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Therefore, disciples must study the true words and teaching of the Buddha at first so that they can distinguish between the changeless and the changeable which the two characteristics of their mind are. Also they must discern that the two gates of sudden enlightenment and gradual cultivation are the beginning and the end of their practice. Only then, may they lay aside the doctrinal teachings. If they investigate the Seon meaning using only the present One Mind, they will profit. This is called “their own living path out of the world.”
The above does not apply to wise men of superior capacity, but to men of mediocre or inferior capacity who cannot skip the preliminary stages. The teachings have an unchanging aspect and an aspect which follows conditions. With sudden enlightenment/gradual cultivation, there is that which comes first and that which comes later. In Seon, you concentrate on a single thought so that the changeless and the conforming aspect, the Original Face and appearances, the essence and function, are all seen to be fundamentally simultaneous. You forsake everything and you also forsake the negation; everything is affirmed and also negated. For this reason, the great masters of our school used the Dharma but forsook words. They directly pointed to the “one thought.” “See your True Nature so as to achieve Buddhahood — that is all.” For this reason, they abandoned the doctrinal teachings.
When it is clear and bright out, clouds are resting upon deep valleys.
In those remote areas, the brightness of the sun illuminates the sky.
Those who practice should investigate the “live word,” not the “dead word.”27
If you attain realization through the “live word,” you become a teacher for the Buddhas and patriarchs. If you attain through the “dead word,” you cannot even save yourself. So, you must only use the “live word” in order to directly awaken and enter into the inconceivable.
If you want to see Lin-chi, 28 you must be an iron man.
With the hwadu, there are two gates: the word and the meaning. Investigating the word is the short-cut approach of the “live word.” It allows no path for the mind or for speech, since there is nothing to grasp hold of. Investigating the meaning is the so-called “complete and sudden approach” (as in the Avatamsaka Sutra and the Vimalakirti Sutra) of the “dead word.” It allows a path for principles and speech, since it involves intellectual understanding and thought.
When investigating the hwadu, you should practice wholeheartedly like a hen hatching an egg, like a cat catching a mouse, like a starving man thinking of food, like a thirsty man thinking of water, and like a baby longing for its mother. If you practice like this, you will surely penetrate your hwadu in time.
The hwadus of the patriarchs number 1700 or more, consisting of such phrases as: “a dog has no Buddha-nature,” “the pine tree in the yard,” “three pounds of flax,” and “dry shit stick.” A hen sits on her eggs, constantly keeping them warm. A cat’s eyes and heart do not budge when it is catching a rat. When one is hungry, one thinks of food, and when thirsty, water. A child longs for his mother. All of these actions appear out of the True Mind. They come from the bottom of the heart and are not artificial, so such actions are said to be sincere. It is impossible for someone lacking such sincerity to penetrate reality through meditation.
There are three essentials to Seon meditation. First of all, you must be rooted in Great Faith and Great Confidence. Secondly, one must have Great Anger29 - a strong, inwardly-directed, ardent determination to practice. Thirdly, one must have Great Doubt. If one of these is missing, it is like a tripod vessel with one leg cut off— in the end, it will be of no use.
The Buddha said, “Faith is the basis for achieving Buddhahood.” Yung-chia,30 a disciple of Master Hui-neng, said, “One who cultivates the Way must first establish his will.” Meng-shan31 said, “Failure to have a Great Doubt in the hwadu is the greatest disease for one who meditates.” He also said, “With Great Doubt, there is sure to be a great awakening.”
While meeting the conditions of your daily life, constantly consider the hwadu, “Why did he say a dog has no Buddha-nature?”
Consider it when coming and going, maintaining the Doubt while coming and going. You will then feel the path of reason and the path of meaning disappear. Even the “bland taste” will disappear. When your head and heart are feverish and you are thoroughly frustrated, you must renounce even your body and your life. This is fundamental to achieving Buddhahood and becoming a patriarch.
A monk once asked Chao-chou, “Does a dog have Buddha-nature?” Chao-chou said, “Mu(無)!”32 This one word is the gate to the Seon School. It is a device that cuts off all perverse views and false understanding. In addition, it is the Original Face of all the Buddhas and the bones of the patriarchs. Only those who penetrate this gate can expect to become a Buddha or a patriarch. A verse of one of the ancients says:
Chao-chou’s sharp sword
Shines like winter frost.
When you ask what it is
You’re cut into two pieces.
Do not try to understand at the place whence the hwadu arises. Do not think about or guess its meaning. Do not wait foolishly for enlightenment. If you get to the point where thought no longer takes place and still push on with the doubt, the mind will have nowhere to go. It will be like an old rat that enters an ox horn and finds that he no longer can turn around. If you search for a solution, constantly calculating and comparing, wondering how you must go about it, your activity is all just attachment to knowing. Present-day people do not realize that this is a disease. They let themselves fall into this disease and rise up again repeatedly.
Those who investigate the hwadu are subjected to ten diseases: 1) using discriminative thought to think about the hwadu; 2) becoming attached to the master’s raising his eye-brows or winking;33 3) getting caught up in speech; 4) trying to prove a point by reference to the texts; 5) trying to get enlightened through the sudden expression of the master;34 6) sitting in emptiness, doing nothing; 7) discriminating between existence and non-existence; 8) getting caught up in the notion of absolute nothingness; 9) trying to figure out the hwadu through logical reasoning; and 10) impatiently expecting to become enlightened. If you have put aside these "ten diseases," you must wholeheartedly concentrate on the hwadu. Only wonder and Doubt, “What does it mean?”
Hwadu practice is like a mosquito biting an iron ox. It does not ask, “Is it like this, or like that?” It puts its proboscis on the impenetrable, and then, disregarding its own life, it just drives through with the strength of its whole body.
This paragraph is connected with the point made before about the “live word.” It is meant to prevent those who are investigating the "live word" from falling back in their practice. The ancients said, “Those who practice Seon must pass through the gate of the patriarchs. If they want to attain a marvelous awakening, they must totally cut off the path of the mind.”
Cultivation is like tuning the strings of a harp. You find the right sound between tight and slack. If you over-exert yourself, you tend to cling. On the other hand, if you become heedless, you fall into ignorance. Practice your meditation with a clear and steady consciousness.
Harp players will tell you that the harp emits a clear, even sound, only after the strings have been correctly adjusted. Practice is the same. If you over-exert yourself, you get feverish. If you just forget about practice, you end up in a den of ghosts. Neither slow nor fast, has the mystery lain within the mean.
When your practice reaches the point where you walk but do not know you are walking, and you sit and do not know you are sitting, the 84,000 demon soldiers waiting at the six sense gates will rise up in accordance with the state of your mind. But if the mind itself does not rise up, what can they do?
A "demon-soldier" is a ghost that enjoys birth and death. The 84,000 demon-soldiers are the 84,000 kinds of mental defilements that afflict sentient beings. Ultimately, the demons have no independent origin.35 They arise by following the waves of the mind whenever the cultivator loses his mindfulness. Sentient beings follow whatever appears, so they end up following demons. Men of the Way oppose36 whatever appears, so they end up opposing the demons. For this reason, it has been said, “The higher the path, the greater the number of demons.”
Sayings like, “when he saw the son in mourning, he stabbed his own leg”37 or “when he met the pig, he grabbed his own nose”38 all show how delusion arises from one’s own mind. When the mind is deluded, demons appear externally. But if the mind does not arise, then even if every sort of demon with every sort of magical power were to appear, they would be like a knife trying to cut water or a man trying to blow out a moonbeam. The ancients used to say, “When a wall has a crack, a draft comes in. When the mind has a crack, demons come in.”
The arising mind is the “Heavenly Demon.” The non-arising mind is the “Yin Demon.”39 The mind-which-both-arises-and-does-not-arise is the “Defilement Demon.”40 But in our true Dharma, these demons are understood to be ultimately non-existent.
To forget all techniques is the Buddha’s path. To engage in discrimination is the way of demons. The way of demons is just a dream. So why do we bother to think and argue so hard?