Continued from last issue: Tuesday, August 19, 1975 (evening)
Bhikshuni Heng Hsien:
Now I know that some people wonder why we've said that our Master does not concern himself particularly, in most cases, with individual cures. It's because the Master is curing on a much larger scale. He's giving people the medicine for curing birth and death; that is, if one follows those teachings that he teaches one can learn to have complete control over one's own destiny and be able to teach other people to do the same as well. So it's not just a matter of being cured of a given illness, but of completely being free of birth and death.
Oftentimes examples are used to illustrate things that happen on the mind ground that happen in the world of the relative. An example such as this occurred to me today. I used to live with a group of people on a beach on Maui, called McKenna Beach. We were all engaged in setting up a camp. Right smack-dab in the middle of the camp was a part of the foundation to an old army bunker of reinforced concrete that was about a foot thick, two feet high, and quite a few feet long. Anyway, it had to go. We were all busy setting up camp and none of us really wanted to face the task of getting that thing out of there. Nevertheless, it was right in the way of the camp and impractical to keep. So, we're all busy setting up camp and one person would go over with a sledge hammer and hit it a few times, and the thing wouldn't move. This went on throughout the course of the day. A person would get on it for five or ten minutes, get discouraged and bummed out about the thing, then go back to whatever they were doing. Basically no one wanted to get on this thing. I was avoiding it altogether. It just looked hopeless.
An idea occurred to me about half way through the day that with anything in the world, if you hit hard enough and long enough in one spot, it will eventually break up. After I took a swim to refresh myself, I grabbed a sledge hammer and worked on that piece of concrete. I just kept hitting it in the same place—toward the middle and toward the bottom—for about two hours. Finally, the entire thing broke. A couple of us hauled it out in two long pieces and got it out of there.
This illustrates how one should cultivate on the mind ground. Often people will begin cultivating a Dharma door such as reciting mantras or perhaps a Bodhisattva's name or a Buddha's name like we're doing now. The beginning is usually fine, but after one achieves a little bit of concentration, one's karmic obstacles rise to the surface and the more one meditates or recites or whatever Dharma door it is, the longer the obstacle will stay up on the surface. Many people don't understand what is actually happening and say, "Well, meditation is just an utter drag. I'm more bummed out now than a few years ago when I started," and they quit. This is a very, very common tendency and a tactic that people use to avoid facing the deeper problems of life.
Basically when cultivating a Dharma door, such as reciting the Buddha's name for example, one recites and recites. At the beginning notices nothing. After 'a while one notices that attachments and false views come into view. These will take a very definite personalized form according to who the individual is and what his attachments and shortcomings are. After a long as definite, tangible forms, these attachments all merge together into a kind of a blob within oneself of misery and melancholy and total, utter blah. This actually shows a little bit of success. Then one focuses one's attention on this blob a little bit more, concentrating and meditating on it, and lo and behold, this blob starts producing light. This is when a state of equilibrium is achieved. It's basically the same whether one is reciting a Buddha's name or reciting a mantra.
One takes a conscious thought, this thought of the Buddha, and uses it to overcome one's unconscious thoughts or false thoughts. Normally one's false thinking is most definitely strong, very strong, stronger than one's conscious thoughts. When one's conscious thought, one's recitation becomes as strong as one's unconscious thoughts or false thoughts, they start bouncing back off one another and this will produce light in the mind. The longer you can keep the conscious thought equal to the unconscious thoughts arising, the longer the light will actually appear. And eventually this light will destroy one's attachments and obstacles.
Very often--know I find myself doing it all the time and many of you may notice the workings of your mind while reciting and walking around outside and sitting in here-one tends to say to oneself, "Oh, I don't care about that. I don't think that is necessary or I don't think this is necessary." When this kind of thinking occurs, one should ask oneself, "If I don't think this is really so, then who is it that does?" Look into this question and really contemplate it. "If I'm not really attached to such and such a thing, who is it that is? If I don't think I'm doing this wrong, who is it that thinks I'm doing such and such wrong or incorrectly?" These are things that should be looked into in order for one to realize who one really is. It's very important to recognize the fact that you may be wrong and everybody else may be right, and really acknowledge this fact. Otherwise if one can't bring a change of attitude to one's mind, even one's own cultivation could be totally incorrect. Basically, even meditation is false. If one's attitude isn't correct toward meditation, meditation itself will become an obstacle. It is important to realize this, so one doesn't spend years of cultivation in vain.
This sort of reciting that we're doing today here in the session is really fine, because sitting is fine and most people here have probably done quite a bit of sitting in meditation, but I know I, myself, and a lot of my friends never practice walking meditation. Walking meditation is a really fine practice and should be introduced more because it's very important for people to realize that one doesn't have to be seated in or- der to meditate. In our daily activities there is ample opportunity to practice meditation, even for very busy people. There are always times when one is waiting in line or one has to just bide one's time. One can take these opportunities to get in quite a few hours of meditation a day, even in the course of daily activities.
In addition to meditation, to eliminate obstructions and what-not and to help one to realize one's fundamental nature, there's the keeping of precepts. The Buddha instructed his left-home disciples that after he passed into Nirvana the monks should take the precepts as their teacher. Basically, a person who becomes a monk is not supposed to get involved with any meditation whatsoever before keeping the precepts for at least five years, and there is a very good reason for this. To draw another analogy, it's sort of like going along in an automobile and trying to stop the automobile by just turning off the motor and not even bothering to apply the brakes. Now, the car will eventually stop and if it does stop, it will take a lot longer and it will also be a lot easier to get going again with no brakes applied, a child could come along and push it. The same principle applies to keeping precepts. If one achieves success in meditation and one has held the precepts for a good length of time, his chances of falling into worldly ways are pretty slim. Suppose one runs across a beautiful woman or a nice beautiful bag of ganja (marijuana) or psilocybum (another drug) or whatever one may like. It's highly unlikely that one will think, "Oh, that's really great," and get involved in it. On the other hand if one cultivates on one's own and ignores precepts, one can very easily not only fall into one's old attachments, but create very new ones that will emerge very strong and make it very difficult to cultivate.
To be continued