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No-Mind is the Mind of Success

The mind of Chan is no-mind. As the old saying goes: “A carefully tended bush does not blossom, while a carelessly planted willow branch grows up to give shade” “ No-mind” means not harboring expectations; this can even bring unexpected good results.

To those with strong expectations, problems occur more easily. Does having no-mind mean doing nothing? No, no-mind is the pure mind free from selfishness. A selfless mind is more objective, more likely to succeed, and have long-lasting results. Even if one does not succeed in one’s career, one at least succeeds in personal conduct; while it may appear unsuccessful on the surface, the mind within has succeeded.



Someone once asked me: “Master, modern people pursue success and everyone wants to be successful. Is that the correct attitude? Can everyone be successful?”

I said: “Yes, in both cases. First, it is correct to pursue success; otherwise, why would Shakyamuni Buddha encourage us to become buddhas? Becoming a Buddha is the ultimate success. Can everyone be successful? Shakyamui Buddha said all sentient beings can become a Buddha, so everyone can surely be successful.”

The same person then asked, “It takes such a long time to become a Buddha. How long will it take for an ordinary person to accomplish that?”

I said: “Success could come in one second, one minute, or one lifetime. One could also be successful in countless lives. Everyone can be successful.”

Not understading, he asked, “What does it mean that everyone can be successful? Many people suffer for their whole lives and still end up completely anonymous. What kind of success is that?”

I said: “Have you heard about feeling justified and having peace of mind? Ordinary people think that one can feel justified and have peace of mind by not doing anything wrong. Actually, it is not enough to just not do wrong; one must do well by others and give others joy.”

Do not equate success with having money, fame, status, and power. The more money people have, the more afflictions they have; the greater the fame, the more difficulties; the higher the status, the more troubles; the more power, the more pain and suffering. If one is not good at dealing with oneself, one will be in pain all the time, with or without money, with or without status or career. Buddhadharma calls this the “endless sea of suffering.” This kind of person may be admired by others, but they cannot really be considered successful.

It is not necessarily correct to say that money is evil and prestige is corruption. Fame, fortune, power, and status may not be bad; it depends on how we acquire and use them. For example, I am currently developing an educational institute that requires funding. The question is: Where will the money come from? What will we use it for? What if it doesn’t come? If we can do this through a vow of compassion, then that would be the pure mind, the illuminated mind that sees the nature. If we do it with selfishness, then that would become greed and affliction.


By these standards, famous people are not necessarily successful, and people without fame are not necessarily failures. Every drop of water contributes to the making of a river and every drop of water is part of the river. A tower is made of numerous grains of sand, and every grain is part of the tower.

In the same way, success can be found within a single moment, within a certain stage of life, or within the course of a whole life. Regardless, what’s important is the present, right now. Therefore, I always tell Chan practitioners to stay grounded, and take it step-by-step. Taking it step-by-step means living in the present; the most important moment is now, so it is also most important to cherish and utilize the present.


Liberated in Stilness and Motion, p.106-108
Master Sheng Yen's Talk, Given at DDM Chan Meditation Camp, April, 1994

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