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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over

Volume 1




Jeweled Arrow Hand and Eye  

   “If you can’t renounce death, then you can’t change your life. If you can’t renounce the false, then you can’t realize the true.” If you can’t renounce death, then you can’t change your life. This means that if you develop your skill, then you’re not afraid of dying. I’m not talking about sickness, I’m not talking about pain. I’m not talking about suffering—I’m talking about death. Even if someone says, “Oh, then we won’t cultivate, because even if we cultivate we will die. We won’t develop our skill.”


   That’s called, “If you can’t renounce death, you can’t change your life.” If you die a great death, then you can live a great life.” “If a man wants to not die, it is necessary first to be a living dead man.” You don’t want to die? Then you should now be as if you’re dead. If you’re dead, then if somebody kicks you with their foot, you don’t know. And if you’re scolded, you don’t hear it. Before you’ve died, if you can be like that, that’s wonderful. Then there’s hope for you. Your perfection of patience will certainly be accomplished.  

   When Hsu Lao was 53, in the Jen Ch’en year (1889), he went along with Pu Chao, Yuen Hsia, Yin Lien, and several other Old Cultivators of the time, to go to Chiu Hua Montain, where they made a hut and lived. Dharma Master P’u Chao lectured the Avatamsaka Sutra. And a lot of people came, because most masters didn’t lecture according to the “five teachings” of the Hsien Shou. They mostly lectured according to the Tien Tai; and since Pu Chao was there discussing the five teachings, many came to hear him. During the first year, lot of people came, and the second year the Elder Master Ti Hsieh came to stay for the summer. In the third year they still lectured on the Sutra, and in the fourth year the problem came.  

   What was it? Well, in Yang Chou at Kao Min Tze, the Abbot Yueh Lang decided to give everybody some bitterness to eat. What was he going to do? He was going to have twelve Ch’an sessions, and he wanted the Ch’an cultivators from the ten directions to come. The session was to begin on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, and so prior to the fifteenth day of the seventh month, people had to make their reservations in order to participate. At Chiu Hua Mountain, the Dharma Masters wanted to go to the Ch’an Session, and they selected the Venerable Master Hsu Lao to go first to Kao Min Tze and make their applications, then afterwards the others would join.  

   The Elder Master Hsu Lao, having been selected, went down the mountain. The road he took went through Ti Kang, and at Ti Kang there was a river to cross, which had to be done by boat. At that time the Venerable Master Hsu Lao was perhaps holding the precept against the holding of money—it’s not for certain, but in any case, he didn’t have any money with him. He wanted to cross the river, but the ferry cost money, and he didn’t even have eight and a half cents. So, the boat didn’t wait for him; it left without him.

   Because it was raining and there was a lot of water on the road, the Venerable Master Hsu Lao followed the road that went along the river. Since the water was all over the road, he couldn’t tell what was deep and what was shallow, and as he was walking along, he suddenly fell into the river. The river was high and flowing very rapidly. Probably at about noon he fell in, and more than likely, he wasn’t able to swim. So, he was tossed about in the water for a day and a night.  

   The next day he was being carried pass T’sai Shih Chi, and at that point he was caught in a fishermen’s net. When the fishermen pulled up the net, they found a human fish in it. When they looked more closely, they realized that it wasn’t a human fish, it was a human being! And, when they looked closer, they realized that it wasn’t just an ordinary person, it was a monk. They wondered how the monk had fallen into the water. They thought that he wasn’t breathing, so the fishermen went to the local temple, called Pao Chi Monastery, and asked a monk to come and identify the body.  

   At Chih Shan, this particular monk and the Elder Master Hsu Yun had lived together, so that he knew who Master Hsu Yun was. He said, “Oh, that’s Dharma Master Te Ching.” Although the Dharma Master had been in the water a day and a night, they were able to revive him with artificial respiration. However, this kind of disaster had caused him to be more dead than alive—his mouth and nose and ears were bleeding, and he was bleeding from his rectum and in his urine, too. That was the twenty-eighth day of the 6 th month. He lived a few days at Pao Chi Monastery and then quickly left and went on to Kao Min Tse Monastery to make a reservation.  

   The guest prefect saw him and noticed that he was very pale, and he asked Master Hsu Yun if he was sick, to which the Master replied that he wasn’t. So you see that Chinese Dharma Masters, even those as high as the Venerable Master Hsu Yun, occasionally lied expediently. He basically was sick—he’d practically drowned, and yet he didn’t say so. He said that he wasn’t. Why did he expediently lie? He was afraid that people would worry about him—afraid that they would be anxious—and he didn’t want to cause that kind of worry.  

   Then Master Hsu Yun went to see the Abbot, Yueh Lang, and Yueh Lang asked, “How many Masters are coming from Chiu Hua Mountain?” and he said, “Oh, at the very least fifteen or sixteen.” He named the Dharma Masters and said, “They asked me to come first to make reservations. When the Ch’an begins, they’ll be here.” After they finished talking, Master Yueh Lang asked Hsu Yun to act as abbot. He said, “There are a lot of things connected with this Ch’an Session this year, and I can’t handle all of it myself. Besides, I’d like to participate in the Ch’an Session, so would you represent me as Abbot?” Hsu Lao was not polite and refused.

   Now, the rules at Kao Min Monastery were extremely severe; if you were asked to take an office, and you refused, that was taken as a slight to the entire assembly. So, this was a very severe predicament. So, the Abbot said, “You come here Te Ching, and I ask you to put forth your resolve with regard to the permanent dwelling, and you don’t do it.”  

   Abbot Yueh Lang scolded Hsu Yun severely, and when I say severe, I mean that he was really severe. He didn’t just call him a gluttonous worm or a lazy worm, as simply as that; he scolded him to the point that there was no way to bear it. He was as severe as he could be—just trying to make it impossible to bear. That’s the way Good Knowing Advisors are sometimes. They’re not like me, this evil advisor, who doesn’t even dare scold you.

   Not only was Hsu Lao scolded, but he was beaten with incense board. The Abbot took the incense board and hit Hsu Lao on the shoulders ten times. Each side five times. And he said, “Let’s see if you can take that. What kind of session are you going to sit? You don’t even offer to help in the least.” The Abbot scolded Hsu Yun and hit him, and this was done in front of everybody. Hsu Yun wasn’t scolded when he was alone with Abbot Yueh Lang. The more people there were around, the more severe was the scolding. Some people say that this is wrong, but actually this is a method of teaching one to be apart from marks—teaching one not to have a mark of self. If there isn’t a mark of a self, then who’s being scolded?  

   After being scolded and beaten, Hsu Yun went into the hall; the Session began, and the Elder Master Hsu Yun’s sickness arose. He bled from all his bodily apertures, and the sickness worsened day by day. Not only did he hemorrhage, but his essence also flowed. See how severe the illness was? The sickness was so bad that Hsu Lao was just waiting to die. But he said, “If I’m going to die, I’m going to do it sitting in this session. Even if I die, I’m going to sit in this session.”  

   He sat for more than twenty days, and then the sickness suddenly abated—it completely left him. At the instant the sickness left, his mind and nature became pure. So it is said, “When the mind is pure, in the water appears the moon. When the mind is fixed, then there are no clouds in the sky.” There weren’t any clouds, and so his mind became empty cloud, Hsu Yun. At that time, his skill was developing very well. His body and mind were clear. He had seen through it, put it down, and was very comfortable—extremely comfortable.  

   At that time, from Tsai Shih Chi, the Pao Chi Monastery Abbot, Te An, sent clothes and food and other things to the Ch’an Session. In China, when there are Ch’an sessions going on, the monks from the small temples of the ten directions resolve to contribute and tie up conditions. When Te An came and saw that Hsu Yun was completely well with no sign of sickness, he asked, “Oh, you’re better now?” And people asked what it was all about—what he meant.  

   During all the time of the Session, Hsu Yun hadn’t mentioned to anyone that he had fallen into the river and was pulled along by the current for a day and a night and finally caught in the fishermens’ net. He hadn’t talked about it. But Te An told everybody about it when he came, and everybody much admired the Elder Master Hsu Yun. They respected that although he had met with such an extreme situation he still wanted to cultivate. Everyone very much admired him. After that, they didn’t ask him to take his turn at watching the hall; since he didn’t have to take his turn, his skill developed very smoothly. He got quite a response. Then he spoke a verse. He said,  

     The cup shatters to the ground;
       sound clear and penetrating.
     Empty space is smashed to smithereens.
     The mad mind at that moment ceased.  

   Now we who are developing our skill should reflect upon ourselves. Should we intentionally take a cup and drop it, listen to the sound of the cup, and then become enlightened? If it’s like that, I’d like to buy a few more tea cups, because one, two, three, four, five, aren’t enough. You hear one, and you don’t wake up; then you have to hear two, then three, to hundreds of thousands of ten thousands, and then perhaps you might have an opportunity to become enlightened.  

Jeweled Sword Hand and Eye  

   With the Dharma door of investigating Ch’an, you need to have patience. So it’s said, “After sitting a long time, there’s Ch’an.” After you sit for a long time, then very naturally you’ll enter dhyana. You’ll have some good news. If you don’t sit long and just act like you’re riding a horse, looking at the flowers or going to see a play, you won’t have any response. So if you want to investigate dhyana you have to be courageous and vigorous.  

   Strike up your spirits! Do battle with the demon king of birth and death, and be victorious over the lazy demon. Be determined to defeat the demon who enjoys ease. If you can strike up your spirits and do the work, then you’ll certainly get some good news. What’s most important is not to be afraid of your legs hurting or your back hurting. Don’t be afraid you aren’t going to get enough sleep. Those who have this kind of courageous energy and spirit will certainly succeed.  

   Today, at the beginning of this Ch’an session I don’t want to talk too much, because when you talk too much, it’s useless. What’s most important is to hurry up and cultivate. Before we begin, I have a four-line verse to speak to everyone. If you can remember this verse, and not forget it, it will be a great help to you in your cultivation in dhyana. The verse says:  

     All Buddhas were originally living beings.
     Through vigor and courage they transcended
       the common lot,
         cultivating the Dharma doors without any laziness.
     Blessings and wisdom both perfected, a
       great enlightenment was accomplished.  

   The verse says: “All Buddhas were originally living beings.” Originally all Buddhas weren’t Buddhas, they were living beings, just like you and me. And although you and I are now living beings, we are future Buddhas. All that’s needed for us now to is to be vigorous and apply effort, and in the future we certainly can become Buddhas. How did the Buddha become a Buddha? After all, he was a living being.

   “Through vigor and courage they transcended the common lot.” It was because he vigorously and courageously applied effort. He was very stupid. You could say that in the past, all Buddhas have been just as stupid as you and I are. Stupid to what extent? To the extent that they weren’t interested in getting a bargain for themselves. They were’t interested in helping themselves out, but only in helping other people. So they were courageous and vigorous in practicing the Bodhisattva Way.  

   “Through vigor and courage they transcended the common lot.” They surpassed ordinary people, and so they became Buddhas. They reached the goal they wished to reach. They have already succeeded in their aims. “Personally cultivating the Dharma doors without any laziness.” That’s the way all Buddhas did it. They personally cultivated the Dharma doors without any laziness, no matter what Dharma it was. They cultivated courageously and vigorously without any laziness.  

   “Blessings and wisdom both perfected, a great enlightenment was accomplished.” Because at all times they were not lazy; at all times they cultivated all the Dharma doors. Since cultivating other Dharma doors was an aid to the Dharma door of Ch’an, their blessings were cultivated to perfection, and their wisdom was cultivated to perfection. They became greatly enlightened ones. Their great enlightenment was accomplished.

   So it says, “When the blessings and wisdom were both perfected, then a great enlightenment was accomplished.” You can deeply consider this verse and the doctrines in it. Although the verse is very simple, if you use it in your cultivation, it will have a very effective response, a very effective use. It will help you a lot. I can’t say any more. All I can say are these few words. Now, everyone, strike up your spirits and begin the sit!  

Five-colored Cloud Hand and Eye  

   All Good Knowing Advisors, we have come together to cultivate, to mutually help one another. Some of us work very well and we can help those who can’t work so well. That’s called mutually borrowing the light. You borrow my light, and I borrow your light.

   The elder Dharma Master T’an Hsu said that the fish helps the water, and the water helps the fish. Here in the Ch’an hall, we can say that people help one another. You help me investigate Ch’an, and I’ll help you investigate Ch’an. That’s also mutually helping one another. When people work at cultivation to the point that there is a response, then they suddenly become enlightened.  

   What is enlightenment all about? It’s waking up from the dream. We living beings are all dreaming. When you open enlightenment, you wake up from the dream. When you wake from the dream you say, “Oh-h-h . . . ,” you say, “Ah-h-h . . ., everything that was going on was being done in a dream.” Before you become enlightened, you’re in the dream, and you don’t realize it. You don’t know that you’re dreaming. 

   Becoming enlightened is also called breaking through the black energy barrel. We are all in a black energy barrel now, covered by ignorance. Ignorance is a black energy barrel. Breaking open the black energy barrel is just breaking through ignorance. When ignorance is broken through, the Dharma nature appears. That means that your wisdom comes forth—great wisdom, great comprehension of everything. Those who have great comprehension of everything understand all phenomena and all noumena. They know about all the ten thousand things. They know why salt is salty, why vinegar is sour, why hot peppers are hot, why candy is sweet, why huang lien (a medical herb) is bitter. They understand the nature of people and the nature of things, all the mysteries between heaven and earth. What they hadn’t been aware of, they are now aware of. What they hadn’t understood, they now understand. At that time, the self is like a mirror, and in the mirror absolutely anything at all can appear. Yet the basic substance of the mirror is that it has nothing in it. It’s empty, without any substance at all. Basically, there is not one thing. Where can the dust alight? That’s the experience of becoming enlightened. 

   After one becomes enlightened, one certainly doesn’t use this simple human mind to think. One does not think, “Oh, I’ve become enlightened.” It’s not like that. Basically, one is just enlightened. It’s not something you get from outside of yourself. Where does one go to find enlightenment? Just into the midst of non-enlightenment.  

   When you become enlightened, you can have great perfect-mirror wisdom. If you have great, perfect-mirror wisdom, then you also have wonderful contemplating and investigating wisdom. If you have wonderful, contemplating and investigating wisdom, then you can have the wisdom of doing what must be done. And, when you have the wisdom of doing what must be done, then you also have the equality nature wisdom, the wisdom of conducting yourself. These four wisdoms all gradually become perfect. 

   Becoming enlightened is simply awakening to a principle, a noumenon and understanding the noumenal aspect of the ten thousand things. When one is no longer upsidedown, one is no longer confused. Clearly knowing, one does not perform an act that is not in accord with the Dharma. One does not go ahead and do it. Nor does one refuse to do the things which one clearly knows are proper. After becoming enlightened, one has no more affliction, no more trouble. Inside you don’t know there’s a body and mind; outside you don’t know there is a world. Yet saying that you don’t know there’s a world or a body and a mind is not to say you aren’t aware. You are unattached. You say, “If my body has to endure a little bit of suffering, well, let it suffer,” because you can bear everything. In all situations you have samadhi power. You are not upsidedown.  

   Now to speak frankly about what not being upsidedown means, we say that it means not having any desire, being totally devoid of thoughts of desire. One has no desire for food. No matter what you eat, it’s very tasty, or no matter how unappetizing the food is, you’re able to eat it. You don’t consider very appetizing things so fine. You don’t enter form, sound, smell, taste, tangible objects, or dharmas. When you become a first stage Arhat, you don’t enter form, sound, smell, tastes, tangible objects, or dharmas.

   “Not entering” means you don’t become attached. You’re not turned by experiences involving form, sound, smell, tastes, tangible objects, or dharmas. It will be impossible for you to want to look at beautiful things from morning till night; it will not be the case that you cannot put down beauty, or that from morning till night you are unable to give up beautiful sounds, or to put down smells, or to give up tastes, tangible objects and dharmas.  

   But, now you are attached to all of these. Since you have attachments, you are unable to not enter these realms. If you don’t have any attachment, then you don’t enter them; you are not turned by objects of form, sounds, smells or tastes, tangible objects, or dharmas. You aren’t shaken by the experiences involving the six dusts.

   When you take your noon meal, you don’t eat a single grain of rice; when you put on your clothes, you haven’t put on a thread. Why? Because you don’t have any attachment. All attachments are empty. The attachment to self is gone, the attachment to dharma is gone. If you don’t have an attachment to self, but you still have an attachment to dharma, that won’t work. That still can’t be called not entering form, sound, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas.

   When the attachment to self is empty, and the attachment to dharma is empty, then the origin of great perfect-mirror wisdom manifests. Before, I spoke of not being upsidedown. That simply means to be in control. Being in control in what way? I spoke earlier of the desire for food and the desire for sex. One also shouldn’t have the desire to be a leader. What does desire to be a leader mean? It means that wherever one goes, one has to be the leader.  

   One also has no desire for fame and profit. “If I do this thing, in the future I’ll have a good reputation, I’ll get a lot of profit from it.” That’s a desire for fame and profit. In general, there is no desire at all.  

   Most crucial is sexual desire. If you have skill, kung fu, then your thoughts of desire will not arise. If you are really in control, then your sexual organs will not move. Even though you may not want your mind to move, as soon as you encounter some object of sexual beauty, it moves, if you aren’t in control. The more you tell your mind, “Don’t think about sex, don’t think about sex,” the more it happens, even to the point where it controls you and turns you upsidedown. It bullies you into doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily want to do—the upsidedowness of men and women.  

   Even that’s not enough. Sometimes you reach a point where you’re upsidedown with yourself. Some people masturbate, and some people think about sex. These are both upsidedown. Such people aren’t in control. If you’re in control, you can be together with a woman and your sexual organs won’t move. That’s being in control. And no matter what kind of state comes from outside to tempt you, you are unmoved. That’s called being in control.

   You say, “Oh, I have kung fu, I have skill, I sit in Ch’an.” Yet sitting in Ch’an day by day, your sexual desire gets stronger, gets greater, until the point where you enter deviant knowledge and deviant views, and you desire to indulge in cultivating in pairs. You think, “Men and women sitting together transmitting the unmarked great Dharma. That’s really wonderful!” it’s too pitiful.

   Why do people end up thinking that? It’s because they aren’t in control. If you’re in control, then no mater how you’re tested, it’s no problem. Men and women can be face to face for several tens of great kalpas, and their sexual organs will never move. Then that counts as your having skill, some kung fu. If you can’t be that way, then you’d better be able to bear some pain, bear some suffering, and progress with courage and vigor.  

   If people still don’t know what I’m talking about, then we can have a test right here and now. We’ll see who is true and who is false. Everyone can take off their clothes and stand together, and we’ll see if anybody’s sexual organs move. We’ll test everybody out. I’m not afraid of anything; I’m not bashful, because basically that’s just the way things are. The question of whether or not you have kung fu is just at that place. Just ask yourself, “Do you let your semen just casually flow out?” And, if it doesn’t go, then do you try to think of ways to get it to go out? Do you masturbate all the time? Do you involve yourself in homosexuality? Do you have a lot of filthy thoughts? If so, then you absolutely don’t have genuine wisdom or any light.

   Light? Sometimes you say, “Oh, that person has a really great light.” Why does he have light? Because he doesn’t let his treasures go—the Buddha jewel of his own nature, the Dharma jewel of his own nature, and the Sangha jewel of his own nature. He doesn’t let them get scattered. If you can really keep your essence from leaving, then that’s the Sangha jewel of your own nature. If you can keep your essence from going, that will cause your body to become very strong. That’s called being filled with Dharma happiness. If you can bring to perfection your own originally existent Buddha nature, that’s the Buddha jewel.  

   The Buddha jewel of your own nature, the Dharma jewel of your own nature, and the Sangha jewel of your own nature are right there within you. Don’t look for them outside anywhere. No matter how many years you study the Buddha Dharma, if you can’t be in control, if you let your essence go casually, you will be very lax and will have no vigor at all. You will be useless. All the time you will have studied will have been useless. You will not have obtained any real use from it, nor will you be able to bring forth genuine wisdom.  

   In order to have genuine wisdom, you absolutely must have samadhi power. In order to have samadhi power, you first have to develop your precept power. Precept power is guarding your essence and keeping it from going. You say, “Wow, that’s not easy.” If it were easy, anybody could do it. We wouldn’t have to wait for you to come and cultivate. Long ago, sexual desire would never have gotten around to you.  

   As to this matter, you must be careful in all places. If you eat too much, that won’t do. If you eat too much, your essence can go. Even if you don’t masturbate and don’t involve yourself in male-female relationships, but you eat too much, your essence can still go.  

   You say, “Well, if eating too much does it, then I can eat a little less. Okay, yes.” But, if you have a big temper, then every time you lose your temper your essence goes. So you have to be patient. This is why you have to be patient. Be patient when you can’t be patient. When it’s impossible to be patient, you still have to be patient.  

   When one speaks of cultivating, one has to talk about this doctrine. You have to bear what you cannot bear. Then, after awhile, you will have some accomplishment. So, why is it that people who cultivate the Way want to have a nature like ashes? No fire, no anger. You say, “My treasures are always going.” If you have that much temper, how can you possibly contain them? If you could have that much temper and still contain them, then there would be Buddhas with big tempers. Everybody would become big-tempered Buddhas. So, what’s really important in cultivating the Way is not to have any temper.  

   As soon as you lose your temper, everything goes. If you work too hard, you work until you’re too tired, that won’t do either. Your essence can go then too. In cultivating the Way, all sides of you, all the conditions, have come together. Then you can have some success in your cultivation. Not just one principle, one Doctrine, leads to accomplishment. You must have no temper, you must not eat too much, you don’t want to get too cold, you don’t want to get too hot, you don’t want to get too thirsty, you don’t want to get too hungry. You have to cultivate everything properly. Then you can have some accomplishment.  

   But, I want to say this doctrine clearly. What I have said is for people who have left the home life. People at home, people who are married can’t do it this way. You can’t say, “Oh, I heard Shih Fu say that we shouldn’t have any sexual desire, so we are going to cut off all relationships.” That’s not right, because you’ve already entered that cage. You have to come around slowly. If you cut it off suddenly, that’s just stupid. You cause unhappiness in your family, and that’s wrong. You want to do it very gradually, and then it’s all right.  

   For instance, a few days ago one of my disciples called. Both husband and wife were on the phone crying. They wanted to be divorced, “Because your magazine said it was dirty.” The wife said, “He says I’m filthy. Am I dirty? I’m really dirty, but I don’t think I’m dirty.” Talking on the one hand, crying on the other. “Should we cut off our sex?” “Should we get divorced?” And, I couldn’t speak English. I just said, “No, no, no, no. Don’t cry, no, no, no.” You must have common sense. You have to understand that if you are involved in that karma, if you come face to face with that, you can’t just go overboard and not be the least bit humane. What is humane is what is in accord with the Buddha Dharma.  

   Now, it’s really difficult to talk about this dharma. Don’t listen to what I’ve said. It would be better to go ahead and listen to what you say. Don’t try to figure out what your Master’s all about. As to your Master, not only you, but even third and fourth state Arhats don’t know what I’m all about. I’ll tell you today that even when you become fourth state Arhats, you aren’t going to know. And, here you are not even first fruit. All of you are name Kuo, Kuo, Kuo, yet no one here has reaped any fruit.

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