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Doing It Just Right is the Middle Way

Too tight, and it'll break. Too slack, and it'll be loose. Neither tight nor slack, and it will turn out right.
In the Dharma-door of investigating Chan, you must fix your attention on what you are doing. At all times, you should return the light and reflect within. Don't be too tense, and don't be too slack. It's said,


Too tight, and it'll break. Too slack,and it'll be loose.Neither tight nor slack,and it will turn out right.


Being neither tense nor slack is the Middle Way. Walking, standing, sitting and lying down, don't be apart from this. Once you leave this, you have missed it. What is this? It's the ultimate meaning of the Middle Way.


In investigating Chan, you must be impartial, not leaning to one side. Don't go too far, and don't fail to go far enough. If you go too far, or not far enough, it's not the Middle Way. If you don't fall into the two extremes of emptiness and existence, then that's the Middle Way. It's said, “The Middle Way is neither emptiness nor existence.” It is True Emptiness and Wonderful Existence. Do not be attached to true emptiness, and do not be obstructed by wonderful existence, for true emptiness and wonderful existence cannot be grasped or renounced. You cannot take hold of them or let go of them. That's the state of true emptiness and wonderful existence.


When you are applying effort, you should finish what you start; only then will you accomplish anything. As it's said, “Carry it through from beginning to end.” You shouldn't “put it in the sun for one day and freeze it for ten,” retreat in the face of difficulty, or give up halfway─that's the behavior of people without backbone. The ancients said,In cultivation, don't be afraid to go slowly.Just be afraid of standing still.


In your daily investigation of Chan, be mindful of your own meditation topic, and slash through all your idle thoughts with your Vajra-jewelled sword of wisdom. When idle thinking is severed, wisdom will arise. With the light of wisdom, you can smash through the gloom of ignorance. Once ignorance is smashed, you can transcend the Three Realms, escape birth and death, and crash your way out of the wheel of life (i.e. the twelve links of conditioned co-production).


Those who apply effort in cultivating the Way must have patience. No matter how hard it is, you must patiently bear it. With patience you can reach the other shore. So in joining this Chan Session, you all should not be afraid of hardship. It's said, “When bitterness ends, sweetness comes.” If you don't start at the very bottom, you can't reach the top. Remember that a ten thousand foot skyscraper is built from the ground up. It isn't built in mid-air. Therefore, Chan cultivators must start with the basics, which are to get rid of idle thinking. If you can stop your idle thoughts, then at that point,


The moon appears in the waters of a pure heart;There are no clouds in the sky of a calm mind.


When the heart is at peace, all problems go away; When the mind is still, the myriad things are in harmony. As it is said,


True wealth is stopping the mind and cutting off thought;True fields of blessings are devoid of all selfish desires.


One investigates Chan just to get rid of the false and keep the true. It is also to pan for gold, to look for gold dust in the sand, which is a difficult task. But if you want to find gold, you have to look in the sand, and be patient. Do you want to understand your inherent Buddha-nature? Do you want to understand your mind and see your nature? Then you must patiently cultivate, study and investigate, and when enough time has passed, you will suddenly penetrate and enlighten to the fact that it is originally this way!


When your investigation of Chan is progressing well, there's no need to meddle in other people's business. Each of you should put forth effort to investigate “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” No matter what, you have to find out "who" it is. Only when you find the answer can you stop. When the intensity of your efforts has reached a peak, there will be good news.


To sit in full-lotus posture, put your left foot on your right thigh, and then put your right foot on your left thigh. The reason for this is that the left leg is yang and the right leg is yin. When you sit in meditation, the left leg which is yang is on top, and the right leg which is yin is below. This is like the Limitless giving rise to the Absolute, and the Absolute giving rise to the two primordial forms (the yin fish and the yang fish)─they are also set up in this way. For the sake of convenience, putting the left leg below and the right leg on top is also okay. The Dharma is not fixed, and the decision is based on individual preference. You don't need to become attached and think that you have to use this posture. When I teach you to put your left leg on top of your right leg first, that's only one method. It's not a hard and fast rule that you have to do it that way.


In general, sitting in the full-lotus posture will make it easier for you to enter samadhi. If you can remain in samadhi even when you are moving, then it is not necessary to sit. Within samadhi, you have no idle thoughts. Your mind is totally free from thinking and you are not defiled by even a speck of dust. If you can constantly maintain this state when you are moving, still, sitting or reclining, then you are working vigorously. It is not the case that you are working hard only when sitting.