All Buddha, Bodhisattva, Venerable Master, all Dharma Masters, and all good wise advisors, Amitabha! It is Meilin’s turn to tie Dharma affinity with assembly. If I said something not according to Dharma, please kindly correct me.
This time, after my return back to Taiwan, I still need to online handle some works at DRBU. Fortunately, I did not receive email asking me to teach Chinese online, only received an email asked me when I can come back to teach. So, even I flew back to Taiwan, Dharma Master still could catch me and ask me to share some Dharma Reflections. It lets me see the power of modern technology can reach everywhere, no matter how far it is.
Before I went back to Taiwan, we just finished 3 weeks Chan session，so I decided to share some Dharma reflections from Chan session. Before I lived at CTTB, I came every year to attend different Dharma session; the only session I dared not to try is Chan session. Though, I can sit in full lotus to read sutra, I think it is impossible for me to sit there and do nothing for one week, not to mention 3 weeks. I thought this is definitely not my Dharma door! Like when I was a beginner to study Buddhadharma, every time I saw the sutra with title of “Shastra”, “Precept” or “Consciousness-Only”, I felt my head is twice as big. I only can read sutra with stories. Later on, when I cultivate more vigorously, I feel I need to have some progress, so I take home the “Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharma” to study. At beginning, I enjoy reading the story about Heavenly Relative Bodhisattva and Asanga Bodhisattva; however, when I reached the part of The “Fifty-one Dharmas Belonging to the Mind”, I fell asleep. I thought maybe I am too tired. But, few days later, I picked up the book to read again, before long I fell asleep again. I thought probably it is not time yet and gave up.
But, after I lived at CTTB, the first two classes I took were “Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharma” and Laity Precept class. Laity Precept class is requirement, and the reason I took “Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharma” was its time met my schedule. Our teacher of Laity Precept organized her lecture very well, and the content of lecture is rich and not boring. I enjoy the class very much. Only after I learn Precept, I know how important it is. Since then, I always encourage people to learn Precepts. “Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharma” this class，our teacher lectured very well too, I did not fall asleep. My older brother knew I was studying “Shastra on the Door to Understanding the Hundred Dharma”, he gave me a book about Yogācāra as reference. I took a look at the book title and thought in mind: This probably no story, not interesting! But I still took it, and also actually opened to read as reference.
Similarly, I did not learn how to meditate until I live at CTTB. When my first time attended the three days basic meditation, I worried I could not sit. To my surprise, I did not feel any pain on my legs during the first incense, and time flies as if I was just sitting for a while. It gave me a lot of confidence, and I thought maybe I can try to meditate. I could not wait for the three weeks of Chan session, but I did not realize it is not that easy. I felt pain on my legs, my back, here and there. I switch sitting in full lotus to haft lotus, but only got more pain. It was so painful that I desperate reciting Gwan Shi Yin Bodhisattva’s holy name. Every time I heard the bell rings, I felt a great relief! Sometimes, I had a lot of false thoughts. The more I had false thoughts, time crawled slower, and the more pain I got. After few years of sitting Chan session, I still have pain here and there, but I find out if I endure a little bit more, the bell will ring. And, I also think it is very strange why I feel a lot of pains in the previous minutes, but after the bell rings, the pain disappears immediately. The” pain” really exits or not? So, I try not to pay attention to the pain, and gradually I have more patience, and I get more cooperation from my legs.
The Venerable Master said,” If you put effort into, gradually you will get the result, though it is not obvious”. What Venerable Master said is true! Since except Chan session, I usually do not meditate. Though every year I still have to overcome different problems, I feel I got a little more progress every year and have more patience. Venerable Master also said sitting Chan is to learn patience, to endure pain, to endure hunger, and to endure cold. Mentioned to endure hunger, my approach is to ignore my stomach which keeps complaining to me. I say to my stomach “It is useless that you keep complaining since I have no food for you right now.”Gradually my stomach becomes quiet, and I do not feel hungry. However, there is once I saw foods, pots and pans flying in front of my eyes. And, there is once when I am reciting mantra, but do not know how, become chanting lunch offering. And, another time, I am going to take food, suddenly my face is brushed by something, and I wake up and find out I am in Chan Hall, not in Dining Hall.
Venerable Master said,” no matter under what kind of situation, you need to have patience”. Every year’s Chan session lets me learn more patience. Once, one Dharma Master asked me:”Meilin, do you feel any different from you just came here?”, I said ”of course!”, she said ”Then, what is it?” I could not speak out a word at that moment, but I thought in mind “Ugh, not to be mentioned, of course, I become older! My vision becomes blurred, my hair turns into gray, but fortunately my teeth have not been shaking yet.” After Chan session, I have another answer, and that is I change from a person who did not want to be patient, into a person who learns to be patient. Though, I am still that kind of person who can endure once, twice, but not the third.
The Venerable Master said, “Chan meditation is to constrain your six organs in one place”, and The Venerable Master also said, “Chan is not necessarily just sitting in meditation. One may practice Chan while walking, standing, sitting, and lying down”. This year, I found out if I did not control my six organs well after I leave Chan Hall. For example, I talk too much, or I eat too much for lunch, or I eat what is not good for meditation. When I come back to sit, I could not sit well. So, no matter in Chan Hall or outside the Chan Hall, we need to constrain our six organs. This year, I have some new understanding of this point, but still follow states and could not control myself well. We often can apply Venerable Master talk on the Chan session to our meditation. But, we either do not listen to it, or cannot follow it.
When I first started to read The Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra, I read it as a story, did not pay attention to the deep principle inside. After living at CTTB, only when we listen the commentaries lectured by Venerable Master at Buddha Hall, I carefully read the sutra one more time. After Chan session, I read The Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra again. Venerable Master said in the Chapter 4 [Concentration and Wisdom]: “Concentration comes from holding precepts. With concentration, one can bring forth wisdom. Precepts, concentration, and wisdom are the three studies which have no outflows. If you wish to obtain concentration, you must begin by holding precepts.” The Sixth Patriarch said in the [Concentration and Wisdom]:”Good Knowing Advisors, there are those who teach people to sit looking at the mind and contemplating stillness, without moving or arising. They claim that it has merit. Confused men, not understanding, easily become attached and go insane.” It means if you want to learn meditation, you need to contemplate your mind, and try not to move or get up. But, if you can do so, and you think you have skills. That is insanity.
Then, what is real “non-movement”? In the Chapter 5 [Sitting in Chan], it said:”One who cultivates non-movement does not notice whether other people are right or wrong, good or bad, or whether they have other faults. That is the non-movement of the self-nature. Good Knowing Advisors, although the body of the confused person may not move, as soon as he opens his mouth he speaks of what is right and wrong about others, of their good points and shortcomings, and so he turns his back on the Way.” This means the real non-movement is non-movement of the self-nature. Then, what is non-movement of the self-nature? That means non-attention of right or wrong of other people.
Again, in the Chapter 5 [Sitting in Chan], it said:”What is meant by ‘Chan concentration’? Being separate from external marks is Chan. Not being confused inwardly is ‘concentration’. If you become attached to external marks, your mind will be confused inwardly. If you are separate from external marks, inwardly your mind will be unconfused. The original nature is naturally pure, in a natural state of concentration. Confusion arises merely because states are seen and attended to. If the mind remains unconfused when any state is encountered, that is true concentration.” I will use two examples to explain the above. For example, during Chan session, you just sit well and feel comfortable. Suddenly, someone knock on the door, keep knocking and knocking. If you can ignore it and keep sitting, then you have Samadhi. But, if your affliction arises, and you think it is really annoying, then you lose your Samadhi. Another example, before lunch you plan not to eat much today. When you arrive at dining hall and want to take food, but find out how come there are many foods you like. You struggle one second, and two second. At the third second, you decide to eat first. Then, game is over. You need to practice from the beginning. I suddenly understand, in the past three weeks, though I sit and sit, I still often being a confused person.
This Chan session, though I did not sit every incense, it was my first time sitting three weeks. In the past years, I was only able to sit two weeks, either due to the school begins or I went back to Taiwan. Even so, I change from a person who dared not to sit Chan session to a person who loves to sit. I wish one day I will go to a mountain where there is no email, no computer, only the mountains and water, and I will meditate there for few days.
Venerable Master talk on the Chan session said,” when the Chan session is over and everybody go homes, you shall find time to keep meditation”. After I went back to Taiwan, I tried meditation, but found out I cannot concentrate as well as at Chan Hall, so Way-place is the best place for cultivation. In the Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra, Chapter 4 is [Concentration and Wisdom], Chapter 5 is [Sitting in Chan], and Chapter 6 is [Repentance and Reform]. So, during Chinese New Year, I bowed few days of Emperor Liang Repentance. Before, I could not leave my mother at home to bow Emperor Liang Repentance. Now, my mother has been to a better place, and I no longer need to worry about her. So I have opportunity to bow Emperor Liang Repentance to fulfill my own wish. Don’t know why, suddenly I think of an ancient time high monk – Monk Zi Cheng, who carrying his mother and left home. He is often carrying a pole; one side of the pole is carrying sutras, and on the other side carrying his mother. I am not only moved by his filial piety but also admire he can cultivate and take care of his mother at the same time.
Today, I share some personal experiences with everybody. I am not afraid you will laugh at me. I only hope that my experiences will give the beginner some encouragement. Amitabha!