The  Venerable  Lai  Kuo

Translated by Kuo Yu Linebarger


A disciple of a different path offered some flowers to the Buddha. After he had paid his respects, the Buddha said, "Put down the flowers." The disciple accordingly put down the flowers. Then the Buddha said, "Put down your hands," and he put down his hands. The Buddha again said, "Put down your body." The outsider shook for a long time wondering how to do that.

Then he asked, "World Honored One, how can I put down my body?"

The Buddha replied, "If you can't put it down, then throw it over your shoulder and leave!" The outsider was suddenly enlightened.

All of you think this over. Are the words "put it down" common? I continually tell you to put it down. I want you to put everything down until there is nothing left to put down. Put down your mind. Put down your body. Put down the world, and put down putting down.

You are not only unwilling to put it down, you seem to think that increased acquisitions will make things better. Because you have been accustomed to taking large accomplishments as a step and small accomplishments as no step at all, today we will study the Surangama Sutra, tomorrow the Lotus Sutra and the day after tomorrow the Avatamsaka Sutra. The more the better, right? You have also heard it said, today you will be concerned with "who is mindful of the Buddha," tomorrow "what you were before your patents gave birth to you," and the day after tomorrow the topic will be

"does a dog have a Buddha Nature." If the hua tou is changed daily, life will be in accord with your wishes. If you listen to this very long and very closely, then it will become correct, right?

Today when I tell you to put it down, you should put it down until you reach a place where you can't put it down anymore. And then you should also put down this place where you can't put it down anymore. But you can't comprehend the doctrine transmitted by this (Ch’an) school. You are unwilling to believe in its extremely compassionate heart; thus you misunderstand. This misunderstanding causes you to slander the teachings; afterwards you invite the retribution of a bitter death.

      What do you misunderstand?

1) I tell you to put it down, and you do. But you put it down until you end up dwelling in a ghost chamber, deep and black, dark and secret.

2) I instruct you to take your listening, studying and comprehension and put them down. But you're not only unwilling to put them down, on the contrary your great angry heart arises and says, "The Ch'an School states that if it isn't the sutra teachings that are at fault, then it's the Pure Land teachings that are at fault. Doesn't this selectively slander the teachings of the sutras and the Pure Land?"

Although this misunderstanding is only off by the smallest bit, it is like missing by a thousand miles. You don't know what sect this school is: it cuts off marks; it transcends schools; and it is separate from names and the mark of a sect. I certainly didn't tell you to slander the sutras and discard the Pure Land teachings. It isn’t like that.

I always tell you that when you are in meditation you should put down everything; stop your heart. Therefore if is said. "To stop is just Bodhi." If you stop until there's not even a hair's breadth left; this is correct. If there is anything left over, this will block great emptiness. I'll give you an example.

If you study carpentry for a total of three to five years, you will learn it. You will be able to chop with an ax, cut with a saw, and plane with a plane. But because you don't earn much, you decide to change occupations and study tailoring. To be a tailor you must study the use of scissors and how to sew. When you go to the tailor shop, do you still need your ax and saw? Will they be of any use? Not only are the ax and saw useless, but your knowledge of carpentry is too. If you work with a needle and use a carpenter's methods, will your study of tailoring be profitable?

Today you meditate. Naturally you should do what is proper while in meditation: put it down, and stop (your heart). All your studying, listening and ability are internalized. Are they of any use? Can you use them to meditate? This is the same principle as using an ax and chisel in tailoring. You should carefully think this over and see; is it possible? It certainly isn't the position I told you to take. I want you to thoroughly understand in your hearts so that you agree.

      In meditation you should take the 10,000 thoughts and put them down. If you put down everything but a hair’s breadth will block great emptiness. Do each of you understand? Because of not being able to put it down, living beings from limitless kalpas past have been involved with great things such as the world and small things such as their bodies and minds. You have all passed through many lives. Won’t there still be more in the future?

We want to be people who have returned to the original source. Don't misplace your body, mind and the world, for only then can you say returning to the original source truly cannot be accomplished. If you want to be in accord with what is called true mark, first you should know where the world comes from, why your body exists and why your mind exists. If you know the basis of existence of your mind, body and the world, then you can cut them off at the source. When one is cut off, all are cut off. This is just pulling the firewood out from under the pot. If it isn't cut off at the source, anything else is like stirring soup to stop it from boiling.

From what does the world come to exist? You should know that the world exists because of the body. The body exists because of the mind, and the mind exists because of delusion. If you want to end your body, mind and world, first go to the source and cut off delusion. If you are able to cut off delusion, the mind ceases. If the mind ceases, the body is extinguished. If the body is extinguished, the world naturally comes to an end.

      The method for cutting delusion is just," who is mindful of the Buddha." It is most in accord with Dharma. Without "who is mindful of the Buddha," you are unable to get to the source of delusion. After you have strenuously cultivated and penetrated," who is mindful of the Buddha," then you can practice great compassion and save the world. What conduct would be bad?

      I'm afraid that what you study in one lifetime is not enough. Therefore you should all prepare true knowledge and vision, so that your good intention to follow the way will not turn to evil. This is extremely important; Raise up your hearts! Meditate!


“The worship of Buddhas is excelled by merely having a desire for goodness: How much more by zeal for the total welfare of all beings?”

 Santideva in The Bodhicaryavatara
  translated by Marion Matics