The Ch'an Training
(ASTER HSU YUN'S DISCOURSE
AND DHARMA WORDS)
Translated and Explained
by Lu Kuan Yu [Charles Luk]
the Ch'an Training
Daily Lectures at
Two Ch'an Weeks
a) First Week
b) Second Week
"Universally regarded as the most
outstanding Buddhist of the Chinese order in the modern era." (Richard Hunn)
"Dharma successor of all five Chan
schools; main reformer in the Chinese Buddhist Revival(1900-50). Born Chuan Chou(Quan
Zhou), Fukien(Fujian) province. Left home at 19. At 20 took precepts with master Miao Lien
and received Dharma name Ku Yen. In 56th year achieved final awakening at Kao Min Ssu in
Yang Chou(Yang Zhou). Thereafter began revival and teaching work. Eventually invited to
take charge of the Sixth Patriach's temple(Tsao-Chi/Chao Xi), then very rundown; restored
it along with temples and monasteries; also founded many schools and hospitals. Died in
his 120th year. Had also traveled in Malaysia and Thailand, and taught the King of
Thailand. Autobiography: Empty Cloud(translated by Charles Luk)."
(From The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism)
Prerequisites of the Ch'an
(From the Hsu Yun Ho Shang Fa Hui)
The object of Ch'an training is to realize
the mind for the perception of (self-) nature, that is to wipe out the impurities which
soil the mind so that the fundamental face of self-nature can really be perceived.
Impurities are our false thinking and clinging (to things as real). Self-nature is the
meritorious characteristic of the Tathagata wisdom which is the same in both Buddhas and
living beings. If one's false thinking and grasping are cast aside, one will bear witness
to the meritorious characteristic of one's Tathagata wisdom and will become a Buddha,
otherwise one will remain a living being. For since countless aeons, our own delusion has
immersed us in the (sea of) birth and death. Since our defilement has (already) lasted so
long, we are unable instantly to free ourselves from false thinking in order to perceive
our self-nature. This is why we must undergo Ch'an training. The prerequisite of this
training is the eradication of false thinking. As to how to wipe it out, we have already
many sayings of Sakyamuni Buddha and nothing is simpler than the word 'Halt' in His
saying: 'If it halts, it is Enlightenment (Bodhi)'.
The Ch'an sect from its
introduction by Bodhidharma after his arrival in the East until after the passing of the
Sixth Patriarch, spread widely all over the country and enjoyed great prosperity, unknown
before and after that period. However, the most important thing taught by Bodhidharma and
the Sixth Patriarch was only this: 'Expel all concurrent causes; do not give rise to a
single thought.' To expel all concurrent causes is to lay them down.  Therefore,
these two sentences: 'Expel all concurrent causes. Do not give rise to a single thought',
are the prerequisites of Ch'an training. If these two sentences are not put into actual
practice, not only will the training be ineffective, but also it will be impossible to
start it, for in the midst of causes which rise and fall, thought after thought, how can
you talk about Ch'an training?
Now we know that (the
sentences): 'Expel all concurrent causes. Do not give rise to a single thought' are the
prerequisites of Ch'an training; how can we fulfill these prerequisites? Those of high
spirituality are able to halt for ever the arising of a single thought until they reach
(the state of) birthlessness and will thereby instantaneously realize enlightenment
(bodhi) without any more ado. Those of lower spirituality will deduce the underlying
principle from facts  and will thoroughly understand that the self-nature is
fundamentally pure and clean and that distress (klesa)  and enlightenment as well
as birth, death and Nirvina are all empty names having no connexion whatever with
self-nature; that phenomena are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble and a shadow; and that
the four basic elements constituting the physical body, as well as mountains, rivers and
the great earth which are within self-nature, are just like bubbles in the sea. These
phenomena rise and fall following one another in succession without intefering with the
essence (of self-nature). Therefore, one should not follow illusion in its creation, stay,
change and annihilation and give rise to feelings of joy, sadness, attachment and
rejection. One should lay down everything with which one's body is burdened, thus becoming
exactly like a dead man. The outcome will be that sense-organs, sense-data and
consciousness will vanish and that concupiscence, anger, stupidity and love will be
eliminated. When all our feelings of joy and sadness, of the cold of hunger and the warmth
of one's fill, of honour and dishonour, of birth and death, of happiness and misery, of
blessing and calamity, of praise and censure, of gain and loss, of safety and danger, and
of handicap and help, are all cast aside, this is the true laying down (of everything). To
lay down a thing is to lay down everything for ever, and this is called the laying down of
all concurrent causes. When all concurrent causes have been laid down, false thinking will
vanish with the non-arising of differentiation and the elimination of all attachments.
When one reaches this state of the non-arising of a single thought, the brightness of
self-nature will appear in full.Then only can the prerequisites of Ch'an training be
entirely fulfilled. Further efforts in the true training and real introspection will be
required if one wishes to be qualified for realizing the mind for the perception of
Buddhists often came to inquire (about all this). As to the Dharma, fundamentally there is
no such thing, because as soon as it is expressed in words, the meaning will not be true.
Just see clearly that mind is Buddha and there will be no more ado. This is self-evident
and all talks of practice and realization are the demon's words. Bodhidharma, who came to
the East to "directly point at man's mind for the perception of self-nature leading
to the attainment of Buddhahood", clearly indicated that all living beings on earth
were Buddhas. The outright cognizance of this pure and clean self-nature together with
complete harmony with it, without contamination from attachment (to anything)and
without the least mental differentiation, while walking, standing, sitting and lying by
day or night is nothing but the self-evident Buddha(hood). It does not require any
application of mind or use of effort. Moreover, there is no place for either action or
deed, and no use for words, speech and thought. For this reason, it is said that the
attainment of Buddhahood is the most free and easy thing which relies only on oneself and
does not depend on others. If all living beings on this earth are not willing to pass long
aeons through the successive four kinds of birth  in the six realms of existence
 to stay permanently immersed in the sea of suffering, and if they wish to
attain Buddhahood with the accompanying enjoyment of true eternity, true bliss, true
personality and true purity ,they should sincerely believe the true words of the
Buddha and Patriarchs, and lay down all (attachments) without thinking of either good or
evil; all of them will cenainly be able to become Buddhas on the spot. All Buddhas,
Bodhisattvas and Patriarchs of past generations did not take the vow of liberating all
living beings without warrant for so doing; they did not take vain vows and did not tell a
above referred to, is in the state provided by nature . Moreover, the Buddha and
Patriarchs had expounded it again and again, and their injunction in this respect had also
been repeated; theirs were true words, words corresponding to reality, which did not
contain an atom of falsehood and deception. However, all living beings on this earth have
been, for countless aeons, deluded and sunk in the bitter ocean of birth and death, rising
and falling in their endless transmigrations. Being deluded, confused and upset, they turn
their back on enlightenment and unite with impurities. They are just like real gold thrown
into a manure pit where it not only falls into disuse but is also deplorably soiled.
Because of His great mercy, the Buddha was compelled to set up 84,000  Dharma
doors (to enlightenment) so that living beings of different natural capacities could use
them to cure the 84,000 ailments caused by their habitual concupiscence, anger, stupidity
and love. In the same way you are taught to use a shovel, brush, water and cloth to wash,
brush, polish and scrub the dirty piece of gold. Therefore, the Dharma doors expounded by
the Buddha are all excellent Dharmas which enable one to see through birth and death and
to attain Buddhahood, the only question being the adaptability or otherwise of individual
potentialities. These Dharma doors should not be divided arbitrarily into superior or
inferior ones. Those introduced into China are: the Ch'an Sect (Tsung), the Discipline
School (Lu Tsung), the Teaching School (Chiao Tsung), the Pure Land School (Chin Tsung),
and the Yoga School (Mi Tsung). Of these five Dharma doors, it is up to each man to choose
the one which is suitable to his natural character and inclination, and he will surely
reach his goal if he only sticks to it long enough without change of mind and deeply
Our sect advocates the
Ch'an training. This training centres on 'realization of mind (and) perception of
self-nature', that is an exhaustive investigation into one's fundamental face. The Dharma
door which consists in the 'clear awakening to the self-mind and through perception of the
fundamental nature' has been handed down ever since the Buddha held up a flower until
after Bodhidharma's coming to the East, with frequent changes in the method of practice.
Up to the T'ang (935) and Sung (1278) dynasties, most adherents of the Ch'an sect became
enlightened after hearing a word or sentence. The transmission from master to disciple did
not exceed the sealing of mind by mind, and there was no fixed Dharma (taught). In their
questions and answers (the role played by a master) was only to untie the bonds (fettering
his disciple) according to available circumstances, just like the giving of an
appropriate medicine for each particular ailment. In and after the Sung dynasty, human
potentialities became duller, and the instructions given by the masters were not carried
out by their disciples. For instance, when they were taught to 'lay down everyting' and
'not to think of either good or evil', practisers could not lay down anything and could
not stop tiunking of either good or evil. Under these circumstances, the ancestors and
masters were compelled to devise a 'poison-against-poison' method by teaching their
followers to inquire into a kung an  or look into a hua t'ou. Their
disciples were even taught to hold a meaningless hua t'ou as firmly as possible (in their
minds), without loosening their grip even for the shortest possible moment, in the same
way as a rat will (stubbornly) bite the board of a coffin at a fixed spot until it has
made a hole. The aim of this method was to use a single thought to oppose and arrest
myriad thoughts because the masters had no alternative. It was like an operation which
became imperative when poison had been introduced into the body. There were many kung ans
(devised by the ancients but) later only hua t'ous were taught such as: 'Who is dragging
this corpse here?' and 'What was my fundamental face before I was born?' In the
present day, the masters use the hua t'ou: 'Who is the repeater of Buddda's name?'
All these hua t'ou have
only one meaning which is very ordinary and has nothing peculiar about it if you look into
him 'Who is reciting a sutra?', 'Who is holding a mantra?', 'Who is worshipping Buddha?',
'Who is taking a meal?', 'Who is wearing a robe?', 'Who is walking on the road?', or 'Who
is sleeping?', the reply to 'Who?' will invariably be the same: 'It is Mind.' Word arises
from Mind and Mind is head of (i.e. ante-)Word. Thought arises from Mind and Mind is head
of Thought. Myriad things come from Mind and Mind is head of myriad things. In reality, a
hua t'ou is the head of a thought (i.e. ante-thought). The head of thought is nothing but
Mind. To make it plain, before a thought arises, it is a hua t'ou. From the above, we know
that to look into a hua t'ou is to look into the Mind. The fundamental face before one's
birth is Mind. To look into one's fundamental face before one's birth is to look into
one's mind. Self-nature is Mind (and) to 'turn inwards the hearing to hear the
self-nature' is to 'turn inward one's contemplation to contemplate the self-mind'.
perfect shining on the pure Awareness' means this:'the pure awareness' is mind and 'to
shine on' is to look into. Mind is Buddha and to repeat the Buddha's (name) is to
contemplate the Buddha. To contemplate Buddha is to contemplate mind. Therefore, to 'look
into a hua t'ou' or 'to look into him who repeats the Buddha's name is to contemplate the
mind or to contemplate the pure essence of awareness of the self-mind, or to contemplate
the self-natured Buddha. Mind is self-nature, is awareness and is Buddha, having neither
form nor location, and being undiscoverable. It is clean and pure by nature, penetrates
everywhere in the Dharmadhatu, does not enter or leave, neither comes nor goes, and is
fundamentally the self-evident pure Dharmakaya Buddha.
A practiser should keep
under control all his six sense-organs and take good care of this hua t'ou by looking into
where a thought usually arises, until he perceives his pure scelf-nature, free from all
thoughts. This continuous, close, quiet and indifferent investigation will lead to a still
and shining  contemplation (the outcome of which will be) the outright
non-existence of the five constituent elements of being (skandhas)  and the
wiping out of both body and mind, without the least thing being left behind. Thereafter,
this absolute immutability (should be maintained) in every state, while walking, standing,
sitting and lying by day or night. As time goes on, this achievement will be brought to
perfection, resulting in the perception of self-nature and the attainment of Buddhahood,
with the elimination of all distress and suffering.
Ancestor Kao Feng 
said: 'When a student looks into a hua t'ou with the same steadiness with which a
broken tile when thrown into a deep pond plunges straight down 10,000 changs  to
the bottom, if he fails to become awakened in seven days, anyone can chop off my head and
take it away.' Dear friends, these are the words of an experienced master, they are true
and correspond to reality, they are not deceitful words to cheat people
Then why in the present
generation are there not even a few men who attain enlightenment in spite of the great
number who hold a hua t'ou (in their minds)? This is because their potentialities are not
so sharp as those of the ancients. It is also because students are confused about the
correct method of training and of holding a hua t'ou. They go to various places in the
four quarters, seeking instruction, and the result is that when they get old, they are
still not clear about the meaning of a hua t'ou and how to look into it. They pass their
whole lives clinging to words and names, and applying their minds to the tail of the hua
t'ou. They inquire into (the sentences): 'Look into him who repeats the Buddha's name'
and 'Take care of the hua t'ou', and the more they look and inquire into these sentences,
the more they get away from what these sentences stand for.  Thus how can they
be awakened to the self-evident Wu Wei (transcendental) Supreme Reality, and how can they
ascend the undisturbable Royal Throne? When gold powder is thrown into their eyes, they
are blinded: how then can they send out the great illuminating ray? What a pity! What a
pity! They are all good sons and good daughters who leave their homes in quest of the
truth, and their determination is above the average. What a pity if they labour to no
purpose! (For this reason) an ancient master said: 'It is better to remain unenlightened
for a thousand years than to tread the wrong path for a day.'
awakening to the truth is easy and is (also) difficult. For example, when we turn on the
electric light, if we know how, in a finger-snap there will be light and the darkness
which has lasted for a myriad years will disappear. If one does not know how to turn on
the light, the electric wires will be interfered with and the lamp will be damaged,
resulting in an increase of passions and ignorance. There are also some people who, while
undergoing Ch'an training and looking into the hua t'ou, get entangled with demons and
become insane, while others vomit blood and fall sick. Are the fire of ignorance
bursting into flame and the deep-rooted view of self and other  not the obvious
causes of all this? Therefore, practisers should harmonize body with mind and become calm,
free from all impediments and from (the view of) self and other so as to bring about a
perfect unison with their latent potentialities. Fundamentally, this method used in Ch'an
training is invariably the same, but the training is both difficult and easy to beginners
as well as to old hands.
Where does its
difficulty lie for a beginner? Although his body and mind are mature for it, he is still
confused about the method of undergoing it, and since his practice is ineffective, he will
either become impatient or spend his time in dozing with this result: 'A beginner's
training in the first year, an old hand's training in the second, and no training in the
Where does its easiness
lie for a beginner? It only requires a believing, a long enduring and a mindless mind. A
believing mind is, firstly, belief that this mind of ours is fundamentally Buddha, not
differing from all Buddhas and all living beings of the three times in the ten directions
of space, and secondly, belief that all Dharmas expounded by Sakyamuni Buddha can enable
us to put an end to birth and death and to attain Buddhahood. A long enduring mind
consists in the choice of a method to be put into continuous practice in the present
lifetime, in the next life, and in the life after next. The Ch'an training should be
continued in this manner; the repetition of the Buddha's name should be continued in this
manner; the holding of a mantra (mystic incantation) should be continued in this manner
and the study of sutras, which consists in putting into practice the teaching heard (i.e.
learned from the Scriptures), should be continued in this manner. The practice of any
Dharma door (to enlightenment) must be based on Sila  and if the training is
undergone in this manner, there is no reason why it will not be successful. The old master
Kuei Shan said: 'Anybody practising this Dharma without backsliding in three
successive lives can surely expect to attain the Buddha-stage.' The old master Yung Chia
said: 'If I utter deceitful words to cheat living beings, I shall be prepared to fall into
the tongue-snatching hell for aeons as numberless as atoms.'
By mindlessness is
meant the laying down of everything  so that the practiser will become like a
dead man who, while following others in their normal activities, does not give rise to the
least differentiation and attachment, and lives as a mindless religious man.
After a beginner has
acquired these three kinds of mind, if he under-goes the Ch'an training and looks into,
for instance, the hua t'ou: 'Who is the repeater of Buddha's name?' he should silently
repeat a few times:'Amitibha Buddha' and then look into him who thinks of the Buddha and
where this thought arises. He should know that this thought does not arise either from his
mouth or body. If it arises from either his mouth or body, why when he dies, cannot his
body and mouth, which still exist, give rise to this thought? Therefore, he knows that
this thought arises from his mind. Now he should watch (and locate) where his mind gives
rise to this thought and keep on looking into it, like a cat ready to pounce on a mouse,
with his exclusive attention concentrated upon it, free from a second thought. However,
its sharpness and dullness should be in equal proportions. It should never be too sharp
for that sharpness may cause illness. if the training is undergone in this manner, in
every state, while walking, standing, sitting and lying, it will be effective as time goes
on, and when cause comes to fruition, like a ripe melon which automatically falls,
anything it may happen to touch or come into contact with, will suddenly cause his supreme
awakening. This is the moment when the practiser will be like one who drinks water and who
alone knows whether it is cold or warm, until he becomes free from all doubts about
himself and experiences a great happiness similar to that when meeting one's own father at
Where do both easiness
and difficulty lie for an old hand? By old hand is meant one who has called on learned
masters for instruction and has undergone the training for many years during which his
body and mind were mature for it and he was clear about the method which he could practise
comfortably without experiencing any handicap. The difficulty met by a monk who is an old
hand lies in this feeling of comfort and clearness in which he stops and stays. Thus,
because of his stay in this illussion-city, he does not reach the place of precious things
(i.e. the perfect Nirvana). He is fit only for stillness but is unfit for disturbance and
his training is, therefore, not completely effective for really full use. In the worst
case, the practiser will, when coming into contact with his surroundings, give rise to
feelings of like and dislike and of acceptance and rejection with the result that his
false thinking, both coarse and fine, will remain as firm as before. His training will be
likened to the soaking of a stone in water and will become ineffective. As time goes on,
weariness and laziness will slip into his training which will become fruitless in the end.
When such a monk is aware of this, he should immediately give rise to the hua t'ou again
and rouse his spirits to take a step forward from the top of a hundred-foot pole (he has
reached)until he reaches the top of the highest peak on which he will firmly stand or
the bottom of the deepest ocean where he will walk (in every direction). He will cast away
(his last link with the unreal) and will walk freely everywhere, meeting face to fice
(lit. substance to substance, or essence to essence) with Buddhas and Patriarchs.Where is
the difficulty? Is this not easy?
Hua t'ou is One-Mind.
This One-Mind of yours and mine is neither within nor without nor between the two. It is
also within, without and between the two and is like Space which is immutable and is
all-embracing. Therefore, the hua t'ou should not be pulled up or pushed down. If it is
pulled up, it will cause disturbance, and if it is pushed down, it will cause dullness,
and so will be in contradiction with the mind-nature  and not in line with the
'mean'. Everybody is afraid of false thinking which he finds difficult to control, but
I tell you, dear friends, do not be afraid of false thinking and do not make any effort to
control it. You have only to be aware of it but should not cling to it, follow it or push
it away. It will suffice to discontinue your thinking and it will leave you alone. Hence,
the saying: 'The rise of falsehood should be immediately cognized, and once cognized, it
However, in his
training, if the practiser can turn this false thinkmg to his own advantage, he will look
into where it arises and will notice that it has no independent nature of its own. At
once, he will realize the non-existence of this very thinking and will recover his
fundamental mindless nature, followed immediately by the manifestation of his pure
self-natured Dharmakaya Buddha which will appear on the spot.
In reality, the real
and the false are the same (in nature); the living and the Buddhas are not a dualism; and
birth-death and Nirvina as well as enlightenment (bodhi) and distress (klesa) all belong
to our self-mind and self-nature and should not be differentiated, should not be either
liked or disliked and should not be either grasped or rejected. This mind is pure and
clean and fundamentally is Buddha. Not a single Dharma is required (in the quest of
enlightenment). Why so much complication? Ts'an! 
 The full sentence is: The mad mind
does not halt; if it halts, it is Bodhi, i.e. enlightenment.
 In Ch'an terminology, "to lay
down causes or thoughts" is to lay down the heavy load of causes or
thoughts to free the mind from defilement.
 Underlying principle: theory,
 Facts: activity, practice,
 Klesa: distress, worry, trouble and
whatever causes them.
 This is the state described in Han
Shan's "Song of the Board-bearer".
 Even attachment to the self-nature is
also an impurity which should be cast aside.
 Literally 'during the two six-hour
periods of the day'. Each day is divided into two six-hour periods. one for day-time and
one for night-time.
 Birth from eggs, wombs and humidity,
and by transformation.
 Worlds of gods (devas), men, spirits
(asuras), animals, hungry ghosts and hells.
 The four transcendental realities in
Nirvana expounded in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra.
 i.e. 'self-so'. so of itself,
natural, of course, se1f-existing, the self-existent.
 The digits 8 and 4 symbolize
respectively the eighth Vijnana or Consciousness and the four basic elements of the
physical body, and mean the deluded self-nature (8) held in bondage in the illusory body
(4), i.e. Space. The three following zeros symbolize Time, and so long as one remains
under delusion, it will be immaterial to add 10, 100, or 1,000 zeros at the end of the
number. However, when one attains enlightenment in one finger-snap. the digits 8 and 4 or
Space will disappear and the line of zeros, or Time, will have no meaning.
 i.e. freeing his disdples from
restraint caused by delusion.
 Kung an, or koan in Japanese = A
dossier, or case-record; a cause, public laws, regulations; case-law. Problems set by
Ch'an masters upon which thought is concentrated as a means to attain inner unity and
illumination. The meaning of a kung an is irrevocable and kung an is as valid as the
 Hua t'ou = ante-word, or
ante-thought, i.e. the mind before it is stirred by a thought. It is the mind in its
undisturbed condition. The holding of a hua t'ou in the mind is the looking into the
self-mind until its realization. It is also the turning inward of the faculty of hearing
to hear the self-nature, for the disentanglement of mind (subject) from external
 i.e. who is dragging here this
physical body of yours?
 The essence of the rnind is still and
its function is shining.
 The 5 skandhas: form, feeling,
ideation, reaction and consciousness.
 Kao Feng was the teacher of Chung
Feng whose 'Sayings of Chung Feng' (Chung Feng Kuang Lu) were read by Han Shan before the
latter began his Ch'an training. (See Han Shan's Autobiography.)
 Chang: a measure of ten Chinese
 when the sentence 'who repeats the
Buddha's name?' is merely repeated by a practicer who only grasps its meaning, he thinks
of the 'tail' of the hua t'ou, instead of its head or ante-word, that is the mind. Thus he
wrongly applies his mind to 'tall' instead of 'head'.
 The master means that these people
fail because they set their discriminating minds on grasping the meaning of these
sentences, whereas in the training, their minds should first be disentangled from all
 If an evil thought is allowed to slip
into the concentration of mind while holding a hua t'ou, this thought will replace the hua
t'ou and may grow out of proportion and become difficult to subdue. If it be a strong
desire which cannot be satisfied, the resultant frustration may cause insanity. One's
breath should never be interfered with, and concentration of mind should never be on the
chest as it may affect the lungs and cause the vomiting of blood.
 View of dualism which should be wiped
 Sila= precept, command, prohibition,
discipline, rule, morality.
 Master Kuei Shan(Wei Shan) and his
dssciple Yang Shan were founders of the Kuei Yang(Wei Yang) Sect (Ikyo in Japanese), one
of the five Ch'an Sects in China.
 i.e. free from all attachments, which
are likened to a burden which one should lay down.
 This state of stillness is fully
described in Han Shan's 'Song of the Board-bearer' (see Han Shan's Autobiography) and in
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva's 'Complete Enlightenment' when he said: 'Both the hearing and
its object came to an end but I did not stay where they ended.'
 Mind-nature: immutable mind-body, the
existing fundamental pure mind, the all, the Tathagata-garba
 Mean: between the two extremes.
 Ts'an(Can): to inquire, investigate,
look into. Usually at the end of a meeting, a master mutters this word to urge his
disciples to inquire into or ponder over the real meaning.
The Ch'an Training
(From the Hsu Yun Ho Shang Fa Hui)
MASTER HSU YUN'S DISCOURSE IN THE CH'AN
(Dear friends,) you have been coming
frequently to ask for my instruction and I really feel ashamed (of my incompetence).
(Every day) from morning to evening, you have been all hard at work splitting fire-wood,
tilling the fields, moving earth and carrying bricks. In spite of this, you still remember
your religious duties; this earnestness of yours does indeed warm the heart of other
people. I, Hsu Yun, feel really ashamed of my incompetence in religion and lack of virtue.
I am not qualified to give instruction and can only pick up a few sentences left behind by
the ancients in reply to your questions.
PRELIMINARIES TO THE METHOD OF
There are many kinds of method but I will
deal briefly with them.
PREREQUISITES OF THE PERFORMANCE OF
(1) Firm belief in the (law of) causality
Whoever One may be, especially if striving
to perform one's religious duty, one should believe firmly in the law of causality. If one
lacks this belief and does whatever one likes, not only will one fail in the performance
of religious duty, but also there will be no escape from this law (of causality) even in
the three unhappy ways. An ancient master said: 'If one wishes to know the causes
formed in a previous life, one can find them in how one fares in the present life; if one
wishes to know the effects in the next life, one can find them in one's deeds in the
present life.' He also said: 'The karma of our deeds will never be wiped out even after
hundreds and thousands of aeons (but) as soon as conditions become ripe, we will have to
bear the effects ourselves.' The Surangama Sutra says: 'If the causal ground is not a true
one, the ripening (fruit) will be distorted' Therefore, when one sows a good cause, one
will reap a good fruit (and) when one sows an evil cause, one will reap an evil fruit;
when one sows melon (seeds) one will gather melons (and) when one sows beans, one will
gather beans. This is the plain truth. As I am talking about the law of causality, I will
tell you two stories to illustrate it.
The first story is about the massacre of
the Sakya clansmen by the Crystal King (Virudhaka). Before the advent of Sakyamuni
Buddha, there was near Kapila town a village inhabited by fishermen, and in it was a big
pond. It happened that because of a great drought, the pond ran dry and all the fish were
caught and eaten by the villagers. The last fish taken was a big one and before it was
killed, a boy who never ate fish, played with it and thrice knocked its head. Later, after
Sakyamuni Buddha's appearance in this world, King Prasenajit who believed in the
Buddha-dharma, married a Sakya girl who then gave birth to a prince called Crsytal. When
he was young, Crystal had his schooling in Kapila which was then inhabited by the Sakya
clansmen. One day while playing, the boy ascended to the Buddha's seat and was reprimanded
by others who dragged him down. The boy cherished a grudge against the men and when he
became king, he led his soldiers to attack Kapila, killing all its inhabitants. At the
same time, the Buddha suffered from a headache which lasted three days. When His disciples
asked Him to rescue the poor inhabitants, the Buddha replied that a fixed Karma could not
be changed. By means of his miraculous powers, Maudgalyayana rescued five hundred Sakya
clansmen and thought he could give them refuge in his own bowl which was raised up in the
air. When the bowl was brought down, all the men had been turned into blood. When asked by
His chief disciples, the Buddha related the story (kung an) of the villagers who in days
gone by had killed all the fish (in their pond); King Crystal had been the big fish and
his soldiers the other fish in the pond; the inhabitants of Kapila who were now killed had
been those who ate the fish; and the Buddha Himself had been the boy who thrice knocked
the head of the big fish. (Karma was) now causing Him to suffer from a headache for three
days in retribution for his previous act. Since there colud be no escape from the effects
of a fixed Karma, the five hundred Sakya clansmen, although rescued by Maudgalyayana,
shared the same fate. Later, King Crystal was reborn in a hell. (As cause produces effect
which in turn becomes a new cause) the retribution (theory) is inexhaustible. The law of
causality is really very dreadful.
The second story is that of (Ch'an master)
Pai Chang who liberated a wild fox. One day, after a Ch'an meeting, although all his
disciples had retired, the old master Pai Chang noticed an elderly man who remained
behind. Pai Chang asked the man what he was doing and he replied: 'I am not a human being
but the spirit of a wild fox. In my previous life, I was the head-monk of this place. One
day, a monk asked me, "Does a man practicing self-cultivation, still become involved
in the (theory of) retribution?" I replied, "No, he is free from the (theory of)
retribution." For this (reply) alone, I got involved in retribution and have now been
the spirit of a wild fox for five hundred years, and am still unable to get away from it.
Will the master be compassionate enough to enlighten me on all this?' Pai Chang said to
the old man: 'Ask me the same question (and I will explain it to you).' The man then said
to the master: 'I wish to ask the master this: Does one who practices self cultivation
still get involved in the (theory of) retribution?' Pai Chang replied: 'He is not blind to
cause and effect.' Thereupon, the old man was greatly awakened; he prostrated himself
before the master to thank him and said: 'I am indebted to you for your (appropriate)
reply to the question and am now liberated from the fox's body. I live in a (small)
grotto on the mountain behind and hope you will grant me the usual rites for a dead monk.'
The following day, Pai Chang went to a mountain behind (his monastery), where in a (small)
grotto he probed the ground with his staff and discovered a dead fox for whom the usual
funeral rites for a dead monk were held.
(Dear) friends, after listening to these
two stories, you will realize that the law of causality is indeed a dreadful (thing). Even
after His attainment of Buddhahood, the Buddha still suffered a headache in retribution
(for His former act). Retribution is infallible and fixed karma is inescapable. So we
should always be heedful of all this and should be very careful about creating (new)
(2) Strict observance if the rules of
In striving to perform one's religious
duty, the first thing is to observe the rules of discipline. For discipline is the
fundamental of the Supreme Bodhi; discipline begets immutability and immutability begets
wisdom. There is no such thing as self-cultivation without observance of the rules of
discipline. The Surangama Sutra which lists four kinds of purity, clearly teaches us that
cultivation of Samadhi (-mind) without observance of the rules of discipline, will not
wipe out the dust (impurities). Even if there be manifestation of much knowledge with
dhyana, this also will cause a fall into (the realm of) maras (evil demons) and heretics.
Therefore, we know that observance of the rules of discipline is very important. A man
observing them is supported and protected by dragon-kings and devas, and respected and
feared by maras and heretics. A man breaking the rules of discipline is called a big
robber by the ghosts who make a clean sweep of even his footprints. Formerly, in Kubhana
state (Kashmir), there was nearby a monastery a poisonous dragon which frequently played
havoc in the region. (In the monastery) five hundred arhats gathered together but failed
to drive away the dragon with their collective power of Dhyana-samadhi. Later, a monk came
(to the monastery) where he did not enter into Dhyana-samadhi; he merely said to the
poisonous dragon: 'Will the wise and virtuous one leave this place and go to some distant
one.' Thereupon, the poisonous dragon fled to a distant place. When asked by the arhats
what miraculous power he had used to drive away the dragon, the monk replied: 'I did not
use the power of Dhyana-samadhi; I am only very careful about keeping the rules of
discipline and I observe a minor one with the same care as a major one.' So, we can see
that the collective power of five hundred arhats' Dhyana--samadhi cannot compare with a
monk's strict observance of the rules of discipline.
If you (retort and) ask me (why) the Sixth
'Why should discipline be observed if the
mind is (already) impartial?
Why should straightforward men practice
I will ask you back this question: 'Is
your mind already impartial and straightforward; if the (lady) Ch'ang O came down from the
moon with her naked body and embraced you in her arms, would your heart remain
undisturbed; and if someone without any reason insults and beats you, will you not give
rise to feelings of anger and resentment? Can you refrain from differentiating between
enmity and affection, between hate and love, between self and other, and between right and
wrong? If you can do all this, then you can open your mouth widely to talk, otherwise it
is useless to tell a deliberate lie.'
(3) A firm faith
A firm believing mind is the fundamental
of one's training for performing one's religious duty, because faith is the mother (or
begetter) of the beginning (or source) of right doctrine, and because without faith, no
good will derive therefrom. If we want to be liberated from (the round of) births and
deaths, we must first have a firm believing mind. The Buddha said that all living beings
on earth had (inherent in them) the meritorious Tathagata wisdom which they could not
realize solely because of their false thinking and grasping. He also expounded all kinds
of Dharma doors (to enlightenment) to cure (all kinds of) ailments from which living
beings suffered. We should, therefore, believe that his words are not false and that all
living beings can attain Buddhahood. But why have we failed to attain Buddhahood? It is
because we have not gone into training according to the (correct) method. For example, we
believe and know that bean curd can be made with soybean but if we do not start making it,
soybean cannot turn into bean curd (for us). Now assuming that soybean is used for making
bean curd, we shall still fail to make it if we do not know how to mix it with gypsum. If
we know the method, we will grind the soybean (put the powder in water), boil it, take out
the bean grounds and add a suitable quantity of gypsum powder; thus we will certainly get
bean curd. Likewise, in the performance of our religious duty, Buddhahood will be
unattainable not only because of lack of training, but also because of training not in
conformity with the (correct) method. If our self-cultivation is practiced according to
the (correct) method, without either backsliding or regret, we are bound to attain
Therefore, we should firmly believe that
fundamentally we are Buddhas, we should also firmly believe that self-cultivation
performed according to the (correct) method is bound to result in the attainment of
Buddha-hood. Master Yung Chia said (in his Song of Enlightenment):
'When the real is attained, neither ego
nor dharma exist,
And in a moment the avici karma is
If knowingly I lie to deceive living
beings, my tongue
Will be pulled out for aeons uncountable
as dust and sand.'
The old master was very compassionate and
took this boundless vow to urge those coming after him to develop a firm believing
(4) Adoption of the method of training
After one has developed a firm faith, one
should choose a Dharma door (to enlightenment) for one's training. One should never change
it, and when one's choice has been made, either for repetition of the Buddha's name, or
for holding a mantra, or for Ch'an training, one should stick to it for ever without
backsliding and regret. If today the method does not prove successful, tomorrow it shall
be continued; if this year it does not prove successful, next year it shall be continued;
and if in the present lifetime it does not prove successful, it shall be continued in the
next life. The old master Kuei Shan said: 'If one practices it in each succeeding
reincarnation, the Buddha-stage can be expected.' There are some people who are irresolute
in their decisions; today after hearing a learned man praise the repetition of Buddha's
name, they decide to repeat it for a couple of days and tomorrow, after hearing another
learned man praise Ch'an training, they will try it for another two days. If they like to
play in this manner, they will go on doing so until their death without succeeding in
getting any result. Is it not a pity?
METHOD OF CH'AN
Athough there are many Dharma doors (to
enlightenment), the Buddha, Patriarchs and Ancestors were agreed that the Ch'an
training was the unsurpassed wonderful door. In the Surangama assembly, the Buddha ordered
Manjusri to choose between the (various modes of) complete enlightenment, and (he chose)
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva's (method) of using the faculty of hearing, as the best. When
we turn back the hearing to hear our self-nature, this is (one of the methods of) Ch'an
training. This place is a Ch'an hall in which we should discuss this Ch'an training.
ESSENTIALS OF CH'AN TRAINING
Our daily activities are performed within
the truth itself. Is there a place that is not a Bodhimandala? Fundamentally a Ch'an
hall is out of place; moreover Ch'an does not mean sitting (in meditation). The so-called
Ch'an hall and the so-called Ch'an sitting are only provided for people (who encounter)
insurmountable obstructions (of their own) and who are of shallow wisdom in this period of
decadence (of the Dharma).
When one sits in this training, one's body
and mind should be well controlled. If they are not well controlled a small harm will be
illness and a great harm will be entanglement with the demon, which is most regrettable.
In the Ch'an hall, when incense sticks are burned for your walking or sitting, the aim is
to ensure the control of body and mind. Besides this, there are many ways to control body
and mind, but I will deal briefly with the essential ones.
When sitting in Ch'an meditation, the
correct position is the natural one. The waist should not be pushed forward, for to do so
is to pull upward the inner heat with the result that after the sitting, there will be
tears, bad breath, uneasy respiration, loss of appetite and even vomiting of blood.
Neither should the waist be drawn backward with dropped head, for this can easily cause
dullness. As soon as dullness is felt, the meditator should open his eyes wide, pull up
his waist and gently shake his buttocks, and dullness will disappear automatically.
If the training is undergone in hot haste,
one will feel a certain annoying dryness in the chest. In this case, it will be advisable
to stop the training for the time a half-inch of the incense stick takes to burn, and
resume when one feels at ease again. If one does not proceed in this manner, one will, as
time goes on, develop a hot and excitable character, and in the worst case, one may
thereby become insane or get entangled with demons.
When the Ch'an sitting (in meditation)
becomes effective, there will be (mental) states which are too many to enumerate, but if
you do not cling to them, they will not hinder you. This is just what the proverb says:
'Don't wonder at the wonderful and the wonderful will be in full retreat.' Even if you see
evil spirits of all kinds coming to disturb you, you should take no notice of them and you
should not be afraid of them. Even if Sakyamuni Buddha comes to lay His hand on your
head and prophesies (your future Buddhahood) you should not take any notice of all
this and should not be delighted by it. The Surangama Sutra says: 'A perfect state is that
in which the mind is undisturbed by the saintly; an interpretation of the saintly is
entanglement with all demons.'
HOW TO BEGIN THE TRAINING: DISTINCTION
BETWEEN HOST AND GUEST
How should one start the (Ch'an) training?
In the Surangama assembly, Arya Ajnatakaundinya talked about the two words 'Foreign
Dust' and this is just where we should begin our training. He said: 'For instance, a
traveler stops at an inn where he passes the night or takes his meal, and as soon as he
has done so, he packs and continues his journey, because he has no time to stay longer. As
for the host (of the inn), he has nowhere to go. My deduction is that the one who does not
stay is the guest and the one who does stay is the host. Therefore, a thing is foreign
when it does not stay. Again in a clear sky, when the sun rises and sunlight enters (the
house) through an opening, the dust is seen moving in the ray of light whereas the empty
space is unmoving. Therefore, that which is still is voidness and that which moves is
Foreign dust illustrates false thinking,
and voidness illustrates self-nature, that is the permanent host who does not follow the
guest in the latter's coming and going. This serves to illustrate the eternal (unmoving)
self-nature which does not follow false thinking in its sudden rise and fall. Therefore,
it is said: 'if one is unmindful of all things, one will meet with no inconvenience when
surrounded by all things.' By dust which moves of itself and does not inconvenience
voidness which is cleafly still, one means that false thinking rises and falls by itself
and does not hinder the self-nature which is immutable in its Bhutatathata (suchness,
thatness) condition. This is the meaning of the saying: 'If the mind does not arise, all
things are blameless.'
(The meaning of) the above word
'foreign' is coarse and (that of) 'dust' is fine. Beginners should dearly understand (the
difference between) 'host' and 'guest' and will thus not be 'drifted about' by false
thinking. By advancing further, they win be clear about 'voidness' and 'dust' and thus
will experience no inconvenience from false thinking. It is said: 'when (false thinking)
is known, there will be no harm.' If you inquire carefully into and understand all this,
over half of what the training means will become quite clear to you.
HUA T OU AND DOUBT
In ancient times, the Patriarchs and
Ancestors directly pointed at the mind for realization of self-nature and attainment of
Buddhahood. like Bodhidharma who 'quietened the mind' and the Sixth Patriarch who only
talked about 'perception of self-nature', all of them just advocated the outright
cognizance (of it) without any more ado. They did not advocate looking into a hua t'ou,
but later they discovered that men were becoming unreliable, were not of dogged
determination, indulged in playing tricks and boasted of their possession of precious gems
which really belonged to others. For this reason, these ancestors were compelled to set up
their own sects, each with its own devices; hence, the hua t'ou technique.
There are many hua t'o us, such as: 'All
things are returnable to One, to what is (that) One returnable?' 'Before you were
born, what was your real face?' but the hua t'ou: 'Who is repeating Buddha's name?' is
widely in use (today).
What is hua t'ou? (lit. word-head). Word
is the spoken word and head is that which precedes word. For instance, when one says
'Amitabha Buddha', this is a word. Before it is said it is a hua t'ou (or ante-word). That
which is called a hua t'ou is the moment before a thought arises. As soon as a thought
arises, it becomes a hua wei (lit. word-tail). The moment before a thought arises is
called 'the un-born'. That void which is neither disturbed nor dull, and neither still nor
(one-sided) is called 'the unending'. The unremitting turning of the light inwards on
oneself, instant after instant, and exclusive of all other things, is called 'looking into
the hua t'ou' or 'taking care of the hua t'ou'.
When one looks into a hua t'ou, the
most important thing is to give rise to a doubt. Doubt is the crutch of hua t'ou. For
instance, when one is asked: 'Who is repeating Buddha's name?' everybody knows that he
himself repeats it, but is it repeated by the mouth or by the mind? If the mouth repeats
it, why does not it do so when one sleeps? If the mind repeats it, what does the mind look
like? As mind is intangible, one is not clear about it. Consequently some slight feeling
of doubt arises about 'WHO'. This doubt should not be coarse; the finer it is, the better.
At all times and in all places, this doubt alone should be looked into unremittingly, like
an ever-flowing stream, without giving rise to a second thought. If this doubt persists,
do not try to shake it; if it ceases to exist, one should gently give rise to it again.
Beginners will find the hua t'ou more effective in some still place than amidst
disturbance. However, one should not give rise to a discriminating mind; one should remain
indifferent to either the effectiveness or ineffectiveness (of the hua t'ou) and one
should take no notice of either stillness or disturbance. Thus, one should work at the
training with singleness of mind.
(In the hua t'ou): 'Who is repeating
the Buddha's name?' emphasis should be laid upon the word 'Who', the other words serving
only to give a general idea of the whole sentence. For instance (in the questions): 'Who
is wearing this robe and eating rice?', 'Who is going to stool and is urinating?', 'Who is
putting an end to ignorance?', and 'Who is able to know and feel?', as soon as one lays
emphasis upon (the word) 'Who', while one is walking or standing, sitting or reclining,
one will be able to give rise to a doubt without difficulty and without having to use
one's faculty of thought to think and discriminate. Consequently the word 'Who' of the hua
t'ou is a wonderful technique in Ch'an training. However, one should not repeat the word
'Who' or the sentence 'Who is repeating the Buddha's name?' like (adherents of the Pure
Land School) who repeat the Buddha's name. Neither should one set one's thinking and
discriminating mind on searching for him who repeats the Buddha's name. There are some
people who unremittingly repeat the sentence: 'Who is repeating the Buddha's name?'; it
would be far better merely to repeat Amitabha Buddha's name (as do followers of the Pure
Land School) for this will give greater merits. There are others who indulge in thinking
of a lot of things and seek after everything here and there, and call this the rising of a
doubt; they do not know that the more they think, the more their false thinking will
increase, just like someone who wants to ascend but is really descending. You should know
Usually beginners give rise to a doubt
which is very coarse; it is apt to stop abruptly and to continue again, and seems suddenly
familiar and suddenly unfamiliar. This is (certainly) not doubt and can only be their
thinking (process). When the mad (wandering) mind has gradually been brought under
control, one will be able to apply the brake on the thinking process, and only then can
this be called 'looking into' (a hua t'ou). Furthermore, little by little, one will gain
experience in the training and then, there will be no need to give rise to the doubt which
will rise of itself automatically. In reality, at the beginning, there is no effective
training at all as there is only (an effort) to put an end to false thinking. When real
doubt rises of itself, this can be called true training. This is the moment when one
reaches a 'strategic gateway' where it is easy to go out of one's way (as follows).
Firstly, there is the moment when one will
experience utter purity and boundless ease and if one fails to be aware of and look
into the same, one will slip into a state of dullness. If a learned teacher is present, he
will immediately see clearly that the student is in such a state and will strike the
meditator with the (usual) flat stick, thus clearing away the confusing dullness; a great
many are thereby awakened to the truth.
Secondly, when the state of purity and
emptiness appears, if the doubt ceases to exist, this is the unrecordable state in
which the meditator is likened to one sitting on a withered tree in a grotto, or to
soaking stones with water. When one reaches this state, one should arouse (the doubt)
to be immediately followed by one's awareness and contemplation (of this state). Awareness
(of this state) is freedom from illusion; this is wisdom. Contemplation (of this state)
wipes out confusion; this is imperturbability. This singleness of mind will be thoroughly
still and shining, in its imperturbable absoluteness, spiritual clearness and thorough
understanding, like the continuous smoke of a solitary fire. When one reaches this stage,
one should be provided with a diamond eye and should refrain from giving rise to
anything else, as if one does, one will (simply) add another head upon one's head.
Formerly, when a monk asked (Master) Chao
Chou: 'what should one do when there is not a thing to bring with self?' Chao Chou
replied: 'Lay it down.' The monk said: 'What shall I lay down when I do not bring a thing
with me?' Chao Chon replied: 'If you cannot lay it down, carry it away.' This is
exactly the stage (above mentioned) which is like that of a drinker of water who alone
knows whether it is cold or warm. This cannot be expressed in words and speeches, and one
who reaches this stage will clearly know it. As to one who has not reached it, it will be
useless to tell him about it. This is what the (following) lines mean:
'When you meet a fencing master, show to
him your sword.
Do not give your
poem to a man who's not a poet.'
TAKING CARE OF A HUA T'0U AND TURNING
INWARD THE HEARING TO HEAR THE SELF-NATURE
Someone may ask: 'How can Avalokitesvara
Bodhisattva's "method of turning inward the hearing to hear the self-nature" be
regarded as Ch'an training?' I have just talked about looking into the hua t'ou; it means
that you should unremittingly and one-pointedly turn the light inwards on 'that which is
not born and does not die' which is the hua t'ou. To turn inwards one's hearing to hear
the self-nature means also that you should unremittingly and one-pointedly turn inwards
your (faculty of) hearing to hear the self-nature. 'To turn inwards' is 'to turn back'.
'That which is not born and does not die' is nothing but the self-nature. When hearing and
looking follow sound and form in the worldly stream, hearing does not go beyond sound and
looking does not go beyond form (appearance), with the obvious differentiation. However,
when going against the mundane stream, the meditation is turned inwards to contemplate the
self-nature. When 'hearing' and 'looking' are no longer in pursuit of sound and
appearance, they become fundamentally pure and enlightening and do not differ from each
other. We should know that what we call 'looking into the hua t'ou' and 'turning inwards
the hearing to hear the self-nature' cannot be effected by means of the eye to look or the
ear to hear. If eye and ear are so used, there will be pursuit after sound and form with
the result that one will be turned by things (i.e. externals); this is called 'surrender
to the (mundane) stream'. If there is singleness of thought abiding in that 'which is
not born and does not die', without pursuing sound and form, this is 'going against the
stream'; this is called 'looking into the hua t'ou' or 'turning inwards the hearing to
hear the self-nature'.
EARNESTNESS ABOUT LEAVING SAMSARA AND
DEVELOPING A LONG ENDURING MIND
In the Ch'an training, one should be in
earnest in one's desire to leave the realm of birth and death, and develop a long enduring
mind (in one's striving). If the mind is not earnest it will be impossible to give rise to
the doubt, and the striving will be ineffective. Lack of a long enduring mind will result
in laziness and the training will not be continuous. Just develop a long enduring mind and
the doubt will rise of itself. When doubt rises trouble (klesa) will come to an end of
itself. As the ripe moment comes (it will be like) running water which will form a
I will now tell you a story I personally
witnessed. In the year K'eng Tsu (1900), when eight world powers sent their expeditionary
forces to Peking (after the Boxer rebellion), I followed Emperor Kuang Hsu and Empress
Dowager Tz'u Hsi when they fled from the capital. We had to hurry towards Shen Hsi
(Shensi) province; each day we walked several tens of miles, and for several days we had
no rice to eat. On the road, a peasant offered some creepers of sweet potato to the
(hungry) emperor, who found them savory and asked the man what they were. You can imagine
that when the emperor who used to put on airs and had an awe-inspiring reputation, had to
run some distance he became very hungry. When he ate creepers of sweet potato, he gave up
all his airs and awe-inspiring attitude. Why did he walk on foot, become hungry and lay
down everything? Because the allied forces wanted his life and he had only one thought,
that of running for his life. Later, when peace had been concluded, he returned to the
capital, putting on once more his airs with his awe-inspiring reputation. Again he would
no longer walk in the street and did not feel hungry. If he did not find some food savory,
once more he could not swallow it. Why was he (again) unable to lay down every-thing now?
Because the allied forces no longer wanted his life and because his mind was not set on
escaping. If he now applied the same mind (previously) set on running for his life to
perform his religious duty, was there anything he could not do? This was due to the fact
that he did not have a long enduring mind, and as soon as favorable conditions prevailed,
his former habits appeared again.
Dear friends, the murderous demon of
impermanence is constantly looking for our lives and will never agree to conclude peace
with us! Let us hastily develop a long enduring mind to get out of birth and death. Master
Yuan Miao of Kao Feng said: 'If one sets a time limit for success in the Ch'an training,
one should act like a man who has fallen to the bottom of a pit one thousand chang
deep. His thousand and ten-thousand thoughts are reduced to a single idea on how to
escape from the pit. He keeps it up from morning to evening and from evening (to the
following) morning, and has no other thought. If he trains in this way and does not
realize the truth in three, five or seven days, I shall be guilty of a verbal sin for
which I shall fall into the hell where tongues are pulled out.' The old master was earnest
in his great mercy and being apprehensive that we would not develop a long enduring mind,
he took this great vow to guarantee (our successes).
DIFFICULTY AND EASINESS IN CH'AN
There is difficulty and easiness in the
Ch'an training, both for beginners and for old practicers.
DIFFICULTY FOR BEGINNERS: THE REMISS
The most common defects of a beginner lie
in his inability to lay down his habits of false thinking; of (self-indulgence in)
ignorance caused by pride and jealousy; of(self-inflicted) obstructions caused by
concupiscence, anger, stupidity and love; of laziness and gluttony; and of (attachment to)
right and wrong, to selfness and otherness. With a belly (breast) filled with all the
above (defects), how can he be responsive to the truth? Others are young gentlemen who
are unable to get rid of their habits and are incapable of the least condescension and of
enduring the smallest trouble; how can they undergo the training in performance of their
religious duties? They never think of our original teacher, Sakyamuni Buddha, and of His
standing when He left home. Some people who know a little literature, use their knowledge
of it to interpret the ancients' sayings, boast of their unequalled abilities and regard
themselves as superiors. When seriously ill, they cannot bear their sufferings with
patience. When they are about to die, they lose their heads and realize that their usual
knowledge is useless. Thus their repentance will be tardy.
Some are serious in their religious duties
but do not know where to begin their training. Others are afraid of false thinking and are
unable to put an end to it. So they worry about it all day long and blame their karmic
obstructions for it, thus falling away in their religious enthusiasm. Some want to resist
false thinking to the death by angrily clenching their fists to keep up their spirits and
by thrusting out their chests and widely opening their eyes as if there is really
something very important to do. They want to fight to a finish against their false
thinking; not only will they fail to drive it away but they will thereby vomit blood or
become insane. There are people who are afraid of falling into voidness but they do not
know they are thus giving rise to the 'demon'. Consequently, they can neither wipe out
voidness nor attain awakening. There are those who set their minds on the quest of
awakening and who do not know that to seek awakening and to desire Buddhahood are nothing
but a great falsehood; they do not know that gravel cannot be turned into rice and they
will thus wait until the year of the donkey for their awakening.
There are (also) those who can manage to
sit (in meditation) during the time one or two incense sticks take to burn and thereby
experience some joy, but this is only likened to the blind black tortoise which stretched
its head through the hole of a floating log. It is just a rare chance and not (the
result of) true training. Moreover, the demon of joy has already slipped into their minds.
There are cases of the enjoyable state of purity and cleanness realizable in stillness but
not realizable in disturbance and for this reason meditators avoid disturbing conditions
and look for quiet places. They do not realize that they have already agreed to become
servants of the demon of both stillness and disturbance.
There are many cases like the above. It is
really difficult for beginners to know the correct method of training; awareness without
contemplation will lead to confusion and instability, and contemplation without awareness
will result in immersion in stagnant water.
EASINESS FOR BEGINNERS: LAYING DOWN OF
(THE BURDEN OF) THINKING AND GIVING RISE TO A SINGLE THOUGHT
Although the training seems difficult, it
becomes very easy once its method is known. Where does easiness lie for beginners? There
is nothing ingenious in it because it lies in 'laying down'. Laying down what? (The burden
of) distress (klesa) caused by ignorance. How does one lay it down? You have all been at
the bedside of a dead man. If you try to scold him a few times, he will not be excited. If
you give him a few strokes of the staff he will not strike back. Formerly he indulged in
ignorance but now he cannot do so any more. Formerly he longed for reputation and wealth
but now he no longer wants it. Formerly he was contaminated by habits but now he is free
from them. Now he does not make distinctions and lays down everything. Dear friends,
please look at all this. When we have breathed our last, this physical body of ours will
become a corpse. Because we cherish this body, we are unable to lay down everything, with
the resultant creation of self and other, right and wrong, like and dislike, and
acceptance and rejection. If we only regard this body as a corpse, we will not cherish it
and will certainly not consider it as ours. (If so) is there anything we cannot lay
We only have to lay down everything, day
and night, no matter whether we walk, stand, sit or recline, in the midst of either
stillness or disturbance, and whether busy or not; throughout our bodies, within and
without, there should be only a doubt, a uniform, harmonizing and continuous doubt,
unmixed with any other thought, in other words, a hua t'ou which is likened to a long
sword leaning against the sky, which we will use to cut down a demon or Buddha should
either appear. Thus we will not fear false thinking; who then will disturb us; who will
distinguish between disturbance and stillness and who will cling to existence and
non-existence? If there be fear of false thinking, this fear will increase false thinking.
If there be awareness of purity, this purity will immediately be impure. If there be fear
of falling into non-existence, there will immediately be a fall into existence. If there
be desire to attain Buddhahood, there will immediately be a fall into the way of demons.
(For this reason) it is said: 'The carrying of water and fetching of firewood are nothing
but the wonderful Truth. The hoeing of fields and the cultivation of soil are entirely
ch'an potentialities.' This does not mean that only the crossing of legs for sitting in
meditation can be regarded as Ch'an training in the performance of one's religious duty.
DIFFICULTY FOR OLD PRACTICERS: INABILITY
TO TAKE A STEP FORWARD AFTER REACHING THE TOP OP A HUNDRED-FOOT POLE
Where does difficulty lie for an old
practicer? In his training, when his doubt has become genuinely real, his awareness and
contemplation are still linked with the (realm) of birth and death, and lack of awareness
and contemplation is (the cause of) his fall into (the realm of) non-existence. It is
already difficult to reach these stages, but there are many who are unable to get beyond
them, and are content to stand on the top of a hundred-foot pole without knowing how to
take a step forward. Others who, after reaching these stages, are able to achieve in the
stillness some wisdom which enables them to understand a few kung ans left behind by the
ancients; they also lay down the doubt, thinking they have attained a thorough awakening,
and compose poems and gathas, twinkle their eyes and raise their eyebrows, calling
themselves enlightened; they do not know that they are servants of the demon.
There are also those who misunderstand the
meaning of Bodhidharma's (words:)
'Put an end to the formation of all causes
without, and have no panting heart within; then with a mind like a wall, you will be
able to enter the Truth'
and the Sixth Patriarch's (words:)
'Do not think of either good or evil; at
this very instant, what is the Venerable Hui Ming's real face?'
They think that sitting with crossed legs
like withered logs in a grotto is the best Pattern. These people mistake an illusion-city
for a place of precious things, and take a foreign land for their native village. The
story of the old lady burning the hut serves to scold these (logs of) dead wood.
EASINESS FOR OLD PRACTICERS: CONTINUATION
OF CLOSE AND UNINTERRUPTED CH'AN TRAINING
Where does easiness lie for old
practicers? It lies only in the absence of self-satisfaction and the continuation of the
close and uninterrupted (Ch'an) training , the closeness should be much closer, the
continuance much more continuous and the subtleness much more subtle. When the ripe moment
comes, the bottom of the barrel will drop off of itself; otherwise one will have to
call on enlightened masters who will help one to pull out (the remaining) nail or stake
Master Han Shan's Song is:
High on a mountain peak
Only boundless space is seen.
How to sit in meditation, no one
The solitary moon shines o'er the icy
But in the pool there is no moon;
The moon is in the night-blue sky.
This song is chanted now,
(But) there's no Ch'an in the song.
The first two lines show that that which
is truly eternal is solitary and does not belong to anything else, and that it shines
brightly over the world without encountering any obstruction. The following (third) line
shows the wonderful body of Bhutatathata which worldly men do not know and which
cannot be located (even) by all Buddhas of the three times; hence the three words: 'no
one knows'. The next three (fourth, fifth and sixth) lines show the old master's expedient
expounding of this state. The last two lines (seventh and eighth) give a special waffling
to all of us, lest we mistake the finger for the moon, that is none of these words are
My talk is like a heap of things and is
also (like what we call) the drag of creepers and an interfering interruption
(because) wherever there are words and speeches, there is no real meaning. When the
ancient masters received their students, either they used their staffs (to beat them) or
they shouted (to wake them up) and there were not so many complications. However, the
present cannot be compared with the past, and it is, therefore, imperative to point a
finger at the moon. Dear friends, please look into all this; after all, who is
pointing his finger and who is looking at the moon?'
By going to (a) the hell of fire, (b)
the hell of blood, where the inhabitants devour each other like animals and (c) the
Asipattra hell of swords, where the leaves and grass are sharp-edged swords.
This story was related by the Buddha
King of Sravasti and a contemporary of
the Buddha. He was killed by his son, Virudhaka, known as the Crystal King and the Evil
Born King, who supplanted him.
 Maha-Maudgalyayana, or Maudgalaputra,
was one of the ten chief disciples of the Buddha, and was specially noted for his
miraculous power; formerly an ascetic, he agreed with Sariputra that whichever first found
the truth would reveal it to the other. Sariputra found the Buddha and brought
Maudgalyayana to Him; the former is placed on His right, the latter on His left.
This story is recorded in 'The
Transmission of the Lamp' (Ching Te Ch'uan Teng Lu) and other Ch'an collections.
In his previous life. the old monk had
already succeeded in disentangling his mind (from its attachment to the phenomenal.
However, he could not get away from Samsara because of the karma of misguiding his former
disciple about retribution. In his present transmigration, he had realized a singleness of
mind about leaving the world of animals and had thereby acquired the occult power of
transforming his fox's body into that of an old man. However, he still clung to the dual
view of the existence of ego (subject) and fox (object) and could not free himself from
this last bondage. Pai Chang's words had a tremendous effect on the old man, releasing his
mind from his doubt about his self-nature which fundamentally was pure and contained
neither cause nor effect. Being free from this last bond, his self-nature now returned to
normal and could function without further handicap; it could hear the master's voice by
means of its function. When function operated normally, its essence manifested itself;
See 'The Altar Sutra of the Six
Patriarch,' Chapter 3.
The name of a very beautiflil lady who,
according to a popular tale, stole the elixir of life and fled with it to the moon where
she was changed into a frog.
Avici is the last and deepest of the
eight hells, where the culprits suffer, die, and are instantly reborn to suffering without
As punishment for verbal sins.
The Patriarchs are the six Patriarchs
of China. The Ancestors are the great Ch'an Masters who came after the Patriarchs. Hsu Yun
is now called an Ancestor.
Bodhimandala: truth-plot, holy site,
place of enlightenment.
A custom of Buddha in teaching His
disciples, from which the burning of spots on the head of a monk is said to have
originated. The eventual vision of the Buddha is merely an impure creation of the deluded
mind and does not really represent Him in His Dharmakaya which is inconceivable. Many
meditators mistake such visions for the real and become involved with demons. (See
See Master Hsu Yun's 'Daily
All things are returnable to One-mind,
to what is One-mind returnable?
This hua t'ou is sometimes wrongly
translated in the West as: Before your parents were born, what was your original face?
There are two errors here. The first is probably due to the wrong interpretation of the
Chinese character 'sheng'. which means 'born' or 'to give birth'. Then 'original' is wrong
because it suggests creation or a beginning. The self-nature has no beginning, being
outside time. The correct rendering is: Before your parents gave birth to you, what was
your fundamental face?'
Doubt is as indispensable to hua t'ou
as crutches are to the cripples.
Lit. utter purity and extreme
lightness. When the meditator succeeds in putting an end to all his thoughts, he will step
into 'the stream' or correct concentration in which his body and its weight seem to
disappear completely and to give way to a bright purity which is as light as air; he will
feel as if he is about to be levitated.
Lit. thus clearing away the fog that
darkens the sky. As soon as the confusing dullness is cleared away, the self-nature, now
free from hindrance, is able to function normally and will actually receive the beating,
Avyakrta or Avyakhyata, in Sanskrit;
unrecordable, either as good or bad; neutral,
neither good nor bad, things that are
innocent and cannot be classified under moral categories.
 when the mind is disentangled from
the sense-organs, sense data and consciousness, one reaches a state described as: 'holding
fast to the top of a pole', or 'silent immersion in stagnant water or 'sitting on the dean
white ground'. (See Han Shan's 'Song of the Boardbearer'.) One should take a step forward
in order to get out of this state called 'a life', the fourth of the four laksanas (of an
ego, a personality, a being and a life) mentioned in the Diamond Sutra, otherwise the
result one will achieve is no better than 'soaking stones with water' which never
penetrates stones. if from the top of a hundred-foot pole one takes a step forward, one
will reach the top of a high peak from which one will release one's last hold and leap
over the phenomenal.
Diamond eye: indestructible eye of
A superfluous and unnecessary thing
that will obstruct the training.
The monk became thoroughly awakened
after hearing Chao Chou's reply. His first question means: 'What should one do when one
becomes disentangled from sense-organs, sense-data and consciousnesses?' He did not know
that he was still entangled with this awareness of ego and preservation of ego. (See Han
Shan's commentary on The Diamond Cutter of Doubts). Chao Chou's reply 'Lay it down' means:
'Lay down even the thought you are still burdened with, for this very thought of not
carrying a thing with you holds you in bondage.' The monk argued: 'As I do not carry a
single thing with me, what shall I lay down?' Chao Chou replied: 'If you really have got
rid of all your false thinking, there will only remain your self-nature which is pure and
clean and which you should carry away with you, because you cannot get rid of it.' The
monk, now released from his awareness of ego or last bondage, realized that only his
self-nature remained which was free from all impediments and which he could not get rid
of, for Chao Chou told him to carry it away. It was this very self-nature of his, now pure
and clean, which actually heard the master's voice, hence his enlightenment.
These two lines come from Lin Chi
(Rinzai in Japanese) whose idea was that one could talk about enlightenment with an
enlightened person and that it was useless to do so when meeting a deluded man, for the
truth was inexpressible and could only be realized after rigorous training. The first line
'When you meet a fencing master, show to him your sword' was illustrated when Han Shan met
Ta Kuan and sat cross-legged face to face with him for forty days and nights without
sleeping. (See Han Shan's Autobiography). The second line 'Do not give your poem to a man
who's not a poet' was proved by the Sixth Patriarch, who urged his disciples not to
discuss the Supreme Vehicle with those who were not of the same sect, but to bring their
palms together to salute them and make them happy. (See The Altar Sifra of the Sixth
i.e. to accord with the world, its
ways and customs; to die.
Realm of birth and death.
i.e. succees is bound to follow.
in China, only starving people eat
creepers of sweet potato which is used as food for pigs
Chang: a measure of ten Chinese
Literally 'sons of officials';
equivalent of the French term 'fils a papa'.
One of the ten wrong views.
Animals and birds were chosen by the
ancients as symbols for lunar years, such as a rat, buffalo, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake,
horse, sheep, monkey, chicken, dog and pig. As a donkey was not one of them, the year of
the donkey can never come round, i.e. these people can never attain enlightenment.
The Samyuktagama Sutra says: 'There
was a blind tortoise countless aeons old which stretched out its head once every century.
There was a log with a hole through it, floating in the sea and tossed about by high waves
raised by winds of gale force. The tortoise stretched its head through the hole. . . .'
This shows the rareness of the chance as compared with the difficulty of the blind black
tortoise succeeding in putting its head through the hole in the floating log.
i.e. differentiation between stillness
Ancient masters used to twinkle
their eyes and raise their eyebrows to reveal the self-mind to their disciples. In the
above text, those who have only made some progress but are still unenlightened, ape the
ancients to prove their attainment of the truth.
when the mind is like a wall, it will
remain indifferent to all externals.
See The Altar Sutra of the Sixth
Quotation from the Lotus Sutra in
which the Buddha urged His disciples not to stay in the illusion-city or incomplete
Nirvana but to strive to reach the Perfect Nirvana.
An old lady supported a Ch'an monk for
twenty years and used to send every day a sixteenn-year-old girl to bring him food and
offerings. One day. the old lady ordered the girl to ask him this question: 'How is
"it" at this very moment?' The monk replied:
'A withered log in a cold cave
After three winters has no warmth'.
The girl gave the monk's reply to the old
lady who said: 'I have been making offerings to one who can prove only that he is a
worldly fellow.' Thereupon, she sent him away and set fire to the hut. (See The Imperial
Selection of Ch'an Sayings). The monk reached only the top of a hundred-foot pole but
refused to take a step forward. As he was only dead wood, the old lady was angry, sent him
away and destroyed the hut.
 i.e. the bottom of the barrel full of
black lacquer, or ignorance; when it drops off; the barrel will be emptied of lacquer and
enlightenment will be attained.
Han Shan (Cold Mountain) should not be
confounded with Han Shan (Silly Mountain) whose autobiography has been translated by me
The high purpose of one desirous of
escaping from mortality.
The magnitude of his high aim.
Worldly men turn their backs on the
transcendental which they do not know.
The solitary moon symbolizes
enlightenment which is independent of the phenomenal and is the absolute which does not
brook interference from any quarter. The pool is a symbol of the self-nature which avoids
all worldly things and is disentangled from them. The line means the attainment of
enlightenment by self-nature.
The self-nature is fundamentally pure
and clean and does not gain anything, even the moon, symbol of enlightenment, when it is
awakened, or lose anything, when it is under delusion. If there be a moon, or
enlightenment in it, it will not be absolute and will not be pure and clean.
The enlightened self-nature neither
comes nor goes for it is immutable and pervades everywhere in the Dharmadhatu, symbolized
by the blue sky which is pure and clean.
The song is chanted in praise of that
which is pure and clean and does not contain an atom of Ch'an, because Ch'an is only an
empty name with no real nature.
Bhutatathata: the real, thus always,
or eternally so; i.e. reality as contrasted with unreality, or appearance, and the
unchanging or immutable as contrasted with form and phenomena. Bhuta is substance, that
which exists; tathata is suchness, thusness, i.e. such is its nature.
If it can be located anywhere, it will
not be the absolute and will not be all embracing.
When a finger points towards the moon,
wise men look at the moon whereas the ignorant look at the finger and do not see the moon,
or the truth. This parable was used by the Buddha when teaching His disciples.
Readers will notice that footnotes
 to  on this page seem somewhat different from Master Hsu Yun's commentary on the
song, and will realize that Han Shan's poem was excellent in that it can be interpreted
either 'perpendicularly' or 'horizontally' as the learned ancients put it, provided there
be no deviation from its main purport. My footnotes describe a student striving to achieve
enlightenment whereas my master Hsu Yun describes the state of an enlightened master.
Gathas and poems chanted by the ancients are like a prism or spectrum of multi-levelled
meanings. as Mr. L Groupp, an American Buddhist of New York, ably puts it.
Creepers: unnecessary things which do
not concern the real.
Words and speeches cannot express the
inexpressible. Red meaning is the reality which cannot be described and expressed
Beating and shouting are to reveal the
master's self-nature which beats and shouts and the student's self-nature which is beaten
and hears the shout. The beating and shouting are in accord with Bodhidharma's direct
pointing at the self-mind for realization of the self-nature for attainment of
The finger is an expediency used to
reveal the moon, or enlightened self-nature, but one should not ding to the finger and
overlook the moon which is pointed at.
One who points at the moon and one who
looks at the moon are the self-mind of the master and the self-mind of the student
respectively, again a direct pointing at the self-mind for realization of self-nature and
attainment of Buddhahood, as taught by Bodhidbarma.
Daily Lectures at Two Ch'an Weeks
given at the Jade Buddha Monastery,
Shanghai, in 1953
(from the Hsu Yun Ho Shang Nien P'u)
THE FIRST WEEK
The First Day
THE Venerable Wei Fang, abbot (of this
monastery), is very compassionate indeed, and the chief monks are also earnest in their
efforts to spread the Dharma. In addition, all the laymen (upasakas) here are keen in
their studies of the truth and have come to sit in meditation during this Ch'an week. All
have asked me to preside over the meeting and this is really an unsurpassable
(co-operating) cause. However, for the last few years, I have been ill and am, therefore,
unable to give long lectures.
The World Honored One spent over forty
years in expounding the Dharma, exoterically and esoterically, and his teaching is found
in the twelve divisions of the Mahayana canon in the Tripitaka. If I am asked to give
lectures, the most I can do is to pick up words already spoken by the Buddha and
As to the Dharma of our sect, when the
Buddha ascended to his seat for the last time, he held up and showed to the assembly a
golden flower of sandalwood, offered to him by the king of the eighteen Brahmalokas
(Mahabrahma Devaraja). All men and gods (devas) who were present, did not understand the
Buddha's (meaning). Only Mahakasyapa (acknowledged it with a) broad smile. Thereupon the
World Honored One declared to him: "I have the treasure of the correct Dharma eye,
Nirvana's wonderful mind and the formless Reality which I now transmit to you. This was
the transmission outside of teaching, which did not make use of scriptures and was the
unsurpassed Dharma door of direct realization."
Those who came afterwards, got confused
about it and (wrongly) called it Ch'an (Dhyana in Sanskrit and Zen in Japanese). We should
know that over twenty kinds of Ch'an are enumerated in the Mahaprajna-paramita Sutra, but
none of them is the final one.
The Ch'an of our sect does not set up
(progressive) stages and is, therefore, the unsurpassed one. (Its aim) is the direct
realization leading to the perception of the (self-) nature and attainment of Buddhahood.
Therefore, it has nothing to do with the sitting or not sitting in meditation during a
Ch'an week. However, on account of living beings' dull roots and due to their numerous
false thoughts, ancient masters devised expediencies to guide them. Since the time of
Mahakasyapa up to now, there have been sixty to seventy generations. In the Tang and Sung
dynasties (619-1278), the Ch'an sect spread to every part of the country and how it
prospered at the time! At present, it has reached the bottom of its decadence (and) only
those monasteries like Chin Shan, Kao Min and Pao Kuan, can still manage to present some
appearance. This is why men of outstanding ability are now so rarely found and even the
holding of Ch'an weeks has only a name but lacks its spirit.
When the Seventh AncestorHsing Szu of
Ch'ing Yuan Mountain asked the Sixth Patriarch: "What should one do in order not to
fall into the progressive stages?" the Patriarch asked: "What did you
practice of late?" Hsing Szu replied: "I did not even practice the Noble
Truths." The Patriarch asked: "Then falling into what progressive
stages?" Hsing Szu replied: "Even the Noble Truths are not practiced, where are
the progressive stages?" The Sixth Patriarch had a high opinion of Hsing Szu.
Because of our inferior roots, the great
masters were obliged to use expediencies and to instruct their followers to hold (and
examine into) a sentence called hua t'ou. As Buddhists (of the Pure Land School) who used
to repeat the Buddha's name (in their practice) were numerous, the great masters
instructed them to hold (and examine into the hua t'ou): "Who is the repeater of the
Buddha's name?" Nowadays, this expedient is adopted in Ch'an training all over the
country. However, many are not clear about it and merely repeat without interruption the
sentence: "Who is the repeater of the Buddha's name?" Thus they are repeaters of
the hua t'ou, and are not investigators of the hua t'ou('s meaning). To investigate is to
inquire into. For this reason, the four Chinese characters "chao ku hua t'ou"
are prominently exhibited in all Ch'an halls. "Chao" is to turn inward the
light, and "ku" is to care for. These (two characters together) mean "to
turn inward the light on the self-nature". This is to turn inward our minds which are
prone to wander outside, and this is called investigation of the hua t'ou. "Who is
the repeater of the Buddha's name?" is a sentence. Before this sentence is uttered,
it is called a hua t'ou (lit. sentence's head). As soon as it is uttered, it becomes the
sentence's tail (hua wei). In our inquiry into the hua t'ou, this (word) "Who"
should be examined: What is it before it arises? For instance, I am repeating the Buddha's
name in this hall. Suddenly someone asks me: "Who is repeating the Buddha's
name?" I reply: "It is I." The questioner asks again: "If you are the
repeater of the Buddha's name, do you repeat it with your mouth or with your mind? If you
repeat it with your mouth, why don't you repeat it when you sleep? If you repeat it with
your mind, why don't you repeat it after your death?" This question will cause a
doubt to arise (in our minds) and it is here that we should inquire into this doubt. We
should endeavour to know where this "Who" comes from and what it looks like. Our
minute examination should be turned inward and this is also called "the turning
inward of the hearing to hear the self-nature."
When offering incense and circumambulating
in the hall, one's neck should touch the (back of the wide) collar of the robe, one's feet
should follow closely the preceding walker, one's mind should be set at rest and one
should not look to the right or to the left. With a single mind, the hua t'ou should be
well cared for.
When sitting in meditation, the chest
should not be pushed forward. The prana (vital energy) should neither be brought upward
nor pressed down, and should be left in its natural Condition. However, the six sense
organs should be brought under control, and all thoughts should be brought to an end. Only
the hua t'ou should be gripped and the grip should never loosen. The hua t'ou should not
be coarse for it will float up and cannot be brought down. Neither should it be fine, for
it will become blurred with the resultant fall into the void. In both cases, no result can
If the hua tou is properly looked after,
the training will become easier and all former habits will be brought automatically to an
end. A beginner will not find it easy to hold the hua t'ou well (in his mind), but he
should not worry about it. He should neither hope for awakening nor seek wisdom, for the
purpose of this sitting in meditation in the Ch'an week is already the attainment of
awakening and wisdom. If he develops a mind in pursuit of these ends, he puts another head
upon his own head.
Now we know that we should give rise only
to a sentence called hua t'ou which we should care for. If thoughts arise, let them rise
and if we disregard them, they will vanish. This is why it is said: "One should not
be afraid of rising thoughts but only of the delay in being aware of them." If
thoughts arise, let our awareness of them nail the hua t'ou to them. If the hua t'ou
escapes from our grip, we should immediately bring it back again.
The first sitting in meditation can be
likened to a battle against rising thoughts. Gradually the hua t'ou will be well gripped
and it will be easy to hold it uninterruptedly during the whole time an incense stick
takes to burn. We can.expect good results when it does not escape from our grip any
The foregoing are only empty words; now
let us exert our efforts in the training.
The Second Day
To sit in meditation during a Ch'an week
is the best method which sets a time limit for realizing the truth by personal experience.
This method was not used in ancient times for the ancients had sharp roots (and did not
require it). It has gradually been put into use since the Sung dynasty (fell in 1278). In
the Ch'ing dynasty (1662-1910), it was brought into vogue and the Emperor Yung Cheng used
to hold frequent Ch'an weeks in the imperial palace. He entertained the highest regard for
the Sect and his own attainment of Ch'an samadhi was excellent. Over ten persons realized
the truth under the imperial auspices and Master T'ien Hui Ch'e of the Kao Min monastery
at Yang Chou attained enlightenment during these meetings (in the palace). The emperor
also revised and improved for observance the rules and regulations of the Sect, which
flourished and produced so many men of ability. The (strict observance of) rules and
regulations is, therefore, of paramount importance.
This method of setting a time limit for
personal experience of the truth is likened to a scholars' examination. The candidates sit
for it and write their compositions according to the subjects, for each of which a time
limit is set. The subject of our Ch'an week is Ch'an meditation. For this reason, this
hall is called the Ch'an hall. Ch'an is dhyana in Sanscrit and means "unperturbed
abstraction". There are various kinds of Ch'an, such as the Mahayana and Hinayana
Ch'ans, the material and immaterial Ch'ans, the Sravakas' and the Heretics' Ch'an. Ours is
the unsurpassed Ch'an. If one succeeds in seeing through the doubt (mentioned yesterday)
and in sitting on and cracking the life-root, one will be similar to the
For this reason, a Ch'an hall is also
called a Buddha's selecting place. It is called a Prajna hall. The Dharma taught in this
hall is the Wu Wei Dharma. Wu Wei means "not doing". In other words, not a
(single) thing can be gained and not a (single) thing can be done. If there be doing
(samskrta), it will produce birth and death. If there is gain, there will be loss. For
this reason, the sutra says: "There are only words and expressions which have no real
meaning." The recitation of sutras and the holding of confessional services pertain
to doing (samskrta) and are only expediencies used in the teaching school.
As to our Sect, its teaching consists in
the direct (self-) cognizance for which words and expressions have no room. Formerly, a
student called on the old master Nan Chuan and asked him: "What is Tao?" Nan
Chuan replied: "The ordinary mind is the truth." Every day, we wear robes
and eat rice; we go out to work and return to rest; all our actions are performed
according to the truth. It is because we bind ourselves in every situation that we
fail to realize that the self-mind is Buddha.
When Ch'an Master Fa Ch'ang of Ta Mei
Mountain called for the first time on Ma Tsu, he asked the latter: "What is
Buddha?" Ma Tsu replied: "Mind is Buddha." Thereupon, Ta Mei was
completely enlightened. He left Ma Tsu and proceeded to the Szu Ming district where he
lived in a hermitage formerly belonging to Mei Tsu Chen.
In the Chen Yuan reign (A.D. 785-804) of
the T'ang dynasty, a monk who was a disciple of Yen Kuan and went to the mountain to
collect branches of trees for making staffs, lost his way and arrived at the hut. He asked
Ta Mei: "How long have you stayed here?" Ta Mei replied: "I see only four
mountains which are blue and yellow." The monk said: "Please show me the
mountain track so that I can get out of here." Ta Mei replied: "Follow the
Upon his return the monk reported what he
saw in the mountain to Yen Kuan who said: "I once saw a monk in Chiang Hsi province)
but I have had no news of him since. Is it not that monk?"
Then Yen Kuan sent the monk (to the
mountain) to invite Ta Mei to come (to his place). In reply, Ta Mei sent the following
A withered log in the cold forest
Does not change heart for several springs,
The woodcutter will not look at it.
How can a stranger hunt it?
A lotus pond yields boundless store of
More fir cones drop from pines than you
When worldly men discover where you live
You move your thatched hut far into the
Ma Tsu heard of Ta Mei's stay on the
mountain and sent a monk to ask him this question: 'What did you obtain when you called on
the great master Ma Tsu and what prompted you to stayhere?" Ta Mei replied: "The
great master told me that mind was Buddha and that is why I came to stay here." The
monk said: "The great master's Buddha Dharma is different now." Ta Mei asked:
"What is it now?'" The monk replied: "He says it is neither mind nor
Buddha." Ta Mei said: "That old man is causing confusion in the minds of
others and all this will have no end. Let him say that it is neither mind nor Buddha. As
far as I am concerned, Mind is Buddha."
When the monk returned and reported the
above dialogue to Ma Tsu, the latter said: "The plum is now ripe."
This shows how the ancients were competent
and concise. Because of our inferior roots and perverted thinking, the masters taught us
to hold a hua t'ou (in our minds) and they were obliged to use this expedient. Master Yung
Chia said: "After the elimination of the ego and dharma, the attainment of reality
will destroy the Avici hell in a moment (ksana). If I tell a lie to deceive living beings,
I will consent to fall into the hell where the tongue is pulled out (as punishment for my
verbal sin)." Master Yuan Miao of Kao Feng said: "Ch'an training is like
throwing into a deep pond a tile which sinks to the bottom." When we hold a hua t'ou,
we must look into it until we reach its "bottom" and "crack" it.
Master Yuan Miao also swore: "If someone holding a hua t'ou without giving rise to a
second thought, fails to realize the truth, I will be (ready) to fall into the hell where
the tongue is pulled out." The sole reason why (we do not succeed in our practice) is
because our faith (in the hua t'ou) is not deep enough and because we do not put an end to
our (wrong) thinking. If we are firmly determined to escape from the round of births and
deaths, a sentence of the hua t'ou will never escape from our grip. Master Kuei Shan said:
"If in every reincarnation we (can hold it firmly) without backsliding, the Buddha
stage can be expected."
All beginners are inclined to give rise to
all kinds of (false) thoughts; they have a pain in the legs and do not know how to undergo
the training. The truth is that they should be firm in their determination to escape from
the round of births and deaths. They should stick to the hua t'ou and no matter whether
they walk, stand, sit or lie, they should grasp it. From morning to evening, they should
look into this (word) "Who" until it becomes as clear as "the autumn moon
reflected in a limpid pool". It should be clearly (and closely) inquired into and
should be neither blurred nor unsteady. (If this can be achieved) why worry about the
Buddha stage which seems unattainable?
If the hua t'ou becomes blurred, you can
open your eyes wide and raise your chest gently; this will raise your spirits. At the same
time, it should not be held too loosely, nor should it be too fine, because if it is too
fine, it will cause a fall into emptiness and dullness. If you fall into emptiness, you
will perceive only stillness and will experience liveliness. At this moment, the hua t'ou
should not be allowed to escape from your grip so that you can take a step forward after
you have reached "the top of the pole." Otherwise, you will fall into dull
emptiness and will never attain the ultimate.
If it is loosely gripped, you will be
easily assailed by false thoughts. If false thoughts arise, they will be difficult to
Therefore, coarseness should be tempered
with fineness and fineness with coarseness to succeed in the training and to realize the
sameness of the mutable and immutable.
Formerly I was at Chin Shin and other
monasteries and when the Karmadana received the incense sticks which he had ordered
(previously), his two feet ran with great speed as if he flew (in the air) and the
monks who followed him were also good runners. As soon as the signal was given, all of
them looked like automata. (Thus) how could wrong thoughts arise (in their minds)? At
present (although) we also walk (after sitting in meditation), what a great difference
there is between then and now!
When you sit in meditation, you should not
push up the hua t'ou for this will cause its dimness. You should not hold it in your chest
for it causes pain in the chest. Neither should you press it down, for it will expand the
belly and will cause your fall into the realm of the five aggregates (skandhas)
resulting in all kinds of defect. With serenity and self-possession, only the word
"Who" should be looked into with the same care with which a hen sits on her egg
and a cat pounces on a mouse. When the hua t'ou is efficiently held, the life-root will
automatically be cut off.
This method is obviously not an easy one
for beginners, but you must exert yourselves unceasingly. Now I give you an example.
Self-cultivation is likened to making fire with a piece of flint. We must know the method
of producing a fire and if we do not know it, we will never light a fire even if we break
the flint in pieces. The method consists in using a bit of tinder and a steel. The tinder
is held under the flint and the steel strikes the upper part of the flint so as to direct
the spark to the tinder which will catch it. This is the only method of starting a fire
(with a flint).
Although we know quite well that Mind is
Buddha, we are still unable to accept this as a fact. For this reason, a sentence of the
hua t'ou has been used as the fire-starting-steel. It was just the same when formerly the
World Honored One became thoroughly enlightened after gazing at the stars at night. We are
not clear about the self-nature because we do not know how to start a fire. Our
fundamental self-nature and the Buddha do not differ from each other. It is only because
of our perverted thinking that we are (still) not liberated. So the Buddha is still Buddha
and we are still ourselves. Now as we know the method, if we could inquire into it, it
would indeed be an unsurpassing co-operating cause! I hope that everyone here will, by
exerting himself take a step forward from the top of a hundred-foot pole and will be
elected (Buddha) in this hall so that he can pay the debt of gratitude he owes to the
Buddha high above and deliver living beings here below. If the Buddha Dharma does not
produce men of ability, it is because no one is willing to exert himself. Our heart is
full of sadness when we talk about this (situation). If we really have deep faith in the
words uttered under oath by Masters Yung Chia and Yuan Miao, we are sure we will also
realize the truth. Now is the time to exert yourselves!
The Third Day
Time passes quickly (indeed); we have only
just opened this Ch'an week and it is already the third day. Those who have efficiently
held the hua t'ou (in their minds) have (been able to) clear up their passions and wrong
thoughts; they can now go straight home. For this reason, an ancient (master)
Self-cultivation has no other method;
It requires but knowledge of the way.
If the way only can be known,
Birth and death at once will end.
Our way consists in laying down our
baggage and our home is very near. The Sixth Patriarch said: "If the preceding
thought does not arise, it is mind. If the following thought does not end, it is
Fundamentally, our four elements are void
and the five aggregates (skandhas) are non-existent. It is only because of (our) wrong
thoughts which grasp (everything) that we like the illusion of the (impermanent) world and
are thereby held in bondage. Consequently, we are unable to (perceive) the voidness of the
four elements and (to realize) the nonexistence of birth and death. However, if in a
single thought, we can have an experience of that which is not born, there will be no need
for those Dharma doors expounded by Sakyamuni Buddha. (If so) can it still be said that
birth and death cannot be brought to an end? On that account, the brightness of our Sect's
Dharma really illumines the boundless space in the ten directions.
Master Teh Shan was a native of Chien Chou
town in Szu Ch'uan. His lay surname was Chou. He left home at the age of twenty. After
being fully ordained, he studied the Vinaya-pitaka which he mastered. He was
well-versed in the teaching of the noumenal and phenomenal as expounded in the sutras. He
used to teach the Diamond Prajna and was called "Diamond Chou".
Said he to his schoolmates:
When a hair swallows the ocean
The nature-ocean loses naught.
To hit a needle's point with mustard seed
Shakes not the needle's point.
(Of) saiksa and asaiksa
I know and I alone.
When he heard that the Ch'an Sect was
flourishing in the South, he could not keep his temper and said: "All who leave home
take a thousand aeons to learn the Buddha's respect-inspiring deportment and ten
thousand aeons to study the Buddha's fine deeds; (in spite of this) they are still unable
to attain Buddhahood. How can those demons in the south dare to say that the direct
indication of the mind leads to the perception of the (self-) nature and attainment of
Buddhahood? I must (go to the south,) sweep away their den and destroy their race to repay
the debt of gratitude I owe the Buddha."
He left Szu Ch'uan province with Ch'ing
Lung's Commentary on his shoulders. When he reached Li Yang, he saw an old woman
selling tien hsin (lit. mind-refreshment) on the roadside. He halted, laid down his
load and intended to buy some pastries to refresh his mind. The old woman pointed at the
load and asked him: "What is this literature?" Teh Shan replied: "Ch'ing
Lung's Commentary." The old woman asked: "Commentary on what sutra?" Teh
Shin replied: "On the Diamond Sutra." The Old woman said: "I have a
question to ask you; if you can answer it, I will offer you mind-refreshment. If you
cannot reply, (please) go away. The Diamond Sutra says: 'The past, present and future mind
cannot be found.' What do you want to refresh?"
Teh Shan remained speechless. He (1eft the
place and) went to the Dragon Pond (Lung T'an) monastery. He entered the Dharma hall and
said: "I have long desired to see the Dragon Pond, but as I arrive here, neither is
the pond seen nor does the dragon appear." Hearing this, (Master) Lung T'an came out
and said: "You have really arrived at the Dragon Pond." Teh Shan remained
speechless; he then (made up his mind to) stay at the monastery.
One night, while he was standing (as an
attendant) by Lung T'an, the latter said to him: "It is late now, why don't you go
back to your quarters?" After wishing his master good night, he withdrew but returned
and said: "It is very dark outside." Lung T'an lit a paper-torch and handed it
to him. When Teh Shan was about to take the torch, Lung T'an blew out the light.
Thereupon Teh Shan was completely
enlightened and made his obeisance to the master (to thank him). Lung T'an asked him:
"What have you seen" Teh Shan replied: "In future, I will entertain no more
doubt about the tips of the tongues of the old monks all over the country."
The following day, Lung T'an ascended to
his seat and said to the assembly: "There is a fellow whose teeth are like sword-leaf
trees and whose mouth is like a blood bath. He receives a stroke of the staff but does
not turn his head. Later, he will set up my doctrine on the top of a solitary
In front of the Dharma hall, Teh Shan laid
on the ground all the sheets of the Ch'ing Lung Commentary in a heap and raising a torch
said: "An exhaustive discussion of the abstruse is like a hair placed in the great
void (and) the exertion to the full of all human capabilities is like a drop of water
poured into the great ocean." Then he burned the manuscript. He bade farewell to his
master and left the monastery.
He went straight to Kuei Shin (monastery)
and carrying his baggage under his arm, he entered the Dharma hall which he crossed from
its east to its west side and then from its west to its east side. He looked at the abbot
(Master Kuei Shan) and said: "Anything? Anything?" Kuei Shan was sitting in the
hall but paid no attention to the visitor. Teh Shan said: "Nothing, nothing."
and left the hall.
When he reached the front door of the
monastery, he said to himself: "Be that as it may, I should not be so careless."
Then, he turned back and again entered the hall in full ceremony. As he crossed its
threshold, he took out and raised his cloth rug (nisidana), calling: "Venerable
Upadhyaya !" As Kuei Shan was about to pick up a dust-whisk, Teh Shan
shouted and left the hall.
That evening, Kuei Shan asked the leader
of the assembly: "Is the newcomer still here?" The leader replied: "When he
left the hall, he turned his back to it, put on his straw sandals and went away."
Kuei Shan said: "That man will later go to some lonely peak where he will erect a
thatched hut; he will scold Buddhas and curse Patriarchs."
Teh Shan stayed thirty years at Li Yang.
During the persecution of Buddhists by the Emperor Wu Tsung (A.D. 841-846) of the T'ang
dynasty, the master took refuge in a stone hut on the Tu Fou mountain (in A.D. 847). At
the beginning of Ta Chung's reign, prefect Hsieh T'ing Wang of Wu Ling restored the
veneration of Teh Shan monastery and named it Ko Teh Hall. He was looking for a man of
outstanding ability to take charge of the monastery when he heard of the master's
reputation. In spite of several invitations, Teh Shan refused to descend the (Tu Fou)
mountain. Finally, the prefect devised a stratagem and sent his men falsely to accuse him
of smuggling tea and salt in defiance of the law. When the master was brought to the
prefecture, the prefect paid obeisance to him and insistently invited him to take charge
of the Ch'an hall where Teh Shan spread widely the Sect's teaching.
Later, people talked about Teh Shan's
shouting and Lin Chi's caning. If we can discipline ourselves like these two masters,
why should we be unable to put an end to birth and death? After Teh Shin, came Yen T'ou
and Hsueh Feng. After Hsueh Feng, came Yun Men and Fa Yen, and also state master Teh
Shao and ancestor Yen Shou of the Yung Ming (monastery). They were all
"produced" by (Teh Shan's) staff.
During the past successive dynasties, the
Sect was kept going by great ancestors and masters. You are here to hold a Ch'an week and
you understand very well this unsurpassed doctrine which will enable (us) without
difficulty to attain direct (self) cognizance and liberation from birth and death.
However, if you trifle with it and do not train seriously, or if from morning to evening,
you like to behold the "demon in the bright shadow" or to make your plans inside
"the den of words and expressions", you will never escape from birth and
death. Now, all of you, please exert yourselves diligently.
The Fourth Day
This is the fourth day of our Ch'an week.
You have exerted yourselves in your training; some of you have composed poems and gathas
and have presented them to me for verification. This is not an easy thing but those of you
who have made efforts in this manner, must have forgotten my two previous lectures.
Yesterday evening, I said:
Self-cultivation has no other method;
It requires but knowledge of the way.
We are here to inquire into the hua t'ou
which is the way we should follow. Our purpose is to be clear about birth and death and to
attain Buddhahood. In order to be clear about birth and death, we must have recourse to
this hua t'ou which should be used as the Vajra King's precious sword to cut down
demons if demons come and Buddhas if Buddhas come so that no feelings will remain and
not a single thing (dharma) can be set up. In such a manner, where could there have been
wrong thinking about writing poems and gathas and seeing such states as voidness and
brightness? If you made your efforts (so wrongly), I really do not know where your hua
t'ou went. Experienced C'han monks do not require further talks about this, but beginners
should be very careful.
As I was apprehensive that you might not
know how to undergo your training, I talked during the last two days about sitting in
meditation in a Ch'an week, the worthiness of this method devised by our Sect and the way
of making efforts. Our method consists in concentrating pointedly on a hua t'ou which
should not be interrupted by day or night in the same way as running water. It should be
spirited and clear and should never be blurred. It should be clearly and constantly
cognizable. All worldly feelings and holy interpretations should be cut down (by it). An
ancient (master) said:
Study the truth as you would defend a
Which, when besieged, (at all costs) must
if intense cold strikes not to the bone,
How can plum blossom fragrant be?
These four lines came frorn (Master) Huang
Po and have two meanings. The first two illustrate those who undergo the (Ch'an) training
and who should hold firm the hua t'ou in the same manner as the defense of a citadel which
no foe must be allowed to enter. This is the unyielding defense (of the citadel). Each of
us has a mind which is the eighth consciousness (vijnana), as well as the seventh, sixth
and the first five consciousnesses. The first five are the five thieves of the eye, ear,
nose, tongue and body. The sixth consciousness is the thief of mind (manas). The seventh
is the deceptive consciousness (klista-mano-vijnana) which from morning to evening grasps
the eighth consciousness' "subject" and mistakes it for an "ego". It
incites the sixth to lead the first five consciousnesses to seek external objects (such
as) form, sound, smell, taste and touch. Being constantly deceived and tied the eighth
consciousness-mind is held in bondage without being able to free itself. For this reason
we are obliged to have recourse to this hua t'ou and use its "Vajra King's Precious
Sword" to kill all these thieves so that the eighth consciousness can be transmuted
into the Great Mirror Wisdom, the seventh into the Wisdom of Equality, the sixth into the
Profound Observing Wisdom and the first five consciousnesses into the Perfecting
Wisdom. It is of paramount importance first to transmute the sixth and seventh
consciousnesses, for they play the leading role and because of their power in
discriminating and discerning. While you were seeing the voidness and the brightness and
composing poems and gathas, these two consciousnesses performed their (evil) functions.
Today, we should use this hua t'ou to transmute the discriminating consciousness into the
Profound Observing Wisdom and the mind which differentiates between ego and personality
into the Wisdom of Equality. This is called the transmutation of consciousness into wisdom
and the transformation of the worldly into the saintly. It is important not to allow these
thieves who are fond of form, sound, smell, taste, touch and dharma, to attack us.
Therefore, this is likened to the defense of a citadel.
The last two lines:
If intense cold strikes not to the bone
How can plum blossom fragrant be?
illustrate living beings in the three
worlds of existence who are engulfed in the ocean of birth and death, tied to the five
desires, deceived by their passions, and unable to obtain liberation. Hence the plum
blossom is used as an illustration, for these plum trees spring into blossom in snowy
weather. In general, insects and plants are born in the spring, grow in summer, remain
stationary in autumn and lie dormant in winter. In winter, insects and plants either die
or lie dormant. The snow also lays the dust which is cold and cannot rise in the air.
These insects, plants and dust are likened to our mind's wrong thinking, discerning,
ignorance, envy and jealousy resulting from contamination with the three poisons. If
we rid ourselves of these (impurities), our minds will be naturally comfortable and plum
blossoms will be fragrant in the snow. But you should know that these plum trees blossom
in the bitter cold and not in the lovely bright spring or in the mild breeze of charming
weather. If we want our mind-flowers to bloom, we cannot expect this flowering in the
midst of pleasure, anger, sorrow and joy or (when we hold the conception of) ego,
personality, right and wrong. If we are confused about these eight kinds of mind, the
result will be unrecordable. If evil actions are committed, the result will be evil.
If good actions are performed, the result will be good.
There are two kinds of unrecordable
nature; that of dreams and of dead emptiness. The unrecordable nature of dreams is that of
illusory things appearing in a dream and unconnected with usually well-known daily
activities. This is the state of an independent mind-consciousness (mano-vijnana).
This is also called an independent unrecordable state.
What is the unrecordable dead emptiness?
In our meditation, if we lose sight of the hua t'ou while dwelling in stillness, there
results an indistinctive voidness wherein there is nothing. The clinging to this state of
stillness is a Ch'an illness which we should never contract while undergoing our training.
This is the unrecordable dead emptiness.
What we have to do is throughout the day
to hold without loosening our grip the hua t'ou which should be lively, bright, undimmed
and clearly and constantly cognizable. Such a condition should obtain no matter whether we
walk or sit. For this reason, an ancient master said:
"When walking, naught but Ch'an; when
sitting, naught but Ch'an. Then body is at peace whether or not one talks or
Ancestor Han Shan said:
High on a mountain peak
Only boundless space is seen.
How to sit in meditation, no one knows.
The solitary moon shines o'er the icy
But in the pool there is no moon;
The moon is in the night-blue sky.
This song is chanted now,
(But) there's no Ch'an in the song.
You and I must have a co-operating cause,
which is why I have this opportunity of addressing you on the (Ch'an) training. I hope you
will exert yourselves and make steady progress, and will not wrongly apply your
I will tell you another story, a kung an
(or koan in Japanese). After the founder of the Hsi T'an (Siddham in Sanskrit) monastery
on the Cock's Foot (Chi Tsu) mountain had left home, he called on enlightened masters (for
instruction) and made very good progress in his training. One day, he stopped at an inn,
and heard a girl in a bean-curd shop singing this song:
Bean-curd Chang and Bean-curd Li!
While your heads rest on the pillow,
You think a thousand thoughts,
Yet tomorrow you will sell bean-curd
The master was sitting in meditation and
upon hearing this song, he was instantaneously awakened. This shows that when the
ancients underwent the training, there was no necessity of doing it in a Ch'an hall for
experiencing the truth. The (self-) cultivation and training lie in the One-Mind. So, all
of you, please don't allow your minds to be disturbed in order not to waste your time.
Otherwise, you will be selling bean-curd again tomorrow morning.
About this method of (self-) cultivation,
it can be said that it is both easy and difficult. It is easy because it is really easy
and it is difficult because it is really difficult.
It is easy because you are only required
to lay down (every thought), to have a firm faith in it (the method) and to develop a
lasting mind. All this will ensure your success.
It is difficult because you are afraid of
enduring hardships and because of your desire to be at ease. You sould know all worldly
occupations also require study and training before success can be achieved. How much more
so when we want to learn (wisdom) from the sages in order to become Buddhas and
Patriarchs. Can we reach our goal if we (act) carelessly?
Therefore, the first thing is to have a
firm mind in our self-cultivation and performance of the truth. In this, we cannot avoid
being obstructed by demons. These demoniacal obstructions are the (external) karmic
surroundings caused by our passions for all form, sound, smell, taste, touch and dharma as
enumerated in my talk yesterday. This karmic environment is our foe through life and
death. For this reason, there are many sutra expounding Dharma masters who cannot stand
firm on their own feet while in the midst of these surroundings because of their wavering
The next important thing is to develop an
enduring mind. Since our birth in this world, we have created boundless karmas and if we
now wish to cultivate ourselves for the purpose of escaping from birth and death, can we
wipe out our former habits all at once? In olden times, ancestors such as Ch'an master
Ch'ang Ch'ing, who sat in meditation until he had worn out seven mats, and (Ch'an master)
Chao Chou who wandered from place to place (soliciting instruction) at the age of eighty
after having spent forty years in meditating on the word 'Wu' (lit. No) without giving
rise to a thought in his mind. They finally obtained complete enlightenment, and the
princes of the Yen and Chao states revered them and made offerings to them. In the Ch'ing
dynasty, Emperor Yung Cheng (1723-35) who had read their sayings and had found these
excellent, bestowed upon them the posthumous tide of 'Ancient Buddha'. This is the
resultant attainment after a whole life of austerity. If we can now wipe out all our
former habits to purify our One-thought, we will be on an equality with Buddhas and
Patriarchs. The S'urangama Sutra says:
"It is like the purification of muddy
water stored in a clean container; left unshaken in complete calmness, the sand and mud
will sink to the bottom. When the clear water appears, this is called the first
suppression of the intruding evil element of passion. When the mud has been removed
leaving behind only the clear water, this is called the permanent cutting off of basic
Our habitual passions are likened to mud
and sediment, which is why we must make use of the hua t'ou. The hua t'ou is likened to
alum used to clarify muddy water in the same manner as passions are brought under control.
If in his training, a man succeeds in achieving the sameness of body and mind with the
resultant appearance of the condition of stillness, he should be careful and should never
abide in it. He should know that it is (only) an initial step but that ignorance caused by
passions is still not wiped out. This is (only) the deluded mind reaching the state of
purity, just like muddy water which, although purified, still contains mud and sediment at
the bottom. You must make additional efforts to advance further. An ancient master
Sitting on a pole top one hundred feet in
One will still perceive (that) which is
If from the pole top one then takes a step
One's body will appear throughout the
If you do not take a step forward, you
will take the illusion-city for your home and your passions will be able to rise (again).
If so, it will be difficult for you to become even a self-enlightened person. For this
reason, the mud must be removed in order to retain the (clear) water. This is the
permanent wiping out of the basic ignorance and only then can Buddhahood be attained. When
ignorance has been permanently wiped out, you will be able to appear in bodily form in the
ten directions of the Universe to expound the Dharma, in the same manner as Avalokitesvara
Bodhisattva who can appear in thirty-two forms and who, manifesting to teach the Dharma,
can choose the most appropriate form to liberate a responsive living being. You will be
free from restraint and will enjoy independence and comfort (everywhere) even in a house
of prostitution, a public bar, the womb of a cow, a mare or a mule, in paradise or
On the other hand, a discriminating
thought will send you down to the turning wheel of births and deaths. Formerly, Ch'in
Kuai Who had (in a former life) made offerings of incense and candles to Ksitigarbha
Bodhisattva but did not develop an enduring mind (in his training) because of his failure
to wipe out his ignorance caused by passions, was the victim of his hatred-mind (in his
following reincarnation). This is just an example.
If your believing-mind is strong and your
enduring-mind does not retrograde, you will, in your present bodily form, be able to
attain Buddhahood, even if you are only an ordinary man.
Formerly there was a poor and miserable
man who joined the order (sangha) at a monastery. Although he was keen to practice (self-)
cultivation, he did not know the method. As he did not know whom to ask about it, he
decided to toil and moil every day. One day, a wandering monk came to the monastery and
saw the man toiling. The monk asked him about his practice and the man replied:
"Every day, I do this kind of hard work. Please show me the method of (self-)
cultivation." The monk replied: "You should inquire into (the sentence:) 'Who is
the repeater of Buddha's name ?'" As instructed by the visiting monk, the man managed
to bear the word "Who" in mind while he did his daily work. Later, he went to
stay in a grotto on an islet to continue his training, using leaves for clothing and
plants for food. His mother and sister who were still living, heard of his retreat in a
grotto on an islet where he endured hardships in his self-cultivation. His mother sent his
sister to take him a roll of cloth and some provisions. When she arrived, she saw him
seated (in meditation). She called him but he did not reply, and she shook him but he did
not move. Seeing that her brother neither looked at nor greeted her but continued his
meditation in the grotto, she was enraged, left the roll of cloth and provisions there and
returned home. Thirteen years later, his sister went again to visit him and saw the same
roll of cloth still lying in the same place.
Later a hungry refugee came to the grotto
wherein he saw a monk in ragged garments; he entered and begged for food. The monk (got up
and) went to the side of the grotto to pick some pebbles which he placed in a pot. After
cooking them for a while, he took them out and invited the visitor to eat them with him.
The pebbles looked like potatoes and when the visitor had satisfied his hunger, the monk
said to him: "Please do not mention our meal to outsiders."
Some time later, the monk thought to
himself: "I have stayed here so many years for my (self-) cultivation and should now
form (propitious) causes (for the welfare of others)." Thereupon, he proceeded to
Hsia Men where on the side of a road, he built a thatched hut offering free tea (to
travelers). This took place in Wan Li's reign (1573-1619) about the time the empress
mother passed away. The emperor wanted to invite eminent monks to perform (Buddhist)
ceremonies for the welfare of his deceased mother. He first intended to invite monks in
the capital but at the time, there were no eminent monks there. (One night) the emperor
saw in a dream his mother who said that there was one in the Chang Chou prefecture of Fu
Chien province. The emperor sent officials there to invite local monks to come to the
capital for the ceremonies. When these monks with their bundles set out on their journey
to the capital, they passed by the hut of the poor monk who asked them: "Venerable
masters, what makes you so happy and where are you going?" They replied: "We
have received the emperor's order to proceed to the capital to perform ceremonies for the
spirit of the empress mother." The poor monk said: "May I go with you?"
They replied: "You are so miserable, how can you go with us?" He said: "I
do not know how to recite sutras but I can carry your bundles for you. It is worth while
to pay a visit to the capital." Thereupon, he picked up the bundles and followed the
other monks to the capital.
When the emperor knew that the monks were
about to arrive, he ordered an official to bury a copy of the Diamond Sutra under the
doorstep of the palace. When the monks arrived, they did not know anything about the
sutra, crossed the doorstep and entered the palace one after another. When the miserable
monk reached the threshold, he knelt upon his knees and brought his palms together but did
not enter (the palace). In spite of the door-keepers who called him and tried to drag him
in, he refused to enter. When the incident was reported to the emperor who had ordered the
burial of the sutra, he realized that the holy monk had arrived and came personally to
receive him. He said: "Why don't you enter the palace?" The monk replied:
"I dare not, because a copy of the Diamond Sutra has been buried in the ground."
The emperor said: "Why don't you stand on your head to enter it?" Upon hearing
this, the monk placed his hands upon the ground and somersaulted into the palace. The
emperor had the greatest respect for him and invited him to stay in the inner
When asked about the altar and the
ceremony, the monk replied: "The ceremony will be held tomorrow morning, in the fifth
watch of the night. I will require only one altar with one leading banner and one
table with incense, candles and fruit for offerings (to Buddhas)." The emperor was
not pleased with the prospect of an unimpressive ceremony and was at the same time
apprehensive that the monk might not possess enough virtue to perform it. (To test his
virtue), he ordered two maids of honor to bathe the monk. (During and) after the bath, his
genital organ remained unmoved. The maids of honor reported this to the emperor whose
respect for the monk grew the greater for he realized now that the visitor was really
holy. Preparation was then made according to the monk's instruction and the following
morning, the monk ascended to his seat to expound the Dharma. Then he ascended to the
altar, joined his palms together (to salute) and holding the banner, went to the coffin,
In reality I do not come;
(But) in your likes you are one-sided.
In one thought to realize there is no
Means that you will leap o'er the deva
After the ceremony, the monk said to the
emperor: "I congratulate you on the liberation of her majesty the Empress
Mother." As the emperor was doubting the efficiency of a ceremony which ended in such
a manner, he heard in the room the voice of the deceased saying: "I am now liberated;
you should bow your thanks to the holy master."
The emperor was taken aback, and his face
beamed with delight. He paid obeisance to the monk and thanked him. In the inner palace, a
vegetarian banquet was offered to the master. Seeing that the emperor was wearing a pair
of colored trousers, the monk fixed his eyes on them. The emperor asked him: "Does
the Virtuous One like this pair of trousers?" and taking them off he offered them to
the visitor who said:
"Thank your Majesty for his
grace." Thereupon, the emperor bestowed upon the monk the tide of State Master Dragon
Trousers. After the banquet, the emperor led the monk to the imperial garden where there
was a precious stupa. The monk was happy at the sight of the stupa and stopped to admire
it. The emperor asked "Does the State Master like this stupa?" The visitor
replied: "It is wonderful!" The emperor said: "I am willing to offer it to
you with reverence." As the host was giving orders to remove the stupa to Chang Chou,
the monk said: "There is no need, I can take it away." After saying this, the
monk placed the stupa in his (1ong) sleeve, rose in the air and left. The emperor stunned
and overjoyed at the same time, praised the unprecedented occurrence.
Dear friends, it is a (wonderful) story
indeed and it all came about simply because from the time he left his home, the monk never
used his discriminating mind and had a lasting faith in the truth. He did not care for his
sister who came to see him, paid no attention to his ragged garments, and did not touch
the roll of cloth lying thirteen years in the grotto. We must now ask ourselves if we can
undergo our training in such a manner. It would be superfluous to talk about our inability
to follow the monk's example when our sisters come to see us. It is enough to mention the
attitude we take after our meditation when, while walking, we cannot refrain from gazing
at our leader when he offers incense or at our neighbor's movements. If our training is
done in this manner, how can our hua t'ou be firmly held?
Dear friends, you have only to remove the
mud and retain the water. When the water is clear, automatically the moon will appear.
Now it is time to give rise to your hua t'ou and to examine it closely.
The Sixth Day
The ancients said: "Days and months
pass quickly like a shuttle (and) time flies like an arrow." Our Ch'an week began
only the other day and will come to an end tomorrow. According to the standing rule, an
examination will be held tomorrow morning, for the purpose of a Ch'an week is to set a
time limit for experiencing (the truth). By experiencing, it means awakening to and
realization (of the truth). That is to say, the experiencing of one's fundamental self and
the realization of the Tathagata's profound nature. This is called the experiencing and
realization (of the truth).
Your examination is for the purpose of
ascertaining the extent to which you have reached attainment during these seven days and
you will have to disclose your achievement to the assembly. Usually this examination is
called the collection of (the bill of) fare from all of you. (This means that) you
must all appear for this examination. In other words, all of you must be awakened (to the
truth) so that you can expound the Buddha Dharma for the liberation of all the living.
Today, I am not saying I expect that you must all be awakened to the truth. If even one of
you is awakened, I can (still) collect this bill of fare. That is to say, one person will
pay the bill for the meals served to the whole assembly. If all of us develop a skilful
and progressive mind in quest of the truth, we will all be awakened to it. The ancients
"It is easy for a worldly man to win
(But) hard indeed is it to bring wrong
thinking to an end."
It is only because of our insatiable
desires since the time without beginning that we now drift about in the sea of mortality,
within which there are 84,000 passions and all sorts of habits which we cannot wipe out.
(In consequence), we are unable to attain the truth and to be like Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas who are permanently enlightened and are free from delusion. For this reason,
(Master) Lien Ch'ih said:
It is easy to be caught up in the causes
(But) to earn truth producing karma is
If you cannot see behind what can be seen,
Differentiated are (concurrent) causes,
(Around you) are but objects which, like
gusts of wind,
Destroy the crop of merits (you have
The passions of the mind e'er burst in
Destroying seeds of Bodhi (in the heart).
If recollection of the truth be as
(intense as) passion,
Buddhahood will quickly be attained.
If you treat others as you treat the self;
All will be settled (to your
If self is not right and others are not
Lords and their servants will respect each
If the Buddha-dharma's constantly before
From all passions this is liberation.
How clear and how to the point are these
lines! The (word) pollution means (the act of) making unclean. The realm of worldly men is
tainted with desires of wealth, sensuality, fame and gain as well as anger and dispute. To
them, the two words "religion" and "virtue" are only obstacles. Every
day, they give way to pleasure, anger, sorrow and joy and long for wealth, honor, glory
and prosperity. Because they cannot eliminate worldly passions, they are unable to give
rise to a single thought of the truth. In consequence, the grove of merits is ruined and
all seeds of Bodhi are destroyed. If they are indifferent to all worldly passions; if they
give equal treatment to friends and foes; if they refrain from killing, stealing,
committing adultery, lying and drinking intoxicating liquors; if they are impartial to all
living beings; if they regard other people's hunger as their own; if they regard other
people's drowning as if they get drowned themselves; and if they develop the Bodhi mind,
they will be in agreement with the truth and will also be able to attain Buddhahood at a
stroke. For this reason, it is said: "If recollection of the truth be (as intense) as
passions, Buddhahood will quickly be attained." All Buddhas and saints appear in the
world to serve the living, by rescuing them from suffering, by bestowing happiness upon
them and by aiding them out of pity.
We can practice self-denial as well as
compassion for others, thus foregoing all sorts of enjoyment. (if we can do so), no one
will have to endure suffering and there will remain nothing that cannot be accomplished.
It will follow that we will be able to obtain the full fruit of our reward, in the same
manner as a boat rises automatically with the tide. When dealing with others, if you have
a compassionate and respectful mind, and are without self-importance, arrogance and
deception, they will certainly receive you with respect and courtesy. On the other hand,
if you rely on your abilities and are unreasonable, or if you are double-faced aiming only
at (your own enjoyment of) sound, form, fame and wealth, the respect with which they may
receive you, will not be real. For this reason, Confucius said: "If you respect
others, they will always respect you. If you have sympathy for others, they will always
have sympathy for you.
The Sixth Patriarch said:
"Although their faults are theirs and
are not ours, should we discriminate, we too are wrong. "
Therefore, we should not develop a mind
which discriminates between right and wrong and between self and others. If we serve other
people in the same manner as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas did, we will be able to sow Bodhi
seeds everywhere and will reap the most excellent fruits. Thus, passions will never be
able to hold us in bondage.
The twelve divisions of the Mahayana's
Tripitaka were expounded by the World Honored One because of our three poisons,
concupiscence, anger and stupidity. Therefore, the aims of the twelve divisions of this
Tripitaka are: discipline (s'ila) imperturbability (samadhi) and wisdom (prajna). Their
purpose is to enable us to wipe out our desires, to embrace (the four infinite Buddha
states of mind): kindness (maitri), pity (karuna), joy (mudita) and indifference
(upeksa) and all modes of salvation, to eliminate the delusion of ignorance and
the depravity of stupidity, to achieve the virtue of complete wisdom and to embellish the
meritorious Dharmakarya. If we can take such a line of conduct, the Lotus treasury
will appear everywhere.
Today, most of you who have come for this
Ch'an week, are virtuous laymen (upasakas). You should subdue your minds in an appropriate
manner and get rid of all bondages. I will now tell you another kung an so that you can
follow the example (given by those mentioned in it). If I do not tell it, I am afraid you
will not acquire the Gem and will go home empty-handed, and (at the same time) I will be
guilty of a breach of trust. Please listen attentively:
In the T'ang dynasty, there was an upasaka
whose name was P'ang Yun, alias Tao Hsuan, and whose native town was Heng Yang in Hu Nan
province. He was originally a Confucian scholar and since his youth, he realized (the
futility of) passions and was determined in his search for the truth.
At the beginning of Chen Yuan's reign
(A.D. 785-804), he heard of master Shih T'ou's learning and called on him (for
instruction). (When he saw the master), he asked him: "Who is the man who does not
take all dharmas as his companions?" Shih T'ou stretched Outhis hand to close
P'ang Yun's mouth and the visitor immediately understood the move.
One day, Shi T'ou asked P'ang Yun:
"Since you have seen this old man (i.e. me), what have you been doing each day?"
P'ang Yun replied: "If you ask me what I have been doing, I do not know how to open
my mouth (to talk about it)." Then he presented the following poem to Shih
There is nothing special about what I do
I only keep myself in harmony with it,
Everywhere I neither accept nor reject
Nowhere do I confirm or refute a
Why do people say that red and purple
There's not a speck of dust on the blue
Supernatural powers and wonder-making
Are but fetching water and the gathering
Shi T'ou approved of the poem and asked
P'ang Yun: "Will you join the Sangha order or will you remain a layman
(upasaka)?" P'ang Yun replied: "I will act as I please," and did not shave
Later, P'ang Yun called on (master) Ma Tsu
and asked him: "Who is the man who does not take all dharmas as his companions?"
Ma Tsu replied: "I will tell you this after you have swallowed all the water in the
West River." Upon hearing this, P'ang Yun was instantaneously awakened to the
profound doctrine. He stayed two years at the monastery (of Ma Tsu).
Since his complete realization of his
fundamental nature, the Upasaka gave up all worldly occupations, dumped into the Hsiang
River his whole fortune amounting to 10,000 strings of gold and silver (coins) and made
bamboo-ware to earn his living.
One day, while chatting with his wife on
the doctrine of the unborn, the Upasaka said: "Difficult! Difficult! Difficult! (It
is like unpacking and) distributing ten loads of sesame seeds on the top of a
His wife interjected: "Easy! Easy!
Easy! A hundred blades of grass are the masters' indication."
Hearing their dialogue, their daughter
Ling Chao said laughingly: "Oh, you two old people! How can you talk like that?"
The Upasaka said to his daughter: "What, then, would you say?" She replied:
"It is not difficult! And it is not easy! When hungry one eats and when tired one
P'ang Yun clapped his hands, laughed and
said: "My son will not get a wife; my daughter will not have a husband. We will all
remain together to speak the language of the un-born." Since then, his dialectic
powers became eloquent and forcible and he was admired everywhere.
When the Upasaka left (master) Yo Shan,
the latter sent ten Ch'an monks to accompany him to the front door (of the monastery).
Pointing his finger at the falling snow, the Upasaka said to them: "Good snow! The
flakes do not fall elsewhere." A Ch'an monk named Ch'uan asked him: "Where do
they fall?" The Upasaka slapped the monk in the face, and Ch'uan said: "You
can't act so carelessly." The Upasaka replied: "What a Ch'an monk you are! The
god of the dead will not let you pass." Ch'uan asked: "Then what does the
(Venerable) Upasaka mean?" The Upasaka slapped him again and said: "You see like
the blind and you talk like the dumb."
The Upasaka used to frequent places where
sutras were explained and commented on. One day, he listened to the expounding of the
Diamond Sutra, and when the commentator came to the sentence on the non-existence of ego
and personality, he asked: "(Venerable) Sir, since there is neither self nor other,
who is now expounding and who is listening?" As the commentator could not reply, the
Upasaka said: "Although I am a layman, I comprehend something." The commentator
asked him: "What is the (Venerable) Upasaka's interpretation?" The Upasaka
replied with the following poem:
There is neither ego nor personality,
Who is distant then and who is intimate?
Take my advice and quit your task of
Since that cannot compare with the direct
quest of the truth.
The nature of the Diamond Wisdom
Contains no foreign dust.
The words "I hear", "I
believe" and "I receive"
Are meaningless and used expediently.
After hearing the poem, the commentator
was delighted (with the correct interpretation) and praised (the Upasaka).
One day, the Upasaka asked Ling Chao:
"How do you understand the ancients' saying: 'Clearly there are a hundred blades of
grass; clearly these are the Patriarchs' indication?'" Ling Chao replied: "Oh
you old man, how can you talk like that?" The Upasaka asked her: "How would you
say it?" Ling Chao replied: "Clearly there are a hundred blades of grass;
clearly these are the Patriarchs' indication." The Upasaka laughed
(When he knew that) he was about to die,
he said to Ling Chao:
"(Go out and) see if it is early or
late; if it is noon, let me know." Ling Ghao went out and returned, saying: "The
sun is in mid-heaven, but unfortunately is being swallowed by the heaven-dog. (Father)
why don't you go out to have a look?" Thinking that her story was true, he left his
seat and went outside. Thereupon. Ling Chao (taking advantage of her father's absence)
ascended to his seat, sat with crossed legs and with her two palms brought together, and
When the Upasaka returned, he saw that
Ling Chao had died and said, with a sigh: "My daughter was sharp-witted and left
before me." So he postponed his death for a week, (in order to bury his
When magistrate Yu Ti came to inquire
after his health, the Upasaka said to him:
Vow only to wipe out all that is;
Beware of making real what is not.
Life in this (mortal) world
A shadow is, an echo.
After saying this, he rested his head on
the magistrate's knees and passed away. As willed by him, his body was cremated and the
ashes were thrown into the lake.
His wife heard of his death and went to
inform her son of it. Upon hearing the news, the son (stopped his work in the field),
rested his chin on the handle of his hoe and passed away in a standing position. After
witnessing these three successive events, the mother retired (to an unknown place) to live
As you see, the whole family of four had
supernatural powers and could do works of wonder and these laymen who were also upasakas
like you, were of superior attainments. At present, it is impossible to find men of such
outstanding ability not only among you upasakas (and upasikas) but also among monks and
nuns who are no better than myself, Hsu Yun. What a disgrace!
Now let us exert ourselves again in our
The Seventh Day
Dear friends, allow me to congratulate you
for the merits you have accumulated in the Ch'an week which comes to an end today.
According to the standing rule, those of you who have experienced and realized (the truth)
should come forward in this hall as did candidates who sat for a scholar's examination
held previously in the imperial palace. Today, being the day of posting the list of
successful graduates, should be one for congratulations. However, (the venerable) abbot
has been most compassionate and (has decided to) continue this Ch'an meeting for another
week so that we can all make additional efforts for further progress (in
All the masters who are present here and
are old hands in this training, know that it is a wonderful opportunity for co-operation
and will not throw away their precious time. But those who are beginners, should know that
it is difficult to acquire a human body and that the question of birth and death is
important. As we have human bodies, we should know that it is difficult to get the chance
to hear the Buddha Dharma and meet learned teachers. Today you have come to the
"precious mountain" and should take advantage of this excellent opportunity
to make every possible effort (in your self-cultivation) in order not to return home
As I have said, our Sect's Dharma which
was transmitted by the World Honored One when he held up a flower to show it to the
assembly, has been handed down from one generation to another. Although Ananda was a
cousin of the Buddha and left home to follow him as an attendant, he did not succeed in
attaining the truth in the presence of the World Honored One. After the Buddha had entered
nirvana, his great disciples assembled in a cave (to compile sutras) but Ananda was not
permitted by them to attend the meeting. Mahakasyapa said to him: "You have not
acquired the World Honored One's Mind Seal, so please pull down the banner-pole in front
of the door." Thereupon, Ananda was thoroughly enlightened. Then Mahakasyapa
transmitted to him the Tathagata's Mind Seal, making him the second Indian Patriarch. The
transmission was handed down to following generations, and after the Patriarchs Asvaghosa
and Nagarjuna, Ch'an master Hui Wen of T'ien T'ai mountain in the Pei Ch'i dynasty (A.D.
550-578) after reading (Nargajuna's) Madhyamika Sastra, succeeded in realizing his own
mind and founded the T'ien T'ai School. At the time, our Ch'an Sect was very
flourishing. Later, when the T'ien T'ai School fell into decadence, State master Teh Shao
(a Ch'an master) journeyed to Korea (where the only copy of Chih I's works existed),
copied it and returned to revive the Sect.
Bodhidharma who was the twenty-eighth
Indian Patriarch, came to the East where he became the first (Chinese) Patriarch. From his
transmission (of the Dharma) until the (time of the) Fifth Patriarch, the Mind-lamp shone
brilliantly. The Sixth Patriarch had forty-three successors among whom were (the eminent)
Ch'an masters Hsing Szu and Huai Jang. Then came (Ch'an master) Ma Tsu who had
eighty-three successors. At the time, the Right Dharma reached its zenith and was held in
reverence by emperors and high officials. Although the Tathagata expounded many Dharmas,
the Sect's was the unsurpassed one.
As to the Dbarma which consists in
repeating only the name of Amitabha (Buddha), it was extolled by (Ch'an Patriarchs)
Asvaghosa and Nagarjuna, and after master Hui Yuan, Ch'an master Yen Shou of the
Yung Ming monastery became the Sixth Patriarch of the Pure Land Sect (Chin T'u Tsung),
which was subsequently spread by many other Ch'an masters.
After being propagated by Ch'an master I
Hsing, the Esoteric Sect spread to Japan but disappeared in China where there was no
one to succeed to the master.
The Dharmalaksana Sect was introduced
by Dharma master Hsuan Tsang but did not last very long.
Only our (Ch'an) Sect (is like a stream)
which is still flowing from its remote source bringing devas into its fold and subduing
dragons and tigers.
Lu Tung Pin, alias Shun Yang, a native of
Ching Ch'uan, was one of the (famous) group of eight immortals. Towards the end of
the T'ang dynasty, he stood thrice for the scholar's examination but failed each time.
Being disheartened, he did not return home, and one day, he met by chance in a wine-shop
at Ch'ang An, an immortal named Chung Li Ch'uan who taught him the method of lengthening
his span of life infinitely. Lu Tung Pin practiced the method with great success and could
even become invisible and fly in the air at will all over the country. One day, he paid a
flying visit to the Hai Hui monastery on Lu Shan mountain; in its bell tower, he wrote on
(After) a day of leisure when the body is
The six organs (now) in harmony,
announce that all is well.
With a gem in the pubic region
there's no need to search for truth,
When mindless of surroundings, there's no
need for Ch'an.
Some time later, as he was crossing the
Huang Lung mountain, he beheld (in the sky) purple clouds shaped like an umbrella.
Guessing that there must be some extraordinary person (in the monastery there), he entered
it. It happened at the same time that in the monastery, after beating the drum, (Ch'an
master) Huang Lung was ascending to his seat (to expound the Dharma). Lu Tung Pin followed
the monks and entered the hall to listen to the teaching.
Huang Lung said to the assembly:
"Today there is here a plagiarist of my Dharma; the old monk (i.e. I) will not
expound it." Thereupon, Lu Tung Pin came forward and paid obeisance to the master,
saying: "I wish to ask the Venerable Master the meaning of these lines:
A grain of corn contains the Universe:
The hills and rivers (fill) a small
Huang Lung scolded him and said:
"What a corpse-guarding devil (you are)." Lu Tung Pin retorted: "But my
gourd holds the immortality giving medicine." Huang Lung said: "Even if you
succeed in living 80,000 aeons, you will not escape from falling into the dead
void." Forgetting all about the (fortitude advocated in his own line:)
"When mindless of surroundings
there's no need for Ch an."
Lu Tung Pin burned with anger and threw
his sword at Huang Lung. Huang Lung pointed his finger at the sword which fell to the
ground and which the thrower could not get back. With deep remorse, Lu Tung Pin knelt upon
his knees and inquired about the Buddha Dharma. Huang Lung asked: "Let aside (the
line:) 'The hills, and rivers (fill) a small cooking-pot' about which I do not ask you
anything. (Now) what is the meaning of: 'A grain of corn contains the
Universe'?" Upon hearing this (question), Lu Tung Pin instantaneously realized
the profound (Ch'an) meaning. Then, he chanted the following repentance-poem:
I throw away my gourd and smash my lute.
In future I'll not cherish gold in
Now that I have met (the master) Huang
I have realized my wrong use of the
This is the story of an immortal's return
to and reliance on the Triple Gem and his entry into the monastery (Sangharama) as a
guardian of the Dharma. Lu Tung Pin was also responsible for reviving the Taoist Sect at
the time and was its Fifth (Tao) Patriarch in the North. The Taoist Tzu Yang also realized
the mind after reading the (Buddhist) collection "Tsu Ying Chi" and became the
Fifth (Tao) Patriarch in the South. Thus the Tao faith was revived thanks to the
Confucius' teaching was handed down until
Mencius after whom it came to an end. In the Sung dynasty Confucian scholars (also)
studied the Buddha Dharma, and among them, (we can cite) Chou Lien Ch'i who practiced the
Ch'an training and succeeded in realizing his mind, and others such as Ch'eng Tzu, Chang
Tzu and Chu Tzu (all famous Confucians). Therefore, the Ch'an Sect contributed (in no
small measure) to the revival of Confucianism.
Nowadays, there are many people who
despise the Ch'an Dharma and who even make slanderous remarks about it, thus deserving
hell.Today, we have this excellent opportunity of being favored with a co-operating
cause (which gathers us here). We should feel joy and should take the great vow to become
objects of reverence for dragons and devas and to perpetuate the Right Dharma forever.
This is no child's play; so please make strenuous efforts to obtain more progress in your
 The 12 divisions of the Mahayana canon
are: (1) sutra, the Buddha's sermons; (2)geya, metrical pieces; (3)gatha, poems or chants;
(4) nidana, sutras written by request or in answer to a query, because certain precepts
were violated and because of certain events; (5) itivrttaka, narratives; (6) jataka,
stories of former lives of Buddha; (7) adbhuta-dharma, miracles; (8) avadana, parables,
metaphors, stories, illustrations; (9) upadesa, discourses and discussions by question and
answer; (10) udana, impromptu, or unsolicited addresses; (11) vaipulya, expanded sutras;
(12) vyakarana, prophecies.
 Hsing Szu inherited the Dharma from
the Sixth Patriarch and was called the Seventh Ancestor because his two Dharma-descendants
Tung Shan and Ts'ao Shan founded the Ts'ao Tung sect, which was one of the five Ch'an
sects in China.
 Of the method of gradual enlightenment
which took many aeons to enable an adherent to attain the Buddha-stage.
 The four Noble Truths are: Misery; the
accumulation of misery, caused by passions; the extinction of passions, being possible;
and the doctrine of the Path leading to extinction of passions.
 A Ch'an term which means an unwanted
thing which hinders self-realization.
 Usually One hour. The longer sticks
take an hour and a half to burn.
 Life-root. A root, or basis for life,
or reincarnation, the nexus of Hinayana between two life-periods, accepted by Mahayana as
nominal but not real. The Chinese idiom "to sit on and to crack" is equivalent
to the Western term 'to break up'.
 Wu Wei. Asamskrta in Sanscrit,
anything not subject to cause, condition or dependence; out of time, eternal, inactive,
 Samskrta. Yu Wei in Chinese, active,
creative, productive, functioning. causative, phenomenal, the process resulting from the
laws of karma.
 Ordinary mind = undiscriminating
 Without discrimination, the acts of
wearing clothes and eating and all our activities are nothing but the functions of the
self-nature; and One reality is all reality. On the other hand if the mind discriminates
when one wears one's robe or takes one's meal, everything around one will be the
 Ta Mei. In deference to him, the
master was called after the name of the mountain where he stayed.
 The mountains are immutable and
symbolize the unchanging self-nature, whereas their colours (blue and yellow) change and
symbolize appearance, i.e. the phenomenal. Ta Mei's reply meant that his self-nature was
the same and beyond time.
 If your mind wanders outside, it will
follow the stream of birth and death.
 When the mind is free from passions,
it is like a withered log which is indifferent to its surroundings and does not
"grow" any more in spite of the spring, the season of the year in which trees
begin to grow after lying dormant all winter. A mind free from delusion remains unchanged
and indifferent to all changes in its surrounding and to those who hunt after it.
 Because his disciples clung to his
saying: "Mind is Buddha," Ma Tsu said to them: "It is neither mind nor
Buddha" so that they ceased to cling, which was the cause of their delusion.
 Ta Mei means "Big Plum". Ma
Tsu confirmed that master Ta Mei was ripe, i.e. enlightened.
 Quotation from Yung Chia's "Song
of Enlightenment". Avici is the last and deepest of the eight hot hells, where
sinners suffer, die, and are instantly reborn to suffering, without interruption. Ksana is
the shortest measure of time, as kalpa is the longest.
 The instant one perceives only
stillness and experiences liveliness; it is called in Ch'an parlance "reaching the
top of a hundred-foot pole." All masters advised their disciples not to abide in this
state which was not real. Master Han Shan composed "The Song of the
Board-bearer" to warn his followers against "silent immersion in stagnant
water." This state is called "life" and is the fourth of the four signs
(laksana) mentioned in the Diamond Sutra. (See Part 3.)
 Karmadana: the duty-distributor,
second in command of a monastery.
 After a meditation, the monks used to
march quickly in single file to relax their legs, preceded by the Karmadana and followed
by the abbot.
 Realm of the five skandhas: the
present world as the state of the five aggregates. The best place in which to hold the hua
t'ou is between the pit of the stomach and the navel. A meditator may have all kinds of
visions before his attainment of enlightenment, and these visions belong to the realm of
the five skandhas, i.e. are creations of his mind. His master would instruct him to remain
indifferent, to neither "accept" nor "reject" these visions which will
disappear before the meditator makes further progress in the right direction.
 To go straight home. A Ch'an idiom
meaning the return to the self-nature, i.e. realization of the real. "Home" is
our self-natured Buddha.
 Baggage: our body, mind and all the
seeming which we hold dear.
 That which has no birth and death,
i.e. the eternal self-nature.
 Vinaya-pitaka. One of the three
divisions of the canon or Tripitaka. It emphasizes the discipline. The other two divisions
are: sutras (sermons) and sastras (treatises).
 The two forms of Karma resulting from
one's past are: (1) the resultant person, symbolized by a hair, and (2) the dependent
condition or environment, e.g. country, family, possessions, etc., symbolized by the
ocean. These two forms being illusory only, they penetrate each other without changing the
self-nature, or the nature-ocean (see note 28) which is beyond time and space.
 Nature-ocean. The ocean of the
Bhutatathata, the all-containing, immaterial nature of the Dharmakaya.
 The appearance of a Buddha is as rare
as the hitting of a needle's point with a fine mustard-seed thrown from a devaloka. Even
an accurate hit does not move the immutable needle's point.
 Saiksa, need of study; asaiksa, no
longer learning, beyond study, the state of arhatship, the fourth of the sravaka stages;
the preceding three stages requiring study. When the arhat is free from all illusion, he
has nothing more to study.
 Dignity in walking, standing, sitting
 A Commentary on the Diamond Sutra by
Tao Yin of the Ch'ing Lung monastery.
 Tien hsin, pastry, snack; refreshment
to keep up one's spirits.
 Lung T'an was an enlightened master.
The sentence: "You have really arrived at the Dragon Pond" means: "You have
really attained the state of Lung T'an or enlightenment for the real is invisible and does
not appear before the eyes of the unenlightened." Teh Shan did not understand its
meaning and remained speechless. This was the second time he remained speechless, the
first being when the old woman asked him about the past, present and future mind. He was
still unenlightened but became later an eminent Ch'an master after his awakening.
 Lung T'an was an eminent master and
knew the moment was ripe to enlighten Teh Shan. The latter perceived the master's
self-nature through its function which blew out the torch. At the same time, Teh Shan
perceived also that which "saw" the torch blown out, i.e. his own nature.
 Old monks all over the country: a
Chinese idiom referring to eminent Ch'an masters who were intransigent and exacting when
teaching and guiding their disciples. Readers may learn about these masters by studying
their sayings which seem ambiguous but are full of deep meaning.
 A fellow who was awe-inspiring like
the two hells where there are hills of swords or sword-leaf trees and blood baths as
punishments for sinners. Lung T'an foretold the severity with which Teh Shan would
receive, teach and train his disciples. Those wishing to familarize themselves with these
awe-inspiring things should read Dr. W. Y. Evans-Wentz's The Tibetan Book of the Dead
(Oxford University Press).
 Ch'an masters frequently used their
staffs to strike their disciples to provoke their awakening. The stroke of the staff here
referred to Teh Shan's enlightenment after "seeing" the torch blown out by his
master. Teh Shan did not turn his head, because he was really enlightened and did not have
any more doubt about his self-nature.
 Will be an outstanding Ch'an
 This walk from east to west and then
from west to east meant the "coming" and "going" which were
non-existent in the Dharmadhatu wherein the Dharmakaya remained immutable and unchanging.
Teh Shan's question: "Anything? Anything?" and the reply: "Nothing,
Nothing," served to emphasize the nothingness in space.
 Nisidana, a cloth for sitting
 Upadhyaya, a general term for a
 The duster used by the ancients
consisted of long horse hairs attached to the end of its handle. It was used to reveal the
function of the self-nature.
 The shout was to reveal that which
uttered it, i.e the self-nature.
 Teh Shan took out and raised his
nisidana, calling: "Venerable Upadhyaya" to show the function of that which took
out and raised the nisidana and called Kuei Shan. When the latter was about to take the
duster to test the visitor's enlightenment, Teh Shan shouted just to indicate the presence
of the substance of that which called on the host. Teh Shan left the hall and went away to
show the return of function to the substance. Thus Teh Shan's enlightenment was complete,
because both function and substance, or Prajna and Samidhi were on a level. Therefore, he
did not require any further instruction and any test of his attainment would be
superfluous. For this reason, Kuei Shan praised the visitor, saying: "That man will
later go to some solitary peak... will scold Buddhas and Patriarchs."
 Teh Shan would "scold"
unreal Buddhas and "curse" unreal Patriarchs who existed only in the impure
minds of deluded disciples, for the latter's conditioned and discriminating minds could
create only impure Buddhas and impure Patriarchs. Teh Shan's teaching was based only on
the absolute Prajna which had no room for worldly feelings and discernings, the causes of
birth and death.
 Lin Chi was the founder of the Lin
Chi Sect, one of the five Ch'an Sects of China.
 Yun Men and Fa Yen were respective
founders of the Yun Men and Fa Yen Sects, two of the five Ch'an Sects in China.
 If while sitting in meditation one
only takes delight in false visions or in the wrong interpretation of sutras and sayings,
one will never attain the real.
 The strongest or sharpest precious
 i.e. false visions of demons and
Buddhas in one's meditation.
 Beginners usually see the voidness
and brightness as soon as all thoughts are discarded. Although these visions indicate some
progress in the training, they should not be taken as achievements. The meditator should
remain indifferent to them as they are only the creation of the deluded mind and should
hold firm the hua t'ou.
 Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.
 World of desire, world of form and
 The five desires arising from the
objects of the five senses, things seen, heard, smelt, tasted and touched.
 The three poisons are: concupiscence
or wrong desire, hatred or resentment, and stupidity.
 i.e. neutral, neither good nor bad,
things that are innocent or cannot be classified under moral categories.
 i.e. when the sixth consciousness is
independent of the first five.
 First Week
 Chang and Li are the Chinese
equivalents of Smith and Brown. [Editor of the web edition: Two popular family names.]
 In his meditation, the master had
already discarded all thoughts and upon hearing the song, he instantly perceived that
which heard the song, i.e. the self-nature. This is called Avalokitesvara's complete
enlightenment by means of hearing, or the successful turning inward of the faculty of
hearing to hear the self-nature.--Cf. Surangama Sutra.
 Bean-curd is made of soy-bean and is
very cheap, so that only poor people make it for sale. For this reason, they are never
satisfied with their lot and always want to do something more profitable.
 The mind which is bent on the right
way, which seeks enlightenment.
 Agantu-klesa in Sanskrit, the foreign
atom, or intruding element, which enters the mind and causes distress and delusion. The
mind will be pure only after the evil element has heen removed.
 Water is the symbol of self-nature
and mud of ignorance caused by passions.
 A state of empty stillness in which
all thoughts have ceased to arise and Prajna is not yet attained.
 In contrast with a Bodhisattva who
seeks self-enlightenment to enlighten the multitude.
 A statesman of the Sung dynasty,
through whom Yueh Fei, a good commander, was executed; he is universally execrated for
this and his name is now synonymous with traitor.
 Hsia Men, Amoy, a town on the south
coast of Fukien province.
 To lead the spirit of the deceased to
the Pure Land.
 Water is the symbol of self-nature
and the moon of enlightenment.
 Lit. cost of the dumplings.
 Nidina or cause of pollution, which
connects illusion with the karmic miseries of reincarnation.
 Good karma which leads to
 Accumulation of merits leading to
realization of the truth.
 Smrti in Sanskrit.
 Quotation from a hymn chanted by the
Sixth Patriarch-(Cf. Altar Sutra, Chapter II).
 Joy on seeing others rescued from
 Rising above these emotions, or
giving up all things, e.g. distinctions of friend and foe, love and hatred, etc.
 The Six Paramitas are: dana
(charity), sila (discipline), ksanti (patience or endurance), virya (zeal and progress),
dhyana (meditation) and prajna (wisdom).
 Lotus treasury: Lotus store, or Lotus
world, the Pure Land of all Buddhas in their Sambhogakaya, or Reward bodies.
 In plain English the question means:
Who is the man who has no more attachments to things, or the phenomenal?
 In Shih T'ou's move, P'ang Yun
perceived that which stretched out the hand to close his mouth and became awakened to the
self-nature which was invisible and manifested itself by means of its function.
 After enlightenment one attends to
one's daily task as usual, the only difference being that the mind no longer discriminates
and harmonizes with its surroundings.
 Mind is now free from all conceptions
 The blue mountain symbolizes that
which is immutable and free from dust, or impurities. A misprint occurs in the printed
text, so I have followed the ancient version of the story of Upasaka P'ang Yun.
 Carrying water and fetching wood are
the functions of that which possesses supernatural powers and accomplishes wonderful
works; in other words, the self-nature which is immaterial and invisible, can be perceived
only by means of its functions which are no longer discriminative.
 He did not join the Sangha
 The one who has no more attachment to
worldly things is the enlightened self-nature which is beyond description. Ma Tsu gave
this reply, because when one attains enlightenment, his body or substance pervades
everywhere and contains everything, including the West River which is likened to a speck
of dust inside the immense universe; he knows everything and does not require any
description of himself.--A misprint in the text has been corrected.
 The Patriarchs' doctrine was very
profound and was as difficult to teach as the unpacking and distributing of sesame seeds
on the top of a tree, an impossible thing for an unenlightened man.
 In order to wipe out the conception
of difficulty, the wife said the doctrine was easy to expound for even the dewdrops on
blades of grass were used by eminent masters to give the direct indication of that which
saw these dewdrops. This was only easy for enlightened people.
 If it is said that the doctrine is
difficult to understand, no one will try to learn it. If it is said that it is easy to
understand, people will take it as easy and never attain the truth. So the daughter took
the middle way by saying that it was neither difficult nor easy. Her idea was that one who
is free from discrimination and who eats when hungry and sleeps when tired, is precisely
the one meant by eminent masters. Therefore, the doctrine is not difficult for an
enlightened man and not easy for an unenlightened man, thus wiping out the two extremes
which have no room in the absolute.
 This sentence is omitted in the
Chinese text and is added here to be in accord with Master Hsu Yun's lecture.
 All Ch'an masters had compassion for
unenlightened people and never missed a chance to enlighten them. Yo Shan sent ten Ch'an
monks to accompany the eminent visitor to the front of the monastery so that they could
learn something from him. Out of pity, the Upasaka said: "Good snow! The flakes do
not fall elsewhere!", to probe the ability of the monks and to press them hard so
that they could realize their self-minds for the attainment of Buddhahood. However, the
monks seemed ignorant and did not realize that since the mind created the snow, the snow
could not fall outside the mind. If they could only perceive that which slapped the
unenlightened monk in the face, they would realize their self-nature. A serious monk
would, under the circumstances, devote all his attention to inquiring into the
unreasonable conduct of the visitor and would at least make some progress in his
 i.e. free from external
 The daughter seemed at first to
criticize her father and then repeated the same sentence to confirm what he had said.
Similar questions and answers are found frequently in Ch'an texts where Ch'an masters
wanted to probe their disciples' abilities by first criticizing what they said. Any
hesitation on the part of the disciples would disclose that they only repeated others'
sayings without comprehending them. This was like a trap set to catch unenlightened
disciples who claimed that they had realized the truth. When a disciple was really
enlightened, he would remain undisturbed and would ask back the question. When the master
was satisfied that the disciple's understanding was genuine, he would simply repeat the
same sentence to give more emphasis to what the disciple had said.
 i.e. eclipse of the sun.
 Existence and non-existence are two
extremes which should be wiped out before one can attain the absolute reality.
 i.e. to be reborn in the human world.
The realm of human beings is difficult of attainment; it is one of suffering and is the
most suitable for self-cultivation, for human beings have more chance to study the Dharma
in order to get rid of their miseries. The other five worlds of existence either enjoy too
much happiness (devas and asuras) or endure too much suffering (animals, hungry ghosts and
hells), thus having no chance to learn the Dharma.
 The Sutra of Contemplation of Mind
says: "Like a handless man who cannot acquire anything in spite of his arrival at the
precious mountain, one who is deprived of the 'hand' of Faith, will not acquire anything
even if he finds the Triple Gem."
 The nine Patriarchs of the T'ien
T'ai sect are: (1) Nagarjuna, (2) Hui Wen of the Pei Ch'i dynasty, (3) Hui Ssu of Nan Yo,
(4) Chih Che, or Chih I, (5) Kuan Ting of Chang An, (6) Fa Hua, (7) T'ien Kung, (8) Tso
Ch'i and (9) Chan Jan of Ching Ch'i. The 10th, Tao Sui was considered a patriarch in
Japan, because he was the teacher of (the Japanese) Dengyo Daishi who brought the Tendai
system to that country in the ninth century. The T'ien T'ai (or Tendai in Japanese) Sect
bases its tenets on the Lotus, Mahaparinirvina and Mahaprajnaparamita Sutras. It maintains
the identity of the Absolute and the world of phenomena, and attempts to unlock the
secrets of all phenomena by means of meditation.
 The 12th and 14th Patriarchs of the
Ch'an sect respectively. Readers will notice that these two Patriarchs and many other
Ch'an masters were not sectarian and extolled also the Pure Land School which was also a
Dharma door expounded by the Buddha.
 Hui Yuan was an eminent master of
the Pure Land Sect.
 Chen Yen Tsung, also called
"True Word" Sect, or Shingon in Japanese. The founding of this Sect is
attributed to Vairocana, through Bodhisattva Vajrasattva, then through Nigarjuna to
Vajramati and to Amoghavajra.
 The Dharmalaksana Sect is called Fa
Hsiang in Chinese and Hosso in Japanese. This school was established in China on the
return of Hsuan Tsang, consequent on his translation of the Yogacarya works. Its aim is to
understand the principle underlying the nature and characteristics of all things.
 Maleficent beings.
 The immortals practice Taoism and
sit in meditation with crossed legs. Their aim is to achieve immortality by putting an end
to all passions, but they still cling to the view of the reality of ego and things. They
live in caves or on the tops of mountains and possess the art of becoming invisible. A
Chinese bhiksu who is a friend of mine, went to North China when he was still young.
Hearing of an immortal there, he tried to locate him. After several unsuccessful attempts,
he succeeded finally in meeting him. Kneeling upon his knees, my friend implored the
immortal to give him instruction. The latter, however, refused saying that the visitor was
not of his line, i.e. Taoism. When the young man got up and raised his head, the immortal
had disappeared and only a small sheet of paper was seen on the table with the word
"Good-bye" on it.
 According to the ancients, the six
viscera are: heart, lungs, liver, kidney, stomach and gall-bladder.
 Pubic region, two and a half inches
below the navel, on which concentration is fixed in Taoist meditation.
 The digit 8 in 80,000 symbolizes the
8th Consciousness (Vijnana) which is an aspect of the self-nature under delusion. The
sentence means that Lu Tung Pin was still unenlightened in spite of his long life.
 The grain of corn is created by the
mind and reveals the mind which is immense and contains the whole Universe, also a
creation of the mind. Being hard pressed, Lu Tung Pin instantly realized his self-mind and
was awakened to the real.
 In ancient times, Taoists in China
claimed to be able to "extract quicksilver by smelting cinnabar", i.e. they knew
the method which enabled them to become immortals, or Rsis, in Sanskrit, whose existence
was mentioned by the Buddha in the Surangama Sutra. Their meditation aimed at the
production of a hot current pervading all parts of the body and successful meditators
could send out their spirits to distant places. They differed from Buddhists in that they
held the conception of the reality of ego and of dharmas, and could not attain complete
enlightenment. They used to wander in remote places, equipped with a gourd, a guitar and a
"divine" sword to protect themselves against demons. Today, adherents of the
Taoist Sect are still found in great number in the Far East.
 Tzu Yang was an eminent Taoist who
was well-versed in the Ch'an Dharma and his works attested his realization of the mind.
Emperor Yung Cheng considered him a real Ch'an Buddhist and published his works in
"The Imperial Selection of Ch'an Sayings".
 An evil karma which causes the
sinner to be reborn in the Avici hell. Lit: committing the Avici-karma.
Daily Lectures at Two Ch'an Weeks
given at the Jade Buddha Monastery,
Shanghai, in 1953
(from the Hsu Yun Ho Shang Nien Pu)
THE SECOND WEEK
The First Day
My coming here has already caused much
inconvenience to the monastery and I do not deserve the generous hospitality extended to
me by the (Venerable) Abbot and group leaders. Today, I am again asked to preside over
this (second Ch'an) week. I must say I am not qualified to do so. It is quite logical that
the (venerable) old Dharma master Ying Tz'u who is advanced in age and Dharma years
should preside over this meeting. There are also in this monastery many learned and
virtuous Dharma masters. I am only 'duckweed' floating on water and am, therefore, a
completely useless man. It would be wrong to say that I am accorded priority and courtesy
because of my age. Even, in the world-dharma, no consideration is given to the
question of age. Formerly, when the scholar's examination was held in the imperial palace,
no matter whether a candidate was young or old, he called the examiner "my old
teacher" for the latter was respected (because of his rank and) not because of his
age. In the Buddha Dharma also, no consideration is given to age. (I cite) Manjusri
Bodhisattva who very long ago attained Buddhahood and was the teacher of sixteen princes,
one of whom was Amitabha Buddha. Sakyamuni Buddha was also his disciple, but when
Sakyamuni Buddha attained Buddhahood, Manjusri came to assist him (in teaching his
disciples). Thus we know there is only One equality which is neither high nor low.
Therefore, please make no mistake about all this.
As we are learning (the Dharma), we should
respect (and observe) the rules and regulations (set up for the purpose). The (Venerable)
Abbot has in mind the enlightenment of others, the expounding of sutras, the holding of
Ch'an meetings and the spreading of the Buddha Dharma. This is indeed a very rare
All of you have been braving the cares and
confusion of travel and giving yourselves a great deal of trouble to come of your own
accord to attend this retreat. This shows that you have in mind the rejection of passions
and desire of quiet.
In reality, you and I have only one mind
but because of the difference between delusion and enlightenment, there are living beings
who are busy from morning till evening without a day of rest. If we give some thought to
this (state of things), we will see that no advantage can come from it. In spite of this,
there are people who are busy all day long foolishly thinking of an abundance of food and
clothing for themselves and anxious to find pleasure in singing and dancing. They want
their children and grandchildren to have wealth and fame and their descendants to enjoy
glory and prosperity. Even when they are about to breathe their last to become ghosts,
they still think of protection and prosperity for their children. These people are really
foolish and stupid.
There are also people who know something
about good and evil and about cause and effect. They do meritorious acts which consist
only in holding Buddhist ceremonies, in giving offerings to monks, in commissioning
statues of Buddhas and in repairing temples and monastic buildings. Their acts contribute
to the worldly cause, and they hope to be rewarded with happiness in the next rebirth.
Because they do not know anything about the passionless merits which are unsurpassed, they
do not perform them. The Lotus Sutra says: "Sitting in meditation (even) for a short
while is better than erecting as many seven treasure stupas as the sandgrains in the
Ganges." For this method of sitting in meditation will enable us to wipe out our
passions and to have peace of mind and body, resulting in the complete realization of the
self-nature with liberation from birth and death. By "a short while", it means a
moment as short as an instant (ksana). If one cleanses and purifies his mind and turns
the light inwards on himself, his sitting in meditation even for an instant will (at
least) enable him to sow the direct cause of attainment of Buddhahood, if it does not
ensure the (immediate) realization of the truth. His ultimate achievement can be expected
(sooner or later). If his training is effective, Buddhahood can be attained in an instant.
For this reason, Ananda said in the Surangama Sutra: "The Dharmakaya can be realized
without having to pass through countless aeons (kalpas)."
However, you and I, and all other people
in general, live in the midst of passions, of joy and anger, of gain and loss, of the five
desires and pursuits of pleasure and enjoyment. All these things are no more seen and
heard as soon as we step into this Ch'an hall where our six senses are exactly like the
black tortoise's six (vulnerable) parts which shrink into its shell and where nothing can
disturb your minds. This is the practice of the passionless Dharma and (is also) the
passionless Dharma (itself). Therefore, the merits derived from the erection of as many
seven treasure stupas as the sandgrains in the Ganges cannot be compared with those
resulting from a moment spent sitting in meditation. The simile of the black tortoise
comes from the (story of) the fish-eating seal which swam to catch the tortoise on the
seashore. Seeing that it was attacked, the tortoise withdrew its head, tail and legs into
its shell, so evading the seal's efforts to bite it.
In this world, when we have no money, we
are worried about our food and clothing, and when we have money, we cannot free ourselves
from passions. We are thus caught and eaten by the seal. If we know of the danger to which
we are exposed, we should bring our six senses under control and turn the light inwards on
ourselves so that we can be liberated from mortality. Two days ago, I talked on our Sect's
Dharma, dealing with the Right Dharma Eye, the Tathagata's Mind-dharma and the basis of
liberation from birth and death. Other Dharma doors including the expounding of
sutras, in spite of their aims which are the arousing of faith and understanding, are only
accessories and do not advance the perfect (experiential) understanding. If the sutra
expounding Dharma is used to ensure liberation from birth and death, there must still be
(two complementary phases) to pass through: practice and witnessing which are very
difficult to achieve. For this reason, very few cases have been recorded of those who
listened to the expounding of sutras or followed other Dharma doors and who thereby
attained instantaneously complete enlightenment and acquired transcendental powers. These
cases were few as compared with those in the Ch'an Sect. According to our Sect, not only
Ch'an monks and laymen (upasakas) possessed the inconceivable device, but Ch'an nuns were
also of outstanding abilities.
Ch'an master Kuan Ch'i was a disciple of
Lin Chi but did not realize the truth in spite of having stayed several years at his
master's monastery. One day, he (left his master) to call at other places (for
instruction). When he arrived at a nunnery on Mo Shan mountain, a little nun reported his
arrival to (Ch'an Bhiksuni,) Mo Shan who sent her attendant to ask him this question;
"Venerable Master, do you come here for sightseeing or for learning the Buddha
Dharma?" Kuan Ch'i replied that he came for learning the Buddha Dharma. Mo Shan said:
"If you come for the Buddha Dharma, there are here also rules about beating the drum
and ascending to the seat." Thereupon, she ascended to her seat, but Kuan Ch'i bowed
only and did not kneel down. Mo Shan asked him: "What place did the Venerable Bhiksu
leave today?" He replied: "I left the entrance to the road." She asked him:
"Why didn't you cover it up ?" Kuan Ch'i could not reply and knelt down (to
pay his respects), asking: "What is Mo Shan?" She replied: "The top of the
head is not exposed." He asked: "Who is the owner of Mo Shan
(mountain)?" She replied: "He is neither male nor female." He shouted:
"Why does he not transform himself?" She asked back: "He is neither a ghost
nor a spirit, into what should he transform himself?" He could not reply and
submitted to her authority. He became a gardener at the nunnery where he stayed three
years during which he was completely enlightened.
(Later) when Kuan Ch'i went to the Ch'an
hall (to instruct his own disciples), he said to them: "When I was at my father Lin
Chi's place, I got a half-ladle (and) when I was at my mother Mo Shan's, I got another
half-ladle, thus obtaining a full ladle which has enabled me to satisfy my hunger up to
now." Thus, although Kuan Ch'i was Lin Chi's disciple, he was also Mo Shan's Dharma
We can See that among the nuns, there
existed alsopeople of real ability. There are many nuns here as well; why do not they come
forward to show their abilities and reveal the Right Dharma on behalf of their
predecessors? The Buddha Dharma extols equality (of sex) and we are only required to make
efforts in our training without backsliding so as not to miss this (rare)
The ancients said:
In one hundred years or six and thirty
There is not a quiet moment to lay down
mind and body.
For countless aeons, we have been floating
in the sea of mortality because we have never wanted to lay down our bodies and minds in
order to have quiet for our learning and self-cultivation, with the result that we have
been turned round by the wheel of transmigration without a chance of liberation. For this
reason, all of us should lay down both body and mind and sit in meditation for a moment
with the hope that the bottom of the cask of (black) lacquer will drop off  and that
we will together experience the law of no-birth.
The Second Day
This is the second day of the second Ch'an
week. The increasing number of those who come to this meeting shows how really
good-hearted are the people of Shanghai and the excellence of their blessed virtues. It
also indicates every man's aversion to disturbance (caused by passions) and longing for
the quiet (found in meditation), and every man's desire to escape from sorrow and to seek
happiness. Generally speaking, there is more suffering than happiness in this world and,
as time passes very quickly, the short space of several decades slips away in the
twinkling of an eye. Even if one can live 800 years like Peng Tsu, this space of time
is (still) short in thc eye of the Buddha Dharma. However, worldly men who can reach the
age of seventy are rarely seen. Since you and I know that this short length of time is
like an illusion and a transformation, and is really not worth our attachment (to it), we
have come to this Ch'an week and this is certainly due to our having grown good roots in
our former transmigrations.
This method of (self-) cultivation
requires an enduring mind. Formerly, all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas reached their goal after
spending many aeons in self-cultivation. The Surangama Sutra's chapter on Avalokitesvara's
Complete Enlightenment says:
"I remember that long before the
elapsing of as uncountable a number of aeons as there are sandgrains in the Ganges, a
Buddha by the name of Avalokitesvara appeared in the world. At that time I developed the
Bodhi mind and for my entry into Samadhi was instructed by Him to practise (self-)
cultivation through (the faculty of) hearing."
From the above statement, we can see that
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva did not achieve his goal in one or two days. At the same time,
he clearly told us about the method of his training. He was head (of the group of)
twenty-five "Great Ones" who attained complete enlightenment. His method
consisted of (self-) cultivation of the ear which enabled him to transmute the faculty of
hearing into perfection which led to (the state of) Samadhi. Samadhi means the (state of)
undisturbedness. Therefore, he continued:
(I)"At the start, by directing the
Into the stream (of meditation), this
organ became detached from its object."
This method consists in turning the
hearing inwards (on the self-nature) to hear the self-nature so that the six senses will
not (wander outside to) be in touch with the six external objects. This is the collection
of the six senses into the Dharma nature. Therefore, he continued:
(II)"By wiping out (the concept of)
both sound and stream-entry,
Both disturbance and stillness
Became clearly non-existent."
He said again:
(III) "The advancing step by step,
Both hearing and its object came to an
But I did not stop where they ended."
He meant that we should not allow our
training, by turning our hearing inwards (on the self-nature) to come to a halt; he wanted
us to move forward little by little and to make additional efforts to reach (another stage
about which he said as follows:)
(IV) "When the awareness (of this
state) and this state itself (were realized) as non-existent,
The awareness of voidness became all
After the elimination of both subject and
object relating to voidness.
Then the disappearance of both creation
(Resulted in) the state of Nirvana
This state results from the training which
consists in turning the ear inwards to hear the self-nature and after all kinds of
creation and annihilation are realized as non-existent, the true mind will manifest
itself. This is the (meaning of the saying:) "When the mad mind is brought to a halt,
it is Bodhi (i.e. perfect wisdom)."
After attaining this stage, Avalokitesvara
"Suddenly I leaped over both the
mundane and supramundane and realized an all-embracing brightness pervading the ten
directions, acquiring two unsurpassed (merits). The first one was in accord with the
fundamental Profound Enlightened Mind of an Buddhas high up in the ten directions,
possessing the same merciful power as the Tathagata. The second one was in sympathy with
all living beings in the six realms of existence, here below in the ten directions,
sharing with them the same imploration of pity."
Today, in our study of the Buddhist's
doctrine for our (self-) cultivation, we should first succeed in our training by
liberating all the living beings of our self-nature such as concupiscence, anger,
stupidity and arrogance and by realizing the fundamentally pure and clean Profound
Enlightened Real Mind. Only then can we perform the Buddha work high above for the
salvation of living beings here below, as did Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva who could
manifest in thirty-two different forms, each being suitable for the liberation of the
corresponding individual, and only then can we possess the required (transcendental)
powers. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (can) appear in the world as a boy or a girl, but
worldly men do not know that he has already attained Buddhahood, has no sex and is neither
an ego nor a personality, making a (particular) appearance only in response to each
individual potentiality. When worldly man(in China) hear the Bodhisattva's name, thoughts
of devotion and reverence for him arise. This is due to the fact that in their former
lives, they had repeated his name so that the seeds previously sown in the field of their
store-consciousness (alaya-vijnana) now develop in them. For this reason, the sutra
"After entering through the hearing,
The Bodhi-seed is sown for ever."
Today, as we come here for our
self-perfuming and self-cultivation, we should rely on the Dharma of the Supreme
Vehicle practiced and experienced by all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This Dharma consists in
clearly recognizing the fundamental Profound Enlightened Mind; that is to say, the
perception of the self-nature leading to the attainment of Buddhahood. If this mind is not
recognized, Buddhahood can never be attained. In order to recognize the mind, we should
begin with the performance of virtuous deeds. If every day, from morning until evening, we
perform all good actions and refrain from committing evil deeds, we will accumulate merits
and if in addition we hold a hua t'ou constantly (in our minds), we will be able to
realize, in a moment's thought, the state of no-birth and will (thereby) attain Buddhahood
Dear friends, please make a profitable use
of your time and do not give rise to wrong thoughts in your minds. Now is the time to give
rise to a hua t'ou for your self-cultivation.
When the Buddha expounded the Surangama
Sutra, he ordered the twenty-five "enlightened ones" who were present, to talk
about the various means by which they had attained enlightenment, so that the assembly
could learn something from them. After the statements by twenty-four of the
"enlightened ones" of their realization of the real by means of the six gunas:
(1) sound, (2) sight, (3) smell, (4) taste, (4) touch and (6) idea; the five sense-organs:
(7) the eye, (8) nose, (9) tongue, (10) body, and (11) mind; the six perceptions of (12)
sight, (13) ear, (14) nose, (15) tongue, (16) body, and (17) faculty of mind; and the
seven fundamental elements of (18) fire, (19) earth, (20) water, (21) wind, (22) space,
(23) knowledge and (24) perceptibility, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva declared that he had
attained enlightenment by means of (25) the organ of hearing. In order to teach Ananda and
the assembly, the Buddha asked Manjusri for his opinion on these twenty-five methods.
Manjusri praised the method used by Avalokitesvara saying that he himself had also used it
for his own enlightenment and that it was the most suitable one for human beings.
The following is a commentary on the
verses of the Surangama Sutra:
(I) At the start, by directing the hearing
Into the stream, this organ became
detached from its object.
This was the turning of the ear inwards on
the self-nature to hear it so that hearing and its object, i.e. the sound, became
detached. When hearing was brought under control in this manner, the other five senses had
no chance of wandering outside to get in touch with the corresponding external objects.
Stream here means the inward stream of meditation, or correct concentration.
The mind was brought under control to free
it from external disturbance. Could it really be controlled by using it to direct the ear
inwards to hear the self-nature? The mind was already disturbed when it was directed
inwards. Therefore, efforts should be made to free it from disturbance so that stillness
(II) By wiping out (the concept of) both
sound and stream-entry,
Both disturbance and stillness
Clearly became non-existent.
As the sound and stream were realized to
be non-existent, both disturbance and stillness also became non-existent. The mind was
thus disentangled from the gunas, or sensation-data.
(III) Thus advancing step by step,
Both the hearing and its object came to an
But I did not stop where they ended.
By making additional efforts I advanced
further step by step, until both hearing and sound came completely to an end. However, I
did not stop there. Thus the mind was disentangled from the sense-organs. The voidness of
which the meditator was aware then appeared. This incomplete or partial awareness should
also be wiped out.
(IV) When the awareness (of this state)
and this state itself(were realized as) non-existent
The awareness of voidness became
After the elimination of subject and
object relating to voidness.
Then the disappearance of creation and
(Resulted in) the state of Nirvana
With further progress, the meditator
perceived that both the incomplete awareness (subject) of voidness and the voidness itself
(object) were non-existent. After the elimination of both subject and object relating to
the false conception of relative voidness, the complete awareness of the absolute voidness
became all-embracing, ensuring the end of the dual conception of creation and annihilation
of even subtle phenomena, perceptible only at this last stage of meditation, such as
relative voidness and incomplete awareness, which were only creations of the mind. As
creation existed only as a relative term and was followed by annihilation, so long as this
duality existed, the mind was still held in bondage. Now as this pair of opposites was
non-existent, the awareness became complete. When this last stage was reached the
resultant state of Nirvana became manifested. This stage ensured the instantaneous leap
over both the mundane and supramundane when the meditator attained the all-embracing
illumination of absolute wisdom.
Master Han Shan also followed this method
and attained Samadhi during his stay on the Five Peaked Mountain. (See Han Shan's
The holding of a hua t'ou also enables a
Ch'an student to realize the disentanglement of his mind from gunas (or external objects),
sense-organs, incomplete awareness (or inner subject) and relative voidness for the same
purpose of attaining the absolute voidness of complete awareness, or wisdom.
The Third Day
This is the third day of this second Ch'an
week. Those who are already familiar with this training, can always control their minds no
matter where they may happen to be either in the midst of disturbance or of stillness. To
them, there is no difference between the first and second week or between the second and
third day. But those who are beginners should endeavor to make progress in their training
which they should not undergo in a careless manner, in order not to waste their (precious)
time. I will now tell the beginners another story and hope they will listen to it
In every Ch'an hall, there is (a statue
of) a Bodhisattva called the "Holy Monk". He was a cousin of the Tathagata
Sakyamuni and his name was Arya Ajnata-Kaundinya. When the World Honored One left home,
His father sent three paternal and two maternal clansmen to go with and look after Him in
the Himalayas. This cousin was one of the two maternal clansmen. After the World Honored
One had attained enlightenment, He went to the Mrgadava park where He expounded the Four
Noble Truths and where this cousin was the first disciple awakened to the truth. This
cousin was also one of His great disciples and the first to leave home. For this reason,
he was called the "Holy Monk". He was also known as the Sangha Head. His
method of self-cultivation is clearly described in the Surangama Sutra which says:
After I had attained enlightenment, I went
to the Mrgadava park where I declared to Ajnata-Kaundinya and the other five bhiksus as
well as to you, the four varga, that all living beings failed to realize Enlightenment
(Bodhi) and attain Arhatship because they were misled by foreign dust which (entering
the mind) caused distress and delusion. What, at the time, caused your awakening (to the
truth) for your present attainment of the holy fruit?
This was the Buddha's talk about the cause
of our failure to realize Bodhi and to attain Arhatship. He also asked his great disciples
in the assembly about the methods they used for their awakening (to the truth). At the
time, only Ajnata-Kaundinya knew this method. So he arose from his seat and replied to the
World Honored One as follows:
I am now a senior in the assembly in which
I am the only one who has acquired the art of explaining because of my awakening to (the
meaning of) the two words "foreign dust" which led to my attainment of the
After saying this, he gave the following
explanation (of these two words) to the World Honored One:
World Honored One, (foreign dust) is like
a guest who stops at an inn where he passes the night or takes his meal, and as soon as he
has done so, he packs and continues his journey because he has no time to stay longer. As
to the host of the inn, he has nowhere to go. My deduction is that one who does not stay
is a guest and one who does stay is a host. Consequently, a thing is "foreign"
when it does not stay.
Again, in a clear sky, when the sun rises
and its light enters (the house) through an opening, the dust is seen moving in the ray of
light whereas the empty space is unmoving. Therefore, that which is still is the void and
that which moves is the dust.
How clearly he explained the two words
"host" and "guest"! You should know that this illustration shows us
how to begin our training. In other words, the real mind is the host who does not move and
the moving guest is our false thinking which is likened to dust. Dust is very fine and
dances in the air. It is visible only when the sunlight enters through the door or an
opening. This means that false thoughts within our minds are imperceptible in the usual
process of thinking. They become perceptible only when we sit in meditation during our
training. In the midst of the unending rise and fall of mixed thoughts and in the tumult
of false thinking, if your training is not efficient, you will not be able to act as a
host; hence your failure to attain enlightenment and your drifting about in the ocean of
birth and death, wherein you are a Smith in your present transmigration and will be Jones
in the next one. Thus you will be exactly like a guest who stops at an inn and will not be
able to remain there for ever. However, the true mind does not act in that way; it neither
comes nor goes, is not born and does not die. It does not move but remains motionless,
hence the host. This host is likened to the immutable voidness in which the dust dances.
It is also like the host of an inn who always stays there for he has nowhere else to
Dust is like one of the passions and can
be wiped out completely only when one reaches the Bodhisattva-stage. By falsehood, is
meant illusion. There are eighty-eight kinds of illusory view and eighty-one of illusory
thought. These (misleading) views come from the five stupid temptations, and in
self-cultivation, one should wipe out all of them in order to attain the first stage of
the Arhat (Srota-apanna). This is the most difficult thing to do, for the cutting of
illusory views is likened to the cutting (or stopping) of the flow of a forty-mile stream.
Thus we can see that we should have a great measure of strength in our training. We can
attain Arhatship only when we have succeeded in cutting out all misleading thoughts. This
kind of self-cultivation is a gradual process.
(In our Ch'an training), we have only to
make use of a hua t'ou which should be kept bright and lively and should never be allowed
to become blurred and which should always be clearly cognizable. All misleading views and
thoughts will thus be cut off (by the hua t'ou) at a single blow leaving behind only
something like the cloudless blue sky in which the bright sun will rise. This is the
brightness of the self-nature when it manifests itself.
This saint (arya) was awakened to this
truth and recognized the original host. The first step in our training today is to be
cognizant of the fact that the foreign dust (or guest) is moving whereas the host is
motionless. If this is not clearly understood, we will not know where to begin our
training, and will only waste our time as heretofore.
I hope all of you will pay great attention
to the above.
The Fourth Day
It is very difficult to meet with the
unsurpassed Profound Dharma in a hundred, a thousand or ten thousand aeons, and the
present opportunity of our gathering for a Ch'an week in this Monastery of the Jade Buddha
is really afforded by an unsurpassed co-operating cause. The fact that lay men and women
have come from all directions in an increasing number to attend this meeting for the
sowing of the direct cause of the attainment of Buddhahood, proves that this opportunity
is rarely available.
The Buddha Sakyamuni said in the Lotus
If men, with minds disturbed,
Enter a stupa or a temple
(And) call: Namo Buddhaya!
Buddhahood they will attain.
In a short period of several decades,
worldly men are not aware of the passing of time. Those who have money, pursue wine, sex
and prosperity. Those who have no money, have to work hard for their food, clothing,
shelter and travel. Thus (all of them) rarely have a moment's leisure and comfort and
their sufferings are beyond description. However, if they happen to enter a Buddhist
temple, they will find happiness in the majesty of its quiet. They will behold the statues
of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and may repeat at random the Buddha's name; or they may be
impressed with the sudden quiet of their (temporarily) purified minds, and praise the
Tathagata's bliss which is so rarely found (elsewhere). All this comes from their having
acquired very deep good roots in their former transmigrations and provides the cause of
their future attainment of Buddhahood. For, in general, what their eyes want to see is
only merry-making; what their ears want to hear is only songs and music, and what their
mouths want to taste is only succulent dishes and rare delicacies. All this soils their
thinking and this defiled thinking produces a disturbed mind, the deluded mind of birth
and death. Now, if, while in a stupa or temple, one has a chance of calling the Buddha's
name, this is the awakened mind, the pure mind and the Bodhi seed leading to attainment of
Buddhahood. The Sanskrit word "Buddha" means the Enlightened One, that is one
who is (completely) enlightened and is no more deluded. When the self-nature is pure and
clean, one possesses the awakened mind.
Today, we do not come here for fame and
wealth and this is our awakening power which manifests itself. However, many are those who
hear of the Ch'an week but do not know anything about its real meaning. They come to see
this bustling meeting to satisfy their curiosity and this is (certainly) not the highest
mind. Now that you have come to this place, you are like those who arrive at the mountain
of precious gems and you should not return empty handed. You should develop the highest
Truth-Mind, and sit in meditation during the time of the burning of an incense stick, in
order to sow the direct cause of attainment of Buddhahood and to become Buddhas later
Formerly, Sakyamuni Buddha had a disciple
whose name was Subhadra. He was very poor and was all alone, without anybody to
support him. His heart was full of sadness and he wanted to follow the Buddha as his
disciple. One day, he went to the World Honored One's place but it happened that He was
After looking into Subhadra's former
transmigrations for the purpose of finding out whether there existed some co-operating
cause, the Buddha's great disciples found that in the past 80,000 aeons, he had not
planted any good roots. They then decided not to allow him to stay and sent him away. With
a heart full of sadness, Subhadra left the place and when he reached a walled town, he
thought that if his karma was so bad, it would be better for him to kill himself by
knocking his head against the wall. As he was about to commit suicide, the World Honored
One happened to arrive there and asked him about his intention. Subhadra related his story
to the World Honored One who accepted him as His disciple. They returned together to His
place where seven days later, Subhadra attained Arhatship. The great disciples who did not
know the cause of Subhadra's attainment, asked the World Honored One about it.
The World Honored One said to them:
"You only know things which happened in the last 80,000 aeon, but before then
Subhadra had already planted good roots. At that time, he was also very poor and gathered
firewood as his means of subsistence. One day, he met a tiger on the mountains, and seeing
that his escape was cut off; he hurriedly climbed a tree. The tiger saw that he was up the
tree which it began to gnaw to fall it. At the critical moment, as no one came to his
rescue, he had a sudden thought of the great enlightened Buddha who possessed the power of
compassion and could save all sufferers. Thereupon, he called:
"Namo Buddhaya! Come quickly to save
me!" Upon hearing the call, the tiger went away and did not harm his life. He thus
sowed the direct cause of Buddhahood which became ripe today, hence his attainment of the
Arhat--stage." After hearing the story, all the great disciples were delighted and
praised the marvellous (achievement of the poor man).
Today you and I meet here under auspicious
circumstances, and if we can sit in meditation during the time of the burning of a (whole)
incense stick, our (resultant) good karma will exceed many times the (one narrated in the
above story). We should never take this meditation as child's play. If we come here to see
a bustling meeting, we will simply miss a very good opportunity.
The Fifth Day
Those of you who have a deep believing
mind, are naturally making efforts in their training in this hall. The (venerable) group
leaders who are experienced in this self-cultivation, are already familiar with it.
However, experienced men must know the interplay of activity (phenomenon) and principle
(noumenon). They should probe it exhaustively and make sure that (they experience) the
unhindered interdependence of the noumenal and phenomenal and of the immutable and
mutable. They should not sit like dead men; they should never be immersed in the void and
cling to stillness, with delight in it. If there be delight in the still surrounding and
absence of (realization of) the interchange (of practice and theory), this is likened to
fish in stagnant water,with no hope of jumping over the Dragon Door. They are also
like fish in frozen water (and) this is a fruitless type of training.
In this training, beginners should be
earnest (in their desire to escape) birth and death, and should develop a great
mortification-mind by laying down all kinds of (productive) causes. Only then, can
their training be effective. If they are unable to lay down these causes, the (round of)
birth and death will never come to an end. For, since we have been deluded by the seven
emotions and six sexual attractions from the time without beginning, we now find
ourselves, from morning to evening, in the midst of sounds and forms, without knowing the
permanent true-mind, hence our fall into the bitter ocean (of birth and death). As we are
now awakened to the fact that there is only suffering in all worldly (situations), we can
(certainly) lay down all (our thoughts of) them and (thereby) attain Buddhahood at
The Sixth Day
In this Ch'an hall, I have noticed that
many male and female participants are only beginners who do not know the (standing) rules
and regulations and whose unruly behavior interferes with the calm meditation of others.
However, we are fortunate in that the Venerable Abbot is most compassionate and is doing
all he can to help us achieve our religious karma. (Moreover) the group leaders who
have developed the unsurpassed mind bent on the right Way, are here to lead us so that we
can undergo an appropriate training. This is (indeed) an opportunity rarely available in
myriad of aeons.
(Therefore), we should strive resolutely
to make further progress in our inner and outer training. In our inner training, we should
either concentrate pointedly on the hua t'ou: "Who is the repeater of Buddha's
name?" or repeat the name of Amitabha Buddha, without giving rise to desire,
anger and stupidity and all kinds of thought so that the Dharma nature of the
Bhutatathata can manifest itself.
In our outer training, we should not kill
the living but should release all living creatures; we should transmute the ten evils
into the ten good virtues; we should not eat meat and drink alcoholic liquors in order
not to produce the sinful karma of unintermittent suffering; and we should know that
the Buddha-seed arises from conditional causation, that the commitment of many evil karmas
is followed by the certain fall into the hells, and that the performance of many good
karmas is rewarded with blessing ensuring our enjoyment of them. And so the ancients
taught us this: "Refrain from committing all evil actions (and) perform all good
actions." You have already read the causal circumstances of the killing of members of
the Sakya clan by the Crystal King (Virudhaka) and know of this (law of causality).
At present, all over the world, people are
suffering from (all sorts of) calamity and are in the depth of the aeon (kalpa) of
slaughter. This is the retribution (for evil actions). We (should) always exhort worldly
men to refrain from taking life and to release living creatures, to take vegetarian food,
to (think of the Buddha and) repeat his name, so that everybody can escape from the
turning wheel of cause and effect.
All of you should believe and observe
(this teaching) and sow now the good cause for reaping later the Buddha-fruit.
The Seventh Day
This ephemeral life is like a dream,
(And) this illusory substance is not
If we rely not on the compassion of our
How can we ascend the transcendental Way?
In this life which is like a dream and an
illusion, we pass our time in an upside-down manner. We do not realize the greatness of
the Buddha and do not think of escaping from (the realm of) birth and death. We let our
good and evil (actions) decide our rise and fall and we accept the retribution according
to their karmic effects. This is why in this world, few accomplish good deeds but many
commit evil actions, and few are rich and noble but many are poor and mean. In the six
worlds of existence, there are all kinds of suffering. There are living beings who are
born in the morning and die in the evening. There are those who live only a few years and
others who live many years. They are not all masters of themselves. For this reason, we
should rely on the Buddha's compassion if we want to find a way (out of this mess),
because the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas possess the power of their vows of kindness, pity,
joy and renunciation and can deliver us from the bitter ocean (of mortality) for our
(safe) arrival at the bright "other shore". They are kind and compassionate and
when they see living beings enduring suffering, they take pity on them and liberate them
so that they can escape suffering and enjoy happiness. Their joy and renunciation consist
in their rejoicing and praise for living beings who accomplish meritorious deeds or give
rise to thoughts of kindness in the mind, and in granting all requests according to the
When the World Honored One practiced His
self-cultivation from the causal ground, His deeds (in the successive Bodhisattva
stages of His former lives) consisted in His renunciation of His own head, brain, bone and
marrow. For this reason, He said:
In the Universe, there is not a spot of
land as small as a mustard-seed where I have not sacrificed my lives or have not buried my
Today, all of you should endeavor to hold
the hua t'ou firm (in your mind); be careful not to waste your time.
The Closing Day
Dear friends, I congratulate you all on
the conclusion of this Ch'an week. You have completed your merit-(orious training) and in
just a moment, the gathering will come to an end and I will have to congratulate
According to the ancients, the opening and
closing of a Ch'an week do not mean much, for it is (more) important to hold a hua t'ou
continuously (in mind) until one's complete enlightenment. At present, no matter whether
you have been awakened or not, we must follow the procedure set forth in the (standing)
rules and regulations. During these (two) Ch'an weeks, you did not make any difference
between day and night, because your (only) aim was your own awakening. The (ultimate)
purpose of the meeting was, therefore, to produce men of ability for (spreading) the
Buddhist doctrine. If you have wasted your time without achieving any result, you will
indeed have missed a (great) opportunity.
Now, the (Venerable) Abbot and group
leaders will follow the ancient rules and regulations and will examine the result of your
training. I hope you will not talk wildly (when questioned); you should, in the presence
of others, give in a sentence (a summary of) your achievement. If your replies are in
order, the (Venerable) Abbot will confirm your realization. The ancients said:
"(Self-) cultivation takes an
(While) enlightenment in an instant is
If the training is efficient,
enlightenment will be attained in one finger-snap.
In days gone by, Ch'an master Hui Chueh of
Lang Yeh mountain, had a woman disciple who called on him for instruction. The master
taught her to examine into the sentence: "Take no notice." She followed his
instruction strictly without backsliding. One day, her house caught fire, but she said:
"Take no notice." Another day, her son fell into the water and when a bystander
called her, she said: "Take no notice." She observed exactly her master's
instruction by laying down all causal thoughts.
One day, as her husband lit the fire to
make fritters of twisted dough, she threw into the pan full of boiling (vegetable) oil a
batter which made a noise. Upon hearing the noise, she was instantaneously
enlightened. Then she threw the pan of oil on the ground, clapped her hands and
laughed. Thinking she was insane, her husband scolded her and said: "Why do you
do this? Are you mad?" She replied: "Take no notice." Then she went to
master Hui Chueh and asked him to verify her achievement. The master confirmed that she
had obtained the holy fruit.
Dear friends, those of you who have been
awakened (to the truth), please come forward and say something about your
(After a long while, as no one came
forward, Master Hsu Yun left the hall. The (Venerable) Dharma master Ying Tz'u continued
to hold the examination, and when it was over, Master Hsu Yun returned to the hall to
instruct the assembly.)
(Master Hsu Yun said:)
In this tumultous world and (especially in
this) bustling and disorderly city, how can one have spare time for, and thought of,
coming here to sit in meditation and to hold a hua t'ou? (However), the deep good roots
possessed by the people of Shanghai, in combination with the flourishing Buddha Dharma and
the unsurpassed co-operating cause have made this great opportunity available for our
From olden time till now, we have had the
Teaching, the Discipline (Vinaya), the Pure Land and the Esoteric (Yoga) Schools. A
rigorous comparison between these schools and the Ch'an Sect proves the superiority of the
latter. Earlier, I also spoke of this unsurpassed Sect, but owing to the present decline
of Buddha Dharma, men of ability are not available. Formerly, in my long journeys on foot
I went to and stayed at various monasteries but what I see now cannot be compared with
what I saw then. I am really ashamed of my ignorance, but the (Venerable) Abbot who is
very compassionate, and the group leaders who are very courteous, have pushed me forward
(to preside over this meeting). This task should have been entrusted to the (venerable)
old Dharma master Ying Tz'u who is an (acknowledged) authority on both Ch'an and the
scriptures and is an (experienced) senior. I am now a useless man and cannot do anything,
and I hope you will all follow him and push forward without backsliding.
Ancestor Kuei Shan said: "It is
regrettable that we were born at the end of the semblance period, so long after the
passing of the holy period, when the Buddha Dharma is disregarded and when people pay
little attention to it. I am (however) expressing my humble opinion to make the coming
generation understand it."
The Dharma name of (Master) Kuei Shan
was Ling Yu; he was a native of Fu Chien province. He followed Ancestor Pai Chang and
realized his (self-) mind (at the latter's monastery.) The ascetic Szu Ma saw that
Kuei Shan mountain in Hunan province was auspicious and would become the meeting place for
an assembly of 1,500 learned monks. At the time Kuei Shari was a verger of Pai Chang
monastery where, during a visit Dhuta Szu Ma met him, recognized him as the right owner of
the mountain and invited him to go there to establish a monastery. Kuei Shan was a man of
the T'ang dynasty (618-906) and the Buddha Dharma was already at the end of its semblance
period. For this reason, he was sorry he was not born earlier, because at the time the
Buddha Dharma was difficult to understand and worldly men, whose believing minds were
retrograding, refused to make efforts in their study of the doctrine, with the result that
there was no hope for their attainment of the Buddha fruit. Over a thousand years have
elapsed since the time of Kuei Shan and not only has the semblance period passed, but over
900 years of the present period of termination have also elapsed. (Therefore), worldly men
of good roots are now very much fewer. This is why men believing in the Buddha Dharma are
many and men who actually realize the truth are very few.
I now compare my own case with that of
those who are now studying the Buddha Dharma and who have the advantage of all kinds of
convenience. In the reigns of Hsien Feng (1851-61) and Tung Chih (1862-74), all
monasteries were destroyed in the region south of the three rivers, where only the T'ien
T'ung monastery remained intact. During the Tai Ping rebellion (1850-64)monks of the Chung
Nan mountains came (to the South) to rebuild (these monasteries) and at the time, they
were equipped each with only a gourd and a basket, and did not possess as many things as
you have now. Later, the Buddha Dharma gradually flourished again, and monks began to
carry their loads (with a pole over the shoulder). At present, they even carry leather
suitcases but they do not pay much attention to the correct practice of the doctrine.
Formerly, Ch'an monks wishing to call at various monasteries for instruction, had to
journey on foot. Now, they can travel by train, motor car, steamer and airplane which
relieve them of all (previous) hardships but intensify their enjoyment in indulgence and
ease. At present, in spite of the increasing number of Buddhist institutions and Dharma
masters, no one pays attention to the fundamental question, and from morning to evening
everybody seeks only knowledge and interpretation with the least heed for (self-)
cultivation and realization. At the same time, they do not know that (self-) cultivation
and realization are the essentials of the doctrine.
(Ch'an master) Yung Chia said in his Song
Get at the root. Do not worry about twigs.
(Be) like pure crystal round the precious
Alas! in this time of decay and in this
Living beings of ill fortune are hard to
The holy period's long passed and
perverted views are deep.
With Demon strong and Dharma weak, hatred
and harm prevail.
When they hear the Tathagata's
Instantaneous Dharma door,
They hate not having smashed it into
While their minds so act their bodies will
They cannot accuse or blame their
If you would avoid unintermittant
Do not vilify the wheel of the Buddha's
In my youth I amassed much learning,
Sought sutras, sastras, and their
Endlessly discriminating between name and
As one vainly counting sandgrains in the
I was severely reprimanded by the Buddha,
Who asked what gain derived from counting
Yung Chia called on the Sixth Patriarch
for instruction and was completely enlightened. The Patriarch called him the
"Overnight Enlightened One". For this reason, the ancients said: "The
search for truth in sutras and sastras is like entering the sea to count its
The Ch'an Sect's device is likened to the
precious Vajra king sword which cuts all things touching it and destroys all that runs
up against its (sharp) point. It is the highest Dharma door (through which) to attain
Buddhahood at a stroke. (To give you an example, I will tell you the story of) Ch'an
master Shen Tsan who traveled on foot when he was young and who became enlightened after
his stay with ancestor Pai Chang. After his enlightenment, he returned to his former
master and the latter asked him: "After you left me, what (new) acquisition did you
make at other places?" Shen Tsan replied: "I made no acquisition." He was
then ordered to serve his (former) master.
One day, as his (former) master took a
bath and ordered him to scrub his dirty back, Shen Tsan patted him on the back and said:
"A good Buddha hall but the Buddha is not saintly." His master did not
understand what he meant, turned his head and looked at the disciple who said again:
"Although the Buddha is not saintly, he sends out illuminating rays."
Another day, as his master was reading a
sutra under the window, a bee knocked against the window paper trying to get out (of
the room). Shen Tsan saw the struggling bee and said: "The universe is so vast and
you do not want to get out. If you want to pierce old paper, you will get away in the
(non-existent) year of the donkey !" After saying this, he sang the following
"It refuses to get out through the
And knocks against the window stupidly.
To pierce old paper will take a hundred
Oh when will it succeed in getting
Thinking that Shen Tsan was insulting him,
the (old) master put his sutra aside and asked him: "You went away for so long: whom
did you meet, what did you learn and what makes you so talkative now?" Shen Tsan
replied: "After I left you, I joined the Pai Chang community where master Pai Chang
gave me an indication as to how to halt (thinking and discriminating). As you are now old,
I have returned to pay the debt of gratitude I owe you." Thereupon, the master
informed the assembly (of the incident), ordered a vegetarian banquet (in honor of Shen
Tsan) and invited him to expound the Dharma. The latter ascended to the seat and expounded
the Pai Chang doctrine, saying:
Spiritual light shines on in solitude
Disentangling the sense organs from sense
Experience of true eternity
Depends not just on books.
Mind-nature being taintless
Fundamentally is perfect.
Freedom from falsehood-producing causes
Is the same as absolute Buddhahood.
After hearing this, his master became
awakened to the truth and said: "I never expected that in my old age I would hear
about the supreme pattern." Then he handed over the management of the monastery to
Shen Tsan and respectfully invited him to become his own master.
You see how free and easy this all is! We
sat in this Ch'an meeting for over ten days and yet why did we not experience the truth?
This is became we were not seriously determined in our training, or we took it for child's
play, or we thought it required sitting quiet in meditation in a Ch'an hall. None of this
is correct and men who really apply their minds to this training, do not discriminate
between the mutable and immutable, or against any kind of (daily) activity. They can do it
while in the street, at the noisy market place, or anywhere (they may happen to be).
Formerly, there was a butcher monk who
called on learned masters for instruction. One day, he arrived at a market place and
passed a butcher's shop where every buyer insisted on having "pure meat".
Suddenly, the butcher got angry and, putting down his chopper, asked them: "Which
piece of meat is not pure?" Upon hearing this, the butcher monk was instantaneously
This shows that the ancients did not
require to sit in meditation in a Ch'an hall, when they underwent their training.
Today,not one of you speaks about awakening. Is this not a waste of time? I now
(respectfully) request the (Venerable) Master Ying Tzu and the other masters to hold the
Master Hsu Yun's saying at the closing of
the (two) Ch'an weeks.
After tea and cakes had been served, all
the assembly stood up when the Venerable Master Hsu Yun, in formal robe (with large
sleeves) entered the hall again and sat in front of the (jade) Buddha. With a strip of
bamboo, he drew a circle in the air, saying:
Convocation and meditation!
Opening and closing!
When will all this come to an end?
When (productive) causes halt abruptly.
External objects will vanish.
When mind is still, essence and function
(of themselves) return to normal. Fundamentally there is no day nor night but only
Where's the dividing line 'twixt South and
North, 'twixt East and West?
Without hindrance things are seen to be
the product of conditioning causes.
While birds sing and flowers smile, the
moon reaches the stream!
Now, what shall I say to close the
"When the board is struck, the bowl
Let us scrutinize the
Now let us close the meeting.
 The Dharma age of a monk is the number
of summer or discipline years since his ordination.
 i.e. a man of no fixed abode. Master
Hsu Yun had come from the Yun Men monastery in South China and did not yet know where he
was going to settle. The Yun Men monastery was that of Ch'an master Yun Men, founder of
the Yun Men Sect, one of the five Ch'an Sects in China. The monastery was rebuilt by
master Hsu Yun.
 Master Hsu Yun was then 114 years
 World-dharma or worldly affairs.
 Worldly cause, or asrava in Sanskrit,
meaning 'leaking' cause; inside the passion-stream as contrasted with anasrava, outside
the passion-stream; no drip or leak.
 Ksana = the shortest measure of time,
as kalpa or aeon, is the longest. 60 ksanas equal a finger-snap, 90 a thought and 4,500 a
 Direct cause, a truth, as compared
with a contributory cause.
 Asankhya in Sanskrit, or innumerable
 The five desires arising from the
objects of the five senses, things seen, heard, smelt, tasted and touched.
 This parable is frequently used in
Buddhist Scriptures to advise us to shut the six gates of our senses so as to be detached
from external surroundings.
 Dharma doors to enlightenment or
methods of realizing the self-nature.
 Lit. leaves and branches in literary
forms, i.e. accessories not fundamental in the experiential realization of the real. On
the other hand, the Ch'an Sect aims at the direct pointing at the Buddha nature which
every living being poseesses and the instantaneous realization of the mind leading to the
attainment of Buddhahood.
 Founder of the Lin Chi Sect.
 Mo Shan's question means: If you
think you are really enlightened and can dispense with kneeling, you should have realized
your Dharmakaya which pervades everywhere and covers also the entrance to the road, for it
is free from coming or going, and does not leave one place to come to another.
 The question: "What is Mo
Shan?" means: "What is the state of the enlightened mind in the Mo Shan
nunnery?" The questioner wanted a description of the Bodhi mind. The nun's reply
refers to the small lump on the top of the Buddha's head which could not be seen by his
disciples. Mo Shun meant that since the visitor was unenlightened, he could not perceive
her Dharmakaya which was indescribable.
 When Kuan Ch'i asked about the owner
of Mo Shan, i.e. about herself, she replied that the owner was neither male nor female for
sex had nothing to do with enlightenment, and the Dharmakaya was neither male nor female.
Generally, women had many more handicaps than men, and Kuan Ch'i seemed to look down upon
her because of her sex and asked her why she did not change herself into a man if she was
enlightened. His question showed that he was still under delusion.
 The maximum life span of each
 In Ch'an parlance, our ignorance is
symbolized by the thick black lacquer contained in a wooden cask, because nothing can be
seen through it. Ch'an training will cause the bottom of the cask to drop off, thus
emptying it of the black lacquer, i.e. our body and mind of delusion. This is the moment
when we can perceive the real.
 Law of no-birth: lit. endurance
leading to the personal experiencing of the law of no-birth, or immortality, i.e. the
absolute which is beyond birth and death, boundless patience or endurance being required
for subduing the wandering mind.
 The Methuselah of China.
 Dharmata in Sanskrit, i.e. the nature
underlying all things, the Bhutatathata.
 The profound enlightenment of
Mahayana, or self-enlightenment to enlighten others. The 51st and 52nd stages in the
enlightenment of a Bodhisattva, or the two supreme forms of Buddha-enlightenment are
respectively: (1) Samyak-sambodhi, or absolute universal enlightenment, omniscience, and
(2) the profound enlightenment of Mahayana, or self-enlightenment to enlighten others. The
first is the "cause" and the second is the "fruit", and a Bodhisattva
becomes a Buddha when the "cause is complete and the fruit is full".
 i.e. to be under the beneficial
influence of the fragrance of Buddha Dharma.
 Head of the Sangha order.
 The four varga, groups or order,
i.e., Bhiksu, bhiksuni, upasaka and upasika; monks, nuns, male and female devotees.
 Foreign dust: guna, in Sanskrit,
small particles; molecules, atoms, exhalations; element or matter, which is considered as
defilement; an active conditioned principle in nature, minute, subtle and defiling to pure
 Fruit of saintly life, i.e. Bodhi,
 The five stupid temptations, or
panca-klesa, in Sanskrit, i.e. the five dull, unintelligent, or stupid vices or agents:
desire, anger or resentment, stupidity or foolishness, arrogance and doubt.
 One who has entered the stream of
holy living or who goes against the stream of transmigration; the first stage of the
 Meaning Ajnata-Kaundinya.
 The last convert of the Buddha,
"a Brahman 120 years old".
 The digit 8 in 80,000 symbolizes the
eighth or store (alaya) consciousness (vijnana), the deluded aspect of the self-nature. So
long as the Self-nature is under delusion, it is controlled by the discriminating mind and
will never perceive the real which is beyond all numbers. The great disciples did not
perceive the unconditioned cause of the attainment of Buddhahood, and saw only worldly
events occurring in the former transmigrations of Subhadra. The Buddha who possessed the
Sarvajna or All-wisdom, saw clearly his new disciple's cause of Arhatship, which cause
being beyond all numbers is inherent in the self-nature.
 i.e. practice and theory; phenomena
ever change; the underlying principle, being absolute, neither changes nor acts; it is the
Bhutatathata. When we see a flag streaming in the wind, we know that, in theory, only the
mind moves and not the wind or the flag. In practice, we cannot deny that the wind blows
and the flag moves. We know also that in theory mind, wind and flag are but one undivided
whole. Now, how can we have an experiential realization of this sameness? If we fail to
experience it, we will also fail in our self-cultivation. This is the most important phase
of the meditation, which can be achieved only if we put an end to our feelings and
 In ancient China, it was believed
that some fish, especially carp, could jump out of the sea to become dragons. A metaphor
meaning that these meditaton will never obtain liberation.
 i.e. all causes including feelings
and passions which are productive of effects and contribute to the turning wheel of births
 The seven emotions are: pleasure,
anger, sorrow, joy, love, hatred and desire. The six attractions arise from colour, form,
carriage, voice or speech, softness or smoothness and features.
 Lit. on the spot.
 which leads to Buddhahood.
 i.e. the repetition of Amitibha's
name as taught by the Pure Land School; this repetition also enables the repeater to
disentangle his mind from all feelings and discrimination and to attain Samidhi. Cases are
on record of adepts of the Pure Land School, knowing, in advance, of the time of their
death. This is possible only after their attainment of samadhi which manifested itself
simultaneously with prajna, or wisdom, called the wisdom of mutual response.
 Dharma nature, or Dharmata in
Sanskrit, is nature underlying all things.
 Bhutatathata is the real, "as
thus always", or "certainly so"; i.e. reality as contrasted with unreality
or appearance, and unchanging or immutable as contrasted with form or phenomena.
 The ten evils are: killing, stealing,
adultery, lying, double-tongue, coarse language, filthy talk, covetousness, anger and
 The ten good virtues are defined as
the non-committal of the ten evils.
 That which sin does, its karma,
producing subsequent suffering without interruption.
 click here for the story of Crystal
 Or cause-ground, the stage of
self-cultivation which leads to the fruit-ground, or stage of attainment of
 Lit. three great asarikhya: kalpas
beyond number, the theee timeless periods of a Bodhisattva's progress to Buddhahood.
 Lit. "Let it go."
 Thoughts productive of causes leading
 Her training was already very
effective in disentangling her mind from the sense-organs, sense-data and perceptions,
i.e. her mind was undisturbed at the time, and the noise had a tremendous effect on it.
She did not hear it by means of her faculty of hearing which had ceased functioning, but
through the very function of her self-nature which exposed her real "face",
hence her enlightenment.
 Usually after an awakening, or satori
in Japanese, one is seized with a desire to cry, jump, dance or do something abnormal,
like throwing down the pan of oil. If one fails to subdue this desire, one will catch the
Ch'an illness described in Han Shan's autobiography.
 Wei Shan in modern romanization.
[Editor of the web edition.]
 The three periods of Buddhism are:
(1) the period of the holy, correct or real doctrine of the Buddha, lasting 500 years,
followed by (2) the image, or semblance period of 1,000 year. and then by (3) the period
of decay and termination, lasting 3,000, some say 10,000 years, after which Maitreya
Buddha is to appear and restore all things.
 In deference to him, Master Ling Yu
was called Kuei Shan, after the name of the mountain.
 The map version is Fukien(Fujian)
 Dhuta=a monk engaged in austerities:
 Enlightenment is the root and other
details, such as supramundane powers and wonderful works are twigs. This is why
enlightened masters never talked about miracles. All this is likened to the crystal which,
if clung to, will hinder the attainment of enlightenment, symbolized by the moon.
 Karma which sends the sinner to the
Avici hell, the last of the eight hot hells in which punishment, pain, form, birth, death,
continue without intermission.
 Dharma cakra in Sanskrit, Buddha
truth which is able to crush all evil and all opposition, like Indra's wheel, and which
rolls on from man to man, place to place, age to age.
 Name and form: everything has a name,
e.g. sound, or has appearance, i.e. the visible; both are unreal and give rise to
 The royal diamond gem, or
indestructible sword which destroys ignorance and delusion.
 Lit. on the spot.
 In the East, thin sheets of white
paper were, and are still, used instead of window glass.
 Old paper is old sutras. The sentence
means: If you want to search for the truth in old sutras, you will never realize it, for
it can only be experienced in the training. The meaning is: If you want to
"pierce" old sutras in your quest of your self-nature, you will never succeed in
 i.e. independent, not attached to and
relying on anything.
 This disentanglement is followed by
the state of Samadhi, with simultaneous functioning of Prajna, or Wisdom.
 If one clings to names and terms, one
will be held in bondage by them.
 Prime meat is called "pure
meat" in China.
 The butcher monk was so called
because he attained enlightenement upon hearing the butcher's voice. He was undergoing
intense training when he passed the butcher's shop and his mind was already still and free
from all thiniking and discerning. The butcher's loud voice made a great impact on the
monk's mind and was heard, not by the ear's faculty of hearing, but by the very function
of the self-nature. When the function of the self-nature manifested itself, the substance
or essence of the self-nature, became apparent, hence his enlightenment.
 The cirde symbolizes the completeness
of the Dharmakaya.
 These three lines show the illusory
mundane activities which have nothing to do with the experiencng of the truth.
 When all causes productive of effects
come to an end, the phenomenal also disappears, and this is the moment when one's
"great wisdom reaches the other shore", or Mahaprajnaparamita.
 When the mind is stripped of feelings
and passions, it will he still; this is the moment the essence and function of the
self-natured Buddha are restored to normal.
 Fundamentally, there is only the
immutable bright wisdom which is unchanging.
 When the self-nature is under
delusion, it is split into ego and dharma, or subject and object, hence all kinds of
discrimination between East and West and North and South. Now that enlightenment is
attained, where is all this division?
 The phenomenal is created only by
Conditioning causes but is devoid of real nature.
 Our delusion is caused by our
attachment to things heard, seen, felt and known, but if the mind is disentangled from the
hearing, seeing, feeling and knowing or discerning, we will attain the Complete
Enlightenment of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (see discourse on the second day of the second
Ch'an week). The two faculties of hearing and seeing are mentioned here because they are
constantly active, whereas the other four faculties are sometimes dormant. If one succeeds
in disentangling the hearing from the birds' song and the seeing from the smiling flowers,
the moon, symbol of enlightenment, will shine on the stream, for water is a symbol of the
self-nature. This sentence means that one can attain enlightenment while in the midst of
sound and sight which symbolize the illusory world.
 In a monastery, the board is Struck
for calling to meals. If the mind is efficiently stripped of all feelings and passions,
all the eight vijnanas or consciousnesses will be frozen and inactive. This moment is
referred to, in Ch'an parlance, as "a temporary death foflowed by a
resurrection", i.e. death of delusion and resurrection of self-nature. When the
self-nature recovers its freedom, it will function and hear the sound of the board. As the
phenomenal and noumenal are now an undivided whole, the self-natured Dharmakaya will
pervade everywhere, including the bowl which reveals its presence. For this reason, the
ancients said: "The exuberant green bamboos are all Dharmakaya and luxuriant yellow
flowers are nothing but Prajna." This attainment is made possible only by the
Prajnaparamita which all seekers of the truth should put into practice.
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