This Chan session has just begun. I hope you will concentrate your attention and energy to investigate Chan, to be mindful in your investigation. You should be so determined to end birth and death that you even forget about eating. Don’t give up until you have reached enlightenment. You must have adamantine will power.
When you reach the state where you don’t hear it when people scold you, don’t feel it when people beat you, and don’t even know if you have eaten or slept, then you can look back and know that everything you did in the past was inconsequential and that only today do you really know what you need to do.
At the beginning of this Chan session, I will say a few introductory words to you. If you understand, they will be a great help. If you don’t understand, they will also be a great help. Someone may ask, “How can this be?” Well, I cannot tell you now. If I told you, then after you understood it, you would get stuck there and wouldn’t advance. Now let me read you a verse. I hope you’ll listen carefully:
The Sanskrit words dhyana paramita
Mean to contemplate in stillness and subtly advance your investigation.
Have no fear of high mountains or deep
Then you will discover the sky beyond the sky.
In Sanskrit, Chan samadhi is called dhyana paramita. When you cultivate this Dharma-door to perfection, you can reach the other shore. In Chinese it is translated as “still contemplation,” or “mental cultivation.” In still contemplation and mental cultivation, you need to investigate carefully and in detail. Investigate what? Investigate the topic of “Who is reciting the Buddha’s name?” Don’t be afraid of ascending the high mountains or descending into the depths of the sea; at this time you will find there are myriad layers of heavens beyond heavens. Therefore, investigate continuously, extensively, and mindfully; investigate back and forth until “the mountains disappear and waters vanish, and there is no road ahead.” At that time, you turn around and enter the state where “in the shade of the willows, bright flowers bloom and there is yet another village.”
A talk given on July 31, 1983,
at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas