Master Yun-Gu: One who wishes to cultivate needs to do so daily and to be mindful of his or her conduct every moment, ensuring that no transgressions are made. As for changing one’s destiny, that depends on the accumulation of merits, seeking for a response from the heavens. When cultivating, one needs to be aware of one’s own faults and resolve to correct them just as in curing a sickness.
Perseverance is required and attainment comes when one’s practice matures and ripens. In that case, one’s destiny will most definitely change for the better. We should work toward severing all bad habits and thoughts. It would be quite an accomplishment for the true benefits of these teachings to be felt once one reaches the state of ‘no thought.’
The actions of worldly people usually follow their thoughts. Whatever has to be ‘thought’ is not considered natural. I know that you are still unable to accomplish the state of ‘no thought’, but if you practice reciting the Jwun Ti Mantra continuously, it will help you to overcome scattered thoughts. When you recite, you must not think of reciting, but recite consciously and diligently without any attachment. When the reciting becomes second nature, it will be effective.
Narrator: The essence of this practice can only be understood after one practices it.
Source: Liao Fan’s 4 Lessons http://www.buddhanet.net/l1lesson.htm
In the western world, the ability to think is highly valued – and that is true. Buddhism doesn’t deny that – but tells us that as useful as thinking can be – it can also be the source of much suffering. The ability to think does not necessarily mean that you are happy – and sometimes, when you can’t switch off your thoughts – especially negative ones – you can easily add further suffering for yourself.
Think about it – if you “have to” think something then it’s not the natural way of things. Why? Because it has to undergo the thinking process before it comes into existence – so it’s not the natural state of things.
So if you can start to know how there’s a natural state of things beyond the realm of thoughts – then this will open up your understanding more.
Now this does NOT mean you have to suppress your thoughts. This is probably the most common mistake when people hear about “no thought” – they try to suppress their thoughts. How do I know? I tried it too.
Suppressing your thoughts is also a thought – so you are using a thought to suppress a thought, all the while, not realizing that you’re doing it. This is counterproductive and still leaves you within the realm of thought – you still haven’t gone beyond it. Trying to suppress your thoughts will leave you tense and uptight – not calm and relaxed.
So what do you do?
As Master Yun Gu advises – recite a mantra. Mantras are one of the best ways of understanding:
- Thought AND
- That which lies beyond thought.
Because mantras help you let go of thoughts.
What are mantras? They are just words that you don’t usually know the meanings of. So why would you want to recite what may be nonsense syllables that you don’t understand?
Because if a word had a meaning to it – your brain would latch on to that meaning and then start thinking this and that and then all these scattered thoughts would start proliferating – this is called papanca.
So you recite words that you don’t know the meaning of, so that your brain has no chance to latch on to any meaning of. It just focuses on the mantra. So instead of having a zillion thoughts, your mind focuses back into 1 thought only – the mantra itself – letting go of everything else.
So you just recite the mantra. There is only the mantra recite and nothing else. You don’t wish for anything to happen, you have no expectations of wanting anything to happen. Nowhere to go, nothing to do – just the recitation of the mantra.
As you get a little bit more skilled in reciting mantras, then you start to be aware – oh, there’s the recitation – and there’s that which is aware of the recitation – oh.
So the recitation represents thought. That which is aware of the recitation is that which is aware of thought. That which is aware of thought is not the thought, is it?
So that’s how you can start to get a glimpse into no thought, i.e., that which is beyond thought.
My pick for the best mantras to learn?
Alright, I’ll give you one now – it’s the beginning of the Shurangama Mantra:
Namo sa dan two
Su chye dwo ye
E la he di
San miao san pu two sye
That’s just a very, very short section of the Shurangama Mantra – one of the most important mantras in Buddhism. The whole mantra is 544 lines long – it’s really, really worthwhile to learn it all if you can (memorizing it line by line each day). Here, I’m just giving you guys a quick start – making it very, very simple for you. You can even use it as protection for whenever you get into trouble.
So you can start off with that. Memorize it. Recite it over and over and over again everyday as a regular practice until your mind calms down and is relaxed and alert. After a while, when you start to develop some skill – then you will know for yourself the benefit of the practice.