In reality, cultivating Buddhism is tantamount to the practice of keeping one's passions and habits under control and eventually wiping them out. In what degree one may be opened up with Buddha-Knowledge and Buddha-Wisdom is largely determined by how much and how far one may have overcome one's passions and habits. Generally, habits are of three kinds, good, bad and neutral. All of them are illusory activities of the mind. As long as the mind is conditioned to the six sense-data and thereby infected and contaminated by them, habits will be formed.

    26.1   How to deal with Habits

    We cannot do away with passions and habits by ignoring them or by suppressing them. However as soon as they are manifested, we should be alertly aware of them and look at them in the face. Furthermore, as habits usually come out in daily life, where people, things and affairs are involved, therefore we should look upon the emergence of habits on every occasion as a self-made opportunity to cultivate the mind actively and vigorously. We should also overcome difficulties and obstacles most patiently. This is the fundamental way to deal with the question of habits thoroughly and effectively. The Second Patriarch Hui Ko is a case in point. After his enlightenment, he always disguised himself incognito in his own typical way, e.g., to have a drink at wineshop or to talk the same language as the man of the street. Once habits good or bad have been formed and if we grasp them or if we do not overcome them, consequently they would be the root cause of all suffering in the Samsara. Therefore, not only we should fight them out with the utmost of effort and patience, but also should develop a non-abiding and non-attached mind, so that we may carry on our combat with them from a battle to a war, from a small to a big victory. The greater the effort, the more advanced the cultivation is. This may be said to be the Way to turn ourselves to be Patriarchs and Buddhas.

    26.2   How to get rid of Habits

    In cultivation, the higher development is attained, the more habits are manifested. Their sudden emergence may not be easily detected at all unless we have had long intensive discipline in awareness. It is imperative that we should tackle this problem by every expedient means with a great deal of practice. This is a test of our fighting power and strong will. People always indulge in conceptual thought and regard the illusory phenomena around them as real. They are not aware of passions and habits working unceasingly in the mind,. It is not until they have suffered from the consequences that they may begin to realize the need of cultivating Buddhism as a measure of remedy. In a word, to get rid of all habits, one will have to undergo the following stages of development.

      26.2.1   First Stage

      At the beginning of their cultivation, with a mind half-believing and half-unbelieving, suddenly clear and suddenly confused, and with their understanding also limited to the theoretical and doctrinal aspects of Buddhism, they are utterly in lack of experience of self-realization. Thus in cultivating discipline they may be attached to form. In cultivating meditation, they may be as stiff as wood, and in cultivating wisdom, they may merely repeat the dialogue of the Ch'an School. Consequently they are too incompetent and too inexperienced to overcome their habits, as aptly depicted in these words, Verbally there is cultivation, but practically there is none.

      26.2.2   Second Stage

      With adequate and intensive practice at later stage, the mind is more and more clarified and awareness is more and more intensified. They come to realize the substance of their own fundamental self-nature, and also the truth that all things, right or wrong, favourable or unfavourable, beautiful or ugly and so forth are merely illusions and discriminations of the mind. In the meantime, as they are detached from any external influence, they may remove their habits in the following manner: on one hand, habits would change from serious to slight nature, their retention from long to short, their impact from strong to weak and their effect from large to small scale, and on the other hand, awareness would change from compulsion to spontaneity, from weakness to strength and from attention to indifference. In short, now that the deepseated habits are more or less uprooted and no longer so firmly held as before.

      26.2.3   Last Stage

      Now, we should move a step further to enhance our awareness and to wipe out our habits by highly developed concentration and wisdom. When there is awareness, not only would habits be speedily removed, but the power of concentration and wisdom would be also highly developed. At this stage of development, the self-mind gradually becomes a luminous entity, calm, still, detached from thought, yet in conceivably active, unperturbed, yet without deliberate concentration, ungraspable whether in delusion or in enlightenment, neither in motion nor in stillness, neither ordinary nor saintly, transcendental and non-conceptuable. This is called the Perfect and Complete Enlightenment.

    26.3   How to Cultivate Awareness

    There is no Dharma without cultivating awareness. If there is no awareness when the mind comes in contact with the phenomena, there will be no turning (to the Void); if there is no turning (to the Void), there will be no (realization of the) Void (of all phenomena); if there is no (realization of the) Void, there will be no concentration; and if there is no concentration, there will be no wisdom. How habits may be eliminated by awareness may be seen in the following stages of its progressive development:

    1. When awareness comes after thought, it is necessary to do one's utmost to arouse awareness as soon as possible;

    2. Even though it comes after the arising of the thought, however, awareness must not be evoked by force;

    3. Though there may be awareness as soon as thought arises, it is possible that in sequence of time, either one may be a little ahead of the other;

    4. Awareness begins simultaneously with the thought;

    5. Awareness is before the arising of the thought, but sometimes there may be no awareness at all;

    6. Awareness is always before thought-arising and is concerned with nothing but itself (awareness) (the above deals with the practice of awareness);

    7. One should keep oneself in awareness but without being conscious of it. On perceiving the reality of phenomena, one is fundamentally free;

    8. Awareness at this stage of development is always still and radiant. To check up the development of our awareness, let us ask ourselves "To which of these stages are we progressing now?"