Chapter IV. Samadhi and Prajna
The Patriarch on another occasion preached to the assembly as follows:
Learned Audience, in my system (Dhyana) Samadhi and Prajna are fundamental. But do not be under the wrong impression that these two are
independent of each other, for they are inseparably united and
are not two entities. Samadhi is the quintessence of Prajna, while Prajna is the activity of Samadhi. At the very moment that we attain Prajna,
Samadhi is therewith; and vice versa. If you understand this principle, you understand the equilibrium of Sa madhi and Prajna. A disciple should
not think that there is a distinction between
'Samadhi begets Prajna' and 'Prajna begets Samadhi'. To hold such an opinion would imply that there are two characteristics in the Dharma.
For one whose tongue is ready with good words but whose heart is impure, Samadhi and Prajna are useless, because they do not balance each
other. On the other hand, when we are good in mind as well as
in words, and when our outward appearance and our inner feelings harmonize with each other, then it is a case of equilibrium of
Samadhi and Prajna.
Argument is unnecessary for an enlightened disciple. To argue whether Prajna or Samadhi comes first would put one in the same position as those
who are under delusion. Argument implies a desire to win, strengthens egotism, and ties us to the belief in the idea of 'a self, a being, a living
being, and a person'.
Learned Audience, to what are Samadhi and Prajna analogous? They
are analogous to a lamp and its light. With the lamp, there is
light. Without it, it would be darkness. The lamp is the quintessence of the light and the light is the expression of the
lamp. In name they are two things, but in substance they are one and the same. It is the same case with Samadhi and Prajna.
On another occasion the Patriarch preached to the assembly as follows:
Learned Audience, to practice the 'Samadhi of Specific Mode' is to make it a rule to be straightforward on all occasions - no matter whether we
are walking, standing, sitting or reclining. The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra says, "Straightforwardness is the holy place, the Pure Land." Don't let
your mind be crooked and practice straightforwardness with your lips only. We should practice straightforwardness and should not attach
ourselves to anything. People under delusion believe obstinately in Dharmal aksana (things
and form) and so they are stubborn in having their own way of interpreting the 'Samadhi of Specific Mode', which they define as 'sitting quietly
and continuously without letting any idea arise in the mind'. Such an interpretation would rank us with inani mate objects, and is a stumbling
block to the right Path which must be
kept open. Should we free our mind from attachment to all 'things', the Path becomes clear; otherwise, we put ourselves under restraint. If that
interpretation 'sitting quietly and continuously, etc.' be correct, why on one occasion was Sariputra reprima nded by Vimalakirti for sitting
quietly in the wood?
Learned Audience, some teachers of meditation instruct their disciples to keep a watch on their mind for tranquility, so that it will cease from
activity. Henceforth the disciples give up all exertion of mind. Ignorant persons become insane from ha ving too
much confidence in such instruction. Such cases are not rare, and it is a great mistake to teach others to do this.
(On another occasion) the Patriarch addressed the assembly as follows:
In orthodox Buddhism the distinction between the 'Sudden' School and the 'Gradual' School does not really exist; the only difference is that by
nature some men are quick-witted, while others are dull in understanding. Those who are enlightened reali ze the truth in a sudden, while those
who are under delusion have to train themselves gradually. But such a difference will disappear when we know our own mind and realize our own
nature. Therefore these terms, gradual and sudden, are more apparent than real.
Learned Audience, it has been the tradition of our school to take 'Idea-lessness' as our object, 'Non-objectivity' as our basis, and
'Non-attachment' as our fundamental principle. 'Idea-lessness' means not to be carried away by any particular idea i n the exercise of the
mental faculty. 'Non-objectivity' means not to be absorbed by
objects when in contact with objects. 'Non-attachment' is the characteristic of our Essence of Mind.
All things - good or bad, beautiful or ugly - should be treated as void. Even in time of disputes and quarrels we should treat our intimates and our
enemies alike and never think of retaliation. In the exercise of our thinking faculty, let the past be dead. If we allow our thoughts, past, present,
and future, to link up in a
series, we put ourselves under restraint. On the other hand, if we never let our mind attach to anything, we shall gain emancipation.
For this reason, we take 'Non-attachment' as our fundamental principle.
To free ourselves from absorption in external objects is called 'Non-objectivity'. When we are in a position to do so, the nature of Dharma will
be pure. For this reason, we take 'Non-objectivity' as our basis.
To keep our mind free from defilement under all circumstances is called 'Idea-lessness'. Our mind should stand aloof from circumstances, and
on no account should we allow them to influence
the function of our mind. But it is a great mistake to suppress our mind from all thinking; for even if we succeed in getting rid of all thoughts, and
die immediately thereafter, still we shall be reincarnated elsewhere. Mark this, treaders of the Path. It is bad enough for a man to commit
blunders from not knowing the meaning of the Law, but how much worse would it be to encourage others to follow suit? Being deluded, he sees
not and in addition he blasphemes the Buddhist Canon. Therefore we take 'I dea-lessness' as our object.
Learned Audience, let me explain more fully why we take 'Idea-lessness' as our object. It is because there is a type of man under delusion who
boasts of the realization of the Essence of Mind; but being carried away by circumstances, ideas rise in h is mind, followed by erroneous views
which are the source of all sorts of
false notions and defilements. In the Essence of Mind (which is the embodiment of void), there is intrinsically nothing to be attained.
To say that there is attainment, and to talk thoughtlessly on merits or demerits are erroneous views and defilements. For this reason we take
'Idea-lessness' as the object of our School.
Learned Audience, (in 'Idea-lessness') what should we get rid of and what should we fix our mind on? We should get rid of the 'pairs of
opposites' and all defiling conceptions. We should fix our mind on the true nature of Tathata (Suchness), for Ta thata is the
quintessence of idea, and idea is the result of the activity of Tathata.
It is the positive essence of Tathata - not the sense organs - which gives rise to 'idea'. Tathata bears its own attribute, and therefore it can give
rise to 'idea'. Without Tathata the sense organs and the sense objects would perish immediately. Learned Audience, because it is the attribute of
Tathata which gives rise to 'idea', our sense organs - in spite of their functioning in seeing, hearing, touching, knowing, etc. - need not be tainted
or defiled in all circumstances, and our true nature ma y be 'self-manifested' all the time. Therefore the Sutra says, "He who is an adept in the
discrimination of various Dharmalaksana (things and phenomena) will be immovably installed in the 'First Principle' (i.e., the blissful abiding place
of the Holy, o r Nirvana)."
Samadhi and Prajna
- Written by: Fa Hui