這個禪堂又叫般若堂，所以起七的時候，我對你們講：「金山寺中般若堂」，這個般若堂就是來鍛鍊你本有的智慧，這叫般若堂。你不要越鍛鍊越愚癡！說：「我想有智慧，但是我就是受不了，這太苦了。」受不了你若能受，那就是真了，真的就是受不了的才能受，受得了的沒有什麼稀奇，誰都能幹，人人可以做得到的。好像吃糖，沒有一個人反對吃糖的；你若能吃辣椒，那就有人反對了。但是你能吃，不怕辣，那就是出類拔萃了，出乎其類、拔乎其萃了，outstanding people。在這個般若堂裡邊來鍛鍊，這叫「金山寺中般若堂」。我們天天喝那個叫般若湯，我們這個堂就叫般若堂，Prajna Hall。
我們大眾共聚這個選佛場裡邊來考試，考試佛、菩薩、祖師。你若考上，就是佛、菩薩、祖師；你若考不上，就是什麼也不是。那麼這個題目是什麼呢？題目就是收拾垃圾。以前我給這個果佑起的名字，就叫收拾垃圾的人，怎麼給他起這麼個名字呢？因為這個廟上的垃圾他願意出錢，出這個垃圾的錢，我叫他收拾垃圾的人。那麼現在，我們人人都是收拾垃圾的人，都是在這兒 clean up（清理）。收拾什麼
我們現在用這個「念佛是誰」，這個「念佛是誰」就是金剛王寶劍，又是周利槃陀伽所念的那個「掃帚」兩個字。掃帚就是叫什麼 broom 啊？就是那個。說：「怎麼又叫金剛王寶劍，又叫這個掃帚？既然是金剛王寶劍呢，就不會是掃帚、笤掃；既然是笤掃，就不會是金剛王寶劍。」這個看你用那一頭。這個金剛王寶劍，一頭就是掃把，一頭就是切金斷玉、斬情斷愛的一個金剛王寶劍。能把無明也斬斷了，煩惱也斬斷了，這樣子就是金剛王寶劍。作笤掃，好像你念「念佛是誰？」這是好像掃地似的，掃乾淨了一點。「誰？」，又掃一下，又把這個私欲掃去很多。這個寶劍斬的也是私欲；這個笤掃掃的呢，也是這個私欲，就是你這個欲念，你情情愛愛這些個問題。這些個不能解決的問題，就用這金剛王的寶劍來斬它。
When you investigate “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” things may get vague. You keep on investigating, but you can’t find out “who.” Unable to find the “who,” you give rise to a “feeling of doubt.” Once this feeling of doubt arises—great doubt will bring great enlightenment. Small doubt will bring small enlightenment. No doubt will bring no enlightenment. Continual doubt will bring continual enlightenments. Brief doubt will bring brief enlightenment. What is meant by a “feeling of doubt"? It’s being unable to find out “who.” “Huh? Who?” Sustained investigation of this word “who” for hours nonstop can bring you to the point that your breath ceases, your pulse stops, your thoughts come to a standstill, and you attain a profoundly great samadhi.
With that kind of samadhi, you are in samadhi when you are walking; you are in samadhi when you are sitting; you are in samadhi when you are standing; and you are in samadhi when you are lying down. You neither enter it nor leave it, and so it’s called a profoundly great samadhi. At that time, above there will be no heaven; below there will be no earth; in between there will be no people; and afar there will be no objects. Absolutely everything will be empty. Even emptiness will not exist; emptiness will be obliterated. Once emptiness is obliterated, what kind of state remains? Take a look. Think about it. Do you still have false thoughts? Do you still have extraneous ideas? When there isn’t even any emptiness, where could the false thoughts and extraneous ideas be located? Where could lust be found? At that time, it’s very easy to become enlightened. It’s very easy to return to the root and go back to the source, to understand your mind and see your nature.
When you understand your mind and see your nature, nothing that happens presents any difficulties; there are no obstructions. Once you see your nature, you never worry. What are worries? They don’t exist. You say, “My father just died.” Well, he died and now he is dead. It’s not a big deal. “My mother passed away.” All mothers will pass away as a matter of course. That’s natural. All human beings will die one day. You say, “Ah! My home burned down!” So what? Let it burn. Be absolutely imperturbable no matter what happens. Don’t you see how fine it will be when you reach that point? That’s why I don’t like the custom of being expected to cry when one’s parents die. However, if you want to cry, no one is stopping you. But it means you don’t have any samadhi power. With samadhi, Mount Tai could collapse in front of you and you wouldn’t be startled. A beautiful woman could stand in front of you and you wouldn’t be moved. Or a handsome man could stand in front of you and you wouldn’t be moved. At that time you are free and at ease, truly free and at ease!
Those who really want to get enlightened should not be lazy. Those who are lazy cannot get enlightened. Look at the patriarchs throughout the generations and all Buddhas of the past. Each one of them had to be courageously vigorous in order to achieve their work in the Way, to perfect the three kinds of enlightenment, and to become endowed with all the myriad virtues. All of that comes about through vigor. In the Chan Hall, whoever is vigorous will attain advantages.
The Chan Hall is also called the Prajna Hall. And so when the session began, I said in a verse, In Gold Mountain Monastery’s Prajna Hall— The Prajna Hall has been designed as a place for you to refine your inherent wisdom. It shouldn’t be that the more you undergo refinement, the stupider you become. You say, “I would like to have wisdom, but I can’t take this. It is too bitter!” Being able to endure what you basically can’t endure is to be true. Those who are true are those who can bear the unbearable. There’s nothing unusual about being able to endure what is endurable. Anyone can do that. That’s something that everyone can achieve. Take eating candy for example. No one’s going to object to eating a piece of candy. However, when it comes to eating hot peppers, there are going to be people who object. But if you are able to eat them—if you are not afraid of that hot, then you are unusual. Someone like that is an outstanding person. In this Prajna Hall we are refining ourselves, and so it is called the Prajna Hall of Gold Mountain Monastery. Everyday we drink Prajna soup [this is a pun on the word “hall” (tang), which sounds like “soup” (tang)] and so this hall is called the Prajna Hall.
The arena where Buddhas are selected—beings from the ten directions gather. As to these people from the ten directions, some of us have come from the south; some have come from the north; some have come from the east and the west. Those from the east, south, west, north, the intermediate directions, the zenith, and the nadir have all come. And so “beings from the ten directions gather.” People have come from ten directions to gather in this hall where Buddhas are selected. What is going on here? This is a place where Buddhas are selected. Let’s see who will be selected!
Whoever becomes enlightened will know the face he had before his mother bore him. Becoming thoroughly enlightened to who you were before you were born is what’s meant by knowing “the face he had before his mother bore him.”
And we will grant that he is comfortable, clear and cool. You will certainly be free and at ease; you will certainly be clear and cool. At the very beginning I spoke this four-line verse hoping that each one of you will attain self-mastery, clarity, and coolness and that you will recognize your original face—the one you had before you were born. This present face that you got when you were born—with its prominent nose, blue eyes, and blond hair—doesn’t count. You want to find out: “what did I look like before I was born?” If you find out, you will, most definitely and absolutely, obtain genuine freedom and cool, refreshing clarity.
Here in the arena where Buddhas are selected, the assembly that has gathered is undergoing examinations—an examination in Buddhahood, an examination in Bodhisattvahood, a patriarch examination. If you pass the test, you become a Buddha, a Bodhisattva, or a patriarch. If you fail, then you aren’t any of those. What is the topic of the test? The topic is “collecting garbage.” Some time ago I gave Guo You the nickname “Garbage Collector.” Why do I give him that name? Because he volunteered to pay this monastery’s garbage bills. Since he’s paying the garbage bills, I named him “Garbage Collector.” Now we are all garbage collectors. We are all cleaning up. What garbage are we collecting? The garbage in our brains. What garbage is there in our brains? Lust is one example of garbage. Jealousy is garbage. Afflictions are all garbage. In general, anything in opposition to the Dharma, anything not corresponding with the Way, anything that does not accord with cultivation—all the vexations and troubles, all the competing and fighting—is garbage.
Now we are using “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” is a regal, precious vajra sword. It is also the two-word phrase “sweeping broom” recited by Kshudrapanthaka.
Someone may say, “Why is it called both a regal, precious vajra sword and a sweeping broom? Since it is a regal, precious vajra sword, it can’t be a broom. Since it is a broom, it can’t be a regal, precious vajra sword.” It depends which end you use. One end is a regal, precious vajra sword and the other end is a broom. One end, the regal, precious vajra sword, which can slice through gold and cut through jade, cuts through your emotions and severs your love. Being able to cut off ignorance and afflictions makes it a regal, precious vajra sword. The broom end is like your mindfulness of “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” Just as each time you sweep the floor it gets a little cleaner; so too, sweeping with “who” sweeps away a lot of your lust. What the vajra sword cuts through is lust and what the broom sweeps away is also lust. It’s your thoughts of desire, your emotional love, and other such problems. You can use the vajra sword to cut through all these unsolvable problems.
When you investigate “who?”—as soon as you investigate “who?”— the heavenly demons and externalists cannot do anything to you. There’s no crack for them to slip through. That’s because you are holding aloft the wisdom sword that subdues the ten great demonic armies. All the various demonic armies in this world will be conquered. None of the demons have any way to deal with your “who?” If you forget to be mindful of “who?” then there is a hole where the demons can wriggle their way in. That can happen because you put down your regal, precious vajra sword and give rise to ignorance. That is why it is essential to maintain singleminded concentration when meditating. “Being singleminded brings a response; being scattered lets corruption in.”
If you are truly applying effort in developing good skill to the point that you gain some response, then when you are hungry, you will be unaware of it; when thirsty, you won’t notice it; when cold, you won’t feel it and when hot, you won’t perceive it—you won’t know anything at all. If you can reach that level of not knowing anything at all, then you will know everything. You will be able to understand everything. When we people do something, no matter what it is, if we can do it thoroughly, if we can do it completely—to the ultimate point—then a change will occur. This is to say that within stillness there is movement and within movement there is stillness. When you move to the ultimate extent, stillness manifests. Stillness to the ultimate extent will bring about movement. “How do you know it’s like that?” you ask.
How do I know? Haven’t you noticed that there is day and night? Daytime is movement and nighttime is stillness. When stillness reaches an extreme, when the sky grows dark and when that darkness reaches its apex, dawn breaks. When the light of day reaches its apex, night descends. One day and one night are also one movement and one stillness. However, periods of movement and stillness may be long or short.
One year also is a movement and a stillness. For example, the winter solstice is the beginning of yang (positive energy), which is movement; the summer solstice is the beginning of yin (negative energy), which is stillness. Now, as to the movement and stillness which comprise a day and a night, daytime, movement, does not begin with the rising of the sun. When does it begin? It begins right after midnight. The period from 11 pm to 1 am (the zi period of time) is the beginning of the arising of yang and from 11 am to 1 pm (the wu period of time) is the beginning of the arising of yin. The zi period of time is one of the twelve branches, which are:
1. The zi period (11 pm to 1 am) 7. The wu period (11 am to 1 pm)
2. The chou period (1 am to 3 am) 8. The wei period (1 pm to 3 pm)
3. The yin period (3 am to 5 am) 9. The shen period (3 pm to 5 pm)
4. The mao period(5 am to 7 am) 10. The you period (5 pm to 7 pm)
5. The chen period(7 am to 9 am) 11. The xu period (7 pm to 9 pm)
6. The si period (9 am to 11 am) 12. The hai period(9 pm to 11 pm)
The zi period (11 pm to 1 am) is the time when the yang energy begins to rise. That’s because during the hai period (9 pm to 11 pm) the yin energy is at its peak. When the yin energy reaches its apex, the yang energy begins to rise. Therefore day (yang) begins at midnight (zi period). And the wu period (11 am to 1 pm), despite its noontime heat, is the beginning of night (yin)—the rising of yin. And so it cannot be said that daytime extends from dawn to dusk, or that nighttime extends from sunset to sunrise. That is not the case. Within movement there is stillness, and within stillness there is movement; movement and stillness are a single suchness. If you apply your effort in cultivation, you can develop your skill to the point that movement does not obstruct stillness, and stillness does not hinder movement—so that within movement there is stillness, and within stillness there is movement. When you are able to apply your skill, then you will find that within true emptiness there is wonderful existence, and from within wonderful existence, true emptiness arises.
We who investigate Chan meditation must use singleminded concentration. When singleminded concentration reaches its ultimate point then you will be able to deal with things. It’s said, “When things reach their extreme, a change must take place.” This means that when anything reaches its ultimate point, reversion will occur. “At the apex of Stagnation, Peace arrives.”
In the first of the Eight Houses (mentioned in the Yi Jing, Book of Changes) one change is called “Heaven over Earth makes stagnation.” The first of the Eight Houses contains these changes:
1. Creative is Heaven [1st hexagram ]
2. Heaven over Wind makes Coming to Meet [44th hexagram ]
3. Heaven over Mountains makes Retreat [33rd hexagram ]
4. Heaven over Earth makes Stagnation [12th hexagram ]
5. Wind over Earth makes Contemplation [20th hexagram ]
6. Mountains over Earth makes Splitting Apart [23rd hexagram ]
7. Fire over Earth makes Progress [35th hexagram ]
8. Fire over Heaven makes Possession in Great Measure [14th hexagram ]
That is the first of the Eight Houses.
Then [in the seventh of the Eight Houses]
49. Receptive is Earth [2nd hexagram ]
50. Earth over Thunder makes Turning Point [24th hexagram ]
51. Earth over Lakes makes Approach [19th hexagram ]
52. Earth over Heaven makes Peace [11th hexagram ]
When you reach the point of Heaven over Earth making Stagnation, then things will change into Earth over Heaven making Peace. That’s what’s meant by “At the apex of Stagnation, Peace arrives.” No matter what it is, when it reaches its most extreme point, then there will be some way to deal with it.
Now as we sit in meditation investigating Chan, our legs will hurt. Don’t cry as soon as your legs start to hurt. Once you experience pain to the extreme point, you won’t have any more pain. And so why are you crying about it? After that extreme pain, you won’t hurt any more. If you do not go through the experience of ultimate pain, then you are not going to get any good news. After the excruciating pain, something inconceivable and ineffably wonderful happens. There is no way I can express that state to you; you have to experiment for yourself.
When the pain reaches an extreme point, you won’t hurt any more. You will have broken through the pain barrier. But breaking through one barrier is not enough. After a while there will be another barrier, and then later on another barrier. For example, perhaps you’ve been sitting in meditation for an hour before the pain in your legs starts, and when it comes, you bear it: “I am certainly not afraid of pain! I am definitely going to fight with this pain until I win! In the end I am determined to be victorious!” Ah! Once you bring forth that resolve, the pain subsides. After it subsides, you don’t hurt anymore. The pain is under control and you have broken through one barrier. Now that was after one hour. But wait until you have sat for one and a half hours. The pain comes up again. Why? It is because your blood and qi (energy) reach a certain place, and they want to get through a barrier—it’s another barrier of pain. And so you experience pain again. And you have to endure it. You endure it until it doesn’t hurt any more—until it also disappears. Once it’s gone, you will feel at ease and very happy—a freedom and ease that cannot be expressed in words, an inexpressible bliss, an ineffable comfort. At that time you will feel Earth over Heaven making Peace.
You must break through these barriers in order to attain benefits. If you act like a child who cries at the first sign of pain, then you will never be able to break through these barriers. You need to have patience in order to break through these barriers. Endure what is unendurable! Grit your teeth and bear it! “Pain?! No pain! I’m not afraid of pain!” That’s how you have to be and then the pain will behave itself. Once the pain is under control, at that time you will taste a sweetness like that of candy. But you must be resolute! Don’t fear suffering! Don’t fear pain! Don’t fear difficulty! With these three kinds of fearlessness, you can break through the three barriers.