As individuals we have direct access only to our own mind and body, as our ability to single-handedly change the external world is severely limited. The Vinaya Discipline is designed to change the mind and body – or those things we can more readily change instantaneously. Everything else is mediated through the influence of our well-chosen words and precise actions. With purity of intent – our mind (and behaviour) is free of greed, hatred and delusion. In this way an individual can slowly influence the world - one drip at a time can. This can illicit substantial change given the right circumstance, but it is more likely to see small but profound changes. Influence in the Dharmic sense is ‘local’ on the interpersonal level, although the internet enhances the reach of Dharmic literature in all directions.
Living each day is a blessing brought by nature. Time is far too long for many – and painfully short for others. Injustice permeates reality, this is true, but the Dharma allows a certain and definite virtue to radiate outward into the world and assist all beings without end or discrimination. This is the realised ‘void’ as it permeates out into physical ‘form’ Sometimes, having to ‘live’ is an act of courage for some people, whilst for others life seems far too easy. The Dharma transcends all differences and sets humanity ‘free’ from the limitations of bodily existence. Living within a body as if the boundaries of the body not exist! Allow the awareness of the conscious mind to transcend the body and embrace the entirety of creation! This is the power of the void! This is how we build something that endures – something which is spiritually superior and far outlasts the existence of the human body!
As Spring transitioned into Summer (in 1945) - the Great Maser Huaixi (淮西大师 - Huai Xi Da Shi) wrote an article which made the following observation:
‘One morning, after eating (watery) porridge for breakfast, Master Xu Yun casually commented to a nearby monk: “It is my opinion that the Japanese invaders will definitely fail. I had a dream last night and saw the Japanese kneeling in defeat and asked to surrender to the Chinese government.” Soon after Master Xu Yun made this statement, the Japanese Imperial Army – which had raped and pillaged its way across China since 1931 - announced its unconditional surrender. Acting in accordance with the British, Americans and the Chinese – the Soviet Red Army had entered Northeast China (i.e. the Japanese puppet State of ‘Manchuria’) and like a giant tidal-wave had swept the usually stubborn and fanatical (Japanese) Kwantung Army out of existence! As Master Xu Yun usually took no notice of current (worldly) events, it is interesting that he made this comment. Of course, he was aware of the War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity committed by the Japanese Imperial Army, as he had lived in the Southern areas of China at the time, and had been amongst the ordinary people who had directly experienced this Japanese barbarity. Indeed, the common people often said that wherever Master Xu Yun was sat in meditation – the Japanese bombs would fail to penetrate!
Master Xu Yun was ‘other worldly’ and yet he had to live in this ‘real’ world. He possessed a sharp-mind and despite his compassion, he did not suffer fools lightly. He was a strict task-master who taught his disciples and students through the use of a harsh wisdom and pure discipline. He would ensure that the mind and body would be purified through ‘correct behaviour’ of body, and that greed, hatred and delusion would be uprooted from deep within the mind. Like any good Ch’an master – he could sense arrogance, pride and ignorance, as well as hidden motives and black hearts lurking within potential students. As this corruption is even more prevalent today, not tolerating this ‘klesa’ is a mark of any competent Ch’an teacher.
Chinese Language Reference:
When ‘emptiness’ is genuinely ‘seen’ into (rather than ‘imagined’ as being penetrated), a practitioner of Ch’an cannot help but remain in a permanent state of spiritual rapture. This reality is continuously ‘loving’ and ‘humorous’. It is ‘full’ of humour, but what does this mean? Obviously, the presence of humour does not mean that everything is ‘funny’, as many things that pass in-front of the senses (and across the surface of the mind), are anything but ‘funny’ - and yet humour remains... Humour lightens perception and transforms experience. It defuses conflict and removes anger. Humour has no interest in greed, and does not take ‘differences’ too seriously, whilst acknowledging the validity of how things are distinctive in their own unique ways. Humour is peace, and peace is the way through which ‘emptiness’ is perceived. Surely, the cultivation of humour is preferable to the habitual presence of ‘fear’ and ‘indecision’. Being ‘British’ by accident of birth (or direction of karma), I was always struck by how ‘funny’ the Ch’an and (Japanese) Zen dialogues are! Everything seems to be ‘diverted’ away from the ‘obvious’. Many become frustrated when their habits of thought ‘demand’ that questions and answers should only be a ‘certain’ way - which are constructed in a predictable manner - so that the answers can be ‘guessed’. Is this really spiritual development? I think not. Such an approach is a ‘lazy’ manifestation of the same inner and outer status quo, the very same status quo that we are all attempting to ‘transcend’, or ‘see beyond’.
Of course, things are only ‘funny’ if we ‘sense’ the humour implicit in the situation. When the British academic - John Blofeld - sought out Master Xu Yun in 1930s China, one of the first things Xu Yun pointed-out was that the ‘reality’ he was seeking was not only ‘here and now’, but had been even in the UK! Not only this, but Xu Yun stated (on numerous occasions) that we must transform exactly ‘where we are’ and turn it into a ‘Bodhimandala’ - a sacred or holy place of intensive, spiritual activity. The activity intended is that of intensely ‘looking within’ here and now. A ‘drilling into’ material reality, no less, using the hua tou method. Wherever a Ch’an practitioner places his or her meditation mat, then that is where this great matter will be decided! Yes, we can spend time moving from here to there, and from there to here, but eventually we must all settle-down and face our klesic demons, so to speak. Change for change’s sake only draws-out the process for no reason. When master Xu Yun slept in a cow-shed, what did the cows think? More to the point, what did the monks think? Particularly those who sought-out more comfort and greater status? What about those visiting officials (with their airs and graces) who visited the Temple to meet what they thought was a ‘great’ spiritual being? A dishevelled Xu Yun would emerge from the hay-stack and ask what they wanted... When the tyrant Chiang Kai-Shek visited Xu Yun, Xu Yun did not care who he was. He spent the time telling him off for ‘forcing’ the Chinese people to embrace Western Christianity which he (Xu Yun) thought was not compatible with Chinese culture! Afterwards, Xu Yun would not let the matter pass, and actually ‘wrote’ a letter to Chiang Kai-Shek going over all the same points he had made!
Part of Ch’an humour is a spiritual fearlessness. This obviously manifests in time, but is ‘timeless’ in essence. Ch’an humour is loving and wise. The underlying ‘emptiness’ of material reality is very different to the material reality that manifests within it – and yet there is no conflict or contradiction. Everything we need is ‘here’. It is the ‘method’ for seeing this that is required. When returning from Burma (Myanmar) with a large Buddha statue, the workmen with Xu Yun said that could not proceed as there was a giant boulder blocking the road which they could not collectively move. Xu Yun explained that he was a frail old man, and that they had been paid to carry the Buddha statue for him! As a weak and old man, how was he supposed to get the Buddha statue back to China if they could not perform simple tasks involving youthful strength? After contemplating the situation for a few minutes, Xu Yun picked up the boulder with ease and threw it to the side of the road, clearing a way through! The workmen were astonished, bowed to the ground and picked-up the statue and were on their way! The humour in this situation obviously made the boulder appear very ‘light’ to Master Xu Yu, who used the situation to clear the minds of the workmen.
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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