Master Xu Yun: Purify the Mind and Body


Chinese Ch’an training involves the application of ‘moral discipline; (sila), the practice of ‘meditation’ (dhyana), and the generation of ‘profound wisdom’ (prajna).  All three attributes are required, because all tree attributes act like the legs of a three-legged stool – if one leg is missing the entire structure cannot stand.  Meditation without the prior application of moral discipline will be weak and there will be no inner strength to ‘breakthrough’ the barrier of obscuring thought that constitutes the activity of the surface mind.  Moral discipline is nothing less than the purposeful gathering of qi energy, the strengthening of essential nature (jing), and the realisation of empty spirit (shen).  Through limiting the frivolous wasting of qi energy and essential nature, a great force is built-up within the body and mind, and when meditation is used to focus this energy ‘inward’, it acts as a laser-type device fuelled by a strong concentration that literally ‘drills’ through the outer layer of obscuring thought.  The hua tou brings this gathered energy to a very sharp point that ‘cuts’ through all delusive thinking.  However, if the chain of events is logically reversed to its beginning, it is obvious that if there is no moral discipline, then qi energy will continue to be wasted and essential nature (jing) diminished.  Health will continue to be poor and the mind confused.  Life is shortened when the inner energies are squandered in this manner.  The Vinaya Discipline acts as a restraining and focusing device that fits-in exactly with the teaching of traditional Chinese medicine, and the various Daoist Schools.  The behaviour of the body must be channelled into a mode of action that directs the inner energies away from involvement with, and attachment to, the external world.  Without this behavioural modification, a strong and deep meditation cannot be established.  If a sound meditation cannot be established, then the empty mind ground will not be released and ‘prajna’ (profound wisdom) will not be activated. If the body is allowed to do as it wants, then the mind will be full of dualistic desire and incorrect thoughts.  This can lead to all kinds of distortions with regards to the understanding of the Dharma.  Moral discipline is not associated with a god or some other divine entity, and does not offer a reward in some remote and far-off ‘heaven’, but rather signifies the logical application of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ here and now, in this very existence.  This is the path of self-effort and self-regulation through behaviour modification and psychological transformation.  The behaviour of the body is ‘stilled’ on the physical plane so that the activity of the mind can be ‘stilled’ on the psychological plane.  Stilling the mind and body is the application of taking control of the inner energy and directing it appropriately.  Just as the body comes under control, so does the mind.  Once the mind is under control (and ‘stilled’), further and more indepth meditative training can then be successfully applied.  Stilling the mind and body through moral restraint, is the doorway to realising the empty mind ground, and when the body is suitably restrained, the karmic-producing volition in the mind also comes to an end and is broken forever.  From this position of mirror-like ‘stillness’, the empty mind ground can be thoroughly realised.  Master Xu Yun states that part of disciplining the mind and body is to carry-out the ten good acts in the physical world which can be defined as:

Freely giving and sharing

Moral restraint

Practising meditation

Respect for all beings

Selflessly helping others

Sharing karmic merit with others

Rejoicing in the merits of others

Correctly Teaching the Dhamma

Listening to the Dhamma

Straightening one’s Dharmic understanding


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