Chapter 6 - On Calming The Mind

1. About going into seclusion for practice: is it your mind or is it your body that needs to be secluded? If the former, then your mind is the place where you can practice and your body of temporary fusion of the four elements is spacious enough for the purpose. But if your mind is dispersed and your body craves for material comforts, it doesn't matter how spacious the place is, it will not be large enough to contain your distracted mind ruled by physical desires.

2. People nowadays are different from those of the old days. If the latter were one hundred percent devoted to practice, the former is only ten.

3. How to stabilize the mind during practice? We can start by not engaging our minds in whatever circumstances we run into while staying unfettered whether at rest or inaction. But what is the mind? As the mind alights on nothing and fills the illimitable void of the universe, where can we find it? Those fettered by attachments are not our real minds; they are ordinary, physical minds defiled by karmic forces and secular apprehensions.

4. In everyone's mind, there are always two forces - the moral and the evil - struggling against each other. Unfortunately, the latter always prevails. When the moral one says: "I am good", the evil one will respond: "No! No! You are evil, I am good!" The "evil" force is aggressive and likes to show off. Without practice to reinforce the moral force, the evil one will easily prevail thereby creating karmic obstructions for us. Thus, it is said (in the Scripture concerning Ti-ts'ang's fundamental promises) that: "The incipience of our ideas are all sinful and destructive". We should all practice diligently in order to nurture the good seeds. Continue to sow the seeds of noble ideas and eradicate the bad ones poisoned by our greed, anger, and ignorance. If we do, these good seeds will naturally sprout when we face adversities and present us with right mindfulness to ward off the temptation of evil ideas.

5. Are you afraid? If you are free of fear, your mind is calm; if not, it is restless. Fear springs up when your mind becomes dispersed; you fear because you are unable to compose yourself. Accumulated fear inevitably generates vexations; and a restless mind will impede determination in practice.

6. Relinquish all your attachments! If you can do that, you have already attained a certain stage in your practice. Practice to always be free of anxiety and impediments lest any idea of attachment should distract you at your deathbed and confine you to the cycle of rebirths.

7. Nothing is more important than escaping the cycle of birth and death! Since everything in this world is but phantasm and magical delusion, why cling to, or worry about it? Learn to let go! Whatever others do, it's not your concern. Do not let everything hang over your head thus creates vexations for yourself. Otherwise, you will be constantly under the whims of others and there will be no hope of your escaping the six divisions of rebirth.

8. Our vexation has no real substance. It comes and goes like the wind, leaving no trace and nothing to hold on to. Even so, as long as we are vexed, we can never feel quite at ease. The purpose of practice is to unite our minds from all impediments, particularly the notion of "who I am, what I am doing" (so that our minds won't be bridled by our sense of self).

9. "Let go of all attachments" is not just a slogan; you should carry it out in your daily activities, be it walking, staying, sitting, or sleeping. For example, if you recite the name of the Buddha solemnly with an unfettered mind to the extent that right mindfulness comes forth to guide you when you die and you don't suffer from the pain of parting with loved ones, then you have genuinely "let go of all attachments". You should know that even an inkling of attachment is powerful enough to confine you to the cycle of birth and death. We are all born into this world with boundless karmic obstructions accumulated in our previous lives. Instead of adding more negative karma through incessant pursuit of good food, lavish clothing, and cozy housing, we should learn and practice Buddhadharma. Otherwise, we would still be trapped in the old path of rebirths.

10. There is no need to quest for a long life. If you do not recognize the need of liberation and the meaning of practice, the longer you live the more time you would have to accumulate karmic obstructions. Even if you live to be two hundred, you still can't avoid falling back to the cycle of birth and death. This physical body of ours is by no means permanent; it will decay and eventually perish. Therefore, we should relinquish our attachments to our body and practice to bring forth the essence of our minds, which is our intrinsic nature and is above birth and death.