English | Vietnamese


November 15, 1973  Thursday evening  

On How to Keep Our Mind on the Way

Ven. Master Hsuan Hua


Master: Does anyone have any opinion to bring up today? 

Visitor: [in English] When sitting, what should one keep one’s mind on? 

Master:  Not on any fixed place. Your thoughts should be free of all attachment. Your mind should not dwell upon anything, thinking neither of good and nor of evil. You should work on that point. Focus your attention there. Thinking in terms of good and of not good are both attachments, and in cultivation you should not have attachments. You must rid yourself of all attachments whatsoever, even forgetting about your own body. If you don’t have a body, then what attachment is left?   

Don’t think of anything except for the question “who?” “Who is it who recites the Buddha’s name?” asks “Which one?” Look for the “who.” When you find out “who” it is, you become enlightened. Before you’ve found it, you have to keep looking for it—for one day, two days, ten days, a hundred days, a thousand days, ten thousand days, one year, two years, ten years, a hundred years, a thousand years, ten thousand years. It only counts when you find it. You can’t speed up the process, like taking opium and getting a fix. To attempt to rush things results in a fraudulent outcome. 

When you cultivate genuine Dharma, you have to do the work yourself; you must apply your own effort. You can’t be like the farmer who tried to make his sprouts grow faster by pulling them upward. That’s a mistake. 

By focusing on the question, “Who is it who recites the Buddha’s name?” you can cut off all random thoughts. All thoughts of desire will be ended. You could say that is to cut down the ten great demonic hordes which I talked about a few days ago. In that “who” alone, everything is gone. If you aren’t mindful of the Buddha, of course you won’t investigate the Chan question “who?” and idle thoughts will arise. But as soon as you have that “who?” it’s like the Vajra King’s jeweled sword which cuts everything off clean so there is nothing at all. We’re definitely not talking about attachment to some particular place. “Everything is empty and unreal. If you see all phenomena as nonexistent, then you see the Thus Come One.” If you have attachments, you still have the mind of an ordinary person. If you have no attachments, your mind is on the Path.


Timely Teachings. Page 281-282