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.”
From this, we know that anyone who takes a boat is either out for fame or for profit. What they don't know is that those who seek fame die for fame and those who seek profit die for profit. In the end, they go to see King Yama empty-handed. As it is said,
You can't bring anything with you.
Only your karma will follow you.
If a cultivator has no temper, and can endure insult and suffering, he can be a Dharma vessel and a pillar of Buddhism who can help Buddhism to expand and prosper. But if he likes to lose his temper all the time, he will only harm Buddhism and be the black sheep of Buddhism.
Buddhism has just planted the seeds of Bodhi in the pure soil of the West, and now they have already sprouted and put forth tender shoots. I hope everyone will be a good gardener and diligently water them and fertilize them often, so that they thrive joyously and grow more flourishing every day. Then eventually the Bodhi blossoms will open and bear the fruit of Bodhi.
The four-fold assembly of residents at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas should be especially cautious in their speech. Don't talk recklessly, and don't gossip about the faults of others. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is a pure and holy place for cultivation, and will not tolerate heterodox teachings. Right in front of the ten thousand Buddhas, how can people speak so carelessly? Take heed!
Sickness enters through the mouth;
Calamity comes out of the mouth.
This familiar adage holds a lot of principle. We should think thrice before speaking, to avoid making mistakes in cause and effect. Not only are we legally responsible for what we say, we must also undergo the retribution according to the law of cause and effect.
Buddhism is a religion which teaches selflessness, so it prohibits fortune-telling, whether by looking at facial features or hexagrams. Even less should we believe in geomancy. Since these skills go against the Buddhadharma and oppose the Way, their propagation is curtailed. If you have faith in these dharmas, you still have a notion of self. You will think of things as being “mine” and always be thinking on behalf of “myself.” But considering only yourself and no one else does not accord with the Buddhadharma.
Buddhism is a religion which teaches people not to contend, not to be greedy, not to seek, not to be selfish, not to pursue personal benefit, and not to tell lies. Geomancers, on the other hand, tell people to contend, to seek, to be selfish, and to pursue personal benefit. They may even lie by telling people they will strike it rich or be promoted to a high rank in the next hundred days. Greedy people believe their words. But before they strike it rich, they first have to make a donation to the geomancer as a token of appreciation. The geomancers might as well tell people to rob a bank and get rich instantly, without having to wait a hundred days.
Moreover, if the geomancer really knows of some favorable geomantic features conducive to striking it rich or getting a big promotion, why wouldn't he use them himself? Why would he want to wait for you to use them? That makes no sense! I hope intelligent people will not let themselves be swindled by superstition or cheated by these old crooks.
Doctors, diviners, astrologists, and physiognomists belong to one of the five types of livelihoods which are improper (for left-home people). Doctors treat sicknesses, diviners forecast good and ill, astrologers tell fortunes by looking at the stars, and physiognomists look at facial features to predict whether one's life will be smooth or difficult. These are all superstitions. We should understand that “human determination can overcome fate.”
Cultivators who have renounced the home-life are not afraid of the great matter of birth and death; how much the less are these small matters worth their interest. People who leave the home-life can transcend their fate.
They transcend the three realms and
are no longer in the five elements.
Only people who are strongly attached to the world believe in such things as horoscopes and geomancy. We should know that a person's destiny is the result of his karma. We shouldn't let our temperament restrict us, or let our physical desires obscure our purpose. Instead, we ought to create our own destiny and take control of our destiny. We can change our destiny. If you do many meritorious and virtuous deeds, hardships will transform into auspiciousness. There is a saying,
Just practice good deeds,
And don't ask about the future.
Now as we attend the Chan session, we are establishing a new life. Get rid of superstition, and believe in what's proper. Don't just repeat what you hear and go around spreading lies. Don't blindly follow behind others─that would be a great mistake. You must have the Dharma-selecting Eye so that you can tell right from wrong, understand what's good and what's evil, and distinguish clearly between black and white. Then you won't be turned upside-down in confusion.
Those who investigate Chan can be the masters of their own birth and death. They can come and go freely without any restriction. As it is said,
My destiny is determined by myself, not by heaven.
Even Old Man Yama has no control over you. He cannot touch you! Why not? Because you've already transcended the Three Realms.
What is meant by being free to come and go? It is the freedom to be born and die. If you want to live, you can live; if you want to die, you can die, as your heart desires. But take note─this kind of death doesn't mean committing suicide or taking poison.
Our body is like a house, and if we want to go out and travel, we are free to go wherever we want. If we wish, we can have a hundred million transformation bodies to teach living beings throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm. If we don't wish to travel, we can stay in the house and no one will disturb us. We should know that everything in empty space and in the Dharma Realm is included within the Dharma-body. Nothing can go outside the Dharma-body.
All of you have gone to a lot of trouble to come attend the Chan session, and to work non-stop day and night, because you hope to gain freedom and security over birth and death, to control your own life, and to be your own master. That is truly the state of freedom over birth and death.
In investigating Chan, when you reach the state of not knowing that there is the sky above, the earth below, and people in between, and you become one with empty space, there is some hope for enlightenment. Walking and sitting, sitting and walking─these are the key for opening our wisdom.
Investigate “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” Which person is mindful of the Buddha? Who is sitting in meditation? Which person is sitting in meditation? Who is the one eating? Who is the one sleeping? We must search for that person. To search, we must investigate. When we investigate to the point that the mountains disappear and the waters vanish, all we have to do is turn around and we'll be enlightened. There is a saying,
When the mountains disappear and the waters vanish,
you doubt there is a road ahead.
Beyond the dark willows and the bright flowers is another village.
It is also said,
If you can climb to the top of a hundred-foot pole and then take another step,
The worlds in the ten directions will appear in their entirety.
If you don't investigate Chan and sit in meditation, where do you come from when you are born? Where will you go when you die? You don't know. Not knowing, you are born in a muddle and you die in a muddle, and you spend your whole life the same way. How pitiful!
If you work hard at investigating Chan, then when you get enlightened you will recognize your original face before your parents gave birth to you. You will suddenly fathom everything; you will know all the internal and external details and general and subtle aspects of all the myriad phenomena, and you will thoroughly comprehend the total functioning of the mind. Having attained the state of great creation and great transformation, you will eventually accomplish the Buddha fruition and attain the highest proper, equal, right enlightenment. Laozi once said,
When all the world knows what is fine,
then what is bad already exists.
When they know what is good,
then what is not good already exists.
The people of the world all know that it is good to do fine, wholesome deeds, but when it comes time to do them, they are no longer fine. Everyone says it's right to do good deeds, but when states come, they can't pass the test. Confused by states, they do evil deeds instead of good ones.
Students of the Buddhadharma know the Four Boundless Minds─kindness, compassion, joy, and giving─are fundamental to the practice of the Bodhisattva path, yet they don't practice them. What use is it if you just understand the theory? Every day you study the Six Perfections, but when the situation comes, you don't practice giving, you don't hold the precepts, you aren't patient, you aren't vigorous, you don't cultivate Chan samadhi, and you don't use wisdom. Tell me, what use is that?
1. Giving: You are supposed to give wealth to others, but when you're in a situation to do so, you don't give. On the contrary, you demand that others give to you, the more the better. “I won't give you anything, but you should give me something. I should gain the advantage, not take a loss.” That's the attitude everyone has.
2. Holding Precepts: The whole world knows that holding precepts means holding precepts, but when states come, people break the precepts instead of holding them. Holding the precepts means not letting one's mind be moved. No matter what state you meet, your mind does not move. Even when Mount Tai has a landslide, you are not startled. When a beautiful woman passes in front of you, you are not affected. With that kind of samadhi, you can turn states around. Whether the state is good or bad, pleasant or adverse, you remain calm and composed. When you don't give rise to discriminations, the wind calms down and the waves naturally subside.
3. Patience: You have to patiently endure the things which don't turn out the way you wish them to. This is a test. If you pass, then you have jumped over the hurdle. If you fail, then you haven't made it over the hurdle. Although we all know that patience can take us to the other shore, when we meet a difficult state, we cannot be patient. Then the fire of ignorance blazes up and burns away all the merit and virtue we accumulated over the years.
4. Vigor: Attending the Chan session is being vigorous. Everybody would like to be vigorous, but when the time comes, you aren't vigorous. Trying to be lazy and take a break, you slack off in your cultivation and run outside to make some tea. Or maybe you go to the restroom or to the kitchen to drink tea─these are all excuses to waste time. Before the session started, you say, “I'm going to work really hard in this Chan session.” But after the session starts, you don't act that way. You overturn all your former resolves. You deliberately break them. You know investigating Chan is good, but you still want to be lazy. How should we deal with such a contradictory mind? Anyone who doesn't abide by the rules of the Chan Hall will be beaten with the stick─bam! bam! bam!─until they get enlightened.
5. Chan Samadhi: Now you are investigating Chan, and you should make full use of the time to apply effort. Why are you attending the Chan session? It is because you want to concentrate your mind until there are no more idle thoughts, so that your wisdom can manifest. This is known as the “liberation of wisdom,” and in this Dharma-door you aim for achievement in a limited time.
6. Wisdom: Wisdom enables you to reach the other shore and end birth and death. But if a person gets lazy right at the point when his wisdom is about to come forth, he'll miss the chance to become enlightened. In the investigation of Chan, you must apply effort in every minute and every second, because you don't know which particular instant you might get enlightened. Someone is thinking, “I don't want to have wisdom; my stupidity is just fine. If I don't understand anything, so be it!” You are just trying to fool yourself. When it's time to die, you'll realize you've wasted your whole life, but by that time it's too late for regret.
Buddhism is just beginning in this country (United States), and needs to have true cultivators, people who really practice. We must cultivate by concentrating single-mindedly; we must cultivate by changing our faults and renewing ourselves; we must cultivate by smashing through our bad habits and being a good model for others. If we can do that, Buddhism is sure to have a bright future. But if at the start there aren't any true cultivators who can serve as good models, and no one makes a great resolve for Bodhi, Buddhism will not be able to prosper in the West. So the prosperity or failure of Buddhism is a great burden which all of you young people must bear.
Guo Zhen (Heng Sure) and Guo Ting (Heng Chau), who are now sincerely cultivating on a “three steps, one bow” pilgrimage, are the trailblazing pioneers of Buddhism. They take three steps and bow down on the road, not seeking blessings for themselves, but peace for the world. For more than two years, they have endured hunger, thirst, cold, heat, wind and rain. This kind of bitter cultivation is not something most people can do. They endure what others cannot endure, yield what others cannot yield, eat what others cannot eat, and wear what others cannot wear. Even in the wind and rain, they never miss a bow. In spite of the heat, cold, hunger, and thirst, they never stop to rest. Every day they do the morning and evening ceremonies as usual, not allowing themselves to be lax at any moment. The reason they are so energetic is because they wish to spread Buddhism and make it flourish all over the world. These two cultivators are working so arduously, not out of greed for fame or profit, but because they feel personally responsible for propagating Buddhism. Their spirit is truly commendable, and should be encouraged.
All of you should strive to be like these “three steps, one bow” cultivators. When you see their example, you should ask yourself, "What have I contributed to Buddhism? Do I do everything for my own sake, or for the sake of Buddhism?" If everything I do is for my own sake, I ought to be greatly ashamed and immediately correct my improper behavior. If it is for Buddhism, I should work even harder, and make a determined effort to propagate and support Buddhism. I should earnestly make the resolve to seek Bodhi, and practice the Bodhisattva Way without any expectations or desires. In everything I do, I should make the peace and happiness of others my top priority, and not scheme for my own benefit. That's the true spirit of a Bodhisattva.
You are walking and sitting, sitting and walking, and you think it's very grueling, but it's much more comfortable than the toil of bowing every three steps. You should deeply realize this, and not let this opportunity go by in vain. If those two cultivators hadn't made the Bodhi resolve to practice the Bodhisattva Way, they would find it impossible to persist and bow to the very end.
While in the Chan Hall, don't entertain any idle thoughts. If you do, then although your body is in the hall, your mind is out sightseeing in the world. Those reckless and confused thoughts will affect your resolve to cultivate. By all means, don't waste time. Use your time well and draw closer to enlightenment. If you prepare yourself in this way, you won't be sorry. But if you don't, it's all just empty words.
A talk given on August 20, 1979 in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Being Greedy for the Flavor of Chan Is Wrong
You will just keep waiting for that flavorful experience to reoccur. Waiting, you forget all about applying effort.
When you sit in Chan, don't be greedy for flavorful Chan. What is flavorful Chan? It refers to the bliss of the Dhyanas. When you have been sitting just about long enough, you start experiencing a feeling of comfort and freedom, and you may feel kind of indolent. If you become greedy for this state of comfort and ease, it's not easy for you to go on and make progress. You will linger there, always trying to get back to the state of flavorful Chan. When the state goes away, you will chase after it, thinking, "When am I going to have that kind of state again? In that state there was no self, no others, no living beings, and no life span; no afflictions, and no hassles. It was very blissful and very comfortable and free. I wonder when I will ever have that experience again." And you will just keep waiting for that flavorful experience to reoccur. Waiting, you forget all about applying effort. That's known as getting attached to flavorful Chan.
Cultivators of Chan need to be free of obstructions and hang-ups. They cannot be craving anything. You cannot get excessively happy, or depressed, and you shouldn't have any fear or terror. You should see your body as being the same as empty space and the Dharma Realm. There's no need to cling to anything or crave anything. As soon as you crave something, you fall into a secondary level of truth. A brief explanation of the states of the Four Dhyana Heavens is given below.
The Heavens of the First Dhyana / The Stage of the Happiness of Separating from Production: leaving the afflictions of living beings, one obtains the happiness of "taking Dhyana bliss as food" and "being filled with the joy of Dharma." Leaving the confusion of living beings, one starts advancing along the Bodhi path of the sages. Arriving at the First Dhyana isn't something you can fake. It isn't something you can claim for yourself; a Good and Wise Advisor must certify the state for you.
When you reach that state, there is proof－the proof is that you no longer inhale or exhale－your breath has stopped, although you aren't dead. This is known as entering the Samadhi of the First Dhyana. It's different from sleep, so you shouldn't think that going to sleep is the same as entering samadhi. When you are sleeping, you continue to breathe, and you may even snore so loudly that it sounds like thunder to your neighbors. A Good and Wise Advisor can tell immediately whether or not your breath has stopped. If you say, "I feel like my breath has stopped!" that's false. You're faking it. If you know, then you haven't even entered the First Dhyana! So don't try to put up a false sign and sell counterfeit goods.
If I were to go into this in detail, there are a lot of principles that could be talked about, and I could write a whole essay on this. But if I say too much, it only creates obstacles. So I've just said a little bit to prevent you from becoming arrogant and misled by deviant views and claiming to have entered the First Dhyana (the Stage of the Happiness of Separating from Production). That's really cheating people.
The Heavens of the Second Dhyana / The Stage of the Happiness of Attaining Samadhi: The state of these heavens is one level higher, and not only does the breath stop, even the pulse stops. Again, you will not know it when you arrive at this state, and you cannot claim you have reached it. If you say you feel like you have, how do you know? You haven't even entered samadhi yet, so are you trying to fool people by faking it?
The Heavens of the Third Dhyana / The Stage of the Wonderful Bliss of Leaving Happiness: When you reach the state of these Dhyana Heavens, your breath, pulse, and even your thoughts will have ceased. In these heavens, you have left happiness and renounced flavorful Chan; you don't have the slightest attachment or greed for the comfort of flavorful Chan. This state is much higher than that of the first and second Dhyanas. All the hairpores on your body are blissful at that time. They are really, really delighted!
The Heavens of the Fourth Dhyana / The State of the Purity of Renouncing Thought: At this time there is nothing at all. "When not a single thought arises, the entire substance manifests." You reach that state where: "A thousand pools contain water, The moon is reflected in all of them. For ten thousand miles there are no clouds, There are ten thousand miles of sky." Everything is speaking the Dharma. "Falling flowers and flowing water proclaim the Mahayana." But you don't know it when you are in this state, and you can't say, "I've reached the Heavens of the Fourth Dhyana." That would be gross arrogance on your part, and you would be telling a big lie. One must be certified by a Good and Wise Advisor for it to count.
Why is a Good and Wise Advisor called a "clear-eyed person"? It's because he can take one look at you and know what your level of cultivation is. If you want to test him out, go ahead! But he won't pay any attention to you. A true Good and Wise Advisor will not be tested by you, and he won't tell you all the secrets just because you asked. You must draw near a Good and Wise Advisor for a long time, and then he may tell you, but not in a very obvious way. Sometimes he might use an analogy, or just say a few words. So you can't go around proclaiming, "We've all become Buddhas!" You would be telling a big lie and playing a huge joke, and in the future you'd fall into the Hell of Pulling Out Tongues. That's really pathetic!
A talk given on the evening of November 18, 1982, at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas