From beginningless eons in the past, we have died and been reborn, over and over, passing through hundreds of thousands of myriads of eons. During all this time, we've never encountered a Guanyin Bodhisattva Dharma Session, so our bad habits and faults have not decreased by the slightest bit. In fact, our ignorance and afflictions have increased day by day. Now that we've encountered a Guanyin Bodhisattva Dharma Session, we might say that the roots of goodness we've planted throughout measureless eons in the past have matured, enabling us to join this wonderful and inconceivable Dharma session. Someone who lacked these roots of goodness, who has no virtuous practices, would never have the chance to attend a Guanyin Recitation Session. Since this is the case, we must cherish every minute of these seven days. Don't indulge in idle thinking, or let the time pass in vain. If all you do is indulge in idle thinking, then even though you may take part in this Dharma session, it's just as if you hadn't come at all, because you won't gain any advantages whatsoever.
Although this Dharma session began only two days ago, I know that some people have already seen the Bodhisattva, and other people have seen lights. A variety of inconceivable states have occurred. Some people are on the verge of opening their five spiritual eyes. People who haven't gained any advantages should feel deeply ashamed. Don't assume that just because you haven't experienced any benefits, the same goes for everyone else. That's not the case.
Gold Mountain Monastery, you might say, is a gold refinery. Whoever wants to cultivate should not leave Gold Mountain Monastery. If you want to find another Way-place in which to cultivate, it may not be so easy. Cultivators at Gold Mountain Monastery have a "mind" for the Path. Even though they are in an environment where conditions are extremely difficult, they still want to cultivate hard.
There are as many as eighty-four thousand Dharma-doors for cultivating the Path. You should be familiar with each one of these Dharma-doors. It shouldn't be the case that you only know a single method of cultivation. If you know something about the cultivation of each Dharma-door, then over time you'll understand all the myriad Dharma-doors.
But if you only understand one Dharma-door of cultivation, then it won't be easy for you to experience the state of the Buddhadharma, which is as deep as the sea. You'll be like a foolish person who peers at the sky through a tube and assumes the sky is no bigger than the little circle of light he sees at the end of his tube. If he doesn't use his bamboo tube, then he can see how vast the sky really is. So we who cultivate the Buddhadharma should not know how to practice only one method, we should penetrate every Dharma and understand every kind of practice.
Now we're reciting the name of Guanyin Bodhisattva, which is a part of the Buddhadharma. If you've never cultivated this method before, then you should try it! Don't stubbornly refuse to try it. People who fully participate in this Dharma session to its end will surely get benefits for both body and mind. Under no circumstances should you pass up this opportunity which is right before you!
Bodhisattvas cultivate the six perfections (paramitas) and the myriad practices. The six perfections are:
(1) Giving: This means that we should give to other people, not that other people should give to us.
(2) Patience: During this Guanyin Recitation Session, we'll see whether or not you can be patient. A patient person will successfully complete this session, while an impatient person will indulge in idle thoughts all day long. He might think, "I'll wait awhile, and then go to a restaurant and have a big feast." Or maybe he'll think, "What's the use of my being here, reciting Guanyin Bodhisattva's name? It's a lot of nonsense. I'm leaving right away!" These are the thoughts of an impatient person. An impatient person cannot cultivate the Way. It doesn't really matter whether you sit in meditation or recite the Buddha's name or Guanyin Bodhisattva's name. These are really the same Dharma-door; there's basically no difference between them. No matter which Dharma-door you cultivate, you need to have patience before you can succeed. If you have no patience, then you'll never cultivate any Dharma-door successfully. A person who has no patience always feels that everything is wrong and bad. Nothing ever suits him. If this describes you, then what method could you hope to cultivate? There is no mark of self within the Way, and no ego to attach to. One who is attached will never be able to cultivate the Way. Someone may say, "I want to meditate!" Well, if you want to meditate, then even more do you need patience.
(3) Holding precepts: This means "Do no evil and respectfully practice all good deeds."
(4) Vigor: This means not being lazy.
(5) Chan samadhi, or concentration: We are now reciting Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's name and seeking Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's help so that we can obtain Chan samadhi.
(6) Wisdom: Once we have Chan samadhi, we can bring forth wisdom. These six perfections are interrelated.
Someone says, "I'd like to specialize in Chan samadhi." Well then, I'll tell you how to cultivate Chan samadhi: once you enter the Chan hall, you may never under any circumstances set foot outside it again. Someone asks, "But what if I get sick? What will I do then?" If you get sick, then you are simply sick. Even if you are sick, you still must meditate. And if you die, what'll you do then? Even if you die, we won't carry you out of the meditation hall. When a Chan cultivator dies, his corpse is placed under an empty seat. Even though it stinks, it isn't carried out of the hall. Our rules say that even when somebody dies, he is not allowed to leave.
You say, "Isn't that just like being in jail?" I ask you, "Do you really think you're not in jail right now?" Every person is locked in his own jail, only he's not aware of it. When your self-nature wants to leave, it cannot go freely. When it wants to return, it cannot return. If it goes out, it cannot come back; when it comes back, it cannot leave again. Is this what you call freedom? Every person's body is a jail, but you don't understand this.
Therefore, during our Chan session, once you enter the Chan hall, you stay. You're not allowed to go out of the door whenever you want. Anyone who wants to leave will be hit on the head, shoulders, and back by the proctor's stick. This is during a Chan Meditation Session. When we hold a Guanyin Recitation Session, it's also the same way: no one is allowed to leave the hall. Anyone who leaves is in line for a beating, because who told you to come in the first place? You say, "I saw the announcement; that's what brought me here." Well, the announcement didn't say that you're free to leave after you come. Actually, you may leave, but only on the condition that you pay everyone's food bill for the entire session. Otherwise, you can't go. Why not? Because as soon as you go, other people will watch you leave and they'll want to go, too. Once you leave, another person will leave, and then everybody will go. That's called "destroying the Way-place." So in order to avoid creating the offense of destroying the Way-place, you should pay for everyone's food. If you can't afford it, then the best thing would be for you not to go!
All the people who've come to Gold Mountain Monastery for this session have deep affinities with one another. If you didn't share these affinities, you wouldn't have entered the door of Gold Mountain Monastery. Since we have these ties, why don't we become friends within this Guanyin Dharma Session? Let's all join hands and go forward together. Where are we going? We're going wherever each of us wants to go. Each one of us should help the others out. Why am I saying this? Because I don't want you to go down the wrong path.
一九七六年 观音七 三月十五日开示
A talk given on March 15, 1976, during a Guanyin Recitation Session