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The cultivation that empties oneself is the ultimate

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Writer admin Date17 Jan 2006 Read9,946 Comment0


Knowing everything though the knowledge of one-
The secret of utmost importance when cultivating is that when the one is known well, all other things can immediately be known as well. Because the one is at the very center, it is the way of bringing everything else to the center as well.
Indeed, when asking ’What is the buddha dharma?’, ’What is the way of enlightenment?’, and ’How do monastics fulfill their duties?’ when the one is known directly, the emergence of the diverse changes in appearance is only natural.
Even if you were to memorize all of the 80,000 woodblock sutras [the Tripitaka], if you memorize without understanding the deeper meaning, it could be said that you’d know the true fact that you differ not one bit from someone who knows nothing. Even if you do not learn much at all if you learn even a little bit properly, in that knowledge, the 80,000 woodblock sutras would all be be contained.
That being so, this is not to say that learning maxims from the classics and memorizing the sutras is totally useless. Moreover, the Patriarchs of old never said that we could ignore the classics or the sutras or that they were unnecessary. They taught that as you learn many scriptures, you mustn’t become attached to them. If something contains logic, though it may only occur gradually step by step, people get attached to it and become fastened, as if wrapped in wire. Because people are not entering into the gate of practice, in order to overcome this malady, the 80,000 woodblock sutras are likened to a “dried shit stick,” “a used tissue,” and “dead fallen leaves.”
That being so, the way of the Patriarchs says that expounding on the way by departing from the Buddha’s teaching is reckless, even as it also says being attached to the scriptures carries with it many, many faults. Indeed, the scriptures are oriented towards the revelation of reaching the attainment of Buddhahood. Because a real object exists, an illusion can arise, if a real object does not exist, can an illusion come forth? Because a fake exists through there being a genuine article, and an outside exists through there being an inside, the heterodox teachings are also said to be a genuine method of liberation. Like this, though the dharma of the true wisdom shares a duality, this is not to say that it is something that come about through separation. We can discover this allegory when we go to a temple and pass through the “One Pillar Gate.” Isn’t what we call “one-ness” the same as saying there is “one, not two”? Without any words, the “One Pillar Gate” at the entrance of a temple gives us a constant reminder of the “not two dharma,” namely, the knowledge that the ultimate truth is not two. This is the truth that cuts through duality, and truly, it is the truth that goes beyond being just one as well. Even if you didn’t understand the alphabet, if you honestly knew this one truth, in this, you would be understanding each and every one of the 80,000 woodblock sutras.
In the practice of abandoning attachments and the mind of discriminating thoughts, as you must realize, the purpose of the Buddha dharma rests in the accomplishment of Buddhahood. Even to the point of abandoning one’s parents, entering into this gate I must learn the scriptures and pursue the path of enlightenment. If you awakening as such, and then say “I must accomplish Buddhahood,” in this way you become attached to something and thus you suffer.
When asking, “What is it to fulfill the duties of a monastic?” know well just this one thing, everything under the sun is in perfect peace, it is paradise just as it is. Isn’t it because I continuously get attached to this thing called “me,” that there is suffering and no potential for growth? It is not because of our sham of a “self” that the monastics fulfill their duties, it is only for the Buddha dharma that they must do so. It is entirely for the sake of the dharma. If we speak of the Buddha dharma, this is something that entails all sentient beings and the great parents of all creation. As for my deluded views, I need to obtain the selfless consciousness and totally abandon the thing called “self.” In all I’ve learned from what has been written about seated meditation, no matter what it is, I must learn from it the way to abandon “self.” This means having to learn detachment from all desires without delay.
Those people who have truly and completely emptied themselves of “self,” theirs is a truth that cannot be matched by anything in this world. Through our deluded perspective, no matter what we do, everything is all dead language, the ways of the mundane world, “dead words.” “Dead words,” those which are not “living words,” investigate the teachings of the Buddha and the Patriarchs with a discriminating mind. This is what “dead words” are.
Aren’t those which could be called “live words” the pure nature of the true teachings that lives vividly within our mind? If this isn’t what we must be searching for and exploring, what else could there possibly be? As “live words” are nothing other than the abandonment of the discriminating mind, we must know correctly what it is that constitutes the deep meaning of that which is called the “true dharma of live words.” If that is true, what should be the path that we must tread? The answer is something totally different from what is called the “way of the mundane world.” The “way of the mundane world” is the way that reckons based on a discriminating mind; we must learn that our path is that which finds the way to abandon this discriminating mind. Nevertheless, no matter where we turn, we are living by means of the discriminating mind. Through our minds, our mouths, and our bodies, the discriminating spirit comes forth. It is that which creates the karma that wraps our mind, as if wound by thread in a cocoon of evil influences. When seen from the ebullient truth of the dharma body, the truth that is originally without error, then the learning of scriptures, helping others, and learning technical skills, if they take us away from the way of liberation, these things are the creation of faults and the intensification of karma. When it is said that within the pure self-nature, "there is goodness," "there are blessings," "there is you," "there is me," "there is Buddha," and "there are ordinary beings," this is no different than the teachings of the lesser vehicle. Strictly speaking, unavoidably relying on writings or expedient means, in these cases as well, this is nothing other than us piling up more and more karma.
However, it will make a world of difference, depending on if such things are written about well or not. Even bad things, if they are written about in a skillful way, can also become very valuable truths. Consider this, then. In order to bring about a good result, the thing you are studying right now is something that aids in your learning about the revelation about becoming a Buddha. If today you were to spend the whole day learning the way of the mundane world, though you would be accumulating much in that time, it wouldn’t be anything that could be called "the way of enlightenment," quite the contrary, it would be the eradication of the way of enlightenment.
Everything you’ve learned up until now, that which you’ve learned at a temple and in your secular home, the cultivation of the eradication of those things is the cultivation of the way to enlightenment (or, cham seon).
Casting away into the Pacific Ocean all of the discriminating knowledge you’ve learned until now, throwing every bit of it all into a blazing fire, this is Seon, the way of Liberation, the way of the Great Freedom.
Therefore, even when you are learning from the scriptures, the thing that you must most keep in mind is the eradication of the thing called “I.”
This is the unconditional eradication of the view of self and of one’s own opinions. Because we set up idea of “I” and “me,” “you” comes into existence, “common knowledge” comes into existence, nations come into existence, races come into existence, doctrines come into existence, divisions come into existence, and an infinite variety of boundaries arise and quarrels never cease.
Errors and faults are exactly what exist in this place. After the Buddha’s enlightenment, if we speak of his idea of the “middle path as the highest truth” wasn’t the preeminent thing his insistence on equality? At the end of Chobalsim jagyoungmun doesn’t it say that those who wish to establish Buddhahood must not throw away the mind of equality and instead establish it? As operating the discriminating mind is the way of making everything arise and die, even when something arises that could be seen as kind, this too becomes nothing but one more occurrence of the conglomeration of karma.
When we feel we must try to help others so that we can help ourselves as well, rather than think of this as some small virtue, though the mundane world may call it by the name virtue, from the perspective of the purest virtue that does away with all duality, this cannot be called virtue. Those who do missionary work to help sentient beings, or spread the Buddhist teachings, or try to aid others according to the various teachings within the Buddhist sutras, if those kinds of efforts continue with the idea that “I’m building up good karma,” then rather than receiving benefits, these people are truly pathetic.
From the tiniest of actions and reaching to the greatest of Buddhist works, if it is help given based on the thinking that it is done "because I’m a Buddhist," or "because I am someone who lives in accordance with the dharma," the discriminating mind arises or a sense of pleasure is created, and then from this, if one later hopes for recompense, one’s karma in the world of samsara is increased and the sins that brings one suffering in life and death only grow in proportion. Accordingly, the way of liberation that inquires into the pure truth that abandons all duality is a saintly and admirable thing, that cannot be established through the common sense of the mundane world.
Having to master the path of liberation and great freedom in its origin, in order to enter into this the origin must properly be put in order. This kind of action is not easy. However, the degree of difficulty does not rest within the dharma, but rather within people. Misunderstanding this, the task is difficult, but if this fact is understood the task can be very simple.
The Buddha once asked a group of people, “What is the most lasting pleasure on this earth?”
One person answered, “I love when spring arrives and the flowers bloom,“ to which the Buddha replied, “According to the harmony of the four seasons, spring is the period of birth and fall is the period of destruction. If a year was not able to go its entire length, this would be the death of leaves turning and dying. As a result, this thing is something that is very conditional, isn’t it? Thus, you are being rather absurd.”
Someone else said, “Preparing food, eating, dancing, and singing is really great.” Again, the Buddha answered, “Someone who is born cannot escape death. Meeting and loving someone, you cannot then escape separating from them. How soon is it that this comes about and how dependent are they on one another? Thus, you too are also being absurd.”
Still another person said, "Riches are the best," to which the Buddha replied, “It is pleasurable living extravagantly, visiting all sorts of great places, possessing many valuables and riding fine horses. But when you consider that this world is one determined by a constant rising and falling, like the idea that when a creek is full of water, it’s an omen that it’ll be dry, that if the monsoons come, it’s an omen of drought, if the sun rises, it’s an omen it will sink, and if the moon waxes, it’s a sign that it will wane, you realize that you only live for so long and these thing are all so conditional. Once again, then, you are being foolish.”
The Buddha also offered his views about someone who was very proud of their spouse, "Just as the way by which things are governed, such that night becomes day and then day becomes night again, this is the way that an intimate friend becomes an enemy and an enemy becomes an intimate friend. Without friends, there could never be enemies. Now, because you are rich and young, your wives follow your commands, but there will soon come a time when they will not obey anymore. Thus, you too are being foolish.”
He then taught most kindly, “That which can truly be called pleasure is the gate of true knowledge in the state free from illusion, leaving the painful way of samsara and entering the gate of nirvana. Only in receiving the bliss of nirvana is there an eternal pleasure lasting from beginning to end.” This is indeed true.
Though I’ve only offered four cases here, we sentient beings who live with our discriminating minds, even if we were to speak of forty, or four hundred, or even more types of infinite desires being satisfied, like mountains upon mountain and water upon water, as yet another ailment or deficiency would appear, the process would continue again without end. This is because such things are all trifling issues, none of them fundamental. We must always get to the essence and know it well. But when we misconstrue it, seeing it from a discriminating perspective and judging it based on differentiation, we are continuously causing ourselves to be deceived.
We monks and nuns, with sincere minds and strident as we are on the path of ardent asceticism, because we too are beings conditioned by karma, though we may be so wonderful when we listen to dharma sermons or read scriptures, because of our habits conditioned over many lifetimes, we too can be deluded by and lapse into lives ruled by our appetites for food, riches and carnal lust. We who have come here into the sangha and not yet reached liberation, we are not the only ones who are suffering. My own eyes are closed and others are made to suffer. They are born in the east and born in the west, led about aimlessly and caused great anguish. How does this come to be?
It is truly by some great accident that we were able to make this connection with Buddhism and become monastics. These aren’t mere words either. When facing some difficult situation, when we suffer or when we receive contempt from others, it’s fortunate that we’ve become monastics. I’ve really found the right path. Considering how lucky I am to have come upon the path of this life, even though I say it one hundred times, the fact remains that walking this path is truly a wonderful thing.
You who are willing to sacrifice your lives for the dharma! Even if you die one thousand times, ten thousand times, firmly maintain the thought that you would never verge from this path. As you are fulfilling the duties of a monastic, you are harmonizing with everything, no matter where you go. If you go to the east or go to the west, even if you try and go to the heavens or to hell, there is nowhere that is not right for you to be.
If I were the type who simply said, “I am a monk,” but in fact was nothing but an empty shell capable of nothing, what use would I be? If that is so, when I’m fulfilling my duties as a monk, indeed I must examine carefully again and again how well I’ve lived up to that standard. It is exactly the same even when I’m doing prostrations. Even if all I know is the deepest meaning of how to do prostrations correctly, this enables me to accomplish Buddhahood. This is different from a prostration done as thought of in the mundane world. The prostrations that we do are prostrations done with the hope of quelling our restless mind and clarifying our wisdom. They are prostrations that liberate. Even in but one prostration, though it may be but one, we may be concerned with the looks of our bearing and we think of possessions and fame. These days, as we move further in the direction of materialism, living for the body might also be nothing more than materialism and the production of bad karma.
Though we may not partake in taking lives, or thievery or breaking the precepts, if we live in order to serve our bodies this too is misconduct. If we spend our time lazily or don’t engage in cultivation, if we live our monastic lives for the sake of fame and glory, it is said that this misconduct is even worse than killing one’s parents.
They say that even were we to wash ourselves in the waters of the Ganges River that sin could never be washed away. Truly, this is to say that merely talking about studying texts and confronting our passions does not constitute our experiencing the true dharma.
If the Buddha were not a monk, wouldn’t it have been said that heaven and hell are disappearing? Such words make my hair stand on end. Truly, if such thoughts permeate our body, there would be nothing that isn’t correct. If we create the path that practices with this type of thoroughness, in every lecture hall, in every aspect of societal daily life, whenever doing Seon meditation, there is nothing that we would not measure up to. Without such thinking, you possess deluded thoughts and the fulfillment of monastic life is tedious and vexing. Because our contemporary world is one of material omnipotence, though we still have but this one body to take care of, the truth is that this task has become infinitely more convenient. However, no matter how well you say we can now eat and dress, this all has absolutely no relation to the cultivation of the path to enlightenment, since it is not as if we couldn’t cultivate if we didn’t eat like this, or that we couldn’t become Buddhas if we didn’t dress in this way.
Cultivating enlightenment does not lie within eating well or sleeping peacefully. Indeed, what cultivation of enlightenment would there be within eating well and living comfortably? Being born as we are in the age of the "end of dharma," it is nothing but regrettable that we haven’t truly been able to bring out a true mind of religious awakening.
Master Weishan entreated the public to get their houses in order, “These people, if the heating under the floor breaks in one place, they go to another, and if it breaks in the other place, they put on a hat. Suppose it were a bare floor, what would they do then? When cultivating enlightenment, it doesn’t matter if we are eating well or living comfortably. Even when we can’t eat or live well, there can be cultivation of enlightenment. We don’t need to get permission in order to resuscitate the traditions of the great teaching Masters of old.”
Therefore, even if their ceiling disappeared and then their walls as well, in the chill of winter as icicles formed in clusters, can’t we say that those people there paid no concern to their bodies, thinking only of the ways of the masters of old, applying themselves diligently in their devotion to the path? What then is the reason, this day and age, with all our magnificent bounties, that anyone reminiscent of the great masters fails to comes forth? What is the reason that we can’t see such hard core practitioners?
As they developed their cultivation, the ancient monastics would devote themselves completely, with an ardent zeal. As they studied the texts, didn’t their studies completely become part of their own bodies, and perfectly become their own words as well? It was never as if the texts and themselves were considered separately, they cultivated themselves such that the texts and their minds completely became one.
Whether others ever knew of this or not, wasn’t the result a thoroughly cultivated outcome, done with nothing but the most ardent determination? With no consideration as to whether the circumstances are good or bad, I must always observe my own faults. Giving all of my energy until the day I die, applying myself earnestly, will there be anything that I cannot accomplish?
-Extracted from a special lecture at Haein Monastic University-

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