Wow... Brilliant and clear, Venerable.Paññāsikhara wrote:
My phrasing above was mainly in the light of the fact that this is in a Theravada Forum, and it appeared that there was a fair amount of confusion, mainly about reading 疑情 yiqing as "doubt" which was mistakenly considered the opposite of 信 xin "faith / confidence". If I was just responding to a Son (Zen / Chan) practitioner such as yourself, I might have phrased it differently.
Thus, the "unsupported mind" is a term straight from the Pali Canon. In Chan, I'd rather saying "non-abiding mind" 無住心, which is mentioned by the Sixth Patriarch Huineng. Or, for a Son practitioner, (not that I know much about Son per se), I'm thinking that the now common English term "don't know" may be in order.
Anyway, like a lot of terms, we may use that term as both the practice, but also the result. (But personally I don't like to use "practice is realization" in the sense that Soto does.) Rather, like "emptiness" (even in the Pali canon), we can use this term to indicate a practice - the emptiness samadhi, the emptiness abiding, etc. - and also the result, the empty mind (empty of afflictions / conceptual proliferation). So, only part is a "lofty aim".
At first, one really needs to settle / abide the mind with some sort of samatha, calm it down. Then, pull up the object in question, and raise the word-head. eg. classic Chan would be to use recitation of Amitabha until one has some good Amitabha samadhi going on, and then ask - "Who is reciting Amitabha?" These "who" word-heads are great, because they then turn the subject ("me" / "I" and "what pertains to I") into the object of the "yiqing".
Most people would just say "I", "I recite Amitabha". But, then one begins to 參 (can) "investigate" this, deeper and deeper. For those who haven't much theoretical training in Buddhism, especially the notion of "not self", they may ask: "So, what is this I?" "Is this consciousness I?" "But this consciousness changes..." and so on. For those with the background, then the simple question "Who recites Amitabha?" Will be enough to raise the strong "yiqing". Rather than identifying as "I recite", "the name Amitabha is recited", and "this is recitation", one "empties the three aspects" and cuts off the basis of "self".
At first, this will be a kind of reified "not self". ie. rather than the usually conceptually proliferated idea of "me" and "mine", one instead overlays a different conceptual antidote of "not self". This is still concept versus concept, removing the false with the true. But, this conceptual "not self" is still merely a concept, one is still abiding in the antidote, still abiding in the word-head, so to speak, one needs to go deeper.
While it is still conceptualized, it isn't really "yiqing", but just rational thought. Only when it cuts out this inner verbalization, inner talk, does it fully develop into the yiqing. One may merely raise the word-head just enough to sustain this. For some, the raising of the word-head once, may be enough to sustain the yiqing for an hour, or hours, or even days. This takes some serious gongfu, however. For most beginners, maybe they'll have to raise it up every few minutes or so at least. haha! Just don't babble away and recite it like a mantra or something - totally, totally different kettle of fish!
Only when one removes the actual basis of "self" and "mine", will the conceptual proliferation end. It may take a lot of time. This is the first break through. Examples could be such as Master Hsu Yun, who in his six year "three steps and one prostration" pilgrimage, entered into deep samadhi while walking and on pilgrimage. He maintained the investigation and yiqing for a long, long time before he had his realization at Gaomin si in Yangzhou.