Shih Ying-Fa, 2

Interview with Shih Ying-Fa


I am not the least offended by your response. I understand. There is a balance it seems between encouraging others (by both example and stories) and "poisoning the well" as you put it. A blind person will never see the Grand Canyon, whereas taking up meditation does promise, even by degrees relaxation, healing, and even transcendence or contact with the divine within.

This is my perspective. I think a blind person who could listen to the story of the Grand Canyon would appreciate it. Perhaps you can look at what exactly got you started on your own quest- hints, stories, images, etc. With this in mind, what is the length that you have gone or feel willing to go along the lines of encouragement? What of this practice are you willing to speak about?


As a Ch'an teacher I am much more about the process of internal inquiry than pretty stories. I prefer to speak on things such as effort, attitude, traps and pitfalls, the qualities of one who engages in deep meditative inquiry, other words, the practical, nuts-and-bolts realities of practice and realization.

From the Ch'an perspective, this practice promises absolutely nothing! It is a path to realization that one must walk alone, albeit with the occasional assistance of teachers, Dharma friends and the tradition itself. To promise something is to provide the ego-mind with more fuel for delusion.

I always encourage my students, but at the same time I promise them nothing and insist that they do not engage in looking FOR anything. I do encourage them to have faith in their inherent enlightened nature, but this is something that they must ultimately realize for themselves. We do not deal in imagery; we deal in Mind. The occasional image or analogy is fine, but these are just pretty pictures in the end, pictures that must be released as soon as they are conjured up.

What got me started on my quest? Suffering. What lengths will I go to encourage a practitioner? It depends on the needs of the practitioner at that moment. Skillful means does not lend itself to formulas.

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