Observing your spiritual nature is referred to as “the wisdom of contemplation.”
So then, how do you observe your spiritual nature?
You use listening to observe your spiritual nature.
This kind of contemplative listening is a way of dealing with deluded thoughts.
In silence, such thoughts don’t arise; in tranquility, you are no longer fooled by them.
So continue listening to the sound of silence.
We’re in the habit of grasping forms.
Now, where do these forms come from?
They come from attachment; whatever the mind attaches to, that is form.
So the essence of Chan is called “mind-dharma,” the essential teaching of Śākyamuni Buddha, which was brought to China by Bodhidharma and later transmitted by Hui Neng.
And what is this mind-dharma?
It’s the “marvellous mind of nirvāṇa,” the “true form of the formless.”
It’s something “independent of words;” it’s beyond form; it’s a mind-to-mind transmission independent of words.
When Śākyamuni Buddha gave that enigmatic teaching to Mahākāśyapa, he just held up a flower, and Mahākāśyapa got it; that was the mind-to-mind transmission of the Dharma.
But just what was it that was transmitted? How can the mind be transmitted?
When the mind no longer grasps at forms, when it no longer hangs onto words, then it naturally manifests it’s original image.
So meditation is just a way of clearly manifesting your original image.
When eating and leaving your meditation seat, continue to listen to silence, even when going to sleep.
Don’t become negligent and let the mind get disturbed.
Even outside of formal practice, you have to continue practicing.
Whatever activity you are engaged in, continue to listen.
When eating, stay with the silence and remain fully aware.
When going to sleep, move slowly and remain fully aware; at all times remain clearly aware.
The key to meditation is persistence and continuity.
You may be good at it, or not so good at it; but as long as you persist with it, you’ll eventually get the hang of it and even come to enjoy it.
Like all skills, meditation requires practice; it has to be cultivated over time.
What is this spiritual nature we are listening with?
In the Platform Sutra the verse by Shen Xiu describes the gradual practice: “The body is a Bodhi tree, the mind like a bright mirror stand. Time and again brush it clean and let no dust alight.”
However, Chan practice aims at sudden enlightenment, an instantaneous cutting off of all the defilements.
This is represented by Hui Neng’s verse: “Originally Bodhi has no tree, the bright mirror has no stand. Originally there is not a single thing: Where can dust alight?”
This is that spiritual nature that you want to abide in while observing, listening, and perambulating.
Whatever you may be doing, always keep in mind that “Originally there is not a single thing: Where can dust alight！”
Don’t look for shortcuts, and don’t be rash.
Your practice has to be solid; in order to gain insight into the essential nature of the mind, you have to really apply yourself to the practice.
It’s often said, “Every being has the Buddha nature; there are no exceptions.”
This means that everybody has the potential for enlightenment; however, for most people this potential is impeded by attachment and deluded thoughts.
How, then, can we overcome attachment and deluded thoughts? By listening;
You have to continuously listen; keep on listening until the mind fully settles into it and no longer reacts.
You want to get to the point where the mind no longer reacts to anything; this is called “stabilizing the mind.”
You have to remain aware that “Originally there is not a single thing: Where can dust alight?
Stabilize the mind; listen to silence.