The method of hwadu study for laypersons
The path of meditation practice that seeks one’s own original face does not discriminate between monastic and lay. This is because all sentient beings are originally Buddha. As Seon Master Huineng said, in the Buddha-dharma there is no difference in North and South and in the Buddha-nature there isn’t any discrimination. We are all thus Buddha. In that Buddha site already there is no differentiation between race, gender, religion or lay. Moreover, it is a feature of Ganhwa Seon that hwadu study is done in the midst of everyday life, and if one only makes the mind resolute even in lay life, one can study as much as one wants.
A beginner entering into hwadu study must first produce a genuine mental resolution and establish a firm values outlook with regard to the Buddha’s Dharma. If one has attained this mental resolution, one must correctly learn the method of hwadu investigation for the hwadu that was received from the teacher one sought out. And the beginners in taking up a hwadu must foster great strength. For the period of taking up a hwadu, if one allows any interruptions at all, various delusions force themselves into those gaps. If one lets one’s concentration go even a little, the mind deviates (from the hwadu) by 108,000 miles and all sorts of imaginations from the past spread their wings into the future.
When one starts, if one can extend the strength to take up the hwadu for thirty minutes, it is best to increase that by thirty minutes to have one hour of it morning and evening, and so meditate for two hours daily. It takes about one hour to burn a stick of incense. And so if one can try to enter meditation samadhi for an hour at a time as one burns an incense stick, one will personally experience how good that study is oneself. If one meditates even for a little just before one goes to bed, even though morning meditation is good, it is the most peaceful and genial end to the day.
Take up the hwadu and do not just be trapped into delusion while waiting for people or in rush hours, or just look blankly at the empty sky. Even when the delusion rises up, even in places where that delusion is kindled, take up the hwadu. We, seduced in mind by the delusion, just waste our valuable time and torment our mind. We sometimes demolish our work accomplished with much effort with foolish thoughts, and dislike the other party without reason. This is in the form of self-tormenting by the thought made by oneself. No matter how one looks at it, one receives and makes torment and abuses oneself through such delusions all day long. Therefore, when one tortures oneself with the tortures, one must take up the hwadu. If so, one should take up the hwadu even more in order to convert the power that is wasted on these delusions so that those delusions disappear into the power to take up the hwadu.
Doing so, if one makes taking up the hwadu an everyday thing, using one’s spare time and taking places regularly for meditating for an hour or two usually, it is good to try and participate in an all-night vigorous practice held in monasteries or citizens’ Seon rooms. For people who have meditated for an hour midst the usual everyday rush, while overcoming the aches in the legs or the falling asleep or sleepiness that spill forth and the delusions and frustrations that endlessly arise during the all-night vigorous practice, staying up all night and meditating is not easy. However, if one enters into the everyday after finishing the strength-sapping all-night vigorous practice, it becomes much easier to discover oneself in meditation for an hour. Moreover, one meets good masters and various companions of the Way through all-night vigorous practice, can receive help to polish one’s experience of practice, and can naturally exchange dialogue concerning the realm of study.
In the case of lay Buddhists, if one earnestly meditates for an hour or two daily in the morning and evening, the practice can mature fully. Dahui also said in his Shuzhuang, “The study of the hwadu morning and night is very good, is excellent.”
Thus it is advised that you do not skip a day and meditate everyday. Just as one does not skip a meal, try to practice meditation daily. Gaining strength in study, and the delusions disappearing, the frustrations will gradually decrease. Even though one cannot conquer the hwadu, if one can accumulate the strength of meditation, the mind is calmed and one can grasp the core of life and increase one’s power of concentration. Moreover, in removing the delusions, all things lack taint, one can progress vigorously and can live a life full of original inspiration.
Can one take up hwadu while working?
Can laypersons take up hwadu while working? Among laypersons there are many who are anxious about this question. Since normally if one takes up hwadu one has to concentrate one’s whole body and spirit on it, it is easy to think it impossible to take up the hwadu while one is working or driving.
However, Seon Master Dahui said one must not put aside the hwadu in the midst of the everyday life of walking, resting, sitting or lying down. Not only Seon Master Dahui but also many Seon masters said that daily affairs are none other than the Way. It is exactly because we eat, go to work and try to do our duty and exchange dialogue that this must not be separate from the Way. That is, this means that even in everyday life one can take up the hwadu uninterruptedly. Students who extend their strength by taking up the hwadu in quiet places, can also take up the hwadu constantly when moving, coming and going, or when washing dishes or drinking tea and eating,.
But it is not an easy thing to take up the hwadu while working. If one tries to immerse oneself in work, there are many times when one concentrates one’s mind on that work and cannot be obsessed with the hwadu. But if one tries to take up the hwadu persistently by using empty time such as that of rush hours or in the morning or at night, and even in moments when the feeling of doubt about the hwadu arise and one cannot be conscious of it, one starts to take up the hwadu mindlessly in the secluded places of the mind.
Seon Master Dahui said the hwadu is to be an object that is extended into everyday life and that one must not be manipulated by the realms. While looking at the documents and writing’s on the desk, he said as soon as one has the spare time, and when things clash with you while working, one must handle them well. And, while residing in a quiet place, he said one must get rid of worldly thoughts in an ultimate investigation that comprehends things, and not fall into delusion.