Chan Practice and Faith - II

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Why Bother to Make Prostrations??!!

One time, while someone was prostrating to me, they were pulled up by a lay practitioner who said to them, “Do not prostrate! Do not harm the master!” I, to whom the followers made prostrations, was being harmed? I was puzzled, so I asked, “What do you mean? How is he harming me? He said, “If you are really an eminent monk of great attainment, do you still need to have people prostrated to you? If you do, that means there is attachment in your mind. The more people prostrate, the more you feel like an eminent monk. You will not attain liberation and enlightenment your whole life.” I thought to myself, “Well! He has a point.”

The lay practitioner continued, “If you really attained liberation, then when he prostrate to you, you should reproach him saying, ‘Don’t be attached to anything. Since one should have no notion of self, person sentient beings, or beings with a lifespan, naturally there should be no notion of master and disciple. Why bother to make prostrations!”

Have the Right View and Understanding

Oh! This layman has a really sharp tongue. I asked him, “Do you prostrate to the Buddha?” He said, “I prostrate to the Buddha within.” I asked, “How do you do that?” He replied, “I do not do it with my body, but with my mind.” I asked, “How do you do it with your mind?”

He said, “Achieving a free and easy state of mind is prostration. Having no obstructions in the mind is prostration.” What he meant is that there was no need to prostrate to Buddhas or bodhisattvas, and he believed in nothing but himself. Actually, this is neither Buddhism nor Chan, but a type of arrogant, demonic view that lacks faith. This kind of person may have had some minor experiences in meditation and developed a kind of over confidence, which we call “pride of superior attainment.” After having read some specious Chan texts, they are caught up in erroneous views. While in this life, they think they have already attained liberation. Once they die, they may be reborn in the heavenly realm if they have great merit. However, because they do not have the right view and understanding or believe in the Three Jewels, they will fall into a miserable plane of existence once they have exhausted their karmic rewards in heaven. If they have an improper attitude, do not keep the precepts, and always do evil, they will fall into hell as fast as an arrow.

Therefore, Chan master believe in the existence of heaven, hell, Buddha land, and worlds of troubles. Only to highly advanced Chan practitioners who are practicing vigorously but still harbor some attachment in their minds would a Chan master say, “There is no Buddha, no Dharma, and no Sangha, There is no heaven and hell.” Chan masters say this because liberation can never be attained if one’s mind is attached to the Three Jewels, heaven, or hell. On the other hand, beginning Chan practitioners must be remained to make a clear distinction between cause and effect, and between ordinary people and sages. Otherwise, in speaking against attachment, they become trapped in inverted views, reversing cause and effect, and, as ordinary people, passing themselves off as sages. Ordinary people are just ordinary people. We should not fancy ourselves as ancient Buddhas who reappear in this world, equal in all respects to the Buddhas of the past, present and future.

Chan practice is not just sitting meditation. Chan practice is not about just talking big, or solely seeking enlightenment and wanting to be equal to all past, present and future Buddhas. While promoting Chan teachings, we should also emphasize the importance of faith. By so doing, we can make it easier for people to practice successfully and help uplift their character.

Let Go of Attachment, Starting with Having Faith

Chan methods also require that we let go of our attachment to the self. This must start with having faith, practicing giving, and keeping the precepts. Eliminating this attachment requires a sense of shame, humility, gratitude, and repentance. We should also have faith in the Three Jewels, Buddhas and bodhisattvas, the various Dharma-protecting deities, and Chan patriarchs, as well as the teachers who guide us in our practice.

Contrarily, if you are so arrogant that, having barely embarked on the Chan path, you refuse to prostrate to the Buddhas, respect the Dharma and Sangha, or believe in the various Dharma-protecting deities, then do not even think about the possibility of attaining enlightenment or seeing your true nature.


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