In Investigating Chan, First Lay the Foundation
If you don't lay a good foundation, your house will not be sturdy; the wind will blow it down and the rain will wash it away.
Among the students of Buddhism, some like to investigate Chan; some like to study the teachings, speak the Dharma, and lecture on the sutras; some like to investigate the precepts; some enjoy cultivating the Secret School; and some like to practice the Pure Land School. No matter which school you like, you must concen-trate single-mindedly and cultivate with diligence. Then you will be able to achieve your goal and realize your hopes.
But if your mind isn't concentrated, then no matter what you study, it's the same as not studying. So after investigating Chan for two and a half days, you decide to recite the Buddha's name; after reciting the Buddha's name for half a day, you wish to study the Vinaya (moral code). After studying the Vinaya for a while, you decide to study in the Secret School. Since you keep changing your goal, you cannot concentrate. The reason you cannot concentrate is because you are seeking outside. You have your feet in two boats, and you can't decide whether you want to go north or south on the river. In that way, you end up wasting your whole life.
In investigating Chan, you must be vigorous at all times; don't be lazy for a single minute or second. You should investigate until:
The mountains disappear and the waters vanish, and you doubt there is a road ahead.
Beyond the dark willows and the bright flowers is another village.
At that point there is another heaven, another natural paradise. But you must investigate to the utmost point and reach the summit. Then there's a bit of hope, but not much. Although there's a tiny bit of hope, don't hang onto it, because that would be superfluous (adding a head on top of a head).
To investigate Chan, you must honestly put in the effort. First of all, you must practice sitting until your legs are compliant－until they don't hurt or cause any trouble. How can you get your legs to stop hurting? Is there a mantra you can recite to stop the pain? Is there a medicine you can take to keep them from hurting? No. You must endure the pain, and then they will become obedient and stop hurting. If you cannot endure it, and you move your legs and let them rest as soon as they start hurting, your legs will never become obedient because you are spoiling them. Whenever they hurt, you simply placate them as if placating an unhappy child. If the child knows his parents cannot bear to see him suffer, he won't be able to endure any suffering in the future. Your legs are just like a child; if you fear the pain, they will hurt all the time, even when they aren't supposed to hurt. That's because you've spoiled them rotten.
You must train your legs and your back to be compliant, so that they won't ache or hurt. When your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and mind are all compliant, so that they don't seek after sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, or dharmas; when you are not influenced by the six sense organs and six sense objects, and you can turn your attention inwards, that's true obedience. As it is said,
The eyes see forms, but inside there is nothing.
The ears hear sounds, but the mind does not know.
You constantly reflect within instead of seeking outside, and you always stick to your basic Dharma-door: "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" Holding to what is basic, you "only attain the root, and don't worry about the branchtips." There's no need to worry about unimportant matters; bit by bit, everything will become clear to you.
In cultivating the Dharma-door of investigating Chan, you shouldn't try to learn the details of how to investigate when you haven't learned how to sit in full lotus, or even half lotus. You haven't finished laying the foundation yet! To investigate Chan, you must first lay the foundation.
During the first week, you can clear the land. When you want to build a house, you must first make the land level.
In the second week, you can drive in the stakes. Driving in the stakes requires some effort--this is where you must cultivate patience and endure the pain, hunger, and cold. You must endure everything, and it takes a lot of strength. It's arduous, but you must travel this path. You have to lay a good foundation and drive in good stakes. Otherwise, your house will not be sturdy; the wind will blow it down and the rain will wash it away. That's the consequence of not driving in the stakes well and not setting a good foundation.
In the third week, you can put up the beams, rafters, column bases, and columns.
During the fourth week, you can erect the walls, install doors and windows, and put up the ridgepole. That's how a house is constructed, step by step. You can't "dig a well with one thrust of the shovel"; there's no instant accomplishment.
This is true not only of investigating Chan, but also of reciting the Buddha's name, studying the teachings, cultivating the Secret School, and practicing the Vinaya－ in any of these, you must devote your full attention to the task at hand. Make your mind honest, and don't yearn for what is lofty and distant. Don't run over to join the Secret School just because you hear someone talk about how wonderful it is. We shouldn't get so deluded that we obstinately refuse to see the truth and rigidly hold onto old ways. The facts are right in front of us, but with addled brains, we still chase after what's "secret, secret, secret" until we die for no apparent reason. That's truly secret! Actually, it's not secret, it's confusion; it's totally muddled.
Buddhists should study true principles. Don't blindly follow others. You should draw near virtuous people and stay away from bad people. Bad people are those who do nothing but cheat others. Virtuous people do not cheat others. People without virtue use all sorts of fraudulent means－that's why they can't preserve their virtue. Only those who don't cheat people can store up the merit and virtue they cultivate over the days and months. That's why their virtue endures. Pay attention to this when you observe people. Don't just judge by appearances and say, "That person looks virtuous; he seems to be a Good and Wise Advisor." You don't have any real way to determine that. You must really get to know him thoroughly before you can make such a statement. In this Dharma-ending Age, we all have the same problem, which is that we like to seek what is lofty and distant. Instead of using our eyes to see, we let our ears do the "seeing" for us. When we hear someone say something is good, we rush over. When we get there, we have no idea of whether it's really good or not, and without realizing it, we get duped. People who confusedly put their faith in wealth and sex and in geomancy are really pathetic!
In today's newspaper, there was an article about six children in the Fukien province of China who committed suicide together by jumping into the sea, hoping to become immortals. Why did they do that? They had been misled into believing that people who do evil become ghosts, and people who do good turn into immortals. And what did "doing good" mean? It meant not being afraid to die. Children in rural areas are quite naive and will believe whatever they hear. Since someone told those six children that good people are not afraid to die and will become immortals after death, they decided to kill themselves as a group and become immortals. They thought, "The Eight Immortals of the past probably committed suicide together. Now we can commit suicide together and become the Six Immortals and escape the cycle of rebirth in the six paths." Then they killed themselves, hoping to become immortals.
Well, did they become immortals? I can guarantee that they didn't. Why? They were too confused. People who become immortals are very intelligent. They aren't as foolish as these children, who had no understanding of true principles and couldn't tell right from wrong. How could they all die together and become immortals? If becoming immortal were that easy, everyone should just hurry up and die and become immortal. But that's impossible. How pitiful those foolish villagers are, blindly following this superstitious and deviant theory and leading their children astray. This is very sad.
But why were those children so eager and unafraid to die, saying they were going to become immortals? You could say their environment forced them to feel that life wasn't worth living, that it would be better to die than to be living corpses. So seeking liberation, they all went to their deaths together. The children had written the word "death" over a thousand times in their notebooks. Every day, it was "death, death, death." They thought of death from morning to night. In their ignorance, those boys and girls were seduced by super-stition and lost their true goal and direction.
Buddhists should not believe in superstition. You must break through superstition. What is superstition? It is being reckless and confused in your belief. You simply believe anything people say, and you end up all muddled. Being confused in your belief is still not that serious. It's only to be feared that you believe in confusion, that you believe in the confused, upside-down teachings of externalist ways. Some people try to be clever; they don't believe in what is true but instead believe in what is false. This is a case of being confused within confusion. They don't recognize true principles. They take the true to be false, and the false to be true. For example, in the case of the six children, the theory that "death leads to immortality" is actually just a false claim meant to cheat people, but they believed it. If someone had told them they have to cultivate before they can become immortals, they might not have believed that. There are many pathetic people and many woeful situations in the world; we could never finish speaking of them!
A talk given on November 28, 1982 Science and the Heaven
Chan Investigation Requires the Dharma-selecting Eye
If you don't recognize the proper Dharma, then you'll follow after deviant dharmas.
Students of the Buddhadharma must have the Dharma-selecting Eye so they can recognize right dharmas and wrong dharmas, black dharmas and white dharmas, good dharmas and bad dharmas. Be sure you never take right as wrong and wrong as right; or black as white, and white as black; or good as bad, and bad as good--that's all upside-down. If you want to recognize these dharmas, you must certainly have the Dharma-selecting Eye.
First of all, you cannot have the mark of self. If you have the mark of self, all kinds of obstacles will arise, and you will have no wisdom. Once there is a mark of self, selfish thoughts arise, followed by thoughts of benefiting the self and thoughts of seeking and greed. If you do not obtain what you seek and crave, contentious thoughts arise, and you will struggle with others to see who is stronger.
If you can have no mark of self, then what is the self? Who am I? Ponder and investigate: "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" The question "Who...?" isn't meant to be recited. It's of no use if you keep reciting it. You must investigate it. Investigation can be compared to drilling a hole. When you drill all the way through, you will thoroughly understand.
If for one moment you don't understand, For one moment you must investigate.
If for every moment you don't understand, For every moment you must investigate.
Investigating doesn't mean guessing. You guess, "Well, I'm mindful of the Buddha, you're mindful of the Buddha, and he's mindful of the Buddha, too? So who's mindful of the Buddha?" You can keep guessing, but you won't get the answer. Rather, you must search for the "who." The word "who" is the Vajra King Jeweled Sword, the sword of wisdom. You must use the wisdom sword to cut through all other idle thoughts, and then wisdom will spontaneously appear.
If you don't understand the Dharma-door of investigating Chan and you think the more you recite the better, just like reciting the Buddha's name, that's a mistake. You don't need to recite many times, but ideally you should stretch out the sound and keep it going for a few hours, or even for eighty-four thousand eons, without a break. Then you're really investigating Chan.
Why do we want to investigate "Who is mindful of the Buddha?"? The word "who" is basically superfluous, but we are like monkeys, always looking around for something to do. If there is the word "who" acting as a shield, then all those idle thoughts will disappear. This Dharma-door uses poison to fight poison. To investigate Chan simply means to diligently wipe (the mirror of the mind) clean. Only when we are free of all random thoughts are we "diligently wiping it clean at all times." We want to wipe it clean so it won't get dusty. This is the Dharma-door of "sweeping away all dharmas, and separating from all marks."
If you don't have the Dharma-selecting Eye and you don't recognize the true Dharma, then you won't know how to investi-gate. If you don't know how to investigate, then you're just wasting your effort. If you don't recognize the proper Dharma, then you'll follow after deviant dharmas. That's why the Dharma-selecting Eye is so important.
A talk given on the evening of December 4, 1982 at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Chan Session Instructions
Those old cultivators, seeking to end birth and death, held tightly to their meditation topic
and didn't stop applying effort for a single moment.
Once again, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is holding a Chan session and a Buddha recitation session, but they can't really be called a Chan session and a Buddha recitation session. They are only practice sessions. Why is that? Due to their bad habits and faults, people have been lazy and scattered for many long eons, and if you suddenly tell them to truly cultivate, it's not easy to do. During the Chan sessions at Gao Min Monastery in China, it was the rule that no one could talk, and no one could be lazy or absent for even one minute or second. People could not casually enter or leave the Chan hall, and even if someone died, his corpse couldn't be carried out. It would just be thrown under the meditation bench.
But if you asked people here to suddenly start working at that intensity, it would be impossible. In the past, those old cultivators at Gao Min Monastery really turned their lives over to the gods and dragons; seeking to end birth and death, they worked as if their lives were at stake and set a limited time in which to seek enlightenment. They didn't slack off for a single moment, and they always held tightly to their meditation topic. From two-thirty in the morning until midnight, they didn't stop applying effort for a single moment, and they didn't leave the Chan hall for the entire Chan session.
Since we are beginners, it's already commendable that we are here practicing. Although reciting the Buddha's name is somewhat easier, it's still not that easy, because there is no time for rest--you are constantly reciting the Buddha's name without break. In holding this Chan session and recitation session, we are leading everyone forward step by step, gradually easing into the practice, and then applying effort with diligence. What state will we reach in cultivation? We will cultivate until we reach the state of being "thus, thus, unmoving, clear and constantly bright"; unmoving in motion, unmoving in stillness, and unmoving in non-motion as well. Stillness doesn't obstruct movement, and movement doesn't obstruct stillness; within stillness there is movement, and within movement there is stillness. "Walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, don't be apart from this. Once you leave this, you've made a mistake." What is "this"? It's the ultimate meaning of the Middle Way. The Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, sages, heaven, earth, and immor-tals all originate from it.
Cultivators must concentrate their minds and not be influenced by external states. In the investigation of Chan, you should remember the principle in the Vajra Sutra: "Produce the mind which dwells nowhere."
The Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, was enlightened to this principle. Countless people have heard and recited this sentence, but have any of them become enlightened? When I explained the Vajra Sutra, I asked, "The Sutra is still around, but who has become enlightened?"
The Sixth Patriarch was an illiterate woodcutter who chopped wood in the mountains every day, but he was enlightened as soon as he heard this sentence. Because the Sixth Patriarch had cultivated diligently for many lives in many past eons, he became enlightened as soon as he heard the Vajra Sutra. Why is it that after listening for so long, we still haven't become enlightened? It's because we didn't cultivate in the past; we only wanted to watch movies, watch TV, hold parties, and eat, drink, and be merry, and we never studied any sutras.
The Vajra Sutra also says, "Be free of the mark of self, the mark of others, the mark of living beings, and the mark of a life span." When sitting in Chan, can you be free of the mark of self, the mark of others, the mark of living beings, and the mark of a life span? If not, then you must find a way to sweep away the four marks and empty the three minds of past, present and future. If the three minds cannot be obtained, how could the four marks exist?
That Sutra also says,
All conditioned dharmas Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles and shadows,
Like dew and like lightning. You should contemplate them thus.
If one sees me in forms, If one seeks me in sounds,
He practices a deviant way, And cannot see the Tathagata.
When we sit in Chan, we should not be distracted by sights and sounds. Some people may experience states after long cultivation, but if they get attached to the states, they are making a mistake. You should "listen without hearing, and look without seeing." If we don't hear and we don't see, that's truly not being distracted by states.
A talk given at noon on December 18, 1982, at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
The Completion of Ten Weeks of Chan
From now on, all we need to do is to become new people, to put on new faces, and to start fresh.
Today we complete ten weeks of Chan.
Putting on a new face, we make the Bodhi resolve.
Always wield the Vajra sword of wisdom.
Up and down, north, south, east and west.
This is the last day of the ten-week Chan session. No matter how we were in the past, from now on, all we need to do is to become new people, to put on new faces, and to start fresh, being totally different from the greedy ghosts of the past. Instead of always discriminating between self and others and rights and wrongs as we did in the past, let's make a great Bodhi resolve.
We should constantly wield the Vajra King's Jeweled Sword of Wisdom, and get rid of stupidity. If we weren't stupid, we wouldn't do upside-down things. Why are we upside-down? It's because of stupidity, ignorance, and dark confusion. We should always grasp the Vajra Sword of Wisdom, roaming upwards, downwards, to the north, south, east, or west, throughout the world, going wherever we please. That's the state of great freedom in which there is no self and no others, no restrictions, and no rights or wrongs.
A talk given on January 16, 1983 at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas