Overcoming Like and Dislike If you want the Way to appear, Be neither for nor against. For
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. 
Thereupon he grabbed the board and hit me, saying, "I was in such a
blissful state and now I have lost samadhi."  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
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
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.
* * *
 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
 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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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank