English | Vietnamese

Meditation is for Gathering in the Mind

Venerable Master Hsuan Hua


Sitting in Chan is a road that all cultivators must traverse. What's meant by Chan? Chan, the Chinese transliteration for the Sanskrit term Dhyana, means cultivation of reflection,

and stilling of thought. Because the Chinese people liked to abbreviate foreign terms, they retained only the first word of the term Dhyana (Chan na), and so the Chinese version reads, Chan.  

In observing "da dzwo", sitting in meditation, one is required to sit. Why does one have to sit? One sits in order to gather in the mind. When most people first start to sit in meditation, their bodies may be sitting there, but it's not known where their minds have gone. The mind runs off with distracting thoughts, suddenly to the East, suddenly to the West, suddenly to the North, and suddenly to the South. Without having to buy a ticket, the mind hops on a rocket and spirals into empty space. It's very difficult to control these random thoughts that fly off to every direction.  

Why is it that people don't have wisdom? Because their thoughts run outside. Why is it that people age day by day? Because their minds run after external things. It's like a new car: if you drive it recklessly, you will expend a lot of gasoline and waste a lot of gasoline. Not only that, your car will quickly develop many problems, and you might end up totally wrecking it before long. The same principle applies to our bodies. If you don't know to discipline and regulate your body, but instead let it run around, then you end up expending a lot of gasoline. What is this gasoline? It is your precious energy. No matter how much gasoline you put into your car, you end up wasting it if you drive it recklessly. You may eat nutritious food every day, insisting that it can bolster your energy. However, if you don't know how to cherish you own life force, then no matter how much nutritious food you take in, you won't be able to make up for the energy you squander. For this reason, there is a saying:  

If the mind can be brought to a single focus

Then everything will be accomplished.  

You must be able to draw back your thoughts, harness them so they remain in one place. Then you won't be wasting your energy or depleting your resources. This same principle holds true when driving a car. If you know how to manage your car, to not have collisions or run into accidents, then your car will be useful for a very long time. By the same token, if you know how to regulate your body, then your body won't age. In fact, it won't die!  

"I can't believe that," someone says. "Everyone has to die. Even Shakyamuni Buddha entered Nirvana. How can you say that our bodies won't die?"  

You should understand that the Buddha entered Nirvana at the end of his teaching career, but he did not die like ordinary people. He entered a state that is not subject to production and extinction, a state of ultimate, perfect quiescence. The Buddha had already opened great wisdom; he was liberated from birth and death. He was free to come and go. He wasn't like most ordinary people who die from illnesses. The Buddha had simply finished

everything he had to do, having saved all the living beings with whom he had conditions and so he entered Nirvana at the end of his career. Before he entered Nirvana, the Buddha summoned all the Bodhisattvas, the holy sangha, arhats, bhishus, gods, humans, and other beings of the ten directions, to the Dharma Assembly, so they could all say good-bye to the Buddha. This shows that the Buddha clearly knew of his own comings and goings. If you wish to know more about the situation, you can investigate the Nirvana Sutra.  

The purpose of sitting in meditation is to gather in our thoughts. It also is to gather in the body, speech, and mind, so that those three karmic vehicles are pure. When you sit in Chan, your body does not engage in killing, theft, and lust; your mouth does not engage in lewd speech, false speech, harsh speech, and divisive speech; and your mind does not indulge in greed, anger, and stupidity. If your thoughts no longer run outside, your mind and body will become peaceful, and that is the beginning of investigation Chan. The aim of sitting in Chan is to regulate your body and mind, so that your body will not experience any illness, your tongue will not engage in unwholesome speech, and your mind will not fall into fighting, greed, seeking, selfishness, and seeking of personal advantage. Once the three karmic vehicles are pure, your wisdom will manifest. Sitting in Chan is going back to the source and retrieving your original wisdom so that it will emit great, bright light.  

All of you have come here to study the Buddhadharma. You should make time, despite your busy schedules. Even if you have to go without a meal, or make less money, still, you need to find time to study the Buddhadharma. Bring forth your true heart, and then you will obtain a response. If you consider eating to be more important than the Buddhadharma, or making money as being more significant than the Buddhadharma, then you will never manage to learn any Dharma. Instead you should consider the Buddhadharma to be more vital and important than any other thing. That is the basic attitude of every Buddhist.  

Return to homepage | Top of page