THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF CALMING(SAMATHA) AND INSIGHT(VIPASYANA) MEDITATION
by Master Zhiyi, Abbot of Xiuchan Monastery On Mt. Tiantai
Recorded by Master Zhangan Guanding
Translated into English from Chinese by
1. The Pinyin system is used for Chinese terms.
2. Pali terms are used in the introduction part.
3. Foreign terms, those not included in the Webster English Dictionary, appear in italics.
4. Interpretations of Sanskrit terms appeared in this translation’s footnotes are mainly derived from A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms, compiled by William Edward Soothill and Lewis Hodous, published in 1977 by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubenr and Co., London.
I sincerely appreciate Dr. Chanju Mun and Venerable Longdu who offered invaluable advice and suggestions to improve the quality of this translation; Venerable Coung Le who read the introduction part and advised to rewrite problematic sentences; and Ms. Hong Tran and Mr. Michael Tran who spent considerable time to make this translation much more readable than it could have been.
Obviously, without these people’s substantial help, the present translation would not have been possible. Any mistakes that remain, of course, are my responsibility.
Śamatha and Vipaśyanā, Two Wings of a Bird
All that we are is the result of what we have thought:
It is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.
Meditation is the core value of Buddhism. Edward Conze proclaims, “Meditational practices constitute the very core of the Buddhist approach to life …. On the way to Nirvana they serve to promote spiritual development, to diminish the impact of suffering, to calm the mind and to reveal the true facts of existence.” Early Buddhist meditation is of the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā. Śamatha “is defined as silencing, or putting to rest the active mind, or auto-hypnosis.” It has to do with getting rid of distraction and generating skillful mindfulness. Vipaśyana “is defined as study, examine, or contemplate.” It is the eye of understanding.
禅定，是佛教的核心价值。西方著名佛教学者爱德华•孔慈(Edward Conze)曾经在其《佛教禅定》一书中这样写道：“禅定的练习，组成了佛教对于生命探索的核心……在涅槃的道路上，禅法的修习提升了内在精神的发展，减少了烦恼与痛苦的影响，令心调服的同时，也显示了存在的真实意义。” 早期的佛教禅修方法主要是指对止观的练习而言。止，让身心在息诸外缘的情形下，升起明了的专注和觉察力；观，则展示对心境的研查和检视，是般若之智的运用。
In his article entitled “Samatha and Vipassana,” Bhikkhu Pesala is of the opinion that śamatha and vipaśyanā are two different kinds of meditation taught by the Buddha — while the former leads to jhāna and psychic powers, the latter leads to insight and nibbāna. Like his preceptor, Mahasi Sayadaw, who advocates that the practice of “bare insight” is sufficient to achieve realization of nirvana, Pesala elaborates, “One can practise Samatha first, then Vipassana, or one can practise just Vipassana.”
In his essay, “Concentration or Insight: The Problematic of Theravāda Buddhist Meditation Theory,” Paul Griffith also notices that, in the Pali sources, one can find quite a few different types of meditative practices available to Buddhists. “We find,” Griffith observes, “the distinction between concentration (samādhi) and wisdom (paññā) made also at many points in the canon. We must ask: What are the differences between these two types of meditative practice?” Śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation, as we mentioned above, indeed have different functions — while the former is to stop, the latter is to look into. Nevertheless, they both serve for a same goal, i.e., leading to the realization of nirvana. The practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation in skillful cooperation also “leads to detachment from ordinary preoccupation with the objects and goals of the mundane world.” So, rather than practicing in a separated manner, they should work in pair.
南传的披萨喇法师(Bhikkhu Pesala)，曾经在其所著《止观》一文中以为，止观是两种不同的禅修方法。他强调：止只是四禅和神通的导因；观纔是智慧和最终涅槃的根本。如同他的禅定指导老师马哈思•萨亚达(Mahasi Sayadaw)所提倡的“无遮之智”( “bare insight”)为得涅槃之主因一样，披萨喇法师以为：行者可以先修止，然后修观，或者只修观即可得到最终的涅槃。 关于这一点，西方学者珀尔•戈瑞菲斯(Paul Griffith)在其《禅定与智慧：南传佛教禅法中的问题》一文中亦表示：在巴利语藏经中，关于禅定与智慧的修习，确实存在诸多的不同说法。因此，学人有必要对禅定与智慧的不同之处给与讨论。 虽然，止(定)和观(慧)，如前所示，在修行的过程中，的确存在不同的功能和作用——前者在于息诸外缘；后者在于内心的智慧观照。但是，就最终的涅槃境界而言，两者却是互助的。此外，止观双运的修习还有助于行者摆脱世间的种种烦恼。因此，在修持上，止观双运是根本。
For instance, Bhadantācariya Buddhaghoṣa, the 5th century Indian Theravadin Buddhist commentator and scholar, once argued that the sign of a nonreturner or an arhat is to have his or her āsavas or defilements destroyed and be possessed of two powers (dve-balāni), “which in their turn are defined as samatha (tranquility) and vipassanā (insight).” Buddhist texts such as Visuddhimagga (Path of Purity), Mahāmudrā: The Quintessence of Mind and Meditation, Anguttara-Nikaya, Netti-ppakaranam, Khuddakapātha, etc., also illustrate the same issue regarding the elementary-level practice of Buddhist meditation.
关于这一点，五世纪印度著名的觉音论师(Bhadantācariya Buddhaghoṣa)曾认为，阿罗汉的境界，是在诸漏已尽的前提下，具备止观双运的能力。 佛教典籍如《清静道论》(Visuddhimagga), 《摩诃母陀罗心性论》(Mahāmudrā: The Quintessence of Mind and Meditation), 《增一阿含经》(Anguttara-Nikaya), 《导论》(Netti-ppakaranam) 和 《屈陀迦集》(Khuddakapātha)等, 对此亦有相同的看法。
Generally speaking, the goal of the Buddhist path, “complete and permanent liberation from suffering,” as Henepola Gunaratana claims, “is to be achieved by practicing the three stages of the path—moral discipline (sila), concentration (samādhi), and wisdom (paññā).” In Buddhism, besides the developing of wisdom and the observing of disciplines, the practice of calm meditation (concentration)—which in this case is much like a “bridge” between discipline and wisdom—is indeed essential. It is also much like a tache linking up all main Buddhist values. Therefore, it is not surprise to see that, in some Buddhist texts, discipline, concentration, and wisdom are oftentimes found working in unity to final realization of nirvana. Calm and insight, in practice, are more often accommodating and supposed to reconcile with each other than not. Ajahn Chah (1918-1992) once said that śamatha and vipaśyanā cannot be separated, “nor can the pair be developed apart from Right View, Right Thought, Right Moral Conduct and so forth.”
The reason for this—if I may presume—is that calm brings mindfulness and further develops insight to look into the true nature of things. Insight, as one of the main skillful means to realization, generates psychic strength to penetrate the nature of anatta (empty of independent substantial reality), anicca (impermanent), and dukkha (unsatisfying). Visuddhimagga expresses, “When the mindfulness in conformity with that (the first Jhāna) state stands established, paññā tends to be stable…. When perceptions and thoughts of revulsion, associated with detachment (Viragupasamhita) arise (in the state of Vipassanā), paññā is leading to release.” Calm and insight assist each other in deliverance.
对此，笔者以为：止，意在令心专注，从而发展内在的智慧来照见事物的本来；观——作为觉悟之道的有效助缘——其本质乃在于孕育心灵方面的力量，用以透视事物的内在性质，亦即：苦(dukkha)，空(anatta)，无常(anicca)。《清静道论》 以为：“当专注的定力达到初禅的境界，智慧得以牢固；当执着与妄想，在观力下达到无所执着，无所住的时候，智慧导向涅槃。” 可见，在修持上，止观双运的确相当重要。
Besides, reconciled, the function of calm and insight meditation—as Khuddakapātha points out—can, “approach to comprehend the five categories of what is affected by clinging and arrive at final release.” Anālayo observes, “Since a concentrated mind supports the development of insight, and the presence of wisdom in turn facilitates the development of deeper levels of concentration, calm (samatha) and insight (vipassanā) are at their best when developed in skilful cooperation.” Paravahera Vajirañāna Mahāthera also states that, “vipassanā, which means to see, to penetrate an object thoroughly, is always found with Samatha in the scriptures.”
止观双运——如《屈陀迦集》中所指出——在一定程度上还促使行者“明了五种执着的根本，从而证得寂静妙离的涅槃。” 阿纳拉尤法师(Anālayo)亦认为：“从定而生慧，慧而促成更深层次定的发展来看，禅修最好的方法，是止[定]和观[慧]的有效结合。” 摩诃摄若(Paravahera Vajirañāna Mahāthera)也曾指出，“在许多经典之中，止和观常常被相提并论。”
To illustrate the necessity of cooperation of the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation, the Anguttara-Nikaya states as follows:
[Thus I heard,] once ānanda was staying at Kosambī in Ghosita Park and addressing the monks:
“Reverend sirs, when anyone, be it monk or nun, proclaims in my presence that he has attained arahantship, all such do so by virtue of four factors or one of these four, what are they?
“Herein, your reverences, a monk develops insight preceded by calm, in him thus developing insight preceded by calm is born the Way. He follows along that Way, makes it grow, makes much of it. In him following, developing, making much of that Way, the fetters are abandoned, the lurking tendencies come to an end.
“Or again, your reverences, a monk develops calm preceded by insight. In him developing calm preceded by insight is born the Way. He follows along that Way, makes it grow, makes much of it. In him following, developing, making much of that Way, the fetters are abandoned, the lurking tendencies come to an end.
“Yet again, your reverences, a monk develops calm-and-insight coupled. In him this developing calm-and-insight coupled the Way is born. He follows along that Way….As he does so the fetters are abandoned, the lurking tendencies come to an end.”
To approach the Way, as ānanda observes, it is relevant to one’s ability to develop calm and insight meditation in a mutual and balanced path. He emphasizes that this is the beginning of enlightenment. In this case, calm and insight, in one way or the other, functions a path to end fetters and lurking tendencies. This, to ānanda, is the sign of attaining arahantship.
In Mahāmudrā: The Quintessence of Mind and Meditation, it is said that although Mahāmudrā is very deep and profound, it can be realized, “through the direct and simple practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation.” This mainly is because the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation can free the mind from fetters and attain clearness. Donald K. Swearer declares that, “The ultimate aim of Buddhist meditation is freedom from the bondage of attachment to sense objects. This liberating state of being is reached through a process of consciousness control (samādhi) and insight into the real nature of the world (vipassanā).” For that reason, calm and insight should be practiced in skillful cooperation. As the Buddha may have once instructed the monks as below:
又《摩诃母陀罗心性论》说，大手印法甚深微妙，惟有通过对止观的直接修习，才能明了。 丹若•斯瓦尔(Donald K. Swearer)亦曾言：“佛教禅定的最终目的是从根尘的束缚中解脱，而这一解脱的根源在于禅定智慧对事物本来的彻见。” 对于这一方面的探讨, 佛陀本人亦曾教诫弟子说：
Now, monks, this person who has gained mental calm in himself, but not the higher wisdom of insight into things, might approach one who has done so…. Then at some later time he is one who has gained both mental calm in himself and the higher wisdom of insight into things …. Now, monks, this person who has gained the higher wisdom of insight into things, but not mental calm in himself, might approach one who has done so…. Then at some later time he is one who has gained both the higher wisdom of insight into things and mental calm in himself.
The passage we cited recommends to practice śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation in cooperation and balance. This may provide a strong sense for us to disagree with Bhikkhu Pesala’s argument that it is enough for a meditation practitioner to reach the realization of nirvana by merely practicing vipaśyanā meditation. The Buddha’s sincere suggestion here is that the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation should be reconciled, in pair and in balance. As the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā can eradicate lust and ignorance—two main roots that imprison a person inside the circle of death and rebirth. In Anguttara-Nikaya, the text expresses:
Monks, these two conditions have part in knowledge. What two? Calm and introspection. If cultivated, what profit does calm attain? The mind is cultivated. What profit results from a cultivated mind? All lust is abandoned. Monks, if introspection be cultivated, what profit does it attain? Insight is cultivated. If insight be cultivated, what profit does it attain? All ignorance is abandoned.
Furthermore, in Netti-ppakaraņam, it is said that once the Buddha observed: “Find the outlet by the way of insight heralded by quiet, to the heart-deliverance due to the fading of lust. Both kinds of view-temperament find the outlet, by way of quiet heralded by insight, to the understanding-deliverance due to the fading of ignorance.” The Dhammapada also expresses, “for one with both jāna and understanding, / Nibbana surely is near.” Thus, the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation is better to be balanced.
In China, Master Zhiyi 智顗 (538—597)—the founder of the special classic of the Tiantai 天台 sect, one of the pre-eminent śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation advocators and instructors—once said that, “a person who achieves śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation is capable of bringing suffering to an end and qualified to benefit others.” He argues that, to become enlightened, calm and insight are essential indeed to be practiced in pair, “Like the wheels of a chariot, or two wings of a bird” that cannot work on single.
又根据南传巴利《导论》(Netti-ppakaranam)记载，佛说：“当寻由定而起之慧，断诸贪欲，得心解脱。如是，当寻由慧而起之定，断诸愚痴，得慧解脱。” 又《法句经》云：“定慧等持近涅槃。” 由此可见，止(定)观(慧)当需双运等持。对此，中国天台宗创始人智者大师 (538—597)在《童蒙止观》一文说：“若人成就定慧二法，斯乃自利利人，法皆具足。”又言：止观双运“如车之双轮，鸟之两翼；若偏修习，即堕邪倒。”
The present translation, The Basic Principles of Calming (Śamatha) and Insight (Vipaśyanā) Meditaion composed by Zhiyi, elaborates on this kind of issue. The original Chinese text Tongmeng zhiguan 童蒙止观 (i.e., The Basic Principles), available in Taisho Tripitaka, Vol. 46, No. 1915, contains ten chapters regarding how one can gain the realization of nirvana through the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation in cooperation. Zhiyi, based on his studies of texts such as the Lotus Sutra, the Marvelous Dhyāna Stūra, the Mahā-vaipulya-buddhavataṃsaka Sūtra, the Great Nirvāņa Sūtra, Treaties on Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, etc, devised his own system of practice of the basic Indian Buddhist meditation exercises of śamatha and vipaśyanā. The system he provided is unique.
As we mentioned earlier, the goal of the Buddhist path is to practice the three stages of the path. In the Foundation Work, the method that Zhiyi utilized to organize the text also accords with these three stages of the path (i.e., the observing of moral disciplines leads to concentration; and, the practice of concentration generates wisdom). This is one of the fundamental principles of Indian Buddhist thoughts that guides a practitioner to achieve enlightenment. E.g., in the Naxian biqiu jing 那先比丘经，or Questions of King Menander, Nāgasena addresses the Greek king Milinda, or Menander as follows:
Like city builders who try to build a great city, will first, need to plan, measure, and built solid foundations so that sturdy structures can be constructed …. Like singers and dancers who try to perform at their best, will first need to set up the stage so that the best venue for their performance can be carried out. As a disciple of the Buddha, to pursue the Way, one has to observe disciplines, perform good deeds, be sedulous, and cast away lusts.
譬若师匠图作大城。先度量作基址已乃起城…… [又] 譬若倡伎欲作。先净扫地乃作。佛弟子求道先行经戒。作善因知勤苦弃诸爱欲。
Zhiyi believes that observing precepts properly will lead to the success of the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation. This further results in two consequences: dhyāna and prajñā—the two main characters leading to liberation. In fact, if we look deeply into early Buddhist texts, observing precepts is oftentimes described as the first step to achieve deliverance ; without vinaya, it is impossible for a Buddhist practitioner to avoid wrongdoing and to ensure the attaining of the realization of nirvana. For instance, in the Yijiao jing 遗教经 (Sutra of the Buddha’s Last Teaching), it is said that when the Buddha was ready for entering the final nirvana, he urged his sincere followers to respect the vinaya, treating it as the “living” Master—the Buddha himself. The Gemstones of the Good Dhamma: Saddhamma-maniratana also declares:
从《童蒙止观》一书的结构来看，智者大师本人确信这一信条，亦即：通过持戒的谨严，止观可成，终以禅定和智慧成就佛道。实际上，这一观点本身(亦即修道必先持戒)，为早期的佛教经典所共强调。 佛法的修学成就确以持戒为根本， 无戒则难免诸行亏损，涅槃难成。所以，在《遗教经》里头，当佛陀临入灭时，教导身边的弟子，当尊重珍敬波罗提木叉，如佛本人住世无异。 《寶石经》(The Gemstones of the Good Dhamma: Saddhamma-maniratana) 中亦言：
39. Virtue is the foundation,the forerunner and origin of all that is good and beautiful;
therefore one should purify virtue.
40. Virtue is a mighty power,
Virtue is a mighty weapon,
Virtue is the supreme adornment,
Virtue is a wonderful armour.
Zhiyi also proclaims that, before the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation can be carried out, it is necessary to have external conditions such as living in quiet forests or unoccupied mountains, companied with suitable companions and having living substances such as clothing and food. Next is to cast away worldly desires and five covers. These ideas are further developed in chapter I, chapter II, and chapter III of The Basic Principles. (The ideas Zhiyi provided in The Basic Principles are mainly derived from Nāgārjun’s Treaties on Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra). In fact, in Buddhist tradition, before one can take steps to practice śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation, to have external conditions and cast away worldly desires and Five Covers are basic requirements. As to have external conditions, Ajaan Lee (1907-1961) stated:
There are two things beginning meditators should search for as external aids to their practice:
1. Suitable companions (puggala-sappaya): Be judicious in choosing people to associate with. Search only for companions who have peace of mind. This can be any group at all, as long as the group as a whole is aiming for mental peace.
2. A suitable location (senasana-sappaya): Choose a quiet place with an agreeable atmosphere, far from human society. Places of this sort, providing physical seclusion, are conducive to the practice of meditation. Examples listed in the Canon include caverns and caves, the shade of an over-hanging cliff-face, the forest wilderness, and empty houses or buildings where not too many people will come passing by. Places like this are an excellent aid and support for a beginning meditator.
Finally, according to the Gemstones, if one clings to worldly desires, one is “tied to becoming.” To help detach from desires, one needs to further abandon the five fetters. The Digha Nikāya states that when five hindrances are abandoned, one sees “gladness arises within him; thus gladdened, rapture arises in him; and when he is rapturous his body becomes tranquil.” After these kinds of efforts have been completed, then one is ready for the practice of the śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation. These ideas are respectively presented in the chapter IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII of The Basic Principles. The last two chapters illustrate the benefits that a practitioner of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation can attain.
如是之后，则需诃欲，弃五盖。《寶石经》云：“贪欲故有生。” 至于弃五盖，《长阿含经》以为：当行人舍弃五盖之后，轻安喜乐随起，则身心寂然。 在具足这样的条件之下，行者可以进而修习止观。这一点，我们可以从《童蒙止观》一书的第四，五，六，七，八章中读到。第九、第十章则阐述了，通过止观的修习，行者可以获得切身的真实利益。
Shi Zhenguan October 17, 2011
Preface [from Master Yuanzhao]
There are four Tiantai texts on meditation. First, The Complete and Immediate Meditation, which Venerable Master Zhiyi once preached at Yuquan 玉泉monastery in Jingzhou 荆州, was recorded by his disciple Zhangan 章安in ten volumes. Second, The Mystic Trance and Wisdom, or Gradual Meditation, which the Master discoursed at Waguan 瓦官monastery, was first recorded by his disciple Fashen 法慎in thirty volumes, later edited to ten by Zhangan. Third, the Irregular Meditation, or the Six Wonderful Doors of Dharma, is the one that once Minister Chen陈尚书 demanded Mao Xi 毛喜to invite the Master to teach; it is one volume in total. Fourth is entitled The Basic Principles of Caming (Śamatha) and Insight (Vipaśyanā) Meditaion, taught by the Master to his lay, elder brother Chen Zhen 陈针.
The keynotes of the great Tripiṭaka and the vital accesses for arriving at enlightenment are śamatha and vipaśyanā, absorption and understanding, silencing and shining, clearness and calmness. They are different in terms but similar in origin. If we delve deeply into the springhead of Ten-thousand Dharmas and verify the accomplishment that all Buddhas have achieved, there should be nothing other than śamatha and vipaśyanā. What the great Master of Tiantai inherited from the peak of Gṛdhrakūṭa is the teaching of śamatha and vipaśyanā; The wonderful enlightenment the Master accomplished on Mt. Dasu大苏山 was the result of the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation. All stages of Samādhi that the Master had ever achieved were through the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation. He expressed the teachings of śamatha and vipaśyanā with great eloquence, as what he taught came directly from what he had cultivated and attained.
Thus, we should understand that despite the fact that the teachings of Tantai School are complex, the central teaching of the school is the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation. Apart from the practice, the Path of Tiantai cannot be comprehended; the doctrine of Tantai School cannot be discussed. Therefore, for beginners, they have to learn śamatha and vipaśyanā first; then, after learned, they may go on to practice. It is so sad to see though that nowadays [most of the monks and nuns who physically leave their households], but in spirit pursue worldly fame and profits. They firmly attach to terms and appearances [of things]. They mix up enlightened teachings with unreal achievements without knowing what is really wrong. In such cause, even though the text, The Basic Principles, still exists, the correct way to practice śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation is seldom heard. This is miserable and is the reason why I ask people to republish the text. It is my sincere hope that may it be of benefit to those who hear or see it to seed seeds in Mahayana. And, for those who take further steps to practice the meditation, may there be measureless real benefits!
Dharma Master Yuanzhao
The Middle August of the Second Year of Shaosheng 
Not doing what is unwholesome,
Practicing what is wholesome,
Purifying one’s mind,
Is the teaching of all Buddhas.
To arrive at nirvana, numerous paths are feasible. However, śamatha and vipaśyanā are the most expeditious and seminal. The reason for this is: śamatha is a basic means for subduing the fetters; vipaśyanā, a main force to eradicate delusion. Yet, the former is the resting of the mind for clearness of vision and also the very primary cause of meditative absorptions, the dhyāna; and the latter, the beginning of the eye of understanding, the Prajñā.
A person who achieves śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation is capable of bringing suffering to an end, qualified to benefit others, and able to grasp all Dharmas. Hence, the Lotus Sūtra states, “The Buddha, peacefully dwelling in the Great Vehicle, dignified with meditative absorptions and prefect realization, unloads beings’ suffering.” We, therefore, should understand that, as to be enlightened, clam and understanding are essential indeed, like the wheels of a chariot, or two wings of a bird. For this reason, do not separate both śamatha and vipaśyanā while practicing the meditation; otherwise, the practice itself is a deflection, an error. As the sūtra says, “Monkey-witted, a contemplative inclines to meditative absorptions and merits; deranged, he or she gravitates to the perfect wisdom.”
Although ignorance and arrogance are little bit different from each other [in terms of terminology], they are similar in terms of elevating unwholesome views. If concentration and wisdom are not embraced, then how much less can a meditator reach enlightenment? So, the sūtra says, “Mahā-śrāvakάs, excessive in concentration, never arrive at Buddhahood; the ten-stage bodhisattvas, with less concentration and much insight, are able to see Buddhahood, but not yet clear. Only Buddhas, then, balancing in these two principles, see it completely and clearly.”
One should understand then that śamatha and vipaśyanā are the main entrances of nirvāṇa, the perfect manners for practicing, the attributions to pure virtues, and the principles of enlightenment. Profound they are.
As for those beginners, since it is much easier to speak out than is to practice, I should herein teach śamatha and vipaśyanā accessibly. Here, I have intended to interpret these two principles respectively into ten stages. Honestly speaking, as I have carefully considered these ten stages as fundamental principles to begin with meditation, I wish you all would not rashly think they are easy to be practiced. In fact, the humbler you are, the more substantial benefits you deserve. By gradually going through with stages as such, as I am confident, you will be able to reach your own liberation, exploit the pure wisdom, and taste the pure ocean of enlightenment. From all purity and in which complete freedom is obtained, nirvāṇa can be at hand. Otherwise, you may just akin to a penniless person counting others’ treasures. What is the benefit? The ten stages are now orderly arranged as follows: (1) be provided with external conditions; (2) reprimand worldly desires; (3) drive away covers that delude the real mind; (4) adjust five duties; (5) utilize skillful means; (6) observe the correct attentions; (7) exploit the roots of goodness; (8) be aware of [the different types of] Māras; (9) heal illness; and (10) awaken.
1. Be Provided with External Conditions
Before the śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation can be carried out, five external conditions are eagerly required to go through with. Never violating the Vinaya is the first external condition that must be held on earnestly. As the sūtra declares, “To protect Sīla is about to raise dhyāna and the power of the perfect wisdom that frees suffering.” So, as a bhikṣu, uphold the Rules one ought to! Below are three kinds of observers who respond to the Precepts differently.
Firstly, if a person is not yet a Buddhist and has never been guilty of Pañcānantarya, the five rebellious acts or deadly sins, s/he later on has a good causation to meet a venerable dharma Master, take refuge in Triple Gem, and receive five precepts being a Buddhist. If thereafter, the person goes further to leave household and receive the ten precepts of a śrāmaṇēra, a novice to Sangha, to be fully ordained, to tirelessly uphold the Precepts and practice śamatha and vipaśyanā, the person, the superior vinaya observer, will reach nirvana certainly. Like a clean, white cloth, it is much easier to be dyed.
Secondly, if ordained, a person secures the four grievous rules [namely, sexual immorality, stealing, killing, and false speaking], but partly offends in minor ones, if so, for the purpose of cultivating meditative concentration, the person still could raise contemplation and attain the perfect wisdom, had s/he gone on to repent accurately and then observe the Precepts fully again, as a stained cloth is able to be washed and then dyed again.
Thirdly, if an ordained person infringed the four heavy precepts, there would be no any hope in Hīnayāna tradition for this vinaya violator to purify. But, on the contrary, in Mahāyāna tradition, we see this very person still has potential opportunities to be purified again by certain process of repentance. In doing so, the person must have a brave heart to expose his/her misdeeds, as the sūtra says, “In Buddha Dharma, there are two brave persons. One does no evil, the other does but repents at once.”
For those who have contravened vinaya disciplines, ten methods accelerate success of repentance. That is, (1) believe clearly in cause and effect; (2) internally raise grave fears and dreads [of the ripeness of bad consequences]; (3) deeply shame of past misdeeds and blush over the misdeeds of others; (4) look for means to purify sins, that is, comprehend certain repentant modes from Mahāyāna sūtras and accurately carry those modes out; (5) confess previous sins openly; (6) put out continuing evil thoughts; (7) advocate the Buddha Dharma to others; (8) vow greatly to endure the task of liberating others’ suffering; (9) constantly invoke the [names of the] Buddhas from all directions; and (10) observe that the true nature of all sins are illusory and empty, without being born or produced.
If, a vinaya violator completely committees the above-mentioned processes, s/he then will also need to sanctify the place where the rites of repentance are performed, clean the place up in person, dress neatly, scatter flowers, and burn incense in honor of the Triple Gem. After such things have been done, the person then is qualified to repent—continually and sincerely for a week, three weeks, one month, three months, or even a whole year long—until all sins are radically fixed.
Nevertheless, how can one know that the four weighty sins have been purged? If a vinaya violator is truly heartfelt to ask for forgiveness and seek clemency [from Buddhas], s/he will experience at least one of the followings [which are the signs of the thorough recovery from sins]: (1) when meditating, recognize a state of gentleness extending to both body and mind; (2) while sleeping, dream auspicious dreams; (3) while repenting in the presence of the Triple Gem, see divine-images or distinctive marks [of the Buddhas or bodhisattvas]; (4) when meditating, experience virtuous minds springing up smoothly; (5) during meditating, knowledge a physical joy—as if the body were a cloud or a shadow—thus gradually attaining elements of dhyāna; or (6) during meditating encounter the sudden enlightenment that would enable a meditative practitioner to comprehend the characteristics of all things or true meanings of scriptures at the very first place of hearing or reading; and that, because of having such a joy in dharma, the mind is no longer anxious or regretful.
If, after having experienced one of the aforementioned experiences, a penitent keeps on to observe the Rules fully again, s/he can be once more called “A Pure Sīla Observer” and is able to contemplate onward, as a torn and dirty cloth could be dyed and put on again had it been washed and mended properly.
But, if an ordained person has breached the grave Precepts and been incompetent to restore such infringements by practicing the certain means derived from Mahāyāna sutras, worrying that there would be no more room left for achieving dhyāna, s/he, however, is able to do so. That is, in the presence of the Triple Gem, the person must bear intensively shames on past and present misdeeds, uncover anterior sins, quench consecutive immoral minds, meditate frequently, raise wisdom to look into the empty nature of sins, and pray to the Buddhas of all directions [in order to receive blessings]. And, whenever the daily contemplations are completed, the person claims at once to burn incense and adore Buddhas heartily, to lament over sins and recite the Rules and Mahāyāna sūtras. Then, the momentous sins can be eliminated bit by bit; and, the dhyāna will be developed. The Marvelous Dhyāna Sūtra expresses, “If a man, having transgressed significant precepts, deep in fears, attempts to recover, he has to practice the skills of mindfulness. It is the only way he can do to get rid of his sins.” Thus, if a vinaya violator has done such processes properly, not only will the broken rules be repaired utterly, but also all kinds of Samādhi will be risen up naturally.
The second external condition is to have living substances such as clothing and food. Lack of these two substances might throw a meditator into an anxious condition and hesitate to meditate alone—either in still forests or mountains.
Of clothing, here have three respects. First, like the Snow-Mountain bodhisattva, the recluse, he contented with one robe which could barely cover his body. He did so as he was remote from the society and able to brook any kinds of difficulty himself. Or like Mahākāśyaoa, he constantly persisted the means of dhūta, solely storing three regulation garments that were made from cast-off rags; and, he never expected more. Finally, for those who had less power of endurance and dwelled in awfully cold locations, the Buddha once allowed them to own more than three frocks in order to survive in such radical environments. However, they had to know where to stop; otherwise, the overabundance of possessions would corrupt their minds and thus prevent the path to enlightenment as well.
As for food, here have four different situations. The first situation concerns about superior spiritual practitioners or holy bodhisattvas who, residing in no person’s mountains, far away from the society, survive only from eating seasonable wild fruits. Second relates to those who constantly conduct the codes of dhūta, depend on alms for a living. By doing so, they smash four heterodox means of living [(1) to bend down to cultivate the land, collect herbs, and so forth; (2) to earn a living by astrology, telling people good or bad fortunes; (3) to flatter powerful and wealthy people in order to earn a better living or get supports or donations; and (4) to divine good or bad or perform magic]. They observe a right livelihood and thus stand in with right paths. Third is of those spiritual practitioners who live in uninhabited and still forests, receiving their daily fare merely from almsgivers. And, the last one relates to those who eat victuals according to the rules among other monks.
The third external condition is to stay at a serene and quiet place where businesses and crowds are far away. Three locations are accord with the demands and therefore good for meditating: (1) unoccupied mountains; (2) forests where the dhūta inhabit—about 1.5 or two kilometers far from villages, as to avert the noises of livestock; and (3), the peaceful monasteries removed from laity.
The fourth external condition is to free from the worldly tasks. To do so, there are four respects: (1) occupy not of secular duties; (2) make less communication with relatives and friends; (3) desist skills such as arts and crafts, prohibited enchantments and divinations, medicines and accountancy, etc; and (4), cease activities of worldly chanting, discussing, learning, and so forth. To avoid doing things as such is about to receive less distraction and be much able to concentrate while practicing the meditation.
The final external condition is to company with virtue intimates. There are three kinds: (1) those who act as external aids, constantly providing supports; (2) those who practice the same path regularly help and encourage each other; and (3), those who can instruct and lead a meditative practitioner to meditate efficiently by means of employing practical techniques of dhyāna.
So far I have briefly discussed how to embody such five outer conditions fully appealed to a competently progressive meditation.
2. Reprimand Worldly Desires
To further contemplate on and practice samātha and vipaśyanā meditation, it is necessary to perceive five worldly desires which lead to delusive results. This is the second stage that should be sincerely carried on. The five worldly desires are things seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and touched, arisen from the objects of the five senses, persistently deceiving ordinary people to attach to them. One would not draw any near to them, had one known that these five worldly desires are deadly disadvantages to deliverance. This is called “reprimand worldly desires.”
The first effort is to be made against outward appearances, such as the good-looking appearances of men or women—lovely eyes, elegant eyebrows, bright-red lips, pearl-white teeth, and so forth; or the brilliant tints of worldly treasures: blue, yellow, orange, white, red, purple, pale green, green, etc. Things as such can swindle the masses to conduct misbehaviors and thus forming evil karmas. Once king Bimbasāra, for instance, attracted by prostitute Avāmbra’s beauty, regardless of dangers, entered his enemy’s territory alone, staying at the prostitute’s bungalow for a while. Also king Udayana cut off five hundred immortals’ hands and feet on account of his besotted lust. Alas, seldom does desire for outward appearances involve no disadvantage!
The second is to disapprove of yearning for musical sounds, that is to say, sounds of Konghou, Zheng, bamboo flute, or of instruments made from silk string, copper, or stone; or sounds of male or female singing or intoning, etc. Sounds as such can disturb one’s peaceful mind. To give an example, once there were five hundred immortals living in snowy mountains; for long they remained absolutely clam and peaceful until one day there came Gandharvas, the goddesses of music. The five hundred immortals lost their concentration and total control at once when the goddesses of music joyfully bathing in a pool began to sing. Thus, one should know that sounds as such can result in destruction of peaceful mind.
The third is to reject the desire for fragrances—such as delicate scent of perfumed men or women, delicious flavor of victuals, miraculous aroma of burning incenses, and so forth. In this world, injudicious people usually fasten to such smells and thus open a door to passions. It was he, a bhikṣu, on one occasion sitting right by a lotus pond, firmly delighting in sweet scents of lotus flowers and thus rising considerable tainted desires inside; the Spirit of the lotus pond appeared tremendously angry and candidly blamed the bhikṣu by asking, “Why did you leave the tree under which you were meditating? What is good for you to sit beside my pond and steal my lotus scents? Do not you realize that you have let the long asleep passions wake again?” Hence, be aware of the desire for fragrances, which can crank up attachments.
The fourth is to decline the taste-desire. One should not hanker after the pleasures of food, for the taste of bitter, sour, sweet, pungency, salt, or fresh can delude a person’s mind, consequent in unwholesome effects. For example, once a śrāmaṇēra was awfully crazy about the taste of cream; after his death, this caused him to be reborn as an insect living in cream. So, one should know that the taste-desire can generate evil consequence.
The final effort is to be made against the desire awakened by touch, that is to say, satiny bodies of men or women, or others alike. In this world, unwise people over and over again find themselves enormously difficult to stay away from this kind of “spell”; they intensely attach to joyance of touch and thus entail the evil karma that prevents the way to Buddhahood. As in this case, once Ekaśṛṅga ṛṣi, an ascetic born of a deer, lost his supernatural powers by first touching prostitute Saṇḍha’s body and then having sex with her. Later, the prostitute ensnared him and rode on his shoulders [back to Vārāṇasī, the holy capital of Kāsī on the Ganges]. Therefore, one should know that desire of touch oftentimes leads to great harm.
The aforesaid five efforts of reprimanding five worldly desires originate from Māhaprājna-Pāramita śāstra. The Śāstra also expresses emotionally, “Alas! Ordinary people are continuously annoyed by these five worldly desires; however, ironically enough, they cannot stop seeking these desires even for a single moment.” These five desires will have become stronger if one attaches to—it is much like adding fuel to a fire, the flame of the fire will not be extinguished but no doubt intensified. These five desires bring no happiness, like a dog gnawing a decayed bone. They increase tussles, like cinereous vultures brawling for [a piece of] flesh; they burn away virtuous minds, like a torch burning the hand that is holding it when the wind is contrary; they poison people even more intensive than being bitten by vipers; they are illusory as dreams; they last less than a minute, like hitting two flints, sparks flying off in directions and vanishing in no time. In short, in wise men’s eyes, they are foes, but, on the contrary, delusive people never alert—not until they die—that these five desires are harmful, bringing endless miseries; that these five desires share their common ground with brutes; that ordinary people are frequently driven by these lusts as slaves; and that they draw those who attach to them to three unhappy ways [hells of fires, blood, and swords]. So far we have prepared for dhyāna by advance so we know clearly that desires as such are destroyers. We will be distant from them; and keep in mind this verse that is selected from the Dhyāna Sūtra:
The circle of the births-and-deaths never be
Ended, as we are inside the circle of lusts!
Maintaining our “antagonists,” we undergo all
Vain sorts of sorrows until the Death calls.
Folks! Perceiving the body you cling to, it
Is nothing but an overflowing container of filths,
Constantly running off sewage through nine holes.
Get rid of worldly desires, know the body unclean,
Follow the paths of dhyāna, persist the means
Of dhūta, and jut out of the circle you will.
3. Drive Away Covers that Delude the Real Mind
In last chapter, I spoke about the five worldly desires induced by outward. In this chapter, I plan to speak of the five mental and moral hindrances formed by the faculty of mind, viz., the sixth of the senses. They are sexual craving, anger, torpor, unsettledness and lamentation, and doubt, which can cover up good intentions one is engaging. They have to be cast away.
The first effort is to drive away the cover of sexual craving. Suppose that a meditation practitioner sitting straight, contemplating onward, right feels the sexual craving rising from a deep, dark corner of consciousnesses, and it keeps running on unconventionally. The continuing lust has to be instantly stopped. Otherwise, the virtuous minds will be swathed indeed, and all kinds of merits will be “burnt off.” This is also the reason why Subhakara was self-ignited to die. Attached to delusion as such leaves one no chance to approach the realization of nirvana; and it is the habitat of all sorts of the passions. Be alert, then! As the verse expresses below,
Having been engaging in the path of awakening,
Meekly holding alms-bowl around to benefit the masses,
Shall you again give free rein to worldly lusts,
Or again indulge in five passionate senses?
Since you decided to leave your household, you have let go of
The indulgence of such things and sworn not to look back;
Isn’t that it is silly to return to the passions as such—
Like a Fool eating up his/her own vomit?
These desires bring torments when seeking after;
They result in great fear and dread of loss when attained;
And, they release anxiety when fading away.
There has no joyance at all but misery.
When can one be able to part with such tribulations then?
When gaining truly joys of dhyāna, one is able to do so.
Second is to ditch the cover of ange, r. Anger is a fundamental principle that sends away the Buddha Dharma [so that one cannot enlighten]. It is also the cause of falling into evil ways, the enemy of the medicine of the Law, the awful robber of good minds, and the central storage of all coarse languages. In a real sense, a meditative practitioner’s peaceful mind can be swallowed up by nine kinds of distresses that are initially entailed by inner anger—in three circumstances (past, now and future) the practitioner irately thinks of such and such a person constantly eulogizing my rivals but at all times annoying my relatives and me. Distresses as such effect dreadful hatred in mind; the hatred further results in resentment; and, the resentment oftentimes ends up with revenge. Whenever the anger hides reasoning minds, it is called “cover.” So, due to its harmful functions, whenever recognizing it, cease it immediately. Do not let it continue on until it is too late. As the Śakro-devānāmindra, the god of the nature-gods, once asked the Buddha by saying the following verse,
[In my mind,] what should I wipe out so that I can remain serene and happy?
What is the root of ignorance that consumes all kinds of virtuous minds?
To which the Buddha responded:
Destroy the anger so that you will be joyful and free!
Anger is the derivation of ignorance; it destroys every good.
Therefore, in order to transform the anger and arrive at peace and harmony, one should nurture compassion and endurance.
Third is to discard the cover of slothful sleep. Whenever the mind is dazed and cannot stay alert, it is in a state of drowsiness. Whenever the five functions of organ senses do not act and the body is pampered, one is in a state of lethargy. It is sleep that tears down the present and future happiness, the possibility of being reborn in heaven, and the attainment of nirvana. It is such an evil great in demolition. For other hindrances can be pulled down as soon as one is aware. But sleep like a dead is unconscious; it is thus exceedingly difficult to be removed. As once the Buddha blamed his sleepy disciples as follows:
Do not embrace your stinking body in your bed,
Fulfilled with filths, it is unclean!
Ask yourself: if there were a very sick person,
Or a badly wounded person struck by arrows,
Assembled all sorts of sorrows and pains, could such a person sleep?
If there were a guilty man tied up heading for a guillotine,
Facing such a terrible disaster, would he sleep?
Knotted and tied in the bondage of the passions, it is as living
In a house with vipers, or being placed in
Between two sharp swords, then, can one sleep?
Sleep is the darkness that makes one have eyes but see not;
Sleep deprives many people of the most elementary clearness.
Thus, be awake at all times!
Since sleep has such disadvantages, I therefore encourage you all to overcome your sleepy mind, to shorten your hours of rest, and to be alert that life is short and impermanent. Do not idle away the hours sleeping in a bed, but let your mind be awake at all times. If you cannot do it, then ask someone else to wake you up by using a Chanzhang禅杖.
Fourth is to cast away the cover of unsettledness and lamentation. Unsettledness displays in three respects: body, mouth, and mind. Frequently, the unsettledness of body does not allow a meditator to sit still in any position, but constantly participate in time-killing wandering or pleasure of theatricals [which is forbidden to a monk or nun]. The unsettledness of mouth lets a meditator fall into an abyss of frivolous discourse, meaningless sophistry, and worldly chanting. And, the unsettledness of mind lets a meditator lose concentration, rising evil thoughts contrary to Buddhist principles. Unsettledness, if pampered, cannot be restrained—like a mad elephant without being hooked, or a wild camel without being caught by nose; it destroys concentrative minds and sends away both religious joyance and secular joyance. So, as a bhikṣu, one should get rid of unsettledness. As the verse says,
Tonsured, you put on regulation garments,
Depend on alms for a living, and
Determine not to coddle yourself in unsettledness.
To indulge in unsettledness as such, you understand,
Is to lose your precious benefits on the Buddha Dharma.
What is the lamentation then? It is the closest companion of unsettledness. To which unsettledness ultimately turns into hindrance. If a meditative practitioner cossets unsettledness, lamentation follows; and, this will cause him/her unable to practice advanced contemplation later on, for the lamentation can generate the vexation that covers one’s peaceful mind. Here are two kinds of lamentation: (1) entailed by unsettledness, as we have just discussed above; (2) entailed by the heavy sins that produce great dreads and regrets in mind. Like solidly struck by an arrow into soul, lamentation is difficult to remove. So, the verse accounts,
Doing what is not allowed to do,
Not doing what is requested to be done,
The fire of lamentation burns off your peaceful mind
And will lead you to an unhappy way in the next existence.
Repent your sins and then regret not;
Your mind will be peaceful and happy.
Only those who cry over wrongdoing suffer most
And show the state of the Fool.
So, do not be so remorseful, take your step to cross over the lamentation,
And do what you ought to do afterwards!
After all, the evil things that you have done cannot be taken back.
The last effort is to reject the cover of doubt. Doubt can hind the believing mind that enables a person to believe in Buddha Dharma. Because of lack of faith in receiving without doubt, one is not able to gain the benefits of the Dharma, as a disabled person—who has no hands, but ironically finds himself/herself right in front of a giant mountain of treasure—is incapable to take any jewels, or whatsoever with him out of that mountain. In reality, doubt causes many problems, but it is unnecessary to have obstruction to the practice of dhyāna. Nevertheless, the one that I am talking here does. And, it is threefold: (1) Doubt about oneself, constantly thinking, “My faculties of senses are ignorant and dull-witted. I am heavy-armed with the thick filth of sin. Am I not the person [who can achieve enlightenment]?” Doubting thus, a person will never be able to practice dhyāna. In fact, a person, if wishing to achieve dhyāna, should not be self-abased, for the consequence of good deeds done in previous existences is unpredictable. (2) Doubt about one’s own Dharma Teacher: “Alas, my Dharma instructor’s appearance and dignity are so poor. Nor does s/he seem to have the power of religion. What manners, then, can s/he use to instruct me?” Scornfully doubting thus, a person will never be able to arrive at the perfection of Samādhi. To eradicate doubts as such, one should do what is recounted in the Māhaprājna-Pāramita śāstra, “If there were much gold in a stinking leather bag, to take the gold, one would also need to pick up the bag.” Likewise, as a Buddhist meditation practitioner, one ought to venerate his/her Dharma teacher as a living Buddha, although the teacher is not perfectly pure. (3) Doubt about the Buddha Dharma. Obviously, because of holding on to the reality of self and clinging to things as real, ordinary people in this world oftentimes find themselves having enough difficulty to believe in Buddha Dharma, much less can they accept or practice the Buddha Dharma with reverence. Generally speaking, if one’s mind is fulfilled with hesitation, then the Dharma will never be able to enter. Why? Let’s see what the following verse has to explain:
When facing a crossroad,
A traveler doubts, confuses, and thus makes no progress.
The similarity is in seeking the Dharmakāya, the reality beneath all things—
When doubting, one is indolent to pursue it.
Doubt, coming from ignorance, is the evil’s evil.
Doubt not that there are good deeds and evil ones, saṁsára and nirvāṇa;
Otherwise, when the King of Death or the infernal lictors appear—
Like lions hunting a deer in open—you will find yourself nowhere to hide from. Living in secular, when having doubts, one follows good models;
So is the confused traveler: when facing the crossroad,
Raise faith to follow an experienced explorer.
Therefore, to have faith is the key to enter the ocean of the Buddha Dharma. If lacking faith, one will profit not, even though one has long known the Buddha Dharma. So, whenever recognize the cover of doubt, abandon it immediately.
Nevertheless, by hearing this, one might ask: “There are countless covers that delude one’s real mind, why do we just cast away five?” My chief concern to the question is this: The five covers possess the main elements of the three poisons (greed, hatred, and ignorance), base on four delusions, and thus include 84,000 mortal distresses in all. The cover of the sexual carving belongs to the category of the greed; the cover of anger, the hatred. The cover of sleep and that of doubt both belong to the ignorance. And, the cover of unsettledness and lamentation is averagely contained in the three poisons. Together, these five covers form four delusions in reference to the ego, and each delusion has 21,000 mortal distresses; four delusions include 84,000 mortal distresses. Hence, to eliminate the five covers is to remove all the mortal distresses. That’s why a Buddhist meditation practitioner only cast away the five covers. By doing so, it is much like that a debt-ridden person relieves from debts, or an unhealthy person recovers from illness. It is much like that a starving person arrives at a highyield nation, or a merchant safely escapes from a band of cool-blooded robbers. A meditation practitioner who has got rid of the five covers secures a clam and joyful mind.
As in the sky, the sun and the moon are typically covered by five things: smoke, dust, cloud, mist, or the hands of Asura. The peaceful mind is covered by sexual carving, anger, slothful sleep, unsettledness and lamentation, and doubt.
4. Adjust Five Duties
The meditation practitioners who yearn to carry out the teachings of three periods [i.e., past, present, and future] of the Buddhas of ten directions, should first vow to pursue the way of the Buddhood earnestly, and resolve to save all beings afterwards. They also need to solidify their minds durably and, regardless of their own individual lives, valorously progress in doing the good deeds to achieve the enlightenment. They would be able to contemplate the reality beneath all things, had they achieve all Buddha Dharmas. Perceive that good, evil, neither good nor evil, that the passions that come from inside senses nor outside conditions, that the three realms of distress and illusion, and that the stream of the births-and-deaths, all are brought into being by mind. As the Ten-Stage Sūtra observes, “Not otherwise are the three realms. We mind them, therefore they come to being. If the mind has no nature, then much less are all things.” If a person’s mind attaches to nothing, then there will be a clear end of the karma that leads a person to the ocean of the births-and-deaths. Musing thus, one should consequently bear the mind to practice the Buddha Dharma.
Now, what does it mean “to adjust”? It is much like a potter, who wishes to make wonderful potteries, would first adjust kaolin neither too soft nor too hard, and then, put the attuned kaolin onto a potter’s wheel. Or a musician, who wishes to play fabulous sounds from a certain stringed instrument, would first tune the strings of the instrument neither too tight nor too loose, then, the instrument would be ready to content the musician’s aspiration. So is the Buddhist meditation practitioner who adjusts his/her own mind in order to approach the perfection of Samādhi easily. In practice, there are five duties requiring suitable adjustments, for if unadjusted, these five duties can produce obstructions and thus cause good deeds to be unexploited.
The first duty to be adjusted is “meals.” To have meals is due to the fact that we need food to progress on the Path. However, here are two things calling attention, i.e., either eat too much or too little. If overfilled, the body will become too heavy to sit down to meditate. Also, the Qi, the vital energy of the body, will come to an uncontrollable state of rushing around, throwing the regular pulse into confusion, and thus preventing the clear mind to contemplate onward stably. On the contrary, if eating too little, the body will become frail, and the mind will turn out to be anxious. The contemplation itself becomes unstable and weak in nature. These two situations are of losing the perfection of meditative absorptions. Furthermore, do not eat anything foul or unseasonal, for food as such can turn one’s clear mind into a dizzy condition, or cause the illness entailed by the inharmonious working of the four elements in the body. To adjust the meals is thus the basic means to the very beginning of the contemplation. Therefore, it has to be considered seriously. As the sūtra says, “The Way will be developed only if your body is healthy enough. So, adjust the food you eat. Take joyance to an unoccupied ground and purify your mind. Then, be progressive on the Buddha path. Such is the teaching of all the Buddhas.”
Second is to adjust “sleep.” Sleep covered by illusion is ignorance. It should not be indulged. Too much sleep is not only to leave the sacred Dharma uncultivated but also to part with the efforts [that have been achieved]. It darkens enlightened mind and sinks goodness down. Therefore, be aware of the impermanency and conquer your sleeping mind as well! Let yourself be full of vigor and mindfulness; thus, the mind can perch on the saintly way, and the perfection of Samādhi can be reached. As the sūtra states, “[Bhikṣus,] all night long you should stay awake. Do not idle away the hours sleeping and thus gaining nothing, but at all times alert that the fire of impermanency burns off the world and all in it. You ought to search for enlightenment as soon as possible!”
The other three duties followed below—to adjust the body, the breath, and the mind—require working as a unit. They should not be separated while practicing the meditation. However, among them there are beginning, continuing, and ending means that show three different conditions of sitting meditation, that is, on entering the condition of absolute rest, in staying with the condition, and being out of it.
[Third, with respect to the body,] for those who are taking efforts to reach the calmness inside and seeking the perfection of Samādhi, they have to adjust the body properly. If still not being able to approach dhyāna, they need to pay considerable attention to daily actions. Try to avoid doing things that are physically harsh or rough, for harsh or rough actions can throw one’s breath into a rash condition, thus putting the mind into distraction. This could also raise vexation inside when trying to sit down to meditate, as the mind, in this case, would not be on its own course towards peace and harmony but discomposure. So, please be convinced and follow my humble advice before you take actions to sit down to contemplate, and, in order to enter the state of dhyāna with less difficulty, adjust your body accordingly. Below are steps that show how to get ready for meditation. First, make sure that the seat you will sit on is stable [and comfortable] enough as long as you may sit on it. Second, sit in full cross-legged lotus posture; or sit in half cross-legged lotus posture, i.e. placing your left leg on the top of your right thigh, and vice versa. Third, adjust your belt and cloth to a restful position; put the left hand top onto the right and place them up on the crossed legs; make sure that the place your hands located is closely against the belly, right in the middle area of the crossed legs, down straight from your heart section of the body.
Next, sit straight. Relax the joints of the body. Adjust the back properly—not too curved or too vertical. Next, open the mouth to gently blow out inside turbid air and, meanwhile, contemplate on that the hundreds of arteries and veins of the body pulse smoothly. Next, close the opened mouth to, through the nostrils, exhale the turbid air and inhale the fresh. Practice this one time or three times until the body and breath are in harmony. Then, continue on to keep the mouth closed naturally and softly; the teeth of the upper and lower jaws are brought together, with the tongue against the palate. Then, close your eyes to avert the outside lights and sit stably as though the body were a stone. Do not move your hands or feet while sitting in meditating. Such are the basic means to approach dhyāna. In a nutshell, the accurate way to adjust one’s body is not too loose or too strict. [Keep in a comfortable, relaxing way.]
Fourth, as an incipient, to adjust breathe when sit in meditating, frequently manifests in the following phenomena: windy respiration, gasping respiration, lopsided breathing, and pure respiration. The first three modes are unadjusted conditions; the last, the adjusted one. What, then, are the phenomena of windy respiration, gasping respiration, and lopsided breathing? When sit down to meditate, perceive that the breath passing in and out of the nostrils makes noise. This is windy. When sit down to meditate, the breathing makes no noise, but is broken and uneven. This is gasping. When sit down to meditate, there has no noise, nor is gasping, but still the breathing is unequal and not smooth. This is lopsided breathing. What is pure respiration, then? The pure respiration, having not such unadjusted conditions, is of a state that the breathing is in a stable harmony, smoothly passing in and out of the nostrils, regular and balanced, through which the mind attains constantly calm and joy in the Law. This is pure respiration. Remember. If staying with wind, the mind will be confused. If staying with gasping, the mind will make no progress in contemplation. And, if staying with lopsided breathing, the mind will be tired out soon. Only then staying with the pure respiration can the dhyāna be at hand. So, when twined by the three unadjusted conditions, the mind can never rest in peace, much less can it approach the dhyāna.
Of the three unadjusted conditions, here are three solutions: (1) Discontinue the distresses that delude clear mind so as to stay calm. (2) Relax the body; let the limps of the body be easily arranged. (3) Contemplate on that the vital energy of the body goes in and out of the pores freely. Thus, the breath can be regulated and even. And, the mind, step by step, can be much able to approach the state of dhyāna when the breath is adjusted and even. Therefore, to regulate one’s breath is the first means to begin one’s very own contemplation.
Lastly, to be able to arrive at dhyāna by means of sitting meditation, one has to regulate his/her mind in accordance with three schemes: (1) in penetrating the condition of absolute rest, (2) in staying with the condition, and (3) being out of it.
In penetrating, it has two respects. Firstly, regulate all perplexed thoughts to a horizontal state. Secondly, adjust the body and the mind properly—let the body sit in a position that is not too loose or strict; let the mind be away from increasing emotion, dullness, and fickleness. Now, how can one know that his/her mind is in dullness? It shows as follows: When sit in meditating, the head drops often, and the mind is murky, unclear, and makes nothing out of it. The condition can be healed if one keeps focusing on his/her nose tip—thus the mind can concentrate on one point. What is the fickleness, then? When sitting in meditation, the body is ill at easy; the mind is desultorily wandering about, sways to and fro. This is fickleness. To heal it, one may draws proper attention on the navel—by doing so, the body will sit in easy, and the mind can be calm down as soon as possible, and concentrate on as well. In short, to mend dullness and fickleness is [the basic means] to bring dhyāna about. So, let your mind be in an even state and concentrate on one point. For, when sitting in meditation, if the mind is uneven, illnesses will follow (the common one is to have a pain inside the chest); and, if the mind cannot concentrate on, going wildly, laxity will tag along—to both the body and the mind. It is easy to see then that the condition of absolute rest is merely achieved by a balanced state of consciousness.
In the staying stage, there are three things requiring adjustments: the body, the breath, and the mind. As a meditation practitioner, to meditate is to allow oneself to sit contemplating onward freely and quietly for an hour, two hours, three hours, or even a whole day long. In this cause, one should be good enough at knowing whether the body, the breath, and the mind are properly adjusted or not. One may have at times attuned the body when sit in meditating. But, as times passing by, the adjusted body can switch to a loose or strict condition, or even lean to a side, or even bend over forward. This may cause a meditator to lose his/her ability to sit straightly while the contemplation is still going on. It is important to correct such mistakes, then. And, after the body is adjusted, please regulate the breath and the mind as we have discussed above to make your contemplation more efficiently.
Finally, being able to be out of the condition of absolute rest. When a meditator is ready to leave the state of absorption, one may let go of the concentrated mind to exteriors circumstances first, and open the closed mouth to blow out the inside air afterwards, contemplating on that the air, through the hundred pulses of the body, is freely and effortlessly on its way out. Then, move the body tenderly and orderly—first the shoulders, then the hands, the head, the neck, and finally the crossed legs. Next, stroke over the skins of the hands gently, rub the hands to warm up a little bit so as to coat the eyes and open them in a soft way. Do not leave the seat you are sitting on, unless your body has returned to its regular temperature; otherwise—if sit in quietude, but be out with an abrupt manner—the imperceptible quietness [and warmness] that still remains in may later on engender headache, or stiffness within joins inside the body. And this may also bring fidget to a meditator that would generate rejections to sit down and contemplate onward later. Thus, an attention to such should be always called to mind, whenever the meditation is at its edge to finishing. To leave the condition of Samādhi is much about to set mindfulness aside and return to negligence again.
[By grasping manners as such,] one can be named a skilful meditator at penetrating, staying, and being able to be out of the condition of rest. As the Gātha states, “To skillfully and orderly penetrate in and stay with a condition of absorption, incorporate both mindfulness and negligence, it is much like to train a horse well, letting it stay still or go on in order.” The Lotus Sūtra also observes, “All the bodhisattvas among the assemblages at the presence of Me, have been assiduously making efforts in pursuing the Buddha Path throughout incalculable lifetimes. They are now skillful at penetrating in, staying with, and being able to be out of the myriad conditions of Samādhi. They attained remarkable, ubiquitous supernatural power, also, as they had long engaged in practicing noble disciplines and orderly exercising all kinds of goodness.”
5. Utilize Skillful Means
Now, to put śamatha and vipaśyanā meditation into practice, the five expedient skillful means (upāya-kauśalya) shown blow are helpful and thus required beforehand.
Firstly, have skillful desires, i.e., longing to be relieved from worldly illusions and to accomplish all the levels of meditative absorptions and insightfulness. Desires as such are originally embraced by the power of wholesome aspiration, ambition, appetite, or willingness, which constantly encourages a meditator to seeking profound meanings of the Buddha Dharma. Therefore, skillful desires are oftentimes found essential. As the Buddha himself once said, “[To be able to attain] all virtues [that lead to deliverance], skillful desires altogether play a major role.”
Secondly, keep on to vīrya, the right efforts. Continuously and assiduously engage in right endeavors to observe the Rules and drive away the five covers. Do it as drilling a piece of wood to make fire, the work should not be set aside till a sign of smoking fire appears.
Thirdly, take up the samyak-smrti, the skillful mindfulness, to discern that the world is largely established upon swindles and turbidities, and that noble and respectable is dhyāna. If dhyāna is attained, then all pure wisdom will engender, and all kinds of supernatural power can be achieved, thus being able to become enlightened and save beings from afflictions.
Next, develop the kauśalyajñāna, the skillful insight. Apply such insight to distinguish conditioned secular happiness from unconditioned, pure happiness produced by tranquility and right discernments. Knowing that the former is pertaining to passion, affliction, and instability; resulting from the laws of karma. On the contrary, the latter is the way leading to the stopping of stress and passion, to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding; it is pure and quiescent in nature, worthy of pursuing.
Next, develop the eka-citta, the singleness of the mind, to discern on that the world is fabricated, delusive and aversive; that the stages of insight and the supramundane fruitions are favorable. Thus, please the mind to the practice of śamatha and vipaśyanā, to seek enlightenment by means of employing the non-dual cognition. In doing this, the mind will be determined and indestructible as strong as a diamond that even the deva-putra-māra, the Heavenly Destroyer, and those of other cults, the Outsiders cannot obliterate. It will never draw back, even though it might fail to meet its ultimate goal.
Finally, it is necessary [for a meditator] to comprehend that the kauśalyajñāna and eka-citta must function as a set. As the sūtra expresses, “Without skillful insight, there be no dhyāna, and vice versa.”
 See T. 25. 1509. 181b22-24. Bimbasāra, king of Magadha, resided at Rājagṛha. Udayana, king of Kauśāmbī, is reputed to have made the first image of the Buddha. Both of whom were contemporaries of Buddha Śākyamuni.
 Kong-hou is an ancient Chinese plucked stringed instrument.
 Zheng is a 21- or 25-stringed plucked instrument in some ways similar to the zither.
 In his Māhaprājna-Pāramita śāstra, Nāgārjuna states, “Delusive people do not understand that sounds are subject to change and decay. So, they sillily attach to sounds and thus lose themselves among them. Like five hundred immortals that lived in snowy mountains, they could not control themselves while Gandharvas joyfully bathing in a pool began to sing.” See T. 25. 1509. 181b25-29.
 See T. 25. 1509. 181c23-26.
 Ibid, 182a9-11.
 Ibid, 183a17-183c15.
 Ibid, 181a14.
 See T. 15. 609. 238c24-27.
 According to Māhaprājna-Pāramita śāstra’s recount, Subhakara, son of a fishing family, was self-ignited to die by his own intensively sexual desire towards the princess Kumuda. See T. 25. 1509. 166a29-b23.
 See T. 25. 1509. 183c24-25, 184a5-6 ＆184a11-14.
 Ibid, 167a16-18.
 Ibid, 167a20-1.
 Ibid, 184b26-c04.
 A Chanzhang is a staff or pole for touching those who fall asleep while assembled in meditation.
 T. 25. 1509. 184c09-10.
 Ibid, 184c13-20.
 Although Master Zhi-yi himself said that the sentence comes from Māhaprājna-Pāramita śāstra, it however cannot be found in the text.
 T. 25. 1509. 184c25-185a05.
 The three realms are the realm of sensuous desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm of pure spirit.
 Although Master Zhiyi says that the sentences he quotes in this text are derived from the Ten-Stage Sūtra (Shidi jing 十地经), the sentences, however, cannot be exactly found in the sūtra. Nevertheless, some close descriptions have been found in the sūtra. See T. 26. 1522. 169a15. 经曰。是菩萨作是念三界虚妄但是一心作。Also see T. 26. 1522. 179b14-15. 是菩萨远离一切心意识忆想分别。无所贪着。如虚空平等。入一切法如虚空性。
 See T. 23. 1436. 478c4-5.
 See X. 37. 665. 634b09 ＆b14-5.
 T. 9. 262. 41c16-9.
 See T. 25. 1509. 140a14. 如佛所言：「一切诸法，欲为其本」 Also T. 12. 374. 587a29＆b1. The Mahā-parinirvāṇa-sūtra states that the skillful desires are the fundamental principles that access the Way and eventually the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi (The unsurpassed, equally perfect enlightenment). 善欲即是初发道心，乃至阿耨多罗三藐三菩提之根本也。是故我说欲为根本。
 See T. 4. 210. 572a18. 《法句经》云：无禅不智，无智不禅，道从禅智。