First Session - Second Talk
16th Day of the 10th Month, 1942 A.D.
Numerous patients flock to the door of a good
doctor. When one is ill, one must see the doctor who will administer
the medical treatment to cure the illness. This is a common affair.
Concerning the ultra-mundane, however, we are
ill both mentally and spiritually. This has been so for countless
kalpas past, and is so today. Ordinary people, are conscious only of
bodily pain and uneasiness, and the serious illness of a different
nature goes entirely unnoticed. It is reasonable for ordinary people
to be ignorant of this different kind of disease, because they
suffer from delusion, and do not have the blessing of good karmic
qualities; therefore, they are not to be blamed.
Why are you, who are endeavoring to walk along
the path of truth in order to understand life and be liberated from
death, just the same? Do you consider yourselves better off than
ordinary people? Let me ask you, do you have any illness? When you
hear me ask this you become very annoyed and think to yourself, "I
am very well. Why do you ask me if I have any illness? It would seem
that you wish me to be ill. My appetite is extraordinarily good and
I am in excellent health. What illness do I have?" This is exactly
what you think, and it is indeed pitiful for you to let such a
serious and dreadful disease go unnoticed and untreated. I feel
deeply sorry for you.
Let me give you an analogy. Imagine a big
hospital in which there are superintendents, doctors, and nurses to
whom patients are flocking for treatment. The doctors inquire into
the nature of the complaints, and the patients, as a matter of
course, inform them. The doctors, having diagnosed the illnesses,
then prescribe suitable medicines, and the patients are treated and
eventually cured. This Ch'an Meditation Hall is similar to a
hospital, and you come for the purpose of having your spiritual
illnesses cured. If you are asked what your illness is, how can you
reply that you have none? If you are not ill, why are you here? If
you admit that you are ill, what is the nature of your illness?
I am afraid that none of you can answer. If you
cannot describe the illness you suffer, how am I to offer treatment?
Unless you know your illness and can tell me something about
yourself, how am I to treat you? Even the
smallest bit of information about your illness will be helpful
toward enabling me to offer you the correct medicine and treatment.
However, you know nothing and can tell me nothing. What am I to do?
Venerable Sirs, you suffer from a serious
illness and do not know anything about it. How pathetic! How
agonizing! Venerable Sirs, you have a serious disease and, since you
are unaware of it, it leads you astray.
I am sure that some of you are inclined to
think that this discussion about illnesses and hospitals has no
purpose. Further, you came here only to acquaint yourselves with the
practices of this monastery, or perhaps to learn how the Ch'an Seven
is conducted here. Whatever amount you see and experience, that much
you will learn and no more. No doubt quite a few among you have such
an attitude, arising entirely from your complete ignorance of your
You are ignorant of the necessity of treating
this disease as well. You must convince yourselves of the
seriousness of the disease; then you will begin to know how
important it is to be cured. If, however, you are not even aware of
your illness, of what use is talk about treatment? You might as well
have not come to this hospital. Why? If you are ignorant of your
illness and are not bothered by it, then you will certainly not be
concerned about treatment. Therefore what is the good of your
staying in this hospital?
Your serious disease is the disease of life and
death, and it must receive proper treatment. You must understand
that to meet here today is no easy matter, and is the result of our
having cultivated together during past kalpas. The human body is a
rare treasure, for once having entered into lower incarnations, it
takes many great kalpas to get out. Since we now have a human body,
we must make the best use of it. We must not squander the good work
of previous lives. Human beings cannot live very long. We know that
out of the longest lifespan you can expect, perhaps 100 years,
several decades have already elapsed. To whatever age you are to
live, you haven't many years left. Moreover, existence depends upon
breathing, and this may be cut off at any moment.
The present, therefore, is a great opportunity,
and must be used to good advantage. You must work out your problems
so that you will not waste your life as a human being then you will
know for certain that life and death is your most serious disease, a
disease which can only be treated and cured in a manner different
from worldly diseases. It can only be cured by taking a dose of "Who
am I, who is reciting Buddha?". Let us all arouse us and be mindful of
"Who recollects the Buddha?". Enquire deeply into "Who is mindful?".
Give this your whole attention!
First Session - Third Talk
the 17th Day of the 10th
Month 1942 A.D.
Why have a Ch'an Seven? For no reason other
than to be persistent, vigorous, and diligent in the true sense of
these words. Why is the Ch'an Seven just persistence, vigor and
diligence? Although you are usually very energetic and diligent, you
are not persistent, but are not blamed for this since you are
ordinarily subject to unceasing disturbances over which you have no
control. Just as you are about to apply yourself diligently to the
task at hand, you are disturbed by the clap of the wooden board
summoning you to attend shrine service. Or, perhaps when you are
just on the point of entering into intense and alert mindfulness,
you are required at the dining hall. Your duties in the monastery,
patrolling the meditation gathering, supervising, and so forth, are
all causes of distraction.
Here it is different. You need not attend
shrine service, nor need you observe the rites of the dining hall.
In the toilet, there is toilet paper ready for your use, and
elsewhere, what is not provided? Previously there were many things
to distract you and your minds were busy all day. Today, however,
your disturbances are completely removed and you are left pure,
clean and spotless. You are now completely free to be vigorous,
persistent and diligent.
Even if you are free from disturbances,
however, is your mind really left spotlessly clean? Are you
spotlessly clean? Completely? You all stand here and I ask you,
"Are you absolutely dust free?" Let us investigate. The
Sangha has made all necessary arrangements to provide for you, and
so you are carefree and completely unencumbered in order to better
achieve your liberation. This is certainly a unique opportunity. You
need not worry about a thing. Will you let this valuable chance slip
away by allowing yourself to be imprudently occupied? Will you allow
the mind to drift through the time without paying the slightest
attention? Is this an assault of the seven?
If you allow this opportunity to pass without
taking advantage of it, then you are indeed not doing justice to
either the Sangha or yourself. Although you will be permitted to do
yourself injustice, you must realize that your lack of diligence
will give rise to a serious unreality which, if allowed to persist
implanted within you, will prevent you from extricating yourself
from the ensuing suffering. Although I explain this to you I fear
you may not understand.
You may be thinking:
"This suits me perfectly. Prior to my arrival
at this Ch'an Seven I was busily committed and involved in all
sorts of work. These included attending the shrine services, going
through refectory rites and observing rules and regulations of all
types. I have suffered much pain and hardship learning
The Shurangama Sutra and
The Dharma Flower Sutra. I have
seen some truth and come to some realizations but I have not made
any thorough investigation. The occasion of this Ch'an Seven
offers me an excellent opportunity. I have nothing else to do but
to sit at ease and review my former studies, since I must not
Is this not so? You are now sitting at ease. Is
this not how you think? I can see that you have a stomach of
learning from The Shurangama and
Lotus Sutras, both of which you can
Today, however, we have at hand a great and
fundamental task to execute. Not a single word of the many
Sutras and teachings stored in your
stomach are relevant to the work at hand. None of the
Sutras is of the slightest use. Do you
believe me? Do you have faith in what I say? Perhaps you do not. I
can well imagine that you may not easily accept my
words. Why? Because you consider it presumptions for the Ch'an Sect
to disregard every word of the Sutras. Are
not the sevenfold seeking for the mind and the tenfold exposition of
perception, as explained in The Shurangama
Sutra, proper practical religious work to
consider? Similarly, is The Avatamsaka Sutra
not relevant to these proceedings? Not even one word of it?
Why? This is very difficult for you to believe.
However, I must ask you "Who is mindful of the
Buddha?" Have you been meditating and inquiring into it? Do not
concern yourselves with whether or not inquiring into "Who recites
the Buddha?" is a great or small way. You may consider this inquiry
to be of no use, but still, to find out if there is any taste in it,
you must chew it. Since you are required to chew it, you may as well
do so directed!
Now let me explain again in other words. Take
the example of our eyes. Everyone can see that red piece of paper
with the words "Who recites the Buddha?" posted on the pillar over
there. What we all see may be the same, but if I say that you see
red, and that I see green, will you believe me? Perhaps what I see
is not red or green; perhaps it is no color at all. You will
certainly find this difficult to believe.
Have you found a taste in "Who is mindful of
the Buddha?"? If you have, then you can see for yourself that it is
not red, and that it might be green. Or, with additional energy
applied during the Ch'an Seven, you may even be convinced that the
color green does not exist. When that happens, is The Shurangama Sutra with you? Is The Lotus Sutra with you? Is The
Lotus Sutra relevant to the work at hand? Do you still
have the senses of seeing, of hearing, of feeling and of knowing?
Let us consider together. To do this work you
must empty your stomach of what you have learned, of what you have
seen, of what you have heard, and of what you have understood. Cast
it all away. Empty yourselves and exist in a state of nothingness
with nothing whatsoever occupying your minds and hearts.
You will probably be unwilling to do this, and
even if you are willing, you may not empty yourself completely. Even
if you do, but not by way of the Ch'an School door, then it is not
yet final. For when all that which the stomach holds has been
completely discarded, the stomach itself must also be discarded. If
this is not done, the stomach will again come to life and resume its
former activities. Be alert and meditate!