Given at the Jade Buddha Monastery, Shanghai, in 1953
Translation. Lu K’uan Yu (Charles Luk)
The Second Week
The First Day
The first day my coming here has already caused much inconvenience to the monastery and I do not deserve the generous hospitality extended to me by the (Venerable) Abbot and group leaders. Today, I am again asked to preside over this (second Ch’an) week. I must say I am not qualified to do so. It is quite logical that the (venerable) old Dharma master Ying Tz’u who is advanced in age and Dharma years should preside over this meeting. There are also in this monastery many learned and virtuous Dharma masters. I am only ‘duckweed’ floating on water and am, therefore, a completely useless man. It would be wrong to say that I am accorded priority and courtesy because of my age. Even, in the world-dharma, no consideration is given to the question of age. Formerly, when the scholar’s examination was
held in the imperial palace, no matter whether a candidate was young or old, he called the examiner “my old teacher” for the latter was respected (because of his rank and) not because of his age. In the Buddha Dharma also, no consideration is given to age. (I cite) Manjusri Bodhisattva who very long ago attained Buddhahood and was the teacher of sixteen princes, one of whom was Amitabha Buddha. Sakyamuni Buddha was also his disciple, but when Sakyamuni Buddha attained Buddhahood, Manjusri came to assist him (in teaching his disciples). Thus we know there is only One equality which is neither high nor low. Therefore, please make no mistake about all this.
As we are learning (the Dharma), we should respect (and observe) the rules and regulations (set up for the purpose). The (Venerable) Abbot has in mind the enlightenment of others, the expounding of sutras, the holding of Ch’an meetings and the spreading of the Buddha Dharma. This is indeed a very rare opportunity.
All of you have been braving the cares and confusion of travel and giving yourselves a great deal of trouble to come of your own accord to attend this retreat. This shows that you have in mind the rejection of passions and desire of quiet.
In reality, you and I have only one mind but because of the difference between delusion and enlightenment, there are living beings who are busy from morning till evening without a day of rest. If we give some thought to this (state of things), we will see that no advantage can come from it. In spite of this, there are people who are busy all day long foolishly thinking of an abundance of food and clothing for themselves and anxious to find pleasure in singing and dancing. They want their children and grandchildren to have wealth and fame and their descendants to enjoy glory and prosperity. Even when they are about to breathe their last to become ghosts, they still think of protection and prosperity for their children. These people are really foolish and stupid.
There are also people who know something about good and evil and about cause and effect. They do meritorious acts which consist only in holding Buddhist ceremonies, in giving offerings to monks, in commissioning statues of Buddhas and in repairing temples and monastic buildings. Their acts contribute to the worldly cause, and they hope to be rewarded with happiness in the next rebirth. Because they do not know anything about the passionless merits which are unsurpassed, they do not perform them. The Lotus Sutra says: “Sitting in meditation (even) for a short while is better than erecting as many seven treasure stupas as the sandgrains in the Ganges.” For this method of sitting in meditation will enable us to wipe out our passions and to have peace of mind and body, resulting in the complete realization of the self-nature with liberation from birth and death. By “a short while”, it means a moment as short as an instant (ksana). If one cleanses and purifies his mind and turns the light inwards on himself, his sitting in meditation even for an instant will (at least) enable him to sow the direct cause of attainment of Buddhahood, if it does not ensure the (immediate) realization of the truth. His ultimate achievement can be expected (sooner or later). If his training is effective, Buddhahood can be attained in an instant. For this reason, Ananda said in the Surangama Sutra: “The Dharmakaya can be realized without having to pass through countless aeons (kalpas).”
However, you and I, and all other people in general, live in the midst of passions, of joy and anger, of gain and loss, of the five desires and pursuits of pleasure and enjoyment. All these things are no more seen and heard as soon as we step into this Ch’an hall where our six senses are exactly like the black tortoise’s six (vulnerable) parts which shrink into its shell and where nothing can disturb your minds. This is the practice of the passionless Dharma and (is also) the passionless Dharma (itself). Therefore, the merits derived from the erection of as many seven treasure stupas as the sandgrains in the Ganges cannot be compared with those resulting from a moment spent sitting in meditation. The simile of the black tortoise comes from the (story of) the fish-eating seal which swam to catch the tortoise on the seashore. Seeing that it was attacked, the tortoise withdrew its head, tail and legs into its shell, so evading the seal’s efforts to bite it.
In this world, when we have no money, we are worried about our food and clothing, and when we have money, we cannot free ourselves from passions. We are thus caught and eaten by the seal. If we know of the danger to which we are exposed, we should bring our six senses under control and turn the light inwards on ourselves so that we can be liberated from mortality. Two days ago, I talked on our Sect’s Dharma, dealing with the Right Dharma Eye, the Tathagata’s Mind-dharma and the basis of liberation from birth and death. Other Dharma doors including the expounding of sutras, in spite of their aims which are the arousing of faith and understanding, are only accessories and do not advance the perfect (experiential) understanding. If the sutra expounding Dharma is used to ensure liberation from birth and death, there must still be (two complementary phases) to pass through: practice and witnessing which are very difficult to achieve. For this reason, very few cases have been recorded of those who listened to the expounding of sutras or followed other Dharma doors and who thereby attained instantaneously complete enlightenment and acquired transcendental powers. These cases were few as compared with those in the Ch’an Sect. According to our Sect, not only Ch’an monks and laymen (upasakas) possessed the inconceivable device, but Ch’an nuns were also of outstanding abilities.
Ch’an master Kuan Ch’i was a disciple of Lin Chi but did not realize the truth in spite of having stayed several years at his master’s monastery. One day, he (left his master) to call at other places (for instruction). When he arrived at a nunnery on Mo Shan mountain, a little nun reported his arrival to (Ch’an Bhiksuni,) Mo Shan who sent her attendant to ask him this question; “Venerable Master, do you come here
for sightseeing or for learning the Buddha Dharma?” Kuan Ch’i replied that he came for learning the Buddha Dharma. Mo Shan said: “If you come for the Buddha Dharma, there are here also rules about beating the drum and ascending to the seat.” Thereupon, she ascended to her seat, but Kuan Ch’i bowed only and did not kneel down. Mo Shan asked him: “What place did the Venerable Bhiksu leave today?” He replied: “I left the entrance to the road.” She asked him:
“Why didn’t you cover it up ?” Kuan Ch’i could not reply and knelt down (to pay his respects), asking: “What is Mo Shan?” She replied: “The top of the head is not exposed.” He asked: “Who is the owner of Mo Shan (mountain)?” She replied: “He is neither male nor female.” He shouted:
“Why does he not transform himself?” She asked back:
“He is neither a ghost nor a spirit, into what should he transform himself?” He could not reply and submitted to her authority. He became a gardener at the nunnery where he stayed three years during which he was completely enlightened.
(Later) when Kuan Ch’i went to the Ch’an hall (to instruct his own disciples), he said to them:
“When I was at my father Lin Chi’s place, I got a half-ladle (and) when I was at my mother Mo Shan’s, I got another half-ladle, thus obtaining a full ladle which has enabled me to satisfy my hunger up to now.” Thus, although Kuan Ch’i was Lin Chi’s disciple, he was also Mo Shan’s Dharma successor.
We can See that among the nuns, there existed alsopeople of real ability. There are many nuns here as well; why do not they come forward to show their abilities and reveal the Right Dharma on behalf of their predecessors? The Buddha Dharma extols equality (of sex) and we are only required to make efforts in our training without backsliding so as not to miss this (rare) opportunity.
For countless aeons, we have been floating in the sea of mortality because we have never wanted to lay down our bodies and minds in order to have quiet for our learning and self- cultivation, with the result that we have been turned round by the wheel of transmigration without a chance of liberation. For this reason, all of us should lay down both body and mind and sit in meditation for a moment with the hope that the bottom of the cask of (black) lacquer will drop off and that we will together experience the law of no-birth.