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The practice of herding the ox

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Writer admin Date06 Dec 2005 Read10,300 Comment0


Question: Once the noumenon is awakened to, no further steps are involved. Why then do you posit subsequent cultivation, gradual permeation, and gradual perfection?
Chinul: Earlier the meaning of gradual cultivation subsequent to awakening was fully explained. But since your feeling of doubt persists, it seems that I will have to explain it again. Clear your minds and listen carefully!

For innumerable kalpas without beginning, up to the present time, ordinary men have passed between the five destinies, coming and going between birth and death. They obstinately cling to "self and, over a long period of time, their natures have become thoroughly permeated by false thoughts, inverted views, ignorance, and the habit‐energies. Although, coming into this life, they might suddenly awaken to the fact that their self‐nature is originally void and calm and no different from that of the Buddhas, these old habits are difficult to eliminate completely. Consequently, when they come into contact with either favorable or adverse objects, then anger and happiness or propriety or impropriety blaze forth: their adventitious defilements are no different from before. If they do not increase their efforts and apply their power through the help prajna, how will they ever be able to counteract ignorance and reach the place of great rest and repose? As it is said, "Although the person who has suddenly awakened is the same as the Buddhas, the habit‐energies which have built up over many lives are deep‐rooted. The wind ceases, but the waves still surge; the noumenon manifests, but thoughts still invade." Seon Master Ta‐hui Tsung‐kao said:

Often gifted people can break through this affair and achieve sudden awakening without expending a lot of strength. Then they relax and do not try to counteract the habit‐energies and deluded thoughts. Finally, after the passage of many days and months, they simply wander on as before and are unable to avoid samsara.20

So how could you neglect subsequent cultivation simply because of one moment of awakening? After awakening, you must be constantly on your guard. If deluded thoughts suddenly appear, do not follow after them― reduce them and reduce them again until you reach the unconditioned.21 Then and only then will your practice reach completion. This is the practice of herding the ox which all wise advisors in the world have practiced after awakening.
Nevertheless, although you must cultivate further, you have already awakened suddenly to the fact that deluded thoughts are originally void and the mind‐nature is originally pure. Thus you eliminate evil, but you eliminate without actually eliminating anything; you cultivate the wholesome, but you cultivate without really cultivating anything either. This is true cultivation and true elimination. For this reason it is said, "Although one prepares to cultivate the manifold supplementary practices, thoughtlessness is the origin of them all."22 Kuei‐feng summed up the distinction between the ideas of initial awakening and subsequent cultivation when he said:

He has the sudden awakening to the fact that his nature is originally free of defilement and he is originally in full possession of the non‐outflow wisdom‐nature which is no different from that of the Buddhas. To cultivate while relying on this awakening is called supreme vehicle Seon, or the pure Seon of the tathagatas. If thought‐moment after thought‐moment he continues to develop his training, then naturally he will gradually attain to hundreds of thousands of samadhis. This is the Seon which has been transmitted successively in the school of Bodhidharma.23

Hence sudden awakening and gradual cultivation are like the two wheels of a cart: neither one can be missing.
Some people do not realize that the nature of good and evil is void; they sit rigidly without moving and, like a rock crushing grass, repress both body and mind. To regard this as cultivation of the mind is a great delusion. For this reason it is said, cut off delusion thought after thought, but the thought which does this cutting is a brigand."24 If they could see that killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, and lying all arise from the nature, then their arising would be the same as their nonarising. At their source they are calm; why must they be cut off? As it is said, "Do not fear the arising of thoughts: only be concerned lest your awareness of them be tardy."25 It is also said, "If we are aware of a thought at the moment it arises, then through that awareness it will vanish."26
In the case of a person who has had an awakening, although he still has adventitious defilements, these have all been purified into cream. If he merely reflects on the fact that confusion is without basis, then all the flowers in the sky of this triple world are like smoke swirling in the wind and the six phantom sense‐objects are like ice melting in hot water. If thought‐moment after thought‐moment he continues to train in this manner, does not neglect to maintain his training, and keeps samadhi and prajna equally balanced, then lust and hatred will naturally fade away and compassion and wisdom will naturally increase in brightness; unwholesome actions will naturally cease and meritorious practices will naturally multiply. When defilements are exhausted, birth and death cease. When the subtle streams of defilement are forever cut off, the great wisdom of complete enlightenment exists brilliantly of itself. Then he will be able to manifest billions of transformation‐bodies in all the worlds of the ten directions following his inspiration and responding to the faculties of sentient beings. Like the moon in the nine empyrean which reflects in ten thousand pools of water, there is no limit to his responsiveness. He will be able to ferry across all sentient beings with whom he has affinities. He will be happy and free of worry. Such a person is called a Great Enlightened World Honored One.

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