Practice and Attain Enlightenment After Understanding the Principles

The monk asked: I now understand, after having heard your teaching; but I still cannot reduce my heavy Karma and restless thought, and I cannot attain and realize Enlightenment suddenly because of my small, inferior root. So what can I do?

The master said: One's Original Nature has no enlightenment, so it is illusory, therefore, to say "Enlightenment". Original Mind does not practice, because it is defiling to "have practice" or to have either deep or shallow habits. Therefore, some expedient teaching has been set up to help people, which uses both sudden and gradual methods. If one has only a little defilement, he can realize and attain Complete Enlightenment suddenly. If one has some heavy obstacles, he can recover his Original Nature gradually. There are different methods for the three different roots, depending on their ability to understand and to practice.

The monk asked: What are the different methods used for the three roots?

The master said: The superior-root practice leads to sudden Enlightenment, the medium-root practice leads to Enlightenment gradually; the inferior-root practice leads to Enlightenment after great encouragement.

The monk asked: Why is the superior-root practice sudden?

The master said: The superior-root person has a sharp intelligence, has good seeds from his previous life and can be enlightened by just one word. One must neutralize the effects of past Karma by creating beneficial present concurrent causes; and one must purify one's consciousness by holding neither to continually moving and changing thought nor to empty thinking. One must remain universal and impartial and, also, clear and void in order to see everything in any and every environment only  in the light of its wonderful functions. The Ch'an Master Wei San said, "If your mind is not attached to anything whatsoever, no person or thing ever becomes an obstacle." He said further, "If you focus your mind, thought after thought, on one thought only, and if you  still mind-instant after mind-instant forever, then this perfect and complete Dharmadhatu attains Nirvana suddenly." However, if your potentiality for the sudden method is dull, you can take the expedient of recovering your True Mind gradually.

The monk asked: How can one suddenly attain the Tao through practice?

The master said: If one really has some good reason and is very sincere, with no trace of falseness, there is, for him, no need to spend endless Asankhyeya-Kalpas in practice. The Mahaparinirvana Sutra says, "A man who sails a boat on the ocean can move very far in a short time in a favorable wind." If there were not a favorable wind, the boat would only stay in the same place for many years. Also, if the boat were to leak, it would submerge and the man would die. The situation of all sentient beings can be compared quite closely to this one. The Surangama Sutra says, "There is Samadhi of seeing all things as illusion, which, in a finger-snap, leads to the state beyond all study." Therefore, in this case, it is not necessary to understand the Three Vehicles nor to attain the Ten Stages of a Bodhisattva's Progress to become Buddha in one thought, thereby transcending Kalpas of practice suddenly.

The monk asked: Why is the medium-root practice gradual?

The master said: Superior-root practice needs sudden teaching and can be compared to wind blowing clouds away to reveal the bright moon clearly in the sky. Medium-root practice, on the other hand, needs gradual teaching and can be compared to cleaning a dirty mirror -- when the dirt vanishes, the light will appear. If some student in a future age has heavy habits from previous lives and has inferior wisdom due to his wafting mind, and if, nevertheless, he can calm his mind completely for a period of twenty-four hours while moving or sitting still, with no thoughts of good or evil arising, but if such thoughts do arise he just becomes quickly aware of them, then he, too, can come to understand Original Mind. Therefore, the ancient master said, "Do not fear if a thought rises up; just fear being aware of it too late." If one practice like this for a long time, false thoughts will gradually disappear, until, finally, both personal thoughts and Dharma vanish. Then the senses and the sense data will suddenly be wiped out, and True Mind, luminous everywhere, will open and turn freely with no obstacle whatsoever.

The monk asked: How does one encourage practice in the inferior-root person?

The master said: Since the inferior-root person is dull and his thought comes very slowly because he is too much disturbed, it is very difficult to encourage him. He really needs very good instruction and to be directed most carefully in order to help him make use of a good opportunity and to plant a good root. Therefore, he should have faith, stay in a big monastery, always follow good friends, take training every day, practice moment after moment, repent his own Karma in front of the Buddha's image and be humble in assembly. When he seems to have arrived at the enlightened stage, he still must not leave his good, virtuous teacher, but must yet learn to abandon all phenomena. Then, with further deep cultivation and more training and discipline for a very long time, he can, at last, come to recognize his own Mind.

The monk asked: Why is it so much more difficult for the inferior-root person to practice and attain Enlightenment?

The master said: The inferior-root person is polluted with thick and dense defilements; his mind is dull and disturbed with a myriad passing thoughts, and he is ignorant due to heavy Karmic obstacles. So if he does not practice hard, he cannot start his spiritual light. A virtuous ancient teacher once said, "You can give one thousand or ten thousand examples to the inferior-root person, and still he cannot understand." Even if he gets a little understanding, he thinks that he has some great Enlightenment. He does not receive others' teaching, and his pride and arrogance cheat others. This person should come to have great shame and to develop deep humility, otherwise he could become mad, choosing a wrong path that could lead him to disaster.

The monk asked: How can one, having understood the Doctrine and having maintained his determination and good practice, know when True Mind appears?

The master said: One who already understands the principles but who still clings to his old habits will, upon encountering adverse circumstances, lose his right thought; so he should take great care to cultivate his mind most carefully. This practice can be compared to one's need to pasture a wild bull with great effort and restraint, sometimes having to flog it repeatedly with a whip until it adjusts its won mind and steadies its step, becoming so disciplined that it does not have to touch even one blade of grass without permission. Then and only then is there no need for a cowherd, and it can be let free. If you want to test your True Mind, just to remember those things that you have loved or hated over the course of your lifetime, place them squarely in front of you, and test yourself by once more seeing and hearing them. If you still have that hate or love, as you once had in the past, then you will know that your mind is not yet stilled. One the other hand, if you happen to meet favorable or adverse circumstances and no thoughts of love or hate arise, then you are near the Tao. When your True Mind appears, test yourself by recalling the strongest loving thought that you've ever had in your life; and by thinking about that thing or situation which made you so joyous before, just observe that now such a loving, pleasurable thought completely ceases to arise and cohere any more. Again, test yourself by recalling the strongest hateful thought that you've ever had in your life -- something about which you've felt the strongest anger -- and observe that now your hateful, angry thought completely ceases to stir or move anymore. then and only then can you be free, changing with all conditions to respond to all things without any obstacles whatsoever.

The monk asked: When false thought ceases but one does not yet see True Mind, one must then take time to do good and support the Tao. Is this correct?

The master said: When false thought ceases, then to do good and to practice supporting the Tao are right. However, if one has some conscious purpose to do good, then that is grasping the good, and one will attain only the blessings of human beings or devas. In contrast, to do good without purpose ad forms is right practice, and this can really be called supporting the Tao. In the Diamond Sutra, Buddha says, "Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva's mind does not abide in forms when practicing Dana, then his merit will be inconceivable and immeasurable. "Some present-day students, in practicing charity, hold one-sided and narrow ideas about it; and so it is non-perfect, for they have not understood the principles and rely, instead, merely upon their own cleverness. Such practice is not all good, and most of these people are demons with few blessings.

The monk asked: To do only good in relation to worldly phenomena produces endless blessings and virtue, and to see one's own Mind Nature in relation to the noumenon creates immeasurable merit. So why must one practice with both phenomenal and noumenal awareness?

The master said: To grasp only at Phenomena brings retribution to both human beings and devas, but if one also acts in the noumenon, without defilement, then he will manifest True Mind Nature.

The monk asked: If one who has enlightened his mind and has attained understanding of the principles should also realize supernatural power, then why, among many who live by enlightened principles in the present, do so very few of them have any supernatural power?

The master said: Supernatural power is really a secondary attainment, but when anyone attains Original Mind -- i.e., when Original Mind arises -- the Tao will simultaneously appear, and then supernatural power will also appear quite naturally. If just anyone could possess supernatural power and take it and transform it into different forms of the Tao, then any and all of the heavenly demons, heterodox believers and evil spirits could also have the Tao -- which certainly is not correct. if one really desires to attain supernatural power, he must first attain the One-Vehicle Dharma, because this One-Vehicle Dharma can initiate the wonderful function of wisdom that can lead to Enlightenment in this world and, thereafter, to the attainment of Nirvana in both birth and death. Turning the worldly into the holy in every Ksana is changing phenomena into void, and this is what supernatural power is really all about. It is not some magic that can be performed. The ancient master said, "There are five different kinds of supernatural power. The first is the Tao supernatural power; the second is the spiritual supernatural power; the third is the dependent supernatural power; the fourth is the retributive supernatural power; the fifth is the demonic supernatural power."

What is the demonic supernatural power? One example is that of the old fox who could change into many other forms at will. Even wood and stone can, at times, become evil spirits or monsters to affect other beings. Clever and strange is this demonic supernatural power! What is the retributive supernatural power? There are some ghosts and spirits who know how something will be transformed before it actually changes. These non-physical, intermediate-existence beings know exactly when the Karma-body will be reborn, and dragons and other entities can appear, disappear and transform themselves at will. This, then, is the retributive supernatural power. What is the dependent supernatural power? It is evident when some spirit depends on a person, an animal or even a tree, etc., to produce or create a strange, startling or mischievous event or when a spirit or an animal enters the body of a human being to make trouble. This, then, is the dependent supernatural power. What is the spiritual supernatural power? It is just stilling the mind completely and illuminating all things. One with this power can remember what he has been and done in his previous lives. All his strength and power comes from meditation.  This, then, is the spiritual supernatural power. What is the Tao supernatural power? It responds to all things without mind, converting all beings by causes and conditions, knowing that the moon in water and flowers in the sky are only shadows without self-nature or substance. This, then, is the Tao supernatural power. The latter power that I have described is the True Supernatural Power, while all the others are evil and false. The false ones are not real, land the evil ones are not right, for they disturb thought and confuse Original Nature. Therefore, one who is really learning the Tao should not manifest any supernatural power that confuses or confounds the Truth.

The treatise entitled Mahasamatha - Vipasyana (in Chinese, Chih-Kuan) says, "One who practices Samadhi can acquire some supernatural power suddenly, but he should abandon it just as suddenly because that Dharma is both false and Mundane." The inferior-root person seeks supernatural  power, but this can be an obstacle to the achievement of Prajna. The wise man, on the other hand, perceives the body as reality in the same way that he perceives the Buddha. Thus, even though a Maha-Bodhisattva, a Holy One or a sage may have attained understanding of the Doctrine, once he manifests his supernatural power he can no longer remain in the world. If anyone manifests supernatural power to convert sentient beings, he is considered to be a spirit or a demon.

The monk asked: If one is not yet enlightened and, holding a false view, confounds the Truth, creating good and evil causes, he then, after taking his effects of either suffering or joy, is reborn according to his Karma. This I understand without any doubt. However, if there is one who understands the Truth, having suddenly recovered his True Mind, and thus, having transcended causes and effects, no longer has the relative body but only the spiritual body, then upon what does he depend?

The master said: All sentient beings are involved with causes and depend upon causes and conditions for their rebirth, which is the same as having something to depend upon. However, if one is enlightened as to the reality of the True Mind and has attained the Tao, he does not, like a vagrant, drift aimlessly in the world, nor does he, like a ghost or solitary spirit, drift gently without any place on which to depend. If one is really enlightened about the Tao, the fundamental Law will manifest itself. This Law establishes and affirms that all directions are the True Mind, and this is the Great Function for the Perfect Substance, there being no other place whatsoever on which to depend. The virtuous, ancient master said, "All the great earth is just the single eye of the Sramana."

The Prime Minister Wen Tse-Ao once asked Master Kuei Feng, "If one is already enlightened about the principles, upon what does he depend until the end of his life?" Master Kuei Feng replied, "All sentient beings originally have the same Buddha Nature, there being no differences or distinctions with Buddha. so if one achieves enlightenment about Buddha Nature, that itself is the Dharmakaya, which originally has no birth. Therefore, this being the case, how can he have anything on which to depend? The Dharmakaya is bright without ignorance, is always clear and comprehending, comes from nowhere and goes nowhere, and is the  substance of voidness and stillness only. One should not consider bodily forms and discursive thinking to be one's Original Mind. When false thought arises, one should not follow it but, on the contrary, should always concentrate on the One Mind until the end of his life so that he will be bound no more by any Karma whatsoever. Then he can go up to heaven and down to earth or anywhere else freely, depending on whatever or wherever he wishes; for all things have, for him, become merely emptiness. For him only Perfect Wisdom and Great Enlightenment are luminous and shining everywhere to convert all sentient beings according to their potentialities and are enlightening all minds to grasp the principles so that all may ultimately become Buddhas."

The monk asked: There was once a famous monk, in ancient times, who is said to have held his concentration in meditation even in death. It is also said that his corpse did not decay for many, many years and that even his hair and nails continued to grow during all that time. How can you explain this?

The master said: That particular monk was a Small-Vehicle follower, and his body dwelt in extinct meditation. However, he had only extinguished the first six consciousnesses but he still grasped the eighth consciousness to support his body. Because he so disliked existing among phenomena, he preferred to turn to voidness to seek rest and peace. However, this rest was only temporary, for even though he has entered into extinct meditation and seemed to have a tranquil body and mind, he, nevertheless, did not have real extinction; so after a long time his consciousness arose again. This can be compared to one who goes through the vicissitudes of malarial fever day after day. Thus, one must become enlightened as to the true nature of meditation, and then, after that, one can really be free from transmigration.

The monk asked: If Mahakasyapa enters extinct meditation and a Small-Vehicle follower also enters extinct meditation, are they the same or are they different?

The master said: Mahakasyapa, the Great-Vehicle follower, seeks to extinguish Dharma principles and concepts, and the Small-Vehicle follower seeks the extinction of physical appearances. However, even after the Great-Vehicle follower enters extinct meditation, he still has the five Skandhas and the seventh and the eighth consciousnesses, which at that point can be the guides to conduct and regulation for awe-inspiring meditation anymore. Therefore, his meditation is disturbed and cannot be perfect, for he has abandoned seeming and appearances to achieve only partial emptiness. Thus, it must be clear that their meditations are, indeed, quite different!