From Beginners’ Book for Vigilance by Moonzen Press
To a zen practitioner the most important thing is to establish enlightenment as their primary goal. If they practice with a Hwa-du then that is what they must focus on, if their practice consists of reciting the name of the Buddha then that is what they should dedicate themselves to. These techniques are like a gigantic furnace that will obliterate any discursive thoughts or concerns of the world, like a snowflake falling into the fire.
We must see that our body, a human’s life is nothing more than dew on a blade of grass. These days, we can even find monastics who fight over things such as money or fame. This is unacceptable.
Even if a practitioner succeeds in obtaining enlightenment, their primary goal, that is not the end of their practice. They must practice Bo-rim after they awaken, in order to sweep away all of their karma and be able to use the six supernatural powers that we originally possessed at will. Only when they have reached the ultimate state through the practice of Bo-rim, they can say their practice is finished.
We don’t even need to talk about how many people who have finished their practice, but let’s just think about how many practitioners have even experienced enlightenment. If you look at the situation that we find in the zen meditation halls around the country, all you will find are practitioners who are just looking for basic instruction. Even though they all speak about the efficacy of using a hwadu in their practice, they have never had the opportunity to practice correctly.
If they try to find the answer to their hwadu by using their eyes, or relying on senses, even though countless of kalpas pass, they will never find it.
In other words, without the help of a clear eyed master who has awakened to all of the dharmas, then it will be difficult to awaken through any practice- be it through a hwadu or through chanting.
Also, it is very common to see zen practitioners become very arrogant and look down upon other types of practice, like chanting, keeping the precepts, or people with sincere devotion to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
But if you understand zen you will see that zen encompasses all of the other types of practice. The type of practice one has, depends on their nature and their karma.
Meditators often end up breaking the precepts as easily as they would eat a meal, but this cannot be considered correct practice. Respect and devotion, faith in the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas must always be cultivated. Obstacles that arise due to karma accumulated over countless of kalpas can only be conquered with this faith, otherwise one will find themselves retreating in their practice.
Of course simply obeying the forms of devotion, like bowing, is not correct practice, but when the flame of faith burns out, one can no longer progress.
When one can truly be humble, this is when the flame of faith starts to burn. When this flame is burning then gratitude grows. One will give thanks to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as well as the whole world. This is when one will want to start acting for the benefit of others.
At this time, how can we call the symbol of the Buddha an idol?
Everytime we fill up the water on the altar, or polish the candlestick, this is an expression of our most sincere devotion. If we practice everything we do with this utmost faith we will even be that much more sincere when listening to a Dharma lecture. In our practice to become Buddha, we will not retreat.