CH'AN TALKS OF THE VENERABLE
CH'AN MASTER LAI KUO
1st day, 2nd week, 1942.
TO PUT AN END TO BIRTH and be liberated from death, to understand the mind and see the nature, the one dharma of investigating Ch'an surpasses all others. You can also say that it universally increases the three levels of basic qualities. I truly believe in this one single method; among all 84,000 dharma doors, whichever one you choose, none of these can compare with this method.
BUT THERE ARE STILL MANY among you who don't believe this, and concerning the investigation of "Who 1s it who recites the Buddha's name?" ask, "How can this method surpass all the other 84,000?"
SINCE YOU DON'T BELIEVE my explanations, we'll let them pass, and for now we’ll put "Who is it who recites the Buddha's name?" aside. Now you tell us, which method is the shortest and most direct for putting an end to birth and death? Certainly there are those who do not investigate, and who also do not use effort. Will they understand the wind and see the nature at a glance? Think it over. If there were actually a method even faster than Ch'an, I would want to study it with you.
BECAUSE YOUR VIEWS OF A SELF are too deep, and because your good roots are too shallow, you must get rid of your false views so that you can return to this single great road of cultivation. Therefore, it is necessary to give you instruction.
THINK THESE THINGS OVER minutely and carefully. Do you still think that by reading sutras you can put an end to birth and death? Is it the case that by reciting the Buddha's name or holding mantras you can put an end to birth and death?
ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE COME here have come because of birth and death. Of Course you want to investigate it. It 'is not a small matter. Let us discuss this question for a moment. Reading sutras will only plant some good roots and give you knowledge of some principles, but if you want to say that this will end birth and death: impossible. It can't be done that way. Buddha recitation, recitation of the name of Amita, can put an end to birth and death; but if you want it to take you to the summit of Nirvana Mountain, it won't get you there. By holding mantras with pure body and mind you can gain a few psychic powers, but you can't, put an end to birth and death.
THAT IS BECAUSE looking at sutras, reciting the Buddha's name, and holding mantras, are all just running off and seeking outside, whereas each person's birth and death does not happen because of anything external, and does not rely on the existence, of anything else It come", totally from your own home. If you run outside, the further you run, the further away you will be.
YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS: Investigating "Who is it who recites the Buddha's name?" is just running back house. "What is the principle? I'll explain 1t with an analogy. When children take up their studies, one book they recite is the One Hundred surnames. From Ch'ao, Ch'ien, Sun, Lee, Chow, Woo, Cheng, Wang, reciting straight; through to the end, in less than a few days it's memorized. Suppose they have recited the line Ch'ao Ch'ien, Sun, Lee, and you ask then what it means. How would they explain it? Having been asked, don't they stop right there? Since it is exactly at the sentence "Ch'ao Ch'ien, Sun, and Lee" that they investigate, don't Chow, Moo, Cheng, and Wang cease to exist? Penetrating through to a place where the understanding from the investigation is deep, Ch'ao, Ch'ien, Sun and Lee also cease to exist.
YOU THINK OVER RECITATION of the Buddha's name. Isn't it Amitabha, Amitabha, one phrase recited again and again through to the end? Today I ask you, reciting the Buddha's name, who is it? Standing at this juncture, isn't this turning around and returning? Is this identical with reciting the sentence "Ch'ao, Ch'ien, Sun, and Lee"? Think it over carefully for a moment is it correct or not?
WHO IS IT MHO RECITES the Buddha's name? Isn't this turning around and going home? What is the "home" that you run towards? No birth, and also no death. We talk about understanding the mind and seeing the nature, but that is just a lot of excess verbiage. When you have arrived home, the mind doesn't have to wait for understanding, because understanding is originally inherent; and it is not necessary to see the nature, because the nature is perfectly complete all along.
ONE STEP WITH "WHO IT IS who is mindful of the Buddha" takes you a11 the way home. You only need this one phrase to return home securely. How could you ever have known that the one sentence "Who is it who recites the Buddha's name?" is so fine!
BUT ALL OF YOU ARE SOMETHING ELSE. You think, "From morning to night, as soon as I bring up this ‘Who it is who is mindful of the Buddha's name?' false thinking flows in, and I don't hold on very long. This being the way it is, how can it be said that the one sentence 'Who is it who recites the Buddha's name? Is able to take you all the way home immediately? True teachings are not that easy to understand."
RIGHT, BUT YOU SHOULD understand that when you know that there are false thoughts, just this is progress in your spiritual skill. You also mentioned that you don't hold on very long, and this reveals even more progress.
WHATEVER DHARMA DOOR, whatever method you use, all are from your false thinking; so how can you know the existence of your false thinking? Knowing the existence of false thinking and perceiving that you don't last very long are both bits of good news.
BUT YOUR CULTIVATION of the Way is truly pitiful. All of you have lived for several decades. Speaking about birth and death is really a heavy thing with you, and so you want to cultivate the Way. You start investigating, but the sentence "Who it is who recites the Buddha's name?" doesn't get through to you. Three years, even five years pass and it still doesn't penetrate. This being the case, how can you talk about cultivating the Way? Whose birth and death is it that is so frightening? How utterly duped and confused you Are! If you can't even investigate "Who is it who recites the Buddha's name?" to the point of understanding, how can you still be considered a human being? Every place you go you want to be respected, but if you haven't penetrated through "Who is it who recites the Buddha's name?" you are really shameful!
PEOPLE WITH LITTLE INTELLIGENCE, take a look: how can you face yourselves? Are there still any among you who shed tears? Pitiful. Pathetic. You exist an ignorance and darkness. Every day I tell you to close your eyes. You close your eyes. I ask you, when your eyes are open, can you see me? When your eyes are closed, can you see yourself? Isn't it the case that when your eyes are closed everything is black, and you can't see the slightest thing?
ONE MORE QUESTION: just when your eyes are closed, if you love your foot forward, do you know where it's gone? Do you still have a grip on yourself? Do you realize where your step has taken you? Investigate!