Friday, January 30, 2009
Three thousand years ago, Sakyamuni Buddha observed the bright stars under the Bodhi tree and achieved the supreme enlightenment. He said, “How amazing! Although Buddha Nature is in every sentient being, it is not realized because it is covered up by defilements and attachments.” Today, in the 21st century, people are able to launch rockets to outer space and are able to access information from around the world through the Internet. Despite that, no matter where we go, or where we are, the ancient problems of aging, sickness and death are still threatening us. Even if one has a strong and healthy body, and is achieving roaring successes in his field of expertise, how many years of health and success are ever enough?
Exploring the unknown future and adapting to the changes of society and environment are among the challenges of modern people. Their minds and bodies have to endure all kinds of stresses. In order to find a sure path for survival in this changing world, many wise people have begun practicing meditation to calm their minds.
Master Yungjia once said, “Walking is Chan (Zen), sitting is also Chan. Talking or being silent, moving or staying still, these are all ways of attaining tranquility.” Chan is everywhere. You can only feel it if your mind is in the present. Master Sengcan, the third Zen Patriarch in China, once had a severe headache. He asked the second Zen Patriarch, Master Huike, to help him repent for his sins. Master Huike said, “Hand me your sins, and I will repent on your behalf.” Master Sengcan said, “But I can’t find it!” Master Huike replied, “Well, I have just finished with your repentance.” This is an example of the way of Chan --- straight to the root of the problem by scrutinizing what is in your mind.
The old saying goes, “Illnesses arise from your mind.” Despite the realization of this simple truth, people still need some more tangible ways to practice subduing their mind. In response to this need, Grand Master Wei Chueh recommends the “Three Links of Cultivation”— Scripture Understanding, Merits , and Meditation. These are the expedient gates which can be accessed from everywhere. Once you become conscious of Chan in your everyday living, and are able to apply Chan to other aspects of your life, you will know the endless treasure of Chan.
“Scripture Understanding” is practicing right view. Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Dharma Masters in the past have left us with a treasure of sutras and discourses. In fact, all the branches of Chung Tai Chan Monastery around the world offer sutra study classes and Dharma talks. Attending classes and studying the sutras are good ways to learn the foundational lessons of Buddhism such as cause-effect, dependent origination, self-cultivation and cultivation of others, and original mind. When your life is led by right view, you will understand what is true and what is false and will not step foot in the wrong place.
“Merits” is to do all the good deeds. We should strive to treat people kindly and do things well. No matter a task is difficult or easy, big or small, we need to do it whole-heartedly. We also have to respect and be considerate to our co-workers, and maintain a harmonious relationship with them. Don’t just take the praise and avoid the mistakes.
In “Meditation”, we learn how to be with Samadhi, which means being unmoved by situations. In the Chan Hall, we initially learn how to become aware of our thoughts, be free from attachments, and not to doze off. Then, we come to no-thought and see our original mind. By joining the meditation class or the seven-day retreat, you can see your pure, still and bright mind.
Scripture Understanding, Merits, and Meditation are actually one unified teaching, not three separate components. If you are lack of merits and good connections, you might constantly suffer from bad conditions or have difficulty calming down your mind. Under such a predicament, how is it possible to get in touch with the greatness of the scriptures? During the Tang dynasty, Zen Master Huaihai of Baizhang was the ninth Zen Patriarch in China. He established the code of monastic conduct in the Chan Monastery and pursued the goal of “A day without working is a day without eating.” He taught his disciples, “The Buddha nature is not polluted and is readily profound in you. You are the Buddha at the very moment you are away from illusive thoughts.” Master Huaihai’s practices were perfect manifestations of the “Three Links of Cultivation.”
The Sixth Patriarch Huineng said, “The Buddhadharma is here in the world. Enlightenment is not apart from the universe. To search for Bodhi apart from this world is like looking for a hare with horns.” All sentient beings naturally wish to be free from vexations. However, we don’t have to leave this world but instead can look inward to our pure mind to be free from vexations. Remember, all the good or bad situations will vanish eventually, only the already present clear and pure mind stays forever!