Ch’an Cultivation

By Upasaka Yu Kuo K’ung


      We have awakened to the fact that afflictions and human responses are the echoes of the self-nature to marks, yet the self-nature and marks are not the same. Afflictions come not because of the self-nature and environmental changes, but because of dwelling on the environmental changes. Therefore, environmental changes are not marks unless one dwells on them. To illustrate the role and the consequence of dwelling, the oscillation of a mass-spring system is chosen as an example.

      Let a particle of mass m be suspended from a ceiling by a linear elastic spring of spring constant k as shown in the figure. The system is denoted by S and x=0 is the equilibrium configuration of S. It is clear that if we move the particle down by an initial displacement and then release it, the system S will oscillate with a periodic motion. If we take the displacement as the environmental change, and the oscillations as afflictions, then it seems that, for any change, there are afflictions; yet there is no dwelling process involved. This is a result of oversimplification which comes from the belief that dwelling is a mental process and is thus not important in any scientific problem. But we all know that importance is relative to the situation involved and changes with time. Now let me emphasize the dwelling process in this simple, yet representative, example.

Let D be a physical process defined as follows: closing a hand and moving it down in the gravitational direction a distance X0 and then, opening the hand. D is an arbitrary process. That is, it has no definite relation with the system S. If, in the process D, the closing hand grasps the particle of the system S, we say that the process D and the system S are coupled. Or S dwells on (attaches to) D. Only when S dwells on D, oscillation occurs. And then the particle moves up and down. The pair (, X) forms an environmental disturbance to the system S. Consequently, oscillation results. It is seen that dwelling is the key factor without which there is no oscillation.

For a given , the particle oscillates with a constant frequency f = (1/2) k/m. The frequency is independent of the disturbance and a nature of the system. Again this example shows:

A) The nature of the system is independent of the disturbance.

B) Without the disturbance, the nature of the system cannot be determined.

Beside the above two conclusions which have been previously observed, the example demonstrates the importance of the linkage which we call dwelling. The oscillation of the system is not due to the existence of the process D but due to the dwelling of the system on the process. This is also true for human beings. Without dwelling on the process, there is no mark in one's mind. Without a mark in one's mind, where do afflictions come from?

The effect of the dwelling of the massspring system on the process can be dramatized if the process D is a harmonic one. This is called a forced oscillation. When the frequency of the harmonic process D is equal to that of the system S, the displacement X goes to infinity in theory. This is called resonance. In reality, the displacement will not go to infinity, but it departs from its normal, regular pattern. It is similar for human beings. When a person attaches to marks, afflictions are produced; and continuous attaching to them may also produce violent behavior if the character of the involved person and the marks satisfy certain relations. This is a behavioral resonance, and we say that the person is angry, mad, crazy, or insane. To express the character of the person, we call it demon, ghost, devil, or unwholesome spirit.

The analogy between the oscillation and human behavior has a subtle meaning. Let me explain it so that one can see the importance of realizing his self-nature. We take the natural oscillation of the system S as accepted normal behavior. When the system S dwells continuously on the environmental process D, the natural oscillation is altered. If they are in phase, resonance is produced. In the same way, when a person dwells on marks, his mind is distorted and his behavior departs from the norm. The self-nature of the person always tends to bring his misconduct and distorted mind back to the normal. However, when he dwells on the marks in phase, behavioral resonance is produced and he completely departs from his self-nature. He has lost himself and is insane.

It must be noted that when a person is in behavioral resonance and insane, his mind has become confused and his conduct departed from the norm; yet even then his intrinsic self-nature remains intact. It is still pure and clear; it is still in constant stillness and constant illumination. The self-nature of an insane person is the same as that of a sage or a Buddha.