Home » Features » Great Master Hānshān’s ‘Song On Wasting In Vain’ 憨山大师《费闲歌》

In Great Master Hānshān’s (憨山大师) ‘Song On Wasting In Vain’《费闲歌》, he wrote a list of ten deeds, which are relatively easier to do externally, as compared with ten deeds which are more difficult to do internally, speaking on how superficial ‘practices’ that do not progress with the right conditions will always be done in vain. He also states how ten conditions that contradict the spiritual path will only emptily waste energy, such that even if with much of their outward expressions exerted, they will also be for nothing. Being timelessly relevant, the teachings encapsulated in his following ten verses should be deeply contemplated upon by all, so as to avoid the pitfalls warned against.

(1) Meditative Cultivating For Realising Awakening: Speaking about the path is easy but realising the path is difficult, with distracting mixed thoughts not eradicated, thus always in vain, with worldly matters’ dusty labours, constantly clinging and obstructing, in the deep mountains quietly sitting (i.e. meditating), this is also for nothing. [一、静修体悟:讲道容易体道难,杂念不除总是闲,世事尘劳常挂碍,深山静坐也徒然。]

(2) Guarding Upholding Of Pure Precepts: Leaving the household life is easy but guarding the precepts is difficult, with faith and aspiration completely without, thus always in vain, with pure precepts not upheld, emptily wasting energy, even if dropping hair, this is also for nothing. [二、守持净戒:出家容易守戒难,信愿全无总是闲,净戒不持空费力,纵然落发也徒然。]

(3) Relying On Teacher For Cultivating Practice: Cultivating practice is easy but encountering a teacher is difficult, not encountering a wise and capable teacher, thus always in vain; thinking oneself is clever, emptily wasting energy, blindly cultivating and recklessly practising, this is also for nothing. [三、依师修行:修行容易遇师难,不遇明师总是闲,自作聪明空费力,盲修瞎练也徒然。]

(4) The Mind Departing From Red Dust: Being stained by dust is easy but exiting from the dust is difficult, not severing from dusty labours, thus always in vain; with attachment’s nature climbing after conditions, emptily wasting energy, not accomplishing the path’s fruit, this is also for nothing. [四、心离红尘:染尘容易出尘难,不断尘劳总是闲,情性攀缘空费力,不成道果也徒然。]

(5) With The Humble Mind Learning And Contemplating: Listening and learning is easy but having the sincerely true mind is difficult, with arrogant slighting of honourable teachers, thus always in vain; being proud and arrogant, emptily wasting energy, with cleverness unmatched in the world, this is also for nothing. [五、虚心闻思:听闻容易实心难,侮慢师尊总是闲,自大贡高空费力,聪明盖世也徒然。]

(6) True Cultivation For True Realisation: Learning the path is easy but awakening to the path is difficult, not putting in efforts, thus always in vain; able to have faith yet not practising, emptily wasting energy, to no purpose discussing and commenting, this is also for nothing. [六、实修实证:学道容易悟道难,不下功夫总是闲,能信不行空费力,空空论说也徒然。]

(7) According To Principles Shutting In Retreat: Shutting in retreat is easy but guarding the retreat is difficult, not willing to cultivate practice, thus always in vain; with the body in retreat within, yet the mind is outside, for a thousand years not exiting, this is also for nothing. [七、如理闭关闭关容易守关难,不肯修行总是闲,身在关中心在外,千年不出也徒然。]

(8) With The Faithful Mind Mindful Of Buddha: Mindfulness of Buddha is easy but having the faithful mind is difficult, with the mind and mouth not one, thus always in vain; with the mouth reciting Āmítuófó, yet the mind is scattered and confused [without Faith and Aspiration], with the throat shouting till broken, this is also for nothing.* [八、信心念佛:念佛容易信心难,心口不一总是闲,口念弥陀心散乱,喉咙喊破也徒然。*]

(9) With The Reverent Mind Prostrating To Buddha: Prostrating to the Buddha is easy but having the reverent mind is difficult, with the mind not sincere, thus always in vain; with five parts of the body emptily placed, emptily wasting energy, with the skull bowing till broken, this is also for nothing. [九、敬心拜佛:拜佛容易敬心难,意不虔诚总是闲,五体虚悬空费力,骷髅磕破也徒然。]

(10) Reciting Sūtras For Understanding Their Meanings: Reciting sūtras is easy but understanding sūtras is difficult, with the mouth reciting without understanding, thus always in vain; able to understand yet not relying on them, emptily wasting energy, with daily reciting of ten thousand scrolls, this is also for nothing. [十、诵经解义:诵经容易解经难,口诵不解总是闲,能解不依空费力,日诵万卷也徒然。]

* Note: Dharma Master Dà’ān (Hundred Questions On Pure Land): ‘If not complete with Faith and Aspiration, only verbally reciting Āmítuófó’s name, also without the mind of Faith and Aspiration to seek rebirth in his Pure Land, this is then very difficult to correspond with Āmítuófó’s vows’ power. Not able to connect with the Buddha’s power, then is one not able to carry negative karma to horizontally transcend, to be reborn in his Pure Land. Therefore calling this “with the throat shouting till broken, this is also for nothing.” If complete with Faith and Aspiration when upholding his name, although the inner mind still has [some] scatteredness and confusion, one is also definitely able to be reborn in his Pure Land, with this not being “with the throat shouting till broken, this is also for nothing.”’

[* 注:大安法师《净土百问》:「不具备信愿,只是口头上去念弥陀名号,也没有信愿求往生的心,那么就很难与阿弥陀佛的愿力相应,不能感通佛力,就不能带业横超往生净土,所以才称作『喉咙喊破也徒然』。如果具足信愿持名,虽然内心还有散乱,但也绝对是能往生的,不是『喉咙喊破也徒然』的。」]

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