The Dharma Essentials for Cultivating Stopping and Contemplation
By the Swei Dynasty Shramana Chih-i of T'ien-t'ai Mountain's Dhyana Cultivation Monastery
Translated into English by Dharmamitra
(Taisho Tripitaka 1915)
Chapter Seven: The Manifestation of Roots of Goodness
If the practitioner is able in this manner to skillfully cultivate stopping and contemplation, going from the conventional into the contemplation of emptiness, as he sits [in dhyana meditation] his body and mind will become bright and pure. At such time there may occur the development and manifestation of many different sorts of roots of goodness. One must recognize and be aware of them.
Now, we explain in brief the signs associated with the manifestation of roots of goodness. There are two different categories. First, the signs associated with the manifestation of external roots of goodness: This refers to the development and manifestation of roots of goodness associated with giving, upholding precepts, filial dutifulness to parents, veneration of seniors, making offerings to the Triple Jewel, listening to and studying [the teachings], and so forth. These are external matters. If one is not engaged in correct cultivation, these may spill over into [and manifest as] demonic states [of mind]. We will not now analyze these in detail.
Second, the signs of the manifestation of internal roots of goodness. This refers to the development and manifestation of roots of goodness associated with dhyana absorption Dharma gateways. There are three concepts in this regard.
The first, the explanation of the signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness. There are five different categories. First, the signs associated with the manifestation of roots of goodness related to the pathways of the breath. On account of the practitioner's skillfully cultivating stopping and contemplation, the body and mind become regulated correctly and false thinking comes to a halt. Because of this, one becomes aware that his mind gradually enters into meditative absorption. One develops meditative absorptions such as those associated with the desire realm and [specifically], the preliminary ground (anaagamya, a.k.a. "access concentration").(1)
The body and mind become as if they have perished and are empty and quiescent. The mind associated with meditative absorption becomes peaceful and stable. In the midst of this meditative absorption, one does not perceive any appearance whatsoever of a body or a mind. Then afterwards one may continue on through one sitting session or two sitting sessions, and so forth until we come to one day, two days, one month or two months. One may be unable to bring this to a rest and so it may be that one does not retreat from it nor does it disappear.
Then in the midst of meditative absorption one may suddenly become aware of the body and mind moving and provoking the manifestation of eight tactile sensations, namely the awareness of physical pain, itching, coldness, heat, lightness, heaviness, roughness, smoothness, and so forth. At that time when there is the manifestation of these dharmas of tactile sensation, the body and mind are peaceful and stabilized. There is an empty and subtle blissfulness. One's happiness and pleasure are pure and indescribable even by simile. This constitutes signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness related to the awareness of the pathways of breath and the basic dhyana absorption.
In the preliminary ground of the desire realm the practitioner suddenly becomes aware of the exiting, entry and duration of the breath and of its moving emptily [in and out] through the hair pores of the entire body. Then one sees with the mind's eye the thirty-six things contained within the body just as when, upon opening up a pantry, one sees all of the sesame, beans, and so forth. The mind becomes greatly startled and delighted. One is quiescent, peaceful and happy. These constitute signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness corresponding to the special ascendant practices associated with the breath.(2)
Second, the signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness related to the contemplation of impurity. When the practitioner is immersed in the meditative absorption of the desire realm's preliminary ground his body and mind may become empty and still in the midst of this meditative absorption, [whereupon he may experience the following signs]: He may suddenly observe the physical death of some other man or woman and then following upon that death [he may observe] the bloating and rotting [of that corpse], the presence of worms and the flowing forth of pus. [He may] then observe the whitened bones scattered about. His mind may become affected by sorrow and delight and he may then experience revulsion and abhorrence for that which he had loved. These are signs indicating the manifestation of roots of goodness related to the nine visualizations.(3)
Or perhaps in the midst of still meditative absorption he may suddenly observe the impure things inside of the body, [he may observe] someone else's body as bloated and scattered, or [he may observe] his own body as a white skeleton from the head to foot with every one of the bones remaining supported in position by the others. After having seen this phenomenon, the mind of absorption may become peaceful and stable. One may experience a startling awakening to [the fact of] impermanence. One may then develop revulsion and abhorrence for the five objects of desire, and may then desist from attachment to either oneself or other persons. These are signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness related to the liberations.(4)
Or perhaps when the mind is immersed in meditative absorption one may observe everything as utterly impure whether it be with regard to one's own body, the bodies of others, flying birds, crawling beasts, clothing, drink, food, dwellings, mountains or forests. These are signs indicating the manifestation of roots of goodness related to [the contemplation of] the great [all-encompassing] impurity.
Third, the signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness related to the mind of loving-kindness. If on account of cultivating stopping and contemplation the practitioner succeeds in entering the meditative absorption of the desire realm's preliminary ground, while he is immersed in this meditative absorption, [there may occur the following signs]: He may suddenly bring forth a mind characterized by a lovingly-kind mindfulness of other beings wherein there appear to him signs indicating that persons with whom he has close affinities gain happiness. He may then immediately develop deep meditative absorption wherein his own mind manifests a pure blissful happiness indescribable even by simile.
Similar phenomena may occur with regard to people towards whom he has only middling affinities and towards people who have been his enemies and may then extend to all of the beings within the five destinies throughout the ten directions. When he arises from meditative absorption his mind is blissfully happy such that, no matter whom he sees, his countenance remains constantly harmonious. These are signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness related to the mind of loving-kindness. The signs of the manifestation of the mind of compassion, the mind of sympathetic joy, and the mind of equanimity may all be understood through comparison to this.
Fourth, the signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness related to the contemplation of causes and conditions. It may be that on account of cultivating stopping and contemplation the practitioner gains the desire realm's preliminary ground meditative absorption in which the body and mind abide in stillness. He may then suddenly experience the arisal of a mind of awakening [characterized by the following signs]: In deliberating upon the causes and conditions of ignorance, karmic formative factors (sa.mskaaras), and so forth [as they interact] throughout the three periods of time he does not perceive the [inherent] existence of either others or a self. He then immediately transcends annihilationism and eternalism, smashes all attachments and views, and gains the peace and security of meditative absorption. Understanding and wisdom manifest. Dharma joy comes forth in his mind and he does not think of any worldly matters. His experience proceeds in this manner to include the five aggregates, the twelve sense fields, and the eighteen sense realms wherein his analytic [realization] extends in the same manner. These are the signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness related to the contemplation of causes and conditions.
Fifth, the signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness related to mindfulness of the buddha. It may be that on account of cultivating stopping and contemplation the practitioner gains the desire realm's preliminary ground meditative absorption wherein his body and mind are empty and still [and he experiences the following]: He may immediately bring forth in his mind the inconceivable and ineffable meritorious qualities and major and minor characteristics of the buddha, including all of the ten powers, the fearlessness, the dharmas special to the buddha, the samadhis, the liberations, and other such dharmas, the inconceivable and ineffable superknowledges and [spiritual] transformations, unobstructed eloquences, and the vast benefits [the buddhas] provide to beings.
When he brings forth this thought regarding such an incalculable number of inconceivable and ineffable meritorious qualities, he then manifests a mind imbued with affection and reverence, samadhi develops, the body and mind become blissful, pure, peaceful and secure, and become free of any unwholesome characteristics. When he arises from dhyana absorption his body and mind are unencumbered and sharp. He becomes personally aware that these meritorious qualities are lofty and impressive and that they are loved and revered by others. These are signs of the manifestation of roots of goodness related to the mindfulness-of-the-buddha samadhi.
Furthermore, in the event that the practitioner gains clarity and purity of body and mind on account of cultivating stopping and contemplation, he may then experience signs of the manifestation [of roots of goodness related to] impermanence, suffering, emptiness, nonexistence of self, impurity, renounceability of the world, or impurity of food. [Or those signs may be related to] deliberative contemplations on death, on separation [from desire], on extinction, mindfulness of the Buddha, of the Dharma, of the Sangha, of the precepts, of renunciation, or of the heavens. [They may be related to] the stations of mindfulness, the right efforts, the foundations of psychic power, the roots, the powers, the constituents of enlightenment, the Way, emptiness, signlessness, wishlessness (lit. "endeavorlessness"), the six perfections, the [other] paaramitaas, the superknowledges, the transformations, and so forth. [He may experience] signs of the manifestation [of roots of goodness related to] any of the Dharma entryways. [Ideally], these should all be analyzed extensively herein. Hence it states in a sutra: "If one controls the mind [so that it abides] in a single place, there is no endeavor which is not accomplished."
Second, "distinguishing between the true and the false" consists of two parts. The first is "articulating the signs of the manifestation of false dhyana absorptions." When the practitioner experiences the manifestation of dhyana absorptions such as discussed above, it may be that on account of the dharmas which have become manifest [he experiences the following]: It may be that the body moves uncontrollably. At times the body may feel heavy as if something was pressing down and smashing it. At times the body may feel light as if it was about to fly. At times it might feel as if it were tied up. At times it may feel as if one were twisting around, being suspended while being cooked. Or at times it may feel as if one were being subjected to boiling or cold. At times one may experience strong heat. Or perhaps one might see all sorts of strange mental states. At times one's mind may become dark and covered over. At times one may bring forth all sorts of evil initial thoughts. Or at times one may bring to mind external scatteredness relating to miscellaneous wholesome endeavors. Or perhaps at times one may experience delight or agitated movement. Or at times one may become worried or preoccupied with sad thoughts. Or perhaps at times one may experience unwholesome tactile sensations whereby the hairs on the body stand on end. Or at times one may become so immensely happy that one is [as if] confused or inebriated. All sorts of deviant dharmas such as these, when manifesting together with dhyana absorption, constitute [signs of] falseness.
If one becomes affectionately attached to these deviant meditative absorptions then [one's behavior] corresponds to the dharmas of one of the ninety-five kinds of ghosts and spirits. In the majority of cases one then becomes prone to losing one's mind [of correct determination] and becoming mentally deranged. Sometimes the ghosts, spirits, and other [such beings] become aware that a person has become mentally attached to their dharma and so then increase the intensity of the power [associated with it] such that [the practitioner] then manifests all sorts of deviant meditative absorptions, deviant forms of intelligence, eloquence and spiritual powers whereby he then influences people of the world through deception.
When the common foolish person observes this he is of the opinion that [the practitioner] has gained the fruit of [cultivating] the Way. They all believe in and submit to him even though in his mind he has become [attached to] inverted views and even though he practices only the dharma of ghosts and engages in the deception and confusion of [people in] the world.
When such a person's life comes to an end he will remain eternally unable to encounter the Buddha and will return to fall down into the path of the ghosts and spirits. If when he has been sitting [in meditative absorption] he has mostly practiced evil dharmas then he will immediately fall into the hells.
If when the practitioner cultivates stopping and contemplation he achieves dhyana absorptions like these which are possessed of these signs of falseness he should then immediately get rid of them. How does one get rid of them? If one becomes aware of the presence of falseness and deception, he should establish himself in correctness of mind and desist from accepting or becoming attached [to these meditative states]. They should then diminish and disappear. If one implements correct contemplation to demolish them, they should immediately become extinguished.
Second, "articulating the signs of the manifestation of true and correct dhyana absorption." When the practitioner is engaged in sitting meditation and there manifest dhyana absorptions wherein there are none of the above-described false dharmas [he should observe the following signs]: When each and every dhyana absorption manifests, one is immediately aware of its corresponding to [right] meditative absorption. One experiences emptiness, brightness, and purity.
Internally, one's mind is delighted. One feels tranquil and blissful. There are no situations in which one's [mind] is covered over. The mind of goodness comes forth and manifests. One's faith and reverence increase and grow. One's mirror of wisdom becomes sharply focused and clear. The body and mind are supple and pliant. One experiences a subtle and marvelous emptiness and quiescence. One develops a revulsion for and abhorrence of [the ways of] the world. There is nothing [which one feels needs] to be done and one is free of desires. In going forth and entering into [meditative absorption] one is sovereignly independent.
These are the signs of the manifestation of correct dhyana absorptions. Just as when working with evil people, one constantly encounters mutual aggravation, whereas when working together with good people, one eventually observes their fine points, so too it is in distinguishing between the signs inherent in deviant versus correct dhyana absorption.
Third, "clarifying the use of stopping and contemplation to increase the growth of roots of goodness." When one is sitting [in meditation] and roots of goodness manifest, one should employ the two dharmas of stopping and contemplation to cause them to increase and advance. If it is appropriate to employ stopping then one uses stopping to cultivate them. If it is appropriate to employ contemplation then one uses contemplation to cultivate them. One does this in a manner which accords with the previous discussions. This constitutes a summary explanation of the major ideas [related to this topic].
1. Anaagamya = Wei-dao di. DFB - 817a = wei-jr ding DFB - 816b.
2. Awareness of the entry of the breath, awareness of the exiting of the breath, awareness of the length of the breath, awareness of the breath pervading the body, experiencing joy, experiencing bliss, and mind's generation of bliss are all included within the "sixteen special ascendant practices" (shr-lyou te-sheng). See DFB - 213c.
3. The nine visualizations are: 1) The bloated corpse; 2) The bluish corpse; 3) The damaged corpse; 4) The The blood-smeared corpse; 5) The purulent, rotting corpse; 6) The corpse which has been gnawed at [by scavenging animals and insects; 7) The scattered corpse; 8) The skeletal corpse; and 9) The burned corpse. See DFB-172a-b.
4. The eight liberations (ba bei-she a.k.a. ba jye-two) . See DFB-136a-c.
<< Prev Table of Contents Next >>