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明心禅读书会部分教材连接Publications&Reading List

(2013-07-13 14:24:54)
Reading list for both students & meditation instructors training & local Taichizen monthly discussion meetings.  Reading the first 3 pieces is required before starting any class.

1. chapter 5 of "Tibetan Book of Living & Dying":


2.Ping & Hongyi's article on spiritual partnership from China Yoga Light magazine 关系与修行:


3.Keys of Standing Meditation of Sun Style Alchemy. Please scroll down after the Chinese part to read: 


4.John Welwood,“Toward a Psychology of Awakening”,
5.Pema Chodrom, “Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves From Old Habits and Fears” 
6.Charlotte Joko Beck, “Everyday Zen: Love and Work" & "Nothing Special: Living Zen”
7.Ken Wilber, "Grace & Grit"

8. 越尘集英译  
原文:http://www.jcedu.org/edu/ddfs/yc/ 止观部分第一篇

             Samatha-The necessary base and direction

 (Direct Pointing on Obtaining Tranquility & Conquering Meditation Diseases)

 

                                                                                                                                                            By Master Yuechen

                                                                                                                                                            Translated by Ping Zhen Cheng

                                                                                                                                                            Edited by Kate Ciannella

                                         

 (originally published in “Chan Journal”, “Finger Pointing to the moon Section”, Volume 4, 1996, Hebei Buddhist Association, Hebei, China.)

                             (* are editions from the translator)

 

The practice of Buddhism originates from the arising of a heart of renunciation, is aided by the Bodhisattva vow, and completes in the perfection of the Bodhicitta. During this vast process, except for a few practitioners with rare natural potentials or the so-called “ones with sharp roots,” Quiescence or Samatha is an essential tool to be developed. Therefore, many Sutras state, “all the pure and serene merits are born out of meditative stabilization.” 

As there are countless sutras and teachings, there are many works on meditation. However, the ancient scriptures which illustrate step by step stages were ALL created for “professional” practitioners (Bikus and Bikunis). Even the “9 Steps of Sustaining the Attention” for beginners was targeted toward the same audiences, i.e. nuns and monks. Today, the situation is quite different as most practitioners are lay disciples living a non-secluded life style.  After a whole busy day of working, it is quite difficult for lay practitioners to follow step by step stages created by (and for) ancient saints and sages.

How can we use our limited amount of time the most efficient way? Saving time, and eliminating the numerous possibilities of taking the wrong path are top-priorities and unavoidable issues for practitioners of modern Buddhism.

          After all, the key points of meditation are the cultivation of: ­ Samatha Quiescence (or “Quiescence,” “Stopping,” “to pacify and to remain”)­ and Vipassana (or “Insight,” “observation”).  How can we practice them?

The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment discusses the three basic ways of meditation: Samatha (“Quiescence”); Samapatti (“Insight”); and Dhyana (“dual cultivation of the two”).  Looking at meditation foundationally, there are two levels of Quiescence:  the conventional or relative meaning is to place the attention on right thinking and right focusing; the absolute or the non-dual meaning is “to place the attention on emptiness.” (or “awareness of emptiness.”)  In terms of their depth, there is no comparison between the conventional and the absolute ways of Quiessence.  The same is true for Vipassana.  There are also two levels. The conventional meaning of Vispassana is to analyze emptiness, or to think about” emptiness.(PING:  I changed your sentence from “mentally or consciously contemplate “about” emptiness” because IN THE TRUE MEANING OF CONTEMPLATION, THE WAY THOMAS MERTON USES IT, THERE IS NO THOUGHT OR THINKING; RATHER, “GAZING IN AWARENESS.”  SO, I’M NOT SURE what you meant and may have completely missed your meaning.) The absolute meaning is to simply rest in” emptiness.  There is a vast difference between these two levels of Vipassana .

Regarding Dhyana (Channa) however, there is only one kind:  “the absolute harmonious” combination between the two techniques of Samatha and Vipassana.  

This first article will address the conventional techniques of Quiescence or “Samatha”.   The second article will discuss the conventional side of Vipassana.   The absolute or the non-dual aspects of Quiessence and Vipassana become applicable only when the practitioner attains true experiences & realizations of emptiness.

Quiescence or “Samatha” is the base of meditation to reach Samadhi.  It means “to stop or remain on” in Sanskrit.  For the practitioner to proceed into more advanced practices without having already attained a certain level of quiescence is like building structures out of sand.   It is useless. 

Many of the more advanced practices including “Vipassana” or “observation based on analysis,” “Samapatti” or “observation based on Meditative Equipoise, “Yi Xin San Guan” or “Tri-awareness with one heart”from Tiantai, the meditation of Mahamudra, “Qieque” or the first part of Dzogchen, etc, must all be based on Samatha.  There is no shortcut or laziness possible in the practice of Quiescence.   The investment of both time, and effort in practice, are necessary to cultivate Quiessence.  However, the art of stopping is a commonly shared tool for both Buddhists and heretics (or “non-Buddhists,” meditators with goals other than enlightenment).  One aspect of regarding this is that the ultimate objective of any practice is never the practice itself; rather, the objective is determined by the direction, goal and individual qualities of the specific practitioner.

The only GOAL of Buddhism is to break through all harmful, habitual, mechanical patterns and attachments and to realize enlightenment toward the perfection of the Bodhicitta and ultimate completion of Nirvana. Buddhism practice is NOT for (or against) paranormal powers (Siddhi)­immortality, or great health.  However, Buddhist sutras and teachings state clearly that these “feel-goodies” are only by-products. 

Already, within the meditation circle or circus of today, there is a trendy “Fashion Disease” of practitioners becoming too involved or obsessed in attaining “Personal” or supernatural power. Practitoners who are seduced onto this path are negatively affected professionally and psychologically, putting family, finance, and mental health at risk. And the loss of time, which might be a lesser consideration, is the most irreplaceable.

Dissecting this Dharma, social phenomena from the root, there are only two simple causes.   One is greed: the desire to attain fame and power through attaining supernatural powers; or the desire to satisfy the ego. 

 

Dissecting this religious, social phenomena from the root, there are only two simple causes.  One is greed, the desire to attain fame and power through attaining supernatural powers; or the desire to satisfy the ego. The second one is blindness or ignorance, and describes practitioners who have a lack of correct views and blindly accept meditation pliancy (or “meditative highs”) and psychic power as ultimate cures for the human condition. Therefore, the arising of the Bodhicitta and correct views and understandings MUST become the base of correct meditation. Without this, one is sure to get lost and go off on a wrong path.

Forming correct understandings and views is a primary and essential foundational component of Buddhism practice.  For practitioners with doubts, the constant study of the Sutras and consulting with the “knowing ones” are necessary and invaluable tools.

All sorts of misunderstandings and unclear perceptions are buried in the depth of the psyche. Often, this muddiness is not consciously discerned by the individual.  Actions, either conscious or unconscious, are directed by the individual’s understandings and views (or misunderstandings and unclear perceptions).   Meditation is no exception.  It is impossible to have a practice that is independent of the influence of one’s views and understandings. For the practitioner, whatever his view is will give birth to the same kind of meditation.  Please sincerely contemplate this truth when practicing toward “correct Samadhi.” 

Practicing Samatha is about learning how to place the “heart/mind” (in Chinese, “Xin” means both heart and mind) on one object or item. During the beginning stage, two crutches are a must: Correct Focus and Correct Knowing Correct focus can also be considered as THE object of Samatha, e.g the name of the Buddha, a picture of the Buddha, a mantra, or even a little wooden ball.  The practitioner fixes focus on or attaches to only this one Correct Focus This is called “the ability to stay attached on the attached” and helps to eliminate all other distractive thoughts.

As human beings, we are 100% distracted by thoughts and are always carried away by them. The second crutch, Correct Knowing, deals with the basic issue of distraction.  Correct Knowing helps the practitioner to recognize, catch, and discover the occurrence of distraction.   As soon as “going off track” is discovered, the individual can then return the awareness back to the Correct Focus. Chinese call this “Kung Fu” or “results attained through time or work.”  There is no shortcut at all.

Regarding the time investment of Samatha, there is a famous Zen quote: “Those who enter through a “Given” entrance, will not be lead into the hidden treasure.”  In today’s meditation circle or circus, there may be Gurus who claim to have the ability to “help” the students take a shortcut by giving “blessing” or “energy” or “Qi.”  These Gurus are dishonest.  They have their own ulterior motives and are taking advantage of their students’ greed and laziness. Practitioners must be very careful.  Training to focus is bitter and boring in the beginning.  But, on the up side, as long as one is willing to invest time and effort into the practice, focus can be mastered without the help of others.  

 

 

There are two “stopping” techniques. Both are equally easy and difficult.   One is learned more easily, but is harder to apply later when it is needed.  The other is more difficult to master but can be applied more easily. What makes a technique easy or hard?  The object of focusing.  For beings living in duality, with a heart of attachment and an habitual pattern of subject-object relationship, the natural tendency is always to be attached to a target.   The more solid, obvious, or outstanding the target is, the easier it is to focus or attach on it.

However, the goal of Buddhism meditation is to help the practitioner loosen up and eventually break the solid boundary of the subject-object relationship, the gap between the observer and the observed. When the duality is broken, the practitioner becomes one with THE original heart.  Therefore, when using objects of focus that are more solid and outstanding, less effort is required to focus on them, but more practice is needed for them to be effective and valuable toward THE breakthrough.  The practitioner has to reach a high level of quiescence, one that is free from the mind drifting away or falling asleep.  This required level is equivalent to the 9th level of Sustaining the Attention.  Only then is a possibility of a temporary breakthrough of the object-subject duality possible. Only then is the practice any good to the practitioner. 

On the other hand, if the practitioner uses a very subtle or non-solid form as the object of focus, one that is subtle to the point of formlessness or even close to non-duality, the story would be very different.  Obviously, it’s very hard to start with an abstract focus or method since it’s extremely difficult, both to INITIATE this kind of focus on a contacting target, and to MAINTAIN it over a period of time.  However, the great truth is, as long as the practitioner can master this second kind of focusing, it is highly beneficial toward the breakthrough and attaining the true, original heart. 

Overall, the practitioner either reaches the level of thought-vanishing in the first method, or applies the second method of subtle focus to make THE work. Beyond this, attaining realization is determined by the practitioner’s correct views, correct timing, and other conditional factors.

How do we determine the subtleness or solidness of the object of focus? Generally speaking, the forms of objects that are outside of the individual’s body are less subtle, or more solid and dual-in-nature than the ones that are within.  Objects or things with a solid image or shape are more dualistic than intangible ones; moving objects are more dualistic than stationary ones.  The following is a list of objects in the order of most solid to most subtle: Standing Pole Qigong, a wooden ball, an external picture of the Buddha, counting the breath, meditating on Dantian (or lower abdomen), reciting Amitabha, mantra, visualization.

Let’s look at the example of the wooden ball: it is an object outside of the body; it is easy to use as an object of focus.  However, it’s rare for any of the Buddhism schools to teach this method of using a wooden ball as an object of focus since the solidness or duality of the object is too “hard”.  As well, choosing a wooden ball does not carry any specific merit when compared with other methods. 

The question now is, within the limit of the individual’s ability, are the less obvious, less solid targets better and less dualistic for meditation practice?  In general, the answer is “yes” with some exceptions.  Since each person is different with his/her own unique capabilities, and there are no absolutes, it is not absolutely true for everyone regarding the proportion of difficulty between the duality (subtleness or solidness) of the object, and the focusing.  However, the recommendation for beginners is:  choose a relatively more subtle object for meditation, one that is within the range of ability for attaching focus.

 

In Buddhism, especially in Vajrayana traditions, there are practices that use forms whose image seems to be very solid and dualistic, yet great, outstanding results are produced.  One example of this is the Usage of the Tanka.* The reason behind this seeming paradox is that these practices and forms skillfully take advantage of the power of beneficial causes and conditions.  With this principle of skillful means established, practitioners can easily gather the benefits needed toward enlightenment:  great merits and wisdom.  Therefore, these seemingly more dualistic forms can carry great merits; or, “The Greater the Form, the Greater the Usage,” which is another unique manifestation of the principle of skillful means. 

A rarely used and rarely documented method of focusing is to make the “correct views and understandings” the object of focusing.  Very few works have discussed ways of placing the focus on “correct views and understandings.”  Why?  Because THE form of TRUE( or high level) views and understandings is too abstract and difficult to grasp.  What we can know is that the art of “Abiding on correct views” is indeed a very advanced level of Samatha.  Through “Abiding on correct views and understandings,” the practitioner can move toward the absolute, toward the non-dual practice of oneness between Samatha and Vipassana, oneness between Light and Emptiness, at an accelerated pace.  “Abiding on correct views and understandings” is actually adopted as the preparation practice of Dzogchen. 

The technique of “Abiding on correct views and understandings” can even be honed into even finer techniques, e.g. using very, very subtle forms, ones that approach the complete dissolution of duality.  These techniques are the more ideal ones.   Eventually, the barrier is completely destroyed and the practitioner enters into the main practice of the great perfection of Dzogchen.

Beginners are NOT advised to use correct understandings as the object of focus.  However, for practitioners whose goals are enlightenment, focusing on “correct views and understandings” is a very important method and might be needed in the future.

Once a suitable method is selected, one must have patience.  An inconsistent practice will produce no results.  Experiencing instability in the quality of meditation is very common.  It’s very important not to be distracted by this fluctuation.   Also, it’s important to be flexible in your method.  If, after trying one method for a period of time, there are no no results at all, then inquire about the reasons why.  If a method doesn’t suit the practitioner, then choose a different one.  As the practice deepens, also the method is adjusted and improved correspondingly.  (PING – I THINK A NEW PARAGRAPH IS NEEDED HERE)

During the process of learning to focus, everyone encounters mistakes and hindrances.  These are “Chan Diseases”.  Although there are thousands of disease symptoms, there are only two causes: scattering and sleepiness.  All scattering diseases are caused by losing the right focus; all sleepiness diseases are caused by losing right knowing.

Beginners usually encounter the most obvious disease:  “mind-scattering” or “day-dreaming.”  For example, when the name Amithaba is chanted before beginning the sitting session, everything is ok.  But  shortly after the session starts, the mind begins to go left and right, even miniature thoughts, the very, very trivial ones, all start to flourish and occupy the mind.  The only thing that is absent is the name Amitabha Without knowing, the mind has already forgotten about Amitabha.

Actually, there is no way out of this problem.  The only solution is to increase the intensity of right knowing, always catch oneself, be strict, and use awareness ruthlessly.  As soon as awareness drifts away, pull “it” back to the mantra or the name Amitabha; when losing “it” again, bring “it” back again.  Over time, the problem becomes less and less severe.

One of the secrets is, when chanting mantra or reciting the name Amitabha, the correct feeling is of a heavy weight lifting or pushing a heavy cart up a slope.  The power of the heart/mind has to be fully applied.  At the same time, feel & listen to the sound of the chanting from within. Chanting without conscious intent will lead nowhere.

When this first stage, or “mind-scattering” disease, is under control, then “mind-sleepiness” appears.  Unconsciously, the practitioner falls into a state of sleepiness.  Sleepiness depends on the situation.  If the practitioner is actually tired, then go and rest. Meditation can continue after resting.  For beginners, meditation cannot replace sleep!  Forcing oneself to sit without having enough rest forms a very, very harmful habit of* automatically falling asleep during sitting sessions.  This harmful habit prevents further developments.  However, if sleepiness is not caused by lack of rest, then the practitioner has to strengthen the power of correct knowing.  Watch yourself closely, stay in tune with the sound of the chanting or Amitabha.

After a few months of consistent practice, 1-2 hrs each day, the most outstanding enemies - scattering and sleepiness -- are conquered.  When these two outstanding enemies or major Chan diseases no longer appear, and the practitioner is no longer exhausted or falling asleep, meditation practice begins to feel rather decent.  The next problem is pain in the legs, feet, and knees, which distracts the practitioner’s mind.  Once again, the only solution is more and more practice to increase the level of meditative stability. 

When the physical pain in the legs is conquered, another level is reached, and a good feeling, a “light-headed” feeling is experienced.  Watch out!  (PING – PERHAPS NO NEW PARAGRAPH HERE?)  When you feel good, both scattering and sleepiness are coming at you together!  How?  There are many miniature thoughts hidden in the layered depth of the psyche that go on and on and on.  This is called scattering.  And the practitioner, soaked only in the good feelings or “highs,” doesn’t notice what is going on underneath.  This is called sleepiness.  This is the second mountain to conquer.  

At this stage, obstacles are still within the category of “non-subtle” Chan diseases and are outstanding and obvious.  As long as the practitioner endures, eventually these obstacles are conquered and the total quality of meditation practice improves.  Then, a new, healthier “I” is born in order to serve in the later work of “no-I”.*

During this second mountain stage of practice, when faced with continuing hardships, many practitioners become stuck on these obstacles and cease to go forward.  In the majority of cases, the reason is that the self is not able to push the intent ruthlessly.  Let’ face it, nobody is fond of using power on self-conquering.  No one likes hard work.  Usually, at this stage, practitioners blame the mantras or Buddhism, complaining that they are no longer working.  Many times, we hear Dharma friends complain:  “my heart/mind is a mess, and no matter how much time I spend on the mantra, there is no way I can stop the scattering, just no way, yadda, yadda, yadda.”

While these complaints are not purposeful lies, they also are not objective. The key is that “people” do not like to fight themselves.  People with power do not “want” to use it! 

 

 (PING- PERHAPS NO NEW PARAGRAPH HERE?) To understand this statement, do this experiment:  Cross your legs tightly and sit straight.  Continue sitting until you feel a great deal of pain.  Keep going and hold that position; . . .until when?  Until your whole body is breaking out with sweat.   Then, come out of the sitting position.  Ask yourself if, during the last couple of minutes before you finished the sitting, your mind was able to go scattering like crazy?  The answer is no, it could not, because it was too busy feeling the pain!  This experiment illustrates that as long as one pushes oneself with the same intensity as when feeling the leg pain, most of the thoughts will vanish by themselves. 

The next question is:  Are you able to use your intent that forcefully, as when feeling the leg pain during the experiment?  The answer is yes.  The fact that you can hold on to the point of sweating proves the answer is yes.  The final question is:  Does every practitioner want to push himself/herself that far.  Are you willing to do it?

Weakness is a condition common to all of us unenlightened human beings.  There is no exception.  Many years ago, I too was “almost” defeated during this second mountain stage of practice.  At that time, I met Master Minzhi.  He said: “This thing (meditation) is like life & death combat in the battle field.  If you don’t kill “them”, “they” will kill you!  (“They” is the scattering thoughts.)  There is only going forward, not backward.  If you want to live, then kill them, kill them brutally. What kind of thoughts cannot be conquered?”  I thought about it.  He was right.  The same energy that is creating all the thoughts is applied to stopping them.  The two must be equally powerful.  This is akin to a person with a cyst who wants to cut it off from his own body.  Even though it’s painfully difficult, it’s not impossible. 

I took Master Minzhi’s suggestion and really pushed hard for a few months.  The intense effort really worked.  The obvious thoughts were conquered.  Then I understood that even though Buddhism prohibits killing, it only prohibits killing lives, not killing harmful thoughts or patterns!   Ruthlessness also has its “right” use.  “Aluohan” is also known as “The Thief Killer”!

A question frequently asked is:  “Don’t we read many books and teachings saying that say one should neither follow nor suppress distractive thoughts?  The books don’t teach us to stop them.”  What we have to understand is that these teachings are true only within a  conditional context, and can’t be interpreted out of context.  “Neither follow nor suppress” is a technique that is applied to very subtle thoughts, not to obvious or outstanding ones.

For practitioners today, it’s very easy not to suppress or stop the thoughts.  We don’t even need to learn how to do it (*We do it all the time!  Don’t we?)  However, how many practitioners are able not to follow the distractions of the thoughts?   If you have not attained that ability, then you must learn how to stop them, ruthlessly.  That’s the only way to conquer distractions.  Learning how to stop/suppress them NOW is the foundation for NOT following them in the future.  Only then will there be no need to stop them. * Without mastering “suppressing”, “not-following” will never happen.

After mastering the above two stages, and with continual hard practice, meditation moves into a totally new stage, and the most crucial period.  (PING; PERHAPS NO NEW PARAGRAPH?) It’s crucial because before this stage is reached, if the practitioner doesn’t conquer the meditation diseases correctly, the only consequence is cessation of improvement, equal to no practice at all.  Even though this isn’t good, it doesn’t create any further problems.  Working hard and applying the basic skills is sufficient to conquer these diseases during the early stage.

However, once this new stage is reached, if the practitioner doesn’t address the new diseases correctly, not only are no new improvements made, but even greater dangers occur.  However, if the problems are solved correctly, then gradually, a path that separates Buddhists from heretics (those on a non-enlightenment path) opens for the practitioner.

During this new stage, skill and hard work alone are not sufficient.  Correct views are even more crucial.  Now the practitioner no longer experiences heavy and outstanding scatterings or sleepiness during sittings; a stable “good and high” feeling is present surpassing any previous life experience; and sometimes a stage is attained where there seems to be no affliction or suffering whatsoever, even hours after meditating.  It’s when this stage can be sustained for long periods of time, that the practitioner is likely to be convinced that some kind of attainment or “enlightenment” has been achieved.  Gradually, arrogance can arise and flourish.

If the practitioner doesn’t watch closely, or lacks timely guidance from “realized helpers”, big problems can occur. The fact is, just because there are no apparent scatterings or sleepiness, doesn’t mean these diseases are absent.  During this stage, very subtle thoughts are going on all the time.  Many practitioners become visionaries seeing Buddhas, demons, and ghosts, or are able to read other’s minds, or experience other paranormal powers, etc.  The danger here is the practitioner can become attached to what has been “attained”. 

Three kinds of “falling-downs,” that are quite usual in the history of meditation, can occur. The least harmful downfall is a strong addiction to these visions that detour the practitioner toward a non-Buddhism or non-enlightenment path. The more severe downfalls include using these paranormal abilities in a manipulative way to attain personal power and financial gain, until gradually falling down.  The worst downfalls are about becoming automatically attracted to demon or devil realms, as in the 50 demons & Skandhas discussed by the Lengyan Sutra.  All of these consequences are the result of incorrect views and misunderstandings.  They are not correct meditation stabilities and must be prevented.

The intention here is not to overemphasize the extreme cases.  In fact, Buddhism neither negates nor opposes Siddhi or paranormal powers.  For example, the teaching of Atisha Ditamki’s “Discourse on the Light of the Bodhi Path”, states that the amount of merit accumulated by a Bodhisattva with Siddhi during the course of one day and night is greater than the merit accumulated by a Bodhisattva without Siddhi in a million infinite time units.   However the body of enlightenment must be realized first before its functional use can be applied.  For the practitioner who doesn’t realize the body of enlightenment, having paranormal power is like an infant holding a sharp weapon.  Not only are benefits not accessible, harm definitely occurs.  Therefore, paranormal powers are not be played with, or taken lightly. 

 

What can the practitioner do to prevent these dangers?  Firstly, he/she can cultivate the correct views, and know the difference between the true path and the false roads; understand that all forms and phenomena are consciousness created; all Siddhi, all “higher” stages, are manifestations of very, very subtle thoughts during meditation and are not solid and independent in nature.  As long as attachment occurs, the practitioner is turning away from enlightenment and rejoining the dust of delusion.

Secondly, recognizing and catching his/her own meditation diseases on time is very important.  After all, the inability to recognize them on time is actually a sign of sleepiness.  During this stage, correct understanding is particularly important, as is elevating and strengthening the level of correct views.

When encountering heavy and outstanding scatterings, the practitioner can “know” that thoughts are flourishing.  This knowing belongs to “correct knowing.”  When encountering subtle scatterings, knowing alone is not enough.  It is too slow, too dual.

Now the practitioner must master fine, subtle awareness in order to “catch” the arising of scatterings on time.  Words are inadequate to describe this high-quality of “awareness”.  Practitioners are advised to consult the knowledgeable ones with their questions.  The phrases “Brightly Shining Through” or “Illumination” come close to describing this stage of “awareness.” “Illumination” is not a product of either “I know” or “I don’t know.”  “Brightness” does not refer to the state of seeing Buddhas or seeing light. Rather, “Brightness” refers to a state of naked “thoroughness” or “clarity” where nothing is hidden from it.  For practitioners who reach this level, a large portion of Quiescence practice must be focused on “correct understanding and views.”  Indeed, “correct understanding” can be used as the object of focus during this stage. 

 

A good meditation method, effective against even the subtle thoughts, is to use “Brightly Shining Through or ‘Illumination”” as the only focusing object.  Correct meditation stability is attained far more easily when using “.”  Practitioners who like to chant, particularly the Vajrayana mantras, “Great intelligence is free from work” and “Great Mantra is free from sound,” would be wise to invest some time on “Illumination.”  These mantras are understood more deeply when using “Illumination.”  Even if the practitioner is unaffected by stages of Siddhi, if “Illumination” is neglected, the practitioner can easily succumb to subtle sleepiness, and falling into a state of memory-numbness which doesn’t support correct meditation stability.  The frog hibernates during the winter and there is definitely stability there.  But without “BST,” meditation practice is like a dead object without any good use.

There are three difficult factors in learning “Illumination” First of all, because intent is intangible, it’s not easy to control the intensity of intent.  If intent is too strong, too much of a subject-object duality is created which doesn’t work at all.

Both Chan and Vajrayana have “secret teachings” on solving this difficult issue.  The teachings from both schools are quite coherent.  They differ only in the way they are expressed Today, while there are not many who know about these “secret teachings,” true masters from both schools do still exist.  If the practitioner searches consciously, he or she will eventually discover them.

“Illumination” is also discussed within different sutras.  Often, however, it is usually hidden between the lines which makes it difficult for the reader to grasp.

The second difficulty arises after the practitioner has learned how to use the right intensity of “Illumination.”  Since it is almost formless, almost free from the object-subject duality, a great deal of effort is required for the practice of “Illumination” to be sustained.  Indeed, so much effort is needed that usually it’s very difficult to hold the practice for a long time.  But, with persistent practice, sustaining “Illumination” can be accomplished.

The third and final difficulty is “relaxation.”  Once the focus or meditation of “Illumination” is established, the practitioner slowly reduces the amount of effort being used.  The danger here is falling back into mind-scattering.  As long as the mind does not fall into scattering, it’s better to use less effort.  All these details must be taught in person, as words are insufficient for complete clarification. 

What are the benefits of learning “Illumination?”  If the practitioner is sufficiently grounded in correct views, the first stages of Chan’s enlightenment or Satori is only half a step away.  The absolute is almost within reach to the practitioner. 

 

 (PING, perhaps a new paragraph here?)

Many things have been said about this “LAST” half-step, particularly about avoiding false zones.  There are great aids toward leaping this half step including:   All ancient collections of the masters from Chan, Lonchinpa’s writings from the Vajra School, current masters such as Rev. Xuyun, Rev. Laiguo, and Master Yuanyin’s “Brief discourse on Realizing the heart and seeing the nature”, and “Subtle waves in the Ocean of Chan.” 

Generally speaking, the correct direction is the one that cuts through forms and dualities, and moves toward non-attachment to all forms and dualities.

 

 

SUMMERY:

       To many practitioners, the practice of Quiescence might sound like stopping “afflicted” thoughts and replacing them with “correct” thoughts.  But, all thoughts are delusive and afflicted.  There are no thoughts that are non-delusive.  “Correct thoughts” are simply delusive thoughts used “correctly.”  Strictly speaking, thoughts shouldn't and can’t be stopped.  However, how thoughts are treated varies throughout the different stages of meditation. 

With heavy, solid, delusive thoughts, the practitioner has to cut through and stop them at will, and then sustain that tranquil state of no-thought for quite a period of time.  Without this minimal requirement of clearing away heavy, solid afflictions and negative emotions that are surface obstacles blocking the true heart of the practitioner, the path of enlightenment is impossible.  And preparations toward further, more advanced practices will NEVER proceed. 

With subtle delusive thoughts, including paranormal stages, etc., methods other than stopping and cutting through are needed.  The best ways of dissolution are through non-identifying and non-attachment.  Then the practitioner has clarity to “Brightly Shine Through” all delusions. 

The most subtle “thoughts” that exist aren't recognizable to most practitioners.  These include mountains, rivers, earth, manifestation and its dependents, etc.  Usually they aren’t given enough attention to be recognized as “thoughts”.  Therefore, the practitioner doesn’t need to stop or cut through these super-subtle thoughts; rather, not seeing them as solid, independent entities is sufficient.

As ego-attachment relaxes and self-enlightened wisdom begins to clearly manifest, the practitioner recognizes that all are non-hindrances, that forms and phenomena are all self-reflecting and self-dissolving.  With further practice, this truth is realized.

And now, a brief summery of Quiescence practice condensed into 3 sentences: 

a.     Practicing Quiescence requires effort & time; 

b.     Use the heart ruthlessly to stop afflicting thoughts;

c.     After conquering heavy and solid thoughts, the key to practice is correct knowing and Illumination. 

 

If the quality and quantity of Samatha are both good, views are correct, and supporting factors and conditions are favorable, then practicing Samatha alone can allow the practitioner to enter the absolute.  However, if after applying all of the above, realization/enlightenment still eludes the practitioner, then the next step is to practice Vipassana in order to merge with the nature of emptiness. 

Essentially, Samatha is practiced through “silence;” Vipassana uses the “moving” form, a practice that can be disturbing since the habitual nature of the six senses is to attach to and be confused by moving forms and phenomena.  To experience the complete manifestations of emptiness of all, practicing both the silent and the moving form is recommended.

Usually, for most people, the constantly polluted consciousness is in constant afflicted motion.  Only through the stopping practice of Samatha, can Quiessence be realized.  Just as it is impossible to see the bottom of a fast-flowing stream, so it is impossible to succeed in the observation or Vipassana without accomplishing Samatha first.

When practicing Samatha, views are applied in a concealed way.  Vipassana directly breaks down, dissects, and analyzes wrong views in depth, corrects the ways in which mind/awareness is used, and realizes the nature of being.

 

        The practitioner must acquire correct views first to make all of this work! Vipassana or observation is not difficult to perform as long as the following foundations for the preparation practice are solid and ready: Bodhisitta Vows, correct views, a certain level of Samatha power Also, practicing Vipassana during off-sitting hours is vitally important.

If only depending on language & words, much can be said and very little may be understood: utilizing direct pointing methods to break the blind spots of the practitioner’s heart, one might be awakened at an instant. This can be proved by many of the sudden enlightenment cases in the history of Zen.  For those that do not make the breakthroughs, the reasons are almost all due to the lack of preparation base that “make up training” should be stressed.  What are the common “blind spots” of meditation? How to fix them? Please refer to the second article “Vippassna: the starting of breaking beginning-less delusion of duality”.

I would like to use this article as a bait, to bring out more accurate teachings of meditation from other more mature practitioners. Wish the Dharma teachings can serve as deathless lamps , forever guiding all sentient beings that are equally dear as our mothers by nature; May all readers benefit on the Bodhisattva path without falling behind.  


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