THE THREE ESSENTIALS
In Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism, there are the three essentials of Ch'an practice. The three essentials of Ch'an Buddhism are:
The first essential studying with a teacher, questioning the Dharma. Studying with a teacher we are able to hear the teachings and to learn and know the Buddhist Way. Questioning the Dharma we are able to resolve our doubts and to clarify the Way. That is to clarify the Middle Way and to clarify oneself. Also we are able to know whether our practice is correct or not. In Ch'an Buddhist temples and monasteries it is a tradition to meet and speak with the teacher, in order to resolve one's doubts, and clarify the Way. The second essential is Ch'an practice. The practice itself. One practice of sitting meditation is the Breathing Practice. We sit upright with the back straight, eyes case downward, eyes slightly open. Breathing naturally; Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. We focus our attention on the breathing. Normally, during the various activities throughout the day, we are not aware of the breathing. During sitting meditation we focus our attention on the breathing. Be the breathing. Many thoughts may arise while sitting. However we leave the thoughts or emotions, without making a problem of them. Nor do we make an object of the thoughts. We do not try to get rid of thoughts or emotions, without making a problem of them. We leave the various thoughts and emotions that arise, and we follow the breathing. This is the breathing practice.
Also there is Koan practice. There are many Koans in Ch'an Buddhism, recorded in various books, such as the Book of Serenity, or the Blue Cliff Records. Koans originally were used in the study and practice of the Buddhist Way. And the Koans are about us. The Koans are about each and every person. For example, one Koan is concerned with the dialogue that took place between the monk Joshu, and his master, Ch'an Master Nansen.
Joshu asked, "What is the Way?" Master Nansen replied, "Ordinary mind is the Way."
Ordinary mind, this is a well-known Koan which we may study.
There is also 'Genjo Koan' which can refer to our own problem.
Being one with our own problem. Holding the problem consciousness, carefully and quietly. It is not to be rash or reckless, or to act impulsively.
In Ch'an Buddhism there are various practices, Koans or devices which we can use. It is important to ascertain whether our practice is correct or not.
The third essential is Observing the Precepts. In Buddhism there are five precepts for laypeople. The five precepts are; Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not engage in improper sexual conduct, Do not lie, and Do not indulge in intoxicants.
For people who are ordained as nuns and monks there are ten precepts.
These are the precepts. It is important to understand that the precepts are not something that we must memorize and maintain constantly to a fault. The precepts are guidelines for our practice. They serve to point out the Way, the Middle Way for us. And to keep people from going astray in their practice.
Once again, the three essentials of Ch'an practice are,
Practising the three essentials, it is possible to attain the Buddhist Way and to attain liberation.