What I said yesterday was not telling you not to build pagodas; in fact, the more you build, the better. If you build pagodas to the number of Ganges' sands, then that's even better. But it shouldn't be that you just express your fantasy of wanting to build a pagoda. The pagoda must actually exist. You have to really build it, not just talk about wanting to build one. By building pagodas of the seven jewels in number like grains of sands in the Ganges River, you will derive great merit and virtue. But the merit and virtue obtained from sitting quietly in dhyana samadhi for even an instant and being truly without thought--becoming a person of the Way without thought--surpasses the merit and virtue obtained from building pagodas of the seven jewels in number like Ganges' sands. This is certainly not telling people not to build pagodas. If you want to build pagodas, you can build as many as you like. I'm not joking. After all, there's no way to rent a pagoda for you, or rent a pagoda for me, or rent a pagoda for someone else. That's not how it's done. How could a pagoda be rented, anyway? And why would you want to rent one?
Today I will relate a true account about "sitting quietly for an instant." Long ago, Dhyana Master Ling You and after several years many people came to know of him as a cultivator who had virtue in the Way. Many people came to pay their respects. lived on Mount Wei in Hunan province in China. He was known as "the old man of Mount Wei." He built a hut and cultivated on the mountain, and after several years many people came to know of him as a cultivator who had virtue in the Way. Many people came to pay their respects. When the news reached Prime Minister Pei Xiu, he too went to call on him.
As soon as he had a conversation with the Old Man of Mount Wei, he felt the affinities were very deep and, inspired by his faith in him, he thought, "You are really a lofty monk who has the Way! But you are living in such a shaky, broken-down hut. It leaks when it rains and the wind blows through it. It's too bitter! You can build a monastery here. I'll give you the money." On the spot he gave the Old Man three hundred ounces of silver. The value of silver at the time was such that three hundred ounces could have built ten monasteries like the one we are in now. [the former Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery]. In those days a piece of silver could buy a lot of things. Prime Minister Pei Xiu, acting as a great Dharma Protector, offered up three hundred ounces of silver. But the Old Man of Mount Wei didn't have a safe, or a safety deposit box, or even a special place to put it in. And so Minister Pei Xiu simply set the money outside the hut in the grass and left.
Three years later, Prime Minister Pei Xiu returned to call upon the Old Man of Mount Wei and found him still living in the same shabby hut. He thought, "Oh! I gave this monk three hundred ounces of silver. What did he do with it? Did he use it to buy wine? Did he buy meat with it? How strange! Three hundred ounces of silver and he didn't build a monastery. He's still living in this broken-down hut!" He went in and saw that the Old Man of Mount Wei was just the same as before. And so he asked him,"Three years ago I gave you three hundred ounces of silver and told you to build a monastery. Why didn't you do it? What have you done with the money?"
The Old Man of Mount Wei said, "Silver? Where did you put it? Go look for it there." Pei Xiu thought to himself, "At that time there was no place to put it, and so I left it in the grass." Then he went to search in the grass and sure enough, the silver was still there. It hadn't moved an inch. The Old Man of Mount Wei hadn't even gathered up the money to put it in a safe place out of fear that someone might steal it. Prime Minister Pei Xiu thought, “Oh, he's really a lofty monk who has attained the Way. For three years he didn't even touch that three hundred ounces of silver. I should build the monastery for him.” Then he took out some more money and built a huge monastery that could house more than three thousand people.
After the temple was built, many monks who cultivated Chan meditation went there to cultivate. The monastery could house over three thousand people, and more than two thousand people had already gone there to reside. Pei Xiu thought, “Ah, so many monks are living here together. I will tell my son to leave the home-life.” Then Pei Xiu sent his son, a Hanlin scholar who was extremely learned--on a par with a present-day full professor--to leave the home-life.
What did the Old Man of Mount Wei tell this son of the Prime Minister to do? He said, "Since you have just become a left-home person, first you have to practice austerities. I appoint you water-carrier. You must haul water every day for the two thousand and some people who live here." Thus, he had to rise each day shortly after two o'clock in the morning and carry water all day long until midnight. You all sit in your Chan meditation; he hauled his water. Back and forth, back and forth he went, hauling water for several years. During those several years of hauling water, he didn't do anything else. He had no time to study the sutras, no time to bow to the Buddhas, and no time to formally recite the Buddha's name. His cultivation consisted solely of carrying water and reciting Buddha's name as he went. He did not have a fixed time to concentrate on studying the sutras, or any opportunity to recite the Buddha's name together with everyone else. He was a novice; he had to do hard work.
After carrying water for several years, he thought: "Everyone resides in the Chan hall. I'm going to take a look and see what goes on in a Chan hall. It just so happened that when he stole a peek into the hall, this monk was snoring and that monk was sleeping and the more he looked, the more he saw they were all like that. He said to himself, "Wow! I have been working so hard every day carrying water for you to drink and to use in cooking. All along I thought you were working hard at your cultivation. But, in fact, you've only been sleeping here. Really! Here I am a Hanlin scholar toting water so you have the opportunity to sleep!" He was extremely upset.
As soon as he got upset, the abbot sent an attendant to summon him. In all those years he had never seen his teacher. Now he had a chance to see his teacher and the Old Man of Mount Wei said to him, "Pack up your things and get out. We can't use you here. You are being kicked out."
Pei Xiu's son said, "But what have I done wrong? Why are you throwing me out?" The Old Man said, "What have you done! Why did you say that all those people were sleeping--that you came here and worked--you a Hanlin scholar hauled water to feed a bunch of people who like to sleep. Did you or did you not have those false thoughts?" He replied, "Yes! I saw them all sleeping in the Chan hall!" The Old Man of Mount Wei said,When an old monk sits once in meditation, He can digest ten thousand ounces of gold.
You wouldn't be able to handle even one ounce of gold how much the less can you stand being a Hanlin who hauls water. Just take a look at yourself, you don't have the least bit of patience. You'll have to go. I refuse to keep you here."
Pei Xiu's son, whose name was Fa Hai, then knelt before the abbot and begged, "Please don't kick me out! Please forgive me this time." The abbot said, "No! I can't forgive such a useless person. Pack up and get out fast!"
He was kicked out and that was that. After Fa Hai had packed his things, he asked, "Please tell me where I should go. Where should I live?" The Old Man gave him eight and half cents and said, "Dwell right where you happen to be when you have spent the last of this eight and half cents. As long as you have even a half a cent left, you should keep moving." Carrying that eight and half cents, Fa Hai went down the mountain. He begged for food as he traveled, because he dared not spend the eight and half cents. He went straight through Hunan to Nanjing. As he crossed the river at Zhenjiang, intending to climb the mountain on the other side, the ferryman didn't ask for more and didn't ask for less--he wanted exactly eight and half cents for the fare. Since all the money was spent for the fare, once he reached that mountain, he didn't leave. He stayed on Gold Mountain. That mountain was named Gold Mountain. Actually, originally it was not called Gold Mountain. What was its name? There is no way to trace it. Well, how did it come to be called Gold Mountain? When Fa Hai first arrived on the mountain he found a cave and lived in it. One night the cave radiated light. He went further into the cave to trace the source of the light and discovered two crocks full of gold there. He then used the gold to build Jiangtian Monastery. And so in China that mountain is named Gold Mountain because two full crocks of gold were discovered there by him.
He established a Way-place there and to this day, it is one of China's most famous Way-places when it comes to Chan meditation. The saying goes:Gold Mountain legs.Gaomin incense.
At Gaomin Monastery, the sitting periods are measured by the length of time it takes a stick of incense to burn, and they are never off by a second. At Gold Mountain, those who lived there got their legs well-trained for meditation--to the point that no matter how long they sat they didn't fear the pain. They had veteran legs! Several days ago someone couldn't stand the pain and cried. I've told you before that you can stand up for a while if your legs hurt. Someone suggested, "Stretch out your legs for a second while still sitting there in order to get rid of the pain." Basically that method is all right, but if you allow people to stretch out their legs in front of the Chan bench, they won't do it for just a second or just a minute. At the least they will stretch their legs out for ten minutes or even twenty minutes. Once you stretch out your legs, you can't work at your meditation. And so why do I suggest that people stand up? When you stand up, everyone can see you. If you sit there with your legs stretched out, some people are not going to notice it. And you can be thick-skinned and rationalize with yourself: "It doesn't matter--others are probably doing the same thing." In general, you won't feel so embarrassed. But what happens if you stand up? "Gee! Everyone else is sitting. It's embarrassing to be standing here. I'm going to hurry up and sit down." That's why I want you to stand up instead. If you really can't stand it or if you feel like going to sleep, you can stand up. That's the first reason I want you to stand: you can shift your energy and bring up your spirits. The second reason is that you won't do it for long.
Someone complained today that there is too much noise in the Chan hall. One person was coughing; somebody else was snoring; and another person wiggling, which caused the bench to squeak. The noise was intolerable! That can happen anywhere. You may try to avoid this noise, but another noise shows up. If you get rid of that noise, you'll become aware of another one. If you are someone who knows how to apply your effort, then whether it's noisy or quiet, you will not be turned by movement or stillness. Don't follow the noise and quiet--don't listen to the movement and stillness. If you follow the movement and stillness, then you will say: "He is really irritating! She makes it impossible for me to enter samadhi!" Even if the other person weren't making noise, you still might not be able to enter samadhi. If you can enter samadhi, then you are not even going to notice his movements.
Developing skill in meditation requires patience. Whatever state comes up, you should not move. That is what's meant by patience. Noisy places are good places for learning to cultivate. If you are really able to work at your meditation, then no matter how noisy the environment, you can still do your work. But now we are all new at meditation; we have just begun, and so it's not so easy for us to cultivate in such a noisy place. However, it is also not at all easy to find a completely quiet place. Even if you go to the top of a mountain where the stillness is profound, you still have yourself to deal with. You may get angry with yourself.
In cultivating the Way you must be able to overcome the environment. That's how you should be. No matter what the situation, don't despise your environment, saying: "Ugh, this is a terrible environment." Move somewhere else and it may be worse. Leave that place and go on to another and it may turn out to be worse yet, until there's no place in the universe that suits you. If you can overcome the environment, then everywhere is the same for you. The Buddhas don't choose the place where they realize Buddhahood. The Buddhas don't pick their place when they become enlightened. It's possible to realize Buddhahood anywhere.
We have already passed through six days. Tomorrow is the last day. Let's see how you do. You set yourself firmly to the task and intensely apply effort. Be determined to make progress in developing your skill, in recognizing your original face. When you recognize your original face, then your legs won't hurt and your back won't ache. You will feel extremely comfortable--very clear and cool.