At all times, have a proper mind; then you won’t have any afflictions.
When one’s nature is settled,
Demons are subdued,
And every day is happy.
If false thoughts do not arise,
Every place is peaceful.
When the mind stops and thoughts cease,
That is true wealth and honor.
Complete severance of selfish desires
Is truly the field of blessings.
Why do we have demonic obstructions? They occur when our nature is not settled. If our nature were stable, it would be lucid and clear at all times. In that state, one inwardly observes the mind, yet there is no mind; one externally observes the physical body, yet there is no physical body. At that time body and mind are both empty. One observes external objects, and they are non-existent too. The body, the mind, and material objects, all three have vanished. There is only the principle of emptiness, and the Middle Way arising from it. In the Middle Way, there is no joy, no anger, no sorrow, no fear, no love, no disgust, and no desire. The seven emotions of joy, anger, sorrow, fear, love, disgust and desire make no waves. At this point, internally there are no idle thoughts, and externally there is no greed. The body and mind are all clear and pure. This is the state of having a settled nature. A settled nature is the essence of the Middle Way.
When the nature is stable, it is as firm as a vajra mountain, not swayed by the states of the seven emotions. If you are delighted by pleasant states and upset by states of anger, your nature is not settled. If you experience greed or disgust when states appear, your nature is not settled.
The seven emotions are like waves on the ocean. Mighty tidal waves can wreck a ship, but if the wind is gentle and the waters calm, the ship can sail to the other shore safely. Cultivators need to really understand the seven emotions. It’s not enough to know them in principle. We need to know how to control ourselves when these emotions arise. If we aren’t influenced by them, then our nature will be settled.
Once our nature is settled, the demons are subdued. They can’t make waves to disturb cultivators’ minds and bodies. With the demons subdued, we’ll be happy, whether is a good or a bad state manifests. Whether it’s a joyful situation or an evil one, we’ll be happy either way. This kind of happiness is true happiness, unlike the happiness brought about by external things. Our mind experiences boundless joy. We are happy all the time, and never feel any anxiety or affliction.
When the nature is settled and demons are subdued, one is always happy. If idle thoughts do not arise, every place is peaceful. It is said,
When the mind moves, everything appears.
When the mind stops, all things disappear.
If our minds don’t move and thoughts don’t arise, our bodies and minds will naturally be pure and peaceful. That’s why it’s said, “When the mind stops and thoughts cease, that is true wealth and honor. Complete severance of selfish desires is truly the field of blessings.” This is the criterion of cultivation. Don’t take a thief for your son. He will steal all your treasures and leave nothing behind. Don’t listen to the devil for he will cheat you. If you fall for his schemes you will lose in a big way. Don’t befriend the followers of demons, for they’ll only ensnare you and cause you to do muddled things.
Cultivators should make their natures settled so that they can return from delusion to enlightenment, renounce evil and return to propriety, and have a proper mind at all times. Then there won’t be any afflictions. When a situation arises, deal with it, but don’t try to exploit it. When the situation is gone, it leaves no trace, and the mind is as pure as if newly washed. Realize that the mind of the past is unattainable, the mind of the present is unattainable, and the mind of the future is unattainable. We should be determined to destroy ignorance and reveal the Dharma-nature. This is our goal in studying Buddhism; however, it can be done only if our nature is settled.
Once we understand the Dharma, we should put it into practice, for only then can we be said to truly understand the Buddhadharma. If we study but don’t practice, then no matter how much Buddhadharma we learn, it’s all useless. We’ll still have plenty of ignorance and afflictions, and we’ll never obtain any response or be able to reveal our real wisdom. Even if we do gain a little wisdom, we’re just skimming the surface.
People cultivating at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas should cherish this precious time and not waste it. It is said, “An inch of time equals an inch of life.” We should truly and actually practice the Buddhadharma that we learn in this Way-place. Don’t dawdle and be perfunctory about things; that would be going against the Way.
If you want to study Buddhism, you should certainly not give up halfway and fail to finish what you started. If you draw a line halfway and stop advancing, all your previous efforts will come to nothing. You will never get to the treasure trove that way. Please remember this. Whatever you are doing, finish the job you have started. Don’t be moved by external states and lose your resolve. Your resolve should be as firm as steel; don’t be swayed by bad states and disappointments and lose your resolve for Bodhi. The loss of the resolve for Bodhi is the greatest loss. People who truly understand the Buddhadharma will hold on to the Bodhi resolve and not retreat under any circumstances.
People who don’t understand the proper way to cultivate will be vigorous in the beginning but lazy toward the end. As a result of their sloppy practice, the outcome of their cultivation will be far from perfect. The principle of cause and effect never fails. In learning Buddhism, one must believe in cause and effect. Don’t make mistakes in cause and effect and, above all, don’t dismiss it. You should be aware that cause and effect is an unchanging law for all time.
A talk given on July 10,1983
at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas