16. Do Not Be Angry
We used to sit on meditation benches and not on the ground. If you fall asleep on the meditation benches, the proctor will hit you on the shoulder with his incense board. In the meditation hall, no one may stretch out his or her legs. If you do, the proctor will hit your legs with the incense board. No mercy will be shown here. No matter who you are, even if you are the abbot, the proctor will still hit you, although he will do it while kneeling down. For others, he will not be kneeling and will instead hit you straightaway. It will hurt a lot and you will feel as if your shoulder is broken. You have to endure this and not become angry. You should not think of fighting because you have been hit. That would be wrong.
The elder monk at Gaomin Monastery was famous for hitting people.All the monks there had been hit by him. He even broke someone’s shoulder once. The old monk would sit down without a smile like Guan Gong. Once he spoke, he would start scolding people. Everybody was afraid of him the way a mouse is afraid of a cat. We do things differently here. We are here every day happily giving and receiving teachings. Teaching all of you is like playing with a bunch of children. [Editor’s note: Although the Master mentions hitting, in Chan sessions held at the monasteries of Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, the proctor only taps people gently on the shoulder to help them regain their focus.]
17. The Real Treasure of Buddhism
Why must we suffer in this country? It is because this country has immense blessings. When blessings are great, we have to turn around and suffer a bit. This is because if one does not enjoy one’s blessings, then one is able to bring forth the aspiration to realize Buddhahood. “I must cultivate! If I do not cultivate, this life will be worthless! Having good clothes that I cannot wear, good meals that I cannot partake, a good house that I cannot stay in, I am undergoing intense suffering. I must therefore work hard and transcend birth and death.” The Chan Hall is like a giant furnace; let’s see if you can take it. Let’s see if you can endure a beating. Do not be like modern-day people who resort to violence or run away when someone says something they don’t like.
Real cultivators are not afraid of being scolded or beaten. There is a saying, “Not retreating when beaten or scolded, one is a real treasure in Buddhism.” The cultivator practicing patience should have this quality. “Others may be most unkind to me but I have to endure it. They are actually helping me perfect the
paramita of patience.” If you have this proper view, then you will be able to cultivate. Otherwise, once there is a little suffering, you will try to run away. Where can you run? Once you run to the hells, we shall see where else can you go!
18. Do not be Concerned about Mundane Affairs
If you stand up before the two knocks on the wooden fish that signify the end of the sit, you may not start walking. You have to understand this rule. When the cantor (weinou) breaks the silence, he will wait for everyone to stand up and put on their shoes before he hits the fish two times to end the sit. One should not hit the wooden fish right after the bell. Everyone needs time to get ready. If they haven’t even stood up when you hit the wooden fish, how do you expect them to walk? Do you expect them to fly? Have you noticed the way some people walk during the walking period? When walking, do not glance around. When the door makes noise, you want to take a look. When the window makes noise, you wish to have a look as well. When a person arrives, you’d like to know who it is. When a person leaves, your eyes follow after him or her. You will never succeed if you carry on this way.
So how should you behave? Well, you should act without the notion that you are acting, sit without the notion of yourself sitting. When sitting in meditation, you should not know that you are in meditation – then your head will not droop down. It is because you have a notion of a “self” that your head droops. If you do not have a notion of a “self”, your head will not lower, and during the walking period, you will not be aware of the sky above, nor the earth below, nor the people in between. How then can you be concerned about mundane affairs?
19. It’s not a Race
There was once a lay disciple who cultivated in a previous life, so that is why he made a lot of progress this time round. He is always entering into
samadhi and because he is in samadhi, he is unaware even when the silence is broken. He is unwilling to get up, nor is he able to do so. That is why all of you should not ask him to walk around during the walking period. In fact, any one of you who is able to continue sitting in meditation, with no pain in your waist or legs, can continue doing so and enter into samadhi. All these are positive signs.
During the walking period, your eyes should contemplate your nose, your nose should contemplate your mouth, and your mouth should contemplate your mind. You should not be looking around in all directions. Once you look, you will lose track of your meditation topic and no longer be investigating Chan. You should know how to walk during the walking period. That means you should not walk too fast or too slow. You should be in accord with the Dharma and it should be very natural – it should not be the least bit forced or artificial. When walking, you should still be investigating, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” and not think, “I am in a race, and I can run faster than you.” Otherwise, you could run to the ends of the earth and still not discover who is that “who” that you are investigating. You have to walk and run in an orderly fashion.
Sometimes you run in threes – three in a row. You do not, however, start running right from the start. You should start by walking. It is only after fifteen or twenty minutes of walking that you start running. You should run a maximum of three rounds. Once you feel that your upper body is slightly warm and the blood and
qi (energy) is circulating well throughout your whole body, the objective has been met and the fish can be hit to signal that it’s time to sit down. You should not run too long to the point that you are tired and out of breath. If that happens, you will not be able to work hard anymore.
20. Who Will Call You on the Phone?
If by making a phone call, you could bring your father’s teacher back to life, then it would be worthwhile to make that call; otherwise it is of no value. You have so many worries. When it is time for you to die, who will worry about you? Who will call you on the phone? Your time now is more precious than gold and you should therefore sit in meditation and cultivate wholeheartedly everyday. Only then are you a filial child and a hero worthy of respect. You are simply wasting too much time being concerned with mundane affairs everyday from dawn till dusk. Writing a letter now, making a phone call later, buying stuff at the mall—all these are wasting your precious time! When visiting the restroom, do hurry up! Do not take this opportunity to take a break! During tea break, do not look for a chance to engage in casual conversation. All these are wasting time!
These will make the hard work and progress you have made go down the drain. Just when you are starting to merge with emptiness, you engage in mundane affairs during your break and straightaway your “emptiness” is no longer empty. During the period of meditation, you must take care of your meditation topic. You must cultivate hard. If you have no concept of self and others, then if someone is coming, so be it. If somebody is leaving, so be it. You will not seek to communicate with them in any way. If it is someone you know, ignore them; if it is someone you do not know, you should ignore them all the more!
To be continued