To practice is to start from our perception. Perception is the most important concept. Perception is a certain way of seeing things, a way of thinking, and it is also the basis for behavior. Where someone will go, what he will do, situations and people he will bump into, the occurrence of phenomena, all happen one step at a time. What genuinely supports the development of phenomena is our perception. This physical body is being moved, our environment is being created, and results are being created. Why do you create this result and this kind of phenomena? Basically, it is due to our perception.
One person’s views, ideas, knowing or not knowing, all come from the mind. We as people tend to think we are able to see clearly. However, this is only the part we know. Other than the part we know, there are a lot of thoughts we have that we don’t know about, unconsciously within our mind. The thinking patterns within our mind, we call this our perception.
Perception is not on the surface level. It is not I think this or I see that. This kind of perception is considered surface level. Perception is not limited to a certain viewpoint. Right or wrong depends on different viewpoints. For example, is a democratic system better or an older monarchy system better? Some people think a monarchy system is better; some people think a democratic system is better. Everyone has different concepts and ideas. This is a more surface level of ideas, but to understand on a deeper level, you must ask “why do I have this kind of idea?”
Your ideas are just the surface level thinking patterns within your mind; inside the mind there are much deeper thinking patterns. It is not just as you imagine. When something happens in our society, you may think it is right or wrong, but it is actually not that simple. When you think something is wrong, there is a very deep and thick foundation behind this idea, which is based on your perception. This is your thinking pattern; this is your thinking model.
Some people say, “The mind creates everything.” You want to become rich, but why do you still have no money? This is because you only have one thought, two thoughts, three thoughts, even if you want to be rich, this is just one idea. Due to habitual thinking patterns, there is no way to let your mind implement these thoughts and present rich phenomena. Also this thought “I want to be rich” is not necessarily a foundation that can really let your mind function.
Everyone possesses a mind. Everyone’s mind has the same ability. If we compare the ability of Buddha’s mind and the ability of our mind, the features are all the same. Buddha’s mind functions exactly the same as ours. The only difference is Buddha’s mind is very calm; our mind is filled with habitual thinking patterns and perceptions. So Buddha uses the original function, nature, and characteristics of his own mind; through function without attachments and manifests pure land with corresponding results and phenomena.
Our mind is also capable of everything, but our mind is polluted, our thinking pattern is not clear enough due to attachments. Even though we all have the same mind capacity, everyone has a different type of thinking pattern, which naturally creates different functions and results. Ordinary people function with an extra layer of interference, an extra layer of dust. And so we do not function clearly, and instead we do things in our own individual way due to our habitual thinking patterns. Thus, our mind functions mainly through our attachments and perceptions; in Buddhism this is called “consciousness.” Our mind is not calm, still has attachments, a polluted capacity, separate subject and object, inside and outside. By functioning through this state, our mind can only actually function through our habitual thinking patterns, which we have had for a very long time.
For example, you are sick right now. The state of being sick is just a phenomenon that has been created by habitual thinking patterns within our mind. To create this state of sickness takes a very long time. If we try to generate correct thoughts like “I am healthy,” why aren’t we healthy? It is because this thought does not come directly from our pure mind, our mind that has limitless ability. It is just a thought or idea. You are not able to make this thought a truly ingrained thought, part of your thinking pattern, which can then be used by the mind to manifest accordingly.
To put it more simply, this mind’s ability to create phenomena does not depend on a few thoughts. The infinite energy of the mind is manifested through your habitual thinking patterns. A few thoughts cannot change anything. You are a Water Supply company that needs to send water to different places and so you must have a lot of pipelines. Your current thought is not even the particles for the plastic pipe, how can water possibly be sent outward? It is impossible.
We must understand this principle. If we don’t understand this principle, we don’t realize it is useless to try to will ourselves to be healthy with mere surface level thoughts. Your mind is not able to use these thoughts to manifest anything remotely related to the result you want. This will take some time. So if we refer to our sickness or status, to be a little more practical, we can say phenomena takes a long time to manifest, we’ve already been sick for a long time due to our rigid thinking pattern. Thus, the problem cannot be solved in a short period of time. Certain parts of a problem that has manifested can be solved quickly, but this depends on the individual. Right now, I am telling you generally what happens.
Therefore, everyone’s mind has the same ability, which is the same as Buddha’s or bodhisattvas’. However everyone’s habitual thinking pattern is completely different. These habitual thinking patterns are like water pipelines. Since everyone’s mind is different, we all function in completely different ways.
All your habitual thinking patterns really combine to form your perception. This perception is not some surface thinking of right or wrong. What pushes you to think right or wrong is based on your habitual thinking pattern that makes you function in a certain direction. We must understand, to some extent this is the force of karma. What makes you think a certain way is the force of your karma, because your thinking pattern is a kind of habit. This habit has a force over you that makes you have to think a certain way. Once a habit, it will become natural, and you will naturally think a certain way.
In our mind, we already have many habits that force us to think a certain way, so when something happens, these habits function automatically, all of which is beyond our control. We are still not aware we have such a problem. So first we must understand when our mind creates a thought. This function arises from the mind. Some people think they understand this principle. They know when we generate a thought to smile, our face smiles; when we generate a thought to cry, our face won’t look so good. All functions arise from the mind, this they also understand. But when it comes to personal disputes or car accidents, phenomena outside of our body, they can’t understand why it happens. These things are all still created from the mind.
From an energy standpoint, energy cannot be divided. Your physical body is energy too. So why do you separate your physical body from the rest of phenomena? This is your karmic force. A clear mind has an established function. When you allow your mind to generate thoughts in a certain direction, the phenomena will manifest in a similar manner. Also, you put yourself in this position, so everything we see or hear is the whole manifested by the mind.
Our thoughts and physical body are just a small part of the whole the mind manifests. We alone are able to create our own thoughts and relationships. Thus, you cannot just isolate the physical body as you forget about everything else. The physical body is just a small part of a whole manifested by your mind. It cannot be separated from the whole. And so your thoughts and the inner workings of your mind will attract corresponding karma. We must slowly begin to understand our own thoughts, because every cause and effect corresponds to the thoughts we create.
Most people think anything outside of the physical body has nothing to do with me. Yet everything is manifested from the mind. It seems like they can understand this concept. They understand when a thought is generated, the body will have feelings. However, this is just a small part of the concept; the mind manifests everything. From emptiness, the mind can manifest all phenomena including your thoughts and your physical body. And when your body is manifested that’s where you see phenomena and corresponding results.
Most people only know that our thoughts and physical body are ours, but how does the body manifest in this place? This is still our own doing. This is our mind’s capacity, which is very large. We must slowly begin to realize that our mind can manifest everything. It is hard for most people to understand this concept because we have very strong attachments toward our physical body and strongly believe we are individuals. Thus, in Zen we must first learn to put down “I” and let go of our attachment to our physical body. Then will be able to understand that the mind contains all space and manifest everything.
What we recognize as “I” is always just a small part of a much bigger “I”. We always separate our thoughts and physical body from the rest of the world. This is a big mistake. We must first simply perceive that the mind manifests everything. If we do not understand this concept, then it will be difficult to fix any problems you may have. Our perception is our tool. In life, if we do not have the right view, we do not have the right tools available to end our problems.
Let the mind’s original emptiness manifest, for your mind must be clear and empty. Everybody has this mind that is formless. You must allow this formless mind to manifest, and do not make inside or outside, subject or object. If you can’t do this, then you can’t escape from phenomena. This means you can’t get rid of your attachment to phenomena, and you will be stuck in reincarnation. Only when the mind is clear and empty can there be liberation and nirvana. So nirvana means there must be an escape route from the material world. However, when the mind has attachments there is no escape.
When we have attachments, mind is not empty. Without manifesting the emptiness of mind, we will mistakenly think that we have something, the mind holds onto something, which slowly accumulates and becomes hard to get rid of. If we are unable to manifest a mind that is pure and empty through our Zen practice, then there is no escape route for all of our problems, negative energy and phenomena. This will be a very difficult situation to deal with. If there is no escape, then the negative energy will continuously accumulate and follow us, changing from one moment to the next, from one lifetime to the next. All of this never-ending hardship occurs because we are not able to manifest the pure emptiness of mind.
If your mind is pure emptiness, it is like a black hole; if your mind is holding something, it is like a white hole. When your mind generates a function, everything manifests, and a white hole appears. Yet when something appears it also disappears simultaneously, returning back to emptiness, a black hole. This mind has two sides to it. One side is everything, a white hole; one side is emptiness, a black hole. Pure emptiness is not just the removal or absence of things, for it is also an escape route. The moment the mind returns to a state of emptiness, all phenomena forms and also disappears back to our intrinsic nature, which is emptiness. This simultaneous appearing and disappearing is liberation, and the realm of nirvana.
The secret to life is that our mind is originally pure emptiness. When the mind functions phenomena appear and simultaneously return back to emptiness. To realize this, first we must not differentiate between inside and outside. There is no my body or my thoughts; there is no outside world or environment. If you differentiate this way, phenomena cannot be removed and return to emptiness.
If you want to practice Zen then you must understand this concept. Everybody’s mind is pure emptiness and has the same ability, essence, and intrinsic nature. When the mind manifests phenomena, we should accept the corresponding energy. The mind functions from moment to moment, and is very active; the mind is able to manifest everything, all phenomena. Yet phenomena simultaneously appear and disappear. This is how everybody’s life presents and develops from moment to moment. To perceive life this way is the right view.
Why do we need to attain nirvana? Why do we need to attain true liberation? The reason is simply because your mind is originally pure emptiness. When the whole of phenomena appears it simultaneously disappears. Our thoughts and physical body are just a small part of the whole that the mind manifests; we cannot separate ourselves from the whole for this is dualistic thinking. Our mind uses the same ability to generate thoughts, our physical body, and everything else; this energy cannot be separated.
First, understand that every person’s mind functions the same exact way, and manifests everything the same way. Then from this concept, we can understand how to fix our problems. To get rid of the ego is not just for Zen practitioners but for everyone. We must understand that life is supposed to function this way, and phenomena come and go this way.
However, most people use their mind to create phenomena, and then attach to certain phenomena, like our thoughts and physical body. We think “I” have this body and “I” have these thoughts, and everything else is outside phenomena. If we think this way, we are deluded and trapped by our small “I” with no escape. We don’t realize that our mind creates everything, and that everything we see is part of us. Without the right view, we are unable to return all phenomena to pure emptiness. So in Buddhism, when we say a person is deluded, it means that they think their physical body and thoughts are “I” and they don’t understand their pure mind.
Thus, Zen Masters used to say, “if a person is not enlightened, they are too attached to form.” People are too attached to phenomena so they cannot see the meaning behind the phenomena. So from past to present to future, in this human realm, and in all realms, all functions have rules to follow according to the mind’s intrinsic nature. The function, characteristics, and nature of your mind determine how your mind will operate; the mind cannot go against its function and nature.
So first we must understand the mind is pure emptiness, there is no “I”. The real “I” is this pure mind. This mind is formless, and yet it can manifest all phenomena. Among all the phenomena, your physical body and thoughts are just a very small part of the whole. The pure mind does not separate one or two; the mind is just one. And so wherever we go, everything is a whole. This is the right perception. We must slowly practice with this perception in mind.
If you do not understand this concept, then you do not know why you must attain nirvana or true liberation. To attain nirvana or true liberation means to manifest the pure empty nature of the mind, the selfless nature of the mind, the mind’s intrinsic nature. The pure mind is the creator, the source of everything; all phenomena from the past, present, and future are functions of this mind. When the mind functions differently, the manifestation of phenomena differs as well. If we want to change our situation, we must understand that the mind has this ability, this intrinsic nature, and practice diligently from this direction. Otherwise, we will encounter similar situations over and over, and be stuck in an endless cycle.
A person’s thinking pattern and perceptions are like a fast river that sweeps us away into the unknown. When a person identifies their body and thoughts as their own, it is similar to being swept away by this thinking river within the mind, or swept away by a karmic river. When the mind manifests phenomena through this river, we will only be able to see phenomena that we habitually encounter due to our karma. It is difficult to change when we identify our body and thoughts as our own.
Our habits, perceptions, and streams of consciousness are like a very fast river that sweeps us away. When we think our body is mine, it is like putting a canoe in this river, and trying to row the boat. The person thinks he or she can row very far, and has lots of plans for the future, taking left and right turns. However, no matter how far right or left this canoe gets, it cannot go beyond this river of karma. People make lots of plans, however these plans are all very superficial. It is like an ant standing on a leaf. The ant can move a little, run this way or that way, but the ant doesn’t realize this leaf is floating in water, so no matter how much he is able to move he can never go beyond this river.
Our habitual thinking patterns are just like this swift river. Unless you are able to truly recognize this and really improve and change your ways, otherwise a person thinking he can do something is nothing more than running around on a leaf like an ant. On this leaf you can build a house, do business, work hard, create more karma for yourself, but you still can’t leave this karmic river. In the end it seems you cannot attain anything, only more karma.
This shows our limitations, for we did not take a closer look at this karmic river, and we did not take care of what really matters. Thus, we will encounter many bad situations. The flow of this river is like a focused outflow of energy from the limitless pure mind. This physical body is always just a small part of this output of energy. Where do you think you can go? Do you think the body can separate from the middle of this large output of energy? No, it cannot.
Every single moment phenomena arise from the flow of our thoughts and the strength of our karma. The mind manifests phenomena from this focused outflow of energy. Thus, your thinking pattern determines what kind of person you are, and you can only go in that direction. What kind of person you are determines what kind of situations you will inevitably encounter. We must see from this point of view, not from our body’s point of view, which is only a very small part of the whole.
The important point is the mind is pure emptiness, the mind has unlimited ability and energy. However, we have limits due to our habitual thinking pattern, which sweeps us away in the direction of our karmic river. When this occurs, your body will be so, your thoughts will be so, and environment and the situations you encounter will be so. When the river flows, the canoe will move accordingly, the person on the canoe will also move accordingly. Most people do not understand this concept, and desperately plan for the future. How can you possibly plan? If you don’t even know what will happen in the future, how can you possibly plan ahead? That’s why when people make plans, most are made in vain, because we do not understand what is going on, how life changes and comes into being. So how can they plan? How can they practice?
First we must understand that our ideas and concepts are too small and too limited; there is no way for us to see the whole picture. Thus, we limit ourselves and we remain stuck on a canoe. Many people think that their life is going very well, and they have the freedom to make their own decisions. However, if the unlimited ability of your pure mind functions through your habitual thinking patterns, your attachments, and your karma, you become very small and confined to your physical body and thoughts. How can you plan this way? Where can you possibly go?
Your life has already been predetermined. The things you can plan are very limited, like deciding whether to go left or right paddling a canoe. It is very difficult to change things if you don’t understand what causes all phenomena to be manifested. This karmic river is manifested by the mind, this body is manifested by the mind, this canoe and the person on the canoe are all manifested from the mind. You separate the canoe from the water, so there is no way to change.
When practicing Zen, we must be open-minded and make our mind capacity very big. The more we open up our mind, the more we can see our own problems and get rid of them. If we cannot be open-minded enough then we cannot see what our problems are, and there is no way to solve our problems. To really solve problems, we cannot be the person on the canoe making plans where to go on a swift river. You don’t even know what’s going on while you are in the middle of this swift river, or what direction you will be swept. Thus, our habitual thinking pattern is like this swift river. You don’t know which direction it will take you. And so in Buddhism, the people you will inevitably meet and where you are corresponds to your karma.
For example, you already are a certain kind of person with a certain kind of karma leading to a corresponding result. This result sweeps you away in a certain direction in accordance to the thinking patterns you’ve already established. So which direction you are swept off to is inevitable, unless you can be maintain awareness and change your habitual thinking patterns. Otherwise you think you can do anything but really you are living unconsciously with no awareness of what is going on.
The truth is the things you can do are just the things within the range of your capacity, relatively limited, and you do not know why this is so. Thus, the people we meet or bump into, the food we eat, is all basically determined already, unless you are able to change. This is the general direction our karma pulls us, and this is the way life functions. Understanding this principle, it will be easy to improve, and there will be room to grow and change for the better. Just know that your thoughts and physical body are just a small part of the whole, which cannot be separated from the whole. Wherever the river is, that’s where the canoe will be. The canoe will never be able to leave the river.
Wherever your thoughts are, that’s where the person and phenomena are. The whole of phenomena is like the river, and you are just a small part of this river. When you are sitting in a canoe in the middle of this river, what you can do is very limited. Maybe you can row to the right a little, then row to the left a little, that’s about it. In Buddhism there is a saying “You can take nothing with you, except your karma.” Wherever you may end up, your karma brought you there; there’s nowhere to run. You cannot change much, because you do not know how the mind functions. So open your mind and make your mind capacity bigger. Otherwise this life will be very difficult and busy. Yet we don’t know from where to start fixing things.
The sutra states “the fatigue of life and death, all arises when our greed arises.” The fatigue of life and death all come from our greed. If we are greedy for certain phenomena outside of the canoe, we don’t realize that wherever our thought is, the body is, and the environment is. Most people who practice Zen do not understand such a deep concept. Your perception is not just what you see, what you think or don’t think; these are all still very superficial. What you really have to deal with is the narrow pattern of output, which limits your pure mind; this is your real perception, which is limited because you’ve already developed a habit of seeing things a certain way. So we must slowly fix our perception.
Thus, first we must open our mind. We must know that the way we look, what kind of husband or wife you have, what kind of parents or children you have, what kind of relatives or friends you have, what kind of job you have, all are phenomena that are inevitably part of the flow of the river. If you think about it, from the moment you were born until now, the phenomena of every moment of your life all strung together is like a river, like the mountains and waters you see as you row your canoe. Don’t you think?
Think carefully. The appearance of this river is the appearance of your inner thinking patterns. Your habitual thinking patterns determine what change will happen in this life. Every person possesses a mind that is pure emptiness, which is formless, very calm, and very natural. Yet your habitual thinking patterns make you different from other people. You allow your pure mind to function through a narrow pattern of thinking, and so you are different from others.
You must understand that how you look is very normal, what kind of illness you have is very normal, the people you meet is very normal, these are all natural scenery that you will inevitably see while rowing your canoe on the river. It is inevitable because the canoe and person on it are just a small part of the landscape. Aren’t you this way? What can your really do? What can you really change? To practice Zen, we must understand this principle. Many people are very diligent, and practice very hard. But if you do not change your perception to see from this basic principle, it will be very difficult to improve, and all your life you will only be tied up with lots of suffering. Thus, to fix a problem you first must realize you have no choice but to attain liberation and nirvana. The pure emptiness of the mind that creates everything must emerge. Otherwise it will be very difficult to liberate yourself and be free. So when we practice, our perception is most important.
Everyone possesses a mind; this is a perception. Everyone’s mind has the same function, ability, and nature. Yet everyone narrows and constricts their mind’s ability with their habitual thinking pattern, which makes everyone different. Everyone’s mind of infinite energy functions through narrow thinking patterns to manifest unique phenomena in every single moment. And because of this, everyone has a different appearance, different environment, and sees different phenomena.
If you do not understand this concept, you will keep identifying with your small body and small thoughts. You won’t understand that your family is just a small drop of water beside your canoe. Wherever the canoe is, the water is, the trees are; all the places you pass through are inevitably so. Everything is manifested from the mind. You must clearly understand this concept. You must open your mind and expand your view, and see things clearly from this position. We must slowly put down our narrow thinking, break through our attachments, and make our mind clear like space to reveal the pure emptiness of the mind.
In our practice, we should not look outward and ask for help. Instead we need to truly transform ourselves from within by getting rid of our attachments and habitual thinking patterns. Due to our attachments we continue to make the same mistakes and get into similar predicaments. Thus, the first step in practicing Zen is to have the right perception; this is most important. Without the right view, in life there is no way out, and in practice there is no clear direction.
In the Tang Dynasty, Guling Shenzan Zen Master became a monk with his original teacher. There was a period of time where he left his teacher’s side to visit other masters. When he got back, his teacher asked him what he’d learned. He said he didn’t learn anything, so his master told him to start doing some chores. In fact, Guling Shenzan Zen Master attained enlightenment outside, and he came back to show his gratitude and help his original teacher. One day, after his teacher finished taking a bath, Guling Zen Master was helping rub his teacher’s back, and took this opportunity to say “what a good Buddha Hall, but the Buddha inside is not working,” which means the perception inside, and our awareness is not bright enough. Our body is manifested, but this thing that can manifest phenomena is not bright enough.
Hearing this remark, his teacher looked back and stared at him. Then Guling Zen Master said “even though the Buddha is not working, it still emits light.” When our mind functions in daily life it can be compared to emitting light. Linji Zen Master says: “there is a real person of no position behind our six roots moving and emitting light.” The mind functions through our eyes, nose, ears, body, and various other channels, and all of these channels are formed by our attachments. A real person of no position is functioning through these channels.
Everyone has a mind, but our mind is confused and not working properly. Even though we are confused, our mind can still function every moment, and manifest phenomena, ideas, situations, and relationships; all of this if from the function of a confused Buddha. His teacher felt his disciple was talking very strangely so he didn’t think too much. Actually, Guling Zen Master was trying to help awaken his teacher, so his teacher would be able to understand the truth of Zen. During the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, Zen Buddhism was not widely prevalent. Only after the Tang and Song Dynasty, there were more Zen Masters and people learning Zen, and the practice of Zen was slowly established. Before the Tang Dynasty, there were more Vinaya temples.
One day Guling Zen Master saw that while his teacher was reading a sutra, inside the study room, there was a bee trying to get out by bumping against the paper window when the door was wide open. So Guling Zen Master said: “Won’t go through the empty door, trying to pass through the paper window is too silly. One hundred years drilling paper, when will you ever succeed?”
“Won’t go through the empty door.” This mind is originally pure emptiness, when your mind functions, the body is here, surroundings and the universe are here, and your relationship to your surroundings is here. The pure mind is emptiness so every moment it can give rise to function. You must rest safely within the emptiness of the pure mind and rest your physical body. Putting down your attachments to the physical body doesn’t mean there’s no physical body. Putting down your attachments to phenomena doesn’t mean there are no phenomena. When the mind functions, phenomena are manifested. Liberation means putting down your body, your thoughts, and the concept of “I” in this very moment. By putting down everything, let the pure emptiness of the mind appear. This is a kind of liberation.
“Trying to pass through the paper window is too silly.” The window represents our views, which lead us astray. Every person’s thinking leads him or her astray to alternate paths. It is like we are on a canoe rowing this way or that but still going where the current of the river inevitably takes us. Yet thinking can never solve the problem that is being on this canoe floating on this river. When you are on the canoe and you come up with a solution, this so called solution is what you are bound to think while you are caught up in the flow of your karma. It is very difficult to leave this mode of thinking, and so it is difficult to attain pure emptiness. The window represents our incorrect ideas about what life is, what the universe is, our social values and life values. Recognize that all these views are the window. If people want to fix things they shouldn’t go through the window, but through the door.
Everything is manifested from the mind; this includes all phenomena. The mind is the door through which phenomena is manifested. Thus we need to solve our problems by changing within, from our mind, the source of the problem and the answer to all our problems. This is because the mind functions through your habitual thinking patterns and karma to manifest corresponding phenomena. The problems you have are inevitably due to your rigid thinking patterns and karma. So you must ask yourself why are you on this river? Why are you in this canoe?
While you are in this canoe, you should not feel happy and capable of handling things and planning. No matter how much you plan, you will never be separated from the flow and width of the river, the direction and rate of the river. You do not have the ability to decide anything.
Your life will be this way, unless you have the ability to change the flow of this river, by changing your habitual thinking patterns and karma. What you will encounter is fixed; even if you want to change you cannot do anything about it. You must understand that life is about learning and growing. To be a person is like being in a canoe with your own set of ideas, thinking about living a better life, and rowing the right way. There is no way for you to choose; in fact everything will be very difficult, because your choices are just one window.
“One hundred years drilling paper.” The sutras are words left behind by people from the past. His teacher wanting to gain something from the sutras is just like the bee bumping against the paper window. “When will you ever succeed?” When will you be able to succeed? When will you be able fix the problem? Guling Zen Master’s wise words “Won’t go through the empty door, trying to pass through the paper window is too silly. One hundred years drilling paper, when will you ever succeed” are applicable to the problems we have in life. We need to have the right concept in mind to solve problems. If we use the wrong concepts it is just the same as the bee bumping against the window. This is the case when we have problems we want to fix.
To learn Buddhism doesn’t mean you must evade your problems and put everything down, but instead it means using another kind of concept to fix problems. Using mundane concepts you cannot attain a solution to the problem. You must fix problems by starting from your perception and your concepts, from how life comes about. Buddhism does not tell you to evade the issue by not looking at the problem.
When people have problems, I often say you must meditate more, get rid of your habits, and calm down. You have lots of troubles because you mind is not stable. When you have a lot of worries naturally you will have corresponding troubles, situations, duality, and predicaments. First you must stabilize your mind and meditate; meditation is not an escape.
When our mind is troubled and we try to solve a problem it is like being in a canoe; the water is flowing very fast so how can you solve the problem? There is no way. Meditation fixes the problem on a more fundamental level. Most people think that when there is a problem, sitting down and meditating is too passive. They think by just leaving the problem, will the problem disappear?
And that this is not right. The truth is that you are creating the problem. You cannot use the same mind that created the problem to solve the problem. You must change your approach. Meditation fixes the way we face difficulties by changing our attitude toward the situation. So the problem will not be resolved just by quickly acting to take care of things. Instead we must handle the situation in the correct way, then the problem will be solved.
There is always a reason for the problem coming about; this is the root of the problem. Most people think that meditation and chanting sutras has nothing to do with solving the problem, but that depends on how you do it. If you can calm the mind and dissolve your worries, then this is the right way. If chanting sutras or mantras can’t change your pattern of thinking and attachments, the problem won’t be solved.
If you don’t have the ability to change your habitual thinking patterns you cannot change your karma. Then chanting sutras, meditating, repenting, and making vows all cannot solve your problems. If you can use these methods to transform yourself, then you will have the ability to slowly fix your problems. Your perception is very important. Right now all the thoughts we have in our mind are like the window. If you can really solve problems then you are doing pretty well; this means that your perception is correct. If you can’t solve problems, then maybe you want to make the window into the door. So remember, problems always have a root, and reason for being formed.
After Guling Zen Master spoke, his teacher found it strange so he asked whom his student had encountered. Guling Zen Master said: “Outside I encountered Baizhang Zen Master.” Baizhang Zen Master is a Zen Master of considerable practice and attainment. “Studying with him I attained enlightenment, and now I’ve come back because I want to show my sincere gratitude toward my original teacher.” His teacher was delighted and asked some attendants to prepare a meal, and invited his disciple to ascend the rostrum to give a dharma talk while he himself listened below. After ascending the rostrum, Guling Zen Master said: “Brightness alone, removes root dust. Reveal the ever-present original body, which words cannot express. Mind nature is without stain, originally complete. Leave wandering, and become just like a Buddha.”
This is a kind of perception. “Brightness alone, removes root dust.” Thoughts constantly change, the body is changing, and the entire environment is changing. All of this changes and is being changed. This ability to create thoughts and manifest our environment is formless. It is formless, but it can surpass all phenomena and manifest all phenomena.
“Brightness alone” to put it simply, I am here speaking, everyone is listening. The hearing ability of the mind is originally detached from and completely beyond the sound. When a sound appears and disappears, this ability is still there; the function can transcend the substance of the phenomenon. The mind can manifest everything, but the pure emptiness of the mind is completely beyond the phenomena manifested; they have nothing to do with each other. A mirror can reflect everything. Dirty things will not pollute the mirror, because the nature of the mirror is clean and bright. The mirror will merely reflect dirty things. You cannot say a mirror with a bright nature becomes dirty after reflecting a piece of poop; this cannot be.
The bright nature of the mirror will not become dirty due to reflecting poop. The mirror’s nature the same as the mind’s nature in that it is completely beyond phenomena. “Absolutely removes root dust.” Here “absolutely” means unrelated to phenomena. Even though unrelated, it can manifest all phenomena. It is not phenomena yet it is not separate from phenomena, and it is completely beyond all phenomena. This point you must realize on your own. Every moment this mind can listen and understand just like a mirror can reflect every single moment. The more the mirror reflects, even if it is poop or trash or dirty or ugly things, it will always be able to reflect whatever comes before it; its clear nature is always present.
Phenomena is manifested and will not be retained. The ability to manifest phenomena is completely independent and free. You are the one who generates a thought; when the thought appears it simultaneously disappears. Yet this ability to generate thoughts is always there, completely free from and unaffected by thoughts. It will not be unable to generate good thoughts just because you generated bad thoughts; we just habitually generate bad thoughts. Our mind’s nature is originally pure and calm, which is the way it is supposed to function. This mind is always here at all times shining brightly, able to manifest everything. Yet the mind will not disappear when a thought disappears or when phenomena change. This is a simply way of explaining the mind.
“Reveal the ever-present original body.” The pure empty nature of the mind is constantly stable and calm, constantly calm yet constantly active and able to manifest all phenomena. The phenomena manifested by the mind change, so the mind is constantly active. Even though the mind is constantly active, changing with phenomena and understanding the changes. Yet this ability is constantly stable and calm. Thus, the mind is constantly calm, stable and active. We normally think being active is not calm, but this just happens to be the opposite. The mind has both sides, calm and active, similar to when I say it can be a black hole or white hole. The mind can manifest all forms but will not follow and run away with any particular form. “Ever-present” means our true nature is always there. I is here talking and you all are there listening. The ability to listen is always there; it will not disappear.
“Words cannot express.” The mind is completely beyond phenomena, language, and words. “Mind nature is without stain, originally complete.” The mind’s calm nature has always been pure, just like a mirror’s nature without stains. “Originally complete” means the mind is calm and without self. The mind manifests all the phenomena of the present moment, which includes your own body, thoughts, other corresponding phenomena, and the surrounding environments. “Complete” means not lacking. Your thoughts and body are just a small part of what is manifested by the mind every single moment. If you separate your thoughts and body from this complete whole, then this completeness will be missing a small piece.
“Leave wandering” means do not be deceived by the forms manifested by your own mind. All appearances arise from our own mind, so do not use wandering thoughts to pick and choose different phenomena. “Become just like a Buddha.” If you can put down all attachments, then your calm, pure nature will be able to reveal itself every single moment. This is a kind of perception, which involves understanding the source of life. If you are able to understand life according to this principle and practice diligently, then there will be a way out of your mundane life and negative phenomena.
“Brightness alone, removes root dust. Reveal the ever-present original body, which words cannot express. Mind nature is without stain, originally complete. Leave wandering, and become just like a Buddha.” This verse we must slowly come to realize. I am merely telling everyone that every moment in life our ideas are just like a bee bumping into the window trying to get out. It will be very hard but not the real way out.
Perceptions must slowly be built up. The correct perception is a guide to life, the root to solving all problems, and the answer to all our problems. This is what we must learn, how our mind functions and why it works the way it does. Why do you let your mind manifest your problems? Slowly go back to the root and fix the problem; this is truly fixing things. So concerning what is the mind, what is the ability of the mind, and what is the true face of the mind, Guling Zen Master explained it very clearly through his teacher Baizhang Master’s words. “Brightness alone, removes root dust. Reveal the ever-present original body, which words cannot express. Mind nature is without stain, originally complete. Leave wandering, and become just like a Buddha.” Everyone can start to slowly understand from this phrase, and then you will be able to find a way out.