The Fourth Day
This is the fourth day of our Ch’an week. You have exerted yourselves in your training; some of you have composed poems and gathas and have presented them to me for verification. This is not an easy thing but those of you who have made efforts in this manner, must have forgotten my two previous lectures. Yesterday evening, I said:
Self-cultivation has no other method;
It requires but knowledge of the way.
We are here to inquire into the hua t’ou which is the way we should follow. Our purpose is to be clear about birth and death and to attain Buddhahood. In order to be clear about birth and death, we must have recourse to this hua t’ou which should be used as the Vajra King’s precious sword to cut down demons if demons come and Buddhas if Buddhas come so that no feelings will remain and not a single thing (dharma) can be set up. In such a manner, where could there have been wrong thinking about writing poems and gathas and seeing such states as voidness and brightness? If you made your efforts (so wrongly), I really do not know where your hua t’ou went. Experienced C’han monks do not require further talks about this, but beginners should be very careful.
As I was apprehensive that you might not know how to undergo your training, I talked during the last two days about sitting in meditation in a Ch’an week, the worthiness of this method devised by our Sect and the way of making efforts. Our method consists in concentrating pointedly on a hua t’ou which should not be interrupted by day or night in the same way as running water. It should be spirited and clear and should never be blurred. It should be clearly and constantly cognizable. All worldly feelings and holy interpretations should be cut down (by it). An ancient (master) said:
Study the truth as you would defend a citadel
Which, when besieged, (at all costs) must be held.
if intense cold strikes not to the bone,
How can plum blossom fragrant be?
These four lines came frorn (Master) Huang Po and have two meanings. The first two illustrate those who undergo the (Ch’an) training and who should hold firm the hua t’ou in the same manner as the defense of a citadel which no foe must be allowed to enter. This is the unyielding defense (of the citadel). Each of us has a mind which is the eighth consciousness (vijnana), as well as the seventh, sixth and the first five consciousnesses. The first five are the five thieves of the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. The sixth consciousness is the thief of mind (manas). The seventh is the deceptive consciousness (klista-mano-vijnana) which from morning to evening grasps the eighth consciousness’ “subject” and mistakes it for an “ego”. It incites the sixth to lead the first five consciousnesses to seek external objects (such as) form, sound, smell, taste and touch. Being constantly deceived and tied the eighth consciousness-mind is held in bondage without being able to free itself. For this reason we are obliged to have recourse to this hua t’ou and use its “Vajra King’s Precious Sword” to kill all these thieves so that the eighth consciousness can be transmuted into the Great Mirror Wisdom, the seventh into the Wisdom of Equality, the sixth into the Profound Observing Wisdom and the first five consciousnesses into the Perfecting Wisdom. It is of paramount importance first to transmute the sixth and seventh consciousnesses, for they play the leading role and because of their power in discriminating and discerning. While you were seeing the voidness and the brightness and composing poems and gathas, these two consciousnesses performed their (evil) functions. Today, we should use this hua t’ou to transmute the discriminating consciousness into the Profound Observing Wisdom and the mind which differentiates between ego and personality into the Wisdom of Equality. This is called the transmutation of consciousness into wisdom and the transformation of the worldly into the saintly. It is important not to allow these thieves who are fond of form, sound, smell, taste, touch and dharma, to attack us. Therefore, this is likened to the defense of a citadel.
The last two lines:
If intense cold strikes not to the bone
How can plum blossom fragrant be?
illustrate living beings in the three worlds of existence who are engulfed in the ocean of birth and death, tied to the five desires, deceived by their passions, and unable to obtain liberation. Hence the plum blossom is used as an illustration, for these plum trees spring into blossom in snowy weather. In general, insects and plants are born in the spring, grow in summer, remain stationary in autumn and lie dormant in winter. In winter, insects and plants either die or lie dormant. The snow also lays the dust which is cold and cannot rise in the air. These insects, plants and dust are likened to our mind’s wrong thinking, discerning, ignorance, envy and jealousy resulting from contamination with the three poisons. If we rid ourselves of these (impurities), our minds will be naturally comfortable and plum blossoms will be fragrant in the snow. But you should know that these plum trees blossom in the bitter cold and not in the lovely bright spring or in the mild breeze of charming weather. If we want our mind-flowers to bloom, we cannot expect this flowering in the midst of pleasure, anger, sorrow and joy or (when we hold the conception of) ego, personality, right and wrong. If we are confused about these eight kinds of mind, the result will be unrecordable. If evil actions are committed, the result will be evil. If good actions are performed, the result will be good.
There are two kinds of unrecordable nature; that of dreams and of dead emptiness. The unrecordable nature of dreams is that of illusory things appearing in a dream and unconnected with usually well-known daily activities. This is the state of an independent mind-consciousness (mano-vijnana). This is also called an independent unrecordable state.
What is the unrecordable dead emptiness? In our meditation, if we lose sight of the hua t’ou while dwelling in stillness, there results an indistinctive voidness wherein there is nothing. The clinging to this state of stillness is a Ch’an illness which we should never contract while undergoing our training. This is the unrecordable dead emptiness.
What we have to do is throughout the day to hold without loosening our grip the hua t’ou which should be lively, bright, undimmed and clearly and constantly cognizable. Such a condition should obtain no matter whether we walk or sit. For this reason, an ancient master said:
“When walking, naught but Ch’an; when sitting, naught but Ch’an. Then body is at peace whether or not one talks or moves.”
Ancestor Han Shan said:
High on a mountain peak
Only boundless space is seen.
How to sit in meditation, no one knows.
The solitary moon shines o’er the icy pool,
But in the pool there is no moon;
The moon is in the night-blue sky.
This song is chanted now,
(But) there’s no Ch’an in the song.
You and I must have a co-operating cause, which is why I have this opportunity of addressing you on the (Ch’an) training. I hope you will exert yourselves and make steady progress, and will not wrongly apply your minds.
I will tell you another story, a kung an (or koan in Japanese). After the founder of the Hsi T’an (Siddham in Sanskrit) monastery on the Cock’s Foot (Chi Tsu) mountain had left home, he called on enlightened masters (for instruction) and made very good progress in his training. One day, he stopped at an inn, and heard a girl in a bean-curd shop singing this song:
Bean-curd Chang and Bean-curd Li!
While your heads rest on the pillow,
You think a thousand thoughts,
Yet tomorrow you will sell bean-curd again.