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Guidelines for Sitting Meditation.

In sitting meditation, make the heart upright and the mind straight and pure. Purify the self and empty the heart. Sitting cross-legged, look and listen inward; clearly awake and aware, you are permanently removed from oblivion and excitement. If something comes to mind, do your best to cast it away.

In quiet concentration, examine clearly with true mindfulness. What is cognizant of sitting is mind, and what introspects is mind. What knows being and nonbeing, center and extremes, inside and outside, is mind. This mind is empty yet perceptive, silent yet aware. Round and bright, perfectly clear, it does not fall into ideas of annihilation or eternity. Spiritual awareness radiantly bright, its discrimination is not false.

Nowadays we see students who sit diligently but do not awaken. Their problem derives from their dependence on conceptions, their feelings sticking to bias and falsehood. In their confusion they turn their backs on the true basis and mistakenly go along with quietism or activism. This is why they fail to attain enlightenment.

If you can concentrate and clarify your mind such that you harmonize intimately with the 'uncreate,' the mirror of knowledge will be cleared and the flower of mind will suddenly burst into bloom. Infinite attachments to conceptions will directly melt away, and accumulated aeons of ignorance will open up all at once.

This is like forgetting, then suddenly remembering; like being sick, then all at once recovering. A sense of joy arises within, and you know you will become a Buddha. Then you know that there is no separate Buddha outside of mind.

After that you increase cultivation in accord with enlightenment, experiencing realization by cultivation. The source of the realization of enlightenment is the identity of mind, Buddha, and living beings. This is called absorption in unified understanding and unified action. It is also called the effortless path.

Now you can turn things around without alienation from senses and objects. Picking up what comes to hand, you alternate as guest and host. The eye of the universe clear, past and present is renewed. The spiritual capacity of direct perception is naturally attained. This is why Vimalakirti said, "To live an active life without emerging from absorption in extinction is called quiet sitting."

So we should know that the moon appears when the water is still, the shine is complete when the mirror is clean. For people who study the Way, it is essential to sit and meditate. Otherwise, you will be going around in circles forever.

Although this is unpleasant, I cannot keep silent. I have written some generalities to help people discover the true source. If you do not neglect practice, then you will attain the same realization.

by Chan Master Foxin Bencai, 11th Century China

from Minding Mind, A Course in Basic Meditation, translated by Thomas Cleary, Shambala, 1995