The Essential Scriptures of the Buddha and Patriarchs
Secrets on Cultivating the Mind
Question: Since one awakens to this principle, no further steps or sequences are involved. Why then do you presume that there is subsequent cultivation, gradual suffusion, and gradual achievement?
Chinul: The meaning of gradual cultivation subsequent to awakening has been explained fully before. But since your doubts persist, it seems that I will have to explain it again. You should clear your minds and listen carefully!
For vast numbers of kalpas without beginning, up to today, ordinary persons have cycled between the five rebirth destinies, coming and going between birth and death. They obstinately cling to conceptions of self and, over a long period of time, they have created their natures out of false thoughts, inverted views, ignorance, and various proclivities of habit. Although, in this present life, they might suddenly awaken to the fact that their self-natures are originally void and calm and no different from that of the buddhas, these past proclivities are exceedingly difficult to eradicate. Consequently, when they come into contact with either favorable or adverse sensory objects, then anger or happiness, propriety or impropriety, furiously arise and cease, and their adventitious afflictions (S. āgantukakleśa) are no different from before. If they do not increase their efforts and apply their dynamism through their prajñā, how will they ever be able to counteract ignorance and reach that land of great rest and great repose? As it is said, “Although through sudden awakening, one is the same as the buddhas, the proclivities that have been built up over many lives are deep-rooted. The wind ceases, but the waves still surge; the principle appears, but thoughts still invade.” Chan Master [Dahui Zong]gao said: “Often people with sharp faculties are able to resolve this matter and achieve sudden awakening without expending a lot of energy. Then they come to think it was easy and so do not cultivate the counteragents [to the afflictions]. As the days lengthen and months deepen, they simply go with the flow just as before and are unable to avoid saṃsāra.” How, then, could you neglect subsequent cultivation simply because of one moment of awakening? For this reason, after awakening, you must constantly examine and check yourself. If deluded thoughts suddenly arise, do not chase after them: reduce them and reduce them again until you reach the unconditioned. Then and only then will [your practice reach] completion. This is what is meant by the practice of oxherding that follows awakening, [which is performed by] all the spiritual mentors under heaven.