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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over

Volume 1




Transformation Buddha Atop the Crown Hand and Eye  

   People of the Way with no minds, are you really without a mind? You should examine yourselves, ask yourselves, “Do I still have a mind?” Or, are you without a mind? Do you still have false thinking? Or, are you without false thinking? You should ask yourselves this every sitting period.


   Do you just sit there and wait for the bell? Every sitting period do you sit there and think, “Wow, it’s Christmas time, and there’s a party at home. I wonder if they’re thinking of me, and the fact that I’m not at the party?” That’s false thinking. Is it possible that when you’re sitting there you think, “This year I wonder how many Christmas cards I’ll get? I wonder what will be painted on them? Or, perhaps you think, “Is someone going to write me a letter? Will someone call me on the phone?” These are all “having a mind,” and “having false thoughts”.  

   “In a little bit I think I’ll call up my father and mother and ask how they are.” That’s called false thinking. Or, perhaps you’re thinking, “I want to go home tomorrow and see my grandparents.” That’s why I say one novice is always returning to lay life, because he goes and sees his grandmother all the time. If you visit her and she can come to believe in the Buddha, that’s good; but, if she’s not converted and turns around and converts you, that’s not too good.  

   So we should take a look to see whether we have any false thinking. You’ve been working for so many days and still haven’t subdued your false thinking, so you should quickly think of a way to do so. In all the big monasteries in China, on the fourth day of a Ch’an session, instruction may be requested. If you have a certain experience—perhaps you see the Buddha, or you see a ghost, or you see some people—you can tell about it.

   At Gold Mountain Monastery, we’re going to have instruction asked on the fifth day in the afternoon at three o’clock; whoever has had an experience that they haven’t understood can ask about it. If you understand it, then there’s no need to ask, no need to look for trouble. So, there’s a little difference between the rules at Gold Mountain and the rules at an ordinary monastery.  

   Last night I said, “When you develop your skill, you have to know the method for developing skill.” This is very important. This is as when eating a lichee nut one should peel it and then eat the nut meat inside, but one shouldn’t eat the kernel.

   Cultivating the Way and eating things are the same. If you understand the nature of the thing you’re eating and how it should be eaten, then when you eat it, you won’t get sick. If you don’t understand how to eat—for instance, a lichee nut—you just swallow it whole. That’s like when monkey ate the ginseng fruit and didn’t know the flavor. He was so nervous that he just gulped it down whole, and then he turned around and said to piggy, “What’s its taste like?” So it’s said, “Monkey ate the ginseng fruit and didn’t know the flavor.”

   This is the same as if you ate a lichee without peeling the skin and eating the nutmeat inside but swallowed it whole; not only would it be of no use to you, it would hurt you. There is no way you could digest it. And, although the seed inside the lichee is not as hard as vajra, it wouldnot be too easy to digest. So, in the same way, you must understand the method for cultivating. The ancients braved the seas and scaled the mountains in order to look for a Bright-Eyed One; that is, they looked for a Good Learned Advisor. But, they’re not easy to find. It is not easy to meet a Good Learned Advisor.  

   Now I’d like to tell you a story to illustrate how dangerous it is to cultivate when you are the blind leading the blind. Once, long ago, an old cultivator had cultivated until he had developed spiritual penetrations. What kind of spiritual penetrations did he have? He could, “…go out the mysterious and enter the female.” “…going out the mysterious…”means to send a little person out the top of your head. When the little person gets out there and the wind blows, he breaks loose; and once he breaks loose, he can go wherever he wants, a little like a kite, because the kite is up in the air but still attached by the string. So, when the old cultivator went out the mysterious and entered the female, he had a little string attached.  

   Now this string cannot be seen by ordinary flesh eyes. If you attain the five eyes, then you can see the string. And, when he went out, the string didn’t break; and, whenever he wanted to come back, he could. Because he could go out the mysterious and enter the female, he went everywhere roaming about, playing. This is truly the case of suddenly being in the heavens, suddenly being on earth, suddenly being a hungry ghost, suddenly being animal. He could go anywhere at all. Because he was a yin spirit, he couldn’t be seen by most people; but he could see people. He could go to a play and not have to buy a ticket; he could go to a movie and not have to buy a ticket; he could go to the ballet and not have to buy a ticket. Nowhere in the heavens, nowhere among men, could he not go.  

   He could go up to the heavens and check out the gods—how the gods danced, how fine their music was, and how the whole atmosphere of heaven was adorned and luxuriant. The flowers, grass, and trees were not the same as ours, and their fragrances were not known to human beings. A rare fragrance pervaded everywhere, unbeknownst to humans. He could go there whenever he wanted to and smell that fragrance, and look at the beautiful forms and listen to the sounds. Forms, sounds, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas—the sensuous delights of the six dusts. He enjoyed them again and again and was pretty self-satisfied. He always thought, “Look at me; I don’t have to buy tickets for anything I do. I can see all kinds of things really cheaply, with no money at all.” And he roamed around, taking in everything. He was in the playful samadhi.  

   One day, he was walking down a road with no hotels ahead and no inns behind, so he stopped at a temple to spend the night. In the temple lived an old bhiksu and a young shramanera. The old bhiksu was very compassionate. Although it was a small temple, the old bhiksu would allow passers-by to spend the night, and so he allowed the old cultivator to stay. He gave him a room to stay in. Once again the old cultivator brought forth his spiritual penetration, and the little man popped out of his head and ran off.  

   How far did he go this time? Well, for instance, he went from, say, China to America, or from America to India; he just went everywhere, playing around. He played so much that, after he got out, he forgot to come back. He roamed around and forgot to return. He got so engrossed in what he was experiencing outside, that he forgot to come back.  

   The old bhiksu and the small shramanera were the ones who were,  

       …in a dream transmitting a dream
       so that one transmitted, and two
         didn’t understand
       The master falls into hell, and the
         disciple follows along respectfully.  

Since they were that way, they didn’t know that when someone cultivated the Way, they could “…go out the mysterious and enter the female.”  

   In the morning the small shramanera went to call on the old cultivator, who had stayed overnight, to come and eat. He knocked on the door, but no one answered; so he went back and told the old bhiksu. The old bhiksu said, “Well, open the door and take a look.” He opened the door and looked…dead! The old cultivator was dead. He didn’t have any breath going in and out of his nostrils, and his mouth wasn’t open.

   So, the little shramanera went running back and said to the old bhiksu, “Shih Fu, Shih Fu, that man’s already dead!” The old bhiksu said, “Oh, he’s died. Well, prepared a fire, and we’ll cremate him, then there won’t be any affair. If the officials were to find out, it would be something else; let’s hurry up and cremate him.” They were afraid that the local officials would find out and then come and bother them. So they took the corpse and burned it.  

   Of course, after it was burned, guess what happened? The little man came back. After “…going out the mysterious…,” the mysterious returned. When he got back, he couldn’t find his house. He said, “Where’s my house?” He couldn’t find it anywhere. The old bhiksu and the little shramanera could hear this person speaking, looking for his house, and it nearly scared them to death. It looked for its house by day, it looked for its house by night. It looked day, after day, after day, and the more it looked, the louder its voice got, until its voice was so loud that it was screaming day and night. The old bhiksu and the little shramanera thought, “Oh, it’s a ghost coming to bother us; we’re going to have to move. We have to get out of here; this place is unfit to live in.” They decided to move the next day, and they were about to renounce the little temple.

   That night another old cultivator came who was probably a professional Ch’an sitter. He came there in the evening, looking for a place to stay overnight. He knocked on the door, and the little shramanera came and saw him and asked, “What do you want?”  

   The cultivator said “I’d like a place to stay tonight.”  

   “Sorry, we don’t take anybody overnight any more, because when people stay overnight, it brings a lot of trouble down on us. And now we have to move.”  

   The old cultivator said, “Well, you used to let people stay overnight.”  

   “Of course we did, and somebody who stayed overnight here died, and since then we’ve been trouble by a ghost.”  

   The old cultivator said, “Oh, so you’ve an old obnoxious ghost, huh? Well, I’m pretty proficient with ghosts. Go tell your Shih Fu that I can take care of ghosts.”  

   The little shramanera heard this and thought, “Oh, he can take care of ghosts; well—maybe.” So he went back in and told his Shih Fu, “Shih Fu, Shih Fu, somebody wants to stay overnight here. He says that he can take care of ghosts!”  

   His teacher said, “Ah, he just wants a place to stay. What do you mean he can take care of ghosts? He’s just putting you on. Just the same, if he can take care of ghosts, let’s try him out.” So they let the old cultivator stay.

    The old cultivator said, “Take me to the room where the ghost is, and I’ll stay there.” So they took him to that room, and he could hear the ghost talking, looking for his house. “Who took my house?” He was looking for his body, of course. They had taken his body away. So the cultivator told the small shramanera to prepare a pan of water and a brazier of fire. When it was all prepared, he heard the ghost calling out and said to the ghost, “Your house is in the water.”  

   The ghost went down into the water and searched all around. “But it’s not here, it’s not in the water.”  

   The old cultivator said, “Oh, if it is not in the water, it certainly must be in the fire. Go look in the fire for it.”  

   The ghost was very obedient, he offered up his conduct in accord with the teaching. So he plunged into the fire, searched around—scraped around all the coals and fire—but couldn’t find it. So he got out and said, “No, it’s not there. My house isn’t in the brazier of fire.”  

   And the old cultivator said, “Say, old fellow-cultivator, old fellow-Ch’anist, you’ve just entered the water and not drowned, you’ve just entered the fire and not been burned. Why in the world are you still looking for your house?”  

   After he said that, the ghost woke up. After that, he didn’t trouble them any more. Thank goodness that this old cultivator who knew how to go out the mysterious and enter the female met somebody who really knew Ch’an, thus becoming awakened. If he hadn’t met up with this person who really knew Ch’an, he probably would have gotten angry and fallen. There’s nothing fixed about it. But, of course, this is just a story.  

   That is a public record, which explains the principle. That is, it’s telling you not to study going out the mysterious and entering the female, not to learn that dharma door. What you want to learn is how not to go out, how not to enter—how not to be produced, how not to be extinguished, how not to be defiled and not be pure, how not to increase and decrease, how not to be born and die. That’s the dharma door that you should cultivate.

   Don’t go off to see free movies, free plays, and free concerts, figuring that you’re getting off real cheap. Don’t be greedy for these cheap things. You want to be able in a hair pore to manifest a precious Buddha Land, to sit in a mote of dust and turn the great Dharma Wheel. If you can reach that level of accomplishment, that is true freedom. That is really having it made. Then you can go anywhere you want, and it’s no problem, not difficult at all.

      When you are confused,
       ten thousand books are too few.
     When you are enlightened,
       one word is too much.  

When you are confused, you read: one book is not sufficient; two books, still not enough; three books, not satisfactory. You read a thousand books, ten thousand books and still it’s not enough.  

   After you have become enlightened, one word is more than enough. When you awaken you’ll find that the entire Treasury of Sutras is within your own self-nature. There isn’t anything outside. When you realize that, one word is too much. It’s laboring the point.  

     What’s spoken is Dharma,
     What’s practiced is the Way.  

We still have to undergo a little more bitterness.

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