Grandmaster Hsu Yun's Meditation Instructions to His Monks

The following are some of the Grandmaster's teachings on meditation as given during various retreats at monasteries throughout China. These instructions were intended for experienced meditators i.e. his monks. It should also be pointed out that where as the Grandmaster taught and practiced Chan he also taught and practiced Pure Land Buddhism. The two are not incompatible!
Grandmaster Hsu Yun often referred to the Hua Tou, so a few words of explanation are in order:
The literal meaning of Hua-Tou in Chinese Chan is 'word head or sentence head'. It is the state of mind before the mind is disturbed by thought. This is a clear state of mind while highly concentrated and focused. Hsu Yun called it "that moment that is neither disturbed nor dull." He further stated; "The moment before a thought arises is called the unborn." The Grandmaster said "it is the unremitting turning of the light inwards on oneself, instant after instant and exclusive of all other things." At another time he said "it is the turning of the light inward on that which is not born and does not die."
With that as a background lets look at some of the Hsu Yun's teachings on meditation.
"A beginner will not find it easy to hold the Hua Tou well in his mind, but should not worry about it, he should neither hope for awakening nor seek wisdom. Sitting in meditation this Chan week is already the attainment of awakening and wisdom"
The Grandmaster went on to emphasize the importance of doubt:
"When one looks into the Hua Tou the most important thing is to give rise to doubt." Doubt is the crutch of hua tou i.e. it is indispensable to hua tou as crutches are to cripples. This doubt is manifested by questioning - Who is it, that sits in meditation? Who is repeating the Buddha's name? Who is wearing this robe and eating this rice? Consequently the word 'Who' of the hua tou is a wonderful technique in Chan training. However, one should not repeat the word 'Who' or the sentence 'Who is repeating the Buddha's name?'. Neither should one set one's discrimination mind on searching for him who repeats the Buddha's name.
"When real doubt rises of itself, this can be called true training." This is the moment when one reaches a 'strategic gateway' where it is easy to go out of one's way.
Usually beginners give rise to a doubt which is very coarse; it is apt to stop abruptly and to continue again, and seems suddenly familiar and suddenly unfamiliar. This is certainly not doubt and can only be their own thinking process. When the mad wandering mind has gradually been brought under control, one will be able to apply the brake on the thinking process and only then can this be called 'looking into the hua tou.' Little by little, one will gain experience in training and then doubt will arise on it's own. At the beginning there is no effective training at all, as there is only an effort to put an end to false thinking.
The Grand Master cautioned; "in our meditation if we lose sight of the hua tou, while dwelling in stillness, there results an indistinct void ness where-in there is nothing. Clinging to this state of stillness is a Chan illness which we should never contract while undergoing our training. This is the unrecordable dead emptiness." On another occasion he said; "awareness without contemplation will lead to confusion and instability, and contemplation without awareness will result in immersion in stagnant water." This unrecordable dead emptiness is a state where there is little activity of mind - no thoughts. It is a state where cognition is lost or diminished and the meditator has entered a trance. It is important that a highly focused state of mind be maintained at all times. This is the mind that dwells on and in the hua tou it is a union with that which is "the unborn, undying."
"In the Chan training, one should be earnest in one's desire to leave the realm of Samsara (birth & death) and develop a long enduring mind (in one's training). If the mind is not earnest it will be impossible to give rise to the doubt and the training will be ineffective. Lack of a long enduring mind will result in laziness and the training will not be continuous. Just develop a long enduring mind and the doubt will rise of itself. As the ripe moment comes (it will be like) running water which forms a channel."