12. The “Child” Cannot Be Found
The bench where we sit to meditate in the Chan Hall is called the zhidan. We should prop our shoes up here. If we do not, the proctor may kick or step on the shoes when he moves back and forth in the Chan Hall. Then we may not find the “child” anymore. The Cantonese pronunciation for “shoes” sounds like that of “child” [in Mandarin]. The Japanese pronunciation sounds like the Mandarin word for “trousers.” Regardless of how we refer to them, in the Chan Hall you should prop your shoes up in front of the
zhidan. There is no officer on duty during our Chan session. The officer on duty is someone who prepares the daily tea for everyone. Since we do not have that many participants, we have been quite casual, and furthermore, the place for drinking tea is not far from here. During our tea breaks we can all take a stroll to stretch ourselves and to relax a bit. I understand the situation fully.
13. Weituo Bodhisattva Is Angry
Today, after the wooden fish was hit three times, I could still hear people talking. According to the rules of the Chan Hall, there should be silence after the wooden fish is hit three times. Once the silent sit begins, nobody should talk and if anyone does, Weituo Bodhisattva will hit him with his jeweled pestle. Someone said, “Nobody hit me just now.” Well, Weituo Bodhisattva is not angry yet. Once he is, you will feel his fury. That is why we should always bear the rules in mind. Only by keeping the rules can we hope to have some accomplishment.
Once everyone has wrapped up his or her legs and is still and sitting properly, we should begin the silent sit. The cantor should not hit the wooden fish three times too quickly while everybody is still adjusting themselves and not yet sitting properly. You are not setting off an atomic bomb! To begin the silent sit, the wooden fish should be hit slowly and only when everyone is sitting properly. If someone is still adjusting himself, we should wait for him. On the other hand, all of us should hurry up and not let the cantor wait.
14. Do Not Dismiss These Rules as Insignificant
When everyone is sitting, if you fidget and make a lot of noise, disturbing others and distracting them from
samadhi, or even getting up and running away, such behavior is against the rules. Once the period of silence has commenced, not only should we people not move, even Weituo Bodhisattva stands still and is not supposed to move. There is a saying, “I would rather move the waters in a thousand rivers than disturb the mind of a cultivator.” One can disturb the waters in a thousand rivers, but one should not attempt to disturb the mind of a cultivator. Thus, before the silence is broken, there should not be any noise. If it is unavoidable, you should walk gently and if you have to move any seats or cushions, take care not to make any noise. Do not dismiss any of these things as insignificant. If you are not mindful and disturb others and cause them not to get a response or prevent them from entering
samadhi, that would be a very serious offense.
15. Waiting for the Bell
Those who are working hard will feel that a sitting period passes by very fast. Those who are not will feel that it is a long time to bear. Once, there was a person who was here for the first time to investigate Chan. Every time he sat down, he would start waiting for the bell to end the silent sit. Before the bell sounded, he would be all tied up and ill at ease sitting there. It would feel as if years had passed before he heard the bell. He felt relieved, but soon it would be silent again. Once again, he would feel as if he were tied up and had lost his freedom. He said that while he was sitting in meditation, his mind was full of rubbish and he could hardly clear it away.
After a few years, the amount of rubbish has lessened and he no longer waits for the bell. Although he doesn’t do this anymore, I am sure many of you still do. This is because beginners in meditation feel that their waist and legs ache when they are seated. If they continue sitting, their heads begin to ache too. It is because the legs hurt that one starts disobeying the rules. If he does not feel like running away, he will want to stretch out his legs. This is impermissible. If you stretch out your legs in the Chan Hall, they will be chopped off! From now on, if anyone stretches out his or her legs, their legs will be hit by the board. Let’s see if you still want to stretch them out!
Well, if you have no legs, you cannot possible stretch them.
To be continued