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If one is to sit in meditation, a quiet and clean place is good. But the more important point is the mental attitude that is not excessively attached to a place or environment. Seon Master Bodhidharma said, “Cut off all causation from the outside, be without panting internally, and as soon as the mind is like a wall, one can enter into the Way.”
In the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch Seon Master Huineng said, “Externally the mind not being moved by any realms is called sitting; internally seeing the original nature and not being disturbed is called Seon.” This truly is the teaching that the patriarchal teachers have earnestly investigated.
In the method of sitting meditation, the very first thing is to establish a great vow.
I will never retreat and will be firm in my believing mind in this correct Dharma.
I will escape from the samsaric transmigration of birth and death and definitely will be enlightened to my original face.
I will be sure to inherit the life of insight of the Buddha and save all sentient beings.
By setting up the formality of this power of the vow, even when only sitting in meditation, one will cast aside all clinging to conditions and one must examine the hwadu exactly.
1. In the method of sitting in meditation there is sitting fully cross-legged or sitting half cross-legged.
Full cross-legged sitting is the posture in which the right leg is placed on top of the inside of the left thigh, and the left leg on top of the right thigh. At that time, once both legs are placed on top of and deep into the thighs, and that posture is settled, one can maintain it for a long time.
The half cross-legged sitting is to sit on the cushion with the left leg placed on top of the right leg (the seat of good fortune; gilsang jwa) or with the right leg placed on top of the left leg (seat of demon quelling; hangma jwa).
2. Naturally straighten the back and try to stop strength going into the shoulders. Both ears and shoulders should be parallel, and the nose and belly-button should be made perpendicular.
3. When seated in the seat of good fortune, the right hand is to be placed naturally above the left foot in front of the abdomen and the left hand is to be placed on top of that. Both thumbs are to lightly touch each other (the seal of the Dharma-realm samādhi; beopgye jeongin). In case of sitting in the seat of demon quelling, one may do the recerse.
4. Release the tension in the mouth and teeth, gently shut them, roll the tongue so the flat of the tongue touches the palate. Half open the eyes and do not glare. Do not close them and as naturally as possible think as if one had no head, and lower the line of sight to the floor a meter or two in front of one.
5. Do not eat or drink too much, but rather just not enough. Give the sash/belt some room, and as far as possible do not talk and try to release any tension.
6. Breathing is to be extremely natural. Inhale a little deeply, and think to exhale slowly, but do not be concerned too much about it, and investigate only the hwadu.
7. With the attitude of mind that devotes the body and mind wholly to the hwadu, one must make them wholly one with the hwadu. Because all thoughts that the sitting in meditation is going well or is not going well are all false, strive to make an effort only on the hwadu. Earnestly and sincerely do not produce the mind of rapid result or the mind of indolence.
8. Warning stroke (gyeongchaek): If during sitting in meditation one is sleepy or has not concentrated the spirit, or the posture is dishevelled, a warning blow is used. The warning stroke is a teaching of the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī to assist in correct practice. When the warning stroke is used, the duty officer places the bamboo rod (jukbi) lightly on the right shoulder of the person to receive the blow. By gently pressing down, he lets that person know of the warning blow. And so, the person to receive the warning stroke is roused from sleepiness, puts his hands together and lightly tilts his head to the left so that the shoulder can receive the blow. Following the warning blow he puts his hands together, makes a greeting of thanks and returns to the correct posture.
9. Having sat in meditation for fifty minutes, it is standard to walk in file for ten minutes, but one must not be bound too much by the time. Walking in file (pohaeng) means in the period free from meditation (bangseon) one walks slowly inside or outside the Seon room, stretching one’s legs. Even in the period of walking in file one must not put aside the hwadu.
One may sit in meditation with the above method, but it is best to learn the details from an experienced person.