January 29, 1974, Tuesday evening
On Selecting Your Own Practice of Samadhi
Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
Gold Mountain Monastery is a fountainhead of Buddhism in the West. There’s a saying: “When the eight immortals cross the sea, each displays his supernatural powers.” Each person can make his own resolve. If you make a resolve to eat, you can study the eating samadhi. Don’t think that eating is such a simple matter. It is not easy at all. For instance, people who know how to eat will not eat too little or too much; they know how to stay healthy. An example of someone who didn’t know how eat is a monk I knew in Manchuria. He ate only one meal a day, but had a huge bowl which he fills three times in that one meal. His bowl was bigger than any of ours. What he ate in one meal—three bowlfuls—was more than I could have eaten in ten days and then some. In fact, I could probably have survived on one of his bowlful for ten days. He truly resembled a hungry ghost.
When he was living in the town of Lalin, he would eat for one or two hours, taking his time. However, in the large monasteries, only thirty minutes are allotted for a meal—in Taiwan it is only ten minutes. He couldn’t eat his fill in thirty minutes, so he would always make sure to sit next to the food server. Wherever the food server was, that’s where he’d sit. He had to eat fast. In the time it took people to finish one mouthful, he would be done with his first bowl and getting seconds. By the time others had eaten a second mouthful, he would be finishing his second bowl and starting his third. Although he ate like a glutton, he was virtually skin and bones, with no flesh at all. Would you say he knew how to eat or not? It could be said that he didn’t know how to eat.If you know how to eat, you will not overeat or under-eat. You will not go to either extreme. That’s part of learning the samadhi of eating.
You could also study the sleep samadhi. “Oh, I know what that is,” someone says. “It must mean that you sleep both day and night, being totally oblivious to the waking world and always being in a deep, sleep-like samadhi.” That’s not it. If you attain the sleep samÁdhi, then it doesn’t really matter whether you sleep or not. It’s fine to sleep, and it’s also okay not to sleep. There’s no problem. Then there’s the samadhi of wearing clothes. It doesn’t mean wearing fine garments and wearing lots of clothes. It means that you aren’t even aware of whether or not you wear clothes. Again, it’s not an easy state to attain.
And so, each person cultivates his or her own samÁdhi. The two monks are practicing the bowing samÁdhi. You could perhaps study sutra-recitation samadhi, mantra recitation samadhi, or the samadhi of bowing. The choice is yours. However, you should at all costs avoid learning the samadhi of fighting, the samadhi of being obstinate, and the samadhi of oppressing others.
(Timely Teachings, page 222)