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Chan as grounding for a peaceful life
Our lives in this contemporary world are filled with all kinds of explosive information, which assail our emotions as soon as we put on our TVs or computers, or read the newspapers. Many people no longer leave their house but just stay at home watching these things, and get depressed. The question is, how we can we live our life in peace? This is what many people are longing for -- and what Buddhism has to offer to our contemporaries is the best kind of grounding for such a life.
In our daily lives, we can start our practice with walking meditation. While walking, we slowly, slowly develop clear awareness, and out of that awareness we discover our awakened nature. Clear awareness allows us to see our awakened nature, and through our awakened nature we enter into the Dharma World, the universe. This mind of ours is the key-- the key to enter into the universe. This will reveal itself only if we really want to open it up completely. If we do not even undertake the attempt, we will not receive anything.
It does not matter whether we are walking or standing still-- the same principle of awareness applies to walking, standing, sitting and lying down. Of course, seated meditation is an important practice in addition to walking meditation. It does not matter whether you sit 15 minutes or 50 minutes. Just try to slowly develop the habit of sitting in the morning and in the evening, whether it is 15 minutes or half an hour. You will slowly start getting used to it, and once you have developed this habit, you will enjoy meditating mornings and evenings.
The practice of Chan is like the process of water being purified. Our ordinary mind is like a torrent of muddy water. When we let that which is agitated settle down, the muddy water becomes clear and transparent. And at that point, we can illuminate things and see them with great clarity. The goal of Chan meditation is to let the sediments, those messy things in our lives, settle down, and to slowly, slowly allow the light of our enlightened nature to fully emerge. Chan is not about getting anything-- it is only about settling down and then radiating light. It is such a natural thing.
Somebody once asked me if Chan meditation is the only way to enlightenment, or whether there are other ways. Actually, there is a foundation for enlightenment. Sometimes during our practice we meditate on or recite the name of the Buddha Amitabha, but no matter what form of practice it is, we need to concentrate, that is, to be singleminded in concentration. When we continue to singlemindedly concentrate on Amitabha, reciting his name over and over, our thoughts become stilled and purified in the process, in the same way in which water becomes settled and clear. What does settling down depend on? It depends on stillness.
Chan meditation is a way of settling down. It is the same with reciting the name of the Buddha Amitabha singlemindedly. As we keep reciting the name, our confused thoughts become settled. Our confused thoughts are agitated and messy things. Singlemindedly reciting the name of Amitabha is like water flowing drop by drop-- word by word, drop by drop, word by word, bringing out the sound of silence. Amitabha Buddha, recited repeatedly, can be likened to those drops of water that slowly, slowly, from a state of movement, produce a state of stillness. It is that state of stillness which lets the light of our heart shine.
It is also like that with saying mantras. We keep saying the mantra over and over until the waves no longer arise, until they neither arise nor recede, but become as calm as the ocean-- until our mind becomes as calm as the ocean. In this way, the mind will let its light shine-- a very still light. What can we call this? We can call this the grounding for a peaceful life.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao
(Translated by Maria Reis Habito)