February/March 2021 Sesshin, Day 3
9:17PM Mar 12, 2021
This is day three of this February March four day 2021 sesshin. And we've been reading from this book catching a feather on a fan, subtitle a Zen retreat with Master Sheng Yen, edited by John Crook. And we're going to pick back up not far from where we left off yesterday.
And this is again, we're in commentary on the poem by Wang Ming. You know, I can't remember the name of the poem. Calming the mind. So, the verse the verse is those able and talented ones are really stupid fellows. Discarding the pure and the simple, they drown in too much beauty. And Sheng Yen says, Those who consider themselves able and intelligent are actually foolish. You possess the seeds of wisdom if you think of yourself as a fool. A practitioner who experiences problems is doing well. One who thinks he has no problems really has difficulties. Of course, if you are enlightened, there are no problems. But for those of us who have barely started to practice -- I really like the way he puts that -- and you notice he puts himself right in with all of us. For those of us who have barely started to practice, it is important to recognize our problems, otherwise, we are likely to have a troublesome time.
Why would a Zen master say he's barely started to practice?
This path has no limits.
He says often I find myself counseling practitioners who have lots of problems with vexations of body and mind. I tell them, if you recognize your obstructions, you are certainly practicing well and with sincerity. Find out what you can do about your vexations. It's a very good point. Most of us when we run into our problems, troubles, pains, difficulties, we bemoan them, we wonder whether we should go on, Am I doing this right is there any point in it? Find out what you can do about your vexations. He says if you're stuck, then come and see me. Eventually the difficulty will be resolved. If the vexation is the belief that you have no problems, that is sometimes a very difficult case. It is difficult for such a person to find the right motivation. Wang Ming tells us that if we can let go of our attainments and return to a pure and simple state, then we can make progress. If not, there is trouble in store.
And here, I feel obliged to turn to my old friend Anthony DeMello. This whole business about pride and and feelings of great worth or little worth. He says here -- these are these are basically this is a transcription of talks he gave to a group of Catholic lay workers, I think for the most part. I won't go into everything about Anthony DeMello, but just shortly he was a Jesuit priest with a lot of experience in meditation, mindfulness, and I think some insight. So he says, do you want to see how mechanical you are? My That's a lovely shirt you're wearing. You feel good hearing that -- for a shirt for heaven's sake. You feel proud of yourself when you hear that. People come over to my center in India and they say what a lovely place, these lovely trees, for which I'm not responsible at all, this lovely climate. And already I'm feeling good until I catch myself feeling good. And I say hey, can you Imagine anything as stupid as that. I'm not responsible for those trees. I wasn't responsible for choosing the location. I didn't order the weather. It just happened. But me got in there, and I'm so I'm feeling good. I'm feeling good about my culture and my nation. How stupid can you get? I mean that. I'm told my great Indian culture has produced all these mystics. I didn't produce them. I'm not responsible for them. Or they tell me, that country of yours and it's poverty. It's disgusting. I feel ashamed. But I didn't create it. What's going on? Did you ever stop to think. People tell you I think you're very charming. So I feel wonderful. I get a positive stroke. That's why they call it I'm okay, You're okay. I'm okay, You're okay was a book that was out I think in the 70s. Anyway, quite a long time ago. Trying to help people feel okay about themselves. He says, I'm going to write a book someday, and the title will be, I'm an ass, You're an ass. That's the most liberating wonderful thing in the world when you openly admit you're an ass. It's wonderful. When people tell me you're wrong, I say what can you expect of an ass. Disarmed, everyone has to be disarmed. In the final liberation, I'm an ass you're an ass. Normally the way it goes, I press a button and you're up, I press another button and you're down. And you like that. How many people do you know who are unaffected by praise or blame? That isn't human, we say. Human means you have to be a little monkey, so everyone can twist your tail, and you do whatever you ought to be doing. But is that human? If you find me charming, it means that right now you're in a good mood, nothing more. It also means that I fit your shopping list. We all carry a shopping list around and it's as though you've got to measure up to this list. tall, dark, handsome, according to my tastes. I like the sound of his voice, you say. I'm in love. You're not in love You silly ass. Anytime you're in love, I hesitate to say this, you're being particularly asinine. Sit down and watch what's happening to you. You're running away from yourself. You want to escape. Somebody once said, Thank God for reality, and for the means to escape from it. So that's what's going on. We are so mechanical, so controlled. We write books about being controlled and how wonderful it is to be controlled. And how necessary it is that people tell you you're okay. Then you'll have a good feeling about yourself. How wonderful to be in prison. Or if somebody said to me yesterday to be in your cage. Do you like being in prison? Do you like being controlled? Let me tell you something. If you ever let yourself feel good, when people tell you that you're okay. You are preparing yourself to feel bad when they tell you you're not good. As long as you live to fulfill other people's expectations, you better watch what you wear, how you comb your hair, whether your shoes are polished. In short, whether you live up to every damn expectation of theirs. Do you call that human?
This is what you'll discover when you observe yourself. You'll be horrified. The fact of the matter is that you're neither okay. Nor not okay. You may fit the current mood or trend or fashion. Does that mean you become okay? Does your okayness depend on that? Does it depend on what people think of you? Jesus Christ must have been pretty not okay, by those standards. You're not okay. And you're not not okay. You're you. I hope that is going to be a big discovery at least for some of you. If three or four of you make this discovery during these days we spend together what a wonderful thing -- extraordinary. Cut out all the okay stuff and the not okay stuff, cut out all the judgments and simply observe, watch. You'll make great discoveries. These discoveries will change you. You won't have to make the slightest effort, believe me.
What a relief to set down the imperative that we feel to present a good front. What a relief just to be oneself. Not easy to do. And nobody does it all the time. When we don't, we're an ass. To be able to admit your mistakes. What a clean and easy way to live. I remember being in an AA meeting some once and somebody said, I tell the truth because I like to travel light.
In the end, nobody is really fooled by our pretense. At some level or another people know we're not coming from a genuine place. We are ourselves, you're you.
So, as Sheng Yen says, if we can let go of our attainments and return to a pure and simple state, then we can make progress. If not, there is trouble in store. Practitioners of Chan should learn all kinds of skills, attain excellence in many disciplines. These things are the light of the mind and show us the breadth of our mental scope. They may also be the means by which we can help others but never mistake them for the unlimited wisdom. In these skills and attainments, there is nothing reliable. If you are attached to them, then your intelligence has made you stupid.
Then the next verse, consciousness is an untamed horse, the mind and unruly monkey. If the spirit is overactive, the body will sicken and die. If you recognize the unruly monkey, then perhaps you can set about finding out what sort of wandering thoughts possess you. If you examine them, you will find that rather than being of unending variety and interest, they are in fact few, limited in scope, repetitious and boring. Maybe you don't know how many wandering thoughts you have or what their nature is. They're like the sheep around here. Of course, being good practitioners in the middle of a retreat, you have not seen them, but you probably saw them before their retreat started. To find out how many sheep you have, how many black ones how many white, you need to be like the Welsh shepherd who rounds up his sheep with skilled dogs, and carouse them in a pen. Then when they're all collected, he can count and examine them, give them names, even> Whether you are like an untamed horse, an unruly monkey or a bleeding sheep, the same principle applies. Be like the shepherd who rounds them all up, then you can see what the problem is. Those are the most troublesome thoughts, the ones that we're half aware of or not aware of at all.
He says the problem is how to tame the monkeys. The first method of practice is to pen them up. You can do this by holding them in one place. You catch the thoughts as they come up, and prevent them from wandering on. Notice he doesn't say you stop the thoughts from coming up. You notice them and then you don't attach to them, you don't go on with them. Don't follow down that path. And if you do you get back on the highway. The device for doing this is the method of counting the breath. There are many variations of this method depending on the unruliness of the monkeys. If the mind is quite concentrated, then all you need to do is be aware of the breathing. You don't need to count at all. With a less concentrated mind -- and of course when you're first beginning -- counting is useful, since watching the breathing is insufficient to prevent wandering thought. If your mind is badly scattered, even counting the breath fails to focus the mind adequately. Discursive thinking keeps breaking through. So you make the task more difficult by counting the breaths in a reverse order, or by odd numbers or even numbers alternately. I actually never heard of this before. But it seems like maybe, maybe if that's what it takes, that would work. The main thing is to tie the mind to this one task. He says while the activity is simple, you give yourself more to do so that the wandering thoughts cannot gain a foothold. It is like tying the monkey to a tree after you've caught him.
The method of a koan is based on a similar principle. It enables us to reach a point where we do not even have to concentrate. To begin with using the koan is just like mechanically counting the breath, one repeats the koan over and over like a mantra. As the mind becomes more focused, you can use the koan in a more precise way. In Chinese, this is called tsan, spelled TSAN. It means investigation, looking into the mind to perceive its nature. When the mind is focused, you get a certain flavor from using the koan and derive power from it. It is like eating ice cream on a summer day, it gets more and more attractive. And as you immerse yourself more and more into it wandering thoughts lessen. They may even disappear completely. However, this does not mean you are enlightened. It simply means that thinking in a random way has come to an end. The koan ties the monkey to the tree, you go deeper and deeper into it until you reach the point of enlightenment. What is that? No explanation will help you, you must experience that insight yourself.
Although the koan method resembles the breath at the beginning, it will take you all the way. This is unlikely through counting the breath alone. Even so, they'll count it through counting the breath, one can enter Samadhi, which is a valuable aspect of training. Indeed.
Wang Ming says that if the spirit is overactive, the body will sicken and die. He means that if you struggle too hard with too much discursive thinking, you will get very exhausted. Wild monkeys in a cage rush about destructively. You must consider the methods of training. To catch a feather, you need to practice with a peaceful frame of mind, a gentle approach.
The next verse is wrong conduct ends in delusion. Those treading this path become mired in mud. to regard ability as precious is called confusion. And then skipping ahead a bit in his comments. He says, knowledge is framed by our viewpoint, it is necessarily limited by the scope of intellection. If we spent a whole lifetime acumen accumulating knowledge, it would be like the mound of a termites nest. This is why in Zen, we call it a teaching beyond words.
All our explanations are nothing more nothing greater than a termites nest. It is not at all in the same dimension as wisdom. What then is wisdom? In the Chan perspective, wisdom is a state that is free from attachments, free from measurement, free from self reference, and empty of vexation. It cannot be found through accumulationm, through adding to a pool of knowledge, or through measuring how far we are ahead of others. On that path, we only pile confusion on confusion.
Sometimes someone will visit the center, maybe come to sesshin. And they've been to many other centers and worked with many other teachers. And that is sometimes an obstacle. There's a pride in their Zen career. How can you help someone like that? Maybe they think they don't need help.
Then he goes on talking about the koan method. He says in using the koan, we usually focus on just one saying from the story. This saying is the wado -- that is the nub of the koan we could say. We use it like a kind of lens to peer closely into the mind. Yet this is not an intellectual process. We are not saying for instance, who am I or what is Mu in order to pile up descriptions or to elaborate theories. To tsan the wado means to look into it to peer with the mind's eye rather than with the minds reason directly into the moment of experience that is happening right now. Description takes time. It accumulates, piles up. Tsan has no time for it occurs in the durationless present. It is a bear looking into the space of the mind, like peering thoughtlessly into a goldfish bowl. There may be movement, sunlight glinting on the scales of fish, but there is absolutely no conceptual examination. There is merely the bare observation itself, it goes on and on. The wado is as it were merely the target set up for you to aim at. Furthermore, although it may have the form of a question, the mind cannot make a quick intellectual reply. The usual sort of clever response is quite short circuited; a fuse is blown somewhere. Such looking generates a great doubt. The doubt becomes so intense that the mind automatically comes to one place totally immersed in the paradoxical unresolved ability of the wado. You are lost in the wado. When you are totally lost, that is tsan. When this intensity of focus is long maintained, long sustained, suddenly the whole mass of doubt breaks down and dissolves. That moment is enlightenment. Nothing can be said of what is there then; it is beyond words.
Then to make his description of methods of practice more complete, he says, there is also another method, which I do not usually recommend to beginners. It requires a measure of prior practice. This is the method of the Tsao Tung school Soto in Japanese -- active advocated particularly by Hung Chi Chung Chue. I hope I haven't butchered that too badly -- in the 11th century. This was a method favored by the great Japanese master Dogen who took it to that country where it is known as Shikantaza. Actually, it is probably a very ancient method going back to the times of the Indian patriarchs. You might say that it is tsan -- that is vivid introspection -- without the wado as a target. You sit gazing silently into experience as it arises. Hung Chi said of it, in this silent sitting, whatever realms may appear, the mind is very clear as to the details, yet everything is where it originally is, in its own place. The mind stays on one thought for 1000 years, yet does not dwell on any forms inside or outside. In this method, we let the mind go quieter and quieter, immersing itself in its own silence. It is like allowing the water of a pool to become utterly still. Every speck of mud drifts to the bottom. The water is crystallin in its clarity. This crystallin clarity becomes enlightenment naturally and without effort. Like the method of koan, this is a wonderfully direct path. And as you see, no knowledge, no attainment.
It's a wonderful description, it all depends on tying the monkey to the tree. As long as we're bobbing around, thinking this way and that way, making discriminating judgments, evaluating, trying to intellectually grasp the koan, or whatever the practice is, we're not coming to that still, vivid place where we're just looking into the mind where everything can settle. But by continually letting go of our thoughts, coming back, Sheng Yen says, by tying the monkey to the tree, we begin to get into that still and quiet place where real practice can take place.
Maybe real practice is the wrong way to put it because even when we're floundering about, beseiged with thoughts, turning away and then getting sucked back in again, that is real practice. He gets into that a little more later on.
I'm going to move ahead. This is from day four, breakfast table remarks. He says, during retreat, the experience of time varies. The first three days dragged by slowly. Of course, we're still in day three. But I think I think a four day sesshin time is a little different. I don't know why that is -- probably because of our human tendency to sort of know how long we're going to be in the sesshin. But if things do seem to free up a little more quickly for many people in a four day, so by day three, where we are now, things are moving along a little better.
He says in this beginning each day may seem as long as a whole year. On the other hand, the last three days seem to run past like a swift horse. This is because during the first half of a retreat, participants are neither used to the retreat nor to using their method, and they have a hard time. During the second half, both body and mind are adjusted to the retreat, and time seems to pass quickly. Today is the fourth day. Do not think that there are only two days left, and that because nothing has happened in the first four days, you cannot discover anything. If you feel this way, then you may become lax in your effort, and feeble in diligence. This would be regrettable and a great mistake.
The retreat is like a race. Only when you cross the finishing line is the event over. You may manage a spurt in the last seconds and carry off the prize. But you are racing against yourself. The more experience you have with sesshin, the more you realize how quickly the mind can change how we can go from what seems like a scattered distracted state into a sudden state of intense awareness. There's really no predicting. The only thing we can say is that if we give up and just let the mind wander, that's not going to happen.
He says practice with the method is like climbing a high mountain. You can only say that the climb is over when you reach the summit. Perhaps you're climbing the mountain in a thick fog or a cloud. From the beginning you have no idea how high you are, you may think you have come no way at all and then suddenly you arrive. You may think you are nearly at the peak. And then you find further slopes rising before you. All you can do is climb. Without climbing you will get nowhere. In an act of faith, you simply place one foot before the other. If you believe you are getting nowhere you will become lax and the climb will exhaust you.
On retreat, do not set yourself particular goals for practice. Just keep going in the right direction. Every single step is then an act of reaching the goal; going on is the goal. The goal is in the going. If you run a race and your mind is on the winning post, you split yourself into now and then; if you forget the goal and just place all your attention on the energy of running, you will suddenly find yourself there. If the climber has his mind focused on the summit, he may easily find the climb exhausting, and stop halfway giving up.
Anytime we split the mind and look ahead, the simple thing is a round of sitting. If your mind keeps going to win, the round of sitting is going to be over. Not good. The results aren't good. Same with a retreat. If you're just trying to survive, get through to the end, what's that going to amount to. You really have to bring it back into the present moment. Make that our goal. That's something we're going to get to. But what we're doing right here right now.
In climbing a mountain, sometimes we encounter a steep slope, and other times we find a flat area to stroll across. The wise climber does not take particular notice of these differences. Both the steep slope and the flat area are high in the hills already. Likewise, when we practice, sometimes there are good conditions, sometimes troublesome ones. If you find yourself in a good place, don't get too happy. There may be a steeper slope just ahead. On the other hand in difficult times don't get discouraged; the slope will ease off shortly.
On retreat, you cannot predict one sitting session from the previous one. You simply have to sit down and find out. Every sitting is a new birth. You simply have to sit down and find out.
When climbing the mountain, you constantly experience differences in slope, differences in demands made upon your energy and resilience. And this goes on until the summit is reached. Similarly, similarly, on retreat, do not be too eager for results take up an attitude of going forward without seeking anything. Use the ordinary mind to practice diligently. Sometimes people feel that all they ever encountered are -- encounter are the steep slopes, they never come across flat areas. Well Tough luck if you are tackling a steep mountain. When this is the case, you need to build stronger foundations for your practice.
The next section is entitled day four evening talk and we come back to the poem again. To exaggerate clumsiness, and covet skill does not lead to great virtue, of such fame, but little contribution -- of much fame, but little contribution, their reputation quickly crumbles.
And then Sheng Yen says, Many people suffer from feelings of inferiority. Others feel themselves to be very important. They exaggerate their self respect into aggrandizement. Both of these feelings arise from comparing oneself with others. When you live alone, you find that such feelings arise less frequently. I do not know how modern psychology analyzes these feelings. But from the viewpoint of Buddha Dharma, each of these feelings is a different manifestation of the same basic inclination. A person who feels inferior is obviously lacking in confidence. But so is somebody who exaggerates his or her importance, and behaves arrogantly; both inferiority and superiority, come from lack of confidence. You cannot practice well, if you lack confidence; you look at others and think how well they must be getting on. You feel as if nobody else has a problem. As if you're the only one sitting there worrying and anxious. Sometimes when I find a practitioner who is troubled in this way, I say, Don't be so lacking in confidence. I too, came by the same route. When I was young, I also had to endure great difficulties in practice. It was only through hard work and applying the method that eventually I got a tiny bit of understanding.
Sometimes such a practitioner says to me Shifu, which is basically their word for Roshi, how can I compare myself with you? You are a Chan master. So how can I expect to get the same sort of accomplishment? Then there is another kind of person not so common as the first who may say to me, Shifu, you are now so old and I am young. By the time I reach your age, I will definitely have surpassed you. Such a person evidently has great confidence. But then, upon what is this practitioner basing his opinion? How can he be so sure; actually, even with such confidence, there remains a big problem. The first of these practitioners is putting himself or herself down. There's a feeling of inability, and inferiority. The second type is filled with arrogance. Of course, I shall be very happy if all my practitioners surpass me. But when practitioners show either of these attitudes, I'm not so happy. Neither attitude is helpful in practice. In particular, a person who shows his lack of confidence through arrogance has very little chance of making progress, so long as he thinks that way.
I think that particular type is not that common, but you do see it every now and then. And people can also get puffed up if they've had some tiny insight. Maybe they've been passed on their first koan, that can lead to arrogance. Although sooner or later you get beaten down.
Now, let me ask you, do you think it is possible to be feeling inferior and behaving in a superior manner at the same time? Have you ever manifested such sentiments -- and I guess people must be putting their hands up because he says -- I see that many of us recognize such problems. The fact that we can perceive them is already a sign of progress. If you know you have such weaknesses, and yet still you try to cover them up and act as if you are truly confident, then you are like the praying mantis. There's a fable, in which the mantis saw a carriage rolling towards it; it raised one of its legs to stop the carriage. Actually, it knew very well that such a thing was impossible, but nonetheless, it wanted to put on a show; that madness is actually very pitiable. Such a pretense of ability is simply a manifestation of self centeredness. Of course, there are also people who try never tried to resolve difficulties, they like to evade a difficult situation as much as possible. Such a person is like the ostrich sticking his head in the sand, hoping that the lion will go away. The truth is, all of us are mantises and ostriches by turns, and we remain thereby in delusion.
In the Orient, many people are like this; perhaps it is the same in the West. Have you not met the man who is approaching 30 and begins to lose his hair. So in case others should notice, he begins combing his hair in such a way that the hair on the left side goes over to the right. Yet anyone who really takes a look can see at once that he is bald in the center. Of course, if you are a Chan practitioner, and you are bald in the center, well, you're bald in the center. A Chan practitioner needs to have this kind of self knowledge; he should know what sort of appearance he has and feel at home in it; in whatever situation, you should know how far your ability will carry you. With the ability you act without it, you do not; no fuss, no pretense.
When I came to this retreat, I knew that many of you are well educated with degrees in psychology and other subjects. I did not think about it very much or trouble to look up these subjects in books and prepare myself for questions about this or that. I did not prepare myself at all in fact. I just came over; here I am; I can tell you what I know. If there are things I cannot answer, so what we can still talk together. The important thing is to recognize ourselves for what we are, just recognize whatever you are, whatever abilities or inabilities you have and accept yourself. There is no need to get vexed over comparisons. If you can imagine this, if you can manage this, you will become firm and character, more healthy and at peace.
He says, Now, let us look at the second two lines of Wang Ming's verse: of much fame, but little contribution, their reputation quickly crumbles. During interview today, one of you told me that he would like to help society. I said Well, in that case, you must finish your studies, get a reputation and some fame; then you will may be able to influence the course of social events. It is not wrong for Chan practitioners to become famous. If the reputation coincides with ability, then there is nothing problematical about it. I myself have become quite well known. I've worked hard and been of use to people, people have come to hear of me and this may perhaps be a value; more people may be helped as a result. If and when reputation and reality coincide The truth is just as it is. On the other hand, when a reputation does not coincide with reality, but is simply the result of misleading self advertisement, then there is danger. The empty arrogance of such behavior can be harmful to others, and deeply damaging to a person's progress on the Dharma path.
You know, even if the teacher isn't putting on airs or making pretense to be more than he or she is, it's still quite possible for the student to project on to the teacher some sort of godlike status that people who told me they were sure that Roshi could read their minds.
It's a it's a it's a dangerous fraught situation. The when the respect for the teacher, the confidence in the teacher and the teachers ability to help you grows into something that goes beyond what's reasonable. Roshi Kapleau used to say before you join with a teacher, you need to have both eyes open; you need to examine closely, him or her closely. But once you once you begin working then close one eye. But don't close both eyes. So regrettable the scandals that have happened in the wider Zen community, even a little taste of it, you know, and people in our lineage -- some really egregious examples and some others and then it isn't confined, of course to Zen. It exists in Tibetan Buddhism, in Advaita, Hindu meditation, and in Christianity; anytime there is perceived power, the possibility of abuse is there. The antidote is just to be who you are. Don't imagine others to be anything more than what they are. In the end, I'm an ass, you're an ass.
People have heard this story before, but at one point, someone was visiting the center, and Roshi Kapleau came walking through the link. Whoever was noticed them, and they thought he was the janitor. And when Roshi Kapleau heard about that, he was extremely pleased. Just to be simple, that's really the Spirit of Truth Zen; just to be who we are. No need for airs. No need to impress others. Got plenty of work to do without worrying about what other people think about us. If they find us trustworthy, that's great. That's enough.
A little bit more here, we can see that the four lines of this verse are connected. A person who feels inferior may be tempted to seek a reputation that goes beyond his or her real ability. This is arrogance based on weakness. It harms others and it harms oneself. Chan practitioners need to know their weaknesses. If you seek to correct them, and do not try to cover them up, then you will become a more complete character and one whom others will trust. You do not have to become a saint, just a whole person in balance with yourself. Suppose you were to meet two people, one of whom was overpraising himself and another who straightaway said to you, hey, look out I'm a rascal. If you hang around with me, you'd better be careful. Would you prefer to woohoo? Which would you prefer to deal with? The first may seem easier, but the latter may turn out to be more reliable. Actually, neither of these types knows himself well enough to behave genuinely; neither the rascal nor the self admiring guru needs to proclaim it; their crumbled reputations have probably preceded them.
Then one more verse, merely reading books is of no lasting value. Being inwardly proud, brings the emnity of others; what you get from books is merely knowledge. It is not your own experience. An author only tells you what he wants to say, he has not written to speak to you in the current situation. Books are useful in setting a general direction, but you have to confirm what is said in your own way. Answers from books are mere descriptions. A book answer belongs to somebody else and not to yourself. In my own books, I have written at the beginning that they have been compiled mainly for my own benefit. If you cannot find somebody near you who can be your teacher, then you can refer to books for guidance. For some guidance. They give ideas about how to approach and solve problems. Yet if you have only accumulated knowledge from books and not practiced, then you are likely to think that you know a lot.
Indeed I have met many scholars who have written about Zen. Often they do not meditate, yet they believe they are qualified to say all sorts of things about practice. This is really a vain claim. In actuality, they do not know what they are writing about. Such people often hold strong opinions and defend them proudly. They attempt to demonstrate that theirs is the only true appreciation of Zen by criticizing others. They begin by describing how ancient masters actually had serious problems, then they take apart their own contemporaries. Such writers get involved in endless academic debates, increasing their pride at every exchange. If I say such people have problems, no doubt, they will reply that I have problems too.
The best thing is not to compare. In attempting to prove your superiority, you may only demonstrate the opposite. Sometimes a monk or a layman will come to me saying Shifu. I'm sure you have high attainments in Chan; may ask you this question. I have had such an such an experience. What do you think of this accomplishment? I say, I am not you. So how could I know? Of course there are criteria for accomplishment. But I cannot use my personal perspective to judge another person. I'm not that individual. All I can do is respond to need. There is no benefit in confirming another person's insecurities. When there is no need for accomplishment, perhaps something has indeed been found.
Our time is up. We'll stop now and recite the four vows