The Dreaming Mind
The duality of all things
Issues from false discriminations.
Some examples of dualities, or opposites, are: you and me, the Buddha
and sentient beings, nirvana and samsara, wisdom and ignorance. In the
Platform Sutra, the Sixth Patriarch enumerates thirty-six pairs of
opposites. One who seeks wisdom and rejects ignorance as if they were
opposites is deluded. A person who thinks of himself as wise is full of
self-pride. On the other hand, a person who thinks of himself as
ignorant is full of self-pity.
The Heart Sutra says: "There is no wisdom and no attainment; with
nothing to attain, bodhisattvas, relying on prajnaparamita, have no
obstructions in their minds." This is why you should come to retreat --
not to attain anything, but to practice. Some people approach retreat
as if they were a caterpillar hoping to transform themselves into a
beautiful butterfly. This kind of motivation is an obstacle to
During retreat I use various means to inspire you to practice,
including harsh language. To take this to heart and consider yourself a
worthless, incapable person, or else to fight back and deny what I say
are both incorrect attitudes. My aim is to whittle down your self-pride
or self-pity. However harshly I may seem to treat you, do not dwell on
it and feel sorry for yourself. Nor should you feel happy if I praise
you. However, from my point of view, I have to discern between the
types of practitioners. Some do not react well under pressure. They are
like tender bean sprouts that have to be treated gently. Others, whose
practice has matured somewhat, can handle more forceful techniques; the
more they are pressured, the better they do.
A dream, an illusion, a flower in the sky --
How could they be worth grasping?
From the age of ten, I have always seen flower-like images in the sky.
This is due to a malfunction of my eyesight. But I have learned not to
pay any attention to them. Whatever you consider to be solid or real
are only flowers in the sky. Even genuine achievements are still false
in the sense that they are not permanent. There was an aerospace
company that advertised an innovative way to continue on after death.
They would shoot a satellite containing your ashes into orbit around
the earth, and there it would spin for about 36,000 years. Even though
this seems like an eternity, about nine times the length of civilized
history, the time will eventually pass. The earth itself will
disappear. There is no sense in trying to pretend otherwise.
From the time we were born, up to the present moment, not much time has
elapsed. Not too long from now, we will die. Nothing much has really
transpired in that period of time. Faced with this situation, and
seeing how temporary everything is, we are impelled to seek something
permanent and real. But there is nothing like that to be found.
People sometimes ask Ch'an masters, "What happened to you? What did you
realize?" And the master will often give a cryptic reply, such as "Cows
eating grass," or "I wonder where this clothing was made." Why don't
they just say something like: "I had a great enlightenment experience!
I really did! Now I understand what the Buddha is all about."? They do
not answer this way because the idea of a special, incomparable
enlightenment is an illusion, and they know that. At a retreat once a
student had a small experience, and later I asked him, "How do you feel
now?" He said, "Ah! The rice is really tasty."
But if nothing is real or lasting, what is the point of coming to
retreat and practicing Ch'an? The point is that during the course of
practice, you may come to realize that everything around you, as well
as whatever you seek out of life, are illusory. The ordinary person
does not know this. Even if you convince yourself intellectually that
everything is illusory, you may still have a lurking concept of the
reality of things and be attached to them. To be able to actually treat
them as transient is another thing entirely.
Gain and loss, right and wrong --
Discard them all at once.
Some of you had pleasant experiences today, and others just ended up
with aching legs. If you spend your time hoping that a pleasant
experience will return, or trying to avoid pain, you will become more
aware of the passing of time. You will feel restless and think, "Today
has gone by already and I've wasted my time." Some people have this
attitude when, after a day or two, they feel they have not made any
progress. They tell themselves that they could be doing so many other
things at home, or furthering their career. If you feel you have not
gotten anywhere, discard this attitude immediately. If you continue to
dwell on these things, you probably will give up and go home.
If the eyes do not close in sleep,
All dreams will cease of themselves.
"The eyes" are your awareness. The instant you lose awareness of just
what you are doing at the moment, you are dreaming. Dreaming means
being carried away by your wandering thoughts and unable to stop them.
As in actual dreams, these wandering thoughts are either connected with
the past, or anticipate the future. They are not concerned with the
present, because the present is just keeping your mind on your method.
People often concentrate intensely on the method for a short time and
then say, "Well, I'll take a break now. I'll just put the method aside
and let my mind wander a little bit." This is a wrong way to practice.
Using the method can be likened to pumping air into a tire. The minute
you stop pumping, the air starts to leak and the tire will eventually
go flat. You may think that by putting down the method and relaxing for
a while, you are re-charging your energy. In fact what you are really
doing is letting the air out of your tires.
This is common among beginners. They often make the mistake of exerting
physical energy to fight against wandering thoughts. As a result their
bodies become tense and the blood rushes to their heads, and after a
time they feel a need to relax. But those who know how to work well
summon up their concentration in a clear, relaxed manner. They do not
belabor themselves with an excess of physical energy or struggle with
their method. Instead, they maintain a natural moment-to-moment
This lucid awareness should not only be practiced while sitting, but
also when you are eating and working. Let everything else drop away and
concern yourself only with the method. If you can do this
uninterruptedly for a period of time, I guarantee that all of your
dreams will disappear, including your method. But in fact your mind is
totally on the method then.
It is common for people to want a vacation after working hard. But
during the vacation, their minds will scatter and their concentration
will dissipate. If you alternate work and vacation in this way, you
will never get beyond a certain level of practice. By practicing daily
meditation and going on retreats, at least you are pumping the air into
the tire to some extent. But you should be aware that this kind of
interrupted practice is not the ideal approach to Ch'an.
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 bodhisattva: (sanskrit, "awakened being"). In Mahayana Buddhism, an
enlightened person on the path to Buddhahood, who renounces entry
into nirvana until all sentient beings are saved. Contrasted to an
arhat, who passes into nirvana after complete enlightenment.
 prajnaparamita: (Sanskrit, "perfection of wisdom"). One of the ten
paramitas, or perfections, i.e., virtues practiced by bodhisattvas;
refers to the perfection of the virtue of wisdom (prajna).
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