DHARMA TALKS

CH'AN SESSION 1973-74

Ch'an instruction given by the Venerable Ch'an Master
Hsuan Hua during a two-week intensive session.

Translated by Bhiksuni Heng Ch'ih
Reviewed by Bhiksuni Heng Yin
Edited by Upasika Kuo Yuan Larrick
Transcribed by Sramanerika Heng Chu

12/23/73 afternoon.

Learned Advisors, as the Ch'an session begins, some of you are already able to do the work. You should attend to your own work, develop your own skill. Don't be lax at any time. At all times keep your work in mind.

Continue to exert effort and you will reach this point:

The mountains have disappeared, the waters have vanished.

No road lies ahead. In the shade of the willows

Bloom the bright flowers and there is yet another village.

Perhaps you'll get to the top of a one hundred-foot pole and be able to take that one last step. At just that point, quite naturally, you'll understand your original face; you'll know what it looks like.

But some of you are just beginning to investigate Ch'an, and have never participated in a Ch'an session or had a Good and Wise Advisor instruct you.  These people have been like the blind lead by the blind. Their practice has been like cooking sand with the hope of getting rice. In no way was it possible that they could have succeeded. If you want to have some accomplishment it is essential to meet a bright-eyed advisor who can instruct you in the methods for increasing your skill. Then, day by day, you can make progress. But there are not many bright-eyed Good and Wise Advisors. In the whole world they are very few. Since there are so few, then how are you to know who is a Good and Wise Advisor? A Good and Wise Advisor would never plaster a sign on his forehead which said, "Do you recognize me, or not? I'll tell you now, I am a good bright-eyed advisor." If in fact he did advertise in this way and claimed to be a Good and Wise Advisor, then he wouldn't be a genuine Good and Wise Advisor. As to a genuine Good and Wise Advisor, if you recognize him, then you recognize him, but if you don't recognize him, he will not put any pressure on you and say, "You should draw near to me. I am, within this world, a Great Good and Wise Advisor, a bright-eyed good advisor." He wouldn't say that. He couldn't be like Wang Ma Tse selling his plasters, peddling his own products by boasting, "Say, you ought to know, my tonic is mysterious and wonderful. No matter what your illness, apply one of my plasters and everything will be okay. Not only will your sickness get better, but if you use my tonic, then even if you don't eat, you won't be hungry; even if you don't drink, you won't be thirsty; even if you don't sleep, you won't be tired. In the future, you won't even have to die. What do you think about my tonic? It's out of sight!"

A true Good and Wise Advisor wouldn't be like Wang Ma Tse selling his tonic. He wouldn't be able to praise himself. If you recognize him that's fine; if you don't recognize him that's okay too. He won't introduce himself.  Since that's the way it is, how are you to know who is a Good and Wise Advisor? It's not easy to know. It's said, "A Good and Wise Advisor is hard to meet." As a matter of fact, in the whole world, very, very few genuine Good and Wise Advisors exist.

I can give you a simple Introduction to a Good and Wise Advisor: A Good and Wise Advisor teaches people to go on the right road. He does not teach people to go on deviant paths. What is meant by the right road? He teaches people not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to lie, and not to take intoxicants. He wouldn't be a bad advisor who'd say, "Oh, wine is no problem. When the Buddha prohibited wine, including it among the five precepts, he was talking to people who were as fond of wine as they were of their very lives. He wasn't referring to ordinary people." To speak that way is called deviant knowledge and deviant views. It is not proper knowledge and proper views.

And this bad advisor also says to you, "Now, as to your sexual desire, although the Buddha said desire and lust were not a good thing, if you can use sexual desire to the ultimate, you can also become enlightened.' That is also an example of deviant knowledge and deviant views. And so this bad advisor goes on, and as he continues to tell you to do improper things, he indicates to you that he is not a Good and Wise Advisor. A Good and Wise Advisor won't teach you to destroy something useful to you like your eyes. He wouldn't say to you, "Oh your eyes really give you a lot of trouble. If you, were to gouge them out so you couldn't see anything, then you wouldn't have any trouble at all. If you were unable to see forms, unable to hear sounds, or unable to smell scents; unable to taste flavors, unable to feel tangible objects, and unable to think about things, that would be truly wonderful. What you should do is put a stop to the realms of your six organs and their six objects." This is the teaching of an advisor who teaches blindness, and it is very dangerous. So I'll continue to introduce you to a Good and Wise Advisor.

One who hasn't any jealousy is a Good and Wise Advisor, one who hasn't any hatred is a Good and Wise Advisor, one who hasn't any greed is a Good and Wise Advisor, one who hasn't any stupidity is a Good and Wise Advisor. One who is without greed, hatred, and stupidity is a Good and Wise Advisor. He can actually cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. That's a Good and Wise Advisor. If you are contemplating a Good and Wise Advisor, you should take a look and see if he has any selfishness. If he's selfish, he's not a Good and Wise Advisor. If he's after profit for himself, he's not a Good and Wise Advisor. Someone who doesn't have any selfishness or desire for self-benefit is a Good and Wise Advisor.

For instance, in Canada there is a man who calls himself a Lama. I don't know where he stole his name. When he teaches people, he has them give all their wealth and worldly possessions to him. The people who follow him to study the Dharma give him everything. They even give their own heads of hair to him, give their skin to him, give their flesh to him. It's just the bones he's not interested in. Why? Bones are rigid. Be careful and watch out for that kind of so called good and wise advisor.

As to those of us here, maybe there is a Good and Wise Advisor among us and maybe not. If there is, then we can draw near to him, and if not, we can wait. While we are waiting for a Good and Wise Advisor, I will teach you first a little bit about the methods for applying your skill.

When you sit and do this work, you should sit very straight and properly. You shouldn't lean back and tilt your head back or bow your head down and lean forward. You should keep your head erect. Your eyes should regard your nose and look to see if your nostrils are pointing up or down. Look at the nose clearly. The nose regards the mouth. Does a nose have eyes that it can see the mouth? In time, the nose will produce eyes. You just tell it to look and it will look and look until eventually the nose will be able to see the mouth. Then you'll say, "Oh, basically that's the way the mouth is." The mouth asks the heart, "Is the heart black? white? yellow? or red? Is the heart green, white, red, yellow, or black? What kind of heart is it? Ask it and see. If you see a black heart then day by day you can change its color, change it to white, until it becomes the great storehouse of light, which is one with the Dharma-realm. Then there will be a little hope for you.

When you breathe, don't use your mouth. That is, if you are able, breathe through your nose. Now some people find it very, very difficult to breathe through their noses. So if you can use your nose to breathe, breathe in and put the breath behind your navel. Stop it behind your navel, not below; that place is empty, vacuous. There isn't anything there. It's just what is meant by "basically there isn't anything at all." You want to stop your breath at that point.

What is meant when people ask each other, "Are you able to link your breath?" That's a very important question. If you can link your breath, then the outside breath is just the inside breath and the inside breath is just the outside breath. So someone who has the Way, can cease his outer breath and yet his internal breath moves. Although no breath is coming in and out of his nostrils or his mouth, every pore in his body is able to breathe in and out. He looks like a dead man, yet he's "dead and not gone." What is this "dead and not gone"? It is living. But when it's that way it's unnecessary to have the outer breath because the internal breath has come to life.

At that time,

Your eyes see forms but inside there is nothing.

Your ears hear sounds but your mind does not know them.

When from within you contemplate your mind, there isn't any mind. When outside you contemplate the forms, there are no forms either.

If you look off into the distance at all the myriad things, all those things are also empty. But at that point you shouldn't think that you're so far advanced. That's still just a preliminary expedient. It's just experiencing a little "light ease." You shouldn't take a thief as your son and think that because of it you're just peerless. What's so peerless about you? You're really shameless. To do this is to not recognize yourself. You get a little bit of skill and you're satisfied. But you are still 18,000-million miles away from accomplishing Buddhahood. Don't obtain just a little and think it's enough. Don't be like a little child with a piece of candy who takes that one little piece of candy and is overjoyed. He runs outside and somebody gives him a piece of candy and he's in ecstasy totally satisfied just because he has some candy to eat. What he doesn't realize is that in his own home there is a stash of honey and candy that's so vast, you can't say how much there is. He's just unable to get hold of it and eat it. That's the way it is with people who get a little bit and are satisfied.

Now I have told you just a very, very little bit about the methods for developing your skill. If you want to know all about how to do the work, you'll still have to wait for the Great Good and Wise Advisor to come. When the Great, Compassionate Good Learned One comes, he will tell you how to do the work. And then you will have done what has to be done. You will have accomplished the task of a great man.

When everyone has sat until minds are empty and bodies are empty, then I, having nothing to do, will come to find something to do and I'll pass the time with you 'people of the Way with no minds."

Before I called you Good and Wise Advisors but now as I think about it you are 'people of the Way with no minds, because we are still waiting for the Good and Wise Advisor. So you "people of the Way with no minds" haven't any minds, but without any minds you must also not have any bodies. You can't whimper, "My legs hurt, my back hurts, I can't stand it, what am I going to do?" As soon as you start thinking that way, even Sakyamuni Buddha himself can't save you. Why not? Because you can't practice what's difficult to practice. You can't bear what's difficult to bear. You can't cultivate what's difficult to cultivate.

What's so great about this body anyway? When Sakyamuni Buddha was cultivating on the causal-ground, he relinquished his body, his nature, and his very life. He gave them away, gave them to people. Not only can we not give our bodies, natures, and very lives, we can't even stand it if our legs suffer a little. Don't be so gutless. If you canít take it after one day, whatís going to happen after two? After three, youíll be beside yourself. Strike up your spirits, get hold of your genuine vajra resolve. Didnít I say last night, ďThe furnace in the great foundry smelts vajra?" This furnace can smelt anything.

Gold Mountain Monastery is like the furnace in a foundry. When you come here, if youíre a dragon, you must curl up; if youíre a tiger, you must crouch and use one mind to cultivate. No matter how bad a person you are, you have to become good. And no matter how good you are, you must get better. Thatís whatís meant by the first line of the gatha I spoke yesterday:

The furnace in the great foundry smelts vajra.

All Buddhas of the ten directions protect the Bodhimanda.

Every Sage and Worthy One comes forth from this,

And in the Saha World another Dharma King comes forth.

There may be yet another Dharma King. If too much is said, itís just a bother. And so now everybody should bring forth his own skill and advance vigorously and courageously.