Go too fast and you'll trip; dally and you'll fall behind.
Never rush and never dally, and you'll get there right on time.
Some people have let the first four days go by in vain; others have gotten some benefit. However, people who attend a Chan session must first understand the rules.
The walking periods in a Chan session begin when the sitting meditation ends. During the first couple of minutes of walking, you can go to the bathroom if you need to, but when you are finished, you should return quickly. Don’t wait until the walking is over and the period of sitting meditation has begun. In our facility we have a second floor and a third floor. The second-floor restroom is for women to use and the third floor is for men. As I told you at the beginning of the session, the proctor should go to the restroom area with the incense board. If there are people in the restroom, then he strikes the incense board three times, “Pa! Pa! Pa!” He strikes it three times on the third floor and those on the second floor will be able to hear it. There is no need to go to the second floor as well and strike the board three times, because those on the second floor can hear clearly when the board is struck on the third floor. After the proctor hits the board, he should come back to see if everyone has returned to the hall. The proctor should be very clear about how many people are in the hall each day and should be able to tell at a glance if everyone has returned to the hall or not. If some people have not returned, he should wait a moment until everyone gets back before he begins the period of sitting meditation. Those participating in the session should not make the proctor wait for them before beginning the sitting meditation period. As soon as people outside the hall hear the “pa!” of the board, they should return and wait for the sitting meditation period to begin. Don’t make the proctor wait for you!
Once the sitting meditation period has begun, unless an extremely important matter comes up, no one is allowed to leave the hall. This is especially true of participants who don’t have any assigned duties. We need not mention people; even Weitou Bodhisattva stands very still and protects the Dharma—he would never walk around at random. The period for walking may be fifteen or twenty minutes long. The way we did it today, completing our walking and sitting periods in one hour’s time, made them very short.
The period after five o’clock in the evening is called the period for resting. That period should be a little longer. Some are an hour and forty-five minutes; some are two hours long. During the rest period it’s all right to sleep. But you must not snore. In this two-hour rest period, you may relax a bit—that’s what it’s for. However, if you don’t want to sleep, then you can continue to apply your effort by sitting in meditation during that time. Because this period is longer than the others, many people get enlightened during this time.
In sitting, you must practice sitting for extended periods of time. When your legs hurt a little, it shouldn’t be that you can’t take it and decide to stop sitting. You shouldn’t always wait for the end of the sit—waiting for the sound of the bell that signals the end of the sitting. If you keep having that false thought, then it won’t be easy to get enlightened. Therefore, in sitting meditation it remains to be seen whether you have any patience. With patience, you will have some accomplishment. Without patience, you won’t be successful.
When the sitting period ends, we walk together for a period. The walking period is a form of exercise, a lot like a foot race at a track and field meet. Just consider it a form of exercise and it will be a lot of fun. Sitting meditation is cultivation of samadhi; walking is cultivation of moral precepts. In this precepted walking, you don’t run outside the hall. However you choose to walk, you should remain in the hall. Don’t run outside the Chan hall, unless you need to make a trip to the bathroom. You may also drink tea during that time. If you are really thirsty, then you can drink tea, but do it earlier. Don’t wait until it’s time for the sitting meditation to start to go drink your tea.
There are many rules pertaining to the Chan hall. If we tried to bring them all up, we’d never finish. Actually, I should have told you about them at the beginning of the session, but I thought you were all old-timers who had been meditating for several years and who understood these things. From the way it looks, there are still things you don’t understand. Therefore I’ve brought up a few of the minor rules. These are not major rules; they are just minor problems. But if you don’t understand the minor rules, then you won’t be able to realize a great enlightenment.
I know that some people are not doing badly in their sitting meditation. They can sit to the point that there are no others and no self—but they are not asleep. They are in a state of lucid tranquillity. Several have attained this state, which, in Buddhism, is called “light ease.” It is the beginning of samadhi. You should continue to work. If you want to attain genuine advantages, then you must not be lazy! Don’t shirk work and steal away to rest. Don’t cheat yourself, cheat others, or cheat on the time. Don’t cheat the day and night, for if you do, they will say “What kind of investigation of Chan are you doing? Bunch of lazy ghosts! Take a look at yourself! Go look in the mirror!” You should settle down and seriously investigate Chan. Don’t be nervous. As soon as you get nervous, your temper rises—you get angry. But don’t be lazy either, or else you won’t be able to develop your skill. You shouldn’t go too fast and you shouldn’t dally. Keep to the Middle Way.
“Go too fast and you’ll trip; dally and you’ll fall behind. Never rush and never dally, and you’ll get there right on time.” Don’t go too fast means don’t be nervous. Don’t dally means don’t be lazy. Enjoy developing your skill. Develop it to the point that you are free and at ease when walking, free and at ease when sitting, free and at ease when standing, and free and at ease when sleeping. Walking, standing, sitting and lying down, you have self-mastery. Self-mastery means that your skill is progressing. When your skill progresses, you will be able to truly investigate Chan. Then, even if you consider stopping, there will be no way to do so.
Walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, you won’t lose the track of “who.” But even though you won’t lose track of “who,” you still will not recognize “who.” You won’t recognize “who,” but you want to become familiar with “who.” You can’t let the “who” be cut off. At all times and in all places you investigate Chan until you become one with it. When you become one with it, then although you eat each day, you won’t have eaten a single grain of rice. To eat without eating a single grain of rice: “Isn’t that a lie?” you ask. If you take it to be a lie, then it’s a lie. But this lie is different from ordinary lies. Because the meaning of this lie is not that you haven’t eaten, but that you are not attached to eating. You eat as if you hadn’t eaten. You wear clothes as if you weren’t wearing clothes. “All day you wear clothes and yet you haven’t put on a single thread.” This means that during the times you are walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, you forget everything. You forget about eating and wearing clothes, how much the more other matters. How much less of a problem will other matters be!