Day by Day (Dharma lectures)

by Stephen L. Klick | 37,321 words

These are the Dharma lectures from the early years of the Buddhist Information ministry. The writing style is not as developed as it would later become but the content is wonderful because it is Dharma. Many of these lectures bring back fond memories of the very early days when we were not quite sure of the direction we would take. We often spent f...

Dharma Essentials for Cultivating Stopping and Contemplation

By Chih-i of T’ien-T’ai Mountain Monastery


Chih-i was also known as the great teacher T’ien-T’ai. He was the founder of the T’ien-T’ai school of Buddhism and the Buddha of the middle period of the law. He pointed out the errors of the Ten Major schools of Buddhism, classified Shakyamuni ’s teachings by content, and taught that the Lotus Sutra was the Buddha’s highest teaching.

It was the work entitled “Great Concentration And Insight” that revealed the principle of three thousand worlds in a single moment of life. Nichiren wrote “The time of this great teacher corresponds to the period described in ‘The Great Collections Sutra’ as the age of reading, reciting, and listening” or the Middle Period of the Law.

“(Chih-i)… preached and spread throughout China a perfect meditation and perfect wisdom…” “The Dharma Essentials For Cultivating Stopping And Contemplation” was not one of Chih-i’s major works but I have found it to be very useful to my practice. I hope that you will find it helpful as well.


“To refrain from doing any manner of evil, to respectfully perform all varieties of good, to carry out the purifications of one’s mind, this is what constitutes the teaching of all Buddhas.” As for attaining Nirvana, there are many paths of entry into it. However, if we talk about those that are absolutely necessary, we do not need to go beyond the two dharmas of ‘Stopping’ and ‘Contemplation.’

How is this so? ‘Stopping’ is the method that allows you to control your delusions, the things that keep you from seeing things just the way they are. ‘Contemplation’ is the primary ingredient that you use to cut off these delusions. ‘Stopping’ is the wholesome food that nourishes the mind and consciousness. ‘Contemplation’ is the technique, which causes the development of spiritual understanding. ‘Stopping’ is the supreme cause for you to develop mental peace. ‘Contemplation’ is the technique, which causes the development of spiritual understanding. ‘Stopping’ is the supreme cause for you to demonstrate mental peace. ‘Contemplation’ is the origin of wisdom.

If you perfect the two Dharmas of meditative absorption (or practice) and wisdom (or Study) then you will benefit yourself and others. We need meditative absorption when we sit in front of the Gohonzon. You cannot Kyochi Myogo (Fuse reality and wisdom) with the Mandela if you do not have meditative absorption. If you have been to a Toso, where we chant for at least an hour then you have meditative absorption or you would have gotten up and left the meeting.

Wisdom comes from practice and study. “The Dharma Blossom Sutra” states, “The Buddha himself abides in the great vehicle. Such truths as he has realized are enhanced by the power of meditative absorption and wisdom. He employs these in the deliverance of beings.” The Buddha himself abides in the great vehicle means that these Mahayana practices will cause you to develop your Buddha nature.

You must realize that practice and study (or meditative absorption and wisdom) are like the two wheels of a cart. You must have both wheels or the cart will never move. Thus, one of the sutras states, if you are one-sided in that that you just practice and neglect study, then you will be deluded. If you just study and neglect practice then this results in craziness.

Although there are minor differences in the faults produced by delusions and craziness, the erroneous views that develop from the two conditions are generally no different. These results are the perfection of deviation. How could this lead to enlightenment? This is why one of the sutras declares, “because the voice hearers students are the most developed in meditative absorption, they cannot perceive the Buddha nature. The Bodhisattvas are the most developed in the power of wisdom but although they do perceive the Buddha nature, still, they have not become entirely clear about it.

Buddhas on the other hand have equally developed both meditative absorption and wisdom, and that is why they posses absolute understanding and perception of the Buddha nature.” This path is easy to talk about but difficult to follow. If you wish to teach new people, then there are certain steps they should follow.

Chapter One

Now, if you have generated the resolve to practice Buddhism, there are things that you must do. The first is to be pure in upholding the precepts. This is stated in one of the sutras, “It is in dependence upon and directly because of those precepts that one succeeds in developing meditative absorption as well as the wisdom which puts an end to suffering. Therefore the practitioner should be pure in upholding the precepts.” We are talking about morality here: Do not kill or harm anyone, do not steal or make false statements and do not engage in improper sexual conduct. This is the training for lay people.

Monks had two hundred and fifty rules, and nuns had five hundred. Of course, this is a monastic teaching from the Middle Period of the Law. In the First Period of the Law, people widely upheld these precepts, because Theravada-like Buddhism was being spread and monastics must have organized moral instruction; following the precepts was a major part of their practice.

In the middle period of the law those who break the precepts are very numerous and provisional Mahayana is propagated. As we see here, the precepts have merely become the first step in the practice.

In the Latter Day of the Law you attain enlightenment by directly embracing this law of Myoho Renge Kyo, and while it is still critical that you practice correct morality, there are no precepts for this period. Why, because lay people in the Latter Day are the beings who spread the mystic law directly into society.

Monastic practice is for the small minority who need this kind of setting. Nichiren tells us that in this period “one should give alms to those without precepts, treating them the same way as they would a Buddha. He is talking about lay people.

So, we’ve talked about precepts, but this does not mean that since you are a layperson you do not have to practice morality. Chih-i quotes from the sutras again. “Within the Buddhas dharma, there are two types of healthy people: Those who have committed no evil deeds whatsoever, and those who, having committed them, have been able to repent of them.”

Now if you desire to repent it is essential to fulfill the ten dharmas. What are they?

1.Understand and believe in cause and effect.
2.Develop Extreme Fearfulness (because the cause you made will definitely produce an undesirable effect).
3.Give rise to a deep sense of remorse.
4.Seek out a method to extinguish offences.
5.Completely confess prior offences.
6.Cut off the continuance of the offences you confessed (stop committing the offense).
7.Bring forth the resolve to be a protector of the dharma.
8.Make great vows to deliver beings.
9.Constantly be mindful of all the Buddhas in the ten directions.
10.Realize the empty nature of your offences.

Chapter Two

The second thing you must do is renounce desires for external sense objects. This is the opening sentence and the chapter deals with the eradication of desires. This is definitely a monastic teaching. In his later major works that dealt with the ‘The Lotus Sutra” Chih-i would write, “Earthly desires are enlightenment, the suffering of birth and death are nirvana.”

Why the change? Is there a change? He seems to be saying one thing, then something totally different but remember monastic students have different karma and different minds with different needs. To teach a student to renounce all desires is a way to reduce attachment, but just having the desire to not have desires is a desire! It is not possible to ever totally eradicate desires.

“The Lotus Sutra” is the teaching for all people who wish to attain enlightenment in all periods of the law. So Chih-I could make the statement “Earthly desires are enlightenment” because of the closing sutra in the “Three-Fold Lotus Sutra,” “The Sutra of Meditation on Bodhisattva Universal Virtue:” “We read: “World Honored One! After the extinction of the Buddha, how can living beings, raise the mind of the Bodhisattva, practice the sutras of great extent, the great vehicle, and ponder the world of one reality with right thought? How can they keep from losing the mind of supreme Buddha hood? How, without cutting off their earthy cares, and renouncing their five desires, can they purify their organs, and destroy their sins? How, with the natural pure eyes received at birth from their parents and without forsaking their five desires, can they see things without impediment?” (The Five Desires are those that come from contact with the five sense organs, sight, sound, smell, taste, and tactile objects.)

Chapter Three

The third thing to be done is casting off the covering of

1.) Anger
2.) Sleep
3.) Agitation and remorse and
4.) Doubt, you must cast off the cover of anger because anger is the cause for falling into wretched destinies. If you do not discard anger when it arises you might begin to cherish hatred.

If you cherish hatred you might direct negative actions at the object of your hatred. In this way anger covers over the mind and this is why it is called a covering, the Buddha said, “If you slay hatred you become peaceful and happy. If you slay hatred you become free from worry. It is hatred that is the root of poison-ness. It is hatred that destroys every goodness.”

After you become aware of this you should cultivate compassion and patience as the means to be rid of it and thereby allow the mind to become pure. Casting off the cover of sleep means to rid yourself of dullness and dimness in the mental process while you are practicing. You have not yet attained enlightenment so you are like a man in chains being led to the gallows. How can you possibly sleep? Mindfulness is the cure for this dullness. If you would like to hear more on the subject of mindfulness please refer to or ask for the series “Dharma For Lay People.”

The next point is casting off the covering of agitation and remorsefulness. There are three types of agitation; the first is physical. It is characterized by the inability to feel peaceful while sitting down. The second type is verbal agitation, for example, arguments over rights and wrongs, or useless frivolous discourse. The third type is mental agitation. This is marked by neglectfulness and all manner of unwholesome thought.

Chih-i wrote, “A person who is agitated is like a camel without a nose ring, not subject to control or discipline.” Remorsefulness is also a covering of the mind. One pertinent verse reads, “It is not that on account of being remorseful one will somehow be able to do what one failed to do. All of the ill deeds which one has already committed can’t be caused thereby to be undone.” In other words, when you make a cause you will always get some kind of effect.

We practice to purify our karma, which greatly reduces the effect, but causes can never be “unmade.” It is important to have remorse. The third sutra in “The Three-Fold Lotus Sutra” (entitled “The Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue”) is all about repenting, so it is important to apologize for bad behavior, but when you dwell on your faults repeatedly, it is just suffering, and this kind of suffering is pointless.

The final covering to discard is doubt. The covering of doubt will keep you from developing faith in any dharma. If you have no faith when you encounter a teaching of the Buddha, you gain nothing. You gain nothing because you do not practice or study; your mind is not seeking truth! You are like an armless man walking through a diamond mine; because you have no arms you gain nothing from the trip.

If you cast off these coverings of, anger, sleep, agitation, and remorse as well as doubt, you are like a man who has gained freedom from a heavy burden. When you eliminate these coverings, your mind will be calm, and you will feel clear and blissful. Remove these coverings and your mind will shine brightly.

Chapter Four

Now if wish to practice the Buddhas’ dharma the first thing you should do is vow to bring all beings everywhere to liberation. You cannot leave anybody out, not your worst enemy, (if you still view things in that misguided way), or even the flea that bit you at the beach last summer! Vow to pursue the way of the Buddha, be industrious and courageous to the point where you would rather die than turn from this path of goodness.

Next, realize the true and actual mark of all dharmas, which exist solely on account of the mind. “The Sutra on the Ten Grounds” states, “throughout the three realms nothing else whatsoever exists. It is all solely created by one mind. This mind (your mind) does not have an inherent nature, because it is dependant on causes.”

The title of this chapter is “Making adjustments.” What does it mean to ‘make adjustments’? Chih-i uses an example from the sutras; if you play a stringed instrument these strings must be adjusted to the proper tension for you to make music. It is the same with your mind.

There are five matters to be adjusted: they are adjustments with regard to Eating, Sleeping, The Body, The Breath, and The Mind. If you make skillful adjustments in these areas, then wisdom will develop easily. The first adjustment to consider is food. Food should be consumed to supply the body so that you may continue to advance along the way. Do not eat until you are full and bloated, as this will make your mind dull. Do not eat too little as this will make you sick. Whenever you eat, stay mindful, and remember the oneness of mind and body.

One-sutra states, “If the body is tranquil then one’s progress along the way will flourish.” Knowing the proper measure with respect to eating… and maintaining a pure mind while taking pleasure in diligent effort—this is the teaching of all Buddhas.”

The second adjustment is sleep. We all need various amounts, but you must not sleep too much. In another sutra it is written, “whether in the beginning or end of the night, there must be no wasting of the opportunity to cultivate wisdom. One must not, on account of sleep, cause a lifetime to pass by with nothing whatsoever achieved. One should be mindful that the fire of impermanence burns up the entire world and one should seek early to bring about one’s own deliverance. One must not (over) indulge in sleep.”

The third adjustment is to the body, the fourth is to the breath, and the fifth is to the mind. These cannot be considered separately. This section deals with monastic meditative techniques that do not concern us at this time. (If you wish to obtain an introduction to meditation for lay people see “Stop Suffering: A Buddhist Guide To Happiness.”)

In “The Lotus Sutra” it says, “For the sake of the Buddha Way, the Bodhisattvas in this great assembly have diligently practiced vigor for an incalculable number of tens of millions of kotis of kalpas. (A kotis is approximately 10 million) they have become skillful in entering abiding in, and emerging from an incalculable number of trillions of kotis of Samádhis. They have gained great super-knowledge’s, have long cultivated the Brahmin conduct, and have become well able to practice in appropriate sequence all the good dharmas.”

Practice in appropriate sequence means practicing according to the time. We do not want to use monastic techniques developed in the Middle Period of the Law because this is the Latter Day. To practice meditation skillfully in this period you must develop single-minded focus directed at the Gohonzon, empty your mind and chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

Chapter Five

If you want to cultivate stopping and contemplation you must employ skillful means. There are five dharmas to consider. The first is zeal. You should posses the zeal to separate your mind from the world’s erroneous thinking and inverted views and become a person who takes pleasure in the study of dharma. The Buddha said, “Zeal constitutes the origins of all good dharmas.”

The second is vigor. Be vigorous in your practice of correct morality and never rest. If you want to make a fire using friction, you must continue until the end or you will never see smoke. This is the kind of vigor you should have when casting off the coverings (see chapter three).

The third is mindfulness; we’re not just talking about oneness of mind and body, or staying in the present moment, you should be mindful that the world is often deceptive and may be called base, while Buddhist practice is honorable and should be called noble. If you are an enlightened being, you can benefit so many more beings, so we remind ourselves, stay mindful!

The fourth is developing wisdom; worldly happiness is very little, but the suffering is very great. This ‘happiness’ taught by the world is false, deceptive and unreal therefore it has no value. Buddhist practice leads to wisdom and enlightenment, which is the end of suffering. Therefore, it has great value, so develop your wisdom through daily practice.

The fifth is single mindedness; you should see clearly that the world as it is must be called disastrous and horrible. Recognize that practice and wisdom are not only honorable and noble, but the very medicine that will change the world around you. Determine to persevere with your practice until peace and happiness exist everywhere on this planet.

Chapter Six

When sitting in front of the Mandala, remain in the present moment. It is sometimes difficult to stay focused when chanting for an hour or more because your thoughts are disordered. Anchor your mind to the Gohonzon to prevent your mind from being scattered. Exert control if it is necessary. A sutra says, “As for the five sense faculties, the mind acts as their ruler. Therefore you should all skillfully control your minds.”

One means of skillful control is to realize truth. No matter what your mind dwells on, understand that everything is produced from causes and conditions and is therefore empty. One sutra reads, “Within each and every one of the dharmas, causes and conditions are empty, having no ruler. Put the mind to rest; penetrate to the original source. Based on this, one is referred to as a Shramana. (Shramana, you will remember is the title Nichiren used when refereeing to himself in the Gosho entitled “The Object of Devotion For Observing The Mind Established In The Fifth Five Hundred Year Period After The Thus Come One’s Passing.”)

No matter what your mind thinks of, realize that everything is empty in the present, the past has already been destroyed, and the future has not yet come. Search through these three regions until you see the emptiness. “The Treatise on The Awakening of Faith” states, “If the mind has run off and become scattered one should immediately draw it back in and establish it in right mindfulness.”

Be aware, though, that ‘right mindfulness’ is only mind. There is no external realm. Mind itself is devoid of any inherently existent characteristic. Gently direct your mind back to the Gohonzon, which is the teacher for all students of the Buddha way. Nichiren writes, “I am bestowing on you the Gohonzon of Myoho Renge Kyo. Though this Mandala is written in but five or seven characters it is the teacher of all Buddhas throughout the three existences…”

The truth contained in the Gohonzon is the truth that all Buddhas become enlightened to. If you are distracted by inherent desire, realize that this kind of thinking leads to impurity of mind which leads directly back to suffering. If you are distracted by hatred, focus your mind on loving-kindness. The sutra on Loving Kindness states, “Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state. Let none through anger or ill will wish harm upon another even as a mother protects with her life her child; her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings.” (The complete text of this sutra is available upon request.)

Always return to the Gohonzon, no matter what the situation. In the morning when you get up, make a water offering and turn to the Gohonzon. At every opportunity during the day, turn to the Gohonzon. At night, after devoting appropriate time to study, turn to the Gohonzon before you sleep. This is so simple, isn’t it? It is good to talk about these things but it is even better to do it.

Chapter Seven

If the practitioner is able in this manner to skillfully cultivate stopping and contemplation, going from a conventional understanding (I.E just hearing it, or reading it) to a realization of true emptiness he will show evidence of it. His body and mind will become bright and pure. What are the roots of this goodness? Giving to those around you who need it or making offerings to those who practice “The Lotus Sutra:” Practicing correct morality, being dutiful to your parents, respecting your seniors, making offerings to the three jewels, studying the teachings and daily practice. These are the roots of Goodness.

The practitioner will develop realizations on the things he needs to know to progress spiritually. If he honestly seeks then the answers will be where they can be easily found. The student will develop a mind of loving-kindness. He will not spend much time in the lower six realms, when he visits these realms he quickly returns to the higher states. He will devote his time to helping the beings around him.

He will study the doctrines of his teacher and then study other forms of Buddhism, mastering them all but practicing only the supreme way. He will become a teacher of the Law and be inclined to discuss or lecture on the many topics of Buddhism. Dharma Wisdom and joy is found in his mind and he does not think of worldly matters.

Furthermore, when the practitioner gains clarity and purity of mind and body, on account of cultivating stopping and contemplation, he will then experience signs related to impermanence, the non-existence of self, the emptiness of all things, suffering, impurity or the impurity of food. It states in a sutra, “If one controls the mind so that it abides in a single place, there is no endeavor which is not accomplished.”

Chapter Eight: Demons!

In Sanskrit the term is ‘Mara,’ which can be re-rendered as ‘killer.’ Mara plunders the practitioners merit and destroys his wisdom. “Demons” are negative forces from inside or harmful forces from the outside. Negative forces from inside are greed, hatred, laziness, ego, and so on, while outside negative forces are natural (assorted) disasters, or social (prevailing thoughts or customs that are harmful).

In Buddhist thought, gods and demons represent two opposite forces present in our Environment. The positive side of the practitioner wants spiritual growth and development, but negative forces arise because of causes made in the past. These “Demons,” or negative forces, will be overcome with practice and study.

Outside negative forces can be any natural disaster fire, Flood, Earthquake, Hurricanes, or any thing that comes from the outside and harms you. More subtle, but just as deadly, are social forces which can be instilled in you from early childhood. It is important to remember the equality of all beings as taught in “The Lotus Sutra.” Nichiren wrote, “When one chants the Daimoku (Nam Myoho Renge Kyo) bearing in mind that there are no distinctions among those who embrace “The Lotus Sutra” then the blessing he gains will be equal to those of Shakyamuni Buddha.”

To close chapter eight we examine these passages from the sutras: “Desire is the foremost of Mara’s armies. Worry is the second. Hunger and thirst is the third army. Craving is the fourth. Sleepiness is the fifth of your armies. Fearfulness is the sixth. Doubt and remorse is the seventh army. Anger is the eighth. Offering and empty praises are the ninth. Prideful ness and arrogance are the tenth. Numerous armies such as these Subdue and bury the practitioner.”

“Using the power of practice and study, I “smash all of these armies of yours, “and after achieving the way of the Buddha “cross over all beings to liberation.” You are the creator of your own difficulties, in every case; it is a matter of the practitioner bringing on calamity through the absence of wisdom. It is never a case of something being actually brought about by demons. If these demon states occur and re-occur then it is necessary to make your mind upright—Do not spare even your own physical life to do so. The practitioner must not be filled with fear or distress.

Chapter Nine

Chapter nine is entitled “The Treatment of Disorders” and deals with various health problems that arose among many new practitioners. Various causes are attributed to these assorted sufferings, but most of them were probably caused by poor conditions in the monastery. Many of these students came from wealthy and therefore reasonably healthy environments. If they came from the rural areas, where people did not live in close proximity to one another, the problem was probably worse.

Monks had small living areas, no privacy, poor sanitation, and the food was… meant to keep you alive. Many monks would kill nothing and most of them had various types of lice, which they refused to harm (many modern Asian monastics are the same way).

This is a recipe for illness, and it is small wonder that most students took time to adjust to their new surroundings.

Chapter Ten

When the practitioner cultivates stopping and contemplation in this manner he may be able to realize that in every case all Dharmas arise from the mind and are empty because they are dependant on causes and conditions. This is the stopping achieved through the understanding of truth.

At such a time, you do not see any fruit of Buddhahood to be sought after nor do you find any beings to be to be delivered to liberation. This is moving from conventional reality, (just because you are ‘empty’ in nature does not mean that you are not here) to the contemplation of ultimate reality (the empty nature of everything.) If you stay in this state overlong, however, you fall into the category of ‘voice hearer’ or ‘Pratyekabuddha’ (people who live in the state of learning or realization.)

Generate a mind of compassion and remember that “The Lotus Sutra” teaches that there is no special path or vehicle for men of learning and realization. There is only one Buddha vehicle; so all spiritual practitioners are Bodhisattvas at some level of training. Bodhisattvas should have great compassion, but they also should remember that no definite and fixed nature can be found. A verse from “The Treatise On The Middle” reads, “All dharmas produced of causes and conditions, I declare them to be empty. They are also simply conventional designations and also embody the meaning of the Middle Way.”

If you abide in this contemplation then the powers of meditative absorption and wisdom will be equal. You will perceive the Buddha nature and become peacefully established in the great vehicle.

“One practices the practice of the Thus Come One, One enters the room of the Buddha, dons the robe of the Buddha, and sits in the seat of the Thus Come One.”

Finally, Nichiren writes, “The great teacher Miao-Lo comments as follows: ‘Enlightenment has no separate entity, but is completely dependent on ignorance; and ignorance has no separate entity but is completely dependant on enlightenment”… “The Daichido Ron” says, “enlightenment and ignorance are not different things, not separate things. To understand this is what is called the Middle Way,”

Our Teacher writes: “The mind, the Buddha and all living things—these three things are without distinction.” And also “let it be known that the Buddha with the three thousand realms in a single moment of life is any living being in any of the realms of existence who manifests his inherent Buddhahood.” It is by means of the mind that all Buddhas gain liberation.

We would like to thank you for spending time with us today and remind you that Buddhist Information of America operates twenty-four hours every day of the year. We want to help you if we can. There is a huge library of material available, please feel free to use it. We study with people all over the United States and there is never any charge for any service from Buddhist Information of America.

In the Kansas City Area the phone number is (913) 722-0900. In the rest of the United States please call (800) 576-9212. Let’s take a moment to dedicate the merit for what we’ve accomplished here today. Everything we do here we do for the sake of sentient beings. So, may all beings find peace! May all beings find happiness! May all beings find the path that leads to the end of suffering, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, May all beings benefit. Thank you so much.

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