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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over

Volume 1




Shield Hand and Eye  

   Those who investigate dhyana want to subdue their bodies and minds. You subdue the body by exercising it, by walking and then sitting. Walking is movement. You apply your skill in movement. Sitting is stillness. You do the work of being still. Movement aids stillness. Stillness also aids movement. So it is said, one is still for the sake of movement. One moves for the sake of stillness.  

   Movement is exercise; stillness is quiet sitting. So it’s said, “Walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, don’t be apart from it.” To be apart from it is a mistake. Ultimately, what is “it”? “It” is, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” That one thought. Walking, the thought is, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” standing it is, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” sitting it is, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” lying down it is, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?”  

   If you can maintain “Who is mindful of the Buddha” when walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, and not be scattered, never cut off that one thought, that is kungfu. That is skill. The word “who” is a wisdom sword. The word “who” is a precious vajra sword. The word “who” enlightens you. If you can keep the word “who” continuously in every thought without interruption, eventually you’ll have skill, kung fu. Then one day your black barrel of energy will burst open. Your investigation will have smashed it. That means you have broken through the coarse division of ignorance, not the subtle one.

   For the subtle section remains even in a Bodhisattva at the level of equal enlightenment. The Bodhisattva at the level of equal enlightenment still has one section of production-mark ignorance which has not been broken through. You can only say that you have cut through the view delusions.  

   View delusions are being confused by what you see. You need not talk about it too esoterically, too wonderfully. It just means you’re confused. You’ve been confused by views. Some state arises, you see it, and become confused by it. That’s view delusion. Thought delusion is being confused about principle and giving rise to discrimination. View delusion is giving rise to greed and love when you’re faced with a state. That’s view delusion.

   Before you encountered the state, before you saw it, you didn’t have any greed for it. Your love had not arisen. But the state comes along, you take a look, and greed and love arise. When does this happen? It happens because you haven’t any wisdom. Your ignorance is covering you over. Covered with ignorance, the light of your wisdom can’t flow forth. 

   Last night I talked about people’s thoughts of desire. I talked about the male organ not rising. Is it the case that it still can rise? It can. If you want it to arise you can cause it to do so. When you don’t want it to, it doesn’t. That’s called being in control. Now last night I didn’t say this to you. I didn’t say that if you want it to move, it still can move, and if you don’t want it to, it doesn’t. So six or seven people started having false thinking. They thought “Look! In America that’s just the most pitiful, gutless, lowest kind of person there is. In fact, he isn’t even considered a person.” So a lot of men are really afraid of being impotent, afraid they won’t be able to have intercourse with women. That kind of man is most pitiful.  

   Some people are perpetually afraid of impotency. Do you know what happens quite often to those very ones? They develop that kind of sickness. They have to go see a psychologist, they give the psychologist a lot of business. The person himself goes out and works to make money to pay the psychologist. A lot of people are like that. They have those false thoughts, thinking, “That kind of person is most pitiful.” So I wanted to make this point clear today. It’s not that he’s not able to move it. It means he has subdued it. He’s subdued his mind. So when we speak of subduing one’s mind, it’s just concerning this matter.  

   Subduing your own mind is called “quelling the dragons and taming the tigers.” When the Way is lofty, the dragons are quelled and the tigers are tamed. When the virtue is weighty, one is in companionship with the ghosts and spirits.  

   To quell the dragons and tame the tigers. Whether man or woman, the thoughts of desire are like a tiger. If you can control them, if you can remain in control, that’s called taming the tiger. If you cannot, you lose your temper. Temper is like a dragon. As soon as you lose your temper it has the strength and the spiritual transformations and penetrations of a dragon.  

   This analogy is very apt. The temper is like a dragon. A dragon can hide away or it can manifest. When it’s hidden away, you don’t have any temper. When it manifests, your temper flows out. Your temper can be big or it can be small. If you can get really angry, that’s a really big dragon. If you can just get annoyed, that’s a little dragon. If you don’t lose your temper at all, that’s the dragon behaving himself. You’ve subdued the dragon. So subdue the dragon and tame the tiger. It’s just that kind of kung fu which does it.  

   To subdue the mind is to subdue the mind of lust. You should quell the lustful thoughts of sexual desire in your mind and then you will have real skill. If you can watch over yourself that means you’re in control. When you’re in control, you’re not turned by states. You can’t be upsidedown. If when you meet up with these states you are just upsidedown and unable to put it all down, then you’re not in control. When you’re not in control, then ignorance gets heavier day by day. So when we investigate Ch’an, dhyana, it is so we can smash ignorance, subdue our minds, bring out the stillness within movement, and the movement within stillness. Movement and stillness are not two. Movement and stillness are one.  

As You Will Pearl Hand and Eye  

When that’s been done, then I will grant that you have had a minor response. To talk too much is of no use. It’s still up to you to work at whatever kung fu you’re developing, and when it all comes together you will have a major response. Okay?  

   In the Ch’an hall we subdue the body and subdue the mind. In subduing the body, we refine the body into a vajra body, an indestructible body. In subduing the mind, we increase the Bodhi mind day by day and decrease the mind of false thinking day by day. So use patience in your cultivation.  

   Cultivation is cultivating bitterness which you do not want to cultivate. You shouldn’t feel that at the first signs of pain you are going to retreat. When we investigate Ch’an and sit in meditation, your mind must be durable, as durable as vajra. No matter how much your mind is ground and polished, it doesn’t change. No matter how it’s refined, it doesn’t change. It has that quality of durability. For instance, when you’re sitting in Ch’an and your back hurts, ask yourself, “Who hurts?” When you sit till your legs ache, reflect upon yourself and ask, “who hurts?” With no self in evidence how can there be pain? If there is pain, you should bear it. When you have borne it to the ultimate point, a day will come when you will become enlightened.  

   So don’t be afraid of the pain in your back, don’t be afraid when your legs hurt. Force yourself to do what is difficult. Do what other people can’t do. “What others can’t do, I do. What others can’t bear, I bear. What others can’t cultivate, I cultivate.” Eventually your kung fu will be realized.  

   Before your kung fu is realized you should work hard. When you have worked to the ultimate point—we need not even speak of pain—you won’t know the sky is above, below you’ll be unaware of the ground, and around you, you will be oblivious to people. At that time you unite as one substance with the great void, one substance with the Dharma Realm. Inside no body and mind, outside no world.  

   So it is said that the myriad things arise from nothing. Inside there’s no body and mind, outside there is no world. Looking far, there’s nothing; looking up close, there’s nothing. This is what’s meant by “looking in at your heart—your mind, your mind is not your mind, looking out at things, things are not things.” That is the state in which you know inside there is no body and mind, and outside there is no world. There’s no mind, no body, no world. All three are empty. Even the emptiness of the three is empty. It’s also non-existent. Emptiness is non-existent; non-existence is also non-existent. Then, in a still and profound way your original face appears.  

   When your original face appears, you know, “Oh, basically that’s the way it is!” But if you still have a thought of that’s the way it is, then you’re not empty. When the “that’s the way it is” thought is gone, that’s really your original face.  

   When you’re enlightened basically there isn’t anything at all. Everything is clean, pure, bright light, your inherent self-nature. Your body becomes a living Tathagata.  

   If you can understand that basically there isn’t anything at all, your body is just a living Buddha, a living Tathagata. But this isn’t just “head-mouth zen” I’m talking. If you really get to that state, then it can be that way. If you haven’t reached that level and you say, “I’m a living Tathagata,” what kind of living Tathagata are you? That’s very pitiful. Prior to enlightenment, don’t be lax. Day by day, don’t be lax. Don’t be casual about the false thoughts you have.

   Didn’t I say last night that in walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, you should protect yourself, mind your own business, look after yourself. You have a lot of gems in your household. Don’t lose your gems. If you lose your gems then you will think to go outside and find gems. That’s a case of relinquishing the root and grasping at the branches. You’ve relinquished your foundation and are clutching at branches. I’ve told you this often, but you keep letting it go by. True skill, true kung fu, isn’t in any book, isn’t in any sutra, or any shastra, or in any part of the vinaya. It requires that you actually, truly, do the work of cultivation.  

   The sutras just tell people the Way. They teach you how to cultivate. But if you merely know the Way and you don’t cultivate, that’s useless. That’s as if you decide you are going to go to some city and you know the way there, but you don’t go. If you don’t go, then you won’t get to the city. You won’t be able to get to the treasures. If you don’t get to the treasure chest, then you won’t be able to get at the valuables that you wish. Sutras tell you the road to the treasury.  

   The vinaya is a method which teaches you how to get to the treasures. But if you know the method and you don’t use it, then you’re never going to get to the treasury. The shastras discuss the doctrines, discuss how to get to the treasury. But if you merely discuss coming and going, talk about it back and forth, and you don’t actually cultivate, to the end of the boundaries of the future, you won’t get to the treasury.  

       When you’re confused,
         a thousand volumes are too few.
       When you’re enlightened,
         one word is too much.  

When you’re all muddled and unclear, you can look at a thousand books and it won’t be sufficient. Still too few. If you have really become enlightened, if you’ve really penetrated to enlightenment, you have awakened, then one word is a lot of talk. You have no use for it. In the Ch’an school we discuss using the mind to seal the mind, not based on language and literature. There isn’t any language or literature. The inheritance of the Singular Dharma is also called the Mind Ground Dharma. The Dharma door of the mind ground tells you to cultivate it, to recognize it. It is the light and wind of the original ground. It’s not from any other place. It’s also called the Mind Ground Dharma door.

   You won’t find the Mind Ground Dharma outside. But if you return the light, search within yourself, apply your kung fu to the self-nature, you will recognize your own mind and see your own nature. That’s what counts. So in the Ch’an school, they talk about enlightenment. They talk about “smashing your investigation” which means there’s no further need to investigate, you’ve broken through it. When you break through your topic of investigation, then that is the time when, after enlightenment, one word is more than enough.  

Transformation Buddha on the Palm Hand and Eye  

   Several days ago I said when you work you have to have three qualities: durability, sincerity, and constancy. Durability means your mind has to be as solid as vajra, so that you don’t change it. For instance, when you’re working at developing your skill, you pay no attention to whether or not your practice has been of any benefit to you. You just strongly do the work. You must also be very sincere. You can’t even have a hair’s worth of artificiality in what you do. And you should be that way every day, constantly, unchanging.  

   You shouldn’t wish for anything. You shouldn’t have any hope of something. You shouldn’t wish, for instance, “I wish I’d get enlightened, I wish I’d open my wisdom, I wish I’d get spiritual penetrations, I wish for some advantages.” If you are one who truly cultivates the Way, you shouldn’t have these kinds of hopes. Don’t cultivate while harboring such wishes.  

   You say, “If there’s no hope, what am I doing it for?” It just because there’s no hope that you should do it. If it were something that was entirely feasible everybody would go and do it. But in this particular matter, it’s not for sure that there will be any accomplishment. So you must think, “I’m definitely going to do this.”  

   This is what is meant by “just paying attention to how the planting is going, and not worrying about the harvest.” When a farmer plants his field he carefully plants the seeds, and then takes care of them, nourishes them, weeds and waters them. He pays no attention to how many bushels his harvest will yield in the fall. He just takes very, very good care of the sprouts of grain when they come up. He doesn’t think about the harvest.  

   Cultivating the Way is just the same. “I’m just cultivating.” Pay no attention to whether or not you are going to become enlightened. With sleeping, eating, and wearing clothes, it should be the same way. When I’m hungry, I eat, and after I eat my fill I’m not hungry any more. When I’m cold I should put on clothes, so I won’t be cold.  

   Now, when cultivating, the question of birth and death arises. Birth and death are like great hunger. We cultivate and use the skill of the Ch’an school to feed birth and death, so that birth and death disappear. We exhaust birth and end death.  

   Not only is investigating dhyana that kind of Dharma door, if you hold mantras it works the same way. You should pay no attention to, “Oh, if I recite this mantra, I’ll get such-and-such a spiritual penetration or a certain kind of response” because just that one thought of seeking spiritual penetrations or seeking a response is a false thought. It’s a second thought. It’s not the number one truth. When you fall into the secondary truth that is a false thought. When you hold mantras you shouldn’t think of the kinds of advantages they will bring you.  

   Reciting the Buddha’s name is the same way. Just recite the Buddha’s name, “Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha,” time after time, just keep reciting. Pay no attention to whether there’s a response or not.  

   “I just take cultivation as my own. It’s what I should be doing.” If you can think like that, then you can really cultivate. For instance, when you investigate Ch’an, you just carry that one thought, “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” and you just look into it. You don’t look into it thinking, “Oh, when am I going to become enlightened?” Because if you have that thought there will never be a time when you become enlightened. Why? You are not on the ground of primary truth. You have a thought and then another thought on top of that thought until you have ceaseless numbers of thoughts. Thought after thought flowing on and on. You can’t become singleminded.  

   When you cultivate you should be singleminded. When you’re singleminded there is an efficacious response: when your mind is scattered, then you are obstructed. If you can turn your mind to one, there will certainly be responses with your skill. If you can’t become singleminded, then you won’t have any such responses. If your thoughts are all divided, then you’re stupid and you can’t become enlightened.  

   When we cultivate and work at meditation we must return to the root and go back to our source. When you return to the root, basically there isn’t one thing. When you go back to the source, originally everything pervades the Dharma Realm to the bounds of empty space. There are no obstructions; there isn’t anything in all creation. Originally there isn’t anything at all, so where can the dust alight? What we think about, what we find necessary, what we wish for, are all the common mind, they are not the mind intent upon the Way. If you become singleminded and can subdue the common mind, then that is the mind intent upon the Way. The common mind is a false thought. The mind intent upon the Way is a true thought.  

   Those of us who cultivate the Way should first understand the Dharma of the Four Truths, which are: suffering, accumulation, extinction, and the Way. This is the first turning of the Dharma Wheel by the Buddha when he spoke Dharma for the five bhikshus. The first is the truth of suffering, the second is the truth of accumulation, the third is the truth of extinction, and the fourth is the truth of the Way.  

   First of all we must understand suffering. How many kinds of suffering are there? There are three sufferings, eight sufferings, and all the limitless sufferings. The three sufferings are: the suffering within suffering, the suffering of decay, and the suffering of process. When you are poor and in addition have nothing to eat, no place to live, and no clothes to wear, you experience the suffering within suffering.  

   The suffering of decay involves wealthy people. Now they’re not poor but sometimes their wealth is destroyed. It decays; it goes bad.  

   The suffering of process occurs when you go from being young to being middle-aged, to being old, to your death. It is the continual flow in thought after thought of birth, old age, sickness, and death, which in every thought never ceases. And you aren’t in control. For instance, when your eyes start to go bad, you can’t be in control and say, “Don’t go bad. I don’t permit you to go bad.” You aren’t the owner. When you ears go deaf, you have no control over them. You can’t say, “Don’t go deaf.” Once again you can’t be in control.

   When your teeth fall out you don’t have any way to tell your teeth not to fall out. In all these cases, you aren’t in control. When you get sick and you think to arrest the sickness, you once again aren’t in control. When it’s time to die and you don’t want to die, you still aren’t in control. That’s the suffering of process, a lifetime suffering of process. 

   The eight sufferings are the suffering of birth, the suffering of old age, the suffering of sickness, the suffering of death, the suffering of being apart from those you love, the suffering of being together with those you hate, the suffering of not getting what you seek, and the suffering of the roaring blaze of the five skandhas. So the Buddha turned the Dharma wheel of the Four Truths for the five bhikshus. He said, “This is suffering; it is oppressive by nature. This is accumulation; it beckons one by nature. This is extinction; its nature is that it can be certified to. This is the Way; its nature is that it can be cultivated.” Then he said, “This is suffering; I already know it. This is accumulation; I have already ended it. This is extinction; I have already certified to it. This is the Way; I have already cultivated it.”  

   Then he said, “This is suffering; you should know it. This is accumulation; you should cut it off. This is extinction; you should certify to it. This is the Way; you should cultivate it.” He turned the Dharma wheel of the Four Truths, and Ajnatakaundinya, whose name is interpreted as “understanding the fundamental limit,” became enlightened as soon as he heard the Buddha speak this Dharma. So he’s also called “the first to understand.” He was the first to understand the Buddha Dharma and to become enlightened, to certify to the fruit of Arhatship. People who cultivate the Way should understand these Four Truths. Formerly an American who studied the Buddha Dharma asked me if there was really such a thing as the Dharma of the Four Truths. That’s the kind of question he asked.  

   In America there are also self-proclaimed Buddhist groups who do not bow to the Buddha, who do not recite sutras, and who do not hold mantras. They ask, “Basically everybody is a Buddha, what’s the sense in bowing to the Buddha? The sutras were spoken by a person, the Buddha spoke the sutras, what’s the use in reciting the sutras?” But those of deviant knowledge and deviant views hear these doctrines and find a little meaning in them. “Take a look at that, without bowing to the Buddha or reciting the Buddha’s name one can just become a Buddha.

   That’s certainly the skill-in-means within skill-in-means. An excellent Dharma-door!” So they follow these people and learn how to be pieces of wood. Whenever they see the Buddha they stand stiff as a board, when they see the Dharma they are like statues, they don’t move. They are even less respectful when they meet the sangha.

   This is really pitiful. Some people say within Buddhism the Small Vehicle is good. Others say within Buddhism the Great Vehicle is good. Some people say the Great Vehicle is phoney, others say the Small Vehicle isn’t true.  

   In the end what would you say is right? Which is false and which is true? Which is right and which is wrong? This is an example of working, applying your effort to self and others and to right and wrong. Originally within the Buddhadharma there was no Great Vehicle or Small Vehicle. There was only the Buddha Vehicle and no other. But as time went on, the Buddha’s undersirable disciples, his disobedient disciples, made divisions of great and small within his teachings and divisions of right and wrong. From that point until the present, categories and divisions have not been abandoned, and so there are very, very few first-stage or second-stage or third-stage or fourth-stage Arhats who are certified Arhats. 

   Some people cultivate the Bodhisattva Way and benefit self and benefit others, enlighten themselves and enlighten others, take themselves across and take others across. Yet because they attach to the appearance of self and others, it becomes false and empty. This is why when I came to America I took as my motto, “Everything is Okay.” When the disciples scold me, it’s okay with me; when the teacher teaches me, it’s okay with me. When I encounter a living patriarch, that’s okay too.  

   Nine years ago a disciple who is here now participating in this session heard me bring up this motto of “everything is okay” and he had an opposing opinion. I don’t know if he still remembers this because it happened nine years ago. He said that if someone came to where you were and forced you to give them all your things, would that be okay? And this is what I said to him then.  

   I said, “He can take whatever he wants, he doesn’t have to use force; isn’t that okay?” Whatever he wants to take he can take, no need for him to force it away or steal it. If everything can really be okay with you then you’re really comfortable. You don’t have any problems, but it is really, really not easy. Whoever can have everything be okay will find all his problems solved. Okay.

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