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Chapter 12


Five people have signed up to take refuge, and this makes me very ashamed. I do not know how to teach people who speak English because I am Chinese. However, five people want to take refuge but you should think it over very carefully. Once you take refuge, you have to listen to instructions. Whether or not you understand what I am saying, you still have to obey!

If you think that you cannot do it, cross your name off the list. I do not want a lot of disciples. I would rather that they took refuge with the American Bhikshus and Bhikshunis. Then I would not have to worry about whether they obey instructions. Sometimes when I catch you disobeying my instructions and question you about it, you say, “I did not understand what you said!” I never know what to think. Perhaps it is true! So think it over and do not rush into this. From now on all my disciples have to listen to instructions.

The Ten Advantages of the Perfection of Patience :

Patience is not easy to perfect! In this world, the harder something is to do, the more worth is has. If something is not difficult, it is not valuable. Therefore, even though it is hard to cultivate patience, it brings great benefits and its value is extremely great.

If on the cause ground one cultivates patience, in the future the benefits one will obtain can be generally listed as follows:

1. Fire will not burn one. Why? It is because inside one, there is no fire. If there is no fire within then fire from outside has no way to harm one. If one has fire inside, one will get burned. It is also said that if one has problems inside, one will attract sickness from the outside. If one catches cold, it is often because inside one has been doing a lot of false thinking. If one practices patience and has gotten rid of one’s fiery temper, then the outside fires cannot burn one. If one’s nature is like ashes, then outside fires cannot set one aflame.

2. Knives cannot harm one. If one cultivates patience, and within one there are no “knives and guns,” that is, no thoughts of harming others, then the external knives and guns cannot harm one. It is said:

If inside the house there is a superior person,
superior people will come to visit.
If inside the house there are petty people;
petty people will stop by.

This is genuine philosophy!

3. Poison cannot harm one. If one has cultivated patience to perfection, then, as the Great Master Yung Chia said in his “Song of Enlightenment,”

If one meets with knives, it is no problem.
Or is given poison, it is no cause for alarm.

Even if one is poisoned, one will not die. Patriarch Bodhidharma was poisoned six times by jealous rivals, but did not die because for limitless kalpas he had been perfecting patience and had attained that Paramita. The Paramita acted as an antidote to the poison.

4. Water will not drown one. One who cultivates patience to perfection will not drown.

5. Non-humans will protect one. “Non-humans” refers to the gods and dragons and the rest of the eight-fold division of ghosts and spirits. They will all look out for one and watch over one’s Bodhimanda.

6. One’s appearance will be beautiful. If one cultivates patience, one will have a pleasing appearance. One will be liked by all whom see one, and will not make anyone afraid. People will all respect and cherish one. They will always want to be around one and will never desert one. “Beautiful” here refers to the physical manifestation of the purity of one’s thoughts. It is not the kind of beauty associated with glamour and sex appeal. One’s appearance will inspire reverence. It will not cause people to become emotionally infatuated or think impure thoughts.

7. The evil paths will be closed to one. The doors to the hells, the realm of animals, and ghosts will be closed to one. One will not fall into any of the three evil paths.

8. One will gain birth in the Brahma Heaven. If one cultivates patience, in the future one can be born in the pure heavens of Brahma.

9. One will be peaceful by day and night. In the six periods of the day and night, one will be happy and serene. During the day, one will not be worrying about how one is going to finish one’s work, and then in the evening be wondering if one is going to lose one’s job the next day and starve to death. Most people have a lot of worries. If one cultivates patience, one will not have such afflictions. One will always be extremely happy and peaceful, and free from worries.

10. One will always feel happy. One will always be in good spirits, very happy. This kind of happiness is not based on anything external. Rather it comes from within the self-nature and is not forced.

We will now discuss vigor. Vigor is the opposite of laziness. If you are listening to the lecture and falling asleep, you are not being vigorous! If you listen to the lecture, but strike up a lot of false thinking, you are not being vigorous. If you listen and talk to your friends at the same time, you are not being vigorous. What, then, is vigor? Not sleeping, not having false thinking, and not chattering! Sitting quietly, paying full, respectful attention is being vigorous. Vigor is something you cultivate yourself. You do not go around telling other people to do it.

If you feel like you are falling asleep, then standup! If that does not work, kneel. Vigor means fighting with the lazy worms inside you—outsmarting them all. Some people say, "I have received the five precepts. I do not kill. Isn't it a violation of the precepts to kill the lazy bug?" If you kill the lazy bug, you are vigorous. You should be as vigorous as a tiger! See how fast they run?

“I have never seen a tiger,” someone says.

Have you ever seen a cat? It can jump and it can climb trees. It can run faster than mice.

Vigor: you get up at four in the morning and you do not rest until ten at night. That is vigor.

If you take breaks all day long, you are not vigorous. Vigor just means you keep on working.

There is physical vigor and mental vigor. Using physical vigor means practicing the Way in the six periods of the day and night. In the morning you rise and do morning recitation, determined not to be late, not to make other people have to wait for you. If you make people wait for you all the time, instead of merit, you are committing offenses. It is said,

You can change the course of a thousand rivers,
But do not disturb a cultivator’s mind.

If you cause a cultivator to have one false thought, you are in for trouble! If you make everyone wait for you and cause them to be mad at you, you have committed offenses, great offenses!

Using mental vigor means being mindful of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha throughout the six periods of the day and night. You never indulge in false thinking. At all times you are respectful of the Triple Jewel and you think about making offerings to the Triple Jewel.

If you cultivate vigor by striking up your spirits and cultivating the ascetic practices, then you will gain:

The Ten Advantages of the Perfection of Vigor :

1. Others cannot defeat one. If one has the true skill of vigor, one will win all debates. No one will win over one. One will win because of vigor. If two armies are engaged in battle and one is very high spirited while the other is drowsy and lazy, the vigorous ones will certainly conquer the lazy ones.

2. The Buddhas will receive and protect one. This is quite inconceivable! The Buddha will look upon one and think, “This living being is pretty good. He is a straight ahead cultivator, not lazy at all.” The Buddhas will take care of one. Would you not call that an advantage?

3. One will be protected by non-humans. Not only will the Buddhas protect one, but the gods, dragons, the eightfold division, humans, and non-humans will protect one as well.

4. One will not forget the Dharma one hears. One will have a good memory. Once the Dharma passes by one’s ears, it will always remain as a seed of the Way. One will never forget it. Would you not like to receive this benefit? If you are not vigorous, you will not get it. For every increase in your effort, you gain that much benefit.

5. One will hear what one has not heard. One will hear Dharma one has never heard before. What an advantage!

6. One’s eloquence will increase. To start with, one might not have been able to speak the Dharma, but all of a sudden one becomes quite eloquent. This is because one was vigorous, and so one’s eloquence increased, those with eloquence can talk people out of crying into laughing, out of anger into compassion, and out of running away from the suffering of this Summer Session into staying! Eloquent people can even scold others and they will find it very pleasant and not hard at all to hear.

7. One will obtain the essence of Samadhi.

8. One will have little trouble or sickness. One will not be sick or afflicted. Such problems will vanish.

9. One will have good digestion. One will be able to eat all one wants, and in just a few hours one will be hungry again. Why? It is because one is not lazy. One does not sit around thinking, “The Master is not here. I think I will take a snooze.” One will also have a good appetite.

10. One will grow like the Udumbara flower. One will develop and grow, day by day, just like the Udumbara flower.

I just said that you should beat your lazy worms into vigorous tigers, but really, tigers are too fierce. Turn your lazy worms into vigorous dragons. That would be better.

Dhyana, the next Paramita, is a Sanskrit word meaning “the cultivation of thought.” The Zhong Wen transliteration is “Chan.” It is one of the Five major Schools of Buddhism: Chan, Teaching, Vinaya, Secret, and Pure Land. When you cultivate Dhyana, you cultivate a ‘hua tou’, or meditation topic, such as “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” You are then thinking in terms of existence and non-existence, and both the existence and non-existence of existence and non-existence! When you meditate, you “investigate Dhyana.” It is like drilling a hole through something. You just keep drilling and drilling until you get through. In the same way you keep investigating until you “break through.” It is like being in a dark, windowless room and drilling a hole in the wall until the light shines through. As a deluded person lacking understanding, you are in a “dark room.”

Investigating Dhyana is also like a cat stalking a mouse. I talked about the cat yesterday, just getting ready to bring him up again today! Now, if a cat is after a mouse, he will wait and wait by the mouse hole for the mouse to show his little head. As soon as it does—zap!—It is caught. What does the mouse represent? Ignorance. Just as ignorance was likened to a “dark room” in the previous analogy, so too, when you finally “see the light” in meditation, it is like catching the mouse.

Investigating Dhyana is also like a dragon watching over its pearl. Dragons are more attached to their pearls than to their very own lives. So they always take very good care of them. Meditators focus their concentration in the same way on their topic and never let it wander. To be mindful in thought after thought--you are mindful right here, just in this thought. To be mindful in thought after thought is to contemplate with ease. If you can be mindful in thought after thought, then you are able to contemplate at ease. If you cannot be mindful in thought after thought, then you have run away! Run? What does "running away" mean? It means that you strike up false thoughts. How is "contemplating with ease" translated? To not strike up false thoughts is to be at ease. If you have false thinking, you wander away from your topic. So we say,

When your thoughts stir, the myriad affairs arise.
When your thoughts stop, all affairs cease.

As soon as you strike up false thinking, everything starts happening. When your thoughts stop, then nothing is happening! I often tell you:

When the mind stops and thoughts cease, that is true wealth and honor.
When desire and selfishness is ended, that is the true field of blessings.

Why? It is because you are without greed. People who are not greedy are wealthy. Greedy people are poor. If they were not poor, why would they still want “more”? Why would they be greedy? People are greedy because they feel they do not have enough. If they have a million dollars, they want two million. If they have two million, they want two billion, and so on, and they are never satisfied. Why not? It is because they are afraid of being poor. People who cannot be satisfied are always miserable. People who know how to be content are always happy.

When desire and selfishness come to an end, that is the genuine field of blessings. People without blessings are always greedy for something. If you do not have false thinking, if you do not compete, and if you have no desires, then you are blessed.

Investigating Dhyana, then, is like a cat stalking a mouse or a dragon guarding its pearl.

“I do not want to be like a cat or a dragon! Cats kill mice and dragons just run around all the time, from the sky to the ocean.”

Then I will give another analogy. It is like a chicken hatching an egg. The Shurangama Sutra says,

Womb-born beings are born from emotion
Egg-born beings are born from thought

When the hen sits on her eggs she thinks, “My chicks are going to hatch right on time; they are going to be fine little chicks!” Sitting in meditation one thinks, “One of these days for sure I am going to get enlightened. Every day I work on my meditation, I get that much more light. If I work every day I will gain more and more light, and eventually, I will be one with the Buddha.” Thinking like this—like an old hen thinking about her eggs—sooner or later, you will be successful.

The Ten Advantages of the Perfection of Dhyana :

1. One’s schedule will be regulated. One will be organized. One meditates day by day, month by month and year by year, in a very regulated way. In the Chan hall, the meditation periods are regulated. You sit for a while and then you walk and then you run! You run until you sweat. The heavens are cloudy and the earth is dark—that is, you are so absorbed that, above, you do not notice the sky, and below, you do not see the ground. In between, you do not know anyone else is around. Everyone seems to have disappeared. Where did they go? They are gone! But not lost! You have lost track of your “self.” There is no more “me.” There is no self and no others.

At that time you can contemplate with ease. Since there is no self, you have no false thinking about self, and since there are no people, you have no false thinking about them. That is just contemplating with ease.

With neither form nor emptiness, you see the Thus Come One. The Buddha dwells neither in existence or emptiness. His Dharma-body is neither existent nor non-existent. You then see the Thus Come One’s Dharma-body.

2. One will practice the attitude of compassion. Being compassionate does not mean being “nice” to people. It means that you accept people and transform them with compassion. But, if you meet stubborn ones, you may use your compassion to scold them a good one and get them to change! People get hit in the Chan hall, but it is not what you usually think of as getting hit. People are hit so that they will quit false thinking and get enlightened. It is not unusual; it is done so that people will be good and follow the rules.

3. One will have no regrets or afflictions.

4. One will guard the six sense organs. If one does not watch over them, they will run off. The eyes will run after form, the ears after sound, and the nose after smells, the tongue after tastes, the body after touch, and the mind after dharmas. Guarding the senses means that from the gates of the organs a light is emitted, and the earth is caused to shake. Emitting light means that, because one is not false thinking, one’s wisdom light comes forth and shines upon the three thousand great thousand worlds.

5. One will obtain the flavor of Dhyana food and be filled with the bliss of Dharma. This means that one can go without food and still be happy! One’s meditation may progress to the point where one does not need to eat and does not feel hungry at all. If you meditate in Dhyana, you can do this.

6. One will leave love and desire. When the mind separates from desire and love, it is pure. Love and desire are defilement. Defilement leads to birth and death. Why do we human beings undergo birth and death? It is just because we do not cut off love and desire. Why do most people keep turning on the six paths of rebirth and fail to end birth and death? Just because they cling to their thoughts of love and desire. It is because they never cut off their love and desire! As long as you cannot cut off love and desire, you will not be able to end birth and death, and will continue to spin around in the six paths of rebirth.

If you have no thoughts of love and desire, you close the gates of the hells; you will not fall into hell.

7. One’s cultivation of Chan will not be in vain. As long as one cultivates it, one will reap the benefits. If one sits in Chan for one hour, one’s wisdom-life will increase one hour’s worth. If one sits for two hours, it increases two hours worth. If one continues to investigate Dhyana over months and years, one will certainly develop great wisdom. All one has to do is cultivate it. It never fails.

8. One will be released from one’s demonic karma. Through Chan meditation one can be liberated from one’s demonic karma. Demons will have no way to obstruct you.

9. One will be secure in the realm of the Buddha.

10. One’s liberation will be effected. This means that one will have no obstructions. Non-obstruction is the pure Dharma-body.

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