The Fifth Day
About this method of (self-) cultivation, it can be said that it is both easy and difficult. It is easy because it is really easy and it is difficult because it is really difficult. It is easy because you are only required to lay down (every thought), to have a firm faith in it (the method) and to develop a lasting mind. All this will ensure your success.
It is difficult because you are afraid of enduring hardships and because of your desire to be at ease. You should know all worldly occupations also require study and training before success can be achieved. How much more so when we want to learn (wisdom) from the sages in order to become Buddhas and Patriarchs. Can we reach our goal if we (act) carelessly?
Therefore, the first thing is to have a firm mind in our self-cultivation and performance of the truth. In this, we cannot avoid being obstructed by demons. These demoniacal obstructions are the (external) karmic surroundings caused by our passions for all form, sound, smell, taste, touch and dharma as enumerated in my talk yesterday. This karmic environment is our foe through life and death. For this reason, there are many sutra expounding Dharma masters who cannot stand firm on their own feet while in the midst of these surroundings because of their wavering religious mind.
The next important thing is to develop an enduring mind. Since our birth in this world, we have created boundless karmas and if we now wish to cultivate ourselves for the purpose of escaping from birth and death, can we wipe out our former habits all at once? In olden times, ancestors such as Ch’an master Ch’ang Ch’ing, who sat in meditation until he had worn out seven mats, and (Ch’an master) Chao Chou who wandered from place to place (soliciting instruction) at the age of eighty after having spent forty years in meditating on the word ‘Wu’ (lit. No) without giving rise to a thought in his mind. They finally obtained complete enlightenment, and the princes of the Yen and Chao states revered them and made offerings
to them. In the Ch’ing dynasty, Emperor Yung Cheng (1723-35) who had read their sayings and had found these excellent, bestowed upon them the posthumous tide of ‘Ancient Buddha’. This is the resultant attainment after a whole life of austerity. If we can now wipe out all our former habits to purify our One-thought, we will be on an equality with Buddhas and Patriarchs. The S’urangama Sutra says:
“It is like the purification of muddy water stored in a clean container; left unshaken in complete calmness, the sand and mud will sink to the bottom. When the clear water appears, this is called the first suppression of the intruding evil element of passion. When the mud has been removed leaving behind only the clear water, this is called the permanent cutting off of basic ignorance.”
Our habitual passions are likened to mud and sediment, which is why we must make use of the hua t’ou. The hua t’ou is likened to alum used to clarify muddy water in the same manner as passions are brought under control. If in his training, a man succeeds in achieving the sameness of body and mind with the resultant appearance of the condition of stillness, he should be careful and should never abide in it. He should know that it is (only) an initial step but that ignorance caused by passions is still not wiped out. This is (only) the deluded mind reaching the state of purity, just like muddy water which, although purified, still contains mud and sediment at the bottom. You must make additional efforts to advance further. An ancient master said:
If you do not take a step forward, you will take the illusion-city for your home and your passions will be able to rise (again). If so, it will be difficult for you to become even a self-enlightened person. For this reason, the mud must be removed in order to retain the (clear) water. This is the permanent wiping out of the basic ignorance and only then can Buddhahood be attained. When ignorance has been permanently wiped out, you will be able to appear in bodily form in the ten directions of the Universe to expound the Dharma, in the same manner as Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva who can appear in thirty-two forms and who, manifesting to teach the Dharma, can choose the most appropriate form to liberate a responsive living being. You will be free from restraint and will enjoy independence and comfort (everywhere) even in a house of prostitution, a public or, the womb of a cow, a mare or a mule, in paradise or hell.
On the other hand, a discriminating thought will send you down to the turning wheel of births and deaths. Formerly, Ch’in Kuai Who had (in a former life) made offerings of incense and candles to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva but did not develop an enduring mind (in his training) because of his failure to wipe out his ignorance caused by passions, was the victim of his hatred-mind (in his following reincarnation). This is just an example.
If your believing-mind is strong and your enduring-mind does not retrograde, you will, in your present bodily form, be able to attain Buddhahood, even if you are only an ordinary man.
Formerly there was a poor and miserable man who joined the order (sangha) at a monastery. Although he was keen to practice (self-) cultivation, he did not know the method. As he did not know whom to ask about it, he decided to toil and moil every day. One day, a wandering monk came to the monastery and saw the man toiling. The monk asked him about his practice and the man replied: “Every day, I do this kind of hard work. Please show me the method of (self-) cultivation.” The monk replied: “You should inquire into (the sentence:) ‘Who is the repeater of Buddha’s name ?’” As instructed by the visiting monk, the man managed to bear the word “Who” in mind while he did his daily work. Later, he went to stay in a grotto on an islet to continue his training, using leaves for clothing and plants for food. His mother and sister who were still living, heard of his retreat in a grotto on an islet where he endured hardships in his self-cultivation. His mother sent his sister to take him a roll of cloth and some provisions. When she arrived, she saw him seated (in meditation). She called him but he did not reply, and she shook him but he did not move. Seeing that her brother neither looked at nor greeted her but continued his meditation in the grotto, she was enraged, left the roll of cloth and provisions there and returned home. Thirteen years later, his sister went again to visit him and saw the same roll of cloth still lying in the same place.
Later a hungry refugee came to the grotto wherein he saw a monk in ragged garments; he entered and begged for food. The monk (got up and) went to the side of the grotto to pick some pebbles which he placed in a pot. After cooking them for a while, he took them out and invited the visitor to eat them with him. The pebbles looked like potatoes and when the visitor had satisfied his hunger, the monk said to him: “Please do not mention our meal to outsiders.” Some time later, the monk thought to himself: “I have stayed here so many years for my (self-) cultivation and should now form (propitious) causes (for the welfare of others).” Thereupon, he proceeded to Hsia Menwhere on the side of a road, he built a thatched hut offering free tea (to travelers). This took place in Wan Li’s reign (1573-1619) about the time the empress mother passed away. The emperor wanted to invite eminent monks to perform (Buddhist) ceremonies for the welfare of his deceased mother. He first intended to invite monks in the capital but at the time, there were no eminent monks there. (One night) the emperor saw in a dream his mother who said that there was one in the Chang Chou prefecture of Fu Chien province. The emperor sent officials there to invite local monks to come to the capital for the ceremonies. When these monks with their bundles set out on their journey to the capital, they passed by the hut of the poor monk who asked them: “Venerable masters, what makes you so happy and where are you going?” They replied: “We have received the emperor’s order to proceed to the capital to perform ceremonies for the spirit of the empress mother.” The poor monk said: “May I go with you?” They replied: “You are so miserable, how can you go with us?” He said: “I do not know how to recite sutras but I can carry your bundles for you. It is worth while to pay a visit to the capital.” Thereupon, he picked up the bundles and followed the other monks to the capital.
When the emperor knew that the monks were about to arrive, he ordered an official to bury a copy of the Diamond Sutra under the doorstep of the palace. When the monks arrived, they did not know anything about the sutra, crossed the doorstep and entered the palace one after another. When the miserable monk reached the threshold, he knelt upon his knees and brought his palms together but did not enter (the palace). In spite of the door-keepers who called him and tried to drag him in, he refused to enter. When the incident was reported to the emperor who had ordered the burial of the sutra, he realized that the holy monk had arrived
and came personally to receive him. He said: “Why don’t you enter the palace?” The monk replied: “I dare not, because a copy of the Diamond Sutra has been buried in the ground.” The emperor said: “Why don’t you stand on your head to enter it?” Upon hearing this, the monk placed his hands upon the ground and somersaulted into the palace. The emperor had the greatest respect for him and invited him to stay in the inner palace. When asked about the altar and the ceremony, the monk replied: “The ceremony will be held tomorrow morning, in the fifth watch of the night. I will require only one altar with one leading banner and one table with incense, candles and fruit for offerings (to Buddhas).” The emperor was not pleased with the prospect of an unimpressive ceremony and was at the same time apprehensive that the monk might not possess enough virtue to perform it. (To test his virtue), he ordered two maids of honor to bathe the monk. (During and) after the bath, his genital organ remained unmoved. The maids of honor reported this to the emperor whose respect for the monk grew the greater for he realized now that the visitor was really holy. Preparation was then made according to the monk’s instruction and the following morning, the monk ascended to his seat to expound the Dharma. Then he ascended to the altar, joined his palms together (to salute) and holding the banner, went to the coffin, saying:
In reality I do not come;
(But) in your likes you are one-sided.
In one thought to realize there is no birth
Means that you will leap o’er the deva realms.
After the ceremony, the monk said to the emperor: “I congratulate you on the liberation of her majesty the Empress Mother.” As the emperor was doubting the efficiency of a ceremony which ended in such a manner, he heard in the room the voice of the deceased saying: “I am now liberated; you should bow your thanks to the holy master.”
The emperor was taken aback, and his face beamed with delight. He paid obeisance to the monk and thanked him. In the inner palace, a vegetarian banquet was offered to the master. Seeing that the emperor was wearing a pair of coloured trousers, the monk fixed his eyes onthem. The emperor asked him: “Does the Virtuous One like this pair of trousers?” and taking them off he offered them to the visitor who said: “Thank your Majesty for his grace.” Thereupon, the emperor bestowed upon the monk the titel of State Master Dragon Trousers. After the banquet, the emperor led the monk to the imperial garden where there was a precious stupa. The monk was happy at the sight of the stupa and stopped to admire it. The emperor asked “Does the State Master like this stupa?” The visitor replied: “It is wonderful!” The emperor said: “I am willing to offer it to you with reverence.” As the host was giving orders to remove the Stupa to Chang Chou, the monk said: “There is no need, I can take it away.” After saying this, the monk placed the stupa in his (1ong) sleeve, rose in the air and left. The emperor stunned and overjoyed at the same time, praised the unprecedented occurrence.
Dear friends, it is a (wonderful) story indeed and it all came about simply because from the time he left his home, the monk never used his discriminating mind and had a lasting faith in the truth. He did not care for his sister who came to see him, paid no attention to his ragged garments, and did not touch the roll of cloth lying thirteen years in the grotto. We must now ask ourselves if we can undergo our training in such a manner. It would be superfluous to talk about our inability to follow the monk’s example when our sisters come to see us. It is enough to mention the attitude we take after our meditation when, while walking, we cannot refrain from gazing at our leader when he offers incense or at our neighbours ovements. If our training is done in this manner, how can our hua t’ou be firmly held?
Dear friends, you have only to remove the mud and retain the water. When the water is clear, automatically the moon will appear. Now it is time to give rise to your hua t’ou and to examine it closely.