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Question: In the approach of subsequent cultivation, we really do not yet understand the meaning of maintaining samadhi and prajna equally. Could you expound on this point in detail, so that we can free ourselves of our delusion? Please lead us through the entrance to liberation.
Chinul: Suppose we consider these two dharmas and their attributes. Of the thousands of approaches to enter the noumenon there are none which do not involve samadhi and prajna. Taking only the essential outline into account, from the standpoint of the self‐nature they are characterized as essence and function―what I have called the void and the calm, numinous awareness. Samadhi is the essence; prajna is the function. Since prajna is the functioning of the essence, it is not separate from samadhi. Since samadhi is the essence of the function, it is not separate horn prajna. Since in samadhi there is prajna, samadhi is calm yet constantly aware. Since in prajna there is samadhi, prajna is aware yet constantly calm. As Ts’ao‐ch’i [the Sixth Patriarch Hui‐neng] said, "The mind‐ground which is without disturbance is the samadhi of the self‐nature. The mind‐ground which is without delusion is the prajna of the self‐nature."27 If you have this sort of understanding, you can be calm and aware naturally in all situations. When enveloping and reflecting―the characteristics of samadhi and prajna respectively―are not two, this is the sudden school’s cultivation of samadhi and prajna as a pair.
The practice of samadhi and prajna intended for those of inferior faculties in the gradual school initially controls the thinking processes with calmness and subsequently controls dullness with alertness; finally, these initial and subsequent counteracting techniques subdue both the dull and the agitated mind in order to enter into stillness. Although this approach also holds that alertness and calmness should be maintained equally, its practice cannot avoid clinging to stillness. Hence how will it allow those who would understand the matter of birth and death never to leave the fundamental calm and fundamental awareness and cultivate samadhi and prajna as a pair naturally in all situations? As Ts’ao‐ch’i said, "The practice of self‐awakening has nothing to do with arguing. If you argue about first and last, you are deluded."28
For an accomplished man, maintaining samadhi and prajna equally does not involve endeavor, for he is always spontaneous and unconcerned about time or place. When seeing forms or hearing sounds, he is "just so." When wearing clothes or eating food, he is "just so." When defecating or urinating, he is "just so." When talking with people, he is "just so." At all times, whether speaking or keeping silent, whether joyful or angry, he is "just so." Like an empty boat riding on the waves which follows the crests and troughs, or like a torrent flowing through the mountains which follows the bends and straights, in his mind he is without intellection. Today, he is at peace naturally in all conditions without destruction or hindrance. Tomorrow, in all situations, he is naturally at peace. He follows all conditions without destruction or hindrance. He neither eliminates the unwholesome nor cultivates the wholesome. His character is straightforward and without deception. His seeing and hearing return to normal and there are no sense‐objects to come in contact with [which could cause new defilements to arise]. Why should he have to bother with efforts at effacement? Since he has not a single thought which creates passion, he need not make an effort to forget all conditioning.
But hindrances are formidable and habits are deeply ingrained. Contemplation is weak and the mind drifts. The power of ignorance is great, but the power of prajna is small. He still cannot avoid being alternately unmoved and upset when he comes in contact with wholesome and unwholesome sense‐objects. When the mind is not tranquil and content, he cannot but work both at forgetting all conditioning and at effacement. As it is said, "When the six sense‐bases absorb the sense‐spheres and the mind no longer responds to the environment, this is called samadhi. When the mind and the sense‐spheres are both void and the mirror of the mind shines without obscuration, this is called Even though this is the relative approach to samadhi and prajna which adapts to signs as practiced by those of inferior faculties in the gradual school, it cannot be neglected as a counteractive technique. If restlessness and agitation are blazing forth, then first, through samadhi, use the noumenon to absorb the distraction. For when the mind does not respond to the environment it will be in conformity with original calmness. If dullness and torpor are especially heavy, use prajna to investigate dharmas critically and contemplate their voidness, and allow the mirror of the mind to shine without disturbance in conformity with the original awareness. Control distracting thoughts with samadhi. Control blankness with prajna.
When both activity and stillness disappear, the effort to counteract them is no longer necessary. Then, even though there is contact with sense‐objects, thought after thought returns to the source; regardless of the conditions he meets, every mental state is in conformity with the path. Naturally samadhi and prajna are cultivated as a pair in all situations until finally the student becomes a person with no concerns. When this is so, one is truly maintaining samadhi and prajna equally. One has clearly seen the Buddha‐nature.