Chan Meditation is seeing the heart and mind that neither arises nor ceases

When you don’t practice Stopping and Seeing (Shamata and Vipassana), you don’t really know what meditation practice means, nor the advantages of meditation, and the joy of it! Stopping and Seeing therefore is a very important entry into practice. In order to “know the heart and reach the origin” you need to start from Stopping and Seeing. This is the only way to get to know your original heart and mind.

How do we get to know our own heart and mind? Is this heart the physical organ, or the heart that gets attached to things, or is it the spiritual heart? Which heart is it that we want to see? Even if you open up the physical organ, you will not find the spiritual heart. But it can be heard (by listening to silence), and it can be seen. It is without form or shape, without color.  This is the face of our heart– it has no head or tail, no form or shape.

When we breathe, we are aware of our in-breath and out-breath, and with that, our heart and mind goes to the breath. And when we listen to silence, it goes to the ear to hear. With the eyes it can see, with the nose it can smell, and with the tongue it can taste. But can you say that the heart and mind is the nose? That it is the eyes, that it is the ears? That it is the physical heart? None of it is the heart and mind. Eyes, ears, nose and tongue will perish, but only our heart and mind will not perish. It is without form or shape, it is not material– it is emptiness.

Through Chan meditation we want to find this heart and mind that neither arises nor ceases, and to be able to see its face, to see its true form. As long as we don’t find the heart and mind, we turn around in Samsara (the cycle of Life and death), which is a realm of Ego-attachment and suffering. Where there is (the notion of an) “I” there is Self-attachment, where there is an “other” there is separation and difference. Where there are “sentient beings,” there are bound to be conflicts, and where there is the notion of a temporal “life-span”, the “I “wants permanence.

Therefore, we want to behold the true face of the heart. Only through Stopping and Seeing and thus getting to know the wondrous heart of Nirvana will we be able to see the origin of the heart and mind, be able to understand effortlessness (Wu-wei), be able to experience the Unborn, and realize true freedom while in the midst of Samsara. As practitioners we need to develop a heart and mind that is set on the way, because without a heart and mind set on the way we don’t know how to treasure life. And without a heart that seeks enlightenment, our practice is only pretense. Practice means to stop the deluded mind, and only then will we be able to able to experience that clear and luminous mind described in the statement “abiding nowhere, mind comes forth.”

Dharma Master Hsin Tao (translated by Maria Reis Habito)

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