3. Coarse but Unbroken Applications of the Method
By the third level, you are able to maintain uninterrupted concentration and count each number in perfect succession for a span of at east ten minutes. Nevertheless, concentration is coarse and there still may exist many subtle wandering and scattered thoughts that impinge on the margins of your attention. Although concentration may ripple and waver momentarily, these thoughts are not powerful enough to cause you completely to lose sight of the number and the method. Horaku’s commentary: TEN MINUTES!?! I don't even know if I brush my teeth for a full ten minutes and you expect me to stay concentrated on counting my breath for that long? And on a regular, consistent basis? Yes. This is EXACTLY what Master Sheng-Yen is expecting. Want to know why? Because he knows that step three is a natural outcome (in the realm of cause and effect/sowing and reaping) from correctly following steps one and two. It's that simple!
However, I don't want you to lose faith at this point because from my own experience there is a magic that happens at this step. Let me briefly explain what happened to me... Several years ago, I had decided that whenever I walked anywhere I would concentrate on the breath by syncing the breath with each bead on my mala (meditation beads). With each in-breath...one bead with each out-breath...one bead. Well, as I was doing this one afternoon suddenly some random thoughts slid into my field of awareness. I noticed them but I ALSO noticed that I had not lost awareness of the breath nor the individual beads per breath! It was like the random thoughts took front seat and the breath with the beads took the back seat. I was aware of it all, but separate from it. Then, I moved the awareness of the random thoughts to the back seat and the breath with the beads back to the front seat and then watched the random thoughts fade back into the nothingness from which they came! And what's amazing is that this happened BEFORE I came in possession of Master Sheng-Yen's book! It wasn't until I did get the book that I began to understand just what had happened and by then I was just starting to experience step five. Without knowing what step five was. The initial experience was magic in that it was a kind of manifested proof that there was progress in what I was doing and this, in turn, greatly strengthened my faith in the practice! Remember what I said, you have to seriously put each step into practice and let the natural outcome flow NATURALLY. What do I mean by that? Do the step and concentrate on the step only! If you look towards the outcome then you are not working the step...you are imagining a future that doesn't exist and this will lead to setbacks, frustration and suffering! You cannot force the outcome of your awakening...you can ONLY take the necessary steps to help the process to unfold as a natural outcome. So, relax and be gentle and compassionate with yourself. Believe me, it's worth it! In