February 2022 Sesshin, Day 2: Faith in Mind: A Commentary on Seng Ts'an's Classic by Master Sheng Yen
2:42PM Mar 4, 2022
This is the second day of this February 2022 four-day sesshin, and we're going to continue reading from the book "Faith in Mind: A Commentary on Seng Ts'an's Classic" by Chan Master Sheng Yen.
So picking up from yesterday, quotes from faith in mind, affirming faith in mind, his translation, "Without recognizing the mysterious principle, it is useless to practice quietude." In our version, it's "Not to see the Way's deep truth disturbs the minds essential peace." And just to make it clear, that deep truth is in the previous lines, "If you want the way to appear, be neither for nor against. For and against opposing each other, this is the minds disease". Or as we have it "To founder and dislike unlike is nothing but the minds disease." And Sheng yen says, If you do not grasp the deep truth in the previous lines, no matter how hard you practice, your efforts will be futile. This is because there is a struggle within your mind. It's always the case, like and dislike. Any of us that takes a look at ourselves sees that struggle - what we should be doing, we want to do what we're afraid to do, we don't want to have to do.
struggle creates more struggle. He says the previous thought is continually at war with the following thought under these circumstances is almost impossible to attain a peaceful state of mind. To be okay, with things as they are. This is the solid foundation for practice. Obviously, there are things we want to improve their things we want to lessen. But to be okay with where we're at right now. I say it's the foundation. Sheng yen says even if you do manage to overcome your scattered thoughts, and reach a peaceful state, it would still be useless. You will be so happy to have entered this state that you will grasp it and not let it go. Good luck with that. In the end, you will not have achieved a concentrated mind, but an attached mind. Nonetheless, a peaceful state of mind is at least better than one involved in a constant internal struggle. As long as you live alone, you may be able to maintain it. But if you have to interact with people, things may start bothering you. You may be disturbed by the noise of children, visits of friends or stress at work. Eventually you'll seek to avoid these things and meditate alone in a room
clearly this is not our goal in Zen practice want to be available not blocked off, not hidden away. So she and we hide away but it's just for a short period of time.
The real test of our practice, so when we're out again in the world, dealing with things we like and don't like.
Noticing and responding. goes on. Someone here has a habit of sometimes falling backwards while sitting. Today I cautioned her that she does If she doesn't hurt enough, the shock may cause her to lose consciousness, or even her ability to think rationally. she remarked, that's not such a bad idea after all. Now, I have to struggle with all the problems in my mind. If I get such a shock, my problems will simply disappear. I said that may be the case, but who will feed you and take care of you, who will take care of your children shock to your nervous system is not the same as enlightenment.
Rather, it is a disease. Just because a person does not have any scattered thoughts does not mean that all his problems are resolved. If all you're interested in is a thoughtless state, just ask someone to hit you hard on the back of your head. There are too many people who cannot distinguish between true wisdom and a mere state of peacefulness. If you do not understand this distinction, even if you practice hard, at best, you're feeling being foolish. So easy to settle for too little. Think of the watered down mindfulness movement not talking about true practitioners following the path of Tera Vaada Buddhism, but this modern day become more efficient
better health. Those are those are benefits of practice. But to stop there to sell yourself short.
He says you should not remain passively and peacefulness. Don't be afraid of difficulties. If your mind cannot settle down, you should not feel any resentment. Look at that for a moment. How many of us haven't felt upset that our mind is in turmoil seem to be spinning our wheels can't get going. I think we can all appreciate that. That resentment is just stirring things up more.
He said yesterday tying ourselves up and stabbing ourselves with a knife. He says cultivate non aversion to the unpleasant and non attachment to the pleasant. Taking a pleasurable state for enlightenment will get you into trouble. Enlightenment is not something we have to guard fiercely, not letting it go. If a pleasant state arises, don't get stuck on it. Just continue to practice. And practice really is about letting it go letting everything go. Good states bad states. It's always simpler than that. Just the method just the practice.
On a past retreat, one person sat through for 30 minute periods without stirring. Seeing that his condition was quote too good. I struck him with the incense board. That's a Chinese version of the key of Saku Thereupon he grabbed the board and hit me saying I was in such a blissful state now and now I've lost somebody. Aside from the fact that practitioners should not have any attachments. It is not the purpose of Chan to remain in Samadhi is not necessarily good for the mind to settle down to quickly. Chan is a lively practice. It's not difficult to maintain a calm mind at a stationary situation. But Inchon one should be able to retain mental calmness, even in a mobile state. Practice in moving such a big part of practice. I notice in doing keen here in the Zendo how many people for one reason or another drop out? may need to use the bathroom. Maybe tomorrow thirsty and need to get a drink, but might look at that a little bit. Kaneen is a wonderful practice, carry out what we can do on the mat. As we're moving, it's great benefit, it's really worth cultivating also makes our practice more continuous. We aren't going off and becoming distracted. Something to look at
the next versus the way is perfect, like great, great space, without lack without access, because of grasping and rejecting, you cannot attain it. And he says, great space does not refer to a nothingness, but rather to a totality. Though it includes everything, there is no individual existence, there is only the total universal existence. Even before attaining the way practitioners should train themselves in the proper attitudes of one who is already enlightened. That is, they should discard the mentality of liking and disliking. So long as you practice diligently, that practice is the totality. After all, what you dislike and what you like, are not separate from one another. And he gives an example, there was a landowner who hired many helping hands to work his fields. They were very good workers, but they had large appetites. On the one hand, he was pleased with their work. But on the other he was annoyed that they gate that they ate so much. In the owners mind, this was a grave defect. To him, it would be ideal if they would just do their job and not have to eat. Thus, there is no need to rejoice when you think you have gotten what you like, it will bring with it, things you dislike, and vice versa. One of the things that behavioral scientists have have documented quite well is what poor predictors we are of what will make us happy and what won't.
One famous study, they looked at people who had won the lottery. Think as opposed to people who had had an amputation or some pretty serious medical problem. They looked at him six months later. And the and the more unhappy group was a lottery winners. People think that if they get the job they've been looking for, find the right mate. Get the new house. It'll bring happiness with it. But we're still the same people we are. Our likes and dislikes continue. He says for example, a couple may spend a lot of time and energy according each other. Eventually they're married and are very happy together. But along with the happiness, there's also some restrictions. They feel stuck in the daily routine and lack the freedom to do whatever they want. They reflect that there is a certain merit to remaining single, but at this point, it is already too late. This is just common sense. Everything is a mixed bag. Good marriage is a wonderful thing. Having children is wonderful. Watch out when we think we have gotten something we have not really gotten it and when we think we have lost something we have not really lost it. This is because in the real reality of totality, there is no gain and no loss. There is nothing outside of your mind. It is because you choose and reject that you are not free is for this reason that you have an excess or a lack. You have an excess of what you want to get rid of. and a lack of what you want to acquire is only when there is no grasping or rejecting that there will be neither access nor lack.
So one of the values of the difficulties of machine
so much value in learning to go along with what we may not like to be very hard for us to do on our own. We find out directly for ourselves how little we know about what leads to happiness and what leads to despondency.
We change our relationship to pain
begin to find out what it's like to have an empty mind, empty and responsive mind
Verse continues, do not pursue conditioned existence, do not abide in acceptance of emptiness. Or as we haven't, both striving for the outer world as well as for the inner void, condemn us to entangled lives. And he says, people can be attached either to existence the outer world or emptiness, the inner void. Most of us are probably attached to existence, clinging to our thoughts, our body, the environment around us. On the other hand, someone attached to emptiness may think, since there is nothing after death, it is the simplest solution for everything. After I die, I won't have to worry about anything anymore. Another emptiness attitude may be since the world is illusory, that nothing matters, and I can stay detached from everything. Those who are attached to emptiness may have a devil may care attitude. They may refuse to take anything in life seriously, or they may even be susceptible to committing suicide. Attachment to either existence or to emptiness or improper attitudes. I've spoken of the dangers of attaching to existence, grasping what you like, and rejecting what you don't like. But to say that there is nothing to grasp, and nothing to reject is also incorrect. This would be attaching to emptiness.
It's not the middle way.
Person may be meditating with a blank mind, apparently free of all thoughts and concerns. While this may seem to be approaching enlightenment, it is actually quite different. In the enlightened state, a previous thought did not arise, a future thought will not arise and a present thought does not arise. But someone in the blank state is just sitting there, not thinking about or doing anything. In fact, he is not practicing. Indeed, he does have a thought which is the previous thought arose, but it does not matter. A future thought may arise but again, it does not matter as to the present thought let it be. This person may think that he has no attachment to his thoughts. But actually this is far from a true state of enlightenment. This kind of state is called stubborn enlightenment. Excuse me stubborn emptiness, as opposed to true emptiness, which is a lively state of mind full of awareness.
Can the hallmark of real practice is that liveliness, responsiveness
moving freely walking with no feet.
says if you practice to a point where you feel very tranquil, stable and comfortable, that would be a peaceful state of mind. The best you can attain in this peaceful condition is a high Samadhi state in the formless realm called the emptiness Samadhi. But if you become attached to such a state, you would never see yourself nature. This would be considered an outer path practice
Nevertheless, it is a high Samadhi state
verse goes on in oneness and equality, confusion vanishes of itself. And he says, perceiving that all is one means making no distinction between sage and sentient being, or between subject and object. This is another way of describing the totality of space. When you experience everything is equal, all distinctions will naturally disappear or remembering not to abide in either existence or emptiness. You should also know that existence and emptiness are not separate. These are not two, it is everything really the same. Once I said that the Buddhist sees all sentient beings as the same and is aware of every single thought in the universe, someone raised the point that if the Buddha's mind was constantly being bombarded with such a tremendous influx of thoughts, it would not be a very comfortable state. This would mean that the Buddha's mind is like a garbage can, and the thoughts of all sentient beings are being dumped into it. It would be a heavy burden on the Buddha. He says, if you take a snapshot, with a high quality camera, everything in front of the lens will be imprinted on the film in minute detail. Obviously, this was done before the advent of digital cameras. The point remains, you can see the tip of each blade of grass and the outline of every leaf. Yet the camera does not think how annoying all this junk is trying to get my attention. No, in one shot, it takes in everything without making distinctions among the objects, whether they are good or bad, long or short, green or yellow. But just because the camera does not make distinctions does not mean that the images on the film will appear confused or in the wrong order. On the contrary, everything is there clearly and in place. The Buddha's mind is like this, our mind is like this. Having an equal mind means that there is no conception of relativity between things. Everything is absolute, in the sense that there is no separation between you and others, between past and future. Because you see everything is equal, you would not choose one thing over another. It as soon as there are no longer any differences, it is as if existence simply disappears. For example, if everybody were male, the label men would no longer be meaningful, since its only purpose is to distinguish men from women, everyone being the same, there would be no need need for names. If you take an equal attitude towards everything, all differences will disappear along with existence itself. Once I handed the incense board to a student and I asked him, What is this, he grabbed the board and shook it a few times. He did that because there was no name for it. We may call it an incense board. But this is only our mind making distinctions. Why must we call it incense board?
You ever had that phenomenon where a word suddenly Steve seems extremely strange.
All our words are distinctions. Secondary not the thing itself. He says during a retreat, I stood in front of a certain person. I asked him who is standing in front of you. He replied, an egg. I was very pleased to be an egg. When the retreat was over, I asked him, Why is she foo and egg? Again, she foo is like Roshi, Chinese. He answered when she flew asked me the question. I did not have any thought whatsoever in my mind. Since I had to give an answer. I just said something. And the word egg spontaneously came out of my mouth. Later I thought that isn't quite right. How can she food be an egg? But I said it and it said when he said an egg it was the correct answer. In fact, what he said at that moment, whatever he had said at that moment would have been correct because He did not have any thought in his mind. He was in an absolute state, not making any distinctions. But once he began to entertain doubts, he lost the answer. Perhaps in this retreat, I will also stand in front of you and ask who is standing in front of you? Then recalling the story I've just told, you may try to give a similar answer and call Shifu a horse. However, this would not be correct if you have the idea of giving a good answer. This is the mind of distinction is not the mind that treats everything as equal.
It's not the mind of pure spontaneity.
Still trying to control ourselves to get the right answer. We're still bound.
Because we have to live in the relative world can't go around calling everyone an egg.
The verse continues, stop activity and return to stillness, and that stillness will be even more active. As we haven't attempts to stop activity will fill you with activity. He says, originally, your mind may be in a relatively stable state. But when you realize that your mind is not completely unmoving, you may try to make it even calmer. However, the effort is still your mind will cause it to become more active. The mind that makes no distinctions is unmoving. There are no ups and downs. If you tried to eliminate the ups and downs, it would be like observing a pan of water. There are gentle ripples on its surface, but you want the surface to be completely still, so you blow on the water to flatten it out. This creates more ripples, then you press the water with your hands to stop it from moving, the outcome is even more agitation. If you were to leave the water alone, the ripples would eventually subside, and the surface would be still common sense tells us that we cannot force the water to become calm. When it comes to practice, however, it is difficult for us to apply the same principle. This is the difficulty of practice. Trying to get a result we get in our own way. So I love Roshi. He's example of the snow globe trotted out at every workshop. Shake it up, snow is swirling, whatever flakes are in the globe are swirling in the water. Analogous to our mind full of thoughts. All we need to do is set it down. The beauty of practice, the reason we have a method we don't have to stand over our own shoulder, trying to improve on things. Just give ourselves wholeheartedly to our practice. Faith in the method, faith in ourselves
and he says when practicing it is sufficient just to keep your mind on the method. It is unnecessary to reflect upon how well you were doing. Or to compare whether you were in a better state now than you were a half an hour ago. During the evening talk I'm asking you how are you doing today? At that time, you can express your feelings. But when you're practicing, you should definitely not investigate your mental state and judge your practice. Someone said to me Shifu I feel very ashamed. I come to retreat time and again and yet I never make any progress. I said the very fact that you're still coming to retreat and practicing is proof that you are making progress remember in a people would say it works if you work it
it's not our job to worry about results.
He says practice with an equal mind. don't distinguish between good and bad. Do not compare your condition before and after the retreat, or judge whether the method you're using is right or wrong. If you find you cannot use the method you may change it. But first understand why you cannot use the method. You should not let curiosity dictate your practice. Playing with one method today and another tomorrow are switching methods from one sitting to the next. You should see that there are no real differences between the various methods. Hold onto one method and go into it as deeply as possible. This is like your love relationships. When you love someone you should persist in that relationship and not continually change partners. Likewise, keep to one method. Do not keep changing your conception of practice, to change change frequently will give you only trouble.
Versus continue merely stagnating in duality? How can you recognize oneness? If you fail to penetrate oneness, both places lose their function. As we have it, remaining in duality, you'll never know of unity and not to know this unity, lets conflict lead you far astray. And he says whenever you make distinctions, your mind is in opposition. Opposition implies duality. How is this relevant to practice practitioner usually wants to attain enlightenment or ultimately Buddhahood. But this creates a duality of subject and object. The person who is seeking to attain is separate from the attainment the object of the search and seeking to become one with the Buddha, he separates himself from it. This is a state of opposition. Perhaps the practitioner knows very well that he has never been separate from the Buddha. But since he has not yet experienced this unity, he seeks the Buddha within himself. Yet even seeking the Buddha within himself creates opposition between his searching mind and the Buddha within. That way, oneness can never be attained. It's like what nonsense said to Josue. If you direct yourself towards it, you go away from it.
Sheng yen says, if that is true, is it correct to practice without seeking anything at all? Every day we chant the great the four great vows. The fourth is, I vow to attain supreme Buddhahood. What is the purpose of chanting this vow, if aspiring to to attain Buddhahood sets up an opposition. On the other hand, if we do not define our goal is practice possible. If you really believe there is no separation, then it is possible to practice without opposition. You must have faith in the fundamental unity to truly begin practicing. Faith is linked to doubt to knowing that we're holding complete why can't we see it? Why is it difficult to see who we are?
says most people remain in duality. They acknowledge only one God, but they also see themselves as separate from God. There is still a duality. But in Chan at the very beginning of your practice, you must have faith in non duality. It is the same unity and the koan. The myriad Dharma has returned to the one to what does the one return? In other words, if all existence comes from one God, where does God come from? Not sure why he stepped into the god business here may depend on his audience. The point still applies. The emphasis of faith in mind is on practice. Many of you are practicing counting the breath. The goal of this method is to reach a unified or single minded state. After you get to the point where there are no thoughts other than counting. Eventually the counting just naturally stops. The numbers disappear, the breath disappears and the idea of counting the breath is gone. The only thing left is a sense of existence. This is a Samadhi state. Using a Chan method such as the Wado or koan may have a similar result in the beginning stages. At a certain point the Wado may disappear or you simply cannot use it anymore. But this does not always mean that you have reached a single minded state, you may still have the thought of trying to use the Wado only when the thought of practicing is gone, will your mind be in a peaceful state of oneness.
State comes without are attempting to get their surprise
says a person who has experienced oneness is different from an ordinary person. His faith is stronger than one who can at best intellectually understand what it means to have no distinctions in one's mind. To personally experience it is quite another thing. Many people have experienced this and may not even realize it, experiences in childhood. They're young can happen and then get papered over? Forget about it.
But due to begin to experience, this kind of intimacy changes the whole nature of our practice amplifies our faith. He says, the practice of Chan should progress in this sequence scattered mind, simple mind, one mind, no mind. First, we gather our scattered thoughts into a more concentrated or simple state of mind. From this concentrated state, we can enter the mind of unity. Finally, we leap from the unified mind to the state of no mind. This final process can be accomplished more quickly using the methods of the Wado or the koan.
To go from one mind to no mind does not mean that anything is lost. Rather, it means that you are free of the Unified State, someone who dwells in one mind would either be attached to somebody, or what else feel identified with some deity. It is only after you are freed from this unity and enter no mind the returned to your own nature, also called Mu, or Chan.
Even though this progression in the practice takes place, while you're actually practicing, you should not think to yourself, I'm striving to concentrate my mind, I want to get to the state of one mind the state of no mind. If you have such ideas of seeking, you will be in trouble. Just concern yourself with your method persist with your method to the very end. This in itself is close to a state of unity. If you hold to it, eventually you will reach a point where the method disappears, and you will experience one mind. Once a meditator in his 60s said to me, she fu I'm very old. So Young to me. She said I'm very old. I may not have many years left. I really would like to get enlightened as soon as possible. If I don't get enlightened before I die, I will have wasted my life. I said precisely because you are so old. You shouldn't have any hopes of getting enlightened. Just practice. The man asked how can you tell me to practice and not show me how to get enlightened? I replied, If you have the idea of enlightenment, that is already your downfall. You cannot make much progress. If you do nothing but practice at least you will approach the state of enlightenment. Even if you never get enlightened, the effort is never wasted
helps so much to have that faith. The effort is never wasted.
Just by making an effort we grow, become stronger
come to trust ourselves. Realize how much effort we can make pure effort
not trying to dictate the outcome. Just practice for its own sake I want to finish with something that the German poet Rocha wrote, says being an artist means and here I should say, for real cut an artist is really a practitioner, anyone on a spiritual path. Being an artist means not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which does not force it SAP stands confidently in the storms of spring. Not afraid that afterwards summer may not come, it does come. But it comes only to those who are patient who are there as if eternity labor for them. So unconcernedly silent and vast. I learned it every day of my life. Learn it with pain I am grateful for patience is everything.
The time is up, stop now and recite the four vows