What is to be done if the hwadu is pure and is enlarged to mystical phenomena?

When study matures, mystical phenomena such as seeing the Buddha and bodhisattvas or hearing mysterious voices can occur. When taking up the hwadu, such phenomena rarely appear and are not desirable states. If the mind is seduced by these things, one cannot see them as correct and vigorous practice. The seeing of these phenomena are representative symptoms of having put aside the hwadu and the irruption by sense realms. In the course of hwadu study, there are the ideal phenomena that appear in the empty gaps of the consciousness that has put down the hwadu. In other words, while advancing purely with the hwadu, should one look away for a moment, these phenomena arise in a trance.

If such phenomena occur, there is no better method than to take up one’s own hwadu again. Seon Master Taego said that if one took up the hwadu intensely and a thought other than that of the hwadu momentarily encroaches, one would be deluded by these “empty things” that one does not experience in the everyday in this hollow consciousness. Let us listen to his words:

    If the hwadu is thoroughly and purely matured and the doubt reaches the formation into one piece, the body and the mind are suddenly empty, and as if frozen it does not move and the mind will have no more places to go. This state is the taking up of the hwadu by the said person of the original share (of enlightenment), and so if that person gives rise to a doubt other than that of the hwadu, he will certainly be deluded by that empty thing. (Taego eorok, fascicle one, Instructions to the Assembly).

In the course of conducting study, various realms arise, and also miraculous phenomena occur. No matter what realms arise, or what miraculous powers or marvellous phenomena are experienced, if the practitioner should not pay any attention at all to them or have any interest in them, to do so he must push on with the hwadu alone, diligently and to the utmost.

No matter how excellent the realm, even though it is the preaching of a marvellous lecture, one must know that they are all demonic realms. And the original cause for these realms spreading is that interruptions have occured in the mind that is doing the hwadu. That is, the roots of false thought remain, and to know that, the mind must be greatly turned around, and one must inquire into it strongly and in detail with study alone. Only then is it a good time to try and test it with wisdom and the courageous mind.

Seon Master Taego said if one wishes to be free from mystical realms that appear during the investigation of hwadu, do not be afraid of those notions that arise, but each time these notions arise, look at the hwadu. If the notions arise, and one is aware that these have arisen, that will immediately get rid of them.

Each time that these delusions, beginning with the mystical phenomena, arise, if one wishes to get rid of them, there is no excellent means other than the policy of resolving them by clearly taking up the hwadu. In Ganhwa Seon, when one meditates, all the malfunctions that are produced are produced when one has put down the hwadu. There is no other measure to be taken but the life-blood of solely taking up the hwadu again. Speaking of methods to deal with the above content and the appearance of the mystical phenomena, they are as follows:

First, if one has achieved the correct samādhi of the alert and tranquil samādhi, there will be no gap for those mystical realms to appear in. When the hwadu study is not distinct and one has lost focus, and the realms have spread, if one solely conducts study only and scrupulously, there is no gap for any realm to appear in.

Second, if there is in the practitioner’s mind something sought after or a false thought, the realms will spread. And so the practitioer must get rid of all thoughts that seek something. One must know that the mind that seeks to be awakened to the Way or hopes to meet the Buddha and patriarchs, or waits for the Way to be manifested before one, is called the demon.

Third, this is because one cannot deeply comprehend that the mind originally had no form or shape. “All dharmas arise in the mind. Even though the One Mind originally had no forms, how in the gate of the Way can realms appear?” One must know this principle well.

And so one must know that while on the path of study the appearnce of realms is due to a lack of correct understanding of study and that there are blind spots in the mental attitude of the practitioner. The spreading of realms and the study going into side-tracks means that to be enlightened one must proceed in detail and return the mind to the sole investigation of the hwadu alone. If one does so, even if one does not try to get rid of the various realms, they will thoroughly disappear and one will proceed to even deeper study. Knowing that one must proceed is the most critical thing in this study.

Why should one be careful about the calm realm?

If one tries to practice, and just as the body disappears, there are times when one is entirely at ease just like sitting on a cloud. If one thus forgets the body and mind and is simply at ease, it is none other than the malfunction of no thought at all.

If one resides in the condition of just being at ease and not being devoted to the hwadu, this is a realm in which the practitioner has fallen wherein they are surrounded by that which should not be. If one tries to reside in such a place even in the slightest, all the things held in the mind will be lost, and one will be like a person who has produced cleverness that says the Way is keeping the calm condition that is empty and vacant.

Seon Master Jin-gak Hyesim of the Goryeo indicated this condition when he said, “Waiting to be enlightened while sitting in meditation in the demon cave beneath the pitch-black mountains calmly and emptying the mind and shutting one’s eyes and only overing them with the eyelids” is “this realm of being surrounded.” He warned against this by quoting the words of earlier people.

The words “Be careful of the realms of being at ease and calm” means that one must continuously doubt it. Even if suddenly the body and mind become calm, and the fore and after realms are cut off, the mind must not be seduced by that calm condition. Even in that calm condition, one definitely must not stop taking up the hwadu.

Seon Master Jingak Hyesim instructed as follows:

    Do not dislike the condition in which there is no path to seek out and no taste at all. Just do not put down the hwadu. Alertly take it up. Even though the body and mind suddenly become calm, and the realms of before and after are cut off, one must not dwell in that calm condition and one must not stop the work of looking at the hwadu even here. (Jingak Guksa Beobeo)

There is a point here that one must be careful of. The words said above, “One does not know even that there is a body,” when one is studying hwadu, that is different from the state in which one enters the hwadu-samādhi and forgets the body. If one is immersed in the hwadu-samādhi one cannot feel the movement of the body and one should continuously doubt the hwadu. Therefore Seon Master Taego said if one takes up the hwadu-samādhi one cannot be conscious of walking or sitting, and even when eating, one does not know whether the taste is salty or spicy hot, and one does not even feel the movement of the spoon at all.

Therefore when one says “it seems like the body is lost,” if that is not the state of samādhi in which one is immersed in hwadu, that condition is one in which one has fallen into the neutrality of no thought at all, and one falls into a realm of mind where one dwells in a calm place where the mind and body are at ease. According to the words of Seon Master Hyesim, if one dwells in that condition, that is like being in the pitch-black cave of the demons. One becomes a person like wood and stone that cannot be aware and there will be no progress in study. At such times, one should take up the hwadu again and use an earnest strength.

Can sentient beings of superior ability conquer the hwadu at the end of a word?

Seon is the transmission of mind there and then. Those whose abilities are ripened with the awakening of a moment can enter then and there. The clarification of one’s original face does not need any superficiality. The Buddha picked up and showed a flower and Kāśyapa immediately smiled and that’s all. Therefore Seon Master Dahui just said, “At just a word or a paragraph, it is important not to go round in circles and to be directly enlightened.”

If one shows one word in this way, then one must conquer the hwadu momentarily then and there. The Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng, hearing a line from the Diamond Sutra was greatly enlightened at that word. Seon Master Huineng said,

    Teachers, when I was with Master Hongren I was enlightened greatly at one word and was immediately enlightened to the basic nature of True Thusness. Therefore, in order to circulate this teaching to later generations, and to awaken practitioners immediately that they are bodhi, I have tried to get them to see their own minds and awaken to their own original nature. (The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch).

Therefore Seon Master Mazu said, “If one is a sentient being of superior ability, one suddenly receives the teacher’s instructions and becomes aware at the end of a word, and without going through stages or ranks again, one is immediately enlightened to their basic nature.” (Mazu yulu)

The disciple, listening to the master’s words is awakened at the end of the word. This is called “enlightenment at a word.” In the case of this enlightenment at a word, it immediately transcends the stages of movement and calm in one thusness, dream and awakening in one thusness, and waking and sleep in one thusness. If one divides it into stages, one recognizes the passage of time. But the awakening of an instant is enlightenment at one instant, and in the enlightened instant it transcends time and space. This instant, seeing the timeless instant, is an eternity that transcends time. The hwadu is thus conquered in that one instant. And so the instant awakening makes possible the great enlightenment at a word.

And so how must one understand the circumstances of that great enlightenment at a word that is the awakening of an instant? How is it possible for such great enlightenment at a word even though one is of the ability of the highest vehicle? That is because “our minds are originally Buddha.” Therefore, at the end of a word or by observing a certain phenomena one can be directly enlightened. Anybody who thoroughly believes the fact that “I am originally Buddha,” if they open their eyes to that will be suddenly enlightened.

Those who are awakened then and there as soon as they receive the hwadu are people of truly superior ability. Even though it is not enlightenment at an instant, if one investigates the hwadu thoroughly, one can attain enlightenment in a brief instant.

The awakening in a fast time, although possible, if the practitioners of Ganhwa Seon give rise to the desire that I must be rapidly enlightened, they will definitely be unable to be enlightened. It is more important to have the mental attitude that says I must make the mind resolute earnestly and clarify the mind than to have the mind of rapid result that says I must be rapidly enlightened. If one looks at it in this way, those of superior ability can also have instantaneous awakening or awakening in a rapid time frame.

What is the samādhi spoken of in Ganhwa Seon?

The samādhi spoken of in Ganhwa Seon

Sammae is a word that comes from the Sanskrit samādhi, and indicates the condition of mind and body in one thusness or the extinction of self and everything. This means the state in which I and objects become one, pure and calm, without being disturbed. It is a condition that clearly shows a clear realization of reality as it is when the signs of thought disappear and things are only as they are. Such a condition is also called the dhyāna in which one is calm, absorbed in meditation and concentrating the mind on one object.

In Ganhwa Seon hwadu-samadhi is emphasized. I and the hwadu are one and there is the hwadu solely alone. This means that it is not the completion and objectification of the hwadu, but one must know clearly the fact that I and the hwadu are one. Only when one is immersed in the hwadu, and only when the hwadu and I become one mass, and as long as one can put it down it cannot be put down and as soon as one tries to discard it it cannot be discarded, and as soon as one enters the state of the silver mountains and iron walls, only then can it be called a complete hwadu-samādhi. If in this condition one can conquer the hwadu, immediately wisdom appears. This is the same as the principle of when the clouds clear immediately the sun appears. If one is suddenly enlightened by conquering the hwadu in this way, this is the samādhi of the form of oneness that Seon Master Huineng spoke of.

The realm of ultimate samādhi emphasized in Seon

The samādhi valued in the Seon School are the samādhi of the form of oneness (ilsang sammae) and the samadhi of the single practice (ilhaeng sammae). Samādhi is the unification with usually done things. For example, this means the samādhi of book-reading and the samādhi of movies. Such samādhis, although they are caught up in objects, because they are thinking samādhis, and although they are intent on each single object and become one with it, are definitely not the samādhi spoken of in the Seon School that cuts off the paths of thought and language.

The samādhi spoken of in Seon, even in the realm of sound is not contaminated by sound, and in the material realms are not stained by that. Such samādhis are the samādhi of the form of oneness and the samādhi of the single practice spoken of by Seon Master Huineng. The samādhi of single practice is in the daily affairs of going, remaining, sitting down and lying down, to always act with a direct mind. The samādhi of the form of oneness means that no matter where one is located, not to dwell in form, and even if one has grasped form, that one must not produce a mind of dislike or like (towards that form).

Such a samādhi is a life that uses the direct mind or jiksim. Therefore, together with all things one always clearly knows, is tranquil and alert and is not caught up anywhere. Seon Master Linji’s, “Be the master wherever one goes, wherever one stands is totally the state of truth” points to the condition of ultimate samādhi.

When investigating hwadu, what must one do about the tasteless?

When one continues purely to form the feeling of doubt about the hwadu, one comes to the state where one cannot sense any taste. This condition is called “lack of taste” (moljami) or “the tasteless” (mujami). Even grasping it firmly it does not exist; if one relies on it it does not exist; it is totally without interest. Seon Master Dahui said that such times are good times.

The hwadu cut off the taste of language and concepts, and one cannot analyze or pursue it with thought. Hwadu originally does not have any taste. And so Seon Master Yuanwu said of the hwadu, “It is a tasteless cake made of iron.” If one comes to take up the hwadu, one falls fully into where the path of reason is cut off as are all the various thoughts that trouble and ponder, as well as the discriminative consciousness that divides you and I. Traces and signs are cut off.

If one develops to some extent and chews on the tasteless in taking up the hwadu, the path of language is cut off and the paths of thought are blocked. It is the cutting off of the taste of language and thought. Being so uninteresting it is called tasteless. But this is proof that the hwadu is mature and that oneself and the hwadu have become one. If one reaches such a state, even you yourself will have disappeared.

Seon Master Naong of the late Goryeo examined the condition of practitioner’s study with the “ten paragraphs on study.” While he explained this condition of tastelessness as the state just before one took up the mind and body in one thusness that achieves the hwadu-samādhi, because one in that state continues to support the hwadu, although the interest disappears, the power abates. He stressed that in the condition of no interest whatsoever of the tasteless, to push the investigation of the hwadu is not easy.

    Even though one takes up the hwadu and is plain and full of study, there is entirely no interest, there is no place to peck with a beak, and no place to exercise strength, there is not the slightest place of clarity, and even though it being so nothing can be done, one absolutely must not retreat from here. At exactly this time, this is the place where the student applies strength of study, and it is the place where the strength is subtracted, and is the place where the strength of practice is gained, and is the place where the body and life are discarded. (Naong Hwasang eorok, Showing to the Practitioner Ilju).

In the process of the tasteless study one must not be negligent but investigate the hwadu even more strongly. One cannot discontinue it here. One must not search for other expedient means and one must push on to excite only more doubt. One must push on only by managing the hwadu with the mind of great faith and the mind of great vigorous practice.

Investigation of hwadu and alert tranquility

The most important thing in the investigation of hwadu is to be awake to the hwadu continuously. Falling into the neutrality of no thought (mugi) at all and all the phenomena, ideas or malfunctions that arise in the process of taking up hwadu are functions of the production of the mind when one cannot be powerfully aware of the hwadu. The most desirable state for investigating the hwadu is the alert tranquility (seongseong jeokjeok) with respect of the hwadu.

When one investigates hwadu, the development of the state in which one has lost both sides, and the various frustrations and delusions do not rise or cease, is called “tranquility” (jeokjeok). This is a state in which the mind is calm and pure, just like a clean mirror or a clear lake in which there are no waves. Even in this state, the continuance of a feeling of doubt about the hwadu with a lively spirit that does not carelessly fall into neutrality is called “alert” (seongseong). It means to be clearly aware of the hwadu. It is just like the powerful shining of a bright light in a mirror.

Alertness is given priority out of alertness and tranquility in the investigation of hwadu. If one is not alertly aware of the hwadu, one will fall into dullness or neutrality or the realm of the demons. If one is completely aware of the hwadu, one will be immersed in the hwadu-samadhi and naturally open up the tranquil state.

Seon Master Bojo Jinul borrowed the words of Seon Master Yongjia Xuanjue (665-713) and said as follows:

    And so Seon Master Yongjia said, “Although alert tranquility is correct, alert false thoughts are mistaken, and although tranquil alertness is correct, tranquil neutrality is wrong.” I do not agree to being blank in the midst of calm, so how can one produce the false mind by not giving rise to confused thought midst clarity? (Jinsim jikseol)

One must be “tranquilly alert” and must not be “tranquilly neutral.” This is to warn against the state of being merely tranquil without any thought. Therefore, in this process of taking up the hwadu, if one cannot clearly take up the hwadu, merely by being calm and tranquil, as soon as one falls into neutrality in the least it will be difficult to develop study.

Chapter 6: Investigation of Hwadu and the Stage of Samadhi

Investigation of hwadu and alert tranquility

The most important thing in the investigation of hwadu is to be awake to the hwadu continuously. Falling into the neutrality of no thought (mugi) at all and all the phenomena, ideas or malfunctions that arise in the process of taking up hwadu are functions of the production of the mind when one cannot be powerfully aware of the hwadu. The most desirable state for investigating the hwadu is the alert tranquility (seongseong jeokjeok) with respect of the hwadu.

When one investigates hwadu, the development of the state in which one has lost both sides, and the various frustrations and delusions do not rise or cease, is called “tranquility” (jeokjeok). This is a state in which the mind is calm and pure, just like a clean mirror or a clear lake in which there are no waves. Even in this state, the continuance of a feeling of doubt about the hwadu with a lively spirit that does not carelessly fall into neutrality is called “alert” (seongseong). It means to be clearly aware of the hwadu. It is just like the powerful shining of a bright light in a mirror.

Alertness is given priority out of alertness and tranquility in the investigation of hwadu. If one is not alertly aware of the hwadu, one will fall into dullness or neutrality or the realm of the demons. If one is completely aware of the hwadu, one will be immersed in the hwadu-samadhi and naturally open up the tranquil state.

Seon Master Bojo Jinul borrowed the words of Seon Master Yongjia Xuanjue (665-713) and said as follows:

    And so Seon Master Yongjia said, “Although alert tranquility is correct, alert false thoughts are mistaken, and although tranquil alertness is correct, tranquil neutrality is wrong.” I do not agree to being blank in the midst of calm, so how can one produce the false mind by not giving rise to confused thought midst clarity? (Jinsim jikseol)

One must be “tranquilly alert” and must not be “tranquilly neutral.” This is to warn against the state of being merely tranquil without any thought. Therefore, in this process of taking up the hwadu, if one cannot clearly take up the hwadu, merely by being calm and tranquil, as soon as one falls into neutrality in the least it will be difficult to develop study.

Can one take up a hwadu while working as a layperson?

The method of hwadu study for laypersons

The path of meditation practice that seeks one’s own original face does not discriminate between monastic and lay. This is because all sentient beings are originally Buddha. As Seon Master Huineng said, in the Buddha-dharma there is no difference in North and South and in the Buddha-nature there isn’t any discrimination. We are all thus Buddha. In that Buddha site already there is no differentiation between race, gender, religion or lay. Moreover, it is a feature of Ganhwa Seon that hwadu study is done in the midst of everyday life, and if one only makes the mind resolute even in lay life, one can study as much as one wants.

A beginner entering into hwadu study must first produce a genuine mental resolution and establish a firm values outlook with regard to the Buddha’s Dharma. If one has attained this mental resolution, one must correctly learn the method of hwadu investigation for the hwadu that was received from the teacher one sought out. And the beginners in taking up a hwadu must foster great strength. For the period of taking up a hwadu, if one allows any interruptions at all, various delusions force themselves into those gaps. If one lets one’s concentration go even a little, the mind deviates (from the hwadu) by 108,000 miles and all sorts of imaginations from the past spread their wings into the future.

When one starts, if one can extend the strength to take up the hwadu for thirty minutes, it is best to increase that by thirty minutes to have one hour of it morning and evening, and so meditate for two hours daily. It takes about one hour to burn a stick of incense. And so if one can try to enter meditation samadhi for an hour at a time as one burns an incense stick, one will personally experience how good that study is oneself. If one meditates even for a little just before one goes to bed, even though morning meditation is good, it is the most peaceful and genial end to the day.

Take up the hwadu and do not just be trapped into delusion while waiting for people or in rush hours, or just look blankly at the empty sky. Even when the delusion rises up, even in places where that delusion is kindled, take up the hwadu. We, seduced in mind by the delusion, just waste our valuable time and torment our mind. We sometimes demolish our work accomplished with much effort with foolish thoughts, and dislike the other party without reason. This is in the form of self-tormenting by the thought made by oneself. No matter how one looks at it, one receives and makes torment and abuses oneself through such delusions all day long. Therefore, when one tortures oneself with the tortures, one must take up the hwadu. If so, one should take up the hwadu even more in order to convert the power that is wasted on these delusions so that those delusions disappear into the power to take up the hwadu.

Doing so, if one makes taking up the hwadu an everyday thing, using one’s spare time and taking places regularly for meditating for an hour or two usually, it is good to try and participate in an all-night vigorous practice held in monasteries or citizens’ Seon rooms. For people who have meditated for an hour midst the usual everyday rush, while overcoming the aches in the legs or the falling asleep or sleepiness that spill forth and the delusions and frustrations that endlessly arise during the all-night vigorous practice, staying up all night and meditating is not easy. However, if one enters into the everyday after finishing the strength-sapping all-night vigorous practice, it becomes much easier to discover oneself in meditation for an hour. Moreover, one meets good masters and various companions of the Way through all-night vigorous practice, can receive help to polish one’s experience of practice, and can naturally exchange dialogue concerning the realm of study.

In the case of lay Buddhists, if one earnestly meditates for an hour or two daily in the morning and evening, the practice can mature fully. Dahui also said in his Shuzhuang, “The study of the hwadu morning and night is very good, is excellent.”

Thus it is advised that you do not skip a day and meditate everyday. Just as one does not skip a meal, try to practice meditation daily. Gaining strength in study, and the delusions disappearing, the frustrations will gradually decrease. Even though one cannot conquer the hwadu, if one can accumulate the strength of meditation, the mind is calmed and one can grasp the core of life and increase one’s power of concentration. Moreover, in removing the delusions, all things lack taint, one can progress vigorously and can live a life full of original inspiration.

Can one take up hwadu while working?

Can laypersons take up hwadu while working? Among laypersons there are many who are anxious about this question. Since normally if one takes up hwadu one has to concentrate one’s whole body and spirit on it, it is easy to think it impossible to take up the hwadu while one is working or driving.

However, Seon Master Dahui said one must not put aside the hwadu in the midst of the everyday life of walking, resting, sitting or lying down. Not only Seon Master Dahui but also many Seon masters said that daily affairs are none other than the Way. It is exactly because we eat, go to work and try to do our duty and exchange dialogue that this must not be separate from the Way. That is, this means that even in everyday life one can take up the hwadu uninterruptedly. Students who extend their strength by taking up the hwadu in quiet places, can also take up the hwadu constantly when moving, coming and going, or when washing dishes or drinking tea and eating,.

But it is not an easy thing to take up the hwadu while working. If one tries to immerse oneself in work, there are many times when one concentrates one’s mind on that work and cannot be obsessed with the hwadu. But if one tries to take up the hwadu persistently by using empty time such as that of rush hours or in the morning or at night, and even in moments when the feeling of doubt about the hwadu arise and one cannot be conscious of it, one starts to take up the hwadu mindlessly in the secluded places of the mind.

Seon Master Dahui said the hwadu is to be an object that is extended into everyday life and that one must not be manipulated by the realms. While looking at the documents and writing’s on the desk, he said as soon as one has the spare time, and when things clash with you while working, one must handle them well. And, while residing in a quiet place, he said one must get rid of worldly thoughts in an ultimate investigation that comprehends things, and not fall into delusion.

What is the relation between hwadu investigation and the place?

Although a quiet and cozy place provides some psychological and biological assistance to hwadu practitioners, one cannot view such places as functioning as absolute causes. If one is mentally resolute and resides with the mind on the Way, no place should be a problem. If one has made the mind resolute, even though one polishes meditation in the city center, that place can be a deeply quiet site. In the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa Sūtra, Layman Vimalakirti said, “The direct mind is the pactice site (monastery), the bodhi-mind that seeks truth is the practice site.” And so, even though one meditates downtown, if the mind is still and not disturbed, there is no difference between that place and a hermitage deep in the mountains or a quiet meditation room.

In taking up the hwadu, if it is hot, take advantage of that; if it is cold, take advantage of the cold; if it is noisy, take advantage of the noise; if it is quiet, take advantage of the quiet. It is right that one should enter into this study.

However, for beginners it is not so easy to gain the strength to control the mind well. For those starting study, the place of study can have some role. The Buddha also spoke about the location of monasteries. “A monastery must be appropriately separated from villages. It has to be in a place that is not noisy and not far from where one goes begging.” Seon Master Changle Zongze also said that a basic condition for meditation is a tranquil and quiet place. This point was the same for Seon masters of the past. This is because the Seon rooms and caverns in which the generations of Seon masters meditated were mostly sited on myeongdang [geomantically powerful sites] and were valued as places to meditate.

Anyhow, in the case of beginners, it is necessary to find a quiet, clean and intense place. Even if it is only for a fixed period, if one can have a quiet environment, any place is fine. Of course, if it is a permanently established Seon cloister, one must preserve such conditions always. Therefore, if you enter into a Seon cloister, one gets used to a quiet and calm atmosphere at anytime. But one is not to be too attached to a superficially good place.

It is especially desirable for those beginning the meditation to select and go to a place with many assembly members and a Dharmic practice. If one participates in the serious practice with various assembly members, one will unconsciously gain much strength and one can become accustomed corporeally with a study that lacks obstacles and difficulties.

Even though one gains some strength, to the extent that one can, it is advisable to dwell together with various assembly (members). It is truly better to be empowered by being in a Seon room of congregations than in a cave or practicing alone in a Seon cloister. One has to bear in mind above all the fact that the superior causation is to pass time together with the teacher. If one can receive the teacher’s guidance and advance vigorously, that place is more excellent than any practice place/site.

The most important thing is one’s own attitude that wants to make the mind resolute and achieve enlightenment. If one does not make the mind resolute and advance vigorously, no matter how good the causation, it cannot help. Even though there are people who try wandering round in search of a good place to consult Seon, these places are all over. One cannot call a person who seeks a place to study with the concerns only about the natural scenery or the physical geography a genuine Seon practitioner.

How does one overcome the contrary realms and the favorable realms during the course of daily study

Contrary and favorable realms are environs continuously experienced in the course of study, and it is an important topic in the investigation of the hwadu as to how one can overcome these contrary and favorable realms.

What are contrary and favorable realms? A contrary realm means the circumstances that oppose one’s own intention have developed. In a word, this is a circumstance that is difficult to bear that unfolds right before one’s eyes. Therefore it is difficult and painful. The favorable realm means adhering firmly to a condition that has opened up and which accords with one’s intentions. Although it is momentarily joyful when it accords with one’s own intention, if one becomes attached to that, one cannot be awakened to the reality when the mind wanders.

The moment they encounter contrary realms, usually many practitioners forget to study having been seduced mentally by the realm in front of their eyes. Even more, when they encounter contrary realms, the mind schemes strongly, and although one may break through that realm, when one meets with a favorable realm generally one ends up burying the mind in it. If one achieves that hoped-for thing, one becomes intoxicated with that happiness and one forgets oneself, because one is swept away by the circumstances.

Seon Master Dahui said concerning this:

    When a thing appears in front of one’s eyes, whether or not it is a contrary or favorable realm, since one must not be attached to it, if one is attached the mind will be disordered.

    Although the contrary realm is difficult to conquer, the favorable realm is difficult to conquer. If one can be prudent for a moment about that which opposes my intention by simply being patient, it will have passed on by. But there is no place to escape from favorable realms. It is just like when a magnet and iron encounter each other, in spite of themselves they come together. Even though insentient things do so, what about sentient beings who are living where ignorance even more operates in the entire body? When they encounter such realms, if there is no wisdom, unwittingly that is where one is drawn into that realm, but on the contrary if one tries to find a path to leave from in there, why won’t it be difficult? And so, past saints said, “Entering into the world, depart the world with nothing left.” That is the principle of this. (Shuzhuang, Reply to Lou Shumi).

Whether a contrary realm or a favorable realm approaches, know that all the world’s things originally are all conditionally produced phenomena and so lack reality. If one does not give rise to a mind that is attached to that, such realms become slighter. Contrary and favorable realms are all realms already prepared within the mind, and the contrary and favorable are not outside, and are merely one’s own karmic deeds that are projected into the external realm. And so if contrary and favorable realms come in, one must strongly and minutely inquire into it by concentrating the mind only into the hwadu study. Rather, one must activate the advantages of excellent hwadu study without any more contrary or favorable realms.

Even though contrary realms and favorable realms come, do not command the feelings of that moment, but then and there one must take up the hwadu. Thus, even though each day is terribly difficult, hard and gloomy, do not be swallowed up by this. One has to proceed by grasping hard onto the one hwadu. It is certain that the climax is a passing thing. The same applies to favorable realms. Even though all things are temporarily favorable, one must not be overly unsettled by this. The moment one is attached to that, an unpleasant realm will hasten to one.

If one meets with contrary realms or favorable realms, quickly be aware that, “A realm has visited.” At just that time, one must recognize that this is a definite chance for mental study. And in the condition that the mind is made calm and one takes up the hwadu, one must proceed to cope resolutely with the realm one is faced with.