Wake Up!

From a talk by Seon Master Seung Sahn on December 5, 1992

Buddha’s story is very interesting because he had a very good situation, but he gave up this good situation to have a suffering situation. He did suffering practice for six years, and then BOOM! got enlightenment. So today is Got Enlightenment Day. Everybody understands this day, but when Seon Master Mangong celebrated this day, he called it “I Lost Enlightenment Day.” That’s a famous story.

Chunseong Sunim was the disciple of a very great monk, Seon Master Mangong. He did not give the usual style of teaching. So only some people understood. Chunseong Sunim’s temple(Mangwol-sa) was in the Mt. Dobongsan of Korea.

It was wintertime. Buddha’s Enlightenment Day was coming, so many people came to the temple. They were very cold, so everyone went outside and cut trees to make firewood.

But there was a law against cutting down trees, so a policeman came and took this great Seon Master to the police station. He asked Chunseong Sunim, “Why did you cut down these trees?”

“You already understand.”

“WHY?! It’s not correct!”

“What is ‘correct’? What is ‘not correct’?”

“That is the rule!”

“Who makes the rule?”

“The country!”

“Oh! That’s a country rule. I don’t care about country rules. My rule is important.”

“You cut trees, and now you must go to jail. You speak strangely. Who are you?”

“I am a monk.”

“Where do you come from?”

“My mother’s ——–.” (Seon Master Chunseong was famous for his scatalogical speech.) A very strange thing to say to a policeman, right?

“WHAT? Where is your hometown?”

“My father’s ——–.”

“You’re crazy!” shouted the policeman. “Go away!” And he let Chunseong Sunim go. That was Seon Master Chunseong’s action.

On Buddha’s Enlightenment Day, Chunseong Sunim said, “Buddha is number one stupid man!” Everybody asked themselves what this meant.

“Everybody already has enlightenment. Why did he sit for six years, see a star, and then get enlightenment? That’s stupid! If you see a star, you get enlightenment NOW!”

So everybody wondered: now see a star, now get enlightenment? Where is this star?

Nobody understood. “HERE! HERE! This is the star!” But still nobody understood. Then he hit the floor with his Seon stick and yelled “KATZ!!” Still nobody understood him. But under the floor a sleeping dog was woken by the hit. Jumping up, it hit its head. The dog howled.

“Only this dog has enlightenment,” Seon Master Chunseong said.

As Big as the Whole Universe

a talk at Cambridge Zen Center on July 29, 1993.

Question: How does Seon practicing take away karma?

Seon Master Seung Sahn: Seon practice does not take away karma. If you practice Seon, your karma becomes clear. If you are not practicing, your karma controls you. But if you are practicing, you control your karma. So your karma becomes clear. Good karma, bad karma, whatever karma you have becomes clear; then only help other people. That’s the point. Sometimes when a person first starts practicing Seon we talk about “taking away karma,” but those are only teaching words. Bodhisattvas have bodhisattva karma. Karma means mind action. So, karma controls me, or I control my karma and help other people. These two are different, but same karma.

Q: Bodhisattva karma is helping people?

SMSS: Of course.

Q: But first we have to help ourselves, right?

SMSS: Myself?

Q: To get a center.

SMSS: Where is your center?

Q: Talking to you.

SMSS: That is not your center. If you make “my center,” then you will have a problem. Our minds are always going around and around … seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking. We see something and think, “I like that. I don’t like that.” If your mind is moving then you are not clear, because you have “my” opinion.

So, take this “around and around mind” and put it inside. At first keep your center here (points to lower belly). If you have a strong center, then your mind is not moving and your opinion disappears. If your mind is not moving, then you see clearly, hear clearly, smell clearly, taste clearly, touch clearly, and think clearly. Then everything becomes clear.

If you keep your center here at first (points to lower belly) then your center will become bigger, bigger, bigger … as big as the whole universe. The name of this is Buddha. So if you want to understand the name of the Buddha, keep a mind which is clear like space. Clear like space has no center. The universe and you are already one. So there is no life and death. But if you only keep your center here (points to lower belly), then one day your body will disappear and your center will also disappear. Then you have a problem (laughs).

Seon is Understanding Yourself

One day a student from Chicago came to the Providence Zen Center and asked Seungsahn Seonsa, “What is Seon(Zen)?”

Seonsa held his Seon stick above his head and said, “Do you understand?”

The student said, “I don’t know.”

Seonsa said, “This don’t know mind is you. Seon is understanding yourself.”

“What do you understand about me? Teach me.”

Seonsa said, “In a cookie factory, different cookies are baked in the shape of animals, cars, people, and airplanes. They all have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same dough, and they all taste the same.

“In the same way, all things in the universe – the sun, the moon, the stars, mountains, rivers, people, and so forth – have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same substance. The universe is organized into pairs of opposites: light and darkness, man and woman, sound and silence, good and bad. But all these opposites are mutual, because they are made from the same substance. Their names and their forms are different, but their substance is the same. Names and forms are made by your thinking. If you are not thinking and have no attachment to name and form, then all substance is one. Your don’t know mind cuts off all thinking. This is your substance. The substance of this Seon stick and your own substance are the same. You are this stick; this stick is you.”

The student said, “Some philosophers say this substance is energy, or mind, or God, or matter. Which is the truth?”

Seonsa said, “Four blind men went to the zoo and visited the elephant. One blind man touched its side and said, ‘The elephant is like a wall.’ The next blind man touched its trunk and said, ‘The elephant is like a snake.’ The next blind man touched its leg and said, ‘The elephant is like a column.’ The last blind man touched its tail and said, ‘The elephant is like a broom.’ Then the four blind men started to fight, each one believing that his opinion was the right one. Each only understood the part he had touched; none of them understood the whole.

“Substance has no name and no form. Energy, mind, God, and matter are all name and form. Substance is the Absolute. Having name and form is having opposites. So the whole world is like the blind men fighting among themselves. Not understanding yourself is not understanding the truth. That is why there is fighting among ourselves. If all the people in the world understood themselves, they would attain the Absolute. Then the world would be at peace. World peace is Seon.”

The student said, “How can practicing Seon make world peace?”

Seonsa said, “People desire money, fame, sex, food, and rest. All this desire is thinking. Thinking is suffering. Suffering means no world peace. Not thinking is not suffering. Not suffering means world peace. World peace is the Absolute. The Absolute is I.”

The student said, “How can I understand the Absolute?”

Seonsa said, “You must first understand yourself.”

“How can I understand myself?”

Soensa held up the Seon stick and said, “Do you see this?”

He then quickly hit the table with the stick and said, “Do you hear this? This stick, this sound, your mind – are they the same or different?”

The student said, “The same.”

Seonsa said, “If you say they are the same, I will hit you thirty times. If you say they are different, I will still hit you thirty times. Why?”

The student was silent.

Seonsa shouted, “KATZ!!!” Then he said, “Spring comes, the grass grows by itself.”


From Dropping Ashes On The Buddha: The Teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn
edited by Stephen Mitchell (Grove Press, New York, NY, 1976)
Copyright ©Providence Zen Center

What is Seon?

Seon 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 did your 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.”

Seon is keeping this “don’t know” mind always and everywhere.

When walking, standing, sitting, lying down, speaking, being silent, moving, being still.
At all times, in all places, without interruption — what is this?
One mind is infinite kalpas.

Meditation in Seon means keeping don’t-know mind when bowing, chanting and sitting Seon. This is formal Seon practice. And when doing something, just do it. When driving, just drive; when eating, just eat; when working, just work.

Finally, your don’t-know mind will become clear. Then you can see the sky, only blue. You can see the tree, only green. Your mind is like a clear mirror. Red comes, the mirror is red; white comes the mirror is white. A hungry person comes, you can give him food; a thirsty person comes, you can give her something to drink. There is no desire for myself, only for all beings. That mind is already enlightenment, what we call Great Love, Great Compassion, the Great Bodhisattva Way. It’s very simple, not difficult!

So Buddha said that all beings have Buddha-nature (enlightenment nature). But Seon Master Joju said that a dog has no Buddha-nature. Which one is right? Which one is wrong? If you find that, you find the true way.

Illiness Helps Your True Self

Our physical body is not our true self. What is our true self, our true I? Every human being
must find their true I. If you find the answer to this question then freedom from suffering and
freedom from life and death appears.

Don’t be afraid of your sickness. At times everybody is afraid of what will happen to their
body. However, the only difference between human beings when it comes to death is: go
early, go late. So again, what is a human being? You must find this! Then when you die, your direction will be clear.

Some people are strong, very smart and have a lot of power. But still, if the direction of their
life is not clear, when they die their consciousness will go round and round.

Being alive is very lucky. At this time you must find your owner, your master. You must ask
yourself, who is my master? If you find your master, then throwing away your body at any
time will not be a problem for you. Don’t be afraid of life and death. This body is like a floating cloud that appears and then disappears. What are you?

No matter what the disease, your true self has no sickness; only your body is sick. Sickness, any sickness, helps your practice. Without sickness, there is only more wanting and desire,
wanting and wanting; so you don’t understand your true self, your direction is not clear. If you die at that time, you will have a big problem.

To know that you are dying is very important. For a dying person, completely putting it all down is very easy. Letting go of desires and attachments is easy because at that time you cannot get anything. Now you are sick. What do you want? Money? Sex? Power? What do you want? Finding your true self when you know that you are dying is the easiest way. So this sickness helps your true self.

True God, True Buddha

Adapted from a talk during a retreat at Providence Zen Center in December, 1990.
Question: I’m a Christian, and I would like to know, is there anything you would like us to understand that we tend not to understand?

Zen Master Seung Sahn: Christianity says God made everything — good and bad, heaven and earth, human beings and animals and so on. He worked for six days, then rested.

But in Buddhism, there is no original cause or creator; there is no coming, no going, no existence, no nonexistence; all of these are opposites thinking. Sun and moon, light and dark, day and night — all these are names; the world of names is opposites thinking. “God” is also a name; it’s also opposite thinking. True God has no name, no form. In no name/no form, there is no coming, no going — no opposite thinking. That which is beyond all names and forms is always bright. That is True God.

The purpose of Buddhism is to find primary point. What is the primary point of this universe?
The Bible says, “God made everything.” But what is the primary point of God? Where does
God come from?

These days, not many young people are becoming monks or nuns. I was in Paris — a big
Catholic university had closed its doors. No more students! Any society that has a “good
situation” doesn’t have young monks, only old monks. This is a different age, a different mind, Old-style religion was to just believe in God. Now people check — what kind of religion will
help me, help society? Monk or not monk is not important. They like new idea, new style
religion, perhaps some meditation.

This is a time of great change and religions need to adapt; a change in teaching style is necessary. A simple belief in God is no longer enough for many people. They want to understand: What is God? What is my true self? In the Bible, it says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
” What is this “I”? Is this “I” God? Is this God separate from me? If this God is not separate from me, are God and I two or one? Through meditation practice these questions can be resolved on a deep level. Then one can truly understand religion, understand this world. In meditation all opposites become one point: mind, God, dharma, truth. You can call it many things, but this
point is before all names and forms.

If you only talk about a belief in God, then there are many questions: Where is God? Inside the body or outside? Someone says God is in heaven; nowadays spaceships roam about in vast outer space, but don’t find any God because all is curved space. Here is God? Here is God?
True God has no inside and outside, no name and form.

Nowadays many Christians like Thomas Merton’s books. He didn’t only analyze Biblical words. He understood and practiced Zen meditation, so he was able to connect with his true self, and wrote about this connection. That’s why his books are so popular.

Any kind of religion, any kind of style doesn’t matter. Why do this? Making this direction clear is very important; if this direction is clear, then your life is clear. If you only hold your religion, your idea, then you have a problem. If you are not holding “my religion,” not holding “my practice,” have a clear direction, and only try, try, try, then you attain something. Clear direction and try mind are most important.

Zen mind means put down any idea, any form. If your direction is clear and you completely put down everything, then you will attain something. When you attain something, you connect with everything else.

All religions are like different paths to the mountaintop. The top of the mountain is very clear; it’s the primary point. But there are many paths leading to this point; there is the eastern road, western road, southern road, and northern road. When people begin climbing the mountain, they are always fighting: “My way is correct, your way is not correct.” But from the bottom of the mountain, they cannot see the top, so they are very strongly attached to “my way.” Having clear direction and try mind means just going up, going up, one step after another. So you don’t spend energy in fighting other people or their ideas; you just practice. Then you can reach the mountaintop.

The different paths to the mountaintop are made by our mind. But what is mind? If you try to understand it intellectually, you will not find it. Our mind is very big, but it’s also small. A very sharp needle cannot touch this mind, because this mind is smaller than the tip of the needle. But our mind is also bigger than the whole universe. Sometimes our mind is very bright, sometimes very dark. If you make “my path,” you also make “my mind.” But if you let go of “my mind,” you become a Buddha. Then any path will lead you to the mountaintop.

If you control your mind, you control everything. But if you say, “I control my mind,” then what is this that controls the mind? Is it some other mind that controls the mind or is it no mind? Also, how do you control your mind? Where is your mind? Are you and your mind two things or one? Same or different? Big problem! That’s all thinking. POW! Put it all down, OK? Don’t think!

The Diamond Sutra says “All things are impermanent. A pure view is to see all appearances as non-appearances. When all appearances and non-appearances disappear, that’s complete stillness. Then you can see Buddha nature.” But if everything is impermanent, I am also impermanent; Buddha is also impermanent. Then how can I see Buddha? How can impermanence see impermanence?

If you check the words in the Bible or in the Diamond Sutra, then it’s all checking, all opposites thinking. But truth means there are no opposites. No opposites means the absolute. If you are checking, then everything is not correct. If you are not checking, everything is correct. That is Zen. The Diamond Sutra teaches that silence is better than holiness. And the Bible says “Be still and know that I am God.” This silent mind is very important. How do we transmit this silent mind from me to you? Buddha picked up a flower, and only Mahakashyapa smiled. Then Buddha said, “My true dharma, I transmit to you.” But that was a big mistake on Buddha’s part. If I was Mahakashyapa at that time, I would have said, “No, thank you, Buddha, I already have dharma.” Then Buddha would have a problem!!

So, already everybody has dharma, already everybody has truth, already everybody has the correct way and correct life. Already everybody has, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” So why does anyone need transmission from someone else? Open your mouth and it’s already a mistake. But our job is to help all beings. So, we only use this mouth to teach the dharma and help all beings. That, we say, is “tongue formula.”

If you only keep a try mind, a don’t-know mind, then your center becomes stronger, stronger, stronger. Then everything you hear, smell, see, taste, touch is better than the Buddha’s speech, better than the Bible’s speech. That’s enlightenment. Then you can save all beings from suffering.

Women Cannot Get Enlightenment

One day, one of Zen Master Seung Sahn’s female American students asked him, “Sir, are there any women Zen masters in Korea?”

“No, no, no!” he quickly replied. “Of course not!”

The student was completely shocked, even angered by this, more so because
Zen Master Seung Sahn himself had always treated his female students with complete
equality, and even formally authorized several of them to teach. “How could he think like
this?” She thought. “This is completely outrageous.” After a few moments, she stammered
out. “But how is this possible?”

Eyeing her and half-smiling, he replied, “Because women cannot get

This was unbelievable! Half-expecting that he was joking she looked up, but by
then he had already marched into another room. She followed him, where he had busied himself with some things, almost as if the conversation had never occurred.

“I have been practicing with you for several years now,” she continued. “You
have always just taught us to believe in our true self 100 percent. How can you
possibly now say that women cannot get enlightenment?”

Wheeling around sharply, Zen Master Seung Sahn pointed his finger at her and,
looking into her eyes strongly, said, “So, you’re a woman?”
The student was silent as his teaching sank in.

Don’t Know

Knowing is originally knowing Don’t Know
Don’t Know knowing is knowing
Today we transfer this Don’t Know
Four times five is twenty

1.  What is “Don’t Know?
2. “Know” and Don’t Know,” are they one  or two?
3. “Four times five is twenty.”  What does this mean?


Knowing Don’t Know- just that is seeing true nature.  Human beings know too much, and are thus hindered by what they know.  As the saying goes, ” Many people all over the world know, but how many truly understand?”  If you can put down your views, opinions, and understanding,then the truth just appears right in front of you.

You Already Understand! -Seung Sahn

Bodhidharma, founder of the Zen lineage, is said to have described Zen this way: A special transmission outside the scriptures / Not depending on words and letters / Pointing directly to the human mind / Seeing into ones nature and attaining buddhahood. Theres no better example of Zens direct, penetrating spirit than these exchanges between the late Seung Sahnone of the great Zen masters to have lived and taught in the United Statesand his students.
Someone asked Zen Master Seung Sahn,

What do you think about the beginning of this world

The beginning of this world came from your mouth. Ha ha ha ha! Do you understand

The student was silent.

Then I will explain: what is this world You must understand that point first. You make time, space, cause and effect. In three seconds, when you asked that question, you made this whole world. Physics used to teach that time and space, and cause and effect, are absolutes. But modern physics teaches that time, space, and cause and effect are subjective. So you make this whole world, and you make your time and space.

The student said, I still dont understand.

Zen Master Seung Sahn replied, OK, so first you must understand, what is time One unit of time is an hour. But my thinking sometimes makes this hour very long, or very short. You go to the airport to pick up your girlfriend. You havent seen her in a long time. You wait at the airport, and the airplane is very late. Five, ten, twenty, thirty minuteswaiting, waiting, waiting. Even another half hour passes. Ten minutes seems like a whole day. So this one hour feels like a very, very long time because you want to see her very much, and you sit there saying, Where is the plane Why hasnt it arrived yet But yet some other time, you go dancing with friends, and dance all night, and even one hour seems to pass by very quickly. Now that same amount of time measured as one hour seems very short. A whole hour has already passed It seems like only a minute! So mind makes one hour very long or very short. Time depends on thinking, because time is created by thinking. The Buddha taught this, and we can test it in our everyday life. Everything is created by mind alone.

It is the same with space: Spain is here, and New York is there, Korea is over there, and Japan is over here. People in Spain say, This way is north, thats south, east, and west. But on the opposite side of the earth, Korean people say that north is here, south is over there, and east and west are here and here. If I stay here, my north, south, east, and west are like this. If I am not here, my north, south, east, and west disappear. Cause and effect are also the same: if I do some good action, I go to heaven; bad action, go to hell. Thats cause and effect. But if I dont make anything, where do I go

So I make time, and space, and cause and effect. I make my world; you make your world. A cat makes a cats world. The dog makes the dogs world. God makes Gods world. Buddha makes Buddhas world. If you believe in God 100 percent, then when you die, and your world disappears, you go to Gods world. If you believe in Buddha 100 percent, then when your world disappears, you will go to Buddhas world. But if you believe in your true self 100 percent, then you make your world, and thats complete freedom: heaven or hell, coming and going anywhere with no hindrance.

Zen Master Seung Sahn looked at the questioner. So I ask you, which one do you like

The student was silent.

Anytime you open your mouth, your world appears.

The student asked, So, who was the first person to open his mouth

You already understand!

Amid general laughter, the student was silent for a few moments. Then he bowed deeply.


A student had the following exchange with Zen Master Seung Sahn:

What is enlightenment

Enlightenment is only a name, he replied. If you make enlighten-ment, then enlightenment exists. But if enlightenment exists, then ignorance exists, too. And that already makes an opposites-world. Good and bad, right and wrong, enlightened and ignorantall of these are opposites. All opposites are just your own thinking. But truth is absolute, and is before any thinking or opposites appear. So if you make something, you will get something, and that something will be a hindrance. But if you dont make anything, you will get everything, OK

The student continued, But is enlightenment really just a name Doesnt a Zen master have to attain the experience of enlightenment in order to become a Zen master

The Heart Sutra says that there is no attainment, with nothing to attain. If enlightenment is attained, it is not true enlightenment. Having enlightenment is already a big mistake.

Then is everyone already enlightened

Zen Master Seung Sahn laughed and said, Do you understand no attainment


No attainment is true attainment. So I already told you about the Heart Sutra. It says, There is no attainment, with nothing to attain. You must attain no attainment.

The student rubbed his head. I think I understand

You understand So I ask you, what is attainment What is there to attain

Emptiness, the man replied.

Emptiness Zen Master Seung Sahn asked. But in true emptiness, there is no name and no form. So there is also no attainment. Even opening your mouth to express it, you are already mistaken. If you say, I have attained true emptiness, you are wrong.

Hmmm, the student said. Im beginning to understand. At least I think I am.

The universe is always true emptiness, OK Now you are living in a dream. Wake up! Then you will soon understand.

How can I wake up

I hit you! [Laughter from the audience.] Very easy, yah

The student was silent for a few moments, while Zen Master Seung Sahn eyed him intently. I still dont get it. Would you please explain a bit more

OK. Can you see your eyes

Yes, I can.

Oh How

By looking in a mirror.

Thats not your eyes! That is only a reflection of your eyes. So your eyes cannot see your eyes. If you try to see your eyes, its already a big mistake. Talking about enlightenment is also like that. Its like your eyes trying to see your eyes.

But my question is, when you were a young monk, you had the actual experience of enlightenment. What was this experience

I hit you! Ha ha ha ha!

The student was silent.

OK, one more try. Suppose we have before us some honey, some sugar, and a banana. All of them are sweet. Can you explain the difference between honeys sweetness, sugars sweetness, and bananas sweetness


But each has a different sweetness, yah How can you explain it to me

The student looked suddenly even more perplexed. I dont know

The Zen master continued, Well, you could say to me, Open your mouth. This is honey, this is sugar, and this is banana! Ha ha ha ha! So if you want to understand enlightenment, its already making something. Dont make anything. Moment to moment, just do it. Thats already enlightenment. So, first understand your true self. To understand your true self, you must understand the meaning of my hitting you. I have already put enlightenment into your mind. Ha ha ha ha! [Extended laughter from the audience]

Crazy Mind

After a Dharma talk at the Cambridge Zen Center, a student asked Zen Master Seung Sahn, Is there such a thing as a clean mind

If you have mind, then you must clean your mind. If you have no mind, cleaning is not necessary. So I ask you, do you have a mind

Do I

Do you

Yes, I do.

Where is it

The student looked puzzled for a moment. Where is it

Yes, where is it How big is your mind


This much [holding arms open wide] or this much [narrowing them together]

The student tilted his head back and stretched his arms open wide. This much right now.

Ooohh, only that Thats very small! [Much laughter from the assembly.] Thats not your original mind. Originally, your mind is the whole universe; the whole universe and your mind are the same. Why do you make just this much So that is a problem. Since you make this-much mind, now you must dry-clean your mind. Use dont-know soap. If you clean, clean, clean your mind, it will become bigger, bigger, and biggeras big as the whole universe. But if there is any taint, it becomes smaller, smaller, smaller. But actually, you have no mind, I think.

You think I have no mind

Yes, no mind.

The student was silent.

You dont understand, yah Do you have mind

Well, I dont understand a lot of  I dont understand a lot  umm  I  [Laughter.]

The Sixth Patriarch said, Originally nothing: where can dust alight So maybe you have no mind.

After a long silence, the student brightened a bit. OK, you talk about right livelihood, you talk about having monk karma and wanting to practice Zen  umm  and my question is  not to live in a Zen center  to live in the world its very difficult to practice, umm  to coincide practice and livelihood, umm . So the mind that meets the mind thats conflicted is the mind Im speaking with  from  umm

Yah, your mind is a strange mind, Seung Sahn said.

A strange mind

Yah, strange mind. Nowadays everybody has a strange mind, because inside its not correct, not meticulous, not clear. This strange mind is like an animals mind, not really a human beings mind. It is maybe eighty percent animal mind, twenty percent human mind. So that is strange, thats crazy. Nowadays there are many, many crazy people. But everybody is crazy, so this crazy is not special. Even a Zen masters speech is crazy. Yesterday I said in a dharma speech, The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Those are crazy words. The sun never rises in the east nor sets in the west. The sun never moves! Only the earth moves, around and around the sun, so why make this speech about the sun rising in the east and setting in the west Thats crazy! [Laughter.] So that means: crazy is not crazy. Not crazy is crazy. [He looks at the questioners face.] Do you understand that Crazy is not crazy; not crazy is crazy.

The student started to say something, but stopped.

Ha, ha, ha! Now complicated! Thats no problem. Zen teaches that if you have mind, you have a problem. If you dont have mind, then everything is no hindrance. But everybody makes mind, so there are many problems in this world. Say you own a hotel. Mind is like this hotels manager, who should be working for you. Usually, everything is OK in the hotel, but this manager is always causing problems: I want this, I want that. I like this, I dont like that. I want to be free, go here, do that  That is mind, OK The Buddha taught, When mind appears, dharma appears. When dharma appears, form appears. When form appears, then like/dislike, coming/going, life and death, everything appears. So if you have mind, you have a problem; no mind, no problem. Here are some very popular words: Everything is created by mind alone. These are good words; they have a good taste. Your mind makes something, and something hinders you. So dont make anything! Take your mind and throw it into the garbage. Only dont know!

The student sat, expressionless.

So Zen practice means you fire this low-class hotel manager, because hes doing a bad job in your high-class hotel. You must take control of your hotel, which means you control your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The owner must be strong. If the manager doesnt do his job correctly, the owner must say, You are no good! Why didnt you fix these things! Thats your job! Why did you take all the money! Im going to fire you! Then this manager will be afraid, Oh, please dont fire me! Please! Then the owner must say, You listen to me, OK OK, OK, Ill only follow you from now on!

You must hit your mind, OK Tell your mind, You must listen to me! If your mind says OK, then no problem. If not, you must cut this mind. How You must use your dont-know sword. Always hold on to this dont-know sword: mind is very afraid of it. If you keep this dont-know sword, then everything is no problem.

Brightening up considerably, the student bowed and said, Thank you very much for your teaching.
Why Zen Seems Difficult

After a dharma talk at the Cambridge Zen Center, someone asked Zen Master Seung Sahn, Why does Zen seem so difficult


Yes, the man said. Why does it seem so difficult I didnt say it was, but why does it seem so difficult

Seem difficult Zen is very easy; why make difficult

The man persisted, All right, Ill ask you as a psychologist: why do I make it difficult

A psychologist said that Who said what

Why do I or anybody make Zen difficult

You say difficult, so its difficult. A long time ago in China there lived a famous man named Layman Pang. His whole family was a Zen family. Layman Pang used to be rich, but then he realized that many people dont have enough food to eat. So he gave all of his land to the farmers. He had many precious jewels and other possessions, but he thought, If I give things away, theyll only create desire-mind in other people. So he took a boat out to the middle of a very deep lake and dumped all his priceless possessions overboard. Then he and his daughter went and lived in a cave; meanwhile, his wife and son moved into a very small house. Sometimes the Pangs would visit Zen temples to have dharma combat with the monks. They had a very simple life, and practiced very hard.

One day, someone asked Layman Pang, Is Zen difficult or easy

He replied, Its like trying to hit the moon with a stick. Very difficult!

Then this man thought, Oh, Zen is very difficult. So he asked Layman Pangs wife, Your husband said Zen is difficult. I ask you, then, is Zen difficult or easy

She said, Oh, Zen is very easy! Its like touching your nose when you wash your face in the morning!

The man could not understand. He thought to himself, Hmmm  Layman Pang says Zen is difficult; his wife says it is very easy. Which one is correct So he went to their son and said, Your father said Zen is very difficult; your mother said it is very easy. Which one is correct

The son replied, If you think its difficult, then its difficult. If you think its easy, then its easy. Dont make difficult and easy!

But the man was still not satisfied, so he went to the daughter. Everyone in your whole family has a different answer to my question. Your mother said Zen is easy. Your father said Zen is difficult. And your brother said dont make difficult and easy. So I ask you, is Zen difficult or easy

Go drink tea.

Seung Sahn Sunim looked at the student who asked the question and said, So, go drink tea, OK Dont make difficult. Dont make easy. Dont make anything. From moment to moment, just do it!

Tollbooth Bodhisattva

One afternoon, Zen Master Seung Sahn and several of his students were driving down Route I-95, from Providence, Rhode Island, to New York City. They chatted from time to time as they drove, with the students asking him questions about various things. At one point they stopped at a tollbooth. The driver handed the tollbooth operator some money, and was waiting for his change. One of the students said to her through the open window, Nice day, isnt it

Yes, she replied. But, my goodness, where did all this wind come from After she gave them their change, they drove off.

The car was quiet for several miles. Then Zen Master Seung Sahn turned to his students and said, That was no ordinary woman at the tollbooth. That was Kwan Seum Bosal [the bodhisattva of compassion] asking you a great question: Where did all this wind come from What a wonderful koan! You must always be alert to the teaching that comes your way, all the time. Let go of your mind and then you can see whats actually in front of you. So I ask you, where did all this wind come from

No one could answer.

OK. Ill give you a hint. Zen Master Man Gong wrote a poem that will help you:

Everything is born by following the wind;
everything dies by following the wind.
When you find out where the wind comes from,
there is no life, no death.

When you have an answer like-this,

You see nature through spiritual eyes.

2006 by the Kwan Um School of Zen. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Seung Sahn was the first Korean Zen master to live and teach in the West. He was founding teacher of the Kwan Um School of Zen, an international organization of more than one hundred centers and groups.  Seung Sahn died in 2005.  This article is excerpted from a new book of his teachings, Wanting Enlightenment Is a Big Mistake, to be published in August 2006 by Shambhala.

Joju Investigates


A travelling monk asked an old woman the road to Taizan, a popular temple supposed to give wisdom to the one who worships there. The old woman said: `Go straight ahead.’ When the monk proceeded a few steps, she said to herself: `He also is a common church-goer.’Someone told this incident to Joju, who said: `Wait until I investigate.’ The next day he went and asked the same question, and the old woman gave the same answer.

Joju remarked: `I have investigated that old woman.’

Mumon’s Comment: The old woman understood how war is planned, but she did not know how spies sneak in behind her tent. Old Joshu played the spy’s work and turned the tables on her, but he was not an able general. Both had their faults. Now I want to ask you: What was the point of Joju’s investigating the old woman?

When the question is common
The answer is also common.
When the question is sand in a bowl of boiled rice
The answer is a stick in the soft mud.