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If one’s practice comes together to form an integrated whole, then even though you may fail to penetrate to an awakening during this lifetime, bad karma will not pull you away when the light falls from your eyes.
Karma41 is the darkness of delusion. Seon is the light of wisdom.42 Darkness and light obviously cannot exist together.
You who practice Seon — do you know the weight of the Four Debts? 43 Are you aware that this coarse body, composed of the Four Elements, 44 is decaying with each conscious moment? Are you aware that human life rests on a single breath? Do you fail to appreciate your good fortune in having met the teachings of the Buddha and the patriarchs during this lifetime? Do you realize how rare it is to encounter the highest Dharma? Do you remain in the monastery, maintaining the discipline? Do you engage in frivolous speech with those around you? Do you succumb to feelings of hatred and get into arguments? Throughout the twenty-four hours of the day, is your hwadu constantly bright? Does it never become dull? Do you lose it when you meet people and talk with them? Does it form one solid mass whether you are seeing, hearing or thinking? When you look back at yourself, do you feel that you can defeat the Buddha and the patriarchs? 45 Are you firmly determined to transmit the Buddha’s wisdom during this lifetime? After you get up from sitting and are feeling at ease, do you reflect on the sufferings of hell? Are you determined to transcend the Wheel of Transmigration in the present incarnation? When assailed by the Eight Winds, 46 does your mind remain unmoving? Those who practice meditation must ponder these questions in detail throughout their daily life. The ancients said, “If a person does not direct himself towards liberation during this life, when will he do it?”
The “Four Debts” are the debt: 1) to parents; 2) to the leader(s) of the nation; 3) to teacher; 4) to benefactors.47 This coarse body is made up of the Four Elements in the following manner: 1) one drop of your father’s sperm mixes with a drop of your mother’s blood48 to form the moist water element; 2) the sperm becomes bones and the blood becomes skin to form the rigidity of the earth element; 3) the mixture of blood and sperm does not rot or dissolve because of the heat of the fire element; 4) the early formation of the nasal passages — for respiration — is due to the movement of the air element. The Venerable Ananda once said, “Sensual desire is coarse and impure. It involves the mixing of stinking, smelly substances.” This is why the body is called “coarse.” The phrase “decaying with each conscious moment” refers to the way our features constantly change with each passing moment: the face becomes wrinkled and the hair turns white. As they say, “I am now no longer like I was before, and later I will surely not be as I am now.” This refers to the impermanence of the body. The demon of impermanence kills for fun. It is truly something to be feared with each passing thought. Exhalation is due to the expelling force of the fire element, inhalation is due to the drawing in of the wind element. Human life is completely dependent upon exhalation and inhalation. The Eight Winds are sets of mental objects which the mind finds attractive or repulsive. “The sufferings of hell” refer to the fact that sixty kalpas49 in our world equal a single day in hell - a place of molten metals and hot ashes where one is subjected to the sufferings of forests of swords and mountains of knives. The suffering of hell is indescribable. Receiving a human life is more difficult than finding a needle which has fallen into the sea. One should be both sad and alarmed about this!
The above Dharma Talk must become part of your experience. It is like a man who drinks some water: he knows for himself whether it is hot or cold. One cannot overcome one’s karma with cleverness. One cannot escape the wheel of suffering with dry wisdom50. One must carefully consider and ponder each thing so that one does not fool oneself.
Those who study rhetoric seem to be enlightened when they speak, but they are confused when they encounter situations. This shows that words and actions are not the same.
This paragraph is connected with what was said above about “fooling oneself.” When this happens, words and actions are different from one another. One must distinguish the false from the true.
If you want to overcome life and death, you must take hold of the “One Thought” and smash it with one blow. Then, you will be completely free from life and death.
“Smash it with one blow” refers to smashing the “lacquer barrel.”51 When you smash the lacquer barrel, you are able to overcome life and death. All of the Buddha’s preparations for Buddhahood consist of this and nothing more.
But even after you have smashed this “One Thought” in a single blow, you should visit a clear-eyed master so that he can confirm that you have correct vision.
To awaken is extremely difficult. You should be timid and shy about any claims to such an insight. When you set out, you find that the Way is like the vast sea. The farther you go, the deeper it gets. You must take care to never become satisfied with some small attainment. If you feel that you have awakened but do not meet a master to have your insight verified, the fine flavor of refined milk may turn out to be poison.
A venerable ancient said, “I’m only concerned about your attaining correct vision, I don’t worry about your deportment.”
Long ago, in response to a question put forth by Wei-yen, Tung-shan52 responded, “The forty books comprising the Parinirvana Sutra53are all the talk of demons.” This is Tung-shan’s correct vision. Then, Tung-shan asked about proper deportment. Wei-yen told him, “I’m only concerned with your attaining correct vision. I do not worry about your deportment.”
This is why proper deportment is only spoken of after attaining correct vision. So if you want to practice, you must first awaken suddenly.
I hope that all students of the Way have deep faith in their own mind and neither become diffident nor proud of themselves.
When the mind possesses equanimity, there are, ultimately, no “ordinary men” or “sages.” Even so, people generally distinguish between delusion and enlightenment, ordinary men and sages. A disciple, through the inspiration of his teacher, instantly awakens to his True Mind and realizes that he is actually no different from the Buddha. This occurs suddenly. It is due to the disciple’s not giving in. For this reason, it has been said, “originally, there is not a single thing.” The disciple then relies on this awakening to eliminate the residual habit-energies so that he transforms from an ordinary person into a sage. This development occurs gradually. It is due to the disciple’s humility. For this reason, it has been said, “one constantly wipes it clean.” Low self-esteem is the disease of the doctrinal students (Kyo); whereas, pride is the disease of Seon students. Doctrinal students do not have faith in the mysterious entrance to awakening of the Seon School. They become deeply muddled up within the provisional teachings and cling to notions concerning what is true and false. They do not practice, but instead ponder the jewels54 of others. And so they retrogress as a result of their own actions. Seon students do not have faith in the correct path of cultivation that is taught by the Doctrinal Schools. They are not embarrassed even when defiled habit-energies arise. Even though they have only reached an initial level of understanding, they become proud and brag. For this reason, those who wish to cultivate their mind must not give in and must not be proud.
The phrase “...must not give in and must not be proud” can be viewed from two angles. From the simple perspective of the initial aspiration, it can be said that the cause (viz. the initial inspiration on the Bodhisattva path leading to Buddhahood) already contains the myriad fruits (all of the stages of the Bodhisattva path including enlightenment itself). From the broad perspective of the Bodhisattva Path, it can be said the fruits are inherent within the fundamental cause. In other words, all fifty-five stages of the path are already contained with a single act of initial faith.55
Cultivating the Path with a deluded mind merely contributes to one’s ignorance.
If you have not yet broken through to an awakening, how can your practice be said to be authentic? Awakening and cultivation depend on one another like oil and fire. They assist each other like the eye and the foot.
The key to practice is simply to put an end to worldly attachments; the understanding of the attained ones consists of nothing more than this.
The disease is gone and the medicine is no longer applied.
You return to the original person.
Do not try to discard the mind of a sentient being. Just keep your Self Nature from becoming defiled. To search for a “correct dharma” is mistaken.
Throwing away and seeking is all impurity.