The Essentials of Ch'an Practiceby Master Xuyun translation by Ven. Guo-gu Bhikshu
The Prerequisites and Understanding Necessary to Begin Ch'an Practice
1. The Objective of Ch'an Practice:
The objective of Ch'an practice is to illuminate the mind by eradicating its impurities and seeing into one's true self-nature. The mind's impurities are wrong thoughts and attachments. Self-nature is the wisdom and virtue of the Tathagata. The wisdom and virtue of Buddhas and sentient beings are not different from one another. To experience this wisdom and virtue, leave, leave behind duality, discrimination, wrong thinking and attachment. This is Buddhahood. If one cannot do this, then one remains an ordinary sentient being.
It is because you and I are defiled that we have been wandering lost and confused through samsara for limitless kalpas; and that we cannot immediately cast off wrong thinking and see our original nature. For this reason we must practice Ch'an.
The prerequisite for Ch'an practice is to eradicate wrong thinking. Shakyamuni Buddha taught much on this subject. His simplest and most direct teaching is the word "stop" from the expression "stopping is Bodhi." From the time when Bodhidharma transmitted Ch'an teachings to today, the winds of Ch'an have blown far and wide, shaking and illuminating the world. Among the many things that Bodhidharma and the Sixth Patriarch taught to those who came to study with them, none is more valuable than the saying, "Put-down all entangling conditions, let not one thought arise."
This expression is truly the prerequisite for the practice of Ch'an. If you cannot fulfill this requirement, then not only will you fail to attain the ultimate goal of Ch'an practice, but you will not even be able to enter the door of Ch'an. How can you talk of practicing Ch'an if you are entangled by worldly phenomena with thought after thought arising and passing away?
"Put down all entangling conditions, let not one thought arise" is a prerequisite for the practice of Ch'an. Now that we know this, how do we accomplish it? The best practitioner, one of superior abilities, can stop all thoughts forever, arrive directly at the condition of non-arising, and instantly experience Bodhi. such a person is not entangled by anything.
The next best kind of practitioner users principle to cut off phenomena and realizes that self-nature is originally pure. Vexation and bodhi , Samsara and Nirvana -- all are false names which have nothing to do with one's self-nature. All things are dreams and illusions, like bubbles or reflections.
Within self-nature, my body, made up of the four great earth itself are like bubbles in the sea, arising and disappearing, yet never obstructing the original surface. Do not bed captivated by the arising, abiding, changing and passing away of illusory phenomena, which give rise to pleasure and aversion, grasping and rejecting. Give up your whole body, as if you were dead, and the six sense organs, the six sense objecting. and the six sense organs, the six sense objects and the six sense consciousness will naturally disperse. Greed, hatred, ignorance and love will be destroyed. All the sensations of pain, suffering and pleasure which attend the body ---hunger, cold, satiation, warmth, glory, insult, birth and death, calamity, prosperity, good and bad luck, praise, blame, gain and loss, safety and danger--- will no longer be your concern. Only this can be considered true renunciation --- when you put everything down forever. This is what is meant by renouncing all phenomena.
When all phenomena are renounced , wrong thoughts disappear, discrimination does not arise, and attachment is left behind. When thoughts no longer arise, the brightness of self-nature manifests itself completely. At this time you will have fulfilled the necessary conditions for Ch'an practice. Then, further hard work and sincere practice will enable you to illuminate the mind and see into your true nature.
Many Ch'an practitioners ask questions about the Dharma. The Dharma that is spoken is not the true Dharma. As soon as you try to explain things, the true meaning is lost. When you realize that "one mind" is the Buddha, from that point on there is nothing more to do. Everything is already complete. All talk about practice or attainment is demonic deception.
Bodhidharma's "direct pointing at the mind, seeing into one's nature and attaining Buddhahood" clearly instructs that all sentient beings are Buddhas. Once pure self-nature is recognized, one can harmonize with the environment yet remain undefiled. The mind will remain unified throughout the day, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down. This is to already be a Buddha. At this point there is no need to put forth effort and be diligent. Any action is superfluous. No need to bother with the slightest thought or word. Therefore, to become a Buddha is the easiest, most unobstructed task. Do it by your-self. do not seek outside yourself for it.
All sentient beings --- who wish to avoid rebirth for eternal kalpas in the four forms of birth and the six paths of existence; who eternally sink in the sea of suffering; and who vow to attain Buddhahood and the four virtues of Nirvana (eternity, joy, self, purity) ----- can immediately attain Buddhahood if they wholly believe in the sincere words of the Buddha and the patriarchs, renounce everything, and think neither of beings, made by all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and patriarchs, is not a boast nor is it a baseless, empty vow.
The Dharma is exactly that. It has been elucidated again and again by the Buddha and the patriarchs. They have exhorted us with the truth. They do not deceive us. Unfortunately, sentient beings are confused and for limitless kalpas they have experienced birth and death in the sea of suffering, appearing and disappearing, endlessly taking on new forms of life. dazed and confused, entangled in the worldly dust of the six senses with their backs to enlightenment, they are like pure gold in a cesspool. Because of the severity of the problem, Buddha compassionately taught 84,000 Dharma doors to accord with the varying karmic roots of sentient beings, so that sentient beings may use the methods to cure them-selves of 84,000 habits and faults, which include greed, hatred, ignorance and desire.