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Dharma Talk

Part3: Formal Dharma Discourses - Winter Meditation Retreat 1975-76

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First Lecture

After ascending the Dharma seat, and looking to all the four directions, the Master said, “Today is the beginning of this three-month retreat. Within the assembly present here now- do each of you brave men intend to go through with this retreat? Those of you endowed with the Dharma-Eye, speak! What is an extraordinary man (an awakened mind)?” the assembly remained silent. After a pause the Master shouted and said, “The oranges of Jeju-do and the apples of Daegu: do you know where they fall? One pill of golden cinnabar (the medicine of the immortals) swallows all the Dharma realms, and exudes many marvelous manifestations. Everyone is Vairocana. Everything is a store of flowers (within which the Sambhoga-kaya of the Buddha dwells). Do you understand this? You must be as audacious as someone trying to grab the eyebrows of a living tiger or to snatch the whiskers of a flying dragon; then you will know. A poem says:

“An extraordinary man ultimately extends in all horizontal and vertical directions. Even is an iron wheel were grinding his head, he wouldn’t be afraid. Ten thousand trees of gold and jade enrich a desolate island; one of their fragrant fruits stops the feeling of thirst.”

Though this is the case, if in one thought we suddenly transcend (Sangsara), we can apprehend and defeat the Buddhas and Patriarchs. We can play around in freedom. Why should this take a lot of time? If liberation has not yet been achieved, we must carefully investigate our own kung-an. By breaking the limits of both past and future, only the mass of doubt will remain apparent. If during all twenty-four hours of the day, from moment to moment, the doubt is not obscured, we will gradually enter wonderful states. At that moment, we cannot grasp or reject; there is no up or down. With one slash of a knife we cut the doubt-mass in two, and finally the Mind is revealed.

Subtle streams (of defilements) are not suddenly stopped; so at that time (when the doubt has coagulated), we must brand upon our forehead the two characters, birth and death. The body becomes like a stone which has rolled to the roadside; the mind is like a sharp blade upon which a wind-blown hair is split. We neglect our sleep and forget about food. We are not afraid about falling into emptiness and deepen the hue of doubt which is on the kung-an. We keep on working closely. If we can continue working in this manner for one to three weeks, suddenly our mind and the Truth will mesh; we will understand the cause and conditions of the Big Matter (birth and death), and will have no further doubts about the tongue tips of men (i.e., the words of enlightened men). How could we not be happy? Although there is such an Awakening, we must remain as if deaf and stupid (i.e., remain open and unattached to the achievement), and go to meet Enlightened Masters. Having been tested (by those teachers) on the truth or falsity, shallowness or depth (of our Awakening), we understand that which had not yet been completely understood; we follow the stream and get to the marvel, and become the Master in all places. We are Manjusri amidst the assembly on Vulture Peak; the Samantabhadra inside the tower of Maitreya. A poem says:

“With one blow of our fist we strike down Mount Sumeru’s Peak and establish the palace of the Dharma King of the Dragon Flower. Kasyapa’s offering is not something difficult to do. We make offerings to all within the Great Sea of the ten directions.”

The Master shouted, and descended from the Dharma seat.
Second Lecture

The Master ascended the Dharma seat and said, “Everyone originally possesses the Dharma-Seal of the Unborn; so why do you still search for it? Have you realized it yet? Any monk possessing the Dharma-Eye, speak! What is it?”

After a pause the Master shouted and said, “The sun crosses this deluded world; its golden color shines everywhere. Do you understand this?”

Birth-and-death is an important matter; impermanence is swift. Why not experience the Unborn? Although we speak of impermanence, if we look for life we must die; but if we are decided upon death we will live. This assembly present here now must make efforts with a spirit decided upon death. With one stroke, cut the doubt-mass in two, and transcend the Buddhas and Patriarchs. Is such a one not an extraordinary man? A poem says:

“We are originally outstanding men, but for vast numbers of kalpas we have followed conditions, and have fallen into the stream of craving. If in one morning we can completely extinguish our karma produced by ignorance, in the middle of the night the golden crow will fly across the sky.”

I will again give some superfluous explanations (literally, add feet to a snake). Hsueh Feng once explained to his disciples, ‘Sitting next to a rice basket are innumerable starving people. Sitting on the seashore are innumerable people dying of thirst.’ Hsuan Sha said, ‘Sitting inside a rice basket are innumerable starving people. There are innumerable people dying of thirst even though their heads are dunked in the sea.’ Yun-men said, “The whole body is rice and the whole body is water.” Chih Fei Tzu’s poem says:

“In the sea you ask others where to find drinking water; to die of thirst ignorantly: is this not pitiful? If you still do not know your Original-face, after you’ve worn out your straw sandals, where are you going to search?”

Today this mountain monk is not of the same opinion. My verse says:

“The rice basket and sea water are our whole body. When dying of hunger or thirst ? what is the reason for it? We turned our backs (on our Original-nature), so do not advocate searching outside for it. Having fully exposed the precious jewel, we do not know it as precious.”

“Reflect on this!”

The Master then descended from his seat.
Third Lecture

The Master ascended the Dharma seat, struck his staff three times and said, “The Complete Enlightenment Sutra” says, ‘Limitless space is what is manifested by Enlightenment.’ All you monks endowed with the Dharma-eye, speak! What is your Original-Nature prior to the manifestation of space?”

After a pause the Master struck his staff against the Dharma platform and said, “This one staff penetrates the whole Dharma-realm. Do you know the place where it strikes? A poem says:

“With one strike against this platform, the great earth is broadened: the mountains are high, the sea is wide, and all the universe is penetrated. Like the fragrant orchid and the green bamboo which prosper despite the snow, one can (after enduring many hardships) proudly step upon the crown of the Buddha Vairocana’s Dharma-body.”

Again let me explain about the path walked by the ancients.
The Master Hsueh Feng said to his assembly, ‘The ‘I’ here present is like an old mirror. If a foreigner comes, a foreigner appears in it. If a Chinese comes, a Chinese appears in it.’ A monk then asked, “If we suddenly come upon a shiny mirror, then what?” The Master (Hsueh Feng) said, ‘Both the foreigner and the Chinese are obscured.’

Then another monk, Ta Chueh Lien, said in a poem:

“In the limitless brightness of two mirrors, each facing the other, the coming and going of the foreigner and the Chinese will be completely hidden. It is improper that he (Hsueh Feng) explained about this unchanging Truth. That meddling Persian musician had a strong, deceiving nature.”

Then the Master Ku San said: Today this mountain monk is not of the same opinion. My poem says:

“The moon on the night of the new moon is very bright and clear. Quietly shines the Absolute Light from days of old to now. I ask you now, how is this? All material and immaterial things and all aspects of Nature are in full conformity with Absolute Truth.”

“Reflect on this!”

The Master struck his staff three times and descended.
Fourth Lecture

The Master ascended the Dharma seat and said, “As today is the half-way point of the winter meditation retreat, let me examine the eyes of the assembly. The entire earth is my eye. So speak! At what place can you establish master over your destiny within birth and death?”

The assembly was silent. Then the Master struck his staff against the Dharma-seat and said, “If you take a fragment of tile and substitute it for your eye, you will know the place.” A poem says:

“In front of a cliff a wooden woman sings of the Unborn. A stone man within the fire plays upon a flute. The clouds have scattered, the wind is light, this is a place of purity and quietude. The whole mountain is filled with withered trees, but the snow is bright.”

Let me explain again about the path followed by the ancients. A monk asked the Master Hsueh Feng, “What is the first phrase?” Hsueh Feng remained silent. Afterwards the monk went to see Ch’ang Sheng who said, “That was the second phrase.” The monk returned to the Master who had him go again and ask Ch’ang Sheng. Ch’ang Sheng exclaimed, “Oh Heaven, Oh Heaven!”

Another monk, Chiang Shan Ch’uan said in a poem:

“This first phrase is that which even the Buddha and the Patriarchs don’t know. These words of Ch’ang Sheng ? the old Master Hsueh Feng reflected upon them in vain. This second phrase is extremely pitiful. The weedy bones (wandering thoughts) are already rotten. Why was it necessary to cry out ‘Oh Heaven’?”

Today this mountain monk is not of the same opinion. My poem says:

“Hsueh Feng’s silence was the second phrase. Ch’ang Sheng’s ‘Oh Heaven’ fell into the third phrase. In the deep valley, when we look from a distance, the snow looks like thousands of rocks. The North wind chills the bones, yet the orchids flourish.”

“Reflect on this!”

The Master then descended from the Dharma seat.
Fifth Lecture

The Master ascended the Dharma seat, struck his staff three times and said, “The suffering of the Three Poisons (greed, hatred and delusion) is like that inside a house of fire. How can we complacently bear it? If we want to get true happiness there is nothing better than to understand our own Mind. If we do not understand the ‘True-I’, what suffering it is! How can we stretch out our legs and sleep comfortably?”

“May the assembly speak! What is the ‘True-I’?”

After a pause the Master shouted and said, “The snow fluttering down fills the sky; it isn’t falling somewhere else. Do you understand this?” A poem says:

“The great Void manifests itself on the tip of one hair. At that moment innumerable samadhis are cultivated. Do not say that the Buddha and the Patriarchs stay in the West. The Three Worlds originally are the Golden Lands.”

Though it is superfluous (literally, like adding feet to a snake), I will give further explanations. Once a monk asked Hsueh Feng, “How can we get close to the holiest and most precious thing?” The Master replied, “Even those who have finished with their practice find it difficult to get close to.” The monk asked, “If we can realize emptiness of ego can we get close to it?” Master Hsueh Feng said, “If we follow the duty in life imparted to us we can reach it.” The monk asked, “Once we realize it, what is it like?” The Master said, “Hornets don’t long for their old nests.”

Another Master, Ta Hung En, said that Hsueh Feng was great but that these words just spoken were not of the most precious thing. “One sentence is cold like ice. Another sentence is hot like fire. I, Ta Hung, do not say it in this way. If we ask how to get close to this holiest and most precious thing, in all kalpas of past, present and future (we have already been close to it). If we can say we can get close to it through emptiness of ego, we are one hundred and eight thousand li away from it. I won’t transgress the country’s taboo and would rather cut out my tongue than say this.”

Then the Master Ku San said, “I do not say it this way. The words of Master Hsueh Feng are like roof tiles which are broken as the ice melts. And Ta Hung’s words are like drawing the bow after the robbers have left. If a monk had asked me how to reach this holiest and most precious thing, I would have beaten his back three times with my staff. Would he not have realized it on the spot? As to the second question (concerning emptiness of ego), If you reach that stage, do not get stuck in a pattern. As to the third question (about what it is like after Enlightenment), when the Spring arrives upon heaven and earth, there is no place where flowers do not blossom.”

The assembly reflected silently on this for some time, and then the Master recited a poem:

“Because this three-foot sword of wisdom shines like lightening, the ghosts and the wild foxes lose their courage. The snow gathering upon the countryside transforms it into a world of silver, making the trees of the whole mountain appear as coral.”

The Master struck his staff three times and descended from the Dharma seat.
Sixth Lecture

The Master ascended the Dharma platform, struck his staff three times against the platform and said, “This One Thing, being the holiest and most precious of things, is the only thing all the gods of the Triple World worship with respect. If you have not yet penetrated to it, the Emperor Yama (the Lord of Death) will not release you. So speak! On the thirtieth day of the twelfth month how will you avoid Yama’s iron cudgel?”

After a pause the Master struck his staff against the Dharma seat and said, “The fire of doubt shoots up into heaven; it burns heaven and scorches the earth. Where the earth resembles a stretched bow, all things are a Store of Flowers. There we will dwell in peace of mind.” A poem says:

“Using a rod made of rabbit’s horn, fish for the moon in the sky. At midnight on the new-moon day, strike the midday bell. The potent elixir of the three mountains has already turned to poison. All sentient beings of the Six Realms return to perfect fusion.”

Once a monk asked National Master Bo Jo, “What expedient should be used so that in one thought we can return to the source of potentiality and realize the Self-Nature? It has been said that the superior man upon hearing (Dharma), understands easily; but those of medium and inferior capacities, are not without doubt and confusion. Can you offer some expedient to guide the deluded?” Master Bo Jo replied, “The Way is not related to knowing. You should get rid of the mind which, deluded, is looking forward to Enlightenment. Listen to me. Because phenomena are like a dream and like false transformations, deluded thoughts and the sense spheres originally are void. At the place where all dharmas are void the enlightened mind is not dark. That is to say, this void and still enlightened mind is your Original-Face, and is also the secret Dharma-seal transmitted by the Buddhas of the three time-periods, the lineage of the Patriarchs and Teachers and the wise men of this generation. If you awaken to this Mind then it is really what has been called ‘not going there by stages’; you can directly climb to the land of Buddhahood, and each step will transcend the triple world. Having returned home, your doubts will be instantly cut off, and you will become the master of men and gods. Everyday you can use ten thousand pounds of gold (without incurring any debt). If you can become like this, you will be a truly great man and the tasks of this life will be accomplished.” A poem says:

“This chatter from the Buddhas and the Patriarchs: Is it about
Enlightenment? If one is one-pointed without distraction, that is the highest standard. The snow fills the Bodhi-mandala; the wind is calm. White deer live in the foothills; birds abide in the lake.”

The Master struck his staff three times, and descended from the platform.
Last Lecture

The Master ascended the Dharma platform and said, “One thought returns to the Source of Potentiality and one’s True-Nature is seen. Let the assembly speak! Have you returned to this great potentiality? If you have not yet returned, how can you say it is Free Season (the finish of the formal meditation retreat)? Having entered through this door (of the Patriarchs) we only speak about seeing our own Nature. We don’t discuss Samadhi and Liberation (because once we see our own Nature, Samadhi and Liberation come by themselves). What is so special about eating only once a day or never lying down to sleep? We do not need to cultivate this type of practice. Who is repaying the debt for the food we eat?” A poem says:

“Sakyamuni and Maitreya are someone else’s servants. Only treasure returning to your source of potentiality and crossing over suffering and an empty life. Step by step transcend the cankers of the triple world. The worlds of the ten directions are as a scattering of pearls.”

The Master, quoting National Master Bo Jo’s response to a question about expedient methods of practice, said: “The Tathagata appeared for the sake of all beings lost in wrong and perverted views, and briefly explained a small portion of the states of merit and virtue. But in reality the Tathagata neither appeared nor disappeared. Only for the one in accordance with the Tao are wisdom and its objects naturally fused and thoroughly understood. Such a one doesn’t produce such views as the appearance or disappearance of the Tathagata. While one is engaged in purifying the mind from its defilements by using the two methods of Samatha (calm concentration) and Vipasyana (insight), if emotions and the external characteristics of material forms are remaining, then one is seeking the Tao with ego-view, and will never be united to it. One must rely upon wise men, break down one’s pride, and develop fully a mind of respect; only then can one’s doubts be dispelled through the use of the two methods, Samatha and Vipasyana, and the meaning of the teachings of the Accomplished Ones of old be fully comprehended. How could one dare to do this hurriedly? This only makes one dissolute. Vow to follow these sincere words which illuminate this meaning. Don’t rely upon opportunistic and expedient methods.”

The Master descended from the Dharma seat.
Lecture for the Guidance of a Departed Spirit

After ascending the Dharma platform, the Master struck his staff once on the Dharma platform and said, “With this I strike and destroy the innumerable karmic hindrances of all sentient beings.”

Again striking his staff, he said, “With this I strike and destroy any stereotyping of the unprecedented achievements of the Buddhas and Patriarchs.”

Striking the staff for a third time, he said, “With this I expose the Original-Face of today’s departed spirit. Both the assembly of monks gathered here, and you, departed spirit: do you understand the principle behind this?” Then, after a pause, he said:

“The clouds scatter over 10,000 li, and the solitary moon shines of itself.”

A poem says:

“The pure Dharma-body is without coming or going: It does not arise or cease and is constantly in peace and happiness. It is empty and bright, and shines of itself: It is without obstructions. It reaches to even the deepest darkness, and transcends all limits.”

Quoting the Diamond Sutra, the Master said, “All characteristics are empty and false; if you see all characteristics as uncharacterizable, then you see the Tathagata. But I would prefer to say, ‘If you see all characteristics, and that which is not characterizable, then you see the Tathagata.’” Continuing the quotation, he said, “If one takes the seven precious jewels in the trillions of world systems, and uses them as offerings; or (on the other hand) if one receives and holds four phrases or stanzas of this sutra, explaining it to others ? this merit will exceed that of the former.”

“Even though the merit required for human or deva rebirth is not small, still the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West cannot be imagined, even in a dream. And why? Because if the clouds cover the wide heavens, the sun and moon cannot then shine.”

The Master struck his staff three times and descended.

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