Why Investigate Chan?
When thoughts cease, confusion ends.
We humans are born confused and die confused. We are confused while asleep and confused while awake. What value is there in that kind of life? So does that mean that we do not want to be human beings anymore? No, but we have to understand where we came from when we were born and where we will go after death. Someone may say, "I know how to find out about death. I can overdose on drugs or hang myself or jump into a river. Would I not know then?"
Suicide will not free you from birth and death. It will only increase your karmic burden. We sit in meditation in order to find a way to ensure that, when it is time for us to die, we will not suffer physical sickness, we will not crave wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep, and our minds will not be upside down. Death should be just as if we had entered into Chan samadhi. We want to pass away with a smile, be without discomfort, and have Amitabha Buddha welcome us with a golden dais. We want to be able to predict our own passing and to know of its coming in advance. We want to know the year, month, day and even the precise time when we will pass away once all our tasks have been completed.
Cultivation is just for that purpose! If we do not know about that crucial moment, then we will remain confused throughout our entire life. Nor will that confusion end with death. In death after death we will still be confused. In life after life we will be unclear. How pitiful to be perpetually confused.
The reason we practice sitting in meditation and want to learn Buddhism is because we do not want to be confused. Many people spend their time doing scientific research aimed at trying to determine the makeup and workings of the physical body so that they can reproduce it. Those who seek scientific solutions outside themselves are forsaking the roots and going after the branch tips. When we understand our original self, we will then gain great wisdom. Learning Buddhism will allow that great wisdom to unfold.
Freedom over birth and death is freedom to come and go
Those who investigate Chan can become masters over their own birth and death. They can come and go freely without any restriction. As it is said, My destiny is determined by me, not by heaven.
Even Old Man Yama will no longer have control over us! Why not? We will have transcended the Three Realms. What does freedom to come and go involve? It refers to freedom to be born and to die. If we want to live, we can live. If we want to die, we can die. The choice will be ours, as we wish. Please take note, however, that this kind of death does not mean committing suicide. This freedom allows us to relate to our physical body as we would our house. If we want to go out and travel, we will be free to go wherever we want. If we wish, we can have a hundred million transformation bodies to teach sentient beings throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm. If we do not 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 attend this Chan session, and to work non-stop day and night. You are doing this because you hope to gain freedom and security over birth and death. You want to control your own life and to be your own master. Being able to do that is truly the state of freedom over birth and death. In investigating Chan, you need to reach the state of not knowing that there is sky above, earth below, and people in between. You need to become one with empty space. Then there is some hope for enlightenment. Right now, walking and sitting, sitting and walking provide the key that will open our wisdom.
The great functioning of the entire substance is clearly understood
If we do not investigate Chan and do not practice sitting in meditation, we will continue not to know where we came from at birth and where we will go after death. Not knowing those things, we will again be born and die in confusion. To keep living lives in that manner is indeed pitiful!
Those who work hard at Chan practice can awaken and recognize who they were before their parents gave birth to them. They will suddenly see everything very clearly. They will understand in fine detail the ins and outs of all matters. They will fathom the great functioning of the true mind. Those who realize such a state are destined to attain the fruition of Buddhahood. In the future they will attain unsurpassed, right and equal enlightenment.
By investigating Chan and sitting in meditation, we can gain enlightenment
How do we get enlightened? Enlightenment is like unlocking a door that has been restricting our entry and exit. We need a key to unlock that door. Without a key, we will remain locked up in this room forever. So, where is the key? It is right there with you. It is very easy to find. How will you find it? You can do so by investigating Chan and sitting in meditation, or by chanting the Buddhas' names and holding mantras. Practicing in those ways is equivalent to searching for the key. When will you find it? That depends on your stage of cultivation. If you practice with vigor and fortitude, you will find it very quickly. But if you are lazy and lethargic, you will never find it, not just in this life, but even in future lives you will not find it. This is a very simple principle.
We want to learn how not to be attached to self and others
All things come to life,
each time spring returns.
Shatter empty space, be free and at ease.
Break attachments, let self and others go.
Expand to fill the Dharma Realm,
however vast that is.
When we investigate Chan, we have the chance to be enlightened. The brightness of our self-nature will shine forth just as when spring returns to the great earth and everything comes to life again. Empty space is originally without shape. When even this shapeless void has been shattered, one becomes free. From then onwards, one no longer attaches to the mark of others or the mark of self. The Dharma Realm may be large but we can still encompass it. Having done that, will we not be great heroes?
Meditation and samadhi are vital to our Dharma-body
Sitting in meditation and cultivating samadhi is like feeding our Dharma-body. The physical body needs to be fed and clothed, needs to sleep, and is always busy working to achieve these needs. One cannot go without food, clothes, and sleep for even one day. Everyone is the same in this respect. We cannot do without any one of these things. But our Dharma-body also needs food, clothes, and sleep. Sitting in meditation provides our Dharma-body with natural food. By absorbing the true nutrients from empty space, our Dharma-body will thrive. Entering samadhi gives our Dharma-body essential rest. If we never enter samadhi, our Dharma-body gets no rest. And finally, our Dharma-body must be clothed in tolerance. Meditation and samadhi are vital to our Dharma-body. When we meditate long enough our Dharma-body will taste the flavor of Dharma and can absorb the true goodness of empty space.
The physical body needs these three items, and so does the Dharma-body. When we cultivate, we should clothe our Dharma-body in our own tolerance. We should enter the Thus Come One's abode by entering samadhi. And ultimately we should ascend to the Thus Come One's seat. This is how we should nurture the Dharma-body every day.
Sitting long brings Chan, which cleanses and purifies the mind
The aim of sitting in meditation is to open our wisdom. Enlightenment is the opening of our wisdom. With wisdom, we will no longer be confused, the way we have been in the past. If we sit without moving and our mind does not wander, we can enter samadhi. When we have samadhi, our wisdom will naturally open up and all our problems will be solved effortlessly. The Buddha is not very different from an ordinary person.
The difference is that he has great wisdom. Great wisdom accesses spiritual penetrations whereupon the mind and spirit have no obstruction. Wisdom and spiritual penetrations are dual and yet not dual, but they are not the supernatural power of ghosts. Ghostly penetrations arise from using the perceptive minds' deduction. Ghosts may think that they are intelligent, but they are not. Real wisdom does not require thinking. When we gain real wisdom, our knowledge of things comes naturally, and we can exercise it freely. When we have wisdom, we fully understand all things. Without wisdom, all things become upside-down. Things may be upside-down, yet one who lacks wisdom is still unaware of that. If one knows one's mistakes, one may still be saved. However, if one was unaware of one's mistakes, what results will bring real suffering!
If we want to leave suffering and gain happiness, we must have wisdom. With wisdom, we need not suffer anymore. If we understand this principle, we can avoid any more afflictions. Actually, this reasoning is very simple. However, Chan sitting requires time. As it is said,
Practice sitting for a long time and
Chan will appear.
Live in one place a long time and
affinities will develop.
Investigating Chan actually cleanses and purifies our minds. Stilling thoughts is a process of calming down our thoughts and getting rid of all the defilements. This is exactly what Venerable Master Shen Xiu meant when he said,
Time and again brush it clean,
and let no dust alight.
If we understand this principle, we should make determined effort in our Chan practice. Everyone must strive hard and be patient. Though our legs may get sore and our back may ache, we must endure that pain. Remember,
If the plum tree did not endure cold
that chills to the bone,
How could the fragrance
of its blossoms be so sweet?
我們的身體，好像房子，願意外出旅行，到什麼地方去，都是自由。願意化 身千百億，盡虛空遍法界去教化眾生，任運自如；不願意旅行，就在房子住， 沒有人來干涉。要曉得盡虛空遍法界，都在法身中，沒有跑到法身之外邊。