4. Discourse of Master Han Shan
Concerning this great matter, the Tao, everyone has possessed it from the beginning. It is always with each of you. The difficulty is that from the very no-beginning-time the Wonderful Illumination has been covered over by seeds of passion, streams of thought, the flow of conceptualization, and deeply rooted habitual thinking. Therefore, we have never been able to grasp the actual realization itself, but instead have wandered among the shadows of delusory thoughts about mind, body, and the world. This is why we have been ever roaming in Sangsara.
Previously, the Buddhas and Patriarchs who incarnated in this world, through the use of thousands of words and various methods, preached either the Doctrine, or Zen.16 All their teachings were nothing but instruments to crush the habitual "clingings" infecting human thought. There is no Dharma in the sense of something real or concrete in that which they have handed down to us. The so-called practice or work is merely a method for purifying the shadows of our habitual thinking and flowing thoughts. To concentrate all one's efforts to this end is called "work." If suddenly the surging thoughts stop, one clearly sees that his self-mind is originally pure, genuine, vast, illuminating, perfect, and devoid of objects. This is called "Wu" (Japanese: Satori). There is nothing outside of the mind, nothing which can be worked upon, and nothing to be enlightened. ... However, the egotistic passions, long-accumulated and rooted within us, are difficult to wipe out.
Fortunately, in this incarnation, through the help and instruction of [right] teachers, the Prajna seed within you has had an opportunity to grow. Thus your religious aspirations and your determination have been awakened. But you must realize that it is not easy to pull out all at once the roots of Sangsara which have been deeply embedded within you from beginningless time. This task is not trivial! Only men of will and might, brave enough to shoulder such a burden and to press straight forward without the slightest hesitation or timidity, will be able to enter into it [the Tao], For the rest of the people the chance is very, very slight. An old proverb says: "This matter is like one man against ten thousand enemies." How true this saying is! Generally speaking, at this time, when Buddhism is in a state of degeneration,17 there are many yogis who practice the Tao, but few of them can come to the actual Realization. Gropers and hard workers are many, but beneficiaries and finders of the Path remain few. Why? This is because most yogis do not know how to work, how to enter into the task at the very outset. What they do is to fill their minds with the words and ideas that they have formed through thinking, or they measure things by means of the discriminating mind, or they suppress the stream of thought, or dazzle themselves with visionary bewilderments. Some of them have stuffed themselves with the mysterious words of the old Masters, and treated these instructions or understandings as their own. They do not know that all these things are useless. This is what is meant by the saying, "To acquire understanding at the hands of others is to close the gate of self-enlightenment." The first step you should take in Zen work is to forget about all understanding and knowledge and concentrate on one thought [Chinese: i nien], Firmly believe that your self-mind is originally pure and clear, without the slightest trace of any existence—bright, perfect, and ubiquitous throughout the entire universe. From the beginning there was no body, mind, or world, nor any erroneous thoughts or infective passions. Right at this instant [the appearance of this] one mind is [in reality] nonexistent. All manifestations before my eyes are also delusions devoid of substance. They are merely shadows within the mind. With this definite understanding, one should work in the following manner: Search out the point where your thoughts arise and disappear. See where a thought arises and where it vanishes. Keep this point in mind and try to break right through it; try to crush it with all your might! If you can crush it to pieces, all will dissolve and vanish away. At this time, however, one must not follow it [the instantaneous experience] nor try to continue it. Master Yung Chia once admonished, "The thought of continuation should be cut short." This is because floating, delusory thoughts are virtually rootless and unreal. Never treat the distracted thought as a concrete thing. When it arises, notice it right away but never try to suppress it. Let it go and watch it as one watches a calabash floating on the surface of a stream.
What you should do is take up this awareness as if holding a sharp sword in your hand. No matter whether Buddha or devils come, just cut them off like a snarl of entangled silk threads. Use all your attention and strength patiently to push your mind to the very dead end [of consciousness]; just push it on and on.
Those who determine to practice the Dharma should believe firmly the teaching of Mind-only. Buddha said, "All the Three Kingdoms 18 are mind, all ten thousand Dharmas are consciousness." All Buddhism is nothing but an exposition of this sentence. Ignorance or Enlightenment, virtue or wickedness, cause or effect, are nothing but one's own mind. Not one iota of anything exists outside of Mind. The Zen yogi should completely cast aside his former knowledge and understandings. Here scholarship or cleverness is useless. Rather, he should look on the whole world as hallucinatory. What he sees are mirages, mirror-images, like the moon reflected in the water. The sounds he hears are hymns of the wind blowing through the trees. He should see all manifestations as clouds floating in the sky—changing and unreal. Not only the outer world, but all habitual thoughts, passions, distractions, and desires within one's own mind are, likewise, insubstantial, non-concrete, rootless, and floating. Whenever any thought arises, you should try to find its source; never let it go easily or be cheated by it. If you can practice like this, you will be doing some solid work.
There are many koans which help you to work in the tumult of worldly activities, like the one, "Who is he who recites the name of Buddha?" Although this koan is most helpful, you must realize that it is merely a stone for knocking upon the door; when the door is opened the stone is thrown away. To work on the koan you must have firmness, unshakable determination, and solid perseverance. You should not have the least hesitation or irresolution, nor should you practice one koan today and another one tomorrow. You should not entertain any doubts about attaining Enlightenment, nor about the koan being too deep or mysterious, and so on. All such thoughts are hindrances. I point them out to you now, so that you will notice them later when they come up. When your work is being done well, things in the outer world will not bother you very much. But the trouble is that mental disturbances will arise feverishly in your mind without any obvious reason. Sometimes desires and lust well up; sometimes an indescribable restlessness bursts forth. Numerous other hindrances will also appear. All these difficulties will tire you mentally and physically, so that you will not know what to do. You must then realize that all these harassing experiences are produced by your meditation effort, which has stimulated into activity the seeds of habit deeply hidden in your Store [Alaya] Consciousness from the very no-beginning-time. At this crucial stage, you must recognize them thoroughly and break through them. Never take them as real; never subject yourself to their control and deceptions. What you should do is to refresh your mind. Alert yourself, and with a high spirit look right at the arising point of the distracting thought Look into it to its very bottom; push your mind on and on to the [impenetrable state]! Say to yourself, "There is no such thing in me; where do you come from? I must see your naked body!" In this manner, exert your mind to the very, very end, wipe out all traces of [thoughts], kill them and make all the deities and ghosts cry out If you work like this, the good news will soon come to you. If you can break one thought into pieces, all thoughts will instantaneously be stripped off. This will be like the emergence of a clear limpid pond when the mists have vanished. After this stage, you will feel comfortable and infinitely light, filled with boundless joy. But this is just the beginning of knowing how to work; there is nothing wonderful about it. Never rejoice and wallow in this ravishing experience; if you do, the devil of joy will possess you.
Those whose hindrances are too great, whose seeds of passion are too strong, and whose habitual thoughts are too inveterately rooted in their Store Consciousness, not knowing how to observe their minds or how to work on the koans, should practice the prostrations before Buddha, recite the holy sutras, and confess their wrongdoings. These persons should also invoke the mantrams [holy incantations]. For through the inscrutable symbols of the Buddhas one's hindrances can all be overcome. This is because all the holy mantrams are Vajra heart-symbols of the Buddhas. Holding them in our hands as thunderbolts, we can crush all obstacles. The essence of the esoteric instruction of the Buddhas and Patriarchs in the past was comprised in the mantrams. The difference here is that the Buddha tells us plainly, while the Zen Masters keep the matter secret and do not talk about it. This is only because the Zen Masters are afraid of people becoming attached to, or misunderstanding, this practice, and not bccause they do not use it themselves. However, to practice the mantrams, one must do so regularly. After a long time one will find them a great help; but one should never hope for or expect a miraculous response from the Buddhas.
It is important for one to know that there are two kinds of [Zen] yogis: those who attain "Wu" [Satori] first and then practice, and those who practice first and then attain "Wu." There are also two kinds of "Wu": the "understanding-Wu" [Chinese: chieh wu] and the "realization-Wu" [Chinese: cheng wu].k The "understanding-Wu" means coming to know the mind through the teachings and words of the Buddhas and Patriarchs, but here most people fall into conceptualization and intellection, and cannot feel free when they encounter the activities and conflicts of life. Their minds and outer objects [Chinese: chin] are discrete from each other—not interfused or merged; thus they face obstacles all the time. This is called the "resembling-Wu," not the real "Wu." The "realization-Wu" results from solid and steadfast work on the problem [koan]. Those who drive their minds to the very dead end will find that their thoughts suddenly stop. Instantaneously they behold their self-mind, as if a vagabond son had met his own loving mother at the crossroads of the bazaar. Like one drinking water, the yogi knows whether it is cold or warm, and there is no room for doubt; nor is he able to express this feeling to anyone else. This is the real "Wu." Possessing this "Wu" experience, one merges his mind with all conditions of life, cleansing all the present karmas and streams of passion and desire. Even doubts and vagaries are fused into the one real Mind. This "realization-Wu," however, has different degrees of profundity. If one is able to work on the basic principle and breaks right through the nest of the Eight Consciousnesses, to turn over the cave of blindness and with one great leap to pass right through, then there is nothing more for him to attain. He is indeed deserving of consideration as a highly endowed person. His realization is the deepest. Many of those who practice through gradual steps gain only shallow realizations. The worst thing is to be content with a small and shallow attainment. Never allow yourself to fall into the hallucinations of fantasy. Why? Because if the Eight Consciousnesses are not broken through, whatever wonderful things one sees or one does are merely works of the [Sangsaric] consciousness and senses [Chinese: shih, sheng]. If one treats all these phenomena as real, it is comparable to accepting a thief as one's son. In the past, the elders said clearly:
"Those ignorant yogis who know not the Truth cling to the imagined 'absolute spirit,' which is in fact the basic cause compelling them to wander in Sangsara from the very no-beginning-time. Only fools call this '[clinging-bound] absolute spirit' the 'Primordial Being'!" l That is the most important gate one must break through.
The so-called abrupt enlightenment and gradual practice m refers to the person who has already attained the "Wu" in a thorough-going manner, but who still cannot cleanse all at once the habitual thoughts within him. He should then work on identifying his "Wu" realization with all that is encountered in his daily activity, and should put his understanding into actual use by merging it with objective events. As one portion of objective manifestation is merged with the "Wu" realization, one portion of the Dharmakaya will be unfolded; and as one portion of delusory thought is dissolved, one portion of the Wisdom (Prajna) will come to light.
The crucial point of this practice is continuity and consistency.