Accepting All Realms
It is not good to weary the spirit.
Why alternate between aversion and affection?
If you wish to enter the one vehicle,
Do not be repelled by the sense realm.
Let's return to the opening lines of the poem, "The Supreme Way is not
difficult if only you do not pick and choose." Actually, it is not hard
to reach enlightenment if you do not grasp or reject. The poem
encourages us to practice without attachment. As soon as you become
attached to something, you lose the direction of the method.
Yesterday someone asked, "If attaining Buddhahood does not depend on
practice, why must I practice?" From the time of Sakyamuni Buddha it
was said that Buddhahood cannot be created by practice. This was
especially emphasized by the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-Neng. However,
practice will help you to discover the innate Buddha nature. Generally,
people think of vexations as something inside that have to be
destroyed. They think of the Buddha mind as something outside, beyond
their reach, that has to be grasped. The constant effort to destroy
vexations and grasp the Buddha mind is very burdensome.
Chinese Buddhists have an expression: "In life you don't practice yet
on your death bed you would seize the Buddha's foot." In other words,
at the last minute, such people are afraid they may drop down into the
hells and thus implore the Buddha to take them up to the Pure Land. 
Their attitude shows that they consider the hells and the Pure Land to
be external realms. In reality, all realms lie within ourselves. But it
is precisely the greed of someone who wants the Buddha to save him that
prevents him from being reborn in the Pure Land. This is because
whatever you grasp is false. If you were to succeed in grabbing the
Buddha's foot and being transported to the Pure Land, it would turn out
to be illusory. The true Pure Land is not located in any particular
place and the true Buddha is formless. A Buddha with a form is just a
single manifestation of Buddha, a transformation body. Thus you should
not be greedy and seek enlightenment without, or be disgusted with
vexations within. If you neither desire nor reject anything, you will
feel at ease and joyful.
The one vehicle is the Buddha Way. What is the difference between
Buddhahood and enlightenment? Buddhahood is attaining the ultimate,
whereas enlightenment is seeing Buddha nature without encompassing it
fully. You know the taste of the ocean but you have not yet become the
If you want to follow the Buddha Way, do not be "repelled by the sense
realm," or feel any aversion towards your environment. Here at the
Center we are bombarded with disturbances = traffic, radios, trains,
even the birds and the wind. At first, it is difficult to remain
impassive to these noises, but after three days or so you probably do
not even hear the cars passing by.
Years ago I had a student who decided on her own to do a solitary
retreat. She went to a bungalow colony in the country. At first, she
picked the cabin closest to the road, thinking it would be more
convenient for shopping. But finding the noise of the traffic too
annoying, she kept switching to cabins farther back towards the wooded
area. Finally, she got one right in the middle of the woods, only to
discover that the sound of the birds was deafening. Later, she asked
me, "How did you manage to practice in the mountains?" I told her, "The
birds bothered me too, so I stuffed up my ears. But then I noticed the
sound of my own heartbeat. The best way is to forget everything around
you. That's why you use a method."
Before sitting, you should mentally prepare yourself not to be
disturbed by anything that may happen around you. You should have the
attitude that even if the house were burning, you would not get up from
your seat. Someone usually asks, "But what if your house really does
catch on fire?" I say, "If you are worried now that your house may
someday catch on fire, you certainly won't sit successfully."
This also includes not being disturbed by the person sitting next to
you. On one winter retreat a student wrapped herself in a blanket while
sitting. Every time she sat to meditate, she swung the blanket around
her body, accidentally striking her neighbor in the face. For three
days he was annoyed by it. But he remembered that I had said one should
not be influenced by other people. He then cultivated an attitude that
whenever she struck him with her blanket it just meant that she was
preparing to meditate; it had nothing to do with him.
* * *
 Pure Land. The Western Paradise of amitabha Buddha, one of many
blissful realms in the Mahayana, each associated with a specific
Buddha. The main requirement for entering the Pure Land after death
is the wholehearted expression of faith in the compassion of
amitabha Buddha. Belief in the Pure Land gave rise to the Pure Land
School, whose primary method of practice is to recite Amitabha
* * * * * * * *