Gradual Cultivation and Sudden Enlightenment

This talk was given by Grand Master Wei Chueh on December 22, 2001, at Buddha Gate Monastery. It was translated orally by Ven. Jian Hu, then transcribed and edited into its present form.


Unifying the Gradual and Sudden Practices

    I think many people are beginning to understand the nature of this mind; however, it is still very restless and cluttered; it never stops thinking about the past, the present and the future; it is endlessly worrying about this and that. This is a habit because all our lives we have never stopped our mind for ten minutes. This practice is quite alien to most of us. But now we understand this Way. It is a spiritual path we must each walk by ourselves.

    Everyday we have many scattered thoughts and when the mind doesn't have these scattered thoughts, then it dozes off; when the mind is neither scattered nor dozing off then it is bored; these are three biggest problems of the mind. When we try to keep the mind quiet and cannot do it because of these three problems, then we need to use the method of gradual cultivation. Once we overcome these three problems we need to let go of the methods that we use and just keep the awareness. If we understand this then we will always know how to practice. Whether it is the method of sudden enlightenment or gradual cultivation, both will benefit us. The scripture says that everyone can become a Buddha. This is not just an ideal or an exaggeration. Indeed everyone truly can become a Buddha; everyone can be transformed into a holy one. As long as we have persistence, faith, and great vow, we will definitely build a solid foundation in our practice. Our lives will be more fulfilling, more meaningful, and we will truly realize infinite light and infinite life.

    I will give a final example of a student and a teacher. The teacher explains the course material very clearly and interestingly and the student listens to it attentively and carefully. For the student, time and space seem to disappear; even when a mosquito is biting him he doesn't realize it. Suddenly the bell rings and he realizes how soon this class has ended. On the other hand, if the teacher just reads from a book and doesn't explain the principles clearly and the student is having difficulty understanding or is not interested, the student will then look to the left and right and at his watch thinking why the class hasn't ended yet. In the same classroom within the same hour, why is there such difference in feelings? It is because the mind is discriminating. When the mind is restless, time seems very long. When the mind is concentrated, an hour passes like a single moment.

    So the sutra states, "If you put your mind in one place, it can accomplish anything." The Zen practice is to put the mind back into the Oneness, to make us realize our true nature. If we have a lot of worries, vexations or gripes, then living one day is like living a whole year. On the other hand if we have a tranquil and open mind, abiding in purity and in the unborn and undying absolute state, then one day, one year, a hundred years or a thousand years will feel just like an instant. Buddhism is the highest truth, the highest state of existence. If you have faith and persistence in following this path, you will find what you truly want. Life will become more meaningful and fulfilling, and you will find true blessing and happiness. Finally, I wish everyone good health, happiness, and peace, and that all will bring forth the bodhi mind and never regress.

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