TIEN TAI - MEDITATION IN
22.1 Looking into the Mind
As said in all Mahayana Scriptures, Prajna is where there is awareness,
therefore the practice of looking into the mind is of fundamental
importance for disciplining the mind. Because we are not used to revert
ourselves to awareness of the mind in daily life, we are hardly aware
that illusions and conceptual thoughts, uncontrollable like an unbridled
horse, run wild within us all the time. The fundamental way of cutting
off those illusory thoughts at the very root is to look a the self-nature
of the mind. Thus the Nibbana Sutra says: "To
realize the self-nature of the mind is superlative meditation."
According to this method, whenever and wherever possible, first lay
down all thoughts, good or bad, right or wrong, and then look into
the present moment-to-moment thoughts vigilantly. As these thoughts
come and go all suddenly and are fundamentally unreal and illusory,
there is no need of rejecting them, but we should neither accept them
nor grasp them nor follow them. All we have to do is to look into
them dispassionately and objectively, and this is the way we should
be aware of them, for as soon as there is awareness, every thought
comes to a standstill and soon goes out.
22.2 Practicing Meditation on the
At the initial period of training, most likely we may forget maintaining
our awareness all the time, but with consistent and regular practice,
say, at least a good many times every day, surely we can intensify
our awareness in no time. During the practice it may happen that some
thought may linger for as long as three or more days, but this only
shows that the seeds of some habits are emerging from within
and now turning active. But the practitioner not only should pay no
attention to this psychic phenomenon and should bear patiently and
firmly with it, but also should concentrate on continuing awareness
by adopting a neither grasp nor reject attitude. In this way
the mind would be cleared more and more of illusions till it turns
to be pure and void. In short, according to the principle of Meditation,
that which is capable of awareness is Prajna, and every objective
phenomenon of awareness is Ignorance: as Ignorance arises because
of its correlation with Reality, logically, looking into the deluded
mind is virtually the same as looking into the self-nature of the
Pure Mind. If we have the wisdom to perceive Ignorance in this way,
we can gradually dispel Ignorance, just like a thick ice melt by sunlight,
and then the mind would return automatically and spontaneously to
the self-nature, as The Perfect Enlightenment Sutra says: "The
Enlightened Mind is pure and all-illuminating." Also, the Mahayana
Meditation on the Mind Sutra says that the Dharma of looking
into the mind is "the Way leading to the development
of Buddhahood and attainment of Sudden Enlightenment."
22.3 Chih-Kuan Practice by Tien Tai
Next, as a method of looking into the mind, the perfect and sudden
Chih-Kuan practice of the Tien Tai is most praiseworthy; whole it
cultivates Chih by fixing the mind to meditate on the Ten Dharma-realms
and cultivate Kuan by looking into underlying reality of all
things, no priority of cultivation is given to the one or the other,
but both should be cultivated simultaneously; both its principle and
practice aim to realize Sudden Enlightenment, and this is the fundamental
thing of this Dharma. It may be desirable to present here concisely
for preliminary practice, the Three Meditations of the One Mind. Among
the Ten Categories of Phenomena enumerated as objects of meditation
in the Treaties of Moho Chih Kuan, the Sixth Consciousness, because
it is the illusory mind always working actively with the Five Aggregates
and emerging in everyday life and because it is also the root cause
of the paramount question of life and death, should be the first object
of meditation we may choose for cultivation. And among the Ten Vehicles
of Meditation, the Vehicle meditating on the Inconceivable Virtue
of the Self-Mind is most profound and complete.
22.4 Virtue of Self-Mind
The Virtue of the Self-Mind consists of the Three aspects of the Void, the
Unreal and the Mean.
The Self-Mind neither increases nor decreases and is fundamentally still and
void, this is the Dogma of the Void.
The Self-Mind can function without limit and is ever present inn all profound
and unreal things, this is the Dogma of the Unreal.
The Self-Mind is both void and unreal, and also neither void nor unreal, this
is the Dogma of the Mean.
In reality, all the three dogmas are one and one dogma includes all the three;
in other words, they are the three interrelated and indivisible aspects of the
Self-Mind, because fundamentally the Self-mind embodies the three interrelated
and integrated dogmas, it can hold all the phenomena of the mind and all
things of this world and other worlds, the causes and effects, and the form,
substance and functions of everything. In short, the fundamental nature of
the Self-Mind embraces everything of our everyday life in a flash of thought,
and it is not that it exists only now, nor that it did not exist before, nor
that it exists vertically nor horizontally; inconceivably,
however, it does integrate the Void, the Unreal and the Mean, all in all.
22.5 First Set of Four-question
Now to practice the Tien Tai's Chih-Kuan method, we may begin with meditation
on the three aspects of the Void, the Unreal and the Mean of the inconceivable
phenomena of the Virtue of the Self-Mind, and we may also use two sets of
four-question arguments (with reference to time and space respectively) to
deductively reason out how the self-mind can embrace everything. Here are the
four-question arguments of the first set;
- Is it that 'the mind covers everything' is subjective thought?
- Is it that 'the mind covers everything' is to be caused by external
- Is it that 'the mind covers everything' is to be caused jointly by the
mind and external conditions?
- Is it that 'the mind covers everything' comes about spontaneously without
any cause at all?
Referring to the first question, "Is the mind covers
everything a subjective thought?", should the arising of that
thought depend on external conditions and in that event, since the mind itself
is unattainable, how can it hold everything?
As to the second argument, "if the mind covers
everything is due to external conditions", since fundamentally one
has nothing to do with all external conditions, how can the mind hold
everything before its integration with the external conditions, how can it do
so after the integration?
To say that the mind covers everything is without cause, is pointless,
for what is devoid of cause is same as void, and if the mind is void, how can
it hold everything?
From this set of four-question arguments, it is obviously clear that so far
as the mind itself is unattainable, how can there be everything in
the mind? Thus the Madhyamika Shastra says: "Everything does not exist by itself, nor by other causes, nor jointly
with the causes, nor without cause. Thus it is known to be non-existent
22.6 Second Set Four-question
If we find that the mind would correspond with any of the four-question
arguments, we may put aside the others, for then the Sixth Consciousness,
empty of illusions, would be in the void, but if the Sixth Consciousness is
not free of illusions and therefore not in the void, we would try the other
questions, one by one, and also the second set of questions in the following:
- Is it that everything is created and annihilated by thought?
- Is it that everything is not created and annihilated by thought?
- Is it that everything both is and is not, created and annihilated by
- Is it that everything neither is nor is not, created and annihilated by
And we may also extend four-question arguments in some other way, e.g.
and so on, until the mind is completely free of illusions and returns of the
- Is thought horizontal?
- Is thought vertical?
- Is thought both horizontal and vertical?
- Is thought neither horizontal nor vertical?
22.7 Meditation of the Three Dogmas
If the mind is pure, still and void, it will be free and completely
detached, and then every thought will also be pure and void, and this
is called Meditation of the Inconceivable Void on the Phenomena
of the Void, where one is void, all is void. While it is still
and void, the Self-Mind, fundamentally immanent in all things, is
by no means static like a stone or wood, but is totally and completely
aware of everything because of the infinitely of its profound function,
this is called Meditation of the Inconceivable Unreal on the Phenomena
of the Unreal, where one is unreal, all is unreal. As long as
things are perceived as they are, the mind, while illuminating yet
still, is completely void and, while still, yet illuminating, is immanent
of everything; thus on the one hand, it is neither void nor unreal,
and on the other hand, it is both void and unreal; this is call Meditation
of the Inconceivable Mean on the Phenomena of the Mean, where
one is mean, all is mean. From the fore-going, we may think that the
self-mind embodying the Three Dogmas is to be cultivated in the order
of the three Meditations, but in realty, none of the dogmas and meditations
should precede the others since what they teach us is to intensify
awareness to get rid of illusions; if we cultivate our mind in this
manner, the three integrated and interrelated Meditations would be
all realized at one. If the mind corresponds with the phenomena, the
Three Delusions (false perceptions and subjective thinking, subtle
and coarse illusions, and Ignorance), will be all eliminated, the
Three Wisdom (Sravaka and Praetyka-Buddha Knowledge, Bodhisattva-Knowledge
and Buddha-Knowledge) will be all realized and the Triple Virtues
(Prajna, Deliverance and Dharmakaya) all accomplished. By that time
all the Three Profound Truths of the substance, phenomenon and function
of the Self-Mind will be simultaneously manifested. Whereas phenomena
are the (Profound) Unreal and meditation is the (Profound) Void, to
be detached from both phenomena and meditation is the (Profound) Mean.
However, as fundamentally neither meditation nor non-meditation precedes
the other, the mind that integrates both of them is nowhere traceable.
This is called the Inconceivable Profound Meditation.
22.8 A Remark on Meditation
Though the two aforementioned methods of looking into the mind differ in practice,
they are fundamentally identical in principle, and readers may choose
for intensive practice either one that is agreeable to their own inclination.
However, as Chih Kuan is broad, extensive, elaborate and meticulous,
it may be too difficult for busy people and beginners to practice,
the first method of cultivating the mind (i.e. Section 22.2) much
simple and feasible, is all the more preferable.