Practicing prayer in proper way is not easy. Some of practitioners who have been attending temple for many years practice prayers wishing for easy way out. That is not applicable in practicing prayers. Under the same sun, the shadow short or long reflects according to the appearances. The compassion of Buddha and Bodhisattvas respond to the hearts of the living beings, but often, living beings look for lucky chances.
Whenever you hear a rumor that certain god brings you luck, you rush over and pray. When you hear certain fortune-teller is good, you rush over for reading. Actually, any good fortune-teller can tell you only what you know. They have no way of knowing what ‘you’ don’t know. That has to be something that you know at least in your sub-consciousness. Other than that, they are guessing. Therefore you should not seek after vanity.
If you are Buddhist, you should come to your senses and follow Buddha’s teaching and practice at your strength. Wishing for lucky chances only defiles your mind and it will lead you to wrong way. You will be miles away from the path of the true teaching and your karmic obstacles will not be purified but become heavier.
Therefore, you must understand the meaning of ‘dependent-arising of the essence’, and practice meditation. Then, your karmic obstacles will clear and the fortunes will come your way naturally. The story of Master Muchak(820~900) and Munsu Bosal in China, illustrates good example of self reliant prayer and self reliant meditation.
Muchak senim, after he became a monk, practiced Munsu Bosal payer. In order to meet Bosal in person, he made full body bow from Hangju to Ohdae Mountain. When he arrived near Gumgang cave in Ohdae Mountain, he saw an old man riding an ox backwards. An old man asked him.
“Who are you? And why are you sitting in the middle of this mountain?”
“Well, I have come to meet Munsu Bosal.”
“Do you think you can meet Munsu Bosal?”
And at the end of conversation, he asked an odd question.
“Have you eaten?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Well, you have no clue.”
Then he went away on an ox. He thought the old man was not ordinary. So, he followed him after. Soon a fancy golden colored temple appeared.
“Gyunjae!” An old man called out for his assistant boy. The boy came out running and took the ox from the old man. Shortly after, he brought tea on teapot made of jewels. After drinking tea, Muchak felt so refreshed.
‘What a wonderful tea!’ he thought.
While he was fascinated by tea, the old man asked.
“Where have you come from?”
“I’ve come from the south.”
Old man asked him again holding up a teacup.
“Do they have such thing in the south too?”
“No, they don’t.”
“Then how do they drink tea?”
“This simple monk keeps the precept.”
“How many are the members?”
“There are sometimes 300 or 500.”
Muchak thought his questions were vain. Muchak asked,
“How do they preserve Buddhadharma here?”
“The saint and ordinary live together and so are dragon and snakes.”
“How many members live here?”
“Three three in front, and three three in the back.”
He could not understand the answer. He asked how many members live here but the old man only replied with strange answer. The sun went down and Muchank asked for night’s shelter.
“You cannot stay if you have delusion and attachment.”
Old man asked again. “Do you keep precepts?”
“Yes, I have been ever since I was a child.”
“Well, isn’t that an attachment? You cannot stay here overnight.”
He meant that one has to enter the state where there is no distinction of cultivation or keeping, but he pointed that Muchak was still in the state where he had to make an effort to keep. That’s why he called it delusion and attachment. Old man told assistant to show Muchak way out. On his way out he found out the name of the temple was ‘Banyasa’. Puzzled by old man’s answer he asked assistant the meaning of old man’s answer when he asked how many members live here.
“Boy, why did he say ‘three three in front and three three in the back’ when I asked how many members lived here?”
“How many is this?”
Muchak did not understand at all. He had to ask him for teaching.
”Boy, please teach me.”
“A face without anger is a true offering and a soft word is mysterious incense.
True mind free of defilements is everlasting mind of Buddha.
Leave delusion and meditate diligently. For whom will you work all day?
If you know this peaceful message in the midst of busy day,
a lotus flower will blossom in boiling water.”
Soon as he heard the song, Muchak senim realized. But when he lifted his head he no longer found any temple. After he had returned from Ohdae Mountain, he practiced diligently until he found harmony between emptiness and phenomena and became enlightened. After that, he volunteered to cook for young practitioners to help them attain enlightenment.
One day, when he was making gruel in huge pot, he saw streams of light from the pot and Munsu Bosal appeared like lotus. It was the Munsu Bosal he’s been longing to meet in person. Others who also saw the scene, appraised in awe, but Muchak senim shouted and slapped the face of Munsu Bosal with gruel stirrer saying, “Munsu is my munsu and Muchak is my Muchak!”
Then from each bubble in the gruel turned into thousands of Munsu Bosal filling the entire room. Muchak senim continued to hit the bubbles with the stirrer. Munsu Bosal finally vanished saying, “I have been practicing for three kalpas and today I am returning with accusation. The bitterness of pumpkin is bitter to the roots and sweetness of melon is sweet to the stem.”
The master Muchak knew the principle of dependent-arising from the essence that none that arise with appearance is real therefore he beat off the appearance of Munsu Bosal by hitting it with gruel stirrer. When the practitioners acquire the principle of emptiness, his or her action leaves no artificiality thus unhindered in every ways.
The nature of land and mountains become one with the self and share the same essence that you are able to return to the very natural realm. When you enter this state, numerous worlds will reveal their true appearances.
Acquiring the emptiness within the True mind and becoming free having no hindrances, is the goal of all practice including prayer.
To a practitioner, it doesn’t matter whether Buddha is made of stone, metal or wood. Without wishing for chances by luck, if you practice sincerely with diligence, all karmic obstacles will distinguish and fortune will come its way.
If you rely on outside power rather than your self-reliant power, you may loose your self. Therefore, when you have attained certain state by outside power, you have to be very careful.
There is saying that, “The heaven look after those who help themselves.” Practitioners of prayer must rely on inner strength. Even if you rely on outside power, you must proceed by understanding the principle of dependent-arising of the essence.
This is the key to accomplishing your utmost aspiration, and the teaching, which will take you to liberation through practicing prayer. When you listen to Dharma talks, you must empty your thoughts.
“Do not rush nor be lazy. If you go one step at a time, you will see the sun rising.”
This song contains great teaching in life. Your rushing will not affect the rising of the sun. Nor will your laziness slow down the rising of the sun. The sun will rise at its right time. Therefore the song teaches neither to be anxious nor be lazy. This can also apply to when you are listening to Dharma talks.
Enlightenment is far from either being anxious or lazy. Then what is not? It is attainable by empty mind. When your mind is completely empty, the teaching can settle in. Try to pour clean water into contaminated water. It will clear some impurity but it still is contaminated. If you try to pour Dharma teachings into mind full of distracting thoughts, it cannot settle in. Therefore you must first calm distracting thoughts.
When you are listening to Dharma talks, you should also let go of judgments whether you agree with it or not. All opinions of it are nothing but segments of delusion. When you empty such distraction, the teaching of thirst quenching nectar can settle in your heart.
True Dharma talks cannot be transmitted by talking or listening. It can be exchanged within empty minds.
Even any good thinking during listening Dharma talks can be distraction. Therefore if you know this, and empty your mind during Dharma talks, you may have chance for sudden realization. This is key to entering the Dharma gate. Hearing same Dharma talks, some realizes and some don’t. Some illuminate like the rays of sun and some get lost in the darkness. Should you make poison or sweet milk? Should you attain enlightenment or dwell in cycle of birth and death?
You hold the key. If you listen to Dharma talks for merely learning knowledge, you will gain nothing but cycle of birth and death. But if you listen with empty mind, you may attain enlightenment. As it has been taught by many Masters, try to listen with empty mind. You will have the day of your enlightenment soon.