Contrary and favorable realms are environs continuously experienced in the course of study, and it is an important topic in the investigation of the hwadu as to how one can overcome these contrary and favorable realms.
What are contrary and favorable realms? A contrary realm means the circumstances that oppose one’s own intention have developed. In a word, this is a circumstance that is difficult to bear that unfolds right before one’s eyes. Therefore it is difficult and painful. The favorable realm means adhering firmly to a condition that has opened up and which accords with one’s intentions. Although it is momentarily joyful when it accords with one’s own intention, if one becomes attached to that, one cannot be awakened to the reality when the mind wanders.
The moment they encounter contrary realms, usually many practitioners forget to study having been seduced mentally by the realm in front of their eyes. Even more, when they encounter contrary realms, the mind schemes strongly, and although one may break through that realm, when one meets with a favorable realm generally one ends up burying the mind in it. If one achieves that hoped-for thing, one becomes intoxicated with that happiness and one forgets oneself, because one is swept away by the circumstances.
Seon Master Dahui said concerning this:
When a thing appears in front of one’s eyes, whether or not it is a contrary or favorable realm, since one must not be attached to it, if one is attached the mind will be disordered.
Although the contrary realm is difficult to conquer, the favorable realm is difficult to conquer. If one can be prudent for a moment about that which opposes my intention by simply being patient, it will have passed on by. But there is no place to escape from favorable realms. It is just like when a magnet and iron encounter each other, in spite of themselves they come together. Even though insentient things do so, what about sentient beings who are living where ignorance even more operates in the entire body? When they encounter such realms, if there is no wisdom, unwittingly that is where one is drawn into that realm, but on the contrary if one tries to find a path to leave from in there, why won’t it be difficult? And so, past saints said, “Entering into the world, depart the world with nothing left.” That is the principle of this. (Shuzhuang, Reply to Lou Shumi).
Whether a contrary realm or a favorable realm approaches, know that all the world’s things originally are all conditionally produced phenomena and so lack reality. If one does not give rise to a mind that is attached to that, such realms become slighter. Contrary and favorable realms are all realms already prepared within the mind, and the contrary and favorable are not outside, and are merely one’s own karmic deeds that are projected into the external realm. And so if contrary and favorable realms come in, one must strongly and minutely inquire into it by concentrating the mind only into the hwadu study. Rather, one must activate the advantages of excellent hwadu study without any more contrary or favorable realms.
Even though contrary realms and favorable realms come, do not command the feelings of that moment, but then and there one must take up the hwadu. Thus, even though each day is terribly difficult, hard and gloomy, do not be swallowed up by this. One has to proceed by grasping hard onto the one hwadu. It is certain that the climax is a passing thing. The same applies to favorable realms. Even though all things are temporarily favorable, one must not be overly unsettled by this. The moment one is attached to that, an unpleasant realm will hasten to one.
If one meets with contrary realms or favorable realms, quickly be aware that, “A realm has visited.” At just that time, one must recognize that this is a definite chance for mental study. And in the condition that the mind is made calm and one takes up the hwadu, one must proceed to cope resolutely with the realm one is faced with.