A Constantly Bubbling Spring Appeared by the Temple
Meditation starts at 2 a.m. and goes until midnight, at which time people can sleep.
During the day there is only one hour of rest.
Now we come to the year of 1976.
The multitudes gather from the ten directions to investigate Chan.
Every hour, minute, and second must be cherished.
While walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, Investigate deeply and carefully.
Empty space is shattered, and you understand the Mind's Ground.
The Dharma Realm remains the same, yet you see the Nature's Sky.
Where can you find your original face?
Right here at Gold Mountain Monastery!
Today is December 15, 1976, and people endowed with good roots have come from the ten directions to the great smelting furnace (Gold Mountain Monastery) to investigate Chan. Investigating Chan is not a very fun affair; you must take a lot of suffering. Meditation starts at 2 a.m. and goes until midnight, at which time people can sleep. During the day there is only one hour of rest. That's the traditional practice at the Gold Mountain Monastery.
During the Chan session, you must forget the body, the mind, and the world. You must forget everything, which means you must have no “self” and see everything as empty. When you reach the state of true emptiness, wonderful existence comes forth. Everyone, pay attention! In cultivation, you must not chatter casually or have random thoughts. Even less should you be lazy and try to take it easy. Every minute and second must be cherished. It is said,
An inch of time is an inch of life.
Therefore, you should be investigating Chan while you are walking, standing, sitting, and lying down. In all of these modes, you should be investigating Chan. Your investigation should be penetrating and thorough, so that the deeper you go, the more you understand, and the more you look into it, the clearer you become.
This refers to investigating the meditation topic. Don't ever stop. Constantly investigate “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” or “What was my original face before my parents gave birth to me?” You must enter deeply and investigate in detail. One day, you will be able to shatter empty space, and at that time you will understand the mind. Even though empty space is shattered, the Dharma Realm remains intact. The ten Dharma Realms are still in order and not mixed up. At that point you will see your own nature, which is like the sky. Where can you go to search for your original face? You can come to Gold Mountain Monastery to look for it. If you go elsewhere, you won't find it.
This is an explanation of the eight lines of verse I spoke today. I hope each of you will remember it well, and cultivate according to it. Don't just swallow it without digesting it. That would be useless. Don't let it just go in one ear and out the other, without retaining any impression. That would be as useless as not hearing it at all.
A talk given on December 15, 1976, during a Chan Session at Gold Mountain Monastery in San Francisco
Chan Sessions Are for Seeking Enlightenment in a Limited Time
A Chan session is held for the purpose of seeking to become enlightened in a fixed period of time. So don't sit on the meditation bench and indulge in idle thinking; that would not do justice to your purpose in attending the Chan session. What kinds of idle thoughts might you have? Delusive thoughts come in all varieties, but in general they are no more than flights of fancy and wishful thinking. Some people have the idle thought: “I hope I can get enlightened and attain great wisdom in this session. After I'm enlightened, I'll publicize it to the world, and everyone will know I am an enlightened person and treat me with great respect.”
All of you should consider this: can a person who thinks like that get enlightened? I emphatically declare that it's impossible. Why? As soon as that person sits on the meditation bench, his idle thoughts come in droves, and if he's not idly thinking about seeking fame, he's idly thinking about how to make a profit. How can a person who is spun around by fame and profit become enlightened?
Some people have this idle thought: “In this Chan session, I definitely have to get enlightened. I have to be the first person to get enlightened in this session. I'll be the one and only enlightened person, and no one else will get enlightened. How glorious that would be!” Without even getting close to being enlightened, he feigns it and announces everywhere that he is enlightened. He cheats people because he wants them to show him special favor. His plan is to “pass off fish-eyes as pearls.” But his ideas are so childish that people will only despise and laugh at him. Hopefully no one will entertain such ideas. Rather, we should plant our feet firmly on the ground and apply our efforts in investigating Chan, so that we can attain real skill that counts!
Other people have this kind of idle thought: “I want to get enlightened, so people will make offerings to me. Then I can build a big temple, be the Dharma host of the area, and have lots of followers who come and make offerings. I'll be a great Dharma Master known throughout the world, and everyone will treat me as a high-class Dharma Master.” However, you must know that if you really aren't as proficient and knowledgeable as you make out to be, and you receive people's offerings, your conscience will not rest easy.
When sitting in Chan, make sure your posture is correct. A correct posture benefits both body and mind. Without it, sitting in Chan loses its meaning. When you sit in meditation, first relax the body and mind. Don't tense up. It would be ideal to sit in full lotus, which is the basic posture.
To sit in full lotus, first put the left foot over the right thigh, and then move the right foot over the left leg. This is also called the vajra position, which means it is firm and unmoving. All the Buddhas of the past attained Buddhahood by sitting in the vajra position. In this sitting posture, one can subdue the demons from the heavens and counter those of other religions. When they see you in this position, they surrender and retreat, afraid to disturb you.
Once you are sitting in lotus posture, your eyes should contemplate your nose, and not look left and right.
The eyes contemplates the nose;
The nose contemplates the mouth;
The mouth contemplates the heart.
This way, you can gather in the body and mind. The mind is like a monkey or a wild horse, and you must tie it up so it won't run away. It is said,
When one is concentrated,
there is an efficacious result.
When one is scattered, there is nothing.
You should sit properly, with the back straight and the head up. Don't lean forwards, backwards, or to the left or right. Sit firm and steady like a large bell, not swaying or moving. Don't be like the bell clapper which swings back and forth. Full lotus is the proper posture for sitting in Chan.
Beginning Chan meditators who are not used to it may experience pain in their legs and soreness in the back. Don't worry. Just grit your teeth and be patient for a while, and these sensations will naturally subside. It is said, “With long sitting, there is Chan.” You will attain the flavor of Chan.
What is the flavor of Chan? You attain the bliss of Chan samadhi, and taste the flavor of light ease. This flavor is inexhaustibly subtle and wonderful, inconceivable and indescribable. Only those who have experienced it will understand and know, just as a person who drinks the water will know its temperature. This can only be experienced by the mind, and cannot be communicated by mouth. If you want to know if the flavor of Chan is sweet or bitter, work hard at investigating Chan, and when you reach a certain stage, you will discover the flavor yourself! So, you must investigate! Investigate until “stones peep out from the receding water” (the truth is brought to light), and then you'll know the flavor of Chan.
Chan must be investigated, not discussed. That's why the Chan School is not based on language. Transmitted outside the teaching, this Dharma-door points directly to the mind, so that one sees the nature and attains Buddhahood.
When Chan cultivators have achieved a certain amount of skill in their investigation, they definitely will not lose their temper or argue with people, because they have reached the state of the samadhi of non-contention. Nor will they seek fame or gain, because they will regard wealth and honor as being like dew, and fame and position like frost, disappearing in an instant. Real cultivators keep their distance from fame and gain, and don't let their minds get influenced by them.
If you want to evaluate a person's cultivation, see if his every move is motivated by the desire for fame and profit. Is he someone who seeks fame, and gets mad when he cannot obtain it? Does he lose his temper if his pursuit of profit is frustrated? Does the fire of his ignorance and his tiger-like spirit make him the toughest one around? If so, then you know without asking that this person is after fame and profit.
When the Emperor Qianlung of the Qing Dynasty went to Gold Mountain Chan Monastery in Zhenjiang to view the scenery of the Yangtze River, he asked Chan Master Faqing, “How many boats come and go on the Yangtze in one day?” The Chan Master replied, “Only two boats.” Qianlung was puzzled, and asked him, “How do you know there are only two boats?” The Chan Master said, “One boat is out for fame, and the other boat is out for profit.”