Instruction by Ch'an Master Hsuan Hua
Translated by Bhikshuni Heng Ch'ih
Reviewed by Bhikshuni Heng Yin
Edited by Upasika Kuo Yuan Larrick


Evening:  December 27, 1973

People of the way with no minds, are you really without a mind? You should examine yourself, ask yourself, do you still have a mind? Or are you without a mind? Do you still have false thinking? Or are you without false thinking? You should ask yourself this every sitting period. Do you just sit there and wait for the bell? Every sitting period do you sit there and think, "Wow, it's Christmas time and there's a big party at home. I wonder if they're thinking of me, and the fact that I'm not at the party?" That's false thinking. Is it possible when you're sitting there you think, "This year I wonder how many Christmas cards I'll get? I wonder what will be painted on them? Or perhaps you think, "Is someone going to write me a letter? Will someone call me on the phone?" These are all "having a mind" and "having false thoughts."

"In a little bit I think I'll call up my father and mother and ask how they are." That's called false thinking. Or perhaps you're thinking, "I want to go home tomorrow and see my grandparents." That's why I say one of my disciple's always returning to lay life, because he goes and sees his grandmother all the time. If you visit her and she can come to believe in the Buddha that's good, but if she's not converted and turns around and converts you, that's not too good.

So we should take a look and see whether you have any false thinking. You've been working so many days and you still haven't subdued your false thinking. So you should quickly think of a way to do so.

In all the big monasteries in China during a Ch'an session, on the fourth day instruction may be requested. If you have a certain experience—perhaps you see the Buddha or you see a ghost or you see some people--you can tell about it. At Gold Mountain Monastery, we're going to have instruction asked on the fifth day, in the afternoon at three o'clock: whoever had an experience that they haven't understood can ask about it. If you understand it, there's no need to ask, no need to look for trouble. And so there's a little difference between the rules at Gold Mountain and the rules at an ordinary monastery.

Last night I said, "When you develop your skill you have to know the method for developing skill." This is very important. This is like when you eat a lichee nut you should peel it and then eat the nutmeat inside, but you shouldn't eat the kernel underneath the nutmeat. It takes a little work.

Cultivating the Way and eating things are the same. If you understand the nature of the thing you're eating and how it should be eaten, when you eat it you won't get sick. If you don't understand how to eat, for instance a lichee nut, you just swallow it whole. That's like when Monkey ate the ren shen fruit and didn't know the flavor. He was so nervous he just gulped it down whole and then he turned around and said, "Pigsy, what's it taste like?" So, it's said, Monkey ate the ren shen fruit and didn't know the flavor. And when you eat a lichee nut, if you don't peel the skin and eat the nutmeat inside but swallow it whole, not only will it not be of any use to you, it could hurt you. There is no way you could digest it. And although the seed inside the lichee is not as hard as vajra, I think it also wouldn't be easy to digest. So, in the same way you must understand the method for cultivating. The ancients braved the seas and scaled the mountains in order to look for a bright-eyed One, that is, to look for a Good Knowing Advisor. But they're not easy to find. It is not easy to meet a Good Knowing Advisor.

Now I'd like to tell you a story to illustrate how dangerous it is to cultivate when you are the blind leading the blind. Once long ago an old cultivator had cultivated until he had developed spiritual penetrations. What kind of spiritual penetrations did he have? He could "go out the mysterious and enter the female." "Go out the mysterious,” means to go out the top of your head, to send a little person out the top of your head. And when the little person gets out there and the wind blows, he breaks loose, and once he breaks loose he can go wherever he wants. It's a little like a kite because the kite is up in the air but still attached with the string. So when the old cultivator went out the mysterious and entered the female he had a little string attached. Now this string couldn't be seen by ordinary flesh eyes. If you attain the five eyes, then you can see the string. And when he went out, the string didn't break, so whenever he wanted to come back he could. And because he could go out the mysterious and enter the female he went everywhere roaming about, playing. This is truly the case of suddenly being in the heavens, suddenly being on earth, suddenly being a hungry ghost, suddenly an animal. He could go anywhere at all. He could go, but because he was a yin spirit he couldn't be seen by most people, but he could see people. He would go to a play and he wouldn't have to buy a ticket; he could to a movie and he wouldn't have to buy a ticket; he'd go to the ballet and he wouldn't have to buy a ticket. Nowhere in the heavens, nowhere among men could he not go. He could go up to the heavens and check out the gods—how the gods danced, how fine their music was, and how the whole atmosphere of heaven was adorned and luxuriant. The flowers, grass and trees were not the same as among people, and their fragrances were not known among human beings. A rare fragrance pervaded everywhere, completely unknown to humans. And he could go there whenever he wanted and smell that fragrance and go look at the beautiful forms and go listen to the sounds. Forms, sounds, tastes, tangible objects and dharma, the sensuous delights of the six dusts, he perceived again and again and he was pretty self-satisfied and always thought, "Look at me, I don't have to buy tickets for anything I do. I can see all kinds of things really cheap, no money at all." And he roamed around taking in everything. He was in the playful samadhi.

One day he was walking down a road with no hotels ahead and no inns behind, so he stopped at a temple to spend the night. In the temple lived an old Bhiksu and a young sramanera. The old Bhiksu was very compassionate. Although it was a small temple, whoever came by he would let spend the night and so he also allowed the old cultivator to stay. And he gave him a room to stay in. Once again the old cultivator brought forth his spiritual penetration and the little man popped out of his head and ran off. How far did he go that time? Well, for instance, he went from, say, China to America or from America to India, just went everywhere, playing around. He played so much that after he got out he forgot to come back. He roamed around and forgot to return. He got so engrossed in what he was experiencing outside that he forgot to come back. The old Bhiksu and the small sramanera were the ones, who were,

In a dream transmitting a dream,

so that one transmitted and two didn't understand.

And the master falls into hell

            and the disciple follows along respectfully.

Since they were that way they didn't know that when someone cultivated the Way they could "go out the mysterious and enter the female." In the morning the small sramanera went to call the old cultivator who had stayed overnight to come and eat. He knocked on the door but no one answered, so he went back and told the old Bhiksu. The old Bhiksu said, "Well, open the door and take a look." He opened the door and looked...dead. The old cultivator was dead. He didn't have any breath going in and out of his nostrils and his mouth wasn't open. So the little sramanera went running back and said to the old Bhiksu, "Shih Fu, Shih Fu, that man's already dead." The old Bhiksu said, "Oh, he's died. Well, prepare a fire and we'll cremate him, and then there won't be any affair. If the officials were to find out it would be something else; let's hurry up and cremate him." They were afraid that the officials would find out, that the local officials would then come and bother them. So they took the corpse and burned it.

Of course, after it was burned, guess what happened? The little man came back. The "going out the mysterious," the mysterious returned. When he got back he couldn't find his house. He said, "Where's my house?" He couldn't find it anywhere. When the old Bhiksu and the little sramanera could hear this person speaking, looking for his house, it merely scared them to death. It looked for its house by day, it looked for its house by night. It looked day after day after day and the more it looked the louder its voice got, until its voice was so loud that day and night it was screaming. And the old Bhiksu and the little sramanera thought, "Oh, it's a ghost come to bother us, we're going to have to move, we have to get out of here; this place is unfit to live in." They decided to move the next day and they were just going to renounce the little temple.

That night another old cultivator came and probably this old cultivator was a professional Ch'an-sitter. And he came there in the evening looking for a place to stay overnight. He knocked on the door and the little sramanera came and saw him. He said, "What do you want?" And the cultivator said, "I'd like a place to stay tonight. "Sorry, we don't take anybody overnight anymore, because when people stay overnight, it brings a lot of trouble down on us. And so now we have to move." And the old cultivator said, "Well, you used to let people stay overnight." "Of course we did, and somebody who stayed overnight here died and afterwards we've been troubled by a ghost." The old cultivator said, "Oh, so you've an old obnoxious ghost, huh? Well, I'm pretty proficient with ghosts. You go tell your Shih Fu that I can take care of ghosts."

The little sramanera heard this and thought, "Oh, he can take care of ghosts. Well, maybe. So he went back in and told his Shih Fu. "Shih Fu, Shih Fu, somebody has come and is outside--he wants to stay over-night here. And he says he can take care of ghosts." Shih Fu said, "Ph, he just wants a place to stay. What do you mean he can take care of ghosts? He's just cheating us. Okay, if he can take care of ghosts, let's try him out." So they let the old cultivator stay. He said, "Take me to the room where the ghost is and I'll stay there." So they took him to that room and he could hear the ghost talking, looking for his house. "Who took my house? "--He was looking for his body, of course. They had taken his body away. So the old cultivator told the small sramanera to prepare a pan of water and a brazier of fire. And when it was all prepared, he heard the ghost calling out and he said to him, "Your house is in the water." And the ghost went down into the water and searched all around, "But it's not here, it's not in the water." And he said, "Oh, if it isn't in the water, it certainly must be in the fire. Go look in the fire for it." The old cultivator was very obedient. He offered up his conduct in accord with the teaching. So he plunged into the fire, searched around, scraped around all the coals and fire and he couldn't find it. So he got out of it and he said, "No, it's not there. My house isn't in the brazier fire." And the old cultivator said, "Say, old fellow cultivator, old fellow Ch'anist, you've just entered the water and not drowned, you've just entered the fire and not been burned. What in the world are you still looking for your house for?"

After he said that the ghost woke up. After that he didn't trouble them any more. Thank goodness this old cultivator who knew how to go out the mysterious and enter the female met somebody who really knew Ch'an and he was able to wake up. If he hadn't met up with this person who really knew Ch'an he probably would have gotten angry and fallen. There's nothing fixed about it. But of course it's a story.

That is a public record, which is explaining the principle. That is, it's telling you not to study going out the mysterious and entering the female, not to learn that dharma door. What you want to learn is to learn how not to go out, not to enter; not to be produced, not to be extinguished; not to be defiled and not to be pure; not to increase and not to decrease; not to be born and not to die. That's the dharma door you should cultivate. Don't go off to see free movies and free plays, free music concerts and figure that you're getting off real cheap. Don't be greedy for these cheap things. You want to be able in a hair pore to manifest the Jewel King's lands; to sit in a mote of dust and turn the great Dharma Wheel. If you can reach that level of accomplishment, that is true freedom. This is really having it made. You can go anywhere you want and it's no problem, no difficulty at all.

When you are confused, ten thousand books are too few. When you are confused and you read, you read one book and that's not sufficient, and then you read two books and that's still not enough. Three books, still not enough. You read a thousand books, ten thousand books, it's still not enough. So that's what's meant by "when you're confused ten thousand books are too few." After you're enlightened, one word is too much. When you awaken then the entire Sutra store is in your own self-nature-there isn't anything outside. So the saying goes, "When you're confused a thousand books are too few. After you're enlightened, one word is too much." One word is too much. It's laboring the point. What's spoken is Dharma, what's practiced is the Way. Since what is practiced is the Way, we must practice. You go from here to there, and that's the Way. So, we should walk it. We still have to undergo a little more bitterness and keep on walking.