During the Ming dynasty, a monk named Stone House lived in retreat in the mountains. His neighbor, a firewood farmer, was also far away from the city, living in isolation in the mountains. What is the difference between this monk’s retreat and the farmer’s? One man was investigating his mind and the other was tending to his firewood. So it is only through proper investigation that enlightenment is possible.
We cannot surrender our marks of language, unless we investigate our minds. If people retreat for periods of time every few years they will become good teachers, because of this investigation of their minds. How they teach people to awaken, and attain a happy, ego reduced mind is very important. It is also important not to increase wisdom at the expense of spirituality. Some Zen students become less spiritual but have much wisdom. Their thinking is clear and skilful. However, they believe only that religion is superstition and simply rely on science as the truth.
This is wrong; there is too much that we do not fully understand on this earth. Retreat, therefore, is very important for people who wish to investigate their mind. Retreat can raise your spirituality and empty your mind. Then you are able to see your software, your system, your iconic images and language marks; these things which have been controlling you.
How then, do we achieve this revolution?
Many religions have been useful for their society’s development, and have been an influence on their society for thousands of years. Religions inevitably degenerate, ending up being controlled by greedy religious or political people. So where does our power lie here?
Pure lands are not in heaven. While aspiring towards a pure realm we need happiness, hope and spirituality. We will learn that there is no birth and no death, and that from external causes our troubled mind arises. We are human and we need to have good expectations of the future. Good language is derived from religion, and the Buddha is the teacher of awakening. His teachings educate us as to why we need to awaken. We want to know why we are suffering and the way to happiness. We are different from sheep or cats, which don’t need to know why they are upset.
Avoid acquiring too much wisdom and thinking that you know everything. On the other hand, excess spirituality becomes superstition for which there is no evidence. We need a balanced approach to our practice. Some things remain a mystery. There is no wisdom and no superstition; these arise from our mind, which arises because of external causes. A wise person has knowledge, and will carefully follow the advice of scientists or financial advisors in order to reduce risk. However, we still need to make decisions for ourselves and for this we need adequate information. Having much knowledge, though, does not mean that we are any happier. We must keep our spirituality and seek to increase it.
Where is heaven? What is a pure land?
A student questioned Buddha, saying ‘if you are a Buddha you must live in a pure land. In your country, though, many places look very dirty and impoverished. I have seen this,’ he said. A heavenly god spoke and said; ‘from where I sit the Buddha’s country looks very different. It is much more beautiful and much cleaner than our heaven.’ So to the student’s mind and to the god’s mind the Buddha’s pure land appeared very differently
All of this comes from the mind of course. If the mind is pure then all that we see is pure and beautiful. If the mind is unhappy then not even good food and a pure land will interest us. It will appear dirty.
So how should we investigate our mind? How should we keep our mind happy permanently?
Once enlightenment is attained so is permanent bliss. This is beyond happiness and unhappiness. Then there is no impure land, and even heaven and hell are not heaven and hell. There is no wisdom and no superstition.
Perhaps this age of technology is not advancement but a regression. It is brief and transient, like a display of fireworks. Everything that follows this world leads to a return to its natural place. Where do linguistic beings come from, and to where do they return?
What is real religion?
Our brain is like a self winding watch. This watch already has the mechanism to wind itself with each wrist movement, and it is always active. If these people have an accident or are killed somewhere we can see what time this person has died. What is happening in the mind can be compared with this watch.
How does the human brain keep charging itself? This charge comes from your body. If you open your mind it will charge itself quickly. If you sit in meditation for a long time the mind will slowly calm down, because your body isn’t moving and stimulating your brain. Like the self winding watch, your mind won’t wind up if you don’t move.
The activity of your mind is very noisy, like a train. Our brain is like a big machine which is stimulated by external factors. We cannot catch this thief; this ‘I’ running inside and running with a lot of energy. This video, or language marks and imprints, is running continuously, inside our heads.
Constraining the body or repressing the activity of the mind creates unbearable pressure. It is only when this ‘battery’ slows down its activity and eventually becomes calm, by keeping the body still in sitting meditation, that we can see that this thief is stealing the mind. When we sit we are not tired, and we can use observation to inspect our mind. Once we have slowed this train we have the chance to see this train clearly.