FROM THE DHARMA REALM
Heng Kuan, Sramanera Heng K'ung, and Upasaka Kuo Hui Weber performed
18-day fasts during the Gathering for World Peace held in Seattle,
Washington, in 1973 dedicating the merit of their practice to the
attainment of world peace. In November 1975, the same three cultivators
undertook a 36-day fast, once again transferring the merit to world peace
and to the establishment of Bodhimandas here in the West. During this
36-day period the tasters took only one cup of water a day and no food
whatsoever. In addition to performing this strict fast, they participated
full time in the four-week intensive winter recitation and meditation
session held at Gold Mountain during December and January. Their vigor in
the simultaneous cultivation of two such rigorous Dharma-doors served as a
model for all who observed them.
The Mind-seal Dharma-door of fasting is used to help forge a vajra indestructible body and also to perfect the paramita of patience. It teaches one to bear what others cannot bear, endure what others cannot endure, and yield what others cannot yield. Despite the seriousness of their austere practice (fasting can be extremely dangerous unless conducted under the guidance of a Good and Wise Advisor) the cultivators continued to put in a full day's work every day, which at Gold Mountain amounts to a 19-hour day. Once the ch'an session commenced the tasters kept apace with the intensive twenty-one-hour a day schedule.
The deep meditational states experienced by the fastors during the intensive ch'an sessions were certified as the fruition of diligent practice and as responses from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, in particular Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, who, moved by the sincerity of their conduct, came to offer aid.
Influenced by Heng Kuan's, Heng K'ung's and Kuo Hui's courageous and successful practice of this Dharma door of fasting, many other cultivators at Gold Mountain have sought permission to fast. Shown in the photo are a group of cultivators who completed eighteen-day and thirty-six day fasts.
Disciples who strictly adhere to the mind-seal dharma door of fasting are
forging a vajra indestructible body and learning to subdue their mad mind
through the practice of patience. Shown above with the Venerable master
are Dharma Masters Heng K’ung and Heng Kuan (standing) and Upasaka Kuo
Hui Weber (seated) who fasted for thirty-five days.
Close to the end of the session on January 8th, the Venerable Master said from the High Seat, "There are only two days left in the session. In the past people who have participated in ch'an sessions have told about any states they might have experienced. So now people are welcome to talk about the states they have experienced during these weeks of recitation and sitting. No matter what kind of states they were, you can discuss them and in that way everyone can learn from the experience.
New participant: "I experienced something very nice during the one week of ch'an I sat and during the one week of recitation. For a few moments I had a clear mind and no thoughts. And those few moments made all the sitting and all the recitation, and all the walking around, all the hardships, well worthwhile. It is an experience that cannot be bought with money."
Master: "Very good. You will certainly be able to become enlightened." (After the session this cultivator gave away his worldly possessions and came to Gold Mountain to live and practice.)
Disciple: (who had just finished a 36-day fast) "There were several times during the fasting when my false thoughts subsided and my mind was very quiet and peaceful—very clear and pure.
Sramanera (novice monk): "Master, during the first week of ch'an, perhaps a kind of aftermath of the recitation session, I has some good visualizations. I saw Amitabha Buddha and Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. Particularly clear was the aura around Amitabha Buddha with some transformation Buddhas speckled throughout."
Disciple: "Master, last Sunday my sister went outside after the lecture and at the door of Gold Mountain she smelled star jasmine. She thought it very strange that it was blossoming during the winter and walked up and down the street, but she couldn't smell it any more. Then when she arrived at the door of her car she smelled it again very clearly. She returned to Gold Mountain a couple days later and walked all around looking but could not find any star-jasmine growing in the vicinity. The only thing she could smell was garbage!"
Disciple: "Last night I had a state. Previously I had been somewhat ill, experiencing a shortness of breath, even when just walking around or going up or down stairs. And no matter how warmly I dressed I was still cold. Last night, however, after the lecture while sitting I felt myself begin to tingle a little bit and I saw light and felt as if I were on the verge of disintegrating. I felt afraid and with that these sensations stopped. However, after I got up I was perfectly well. I have had no further problem with being cold and no further problem with shortness of breath."
Master: "Who else had an experience? His sickness was cured."
Disciple: "I had an experience, although I was only here for two and a half days and was not very diligent at that, I had an experience of lifting from the top of my head."
Disciple: Sometimes when I was sitting I would try to remember where I was and I couldn't figure it out. I would sit there and feel that perhaps I was in the dining room or in my room but ultimately I couldn't figure out where I was. It was strange. One time I was aware I was sitting, but at the same tire I was bowing to the Buddha. As soon as I thought about it, I was no longer bowing to the Buddha.
Master: "Many people have had many different experiences and now I will give you a general reply to them all. What is the reply?
'All that has marks is empty and false.
If you see all marks as no marks
Then you see the Tathagata."
Master: "Yesterday I asked you to talk about your states and there were some who did not speak and now regret it, so I will give you another opportunity to speak."
Disciple: "I guess there's something that I want to talk about. I have—it's not necessarily a good state or even a state as far as I know--I just notice sometimes when I'm meditating that I have a feeling I am fighting with something. It is as if I am not necessarily a being or a person but I have this energy source that seems to pit itself against somebody or something. I don't know what it is. I wouldn't even call it a state but it's something I have been wondering about for a while."
Master: "Use more strength. You have to be victorious for it to count. No matter where my disciples go they have to be victorious. No matter what state they meet up with they have to overcome it. They can't be defeated."
Disciple: I have this interesting thing. My body seems to be divided in two halves. I experience two states at the same time. One half of me will be calm and peaceful and the other half will be scattered and excited.
Master: "That's just the beginning. After a while not only will there be two sensations, there will be millions. There will be an incalculable number. You won't be able to fathom them with your mind. Nor will you be able to express them all in words. This is an experience, which is supposed to occur.
"A lot of people experience states, yet none of you have mentioned them. I'm talking about states which all of you had. I'll tell you about them. What you don't express, I know, what you do express I know too. What are the states I'm speaking of? Some people have sat until their backs ached. Some have sat until their legs ached. Some have sat until they fell asleep. If you don't believe it, ask around. A lot of people had these experiences. I know for certain.
"There's another experience you haven't mentioned. You thought, 'I have sat for so many days and haven't become enlightened. When will I get enlightened? What is enlightenment like? What color is it? What flavor? What shape? Are there those who had such false thoughts? If so, speak up."
Disciple: "Yes, Master."
Master: "The whole reason you haven't become enlightened is because you have that one thought. If you don't even have one thought, when one thought does not arise, the entire substance manifests. You haven't a single thought, you don't think of anything and yet you know everything. As long as you think you want to know, you don't know anything. As long as you have one thought, the root of birth and death is not severed. If you can get rid of that one thought, so there is no thought at all, 'without a mind, without thought, blessings are boundless.' Your blessings and wisdom will be boundless." Selfish desire and scattered thoughts are very base and, lowly. If you still have that one thought, that is still to have selfishness. Possessing the slightest bit of selfishness you cannot become enlightened. Tomorrow there is still one day left. There is still an opportunity to become enlightened. If you can be devoid of even a single thought, you will be able to sever the root of birth and death. So at the very last may you be vigorous. Let's see who is going to transcend the triple world."