"Making offerings to all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time is not as good as making offerings to a single person of the Way who is without thoughts." What is a "person of the Way who is without thoughts"? This refers to anyone who is taking part in the Chan Session here in the meditation hall. These people have no thoughts of seeking fame and benefit, for they have already eradicated the five roots of the hells: wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. Because they are free of thoughts as they investigate Chan, they are called people of the Way who are without thoughts.
Here in the West, a person who truly wants to propagate the Buddhadharma must cultivate the Dharma-door of a "person of the Way who is without thoughts." In saying this, it's not that we're hoping somebody will come to protect or make offerings to these people of the Way who are without thoughts. If we craved offerings, we would not be free of thoughts. Therefore, as we meditate, we should honestly investigate Chan and cultivate our concentration. We must not let our idle thoughts arise in profusion, one after another, like a movie flashing scene after scene on the screen before our eyes. To do so is to leave the Way a million miles behind. The farther we run, the farther we are from home. We wind up like the prodigal son wandering in a foreign land. How pitiful!
People who cultivate the Way want to really do the work with effort; actual skill is all that counts. Don't crave fame and profits; don't publicize yourself. Follow the spirit of the Bodhisattvas Manjushri, Samantabhadra (Universal Worthy), Avalokiteshvara (Guanshiyin), and Ksitigarbha (Earth Treasury) as they guard the Way-place and teach and transform living beings. These Bodhisattvas feel that living beings' accomplishments are the same as their own accomplishment. They don't make distinctions between self and others. Bodhisattvas joyfully support the merit and virtue they see and hear others doing.
There's a saying,
When the musk deer arrives,
We will naturally know because of its scent.
There is no need for fanfare.
When people of the Way who are without thoughts cultivate to the ultimate point, they naturally gain a response to their efforts. When one does what Buddhas do, one is a Buddha. When one does what Bodhisattvas do, one is a Bodhisattva. When one does what Arhats do, one is an Arhat. When one does what ghosts do, one is a ghost. These are all natural phenomena. There are no shortcuts in cultivation. You cannot cut corners and hedge bets. Success comes only after one does an honest job, proceeding step-by-step, sincerely and truly cultivating the Way.
A talk given during a Chan Session
in December, 1980