Venerable Master, all Dharma Masters, and
all Good Advisors: I would like to share some of my thoughts
during the (just concluded) winter Chan session.
I would like to repeat what a fellow
cultivator John from Berkeley shared during this meditation
retreat because it was fantastic. He initially had not
intended to attend the retreat from beginning to end, but
being so happy after a week's worth of Buddha recitation, he
decided to stay and try the Chan session. He had never
joined a meditation retreat before. He had false thoughts
continuously during the first few days of the Chan session,
but just as he was engrossed by those thoughts, he suddenly
felt a pat on his head. He was startled and thought, "Ah,
the proctor must be behind me." He turned around to look and
saw no one. His stream of consciousness began flowing again
the next day during meditation. Just as his false thoughts
were flying off to who knows where, he again felt another
smack on his head. He jumped again and turned around quickly
to see who was hitting him. Again, he saw no one. He felt
that this was increasingly strange.
That afternoon, he ran into another
American disciple from Berkeley who told him as they chatted
that, "Gee! Meditation is too painful! I can't stand it! I'm
going to pack my bags and leave." John asked him, "Really?
You're going now?" "Yes! When I was meditating today, I saw
the Venerable Master walk into the meditation hall to look
at each one of us very closely. He walked up to everyone and
kept looking at each person from the front. He would look
and then go on to the next person. He took his time to look
at each person." John was shocked when he heard this.
This American disciple also said, "The
Venerable Master asked later, 'How's your sitting now?' I
replied, 'Oh! No! It's too painful, I'm leaving.’ The
Venerable Master smiled and said, 'Oh, you're leaving.' Then
he went to look at the next person." After hearing about
this, John thought, "Maybe it was the Venerable Master
smacking me on the head!" He didn't dare to let his thoughts
stray when he went to meditate again.
After a few more days, John said that he
was experiencing a tremendous amount of pain during
meditation, so he wanted to go home too. That was a
Thursday. He packed up his things after lunch and was ready
to slip out. That day Chin Lin Shr was going to head back to
Berkeley Monastery and ran into John after lunch. He said,
"You know, it's really painful to meditate during a retreat
because to experience pain is to eliminate karmic
obstructions. It doesn't matter that it hurts. Be more
patient." Since Chin Lin Shr told him this, he thought he
should forego the idea of leaving. He stayed to continue the
meditation session. After a few more days, he again couldn't
stand the pain any more and thought, "Tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow morning I will definitely go home."
That evening, while he was listening to
the Venerable Master's taped talks from the Hundred Day Chan
Session, the Venerable Master happened to talk about how
many disciples cannot tolerate the pain and go home during
the Chan sessions. They make up all kinds of excuses to
leave, saying that they have things to do at home, and
escape. John heard this and thought, "Oh, the Venerable
Master seems to be talking to me." He was quite embarrassed
and didn't leave the next morning. He stayed once again. In
the blink of an eye, the final week rolled around. So he
stayed until the final Saturday before he went home.
This is John's story.
There was another old man from Los
Angeles who came with John. I don't know his name. He said
that during this Chan session, he once was entertaining
thoughts of lust and felt extremely bad. He thought, "What
should I do?" Then he thought about the slides of a skeleton
that the Abbot had shown when he gave a brief introduction
to the rules of the meditation hall. As he thought about
this, he felt that all his muscles were gone and he had only
his bones left. He therefore never had any more thoughts of
As he continued to contemplate in this
way, the skeleton accidentally fell to pieces all over the
floor. Originally he his feet had been hurting really badly,
but with his bones crushed, he suddenly felt that his feet
didn't hurt so much anymore. Amitabha!