The Principal Book of Won-Buddhism
Part Three : Practice
Chapter Four: The Dharma of Seated Meditation
A. The Essential Purport of Seated Meditation
As a rule, seated meditation is a practice that, in the mind, calms deluded thoughts and manifests the true nature. It is also a method that, in the body, causes the fiery energy to descend and the watery energy to ascend. As deluded thoughts are calmed, the watery energy will ascend; as the watery energy ascends, the deluded thoughts will be calmed. Consequently, one’s body and mind will remain serene in perfect harmony, and both the spirit and energy will be refreshed.
However, if deluded thoughts are not calmed in one’s mind, the fiery energy will constantly ascend, burning up the watery energy in the entire body and obscuring the light of the spirit. The operation of the human body is like a steam engine; without the energies of fire and water, not even a finger can be lifted. A human’s six sense organs are all controlled by the brain; whether seeing, hearing, or thinking, whenever one uses the six sense organs, the entire body’s fiery energy will naturally become concentrated in the head, burning up the entire body’s watery energy, just as the oil is burned when a lamp’s wick is lit. Therefore, whether we think long and anxiously on something using our mental powers, look carefully at something using our visual powers, or raise our voices to talk energetically about something, our faces will perforce become flushed and our saliva will dry up. This is precisely what we mean by the phenomenon of the fiery energy rising upwards. We should use our six sense organs sparingly even with things that must be done; how much less should we let the wicks of our heads burn continually day and night with useless deluded thoughts! Therefore, seated meditation is a practice that aims to remove all these deluded thoughts, to manifest the original nature of true suchness, to bring down all the fiery energy, and to raise the pure watery energy.
B. The Method of Seated Meditation
The method of seated meditation is so extremely simple and easy that anyone can practice it:
1. After spreading out the sitting mat and seating oneself comfortably in a cross-legged position, align head and spine in an upright, seated posture.
2. Casually bring down all the body’s strength to the elixir field without abiding in even a single thought; be aware only of the energy that has settled in the elixir field. If the mind becomes distracted, then that energy becomes diffuse; do not neglect then and there to pull yourself together and bring that energy to rest.
3. Keep your breathing smooth, making the inhalations a little longer and stronger and the exhalations a little shorter and weaker.
4. It is essential to keep the eyes open constantly to help keep the demon of drowsiness away. Or, you may try meditating with eyes closed when the energy of the spirit is refreshed and there is no danger of the demon of drowsiness invading.
5. Keep the mouth always closed. If the water ascends and the fire descends readily after lengthy practice, clear and smooth saliva will flow continuously from the salivary glands, which you may gather in the mouth and swallow occasionally.
6. The spirit constantly should be ever-alert in its calmness and ever-calm in its alertness. If it leans to torpor, refresh the spirit; if it lapses into idle thought, restore it with right mindfulness; rest in the realm of your original face, which is effortless and spontaneous.
7. Novices at seated meditation may suffer from aching legs or invasion by idle thoughts. If your legs ache, you may occasionally switch their positions. In case deluded thoughts invade, if you merely recognize them as deluded thoughts, they will vanish of themselves. You absolutely must not become vexed or discouraged by their presence.
8. When first beginning seated meditation, you may find your faces and body feeling itchy, as if there were ants crawling over them. This sensation is evidence of the blood flowing more actively through the capillaries. Be sure not to touch or scratch.
9. During seated meditation, you absolutely must not seek bizarre states and mysterious signs. Even if such sensory conditions occur, think of them only as aberrations; pay them no attention and look past them unconcernedly.
If you continue practicing in the above manner for a long period of time, you ultimately will forget the distinction between self and others and will forget time and place and, resting in the genuine realm of consummate quiescence and nondiscrimination, you will rejoice in an unparalleled bliss of mind.
C. The Merit of Seated Meditation
When you have gained the power that comes from long training in seated meditation, the following ten benefits will result:
1. Rash and flighty behavior will gradually disappear.
2. The activities of the six sense organs will become orderly.
3. The suffering of illness decreases and your face becomes smoother.
4. The power of memory improves.
5. The power of endurance grows.
6. Attachments disappear.
7. Perverse states of mind change into right states of mind.
8. Your self-nature’s light of wisdom will shine.
9. You will be gratified by ultimate bliss.
10. You will gain freedom in birth and death.
D. The Need for Resting in the Elixir Field
As a rule, seated meditation is a common practice that, since ancient times, removes all thoughts by resting the mind on a single object. Therefore, although there are certainly many methods of bringing the mind to rest depending on the different types of doctrine and expedients, if you rest the mind in either the head or an external object, the thoughts will be stirred and the energy will arise, making the mind difficult to calm. If you rest the mind in the elixir field, thoughts will not be readily stirred and the energy will readily descend, easily leading to calmness.
Moreover resting in the elixir field is important not only in seated meditation, but it is also an extremely important technique for physical health. If you rest the mind in the elixir field and swallow plenty of the water that is welling up from the jade pool(okchi; under the tongue), the watery and fiery energies will be in harmony, the suffering of illness in the body will decrease, and the face will become smooth. The fundamental energy will be replete and the mental elixir will result, protecting one’s life span. This method therefore is in fact a technique that serves a dual purpose, by perfecting both meditative absorption and physical health.
Advocates of the Sŏn of observing the hwadu (kanhwa sŏn) sometimes criticize this dharma of resting in the elixir field as falling into the dead Sŏn of inertness. The Sŏn of observing the hwadu may be a temporary expedient for certain persons, but it can hardly be prescribed to people in general. If one continues to practice just the hwadu for a long time, the fiery energy will ascend and one may well become ill. Moreover, people who cannot fundamentally generate the sense of questioning with regard to the hwadu will lose interest in meditation. Therefore, we schedule separately a time for seated meditation and a time for studying the cases for questioning, so that when meditating, we just meditate, and when inquiring, we just inquire. This will perfect both absorption and wisdom. One who practices in this way will not fall into void quiescence or descend into discrimination and will be able to experience the nature of true suchness that is free from action and rest.