For those that followed my FaceBook feed I recently complted my Buddhist Homelitics class by giving my final Dharma talk. The recording is quite a large file but below is the transcript of what I talked about:
Venerables, Dear Friends, good morning to you all!
Han Shan, or Cold Mountain was a legendary figure around the Tang Dynasty.
He didn’t really keep to conventional tactics of paper, brush, and ink. He carved on bamboo, wrote on walls, rocks, mountains, etc.
He is often depicted with Shi-de, the pair is always known as HanShan ShiDe. Some believed that they were manifestations of Manjusri and Samantabhadra.
Not a lot of biographic info is available about him, but his is most known for his poetry.
He wrote about 600 piece of poetry, of which 313 pieces were collected till this day.
Today I want to share one of his poems—allow me to read the Chinese and two translations:
Trans. By Red Pine
People ask the way to Cold Mountain
but roads don’t reach Cold Mountain
in summer the ice doesn’t melt
and the morning fog is too dense
how did someone like me arrive
our minds are not the same
if they were the same
you would be here
Trans. By Josey Shun and Bhikshuni Heng Yin
People ask the way to Cold Mountain:
There is no path.
How do I get there?
My mindset is different.
If your mind becomes like mine,
You will get there with ease.
Cold Mountain himself lived in a cave, therefore people who wanted to visit him would at times have no clue how to get there.
But he doesn’t necessarily refer to the physical phenomena.
Master Hsing Yun taught that because the common person’s mind still differentiates, he cannot connect with the Cold Mountain. Someone can ask what is Cold Mountain’s stage of meditation, a differentiation like that can’t experience what Cold Mountain’s experienced.
The mind is like free-flowing water, but because of a single thought of attachment the water solidifies into ice, and even under the summer heat the ice can’t melt.
Like the sun’s rays can shed light all over, but with a single thought of ignorance it is like the thick fog, even the bright sun can’t penetrate through it.
Cold Mountain’s state of mind is like the vastness of space, the layperson’s mind has limits, the stages are quite different, but if our stages are similar, melting the ice mountain of differentiation, disbursing the fog of ignorant views, then our minds can meet.
In chaplaincy work, you meet a client and making that connection with the client can sometimes be as challenging as melting ice or penetrating fog; but once I overcome all of that, I can meet the client where they are.
I had this client, a little less than two years old; I couldn’t get through to him much so I tried communicating with his parents. His parents seemed mentally adjusted that their son won’t survive but just couldn’t get themselves to move forward.
After talking I discovered that their son would feel more comfortable listening to the recitation of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’s name. I asked permission to chant for a few minutes, and their son slowly stopped crying and I was able to open the floor to talk to the parents more in-depth.
I saw a video recently about the Buddha asking if one of his disciples was willing to go to this country where everybody’s a bad guy and convert them to good guys (for lack of better terminology), none of the arhats were successful because they went in and gave their sermons cold turkey.
The Buddha didn’t want to give up so he signaled Manjusri to go. He went to praise the local king for his great work, and then tried to connect with the locals, finding their strengths and positives and praising them for their positive works.
The locals were moved and brought Manjusri lots of offerings. Then Manjusri thought it was the right time to introduce them to the Buddha, and the Buddha finally got the locals to become good guys.
It took me this long to realize that lowering myself down is my learning curve. Whenever I talk to people I somehow have this mindset of having power-over before being able to gradually meet them at their level to continue the relationship. I noticed that happening a lot this semester even with my own cohort mates.
I feel like I let fog and ice buildup between my connections that even the summer heat can’t penetrate. I need to work on my approach, and that’s been something I think I have been working on for a long time.
I sometimes let myself slide and forget that everyone’s Buddha nature matures at its own pace, Buddha nature doesn’t have a speed limit; sometimes I have to repent for that because I may have unintentionally offended someone.
In Zen/Chan practice, the aim is to match our mind to the Buddha’s mind; or ignite our Buddha-Nature to have the same frequency as the Buddha. To reach that level of frequency requires melting ice and disbursing fog, which can be compared to our constant application of the six perfections.
Dana: the time and effort to be present for the client
Precepts: We can’t advise and fix but we can guide them to their own answer; especially when looking at the Bodhisattva Precepts (which I also uphold), I have to benefit beings and help them give rise to Bodhicitta, but I can’t really put it all on a plate and expect them to take it, like what Venerable Master Shengyen of Dharma Drum Mountain mentioned before that it builds up later without having to be attached to the fact that you have to build on it. In close relation to Patience I understand it as not trying to rush everything to a result that everybody may not be happy with. With that mindset I think the remaining perfections can fall into place.
Patience: feelings take time to process; sometimes limiting time may not be the best option.
Diligence: relationships build on follow up, not just leaving them to grow like plants
Meditation: also need to build up on the self and care for others remotely via contemplative practice. Venerable Master Hsing Yun in his book For All Living Beings talks about the Song dynasty poet Su Tung Po describing the stages of enlightenment in his poetry. The main theme of the poems is the mountains and rivers haven’t changed much, it’s the mind’s view of the mountains and rivers that change. Just like we already have the ability to meet the same Buddha at the same frequency, our minds just can’t get ourselves to break through the ice and fog which is our ignorance.
Wisdom: the end result is all parties grow together.
In the end, whose ice are we really trying to melt?
Whose fog are we trying to disperse?
Are we awakening the Buddha nature in the client? Or in ourselves?
Thank you very much!