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Buddhadharma : Spri 2013
SPRING 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 13 Improvement is always running away from where you are. Our teachers were never com- placent, nor were they flighty. Can you stand to be perfect? Can you stand to be flawed? Where do you turn away? VERSE The heat of Master Shunryu’s heart burns away both faith and doubt, leaving a withered tree in the golden wind. FROM 49 FINGERS: A COLLECTION OF MODERN AMERICAN KOANS, REPRINTED IN WIND BELL, VOL. 42, 2012 THE LIEUTENANT’S CRY Venerable Guo Ru recalls Master Sheng Yen’s skillful handling of a retreatant’s distress. I’d like to share an experience that occurred when I did a retreat with Shifu [Master Sheng Yen]. One retreatant was a lieutenant in the military in Taiwan; he actually had battle experience. Although we are not supposed to watch other people, I could see from the corner of my eye that he was shifting around. He was obviously not settled in his body and mind. During one sitting period all of a sud- den he let out a bloodcurdling scream, incred- ibly loud. He started crying as if his parents had died. His whole body was shaking. As it was happening, Shifu scolded us: “It’s none of your business! Don’t pay attention! Keep using your huatou! (Japanese, wato)” We’d been through a few days of practice already, so we straightened up and did not dare to take a look or to wonder what was happen- ing. But at the same time, everyone was a bit agitated. I was sitting right next to him. I had no clue what was happening to this guy and was utterly perplexed. How could anyone cry like that? It was so intense, as if all the energy he could possibly muster was in his crying. It was insane. At one point he fell forward. He was still sitting on the cushion but his body ended up lying on the floor, completely knocked out from crying so hard. Shifu was there the whole time. After the lieutenant finished, Shifu walked over to him, and using the most gentle, compassionate voice said, “Okay, just lie out flat here and take a rest.” And I was like, “What is this!? “ Shifu went and got him a couple more square cushions to lie on. Now, this is in the Chan Hall, the same place where everyone is sit- ting in grueling pain, and here’s this person stretched out lying comfortably on cushions. Shifu put a pillow under his head and covered him with towels. There he was, so relaxed. He was sleeping—it must’ve been a very deep sleep because he was almost snoring—and I’m thinking, “What’s happening here?” Afterward, when the lieutenant got up and came back for another sitting, he was totally different. He was sitting almost motion- less, his breathing very relaxed and natu- ral. He seemed to be dwelling in the bliss of Chan with a joyful expression on his face. It was something amazing, a COMPLETE transformation. At times when the mind is very still and stable, it’s possible to have an explosion of emotion. We are unable to control it at all; it just erupts by itself. Many people in that state burst out in laughter; to other people it may sound like a terrible cry of sadness. Regardless, it is not a kind of emotion where somebody is really sad, or really angry, or very excited; it has nothing to do with those ordi- nary emotions. It’s just a kind of expression that arises naturally when the mind becomes very tranquil. When this happens we don’t have to be curious or wonder what’s happen- ing; we just know it’s a natural reaction. FROM CHAN MAGAZINE, AUTUMN 2012