8. Gold Mountain legs, Gaomin incense
There is a saying in Chinese Buddhism, “Gold Mountain legs, Gaomin incense, and the chatter at Ocean Tide Monastery.”
Gold Mountain legs—Jiangtian Monastery at Jinshan (Gold Mountain) will never allow you to flip or adjust your legs. If you do so, you will be hit with a board. You have to endure and keep still no matter how much it hurts. With time, your legs will not hurt anymore. That is why Chan practitioners from Gold Mountain sit with the best posture.
Gaomin incense—The meditation periods at Gaomin Monastery are never off by a minute. When it is time for the sit to end, it will definitely end. When it is time for meditation to begin, it will definitely begin. They are not off by a second. Thus Gaomin Monastery keeps the time of the meditation periods very strictly.
The chatter at Ocean Tide Monastery—In Shanghai, there is a monastery called Ocean Tide (Haichao) Monastery, where people chatter nonstop all day long and don’t follow the rules.
9. Why should one sleep sitting up?
The reason one sleeps sitting up is so that one will sleep less. If you sleep lying down, you can sleep for eight hours and still feel like you haven’t had enough sleep. On the other hand, you only need four hours if you sleep sitting up; you will feel energized and also be able to enter samadhi easily. Do not be afraid of hardship when it comes to meditation; do not be afraid of the pain in your legs and do not crave comfort. Do not say, “I’ll be really comfortable if I stretch my legs out and lie down; it is just too uncomfortable to sit.” Of course sitting is uncomfortable. However, look at all the Patriarchs of old; they achieved great things by enduring discomfort. If you crave comfort, eat well and sleep well, how can you show your sincerity in cultivation?
In India, there was the Venerable Xie (“Ribs”), who never lay down to sleep throughout his entire life. In China, there were also many cultivators who meditated and vowed to never lie down to sleep. In the United States, Buddhism is just beginning. The seeds have just been planted. That is why I promote eating only one meal per day and never lying down. These are two of the twelve ascetic practices.
10. Do not eat too much.
If you wish to not eat and still have the energy to continue practicing, that is permissible. However, if you choose not to eat but do not have the energy to sustain yourself for sitting or walking, it would be better to eat something. Cultivators of the Way should not eat too much or they may end up hurting their stomachs. Those who eat only once a day before noon are especially prone to injuring their stomachs. That is why we must accord with the Middle Way even when it comes to meals, which means not eating too much, nor too little. Why do we not get a response despite our rigorous cultivation? It is because if we forget to eat, wear enough clothes, or sleep, we keep thinking all day long, “I didn’t get enough sleep! I didn’t get enough food! I should have eaten more today.” Or we keep thinking, “I am really ill.” If we cannot forget about these minor things, our false thinking will not cease and the true mind will not manifest. This is analogous to murky water. If you keep stirring it, it will never be clear. That is why it is said, “When the mind is clear, the moon appears in the water.” If one’s mind is clear and pure, it is indeed like still water reflecting the moon. “With thoughts quieted, there are no clouds in the sky.” If there are no false thoughts, it is indeed as if there were no clouds in the sky, and your own nature’s light of wisdom will manifest.
11. If you lean against the wall, you may vomit blood.
When the person next to you eats, it does not make you full. Likewise, no one but yourself can enable you to become enlightened. Good teachers can only teach you how to cultivate and how to meditate. Although they may show you the path, you yourself must walk upon it. If you choose not to, it will not be of any use. When you meditate, do not lean against the wall. You may think that the wall is hard and sturdy: “The wall will not fall if I lean against it, nor will I make a hole in it. Even if I fall asleep, I will not fall to the ground.” Well, let me warn you first—by doing this, you may get sick and vomit blood. Do not be so dependent and lean against the wall or anything else, thinking that this is more comfortable. This is a mistake!
12. Do not act like a child.
When you sit in full lotus position, you have to endure the pain in your legs. Why does it hurt? It is because qi energy and blood cannot pass through the joints and circulate. If you can endure this, it will eventually get through and will not hurt anymore. All cultivators should learn how to sit in full lotus. If you really want to become enlightened and become a Buddha, it is essential that you learn this. In the beginning, you will have to endure the pain in your legs. Do not act like a child and cry or shout for your mother when it hurts. You must have an attitude of perseverance. There is no special technique to sitting in meditation; if you meditate regularly, with time, you will see the results. However, if you cultivate for one day and rest for the next ten, then you will not see any results.
13. What is so good about samadhi?
Why should we meditate regularly? We are slowly cultivating samadhi. When you first begin to meditate, of course your mind cannot enter samadhi. In an instant, your mind travels to heaven, to hell, to where the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas are, and before long you are back with horses, cows, sheep, or dogs. It needs no bus ticket and travels wherever it pleases. It is because you cannot control your mind—you have no samadhi. Now, when you do not want your mind to travel wherever it pleases, you are cultivating samadhi.
Someone may say, “It is good not to have samadhi! For example, look at dancers; they are always happily jumping around. What is the use of cultivating samadhi? You become like a log or a statue sitting there. It is too rigid!” What is good about samadhi? Originally there was nothing good about samadhi, but you cultivators who want to open up your wisdom must cultivate samadhi. Without samadhi, your wisdom cannot shine forth. If you have a monkey mind, you then have no samadhi and you will not have any wisdom at all. Wisdom comes from samadhi. If you do not want to be ignorant anymore, you have to cultivate samadhi!
14. You must preserve your treasures.
During a Chan session, some people take a vow of silence. That is the best way! Once you talk, your false thoughts multiply. Someone may ask, “If we do not talk, will our false thoughts diminish?” If you do not talk, your false thinking will not decrease, but you will preserve your treasures. What is meant by treasures? If you do not talk, your energy will not dissipate. There is a saying, “Once you open your mouth, your energy dissipates.” Indeed, once you start to talk, your qi will scatter. “Once the tongue moves, rights and wrongs arise.” When your tongue moves, when you speak, you will be saying that this is right and that is wrong.
In a nutshell, once you speak, the judgments of right and wrong arise. If you do not speak, there will be no judgments or gossip. When you are cultivating, you should not discuss rights or wrongs. It makes me the happiest when someone takes a vow of silence. This is being diligent in cultivation! Someone may say, “Dharma Master, aren’t you speaking about rights and wrongs yourself?” Indeed I am. However, I am telling all of you what is right and what is wrong. You only talk, but do not understand what is right and what is wrong. If I do not explain, you will not know how to apply effort in your own cultivation. If you know how to explain this, you are welcome to come forward and speak too.
To be continued