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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over

Volume 2

When the Nature is in Samadhi,
The Demons are Subdued,
And One is Peaceful Every Day


In the SUTRA OF FORTY-TWO SECTIONS there is a passage which says, 




   That’s also referring to a “person of the Way with no mind.” So we who are in the Ch’an hall certainly should press forward and apply our efforts to cultivation. Don’t let the time go by in vain.  

   In this country it is not at all easy to propagate the Buddhadharma. It’s like growing a Lotus flower in the fire. It’s as difficult as scaling a high mountain. But although that’s the way it is, I still use all the patience I have and try to break ground in this country for a new Buddhist continent. I want to plant the seeds of the Buddhadharma in this country.  

   When I was young, prior to thirty years old, no one knew who I was. Wherever I went no one paid any attention to me. Although a lot of people knew about my cultivation of filiality beside my mother’s grave, that was when I was a layperson. But after I left the home-life, no one connected that person with me. Wherever I went I kept my light to myself, besides which, I really didn’t have any light to speak of. I wasn’t like some young people of today who want to get famous and make a name for themselves when they aren’t even out of the cradle yet. I was absolutely the opposite.

   In my thirties I went to Hong Kong, made myself a little hut and sat there applying my effort at cultivation. As it is said,  

     I feel fortunate enough to stay alive
     during such times of distress,
     And have no wish to seek fame or wealth
     among the affluent.  

I lived the life of a hermit. After being a recluse in Hong Kong for more than ten years, I came to America. For the first six years I was here, no one knew about me. It’s only been since 1968 that gradually more and more people have come. Even to this day when we went to Asia, and so many people came and listened, it’s certainly not because I lecture well, but rather because I speak the truth. I don’t say phoney things. In everything I do, I do it truly and actually. I use straight words and straight actions. I don’t use any tricks or devices in doing anything.

I can say what I want to say anywhere and at any time. I am not afraid of offending people. If I don’t want to say something, I won’t say it anywhere or at any time. I make a concerted effort to never tell a lie, or cheat anyone else. So we had such a big response in Asia. It could also be that because I live in America now, and was returning for a visit only, that a lot of people were interested. 

   I learned a lot of things in Asia this time. Before, I had a very favorable impression of Lamas. I thought they were also cultivators, I never would have guessed that there are many people who pretend to be Lamas, and who are capable of hexing people—poisoning them. And now many other so called “Buddhist disciples” also use this technique to confuse people and cause them to lose their common sense. I think this is very, very strange. I’m really taken a-back! People enter into the study of secret dharmas hoping for some advantage, and who would have guessed that they’d end up getting harmed instead.

   People enter the study of the Buddhadharma expecting it to be proper knowledge and proper views. Who would have guessed that they’d end up falling into a pit of deviant views. They become confused by these deviant people. This is evidence that the Dharma-ending Age is upon us. Everywhere you turn there are manifestations of the Dharma’s demise. Any Buddhist disciple who looks upon this state of affairs finds it painful indeed! So, in the future we must discriminate carefully about so called Lamas, and “Buddhist disciples” and not just automatically suppose that they have virtue in the Way or Dharma magic. Keep your distance and be very careful.  

   If we are careful on the cause-ground not to plant bad causes, then in the future we will not have to reap bad results. We should plant pure causes. At all times we should singlemindedly regard the Way and not let ourselves give rise to defiled thoughts. At all times we should accord with the rules. We shouldn’t always be making trouble and trying to stir things up. If you don’t follow the rules while on the cause-ground, in the future when you have to undergo the retribution, it will be full of limitless pain and suffering. You will reap a bitter fruit.  

   Don’t let the things I’m telling you right now just go in one ear and out the other. Some people have followed me for over ten years and yet they are still muddled and confused. They don’t understand the least bit about cause and effect. They are not afraid of cause and effect. This is very dangerous, to be this way. Those who cultivate the Way must be especially careful. Don’t make mistakes in cause and effect.

   If you’re off by a bit in the beginning, you’ll be off by thousands of miles in the end. Don’t be a left-home person on the one hand and yet always be thinking of returning to laylife on the other. On the one hand you think you want to cultivate the Way, but on the other, you cannot renounce the pleasure of the world. This will lead to a bitter future. You have to take stock of what you are doing. You can’t spend day in and day out having unclean false thoughts. If you fail to believe what I’m saying right now, in the future when you regret it, it will be too late!  

   People in the world gravitate to their own kind.

It’s said,  

     The good assemble together,
     The bad form gangs,
     People seek out their own kind.  

It’s also said,  

     People form gangs;
     Creatures are divided into species.  

People who advocate virtue will not do things which are lacking in virtue. People who pay no regard to virtue will not be able to do virtuous things. So it is said,  

     Virtue is the root,
     Wealth is the branch-tip.  

So, people of like types get together in this world. Students get together with students and form close relationships. Farmers have close ties with other farmers. Laborers get together with laborers and make friends. Businessmen make their acquaintances among other businessmen. Government officials make friends with other government officials. That’s the way things go among people. And among creatures? Horses end up with other horses; cows get together in herds; sheep form flocks; dogs run in packs. But the human race is the most efficacious of all the species. People’s wisdom is loftier than any of the animal species. Why is that? It’s because animals have to pass through King Yama’s chemical factory. When that happens their efficacious spirit gets divided. Since their efficacious nature is butchered and maimed, their wisdom decreases significantly. 

   What kind of division takes place? Let’s start with a person. If that person has to become an animal, it’s not the case that he or she becomes just one animal. One person might end up as ten or even twenty different animals. There’s nothing fixed about it. One criterion that’s considered is how much wisdom that person has.

   The more knowledge he is endowed with, the more divisions are possible. But of course the animals that person ends up becoming are not wise at all, because they each possess only a little of that person’s efficacious spirit. People are whole and infinitely capable, whereas other animals are only endowed with partial ability. They may be capable in some ways, but they are deficient in others. They are laden with ignorance. Their wisdom has decreased, but their ignorance is just as heavy. They are obstinate and quick to fight.

   Just take chickens for example. When you get two roosters together, they square off, throw back their heads, dip their heads and then they’re off and sparring. They don’t have anything to fight with but their beaks and claws, but they still manage to have a go at it. All you have to do is look at them to know that when they were people—that part of them that was human—they liked to fight. They were always competing with others and so when they become animals they still retain this quarrelsomeness.  

   Dogs are stingy. So when they are eating if any other dog comes near and tries to get a bite, a fight will break out for sure. Most other animals are the same way. They will fight over food. This just proves that when they were people they were too selfish. So, when they become animals they continue to be just as selfish. There’s nothing else they are capable of getting but food, and so they display their selfishness in regard to food. If we people want to learn to be like the worthies and sages, if we hope to be clear-minded people, the first thing we must learn is to not be selfish or seek for self-benefit. Thieves are out to benefit themselves, and in the process end up harming other people.

   We should be free of seeking for things. It’s said that when one reaches the place of not seeking then one’s character is lofty. Don’t seek for anything! Just fulfill your responsibilities as if nothing were going on. If you are also not greedy, then the world will be free of wars. The whole reason there are wars in this world is because people’s greed is too big; they have insatiable greed. When people don’t get what they’re greedy for, they start fighting. So we don’t want to be greedy nor fight with anyone. If you can live like that, you will know genuine bliss. You will gain true and actual understanding. But if you don’t understand this, then you’ll just go along with the crowd, seeking name and profit just like everyone else.  

   In investigating Ch’an, the first requisite is not to fight. Don’t fight to be number one, thinking, “Oh, my skill is ‘out-of-sight!’ I’m the best cultivator in America!” As soon as you have a thought like that, you wipe out any skill you might have had going. That’s because you’re indulging in arrogance and self-satisfaction. Anyone who is that arrogant is in fact a most stupid person. Such an attitude is not permissible within Buddhism. In Buddhism, we learn to yield and not contend.

   Don’t investigate Ch’an only to come up with haughty and overweening pride, thinking yourself pretty special. If you have that kind of thinking you’ll end up special all right—perhaps you’ll end up growing two horns out of your head, because you’ve ended up being a bull. That’s how bulls get to be bulls, you know; they thought they were something special. So be careful, don’t have it end up that you go from being a person to being an animal.  

   Within Buddhism, it is necessary to become a true, good, and beautiful person. To be “true” means not to see other people’s faults. True cultivators always look after themselves in every move they make. Walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, they never stray from the present moment. Don’t be like a mirror which is always reflecting other people, but cannot reflect itself. That’s because its reflections are all of external things. It cannot turn the light around and shine on itself. People who investigate Ch’an must shine the light within. Remember, it’s the third line of the Ch’an verse,  

     Return the light and illumine within,
     contemplate your own being.  

   In investigating Ch’an we turn the light back and illumine within. We do not seek outside. Contemplate your own being. Are you in the ‘here and now’ or not? If you’re here, you’re not false thinking. If you’re not here, it is because you’re having false thinking. False thinking is not a state of comfort and ease. It’s very simple. So, are you really investigating Ch’an here? Investigating Ch’an is just turning the light back to illumine within. If you don’t have false thinking, then you are contemplating with comfort and ease. Whoever is able to return the light and illumine within will be selected as a worthy or a sage. Such a person will enter the flow of sagehood. But it takes real skill, it’s not just something you talk about. If you have real skill you will have some accomplishment. Without real skill, your vain talk is of no use.  

       All living beings have the Buddha
       nature and can become Buddhas.
       But because of false thoughts and
       attachments they can’t certify to it.  

We all have the Buddha-nature and we all can become Buddhas. But we turn our backs on enlightenment and mix with the dust. So we can’t go home. Therefore we drift and flow within the Saha world of birth and death. We get born, we die and are reborn again. Doing good deeds in this life will bring wealth and honor in the next. If we do bad deeds in this life, the next one will find us poor and lowly. Being a person in this world is much like doing business. Those who know how to do business will make money, while others will take a loss.

   What is meant by knowing how to do business? If one knows how to do good, create merit and establish virtue, then one will “make money.” But if one exclusively creates offenses, doing all sorts of evil things, and making all sorts of mistakes, then one will lose one’s capital. This kind of transaction has been going on throughout measureless kalpas. Sometimes we make money, sometimes we lose it. After making a bit of money we feel satisfied and don’t want to work hard. And then we end up losing our money. But once we lose money, if we are very careful about getting our act together again, eventually we will make some more money. Yet when things are good, we don’t want to cultivate. As it’s said,  

     Those with wealth or in positions of honor
     Don’t want to cultivate the Way.  

It’s only when things are bad and difficult that people want to cultivate. When one is affluent, one doesn’t wish to cultivate. So sometimes we lose money and sometimes we make a profit. But all of this is just petty business dealings, and we never confront the big issue of birth and death—how to end the long flow of birth and death, how to calm the torrent of the revolving wheel.  

   Those who come to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to sit in meditation come for just this. To cut off the flow of birth and death, and to stop the cycle of the revolving wheel. You should really recognize that this world isn’t ‘fun and games.’ It’s not a very peaceful place. There’s danger at all times, and particularly now in the Nuclear Age. Once nuclear bombs are set off, the lives and wealth of people will be all gone. Why do such things manifest? It’s just to teach us to see through it and put it down. Then we will be at ease and attain self-mastery.  

   All those who investigate Ch’an wish to see through it. However, the most pathetic and lamentable thing is that people can’t see through it. And because they can’t see through it, they can’t put it down; they still want to run around on the revolving wheel. They’ve forgotten the suffering of birth and death and feel that cultivating the Way doesn’t have much meaning. So those who have left the home life want to return to lay life, and those who are at home are thinking of getting married. Day and night they are having this type of false thinking.

   In investigating Ch’an this is what they are investigating, or else they are just lazy and goofing off, not wanting to apply any effort. However, what they don’t realize is that they aren’t cheating others; they are just cheating themselves. They don’t have any self-respect. They themselves are headed for a fall. This is such a good Way place, yet they don’t want to use effort to cultivate well. There are such favorable circumstances here, and yet they don’t know how to cherish their own divine nature—the self-nature.  

   This Ch’an session has been going on for quite a few days now, and if anyone has had any special states or experiences they can bring them up and give a report to everyone. But be true about it; tell it like it is, and don’t lie.

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