Today is New Year's Day, and I bid all of you a Happy New Year. This is, in fact, a worldly sentiment and we who seek to realize world-transcending wisdom should not dwell on such mundane habits. Nonetheless, we should recognize that we are still part of this world, and if we leave the mundane world too far behind, we'll also be leaving people too far behind. That's why I invoked a bit of standard etiquette to give you all my greeting: Happy New Year! I'd also like to recite a verse:
The year 1982 is now close at hand;
All ten directions' cultivators come to practice Chan.
Reverse the light and introspect: contemplate at ease.
At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we will choose
sages and worthies.
Since the New Year brings happiness, we can all realize the state of "taking the bliss of Chan as our food," and let our sustenance come from Chan meditation. A person who is genuinely doing the work of Chan has forgotten whether or not he has eaten. He has forgotten whether or not he got dressed. He has forgotten whether or not he slept. When one investigates to the ultimate point, he is no longer aware of heaven above, earth below, or people in between. He has merged completely with empty space. He no longer has any sense of self, others, living beings, or a life span. In this state he fears neither the pain in his legs nor the ache in his back. No matter what comes up, he uses the skill of patience to endure it. Since he has no sense of self, others, living beings, or a life span, who remains to feel pain? Once you pass through the gate of pain, you are no longer aware of any pain. If you don't pass the gate, however, then the pain is still there. If you pass through the gate, then not only does the pain stop, but you also feel very carefree and happy.
The Dharma-door of Chan meditation has no rival in its wondrousness; one attains the state of "taking Chan bliss for food, and being filled with the joy of Dharma." This is the way Chan meditators in ages past could sit for days on end without leaving their benches. Do you suppose their legs hurt? Of course they hurt! But they were able to endure the pain; they could tolerate what others found intolerable; they could endure what others found unendurable. They had the strength and vigorous courage to only advance and never retreat; this is how they succeeded in cultivation.
Chan meditation requires patience; patience is the basic capital of your enlightenment. For example, when we go into business, we need some capital. Only then can our business expand; only then can we hope to earn money. In Chan meditation, we must make it through the gate of pain. Penetrating this gate comes first. Once we're through, a brightly-lit road appears before us, and we travel on it straight ahead to the state where we can "understand our mind and see our nature." Before we pass through the gate, we are in a state where "the mountains have ended, the rivers have vanished, and we doubt there is a road ahead." But then once you pass the gate, your state becomes like "another village appearing, there beyond the bright flowers and shadowy willows."
If I can't renounce death, I'll never gain life.
If I can't renounce what's false, I'll never gain what's true.
If I can't let go of suffering, I'll never attain happiness.
We must use this kind of spirit in our investigation of Chan if we want to have any accomplishment.We have to smash through the gate of trouble and difficulty before we can attain another state of reality. This is why we must concentrate our minds as we meditate. Please pay attention! We have come here to practice Chan, not to fritter time away. Apply yourself to the investigation with genuine determination and true forbearance. We know that nothing in the world comes easily; how can you expect something in return for nothing? Only fools think that way; only they dream such impractical dreams. The only way to success is through your own efforts. We all bring forth our brand-new aspirations at the New Year, hoping to get enlightened, perhaps. Let's all make that our goal ahead, and not stop meditating until we actually reach the enlightened state!
A talk given during a Chan Session from January 1-8, 1982,
The Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas, The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas