Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) is the embodied of the Confucian ideal that the manner with which a person organised their inner-being – has a direct co-relation upon how the outer world surrounding that person operates. Why is this correct? It is correct because on the molecular-level, body-cells resonate with a particular frequency. If an individual possesses a mind polluted with greed, hatred and delusion, then his or her body-language will exude these attitudes and his or her behaviour will engineer a physical reality that best represents this inner chaos. In other words, good people will be driven away, and equally bad people will be attracted. Combining these ‘bad’ patterns of behaviour will generate social and cultural structures that emphasis greed, hatred and delusion – and push away or ‘de-emphasis’ any other mode of existence!
This is not to say the mind is literally ‘creating’ physical matter – as the world already pre-exists each individual born into it – but rather a ‘frequency’ of existence is manifested through each mind and body living in the world! An individual’s attitude toward life can influence others into changing their lives for the better. An individual whose inner being is thoroughly corrupt will build a life premised upon this chaos and attract others who feel the same way. On the other hand, if an individual meditates effectively, and disciplines their behaviour, then this sets a very different example – as if the ‘frequency’ of the air molecules surrounding such a being resonate with purity, goodness and inspiration! This reality takes on a ‘foundational’ existence which underlies any other expression of communication.
This is indicative of the ‘type’ of person the individual happens to be, and pre-exists the words they use and the behaviour patterns they exude! A ‘sagely’ person exhibits every character trait and behaviour pattern that guides humanity away from greed, hatred and delusion, and toward the direct perception of the ‘empty mind-ground'. This is an attitude toward existence that is permanent and no longer a matter of choice or forced will-power. A sagely and awe-inspiring deportment becomes as natural as the wind blowing across the face of a mountain! There is no contrivance – only an eternal and resonating ‘presence’ of ‘goodness’ for all to benefit from! Once an individual establishes this reality within and without them – then their words and actions become messengers of this reality that lead all other beings to this ‘frequency’ of being! This is how greed, hatred and delusion are permanently ‘uprooted’ from the mind of humanity and the patterns of behaviour humanity routinely choices to exhibit to the world!
"I think when a person is doing something worthwhile, the pain in the early stage should be a kind of foreshadowing of joy in the later stage." —— Venerable Teacher Chan Yi (禅一)
‘Still’ the Mind – and Transform the Way the World is Perceived.
Nowadays, there is a popular offline saying that you have to learn to talk to your body. The first stage of transforming our meditative state is the most difficult, so let yourself persevere more every day, such is the reality of a step by step accumulation, do you think this is a feasible solution?
Master Chan Yi:
In fact, in the early stages of meditation, there must be certain goals, and even a requirement to temper yourself. For example, in physical education classes – you do pull-ups – but when you are tired, the teacher will tell you, please insist on doing the last two in a much more conscious manner. That kind of painful training is what people are most reluctant to do. I think that when a person is doing something, the pain in the early stage should be a foreshadowing of joy in the later stage.
As we are used to a certain way of living before, now that we are entering a time of dramatic transformation, there is often a feeling of discomfort. This feeling of discomfort is not because the training is suitable, nor is it physical, but rather it exists because the ‘habits’ of the mind are not suitable. I often say that sitting in meditation is actually the simplest way of life. Simply cross your legs and sit there quietly - for 5-10 minutes – what is difficult about that? Within this practice we can develop insight into the patterns of our own mind (as if it is like our ‘shadow’), and when fully understood, we can strive to change this conditioning and transform our lives! Just as the numerous levels of patterning are dissolved, replaced and reconstructed – the mind begins to ‘think’ in a new way and the body relates to the environment so that there is no conflict (or damage done). Although we all enter this task from many different directions, we all begin to end-up in exactly the same location of improved inner health and harmonious outer relationships.
"It turns out that meditation does not rely on others – and you should not be attached to meditation. Indeed, meditation only works when you place the right amount of effort in its practice – nothing more and nothing less. Meditation is only a ‘method’, or a ‘tool’ which humans have developed to achieve certain types of inner and outer transformation. It is not a permanent feature in your lives because once it has achieved its intended function – it will be placed down just like any ‘tool’ you no longer have a use for. When you have located and penetrated the empty essence of your mind – then meditation will have achieved its purpose.” Master Chan Yi (禅一)
Three Layers of Meditation
I once met a senior who had learned meditation from (the enlightened lay-practitioner) Master Nan (Nan Huaijin - 南怀瑾) in Taihu University Hall. He told me that you should relax when you sit in meditation, and when you are all relaxed, let your thoughts naturally ‘flow’; don’t grab them or attempt to artificially control their direction. Simultaneously we remain broadly ‘aware’ of the flow of thoughts. I think this is a good start. After you have such an understanding, you immediately relax regarding the matter of meditation, a relaxation from the inside to the outside. This is how I slowly improved from 5 minutes to at least 45 minutes. So Master Chan Yi, this is my personal experience, and I also want to hear your opinions.
Master Chan Yi:
In fact, if you have the opportunity to come to our Shaolin Temple (on Songshan), you will find that we are holding a very popular and effective programme entitled the "Ch’an Self-Cultivation Camp" (禅修营 - Chan Xiu Ying) of Shaolin Temple. I have been involved in this and also interviewed many students. Prior to attending, life for them in modern China is so good they are safe and worry-free - but they would like somekind of spiritual outlet. Then, suddenly someone suggests the possibility that they should learn to meditate – and so they seek-out the monks at the Shaolin Temple. At the beginning, meditation seems like a fun game – particularly for people whose everyday lives are so materially comfortable – but then something interesting happens. Once the mind is ‘stilled’ and ‘strengthened’ through meditation, the superficial contentedness is ‘pierced’ and an entirely ‘new’ insight into reality manifests! Many people have never experienced the sheer ‘joy’ and ‘bliss’ of ‘sitting still’, or having ‘no purpose’ - and preferring ‘isolation’ over the noisiness of modern living. As the journey begins – and the student spirals upward in attainment – the student understands that meditation can be ‘easy’ and ‘hard’ in equal measure. To gain the ‘pleasure’ we must accept the ‘pain’ without expressing a preference for one over the other,
When we ordinary people learning to meditate, we can regard it as a part of our lives. Just like if you start from tomorrow, you can read a book for ten minutes at the desk before going to bed every night; or read two ancient poems, you don’t need to do too much, you just need to be able to sit down and read it by candlelight (or similar) every day. I don’t want to ask whether I can remember it, or whether I can read it for a longer time, just stick to it. In fact, meditation is also such a requirement: you only need to do it, and after doing it, you will find that you personality, behaviour and understanding has completely transformed beyond what it once was. If we persist, we might even begin to enter the sublime and truly divine states! All this takes is a regular dedication to a method on a daily basis. This is how any skill is mastered in this world.
By Daniel Scharpenburg - Lineage Inheritor
I want to share a quote from you. I’m going to share from this text, Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi by Dan Leighton, and it’s a book I really love. Hongzhi was a Ch’an Buddhist teacher in the 1200’s, that’s the main thing you need to know.
He said, “Illumination has no emotional afflictions. With piercing, quietly profound radiance, it eliminates all disgrace. Many lifetimes of misunderstanding come only from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation.”
That last sentence is very wonderful, I think.
I don’t want to get hung up on the fact that he said, “many lifetimes of misunderstanding.” I think we could easily get hung up on that, and just be thinking about reincarnation/rebirth, and I don’t want to get caught up in that.
I want to talk about how our misunderstanding comes from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation.
We misunderstand things because we are in a scenario of isolation. We think of ourselves as limited, and as separate from the people around us. We don’t always realize other people are having the same struggles we do. That’s how we create this scenario of isolation, we think we’re alone in our suffering, and that’s not true. We’re all having suffering, we’re all having problems. We’re all having similar problems, really. That’s the scenario of isolation that we’ve created.
Ram Dass - who is a Hindu spiritual teacher, not a Buddhist spiritual teacher, but he’s someone I like a lot - said, “We are not alone. Not because there are many others, but because there are none.”
I like that. It’s saying that we’re all in this together, we’re all struggling. We all have sickness, old age, and death. That’s a very important thing to remember, and I think we forget that when we get mad at each other. We forget that we’re all suffering, we’re all experiencing sickness, old age, and death. Every human being on this planet, regardless of their views, regardless of whether or not they agree with us on things, regardless of whether or not they do really awful crimes. We’re all struggling with old age, sickness, and death. We’re all seeing people we love get old and sick, and die, and we’re all getting old and getting sick and dying. We’re all in this together.
It’s sort of like we’re in a burning building, and instead of trying to get out, we’re fighting with each other about who’s going to get out first. Life is like a burning building.
That is what the scenario of isolation is and, again, we make that ourselves.
We are filled with distrust because we’ve all been kicked in the heart sometimes. Maybe we’ve all been kicked in the heart a bunch of times, but we’ve definitely all been kicked in the heart a few times. We’ve all been kicked in the heart, and that makes our heart closed, and it’s hard for us to trust others. It’s hard for us to love others. We tend to sort of project that and think, “Well I was kicked in the heart by this person; therefore, I’m going to get kicked in the heart again. Everyone’s going to let me down.”
A lot of the time, that doesn’t serve us. When we bring baggage from our previous experience into our present experience, that often does not serve us. That’s not to say we shouldn’t learn from the past, because we should, but we shouldn’t live in the past. We need to live in the here and now, and to do that is to not revisit bad things that were done to us in the past over and over. We don’t want to live in the past, and we don’t want to keep getting hurt by the same experience in the past over and over, we want to take our experience and we want to learn from it, and we want to move on.
I make that sound really simple and easy, and of course it’s not, but that’s what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about not getting caught up in distrust. We’re talking about having an open heart. We’re talking about practices that help us learn how to open our heart so that we aren’t stuck behind a screen of distrust all the time.
We are confused, and we often don’t see the world as it really is. We see the world through a filter. I like to think of those old-timey 3D glasses when I was a kid that aren’t around anymore, where it’s red on one eye and blue on the other eye. When you put those on and you’re not watching a movie, you just see the world and it looks kind of messed up. I like to think that’s what our perception is like.
Into every experience we are bringing all of our neurosis and all our baggage. We’re bringing that into every experience in our lives, and we’re not seeing the world as it is. We’re seeing the world as we are, or as we expect it to be. That’s what we’re talking about - screens of confusion.
Rarely is the world what we expect it to be. If we can put down our screens of confusion and be in the present moment and just see the world as it is, just for a few minutes, I think it can really transform our lives.
Now I’m going to talk about hindrances. The screens of hindrance that we have. I’m going to talk about that as what we call the poisons - greed, hatred, and delusion. I’m going to zero in on hatred, because I think that is something that we all struggle with. Maybe hatred isn’t the right word, and we could call it ill-will, or we could even call it anger, I think. We think of hatred as something really extreme and that’s not what I’m talking about, I’m talking about when we wish harm on another person, or when we delight at another person experiencing harm. I’m especially talking about when we let our anger get the better of us.
Is anger ever helpful?
I want to first of all say that I think our language around anger is really good. By that I mean, we often say, “I’m angry,” and I think that’s really reflective of what anger is like a lot of the time. “I’m angry” means that anger is taking over my being. I’m not Daniel if I’m angry, I’m angry. I’m not a person if I’m angry, I’m just that feeling of anger. It’s dominating my thinking. It’s making me sweat, it’s maybe making me turn red, it’s making me lash out at things that aren’t related to what I’m angry about. It’s dominating our thinking. We say “I’m angry” because anger has that tendency to just dominate our thinking and shove everything else out.
We could instead use the language, “I’m experiencing the emotion of anger.” If we’ve got a handle on our anger, we’re not angry, it’s not dominating our thinking, we’re just experiencing the emotion of anger.
An example of what I mean. If you’ve had small children you know there are times that, for no reason, they push back. When you tell them to put on their shoes, or put on a jacket, or finish their dinner. Whatever you’re doing, there are times when kids push back for no reason. And that is irritating. There are times when children push back, and I become angry. There are times when I don’t become angry, but I experience the emotion of anger. When I become angry, I’m going to yell at them, and the secret truth is that yelling at them doesn’t really accomplish very much. Maybe some kids respond really well to being yelled at, but the kids in my house do not. They push back harder, and it escalates.
That is unskilful anger. It is unskilful anger if it escalates. It is unskilful anger if I yell at someone and they yell back, or I yell at a child who’s not listening and they don’t listen even harder. That doesn’t help anybody. That is a situation where becoming angry is not useful. I don’t always remember that, but I try to always remember that.
I think we could have all sorts of experiences like that in our lives, outside of children. Of course we could have difficult co-workers, or of course sometimes we get angry at our significant others. That’s natural. If you’re around someone all the time, or you’re very close to someone, you’re going to get angry at them sometimes.
The question that I want to ask, and I’m wondering if we can answer is: Does it help? Does it help us?
I know I’ve heard people saying, “I had a right to be angry in this situation. This person was really awful to me and I have a right to be angry.”
I don’t want to think in those terms. I don’t think it’s about having the right to be angry. Why is it about rights? It’s only about, “Is my response to this situation helping me?” Getting angry - and I want to advocate trying to experience the emotion of anger rather than getting angry - but in both cases I think we can really ask ourselves, “Is this response to the situation helpful to me?”
Because it is a response. Getting angry or feeling the emotion of anger, feeling any emotion is a response to a situation. It’s not about, “I have the right to get angry,” because I think emotions by their nature, we always have a right to have a feeling. I don’t think of feelings as justified or not justified. I think that’s a silly way to look at emotions, because it doesn’t matter. Feelings are not right or wrong, they just are. Feelings just are. When they arise, we can try to manage them and try to kind of have a moment to pause and say, “Is this feeling helpful to me?” Or, “Is lashing out helpful to me? Or should I hold back?”
Rarely does lashing out in anger help anyone. It almost always ruins whatever situation you’re in. It almost always escalates and makes things worse, and makes you less happy. I don’t want to make a huge blanket statement and say anger has never helped anyone; it would be unfair to say that. I do want to say that it very rarely helps anyone. It almost always hurts.
I think maybe when we think we’re really one hundred percent right in a situation, then maybe lashing out gives us a feeling of pleasure at the time. I think that’s a thing that happens, but that kind of pleasure is fleeting. Ultimately it may give us a sense of pleasure but that doesn’t mean it’s helping the situation. That doesn’t mean it’s helping anyone.
I think we need to be very careful, and I think that’s why in Buddhism, anger is listed as one of the three poisons. It can really ruin things for you. You can lash out for one second in anger and it can ruin things for a long time. It can ruin a friendship, it can ruin a conversation, it can ruin a relationship. Anger can do all those things, and that’s why it’s listed as a poison. It’s not listed as a poison because it’s always bad, it’s listed as a poison because when it is bad, it’s really problematic. It really hurts a lot.
The truth is that extremes of all kinds hinder our ability to see the world clearly. You see what I did there? I didn’t say they prevent us from seeing the world clearly, and I didn’t say they make it impossible to see the world clearly. I am saying they hinder our ability to see the world clearly, and we need to have that in mind.
I think if you drink three beers in a row, it hinders your ability to see the world clearly. It doesn’t completely destroy your ability to see the world clearly, but it hinders it. Probably a lot of things we put into our body do, right? If I drink a bunch of coffee in a row, it also hinders my ability to see the world clearly.
I think we need to think about that. So that we know, and we can reflect and say, “Am I seeing the world clearly?”
I will not say it’s not okay to be angry, but I will say that we need to have a lot of care. A lot of self-care around anger. If we start to tell ourselves that it’s okay to be angry, we could run into trouble. And again, it's not about good or bad, we have the experience of anger because we’re experiencing anger.
We have the power to learn how to have a space in between what’s called stimulus and response. The stimulus is somebody doing something that upsets us a lot, and the response is how we handle that. If somebody says or does something that makes us angry, we can have that space where we think, “Am I going to escalate if I do something? Should I do nothing? Is doing nothing worse than doing something?”
We can have that space to think about that, and try to be clear headed. Although it’s hard, we can try to be clear headed.
It’s also suggested that anger is addictive, that it’s chemically addictive in our brains. That is kind of a scary thing to think about, right? It’s addictive because when we’re angry, we really think we’re right. We love to think we’re right. That gives us feelings that kind of bring a sort of pleasure into our minds. I think, “Because I’m angry, I must be right.” That’s kind of what we convince ourselves sometimes. Being right feels really good, therefore it’s addictive. And that is really dangerous.
I think the more we give in to anger, the more we are likely to give in to anger in the future. There are these pathways in our brain, and we strengthen these pathways when we indulge them. The more we give in to anger, the more likely we are to give in to anger. The more we create space and try to strengthen our ability to see the world clearly, and the more we engage being in the present moment, the more likely we are to do those things, too. That is how the brain works. We want to strengthen those pathways that are helpful to us, and we want to not strengthen the ones that get in our way.
Anger gets in our way. Not always, but often.
Adrian Chan-Wyles (釋大道 - Shi Da Dao) is permitted to retain his Buddhist Monastic Dharma-Name within Lay-society by decree of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chinese Buddhist Association (1992). A Buddhist monastic (and devout lay-practitioner) upholds the highest levels of Vinaya Discipline and Bodhisattva Vows. A Genuine Buddhist ‘Venerates’ the ‘Dao’ (道) as he or she penetrates the ‘Empty Mind-Ground' through meditative insight. A genuine Buddhist is humble, wise and peace-loving – and he or she selflessly serves all in existence in the past, present and the future, and residing within the Ten Directions – whilst retaining a vegetarian- vegan diet. Please be kind to animals!
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