Correct Practicing

Kwan um means “perceive sound.” This means perceive your true self. At the same time, perceiving world sound means perceiving that many, many beings are suffering. If you can hear this sound of suffering, then helping is both possible and necessary. That is the Bodhisattva Way. Helping other beings is our practice and our job. Correct practicing is not only attaining enlightenment — it‘s finding enlightenment’s job.

Zen Master Seung Sahn (1992). The Whole World Is A Single Flower

Moment World

Talking about opposite worlds or absolute world or complete world is an intellectual style where more explanation, more analysis becomes necessary. Zen only points to the moment world, the world of this moment.

This moment is very important. It has everything in it. In this moment there is infinite time, infinite space. In this moment there is truth, correct life and the Bodhisattva Way. This moment has everything. Also, this moment has nothing. If you attain this moment you attain everything. This is the teaching of Zen Buddhism.

–Zen Master Seung Sahn

Wanting Enlightenment

If you want enlightenment, this enlightenment is far, far away. If you don’t want enlightenment, you can see, you can hear, you can smell, everything is enlightenment. So put it all down—“I want something.” If you keep I-me-my mind and do zen in this way, for infinite time you cannot get enlightenment. If you make I-me mind disappear, then already you have enlightenment. O.K.?

Only go straight—don’t know. Don’t check your mind; don’t check your feelings; don’t check your understanding; don’t check something. Only go straight— don’t know; for 10,000 years try, try, try. That is very important.

–Zen Master Seung Sahn

Let Your Mind Go

The most important thing is to stay nimble, stay with things they are, and keep awake. There’s going on retreat and there’s returning home or as they call it in the Zen tradition, “returning to the marketplace.” There’s clarity in solitude, and there’s clarity as you drive your car on Route 95 during rush hour.

Even the slightest hint of holiness or righteousness will take you away from just doing it. Keen-eyed people can see it coming from miles away and they’ll run for their lives. Who can blame them? If you have a Zen idea, it’s still that: an idea. Let your mind go anyplace without hindrance.

ZEN MASTER BON YEON

You Must Understand Yourself

We understand many things about this world, but we don’t understand ourselves. So why do human beings come into this world? Why do we live in this world? For love? For money? For respect or fame? Do you live for your wife, husband, or children? Why do you live in this world? If someone asked you these questions, you might very well answer. “I live for my children. I live to earn enough money for them, or maybe just to have a good life.” Most people think like this. They live only for their family, for some fleeting social respectability, perhaps to enjoy art or to get some powerful position.

Everyone wants to have a good situation for themselves. If you look at this world very closely, it is easy to see that most people eat and sleep and live merely for their own happiness. Yet these things are not the real purpose of human beings’ life. They are just temporary means for living in the world. If human beings cannot find out who they are, how can they ever truly be happy?

By Zen Master Seung Sahn

Everything Becomes Buddha

We sit, looking, perceiving how the thoughts are coming, going, coming, going. This is actually all that we are doing. Our work during sitting time is to sit and watch as thoughts are coming and going. And don’t touch this; then the thought itself is Buddha.

There is no good thinking and bad thinking. There are thoughts. We don’t welcome them, but we don’t reject them. And so we sit, straight but relaxed. We just naturally watch, without manipulation, just relaxed. But the thinking, the sounds that we perceive are not that important, too. Our minds just reflect these things, but it comes and goes.

But one thing: we stay awake, aware of what is coming, what arises. And we let go, by itself. This awakening from moment to moment is very important. In this way, we can be master of our house. We don’t get controlled by others, or by our mind.

So we don’t need to keep saying, “How may I help you” All this is bullshit. This is only speech. If we, from moment to moment, awaken and be aware of what is coming, that is already a big help. So I hope we keep clear mind from moment to moment, save first ourselves from suffering, and at the same time others.

By Zen Master Gu Ja

The World Is Full Of Suffering

I don’t really think of Zen students or Zen teachers. I think of Zen practitioners. We are all practitioners, whether we practice a lot or a little. Whether as a student or a teacher, our job is to practice. For those of us who are laypeople, we will sometimes be able to practice a lot, and sometimes only a little. But we need to keep practicing. As students, that is the biggest gift we can give our sangha. As teachers, that is the bone of teaching. But how do we encourage each other?

I was going through the Kwan Um website and came across a letter that Zen Master Soeng Hyang (Barbara Rhodes) wrote to her sister in 1978, a year after receiving inka but long before she was Zen Master Soeng Hyang. She was about to sit a 100-day retreat, and her sister wanted to know why. Bobby wrote, “The world is full of suffering. How can it be stopped? Every human being has a seed of compassion and wisdom that must be very carefully nurtured. It is our responsibility to find this seed and do everything we can to make it grow.

“First, you must believe that you have this seed. Then you must ask yourself with all the strength you have, ‘What is this seed?’ If you truly search for it, you will understand that everyone is just like you. Everyone has it. You will have no more desire for yourself; you will only want to teach everyone how to find their seed.

“Enlightenment is believing in yourself. Enlightenment is finding your seed. But your job is not over yet. Your mind must become strong enough to be totally wise and compassionate moment to moment in any situation.”

So that’s what we need to do: find that seed and nourish it to flower into compassion. To see this seed in others so that, without our having to say anything directly, their own seed is encouraged to flower.

That’s what Zen Master Seung Sahn was like. He didn’t have to say it directly, but it was clear that he really believed in us. And that’s what we have to offer each other: to really believe in each other. To believe in our don’t-know mind, our strong center, our direction. To believe in our Buddha nature: yours, mine, everyone’s. To me, that’s the essence of being a Zen student: practicing and nourishing that seed in ourselves and in everyone else.

By Zen Master Bon Hae

Sayings of Zen Master Kyong Ho (Part 2)

6) Make friends but don’t expect any benefit for yourself. Friendship only for oneself harms trust. So an ancient once said, “Have an enduring friendship with purity in heart.”‘

7) Don’t expect others to follow your direction. When it happens that others go along with you, it results in pride. So an ancient once said, “Use your will to bring peace between people.”

8) Expect no reward for an act of charity. Expecting something in return leads to a scheming mind. So an ancient once said, “Throw false spirituality away like a pair of old shoes.”

9) Don’t seek profit over and above what your work is worth. Acquiring false profit makes a fool (of oneself). So an ancient once said, “Be rich in honesty.”

10) Don’t try to make clarity of mind with severe practice. Every mind comes to hate severity, and where is clarity in mortification? So an ancient once said, “Clear a passageway through severe practice.”

11) Be equal to every hindrance. Buddha attained Supreme Enlightenment without hindrance. Seekers after truth are schooled in adversity. When they are confronted by a hindrance, they can’t be overcome. Then, cutting free, their treasure is great.

Zen Master Kyong Ho (1849-1912) was the Great-grandteacher of Zen Master Seung Sahn

Sayings of Zen Master Kyong Ho (Part 1)

1) Don’t wish for perfect health. In perfect health, there is greed and wanting. So an ancient said, “Make good medicine from the suffering of sickness.”
 
2) Don’t hope for a life without problems. An easy life results in a judgmental and lazy mind. So an ancient once said, “Accept the anxieties and difficulties of this life.”
 
3) Don’t expect your practice to be always clear of obstacles. Without hindrances, the mind that seeks enlightenment may be burnt out. So an ancient once said, “Attain deliverance in disturbances.”
 
4) Don’t expect to practice hard and not experience the weird. Hard practice that evades the unknown makes for a weak commitment. So an ancient once said, “Help hard practice by befriending every demon.”
 
5) Don’t expect to finish doing something easily. If you happen to acquire something easily the will is made weaker. So an ancient once said, “Try again and again to complete what you are doing.”

Living in a Dream

You and I are also living in a dream. It might be a happy dream or a sad one, a prosperous dream or a poor dream; it might be a selfish dream or a selfless dream. Maybe we are having a Zen dream or a “practicing in order to help all beings” dream. Buddha said, “I am awake.” This is the teaching of all the Buddhas and eminent teachers. Wake up! Whenever we wake up from our dream-even if only for a single moment-we attain our original job.

By Tim Lerch JDPSN