What people value is life; what life values is the Way. When people have the Way, it is like fish having water. A fish in a dry rut will still seek a bucketful of water, but weak and dying worldlings do not even have the sense to take to the Way.
How contradictory it is to dislike the pains of life and death yet like the works of life and death, and to respect the names of the Way and virtue but disrespect the practice of the Way and virtue!
When at an impasse, you think of getting through; when lost, you think of getting back. Every moment of time is precious as a gem; shame and awe deepen each other. Thus I have gratefully pursued the doctrines of the classics and have outlined seven subjects corresponding to the teaching of mind, to serve as a pivotal aid to the process of cultivating the Way.
Faith is the root of the Way, seriousness is the stem of virtue. When the root is deep, the Way can develop; when the stem is firm, virtue can flourish.
A man who presented a gem to a king got his feet cut off in punishment because the king could not recognize the value of the jewel in the matrix; a man who spoke out to save a nation was executed for it.
The implication is that when matter and means attract attention, the mind gets confused; when principles and phenomena appear, thinking gets dizzy.
Now seeing as how the ultimate Way transcends form and flavor, and true essence is apart from objects of desire, how then could one hear of the rarefied and subtle and believe in it, or hear of the imageless and not be confused?
When people hear tell of sitting forgetting, if they believe this is essential to practicing the Way, respect it and have no doubt, and also put it into practice, they are sure to attain the Way.
Therefore Chuang-tzu said, “Mortifying the body, dismissing intelligence, detaching from form, departing from knowledge, assimilating to the great pervasion—this is called sitting forgetting.”
When sitting forgetting, what is not forgotten? Inwardly you do not notice your own body; outwardly you are not aware of the universe. As you mystically unite with the Way, myriad cogitations all disappear.
When Chuang-tzu speaks of “the great pervasion,” the words are shallow but the meaning is deep. Confused people hear them without believing—they have a treasure in their hearts, yet they look for jewels. What can be done for them?
Scripture says, “When faith is insufficient, there is disbelief.” This means that when faith in the Way is insufficient, then one is touched by the calamity of disbelief. How can one then hope for the Way?
Severing entanglements means detachment from entanglements in contrived mundane concerns. Relinquish concerns and your body will not be under a strain; contrive nothing and your mind will naturally be calm.
As serenity and simplicity develop day by day, worldly defilement lessens day by day.
As your behavior departs further and further from the mundane, your mind becomes closer and closer to the Way.
Which of the sages and saints did not get there by this route? The classic says, “Close your eyes, shut your doors, and you do not toil all your life.”
There are those who make a show of virtue and ability, seeking people to patronize them.
There are those who busily travel about making visits, attending celebrations and funerals.
There are those who pretend to be hermits while wishing in their hearts for promotion and advancement.
There are those who invite people for drinks and meals, hoping for future favors.
Those who behave in these ways are all cleverly concealing mental machinations for purposes of profit.
Since it is not in accord with the Way, and it profoundly impedes proper practice, behavior like this should be stopped. The classic says, “Open your eyes, carry out your affairs, and you will not be saved all your life.”
As long as we do not initiate anything, others will naturally not get involved; even if others initiate something, we do not get involved.
As past entanglements gradually stop, do not form new involvements. Ritual socializing and opportunistic intercourse naturally become remote, and you become unburdened and at peace.
Only then can you practice the Way.
Chuang-tzu said, “Neither inviting nor expecting, have no feelings about contrived mixing with the mundane.”
He also said, “Do not be full of schemes, do not be burdened by concerns, do not be ruled by offices.”
If something cannot be neglected, then do it as unavoidable. Do not become enamored of it and fixate the mind on it so it becomes habitual.
The mind is the master of the whole body, the captain of the entire nervous system. When it is calm, it produces insight; when it is agitated, it becomes dim.
When gleefully wandering in states of illusion, who would say truth is right? When complacently taking it easy in artificiality, who would say vanity is wrong?
Confusion and ignorance of the mind come from the ground the mind rests on. Even when you pick a place to live, the intent is to improve your behavior by adapting to the surroundings. When you are selective in your choice of friends, that is because you value the potential for positive benefit. How much the more when you detach from the realm of birth and death to abide in the ultimate Way— how can you not relinquish the former to attain the latter?
Therefore, when you begin to study the Way, it is necessary to sit calmly, collect the mind, detach from objects, and dwell in nothingness. By dwelling in nothingness you are not obsessed with anything at all; thus you spontaneously enter a nonresistant state of mind and so merge with the Way.
A scripture says, “In the supreme Way is silent nothingness, with incomparable spiritual functions. The substance of mind is also thus.”
The root of the substance of mind is the Way itself; but because the mental spirit is subject to influences, its obscurity gradually deepens. After flowing in waves for a long time, eventually the mind becomes separated from the Way.
When you clear away the defilement of mind and open up the conscious spirit, that is called cultivating the Way.
When you no longer flow in waves, and you merge with the Way and rest in the Way, this is called returning to the root.
Keeping to the root is called calm stabilization. After a long time of calm stabilization, illnesses dissolve and life is restored. It is restored and continued, and you spontaneously attain knowledge of the eternal. By virtue of knowledge, there is no unclarity; in the eternal there is no change and no extinction. Getting out of birth and death actually comes from this. Therefore to settle the mind in the Way of truth it is important not to be fixated on anything.
Scripture says, “Things flourish, then each returns to its root. Returning to the root is called calm. Calmness is called restoring life. Restoring life is called constancy; knowing the constant is called clarity.” If you grasp the mind and station it on emptiness, that is called having an object; it is not called having no object. Whenever you dwell on an object, that causes the mind to labor; not only is it unreasonable, it even causes sickness.
As long as the mind does not stick to things, and you can remain unmoved, this is the correct foundation for genuine stabilization. If you stabilize the mind by this means, your mood will become harmonious; the longer you do so, the lighter and fresher you feel. If you use this as a test, error and truth become evident.
If you extinguish the mind whenever it is aroused, without distinguishing right from wrong, then you will permanently cancel awareness and enter into blind trance. If you just let your mind be aroused without collecting or controlling it at all, then you are after all no different from an ordinary mortal.
As for those who simply stop the mind, good or bad, without any direction, letting their ideas float and wander while waiting for them to settle of themselves, they are vainly misleading themselves.
As for those who carry on all manner of affairs while claiming their minds are unaffected, they talk very well but their behavior is quite wrong. Genuine students should be particularly wary of this.
Now then, stop confusion without extinguishing awareness; keep calm without clinging to emptiness. Practice this regularly and you will naturally attain true vision. If there are current matters or essentials of the teaching about which you have doubts, then you may think about them to get the matter settled, so that you understand what you had wondered about. This too is a proper basis for developing wisdom.
Once you have understood, have no further thoughts. If you keep thinking, you will ruin your serenity by your intelligence—you will “diminish the principal on account of the interest.” Even if you exercise temporary brilliance, you will fail to achieve a lasting accomplihment.
In the course of human life it is inevitable to experience things. Things are manifold, not up to one person alone.
A bird that nests on one branch in the forest would be lost in a roosting flock; an animal that fills its belly drinking from a river does not go seeking in the ocean.
Finding it in things outside and understanding it in yourself within, you realize you have your lot in life and you do not strive for what is not in your lot. You take care of things that are appropriate and do not take up things that are not appropriate.
If you take up things that are not appropriate, this damages your intellectual power. If you strive for what is beyond you, this wears out your body. If you are psychologically and physically uneasy, how can you reach the Way?
For this reason, nothing is better for people who cultivate the Way than to resolutely simplify things. Discern whether they are inessential or essential, assess whether they are trivial or serious, distinguish whether to eliminate them or take to them. Whatever is not essential and not serious should be abandoned.
It is like when people consume wine and meat, dress in silk, enjoy fame and prestige, and possess gold and jewels. These are all excess cravings of subjective desire, not good medicines to enhance life. The masses all pursue these things, bringing about their own death or ruination. If we reflect on this quietly, we see how very confused they are.
Chuang-tzu said, “Those who arrive at the truth of life do not strive for anything that has nothing to do with life.” What has nothing to do with life is anything excessive. Simple food and old clothes are enough to take care of essential life; why do you need wine, meat, and silk for your life to be complete?
So whatever is not necessary for life should be eliminated, and so should anything that is excessive beyond the needs of life. Possessions have an injurious energy, which hurts people when it builds up. Even if you have few possessions, you still worry about them; how much the more when you have a lot!
If you tried to shoot a sparrow with a jewel, people would laugh at you; how much the more ridiculous it is to turn your back on the Way and virtue, slight nature and life, and shorten your life span by pursuing inessentials!
If we compare fame and prestige to the Way and virtue, fame and prestige are artificial and base, whereas the Way and virtue are real and noble. If you can tell the noble from the base, you should get rid of the one and take the other, not hurting your body on account of fame, not changing your will on account of prestige. Chuang-tzu said, “One who loses himself by working for fame is no gentleman.”
The Scripture on the Western Ascent says, “Embrace the fundamental, keep to unity.” Spiritual immortalits who go to excess cannot keep to unity; they just sit in offices of glory. If you are not selective, everything you come in contact with will burden your mind and dull your intelligence; your practice of the Way will be defective.
As for those who deal with matters calmly and serenely, who are in the midst of things without being burdened, they are among those who have attained realization. If you say you are unburdened without really having attained it, you are really only fooling yourself.
True seeing is the foresight of the wise, the perspicacity of the able, finding out what calamity or fortune may come, understanding whether action or stillness is auspicious or inauspicious.
When you can see the potential before an event is triggered, and thereby act accordingly, guarding your footsteps with profound care, unobtrusively working to preserve your life, your conduct from start to finish leaving no troubles and not contrary to reason, this is called true seeing.
Eating and sleeping can both be harmful or beneficial; every act and every word can be a source of calamity or fortune. Even if you can manage the branches skillfully, that is not as good as disciplining the root crudely. Seeing the root, manage the branches, but without a sense of competitiveness.
So collect your mind, simplify your affairs, and reduce contrivance day by day. When you embody quietude and your mind is free, only then can you see the subtle. The classic says, “Always be free from desire to see the subtle.”
Nevertheless, the body with which you cultivate the Way needs to be clothed and fed. There are some things you cannot dispense with; accept this with an empty heart, take responsibility for it with clear eyes. Do not say this will impede your mind and create vexation and excitement; those who get vexed and excited over things already have active afflictions of mind—how can that be called pacifying the mind?
Human relations, clothing, and food are our boats; if you want to cross the sea, you use a boat. Once you have crossed the sea, you logically do not stay in the boat. But why would you want to abandon the boat before you have crossed over? The vanities of food and clothing are really not worth working for, but we seek food and clothing in order to get beyond vanity.
Even though you work for your needs, do not give rise to thoughts of gain and loss; then whether or not there is something to do your mind will always be at peace. You seek like others but not greedily as others do; you gain like others but do not accumulate as others do. When you are not greedy, you are not anxious; when you do not accumulate stores, you do not lose anything. Your outward appearance is like that of others, but your mind is always different from worldlings. This is the essence of true practice; you should make an effort to apply it.
If problems remain intractable even after you have severed entanglements and simplified your affairs, just view them objectively. If you are heavily afflicted by sexuality, then you should view addiction to sex as coming from thoughts; if those thoughts do not occur, then there is no sex. So you should recognize that thoughts of sex are externally empty, while the idea of sex is an inward imagination. The imagining mind is empty, so who is the subject of sexuality?
Scripture says, “Sexual objects are just mental imagery; since mental images are all empty, how can there be sexual objects?”
Also, think of how beautiful women are more dangerous than vixen sprites. Vixen sprites charm men, causing them aversion, so that they will not enter evil ways, even at the threat of death. Because of this aversion, they avoid promiscuity forever. Beautiful women bewitch men so that they become obsessed and grow more and more deeply attached even as it leads to their death. Because of wrong thoughts, on dying they fall into various states and are born in hell. Scripture says, “In this life you willed to become husband and wife, but after death you cannot live together.”
Why is the course of human life like this? Because of false thoughts.
Also consider this: if physical beauty is invariably attractive, why do fish dive and birds fly when they see a human, even a beautiful woman? Wizards look upon physical beauty as muck and mire; the wise liken it to a sword or a hatchet.
If you do not eat for seven days you may die, but if you do not have sexual intercourse for a hundred years you will avoid premature death. Therefore we know that sex is not essential for body or mind but is an enemy to essence and life. Why be obsessed with it, bringing destruction on yourself?
When people see others doing wrong and conceive aversion and disdain, that is like grabbing the knife from someone about to kill himself and committing suicide with it yourself. It is the other who is doing wrong, not compelling you; why take on others’ wrongs and make them into your own sickness?
Furthermore, if you see those who do wrong as detestable, then those who do good should also be disdained. Why? Because both obstruct the Way.
If you are poor, you should also look into it carefully. Who gave you poverty? Heaven and earth cover and support impartially; your present poverty is not on account of heaven and earth. When fathers and mothers produce children, they want to make them rich and prestigious; so your present poverty and lowliness are not on account of your father and mother. People, ghosts, and spirits have no leisure even to save themselves; how can they have the power to force poverty on you? Pursue this examination in activity and in retreat and you will find that poverty comes from nowhere but your own action.
Then you will know the command of heaven. Action is created by you yourself, life is bestowed by heaven. The relationship of action and life is like shadow and echo following form and sound; they cannot be avoided and should not be resented. Only the wise realize this; pleased with heaven, acknowledging celestial order, they do not worry; so how can poverty trouble them?
Chuang-tzu said, “Action enters but should not be kept.” It is because of your own action that you are afflicted with poverty; though it has come in, it should not be kept around. Scripture says, “Heaven and earth cannot change one’s conduct, yin and yang cannot divert their action.” Speaking in these terms, this is true fate, not something artificial; what is there to resent?
When a courageous warrior encounters brigands, he has no fear; wielding his sword, he proceeds straight ahead, whereupon the brigands all scatter. Once his achievement is establihed, his glory and his reward continue all his life. Now, if poverty and sickness afflict our bodies, then these are brigands. If we have a stilled mind, that is the courageous warrior; intelligent examination is wielding the sword, the dissolution of afflictions and troubles is victory in war, and peace and permanent happiness are the glory and the reward.
Whenever misery oppresses our minds, if we fail to use this observation and instead become anxious and burdened, then that is like people who encounter brigands but do no worthy deeds, throwing off their armor, abandoning their troops, and running away. Doing the wrong thing, they abandon happiness for misery—how pitiful is that?
If you are suffering from illness, you should observe that this illness comes from having your own body. If you did not have your own body, where would the ailment be? The Tao Te Ching says, “If I had no body, what affliction would I have?”
Next observe the mind as having no real master. Searching inwardly and outwardly, you find no perceiver; all suppositions come from the wandering mind.
Thus if you still the body and quiet the mind, then myriad illnesses will all vanish.
If you dread death, you should think of your body as the abode of the spirit; this physical deterioration in old age is like a house that is rotting away and no longer fit to inhabit. It will be necessary to abandon the house and find another place to rest.
This is how it is when the spirit goes as the body dies— if you cling to life and abhor death, trying to avoid change, then your spirit’s consciousness will become confused and no longer operate correctly. Because of this, when you are energized at rebirth, you do not sense the clear, fine energy but mostly find polluted, debased energy. All folly, greed, and baseness actually derive from this.
If you can manage to be dispassionate about living and unfazed by death, that will put life and death in order and also take care of preparations for the afterlife. If you crave all sorts of things, every craving produces an illness. When even one limb is ailing, it makes the whole body uneasy; so if there are myriad ailments in one mind, how could you prolong your life even if you wanted to?
All craving or hatred is forgetfulness of life. When accumulated illusions are not cleared up, they interfere with perception of the Way. This is why we need to give up cravings and abide in nothingness, so that we have a basis for gradual clarification. If we look back at our former cravings after that, then we will naturally find them unappealing.
If we view objects with minds absorbed in objects, then we will never know there is something wrong. If we view objects with minds detached from objects, only then are we able to see with perfect clarity what is so and what is not. A sober man, for example, can see what a drunken man does wrong, but if he himself is drunk he is not aware of his own errors.
A scripture says, “I basically give up the profane and disdain the mundane.” It also says, “Ears and eyes, sound and form, keep afflicting you; the scents and flavors enjoyed by the nose and mouth are enemies.” The old master disdained the world, abandoned the profane, and alone saw that scent and savor are enemies—how can those who indulge in craving for them realize that “fish shops stink”?
Stabilization is the final stage of escape from the profane, the foundation of attaining the Way, the accomplihment of cultivated stillness, the consummation of maintaining calm.
When the body is like a withered tree, the mind like dead ashes, without reactivity, without seeking anything, this is the epitome of tranquillity. There is no mindfulness of stabilization, yet there is no instability. Thus it is called tranquil stabilization.
Chuang-tzu said, “One whose capacity is tranquilly stabilized radiates natural light.” Capacity refers to the mind; natural light is active insight. The mind is a capacitor of the Way; when it is as uncluttered and quiet as can be, then the Way stays there and insight emerges.
Insight comes from original nature; one does not just come to have it now. That is why it is called natural light. It is just because of the muddling confusion caused by craving that it comes to be obscure. Clean it, make it flexible, rectify it, and restore it to purity and calm, and the original real conscious spirit will gradually become clear of itself; this does not mean that you are just now producing that insight.
Once insight has emerged, treasure it and do not compromise stability by too many concerns. It is not that producing insight is difficult; being insightful but not using it is hard. Since ancient times there have been many people who have forgotten their bodies but few who have forgotten their reputations. Being insightful but not using it is forgetting repute; few in the world attain this, so it is considered difficult.
The noble who can be unaffected and the rich who are not extravagant can keep their riches and nobility because they are not excessively mundane. Those who can be unshakably stable and insightful without exploiting it can profoundly realize true eternity because they are not excessive in religion. Chuang-tzu said, “It is easy to know the Way; it is hard not to speak of it.”
To know but not speak of it is the way to get to heaven. To know and speak of it is the way to get to humanity. The people of old were divine, not human.
Insight can know the Way, but this is not attaining the Way. People may know the advantages of gaining insight without realizing the benefits of attaining the Way. “Use insight to clarify the ultimate principle, employ eloquence to move people’s feelings and arouse their hearts, increasing in the course of events, coming in contact with others. If you only speak of constant calm in the midst of activity, how can you know that calmness is a matter of being calm in order to deal with people?” These words do not express tranquil stabilization. Even if you are intellectually outstanding, that only makes you so much less near to the Way. You may have originally gone chasing deer, but you are going home with a rabbit. What you have got is extremely slight, because you are being small-minded.
Chuang-tzu said, “Those who mastered the Way in ancient times nurtured wisdom by means of serenity. Wisdom grew, but they did not use wisdom to contrive anything.” This is called using wisdom to nurture serenity; when wisdom and serenity combine to nurture one another, the pattern of harmony comes from nature.
Serenity and wisdom are stabilization and insight. The pattern of harmony is the virtue of the Way. When you have wisdom but do not use it, remaining peaceful and serene, after building this up for a long time you naturally attain the virtue of the Way.
This stabilization is accomplihed by effort. It may be based on observing advantage and seeing harm, stopping the mind out of fear of calamity, discarding and removing accumulated habits. In any case, when the mind is mature you wind up stabilized, just as if it were naturally so. Even a thunderclap that shatters a mountain does not startle you, naked swords may cross before your eyes and yet you do not fear. You look upon fame and fortune as transient and know birth and death are like oozing sores. Thus we know that when we exercise undivided will we solidify the spirit; then openness and subtlety of mind are inconceivable.
The mind is not existent in and of itself, but it is not nonexistent in action. It is swift without rushing, it comes without being called. Its anger will drive an arrow all the way into a boulder; its resentment will bring down frost in midsummer. Indulge in evil, and the nine hells are not far away; accumulate good, and the three heavens are not distant. Coming all of a sudden and going all of a sudden, mind’s movements and stillness cannot be named. Whether its timing is right or not cannot be fathomed by divination. It is incomparably harder to tame than deer or horses.
The exalted ancient master employed eternal good to liberate people; ascending the platform of the spirit, he expounded the ineffable. Summarizing the causes and effects of three vehicles, he expanded upon the naturalness of myriad beings. For a gradual approach he used daily lessening of contrivance; for an immediate approach he used experiential return to where there is nothing to learn. Metaphorically, it is like drawing a bow and penetrating with an arrow; the method is blunting sharp edges and resolving complications.
If you practice this consistently, by habit it will become natural. Dismiss intellectualim, subdue your body, and sit forgetful in oblivion, unmoving in stillness, subtly entering into illumination. Those who go divergent ways will never understand the meaning; those who travel this path have a chance to see the sublime. This requires little effort, but it is very effective.
The Way is something miraculous. It is effective and has an essence, yet it is immaterial and has no form. It cannot be fathomed retrospectively or prospectively, cannot be sought by reflections or echoes. No one knows why it is so, yet it is so. Penetrating life completely, this is called the Way.
Perfect sages attained this in ancient times; sublime teachings transmit it in the present. If you investigate the principles according to the terms, they are completely veracious. Superior people believe wholeheartedly; they master themselves and practice diligently, emptying their minds and opening their spirits so that the Way alone comes and concentrates.
The Way has profound power; it gradually changes the body and spirit. When the body follows the way to penetration and wholly unites with the spirit, such a person is called a spiritual human.
The spiritual nature is nonresistant and fluid; its essence never changes or perishes. When the body is assimilated to the Way, there is thus no birth and death. In concealment, the body is the same as the spirit; when revealed, the spirit is the same as energy. That is how it is possible to “walk on water and fire without injury” and “cast no shadow under the sun or moon.” Whether to remain in existence or disappear is up to oneself; one goes out and in the gateway of nothingness.
The body is a material residue, yet it can still reach immaterial subtlety; how much deeper and further can spiritual knowledge reach! The Scripture of the Living Spirit says, “When body and spirit are unified, that is the true body.” The Scripture on the Western Ascent says, “It is possible to live long by virtue of unification of body and spirit.”
However, there are differences in depth of the power of the Way of absolute nonresistance. When it is deep, it also affects the body; when it is shallow, it only influences the mind. Those whose bodies are affected are the spiritual people; those whose minds are influenced only gain insightful awareness, while their bodies cannot escape passing away.
Why is that? Insight is a function of mind; when it is worked too much, the mind is fatigued. When you first attain a little insight, if you are delighted and talk too much, your spiritual energy leaks out, and there is no spiritual refreshment of the light of the body. This ultimately causes an early end, so the Way can hardly be completed. This is what scriptures call dissolution of the corpse.
For this reason, great people conceal their light and hide their brilliance in hopes of attaining completeness. Stabilizing their spirit, treasuring their energy, they study the Way and extinguish their minds. When spirit unites with the Way, this is called attaining the Way. Scripture says, “Those who assimilate to the Way also attain the Way.” It also says, “Why did the ancients value this Way? By it one can attain without long seeking and escape from the faults one has.”
When there is jade in a mountain, the plants and trees there do not wither; when people embrace the Way, their physical bodies are stabilized by that. When imbued with its influence for a long time, the physical constitution is assimilated to the spirit. When you refine the body to gain access to subtleties, merging with the Way, then you disperse one body into myriad things and merge myriad things into one body.
The illumination of wisdom is boundless, physical transcendence is endless. You employ the totality of matter and emptiness, set aside Creation to accomplih the work. Genuine response without bias—that is the virtue of the Way. The Scripture on the Western Ascent says, “Have the same mind as heaven but without knowing it; have the same body as the Way but without distinguishing it. After that the Way of Heaven is fulfilled.” This refers to attainment of realization of its consummation.
When the spirit does not leave the body, it lasts as long as the Way. When the body is assimilated to the Way, then it never ceases to exist. When the mind is assimilated to the Way, there is nothing it does not penetrate. When the ears are assimilated to the Way, there is no sound they do not hear. When the eyes are assimilated to the Way, there is no form they do not see.
Clarity and effectiveness of the six senses come from this, but mediocrities of recent times whose consciousness does not reach far have only heard of the path of relinquishment of the body and have not realized the marvel of the body in itself. Unashamed of their own shortcoming, they imitate others’ errors. They are like summer insects that do not believe in ice or frost, or bugs in a jar that deny the sky and earth. They cannot be reached in their ignorance—how can they be taught?
If you want to cultivate the Way and attain realization, first get rid of warped behaviors.
With external affairs cut off so that there is nothing to get on your mind, then sit straight and gaze inwardly with accurate awareness.
As soon as you notice a thought arise, immediately extinguish it; arrest thoughts as they arise, in order to make your mind peaceful and quiet.
Next, even though you may not obviously have any obsessions, still floating, wandering, random thoughts are also to be extinguished.
Work diligently day and night, never giving up for a moment; but only extinguish the stirring mind, do not extinguish the shining mind.
Do not dwell on any thing and the mind will be stable.
This method is mysterious, with benefits that are very profound. Unless you already have affinity for the Way and have undivided faith in it, you cannot truly appreciate it.
Even if you know how to recite the texts, you still have to discern reality from artificiality. Why? Sound and form dim the mind, falsehoods fool the ears; personality and ego become second nature, the disease of self-affirmation is deepseated. When the mind is separated from the Way, the principle is hard to comprehend.
If you wish to return to the supreme Way, have deep faith and first accept three precepts. If you practice in accord with these three precepts consistently from beginning to end, then you will attain the true Way.
The three precepts are:
If you diligently practice these three precepts without flagging, then even if you have no mind to seek the Way the Way will come of itself.
A scripture says, “If people can empty their minds and not contrive anything, it is not that they want the Way, but the Way spontaneously reverts to them.”
Speaking on this basis, this quintessential method is genuinely trustworthy and truly valuable.
Nevertheless, the ordinary mind is excitable and obstinate and has long been that way, so to bring the mind to rest by means of precepts is in fact very hard.
One might try to bring it to rest but not succeed, or one may temporarily succeed but then lose it again. In the struggle to keep it as it slips away, the whole body runs with sweat.
After a long long time the mind becomes flexible but straight; only then is it fully tuned. Do not give up everyday work just because you are temporarily unable to concentrate or control your mind.
As soon as you have gained a little calm, then you should consciously stabilize it at all times, whether you are walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, while you are dealing with concrete matters and tasks, in the midst of the hustle and bustle.
Whether there is something the matter or not, always be as if mindless; whether in quietude or in a commotion, let your will remain undivided.
If you control your mind too intensely, the stress will cause illness. Fits of insane idiocy are symptomatic of this. If the mind is immobile, then you should let it go, finding a mean between laxness and intensity.
Always tune yourself, being controlled without obsessing, being natural without indulging. When you can be in the midst of clamor without hating it and can deal with things without vexation, this is true stability.
That does not mean, however, that you seek to be busy just because you can deal with things without vexation, or that you take to clamor just because you can be unmoved in the midst of clamor.
Unconcern is true stability, concern is response to events. It is like a mirror, which reflects the forms of anyone or anything that happens to be there.
With skillful application of expedient techniques, as long as you are able to gain access to stabilization and unleash insight, whether it comes sooner or later is not up to the person. Do not hastily seek insight within stabilization, for if you seek insight that will damage your stability, and if you damage stability you will have no insight.
If insight occurs spontaneously without your seeking for insight, then that is true insight. To be insightful without exploiting it is true wisdom appearing ignorant, enhancing the twin beauties of stability and insight without end.
If you think when in a stabilized state, you will be very sensitive and all sorts of devils and sprites will follow your mind and appear accordingly. The wondrous and weird phenomena encountered by the realized people and the old masters are evidence of this.
Just let there be uncovered openness above the stabilized mind and groundless vastness below the stabilized mind. Old habits dissolve, new habits are not created; not bound or obstructed by anything, you get out of the net of the world.
Practice this for a long time and you will naturally attain the Way.
In people who attain the Way there are five mental times and seven physical phases.
The five mental times are:
Only when you reach this last stage do you finally attain peace; the dirt of sin entirely gone, you no longer suffer vexation.
The seven physical phases are:
The power of perception becomes clearer with each phase, until it is perfectly completed when one attains the ultimate Way and achieves insight.
Even if you have practiced stabilization for a long time, if your body and mind do not have these five times and seven phases, you will have a short life in a polluted body, returning to the void when matter disintegrates. If you then claim to have insight or to have attained the Way, even if you find it in theory you are not there in reality. This is surely mistaken!