Chan Talks of the
Venerable Ch'an Master Lai Kuo

translated by Bhiksu Heng Kuan
(cont. from VBS #119, p.14)

"When your eyes are open,
you don't have dreams;
When your mind doesn't give rise to thoughts,
You don't fall into

      Let's talk about the meaning of these two lines for a moment. "When your eyes are open..." That is, when you've opened your eyes wide, you can't dream, but the moment you close your eyes, then you will dream. That's about the way it is, right?

      On the contrary, I say that when your eyes are closed you dream, and when your
eyes are open... you're still having a big dream. Do you believe this? You all think that "when my eyes are closed I sleep and have dreams; where is there anyone who opens his eyes wide and still dreams a big dream? At this point I have a few doubts."

      Right, but I'm telling you, standing right here you are dreaming, and every day from morning to night you are dreaming. When your eyes are closed and you are dreaming, you can quickly wake up, but when you are in a dream with your eyes open, you never have a moment of being awake. Do you know how long you are going to dream this dream before you wake up? Pathetic!

      Those people who have not yet understood are all dreaming with their eyes open, and yet they still don't know it. Do you want to know when you are going to awaken? If you don't become enlightened, it can't be done.

      Becoming enlightened is identical to being asleep and suddenly waking up from a dream. I ask all of you, does this dream have an end at which point you will wake up?

      Continuing the explanation (of the lines quoted above): "When your mind doesn't give rise to thoughts..." Thoughts are just (all kinds of) cogitation. Your mind is able to have wholesome or evil thoughts, but when no thoughts arise, just then you don't fall into duality. That is the general meaning here, right?

      But in actuality that's not the way it is. You should practice so that the sagely cannot be attained, nor can the common be attained, so that thoughts cannot be attained, and the mind cannot be attained. If you are able to avoid falling into duality, how much the less should you fall into triplicity. When not even unity can be attained, then your Ch'an work will have a bit of a response.

      Cultivating in accord with the Ch'an school, you must smash to bits the dream you dream with open eyes, and exterminate all deviant thoughts, because if you cannot awaken from the dream, then you cannot end birth and death. If you can't get rid of deviant thoughts, your false thinking will produce complications, and from these complications, even good causes will summon you to evil results. You may think that there is no error when in fact you slander the Buddha, slander the patriarchs, slander the Ch'an hall, slander the great Dharma Wheel, and once you have planted these seeds.. .inconceivably terrible! must fall into the Avici hells!

      Invariably there are people who say, "The explanations of the Ch'an school are especially fine. They are mysterious and wonderful. But in practicing the principles, it seems as though there is some small thing that is not quite right. Invariably when sitting in meditation they fall asleep, and what is more, they snore!" You give birth to condescension, and as soon as that happens, the causal seed of slander has been sown.

      How is that? In the past the ancients had a standard and example. Listen closely while I tell you about it.

      When the elder the Fourth Patriarch arrived at Cow's Head Mountain in Nanking, he saw a purple mist surrounding the mountain, and said, "On this mountain there is certainly one who has the Way," and because of this he climbed the mountain. There he saw the Ch'an Master Lan Yung who had a tiger by his side. The Fourth Patriarch made a show of being frightened. Ch'an Master Yung said, "Oh, you still have that with you!" The Fourth Patriarch thought, "This person has the Way!"

      They walked to Ch'an Master Yung's hut, and before sitting down the Fourth Patriarch wrote the word Buddha on Yung's seat. Yung did not dare sit down.

      "Oh, so you still have that with you!" said the Fourth Patriarch, and with that they mutually recognized that each identically had obtained the Way.

      That night, Yung let the Patriarch sleep on his bed. The Patriarch immediately fell asleep, and slept straight through the night, snoring every bit of it. The next day Yung said, "You are far too shameless! You snored all night so I was not able to sit in meditation."

      The Fourth Patriarch replied, "On the contrary, you interrupted me! You threw lice on the floor; their legs were broken so they were not able to hop away. For the whole night I did not sleep peacefully."

      Later generations have composed two lines about this meeting:

          "Before Yung saw the Fourth
                          Patriarch, what was he like?
                    What was he like after he saw
                          the Fourth Patriarch?"

      Before he saw the Fourth Patriarch, the gods sent him offerings, and monkeys on the mountain gathered fruit and offered it to him. After he met the Fourth Patriarch, no offerings were sent to him, and no fruit was gathered for him. You look into this and investigate the principle here.

      I'll explain this further. When I was at Gold Mountain, doing the spiritual work and gaining power, once when I was sitting on the long meditation platform I heard some wrangling going on. I got down to take a look. Nobody was there. The great assembly was all sleeping, and nobody was talking. I then looked beneath the sitting bench and saw two lice biting and fighting with each other. I picked them up and carried them to the Obtain Your Wish Hall (place where bodies are kept before interment), and gave them a little something to eat.

      All of you think this over. Can you go on falsely piling up discriminations. What I have told you about is what I myself personally have done. Today I have talked about the scope of my practice, but fear that you still have a few doubts. Wait until your spiritual skill has arrived at this place, and then you will be able to know, and having waited until you know, then you will regret all the causes you have planted with your slander, but then it will be too late. So today I have especially for your sake pointed this out. The most important thing is for each of you to get going. Meditate!

Series to be continued