14 Limiting the Environment With no aversion to the sense realm, You become one with true
Limiting the Environment
With no aversion to the sense realm,
You become one with true enlightenment.
The true practitioner is not affected by the environment. If you enjoy
your surroundings too much, you will not even think about practicing.
But if you despise your surroundings, you will not be able to practice
even if you try.
It is impossible to throw off your environment all at once. It must be
peeled away like an onion. In order to do this, it would be helpful to
think of the environment as three concentric circles. The outermost
circle is the world around you, the middle one is your body, and the
inner circle is your mind. On the first day of retreat, I said that you
must forget your affairs in the world outside of the Ch'an Center; in
other words, put aside all thoughts of past and future. But once you do
that, new thoughts related to the world inside the Center will come up.
It may be a smaller world, but it is still external to the body. You
may be distracted by the others, or you may become attached to my
words, or even to my presence. Some people take notice of where I am in
the room, and anticipate what I am going to do next.
If you limit your attention to your body, either you feel comfortable
or uncomfortable. It is difficult to totally forget the body. Your legs
are painful, your back hurts, your head aches, your neck is strained,
your skin itches, or you just feel tired. Ignore any sensations,
pleasant or unpleasant, that may arise. On the other hand, if the pain
is too great to ignore, consider your body as a corpse. To be able to
conquer your pain and your fear of death requires great determination.
If you can develop this will power in Ch'an training, you will be able
to succeed in any other endeavor.
Once you narrow yourself down to the mental environment, there are two
things you are involved with -- the method, and stray thoughts. You
will find that your mind is just as full as the outside environment. As
the Sutra of Complete Enlightenment says, "Mental activities are just a
shadow of the sensory world." Thus if you manage to dispense with all
your environments, you will attain the state of no mind, and you will
reach a great realization.
The wise have no motives;
Fools put themselves in bondage.
The more you strive after liberation, the more you tie yourself up.
This is also true of seeking safety, health and security. Once I was
approached by a life insurance agent who did not know I was a monk. He
said, "Our insurance policy is excellent. No matter what happens to
you, your wife and children will be taken care of." I asked, "What if I
don't have a wife and children?" He had nothing to say after that. He
saw that I had no worries about death.
One monk I know actually took out a policy. I asked him, "Why did you
do that?" He said, "So that after I die there will be money for my
funeral rites and burial." I said, "Don't you think that a monk would
be buried in any case? Even if he is not, maggots would eventually
dispose of the body."
A practitioner should not consider his own security. Otherwise, he
would not be able to practice in the mountains far away from society.
Whatever fears or desires you can discard will give you that much more
freedom. But whatever protection you seek will become your karmic
This is why you should not look for something here you can take home
with you. On the contrary, you should try to lose what you brought in.
Why should you add to your burdens? After you learn something and
absorb it, then it becomes part of you and you should be able to throw
it away. Just as when you eat, you obtain the nutrients from the food
and then eliminate the waste. If you carried it home with you, your
bowels would be in serious trouble.
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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank