Why Do You Live In This World?

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 personal 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 who they are, how can they ever be truly happy?

–Zen Master Seung Sahn

All Things Are Created By Mind

A long time ago in Korea, a famous Sutra Master named Dae Oh Sunim traveled to Hae In Sah Temple lecture on the Hua Yen Sutra. He concluded his week‘s teaching by stating, “For forty-nine years, the Buddha taught only one word: ‘All things are created by mind alone.'”

After the talk, there were many questions and answers. Then one young Zen monk stood up and asked, “You said that things are created by mind alone. My question is: where does this mind come from?” Dae Oh Sunim was completely stuck, and could not answer. Do you understand? If not, go ask a tree. The tree will answer for you.

By Zen Master Seung Sahn’s commentary from The Whole World Is a Single Flower, #26: All Things Are Created By Mind Alone.

World Sickness

Imbalance is our world’s sickness: how can we cure it? Balance means understanding the truth. If you have no wisdom, you cannot become balanced. It is very important for everyone to find their human nature. That is why we sit Zen, to find our true human nature. So we are in a very important position, sitting in meditation. We must find our human nature, then together help each other become world peace. As human beings, we are all equal. We all have the same love mind. We must find the primary cause of this world’s sickness, and remove it.

–Zen Master Seung Sahn

Don’t Know, No Problem

Human beings have too much understanding. Too much understanding, too much have problems. Little bit understanding, little problem. If you don’t know, no problem! That’s the point: if you don’t know, no problem. So Don’t-Know mind is very important.

Much understanding means somebody’s idea; it’s somebody’s idea that makes problems for me. Many desires, cannot get the desires, then get angry, then ignorance appears, make ignorant actions – stupid actions. So then you have problems. So Buddha is teaching us, you must attain your true self. If I ask you, “Who are you?”, what do you say? You know what I mean? Human beings have much understanding, but don’t understand anything!

–Zen Master Seung Sahn

Zen Is Very Simple…

Zen is very simple… What are you?

In this whole world, everyone searches for happiness outside, but nobody understands their true self inside. Everybody says, “I” — “I want this, I am like that…” But nobody understands this “I.” Before you were born, where didyour I come from? When you die, where will your I go? If you sincerely ask, “What am I?” sooner or later you will run into a wall where all thinking is cut off. We call this “Don’t know.”

Zen is keeping this “Don’t know” mind always and everywhere.

By Zen Master Seung Sahn

Life Has No Meaning

Human life has no meaning, no reason, and no choice, but we have our practice to help us understand our true self. Then, we can change no meaning to Great Meaning, which means Great Love. We can change no reason to Great Reason, which means Great Compassion. Finally, we can change no choice to Great Choice, which means Great Vow and Bodhisattva Way.

–Zen Master Seung Sahn

What is Primary Point?

I often talk about primary point. What is primary point? When you have a scale and there is nothing being weighed, the indicator points to zero. You put something on it, and the pointer swings to “one pound.”  You take it off, the pointer goes back to zero. This is primary point. After you find your primary point, then good feelings come, bad feelings come, so your pointer swings in one direction or the other. But this doesn’t matter. Don’t check it. When the feeling is over with, the pointer swings back to zero.

But if you haven’t found your primary point, then it is like taking a heavy object off of the scale and having the pointer stay at “ten pounds.” Or the pointer moves back only part-way, it doesn’t go completely back to zero. Then you have a problem. Your scale does not weigh correctly. Maybe if you put a heavy object on it, it will break completely. So first you must find your primary point. Then you must keep it very strongly.

A taxi has weak shock absorbers, so it hits a small bump and bounces up and down. A train has strong shock absorbers, so it is very steady. If you keep your primary point, your mind-spring will become stronger and stronger. You will meet big problems and your mind will move less and less. A big problem comes, your mind moves, but soon returns to primary point. Finally, your mind will be very strong; it will be able to carry any load. Then saving all people is possible.

Zen Master Seung Sahn

Don’t Know Compass

If you keep a don’t know mind one hundred percent, then your demons cannot find you. Suffering cannot find you. Karma, problems, life, death, coming and going, good and bad; nothing can touch you when you only keep a don’t know mind. This don’t know mind is your most important treasure; it can do anything. It is not dependent on God or Buddha, Hinayana, Mahayana or Zen. It is not dependent on life or death.

If you want to get out of the ocean of suffering, only one kind of compass is necessary; your don’t know compass. It is always inside you. When you use this, then you can find that your correct direction always appears clearly in front of you, moment to moment.

From the Compass of Zen by Zen Master Seung Sahn

“Top man cannot see his own karma”

In times past in Asia and during the spread of the dharma in the West, newly recognized Zen masters frequently went off on their own to practice and teach the dharma, often starting their own centers of teaching. One time I spoke with Zen Master Seung Sahn about this and asked him, “Why did you create teacher groups to oversee our school?” He said, “Top man cannot see his own karma.”

 I feel this is brilliant. Teachers working in groups as peers helps us to see our own karma and helps our practice and wisdom to grow. Teachers themselves—and thereby all students—benefit from this arrangement. During our lifetime, it has been possible to travel fairly easily, meet each other, share our experiences and practice, and get feedback from our peers. Students get to meet and study with different teachers of the same school. This situation is a treasure.

As we are experiencing during the current pandemic, traveling is not so easy now—in many cases, impossible. We are fortunate to still be able to connect digitally. Someday even that may not be possible. I hope we will continue to connect, support, share, and learn from each other while we can. This is one of the great strengths of our school and the practice and teaching which Zen Master Seung Sahn gave to us.

By Zen Master Dae Bong

Great Faith, Great Courage, Great Doubt

Great faith doesn’t mean faith in something, or faith that things will turn out your way. Faith needs no object. It’s living life in the way your foot meets the ground in walking. Your foot never wonders if the ground is there for it.

Great courage means not giving up. Changing course is no problem, but you have to keep going. Great courage doesn’t have to be dramatic either. Every time you do something that’s a little difficult or a little unpleasant, and do it without complaining, and do it until you’re finished, that’s great courage, right there.

Great doubt is most important. People think religion is about belief, but it isn’t. What am I? What is this universe? What should I do? These are not questions that can be answered once and for all. Don’t evade them. Find a spiritual practice that helps you look at them steadily, and then practice with great faith and courage.

Belief comes and goes. Even if you believe in God your whole life, your idea of God is always changing. But spiritual practice is not dependent on belief, and it can last a lifetime.

Zen Master Bon Hae