Prerequisites of the Ch'an
From the Hsu Yun Ho Shang Fa Hui
Tr. Lu K'uan Yu (Charles Luk)
The object of Ch'an training is to realize the mind for the perception
of (self-) nature, that is to wipe out the impurities which
soil the mind so that the fundamental face of self-nature can
really be perceived. Impurities are our false thinking and clinging
(to things as real). Self-nature is the meritorious characteristic
of the Tathagata wisdom which is the same in both Buddhas and
living beings. If one's false thinking and grasping are cast
aside, one will bear witness to the meritorious characteristic
of one's Tathagata wisdom and will become a Buddha, otherwise
one will remain a living being. For since countless aeons, our
own delusion has immersed us in the (sea of) birth and death.
Since our defilement has (already) lasted so long, we are unable
instantly to free ourselves from false thinking in order to
perceive our self-nature. This is why we must undergo Ch'an
training. The prerequisite of this training is the eradication
of false thinking. As to how to wipe it out, we have already
many sayings of Sakyamuni Buddha and nothing is simpler than
the word 'Halt' in His saying: 'If it halts, it is Enlightenment
Ch'an sect from its introduction by Bodhidharma after his arrival
in the East until after the passing of the Sixth Patriarch,
spread widely all over the country and enjoyed great prosperity,
unknown before and after that period. However, the most important
thing taught by Bodhidharma and the Sixth Patriarch was only
this: 'Expel all concurrent causes; do not give rise to a single
thought.' To expel all concurrent causes is to lay them down.
 Therefore, these two sentences:
'Expel all concurrent causes. Do not give rise to a single thought',
are the prerequisites of Ch'an training. If these two sentences
are not put into actual practice, not only will the training
be ineffective, but also it will be impossible to start it,
for in the midst of causes which rise and fall, thought after
thought, how can you talk about Ch'an training?
we know that (the sentences): 'Expel all concurrent causes.
Do not give rise to a single thought' are the prerequisites
of Ch'an training; how can we fulfill these prerequisites? Those
of high spirituality are able to halt for ever the arising of
a single thought until they reach (the state of) birthlessness
and will thereby instantaneously realize enlightenment (bodhi)
without any more ado. Those of lower spirituality will deduce
the underlying principle from facts
 and will thoroughly understand
that the self-nature is fundamentally pure and clean and that
distress (klesa)  and enlightenment
as well as birth, death and Nirvina are all empty names having
no connexion whatever with self-nature; that phenomena are like
a dream, an illusion, a bubble and a shadow; and that the four
basic elements constituting the physical body, as well as mountains,
rivers and the great earth which are within self-nature, are
just like bubbles in the sea. These phenomena rise and fall
following one another in succession without intefering with
the essence (of self-nature). Therefore, one should not follow
illusion in its creation, stay, change and annihilation and
give rise to feelings of joy, sadness, attachment and rejection.
One should lay down everything with which one's body is burdened,
thus becoming exactly like a dead man. The outcome will be that
sense-organs, sense-data and consciousness will vanish and that
concupiscence, anger, stupidity and love will be eliminated.
When all our feelings of joy and sadness, of the cold of hunger
and the warmth of one's fill, of honour and dishonour, of birth
and death, of happiness and misery, of blessing and calamity,
of praise and censure, of gain and loss, of safety and danger,
and of handicap and help, are all cast aside, this is the true
laying down (of everything). To lay down a thing is to lay down
everything for ever, and this is called the laying down of all
concurrent causes. When all concurrent causes have been laid
down, false thinking will vanish with the non-arising of differentiation
and the elimination of all attachments. When one reaches this
state of the non-arising of a single thought, the brightness
of self-nature will appear in full.Then
only can the prerequisites of Ch'an training be entirely fulfilled.
Further efforts in the true training and real introspection
will be required if one wishes to be qualified for realizing
the mind for the perception of self-nature.
Ch'an Buddhists often came to inquire (about all this). As to
the Dharma, fundamentally there is no such thing, because as
soon as it is expressed in words, the meaning will not be true.
Just see clearly that mind is Buddha and there will be no more
ado. This is self-evident and all talks of practice and realization
are the demon's words. Bodhidharma, who came to the East to
"directly point at man's mind for the perception of self-nature
leading to the attainment of Buddhahood", clearly indicated
that all living beings on earth were Buddhas. The outright cognizance
of this pure and clean self-nature together with complete harmony
with it, without contamination from attachment (to anything)and without the least mental differentiation, while walking, standing,
sitting and lying by day or night is
nothing but the self-evident Buddha(hood). It does not require
any application of mind or use of effort. Moreover, there is
no place for either action or deed, and no use for words, speech
and thought. For this reason, it is said that the attainment
of Buddhahood is the most free and easy thing which relies only
on oneself and does not depend on others. If all living beings
on this earth are not willing to pass long aeons through the
successive four kinds of birth 
in the six realms of existence 
to stay permanently immersed in the sea of suffering, and if
they wish to attain Buddhahood with the accompanying enjoyment
of true eternity, true bliss, true personality and true purity
,they should sincerely believe
the true words of the Buddha and Patriarchs, and lay down all
(attachments) without thinking of either good or evil; all of
them will cenainly be able to become Buddhas on the spot. All
Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Patriarchs of past generations did
not take the vow of liberating all living beings without warrant
for so doing; they did not take vain vows and did not tell a
(qualification) above referred to, is in the state provided
by nature . Moreover, the Buddha
and Patriarchs had expounded it again and again, and their injunction
in this respect had also been repeated; theirs were true words,
words corresponding to reality, which did not contain an atom
of falsehood and deception. However, all living beings on this
earth have been, for countless aeons, deluded and sunk in the
bitter ocean of birth and death, rising and falling in their
endless transmigrations. Being deluded, confused and upset,
they turn their back on enlightenment and unite with impurities.
They are just like real gold thrown into a manure pit where
it not only falls into disuse but is also deplorably soiled.
Because of His great mercy, the Buddha was compelled to set
up 84,000  Dharma doors (to enlightenment) so that living beings
of different natural capacities could use them to cure the 84,000
ailments caused by their habitual concupiscence, anger, stupidity
and love. In the same way you are taught to use a shovel, brush,
water and cloth to wash, brush, polish and scrub the dirty piece
of gold. Therefore, the Dharma doors expounded by the Buddha
are all excellent Dharmas which enable one to see through birth
and death and to attain Buddhahood, the only question being
the adaptability or otherwise of individual potentialities.
These Dharma doors should not be divided arbitrarily into superior
or inferior ones. Those introduced into China are: the Ch'an
Sect (Tsung), the Discipline School (Lu Tsung), the Teaching
School (Chiao Tsung), the Pure Land School (Chin Tsung), and
the Yoga School (Mi Tsung). Of these five Dharma doors, it is
up to each man to choose the one which is suitable to his natural
character and inclination, and he will surely reach his goal
if he only sticks to it long enough without change of mind and
deeply penetrates it.
sect advocates the Ch'an training. This training centres on
'realization of mind (and) perception of self-nature', that
is an exhaustive investigation into one's fundamental face.
The Dharma door which consists in the 'clear awakening to the
self-mind and through perception of the fundamental nature'
has been handed down ever since the Buddha held up a flower
until after Bodhidharma's coming to the East, with frequent
changes in the method of practice. Up to the T'ang (935) and
Sung (1278) dynasties, most adherents of the Ch'an sect became
enlightened after hearing a word or sentence. The transmission
from master to disciple did not exceed the sealing of mind by
mind, and there was no fixed Dharma (taught). In their questions
and answers (the role played by a master) was only to untie
the bonds (fettering his disciple) according
to available circumstances, just like the giving of an appropriate
medicine for each particular ailment. In and after the Sung
dynasty, human potentialities became duller, and the instructions
given by the masters were not carried out by their disciples.
For instance, when they were taught to 'lay down everyting'
and 'not to think of either good or evil', practisers could
not lay down anything and could not stop tiunking of either
good or evil. Under these circumstances, the ancestors and masters
were compelled to devise a 'poison-against-poison' method by
teaching their followers to inquire into a kung an 
or look into a hua t'ou. Their
disciples were even taught to hold a meaningless hua t'ou as
firmly as possible (in their minds), without loosening their
grip even for the shortest possible moment, in the same way
as a rat will (stubbornly) bite the board of a coffin at a fixed
spot until it has made a hole. The aim of this method was to
use a single thought to oppose and arrest myriad thoughts because
the masters had no alternative. It was like an operation which
became imperative when poison had been introduced into the body.
There were many kung ans (devised by the ancients but) later
only hua t'ous were taught such as: 'Who is dragging this corpse
here?' and 'What was my fundamental
face before I was born?' In the present day, the masters use
the hua t'ou: 'Who is the repeater of Buddda's name?'
these hua t'ou have only one meaning which is very ordinary
and has nothing peculiar about it if you look into him 'Who
is reciting a sutra?', 'Who is holding a mantra?', 'Who is worshipping
Buddha?', 'Who is taking a meal?', 'Who is wearing a robe?',
'Who is walking on the road?', or 'Who is sleeping?', the reply
to 'Who?' will invariably be the same: 'It is Mind.' Word arises
from Mind and Mind is head of (i.e. ante-)Word. Thought arises
from Mind and Mind is head of Thought. Myriad things come from
Mind and Mind is head of myriad things. In reality, a hua t'ou
is the head of a thought (i.e. ante-thought). The head of thought
is nothing but Mind. To make it plain, before a thought arises,
it is a hua t'ou. From the above, we know that to look into
a hua t'ou is to look into the Mind. The fundamental face before
one's birth is Mind. To look into one's fundamental face before
one's birth is to look into one's mind. Self-nature is Mind
(and) to 'turn inwards the hearing to hear the self-nature'
is to 'turn inward one's contemplation to contemplate the self-mind'.
sentence:'The perfect shining on the pure Awareness' means this:'the
pure awareness' is mind and 'to shine on' is to look into. Mind
is Buddha and to repeat the Buddha's (name) is to contemplate
the Buddha. To contemplate Buddha is to contemplate mind. Therefore,
to 'look into a hua t'ou' or 'to look into him who repeats the
Buddha's name is to contemplate the mind or to contemplate the
pure essence of awareness of the self-mind, or to contemplate
the self-natured Buddha. Mind is self-nature, is awareness and
is Buddha, having neither form nor location, and being undiscoverable.
It is clean and pure by nature, penetrates everywhere in the
Dharmadhatu, does not enter or leave, neither comes nor goes,
and is fundamentally the self-evident pure Dharmakaya Buddha.
practiser should keep under control all his six sense-organs
and take good care of this hua t'ou by looking into where a
thought usually arises, until he perceives his pure scelf-nature,
free from all thoughts. This continuous, close, quiet and indifferent
investigation will lead to a still and shining  contemplation (the outcome of which will be) the outright
non-existence of the five constituent elements of being (skandhas)
 and the wiping out of both
body and mind, without the least thing being left behind. Thereafter,
this absolute immutability (should be maintained) in every state,
while walking, standing, sitting and lying by day
or night. As time goes on, this achievement will be brought
to perfection, resulting in the perception of self-nature and
the attainment of Buddhahood, with the elimination of all distress
Kao Feng  said: 'When a student
looks into a hua t'ou with the same steadiness with which a
broken tile when thrown into a deep pond plunges straight down
10,000 changs  to the bottom,
if he fails to become awakened in seven days, anyone can chop
off my head and take it away.' Dear friends, these are the words
of an experienced master, they are true and correspond to reality,
they are not deceitful words to cheat people
why in the present generation are there not even a few men who
attain enlightenment in spite of the great number who hold a
hua t'ou (in their minds)? This is because their potentialities
are not so sharp as those of the ancients. It is also because
students are confused about the correct method of training and
of holding a hua t'ou. They go to various places in the four
quarters, seeking instruction, and the result is that when they
get old, they are still not clear about the meaning of a hua
t'ou and how to look into it. They pass their whole lives clinging
to words and names, and applying their minds to the tail of
the hua t'ou. They inquire into
(the sentences): 'Look into him who repeats the Buddha's name'
and 'Take care of the hua t'ou', and the more they look and
inquire into these sentences, the more they get away from what
these sentences stand for. 
Thus how can they be awakened to the self-evident Wu Wei (transcendental)
Supreme Reality, and how can they ascend the undisturbable Royal
Throne? When gold powder is thrown into their eyes, they are
blinded: how then can they send out the great illuminating ray?
What a pity! What a pity! They are all good sons and good daughters
who leave their homes in quest of the truth, and their determination
is above the average. What a pity if they labour to no purpose!
(For this reason) an ancient master said: 'It is better to remain
unenlightened for a thousand years than to tread the wrong path
for a day.'
for awakening to the truth is easy and is (also) difficult.
For example, when we turn on the electric light, if we know
how, in a finger-snap there will be light and the darkness which
has lasted for a myriad years will disappear. If one does not
know how to turn on the light, the electric wires will be interfered
with and the lamp will be damaged, resulting in an increase
of passions and ignorance. There are also some people who, while
undergoing Ch'an training and looking into the hua t'ou, get
entangled with demons and become insane, while others vomit
blood and fall sick. Are the fire of ignorance bursting into flame and the deep-rooted
view of self and other  not the obvious causes of all this? Therefore, practisers
should harmonize body with mind and become calm, free from all
impediments and from (the view of) self and other so as to bring
about a perfect unison with their latent potentialities. Fundamentally,
this method used in Ch'an training is invariably the same, but
the training is both difficult and easy to beginners as well
as to old hands.
does its difficulty lie for a beginner? Although his body and
mind are mature for it, he is still confused about the method
of undergoing it, and since his practice is ineffective, he
will either become impatient or spend his time in dozing with
this result: 'A beginner's training in the first year, an old
hand's training in the second, and no training in the third
does its easiness lie for a beginner? It only requires a believing,
a long enduring and a mindless mind. A believing mind is, firstly,
belief that this mind of ours is fundamentally Buddha, not differing
from all Buddhas and all living beings of the three times in
the ten directions of space, and secondly, belief that all Dharmas
expounded by Sakyamuni Buddha can enable us to put an end to
birth and death and to attain Buddhahood. A long enduring mind
consists in the choice of a method to be put into continuous
practice in the present lifetime, in the next life, and in the
life after next. The Ch'an training should be continued in this
manner; the repetition of the Buddha's name should be continued
in this manner; the holding of a mantra (mystic incantation)
should be continued in this manner and the study of sutras,
which consists in putting into practice the teaching heard (i.e.
learned from the Scriptures), should be continued in this manner.
The practice of any Dharma door (to enlightenment) must be based
on Sila  and if the training
is undergone in this manner, there is no reason why it will
not be successful. The old master Kuei Shan said:
'Anybody practising this Dharma without backsliding in three
successive lives can surely expect to attain the Buddha-stage.'
The old master Yung Chia said: 'If I utter deceitful words to
cheat living beings, I shall be prepared to fall into the tongue-snatching
hell for aeons as numberless as atoms.'
mindlessness is meant the laying down of everything 
so that the practiser will become like a dead man who, while
following others in their normal activities, does not give rise
to the least differentiation and attachment, and lives as a
mindless religious man.
a beginner has acquired these three kinds of mind, if he under-goes
the Ch'an training and looks into, for instance, the hua t'ou:
'Who is the repeater of Buddha's name?' he should silently repeat
a few times:'Amitibha Buddha' and then look into him who thinks
of the Buddha and where this thought arises. He should know
that this thought does not arise either from his mouth or body.
If it arises from either his mouth or body, why when he dies,
cannot his body and mouth, which still exist, give rise to this
thought? Therefore, he knows that this thought arises from his
mind. Now he should watch (and locate) where his mind gives
rise to this thought and keep on looking into it, like a cat
ready to pounce on a mouse, with his exclusive attention concentrated
upon it, free from a second thought. However, its sharpness
and dullness should be in equal proportions. It should never
be too sharp for that sharpness may cause illness. if the training
is undergone in this manner, in every state, while walking,
standing, sitting and lying, it will be effective as time goes
on, and when cause comes to fruition, like a ripe melon which
automatically falls, anything it may happen to touch or come
into contact with, will suddenly cause his supreme awakening.
This is the moment when the practiser will be like one who drinks
water and who alone knows whether it is cold or warm, until
he becomes free from all doubts about himself and experiences
a great happiness similar to that when meeting one's own father
at the cross-roads.
do both easiness and difficulty lie for an old hand? By old
hand is meant one who has called on learned masters for instruction
and has undergone the training for many years during which his
body and mind were mature for it and he was clear about the
method which he could practise comfortably without experiencing
any handicap. The difficulty met by a monk who is
an old hand lies in this feeling of comfort and clearness in
which he stops and stays. Thus, because of his stay in this
illussion-city, he does not reach the place of precious things
(i.e. the perfect Nirvana). He is fit only for stillness but
is unfit for disturbance and his training is, therefore, not
completely effective for really full use. In the worst case,
the practiser will, when coming into contact with his surroundings,
give rise to feelings of like and dislike and of acceptance
and rejection with the result that his false thinking, both
coarse and fine, will remain as firm as before. His training
will be likened to the soaking of a stone in water and will
become ineffective. As time goes on, weariness and laziness
will slip into his training which will become fruitless in the
end. When such a monk is aware of this, he should immediately
give rise to the hua t'ou again and rouse his spirits to take
a step forward from the top of a hundred-foot pole (he has reached)until
he reaches the top of the highest peak on which he will firmly
stand or the bottom of the deepest ocean where he will walk
(in every direction). He will cast away (his last link with
the unreal) and will walk freely everywhere, meeting face to
fice (lit. substance to substance, or essence to essence) with
Buddhas and Patriarchs.Where is the difficulty? Is this not
t'ou is One-Mind. This One-Mind of yours and mine is neither
within nor without nor between the two. It is also within, without
and between the two and is like Space which is immutable and
is all-embracing. Therefore, the hua t'ou should not be pulled
up or pushed down. If it is pulled up, it will cause disturbance,
and if it is pushed down, it will cause dullness, and so will
be in contradiction with the mind-nature  and not in line with the 'mean'. Everybody
is afraid of false thinking which he finds difficult to control,
but I tell you, dear friends, do not be afraid of false thinking
and do not make any effort to control it. You have only to be
aware of it but should not cling to it, follow it or push it
away. It will suffice to discontinue your thinking and it will
leave you alone. Hence, the saying: 'The rise of falsehood should
be immediately cognized, and once cognized, it will quit.'
in his training, if the practiser can turn this false thinkmg
to his own advantage, he will look into where it arises and
will notice that it has no independent nature of its own. At
once, he will realize the non-existence of this very thinking
and will recover his fundamental mindless nature, followed immediately
by the manifestation of his pure self-natured Dharmakaya Buddha
which will appear on the spot.
reality, the real and the false are the same (in nature); the
living and the Buddhas are not a dualism; and birth-death and
Nirvina as well as enlightenment (bodhi) and distress (klesa)
all belong to our self-mind and self-nature and should not be
differentiated, should not be either liked or disliked and should
not be either grasped or rejected. This mind is pure and clean
and fundamentally is Buddha. Not a single Dharma is required
(in the quest of enlightenment). Why so much complication? Ts'an!
 The full sentence is: The mad
mind does not halt; if it halts, it is Bodhi, i.e. enlightenment.
 In Ch'an terminology, "to
lay down causes or thoughts" is to lay down the heavy load
of causes or thoughts to free the mind from defilement.
 Underlying principle: theory,
 Facts: activity, practice, phenomenon.
 Klesa: distress, worry, trouble
and whatever causes them.
 This is the state described
in Han Shan's "Song of the Board-bearer".
 Even attachment to the self-nature
is also an impurity which should be cast aside.
 Literally 'during the two six-hour
periods of the day'. Each day is divided into two six-hour periods.
one for day-time and one for night-time.
 Birth from eggs, wombs and humidity,
and by transformation.
 Worlds of gods (devas), men,
spirits (asuras), animals, hungry ghosts and hells.
 The four transcendental realities
in Nirvana expounded in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra.
 i.e. 'self-so'. so of itself,
natural, of course, se1f-existing, the self-existent.
 The digits 8 and 4 symbolize
respectively the eighth Vijnana or Consciousness and the four basic
elements of the physical body, and mean the deluded self-nature
(8) held in bondage in the illusory body (4), i.e. Space. The three
following zeros symbolize Time, and so long as one remains under
delusion, it will be immaterial to add 10, 100, or 1,000 zeros
at the end of the number. However, when one attains enlightenment
in one finger-snap. the digits 8 and 4 or Space will disappear
and the line of zeros, or Time, will have no meaning.
 i.e. freeing his disdples
from restraint caused by delusion.
 Kung an, or koan in Japanese
= A dossier, or case-record; a cause, public laws, regulations;
case-law. Problems set by Ch'an masters upon which thought is concentrated
as a means to attain inner unity and illumination. The meaning
of a kung an is irrevocable and kung an is as valid as the Law.
 Hua t'ou = ante-word, or ante-thought,
i.e. the mind before it is stirred by a thought. It is the mind
in its undisturbed condition. The holding of a hua t'ou in the
mind is the looking into the self-mind until its realization. It
is also the turning inward of the faculty of hearing to hear the
self-nature, for the disentanglement of mind (subject) from external
 i.e. who is dragging here
this physical body of yours?
 The essence of the rnind is
still and its function is shining.
 The 5 skandhas: form, feeling,
ideation, reaction and consciousness.
 Kao Feng was the teacher of
Chung Feng whose 'Sayings of Chung Feng' (Chung Feng Kuang Lu)
were read by Han Shan before the latter began his Ch'an training.
(See Han Shan's Autobiography.)
 Chang: a measure of ten Chinese
 when the sentence 'who repeats
the Buddha's name?' is merely repeated by a practicer who only
grasps its meaning, he thinks of the 'tail' of the hua t'ou, instead
of its head or ante-word, that is the mind. Thus he wrongly applies
his mind to 'tall' instead of 'head'.
 The master means that these
people fail because they set their discriminating minds on grasping
the meaning of these sentences, whereas in the training, their
minds should first be disentangled from all discriminations.
 If an evil thought is allowed
to slip into the concentration of mind while holding a hua t'ou,
this thought will replace the hua t'ou and may grow out of proportion
and become difficult to subdue. If it be a strong desire which
cannot be satisfied, the resultant frustration may cause insanity.
One's breath should never be interfered with, and concentration
of mind should never be on the chest as it may affect the lungs
and cause the vomiting of blood.
 View of dualism which should
be wiped out.
 Sila= precept, command, prohibition,
discipline, rule, morality.
 Master Kuei Shan(Wei Shan)
and his dssciple Yang Shan were founders of the Kuei Yang(Wei Yang)
Sect (Ikyo in Japanese), one of the five Ch'an Sects in China.
 i.e. free from all attachments,
which are likened to a burden which one should lay down.
 This state of stillness is
fully described in Han Shan's 'Song of the Board-bearer' (see Han
Shan's Autobiography) and in Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva's 'Complete
Enlightenment' when he said: 'Both the hearing and its object came
to an end but I did not stay where they ended.'
 Mind-nature: immutable mind-body,
the existing fundamental pure mind, the all, the Tathagata-garba
 Mean: between the two extremes.
 Ts'an(Can): to inquire, investigate,
look into. Usually at the end of a meeting, a master mutters this
word to urge his disciples to inquire into or ponder over the real