圖 / 三乘佛學院文 / 文獻中心
Among the four steps of the Chan method used at our Ling Jiou Mountain monastery, every single step has its own approach and benefit. The first two, as described earlier, consists in deeply breathing in and out seven times, and then bringing one’s attention gradually from the eyes to the nose, then to the mouth and to the heart, keeping no images whatsoever in one’s mind. The third step is breathing in and out mindfully, resting the attention on the breath. Even though this method seems quite simple, it will bring you to deep realization if you practice it earnestly.
If we practice this method but don’t stay with our breath, if we don’t concentrate but are very inconsistent in our approach, then of course we can not expect any outcome. Why is that so? It is so, because that half-hearted kind of approach would be like “soaking a stone in cold water.” No matter how long you soak it, the stone still remains a stone, without any change.
In his lifetime, the Buddha had a disciple named Upali, to whom he taught the method of concentration on the breath. Before becoming a monk, Upali had been a hairdresser, a member of the Shudra caste, the lowest caste in India. But since the Buddha had uplifted him by accepting him into the Sangha, he treated the Buddha with the utmost respect. Upali cut the Buddha`s hair, and the Buddha used this occasion to teach him the method of concentration on the breath.
The Buddha said to Upali “You cut too fast.” This made him slow down a bit, and then a bit more. And when the Buddha told him “Do it still a bit more slowly,” Upali slowed down even more. And when the Buddha said “Your breathing is too noisy and too rough,” Upali adjusted his breathing again and again, concentrating very well, until it became very smooth and still. Eventually, Upali just stood there, motionless, with the knife in his hand. He had entered into deep Samadhi.
When we practice concentration on the breath, we make our breath soft and flowing, adjusting it from being rough to being smooth, and from being smooth to becoming more and more subtle, until it is no longer there – the point at which we have entered Samadhi. The method is to focus our attention on breathing in and out naturally, not arbitrarily forcing the breath to become smooth from rough, or slow from fast. In this way, our breath will naturally slow down, and become more and more subtle with practice. This practice helps our mind quiet down. When our breath becomes really slow and subtle, it will start to feel very comfortable. And at that point of comfort, our meditation will fill us with joy.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao
(Translated by Maria Reis Habito)