The Koans of Chan




A Golden Pagoda, a Silver Pagoda, a Muddy Heap



By sitting in the full lotus posture, we generate precept power, samadhi power, and wisdom power. The Vajra Dharma-protectors will protect those who sit in full lotus. The demon kings will be kept at bay, and the hungry ghosts will make obeisance.

Here is a koan about full lotus posture. In the past, when Buddhism prevailed in China, monks would be invited to recite sutras at funerals and other special events. Monks who crassly made a profession out of this were derisively referred to as Sutra-peddlers. This story is about one such monk who made a living peddling sutras.

Once, it was nearing midnight when he set out on his return from an evening of chanting sutras for a fee. As he passed through the village, a dog barked at him. The owners of the dog wondered why their dog was barking. The lady of the house said, “Take a look and see who it is. Is it a thief trying to steal something?" Her husband looked out of the window and said, “Oh, it is nothing. Just that Sutra-peddling ghost. Just a sutra-peddling ghost."

The monk became perplexed when he heard that comment. “Why did he refer to me as a sutra-peddling ghost?" He considered himself to be a sutra-reciting monk, but that man had called him the sutra-peddling ghost. He walked on, intent on getting back to his monastery. Suddenly, there was a cloudburst, and the rain poured down. Quickly, the monk took shelter under a bridge. With nothing else to do, he sat down to meditate. Just as he pulled his legs into full lotus posture, two ghosts emerged from the river.

Those ghosts were terribly ugly. Normally, if someone sees a ghost, he will be alarmed. But since the monk was meditating, he was not afraid when he saw the two ghosts. Besides, since he often chanted sutras to cross over ghosts, he thought a lot about ghosts. Hence, when he met these two, he was not afraid. He just kept meditating. Well, the two ghosts started bowing to him. They kept on bowing to him for somewhere between twenty minutes and half an hour.

After that stretch of time, the monk’s legs began to hurt, and he could not endure sitting in full lotus any longer. And so, he eased out of full lotus position into half lotus. Then he heard the two ghosts talking, “Hey, just now we were bowing to a golden pagoda. How did it become a silver one?" Now it became clear to the monk why the ghosts were bowing to him. Since pagodas contain sharira (jewel-like relics that remain after cremation) of Buddhas and sages, when ghosts see a pagoda, they must bow and pay respect. “They must be seeing a pagoda here," thought the monk in amazement. Well, after what the ghosts perceived as a golden pagoda became a silver one, one of the ghosts said, “There are also sharira in silver pagodas, so we had better keep bowing to pay our respects!" With that, the two ghosts started bowing again.

Meanwhile, the monk sat for another half hour or so in the half-lotus position before his legs began to hurt again. Finally, he could endure the pain no longer. But the rain had not stopped. If it had, he would have left his shelter under the bridge and continued on his way. To ease the pain in his legs, the monk moved into a casual cross-legged sitting position. Well, when the two ghosts took a peek, they simultaneously exclaimed, “Look! This is not a golden pagoda or a silver one. It is just a heap of mud! Let us destroy it!" As soon as the monk heard that the ghosts were going to attack him, he quickly pulled his legs back up and sat in a full lotus position again. The ghosts perceived the heap of mud turn into a golden pagoda again. “Wow! What an awesome state! We had better bow some more." So, they started bowing to the pagoda again.

Thereupon the monk thought to himself, “Hmmm...Full lotus position creates a golden pagoda. Half lotus creates a silver pagoda. Sitting casually is just a mound of mud." Here he was a human being, but those ghosts saw him as a mound of mud. How strange! From that time on, the monk resolved to attain Bodhi and no longer went around peddling Sutras. He stopped chanting sutras for a livelihood. Instead, he practiced meditation in his monastery, always in a full lotus position. After sitting for some time, he became enlightened, whereupon he reflected, “My enlightenment was actually helped along by those two ghosts. If I had not met them, I would not be enlightened today." So after that, he called himself Pressured by Ghosts. That is the name we know him by today: Chan Master Pressured by Ghosts. The ghosts forced him into cultivating.


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Seeking a method to avoid death



The Chan sect has a verse that says,
The myriad Dharmas return to One.
The One returns to the origin.
Shen Guang, not understanding this,
Pursued Master Bodhidharma.
He knelt nine years at Bear’s Ear Mountain,
Hoping for a method to avoid King Yama.

Seeking the Dharma is not an easy task. It requires a spirit of sacrifice. Here is a story about that. After traveling by boat from India to China, Patriarch Bodhidharma came ashore at Guangzhou and went north to Nanjing. Passing by the place where Dharma Master Shen Guang was lecturing the sutras, the patriarch went in to join the assembly.

After the lecture, the patriarch asked Master Shen Guang, “What are you doing here?"

Master Shen Guang answered “I am lecturing on the Sutras."

Patriarch Bodhidharma asked, “Why are you explaining the Sutras?"

Master Shen Guang replied, “In order to teach people how to end birth and death."

Patriarch Bodhidharma replied, “The essence of Dharma cannot be put into words. There is no Dharma to be spoken of. As to the Sutras you lecture, the inked areas are words and the blank areas are paper. How can this end birth and death?"

When Master Shen Guang heard that, he became angry and shouted, “You devil! How dare you slander the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This is outrageous!"

Then he struck Patriarch Bodhidharma on the face with his iron chanting beads!

The patriarch was caught unprepared and two of his front teeth got broken off. Patriarch Bodhidharma thought to himself, “If I spit the teeth on the ground, then this place will suffer three years of great drought." (The folk belief was that if the teeth of a certified sage fell to the ground, the heavens would mete out punishment and the region would suffer a three-year drought.) Patriarch Bodhidharma did not wish to let this region’s people go through the suffering of a drought, so he swallowed the two teeth instead of spitting them out.

His decision accords with the saying, “If someone knocks out the teeth of an arhat, the arhat swallows them." Patriarch Bodhidharma practiced the paramita of patience under insult. Without a word, he left Master Shen Guang’s lecture hall. He crossed the Yangtze River and headed toward the Song Mountain Range in Henan Province.

At that time, the Ghost of Impermanence, under the orders of King Yama, came to invite Master Shen Guang to a tea in the underworld. He asked the monk, “Are you Shen Guang?" Master Shen Guang replied, “Yes." The Ghost of Impermanence said, “King Yama sent me to invite you down for tea." Master Shen Guang was surprised and said, “When I lecture on the sutras, the heavens rain down flowers, and golden lotuses well forth from the earth. Yet I still have to die?" The Ghost of Impermanence said, “Of course you have to die!" Master Shen Guang questioned, “Who in this world is free from death?" The Ghost of Impermanence told him, “That black-faced monk whose teeth you knocked out is free from death."

Master Shen Guang then implored the Ghost of Impermanence saying, “Mr. Impermanence, could you be compassionate and speak to King Yama, asking him to let me go and find the dark-faced monk so that I can learn the method for ending birth and death?" The Ghost of Impermanence agreed to his request. Master Shen Guang then headed north, traveling day and night in order to catch up with Patriarch Bodhidharma. Finally, he arrived at Bear’s Ear Mountain and saw Patriarch Bodhidharma sitting in a cave facing the wall in meditation. He bowed to Patriarch Bodhidharma in repentance. After nine years of kneeling, Master Shen Guang obtained a method to avoid death, and became the Second Patriarch of the Chan School in China.


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Enlightenment must be certified before it counts


Before the time of the Buddha Awesome Voice, anyone who became enlightened did not need to be certified by another person. But after the time of the Buddha Awesome Voice, enlightenment has to be certified before it counts. Someone who thinks he or she has become enlightened must have that enlightenment certified by a Patriarch or brighteyed Good and Wise Advisor. For example, the Shurangama Sutra contains the stories of twenty-five sages who each describe how they gained perfect enlightenment, and who then each request Shakyamuni Buddha to certify their attainments.

I will now tell a story of such a certification. During the Tang Dynasty of China, a Great Master called Yongjia (Eternal Excellence) was born in Yongjia county of Zhejiang Province. Because he stayed in Yongjia all his life, people gave him the name of Great Master Yongjia.

After he entered monastic life, he studied the teachings of the Tian Tai School and cultivated meditative contemplation. One day, while reading the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra, he suddenly got enlightened. Soon after, he met a disciple of the Sixth Patriarch named Chan Master Xuance (Mystic Law) and related his awakening. Master Xuance suggested that he go to Cao Creek to pay respects to the Sixth Patriarch and request certification of his enlightenment. To do otherwise, to claim that one has become enlightened by oneself without the benefit of a teacher, would make one a follower of the externalists who believe in spontaneity.

When he arrived at Nanhua Monastery in Cao Creek, the Sixth Patriarch was meditating. Master Yongjia, full of pride, strode directly in front of the Patriarch’s meditation seat. Without even making a half bow, let alone a full prostration, he simply grasped his tin staff, walked three times around the Patriarch’s seat, then stood and rapped his staff on the ground.

The Sixth Patriarch said, “Shramanas (monks) ought to possess the Three Thousand Modes of Awesome Deportment, and the Eighty Thousand Subtle Manners. Only when one’s behavior is impeccable does one merit the name Shramana. [Shramana means ‘diligent and putting to rest’. A Shramana ‘diligently cultivates precepts, concentration, and wisdom, and puts to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity.’] Where do you, O Virtuous One, come from? And why are you so arrogant?"

Master Yongjia answered, “Birth and death is the only important thing, and impermanence comes with haste."

The Sixth Patriarch said, “Then why do you not embody birthlessness. Why do you not understand ‘no-haste’?"

Master Yongjia answered, “Once I understood, there is no birth. Once I realized it, there is no haste."

The Sixth Patriarch said, “You have really grasped the idea of birthlessness."

Master Yongjia said, “Do you mean to say that birthlessness is an idea?"

The Sixth Patriarch said, “If it is not an idea, then how can you distinguish it?"

Master Yongjia said, “Making distinctions is not an idea, either."

“You are so right! You are so right!" said the Sixth Patriarch, and thereupon certified him and made him his Dharma heir.

After Great Master Yongjia was certified by the Sixth Patriarch, he planned to return immediately to Kaiyuan (Primary Source) Monastery in Yongjia. The Sixth Patriarch asked him to stay for one night, but the next morning, he went right back to Yongjia. Because his enlightenment to the truth of the Buddhadharma was certified in just a single evening, people of that time nicknamed him, “The Monk Who Became Enlightened Overnight". Afterwards, he energetically propagated the Sudden Teaching of the Chan School and is most noted for his Song of Enlightenment of more than fifty stanzas, which explains the state of sudden enlightenment. The Song is a masterpiece that will long endure and has become required reading for Buddhists.


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How Chan meditation can halt the process of birth and death


In the final years of the Northern Song Dynasty in China, there lived a national hero, Yue Fei. His father passed away when he was young. His mother was worthy and wise. Mother and son had only each other to rely upon for support. She taught her young son to read and write. Since the family was too poor to afford brushes, ink and paper, he practiced writing characters in the sand, and eventually became an accomplished calligrapher. Yue Fei entered military service at an early age. His mother tattooed on his back the slogan, “Give your all in service to the country". He never forgot his great vow to save his country’s people.

This was the era when the Tartars (of the Jin Dynasty) invaded the Song Dynasty and captured the capital of Bianjing (Kaifeng). They kidnapped the two Emperors Hui and Qin and took them to the North. Duke Kang established the Southern Song Dynasty in Hangzhou and proclaimed himself Emperor Gaozong. He appointed Qin Hui as his Prime Minister. At that time, the scholars advocated peace, while the military advocated going to war with the Tartars. General Yue Fei gave the Tartars a devastating defeat at the town of Zhuxian (close to Bianjing) and planned to attack their capital towards Yellow Dragon (near Jilin Nongan).

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Qin Hui was jealous of Yue Fei and so issued twelve false summons commanding Yue Fei to return to the capital. Yue Fei’s credo was “loyal subjects are patriots to the end". Thus he led his troops back to the capital. En route he passed by Gold Mountain Monastery, in the middle of the Yangtze River, where he stopped to pay his respects to Chan Master Daoyue (Joy of the Way).

The monk urged him not to return to the capital, but to enter monastic life and cultivate the Way at Gold Mountain Monastery in Zhenjiang. That way, he could avoid all political scandals and conflict. Yue Fei did not take the matter of birth and death seriously, feeling instead that the duty of a military man was to follow orders. He did not follow the philosophy that, “When the general is in the field, he can choose not to follow the emperor’s commands". Thus, he rejected Master Daoyue’s wise suggestion. Before he left, Master Daoyue wrote him a verse that said,

Before the New Year’s Day,
be very cautious of heaven’s tears.
A gift with two dots beneath it
will harm you grievously.

Yue Fei returned to Hangzhou and Qin Hui sent a message to his military reading “No grounds necessary", which was a summons to imprison both Yue Fei and his son. As he approached the executioner’s block, Yue Fei suddenly realized the meaning hidden in Venerable Daoyue’s verse. On New Year’s Eve, which fell on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth lunar month that year, the heavens poured forth a heavy rain. Hearing the rain as he sat in jail, Yue Fei knew his death was at hand.

The prophecy in the Chan Master’s verse was about to be fulfilled. When you write two dots beneath the word ‘gift’, you get the word ‘Qin’, the name of Prime Minister Qin Hui. Yue Fei was executed at Fengbo Pagoda. Qin Hui asked the executioner what Yue Fei’s final words had been. The executioner said, “I heard him say, ‘I have met my end today, only because I did not heed the advice of Chan Master Daoyue of Gold Mountain.’" Qin Hui flew into a rage and ordered Heli to hurry to Gold Mountain Monastery to arrest Master Daoyue. But the day before, while in Chan samadhi, Master Daoyue had foreseen this situation and had written another verse, which said,

Heli is coming from the South,
But I am going to the West.
If my strength in the Dharma
were not sufficient,
I would surely have fallen
into the villain’s hands.

After he wrote this verse, he entered the stillness of Nirvana. When Heli reached the temple the next day, Master Daoyue had already entered Nirvana. Heli had no choice but to return to the capital and make a report. This story proves that when you have perfected the skill of Chan meditation, you can control your own birth and death. You can go off to rebirth at any time you choose. You are in control of the process, and it is a very natural matter. Chan Masters of the past all possessed this ability. They could be born and die as they wished.

In the Tang Dynasty, there was a Chan Master named Deng Yinfeng (Hidden Summit) who entered Nirvana while standing on his head. The contemporary monk, the Living Buddha of Gold Mountain, entered Nirvana while standing up. Due to their skill in Chan meditation, they could come and go as they pleased, without any restrictions.


The mind of Elder Master Wei Shan did not move



Venerable Master Lingyou Wei Shan of the Tang Dynasty cultivated the Way on Wei Mountain of Hunan Province. There, he gained the samadhi power that enabled him to instantly reach stillness when he sat. He was detached completely from all manner of wealth, relatives, friends, and the five sensual desires. Although Venerable Master Wei Shan did not seek fame and fortune, everyone came to know about his cultivation as time went by. As a result, many people came to give offerings and to draw near him, with the hope of seeking blessings and wisdom. His good reputation even spread to the ears of Prime Minister Pei Xiu, who then went to call upon him.

On the mountain, the Prime Minister saw that there was only a simple hut without even a bed. There was only a sitting cushion and the old venerable simply sat there. When people came, he did not move, and when people left, he did not acknowledge either. He ignored all visitors, neither receiving them nor seeing them off. Prime Minaster Pei Xiu thought, “This old cultivator does not even have a monastery. Since I am wealthy, I might as well make an offering to him so he can build a monastery!" He then ordered his followers to take out three hundred taels of silver. However, Venerable Master Wei Shan neither accepted the offering nor rejected it. There was a clump of grass near the hut and so Prime Minister Pei Xiu hid the silver in it. At that time, three hundred taels of silver was equivalent to about three million dollars now.

Three years later, Prime Minister Pei Xiu thought, “The monastery should be completed by now. Let us go and take a look!" When he arrived at the mountain, he found that there was nothing but the same old hut. No monastery had been built. Prime Minister Pei Xiu then had a false thought, “I gave him money, yet he did not use it to build a monastery and he still appears impoverished. Who knows where the money has gone?"

Thereupon, he asked Venerable Master Wei Shan, “Chan Master! Where is the money that I gave you to build a monastery?" Venerable Master Wei Shan replied, “Look for it where you left it." Pei Xiu walked to the clump of grass and found that the money was still there untouched. Then Pei Xiu had another false thought, “This old cultivator is really lazy. I gave him money and yet he does not even know how to use it. Why is it that the more he cultivates, the more stupid he becomes?" At this point, Venerable Master Wei Shan told him, “Since you think that I do not know how to use money, you had better take it back and spend it on other things. I am not interested in building a monastery that has physical form."

Pei Xiu then realized that this Chan master had some substance, and so resolved to build the monastery for him. He built the physical monastery, but did not know the importance of nurturing the incomparable wisdom of his own mind. Venerable Master Wei Shan did know, and was building an inner monastery of wisdom. If we can silence our mind, quiet our thoughts, and not seek the five desires, then we can also be true cultivators. We should all learn from Venerable Master Wei Shan and not be moved by the sight of money.


An old monk in meditation is worth ten thousand taels of gold


Elder Master Wei Shan once said, “An old monk in meditation is worth ten thousand taels of gold." Prime Minister Pei Xiu knew that entering monastic life was good, but due to his position as premier, he could not leave the home-life. Instead, he built a great monastery that could accommodate two thousand monks cultivating together.

At that time, many monastics heard of the new Way-place at Hunan and flocked there to draw near and learn from Elder Master Lingyou of Wei Shan, who taught Chan meditation and gave talks on the precepts and the Vinaya everyday. Prime Minster Pei Xiu, knowing that he was not destined for monkhood, sent his son to the monastery to become a monk. This son was a Hanlin scholar, a graduate of the country’s highest institution of learning. Venerable Master Wei Shan, observing that this Hanlin scholar had come to enter monastic life, named him Fa Hai and assigned him to fetch water. At that time, there were often a few thousand occupants at the monastery and this job was not easy. There was no tap water and water had to be drawn from the wells from morning until night without stop.

Fa Hai woke up at three o’clock in the morning, and while the Great Assembly was doing the morning recitation, he had already started fetching water. He fetched water like this for several years and did not do any other tasks. He did not even attend any sutra chanting or meditation session. Being a Hanlin scholar, fetching water for the Great Assembly might have seemed unfair to him, but he never complained and just did his best.

One day, it so happened that he had some free time. As he had never known what sort of lessons the monks actually studied, he sneaked into the Chan Hall and took a peek. He saw some monks sitting in an upright posture, and some sitting with their heads lowered, snoring in their sleep. Others had their eyes open and were looking around. Fa Hai thought, “I carry water everyday, working myself to exhaustion and here they are, some sleeping while sitting and others looking around with their eyes wide open. How can these monks be worthy of my offering?!" So he complained in his heart.

Fa Hai harbored these thoughts and although he did not tell anyone, Master Wei Shan knew what was up. He called Fa Hai to the Abbot’s quarters and said, “You have stayed in this monastery for a few years only but now you complain that the monks are not fit to receive offerings from you. As of now, this monastery will not keep you anymore. You can pack your things and go!" His teacher had kicked him out! When Fa Hai went to bid farewell to his teacher, he asked, “Master, I have no money. Where can I go?" Chan Master Lingyou then gave him coins amounting to eight-and-a-half cents and told him, “You can go wherever you wish. When you have finished using the eight-and-a-half cents, then stay at that place. Do not stop until you have used up the money."

At the time, eight-and-a-half cents was equivalent to eighty-five dollars now, which was not much. While on the road, Fa Hai did not dare use any of the money. He begged for alms along the way and traveled from Hunan to Jiangsu Province. Later, he passed by Zhenjiang and saw an island in the Yangtze River. There was a mountain on the island. Fa Hai wished to take a look at the mountain and so waved at the ferryman and asked for the price of the ferry trip. The ferryman asked for exactly eight-and-a-half cents – no more, no less! When Fa Hai arrived at the mountain, he found that although it was not very high, it was serene and quiet. So he decided to settle down there. Later, he discovered a cave in the mountain. In the cave, he found jars filled with gold.

That is how the mountain became known as Gold Mountain. Fa Hai used the gold to build a monastery and continued his Chan practice there. Since then, Gold Mountain’s atmosphere of cultivation has been exceptionally good, and produced many patriarchs. At that time, he had not yet received the full precepts and was still a novice monk, but he was already a founding patriarch. Venerable Master Wei Shan’s famous words, “An old monk in meditation is worth ten thousand taels of gold", is referring to Fa Hai. Fa Hai felt that the monks were not fit to accept his offerings, but that was not true. When a person sits in meditation, he will eventually experience ultimate stillness, and light will penetrate everywhere. It is also said,

Sitting perfectly still in meditation
for even a split second,
Generates merit that surpasses that
of building pagodas of the seven gems
in number like the Ganges’ sands.

That is the reason a meditator is worth ten thousand taels of gold. A student of Buddhism who hopes to attain Buddhahood must practice Chan meditation. Practice diligently and do not be afraid when your legs hurt and your back aches. In that way you will have some success. An old saying goes:

If the plum tree did not endure
cold that chills to the bone,
How could the fragrance
of its blossoms be so sweet?


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Do not be attached to states


While meditating, the combination of the four elements of earth, water, fire, and wind, of which we are all composed, can all enter samadhi. They can enter the samadhi of emptiness or the samadhi of neither thought nor non-thought. While we are in samadhi, we should not become attached to states and should not allow ignorance and afflictions to move us. If we do, our chances of becoming enlightened will be obstructed.

Let me tell you another koan to illustrate this. In the past, there was an old cultivator who wanted to be born in the Heaven of Neither Thought nor Non-thought, the highest heaven in the formless realm. And so he cultivated the samadhi of neither thought nor non-thought. He was cultivating on a seashore, and was just about to enter the samadhi of neither thought nor non-thought, when the noise of a fish playing in the water disturbed him so that he could not enter samadhi. When he opened his eyes, the fish immediately swam away. He then continued meditating, and just when he was about to enter samadhi, the fish swam back again. This happened many times and caused the old cultivator to feel terribly frustrated. Anger welled and he thought, “I wish I could turn into a king fisher and eat up all the fish in the water!"

His hatred scared the fish away and it dared not come again. The old cultivator finally managed to enter the samadhi of neither thought nor non-thought, and was reborn in the Heaven of Neither Thought nor Nonthought, where he enjoyed eighty thousand great eons of heavenly bliss. But because of that fit of anger he had in which he said he wished he could become a bird that ate fish, when his heavenly blessings came to an end, he immediately became a king fisher. It was only when Shakyamuni Buddha had attained Buddhahood, and later expounded the Dharma to him, that he was able to discard the body of a king fisher and be reborn as a human being. He then cultivated under the Buddha and attained Arhatship.

This koan shows why cultivators should not casually get angry, as false thoughts will surely receive retribution. In the Shurangama Sutra, a Bodhisattva named Moonlight specialized in cultivating water samadhi. He contemplated water, and when he entered the samadhi of water-radiance, his body would turn into water. Once, when Moonlight Bodhisattva was in the water-radiance samadhi, his young disciple came to look for him. Upon entering his room, the disciple saw only a puddle of water on the floor. The mischievous disciple then picked up a small stone and threw it into the water.

When Moonlight Bodhisattva came out of samadhi, he felt pain in his stomach and, upon investigation, discovered that there was a small stone inside it. He called his disciple and, questioning him, found out that the child had come into his room while he was in samadhi and had thrown a stone into the puddle he saw there. The teacher then instructed his disciple to wait until he entered samadhi again and then come into the room to retrieve the stone. This koan shows us that as long as a cultivator practices with focused concentration and vigor, he will surely succeed. Cultivation requires one to be focused in order to be effective. If our mind remains firm and determined, we will definitely receive a response from the Dharma.


Chan Meditation - It is Hard! It is Easy!


Hard! Hard! Hard!
It is like trying to put ten baskets of sesame
seeds on the leaves of a tree in the yard.

That is how Elder Pang described cultivation. He thought it was not easy. If it did not lead to a backache, then it created pain in the legs. Cultivators experience all sorts of pain and suffering that make it hard to be at ease. It is with great difficulty that one manages to make a little progress. What is more, if we ever let down our guard, all our past efforts will be wasted. That was why Mr. Pang described practice as being like trying to balance lots of sesame seeds on the leaves of a tree. Ten baskets is not a small number, and to place the seeds on the leaves so that they stay there and do not fall off is not an easy thing to do. Mr. Pang had a relative who heard this and asked, “If it is that difficult, then is it not impossible to succeed in cultivation?" Mrs. Pang responded,

Easy! Easy! Easy!
The Mind from the West,
the patriarchs’ intent,
Appears right here on the tip
of each blade of grass.
Don’t you see?

She said cultivation is actually very easy. All the mountains, rivers, flowers, grass and trees express the intention of the Patriarch’s coming from the west. So she found it very easy. Not at all difficult. Someone then asked Miss Pang, the daughter, what she thought about cultivation. She said,

It is not easy.
Nor is it hard.
Just eat when hungry
and sleep when you are tired.

The three of them had very different views about the underlying principle of practice. Mr. Pang, Mrs. Pang, and Miss Pang were part of the same family, and yet they had different opinions. Here, people have come from all directions to attend this meditation retreat and similarly, everyone has got his or her own views. The best way to handle that situation is to talk less and apply more effort in your cultivation.


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Neither coming nor going


When I was in Manchuria, China, I had a fellow cultivator who was originally a bandit. Once, when he was robbing someone’s valuables, he was beaten and suffered an injury to his shoulder. Six months passed but still the wounded shoulder did not heal. At that time, he became repentant and realized his past wrongdoings. He decided to change his evil character and embrace goodness, and so he made a vow, “If my injury heals within a week, I will go to my parents’ graves and observe filial piety." After a week, his injury was completed healed. He then fulfilled his vow by spending three years observing filial piety beside his parents’ graves. As he was able to turn over a new leaf, his master gave him the name, Filial Son Yo.

Before Filial Son Yo left for his parents’ graves, he bowed to Dharma Master Zongyi as his master. This Dharma Master had extremely virtuous conduct and gained the respect of many. He even possessed spiritual penetrations. When Filial Son Yo started learning meditation and applying effort, demonic obstacles transformed into a fire dragon that clasped tightly around his waist and burnt him until he was red and painful. In the midst of the demon’s attack, his master subdued the fire dragon. This dragon then took refuge under him and became Filial Son Yo’s Dharma-protector.

During the first two and a half years that Filial Son Yo sat by his parents’ graves, endless rainstorms flooded the fields and destroyed many crops. Because of that, Filial Son Yo made a vow, “If the sky clears in three days, I shall cut off a piece of my own flesh as an offering to the heavens." Sure enough, the heavens accorded with his wish, and the skies cleared in less than three days. As he had promised, Filial Son Yo then cut off a piece of his own flesh as offering to the heavens. When the nearby residents and county officials heard about Filial Son Yo’s offering, they came in droves and praised him without end. About that time, a little bird flew near and sang, “Do more good deeds! Do more good deeds! Doing good deeds is so good!" That little bird stayed close to where Filial Son Yo was sitting for about three weeks before flying away.

It was truly an inconceivable occurance! When Filial Son Yo had completed observing three years of filial piety at his parents’ graves, he began giving talks at the local branch of the Path of Virtue Society and taught beings how to practice the Bodhisattva Path. Filial Son Yo was twenty-one years old when he vowed to uphold his filial duties. At that time, I was in my teens and was also observing filial piety at my mother’s grave. This was why we admired each other.

One day, we happened to meet. We observed each other in silence for a long time. Finally, Filial Son Yo asked, “Who are you?" I answered, “You should know who you are, but I do not know who I am." Filial Son Yo asked again, “Where do you come from?" I replied, “I come from where I came from." I then asked him, “Where are you going?" He only answered, “I have nowhere to go." He had nothing else to reply. There is no place to come from and no place to go to, and so there is neither coming nor going. There is neither coming nor going, and yet there is coming and going. Coming is coming from the place that we came from, and going is going to the place where we are headed. One of the Buddha’s ten names is ‘Tathagata’ (Thus Come One). The Vajra Sutra says, “The Tathagata does not come from anywhere, nor does he go anywhere. Therefore, he is called the Tathagata."


The Three Cart Patriarch


The main purpose of meditation is to eradicate all our past evil karma, regain our original wisdom, and bring our good roots to fruition. We must be patient, and that means not being afraid of hardship. When the sages of old sat in meditation, they could sit for thousands of years. I shall now relate a koan as an example.

During the Tang Dynasty, when Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang was on his way to India to obtain sutras, he encountered an old cultivator in meditation. Birds had built nests on his head and his clothes were torn and tattered. Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang rang his bell to bring the old fellow out of samadhi. The old cultivator asked, “Where do you come from?" Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang replied, “I come from the Land of Tang and I am going to India to seek for Sutras. What are you doing here?"

The old cultivator said, “I am waiting for Shakyamuni Buddha to come into the world. Then I am going to help him propagate the Buddhadharma." Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang said, “Why are you still waiting for the Buddha to come into the world? Shakyamuni Buddha has already passed into Nirvana for more than a thousand years." The old cultivator said, “Is that a fact! Well, in that case, I will wait for the next Buddha, Maitreya, to come into the world."

Thereupon, he prepared to go back into samadhi. Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang interrupted him and said, “I have a matter to discuss with you." The old cultivator replied, “Do not disturb my peace. I do not want to interfere in worldly affairs."

Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang said, “This is not a personal matter. Although Shakyamuni Buddha has already entered Nirvana, his Dharma is still in the world. I want you to help me spread the Buddhadharma and continue the Buddha’s wisdom life. Now, you go to the Land of Tang and wait for me to return with the sutras, and then we shall propagate the Buddhadharma together. From here, go east and get reborn in the house with the yellow-tiled roof."

Before Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang set out for India to bring back the sutras, he made a prediction to Emperor Tai Zong saying, “The branches of the pine tree are now pointing to the west. When they point east, that means I have returned with the Sutras." One day, Emperor Tai Zong noticed that all the tree branches were pointing to the east and he knew that Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang would return soon. When Dharma Master Xuan Zang returned to Chang An, Emperor Tai Zong led all the court officials to the western gate to welcome him. It was a grand reception, and the streets were thronging with people.

When Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang met the Emperor, he immediately said, “Congratulations, Your Majesty, on the birth of a prince." But the emperor replied, “No. I didn’t have a son while you were away." The Dharma Master looked into the matter and found that the old cultivator had missed his mark and been reborn in a house with blue tiles, instead of yellow. The blue-tiled house belonged to the Defence Minister Yu Chi Kong. He was now the nephew of Yu Chi Kong. Dharma Master Xuan Zang urged Yu Chi Kong’s nephew to leave home but was rejected. He then pleaded with the Emperor to issue an edict ordering the war minister’s nephew to enter monastic life, explaining, “It is essential that he leaves home. So no matter what conditions he asks for, agree to all of them."


Immediately, the Emperor issued an edict ordering the war minister’s nephew to leave home. When the nephew of Yu Chi Kong received the imperial command to leave home, he set up three conditions, saying, “My first condition is this. Originally, Buddhism does not permit drinking wine. However, I do not wish to give up drinking wine. I expect that wherever I go, there will be a cart of wine following me." The Emperor knew that one of the five precepts in Buddhism prohibits consuming alcohol, but then, Master Xuan Zhuang had told him to agree to any conditions that the nephew might have. So the Emperor agreed to the first condition. Encouraged, the nephew continued, “Now for my second condition. I was born in the home of a general and I am used to eating meat. After I become a monk, I must still have fresh meat to eat everyday."

The Emperor knew for a fact that monastics do not eat meat, but since Master Xuan Zhuang had already told the Emperor to agree with any terms, Tai Zong therefore had to agree to this one as well. The nephew pressed on, “Here is my third condition. All my life, I have been fond of beautiful women. So wherever I go, I must have a cart full of beauties accompanying me." The Emperor agreed to all three conditions. When Yu Chi Kong’s nephew left home, the entire imperial court gave him a send-off to Da Xing Shan (Great Flourishing Goodness) Monastery to enter monastic life.

On that day, the monastery’s big bell was rung and the gigantic drum was beaten to welcome him. As soon as he heard the bell and drum, he had a sudden enlightenment and remembered that he was the old cultivator who had promised to help Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang propagate the Buddhadharma. The moment he obtained the knowledge of past lives, he gave up the three carts of wine, meat, and women. He became Patriarch Kui Ji, the Second Patriarch of the Fa Xiang (Dharma Marks) School.

But all his life he was also known as the Three Cart Patriarch. He could read ten lines at a glance and could discern clearly what one hundred people talking at the same time were saying. Patriarch Kui Ji helped Dharma Master Xuan Zhuang translate the discourses of the Dharma Marks School. His skills were unsurpassed. He earned the name ‘Master of One Hundred Discourses’.

When the old cultivator sat in meditation, he could sit for a few thousand years. Here, we sit for only twenty-one hours each day, which is really insignificant by comparison. We must learn to look upon all matters as being trifles and should not be attached to anything. Endure suffering and pain. It is only by enduring a moment of pain that we can achieve everlasting happiness. All of you should be courageous and vigorous and cultivate diligently. In this way, you will be able to overcome all obstacles.


Cast aside birth and death


A long time ago, there was a diligent old cultivator who had attained some success. But then, a state came along to test his samadhi power. What kind of state was it? Whenever he meditated and was about to enter samadhi, a big stone would appear, dangling from a rope above his head. If the rope were to break, he would be smashed into a meat patty. He knew that this was only a state, and he ignored it. This happened every day. The stone would be there, dangling above his head. Because of that, he became very cautious in his meditation and dared not fall asleep. But he also could not enter samadhi.

After a few days, the state changed. Now, there was a rat on the rope from which the stone was dangling. The rat was gnawing on the rope. The rope had been thin to begin with and now that the rat was gnawing at it, the danger of the stone crashing down on the meditator increased dramatically. As a result of this state, the old cultivator dared not meditate there again. Actually, such states are all illusions. No matter what states appear, cultivators should ignore them. We must cast aside life and death. If we live, we live. If we die, we die.

Our resolve should be that we would rather die as a result of cultivating than to live without doing so. If we do not fear death and can put everything down, we will surely gain enlightenment. This old cultivator was afraid of death, and so he did not dare to continue his meditation. Once he stopped meditating, his skill did not improve, and he did not accomplish anything.

Off by a hair’s breadth to start with,
We will miss by a thousand miles in the end.

When we cultivate, no matter what states we encounter, we must have the samadhi power to ignore them. By doing that, we will eventually experience some positive results and will be able to overcome obstacles. Once we have overcome the obstacles, we will receive some good news.


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禪的公案


金塔與銀塔


修道的人只要能坐跏趺坐,就能生出戒力,生出定力,生出慧力。你能結跏趺坐,所有的金剛護法都來保護著你,所有的魔王他都要遠避,所有的一切餓鬼就要向你叩頭。

這裏有一個公案。在中國,死人或者有什麼事情就要請和尚去念經,這叫趕經懺,經懺僧。有一個給人念經來維持自己生活的一個法師,有一次就去給人念經。念經多數都是晚間念經,他念完了經回來大約晚間有十二點鐘的樣子,經過一個村莊。這個村莊養了狗,這狗就就吠。這家庭裏就夫婦兩人,那個太太就說,「你看一看,是什麼,是不是有賊來要偷東西?」她的丈夫就在窗戶向外一看,說,「嘿!誰?那個趕經懺的鬼!這個經懺鬼!」

這個念經的法師,「啊!他們怎麼叫我經懺鬼呢?」本來他是念經的一個法師,他們叫他趕經懺的鬼。於是他就往前走,想回自己的廟,天就下起雨來了,正遇著有一個橋。他就走到這橋底下來避雨,就在那打坐。一開始他就結上雙跏趺坐那麼坐著,這一結雙跏趺坐,從這個水邊上就來了兩個鬼,這鬼,樣子很難看的、很醜陋。人一看見鬼就生一種恐懼心,但是他因為在打坐,他看見這兩個鬼來了,他也就不害怕。因為他超度鬼,常常心裏頭都有這麼個鬼,於是真見到鬼他也不怕,他還在那兒打坐。

這兩個鬼就向他叩頭,叩叩頭。這大約過了有二十分鐘,或者半點鐘,他腿痛起來,受不了了,雙跏趺坐就改成單跏趺坐。他就聽這兩個鬼互相談起話來了,說,「嘿!方才我們拜是拜的一個金塔,現在怎麼變成銀塔了?」因為這塔裏邊都有佛的舍利,或者佛的真身,所以鬼遇著塔,他就要叩頭禮拜的。那麼變成銀塔了,那個鬼就說,「銀塔裏邊也有佛的舍利,我們還是照常拜啦!」兩個又給他來叩頭。頭先是金塔,現在變成銀塔了。

這單跏趺坐了一個時期,腿又痛得受不了了,大約半點鐘的時候,他受不了。雨也沒有停;若雨停了,他就不打坐就走了。現在他單跏趺也不坐了,就把腿隨便這麼伸一伸,或者搖搖幌幌的。這兩個鬼叩頭起身一看,說,「哦!這也不是金塔,也不是銀塔,變成泥巴了;變成泥了,我們打碎了它,把這泥巴給打碎了它!」正在這兩個鬼要打他的時候,他聽這兩個鬼要打他,他自己又結上雙跏趺坐了。這兩個鬼一看,又變成金塔了,說,「哦!這真是不可思議的境界!我們快拜。」又向這個塔來叩頭。

然後他自己就想了,「哦!結雙跏趺坐就是金塔,結單跏趺坐就是銀塔,不坐就變成泥巴」。所謂泥巴,就是變成一個人,鬼就叫他泥巴。這個很奇怪的,由此之後,他就發了菩提心了,以後也不去趕經懺,不去給人念經去了,就自己在廟上天天打坐,結雙跏趺坐,坐來坐去,他開了悟了。他一想,我這個開悟,是因為鬼幫助我開悟的;如果我不遇到兩個鬼,我沒有今日,不會開悟的,於是自己取名字就叫「鬼逼禪師」,鬼把他逼迫得修道了。


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不死之法


禪宗有偈云,「萬法歸一一歸合,神光不明趕達摩,熊耳山前跪九載,只求一點躲閻羅。」這個公案證明求法不是件容易事,要有為法忘軀的精神才能得到正道。

菩提達摩從廣州登陸(他從印度乘船來到中國﹚,便到金陵(南京﹚,經過神光法師講經的地方,進去問神光,「你在這裏做什麼?」神光說,「我在講經。」達摩又問,「講經做什麼?」神光說,「為了生死。」達摩說,「法本來不可說,無法可說。你講的黑是字、白是紙,怎能了生死?」神光一聽,大怒說,「你這個摩羅剎!敢來謗佛謗法謗僧,豈有此理!」說完之後,便用鐵念珠朝達摩祖師的面上猛力打去!達摩在沒有防備的情形下,被打掉兩顆門牙。達摩祖師一想,如果把牙吐在地上,那麼這地方要大旱三年(因為證果聖人的牙落地,諸天降罪,此處人會受到不下雨的懲罰﹚。達摩不忍心令這地方的人受荒旱之苦,乃將兩顆牙吞到肚中。所謂「打落門牙和血吞」,留下這個典故。

達摩修忍辱波羅蜜,一言不發走出神光講經處,過長江向河南嵩山而去。這時,無常鬼奉閻羅王之命,來請神光去參加他們的宴會,便對神光說,「你是神光嗎?」神光說,「是的。」無常鬼說,「閻羅王請你去飲茶。」神光一聽,便說,「我講經時,天華亂墜,地湧金蓮,我還要死嗎?」無常鬼說,「你當然要死啦!」神光問,「誰能不死?」無常鬼告訴他,「只有剛才被你打掉兩顆門牙那位黑和尚,他才能不死。」神光向無常鬼懇求說,「無常居士,請你慈悲,行個方便,我去跟那位黑和尚學不死之法,可以嗎?」無常鬼允許他的要求。神光乃日夜向北方追趕達摩,最後追到熊耳山,見達摩在山洞中面壁入定,乃向達摩頂禮懺悔,跪了九年,才得不死之法,成為禪宗二祖。


開悟要印證才算數


在威音王佛前人人能開悟,不需要有人印證,在威音王佛以後,自覺開悟的人一定要經過祖師或善知識(已開悟﹚印可證明才算數。好像在楞嚴法會上,有二十五位聖人,自述圓通,請釋迦牟尼佛印證。

現在講一則印證的公案。在唐朝有位永嘉大師,他生於浙江省永嘉縣。因為他一生沒有離開永嘉縣,所以時人稱為永嘉大師。他出家後研究天臺教理,好修禪觀,曾閱《維摩經》,豁然大悟。後來遇到玄策禪師(六祖的弟子﹚敘述此事,玄策建議他去曹溪參六祖,請印證;否則無師自悟,乃是天然外道。

他來到曹溪南華寺的時候,恰巧是六祖坐禪時間。他貢高我慢,來到六祖禪床前,也不問訊也不頂禮,手執錫杖右繞禪床三匝,振杖而立。

六祖說,「沙門應具三千威儀,八萬細行。行行無虧,名為沙門(譯為勤息。勤修戒定慧,息滅貪瞋癡﹚。大德從何方而來?生大我慢。」永嘉答,「生死事大,無常迅速。」六祖說,「何不體無生?達了無速乎?」永嘉答,「體本無生,達即無速。」六祖說,「子甚得無生之意。」永嘉說,「無生豈有意耶?」六祖說,「無意誰能分別?」永嘉說,「分別亦非意!」六祖說,「如是如是。」乃授與印可證明,成為六祖的法嗣。

永嘉大師得六祖大師印證之後,即刻要回永嘉開元寺。六祖留他住一宿,次日再下山回永嘉,因為在一宿的時間便覺悟佛法的真諦,所以時人稱「一宿覺和尚」。後來他極力宣揚頓悟的禪風,特作〈證道歌〉五十多首,說明頓悟的境界。這是不朽的佳作,成為佛門必讀的功課。


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參禪能控制生死


在北宋末年,中國有位民族英雄名叫岳飛,他幼年喪父,母親很賢慧,母子二人相依為命。幼年時,他母親教他識字、練字;家貧無錢買筆紙等,在沙子上練字,成為書法家。青年投軍,他母親在他背上刺「精忠報國」四個字。他時時不忘救國家民族的大志願。

此時金人侵宋,佔領汴京(開封﹚,執徽欽二帝北去,康王構在杭州建國成為南宋,稱宋高宗,用秦檜為相,當時文人主和,武人主戰。岳飛大破金兵於朱仙鎮(離汴京很近﹚,有直搗黃龍(吉林農安﹚的壯志,不幸被秦檜嫉妒(主和派﹚,用十二道假金牌召回京城。岳飛有「忠君報國」的思想,班師回京。過長江時,經過江中金山寺,乃去拜訪道悅禪師。道悅和尚勸他不要回京城去,在金山寺(鎮江﹚出家修行,可以免是非。岳飛將生死置於度外,認為軍人的天職就是服從命令,沒有「將在外,君命有所不受」的思想,所以拒絕道悅和尚一番盛意。

臨行時,道悅和尚作一首偈頌,「歲底不足,謹防天哭,奉下兩點,將人害毒。」岳飛回杭州,秦檜用「莫須有」三字使岳飛父子下獄;臨刑時才悟道悅和尚的偈頌大意。那年的十二月二十九日過年,同時降大雨,岳飛在獄中聽到雨聲,知道大難臨頭,想起道悅和尚的讖言終於應驗了。奉下兩點,就是「秦」字。果然被斬於風波亭。

秦檜問監斬人,「岳飛臨刑時,說些什麼話?」監斬人說,「只聽他說,不聽金山寺道悅和尚的話,所以有今天的下場。」秦檜一聽大怒,派何立去金山寺,捉拿道悅和尚。道悅禪師在頭一天於定中曉得這段因緣,乃留下一個偈語,「何立自南來,我往西方走,不是法力大,幾乎落他手。」寫完之後,即刻圓寂。

第二天何立來到金山寺,老禪師已經圓寂,無可奈何,回去交差。這證明坐禪的功夫到了極點,便可控制生死,願意何時往生就何時往生,操縱在自己的手中,是很自然的現象。

古時禪師,都有這種功夫。生死自如,遂心如意。在唐朝有位禪師,名叫鄧隱峰,可以倒立而圓寂;近代金山活佛可以站立而圓寂,這都是由禪定的功夫,來去自由,不受一切的限制。


溈山老人不動心


唐朝的溈山老人,在湖南溈山修道,得到靜坐一須臾之定力。他將金銀財寶,親戚朋友,及一切五欲皆置之度外。溈山老人雖不求名利,但時間久了人人皆知,遂有很多人上山供養親近他,以求福求慧。這個好名譽傳到當時的裴休丞相也曉得了,於是也上山拜謁。見到山上只有一所簡陋茅蓬,連床也無,只有蒲團一個,老人常常坐在上面,人來他也不動,人走了他也不管,也不迎賓,也不送客。

裴休又想,「這位老修行連廟也無。我現在有的是錢,不如供養他蓋廟吧!」於是命隨從拿出三百兩銀子,但溈山老人也不接受,也不拒絕。在茅蓬裏頭有一堆草,裴休乃把銀子置於草堆中而去。當時的三百兩銀,相當於現在的三百萬元。

事隔三年,裴休想,「廟大概建好了,去看看吧!」上了山,發覺還是破茅蓬一間,什麼廟也沒有造。裴休便打了一個妄想,「人給他錢,他也不造廟,仍然現出貧苦相來,不知把錢拿到哪裏呢?」於是問溈山老人,「禪師!我給你造廟的銀子,你放在什麼地方去啊?」

溈山老人云,「你從前放到什麼地方,就到什麼地方去找。」裴休走到草堆裏看,發覺銀子原封不動仍在那裏。裴休又打了一個妄想,「這位老修行真是懶得要命,給他錢他也不會用。為什麼愈修愈愚癡呢?」這時溈山老人告訴他,「你既然以為我不會用錢,你還是拿回去做旁的用途了。我不想造有形相的廟。」

裴休始知這位禪師有來歷,乃發心為他建廟;雖然造了廟,但不知培養自心智慧,不如溈山老人在裏頭造智慧廟。人能夠不動妄念,不打五欲妄想,這才是真修道。坐禪人應該學習溈山老人,對著銀子不動心。


老僧一打坐,能消萬兩金


溈山老人曾說過,「老僧一打坐,能消萬兩金。」唐裴休丞相雖然知道出家是好,但自己身為丞相不能出家,遂造了一間大廟,能安二千多僧人同時辦道。當時有很多出家人,聽說湖南溈山建了新道場,紛至沓來參學親近溈山老人,天天坐禪習定,講演戒律。

裴休看自己出家無分,乃送兒子到廟上出家。這位兒子是翰林學士,即是國立最高學院的畢業生。溈山老人見到這位翰林出家,命名為法海,叫去挑水。當時常住有數千人,這分工作也不輕鬆。那時沒有自來水,要從井裏挑水,從早到晚無一刻閒暇。法海一早三點起來,大眾去做早課,他就已經開始挑水。如是挑水挑了幾年,沒做過旁的工作,甚至誦經打坐都未參加。以一位翰林的身分為大眾挑水,本來好像受委曲,但法海也不抱怨,儘量去做。

有一天,他碰巧有一點空閒,他從來不知道出家人究竟做什麼功課,於是趁機會溜到禪堂,偷偷往裏看。一看,在禪堂裏有些出家人是端然正坐;有一些則頭低低正在睡覺打呼;另有一些則睜著眼睛東張西望。法海自忖,「我天天挑水,做得很疲倦,你們原來坐著睡覺,或睜大眼睛到處看。你們這些出家人,怎值得我供養呢!」於是心裏抱怨。

法海這樣想,雖然沒說出口,但溈山老人已知道了,把他召入方丈室,說,「你在本寺住了幾年,現在抱怨,謂出家人不夠資格接受你的供養。現在山上不留你住,你收拾行裝好了,廟上遷你單啦!」

法海既被寺攆走,便向其師父靈祐禪師告假,「師父,我也沒有錢,應該到哪裏去呢?」靈祐禪師就給他八個半錢,告之,「你願意到哪處都可以,總之,把八個半錢用完後則止;若未用完則不要停留。」當時八個半錢,相等於現在的八十五塊錢,也不是很多。

法海一路上也不敢用錢,沿途托缽乞食從湖南走到江蘇,後來經過鎮江,看見長江上有一小島,島上有山。法海欲往觀山,搖手把船夫叫來,問他要多少錢。船夫也不要多,也不要少,偏偏要八個半錢!法海到了那山上,發覺山不高,很幽靜,於是住下來。後來在山上找到一個洞,洞裏有幾缸金子,故將山名改為「金山」,拿了金子造廟,仍舊專心禪宗。

從當時到現在,金山的道風特別好,歷代祖師輩出。中國有名的白蛇傳,記載法海方丈的故事,就是這一位。他當時還未受具足戒,仍是沙彌,但他已經是一位開山祖師。

溈山老人的名言,「老僧一打坐,能消萬兩金」,這是對法海而說的。法海妄想出家人不夠資格受他供養,其實不然。為什麼?

因為人若能靜坐,靜極光通達。又云「若人靜坐一須臾,勝造恆沙七寶塔」,所以萬兩黃金也消得,因此,我們坐禪人不要把習禪看輕。學佛人欲成佛,必要參禪打坐;要用功,不怕腿痛腰痠,才有成就。故古人云「不受一番寒徹骨,怎得梅花撲鼻香。」


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不要執著境界


用功時,地、水、火、風,都可以入定,可以入空定,又可以入非非想定。在定中不要執著境界,不要生起無明煩惱,否則,障礙開悟的良機。現在我講個公案,來作為借鏡。

從前有個老修行,欲生到非非想處天去(無色界最高天﹚,故修非非想處定。他在海邊修定,將要入非非想處定時,魚在海邊嬉水弄得潺潺的水聲,使老修行無法入定。他睜開眼睛魚立即游到別處。他繼續打坐,快到入定時魚又游來了,如是者多次使老修行感到不勝煩擾,遂生出瞋恨心,想,「我最好能變成一隻鷹,把水中的魚吃掉!」他生出這種瞋恨心嚇得魚也不敢來了,老修行終於證入非非想處定,而生非非想處天去,享受八萬大劫的天福。

他曾經生瞋恨心,欲變為鷹,把魚吃掉,等他天福享盡時墮落於畜牲道,身為魚鷹天天吃魚。等到釋迦牟尼佛成佛後為他說法,才脫離鷹身轉生為人,隨佛修道後證阿羅漢果。所以修道人不可以隨意生瞋恨心,打妄想必會受果報。

《楞嚴經》中有一位尊者,名叫月光童子專修水定,觀想水而入水光定,他的身體也變成水。一次,月光童子尊者正入水光定時,他的小徒弟欲謁見師父,於是到他的房間去,只見屋中有一灘水。頑皮的小徒弟便拿起一塊小石頭,投入室內的水裏去。月光童子尊者出定後,感覺肚裏不舒服,觀察自己肚裏有一塊小石頭,乃叫小徒弟來查詢原因。得知小徒弟在他入定時,投入石頭於水中,便吩咐小徒弟等他再入定時,到室內把水中石頭取出。從此可見修行者,只要專心致志的修行,必得成就。修行要專一則靈,若有堅固懇切的心,必能與法相應。


參禪──難耶?易耶?


「難!難!難!十擔芝麻樹上攤。」這是龐公說的話。他覺得用功是很不容易的,不是腰痛就是腿痠,種種疾病纏擾,所以不易打成一片,很困難的才能有點進步,然而一旦稍為放逸,就前功盡棄。所以他說,「難!難!難!十擔芝麻樹上攤。」然而,到底難到甚麼程度呢?就如拿十擔芝麻攤在樹上一樣。十擔芝麻不是小數目,而將之攤在樹上不掉下來,是很不容易做到的。他有個親戚聞此便說,「既然這樣難,那就無法修行了?」

但是龐婆卻說,「易!易!易!百草頭上西來意。」很容易的,所有的一切山河大地、花草樹木,皆是祖師西來大意。所以說很容易的,有何困難呢?

這時,有人問其女覺得修行用功如何?龐女說,「也不難!也不易!饑來食,睏而眠。」這三個人所說的都不同,可是根本道理是一樣的。

龐公、龐婆、龐女是同一家庭的人,但其所見不同。現在各方面來打七的人皆有,亦各有各見地,唯應少講話,好好用功才是。


不來亦不去


我在中國東北時有一位同參道友,他本來是一個打家劫舍的土匪。有一次,搶劫人家的財寶被打傷胳臂,受傷半年多也不痊癒。此時他生懺悔心,覺悟前非,改惡向善,於是發願,「如果我的傷在一個星期內復原,我便到父母墓前守孝。」一個星期後他的傷果然復原了,他便遵守願力的諾言,到父母墓前守孝三年。因為他能改過自新,所以他的師父為他取名為尤孝子。

尤孝子在未守孝以前,拜宗一法師為師。這位法師很有德行,得人景仰,也有神通。尤孝子開始學習打坐用功,魔障化為火龍緊纏在他的腰間,燒得他又赤又痛。在他被魔擾之際他師父立刻把火龍降伏,火龍皈依其座下,並為尤孝子當護法。

尤孝子守孝有兩年半的時候,遇著雨災淹沒禾田,莊稼失收。尤孝子即發願,「若三天內天晴,便割自身肉祭天。」果然天從人願,不到三天天已轉晴,尤孝子便割肉祭天。附近居民及縣官,聞說尤孝子割肉祭天的消息,紛紛而至,讚歎不已。

此時有隻小鳥飛來叫著,「多作德!多作德!作德多好!」這隻小鳥陪伴尤孝子有三週左右才飛走。這種境界真是不可思議呀!

尤孝子守墓三年圓滿,便在當地道德會講道理,教化眾生行菩薩道。尤孝子二十一歲時,發心為父母守孝。當時我十多歲,同時也在母墳廬墓,所以互相慕名。

有一天剛巧我們相遇,互相默視良久,尤孝子問,「你是誰呢?」我答,「你大概知道你是誰,但我卻不知道我是誰。」尤孝子又問,「你從哪裏來?」我答,「我從來的地方來。」我反問他,「你到哪裏去?」他只答,「沒有什麼地方去。」尤孝子可給我問倒了。

沒有地方來,也沒有地方去,乃不來不去;不來不去,也來也去,來是從來的地方來,去亦從去的地方去。佛十號之一是如來,《金剛經》云,「如來者,無所從來,亦無所去,故名如來。」


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三車祖師


坐禪主要目的乃消除以往惡業,恢復本有智慧,成就善業,所以坐禪必須有忍耐力,就是不怕苦。古人坐禪,一坐就坐了幾千年。講一個公案,作為參考。

唐朝玄奘法師去印度取經時,於途中見一位老修行在打坐,小鳥在他頭上築巢,衣服都已破,玄奘法師用引磬為老修行開靜。老修行問,「你從何處來?」玄奘法師答,「我從唐朝來,現在去印度取經。你在這裏做什麼呢?」老修行說,「我在等待釋迦牟尼佛出世,幫助佛弘揚佛法。」玄奘法師說,「怎麼你還在等佛出世,釋迦牟尼佛已入涅槃一千多年了。」老修行說,「真的嗎?既然這樣,我只好等當來下生彌勒尊佛降世吧!」

老修行準備再入定,玄奘法師對他說,「我有事跟你商量。」老修行回答,「你不要再打我閒岔,我不要管閒事。」玄奘法師說,「這不是我私人的事情。雖然釋迦牟尼佛入涅槃,但佛法仍然住世,我要你幫助弘揚佛法,續佛慧命。你現在到大唐國去等候我取經回來,一同弘揚佛法。你從這裏向東行,托生到有黃琉璃瓦的人家去吧!」

唐玄奘法師於出發往印度取經之前,曾對唐太宗預言,「松樹的樹枝,現在朝向西方長,等朝向東方時我便取經回來。」有一天,唐太宗看見所有的樹枝都朝向東方長,便知玄奘法師將要回國。玄奘法師回到長安時,太宗率領文武百官到西門歡迎,儀式非常隆重,可說車水馬龍萬人空巷。玄奘法師見到唐太宗,便立刻對太宗說,「恭喜陛下,添了一位皇子。」太宗說,「我沒有多添兒子,仍然只有一個太子。」

玄奘法師立刻觀察究竟怎樣一回事?原來他叫老修行托生到皇宮,老修行走錯門,跑到尉遲敬宗家中,作為尉遲公的侄兒(出家法名為窺基﹚。玄奘法師乃令尉遲公的侄兒出家,但被他拒絕,於是要求唐太宗下詔書命令他出家,並且對唐太宗說,「只要他出家,無論要求什麼條件,皆可答應。」唐太宗即時下聖旨命令尉遲公侄兒出家。

他奉旨出家便向皇帝要求三個條件,「第一個條件,本來佛教不允許喝酒,可是我不願戒酒,我希望不管到哪裏,要有一車酒跟著我。」皇帝知道佛教五戒中有一戒不飲酒,但玄奘法師曾說,他有任何條件的要求,都要答應。於是皇帝准許第一個要求。「第二個條件,我生在武將之家,習慣吃肉,以後每天要有新鮮肉供我吃。」本來出家人不吃肉,但玄奘法師聲明在先,請皇上答應他所提出的任何條件,於是唐太宗答應他第二個要求。「第三個條件,我有生以來,便喜歡美女,不論到哪裏也要有一車美女陪同。」唐太宗滿他的願,答應他第三個要求。

尉遲公侄兒出家時,朝廷文武百官送他到長安大興善寺出家。是日,寺中鐘鼓齊鳴,他聽到鐘鼓聲,頓然開悟,記起他原來是老修行,為了幫助玄奘法師弘揚佛法而來的。自證得宿命通後他便放棄醇酒、鮮肉、美女三車,所以窺基祖師(法相宗第二祖﹚又名三車祖師。

這位祖師可以目下十行字,耳聽百人聲。窺基祖師幫助玄奘法師翻譯法相宗諸論,功不可沒,有「百論疏主」之稱。

老修行一坐就坐幾千年,而我們每天只不過坐二十一小時,根本算不了一回事。所以凡事也要視作等閒,無所執著,忍苦忍痛,忍一時之痛,才能得到永遠的快樂。各人要勇猛精進,努力修行,一切的障礙,都必定迎刃而解。


生死要置之度外


在從前有一位老修行很用功的,用功用得有一點成就了,這個境界就來考驗他了,看他定力怎麼樣。什麼境界呢?他每逢一打坐,坐著將要入定的時候,他這個境界就來了,在他頭上有一塊大石頭,用一條繩子在那吊著,如果這個繩子一斷,就會把他砸成一個肉餅子。那麼他知這是個境界,就不管它,每一天都是這樣子這大石頭在他頭上,他就豁著很小心不敢睡覺,也不能入定。

那麼過了幾天,這境界又變化了。在這個石頭上面那繩子上又來一個老鼠,這老鼠就在咬這個繩子。這繩子本來就很細的,吊著這個石頭就很危險,再有一個老鼠在這咬,那更危險,於是乎這老修行,再也不敢在那打坐了。

其實這種境界都是一種幻化的境界。修道的人遇到什麼境界,都不要管他,你要把生死置之度外。活就活,死就死,我寧可因為修道死,也不願不修道而生。你要能把死都不怕了,都放下了,你一定會開悟的。那麼他就怕死,以就不敢打坐;不敢打坐,他功夫也就沒有進步了,也就沒有什麼成就了。所以說「差之絲毫就謬之千里。」我們修道無論遇到什麼境界,都要很有定力不要管它,就會有一點成就,就會打破這個難關;你把這個難關打破了,就會得一點好消息。