Once again, the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is holding a Chan session and a Buddha recitation session, but they can't really be called a Chan session and a Buddha recitation session. They are only practice sessions. Why is that? Due to their bad habits and faults, people have been lazy and scattered for many long eons, and if you suddenly tell them to truly cultivate, it's not easy to do. During the Chan sessions at Gao Min Monastery in China, it was the rule that no one could talk, and no one could be lazy or absent for even one minute or second. People could not casually enter or leave the Chan hall, and even if someone died, his corpse couldn't be carried out. It would just be thrown under the meditation bench.
But if you asked people here to suddenly start working at that intensity, it would be impossible. In the past, those old cultivators at Gao Min Monastery really turned their lives over to the gods and dragons; seeking to end birth and death, they worked as if their lives were at stake and set a limited time in which to seek enlightenment. They didn't slack off for a single moment, and they always held tightly to their meditation topic. From two-thirty in the morning until midnight, they didn't stop applying effort for a single moment, and they didn't leave the Chan hall for the entire Chan session.
Since we are beginners, it's already commendable that we are here practicing. Although reciting the Buddha's name is somewhat easier, it's still not that easy, because there is no time for rest--you are constantly reciting the Buddha's name without break. In holding this Chan session and recitation session, we are leading everyone forward step by step, gradually easing into the practice, and then applying effort with diligence. What state will we reach in cultivation? We will cultivate until we reach the state of being "thus, thus, unmoving, clear and constantly bright"; unmoving in motion, unmoving in stillness, and unmoving in non-motion as well. Stillness doesn't obstruct movement, and movement doesn't obstruct stillness; within stillness there is movement, and within movement there is stillness. "Walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, don't be apart from this. Once you leave this, you've made a mistake." What is "this"? It's the ultimate meaning of the Middle Way. The Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, sages, heaven, earth, and immor-tals all originate from it.
Cultivators must concentrate their minds and not be influenced by external states. In the investigation of Chan, you should remember the principle in the Vajra Sutra: "Produce the mind which dwells nowhere." The Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, was enlightened to this principle. Countless people have heard and recited this sentence, but have any of them become enlightened? When I explained the Vajra Sutra, I asked, "The Sutra is still around, but who has become enlightened?"
The Sixth Patriarch was an illiterate woodcutter who chopped wood in the mountains every day, but he was enlightened as soon as he heard this sentence. Because the Sixth Patriarch had cultivated diligently for many lives in many past eons, he became enlightened as soon as he heard the Vajra Sutra. Why is it that after listening for so long, we still haven't become enlightened? It's because we didn't cultivate in the past; we only wanted to watch movies, watch TV, hold parties, and eat, drink, and be merry, and we never studied any sutras.
The Vajra Sutra also says, "Be free of the mark of self, the mark of others, the mark of living beings, and the mark of a life span." When sitting in Chan, can you be free of the mark of self, the mark of others, the mark of living beings, and the mark of a life span? If not, then you must find a way to sweep away the four marks and empty the three minds of past, present and future. If the three minds cannot be obtained, how could the four marks exist?
That Sutra also says,
All conditioned dharmas,Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles and shadows,Like dew and like lightning.You should contemplate them thus.
If one sees me in forms,If one seeks me in sounds,He practices a deviant way,And cannot see the Tathagata.
When we sit in Chan, we should not be distracted by sights and sounds. Some people may experience states after long cultivation, but if they get attached to the states, they are making a mistake. You should "listen without hearing, and look without seeing." If we don't hear and we don't see, that's truly not being distracted by states.
A talk given at noon on December 18, 1982,at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas