Later errata: I should make some corrections to the previous answer. I used to say that ordinary people don’t have willpower to practice the Dharma without staying away from the adverse environment. Recently, I realized the school of Chan does have a method, it unifies all things as one mind, it unifies all with non-duality, and thus it practice the course of transcendent without leaving the world. This is not a delusion, it is practical and proven to work.
Q: What is this method called in the school of Chan?
A: Goes straight into your true mind (translator: in Chinese it’s written as direct identification, it’s a terminology in the school of Chan, and we tried our best to make it have a remote chance to be understood in English)
The school of China points straight at the true mind, taking it as the boat of the Dharma, unifying all phenomena, using “nothing to practice as nothing to attain” as the treatment, letting the afflictions arise and disappear spontaneously, removing the “Habit Energies”, until reaching the nirvana. It is a wise and brilliant method, people with great capacity for growth can get the sudden awakening.
Q: How can we practice this method (school of Chan)?
A: In a single thought-moment, see your own true mind directly, meet your own innate Buddha nature (Kensho)! If still don’t understand, need to practice Precepts, Samadhi and Wisdom from the teachings.
Q: I have a sort-of special problem – I don’t feel I can trust anything. I have studied many other philosophical ideas and religions, but I only see different or similar value systems and world views. On the time line combining the historical situations, you’ll find how they developed into this stage, and realize they are not what you used to believe they were. How many people really have seen the so-called miracles, but the inconsistencies or even fallacies are so obvious. About the afflictions in life, it is troublesome when they arrive, but after they have passed, I felt happy that they gave me a chance to learn; without those afflictions, I don’t think I would have deep understanding of so many things.
A: Theory in Buddhism is only used for leading people into the door, that’s why if you want to find a logical framework, it wouldn’t work.
Many Buddhism teachings are beyond the thinking, in other words, you can’t reach that realm with your brain. That’s why there is a Chinese saying “it’s not meant to be thought of or talked about”
The Dharma can only be known when you have “attained” it (directly).
So if you have confidence in the Dharma, I’d suggest you start from the foundation, from practicing the meditation. Then practice Vipassana (the Five aggregates, the Eighteen compositional elements of human existence, the Twelve limbs of dependent origination). If you follow this, your mind will naturally develop the Thirty-seven factors of enlightenment. Be focused on the effort, and the good result will come at an unexpected time.
Q: First of all, I wasn’t trying to find a logical framework, but if there is no reference point, how do you where you are? Just like if you are North Korea, you would think you’re the happiest people in the world. I don’t want to waste my life, living in a joke.
I believe one can practice the Dharma, since I have my own experiences that confirms some of the Dharma. But what about the rest that I don’t have personal experience with. If I blindly believe what you have said, I would be fooling myself.
Like what I have said, just keep practicing. No one guarantees reaching enlightenment in this lifetime, and no one guarantees the path you follow leads to anywhere.
I do have a question. Psychology tells us that if you believe firmly in our brain that something exits, our body will actually have certain corresponding feedback. In Master Nan Huai-Chin’s book, when it described phenomena in meditation: since everyone have different knowledge background (such as Meridians from traditional Chinese medicine or Chakras from India), people might have different experiences in meditation. So I suspect some of the mysticism feelings from meditation was fabricated by this type of psychological factor.
A: Dharma practice is not the same as what you have described as mysticism. Buddhism holds the view that all the experiences, both psychological and physical, are illusions. Mistaking the illusions for the reality, and building attachment to a ‘self’ is the delusion, also is the Samsara full of suffering. Dharma practice is to abandon the delusion. Abandoning the delusion isn’t to fit one’s self into a higher mystic realm, but abandoning all marks. When you have abandoned everything, every mark, the “true mind” (this terminology is also a metaphor, there is not a real “true mind”, it just mean no delusion) comes out. Not being covered by the delusions, it shows itself. At that moment, it is called Kensho. Then you go back to daily life, you’re not deluded (some people still need to maintain their practice after awakening), and see that all phenomenal things expresses the real state of the universal and ultimate truth. So you can transform all things, get the great liberty, get the happiness of nirvana. This is the principle of the Dharma.
Faith in the Buddha is the foundation for the initial resolution (to get enlightened). If you don’t have the faith, you have first read the Sutras, nurture your mind with hearing and thinking about the Dharma. After you have confidence, you’ll start practicing.
Q: How do you know that you’ve reached the Nirodha-Samapatti state?
A: Because it was only an instant between entering and existing that state (while the wall clock time has been more than an hour. I can get into Samadhi state with one single thought, in other words, I can get in Samadhi in 1 second), but when I exited the state, I found my body was cold, the blood stopped moving in the vessel. The body was covered by light of death. I felt was dead. Then I had to power-up and re-active my body, before I could use it. Looking it up in the Sutras, the only possible match was the Nirodha-Samapatti state. The Asamjna-Samapatti (non-conceptual concentration) wouldn’t have the same effect.
Q: I think if you have a job to make a living, it is impossible to keep the ability of entering Jhāna. So do you have a plan for the future?
A: Having a formal job, before you have the Wisdom, indeed can bring a big obstacle. So the Theravada tradition have to live according to the eight-fold path, otherwise one will fall back to a lower level.
But the Mahayana tradition has the wisdom to see the true form of all things as they are. If you can practice Prajna-Paramita, you can enter the “Dharma-gate of non-duality”, see the true reality at all things. “As this Dharma abides in its Dharma position, all worldly phenomena are constantly abiding.” (The Lotus Sutra) Then it is Dharma practice even in any jobs for making a living. So I’m going to practice Prajna-Paramita!
The concentration state that couldn’t maintain is not the Right Concentration, and this is what this thread is discussing about. There is not entering or existing the Right Concentration, you can do all of Walking, Standing, Sitting and Lying Down.
When we talk about concentration/Samadhi, it is relative to a world, there is a concept of world that the practitioner wants to abandon.
The type of concentration/Samadhi that there is no entering or existing, is the “Innate Enlightenment”, the “Buddha-nature”, the Tathāgatagarbha, the “Nirvana of no dwelling”. This type of concentration is for the people who have awaken, not for the common people.
The common people still have to practice the firs type concentration, the worldly meditation, then transcend the mundane world, after that beyond the mundane and trans-mundane. Only at that stage, you can have the Right Concentration with no entering or existing.
Q: My problem is that it’s difficult to avoid mental labor. It looks really difficult to maintain the Right Mindfulness.
A: Trying to focus on many things only leads to accomplishing none of them. So initially it’s best to only focus on the Dharma practice. After you gained a stable level of Paññā (wisdom) and Samadhi (stillness), then you can practice within the mundane world.
Otherwise, you can practice at the “Stage of accumulation”, such as hearing and thinking (about the Dharma), Mantra Chanting, Animal Liberation, Worshiping the Buddha, Offering and Sustaining, etc. And in the meanwhile, practice the precepts, meditation, wisdom, but this is difficult to make progress and easy to fall back. So it is really up to you for making the choice!
Q: Finally I found a person who is really good at it! I have a few shallow questions: I have been practicing meditation for 7 months, but still don’t know a good method that fits me. There are certain methods I feel might fit me well, but I don’t know if it’s the genuine teachings from Buddha.
For example, at the beginning I read the book “8 Minute Meditation”, I started to have some feel about it. When I first tried, I meditated for 1 hour in the Burmese position. My mind and breath were calm, and I felt it was wonderful. Later on, I started to search for information on the Internet, and think it might not be the true Buddhism teaching. Then I started practicing in the half lotus position, but I’m not that young anymore, it hurt a lot. Now I practice Anapanasati, but I can’t quiet my mind, and I frequently get into drowsiness. I feel I might give up.
Is it my method wrong, or something else? Please advise me.
A: The initial break-through requires determination and persistence. For Dharma practice, the most important step is have the concentration of the 4-th Jhāna. With this level of concentration, your mind tends to control itself, and thus able to practice Vipassanā and get the Wisdom.
Anapanasati is one of the “nectar-like gates of Dharma”, it is quite suitable to the general people. It is fine to practice by yourself. For details, you can search for the book “Path of Samadhi and Wisdom” (translator: this is a book in Chinese language named “定慧之路”)
At the beginning, it’s best to have meditate in high frequency schedules, practice 3 times or more each day, and 1 hour for each time. Until you can get into the 4-th Jhāna within 1 breathe of time, and stay in the Samadhi state for 1 hour. Once you can do that, you can turn to practice Vipassana or Sanzen. Like that, you’ll proceed really fast. If lack confidence, you can read biography of the patriarchs (e.g. biography of Jetsun Milarepa), or diaries of meditation practice (e.g. Jin Manci). It helps make yourself more confident and determined!
Q: Greetings my Dharma brother! It is a prerequisite to be healthy? And also please recommend a few books. Thank you!
A: Health benefits the Samadhi practice, and the Samadhi practice benefits the health. For practicing the Samadhi meditation, you can read the Āgama, also you can read the book “Path of Samadhi and Wisdom”
Q: I’m a beginner, I can hardly understand what you guys are talking about. I just want to ask, I’m just starting to learn about the Dharma, and I’m just doing Sutra recitation and Sutra copying, is it fine? But when I’m doing them, I’d think of a lot of other things, but I’m really doing it sincerely.
A: Sutra recitation and Sutra copying are very good. They are one of the ways to build confidence about the Three jewels of Buddhism.
But the core value of the Sutras lies in the meaning, not the language. It is counted as having Buddhism faith, and being a Buddha’s follower, only if one understands the meaning of the Sutras, and practice accordingly. And only through that, can you enter the flow of the Dharma, and finally reach the enlightenment as Buddha did.