Unifying the Mind Merely stagnating in duality, How can you recognize oneness? If you fail

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4 Unifying the Mind ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Merely stagnating in duality, How can you recognize oneness? If you fail to penetrate oneness, Both places lose their function. Whenever you make distinctions, your mind is in opposition. Opposition implies duality. How is this relevant to practice? A practitioner usually wants to attain enlightenment or ultimately, Buddhahood. But this creates a duality of subject and object. The person who is seeking to attain is separate from the attainment, the object of his search. In seeking to become one with the Buddha, he separates himself from it. This is a state of opposition. Or, perhaps the practitioner knows very well that he has never been separate from the Buddha. But since he has not yet experienced this unity, he seeks the Buddha within himself. Yet even seeking the Buddha within himself creates opposition between his searching mind and the Buddha within. This way, oneness can never be attained. If that is true, is it correct to practice without seeking anything at all? Every day we chant the Four Great Vows. The fourth is: I vow to attain Supreme Buddhahood. What is the purpose of chanting this vow if aspiring to attain Buddhahood sets up an opposition? On the other hand, if we do not define our goal, is practice possible? If you really believe there is no separation, then it is possible to practice without opposition. You must have faith in the fundamental unity to truly begin practicing. However, most people remain in duality. They acknowledge only one God, but they also see themselves as separate from God. There is still a duality. But in Ch'an, at the very beginning of your practice, you must have faith in non-duality. It is the same unity in the kung-an [1]: "The myriad dharmas return to one. To what does the One return?" In other words, if all existence comes from one God, where does God come from? The emphasis of Faith in Mind is on practice. Many of you are practicing counting the breath. The goal of this method is to reach a unified, or single-minded state. After you get to the point where there are no thoughts other than counting, eventually the counting just naturally stops. The numbers disappear, the breath disappears, and the idea of counting the breath is gone. The only thing left is a sense of existence. Using a Ch'an method such as the hua-t'ou may have a similar result in the beginning stages. At a certain point, the hua-t'ou may disappear, or you simply cannot use it anymore. But this does not always mean that you have reached a single-minded state. You may still have the thought of trying to use the hua-t'ou. Only when the thought of practicing is gone will your mind be in a peaceful state of oneness. A person who has experienced oneness is different from an ordinary person. His faith is stronger than one who can at best intellectually understand what it means to have no distinctions in one's mind. To personally experience it is quite another thing. In Taoism there is the saying that the one gives rise to the two, and the two give rise to the multiplicity of things. We should not think that the Third Patriarch is confusing Taoism with Buddhism. It is just that he employs Taoist terminology to express the teachings of Buddhism. The highest goal of Taoism is the attainment of the Way, but this is not the same goal as that described in Faith in Mind, for Ch'an transcends oneness. But we must get to the state of oneness before we can go beyond it. The practice of Ch'an should progress in this sequence: scattered mind, simple mind, one mind, no mind. First we gather our scattered thoughts into a more concentrated, or simple, state of mind. From this concentrated state we can enter the mind of unity. Finally, we leap from the unified mind to the state of no mind. This final process can be accomplished more quickly using the Ch'an methods of hua-t'ou or kung-an. To go from one mind to no mind does not mean that anything is lost; rather, it means that you are free of the unified state. Someone who dwells in one mind would either be attached to samadhi, or else would feel identified with a certain deity. It is only after you are freed from this unity and enter no mind that you return to your own nature, also called "wu," or Ch'an. Even though this progression in the practice takes place, while you are actually practicing you should not think to yourself: "I am striving to concentrate my mind. I want to get to the state of one mind, to the state of no mind." If you have such ideas of seeking, you will be in trouble. Just concern yourself with your method; persist with your method to the very end. This in itself is close to a state of unity. If you hold to it, eventually you will reach a point where the method disappears and you will experience one mind. Once a meditator in his sixties said to me, "Shih-fu, I am very old. I may not have many years left. I really would like to get enlightened as soon as possible. If I don't get enlightened before I die, I will have wasted my life." I said, "Precisely because you are so old you shouldn't have any hopes of getting enlightened. Just practice." The man asked, "How can you tell me to practice and not show me how to get enlightened?" I replied, "If you have the idea of enlightenment, that is already your downfall; you cannot make much progress. If you do nothing but practice, at least you will approach the state of enlightenment. Even if you never get enlightened, the effort is never wasted." Banish existence and you fall into existence; Follow emptiness and you turn your back on it. In the Sung dynasty there was a famous prime minister by the name of Chang Shang-Yin who was opposed to Buddhism. He wrote many essays purporting to refute Buddhism, and he would spend every evening pondering over how he could improve the essay he was then working on. His wife, observing his obsessive involvement and struggle with his writing, asked him, "What are you doing?" He said, "Buddhism is really hateful. I'm trying to prove there is no Buddha." His wife remarked, "How strange! If you say there is no Buddha, why bother to refute the Buddha? It is as if you are throwing punches into empty space." This comment turned his mind around. He reflected: There may be something to Buddhism after all. So he started studying Buddhism and became a well-known, accomplished lay practitioner of Ch'an. In fact, Chang Shang-Yin and Ch'an master Ta-Hui Tsung-Kao [2] had the same master, Yuan-Wu K'o-Ch'in. Thus if you try to destroy something, you are still bound up by it. For instance, suppose you try to clear a blocked pipe by pushing another object into it. Whatever was originally in the pipe is pushed out, but the new object is now blocking the pipe. When you try to use existence to get rid of existence, you will always end up with existence. When you throw something away, it is gone. But does it cease to exist? In local terms, yes. In the broader picture, however, that is not the case. On this earth, no matter how hard you try to throw anything away, it will still stay somewhere on the earth. There is a Chinese novel called Monkey. The hero is a "supermonkey" who is so powerful that he can travel a distance of 180,000 miles in one somersault. In the story, he was journeying to the Western Paradise of Amitabha Buddha. On the way, he came upon five tall mountain peaks. He figured that it would take one leap to get to the other side. First he took a rest, urinating at that spot. Then he somersaulted over the mountains. After he landed, he noticed a funny smell. He thought, "Some shameless monkey must have taken a leak here." Actually, he had never gotten to the other side of the mountains. He had just somersaulted back to the original spot. The five mountains in the story symbolize the five skandhas[3] within which sentient beings are trapped. All of your actions will boomerang back to you and you will have to take the consequences. If you throw anything away, it will be you who has to clean it up. You may think that you can avoid responsibility by passing it on to another person. In the short term, it may work. But ultimately, you have to deal with it yourself, and in addition, you have caused trouble to others. Therefore you should not try to get rid of your vexations. Rather, you should be willing to accept them. Once someone said, "Shih-fu, my karmic obstructions are too great. Please recite mantras to remove them from me." I replied, "And what will happen to these karmic obstructions when I remove them from you? Should they become Shih-fu's?" If you have difficulties you should not consider them problems. If you are obsessed with these difficulties and try to eliminate them, you are only getting yourself into greater trouble. Those who have just begun to practice experience many problems with their bodies and minds. They are constantly saying, "I have to overcome all these problems." But in trying to eliminate their problems, they struggle. This is what is meant by "Banish existence and you fall into existence." The second line, "Follow emptiness and you turn your back on it," refers to practitioners who have experienced certain breakthroughs, and are approaching the state of emptiness. They may think, "I have eliminated all vexations. I no longer have any ignorance or attachment." But staying at this level would be considered "outer path" practice. The best these practitioners can do is reach the emptiness samadhi, the highest level of the formless realm. I have known many people who were extremely diligent and took their practice very seriously in the beginning, but gave up too soon. It is just as if when one side senses it is losing the battle, suddenly all resistance is gone and they are defeated very quickly. As long as everything is going well, they continue normally; but as soon as something goes wrong, everything simply collapses. So it is with certain practitioners who have been working hard and then suddenly stop completely. They feel that practice is basically useless. They think it is a great deception, because they have put a lot of energy into overcoming their problems, and have not eliminated them at all. In fact, their efforts have only increased their mental vexations, and have created physical ones as well. Because of this, many people consider serious or energetic practice demonic. They think it is not normal to devote oneself so completely to practice. Such criticism is usually unjustified. However, it is true that a practitioner who does not know what he is doing may get into deep trouble, especially without proper guidance. He may not be in a demonic state, but very likely his practice cannot last long. It is good to have a diligent and objective attitude towards practice. But to be attached to the idea of overcoming your problems will only lead to further trouble. * * * Notes ~~~~~ [1] kung-an: (Japanese: koan). Literally, a "public case," a Ch'an method of meditation in which the practitioner energetically and single-mindedly pursues the answer to an enigmatic question posed by the master, or ponders the meaning of a famous recorded encounter between a master and disciple of the past. [2] Ta-Hui Tsung-Kao (1089-1163), known as the greatest advocate of kung-an practice, is often contrasted with his contemporary, Hung-Chih Cheng-Chueh, the greatest teacher of the silent illumination method. More disciples were enlightened under Ta-Hui than any other Ch'an master, and he is also noted for spreading the teachings of Ch'an among the laity. A compilation of his writings and talks is available in English under the title Swampland Flowers. [3] the five skandhas: the five categories, or "heaps," of existence -- form, sensation, perception, volition, and consciousness. * * * * * * * *


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