When reciting the Buddha's name: "Why is it that we cannot recognize our original face? " It's because we haven't demolished our mark of self and selfishness. The word "investigate" in "investigating Chan" means to contemplate.
What does one contemplate on? Prajna: Prajna is a state of concentration in which you are constantly aware of the presence or absence of self, and pay no heed to the presence or absence of others. Are you really there or are you not?
People who investigate Chan must first recognize the basic problem clearly.
What is the problem? Our bad habits and faults. The purpose of a Chan session is to to rid ourselves of bad habits and faults. In the Chan hall, everybody investigates Chan and meditates. This is a test to see who can pass and attain Buddhahood.
What determines a pass? This is determine when inside, you are free of the thought of body and mind; and outside, you cast off the world. People who investigates Chan usually encounter one or both of these two major obstacles: a) having an unsettled state of mind, b) drowsiness. That is, either idle thoughts dominate peaceful mind, or you drift asleep during their meditation.
To investigate Chan, one must have patience and perseverance. The secret to investigating Chan is patience. Even if you can't bear it anymore, you must persevere. Once you have endured to the extreme, then everything will be interpenetrating and you will become enlightened. When your investigation of Chan reaches maturity, not only will you have no false thinking, you'll also have less anger, your afflictions will decrease, your character will improve, and your limits will expand.
Why don't we have any response in the Way? It's because our wild minds do not rest. To investigate Chan, one must have patience, for that is your means to enlightenment. We have the opportunity to become enlightened when we investigate Chan. When our true nature appears, it's like spring returns to earth and myriad things start to grow. A person who truly investigates Chan is a person who truly recites the Buddha's name; a person who truly recites the Buddha's name is also a person who truly investigates Chan. A person who truly upholds the precepts is also a person who truly investigates Chan; a person who truly investigate Chan is also a person who truly upholds the precepts.
What is the "real me?" It is the inherent nature and the attainment of Buddhahood. Only when one attains Buddhahood, can one find the "real me." Before that, everything is false. Whoever does not have any defiled attachments is a Buddha. Whoever has defiled attachments is a living being.
What is a defiled attachment? To put in simple words, it is whatever one can not see beyond and leave behind, that which causes one to constantly have polluted thoughts. When you have applied exacting effort to your cultivation, food and clothing become secondary. How much the more should you let go of other external objects.
Cultivation is not limited to practicing Chan meditation and reciting Sutras. Cultivation is to always be without too much discrimination. Furthermore, do not fight for power; do not vie for leadership to supervise other people and show off before the Master. The essential quality of the Way is concentration; that of a general is his strategic skill, not his courage; that of an army is its quality, not its size.
Sincerely reciting the Buddha's name is to constantly concentrate one's mind on the recitation without any polluted thought or desire to eat and drink. Reciting to the point where everything is forgotten is true mindfulness of the Buddha. When you are mindful of the Buddha, the Buddha will also be mindful of you. It is a bit like sending a telegram to Amitabha Buddha. This is known as the "intertwining of the response and the Way." If you are not mindful of the Buddha, he will not receive your message. Therefore, it is imperative that you uphold the Buddha's name.
In reciting mantras, one should so recite so the mantra flows out of one's mind and returns to one's mind. The mantra mind and the mind mantra – the mantra and the mind are united in sound after sound and are never apart from each other. One is reciting, yet not reciting; one is not reciting, yet constantly reciting. When you venerate the Buddha, and the Buddha accepts your veneration, you will increase your blessing and wisdom. That is to say that bowing to the Buddha is an influence, and his receiving the veneration is a response. That is the "intertwining of the Way."
From the Biographical Sketch of the Elder Master Venerable Hsuan, Noble Hua.