If one is unable to take the royal feast even when hungry,
How can he be healed even if he meets the king of doctors?
Practicing Ch’an in the desire realm manifests the power of knowledge,
Indestructible as a lotus grown in a fire.
Though Pradhanasura broke the main precepts, he awakened to the unborn;
He long ago reached the Buddha state and remains there still.
While you are deciding which method to choose, remember the story of the sick man and the doctor. If you were that man, would you follow the doctor’s advice? Suppose the doctor said, “I can cure you, but it requires major surgery. First I’ll remove your hands and feet, then your arms and legs. Next, I’ll remove your mind and heart. After that, the problem will be gone.” Would you be willing? How much do you trust the doctor?
Without trust, even the king of doctors cannot help you. You must have faith in his expertise in order to accept his advice. You have already encountered Ch’an teachings, but you may be unable to accept it fully. Sentient beings do not have enough courage and confidence to accept the belief that they are Buddhas. For this reason, they cannot embrace Ch’an teachings.
The song mentions Pradhanasura, a great practitioner who lived long before Sakyamuni’s time. Yung-chia says that Pradhanasura broke the main precepts, but actually the transgressor was an exceedingly handsome monk named Yung-shih, and it was Pradhanasura who helped him solve his problem. A rich woman fell in love with Yung-shih and lured him into her home, asking that he preach to her mother. Eventually, the young woman seduced him. When her husband found out, he was furious, and wanted to kill her. She poisoned her husband and made plans to run away with the monk. Yung-shih witnessed all of this, and he despaired, because he was sure only those who kept the precepts could practice successfully. He left the woman and roamed far and wide, carrying a placard confessing his sins and begging for help and hope. Wherever he went, he got the same story: “There’s no hope for a person who breaks the major precepts.”
One day, Yung-shih met Pradhanasura. Pradhanasura asked him, “You say you have committed grave sins, but what are sins? Do sins have self-nature? If sins have self-nature, then how can you create them? If you make these sins, then they must not have self-nature.”
When Yung-shih heard Pradhanasura’s words, he immediately attained complete enlightenment and became a Buddha known as Precious Moon Buddha. Even a person who has broken the major precepts can become a Buddha.
Examine yourself. How bad are you? You have probably never killed a person. If so, you should be able to do as well as Yung-shih. The reason why you cannot is because you cannot let go of the self.
You would probably like it if I told you that the self-nature of sins is empty. You might think, “If the self-nature of sin is empty, then I can do anything I want. I can break the precepts and commit sins, but I won’t have any karmic debts, and I won’t have to accept any consequences.” That would be nice, but you probably would not like it if I told that the self-nature of the self is also empty. If the self is empty, then who is it that will eat your dinner tonight? Who will meet your children, wife or husband after the retreat? Who will go to your job next Monday? Now you might say, “There’s so much I haven’t accomplished yet. I still have a lot of plans. How can my self be empty?”
After sitting in meditation for a while, your legs begin to hurt, and your mind wanders to other things. I have told you not to think about things, but at this point you might feel that thinking can be very good. When you get tired or frustrated, you believe that thinking will help you, that it will help to relieve your discomfort and tiredness. Perhaps you fantasize about life problems yet to be solved or life plans yet to be realized. A self is definitely involved when you do this. There is no doubt who is doing all the thinking. If you cannot reach emptiness, then all of your previous karma will follow you. The nature of sin is not empty if you cannot empty yourself. When you empty yourself, all the sins you have created will also be empty.
— The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng-Yen (page 206-209)