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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over

Volume 2

What is Ch'an Meditation? How Do I Do It?


Of those of you who have come here today, some have already heard the principles of sitting in Ch’an meditation discussed and have practiced meditation, and some of you are just beginners. Therefore, I will begin by explaining the prerequisites for investigating Ch’an for those who have never heard them before.  

       Three Requisites For Sitting in Ch’an  

   PATIENCE: What must you be patient with? You must learn to bear the pain in your back and the pain in your legs. When you first begin to sit in Ch’an meditation, you will experience pain in your back and legs because you are unaccustomed to sitting that way. In the beginning this pain may be hard to bear, so you have to be patient.  

   NO GREED: Those who cultivate the investigation of Ch’an should not hope for enlightenment. If you have the thought of hoping for enlightenment, then even if you were meant to get enlightened, that single thought will cover your enlightenment over and prevent it from happening.  

   Further, you should not, because of greed, seek speed in your practice. It’s not that you can sit today and get enlightened tomorrow. So many of today’s young people are turned upside down, and although they want to investigate Ch’an and study the Buddhadharma, they take speed, and other dope which they say is a means of bringing them enlightenment fast. This is a grave mistake. Not only will such people not get enlightened, the more they study in this way, the more crazy, depraved and insane they become. Their heads become totally unclear because they are poisoned by the dope they take. All this happens because of greed. Those who resort to hard drugs like opium, end up totally wasting their lives. That kind of conduct is deplorable.

   Yet it is sad that some university professors are so lacking in good sense and moral guidelines that they actually encourage young people to take dope, and indulge in wanton emotional love. They profess this to be freedom. They advocate sexual freedom for the young. This is another grave mistake. Such ignorant council is harming young people, and even killing them, and yet they still don’t realize it, and go on thinking, “Oh, this professor is really right.” The young become infected with this “cancer” and cannot see clearly any longer. So they take dope to “get enlightened.”

   If that were really the means of enlightenment, then what about Shakyamuni Buddha? He never took any dope. He stayed in the Ice Mountains for six years cultivating asceticism and then sat beneath the Bodhi tree until one night he saw a star and awakened to the Way. If taking dope is a requisite for enlightenment, then it follows that Shakyamuni Buddha shouldn’t have gotten enlightened. Smart people should take care to distinguish right from wrong, and not just follow along with the crowd. Don’t listen to professors who tell you that you can take dope and become enlightened. This current trend of taking dope is ruining young people, and it is extremely painful to witness.  

   However, those of you who have gathered here today have good roots, and have come to study the genuine principles of cultivation. Therefore, I stress to you: don’t try to get off cheap. Don’t try to do it fast. Don’t think that without putting out any effort you can cash in on welfare. There is nothing of value obtained without doing some work for it.  

   PERSEVERENCE: You must be constant in your practice of Ch’an. This is the third requisite. The best is to sit in full-lotus. This posture is achieved by placing your left ankle on your right thigh, and then lifting your right ankle onto your left thigh. This posture can subdue demons and can quiet the mind. From it wisdom comes forth. It is another fundamental requisite of meditation. It is your foundation in sitting Ch’an. It is called the Lotus Posture and the Vajra Posture. You should train yourself to sit that way. Some of you protest, 

   “My legs are stiff and I can’t sit that way.”  

   Well, then try “half” lotus, which is putting your left ankle on your right thigh.  

   “But I can’t even do that!” some may say.  

   Well, then you’ll just have to sit in a cross-legged position—in whatever way is possible for you. But you should be working to get into half-lotus and eventually into full-lotus. Full-lotus is the foundation of sitting in meditation. When you achieve it, then you can give rise to samadhi and from samadhi comes wisdom. Since it is fundamental, you should work to master it. If you try to build a house on the bare ground, the first big rain that comes along will wash it away. The first big wind that blows up will dismantle it. The same is true for meditationwithout a foundation. Full-lotus is the foundation of Buddhahood. If you want to become a Buddha, first master full-lotus.  

   Once your legs are in full-lotus, you should hold your body erect. Sit up straight and do not lean forward or backward, do not incline to the left or right. Keep your spine absolutely straight. Curl your tongue back against the roof of your mouth. Then if you secrete saliva, you can swallow it into your stomach. Therefore, people who cultivate Ch’an should not smoke cigarettes or dope, because they turn your saliva bitter. By curling the tongue back against the roof of your mouth, you unite the two meridians of ren and du. Originally they are not hooked up, but if you can hook them up, then you can turn the Dharma Wheel. Once you can turn the Dharma Wheel, you can develop samadhi power, and wisdom power.  

   Your eyes are not necessarily open, and not necessarily closed. If you leave your eyes wide open while meditating, it is very easy to have false thinking about what you see. If you completely close your eyes while sitting, it is very easy to fall asleep. So keeping your eyes half open, and half closed is a good way to counteract both problems. That way you will be inclined to have less false thinking, and will not be as likely to fall asleep.  

   As to your mind—don’t think of anything. Don’t have any false thoughts. Don’t think about what state you are experiencing or hope to experience, and don’t think about how you want to get enlightened. The affairs of this world are not that simple. A thief who steals others’ money ends up with wealth that is not his own. If you work and earn money then the wealth you accumulate is your own. The same principle applies to Ch’an. Don’t be greedy for speed, hoping to become enlightened fast. Don’t be greedy to get a bargain. If in your cultivation you are greedy for small benefits, then you will never get the big ones.  

   As to experiencing states—at the level you are, any “state” you experience is simply a result of your false thinking. So don’t get turned by them, and think something special is happening to you.  

   Ch’an is called a Dharma-door that leads upwards. But one’s practice must be done with an utterly true mind. There are no easy roads to enlightenment. No tricks will work; no drugs will activate it. You have to actually and truly practice and go through the process until eventually you obtain a response with the Way and gain a little skill. I cannot predict what that skill will be for each of you. I can’t tell you in advance what kinds of states you will experience. I don’t know what you will hear, see, and so forth. When it happens to you, you will know. If you use effort, you will have some accomplishment. If you don’t use effort, you won’t.  

   This month I have given you initial instruction. You can return to your homes and practice sitting. If any special things happen to you during the course of the coming month, you can tell about them next time we have class. Next time I will first ask what states you have experience, and then I will be open to answering your questions. This time, it’s too soon to talk about states, because you have just begun sitting in this class. Anything that happened to you before the beginning of this class is not material for discussion here. When you ask questions, make them brief and to the point. Don’t talk from Pei-ching to Nan-ching, and all the way up Bear’s Ear Mountain to watch them practicing their gung fu as they do Shao lin—in other words, don’t write an essay when you ask a question.  

   Remember that full-lotus posture is the foundation of your sitting. Train yourself in it. Actually I have a lot I could say, but there’s no use in saying too much right at the beginning, just don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke cigarettes, and don’t take dope. Also it would be best not to eat meat. When you eat meat you get really fat and blubbery. You should realize that there’s no market value on human flesh, so why do you want to accumulate so much of it?

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