Stilling Words and Thoughts Excessive talking and thinking Turn you from harmony with the

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5 Stilling Words and Thoughts ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Excessive talking and thinking Turn you from harmony with the Way. Cut off talking and thinking, And there is nowhere you cannot penetrate. People like to talk, especially if they feel lonely. Those who tend to talk non-stop generally have difficulty with practice, and also make it difficult for others to practice. In our Ch'an retreat, talking is forbidden, but there are still some people who cannot resist covertly saying a few words. Others honor the rule and refrain from speaking, but that does not mean that they are not talking to themselves. All day long, while they are sitting, they come up with a theme, and then carry on a conversation with themselves. They ponder over all sorts of issues. Once a certain writer attended a retreat. During the first day, he came up with the idea for a novel. While sitting, he sketched out the plot and the various characters. In the private interview the next day I asked him how he had been doing, and he said, "I've been making plans for my new novel." I said to him, "Perhaps you should go home and start writing your novel now. Otherwise, by the end of the retreat you will have forgotten all the great ideas you have come up with." If you talk too much, either with your mouth or in your head, it will be difficult to make progress. When you find it hard to concentrate, it is very easy to start talking to yourself. You may not even be able to control it. There is a deeper interpretation of these four lines. You should not try to use logic or theory to answer certain questions in your practice. Some examples are: "Why have I come here for a retreat?" "What is the purpose of practice?" "What is enlightenment?" If you get involved in this kind of questioning to justify your practice, then you simply cannot practice. After a few days of practice, many people completely stop thinking about themselves and their outside affairs. However, they keep dwelling on my words. Whatever I say is meant to guide your practice, but when you are actually practicing, you should just use the method and not think about what I may have said. The less you talk to yourself, the closer you will be to the highest Way. I once told a student, "You really have to practice very hard to overcome ignorance." For two sitting periods she was constantly thinking, "How am I ignorant?" Unable to contain it any longer, she got up and said to me, "I can eat. I can sleep. So I am really not ignorant." I said, "Look at a dog, a cat, a mosquito. They can eat and rest. Are you saying that they don't have any ignorance?" Then she said, "Tell me what to do so that I won't be ignorant." I said, "Try to meditate and recite the Buddha's name." She went back to her cushion and meditated on the Buddha's name. But again, she thought to herself: "Since I am here meditating and reciting the Buddha's name, I am not ignorant." After another two periods, she came to me again and said, "In fact, I don't have any problems. I have been sitting here feeling very comfortable. It is you who have vexations." Her problem was that although she took my words seriously, she would turn them over and over in her mind instead of actually applying the method during practice. It is only when you no longer have any words or thoughts that the perfect Way will manifest before you, and "there is nowhere you cannot penetrate." The meaning is not that you can go anywhere, but that there is no need to go anywhere, because in the state of no words and no thoughts you are in the midst of anywhere and every place. How do you get to the state of no words and no thoughts? By picking up the method and putting down your attachment to other things. Return to the root and attain the principle; Pursue illumination and you lose it. One moment of reversing the light Is greater than the previous emptiness. In practice, you may try to penetrate to the emptiness of phenomena. But as long as illumination is directed towards outward appearances, you miss the primal source. It is only by turning the illumination inward that you return to the source, and get to the meaning of all things. If you can do this even for a split second, you will transcend the state of emptiness. The source, or root, is Buddha nature. How do you return to the root? By letting go of all words and thoughts and eliminating all grasping and rejection. You must begin with a method, but at some point you must let it go. Likewise, you should not hold on to any experiences that may come up. When the method and experiences are no longer necessary to you, you will have returned to the source. This source, or Buddha nature, is the lively manifestation of great liberation and great wisdom. In great liberation, there is nothing left. But this is not the same as "stubborn emptiness." Liberation goes beyond both emptiness and form. The previous emptiness is transformed; It was all a product of deluded views. Practitioners often go from attachment to existence, to attachment to emptiness. If one thinks that emptiness is true wisdom or liberation, under this delusion, one cannot attain the ultimate. It is natural for people to become attached to their experiences. One student who sat very well last night tried to repeat the experience today by recalling exactly what he did that resulted in that great sitting. But today the sitting went very poorly. This was due to his greed for the experience. No need to seek the real; Just extinguish your views. We should not seek Buddha nature or enlightenment; rather, we should let it come about naturally. Such questions as "When will I get enlightened?" or "Is there a Buddha nature?" will take you even farther away from Buddha nature, which is a totality and not something you can grasp. Buddha nature is in the totality of your own self. Why should it be necessary to try to attain it? And how can you get hold of it? Don't practice with the thought of reaching Buddhahood, just put forth your best efforts. * * * * * * * *

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