Our body is made out of a collection of physical and thought memory, and (to use computer language) the physical memory is like the hardware, while the “thought-memory” can be considered as the software. Each of our lives is based on a different memory software. The entire humanity is a life stream which is created through innumerable interactions in an interconnected network, and every person interacts with others based on his or her memory software. We are deeply interconnected and cannot survive just on our own.
Memory comes therefore from our common storehouse, and every life has begun from it. If we want to leave behind that memory stream and no longer circulate around in it, we have to find the origin, we have to find our spiritual nature. Our spiritual nature is our awareness.
Our spiritual nature is like water, and all phenomena are like ice. For ice to become water, we need to leave the phenomena behind and return to the spiritual. The spirit has two characteristics: emptiness and clarity. Chan practice is a method that awakens the spirit and lets us slowly discover it, slowly understand it and slowly see it clearly.
The spirit does not need a body– it is the Dharma body (dharmakāya) which is unborn and never dies. It is eternal. But without Chan practice, we cannot purify our spirit, which means that it cannot be holy and pure. If we want the spirit to be completely pure, we need to practice Chan to do the work of purification, to clear away our delusions and attachments.
Let your heart and mind come home through Chan. When the heart comes home, it is well. The heart comes home to be free. Once it is free, it is stable, and once it is stable, it is happy. Chan practice therefore is a path that lets the heart come home.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao (translated by Maria Reis Habito)