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Lecture on Contemplating Mind at DDM Buddhist Centre Malaysia

Life and death, day and night; water flows, flowers fall

On September 5th 2017 at Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Centre Malaysia, Venerable Chang Hui delivered a lecture to approximately 120 people on Contemplating Mind (觀心銘), as discussed in Master Sheng Yen’s commentary - The Original Face: Collection of Talks on Contemplating (本來面目:<觀心銘> 講記)

Master Hanshan Deqing (1546-1623), the author of Contemplating Mind, was born in the late Ming dynasty when bureaucratic corruption and social chaos was prevalent. He was the only great Master who recorded his lifelong experience of practice and thoughts. His Contemplating Mind tells the essence of practice in the form of verse. He was distinguished from his peers as wise since his childhood, raising the issue of life and death at the age of 7, seeking life orientation at the age of 12 and ordained as a monastic aged 18. At 19 years, he saw a vision of Amitābha Buddha as he was wholeheartedly chanting the name, intensifying his determination on the path.

Venerable Chang Hui briefly explained the two states of attaining enlightenment. The first is “reflection”, in which practitioners seem to comprehend the truth yet not with complete attainment. The second state, the enlightening experiences, which includes partial as well as full enlightenment, can only arrive when the reflections have been accumulated solidly enough. Through practice, practitioners first experienced partial enlightenment with incomplete realization, however where full enlightenment is attained, there are no further vexations and one is free from external disturbance. As one of Hanshan Deqing’s famous verses says, “Life and death, day and night; Water flows and flowers fall. Only today, I know that my nose points downward." This verse revealed that he had shattered all doubts of existential concerns about life and death. Finally, he attained full enlightenment at age 41.

Master Sheng Yen admired Master Hanshan Deqing, calling him a model of Bodhisattva spirit partly because he developed wisdom by meditation and studying Dharma and partly because he made contributions and merits with compassion.

The Original Face: Collection of Talks on Contemplating includes Hanshan Deqing’s background information, the principles of practice, the method of contemplating mind and the characteristics of the enlightened state but also talks about the process of practice, faith, understanding, practicing, and verification.

“Look upon the body as unreal, an image in a mirror, or the reflection of the moon in water. Contemplate the mind as formless, yet bright and pure”.

Quoting this from Contemplating Mind, Venerable Chang Hui explained the first step in meditation is to not be hindered by attachment to body by breaking down the misconception of the existence of body. She interpreted,

“Not a single thought arising, empty yet perceptive, still yet illuminating, complete like the Great Emptiness, containing all that is wonderful. Neither going out nor coming in, without appearance or characteristics, countless skillful means arising out of one mind.”

The Mind is originally bright and liberated, calm and still, and boundless, so all the methods are connected to it. It will be very hard to contemplate mind unless one breaks down the misconception of physical and bodily existence.

She ended the lecture with a metaphor. On the way to somewhere where you have not been, you would feel it is a long journey because of the unfamiliarity. As long as you keep going, the journey will get more familiar and not feel long anymore. It is just like the journey of practice. Therefore, the further one goes the closer to enlightenment. The Original Face: Collection of Talks on Contemplating will be a book that leads us to it.

Texts: Xie, Jia-Jun (謝佳君)
Photos : Guo, Zi-Wei (郭紫薇)
Translation: Hsiao,Chen-an (蕭宸安)
Editor: DDM Editorial Team, DDM Australia Editorial Team

The Original Face: Collection of Talks on Contemplating

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