Explanation of the Title
The white universe refers to the self-nature. White refers to the mark that is apart from marks. Both the nature and marks are nondual. Thus, it is known as the white universe.
Explanation of the Poem
Ice in the sky, snow on the ground means one has perfected the skill of eliminating all dharmas. Inside, there is no mind; and outside, there is not a single thing. The mind is as if covered with ice and frozen snow. There is no sound or smell. Numberless tiny bugs die in the cold means all discursive and stray thoughts are gone. Or sleep in hibernation. This implies a turning point. The ancients said, "If you turn around at this crucial point, it will be the proper cause for the Great Vehicle." The Venerable Master said, "You have to apply effort in a dynamic way; don't take a path that leads to a dead end." Those who recite and memorize the Sutras should learn to contemplate the Sutra text as well, contemplating their own nature. Otherwise, they will stagnate and have no hope of success.
In the midst of stillness one contemplates, and within movement one investigates. This refers to two methods of practice: not turning and turning. The former is similar to wintertime, when vegetation stops growing, symbolizing the eradication of thoughts. The latter is similar to springtime, when everything grows and thrives. Here, one must use wisdom to distinguish the weeds from the crops, cultivating the seedlings and pulling out the weeds. This is to apply the Sutra to life, using the Sutra to examine one's thoughts, words, and deeds. Thus the Sutra, the mind, and states become one; and the mind and external states tally with the Sutra's principles.
Dragons spar and tigers wrestle in constant playful sport; / Ghosts howl and spirits wail at the mystery of illusory transformations. This describes a state of massive slaughtering and fighting brought on by habits accumulated since time without beginning. These habits are very hard to eradicate and constantly recur to challenge one. Sometimes, there is clearly a demon involved, and yet we mistake it for the Dharma King. We are obviously wrong, yet we persist in our mistaken view. As Layman Pang said, "It's hard, hard, hard! It's like trying to spread ten catties of sesame seeds on the leaves of a tree." Hence, cultivators should not be without a good mentor even briefly, lest they fall into a pit by clinging to emptiness or to existence.
Ultimate truth transcends words. This is a state of light ease. If one skillfully employs contemplative Prajna, one will experience the non-obstruction of thought and non-thought and of stillness and movement. Not thought about or talked about, you ought to advance with haste! Right within this inconceivable state, one should vigorously apply one's skill. Don't be content with minor achievement; don't stop making progress.
With great and small destroyed, with no inside or out, / It pervades every mote of dust and encompasses the Dharma Realm, / Complete, whole, and perfectly fused, interpenetrating without obstruction. In this state, one's skill has matured. Everything fuses into oneness, and there is no distinction between self and others. With two clenched fists, break through the covering of empty space. This is a state of great and total enlightenment. The ancients said, "Empty space is smashed to pieces, and the great earth has sunk." In a single gulp, swallow the source of the seas of Buddhalands. With total enlightenment, one attains Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom.
With great compassion rescue all. After being thoroughly enlightened, one should deliver all living beings with great kindness and compassion. Sparing no blood or sweat, and never pause to rest. After being enlightened, one has heavy responsibilities and a long path to travel, so one should not rest. After thorough enlightenment, one has four priorities:
1. Perpetuate the Proper Dharma.
2. Propagate the Buddhadharma widely to benefit beings.
3. Support the monasteries so that everyone can practice with peace of mind.
4. Constantly review what one has learned so that one does not forget.
In this poem the Venerable Master concisely summarized the difficulties faced by cultivators, such as cutting off delusions, realizing truth, battling with demons, and encountering ghosts and monsters on dark, stormy nights. Whether one is a dragon or a snake, one will grow and be transformed in the pure field of mind, in the blazing furnace. This is the first step toward success in one's cultivation. This is the turning point for changing from an ordinary person into a Buddha. Let us urge each other on!