Overcoming Like and Dislike If you want the Way to appear, Be neither for nor against. For

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2 Overcoming Like and Dislike ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you want the Way to appear, Be neither for nor against. For and against opposing each other -- This is the mind's disease. If you want the Buddha Way to manifest before your eyes, it is a mistake to harbor any preferences or aversions. This includes anything you hope to acquire, keep, discard, or avoid. When sitting seems to be going particularly well, the idea may pop into your mind that you are about to be enlightened. You begin to wait for this enlightenment experience. With this expectation, the mind has already abandoned its single-mindedness and has become confused and scattered. You will not be able to maintain your previous state of concentration. On a prior retreat, one student was progressing so well that there were notable changes in his mental state. At that point he became frightened. He thought, "I'm happy with the way I am now. I don't really want any drastic changes. What if my friends don't recognize me?" He did not sit as well for the rest of the retreat. This contradictory mentality often afflicts the practitioner. He wants to enter the door of enlightenment but at the same time is really afraid of entering. You come to a retreat with the desire to transform yourself. Indeed, practice can make you more mature, calm, and stable. It will certainly not change you into something less human, or ghostlike. Since ancient times all of the numerous practitioners who have gotten deeply enlightened remained human, the only difference being that afterward they were more stable and filled with wisdom. There is no reason to fear changing that way. Such a contradictory state of mind is common among ordinary people. When I left home as a young boy I was very excited about becoming a monk. But on the other hand, I had never been to a monastery and had some apprehension. I just did not know what would happen there. Many people who believe in heaven have similar fears about what it will be like after death. These contradictions point to inherent weaknesses in our personality, of which we are usually unaware. It is only in the context of practice that these weaknesses are exposed. Once we discover and understand our weaknesses, we can prevent them from further obstructing our practice. Though "for" and "against" are opposites, they are also very much related. If there is something that you like, there must be something else that you dislike. And if you cannot get what you like, you will change your mind and dislike it. To be caught in this conflict between like and dislike is a serious disease of the mind. It is a barrier to practice. Practice is a process by which we recognize and treat the disease of our minds. When the disease completely disappears, the ultimate Way is revealed. Without recognizing the mysterious principle It is useless to practice quietude. If you do not grasp the deep truth in the previous lines, no matter how hard you practice, your efforts will be futile. This is because there is a struggle within your mind. The previous thought is continually at war with the following thought. Under these circumstances, it is almost impossible to attain a peaceful state of mind. Even if you do manage to overcome your scattered thoughts and reach a peaceful state, it would still be useless. You will be so happy to have entered this state that you will grasp it and not let it go. In the end, you will not have achieved a concentrated mind but an attached mind. Nonetheless, a peaceful state of mind is at least better than one involved in a constant internal struggle. As long as you live alone you may be able to maintain it. But if you have to interact with people, things may start bothering you. You may be disturbed by the noise of children, visits of friends or stress at work. Eventually, you will seek to avoid these things and meditate alone in a room. Someone here has a habit of sometimes falling backwards while sitting. Today I cautioned her that if she does it hard enough, the shock may cause her to lose consciousness or even her ability to think rationally. She remarked, "That's not such a bad idea, after all. Now I have to struggle with all of the problems in my mind. If I get such a shock, my problems will simply disappear." I said, "That may be the case, but who will feed you and take care of you? Who will take care of your children?" A shock to your nervous system is not the same as enlightenment. Rather, it is a disease. Just because a person does not have any scattered thoughts does not mean that all his problems are resolved. If all you are interested in is a thoughtless state, just ask someone to hit you hard on the back of your head. There are too many people who cannot distinguish between true wisdom and a mere state of peacefulness. If you do not understand this distinction, even if you practice hard, at best you are being foolish. You should not remain passively in peacefulness. Don't be afraid of difficulties. If your mind cannot settle down you should not feel any resentment. Cultivate non-aversion to the unpleasant and non-attachment to the pleasant. Taking a pleasurable state for enlightenment will get you into trouble. Enlightenment is not something we have to guard fiercely, not letting it go. If a pleasant state arises, don't get stuck on it, just continue to practice. On a past retreat one person sat through four thirty-minute periods without stirring. Seeing that his condition was "too good," I struck him with the incense board. [1] Thereupon he grabbed the board and hit me, saying, "I was in such a blissful state and now I have lost samadhi." [2] Aside from the fact that practitioners should not have any attachments, it is not the purpose of Ch'an to remain in samadhi. It is not necessarily good for the mind to settle down too quickly. Ch'an is a lively practice. It is not difficult to maintain a calm mind in a stationary situation. But in Ch'an one should be able to retain mental calmness even in a mobile state. The Way is perfect like great space, Without lack, without excess. Because of grasping and rejecting, You cannot attain it. Great space does not refer to a nothingness, but rather to a totality. Though it includes everything, there is no individual existence. There is only the total, universal existence. Even before attaining the Way, practitioners should train themselves in the proper attitudes of one who is already enlightened. That is, they should discard the mentality of liking and disliking. So long as you practice diligently, practice is the totality. After all, what you dislike and what you like are not separate from one another. There was a landowner who hired many helping hands to work his fields. They were very good workers, but they had large appetites. On the one hand, he was pleased with their work and, on the other, he was annoyed that they ate so much. In the owner's mind this was a grave defect. To him it would be ideal if they would just do their job and not have to eat. Thus there is no need to rejoice when you think you have gotten what you like -it will bring with it things you dislike, and vice versa. For example, a couple may spend a lot of time and energy courting each other. Eventually they are married and are very happy together. But along with the happiness there are also some restrictions. They feel stuck in the daily routine and lack the freedom to do whatever they want. They reflect that there is a certain merit to remaining single. But at this point, it is already too late. When we think we have gotten something, we have not really gotten it and when we think we have lost something, we have not really lost it. This is because in the reality of totality, there is no gain and no loss. There is nothing outside of your mind. It is because you choose and reject that you are not free. It is for this reason that you have an excess or a lack. You have an excess of what you want to be rid of, and a lack of what you want to acquire. It is only when there is no grasping or rejecting that there will be neither excess nor lack. * * * Notes ~~~~~ [1] incense board: (Chinese: hsiang-pan; Japanese: kyosaku) A long, flat board used in the meditation hall to hit dozing practitioners or to help provide the final impetus to realization for those who are "ripe." [2] samadhi: Refers to states of meditative absorption characterized by an expanded sense of self, or "one mind." The meditator loses normal awareness of body and surroundings. * * * * * * * *


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