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.