very stupid. At first he didn’t even know which end of the jar to eat out of, and now he knows he should eat out of this end of the jar. This means that he has opened his wisdom. See, he’s opened wisdom. Come, come and eat. See, he’s opened wisdom. Right? Before, he didn’t even know enough to eat from this end, now he knows. This is called cleverly taking the wearisome dust and turning it into the Buddha’s work.
MY VOWS BEING SUCH AS THIS, THE BUDDHA WILL KNOW My vow power is just like that, as I have said before, and the Buddha is certain to know AND EVENTUALLY IN THE FUTURE THEY WILL CERTAINLY BECOME ACCOMPLISHED. In the future for sure, ultimately, in the end, eventually, it is absolutely certain that my vows will be accomplished. Now, before I told you that those two pigeons in the T’ang Dynasty used to be left-home people, remember? They were bhikshus and bhikshunis, upasakas and upasikas—they were left home people and laymen.
However, you shouldn’t think that they are pigeons now: pigeons are pigeons. They came because of their vows. They made vows to become pigeons which would be influential in the assembly. You see, even pigeons can get near left home people and the Triple Jewel, and they are not afraid that they will be rejected as Buddhist disciples. So, every day they come here to be an influential assembly, to let everyone take a look and see that pigeons, too, can study the Buddhadharma, and they know it’s this way. The pigeons are inconceivable pigeons. Of thirty-four pigeons, thirty-two ran away, and only two came back to be an influential assembly.
You can’t fail to believe. See how intelligent they are! But, although they basically are very intelligent, they are pretending to be very stupid, and gradually, little by little they will come to understand. Otherwise, how could pigeons climb right into your hand and let you pet them and not be afraid at all? You can pick them up in your hand and they are not even afraid.
This is not to say, “Well, you give them food.” We tried to give some other pigeons food and they wouldn’t even eat it. We treated them the same, but they wouldn’t come and eat our food. The other thirty-two were let loose, so why didn’t they come back to get some food? So because of this everyone should wake up a little bit. This should influence you. Because of these two pigeons you should bring forth the Bodhi heart, and not be so muddled. Don’t take it very lightly and think, “Pigeons are just pigeons.” This is an inconceivable state, I’ll tell all of you. And after this there are going to be a lot more inconceivable states.
Bit by bit you’ll come to know that the Buddhadharma is truly inconceivable. At first, when they came back that day, no one gave them any food. After they kept coming back for five or six days we started to feed them. So when they came back, it certainly wasn’t because we had given them some food. It was because they recognized the Buddha’s Bodhimanda and they came to bow a little, bow to the Buddha, but they didn’t let you see them, of course.
Someone says, “I don’t believe it.” If you believe, I believe. If you don’t believe it, then I don’t believe it. What I say is Ch’an banter. If you believe it, you can bring forth the Bodhi mind; if you don’t believe it, you can bring forth the obstacle mind. There’s another thing that needs to be said clearly: I basically don’t think that there’s a “me,” so if you believe, I believe—if you don’t believe, then I don’t believe. At the very most, I cannot even admit that I said it, because since you don’t believe me, it’s as though I never said it. So I’ll say I don’t believe it either, and you can just figure that I never spoke such a Buddhadharma. You might try to forget about it entirely, but you won’t be able to, because the seed has already been planted in your eighth consciousness. Okay, now we’ll recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. That is true! And you should believe it and I should believe it.
Jeweled Bowl Hand and Eye
At the Buddhist Lecture Hall the things we do are different from those of ordinary people. In what way are they different? They are especially intense. They are not the slightest bit sloppy. If you’d like to be a bit lazy, you can’t. If you’d like to take it easy a little, that’s even less permissible. As to speaking, this year there was probably less talking than in years previous, because there were two who did not speak at all and so they influenced everyone else not to talk so much.
At present the sound of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva has manifested in America; the sound of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva has appeared and the basic substance of the Bodhisattva, his Dharma body, has also just arrived. Therefore we are here reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and you can see Kuan Yin Bodhisattva in empty space holding a bottle of sweet dew, on the one hand smiling on the other sprinkling the sweet dew.
Those of you who have attended this Kuan Yin session have had your karmic obstacles greatly diminished. However, although your karmic obstacles have been greatly diminished, the karmic obstacles you started out with were not few, and so now even though a great many have melted away, there are still a lot of them following you. If you can attend more Kuan Yin sessions your karmic obstacles can be entirely melted away.
This has been the first Kuan Yin session in America. Never before was there a session in which the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva was recited for seven days in such a rigorous manner, beginning early in the morning and going straight through to nine at night. This is the first time and so I give you all a good name—I call you all good knowing advisors. You may all be called good knowing advisors since you understand how to recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. If you can’t recite, then you are non-knowing advisors. Why? If you don’t even know how to recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, isn’t that a case of being stupid, “not knowing,” and having no genuine wisdom or intelligence? So this time, those of you who have attended should take care to keep on being good knowing advisors and, wherever you go, don’t do upside-down things anymore. That’s my hope for you.
What is more, when you see your relatives and friends you should advise them to recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. This is the best advice you can give anyone, the best present. This kind of merit and virtue can be practiced without using money, and anyone can recite.
Later, when you leave, those of you who have attended this Kuan Yin Bodhisattva Dharma assembly can introduce Kuan Yin Bodhisattva to everyone. This is an inconceivable circumstance. If you can recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, you are a good knowing advisor. If you can’t recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, you are a “non-knowing” advisor. If you want to be a “non-knowing” advisor, do as you please. If you want to be a good knowing advisor, then introduce Kuan Yin Bodhisattva everywhere, and teach people to recite his name. That’s the very best gift there is.
If you give Kuan Yin Bodhisattva to people, that’s the best gift because it can cause them to plant good roots and to melt away all of their karmic obstacles. This is very important and, whatever you do, take care not to forget it. You should know that you are all the first participants in a Kuan Yin Bodhisattva Dharma assembly. Don’t take your good roots lightly, but go everywhere and teach people how to have Kuan Yin Sessions.
Three weeks of Ch’an meditation are represented in these instructional talks. The first two weeks were held in the winter of 1973, the last week of December, and 1974, the first week of January. The sessions occurred at Gold Mountain Monastery in San Francisco.
The last week of Ch’an represented in this volume was a one-week session held in august of 1973, also at Gold Mountain. The instructional talks printed herein were given once or twice daily during the sessions and deal with a wide variety of topics pertinent to Ch’an meditation.
The sessions commenced at 2:45 a.m. each day and ended at 12 midnight. During the twenty-two hours between, participants alternated between walking and sitting meditation. Silence was generally maintained except for the afternoon and evening periods of instruction. Most participants chose to eat only one meal a day, taken at 11 a.m. At that time there was no heat at Gold Mountain, so meditators truly endured hunger and cold as they worked on developing the skill of forging a “vajra indestructible body.”
Joined Palms Hand and Eye
Every year we have Ch’an sessions and each year different people attend them. But I believe this year’s Ch’an session is going to be different from the previous ones in several ways.
Once the session has begun, everyone should be clearly attentive to the question of birth and death. During this session we must be determined to end birth and death. During this session we must be determined to become enlightened. If anyone remains unenlightened, he or she is going to have to undergo one hundred strokes of the incense board. And my incense board is very heavy. When you’re beaten with it, it can pulverize your bones and smash your body. When beaten with it, you experience indescribable pain, unspeakable agony. Indeed, it is to be feared that if you have to go through a hundred blows from my incense board, you will have no further opportunities to attend Ch’an sessions. You should be clear about this.
This year we want to be sure to put down body and mind and work at investigating Ch’an. The Dharma of investigating Ch’an is the mind-ground Dharma door. The mind ground Dharma door must be personally cultivated in order to reap the Bodhi fruit. This year nobody should be lazy.
You don’t have to become enlightened, but if you don’t, you will have to undergo a beating with the incense board. If you are afraid of a hundred blows from the incense board, then absolutely everybody has to become enlightened. Whoever doesn’t become enlightened is surely going to get beaten. Not only will you be beaten, but you’ll make me so angry that I’ll reach the point of losing my temper and wanting to kill somebody! I’m telling you this frankly, because otherwise you’d be gutless, lazy, and not want to work at all. What use is it to be like that and still remain in the world?
This year some who work outside are at the Ch’an session. When they have finished working they can immediately come and participate in the Ch’an session. Whoever comes to take part is going to have a share in it. Whoever fails to come and participate won’t have a share. So it’s very equal, it’s a very fair method. None of you should miss this rare opportunity.
Now I will recite a verse and afterwards say the word ch’i and everyone will follow me saying the word ch’i.
The furnace in the great foundry smelts vajra.
All Buddhas of the ten directions protect the Bodhimanda.
Every sage and worthy one comes forth from this,
And in the Saha world another Dharma King is born.
Non-retreating Gold Wheel Hand and Eye
Learned Advisors, as the Ch’an session begins, some of you are already able to do the work. You should attend to your own work developing your own skill. Don’t be lax at any time. At all times, keep your work in mind. Continue to exert effort, and you will reach this point:
The mountains have disappeared, the waters have vanished.
No road lies ahead.
In the shade of the willows bloom the bright flowers,
And yet another village.
Perhaps you’ll get to the top of a one-hundred foot pole and be able to take that one last step. At just that point, quite naturally you’ll understand your original face; you’ll know what it looks like.
But, some of you are just beginning to investigate Ch’an and have never participated in a Ch’an session or have had a Good Learned Advisor instruct you. Those people have been like the blind led by the blind. Their practice has been like cooking sand with the hope of getting rice. In no way would it have been possible for them to succeed. If you want to have some accomplishment, it is essential to meet a bright-eyed Advisor who can instruct you in the methods of increasing your skill. Then, day by day, you can make progress. But there are not many bright-eyed, Good Learned Advisors. In the whole world they are very few. Since there are so few, then how are you to know who is a Good Learned Advisor?
A Good Learned Advisor would never plaster the sign on his forehead saying, “Do you recognize me, or not? I’ll tell you now; I am a good, bright-eyed Advisor.” If, in fact, he did advertise in this way and claimed to be a Good Learned Advisor, then he wouldn’t be a genuine Good Learned Advisor. As to a genuine Good Leaned Advisor, if you recognize him, then you recognize him; but, if you don’t recognize him, he will not put any pressure on you and say, “You should draw near to me. I am, within this world, a Great Good Learned Advisor, a bright-eyed Good Advisor.”
He wouldn’t say that. He couldn’t be like Wang Ma Tse, selling his plasters, peddling his own products by boasting, “Say, you ought to know, my tonic is mysterious and wonderful. No matter what your illness, apply one of my plasters, and everything will be okay. Not only will your sickness get better, but if you use my plasters, then even if you don’t eat, you won’t be hungry; even if you don’t drink, you won’t be thirsty; even if you don’t sleep, you won’t be tired. In the future, you won’t even have to die.”
A true Good Knowing Advisor wouldn’t be like Wang Ma Tse selling his tonic. He wouldn’t be able to praise himself. If you recognize him, that’s fine; if you don’t recognize him, that’s okay too. He won’t introduce himself. Since that’s the way it is, how are you to know who is a Good Knowing Advisor? It’s not easy to know. It’s said, “A Learned Advisor is hard to meet.” As a matter of fact, in the whole world, very, very few genuine Good Learned Advisors exist.
I can give you a simple introduction to a Good Knowing Advisor: a Good Knowing Advisor teaches people to go on the right road. He does not teach people to go on deviant paths. What is meant by the right road? He teaches people not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to lie, and not to take intoxicants. He would be a bad advisor who’d say, “Oh, wine is no problem.” When the Buddha prohibited wine, including it among the five precepts, he was talking to people who were as fond of wine as they were of their very lives. He wasn’t referring to ordinary people. To speak that way is teaching deviant knowledge and deviant views. It is not teaching proper knowledge and proper views.
And this bad advisor also says to you, “Now, as to your sexual desire; although the Buddha said that desire and lust are not good things, if you can use sexual desire to the ultimate, then you can also become enlightened.” That is also an example of deviant knowledge and deviant views. And so this bad advisor goes on, and as he continues to tell you to do improper things, he is indicating to you that he is not a Good Learned Advisor.
A Good Learned Advisor won’t teach you to destroy something useful, like your eyes. He wouldn’t say to you, “Oh, your eyes really give you a lot of trouble. If you were to gouge them out so you couldn’t see anything, then you wouldn’t have any trouble at all. If you were unable to see forms, unable to hear sounds, or unable to smell odors, unable to taste flavors, unable to feel tangible objects, and unable to think about things, that would be truly wonderful. What you should do is put a stop to the realms of your six organs and their six objects.” This is the teaching of an Advisor who teaches blindness, and it’s very dangerous. So, I’ll continue to introduce you to a Good Learned Advisor.
One who hasn’t any jealousy is a Good Learned Advisor; one who hasn’t any hatred is a Good Learned Advisor; one who hasn’t any greed is a Good Learned Advisor; one who hasn’t any stupidity is a Good Learned Advisor. One who is without greed, hatred, and stupidity is a Good Learned Advisor. He can actually cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. That’s a Good Learned Advisor. If you are contemplating a Good Learned Advisor, you should take a look and see if he has any selfishness. If he’s selfish, he’s not a Good Learned Advisor. If he’s after profit for himself, he’s not a Good Learned Advisor. Someone who doesn’t have any selfishness or desire for self-benefit is a Good Learned Advisor.
For instance, in Canada there is a certain person. I don’t know where he stole his name from, but he calls himself a Lama. When he teaches people, he has them give all their wealth and worldly possessions to him. The people who follow him to study the Dharma give him everything. They even give their own heads of hair to him, their skin, and their flesh. It’s just the bones that he’s not interested in. Why? Bones are rigid. Be careful, and watch out for that kind of advisor.
As to those of us here, maybe there is a Good Knowing Advisor among us and maybe not. If there is, then we can draw near to him, and if not, we can wait. While we are waiting for a Good Knowing Advisor, I will teach you first a little bit about the methods of applying your skill.
When you sit and do this work, you should sit very straight and properly. You shouldn’t lean back and tilt your head back or bow your head down and lean forward. You should keep your head erect. Your eyes should regard your nose and look to see if your nostrils are pointing up or down. Look at the nose clearly. The nose regards the mouth. Does a nose have eyes that it can see the mouth? In time, the nose will produce eyes. You just tell it to look, and it will look and look, until eventually the nose will be able to see the mouth. Then you’ll say, “Oh, basically that’s the way the mouth is.” The mouth knows the heart. Is the heart black? White? Yellow? Red? Is the heart green, white, red, yellow or black? What kind of heart is it? Ask it and see. If you see a black heart, then day by day you can change its color—change it to white—until it becomes the great storehouse of light, which is one with the Dharma Realm. Then there will be a little hope for you.
When you breathe, don’t use your mouth. That is, if you are able to, breathe through your nose. Now, some people find it very, very difficult to breathe through their noses. So if you can use your nose to breathe, then breathe in, and put the breath behind your naval. Stop it behind your naval. Not below; that place is empty—vacuous. There isn’t anything there. It’s just what is meant by, “Basically, there isn’t anything at all.” “Basically, there’s not one thing,” is just referring to that place. You want to stop your breath at that point.
So this is what’s meant when people ask each other, “Are you able to link your breath? Can you link your breath?” That’s a very important question. If you can link your breath, then the outside breath is just the inside breath, and the inside breath is just the outside breath. So, someone who has the Way, can cease his outer breath, and yet his internal breath moves. Although no breath is coming in and out of his nostrils or his mouth, every pore in his body is able to breathe in and out. He looks like a dead man, yet he’s “… dead and not gone.” Perhaps he is dead and not gone. What is “… dead and not gone?” It is living. But, when it’s that way, it’s unnecessary to have the outer breath, because the internal breath has come to life.
At that time, “Your eyes see forms, but inside there is nothing. Your ears hear sounds, but your mind doesn’t know them. When from within you contemplate your mind, there isn’t any mind. When outside you contemplate forms, there are no forms either.
If you look off into the distance at all the myriad things, all those things are also empty. But at that point, you shouldn’t think that you’re such great stuff. That’s still just a preliminary expedient. It’s just experiencing a little light ease. You shouldn’t take a thief as your son and think that because of it you’re just peerless. What’s so peerless about you? You’re really shameless. To do this is to not recognize yourself. You get a little bit of skill and you’re satisfied. But you’re still miles away from accomplishing Buddhahood. Don’t obtain just a little and think it’s enough. Don’t be like a little child with a piece of candy who takes that one little piece of candy and is overjoyed. He runs outside, somebody gives him a piece of candy, and he’s in ecstasy—totally satisfied, just because he has some candy to eat. What he doesn’t realize is that in his own home there is a stash of honey and candy that’s so vast that you can’t say how much there is. He’s just unable to get hold of it and eat it. That’s the way it is with people who get a little and are satisfied.
Now, I have told you just a very, very little bit about the methods for developing your skill. If you want to know all about how to do the work, you’ll still have to wait for the Great Good Learned One to come. When the Great, Compassionate, Good Learned One comes, he will tell you how to do the work. And then you will have done what has to be done. You will have accomplished the task of a great human being.
When you have all been sitting until your minds are empty and your bodies are empty, then I, having nothing to do, will come to find something to do, and I’ll pass the time with you, people of the Way with no minds.
Before I called you Good Learned Advisors, but now, as I think about it, you are people of the Way with no minds, because we are still waiting for the Good Learned Advisor. So, you are people of the Way who have no minds. But without any minds, you must also not have any bodies. You can’t whimper, “My legs hurt, my back hurts, I can’t stand it. What am I going to do?” As soon as you start thinking that way, even Shakyamuni Buddha himself can’t save you. Why not? Because you can’t practice what’s difficult to practice. You can’t bear what’s difficult to bear. You can’t cultivate what’s difficult to cultivate.
What’s so great about this body anyway? When ‘Sākyamuni Buddha was cultivating on the causal ground, he relinquished his body, his nature, and his very life. He gave them away. He gave them to people. Not only can we not give our bodies, natures, and very lives, but we can’t even stand it if our legs suffer a little. Don’t be so gutless. If you can’t take it after one day, what’s going to happen after two? After three, you’ll be beside yourselves. Strike up your spirits, get hold of your genuine vajra resolve. Didn’t I say last night, “The furnace in the foundry fuses vajra”? This furnace can smelt anything.
Gold Mountain Monastery is like the furnace in a foundry. When you come here, if you’re a dragon, you must curl up; if you’re a tiger, you must crouch and use one mind to cultivate. No matter how bad a person you are, you have to become good. And no matter how good you are, you must get better. That’s what’s meant by the first line of the gatha I spoke yesterday.
There may be yet another Dharma King. If too much is said, it’s just a bother. And so now everybody should bring forth his own skill and advance vigorously and courageously.
The furnace in the great foundry smelts vajra.
All Buddhas of the ten directions protect the Bodhimanda.
Every sage and worthy one comes forth from this,
And in the Saha world another Dharma King is born.
Vajra Hand and Eye
All of you people of the Way who have no minds, since you are called people of the Way with no minds, it is essential that you don’t have a mind. If you have a mind, then you have false thinking. If you have no mind, you have a response. In the Ch’an hall, we are walking, walking, sitting, sitting; sitting a while, walking a while. Why do we do this? Because when you cultivate the Way it is essential that you understand the method of cultivation. If you don’t understand the method of cultivation, then you don’t know where to step. You don’t know where to begin practicing.
In the Ch’an hall, walking subdues the body and sitting subdues the mind. Your body is caused to be without any sickness and your mind to be without any false thinking. When the body has no sickness, then it is healthy; when the body is strong and healthy, then you can do whatever you want to do. If your mind has no false thinking, then your mind is in samadhi. It is concentrated. If your mind is concentrated, then your nature is fixed.
So it’s said,
When the nature is fixed, the demons are subdued,
And every day is happy.
When the false thoughts do not arise,
Then everywhere is peaceful.
If your mind isn’t concentrated, then you can’t subdue the demons. But if your mind is concentrated then there are no demons at all. Gluttonous demons are no longer gluttonous. Lazy demons are no longer lazy. Heavenly demons lose their divinity, and earthly demons lose their earthliness. Human demons no longer have human form.
A concentrated mind can subdue the demons inside and it can subdue the demons outside. So it is said, “When the nature is fixed, the demons are subdued, and every day is happy.” Every day you experience bliss. Not a day passes when you’re not blissful.
“When false thoughts do not arise, then everywhere is peaceful.” If you don’t have any false thinking, then your mind is as composed as still water. It is like water without any waves—like pure still water. When your false thoughts don’t arise, every place is peaceful.
Why is it that when you’re here you feel that there is better? And when you go there, you feel that somewhere else would be even better? It’s because your false thoughts have control over you. Your false thoughts control you and cause you to feel dissatisfied with where you are, and to feel that if you went elsewhere, it would certainly be better. They cause you to be dissatisfied with the way things are.
A saying goes, “Stand on this mountain, and that mountain is taller; when I arrive at that mountain, I have to stand on tiptoes.” You stand on this mountain and you aren’t satisfied because you see a taller mountain, but when you get to the other mountain, you still feel it’s not high enough. You want to stand on your tiptoes to find a higher mountain yet. Why are we that way? Because we don’t have the skill to subdue our bodies and our minds.
When we run around the room in the Ch’an hall, it’s like having a race to see who’s going to come in first. However, from the way I see it, everybody in the Ch’an hall is first, because we’re running in a circle. From where I stand, I’m first, and from where you stand, you are first. From each person’s point of view, each gets to be first.
But that kind of being first is unreal. Who is truly first? Whoever runs right to enlightenment is the one who is truly first. We aren’t like other big track meets where the concern is who finishes in first place. We are interested in who will be the first to wake up. When we run around the room, we want to run right to enlightenment. The goal of our Olympic games is to become enlightened. If you don’t become enlightened, it makes no difference how fast you run, it’s useless. You still won’t be a winner; you have to become enlightened to be a winner.
Whoever becomes enlightened is number one, whoever doesn’t become enlightened comes in second. Those of you who want to be first, hurry up and become enlightened. You might say, “Well, how do you become enlightened?” How? Just be very reliable and diligent in your cultivation. Be dependable in your investigation of Ch’an. Be dependable in your sitting meditation. That means that you don’t strike up false thoughts when you’re sitting. You don’t depend on things.
What is “depending on things?” It’s when you say something like, “now, I’m going to investigate dhyana and the Buddha is going to cause me to become enlightened, and the Bodhisattvas are going to help me become enlightened.” Or, “I’m going to meet a great Good and Wise Advisor who will teach me how to become enlightened.” Or perhaps, “If I believe in a certain person, he will teach me to become enlightened.” All of those views are mistakes. That’s not becoming enlightened, it’s just a mistake. Why? Because you’re depending on something.
You’re depending on someone to teach you to become enlightened. How is that possible? If someone could tell you how to become enlightened, it wouldn’t be necessary for you to eat to become full. Someone else could eat for you and you would become full. If that’s possible, then somebody else could also tell you how to become enlightened. But when somebody else eats, you don’t get full. You, yourself, have to eat in order to become full. Becoming enlightened is the same way.
You may say, “If you don’t cultivate, somebody else can help you cultivate, and tell you how to become enlightened.” But that’s just like watching somebody else eat and trying to get full. If you can’t get full when somebody else eats, then someone else can’t help you become enlightened, either.
The most that a Good and Wise Advisor can do is tell you how to cultivate, how to sit in meditation. Although that is pointing out the Way to you, it’s still necessary for you to walk down the road yourself. If you don’t go yourself, then it hasn’t been of any use. That’s what depending on somebody means.
It also refers do not leaning against the wall when you’re sitting. You think, “The wall is really solid. I’ll lean back on it and I won’t knock it over, I won’t make a hole in it. If I lean back when I fall asleep, I won’t fall down to the ground.” I’ll forewarn you: If you lean against the wall like that for a long time, you will spit blood; you’ll get sick from it. So don’t depend upon things, don’t lean against the wall or stick a cushion behind you to soften the hard wall so that it feels more comfortable when you lean back. That’s also a mistake.
People who cultivate the Way shouldn’t be concerned about their own comfort. They shouldn’t fear pain. “The more it hurts, the more I’m going to butt up against it.” As soon as the pain comes then things start to get good. It’s just to tell you to have some pain. Legs hurt? Then say, “Hurt a little more, hurt a little more.” Back hurts? “Good, hurt a little more. I’m not paying any attention to you, do whatever you want. The more it hurts the more I want to sit. I’m going to battle with you and I’m going to come out on top.” This is the way to not depend on anything.
But if instead, you pile pillows up behind you, if you sit like that, it’s going to lead to only one place, and that is to falling asleep. As soon as you get comfortable you fall asleep. If you’re not so comfortable, if the wall’s a little harder, and it hurts when your back hits up against it, you won’t sleep so much. So don’t lean against the wall.
You should sit there and not rely on anything. You shouldn’t lean backward. You shouldn’t lean left or right. Say, “I’m not going to lean on anything. I’m going to get up my courage. I’m going to bring forth a heaven-filling resolve and decide to end birth and death. I am not going to be the least bit sloppy about it. I’m a great hero. I’m a great person. I’m extraordinary, far above my peers. I’m most unusual. How can I depend upon things?”
So people who cultivate the Way should stand on their own and not depend on anybody or anything, should not depend on any circumstances. “I want to sit very firmly with my body as tough as iron. If I cultivate and I don’t become enlightened, I’m not going to rest. Each day I’m not enlightened, I’m not going to rest. I’m certainly going to figure out what my original face was like before my parents bore me.”
You should make this kind of durable, strong, sincere resolve, this kind of constant resolve to cultivate the Way and develop your skill. During these two weeks of Ch’an sessions, we want to figure out what each of us is all about. We want to clear up our own individual matters, so that we haven’t come into this world all confused, just waiting to die, not knowing how we’ll die. That’s really meaningless. We certainly want to know how we were born and how we will die.
Will we be comfortable when we die? And free? We want to cultivate until we are free to come and free to go. That’s true freedom.
If I want to come, then I come. If I want to go, then I go. When I come it is without affliction, when I go it is without worry. When I want to go, I just fold up my legs and say, “I’m going off to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.” You bid farewell to people just when you feel like it. That’s truly having control over birth and death.
What does it take to be that way? It takes just this preliminary work that we are now doing. If somebody doesn’t want to die he first must develop his skill in dying. If you want to end birth and stop death, then you have to come up with some true skill.
So don’t be afraid of the pain. Don’t be afraid of the difficulty. Don’t be afraid of anything, and then it will work.
A Ch’an session is like smelting vajra. We don’t even fear living dragons and lively tigers. The more you want to sleep, the less I’ll let you sleep. We’ll see what kind of method you come up with. If you don’t even have the least bit of energy how in the world are you going to be a cultivator? How can you accomplish the Way? People who accomplish the Way are all people with bones and blood. They all have spine. No spineless, boneless, bloodless people can accomplish the Way.
Yesterday I said that those great heroes and awesome leaders among the ancients were people with bones and breath and blood that enabled them to give rise to their accomplishments. “Bones” represents the fact that in a hundred choppings they were not disturbed. So it is said, “Hundreds of impediments do not bother him.” No matter what state he encounters, he can subdue it. He is not turned by circumstances, but he can turn conditions. As it is said, “In the world the goal of people is to be victorious over heaven.” If a person has a fixed determination, he can overcome the heavens. Common people think that heaven is the highest place of all, that nothing can surpass heaven. Still, it is said that if you have unswerving determination, you can be victorious even over heaven.
By “heaven” the ancients are implying God. But this God, this heavenly ruler, is not necessarily the Catholic or Christian God. Nor is the heavenly ruler the one spoken of in Confucianism. This heavenly ruler is just like a county official who must keep an eye on the rights and wrongs of the people. He is not the one and only Supreme Lord. Although he is above us, this heavenly ruler is not an unsurpassed lord.
In Confucianism it is said, “By eating vegetarian food, practicing prohibitions, and bathing clean, then one can wait upon the Supreme Lord.” “Eating vegetarian food” means one eats vegetables. “ practicing prohibitions” means one holds the precepts, which means you do not violate them by engaging in lustful, desirous conduct. “Bathing clean” means to wash clean your body, wash clean you mind. Then you can wait upon the Heavenly Lord. You can establish a mutual contact with the Heavenly Lord. You can reach the heavenly Lord; that is, your sincerity will be known by the Heavenly Lord.
The ancient king, T’ang of the Shang dynasty said:
I, the small one, Lű,
With the sacrifice of this black ox,
Presume to inform you, Magnificent Ruler,
of this: when I have faults,
I do not blame the people.
When the people have faults,
Let the blame be placed with me.
King T’ang said, “I, the small one, Lű.” He spoke of himself as the “small one” and then added his name “Lű.” “With the sacrifice of this black ox, presume to inform you, Magnificent Ruler…” he uses the black ox to inform the Magnificent Ruler very clearly that “When I have faults,” (if he has offenses), then “I do not blame the people.” Don’t blame the ordinary citizens, don’t cast blame on the populace. He says, “When the people have faults,” (or if the people have offenses), “Let the blame be place with me.” The offenses belong to me. Why? Because I have not taught my people well. So when they commit offenses they are not to be blamed; blame me. In this way the King of Shang sought within himself. He acted in accord with propriety. He was able to take the offenses, the myriad offenses of others, and make them his own. He did not want his offenses, moreover, to be put on other people.
People who cultivate the Way also should have this kind of determined propriety. You shouldn’t, when encountering profit, forget about the principle. When you see a sage, you should want to become his equal, to imitate him. When we people investigate Ch’an, we should find a model. Whatever Patriarch’s conduct I admire, I should choose to study that Patriarch and imitate him. Whatever Arhat’s conduct I like, I should make that Arhat my mirror and allow him to reveal to me my shortcomings so that I may learn from him. Or perhaps I admire a particular Bodhisattva. I should make that Bodhisattva my model, always keeping his conduct in mind, as I do whatever I’m doing. In everything I do, I should follow that Bodhisattva’s example and actually do what he did.
If my resolve is greater, if I feel I would like to practice the example set by a particular Buddha, then I should vow to follow the example set by that Buddha’s cultivation, the determination exemplified in that Buddha.
Some people say, “Oh, but we’re just ordinary people. How can we follow the examples of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? How can we follow the examples of Arhats and Patriarchs?” If you can’t study and follow those examples, then you might as well not study Buddhadharma. Nor is there any need for you to come and investigate Ch’an because if you investigate Ch’an, that’s like standing by the side of the river and wishing to gaze upon the sea. So if you want to study the Buddhadharma, as you begin you should know that basically we are no different from the Buddha. It is just because we have not cultivated that we haven’t become Buddhas. We have not become Bodhisattvas, we have not become Arhats, we have not become Patriarchs because we have not chosen to cultivate.
If we are able to cultivate, Buddhas are just made from people. Bodhisattvas are also made from people, as are Arhats and Patriarchs. So we need only have sincere strength in our willpower and determination. Then we can realize any of these states. If your determination is to be a sage, then you will be a sage. If you have the determination to be a hero, then you will become a hero. If you have the determination of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, then you are a Buddha or Bodhisattva. Just see where your determination stands, where it is established. If your vision is far-sighted and your determination is solid, things certainly will accord with your wises in the future.
So it is said, “Shun was a person, I am also a person, Why can’t I do the things that great Emperor Shun can do? Maybe I can do them even better than him—I can transcend him.” You should not belittle yourself. Dispense with your self-imposed boundaries. What does that mean? It means you draw a little line and say, “Oh, this is just the way I am. I can’t go any farther. I can’t progress any more. I haven’t any great accomplishment.” You draw a line on yourself. You should know that people are the most efficacious creatures among the ten thousand things. Everything is ruled by people. Without people there would be nothing. If there weren’t any people, nothing in this world would be of any use.
So, if you are a Buddha, then just be a Buddha. If you are a Bodhisattva, then we’ll see you as a Bodhisattva. But if no one receives your teachings, then you are Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who are unemployed.
So it is people who propagate the Way. The Way does not propagate people. Everything is ruled by people, so if there weren’t any people in our Ch’an hall, it would be of no use. Having this many people in the hall investigating Cha’an increases the bright light and dazzling adornment of the Ch’an hall immeasurably. If no people were cultivating in the Ch’an hall, then the Ch’an hall would go on strike. So, everybody, be resolute and hold firmly to your determination to become Buddhas. We should hurry up and become Buddhas and we will be able to teach and transform Western living beings.
At the outset of Buddhism in the West, if you don’t become Buddhas a little sooner, then you are delaying the living beings of the West from becoming Buddhas. You do not know how many people are behind you waiting for you to save them. Do you still want to be lazy and not stand on your own, and rely on other people? You should stand on your own. Take up what you should take up, and put down what you ought to put down. Get your skill precise so that you don’t lose track of your goal for even a fraction of a second.
Take a look at Mao T’se T’ung swimming in the great river. The newspapers say he goes as fast as a steamship. Never mind steamships, we should be faster than rockets. Mao T’se T’ung is going to swim the river and we’re going to swim across the great void.
Don’t look upon yourself as so small. Don’t say, “I’m a common person; I cannot become a Buddha.” You just lack confidence. Don’t look down on yourself. It is said,
Don’t find yourself despicable;
Don’t throw yourself away.
If you can be like that, then if you want to become a Buddha, you certainly can become a Buddha. If you want to become a Bodhisattva, that’s not difficult either. To become a Sage is even less of a problem. You just have to believe in yourself, believe that you ultimately can become a Buddha. Don’t not believe in yourself. If you can’t see yourself as a great hero among the ancients and moderns, a Great Sage, think of yourselves as being their brothers and sisters and you will be the same as them.
But they’re not the only ones, however. Earlier I was talking about the Lord on High. Well, the Lord on High should be beneath me. I’m going to transcend the Lord on High. So there is a saying,
Don’t yield to the ancients
As the only ones with wisdom;
Just because you’re ancient,
What’s so unusual about you?
What is so unusual about them? Say, “What if you are already an ancient? I’m going to be even better than you, right now.” Don’t yield to the ancients, recognizing them as the only wise ones. Yield means to be polite to, to make concessions to them. Don’t be polite to the ancients. With a single blow I can flatten you, and then I can turn around and save you again. So, you should believe in yourself and not suppose that your contemporaries exceed you and go beyond your measure either. So you shouldn’t say of the current President, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly compare with him.” You should be a great, good learned one in the world and go and teach and transform the President. This is what it means by not yielding to the people of the present as beyond your measure.
This kind of will stands on the earth with its crown in the heavens. It can break through space. I use my will power to fill up empty space. I fill up empty space with my will, so there’s no room left for it. That’s the way it is. Don’t look upon yourself as so small, like a tiny ant that can just steal honey. Don’t be like that. And don’t be like a rat that only knows how to steal cheese, beans, and grain to eat. This is meaningless.
Then, make great vows such as those made by two monks from Gold Mountain who have vowed to bow once every three steps to Washington. In making that kind of great vow, you shouldn’t have even one false thought. If you make a big vow and then you have a few false thoughts, these can obscure the big vow. So don’t have false thoughts about killing, don’t have false thoughts about stealing, don’t think about saying false things or drinking a little wine or looking at pretty women or taking intoxicating drugs; don’t have these kinds of false thoughts, as soon as you have these kinds of false thoughts, the gods, dragons, and others of the eight-fold division, the Dharma-protectors and good spirits, and the eighty-four thousand Vajra Store Dharma Protectors who follow you must simultaneously retreat. And, when the Vajra Store Dharma Protector Bodhisattvas retreat, then the retinue of demons attacks. That’s why that ghost came to bully you. If you hadn’t had those false thoughts, then the demonic ghost wouldn’t have had even a little crack to get in, no hole to squeeze through.
This is very, very important. No matter what house you stay in, no matter where you stay, be especially careful not to let your samadhi power become diffused and scattered by striking up false, improper thoughts. This is very important, very important.
So today I have used some of this precious time to explain these important doctrines to you. The Way is actual practice; it’s not something that’s just spoken of. If you actually go and practice, then that is immeasurably better than just speaking! So it is said,
Spoken well, spoken wonderfully,
Without real practice
There is no actual Way.
The Way is to be practiced. Without practice, then of what use is the Way? Virtue is done; if it’s not done, then what virtue is there? If you don’t do virtuous things then the virtue is not there.
Jeweled Conch Hand and Eye
Speaking Dharma is to teach people to break all of their attachments. When you have no attachments, then you very naturally obtain liberation. If you have attachments, then you cannot become liberated. No one is tying you up so you can’t become liberated, but you have attachments that prevent you from attaining liberation.
As to attachments, even in investigating Ch’an there are attachments which can occur. One says, “I am a Ch’an Master.” In studying the teachings attachments arise when one says, “I’m a Dharma Master.” Holding to the Vinaya has the attachments involved in holding to the Vinaya. One says, “I am a Vinaya Master.” When cultivating the Secret School, and attachment to holding mantras arises. “I am a Secret School Vajra Superior Master.” People who recite the Buddha’s name also give rise to attachments, saying, “Oh, I’m one who is mindful of the Buddha and cultivates the Pure Land.”
Because of these attachments, the very lively and animated Buddhadharma is relegated to a very rigid kind of worldly dharma. Buddhadharma is the study of leaving all attachments; worldly dharma promotes attachments. If you can dispense with all attachments, then you are in accord with the whole of creation. If you want to understand this then you must first make a great sacrifice. A great sacrifice is just great giving. Giving what? Giving away the attachments, giving away your greed, giving away your anger, giving away your stupidity.
When you investigate the Buddhadharma, the investigation of what’s just before your eyes is more than enough for you to deal with. You don’t have to run to India to seek the Buddhadharma and go to Nepal to get the Tripitaka and then go to the Himalaya mountains to see if the snow the Buddha sat in is red or not. Searching for answers in this way is called “renouncing what is near and seeking what is far.” It is called “forsaking the root and grasping at the branches.”
One of my disciples went to India to find a master and in the end her master ended up in jail. So she returned to San Francisco and then she left home. Would you say this is strange, or not? If she’d just left home here in the first place she could have saved more than a thousand dollars. That thousand dollars could have bought a Tripitaka to put in the library—a Dharma treasure which would have been here permanently.
Now it is still not too late, you can work well and develop your skill in cultivation. Don’t just seek after profit and name. People who cultivate the Way should put aside their thoughts of fame and profit. These small matters of name and fame everybody likes, but the great matter of birth and death is something no one wants to face. Everyone neglects the great matter of birth and death, except those few of us here in the Ch’an hall who know that birth and death is a big problem and want to learn how to end birth and death. We want to study that Dharma-door. We want not to fear any kind of difficulty, any kind of suffering, or any kind of pain. Sleep less, eat less, and apply your skill to cultivation. When you eat, don’t eat too much. If you eat too much it’s easy to doze off.
Sleep and dozing belong to yin. When one is not dozing that is yang. I have often explained before that if you restrict your eating, you will dispense with ghosts. Eat less. Don’t eat too little, but don’t eat too much. Neither too much nor too little. If you eat too much, your stomach will complain. If you restrict your eating and drinking, then you will get rid of the ghosts. If you are yin then the ghosts come; if you are yangthen the ghosts go.
This year those who are in attendance at the Ch’an session are very sincere. I see that although some are sleeping, there are fewer sleeping than in the past. We have made progress. This may well be because we now have more Good Learned Advisors staying here, and they have influenced people to work hard at their cultivation.
Originally, when a Ch’an session was going on, people didn’t even wash their faces, brush their teeth or cut their beards or their hair. During a Ch’an session, they didn’t know heaven was heaven, earth was earth, and that there were people in between. They didn’t know that heaven was above, that earth was below, and that there were people in between because they’d forgotten everything and put everything down.
That kind of skill brings a response, even to a point in the session when you don’t even know what day it is. You don’t know, “Oh, today is the third day.” You haven’t any idea; it’s just as though the session had just begun, exactly the same. Time passes very quickly if you don’t attach to it; there is no time. If you attach to it, you count one day, two days, three, four, five days, and then it’s just like any other week. But there’s no time if you don’t attach, there is no past, no present, no future. If you can be that way, putting down your body and mind, you yourself can become a Buddha. If you can put down your body and mind, if you can be without attachments, then you certainly can become a Buddha.
In this Ch’an session there’s a little something that’s not quite perfect. What is it? Although many people are not talking, some are talking a great deal, like me. Every night I get up here and spend some time talking to you. But, of course, in the Ch’an hall talking is open, is public, when you give instruction. So this is all right. What is not in accord with the rules is to go up to the bathroom and have a meeting. It’s not very appropriate to make it into a meeting hall.
Basically, the bathroom is a pretty smelly place. I often hear many people talking in the bathrooms. It’s my hope that we can get rid of this particular problem, and that would make our Ch’an session even better. Our Ch’an session would be even more perfect. If you haven’t lived at Gold Mountain or Kao Min Monasteries, you don’t know the rules of the Ch’an hall. At Kao Min in China people all lived together and would go for several years without ever saying a word to one another. They might have slept side by side, sat side by side, but still they didn’t really know one another; they did not even know each other’s names. Such practice is called, “genuinely putting it down.” They are truly Mahasattvas who don’t pay attention to anybody else. Amitabha Buddha, everyone for himself!
We are planting the seeds of Buddhism in America, and the very best way to do this is to establish the foundation very well. So, we are particularly thorough in our ceremonies, classes, and in all of our public meetings. In a Ch’an session we should be even more true about our work. We need even more not to be sloppy. We don’t, at the beginning, want to turn it into the very end for Buddhism.
In the beginning, we must establish the Proper Dharma. If it turns into the Dharma Ending age, that’s not right. So, in this country, we want to uphold and propagate the Proper Dharma. We ourselves want to practice the Proper Dharma, and we want to spread the proper Dharma. It’s certain that we can’t be sloppy about it. We can’t be lazy, we can’t be fond of leisure, we can’t be lax. We should keep our minds on birth and death, and be ever mindful of impermanence, be careful not to be lax, that’s the way we should be. If I say any more, I’ll just be taking more time. We should continue to work on our own, and develop our own skill. That’s very important.
Bestowing Fearlessness hand and Eye
In cultivating do not seek outside.
Recognition of the right road is essential.
If indeed you find the proper path,
Birth and death will quickly come to rest.
These four sentences say that when people cultivate the Way, they should not seek outside. You want to attain the Dharma Door of the mind ground. If you don’t obtain that Dharma Door, then you don’t know how to cultivate. That is why the next line says it’s essential to recognize the road. If you know how to cultivate, birth and death aren’t big problems. You’ll be able to end birth and death quite spontaneously. But if you don’t understand how to cultivate, you are like the blind being led by the blind, and that’s useless.
This is why it was the custom of the ancients who cultivated the Way to go around visiting Good Learned Advisors in order to find such a one to draw near to and study with. They believed that when their potentials had ripened, they would be able to meet a Good Learned Advisor who could instruct them in the methods for cultivating the Way.
But it’s not the case that someone is going to deliver the Dharma on your doorstep. When the ancients went out to look for teachers, they endured a great deal of hardship and tribulation. Even so, it wasn’t certain that they all would meet Good Leaned Advisors. So it is said, “It is difficult to meet a Good Learned Advisor.”
Now, at Gold Mountain Monastery, the Good Learned Advisors from the ten directions are continually instructing us and making it possible for us to know how we should go about cultivating. You can say that this atomic age is certainly not the same as past ages. Now, as we sit in Gold Mountain Monastery, Good Leaned Advisors from all countries and from all the ten directions are teaching and transforming us. We should be grateful.
We should also be vigorous. If we are vigorous, we can make progress every day. If we are thankful to our Good Learned Advisors, then we have not forgotten our source. People who cultivate the Way should be extremely careful not to become self-satisfied, arrogant or haughty. If you are self-satisfied, then you won’t make progress.
If you are arrogant, then you won’t be able to learn from those beneath you. You should feel that what you know is very little, and study with other people. Learn from other people, seek wisdom from everyone. You should be open to both favorable and adverse situations. You should be able to accept not only pleasant states, but also unpleasant ones. You shouldn’t say that you can’t stand unpleasant experiences, nor should you just endure what is unpleasant and remain unreceptive to what is agreeable or pleasant.
If you are attached to what is pleasant—to what is agreeable, or compliant—or to what is adverse—unpleasant—then you can’t obtain samadhi. For example, if someone praises you and you like it, then you have been moved by the wind of compliance. If people slander you and you are stirred up, then you have been moved by an opposing or adverse wind. Whether compliant or opposing, you should progress right through them. What is compliant is a Good Learned Advisor, and what is opposing is all the more a Good Learned Advisor.
It is said that adverse situations—situations of adversity—create heroes. Heroes are made from situations that are not easy to get through. When adversity comes you should take it as though it were an agreeable state. This is being equally near to and involved in compliant and adverse states. Of course, you must recognize them for what they are, because if you don’t, then that’s completely useless.
Speaking of this, I recall the case of a certain “sutra-hustling ghost.” This was a monk who spent all day reciting sutras for people in order to save the souls of their dead relatives. He hustled sutras and was called a “Na mwo.” All day long he droned, “Na mwo, na mwo, na mwo” (“homage, homage”), one knows not how many times. He recited so many “na mwo’s,” but he was always Na mwoing for other people; he never Na mwoed for himself. He never Na mwoed to see what he himself was doing.
So, one day he went off to Na mwo for somebody, and afterwards he set out for home. It was probably fairly late in the day as he was returning when he went past a little village and a dog barked at him. Inside the house where the dog was barking he heard an old woman’s voice say, “Hey, take a look and see who it is. What’s the dog barking so fiercely about?” A man got up and peeked out of a hole in the window. The window wasn’t made of glass, but of oiled paper. There was a hole in the paper, so he peeked out of it. The woman kept saying, “Who is it? Who is it? Do you recognize him?” The man said, “Oh, be quiet, it’s just the sutra-reciting ghost.” He said “ sutra-reciting ghost” so loud that the monk heard it and wondered, “Hey, why did he call me a sutra-reciting ghost? I’m always reciting sutras for people, and he calls me a sutra-reciting ghosts.”
But there wasn’t anything he could do about it, after all; ;he did go around reciting sutras for people, and if someone wanted to call him a sutra-reciting ghost he couldn’t go to court and file a suit. So he kept his temper and swallowed his hurt feelings. When the opposing came, he accepted in compliantly and walked on.
Pretty soon he came to a bridge. It started to rain and this made him very unhappy, so he crawled down under the bridge to get out of the rain. There he was, trying to keep dry, and without anything to do. There were no dead people under the bridge, so he couldn’t help them with his Na mwoing. Since there were no Na mwo affairs to do under the bridge, he decided to Na mwo himself. He said to himself, “Hey, everybody says sitting in meditation isn’t bad. I’ll try sitting in meditation; I’ll try it out.” So he sat down and pulled his legs into full lotus. He got his legs all arranged and sat there, and immediately a wonderful state appeared.
What state? Two ghosts appeared. Here he was, day after day crossing over ghosts, and although he had never seen a ghost he wasn’t afraid of them. He was more or less in the retinue of ghosts—he was that far gone—so when he saw the ghosts he wasn’t afraid. One ghost said, “Hey, what’s a golden pagoda doing here? I’ve never seen that here before.” The other ghost said, “Oh, a golden pagoda has the Buddha’s shariras in it. We’d better go bow to it. The Buddha’s Dharma Body is there.”
So the two ghosts started bowing like chickens eating grain. They bowed over and over and over and over again. But they didn’t knock their heads on the ground when they bowed because, after all, they were ghosts! There was just this yin energy there bowing.
So, they were bowing in a very agitated way. Standing up, bowing, standing up, kneeling, bowing, standing up…
Since this cultivator was on pretty friendly terms with ghosts (he crossed them over every day) he considered all the ghosts he crossed over as his special friends, and so he wasn’t afraid.
But soon, after he had sat for a while, his legs refused to cooperate. His legs said, “it hurts, it hurts, it hurts.” They started crying, “Pain, pain.” As soon as they yelled “pain, pain,” he listened to them. He listened to his legs talking to him. He said, “Okay, I’ll liberate you.” So he eased out of full lotus position into half lotus. And there were the ghosts, bowing and bowing.
Once when they were standing up, they took a look in front of them, and then they stopped to confer with each other. One said, “Hey, that was a golden pagoda. How did it turn into a silver one? That’s really strange.” The other ghost said, “Oh, what difference does it make? Gold pagoda, silver pagoda…Silver pagodas also have the Buddha’s Dharma Body inside. We ought to keep bowing.” So they started bowing, bowing, bowing again, but by now they probably weren’t as fast as chickens eating grain. They were bowing more and more slowly. They kept it up for another half hour or maybe even an hour. In general, you shouldn’t get attached to how long it was.
But eventually, the monk couldn’t take it any longer. His legs were complaining again. They started making an uproar and screaming, “Oh, the pain is unimaginable. It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. We just can’t stand the pain any longer.” The legs made such a ruckus that he thought, “Okay, okay, okay, I’ll liberate you.” So he slipped out of half lotus and just sat in an ordinary, casual fashion, just as he pleased. Then the ghosts got enlightened. They said, “Look, that’s not a gold pagoda or a silver pagoda either. Basically, it’s just a mound of mud. We’ve really been fooled. Let’s kick it. Let’s kick this mound of mud.”
To them the monk now looked like a mound of mud, but as soon as he heard the ghosts were going to kick him, he immediately got back into full lotus. As soon as he got his legs crossed over each other, the ghosts blinked in astonishment. They said, “Look! It’s a gold pagoda again. It transformed into a gold pagoda again. We’d better keep bowing.” So, the two of them continued to bow.
They bowed until dawn, until a cock crowed. Then they left and the cultivator thought, “Oh, full lotus is a golden pagoda, half lotus is a silver pagoda, and sitting any way you please is a mound of mud. That’s really inconceivable. Okay, after this I’m not going to be a sutra-reciting ghost any more. I’m going to change my trade. I’m going to make a jeweled hall of gold for the Buddha. I’m going to become a gold pagoda.”
And after that, every day he sat in full lotus. After sitting for a time, he became enlightened, and after becoming enlightened, he though, “Wow! Who was my Good Learned Advisor? Turns out it was those two ghosts.” So after that he called himself the Dhyana Master Pressured by Ghosts. The ghosts forced him into cultivating.
So, everyone, if you see a ghost you shouldn’t be afraid. If you cultivate well, the ghosts won’t be able to give you any trouble. You should be a little more sincere and not be afraid of anything. Put everything down. Ghosts helped this Dhyana Master cultivate, so, people who cultivate the Way, no matter what experience you have, if you can avoid being turned by it you will develop samadhi power.
If the eight winds don’t move you, then you have wisdom power. Where do samadhi power and wisdom power come from? First of all, you must hold the precepts. When your morality is thoroughly pure you do not do anything bad and offer up all good conduct. When you don’t commit any evil acts, day by day your offenses get smaller. And, when you offer up all good conduct, your merit and virtue increase every day. Increasing your merit and virtue is an aid to your morality, samadhi, and wisdom. When you decrease your offenses, your greed, hatred, and stupidity are also diminished. Therefore, when your precepts, samadhi, and wisdom are perfected, greed, hatred, and stupidity disappear.
You should know that the merit and virtue derived from sitting in full lotus is not merely a golden pagoda, but rather a pagoda adorned with the seven precious gems: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, red pearls, mother-of-pearl, and carnelian. If you can merely sit in full lotus, the merit from just sitting is inconceivable. It’s very easy to enter samadhi when you sit in full lotus, and it’s also easy to increase your wisdom.
When you sit in full lotus, that is just the precepts; that is just samadhi. Sitting in full lotus is just the power of wisdom. Full lotus increases all kinds of merit and virtue. If you can sit in full lotus, in the future you will certainly have the opportunity to achieve Buddhahood. The Buddhas of the ten directions all attained realization from sitting in full lotus, so you shouldn’t look upon full lotus as an ordinary thing.
Earlier we were talking about the two ghosts who pressured the sutra-reciting ghost into cultivating the Way; this is just a bit of a response. If the merit and virtue of sitting in full lotus were spoken of in detail, and if its advantages were enumerated in detail, one couldn’t finish speaking to the ends of the bounds of the future.
Therefore, those who cultivate the Way should bear a short period of suffering in order to accomplish limitless, boundless merit and virtue. If you can’t endure this period of suffering, then you won’t be able to accomplish this unlimited merit and virtue.
So, force yourself to do the difficult. If you can sit in full lotus until it doesn’t hurt no matter how long you sit, then you certainly will be able to certify to the fruit. You’ll be able to certify to the sagely fruit without a shadow of a doubt because your skill will be mature. And when your skill is mature, it is impossible not to certify to the fruit of sagehood.
Good, now I’m going to give all of you a prediction. I hope that all of you will become Dhyana Masters pressured by suffering, Dhyana Masters pressured by tigers, Dharma Masters pressured by pain. What is meant by pressured by suffering? Well, attending a meditation session involves a lot of suffering. What we eat is very ordinary, and the Ch’an hall is cold. This makes it very bitter. But when you are smelted and refined in the bitterness, it then becomes very sweet. So it is said,
If the plum tree did not endure cold
that chills to the bone,
How could the fragrance of its blossoms
be so sweet?
So you can become Dhyana Masters pressured by suffering.
You can also become Dhyana masters pressured by tigers. We won’t speak of Dhyana Masters pressured by ghosts, we’ll be pressured by tigers. You look at a Ch’an hall, and it is as though there are tigers following along behind ready to bite you, to eat you. You think, “I’d better hurry up and concentrate on being vigorous because everyone here is like a tiger.” If you can become accomplished in the midst of this situation you will become a Dhyana Master pressured by Tigers, or a Dhyana Master Pressured by Pain.
You sit and your legs hurt. That pain is just to see if you have a true heart, see if you truly have the mind to cultivate the Way, truly have the mind to become a Buddha.
Do you want to become a Buddha? Then don’t be afraid of pain or suffering. If you’re afraid of pain you can’t become a Buddha. We can become Dhyana Masters pressured by pain. But then, thinking it over, being a Dhyana Master isn’t a very high position, so what we should become is Bodhisattvas pressured by suffering, Bodhisattvas pressured by tigers, bodhisattvas pressured by pain. And yet this still isn’t the ultimate goal.
Ultimately we must become Buddhas accomplished through the pressure of suffering, Buddhas accomplished through the pressure of tigers, and Buddhas accomplished through the pressure of pain. With those three criteria fulfilled, you are absolutely certain to become a Buddha.
Now, I have already transmitted predictions to all of you, so go ahead and cultivate! Someone is thinking, “There’s not much interesting about becoming a suffering Buddha.” Buddhas do not suffer. When you cultivate, it is suffering. When you become a Buddha, it is not.
Transformation Buddha Atop the Crown Hand and Eye
People of the Way with no minds, are you really without a mind? You should examine yourselves, ask yourselves, “Do I still have a mind?” Or, are you without a mind? Do you still have false thinking? Or, are you without false thinking? You should ask yourselves this every sitting period.
Do you just sit there and wait for the bell? Every sitting period do you sit there and think, “Wow, it’s Christmas time, and there’s a party at home. I wonder if they’re thinking of me, and the fact that I’m not at the party?” That’s false thinking. Is it possible that when you’re sitting there you think, “This year I wonder how many Christmas cards I’ll get? I wonder what will be painted on them? Or, perhaps you think, “Is someone going to write me a letter? Will someone call me on the phone?” These are all “having a mind,” and “having false thoughts”.
“In a little bit I think I’ll call up my father and mother and ask how they are.” That’s called false thinking. Or, perhaps you’re thinking, “I want to go home tomorrow and see my grandparents.” That’s why I say one novice is always returning to lay life, because he goes and sees his grandmother all the time. If you visit her and she can come to believe in the Buddha, that’s good; but, if she’s not converted and turns around and converts you, that’s not too good.
So we should take a look to see whether we have any false thinking. You’ve been working for so many days and still haven’t subdued your false thinking, so you should quickly think of a way to do so. In all the big monasteries in China, on the fourth day of a Ch’an session, instruction may be requested. If you have a certain experience—perhaps you see the Buddha, or you see a ghost, or you see some people—you can tell about it.
At Gold Mountain Monastery, we’re going to have instruction asked on the fifth day in the afternoon at three o’clock; whoever has had an experience that they haven’t understood can ask about it. If you understand it, then there’s no need to ask, no need to look for trouble. So, there’s a little difference between the rules at Gold Mountain and the rules at an ordinary monastery.
Last night I said, “When you develop your skill, you have to know the method for developing skill.” This is very important. This is as when eating a lichee nut one should peel it and then eat the nut meat inside, but one shouldn’t eat the kernel.
Cultivating the Way and eating things are the same. If you understand the nature of the thing you’re eating and how it should be eaten, then when you eat it, you won’t get sick. If you don’t understand how to eat—for instance, a lichee nut—you just swallow it whole. That’s like when monkey ate the ginseng fruit and didn’t know the flavor. He was so nervous that he just gulped it down whole, and then he turned around and said to piggy, “What’s its taste like?” So it’s said, “Monkey ate the ginseng fruit and didn’t know the flavor.”
This is the same as if you ate a lichee without peeling the skin and eating the nutmeat inside but swallowed it whole; not only would it be of no use to you, it would hurt you. There is no way you could digest it. And, although the seed inside the lichee is not as hard as vajra, it wouldnot be too easy to digest. So, in the same way, you must understand the method for cultivating. The ancients braved the seas and scaled the mountains in order to look for a Bright-Eyed One; that is, they looked for a Good Learned Advisor. But, they’re not easy to find. It is not easy to meet a Good Learned Advisor.
Now I’d like to tell you a story to illustrate how dangerous it is to cultivate when you are the blind leading the blind. Once, long ago, an old cultivator had cultivated until he had developed spiritual penetrations. What kind of spiritual penetrations did he have? He could, “…go out the mysterious and enter the female.” “…going out the mysterious…”means to send a little person out the top of your head. When the little person gets out there and the wind blows, he breaks loose; and once he breaks loose, he can go wherever he wants, a little like a kite, because the kite is up in the air but still attached by the string. So, when the old cultivator went out the mysterious and entered the female, he had a little string attached.
Now this string cannot be seen by ordinary flesh eyes. If you attain the five eyes, then you can see the string. And, when he went out, the string didn’t break; and, whenever he wanted to come back, he could. Because he could go out the mysterious and enter the female, he went everywhere roaming about, playing. This is truly the case of suddenly being in the heavens, suddenly being on earth, suddenly being a hungry ghost, suddenly being animal. He could go anywhere at all. Because he was a yin spirit, he couldn’t be seen by most people; but he could see people. He could go to a play and not have to buy a ticket; he could go to a movie and not have to buy a ticket; he could go to the ballet and not have to buy a ticket. Nowhere in the heavens, nowhere among men, could he not go.
He could go up to the heavens and check out the gods—how the gods danced, how fine their music was, and how the whole atmosphere of heaven was adorned and luxuriant. The flowers, grass, and trees were not the same as ours, and their fragrances were not known to human beings. A rare fragrance pervaded everywhere, unbeknownst to humans. He could go there whenever he wanted to and smell that fragrance, and look at the beautiful forms and listen to the sounds. Forms, sounds, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas—the sensuous delights of the six dusts. He enjoyed them again and again and was pretty self-satisfied. He always thought, “Look at me; I don’t have to buy tickets for anything I do. I can see all kinds of things really cheaply, with no money at all.” And he roamed around, taking in everything. He was in the playful samadhi.
One day, he was walking down a road with no hotels ahead and no inns behind, so he stopped at a temple to spend the night. In the temple lived an old bhiksu and a young shramanera. The old bhiksu was very compassionate. Although it was a small temple, the old bhiksu would allow passers-by to spend the night, and so he allowed the old cultivator to stay. He gave him a room to stay in. Once again the old cultivator brought forth his spiritual penetration, and the little man popped out of his head and ran off.
How far did he go this time? Well, for instance, he went from, say, China to America, or from America to India; he just went everywhere, playing around. He played so much that, after he got out, he forgot to come back. He roamed around and forgot to return. He got so engrossed in what he was experiencing outside, that he forgot to come back.
The old bhiksu and the small shramanera were the ones who were,
…in a dream transmitting a dream
so that one transmitted, and two
The master falls into hell, and the
disciple follows along respectfully.
Since they were that way, they didn’t know that when someone cultivated the Way, they could “…go out the mysterious and enter the female.”
In the morning the small shramanera went to call on the old cultivator, who had stayed overnight, to come and eat. He knocked on the door, but no one answered; so he went back and told the old bhiksu. The old bhiksu said, “Well, open the door and take a look.” He opened the door and looked…dead! The old cultivator was dead. He didn’t have any breath going in and out of his nostrils, and his mouth wasn’t open.
So, the little shramanera went running back and said to the old bhiksu, “Shih Fu, Shih Fu, that man’s already dead!” The old bhiksu said, “Oh, he’s died. Well, prepared a fire, and we’ll cremate him, then there won’t be any affair. If the officials were to find out, it would be something else; let’s hurry up and cremate him.” They were afraid that the local officials would find out and then come and bother them. So they took the corpse and burned it.
Of course, after it was burned, guess what happened? The little man came back. After “…going out the mysterious…,” the mysterious returned. When he got back, he couldn’t find his house. He said, “Where’s my house?” He couldn’t find it anywhere. The old bhiksu and the little shramanera could hear this person speaking, looking for his house, and it nearly scared them to death. It looked for its house by day, it looked for its house by night. It looked day, after day, after day, and the more it looked, the louder its voice got, until its voice was so loud that it was screaming day and night. The old bhiksu and the little shramanera thought, “Oh, it’s a ghost coming to bother us; we’re going to have to move. We have to get out of here; this place is unfit to live in.” They decided to move the next day, and they were about to renounce the little temple.
That night another old cultivator came who was probably a professional Ch’an sitter. He came there in the evening, looking for a place to stay overnight. He knocked on the door, and the little shramanera came and saw him and asked, “What do you want?”
The cultivator said “I’d like a place to stay tonight.”
“Sorry, we don’t take anybody overnight any more, because when people stay overnight, it brings a lot of trouble down on us. And now we have to move.”
The old cultivator said, “Well, you used to let people stay overnight.”
“Of course we did, and somebody who stayed overnight here died, and since then we’ve been trouble by a ghost.”
The old cultivator said, “Oh, so you’ve an old obnoxious ghost, huh? Well, I’m pretty proficient with ghosts. Go tell your Shih Fu that I can take care of ghosts.”
The little shramanera heard this and thought, “Oh, he can take care of ghosts; well—maybe.” So he went back in and told his Shih Fu, “Shih Fu, Shih Fu, somebody wants to stay overnight here. He says that he can take care of ghosts!”
His teacher said, “Ah, he just wants a place to stay. What do you mean he can take care of ghosts? He’s just putting you on. Just the same, if he can take care of ghosts, let’s try him out.” So they let the old cultivator stay.
The old cultivator said, “Take me to the room where the ghost is, and I’ll stay there.” So they took him to that room, and he could hear the ghost talking, looking for his house. “Who took my house?” He was looking for his body, of course. They had taken his body away. So the cultivator told the small shramanera to prepare a pan of water and a brazier of fire. When it was all prepared, he heard the ghost calling out and said to the ghost, “Your house is in the water.”
The ghost went down into the water and searched all around. “But it’s not here, it’s not in the water.”
The old cultivator said, “Oh, if it is not in the water, it certainly must be in the fire. Go look in the fire for it.”
The ghost was very obedient, he offered up his conduct in accord with the teaching. So he plunged into the fire, searched around—scraped around all the coals and fire—but couldn’t find it. So he got out and said, “No, it’s not there. My house isn’t in the brazier of fire.”
And the old cultivator said, “Say, old fellow-cultivator, old fellow-Ch’anist, you’ve just entered the water and not drowned, you’ve just entered the fire and not been burned. Why in the world are you still looking for your house?”
After he said that, the ghost woke up. After that, he didn’t trouble them any more. Thank goodness that this old cultivator who knew how to go out the mysterious and enter the female met somebody who really knew Ch’an, thus becoming awakened. If he hadn’t met up with this person who really knew Ch’an, he probably would have gotten angry and fallen. There’s nothing fixed about it. But, of course, this is just a story.
That is a public record, which explains the principle. That is, it’s telling you not to study going out the mysterious and entering the female, not to learn that dharma door. What you want to learn is how not to go out, how not to enter—how not to be produced, how not to be extinguished, how not to be defiled and not be pure, how not to increase and decrease, how not to be born and die. That’s the dharma door that you should cultivate.
Don’t go off to see free movies, free plays, and free concerts, figuring that you’re getting off real cheap. Don’t be greedy for these cheap things. You want to be able in a hair pore to manifest a precious Buddha Land, to sit in a mote of dust and turn the great Dharma Wheel. If you can reach that level of accomplishment, that is true freedom. That is really having it made. Then you can go anywhere you want, and it’s no problem, not difficult at all.
When you are confused,
ten thousand books are too few.
When you are enlightened,
one word is too much.
When you are confused, you read: one book is not sufficient; two books, still not enough; three books, not satisfactory. You read a thousand books, ten thousand books and still it’s not enough.
After you have become enlightened, one word is more than enough. When you awaken you’ll find that the entire Treasury of Sutras is within your own self-nature. There isn’t anything outside. When you realize that, one word is too much. It’s laboring the point.
What’s spoken is Dharma,
What’s practiced is the Way.
We still have to undergo a little more bitterness.
Transformation Palace Hand and Eye
This Ch’an session is very convenient. Everyone gets to develop his own skill and he can also have false thinking. The more false thinking you have, the better. The bigger it is, the better. It’s just to be feared that you won’t have any false thinking. If you don’t have false thinking, then you become stagnant and don’t have any accomplishment. It is said, “Dragons cannot live in stagnant water.” Even, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” is false thinking. And that is a particularly fierce false thought—a particularly big one. It’s the very worst false thought.
But the worst can turn into the best. The biggest can turn into the smallest. When you reach the ultimate point, when you’ve had false thinking to the ultimate extent and looked at the false thinking to see where the root is, that’s called using the Vajra King’s Sword. “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” That one word “who?” penetrates the heavens and pierces the earth. It pervades the Dharma Realm to the ends of empty space. It’s all the word “who.”
So the bigger the false thought of the word “who” is, the better. It’s just to be feared you won’t pull it up, bring it forth. Your Vajra King’s Sword is just your Wisdom Sword. Wielding your Wisdom Sword you can cut off all affliction. And the severing of afflictions is just Bodhi. So, in most Ch’an halls you are told that it’s not good to have false thinking. But with us here, false thinking is good.
Well, is it good not to have false thinking? That’s also good. If you don’t have any false thinking, then you don’t have to work so much: you can rest. I remember a Ch’an Session in Hong Kong at Ta Yű Mountain. An illiterate layman attended. Someone told him to investigate “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” What do you suppose he did? He was extremely intelligent. When he heard “Who is mindful of the Buddha?”, what do you suppose he did? He recited “Pa Shih Tzu Sui—84 years old.” He misunderstood the words and so instead of saying, “Who’s mindful of the Buddha?” he kept saying, “Eighty-four years old, eighty-four years old.” He wanted to live to be that old, but as to how old he lived to be, I don’t know. So it is with us here: some have skill and they can plant a Vajra seed, plant a Bodhi seed. Those without skill, are they useless? They also can plant a Vajra seed.
Long ago an old cultivator became enlightened. And after he was enlightened he took a look ahead and he took a look behind. What kind of a person was he before? You’ll never guess. He had been a tou fou seller; he sold bean cake. Long ago in the past he had been a bean cake vender. After he had finished selling his tou fou, he’d go to the Ch’an Hall and sit in meditation. While he was sitting in meditation he would figure out his tou fu accounts. Eventually, he spoke a verse. What did the verse say? Well now though it wasn’t extremely subtle, it also wasn’t particularly coarse. Now for a tou fu vender to be able to write verses, if that isn’t enlightenment, then what is?
It’s not strange that in the Ch’an Hall,
everyone’s looking for ‘Who.’
Ten thousand Kalpas of unpaid accounts,
everybody’s trying to find out ‘who.’
All I’ve done is sit here for half an hour.
And I’ve figured out several years of tou fu accounts.
He said, “I’m a tou fu vender and I’ve gone to the Ch’an Hall to sell tou fu and the monk who went off to the kitchen to get the money took an awfully long time. So I was there in the Ch’an Hall waiting, and what did I see everybody doing? All those monks are saying, “Who, who, who?” And when he saw that everything was “Who?”, he then sat down in meditation and started to figure out “who?”, who owed him money for their tou fu? “Say, five or six years ago there was that man named Ma, and he bought ten cakes of tou fu and didn’t give me anything for them. Four or five years ago Li Ch’ui Tzu bought five cakes of tou fu from me and he didn’t give me any money either. How is it that I haven’t thought of that for so many years now? Wow, it’s really good to sit here in the Ch’an Hall. If I hadn’t been sitting here investigating dhyana and trying to find out ‘who,’ how could I ever have caught up on my tou fu books? This is unspeakably wonderful.”
He was very happy and so he wrote this verse. He said that it’s not strange that everyone’s looking for “who, who, who?” Now I realize that wonderful secret. Probably for limitless kalpas past, till now, people are indebted to them and they are figuring out “who.” “Ten thousand kalpas of unpaid accounts—everybody’s trying to find out ‘who.’” Year by year, year by year, as the years accumulated into ten thousand kalpas, they still hadn’t figured out “who” owed them money. Now if they sat in the Ch’an Hall they were NaMwoing themselves, praying to themselves, saying “who.” “Who” owes me money? “Who” hasn’t returned things that they borrowed? Probably that’s what they are all looking for. They’re reconciling their accounts. So he speaks again, he’s manifesting a body to speak the Dharma here and he says, “All I’ve done is sit here for half an hour and I’ve figured out several years of bean curd accounts.” Now I can go collect all these past debts on my bean curd. I can seek them out.
See how fine that verse is. Now this is no joke, it’s true. Now it isn’t that he wrote this verse and that was the end of it. It wasn’t as simple as that. After that, every day he went and investigated dhyana. He investigated until the books were all finished. He didn’t have any more outstanding accounts for his tou fu. Then he thought, “Say, last life, who still owes me money for my tou fu? And the life before that, who never paid up on their tou fu?” He investigated like that. He investigated and planted a vajra seed. So then this life he went back to the Ch’an Hall, but it wasn’t to reckon his tou fu accounts. It’s because before, he planted the seed there. So he went back there to sit in meditation. And this time when he investigated dhyana his opportunities were ripe and he suddenly had a great enlightenment. “Oh, originally this is what I was all about.”
Now you take a look. Ultimately, what are you all about? You should open your five eyes and then you can take a look and you can find out. Who was my mama, who was my daddy, who are my flesh and blood, my closest relatives, and how does it come about that I have gotten here to Gold Mountain together with these people, sitting and then walking, walking and then sitting? “Oh, before he was my father. Oh, before she was my mother, and that one was my brother, and that was my younger brother and all those “accounts” from past lives’ cause and effect, you will understand. You should all find out the relationships in the cycle of cause and effect that you have been involved in from limitless kalpas until the present, life after life. And then work very hard developing your skill. If you work very hard in developing your skill you will open enlightenment and know, “Oh, originally I had made a vow to help the Master come to America to propagate the Buddhadharma! Oh, originally that’s the way it was. Oh!”
So in cultivation it is important to be vigorous, courageous, and not lax or lazy, but just go forward and cultivate, just as when you plant things. When you’ve planted the ground then you have to fertilize it, water it, care for it, and then you will get a harvest. If you plant the seed and you don’t give it any water, or any earth, don’t put it where it will get sunlight and all the other conditions necessary, it will not grow. Our cultivation of the Way is also like that.
Our sitting in the Ch’an Hall is planting a vajra seed. Once the vajra seed is planted you should practice giving, and you should hold the precepts, you should be patient, you should be vigorous, you should have ch’an samadhi, and prajna wisdom. With the water of prajna you should constantly nourish it, use the strength of vigor to constantly tend it. In this way, sooner or later, the vajra seed will sprout. If you sit in ch’an one day and plant the seed and then don’t pay any attention to it after that, although you can say in the future that it will come up, one doesn’t know how long it will take.
People who cultivate the Way shouldn’t be too hasty. If you’re too hasty, it’s as if you planted the fields and couldn’t wait and said, “Oh why haven’t the seeds, the grain that I planted ripened? I planted the seeds.” Then you’ll be like the man from Sung, the Chinese person who helped his plants grow. He went off to his field and he took every sprout and pulled it up an inch, helping them grow an inch taller. He worked all day at helping them each grow an inch and that night he went home and he said to his wife and son, “Today I’m really tired.” He said, “Today I’ve just been through too much because I’ve been helping these sprouts grow. All those seeds we planted, I’ve helped them grow.”
His son heard that and he said, “When did my father learn about such a scientific method? How can he help the sprouts grow? That’s strange, that’s very unusual. If there’s this scientific method to help the sprouts grow, then every year we can plant several crops. This father’s really a fine father. My fathers scholarship is out-of-sight. He could be a scientist!” Because he thought that way he decided to go see what his father had done, to check out his talent and see how he made the sprouts grow. So he didn’t even wait until the next day. That very night he went out to investigate the field and have a look for himself. And when he looked, what do you suppose he saw? Not only had the sprouts not grown, they had withered. They were dead.
So he went back and he said to his father, “I thought you had some scientific method to cause the sprouts to grow but the dumb method you have is impossible. How could you be so dumb as to try to help the sprouts grow like that?” The father didn’t believe him, “How could it turn out that way? I helped everyone of them grow an inch higher. I’ll go back and check it out tomorrow. You’re lying you lazy bum.” The next day the scientific father went out to his field to look, “Oh, how have you all ended up like that? I helped you all grow and you’re not growing.” If you cultivate the Way and you want to be quick about it, it’s just like trying to help the sprouts grow. So it says, “It won’t work to try to help the sprouts grow.” It is also said, “Don’t try to be too quick. If you’re too quick you’ll never get there.” If you’re too quick about it, you won’t have any accomplishment.
So in cultivation of the Way, you cultivate today, you cultivate tomorrow, and the next day you still cultivate, year in and year out, it’s all cultivation. So it’s said, “In the morning it’s this way, in the evening it’s this way.” In the morning you must cultivate the Way, at night you must cultivate the Way and then after a while you will accomplish the Way.
Somebody says, “But the Ch’an Sect is the sudden teaching, the sudden dharma, instantaneous realization of Buddhahood, immediate enlightenment. The Sixth Patriarch transmitted the Sudden Teaching.” Sudden what? What’s meant by sudden? Speak up and tell me. You say, “Well it’s becoming enlightened very fast.” You know that now, at present, his enlightenment is sudden. How do you know he’s not like the man who sold tou fu, who in the past went into the Ch’an Hall and reckoned his tou fu accounts? Perhaps he had already cleared up his tou fu accounts and so now he is also clear about the causes and effects of the accounts of past lives and so he has become enlightened.
In the past, the first time I read TheSixth Patriarch Sutra, I discussed this question with others. At the time I was seventeen. I saw that the Sixth Patriarch Sutra talked about sudden and gradual, the Southern Sudden School, and the Northern Gradual School, “Southern Neng, Northern Hsiu.” Since, at the time, I was still attached to the mark of literature, I wrote a matched couplet. What did the couplet say?
Although Sudden and Gradual are different,
Upon completion they are one.
Why make divisions of north and south?
Sagely and common are temporarily different,
The basic nature is absolutely the same.
Do not discuss east and west.
“Although Sudden and Gradual are different,” Although the Sudden Teaching and the Gradual Teaching are not the same, Sudden is immediate enlightenment. Gradual is slow enlightenment. When you look at their manifestations they seem to be two, not the same. “Upon completion they are one.” When you come to accomplishment they are the same. With the Sudden there is enlightenment and with the Gradual there is enlightenment. With the Sudden the time’s a little shorter. With the Gradual the time is a little longer.
But the Sudden doesn’t stand sudden all by itself. It exists because of the Gradual. This means that in the past one cultivated and one nourished and tended one’s seeds until they reached maturity, so in this life the opportunities have arrived and one opens enlightenment. If one had not cultivated in the past and had no collateral for oneself, how could one go into business? How could one become enlightened?
The eyes of ordinary people who are unaware of former causes and latter effects don’t see how he nourished and tended his good roots in past lives—all they see is that he became enlightened at this time. And so they say it is sudden. This is called “for the sake of the sudden dispensing the gradual, opening the gradual to manifest the sudden.” In the Tien Tai Sect they say, “for the sake of the actual dispensing the provisional,” “opening the provisional to manifest the actual.”
I still remember when the Elder Dharma master Chin Ch’ien lectured Sutras, he would close his eyes and chant, “For the sake of the actual, dispensing the provisional, then the provisional is included within the actual. Opening the provisional to manifest the actual, then the actual is functioning within the provisional.” He recited the commentaries from memory and he could recite them quite correctly. Sudden and Gradual are also like this—they are the same doctrine as, “For the sake of the actual manifesting the provisional.”
So I said, “Upon completion they are one.” When you reach accomplishment they are both one and the same. “Why make divisions of north and south?” Don’t say which one is the Northern Gradual School and which one is Southern Sudden School. It’s just a temporary appearance and that’s all. How do you know that in the future the Sudden won’t go north? How do you know that in the future the Gradual won’t go south?
When I heard the Elder Dharma Master Tse Kuo lecture The Vajra Sutra, he moved the Sixth Patriarch to the north. He said, “The Sixth Patriarch was a Northerner and how can you Northerners become enlightened?” The Elder Dharma Master was indulging in a little bit of banter but at the time I didn’t understand so after that I asked the Elder Dharma Master, “When did you move the Sixth Patriarch up to the north, Elder Master?”
So the verse says, “Although Sudden and Gradual are different/Upon completion they are one./ Why make divisions of north and south?” Don’t have so many discriminations and discuss north and south. The second line of the rhymed couplet says, “Sagely and common are temporarily different.” “The sagely and common are temporarily different,/ The basic nature is absolutely the same.” The basic nature is the Buddha Nature. No matter whether you’re a common person or a sage, you have the Buddha Nature. Their basic nature is absolutely the same.
The Buddha said it very clearly, “All living beings have the Buddha Nature, all can become Buddhas.” It’s just a matter of time, that’s all. Confusion and awakening may be slow or quick. And the last part of the rhymed couplet says, “Do not discuss east or west.” Don’t say that in the west is the Land of Ultimate Bliss and in the east is the Crystal Azure World and the Saha World. Don’t make so many discriminations.
So it says, “Do not discuss east and west.” That’s the kind of madness that I indulged in when I was seventeen. I spoke like this. I hope you Americans won’t follow me in going mad like this, raving like a maniac. If you want to speak mad talk you must first be a madman which means that first you have to run around the Ch’an Hall for a while. And if you don’t want to, you can just sit there for eighty thousand great kalpas and try it out.
White Whisk Hand and Eye
Striking up a Ch’an Session in the Ch’an Hall is just like being beaten. When you are beaten by someone, it hurts. Now all of you are having a war with your legs. Your legs are out to get you; they don’t want you to participate in the session, and your back is forming an alliance with your legs, saying, “Fine, let’s not participate in the session.” The legs hurt and the back goes along and hurts too. It feels just as though you were being beaten. But, if you have patience and are not afraid of the pain, the pain will be defeated. And, once defeated, it won’t hurt.
Why does it hurt when we sit here? Why should one sit in meditation? Sitting in meditation subdues the mind. When we sit we cause all the energy and blood in the body to return to its original source. And, we cause all the apertures which have not been passed to be penetrated through. Of all the places in your veins where the blood ordinarily does not flow, it is forced to flow there now. So, just as you’re sitting here your blood and energy are traveling around.
Usually, when we are walking, lying down, or just sitting for not such extended periods of time, the blood and energy just travel along their ordinary routes of circulation. But, sitting as we are now will cause all the obstructed places to be penetrated through. It is like in water pipes—in some places the water flows through; in some other places the water’s stopped up, it can’t flow through.
Now, in the way we are sitting, the blood and energy will all penetrate through, especially if you sit in full lotus position. When you sit that way, it’s not easy for the blood and energy to flow through your legs, so you feel pain. If you apply your skill to this pain, when the time comes, quite naturally there won’t be any more pain. At that time the final victor is you.
Speaking on this point, I remember in Manchuria there was a man name Kuan Chung Hsi, and he lived near me in Pei Yin Ho near to the mountains. Because he was a mountain person, his knee caps were really big. He was a master of an outside way sect. It was the Way of Shou Yuan, and he had more than three thousand disciples. But, he himself knew that the outside sect didn’t pass the test, it was not ultimate. So he resolved to go everywhere seeking the Way.
Now, in Manchuria when I was there, there were many different, strange sects and outside-way sects. There was the Shou Yuan Tao, and the Yu Shu Men and the Ru I Men, there were a lot of them. It would be impossible to name all the outside-Way sects. Now I’ll tell you something, I have looked into all those outside-Way sects. I have attended them all. So, this person went everywhere looking for the Way, trying to find a Good Knowing Advisor. This persisted for several years, and he still hadn’t found anyone.
One day I went to his home. Prior to my visit, a strange thing happened. He had a nephew called Kuan Chan Hai who at the time was 21 or 22 years old, and when I arrived at his house the nephew asked his uncle. “Do you recognize that person?” The uncle said, “I know of him. I knew of him before he practiced filial piety, but have never met him; I still know who he is.”
His nephew said, “Last night I had a dream and in my dream that man came and together you and I knelt before him and sought the Way. There I was seeking the Way, and that man placed his hand on my head and ripped a piece of skin off from my head clear to my feet, all the way off my body. Then, he put that piece of skin on the ground, and when I looked at it do you know what kind of skin it was? It was the skin of a pig.” The uncle said, “Really? Why, the Way has been brought to our very household! Let’s hurry up and seek the Way.”
So, the two of them knelt before me seeking the Way. I say, “What are you doing, what Way are you seeking from me? You’re really muddled. What Way do I have? The only Way I know is eating and sleeping, nothing else, but I can introduce you to a few Good Knowing Advisors. You can see which Good Knowing Advisor possesses the Way, and you can seek it from him.” I said, “Now before we go to see any Good Knowing Advisors, I will first teach you a method for developing your skill. What is it? You should first practice sitting in full lotus.”And I showed him how to do it, and he could do it.
I said, “If you practice sitting in full lotus until it doesn’t hurt, then I will take you around to seek the Way, visiting Good Knowing Advisors.” I taught him how to pull his legs up into full lotus and how he should hold his body erect, not leaning backward or forward, not putting his head down or holding it up, not acting like he was spineless, that he should keep his back erect to show that he had determination. I taught him that method, and he took it up and began to practice.
After 70 days I returned to his house, and I saw his knee caps—originally they were big, but by now they were huge! They were swollen to two or three times their original size. He couldn’t even walk, in fact. I said. “What have you done?” He said, “I’ve been practicing sitting in full lotus, and I’ve practiced to the point that I can’t even walk. I can’t even step over a cart-rut on the road. I can’t even step over the door sill.”
I said, “Oh, if that’s the way it is, you’d better not practice this method. That’s too much suffering for you.”
He said, “Not practice sitting that way? I could die, and that would be all right. But it wouldn’t be all right to stop practicing sitting this way. I’ve made a vow; I’m determined to perfect sitting in full lotus.”
I said, “It’s too unbearable, the way you are now.”
He said, “Well, I have to bear what can’t be borne.”
I heard that, and I knew that there was a bit of potential here. I said, “Okay, if you’re not afraid to die, then go ahead and practice.” Then I left. After 100 days, I returned again and saw him. This time his legs were back to normal. The swelling had gone down, and he was walking. They weren’t swollen any more. I said, “Well, what about it. Did you stop your practice, huh?”
He said, “No, I perfected it. It doesn’t hurt any more. After you’d left, gradually as I sat the swelling began to go down, and it didn’t hurt any more. So, now I sit very well.”
So, then I taught him how to develop his skill in cultivation. He cultivated for about three years, and after that he predicted his own passing. He knew three months ahead of his own death. He told those in his family that at such and such a time he was going to “pass into extinction.” And he said, “The thing I regret most is that I haven’t seen so-and-so.” He was referring to me. He would have been most happy if he could have seen me. On that day, as predicted, he just sat there and completed the stillness. In his village many, many people had a dream in which they saw him, accompanied by two youths in dark colored robes, going toward the west.
Now, that person basically was from an outside-Way sect, but he realized that he should seek the Proper Dharma. Afterwards, he was able to not fear suffering. He did not fear the pain. Although his legs swelled up, he would rather have died than to discontinue his cultivation, practicing how to sit in meditation. As a result, he had some accomplishment. If at the point when his legs were so swollen he had not continued to practice, I believe he would not have had such a level of accomplishment.
So, people who cultivate the Way must bear a certain period of suffering and pain in order to certify to inexhaustible bliss. If you don’t bear the pain and suffering, if you don’t bear a temporary period of pain, you won’t attain eternal bliss. I know there are an awful lot of people who when they sit, relax their legs, or stretch them out. A lot of people can’t keep their legs up when they’re sitting, so I’ve told you about Kuan Chung Hsi, so that he can act as a model. His kind of practice can be a model for us. If we truly wish to attain samadhi and wisdom, we’ll certainly have to endure a period of pain in order to accomplish eternal bliss.
Moreover, people who cultivate the Way should not be arrogant, should not be self-satisfied, should not feel, “I am better than anybody. My scholarship is better than anyone else’s; my cultivation is better than anyone else’s; my Way virtue is higher than anyone else’s.” If you are full of self, it is truly a great obstruction to cultivation of the Way.
So, it’s said, “ The arrogant come to harm; the modest receive benefit.” This is not just speaking for those who have cultivated for 2½ days and sat for five minutes and haven’t any particular accomplishment, this is also for those with accomplishment. They should act in such a way that, “what exists is as if non-existent, and what is real is as if false.” If you have it, it should be as if you didn’t have it. If you have it as if you didn’t, then you won’t be full of self, “real as if false.” Basically you have genuine talent, but you act as if you didn’t have any talent at all.
In Hu Nan, at Mt. Wei, the Old Man of Mount Wei was living in a hut there. One day the official P’ei Hsiu came to see him: When he saw the kind of hut the old man was living in, which was all broken down, Minister P’ei was moved and said, “I’m going to give you three hundred pounds of silver, you can repair your hut.” There wasn’t really any place in the hut, so he set the three hundred pounds of silver down in some deep grass in front of the hut. Three years later, Minister P’ei came back to pay another call on the Old Man. He saw that the hut was just the same, causing him to wonder about the Old Man of Mt. Wei. What were his doubts about? He thought,
“Oh, he just intentionally lives in this old hut so that people will make offerings to him. He didn’t fix up his hut after all! I gave him three hundred pounds of silver. He could have built a whole big monastery with that amount. I wonder what he’s done with the three hundred pounds of silver? I wonder why he didn’t make the temple?” So, he asked the Old Man. He said, “Old Cultivator, three years ago I gave you three hundred pounds of silver and told you to build a temple. You didn’t build the temple; what did you do with the silver?”
The Old Man of Mount Wei said, “Ohhh, silver? Where did you put it?”
He said, “I put it in the grass outside the door.”
The Old Man said, “Well, go look for it out in the grass.”
Minister Pei went and looked in the grass, and right there were the three hundred pounds of silver. The Old Man hadn’t even moved them. The grass had protected it very well, better than in a strong box or a safe.
Minister Pei said, “That’s great cultivation. He didn’t even acknowledge the three hundred pounds of silver, and it’s been sitting in the grass for three years. Okay, now I’ll build him a monastery.”
He used a lot of money and built a monastery on Mount Wei, which could house a thousand people. It could hold a thousand Bhiksus. It was really strange. While the Old Man was living in the old hut, nobody came to see him, but as soon as there was this big monastery—a Ten Direction-Bodhimanda—people came and went; two or three thousand bhikshus came. At that time you had to carry the water and chop the wood. Even the wood choppers alone numbered several dozen, and those who carried water were quite a few.
Now at the time, Minister Pei had a son, and the son saw all those monks there, and he too wanted to leave home. Minister Pei thought it over. He knew that as an official, the obstacles he had created were not few; if his son left home, it would take care of a few of his offenses—it would lighten his load of karmic offences.
So he said, “Good, good, good.” He was very much in favor of his son leaving home. Now his son was a high-ranking scholar, and the Minister went to the Old Man of Mount Wei and said that his son wanted to bow to the Old Man of Mount Wei as his Master and leave home.
And the Old Man of Mount Wei said, “Fine, your son wants to leave home. Originally he’s a high-ranking scholar; when he comes here he should practice bitter practices, ascetic practices. One rule we have here is that before leaving the home-life people must first practice ascetic practices.”
To the son he said, “Be an ascetic. Let’s see, what shall you do? You can carry water. The work of carrying water is very important, and you can’t be lazy, because if you’re lazy, there won’t be enough water for people to drink.”
So, the son got up at two-thirty in the morning and carried water and worked until ten o’clock at night. People were in the Ch’an Hall having Ch’an Sessions, and he was having “water-carrying sessions.” From morning until night he carried water. He never rested. He ate in a hurry, never having quite enough time. He carried water that way for three years. All he ever did was to carry water; he had never even seen the inside of the Ch’an Hall.
One day he said to himself, “Gee, I see all those people going in and out of the Ch’an Hall; what are they doing in there? I think I’ll go take a look.” So he went to look around and said, “Ahhh, so what they’ve been doing all this time is sitting here sleeping. I’ve been carrying all that water for all you non-cultivators. You’re supposed to be cultivators, and all you do is sit there sleeping. It’s been so bitter for me, and you’ve got it so comfortable. You’ve been sitting in here sleeping.” He was very upset.
Now, the Old Man of Mount Wei was a Bright-Eyed Good Knowing Advisor, and he knew that the son had had that false thought. And so, he summoned him to the Abbot’s room and said to him, “You haven’t carried your water well. You say that all these people are just sitting here sleeping. Today you have violated the rules of this monastery. I’m kicking you out. You can’t stay here any longer.”
Minister Pei’s son, whose name was Fa Hai, said, “What rule have I broken?”
The Old Man of Mount Wei said, “You went into the Ch’an Hall, and you said that everybody was sleeping, and you, a scholar, could not quite bear the job of carrying water to nourish them. Because you had that false thought you have to leave. You should know that for every period of sitting, an old member of the Sangha can digest ten thousand pounds of gold. Compared to that what does a stinking scholar like you who’s carried a few buckets of water have to offer? And yet you dare to go ahead and have such false thoughts. Okay, now I’m kicking you out. Get out!”
Fa Hai thought to beseech him, but when he took a look, he saw that the Old Man of Mount Wei was particularly severe and stern, and he knew that there weren’t any two ways about it.
“So, where should I go? I haven’t got any money.”
The Old Man of Mount Wei said, “Okay, I’ve got eight and a half dollars here. Just keep going till you reach the place where you’ve used up those eight and a half dollars, then just live there.” Fa Hai took those eight and a half dollars but didn’t dare use them because what would he do when he used them up? So everywhere he went he begged.
He begged his way from Hunan to Hupei, from Nanking to Chenkiang. When he arrived at Chenkiang, he wanted to go look at a mountain, but he had to first cross a river. The boat-man didn’t want any more or any less money, he wanted just eight and a half dollars. So Fa Hai used the eight and a half dollars to take the ferry, and when he arrived at Gold Mountain—well at that time it wasn’t called Gold Mountain, it was just a mountain in Chenkiang—he climbed the mountain and lived there.
And, while he was there, he came upon two barrels of gold. He found them in a cave, now called Fa Hai cave. Once he found those two barrels of gold, he used them to build Chiang T’ien Monastery on Gold Mountain, which became one of the most famous monasteries in China.
And here we have some of you who have Ph. D.’s and some of you have Masters, some of you are Graduates—a lot of you are more or less like that scholar, and yet you haven’t been carrying water here. Don’t go looking outside for Gold Mountain. This is Gold Mountain. So while you’re here in this Gold Mountain, you should obtain some of the precious things it has to offer. What’s that? You should become enlightened here in Gold Mountain Monastery. You should develop your skill very well. Become one of the first to be enlightened at Gold Mountain Monastery.
Jeweled Sutra Hand and Eye
Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang
The merit and virtue of Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang’s contribution to Chinese Buddhism is limitless and boundless. But, originally there wasn’t any difference between him and those of us now. He was a person, and we are people. It’s just that he has already accomplished his virtuous karma. We here now hope in the future to accomplish our virtuous karma. So it is appropriate to use the Dharma Master as a very fine mirror. If we can take Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang as our model, if we can make him our mirror, then we can cause our originally existent wisdom to appear and our originally existent merit and virtue to appear.
Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang made a vow to go to India to seek the sutras, to seek the Buddhadharma. Before he began the expedition, he used to practice mountain-climbing in his home. He knew that the route to India passed through many mountains, so in his rooms he practiced climbing mountains. Now most people couldn’t figure out what he was doing. They thought that he was just playing around. How did he manage to practice mountain climbing in his room? He took the benches and tables and piled them up like a mountain. Then he would jump from one bench to the next, and from that bench he’d jump to a table. Every day he practiced like that as if he was learning Kung Fu; in his room he used the tables and chairs to make a mountain, and he climbed them until he more or less had the knack. Then he went out and found some high mountains and climbed them. And his several years of practicing mountain-climbing paid off.
With his mountain-climbing skills pretty much perfected, he asked T’ang Emperor, T’ai Tsung, for permission to go to India to seek the sutras. T’ang T’ai Tsung was a firm believer in the Buddhadharma. But, when he thought about it, he realized that the road from China to India was very long, and if he was to give his permission, the country would have to offer its aid, so he decided not to give permission. Now, T’ang T’ai Tsung, though he was said to be a fair ruler, was probably a bit stingy. His blessings were full, and he had plenty of whatever he wanted, but he still wasn’t satisfied; he wanted to keep the money of the empire to himself, he didn’t want to give it away. So he didn’t give his permission.
However, Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang said, “Well, if you give permission I’ll go, and if you don’t give permission I’ll still go, so he slipped across the border and snuck out. When he got to the border, he stole his way across and took the road through Siberia to India, and as to the dangers on that road, it would be difficult to speak of them in a few words. So we’re not going to dwell on the dangers. What is essential here is to talk about the one who knew his sound. Who was this one who knew his sound?
When Hsuan Tsang had been walking—it’s not known how many days he’d been walking—he arrived at a mountain and saw a cave which was laden with bat droppings. It is also not know how many spider webs there were. He figured that nobody lived in the cave, but after walking in he saw a weird creature. What was this weird creature like? The hair on his head was matted together like a big lump which must have weighed several tens of pounds. There was a bird’s nest on top of his head. Not only had the birds built a nest on his head, but there were little birds in the nest chirping. The dust on his clothing was probably three inches thick, and there was a lot of dirt on his face; he seemed like a stone-man, though he wasn’t really made of stone. He looked like he might have been carved out of wood, and yet that wasn’t quite right either.
And, then Hsuan Tsang suddenly realized, “Oh, that’s an old cultivator, and he’s entered the mindless samadhi here.” So he tried to think of a way to bring him out of samadhi. He happened to have a hand-bell, so he rang it. The first time he rang the bell, he didn’t break the samadhi, and when he rang it the second time the cultivator still didn’t come out of samadhi. He’d entered the mindless samadhi too deeply. It wasn’t so easy to come back. It wasn’t like here where as soon as the hand-bell is rung all the people who are meditating say “E mi to Fo!” Why do they want to utter the name of Amitabha Buddha? Because they’ve been waiting for that bell for an hour, and now finally it’s been rung, so this is obviously a response from Amitabha Buddha.
After he hit the bell three times, he brought the old cultivator out of samadhi. The old cultivator tried to move his lips, but his words wouldn’t come out. Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang asked him, “Old Cultivator, what are you doing here?”
He seemed to be a man, and yet wasn’t! You could say that he was a ghost, but he wasn’t. If you said he was stone, he wasn’t stone, and you couldn’t really say that he was wood either. After all, his lips were moving; but when he spoke it wasn’t very clear. He said, “I-I-I’m woo-woo-waiting fo-for the Re-Red Yang Buddha to-to co-come into the world. I-I’m going to-to-he-help him propogate the Buddhadharma.”
Now, Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang was quite intelligent, and although it wasn’t so easy, he understood what the old-timer was saying. “Oh, he’s waiting for the Red Yang Buddha to come into the world.”
So he said, “Oh, Dharma Brother, the Red Yang Buddha has already come into the world.”
The old cultivator heard that and said, “Oh, when did the Red Yang Buddha come into the world?”
The great Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang said, “He came into the world over 1,000 years ago. In fact the Buddha entered nirvana quite long ago.”
The old cultivator said, “Well, if the Red Yang Buddha has already entered nirvana, I’ll just go back into samadhi and wait for the White Yang Buddha to come into the world.”
Now, the Red Yang Buddha is Sakyamuni Buddha, and the White Yang Buddha is the Buddha of the future, the venerable Maitreya. The Green Yang Buddha was Dipankara, the “burning lamp” Buddha.
The old cultivator wanted to go back into samadhi, whereupon the great Master Hsuan Tsang said, “Hey, old fellow cultivator, don’t go back into samadhi. If you go back into samadhi, then you won’t know when the White Yang Buddha comes into the world either. You’ll miss it by several years again.”
And the old cultivator said, “Well, if I don’t go back into samadhi, what am I going to do?”
“Ah, you ask what you can do? You can help me propogate the Buddhadharma.”
“How am I going to help propogate it?”
The great Master Hsuan Tsang said, “The Red Yang Buddha has already entered nirvana, but the Buddhadharma is still in the world. You can now go to China to Ch’ang An and be reborn there. Become a young person there, and wait there while I go to India for the sutras to bring back to China. Then, we can together propagate the Buddhadharma. You can make that vow.”
The old cultivator listened to this advice. Probably he had become a bit impatient with his sitting. He’d entered the no-thought samadhi, and he didn’t know anything at all. Eventually he agreed and said to Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang, “Fine, I’ll go.”
Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang said, “When you get to Ch’ang An, take a look and see which house has yellow tiles on the roof, and be reborn there.”
The old cultivator left, and the Great Master Hsuan Tsang went on to India to get the sutras. His whole trip took some fourteen or fifteen years. On the day when T’ang Emperor T’ai Tsung saw the needles on the pine tree all pointing west—whereas they ordinarily they pointed east—he knew that he had an appointment to keep. That is because before Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang left for India, he wrote a letter to T’ang Emperor T’ai Tsung in which he said, “When you notice the needles on the pine trees pointing west, you’ll know that I’ve come back.” And on that day the pine tree’s branches were pointing west. So, T’ang Emperor T’ai Tsung saw that the pine needles were bending west, and he went to welcome Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang.
When Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang saw T’ang Emperor T’ai Tsung, he congratulated him, saying, “Best wishes to you, T’ai Tsung. You have an extremely intelligent son, and I should congratulate you.”
T’ang Emperor T’ai Tsung didn’t know what this was all about, and he said, “What are you talking about?”
Hsuan Tsang answered, “In the first year after I left China, the emperor had a son, an heir to the throne, who must be over ten by now.”
T’ang Emperor T’ai Tsung said, “No,”
Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang said, “No? Well, that can’t be. You most certainly had one.”
T’ang Emerpor T’ai Tsung said, “Really, I didn’t.”
Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang could sit and look into things; so he sat and contemplated, and he realized that the old cultivator had taken the wrong road. He’d gone into Yu Ch’ih Kung’s house and had become Yu Ch’ih Kung’s nephew instead. He said to the emperor, “Oh well, he went the wrong way, that old cultivator; he had entered samadhi there, and I told him to come to Ch’ang An to help me propogate the Buddhadharma. Now he’s gone down the wrong road, so I’ll go save him.”
So Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang went to Yu Ch’ih Kung’s house and spoke with Yu Ch’ih Kung’s nephew. He told him that he should leave home. What do you suppose Yu Ch’ih Kung’s nephew did? In the home of a great official there is a lot of power and a lot of money; he had a lot of food and drink, and he was happy and did as he pleased. He dared to do anything at all. When Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang saw him he said, “Hey old cultivator,” and Yu Ch’ih Kung’s nephew stared at him and growled, “What are you talking about?”
Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang said, “I asked you to come here to propogate the Buddhadharma; you should leave home.”
The reply came, “Look old monk, if you want to leave home, leave your home. What home are you asking me to leave. You’re crazy.” He scolded Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang quite thoroughly. There was nothing that Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang could do, so he went back to see the Emperor. He wanted T’ang T’ai Tsung to issue an edict ordering Yu Ch’ih Kung’s nephew to leave home.
When the emperor ordered one to leave home during that time and one didn’t do it, he lost his head. So Hsuan Tsang first said to the emperor. “Now look, all you have to do is to get him to leave home; just get him to agree to leave home. No matter what conditions he asks for, grant them; don’t give him any arguments.” T’ang Emperor T’ai Tsung said, “Fine,” and he ordered the nephew of Yu Ch’ih Kung to leave home.
The nephew of Yu Ch’ih Kung went to the emperor and said, “Say, you’re telling me to leave home; why don’t you leave home?” And the emperor heard that, and it sounded reasonable. Here he was telling Yu Ch’ih Kung’s nephew to leave home and he himself wasn’t leaving home. But the emperor was also very eloquent, so he said, “ Say, your leaving home is just representing my leaving home. After all, I’m the emperor and I have to rule the country. I don’t have any time to leave home, but you’re representing me in leaving home. The very reason I’m asking you to leave home is to represent me.”
And the nephew of Yu Ch’ih Kung said, “Oh, you want me to represent you; o.k., fine, but I need three carts.” The Emperor said, “Three carts? You can have nine if you want. What do you want these three carts for?” He said, “When I leave home it’s not going to be the same as an ordinary monk leaving home. When I leave home, I want a cart of wine to follow me wherever I go. Besides that, I want a cart of meat; no mater where I go I want a cart of meat to follow me. I’m going to be a wine and meat eating monk. And, third, although I’m leaving home, I can’t be apart from women, so I want a cart of beautiful women, too.”
T’ang T’ai Tsung thought, “Boy, this is really messed up. When one leaves home one is supposed to keep the precepts, but here he wants a cart of wine and a cart of meat and a cart of beautiful women. How is this permissible? It’s not legal.” But, Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang had already told him that he should agree to any conditions that the lad set up. The emperor thought it over and decided that if Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang had told him to do so, then it probably wouldn’t be wrong. So, he agreed. He agreed to a cart of wine, a cart of meat, and a cart of beautiful women. He said, “Wherever you go, I will make offerings to you. I will be your donor and protect your dharma.”
The emperor accompanied him to Ta Hsing Shan Monastery to leave home. Behind them followed three carts. The carts came so close to Ta Hsing Shan Monastery that they were in sight, not far at all from it. Now, since the nephew of the Prime Minster was leaving home, there should be a welcoming, so the monks in the temple began to hit the drum and strike the bell. As soon as he heard the bell and drum, Yu Ch’ih Kung’s nephew understood. He said, “Oh, originally I was sitting there waiting for the Red Yang Buddha. I was that old cultivator,” and he immediately turned around, waved the carts, and said, “The three carts can go back, I don’t even want any one of them.”
In that way Yu Ch’ih Kung’s nephew arrived at Ta Hsing Shan Monastery to leave home. He became a Great Virtuous One of that time, and a future patriarch. His name was Dharma Master K’uei Chi. But, K’uei Chi Dharma Master, though an old cultivator, had become confused when he was born back into the world. How much more those of us who are not old cultivators, who aren’t even little cultivators;how much the more should we use effort and work hard. So, today in the midst of my busy-ness, I have told you this story, and it is my hope that you will digest its principles and work well. And, I hope that you will be of some benefit to the Buddhadharma.
Grape Hand and Eye
The first Ch’an session is already gone by, and now the second Ch’an session is starting. You should all take stock to see if in the week gone by you have had any accomplishment. Accomplishment means an enlightenment. Some enlightenments are big, and some are small; some are middle-sized. Enlightenments are not the same.
As for those who did not become enlightened (wu), they also got some “thing” (wu). Why didn’t you become enlightened? It is because there was some “thing” in your mind. What was that “thing” in your mind? “Every day I’m participating in this Ch’an session because I want to become enlightened.” That thought of wanting to become enlightened is a “thing”.
When the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas of the ten directions look at you, they say, “You spineless ghost! Here you are sitting in meditation investigating Ch’an, and you want to become enlightened.” What enlightenment do you expect to open? You’re not developing your skill well. You just give rise to greed.
Your greed for enlightenment is also just greed. The thing that directly prevents you from becoming enlightened. If you weren’t greedy then you could really sit. “You hurt, legs? Hurt a little more! No matter how much they hurt, I am going to sit in meditation. No matter how much they hurt, I am going to investigate Dhyana.” You want to fight the pain. Wage war. Don’t harbor the greedy thought, “Ah, I’m joining in the Ch’an session because I hope to get enlightened.” That’s just plain filthy. That kind of hope is what’s meant by impure thought. It’s a filthy thing that you’ve got caught in your mind.
Don’t be like Patriarch k’uei Chi. What was he like? All he thought of from morning to night was eating. He also was greedy, you can tell from how fat he was. If he wasn’t 500 pounds, he must been at least 488. That’s how fat he was. And why? Just because he was interested in eating good food. I’m not slandering him. If Patriarch K’uei Chi came here this very minute, I’d tell him this to his face. He was greedy for food.
What’s there to prove that he was greedy for food? Contemporary to him was a Vinaya Master named Tao Hsuan, who lived at Chung Nan Mountain. He was stern and pure in his maintenance of the Vinaya rules—he had cultivated to perfection the 3,000 awesome mannerisms and 80,000 subtle practices. His cultivation was so good that the gods were moved to give him offerings. Every day, it was not necessary for him to make food himself. Nor was it necessary for men to make offerings to him. How did he get by then? The gods made offerings to him.
There he was, living in a hut on Chung Nan Mountain and experiencing this inconceivable state. Just to speak about the fact that the gods made offerings to him—if he didn’t have any cultivation, or Way virtue, if he had not held the precepts purely and sternly, how could gods have given him offerings? If you strike up false thoughts from morning to night and develop excessive habits of climbing on conditions, gods certainly won’t come. Gods don’t make offerings to ghosts who climb on conditions. They don’t make offerings to those who do not keep the precepts.
So the gods made offerings to the Vinaya Master, Tao Hsuan, and Patriarch K’uei Chi’s gluttony got the better of him. From morning to night he struck up false thoughts. “Of all the food and drink known to man—delicacies of every description—I’ve tasted them all. But, ultimately, what is the flavor of heavenly food? He kept striking up that false thought for a long time. “I’ve got to go there for a meal and have a taste of heavenly food and drink. What can the flavor of heavenly food be? Is it sweet, sour, hot, bitter, salty? Or, perhaps it completely transcends those five flavors and is a flavor above an beyond them—a sixth flavour— perhaps pleasant, perhaps unpleasant. I’ve got to try it out.”
It wasn’t just for one day that he had those false thoughts. Day after day for many days he had them, until the day came when he was determined to go have a meal. He didn’t take an attendant or a companion; he slipped away all by himself and headed for Chung Nan Mountain. He climbed up Chung Nan Mountain thinking about how he wanted to eat the offerings of the gods. Who would have guessed that in the end he wouldn’t get his meal!
On the appointed day he rose quite early and dressed lightly so that he could walk swiftly and easily. But, he was so portly that, even though he had dressed lightly, it was still not easy going. It may have been that he even began to perspire; at the very least he was soon out of breath. From Ch’ang An to Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan’s hut was a distance of at least 35 miles. So, he got up extremely early and began the long trek, allowing himself enough time so that he could make it by noon. He didn’t let Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan know he was coming. He hadn’t said, “I am coming to join you for lunch, so tell the gods to bring along a little extra.” He hadn’t let anyone know. So, he arrived unannounced about ten minutes before time to eat.
When he arrived there, he said to Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan, “I’ve heard that you are a Vinaya Master to whom the gods make offerings. In Ch’ang An I have eaten all the fine flavors that man has to offer. But, I have yet to taste the flavor of heavenly fare. Can you give me a share of your food today and allow me to join you in your meal?”
Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan scratched his head as he thought. “I certainly have to agree.” So he said, “Fine, when the food arrives, we will share it. The worst that can happen is that we won’t get full. No problem.” After he agreed, they waited. Ten minutes passed. Ten more minutes passed. Ten more minutes passed. Ten by ten, the minutes kept passing. Originally he had arrived ten minutes before time to eat, but after several hundred tens of minutes, the afternoon was gone, and still the gods had not brought any food.
Dharma Master K’uei Chi, who was really able to put it away, had been dying for a meal of heavenly food, but now, not only had he not tasted the food of the gods, but he hadn’t even gotten a bit of food of the earth! He basically didn’t get anything to eat at all. The two of them went hungry that day, and Patriarch K’uei Chi’s stomach objected. It kept growling. His belly complained, “Hey, why didn’t you give me anything to eat today? How can you face me when you act like that?” It complained, but there was nothing he could do about it, so he decided to go to sleep. “I can’t pay any attention to whether or not you have food to eat, stomach; it’s dark now, and so I’m going to sleep.”
Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan held the precepts, and he had eaten the food of the gods for a long time now, so his stomach was better behaved and did not complain. It didn’t growl. What I’m telling you is true. It’s all been recorded.
“Why haven’t I even read that historical account?” someone wants to know.
You haven’t read enough books. If you had read The Sutra of Food and Drink, you would know.
Dharma Master K’ue Chi went to sleep, and Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan sat in meditation. As soon as Dharma Master K’uei Chi fell asleep, he entered the sleeping samadhi. In the sleeping samadhi, he rang bells and beat drums.
How was it that he rang bells? Every few minutes his hand would flop around and bang on the table, and the table would sound out like a bell. And his snoring was like thunder. His bells and drums rang out like he was doing morning and evening recitation, until Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan’s mind moved, and he thought, “Ai, he behaves like that, and yet he is a National Master. How can someone who’s a National Master sleep in such an unruly fashion and disturb other people? Here I am trying to enter samadhi, and I can’t even do it. He’s so busy with his bells and drums.” On top of it all, his stomach was growling; it sounded like an automobile engine turning over and over. So Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan sat there having false thoughts about Dharma Master k’uei Chi’s qualifications to be a National Master. But, he couldn’t quite bring himself to rouse the National Master out of his sleep. Right when he was sitting there in meditation having those false thoughts, the lice on his body began to bite him.
Since he was an old cultivator, he rarely bathed. He lived in a hut, and most likely there weren’t any bathing facilities. Although the gods brought him food, they didn’t come to bathe him. I know that for certain. So, a louse bit him, and he carefully took it off and looked at it. It was really fat, and he saw clearly how many legs it had. Now, people who hold the precepts cannot kill. To kill is a violation of the precepts. So, he let the louse fall gently onto the floor. When he dropped it, he broke two of the louse’s legs.
After a while, another louse bit him. And, it bit so hard that when he took it off, he probably used a little more force in pitching it to the ground, and the louse was crushed to death upon landing. But Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan did not know this. His act of killing was unintentional. It was not premeditated. But, the louse was put out. It went to king Yama and complained about Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan. “He’s supposed to hold precepts. What precepts does he hold? Just now he killed me. I want his life.”
Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan was unaware that he had killed it. The next day Dharma Master K’uei Chi woke up, and Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan scolded him. “Here you are a National Master. Why is it that you don’t have any cultivation? You haven’t developed any skill at all. When you sleep, it sounds like a drum and bugle corps. You snore like thunder. It’s really terrible. How can you be a National Master?”
K’uei Chi laughed and said, “Great Vinaya Master, you have cultivation, and you hold the precepts. Last night you took two fleas off your body, and the first you dropped broke two of its legs. Take a look, you can still see it on the ground beside you. And, the second flea you threw to the ground was smashed to death. That flea went to King Yama and complained about you, saying that you were not a Vinaya Master. You hold precepts, and still you smash flees to death.”
Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan wondered, “How could he have known about that? He was sleeping like a log. And, when he searched around on the ground, he found one flee with two broken legs and one dead flee. Now, as to the truth there was in all of this, as to how Dharma Master K’uei Chi knew about the two fleas, Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan did not ask. Those who hold the precepts find that the less they talk, the less likely they are to violate the precepts. So, he was silent. He neither admitted it, nor took issue with it.
Dharma Master K’uei Chi said, “Vinaya Master, you have violated the precepts and still are not repentant. You say that the gods give you offerings. You are just cheating people. I came for a meal. Why didn’t any gods come with offerings? You’ve just been selfish. Now I’ve come to take a look, and basically there’s nothing to it. I’m leaving.” And he flapped his sleeves and left as if in a huff.
Dharma Master K’uei Chi left early, and at noon the god Lu Hsuan Ch’ang came once again with offerings. When he arrived, Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan—although he was an old bhiksu who held the precepts—was a bit put out, and he asked Lu Hsuan Ch’ang, “Why didn’t you bring any offerings yesterday? Yesterday, not to speak of me going hungry for a day, there was a guest who came for the meal, and he had to go hungry along with me. What were you doing yesterday? If you were not going to come and bring me offerings, then you should have let me know a day in advance. How could you do that?”
Lu Hsuan Ch’ang knelt before Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan and said, “Actually, it’s not that I did not bring it. For a radius of 40 li around your hut there was a dazzling, golden light, and I couldn’t even open my eyes. I tried to take a step forward, but there was no way. Finally, I asked the local earth spirit what was going on, and he said that there was a living Bodhisattva of the Great Vehicle here with you, and I couldn’t bear up under his light. I kept circling that 40 li radius, but there was no way that I could get to you. So, I have committed this offense.”
When Lu Hsuan Ch’ang spoke, Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan understood. “Oh, Dharma Master K’uei Chi is a flesh body Bodhisattva of the Great Vehicle. And, while he was here, the god could not penetrate his golden light. My Way-virtue is still not up to his. No wonder he’s a National Master, and I am a Vinaya Master. Although the gods give me offerings, my reward of blessings is still not comparable to his.” So Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan made a special point of going before Dharma Master K’uei Chi to repent. Dharma Master K’uei Chi said, “Oh, bag it!”
Ax Hand and Eye
In the classic of the Way and Its Virtue, Lao Tze has spoken well, but the principles have still not penetrated to the ultimate:
When the great Way disappears
there is humanity and propriety.
When wisdom comes forth
there is great deceit.
When the six kinds of relatives are not
in harmony, there is the filial son.
When the country is in a turmoil
there are the loyal ministers.
This verse is very logical and has a lot of principle, but it’s looking at things from a superficial point of view. To look from an internal point of view, why would the Great Way disappear? Why would wisdom come forth? Why would the six kinds of relatives not be in harmony? Why would the country be in a turmoil? You have to go back to the foundation, the source. Why would the Great Way disappear? Because, people don’t cultivate the Way. It just means that people don’t investigate dhyana.
What happens when people don’t investigate dhyana and don’t assume responsibility to cultivate? Then one speaks about humanitarianism and propriety. They say, “You should practice humanitarianism; you should be upright.” Hence, the first line; “When the Great Way disappears, there is humanity and propriety.” If the Great Way pervades, such concepts as humanity and propriety wouldn’t come forth.
When you see humanity and propriety, you’ll have to investigate the source, and the source of it is that people aren’t cultivating the Way. They don’t know how to cultivate the Way, so they cast aside the root and grasp at the branches. They pick up the superficialities and they say, “Ahh, one should be humanitarian, and one should practice propriety.” So they say, “Humanity means to love others. You should love, love to the point of giving up your life.” They talk of love. They’ve come under the control of the defiling love. So, that’s why Lao Tze said, “When the Great Way disappears, there is humanitarianism and propriety.” Not bad, that’s the way it is.
When wisdom comes forth, there’s great deceit. When a wise person manifests, he can play tricks to deceive ignorant people. He can cheat those without any wisdom. What he says here is also right, and we can prove it. This proof occurred during the Three Kingdoms Period. You can pull out the tape recordings for the Three Kingdoms Period and play them. You say, “Well, when did they record the happenings in the Three Kingdoms Period?” Why, in the fourth Kingdom Period, of course! Whose tape was it? It was Hsiao Feng Huang’s, who was also called Feng Ch’u Tzu, Pung Po, and P’ang Feng Ch’u.
And just who was Feng Ch’u Tzu? He was one of the wise ones of the time of Hsu Shu Tzo Ma Ge Ju, when Liu Pei was forced into retreat. He was truly a wise one, he was able to cheat Chang Fei. How did he cheat him? Oh, it was a really good joke. Hsu Shu Tzo Ma Shen Ju Ge said, “Fu Lung Feng Ch’u can quell the disharmony of the kingdom.” Fu Lung is Wo Lung. Feng Ch’u is P’ang Feng Ch’u. P’ang Feng Ch’u and Mr. Wo Lung at the time of Ju Ge were the same.
After Ju Ge gained control, the small Feng (phoenix) couldn’t fly, but the Lung (dragon) flew. Feng Ch’u said that the Lung (dragon) had flown, so he thought that the Feng (phoenix) should also fly. So he went to see Liu Pei. Liu Pei had heard of him but didn’t know what he looked like. Feng Ch’u was really ugly. He was pretty disreputable-looking, with a beard and all. His appearance was not the least bit respectable. But, after meeting Feng Ch’u, Liu Pei made him mayor.
P’ang went to take up office and put a sign on his door, an announcement, which read, “If any of you people have any complaints, bring them to me, and I will hear them.” So every day he heard complaints. Once the announcement was up, people came—one person complained that his land had been taken by another; one person complained that a lot of his trees had been cut down by someone; another one came and complained that his brother was always giving him trouble; then another one came and said that his son wasn’t filial. Everybody had complaints that they wanted to air. While all these complaints were being aired, what do you suppose P’ang Feng Ch’u did? He drank. He drank until he was sopping drunk, and he couldn’t fly. The phoenix was drunk. So all day long he slept in that room. He’d drink till he fell asleep, and when he finished sleeping he’d drink again; it went on like this for six months. The recorder recorded more than a hundred books full of complaints of the people. Although there were a hundred books full of complaints, none were investigated.
Six months went by and Liu Pei sent Chang Fei to spy on Feng Ch’u. Of course, old Chang Fei disguised himself before going to spy on P’ang Feng Ch’u, so that no one would recognize him. When Chang Fei went to see what P’ang Feng was doing, what do you suppose he found out? One person reported, “Somebody put in a complaint, and it’s already been three months,” and another one said, “I complained about so and so to the mayor four months ago.” another said, “Oh, it’s been even longer for me; it’s been more than five months, and nobody’s looked into it. I haven’t heard a thing. All the mayor does is drink; that’s all he does from morning till night, he drinks. He doesn’t pay any attention to anything. He’s become a wino mayor.” So, Chang Fei listened until he got his ears full. Then he changed back into his official clothing, went into the city and said, “Okay bring in the Mayor; I want to see the Mayor.”
So, there was P’ang Feng Ch’u, his eyes hardly opened, trying to arrange his clothing and put on his shoes as he came stumbling out to see Chang Fei. Chang Fei said, “My superior sent you here to be a Mayor, and you’ve had your post. Why didn’t you do anything?”
Feng Ch’u said, “What did you want me to do?”
Chang Fei said, “What do you mean do? There are all these people with complaints, and you haven’t looked into them—you haven’t taken care of them.”
Feng Ch’u replied, “Oh, well that’s a small matter. Okay, sit down; I’ll take care of them right now.” So, he called all the people in, opened all hundred books together, and he said, “Okay now everybody—whoever has something to say—go ahead and speak your principles. Simultaneously speak them all to me; I’ll take care of you all.” What do you suppose it was like with hundreds of people, each one speaking his own mind, his own principles at the same time? There were all babbling about what village they’d come from, et cetera, et cetera; and he was listening with his ear, and with his hand he was writing out the judgments.
Chang Fei said, “Wow, this is really out-a-sight. He’s listening to a hundred people talk to him, and all he has to do is glance at the records, and he’s able to make the decision. He doesn’t have to look closely at them at all. He’s truly one who can read ten lines at a glance and can listen to a hundred people speaking. That’s really inconceivable.”
So, P’ang Feng Ch’u had been cheating people from the Three Kingdoms Period onward. And, now I’m going to tell you the secret: P’ang Feng Ch’u was there drinking, and while he was drinking he didn’t have anything to do, so he looked at the records. “Today Chang San said that somebody had taken over some of his land, and so my verdict is that people can’t steal other people’s land, you’ll have to give it back. And as to the man who cut down the hundred trees, he will have to replant a hundred. That will take care of that.” And he went along like this. He’d looked at every entry, and he’d already made his decisions; he didn’t have to go look at them in great detail again. So, when Chang Fei came and P’ang Feng Ch’u got everybody together and let them all speak simultaneously, he just sat there and announced the decisions. Chang Fei was so coarse and simple that he thought this an inconceivable thing. Now, wouldn’t you say that this is a case of “when wisdom comes forth there is great deceit”?
So, when Lao Tze said,
When wisdom comes forth
there is great deceit.
When the six kinds of relatives are not
in harmony, there is the filial son.
When the country is in a turmoil
there are the loyal ministers.
An example of there being the filial son when the six relatives are not in harmony can be found in the case of Ta Shun and his little brother Shang. Ta Shun was very filial, but Shang was arrogant, and the house was not in harmony. Thus, it appeared that Ta Shun was filial and Shang wasn’t. “When the six kinds of relatives are not in harmony, there is the filial son,” is also this principle.
“When the country is in turmoil, there are the loyal ministers.” In the Sung Dynasty, Hui Ch’in Erh Tsung was ousted by Chin Wu Chu. In the Northern Sung capital at Hang Chou, which was called Lin An, there were loyal ones among the officials. Among the disloyal ones was Ch’in Hui and among the loyal ones was Yao Fei. Thus, “When the country’s in turmoil there are the loyal ministers,” also has principle.
But, now we’re not going to explain “the six kinds of relatives not in harmony, there arises the filial son,” or “when the country’s in a turmoil, there are loyal ministers.” We’re going to talk more about how, “When great wisdom comes forth, there is great deceit. Why do we want to talk more about that? Because now we all wish to have our wisdom come forth; we all want to become enlightened.
But, if you become enlightened, you should do genuine things—you shouldn’t do devious things. You shouldn’t get involved in phony matters. So now, whoever has great wisdom should help those who don’t have wisdom, and should not deceive those who don’t have wisdom. What’s really important is that if you have great wisdom, you should be very responsible in teaching and transforming living beings and should not deceive living beings.
Today the important point is that whoever gains wisdom should not follow in the footsteps of Feng Ch’u. But, why do I critize Feng Ch’u and say that he cheated people? Was it really the case that he was able to write out the verdicts in all those cases of hundreds of complaints at once? No, he had to write them one by one. It’s just because he had wisdom that all he had to do was look at a word or two and he was able to realize whether or not the complaint was justifiable. He was very clear about it. It was like having it all reflected in a mirror. It was all very clear to him. But, he had done them one by one. And, since he had done them one by one, he was really able to hear a hundred things with his ear at the same time, and at the time he was listening, he was just listening, that’s all. It’s not at all sure that he was able to pick out what each of the hundreds of people were saying individually.
But, when Chang Fei took a look at the scene, he couldn’t break that barrier. He didn’t recognize the false face, and he thought that what Feng Ch’u was doing was extraordinary, so he said, “His eyes can read ten lines at once.” Now, that may have been possible. Why? Because he read fast. What this means is that for the time it takes you to read one line, he could read ten. That might be possible, and he could have perhaps heard a hundred peoples’ voices at the same time.
But, I don’t believe that he could have done it with a hundred. He might have done it with ten. If there were ten people talking, you could be able to clearly hear what each one was saying. And you say, “Well, if it’s possible with ten, then why isn’t it possible with a hundred?” Well if that’s the case, then you could say it’s okay for a thousand or ten thousand. You will have to have some proof. When I estimate ten, that’s the highest, the very most possible. It’s not the least possible. That’s my highest estimate.
So, now as our wisdom comes forth, we should have great truth and not great deceit. Have great truth and great functioning, propagate great teaching, and transform living beings.
Jeweled Mirror Hand and Eye
A disciple of the Master relates: “In Colorado there is an American who previously went to Ceylon to study for two years. It’s not known what he studied there, or what kind of precepts he took. It’s said that he left the home-life.
“When this 24 year old American returned to the United States he set up a place where people go and study. One person who went there came as a vegetarian and did not want to eat meat. But when he got to this ‘monk’s’ place—who by the way now says he’s not a monk but that he was one formerly, though he still wears robes and I don’t know if he takes disciples but he does transmit precepts—he saw that people were eating meat. So the vegetarian asked the ‘monk,’ ‘Aren’t Buddhist supposed to be vegetarian?”
“The ‘monk’ replied, ‘We eat meat. In the first place, since this is a place that serves meat, when you come here you should follow along and eat meat. Secondly, you can eat meat because basically you shouldn’t make discriminations. If you don’t make discriminations between eating meat and not eating meat, then eating meat is all right. In the third place, when you eat the meat you can project feelings of love towards the meat. You can love that living being whose flesh you are eating. If you love him, then it won’t count as any kind of offense on your part for eating him. Thus, in the first place, we give you the meat, so you should eat it. In the second place, don’t discriminate whether it’s meat or not. In the third place, love the meat you’re eating.”
The Master’s replay: “Fine, if on the one hand one should eat what is served to him, somebody should prepare a plate of excrement —human excrement or dog excrement —and give it to him to eat. When he freaks out on it say, ‘Well Sir, you should eat whatever is served to you, so, eat this excrement. And, the second thing is that you shouldn’t discriminate the pure and impure, meat and non-meat. So there is no need for you to discriminate whether it’s excrement or not excrement, pure or not pure, or anything else. You should eat it. And, the third is, of course, that you should love this excrement as you eat it.’”
That was the Master’s answer to that person’s three criteria for eating meat. The Master continues, “Although this answer isn’t very polite, it’s quite appropriate when discussing the question of eating meat. It’s a good answer to the topic of eating meat, because they feel that meat is clean, and so it can be eaten. In actual fact, meat is even more filthy than human excrement or dog excrement, but because people love it, they want to eat it. The man hasn’t looked into it deeply, because if he had, then he’d realize that eating that kind of thing just makes fertilizers. It creates more sexual desire. So, people who cultivate the way should not eat meat or the five kinds of pungent plants, or drink intoxicating beverages.
All aspects of cultivation are just for the purpose of getting rid of desire and cutting off love. Not only does the monk not teach people to get rid of desire and cut off love, he teaches people to produce love for food. And, because they give rise to love for food, they have love for sex. Because, when love for food comes up, then love for sex also arises. And, once the desire for sex arises, then it’s very difficult to cut off your lust and desire. This is extremely important. In Chinese Buddhism it is advocated that people eat vegetarian food, and there are reasons for this. In the Shurangama Sutrait says, “If you don’t cast out your lust, then you can’t get out of the dust.” All kinds of things which produce desire are not particularly nourishing to the body.
People who cultivate the Way should not eat these kinds of things. And you say, “Well, if they don’t eat these kinds of things, their bodies won’t be strong.” As to the body—if you do not allow your treasures to be lost, then at all times the body will be strong. But, if you can’t find the pearl in your clothing, and if you lose the treasures in your body, then no matter what you eat, no matter how good it is, your body won’t be strong. Basically, Buddhism does not necessarily advocate that people eat vegetarian food only. The Buddha permitted people to eat three kinds of pure meat. If that person had brought up the three kinds of pure meat, then that would have been okay. But, as it is, his theory is just prejudiced. It’s a one-sided view, which can only fool children or people without any wisdom.
What are the three kinds of pure meat? The first is that which has not been killed. “I didn’t see that killed.” Which means that you don’t say, “Oh, it’s been killed, I’m certainly going to eat it. I didn’t see it killed.” The second is, I didn’t hear it killed. I didn’t hear the sound of the pig being slaughtered or that cow being slaughtered, that very anguished sound. I didn’t hear the sound of killing. The third is, it was not killed for me. It was not especially killed for me. Meat like that is called pure in three ways and can be eaten. But, when it’s eaten, it should be eaten because the body is not strong, or because you have some sickness. It was for people like this that the Buddha said it was alright to eat meat which was pure in three ways.
But, for people whose bodies are sufficiently strong, there’s no need to add more fertilizers. They are already sufficiently fertilized. If you add more fertilizer than is necessary, it’s possible to burn up the things you have planted in your field. Why? Because too much is also not appropriate. So, too much is just as bad as not enough. Because of this, when people cultivate the Way, they cultivate the Middle Way. Not too much, and not too little. If you can cultivate the Middle Way, then eventually the fruit of Bodhi can be accomplished.
Now we are having a Ch’an session in order to cultivate samadhi. And we need not even speak of precepts, because here we are holding them without holding them, they are “precepts without holding precepts.” All you do is walk and sit all day. So, you aren’t able to kill, or steal, or practice deviant sex, or lie, or drink intoxicating beverages. We walk and sit and nobody talks, and in practicing in this way you’re not killing anything, and so you’re holding the precept against not killing. You’re also not going to do things in order to steal, and so you’re holding the precept against stealing. You’re not going to do things that involve deviant sex, and so you’re holding the precept against deviant sex. And, if you don’t say anything from morning till night, you won’t break the precept against lying.
I see that one of my disciples is not talking. From the beginning she hasn’t talked, and when it came time for her to translate, I figured she wouldn’t do it, but she did. Not talking is very good, because you absolutely can’t lie. During this period of the Ch’an Session you will absolutely not break the precept against lying. Suppose you stole some honey to eat and were asked, “Did you steal honey?” You wouldn’t be able to say, “I didn’t eat it,” because you’re not talking, and nobody’s asking. You wouldn’t be able to drip the honey all over the floor so the floor could eat honey. That’s very good.
And as to taking intoxicants, I have some good disciples who asked me to go drinking at New Year’s. I said, “How much are you asking me to drink?” They said, “Oh, a glass or two.” And I said, “That’s not enough. If I’m going to go drinking, I have to have a hundred glasses of brandy, otherwise it’s not sufficient.” In America there are all kinds of disciples, but in the Ch’an Hall nobody drinks. I should say more clearly that this disciple who asked me to go drinking is a very good one, not a bad one. He says, “Shih Fu, for so many years you haven’t had a drink, let me invite you to have a little drink. How about it?” I said, “Wait until the session’s over.”
And so here we hold the precepts, and when holding the precepts, one can cultivate samadhi. Samadhi is just seeing if you’re going to be patient with what is impossible for you to be patient with. When you can’t be patient, you say, “Oh my legs hurt so bad, my back hurts, and I’m so cold. This is really hard to bear.” So you lean forward, or you lean back, or you stretch to either side, and you move around a bit. That’s called no samadhi power. If you have samadhi power, you will be more or less like Kuan Ti Kung. You sit there very straight and upright. That’s called cultivating samadhi power.
Where does samadhi power come from? It comes from patience. You should be patient with pain, patient with suffering, patient with difficulty. When it hurts ask, “Who hurts?” And somebody is saying, “Well of course it’s me that hurts. I can’t cheat myself.” If you can’t cheat yourself, but you cheat others, it’s equally wrong. So, you should cultivate samadhi. Once you have samadhi, then you can have wisdom—your wisdom will open. After you’ve maintained samadhi for a long time, you’ll spontaneously have wisdom. And this wisdom is true wisdom. It isn’t wisdom taught in any book. It’s your basic inherent wisdom. This wisdom isn’t stolen from somewhere else.
So, sitting in Dhyana is extremely important. It’s just teaching you to bear what cannot be borne—to be patient with what is impossible to bear—that is samadhi power. For instance, somebody takes a knife and cuts out a piece of your flesh. If you have samadhi power, it doesn’t even hurt. It’s just an ordinary matter. Like Kuan Kung, who cut out a piece of his bone to cure his poison. Why did he do that? Because he had samadhi power. Kuan Kung had samadhi. While standing guard over the Emperor’s wife, he “held a candle until dawn and did not cheat in the dark room.” Where did his samadhi power come from? He had cultivated for many kalpas, many lives.
Now we are in the Ch’an Hall, and why don’t we have any samadhi power? You hurt a little and can’t take it, suffer a bit and can’t hack it; a little difficulty and you can’t bear it, even to the point that in being unable to take it, you want to cry. It’s because you haven’t any samadhi power. You haven’t broken through that barrier. You haven’t broken through the barrier of difficulty; you haven’t broken through the barrier of suffering; you haven’t broken through the barrier of pain.
Now, we want to break through them. We break through these barriers, and we can be at ease with pain—pain to the extreme, to the point that we forget that there is ourselves and others. How can there be pain? There isn’t any pain. No matter what it is you do, you should do it to the ultimate point. When you’ve cultivated to the extreme, your light is penetrating. This means that when you’re pure to the ultimate and quiet to the ultimate, then you will spontaneously manifest the light of wisdom—you will become enlightened. Everyday you talk about enlightenment, enlightenment, and you can’t even bear the least bit of pain. How in the world can you speak of enlightenment?
Today there is not a lot of time, but I want to clarify this principle of eating meat. Now, basically there may be those who understand more about this principle than I, but they don’t want to speak. Now, although I understand a little, I will speak to all of you about the little that I understand. First, we will explain the word ‘flesh’. The word for flesh, or meat, in Chinese has a picture of two people. One inside a mouth, the other one half-way outside a mouth. So the verse goes:
In the character for flesh
there are two people.
The inside person is grabbing
the outside person.
The meaning being that the people inside and the people outside have a connection with one another. The one inside is the one being eaten, and the one outside is the one eating. Both the one being eaten and the one eating are people. So, in the character they are placed in an open mouth. The mouth is open because it’s eating meat. You could also say it’s because it loves to eat meat. The man inside is caught by the man outside.
Living beings are still eating living beings’ flesh. For example, the pig you’re eating, for all appearances it’s a pig, but it might have been a former ancestor of yours from limitless kalpas past. In the Shurangama Sutra it says, “When the sheep becomes a man…” If a sheep can become a man, why can’t a pig become a man, why can’t a horse become a man, why can’t the cow become a man? So, in the turning wheel of the six paths, there’s ceaseless turning.
If you think about it, “It’s really people eating people. And, since it’s people eating people, could that person perhaps have been a friend of mine?” Perhaps. “Oh well, it doesn’t matter—even though he’s my friend, I’ll still eat him.” Well, if you can eat your friend’s flesh, what about the fact that it might be a relative of yours? One of the six kinds of relatives? “Oh well, if I eat the flesh of one of the six kinds of relatives, that really doesn’t matter either.” So, you go ahead and help yourself.
But, that’s still pretty far away from you. Perhaps it was your grandparents or your father and mother from limitless kalpas gone. Now, if it was your father and mother, is that being filial? How inhuman is that? The Buddha who is a person who has certified to and attained the five eyes and the six penetrations, is able to know causes and effects. He knows that all living beings are interconnected, and that they are not able to escape these interconnections. Because of this, Buddhism advocates eating of vegetarian food and not eating meat.
In Confucianism it says, “If I’ve seen it born, I can’t bear to see it die. If I’ve heard its sound, I can’t bear to eat its meat.” This is the humanity, and compassion of the gentleman. It says, “…can’t bear to see it die. If I’ve heard its cry,” if I’ve heard that sound, “I can’t bear to eat its flesh.” This is compassion and humanitarianism. So, the gentleman who practices compassion and humanitarianism stays far away from the slaughterhouse.
Some may say, “But, meat is really good to eat, although I also want to study Buddhism. So I’ll eat a little less meat. I’ll fast on the first of the month, and on the fifteenth of the month I’ll eat vegetarian food. The second through the fourteenth and the sixteenth through thirtieth I’ll eat meat. And on the first and the fifteenth I’ll abstain and eat vegetarian food.”
That’s okay. Okay is okay; but, since you know it’s wrong and decide to fast you’re still committing an offense. There is a story in Mencius which expresses this very well:
“There was a man who daily stole his neighbor’s chickens.” Everyday he stole a chicken from his neighbor. “Perhaps someone told him, ‘You shouldn’t do that.’” They said, this isn’t in accord with reason. It’s not principled. “And so he said to them, ‘Okay, since this isn’t principled, it’s not legal for me to steal a chicken everyday from somebody. I’ll decrease the number. I’ll steal one a month.”’ I won’t steal so often, I’ll steal one chicken a month. Now tell me, to steal a chicken everyday or to steal a chicken once a month, isn’t that still breaking the precept against stealing? Doesn’t it all amount to theft? People who go on vegetarian fasts are more or less like this. But, it should be made clear that this is a case of decreasing, like the Gradual Teaching, and the fact that it’s being decreased is good. But, you still have to call it stealing.
Now we have been born into the evil world of the five turbidities, and we do not realize that the evil world of the five turbidities is an unclean place. Every day we mistake suffering for bliss, and we don’t know that we should first get out of the triple realm and put an end to birth and death. There is an analogy for this circumstance. What is it like? The world of the five turbidities is like a pit toilet. The little living beings that live in a pit toilet don’t think that it’s a smelly place, they are not aware that it’s unclean. They feel very comfortable there, very happy. We people are in the evil world of the five turbidities. If a certified sage looks at it, the evil world of the five turbidities is a big toilet. It’s a big pit toilet.
We are now here cultivating and working to get out of the pit toilet. Some people recite the Buddha’s name. Some people investigate Ch’an. Some people study the teachings. Some people hold rules, some people cultivate the Secret School. No matter which school you cultivate, they’re all designed to end birth and death, to get you out of the Turning Wheel, to go beyond this triple realm. So that one no longer lives in a pit toilet.
Why is it that the sages in the heavens and the Bodhisattvas don’t like to come to this world? Because this world smells too bad. The stench gives the gods a headache. They don’t dare come into the pit toilet. But the living beings in this great pit toilet feel that they are very comfortable, just like the little bugs in a real pit toilet. The little bugs in a pit toilet are very happy; they feel very happy swimming around there. But, suppose somebody comes along and takes pity on them and says, “Ah, those bugs in that pit toilet are too filthy. I’ll move them.” And where does he move them? He puts them in a vat of fragrant oil. So the bugs can drink the fragrant oil and live in it. Who would have thought that as soon as they are moved there they’d die? Why? They can’t take it. That’s why we cannot take this body of ours, this stinking skin bag, and have it reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, or in the heavens. If the stinking skin bag went there, it would die.
We want to borrow the false body to cultivate the true. The true is basically inherently ours. The false, basically, is not ours. We have come to be attached to what was basically not ours, and as for what basically was ours—although it certainly is not lost—it’s been covered over by the false. So, now we are investigating Ch’an and sitting in meditation, just hoping to find the true. We borrow the false to cultivate the true. But, that’s not easy. It’s very difficult to renounce false things, and it’s very difficult to take up true things. So, several years ago I made this joke: I said,
Pick it up, put it down
Who’s mindful of the Buddha? Ha! Ha! Ha!
Now, you shouldn’t think this “Ha! Ha! Ha!” is really Ha! Ha! That “Ha! Ha! Ha! is just opening enlightenment. When you open enlightenment it’s not sufficient to laugh once. You have to laugh three times. Ha! Ha! Ha! But, this isn’t what Lao Tze meant when he said, “When the fool hears of the Way, he laughs out loud.” This laughter represents having attained something in your mind.
And the second line says,
Put it down, take it up
Who’s the Buddha mindful of? Hee! Hee! Hee!
This laughter is a little quieter than the “Ha! Ha! Ha!” It’s a subtle laugh, like when the Buddha twirled a flower and gave a subtle smile.
The third line says,
It also is you, and it also is me
Because when Mt. Sumeru is smashed down
There isn’t anybody.
If you smash down Mt. Sumeru and get rid of the arrogance and fullness of self, then there isn’t anybody at all. “Without self and without others, one contemplates one’s own mastery. It’s not empty, and it’s not form, and you see the Tathagata.” That’s what this says. That’s the way it’s said, but if you really want to get to a state of no people and no self, you’ll have to actually cultivate.
When one of my disciples came she said that she was empty—that everything was empty. But, now that we are having a Ch’an Session, her legs aren’t empty. She keeps straightening out her legs and patting her head and it’s quite evident that the emptiness isn’t there. If she were truly empty: “True emptiness is without others and without self. The Great Way is without form or appearance.” If you are truly empty, you can bring forth wonderful existence. What a shame. Not being truly empty, wonderful existence doesn’t appear.
Cultivation isn’t just being able to explain things, being able to talk, to recite “empty, empty, empty” a few times and acquire skill. You have to truly, actually certify to it yourself, just as the person who drinks the water knows for himself whether it’s warm or cool. You must truly taste the bliss of dhyana as your food and become filled with dharma happiness. If you can truly sit down there, then you can sit for eighty thousand great kalpas and not get up. “That’s impossible. Not only can I not sit for eighty thousand great kalpas, I can’t even sit for eighty minutes.”
If you can’t even sit for eighty minutes, then what have you emptied? Take a look at this child. She also is not empty, because if you hit her she hurts. As little as she is, she is still not empty. If she were empty, you could hit her, and she wouldn’t know; you could scold her, and she wouldn’t know. So, people who cultivate the Way should regard genuine skill as essential. They should not renounce the root and grasp at the branches, renounce what is near and seek what is far. Don’t let your own fields go to waste and go help somebody else plant theirs. That’s too pitiful.
You should know that now in Asia the Buddhadharma, day by day, is decaying. Day by day, there are fewer people cultivating the Way and more and more people just talking about the Way, even to the point that soon there won’t even be any people talking about the Way. And as to this, disciples of the Buddha should certainly be very ashamed and repentant. It should cause them extreme pain and anguish. What use is there for pretension, if we are disciples of the Buddha and have not made any contribution to the Buddhadharma.
You use your hand to touch your flesh heart, but you don’t have any idea about your true heart. You don’t recognize it. Can you stand there rubbing your flesh heart and face up to Shakyamuni Buddha? Our Original Teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha, founded Buddhism, and he sacrificed everything—his position as future king, his kingdom, his beautiful wife—and he went to the Himalayas and cultivated ascetic practices for six years.
Now we are sitting in Gold Mountain Monastery, and we feel that it’s very cold, and we wrap ourselves in blankets. We wear cotton quilted clothing, and we still feel cold. We should think about Shakyamuni Buddha in the Himalaysa; what was it like for him? So, though I’ve called Gold Mountain Monastery an ice-box, this ice-box is a long way from the cold of the Himalaysa. The Himalayas are a lot colder. Here we are using our skill in cultivating and not being afraid of the cold, not being afraid of suffering, not being afraid of difficulty, and we want to be genuine disciples who renounce absolutely everything.
Everyday we investigate dhyana and sit in meditation, we walk and sit, and we walk and sit. Yesterday two bhikshunis came. They had planned to stay and attend the evening instruction. Who would have known that winter had settled in Gold Mountain, and the cold caused their noses to run. The little bhikshuni got so cold that she was on the verge of tears and asked to be excused. Now, you think about this. They were here for an hour or two, and they couldn’t take it. We’re here every day, and it’s just like this. If you still have false thoughts, you should get a little colder, because if you’re cold you’ll have to work against the cold bringing your fire up so you’re not cold anymore; then you can work.
That’s why in China it’s said that, “In the winter it’s Ch’an, and in the summer it’s study.” In the winter you investigate Ch’an because it’s cold. If you sit there in the cold and don’t perk up your spirits—if you just slouch over as if you want to sleep—you will get so cold that you won’t be able to stand it. Perk up your spirits, and start up your own furnace; the fire will burn, and your heater will get warm. Once your heater gets warm you can steam rice dumplings and man t’ou and chiao tzu.
Now you’re steaming your very life, and you’ll be able to steam it through, but you should start the fire of your own furnace. If you can’t start your fire, then you’ll get so cold that you won’t be able to stand it. We say that, “The great glowing furnace smelts vajra.” We are smelting vajra here. So everyone should take hold of their hua-t’ou and light their furnace—it will burn up all the filth of the evil realm of the five turbidities. Everyone should be particularly attentive to this. Use fire to burn clean the evil realm of the five turbidities and smelt out the real vajra, and that will amount to something. If you don’t smelt genuine vajra, then it will have been useless, so please don’t let the time pass by emptily.
Light the fire in your furnace. You’re cold? Don’t be afraid of the cold. There’s snow out there, there’s ice? Well, inside yourself there’s fire. So you don’t need to fear the cold. If you can’t light that fire, then you have to find a Good Knowing Advisor, and ask him how to light that fire. You should ask for the technique. Unfortunately, there are few Good Knowing Advisors here now. It’s not easy to find one. If you want to find a Good Knowing Advisor, go to the Himalayas to see Shakyamuni Buddha. Ask our Elder Patriarch, Sakyamuni Buddha, how he endured such cold as in the Himalayas. Our Original Teacher will certainly be compassionate to you and will tell you clearly.
If you can’t find the Old Patriarch Sakyamuni, because you say, “The Buddha’s entered Nirvana,” that’s no problem. Go find the Patriarch Kasyapa. Go to Yunnan, to Chicken Foot Mountain, and find our First Patriarch, Old Kasyapa. Ask him his method for lighting the great furnace. And you say, “I won’t be able to find him.” Well, if you can’t find him, what are you going to do? There’s nothing you can do if you can’t find him. You’ve got to look! Don’t just give up if you can’t find him.
Somebody says, “We’re going to need some travel money to go to India to find a Good Knowing Advisor, or perhaps to go to Yunnan to see the Patriarch Kasyapa. If my mind is sincere, I will certainly get a response.” It’s not necessary for you to prepare the fare; nor is it necessary to go as far as India or Yunnan. Sakyamuni Buddha has already come to our Gold Mountain Monastery, and the Patriarch kasyapa is also here. If you recognize them, then there’s a way open to you. If you don’t recognize them, then no matter where you go, you will not be able to find them. If you recognize them, they will recognize you. If you don’t recognize them, they won’t recognize you.
So you should develop your skill and apply the paramita of patience. You have to be able to bear things, and within that ability to bear, you’ll find Sakyamuni Buddha, just as the paramita of patience is the Patriarch Kasyapa’s door of cultivation. When there’s pain, bear it; be patient with what you can’t be patient with. Then you’ll give rise to, (1) patience with production (2) patience with dharma and (3) patience with the non-production of dharmas. You have to be patient. So it’s said, “Patience is a priceless gem, but nobody knows how to use it well. If you are able to use it, how can you worry about not obtaining the Way?” Don’t worry, go on cultivating.
Jeweled Arrow Hand and Eye
“If you can’t renounce death, then you can’t change your life. If you can’t renounce the false, then you can’t realize the true.” If you can’t renounce death, then you can’t change your life. This means that if you develop your skill, then you’re not afraid of dying. I’m not talking about sickness, I’m not talking about pain. I’m not talking about suffering—I’m talking about death. Even if someone says, “Oh, then we won’t cultivate, because even if we cultivate we will die. We won’t develop our skill.”
That’s called, “If you can’t renounce death, you can’t change your life.” If you die a great death, then you can live a great life.” “If a man wants to not die, it is necessary first to be a living dead man.” You don’t want to die? Then you should now be as if you’re dead. If you’re dead, then if somebody kicks you with their foot, you don’t know. And if you’re scolded, you don’t hear it. Before you’ve died, if you can be like that, that’s wonderful. Then there’s hope for you. Your perfection of patience will certainly be accomplished.
When Hsu Lao was 53, in the Jen Ch’en year (1889), he went along with Pu Chao, Yuen Hsia, Yin Lien, and several other Old Cultivators of the time, to go to Chiu Hua Montain, where they made a hut and lived. Dharma Master P’u Chao lectured theAvatamsaka Sutra. And a lot of people came, because most masters didn’t lecture according to the “five teachings” of the Hsien Shou. They mostly lectured according to the Tien Tai; and since Pu Chao was there discussing the five teachings, many came to hear him. During the first year, lot of people came, and the second year the Elder Master Ti Hsieh came to stay for the summer. In the third year they still lectured on the Sutra, and in the fourth year the problem came.
What was it? Well, in Yang Chou at Kao Min Tze, the Abbot Yueh Lang decided to give everybody some bitterness to eat. What was he going to do? He was going to have twelve Ch’an sessions, and he wanted the Ch’an cultivators from the ten directions to come. The session was to begin on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, and so prior to the fifteenth day of the seventh month, people had to make their reservations in order to participate. At Chiu Hua Mountain, the Dharma Masters wanted to go to the Ch’an Session, and they selected the Venerable Master Hsu Lao to go first to Kao Min Tze and make their applications, then afterwards the others would join.
The Elder Master Hsu Lao, having been selected, went down the mountain. The road he took went through Ti Kang, and at Ti Kang there was a river to cross, which had to be done by boat. At that time the Venerable Master Hsu Lao was perhaps holding the precept against the holding of money—it’s not for certain, but in any case, he didn’t have any money with him. He wanted to cross the river, but the ferry cost money, and he didn’t even have eight and a half cents. So, the boat didn’t wait for him; it left without him.
Because it was raining and there was a lot of water on the road, the Venerable Master Hsu Lao followed the road that went along the river. Since the water was all over the road, he couldn’t tell what was deep and what was shallow, and as he was walking along, he suddenly fell into the river. The river was high and flowing very rapidly. Probably at about noon he fell in, and more than likely, he wasn’t able to swim. So, he was tossed about in the water for a day and a night.
The next day he was being carried pass T’sai Shih Chi, and at that point he was caught in a fishermen’s net. When the fishermen pulled up the net, they found a human fish in it. When they looked more closely, they realized that it wasn’t a human fish, it was a human being! And, when they looked closer, they realized that it wasn’t just an ordinary person, it was a monk. They wondered how the monk had fallen into the water. They thought that he wasn’t breathing, so the fishermen went to the local temple, called Pao Chi Monastery, and asked a monk to come and identify the body.
At Chih Shan, this particular monk and the Elder Master Hsu Yun had lived together, so that he knew who Master Hsu Yun was. He said, “Oh, that’s Dharma Master Te Ching.” Although the Dharma Master had been in the water a day and a night, they were able to revive him with artificial respiration. However, this kind of disaster had caused him to be more dead than alive—his mouth and nose and ears were bleeding, and he was bleeding from his rectum and in his urine, too. That was the twenty-eighth day of the 6 th month. He lived a few days at Pao Chi Monastery and then quickly left and went on to Kao Min Tse Monastery to make a reservation.
The guest prefect saw him and noticed that he was very pale, and he asked Master Hsu Yun if he was sick, to which the Master replied that he wasn’t. So you see that Chinese Dharma Masters, even those as high as the Venerable Master Hsu Yun, occasionally lied expediently. He basically was sick—he’d practically drowned, and yet he didn’t say so. He said that he wasn’t. Why did he expediently lie? He was afraid that people would worry about him—afraid that they would be anxious—and he didn’t want to cause that kind of worry.
Then Master Hsu Yun went to see the Abbot, Yueh Lang, and Yueh Lang asked, “How many Masters are coming from Chiu Hua Mountain?” and he said, “Oh, at the very least fifteen or sixteen.” He named the Dharma Masters and said, “They asked me to come first to make reservations. When the Ch’an begins, they’ll be here.” After they finished talking, Master Yueh Lang asked Hsu Yun to act as abbot. He said, “There are a lot of things connected with this Ch’an Session this year, and I can’t handle all of it myself. Besides, I’d like to participate in the Ch’an Session, so would you represent me as Abbot?” Hsu Lao was not polite and refused.
Now, the rules at Kao Min Monastery were extremely severe; if you were asked to take an office, and you refused, that was taken as a slight to the entire assembly. So, this was a very severe predicament. So, the Abbot said, “You come here Te Ching, and I ask you to put forth your resolve with regard to the permanent dwelling, and you don’t do it.”
Abbot Yueh Lang scolded Hsu Yun severely, and when I say severe, I mean that he was really severe. He didn’t just call him a gluttonous worm or a lazy worm, as simply as that; he scolded him to the point that there was no way to bear it. He was as severe as he could be—just trying to make it impossible to bear. That’s the way Good Knowing Advisors are sometimes. They’re not like me, this evil advisor, who doesn’t even dare scold you.
Not only was Hsu Lao scolded, but he was beaten with incense board. The Abbot took the incense board and hit Hsu Lao on the shoulders ten times. Each side five times. And he said, “Let’s see if you can take that. What kind of session are you going to sit? You don’t even offer to help in the least.” The Abbot scolded Hsu Yun and hit him, and this was done in front of everybody. Hsu Yun wasn’t scolded when he was alone with Abbot Yueh Lang. The more people there were around, the more severe was the scolding. Some people say that this is wrong, but actually this is a method of teaching one to be apart from marks—teaching one not to have a mark of self. If there isn’t a mark of a self, then who’s being scolded?
After being scolded and beaten, Hsu Yun went into the hall; the Session began, and the Elder Master Hsu Yun’s sickness arose. He bled from all his bodily apertures, and the sickness worsened day by day. Not only did he hemorrhage, but his essence also flowed. See how severe the illness was? The sickness was so bad that Hsu Lao was just waiting to die. But he said, “If I’m going to die, I’m going to do it sitting in this session. Even if I die, I’m going to sit in this session.”
He sat for more than twenty days, and then the sickness suddenly abated—it completely left him. At the instant the sickness left, his mind and nature became pure. So it is said, “When the mind is pure, in the water appears the moon. When the mind is fixed, then there are no clouds in the sky.” There weren’t any clouds, and so his mind became empty cloud, Hsu Yun. At that time, his skill was developing very well. His body and mind were clear. He had seen through it, put it down, and was very comfortable—extremely comfortable.
At that time, from Tsai Shih Chi, the Pao Chi Monastery Abbot, Te An, sent clothes and food and other things to the Ch’an Session. In China, when there are Ch’an sessions going on, the monks from the small temples of the ten directions resolve to contribute and tie up conditions. When Te An came and saw that Hsu Yun was completely well with no sign of sickness, he asked, “Oh, you’re better now?” And people asked what it was all about—what he meant.
During all the time of the Session, Hsu Yun hadn’t mentioned to anyone that he had fallen into the river and was pulled along by the current for a day and a night and finally caught in the fishermens’ net. He hadn’t talked about it. But Te An told everybody about it when he came, and everybody much admired the Elder Master Hsu Yun. They respected that although he had met with such an extreme situation he still wanted to cultivate. Everyone very much admired him. After that, they didn’t ask him to take his turn at watching the hall; since he didn’t have to take his turn, his skill developed very smoothly. He got quite a response. Then he spoke a verse. He said,
The cup shatters to the ground;
sound clear and penetrating.
Empty space is smashed to smithereens.
The mad mind at that moment ceased.
Now we who are developing our skill should reflect upon ourselves. Should we intentionally take a cup and drop it, listen to the sound of the cup, and then become enlightened? If it’s like that, I’d like to buy a few more tea cups, because one, two, three, four, five, aren’t enough. You hear one, and you don’t wake up; then you have to hear two, then three, to hundreds of thousands of ten thousands, and then perhaps you might have an opportunity to become enlightened.
Jeweled Sword Hand and Eye
With the Dharma door of investigating Ch’an, you need to have patience. So it’s said, “After sitting a long time, there’s Ch’an.” After you sit for a long time, then very naturally you’ll enter dhyana. You’ll have some good news. If you don’t sit long and just act like you’re riding a horse, looking at the flowers or going to see a play, you won’t have any response. So if you want to investigate dhyana you have to be courageous and vigorous.
Strike up your spirits! Do battle with the demon king of birth and death, and be victorious over the lazy demon. Be determined to defeat the demon who enjoys ease. If you can strike up your spirits and do the work, then you’ll certainly get some good news. What’s most important is not to be afraid of your legs hurting or your back hurting. Don’t be afraid you aren’t going to get enough sleep. Those who have this kind of courageous energy and spirit will certainly succeed.
Today, at the beginning of this Ch’an session I don’t want to talk too much, because when you talk too much, it’s useless. What’s most important is to hurry up and cultivate. Before we begin, I have a four-line verse to speak to everyone. If you can remember this verse, and not forget it, it will be a great help to you in your cultivation in dhyana. The verse says:
All Buddhas were originally living beings.
Through vigor and courage they transcended
the common lot,
cultivating the Dharma doors without any laziness.
Blessings and wisdom both perfected, a
great enlightenment was accomplished.
The verse says: “All Buddhas were originally living beings.” Originally all Buddhas weren’t Buddhas, they were living beings, just like you and me. And although you and I are now living beings, we are future Buddhas. All that’s needed for us now to is to be vigorous and apply effort, and in the future we certainly can become Buddhas. How did the Buddha become a Buddha? After all, he was a living being.
“Through vigor and courage they transcended the common lot.” It was because he vigorously and courageously applied effort. He was very stupid. You could say that in the past, all Buddhas have been just as stupid as you and I are. Stupid to what extent? To the extent that they weren’t interested in getting a bargain for themselves. They were’t interested in helping themselves out, but only in helping other people. So they were courageous and vigorous in practicing the Bodhisattva Way.
“Through vigor and courage they transcended the common lot.” They surpassed ordinary people, and so they became Buddhas. They reached the goal they wished to reach. They have already succeeded in their aims. “Personally cultivating the Dharma doors without any laziness.” That’s the way all Buddhas did it. They personally cultivated the Dharma doors without any laziness, no matter what Dharma it was. They cultivated courageously and vigorously without any laziness.
“Blessings and wisdom both perfected, a great enlightenment was accomplished.” Because at all times they were not lazy; at all times they cultivated all the Dharma doors. Since cultivating other Dharma doors was an aid to the Dharma door of Ch’an, their blessings were cultivated to perfection, and their wisdom was cultivated to perfection. They became greatly enlightened ones. Their great enlightenment was accomplished.
So it says, “When the blessings and wisdom were both perfected, then a great enlightenment was accomplished.” You can deeply consider this verse and the doctrines in it. Although the verse is very simple, if you use it in your cultivation, it will have a very effective response, a very effective use. It will help you a lot. I can’t say any more. All I can say are these few words. Now, everyone, strike up your spirits and begin the sit!
Five-colored Cloud Hand and Eye
All Good Knowing Advisors, we have come together to cultivate, to mutually help one another. Some of us work very well and we can help those who can’t work so well. That’s called mutually borrowing the light. You borrow my light, and I borrow your light.
The elder Dharma Master T’an Hsu said that the fish helps the water, and the water helps the fish. Here in the Ch’an hall, we can say that people help one another. You help me investigate Ch’an, and I’ll help you investigate Ch’an. That’s also mutually helping one another. When people work at cultivation to the point that there is a response, then they suddenly become enlightened.
What is enlightenment all about? It’s waking up from the dream. We living beings are all dreaming. When you open enlightenment, you wake up from the dream. When you wake from the dream you say, “Oh-h-h . . . ,” you say, “Ah-h-h . . ., everything that was going on was being done in a dream.” Before you become enlightened, you’re in the dream, and you don’t realize it. You don’t know that you’re dreaming.
Becoming enlightened is also called breaking through the black energy barrel. We are all in a black energy barrel now, covered by ignorance. Ignorance is a black energy barrel. Breaking open the black energy barrel is just breaking through ignorance. When ignorance is broken through, the Dharma nature appears. That means that your wisdom comes forth—great wisdom, great comprehension of everything. Those who have great comprehension of everything understand all phenomena and all noumena. They know about all the ten thousand things. They know why salt is salty, why vinegar is sour, why hot peppers are hot, why candy is sweet, why huang lien (a medical herb) is bitter. They understand the nature of people and the nature of things, all the mysteries between heaven and earth. What they hadn’t been aware of, they are now aware of. What they hadn’t understood, they now understand. At that time, the self is like a mirror, and in the mirror absolutely anything at all can appear. Yet the basic substance of the mirror is that it has nothing in it. It’s empty, without any substance at all. Basically, there is not one thing. Where can the dust alight? That’s the experience of becoming enlightened.
After one becomes enlightened, one certainly doesn’t use this simple human mind to think. One does not think, “Oh, I’ve become enlightened.” It’s not like that. Basically, one is just enlightened. It’s not something you get from outside of yourself. Where does one go to find enlightenment? Just into the midst of non-enlightenment.
When you become enlightened, you can have great perfect-mirror wisdom. If you have great, perfect-mirror wisdom, then you also have wonderful contemplating and investigating wisdom. If you have wonderful, contemplating and investigating wisdom, then you can have the wisdom of doing what must be done. And, when you have the wisdom of doing what must be done, then you also have the equality nature wisdom, the wisdom of conducting yourself. These four wisdoms all gradually become perfect.
Becoming enlightened is simply awakening to a principle, a noumenon and understanding the noumenal aspect of the ten thousand things. When one is no longer upsidedown, one is no longer confused. Clearly knowing, one does not perform an act that is not in accord with the Dharma. One does not go ahead and do it. Nor does one refuse to do the things which one clearly knows are proper. After becoming enlightened, one has no more affliction, no more trouble. Inside you don’t know there’s a body and mind; outside you don’t know there is a world. Yet saying that you don’t know there’s a world or a body and a mind is not to say you aren’t aware. You are unattached. You say, “If my body has to endure a little bit of suffering, well, let it suffer,” because you can bear everything. In all situations you have samadhi power. You are not upsidedown.
Now to speak frankly about what not being upsidedown means, we say that it means not having any desire, being totally devoid of thoughts of desire. One has no desire for food. No matter what you eat, it’s very tasty, or no matter how unappetizing the food is, you’re able to eat it. You don’t consider very appetizing things so fine. You don’t enter form, sound, smell, taste, tangible objects, or dharmas. When you become a first stage Arhat, you don’t enter form, sound, smell, tastes, tangible objects, or dharmas.
“Not entering” means you don’t become attached. You’re not turned by experiences involving form, sound, smell, tastes, tangible objects, or dharmas. It will be impossible for you to want to look at beautiful things from morning till night; it will not be the case that you cannot put down beauty, or that from morning till night you are unable to give up beautiful sounds, or to put down smells, or to give up tastes, tangible objects and dharmas.
But, now you are attached to all of these. Since you have attachments, you are unable to not enter these realms. If you don’t have any attachment, then you don’t enter them; you are not turned by objects of form, sounds, smells or tastes, tangible objects, or dharmas. You aren’t shaken by the experiences involving the six dusts.
When you take your noon meal, you don’t eat a single grain of rice; when you put on your clothes, you haven’t put on a thread. Why? Because you don’t have any attachment. All attachments are empty. The attachment to self is gone, the attachment to dharma is gone. If you don’t have an attachment to self, but you still have an attachment to dharma, that won’t work. That still can’t be called not entering form, sound, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas.
When the attachment to self is empty, and the attachment to dharma is empty, then the origin of great perfect-mirror wisdom manifests. Before, I spoke of not being upsidedown. That simply means to be in control. Being in control in what way? I spoke earlier of the desire for food and the desire for sex. One also shouldn’t have the desire to be a leader. What does desire to be a leader mean? It means that wherever one goes, one has to be the leader.
One also has no desire for fame and profit. “If I do this thing, in the future I’ll have a good reputation, I’ll get a lot of profit from it.” That’s a desire for fame and profit. In general, there is no desire at all.
Most crucial is sexual desire. If you have skill, kung fu, then your thoughts of desire will not arise. If you are really in control, then your sexual organs will not move. Even though you may not want your mind to move, as soon as you encounter some object of sexual beauty, it moves, if you aren’t in control. The more you tell your mind, “Don’t think about sex, don’t think about sex,” the more it happens, even to the point where it controls you and turns you upsidedown. It bullies you into doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily want to do—the upsidedowness of men and women.
Even that’s not enough. Sometimes you reach a point where you’re upsidedown with yourself. Some people masturbate, and some people think about sex. These are both upsidedown. Such people aren’t in control. If you’re in control, you can be together with a woman and your sexual organs won’t move. That’s being in control. And no matter what kind of state comes from outside to tempt you, you are unmoved. That’s called being in control.
You say, “Oh, I have kung fu, I have skill, I sit in Ch’an.” Yet sitting in Ch’an day by day, your sexual desire gets stronger, gets greater, until the point where you enter deviant knowledge and deviant views, and you desire to indulge in cultivating in pairs. You think, “Men and women sitting together transmitting the unmarked great Dharma. That’s really wonderful!” it’s too pitiful.
Why do people end up thinking that? It’s because they aren’t in control. If you’re in control, then no mater how you’re tested, it’s no problem. Men and women can be face to face for several tens of great kalpas, and their sexual organs will never move. Then that counts as your having skill, some kung fu. If you can’t be that way, then you’d better be able to bear some pain, bear some suffering, and progress with courage and vigor.
If people still don’t know what I’m talking about, then we can have a test right here and now. We’ll see who is true and who is false. Everyone can take off their clothes and stand together, and we’ll see if anybody’s sexual organs move. We’ll test everybody out. I’m not afraid of anything; I’m not bashful, because basically that’s just the way things are. The question of whether or not you have kung fu is just at that place. Just ask yourself, “Do you let your semen just casually flow out?” And, if it doesn’t go, then do you try to think of ways to get it to go out? Do you masturbate all the time? Do you involve yourself in homosexuality? Do you have a lot of filthy thoughts? If so, then you absolutely don’t have genuine wisdom or any light.
Light? Sometimes you say, “Oh, that person has a really great light.” Why does he have light? Because he doesn’t let his treasures go—the Buddha jewel of his own nature, the Dharma jewel of his own nature, and the Sangha jewel of his own nature. He doesn’t let them get scattered. If you can really keep your essence from leaving, then that’s the Sangha jewel of your own nature. If you can keep your essence from going, that will cause your body to become very strong. That’s called being filled with Dharma happiness. If you can bring to perfection your own originally existent Buddha nature, that’s the Buddha jewel.
The Buddha jewel of your own nature, the Dharma jewel of your own nature, and the Sangha jewel of your own nature are right there within you. Don’t look for them outside anywhere. No matter how many years you study the Buddha Dharma, if you can’t be in control, if you let your essence go casually, you will be very lax and will have no vigor at all. You will be useless. All the time you will have studied will have been useless. You will not have obtained any real use from it, nor will you be able to bring forth genuine wisdom.
In order to have genuine wisdom, you absolutely must have samadhi power. In order to have samadhi power, you first have to develop your precept power. Precept power is guarding your essence and keeping it from going. You say, “Wow, that’s not easy.” If it were easy, anybody could do it. We wouldn’t have to wait for you to come and cultivate. Long ago, sexual desire would never have gotten around to you.
As to this matter, you must be careful in all places. If you eat too much, that won’t do. If you eat too much, your essence can go. Even if you don’t masturbate and don’t involve yourself in male-female relationships, but you eat too much, your essence can still go.
You say, “Well, if eating too much does it, then I can eat a little less. Okay, yes.” But, if you have a big temper, then every time you lose your temper your essence goes. So you have to be patient. This is why you have to be patient. Be patient when you can’t be patient. When it’s impossible to be patient, you still have to be patient.
When one speaks of cultivating, one has to talk about this doctrine. You have to bear what you cannot bear. Then, after awhile, you will have some accomplishment. So, why is it that people who cultivate the Way want to have a nature like ashes? No fire, no anger. You say, “My treasures are always going.” If you have that much temper, how can you possibly contain them? If you could have that much temper and still contain them, then there would be Buddhas with big tempers. Everybody would become big-tempered Buddhas. So, what’s really important in cultivating the Way is not to have any temper.
As soon as you lose your temper, everything goes. If you work too hard, you work until you’re too tired, that won’t do either. Your essence can go then too. In cultivating the Way, all sides of you, all the conditions, have come together. Then you can have some success in your cultivation. Not just one principle, one Doctrine, leads to accomplishment. You must have no temper, you must not eat too much, you don’t want to get too cold, you don’t want to get too hot, you don’t want to get too thirsty, you don’t want to get too hungry. You have to cultivate everything properly. Then you can have some accomplishment.
But, I want to say this doctrine clearly. What I have said is for people who have left the home life. People at home, people who are married can’t do it this way. You can’t say, “Oh, I heard Shih Fu say that we shouldn’t have any sexual desire, so we are going to cut off all relationships.” That’s not right, because you’ve already entered that cage. You have to come around slowly. If you cut it off suddenly, that’s just stupid. You cause unhappiness in your family, and that’s wrong. You want to do it very gradually, and then it’s all right.
For instance, a few days ago one of my disciples called. Both husband and wife were on the phone crying. They wanted to be divorced, “Because your magazine said it was dirty.” The wife said, “He says I’m filthy. Am I dirty? I’m really dirty, but I don’t think I’m dirty.” Talking on the one hand, crying on the other. “Should we cut off our sex?” “Should we get divorced?” And, I couldn’t speak English. I just said, “No, no, no, no. Don’t cry, no, no, no.” You must have common sense. You have to understand that if you are involved in that karma, if you come face to face with that, you can’t just go overboard and not be the least bit humane. What is humane is what is in accord with the Buddha Dharma.
Now, it’s really difficult to talk about this dharma. Don’t listen to what I’ve said. It would be better to go ahead and listen to what you say. Don’t try to figure out what your Master’s all about. As to your Master, not only you, but even third and fourth state Arhats don’t know what I’m all about. I’ll tell you today that even when you become fourth state Arhats, you aren’t going to know. And, here you are not even first fruit. All of you are name Kuo, Kuo, Kuo, yet no one here has reaped any fruit.
Shield Hand and Eye
Those who investigate dhyana want to subdue their bodies and minds. You subdue the body by exercising it, by walking and then sitting. Walking is movement. You apply your skill in movement. Sitting is stillness. You do the work of being still. Movement aids stillness. Stillness also aids movement. So it is said, one is still for the sake of movement. One moves for the sake of stillness.
Movement is exercise; stillness is quiet sitting. So it’s said, “Walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, don’t be apart from it.” To be apart from it is a mistake. Ultimately, what is “it”? “It” is, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” That one thought. Walking, the thought is, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” standing it is, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” sitting it is, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” lying down it is, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?”
If you can maintain “Who is mindful of the Buddha” when walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, and not be scattered, never cut off that one thought, that is kungfu.That is skill. The word “who” is a wisdom sword. The word “who” is a precious vajra sword. The word “who” enlightens you. If you can keep the word “who” continuously in every thought without interruption, eventually you’ll have skill, kung fu. Then one day your black barrel of energy will burst open. Your investigation will have smashed it. That means you have broken through the coarse division of ignorance, not the subtle one.
For the subtle section remains even in a Bodhisattva at the level of equal enlightenment. The Bodhisattva at the level of equal enlightenment still has one section of production-mark ignorance which has not been broken through. You can only say that you have cut through the view delusions.
View delusions are being confused by what you see. You need not talk about it too esoterically, too wonderfully. It just means you’re confused. You’ve been confused by views. Some state arises, you see it, and become confused by it. That’s view delusion. Thought delusion is being confused about principle and giving rise to discrimination. View delusion is giving rise to greed and love when you’re faced with a state. That’s view delusion.
Before you encountered the state, before you saw it, you didn’t have any greed for it. Your love had not arisen. But the state comes along, you take a look, and greed and love arise. When does this happen? It happens because you haven’t any wisdom. Your ignorance is covering you over. Covered with ignorance, the light of your wisdom can’t flow forth.
Last night I talked about people’s thoughts of desire. I talked about the male organ not rising. Is it the case that it still can rise? It can. If you want it to arise you can cause it to do so. When you don’t want it to, it doesn’t. That’s called being in control. Now last night I didn’t say this to you. I didn’t say that if you want it to move, it still can move, and if you don’t want it to, it doesn’t. So six or seven people started having false thinking. They thought “Look! In America that’s just the most pitiful, gutless, lowest kind of person there is. In fact, he isn’t even considered a person.” So a lot of men are really afraid of being impotent, afraid they won’t be able to have intercourse with women. That kind of man is most pitiful.
Some people are perpetually afraid of impotency. Do you know what happens quite often to those very ones? They develop that kind of sickness. They have to go see a psychologist, they give the psychologist a lot of business. The person himself goes out and works to make money to pay the psychologist. A lot of people are like that. They have those false thoughts, thinking, “That kind of person is most pitiful.” So I wanted to make this point clear today. It’s not that he’s not able to move it. It means he has subdued it. He’s subdued his mind. So when we speak of subduing one’s mind, it’s just concerning this matter.
Subduing your own mind is called “quelling the dragons and taming the tigers.” When the Way is lofty, the dragons are quelled and the tigers are tamed. When the virtue is weighty, one is in companionship with the ghosts and spirits.
To quell the dragons and tame the tigers. Whether man or woman, the thoughts of desire are like a tiger. If you can control them, if you can remain in control, that’s called taming the tiger. If you cannot, you lose your temper. Temper is like a dragon. As soon as you lose your temper it has the strength and the spiritual transformations and penetrations of a dragon.
This analogy is very apt. The temper is like a dragon. A dragon can hide away or it can manifest. When it’s hidden away, you don’t have any temper. When it manifests, your temper flows out. Your temper can be big or it can be small. If you can get really angry, that’s a really big dragon. If you can just get annoyed, that’s a little dragon. If you don’t lose your temper at all, that’s the dragon behaving himself. You’ve subdued the dragon. So subdue the dragon and tame the tiger. It’s just that kind of kung fuwhich does it.
To subdue the mind is to subdue the mind of lust. You should quell the lustful thoughts of sexual desire in your mind and then you will have real skill. If you can watch over yourself that means you’re in control. When you’re in control, you’re not turned by states. You can’t be upsidedown. If when you meet up with these states you are just upsidedown and unable to put it all down, then you’re not in control. When you’re not in control, then ignorance gets heavier day by day. So when we investigate Ch’an, dhyana, it is so we can smash ignorance, subdue our minds, bring out the stillness within movement, and the movement within stillness. Movement and stillness are not two. Movement and stillness are one.
As You Will Pearl Hand and Eye
When that’s been done, then I will grant that you have had a minor response. To talk too much is of no use. It’s still up to you to work at whatever kung fu you’re developing, and when it all comes together you will have a major response. Okay?
In the Ch’an hall we subdue the body and subdue the mind. In subduing the body, we refine the body into a vajra body, an indestructible body. In subduing the mind, we increase the Bodhi mind day by day and decrease the mind of false thinking day by day. So use patience in your cultivation.
Cultivation is cultivating bitterness which you do not want to cultivate. You shouldn’t feel that at the first signs of pain you are going to retreat. When we investigate Ch’an and sit in meditation, your mind must be durable, as durable as vajra. No matter how much your mind is ground and polished, it doesn’t change. No matter how it’s refined, it doesn’t change. It has that quality of durability. For instance, when you’re sitting in Ch’an and your back hurts, ask yourself, “Who hurts?” When you sit till your legs ache, reflect upon yourself and ask, “who hurts?” With no self in evidence how can there be pain? If there is pain, you should bear it. When you have borne it to the ultimate point, a day will come when you will become enlightened.
So don’t be afraid of the pain in your back, don’t be afraid when your legs hurt. Force yourself to do what is difficult. Do what other people can’t do. “What others can’t do, I do. What others can’t bear, I bear. What others can’t cultivate, I cultivate.” Eventually your kung fu will be realized.
Before your kung fu is realized you should work hard. When you have worked to the ultimate point—we need not even speak of pain—you won’t know the sky is above, below you’ll be unaware of the ground, and around you, you will be oblivious to people. At that time you unite as one substance with the great void, one substance with the Dharma Realm. Inside no body and mind, outside no world.
So it is said that the myriad things arise from nothing. Inside there’s no body and mind, outside there is no world. Looking far, there’s nothing; looking up close, there’s nothing. This is what’s meant by “looking in at your heart—your mind, your mind is not your mind, looking out at things, things are not things.” That is the state in which you know inside there is no body and mind, and outside there is no world. There’s no mind, no body, no world. All three are empty. Even the emptiness of the three is empty. It’s also non-existent. Emptiness is non-existent; non-existence is also non-existent. Then, in a still and profound way your original face appears.
When your original face appears, you know, “Oh, basically that’s the way it is!” But if you still have a thought of that’s the way it is, then you’re not empty. When the “that’s the way it is” thought is gone, that’s really your original face.
When you’re enlightened basically there isn’t anything at all. Everything is clean, pure, bright light, your inherent self-nature. Your body becomes a living Tathagata.
If you can understand that basically there isn’t anything at all, your body is just a living Buddha, a living Tathagata. But this isn’t just “head-mouth zen” I’m talking. If you really get to that state, then it can be that way. If you haven’t reached that level and you say, “I’m a living Tathagata,” what kind of living Tathagata are you? That’s very pitiful. Prior to enlightenment, don’t be lax. Day by day, don’t be lax. Don’t be casual about the false thoughts you have.
Didn’t I say last night that in walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, you should protect yourself, mind your own business, look after yourself. You have a lot of gems in your household. Don’t lose your gems. If you lose your gems then you will think to go outside and find gems. That’s a case of relinquishing the root and grasping at the branches. You’ve relinquished your foundation and are clutching at branches. I’ve told you this often, but you keep letting it go by. True skill, true kung fu, isn’t in any book, isn’t in any sutra, or any shastra, or in any part of the vinaya. It requires that you actually, truly, do the work of cultivation.
The sutras just tell people the Way. They teach you how to cultivate. But if you merely know the Way and you don’t cultivate, that’s useless. That’s as if you decide you are going to go to some city and you know the way there, but you don’t go. If you don’t go, then you won’t get to the city. You won’t be able to get to the treasures. If you don’t get to the treasure chest, then you won’t be able to get at the valuables that you wish. Sutras tell you the road to the treasury.
The vinaya is a method which teaches you how to get to the treasures. But if you know the method and you don’t use it, then you’re never going to get to the treasury. The shastras discuss the doctrines, discuss how to get to the treasury. But if you merely discuss coming and going, talk about it back and forth, and you don’t actually cultivate, to the end of the boundaries of the future, you won’t get to the treasury.
When you’re confused,
a thousand volumes are too few.
When you’re enlightened,
one word is too much.
When you’re all muddled and unclear, you can look at a thousand books and it won’t be sufficient. Still too few. If you have really become enlightened, if you’ve really penetrated to enlightenment, you have awakened, then one word is a lot of talk. You have no use for it. In the Ch’an school we discuss using the mind to seal the mind, not based on language and literature. There isn’t any language or literature. The inheritance of the Singular Dharma is also called the Mind Ground Dharma. The Dharma door of the mind ground tells you to cultivate it, to recognize it. It is the light and wind of the original ground. It’s not from any other place. It’s also called the Mind Ground Dharma door.
You won’t find the Mind Ground Dharma outside. But if you return the light, search within yourself, apply your kung fu to the self-nature, you will recognize your own mind and see your own nature. That’s what counts. So in the Ch’an school, they talk about enlightenment. They talk about “smashing your investigation” which means there’s no further need to investigate, you’ve broken through it. When you break through your topic of investigation, then that is the time when, after enlightenment, one word is more than enough.
Transformation Buddha on the Palm Hand and Eye
Several days ago I said when you work you have to have three qualities: durability, sincerity, and constancy. Durability means your mind has to be as solid as vajra, so that you don’t change it. For instance, when you’re working at developing your skill, you pay no attention to whether or not your practice has been of any benefit to you. You just strongly do the work. You must also be very sincere. You can’t even have a hair’s worth of artificiality in what you do. And you should be that way every day, constantly, unchanging.
You shouldn’t wish for anything. You shouldn’t have any hope of something. You shouldn’t wish, for instance, “I wish I’d get enlightened, I wish I’d open my wisdom, I wish I’d get spiritual penetrations, I wish for some advantages.” If you are one who truly cultivates the Way, you shouldn’t have these kinds of hopes. Don’t cultivate while harboring such wishes.
You say, “If there’s no hope, what am I doing it for?” It just because there’s no hope that you should do it. If it were something that was entirely feasible everybody would go and do it. But in this particular matter, it’s not for sure that there will be any accomplishment. So you must think, “I’m definitely going to do this.”
This is what is meant by “just paying attention to how the planting is going, and not worrying about the harvest.” When a farmer plants his field he carefully plants the seeds, and then takes care of them, nourishes them, weeds and waters them. He pays no attention to how many bushels his harvest will yield in the fall. He just takes very, very good care of the sprouts of grain when they come up. He doesn’t think about the harvest.
Cultivating the Way is just the same. “I’m just cultivating.” Pay no attention to whether or not you are going to become enlightened. With sleeping, eating, and wearing clothes, it should be the same way. When I’m hungry, I eat, and after I eat my fill I’m not hungry any more. When I’m cold I should put on clothes, so I won’t be cold.
Now, when cultivating, the question of birth and death arises. Birth and death are like great hunger. We cultivate and use the skill of the Ch’an school to feed birth and death, so that birth and death disappear. We exhaust birth and end death.
Not only is investigating dhyana that kind of Dharma door, if you hold mantras it works the same way. You should pay no attention to, “Oh, if I recite this mantra, I’ll get such-and-such a spiritual penetration or a certain kind of response” because just that one thought of seeking spiritual penetrations or seeking a response is a false thought. It’s a second thought. It’s not the number one truth. When you fall into the secondary truth that is a false thought. When you hold mantras you shouldn’t think of the kinds of advantages they will bring you.
Reciting the Buddha’s name is the same way. Just recite the Buddha’s name, “Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha,” time after time, just keep reciting. Pay no attention to whether there’s a response or not.
“I just take cultivation as my own. It’s what I should be doing.” If you can think like that, then you can really cultivate. For instance, when you investigate Ch’an, you just carry that one thought, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” and you just look into it. You don’t look into it thinking, “Oh, when am I going to become enlightened?” Because if you have that thought there will never be a time when you become enlightened. Why? You are not on the ground of primary truth. You have a thought and then another thought on top of that thought until you have ceaseless numbers of thoughts. Thought after thought flowing on and on. You can’t become singleminded.
When you cultivate you should be singleminded. When you’re singleminded there is an efficacious response: when your mind is scattered, then you are obstructed. If you can turn your mind to one, there will certainly be responses with your skill. If you can’t become singleminded, then you won’t have any such responses. If your thoughts are all divided, then you’re stupid and you can’t become enlightened.
When we cultivate and work at meditation we must return to the root and go back to our source. When you return to the root, basically there isn’t one thing. When you go back to the source, originally everything pervades the Dharma Realm to the bounds of empty space. There are no obstructions; there isn’t anything in all creation. Originally there isn’t anything at all, so where can the dust alight? What we think about, what we find necessary, what we wish for, are all the common mind, they are not the mind intent upon the Way. If you become singleminded and can subdue the common mind, then that is the mind intent upon the Way. The common mind is a false thought. The mind intent upon the Way is a true thought.
Those of us who cultivate the Way should first understand the Dharma of the Four Truths, which are: suffering, accumulation, extinction, and the Way. This is the first turning of the Dharma Wheel by the Buddha when he spoke Dharma for the five bhikshus. The first is the truth of suffering, the second is the truth of accumulation, the third is the truth of extinction, and the fourth is the truth of the Way.
First of all we must understand suffering. How many kinds of suffering are there? There are three sufferings, eight sufferings, and all the limitless sufferings. The three sufferings are: the suffering within suffering, the suffering of decay, and the suffering of process. When you are poor and in addition have nothing to eat, no place to live, and no clothes to wear, you experience the suffering within suffering.
The suffering of decay involves wealthy people. Now they’re not poor but sometimes their wealth is destroyed. It decays; it goes bad.
The suffering of process occurs when you go from being young to being middle-aged, to being old, to your death. It is the continual flow in thought after thought of birth, old age, sickness, and death, which in every thought never ceases. And you aren’t in control. For instance, when your eyes start to go bad, you can’t be in control and say, “Don’t go bad. I don’t permit you to go bad.” You aren’t the owner. When you ears go deaf, you have no control over them. You can’t say, “Don’t go deaf.” Once again you can’t be in control.
When your teeth fall out you don’t have any way to tell your teeth not to fall out. In all these cases, you aren’t in control. When you get sick and you think to arrest the sickness, you once again aren’t in control. When it’s time to die and you don’t want to die, you still aren’t in control. That’s the suffering of process, a lifetime suffering of process.
The eight sufferings are the suffering of birth, the suffering of old age, the suffering of sickness, the suffering of death, the suffering of being apart from those you love, the suffering of being together with those you hate, the suffering of not getting what you seek, and the suffering of the roaring blaze of the five skandhas. So the Buddha turned the Dharma wheel of the Four Truths for the five bhikshus. He said, “This is suffering; it is oppressive by nature. This is accumulation; it beckons one by nature. This is extinction; its nature is that it can be certified to. This is the Way; its nature is that it can be cultivated.” Then he said, “This is suffering; I already know it. This is accumulation; I have already ended it. This is extinction; I have already certified to it. This is the Way; I have already cultivated it.”
Then he said, “This is suffering; you should know it. This is accumulation; you should cut it off. This is extinction; you should certify to it. This is the Way; you should cultivate it.” He turned the Dharma wheel of the Four Truths, and Ajnatakaundinya, whose name is interpreted as “understanding the fundamental limit,” became enlightened as soon as he heard the Buddha speak this Dharma. So he’s also called “the first to understand.” He was the first to understand the Buddha Dharma and to become enlightened, to certify to the fruit of Arhatship. People who cultivate the Way should understand these Four Truths. Formerly an American who studied the Buddha Dharma asked me if there was really such a thing as the Dharma of the Four Truths. That’s the kind of question he asked.
In America there are also self-proclaimed Buddhist groups who do not bow to the Buddha, who do not recite sutras, and who do not hold mantras. They ask, “Basically everybody is a Buddha, what’s the sense in bowing to the Buddha? The sutras were spoken by a person, the Buddha spoke the sutras, what’s the use in reciting the sutras?” But those of deviant knowledge and deviant views hear these doctrines and find a little meaning in them. “Take a look at that, without bowing to the Buddha or reciting the Buddha’s name one can just become a Buddha.
That’s certainly the skill-in-means within skill-in-means. An excellent Dharma-door!” So they follow these people and learn how to be pieces of wood. Whenever they see the Buddha they stand stiff as a board, when they see the Dharma they are like statues, they don’t move. They are even less respectful when they meet the sangha.
This is really pitiful. Some people say within Buddhism the Small Vehicle is good. Others say within Buddhism the Great Vehicle is good. Some people say the Great Vehicle is phoney, others say the Small Vehicle isn’t true.
In the end what would you say is right? Which is false and which is true? Which is right and which is wrong? This is an example of working, applying your effort to self and others and to right and wrong. Originally within the Buddhadharma there was no Great Vehicle or Small Vehicle. There was only the Buddha Vehicle and no other. But as time went on, the Buddha’s undersirable disciples, his disobedient disciples, made divisions of great and small within his teachings and divisions of right and wrong. From that point until the present, categories and divisions have not been abandoned, and so there are very, very few first-stage or second-stage or third-stage or fourth-stage Arhats who are certified Arhats.
Some people cultivate the Bodhisattva Way and benefit self and benefit others, enlighten themselves and enlighten others, take themselves across and take others across. Yet because they attach to the appearance of self and others, it becomes false and empty. This is why when I came to America I took as my motto, “Everything is Okay.” When the disciples scold me, it’s okay with me; when the teacher teaches me, it’s okay with me. When I encounter a living patriarch, that’s okay too.
Nine years ago a disciple who is here now participating in this session heard me bring up this motto of “everything is okay” and he had an opposing opinion. I don’t know if he still remembers this because it happened nine years ago. He said that if someone came to where you were and forced you to give them all your things, would that be okay? And this is what I said to him then.
I said, “He can take whatever he wants, he doesn’t have to use force; isn’t that okay?” Whatever he wants to take he can take, no need for him to force it away or steal it. If everything can really be okay with you then you’re really comfortable. You don’t have any problems, but it is really, really not easy. Whoever can have everything be okay will find all his problems solved. Okay.
Uniting and Holding Thousand Arms Hand and Eye
According to the Small Vehicle, Buddhism is over 2500 years old. According to the Great Vehicle it is over 3000 years old. In Buddhism we find an attachment to the Great and Small Vehicles, and much opposition between them. Those of Small Vehicle Buddhism won’t admit there is a Great Vehicle. And in the Great Vehicle Buddhism, the attitude toward the Small Vehicle is condescending.
So, just within the Buddhadharma itself there arises this difficulty. You say I’m false and I say you’re false; as a result, it’s become the case that both are false, neither is true. That’s because the Buddha’s disciples didn’t listen to the Buddha’s instructions and made divisions of Great and Small.
An expression says one must enter as the master and come out as the slave. So if you are a Great Vehicle person, then the Great Vehicle is the master, the lord, and the Small Vehicle is the servant. And if you’re of the Small Vehicle, then you say that the Small Vehicle is the master and the Great Vehicle is the servant. All this struggle occurs right in the basic substance of the Buddhadharma.
When I was in Los Angeles I said to a bhikku from Thailand. “The Small Vehicle should take a step forward and not be so attached. And the Great Vehicle should take a step back and not be so attached.” When the two, the Great and the Small Vehicles, don’t have any attachments, then they can become one. When they become one then they can obtain mutual benefit from one another, and not indulge in mutual slander.
In the Dharma-ending Age, all the Buddha’s disciples do superficial work. They don’t apply their work to the fundamental, actual places. And that’s a very painful situation. Not only do people nowadays argue about Great Vehicle and Small Vehicle, but before in India there were two Bodhisattvas, bodhisattva Asanga (non-attachment) and Bodhisattvas Vasubandhu (heavenly relative).
One of these Bodhisattvas studied the Great Vehicle, and the other one studied the Small Vehicle. The one who studied the Great Vehicle knew what the experiences were like for the one who studied the Small Vehicle, but the one who studied the small Vehicle could not fathom what the state of the Great Vehicle was like. He didn’t know, because those of the Small Vehicle are not permitted to read the Great Vehicle sutras, even to the point that if you bring up the name of a Great Vehicle sutra you’ve broken a precept. That’s how sever it is.
Now, Asanga was the older brother and Vasubandhu was the younger brother, and it was the older brother who studied the Great Vehicle Dharma. He studied the wonderful principles of the Avatamsaka. The younger brother studied the Small Vehicle, the sutras and the principles. Not only did he study the doctrines of the Small Vehicle, but he also wrote shastras which slandered the Great Vehicle. How many shastras did he write? He wrote 500 volumes—500 volumes of shastras which criticized the Great Vehicle, saying in what ways it was wrong, in what ways it was mistaken, and how the Buddha didn’t speak the Great Vehicle Dharma.
Take a look at that: they were blood brothers and they took different roads, each thinking he was right, each thinking the other was wrong. Like fire and water. Although they were brothers, they were like fire and water; they weren’t compatible. Asanga studied Great Vehicle principles of the Avatamsaka. He deeply entered the sutra store and had wisdom like the sea. And he thought, “My younger brother believes in the Small Vehicle Buddhadharma, that’s too pitiful. I have to think of a way to convert him.”
How was he going to convert such a stubborn brother who wouldn’t listen to him? He thought up an expedient device. He wrote a letter to his younger brother and said, “I know that I am going to die soon. Before I die I would like to see you. I don’t know if you can bring my wish to fulfillment.” And the older brother wrote the younger brother the letter, but basically the younger brother didn’t pay any attention to his older brother. He never listened to what he told him. When he read the letter about how his older brother was about to die and that it might be the last time he would see him, he said, “Okay, I’ll go.” He’d go see his brother.
The two of them chatted a bit and the older brother said, “I’m about to die. There is a sutra that I haven’t finished reading and I haven’t any energy to recite the sutra. Could you help me out and finish reading the sutra to me?”
The younger brother said, “Wellll…sure I can do that.”
So he recited the Great Vehicle sutra out loud for his brother. And when he started reciting there was nothing special about, but after he had recited for awhile, he started to sweat and then he became really ashamed. He said, “Oh, the offenses I have committed are too many! I have been slandering the Great Vehicle sutras and then I come to find out the state of the Great Vehicle is this mysterious and wonderful! I’ve just been sitting in a well looking at the sky; trying to measure the sea with a calabash. I’ve made a grave mistake.” And then he pulled out his sword and pulled out his tongue with his hand and prepared to cut off his tongue. His older brother said, “Wait! What are you doing? Tell me about it first.”
His younger brother said, “Now that I have read the Great Vehicle sutras, I realize that in the past I’ve slandered the Great Vehicle and that it was a mistake. Since I’ve used my tongue to slander the Great Vehicle I want to cut out my tongue.”
His brother said, “Don’t be so stupid! Before you used your tongue to slander the Great Vehicle; now you know that was a mistake so use your tongue to praise the Great Vehicle. What in the world do you want to cut it out for? For instance, if somebody falls down, he pushes himself back up, he doesn’t just lay there.”
When his younger brother heard that, he saw it had a lot of principle so he didn’t cut out his tongue. He wrote the Avatamsaka Shastra, all together 600 chapters, in praise of the Avatamsaka Sutra.
So it is not strange that people nowadays make discriminations between Great and Small Vehicles and say there are only Arhats, there aren’t any Bodhisattvas or any Buddhas in the ten directions. They are still arguing ceaselessly and it’s really too bad.
A few days ago I said in Buddhism there shouldn’t be any Great Vehicle and Small Vehicle, there is only the Buddha Vehicle. There is no other Vehicle. If you can look at it this way, then you won’t be able to have so much attachment. Also, for the sake of the Dharma, you should forget yourself. For the sake of seeking the buddhadharma, you should not spare body or life. So it is said that to the ends of space throughout the Dharma Realm, there isn’t a place even as small as a speck of dust which is not a place where all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past, the present, and the future have given up their lives.
All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have renounced their lives for the sake of the Buddhadharma in order to seek true principle, to seek the unsurpassed Way.
The people today not only don’t seek true principle, they also indulge in mutual slander of one another. The Small Vehicle slanders the Great Vehicle; the Great Vehicle slanders the Small Vehicle. Evolving in this way the substance of Buddhism has grown into a lot of rights, wrongs, us and them, mine and yours—all these discriminations. They don’t understand in the least that the practices which the past Buddhas cultivated had in them no sense of self and others, of right and wrong. They just cultivated many kinds of Dharma doors and did not criticize the dharma doors of any other people as being wrong.
Now I will give you an example of the way in which the Buddha forgot himself for the sake of the Dharma. Long ago, prior to when Shakyamuni Buddha had become a Buddha, he cultivated all kinds of doors of conduct. Though he hadn’t met a wise advisor to instruct him in the true principle, he was very sincere. And since he didn’t have a good and wise advisor he used sincerity in seeking for one. And about that time a rakshasa ghost came along. It was a very very ugly rakshasa ghost and when he got there he recited a verse. What did he say?
All activities are impermanent,
characterized by production and extinction.
Shakyamuni Buddha who was then in the causal ground long ago as a cultivator of the Way, heard him recite that much and recognized it as Buddhadharma. But the ghost had recited only half the verse. There was still another two lines. So he said to the ghost. “Please tell me what they are.”
The rakshasa ghost said, “Tell you? Well, it’s not as simple as that. I’m not going to tell you just like that, cause now I’m hungry. I don’t have the energy to recite the last two lines of the verse. If you want to hear them, you should first renounce your life. I’ll eat you and then we’ll talk about it.”
Shakyamuni Buddha in the causal ground said to him, “But if you eat me and then speak it, there won’t be anybody to hear it. And then I won’t have gotten any benefit and living beings won’t have gotten any benefit. It would be better if you spoke it first and then eat me. If you speak it first and then eat me, then I’m agreed, that’s okay with me.”
The rakshasa ghost said, “Welll…Okay.” So he recited:
All activities are impermanent,
characterized by production and extinction.
When production and extinction are ended,
still extinction is bliss.
He finished speaking it and said, “Okay I said it is already hard for me to bear my hunger. I want to eat you.”
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Wait a minute.”
The rakshasa ghost said, “Wait for what? You aren’t going to keep your end of the bargain? That’s not fair. You can’t not keep your word. You told me if I said the end of the verse that you would renounce your life. You can’t back out. I won’t permit it.”
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “I’m not backing out. Wait a minute. I want to write that four line verse on a tree. And then later on when someone sees it and reads it, they will gain benefit from it.”
The rakshasa ghost said, “All right, write it on a tree.”
So Shakyamuni Buddha carved the words in the tree. When he finished the rakshasa ghost said, “Okay, it’s time for me to eat you.”
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “It’s not sufficient just to write it on the tree, because after a long period of time the words will disappear. Then wind and rain will erode it. The words will fade away. Can you wait a minute while I carve the words on a rock? I will cut them in and then they will be there eternally. And living beings of the future will be able to see them. Wait a minute.”
The rakshasa ghost said, “Okay. If I have to wait, I’ll wait.”
And Shakyamuni Buddha carved the four lines into a rock. When he finished carving it he said, “Okay now I’m inviting the rakshasa ghost to come and eat me.”
As soon as he had actually invited the rakshasa ghost to eat him, the rakshasa ghost ascended into empty space and turned into Shakra, the lord of the heaven of the Thirty-three, who had come to test him to see how really sincere he was, to see if he could really renounce his body for the sake of the Dharma.
So if you can really give it up…
If you don’t give up death
then you can’t avoid birth.
If you can’t renounce the false
you don’t realize the truth.
So those of you who study the Buddhadharma should truly renounce everything. If you have kindness, compassion, joy, and giving, the Four Boundless Minds, then you can work in response with the Way. Shakyamuni Buddha renounced his life for the sake of half a verse, for the sake of seeking the Buddhadharma, for the sake of accomplishing the unsurpassed Way. But now cultivators of the Way can’t put aside their thoughts of desire. All they know about is selfishness and benefiting themselves, of making a profit for themselves. They only know about themselves; they don’t do it for the sake of the Dharma or for the sake of the Buddha, or for the sake of the Sangha.
But when they cultivate, they investigate Ch’an and sit in meditation, they do it all for their own sakes. They don’t bring forth the heart of the Bodhisattva, they don’t cultivate the Bodhisattva Way. They can’t benefit themselves and benefit others, enlighten themselves and enlighten others, save themselves and save others. They can’t do that and since they can’t, they should at least save themselves, enlighten themselves, and benefit themselves in this session.
This matter of sessions has become the latest craze in America. Some people just come to take a look. Although it’s a little bit bitter, they try it out to see if it has any flavor. But they’re just going through the motions. In several years of having sessions, although there have been people who have attained benefit, they are few. Why? It is because the people who are here are in it for the experience. They aren’t in it to really work at it, they aren’t here for the sake of investigating Ch’an. It’s not a case of forgetting their bodies for the sake of the Dharma. In their minds the discriminations are very heavy. There are lots of distinctions being made. They sit here and if they aren’t having this false thought, they are having that false thought. Sometimes they are running east, sometimes they are running west, south, north—they go everywhere.
So now this session will soon be over. In this last bit of time if you work very well there’s still a chance there will be a response. There’s still hope. Hope for what? Hope that you will become enlightened a little sooner; that you will understand your mind and see your nature a little sooner; that you will recognize your original face a little sooner. Since I talk but can’t really talk, and I explain things but can’t really explain them, it would be better if I just didn’t talk or explain. That would be better and all of you could run around and play some more and then sit and fight the battle a little more.