In a Chan session, talk less. Sit more and investigate Chan more.
Investigate until you don't have any understanding.
There is an
“If they didn’t endure bone-chilling cold, how could the plum blossoms
be so fragrant?”
The plum blossoms open in the winter and so their fragrance is
Why are they so fragrant? Because they endured the bitter cold.
When we investigate Chan, we should bring forth genuine determination
and a true mind.
Don’t fear suffering; don’t fear difficulties. Don’t sit in meditation
and wait for the bell to ring.
The first time
Guo Xiu came to investigate Chan, she talked about her experiences. She
said, “Every time I sit in meditation, I just wait for the bell. And I
can’t get rid of the garbage in my head. My whole brain is full of
garbage.” By now it’s been a few years, and the garbage is less.
Probably she’s not like she used to be, always waiting for the bell.
Although she’s not waiting, I believe there are many people who are
waiting. That’s because when people first begin to investigate Chan,
their legs hurt and their backs ache. If they keep sitting, then their
heads ache. They never feel comfortable. When their legs ache, they
don’t want to follow the rules. It’s not that they run away, but they
stretch out their legs, which is not permissible.
In the Chan
hall, if you stretch out your legs, you get your legs chopped off so
that you’ll never be able to stretch them out again! You watch and see,
in the future, whoever stretches out his legs will get his legs clipped
by the incense board. Then see if you ever stick them out again!
Without any legs, you have nothing to stick out, right? Also, when your
legs hurt, you’re not supposed to lean back against the wall, or bend
forward. When you can’t take it anymore, you shouldn’t act like a
certain monk who bends over as if he is bowing to the Buddhas.
“I bow to the
Buddhas and beg them to make my legs stop aching,” you say.
superstitious. The Buddha is not going to pay any attention to your leg
or back pains. The more pain you experience, the better.
“Then the Buddha
isn’t the least bit compassionate!” you say.
Why should the
Buddha be compassionate to you? What have you ever done for the Buddha?
Your legs hurt a little, and you can’t take it. Your back aches a bit,
and you can’t stand it. You experience a little pain in your legs and
back, and you have to bother the Buddha about it. You go give the
Buddha trouble. What should you do at that time? You should be patient.
Be patient with
pain, with hunger, and with thirst. Bhikshus must have that kind of
patience—patience with everything. Don’t be afraid of the pain in your
legs. You have to break through the barrier of leg pain. Don’t be
afraid of a backache. You have to break through the barrier of pain in
your back. Sitting in Chan here, we are going to battle with the demon
king of birth and death. We must fight with birth and death, how much
the more with pain! Pain is a small problem. Will you die of pain?
Impossible. Since it’s impossible, you don’t need to be afraid.
The Dharma door
of Chan is the most wonderful! One can never finish speaking about it.
One can never completely explain it. I can only explain a little for
you. During a session, time is very precious. Every minute, every
instant is an opportunity to become enlightened. Therefore don’t let
the time go by in vain. Don’t strike the bell early to end the sitting
period like you did last night. All those participating in the Chan
session, no matter who they are, should look upon this time as
especially important. Don’t casually let the time pass. Every second
you let go by might be the very second in which you become enlightened.
When you let the seconds go by, you are letting the opportunities to
get enlightened go by.
You say, “I
don’t want to get enlightened. What use is enlightenment?”
Well, if you
don’t want to get enlightened, why did you come to participate in this
Chan session? Your reason for joining the Chan session is self-evident:
“Since you are standing on the river bank, you must be longing for the
sea.” When you come to the Chan session, it’s like going to a mountain
full of treasures. Don’t return empty-handed.
When a session
is held, it must be conducted properly. In the past, no matter where I
went for a session, I always sat in the Chan hall. I was in the Chan
hall during the day, and also at night. The kind of sessions I was in
then were not like last night when the bell was rung much too early. We
were never off by a minute in ringing the bell. You must be accurate
right down to the minute—to the second. It’s like going into outer
space; there can’t be any miscalculations. If you make a mistake, if
you’re off by a hair’s worth in the beginning, you’ll be off by a
thousand miles in the end. If you cheat about the time, the time will
cheat you. You cheat about the time and say, “Oh! It’s already
midnight.” Time says “Yes.” As a result you waste half an hour. And so,
if you cheat about the time, the time will cheat you. Now, this period
of time is particularly important. We endure suffering all day
long—pain in the legs and various other kinds of discomfort. Is it
really the case that we can’t endure that last half hour? Do we have to
cheat about the time? It’s a big mistake to do that. When I sat in
sessions, I was sitting in the Chan hall regardless of whether the bell
had been rung to end a sit or the fish had been hit to start a sit.
When it was time to walk, I walked. When it was time to sit, I sat.
When you met
Master Ming Guan in Hong Kong, didn’t he tell you that he and I had sat
for ten weeks of Chan together? At that time I had a disciple with me,
and the three of us were in the Chan hall. We sat in the Chan hall all
day and all night. We never left the Chan hall. When you mentioned it
to me, I had forgotten. I forgot that I had those conditions with
Master Ming Guan. Now you who are studying with me will learn my
forgetfulness. When asked anything you will reply, “Uhh, I don’t
remember.” Not remembering is not bad. If you learn to be like that,
you can be considered to have inherited my robe and bowl. Inheriting
the robe and bowl of forgetting everything, even the robe and bowl are
forgotten. That’s the wonder of it.
In a Chan
session, talk less. Sit more and investigate Chan more. Investigate
until you don’t have any understanding. Since someone just said they
didn’t want to get enlightened, you may investigate only to the point
of not understanding; you may not go on to break through ignorance.