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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over
Patience and Vigor
I remember a long time ago there was a man who wasn’t white, black, yellow, or red—a misfit of some sort. He was about 5’ 4” and very thin. He came to Gold Mountain Monastery, but he didn’t come in the door. He sat in meditation outside the door. It was raining, but he sat right through the rain for three or four days. He didn’t talk to anyone. He didn’t talk to himself either. One day one of the laywomen felt sorry for him and invited him into Gold Mountain Monastery, but he didn’t come in. He kept on sitting outside. If anyone went and tried to talk to him, he wouldn’t speak to them. Then I went out and he talked to me. I asked him what his surname was and he said, “Stone.” His name, he said, was “Man.” So he was called Stone Man. I asked where he came from, and he said, “The mountains.” When I asked what he’d come for, he said, “To seek Dharma.” I said, “I haven’t any Dharma here to seek, so you’ve come and now you’re disappointed.” He said he was not disappointed.
So we told him to come into Gold Mountain Monastery, but he didn’t eat or drink or relieve himself. Every day he sat in meditation. It seemed as if he might be a hippy and be smoking dope, so the monks checked him out. The clothes he wore were filthy. He wore jeans, jacket and pants, and the only thing he was carrying was a piece of charcoal. When asked what it was for, he said it kept him warm. He stayed in the temple for several days like that. He would meditate all day in the Buddhahall along with everyone else and when it was time to sleep he would go up to a room.
People were afraid he would steal things at night, so they had someone guard him at night. The guard would sleep inside the room with him, leaning against the door from the inside; if the stone man tried to leave the room he would certainly wake up the guard. They could guard him in this way, because since he didn’t relieve himself, he wouldn’t need to leave the room for that reason. However, even thought they kept him under guard like this, one day the stone man simply disappeared.
Why do I tell you about him? A stone man can come to Gold Mountain Monastery seeking the Dharma, but we people who are the most adroit of all creatures still don’t cultivate to the best of our ability. Isn’t that a pity? During that period at Gold Mountain Monastery, a lot of people came. There was another one that came and no one could figure out if the person was male or female. He was dressed in flashy clothes, but when asked his name, he said it was “Ghost.” When he ate, “Ghost” consumed large quantities. He would finish up everything that was served. He lived for several days at Gold Mountain Monastery, and then that ghost left for parts unknown. He no doubt was a hungry ghost. That happened several years ago.
All through those years at Gold Mountain Monastery, Kuan Yin Bodhisattva protected us, and now that we are at the City of Ten thousand Buddhas, you should realize that those who are sick will get well if they recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. If someone who has had an operation and who has been told by the doctors that there is no hope of getting better recites the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva with sincerity, that person can get well.
If people get poisoned, like the layman who ate the poison mushrooms, and they recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, they can get well, just as he did. The poison won’t be able to kill them. The power of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is inconceivable! We shouldn’t fail to recognize Kuan Yin Bodhisattva when face to face with him. Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is right within our Bodhimanda, and yet when we have a Kuan Yin Session, we are still so lazy. We don’t use our vigor but just do enough to get by. We steal off for some rest and relaxation and have a sunbath. Some go outside to catch a tan and don’t follow along and recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. It’s really a pity, really stupid, and it shows a total lack of regard for Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva.
I’ll tell you something else; Kuan Yin Bodhisattva takes you by the ear and gives it a pull as he tells you to cultivate well, and you still wonder who’s doing it. You still fail to catch on to who it is. Instead you react by saying, “What are you doing looking after my affairs? Mind your own business! Who are you anyway? What’s it to you whether I cultivate or not?” Such people even scold Kuan Yin Bodhisattva himself! It’s really a shame. That’s just missing your chance when it is right at hand, and turning your back on a good opportunity.
However, what’s past is past. Let’s look to the future with renewed vigor. From now on you certainly shouldn’t miss the opportunity to participate in a Kuan Yin Session, or any other Dharma assembly. No one can just go off on their own and not take part. That’s impermissible! If you do that, you are wrecking your own future. Such a rare opportunity and it only lasts for seven days, and yet you let it go by in vain. If you have something more important to do, then it’s alright to do it if it’s protecting the Bodhimanda, but if you don’t have something more important to do, you shouldn’t run away and not do the session.
Reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is just a way of cleaning up the garbage. For every phrase of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name you recite, you should have one less false thought. Two phrases means two less false thoughts. Reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name three times means three less false thoughts. A hundred phrases, a thousand phrases, ten thousand phrases, and you have correspondingly less false thinking. You protest, “Dharma Master, you’re wrong. At the same time I am reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva I’m having false thoughts. I have more false thoughts than I do recitations of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name, by far.” Well, you are a person with inconceivable talent.
If you recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name on the one hand, and have false thoughts on the other, then you are basically not reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name at all! Your mind is not on your words. You look but do not see, listen but do not hear. Then although you are following along with the assembly in reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, you are not really attentive to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. Since you are not attentive to the Bodhisattva, your false thoughts come forth in profusion.
When that happens, although you are saying “Kuan Yin Bodhisattva” with your mouth, your mind is in a state of total confusion. You get caught up in the false thought. Pretty soon it gets so bad that you totally forget you are reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, and become completely absorbed in the false thoughts you are having. That’s called neglecting your responsibility and doing things in a half-hearted way. You’re not really reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name; you’re just going along with the crowd. So there’s no response to your recitation, and no power behind it
When you recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, your eyes should constantly contemplate the Bodhisattva as being right there in front of you. His thousand eyes shine down upon you and his thousand ears hear you. His thousand hands protect and support you. When your mouth recites, your ears should hear the sound very clearly, “Namo Kuan Shih Yin P’u Sa.” Send that sound to your heart. Your heart then invites the Bodhisattva in. When the mouth recites clearly and the mind remembers clearly, then at the gates of the six sense organs—eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind—you are mindful of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva. This is called gathering in the six sense organs and deeply entering through one door. As Great Strength Bodhisattva put it, “Gathering in the six organs through continuous pure mindfulness to obtain samadhi, is the foremost method.”
¹ That’s what he said in describing his method of perfect penetration of the six organs. We use the same method in reciting the name of Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva as we use in reciting the Buddha’s name. “Gathering in the six sense organs” means keeping them from becoming scattered.
We get them under control. We make them obey our instructions. We turn the six thieves into six Dharma protectors. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind are called the six thieves, and also the six gates; they become six Dharma protectors if you can gather them in. That means you simply do not allow the six thieves to play any more tricks. You train them until they are extremely compliant and reliable.
If you find you cannot recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, but that you are constantly having false thoughts, ask yourself why. It’s just because you have not been able to gather in the six sense organs. You can’t get a rein on them. If you are able to gather them in and to be continuously mindful, with pure thoughts one after the other—thoughts of mindfulness of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva—so that the sound never stops, then eventually you will enter samadhi. You will obtain proper concentration, and proper reception. You will have the samadhi of mindfulness of the Buddha or of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. This is the foremost method.
If you can obtain the samadhi of mindfulness of Kuan Yin, then you can be considered someone who is participating in the Kuan Yin Session. If you can’t obtain that samadhi, then you aren’t really participating in the Kuan Yin Session. You may argue, “But in the past I’ve participated in so many Kuan Yin sessions.” Well, were they efficacious for you? Did you enter samadhi or not? When you are in the samadhi, from the moment you arise in the morning until the time you retire in the evening, your mouth continuously recites the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. You are unaware of the passage of time. You are unaware of what time it is right now; you are unaware of the coming of time. Past, present, and future time simply do not exist for you when you enter samadhi.
When reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, you don’t remember whether or not you have eaten. Why not? Because you are singlemindedly reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. You don’t recall putting on your clothes. Why not? Because you are reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, and have forgotten everything else. You forget about sleeping as well for the same reason. When those details fall by the wayside, then your proper concentration and proper samadhi have manifested. When proper concentration appears, you don’t have any affliction in your mind. You have no ignorance. Your recitation of the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva is pure and immaculate, and it makes you happy and joyful.
Reciting is more comfortable than anything else you might do; it is better than any other activity. You say you are sick, but if you recite like this, you will forget your sickness. You say you don’t get enough to eat, but if you recite like this you will forget your hunger. You’ll forget everything else. That includes the manifestation of “states,” such as having someone or something talk to you while you are in meditation; that’s a demonic state, not samadhi. People who cultivate the Way must vow to cross over the living beings of their own self-nature. They vow to study the Dharma doors of their own self-nature, and to accomplish the Buddha Way of their own self-nature. If you don’t recognize your own self-nature, and instead go adding a head on top of a head, and invent some “spirit” or “Bodhisattva” or something else, you’re making a mistake.
In cultivating, one must return the light and illumine within. Do not seek outside; everything is to be found within your own self-nature. Ask yourself if you have any skill in your cultivation. If you don’t have greed, you have some skill. That’s an essential point. Ask yourself if you have any anger. If someone slapped your face for no reason, would you lose your temper? If you say you would, then you don’t have any skill in your cultivation. If you wouldn’t get angry, then although we cannot say your attachment to self is completely cut off, it is significantly diminished.
If you have to admit that in your mind you still get upset, afflicted, or want to get angry, then you don’t have any cultivation. That’s also a case of not being empty. If you’re empty, who gets angry? Who gets afflicted? Who’s making all the fuss? If you still have these things, you don’t have any cultivation. Even if you don’t have these things, you can’t say, “My cultivation is stupendous!” All it means is that you have the slightest bit of skill, that you’ve taken the first steps in cultivation, nothing more.
You can’t get arrogant and haughty and say things like, “Look at me, I’m the foremost cultivator in the entire world!” That’s the talk of someone with an overweening view of the self. It’s the talk of a great demon king. You must not think like that. As soon as you give rise to thoughts like that, you are engaging in deviant knowledge and deviant views. Again, ask yourself, do you have any stupid thoughts? “Is it the case that I can penetrate one thing and understand all things from it? Is it the case that I am clear about everything, and don’t have any obstacles?”
Even if it really is that way for you, that is still just the beginning of cultivation. You can’t stop there, and be satisfied. If you say, “I’ve got it all! I’ve perfected everything!” then you are just a person who has the arrogance of one who’s insane. You’re someone who’s crazy about himself!
In True Emptiness there is no self and others.
In the Great Way there is no form or appearance.
When you reach True Emptiness, how can there be people and a self? If you’re always thinking about getting a chance to drink some juice or some tea, or some other beverage, then you don’t have any concentration. You have not obtained any samadhi. When you enter samadhi you drink the tea of nature which is sweet dew. If you still need to be seeking outside for this and that, then you are still caught up in what is phoney. In cultivation you can’t put on a false face. You can’t just hang out a sign professing to be a cultivator when in fact you’re, “hanging out a sheep’s head and selling dog’s meat.” You can’t engage in activities whichare not in accord with the Dharma.
If you have really obtained samadhi and are really cultivating, then in the winter you won’t be cold, and in the summer you won’t be hot. Why not? You won’t have that kind of discrimination in your mind. You will no longer know hunger or thirst. How could you possibly go about stealing things to eat and drink, and stealthily engaging in all kinds of activities which are violations of the precepts? You simply wouldn’t do such things. The determination as to whether you have skill or not, or whether you can pass the test or not, can only be made by an expert.
If you aren’t experienced and yet pretend to be experience, you’re telling a big lie. That will lead you to the hells in the future. So, when we cultivate we want to do it truly and actually. You actually do it, and don’t just invent a phoney name for yourself and be satisfied with that. “Although the mention of plums can cure one’s thirst, a painting of a cake will never satisfy one’s hunger.”
It’s been a long time since I transmitted any essential teaching to you, so I’ll do so now. For those of you who feel tired, who feel like the session is too much suffering, you should contemplate in this way:
“I’m about to die. This is my last breath. So, in this last moment before I die, I am going to give my all in reciting the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva.” For instance, you’re in an airplane and it is about to crash; if you don’t recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name for all you’re worth, your life hasn’t got a millionth of a chance—the danger is that grave! Or you can imagine you’re in a train and it jumps its rails; it’s being rolled over the ground, and if you don’t recite Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s name and ask to be saved, it’s for sure that everyone in the train will die. They’ve got no insurance.
Or you can imagine you’re in a car and the car goes out of control and catapults through space and heads for a deep ravine. If that happens, your body will be smashed to smithereens. And there won’t be any remains. Not to speak of resting, you won’t be fit to ever do anything again! At those crucial moments you want to recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, and you should regard every moment of the session as being just that crucial. Just think that your death is imminent; in that moment before death, you would certainly recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, seeking to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. You should recite as if your life depended on it.
But this is just an analogy; of course you don’t want to scream, “Namo Kuan Shih Yin P’u Sa!” and then fall onto the bench cracking your skull in two in the process. That’s just being stupid. The analogy is used to help you realize how intense you should be about it. You should be that concerned, and should consider it that important. If everyone recites the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva like that, not even one of you will fail to become accomplished.
Why are you unsuccessful? It’s because when your legs hurt you can’t take it. When your back aches you can’t stand it. You have to go rest and lie down for a while. When you act like that, Kuan Yin Bodhisattva takes a look and knows that you’re washed up! Finished. If you recite with that attitude, then even if you recite until your throat is sore, Kuan Yin Bodhisattva will pay you no heed, because you don’t really place any importance on mindfulness of Kuan Yin; you don’t give it all you’ve got.
If you imagine that King Yama and the ghost of impermanence are standing right there before you ready to invite you for tea, and then decide that instead you will stay here and do what you have to do—if you can regard what you’re doing as that important—then a single recitation of the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva transcends millions of half-hearted recitations. It’s just because you’re not in a tight spot right now that you’re not reciting sincerely. If you could recite, right here, with the same kind of sincerity which one of the refugees recited while on a flimsy boat that was being battered by the wind and waves, knowing that if she didn’t recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva there was no hope at all, then you’d have some success. So, why is it you want to rest now that you’re safe and sound? It’s because you’re out of danger. Actually, though,
This day has already passed, and our lives are that much shorter.
We are like fish in an ever-shrinking pool; what bliss is there in this?
Great assembly! You should go forth with diligence
and vigor as if you were trying to save your own head!
Be mindful only of impermanence, and be careful not to be lax!
After you die, you’ll have no opportunity to recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, even if you want to.