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Chapter 33: Serenity

Silent Illumination

Old P’ang said, “Just resolve to empty all that exists: don’t make real all that doesn’t exist.” Just master these two propositions, and your whole life’s task of study is completed.
These days there’s a breed of shaven-headed outsiders whose own eyes are not clear, who just teach people to stop and rest and play dead. Even if you stop and rest like this until a thousand buddhas appear in the world, you still won’t be able to stop and rest - you’ll be making your mind even more confused and troubled. They teach people to “keep the mind still,” to “forget feelings” according to circumstances, to practice “silent illumination.” As they go on and on “illuminating” and “keeping the mind still,” they add to their confusion and oppression, with no end to it. Utterly losing the expedient means of the patriarchs, they instruct others wrongly, teaching people to go on in vain and wastefully with birth and death; furthermore, they teach people not to care about this state of affairs. “Simply go on putting things to rest this way,” they’ll say. “When you’ve stopped feelings as they come and thoughts are not produced, at such a time it’s not unknowing silence - in fact, it’s alert and awake and perfectly clear.” This kind is even more pernicious, blinding peoples’ eyes.
To say that when one has put things to rest to the point that he is unawares and unknowing, like earth, wood, tile, or stone, this is not unknowing silence - this is a view born of wrongly taking too literally words that were only expedient means to free bonds. To teach people to reflect according to circumstances and take care not to let any bad perceptions appear - this again is an interpretation produced by accepting the skull’s emotional consciousness.
All the above diseases are not the students’ doings - they’re all due to the wrong instructions of blind teachers.

Man has been miserable - not without reason. The reasons are of his own making; hence release is possible. But very few people have experienced absolute freedom.

There are a thousand and one causes for this calamity which has happened to humanity. It is just like a vast garden of thousands of rosebushes, where only once in a while a flower blossoms on a rosebush, and the remaining thousands of bushes simply remain barren. They have the same potential, but something has gone wrong in their structuring.

Ta Hui is trying here to show a few fundamental errors that have been made by man - and he continues to make them - which hinder his own growth.

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