Seon Master Beopjeong

“Now I live in a place with no signboard and no address. Of course, it’s nothing I can be proud, given that this living environment is in fact quite primitive and destitute. But the fact that it allows me to put precedence on allowing my pure self to exist is something good indeed. I’m only just here for a little bit, anyways. Where could the eternal dwelling place of a monk be? We’re like vagabonds, only residing for a brief spell.”

                                                     -from Flowers Blossom in the Mountains

Following the path of honest poverty, as he resides in an empty cabin left vacant by slash and burn farmers, searching for firewood and cultivating a patch of land in a Gangwon-do Province mountain valley, Beopjeong Sunim distinguishes himself as among the most genuine spirits of the age, through the exhaustiveness of his over 30 years of silence and freedom from possessions and his putting into practice a life both fragrant and pure.

Ordained in 1954 under the tutelage of one of the greatest monks of his age, Master Hyobong, Beopjeong spent his time as a junior disciple with the senior disciple, Master Kusan. He went on to serve on the committee translating the Buddhist canon into Korean script, as well as the editor-in-chief of a Buddhist newspaper publishing company, and the Director of Training at Songgwang-sa Temple. In the latter half of the 1970s, he cast all these things aside and by his own hands established and lived alone at Bul-il-am, a hermitage set on the mountainside behind Songgwang-sa. However, with many people knowing his fame and searching him out, in April of 1992 he left to reside in a remote Gangwon-do mountain valley, the exact whereabouts of which remain unknown still today.

Yet at the same time, under the explanation that this was to “earn our keep as practitioners,” he inaugurated a movement of citizens called “Clean and Fragrant,” a group he leads to this day. In December 1997, Kilsang-sa was founded and he took over the leadership of the temple organization and all religious services. In December of 2003, he voluntarily conceded this role, and though he now comes down from the mountains only periodically to give dharma sermons each spring and fall, or to have Buddhist services or for other events, his voice maintains its vigor and clarity to this day.

Original works by Beopjeong Sunim
The Sound of the Soul (Samtoh, 1973; revised, 2002)
Freedom from Possessions (Bumwoosa, 1976; revised, 1985 and 1999)
Standing People (Samtoh, 1978; revised, 2001)
Mountain Room Chat (Samtoh, 1983; revised, 2001)
Sound of Water, Sound of Wind (Samtoh, 1986; revised, 2000)
Hollow Abundance (Samtoh, 1989; revised, 2000)
India Travel Journal (Samtoh, 1991; revised, 2003)
Throwing it Away, Leaving it all Behind (Samtoh, 1993; revised, 2001)
The Forest the Birds Left is Desolate (Samtoh, 1996; revised, 2000)
Flowers Blossom in the Mountains, edited by Ryu Shiva (Dongjjok nara, 1998)
Letter from a Wood Hut (Ire, 1999)
Spring Summer Fall Winter (Ire, 2001)
The Joy of Living Alone (Samtoh, 2004)

Compilations and Translations by Beopjeong Sunim
Words and Silence – quotations of the Buddha and the Patriarchs – (Samtoh,
1982; revised, 2002)
Like the Wind that Doesn’t Get Caught in a Net – discussion on the Sutta Nipata
(Samtoh, 1991; revised, 2002)
Sutta Nipata (Revised edition, Ire, 1999)
Words of Truth – The Dharmapada (Revised edition, Namusaram, 2000)
Buddha Shakyamuni (Revised edition, Dongjjok Nara, 2002)
Karma Stories (Revised edition, Dongjjok Nara, 2002)
Searching for a Master (Revised edition, Dongjjok Nara, 2002)
The Avatamsaka Sutra (Revised edition, Dongjjok Nara, 2002)
Mirror of Awakening – Seonga guigam [Paragons of the Seon School] (Bulil
Publishing 1990; revised, Dongjjok Nara, 2003)

Children’s books by Beopjeong Sunim
Really Good Stories Told by Beopjeong Sunim (Dongjjok Nara, 2002)
Really Refreshing Stories Told by Beopjeong Sunim (Dongjjok Nara, 2002)
Beopjeong Sunim’s Witty World of Children’s Stories, vol. 1, 2, 3 (Dongjjok Nara, 2003)

Dharma Talk to Begin the Winter Retreat 2009~2010

By Most Ven. Beopjeon

Supreme Patriarch of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism

“Where is that Path?”

A monk asked Seon master Geonbong, “It is said all the Buddhas of all the worlds realized the state of Nirvana through a single path. What is the single path to realize the state of Nirvana?”

At this the Seon master took his stick and drew a line in the air and said, “It is here.”

The monk didn’t understand, so he went to Seon master Woonmoon and asked the same question. Seon master Woonmoon replied, “If I were to throw this fan, it would go all the way to the 33rd heaven and stick into the nostril of Indra, and if I were to strike a carp with this fan, it would fly into the air to create an intense rain storm.”

Just as a freshwater carp would not be found in the ocean, to say the path to Nirvana is this or that is meaningless. We can never approach the path to realize the infinitely unobstructed state of Nirvana of all the Buddhas with conceptual distinctions. This is why Master Geonbong drew a line in the air with his stick to show that state. Although the stick may be raised from the path to Nirvana, hundreds of times—an obscured monk will continue to walk in the dark the same path hundreds of times. Although this lofty teaching of the master is like the bright sun shining in the cloudless sky, childish beings will consider it easy or hard to create delusion, and even if kalpas were to pass, there would be no chance of enlightenment.

If you were to ask this mountain monk, the path to Nirvana, I would at once beat you with a club. And in the moment you try to open your mouth again, I would let a yelp so fierce as to make the mountains tremble and chase you out. If we think about it, the two masters, Geonbong and Woonmoon’s undue compassion only resulted in making the monk more blind—so the faults of the masters are not at all small. Monks and nuns doing retreat this winter may simply search for what the two masters were implying. However, we should never follow after the mere words of two old people. We must find the path to Nirvana on our own, below our own feet. We must know that only when we fervently and correctly hold the hwadu, can we resolve the path to Nirvana on our own.

If you attain the meaning, you attain the path to return home.

If you find the words, you will led on the wrong path to be farther away.

2553 Buddhist Era (2009) Beginning of Winter Retreat

Dorim Beopjeon ( 1925 ~ )


Beopjeon sunim, whose secular name is Kim Hyangbong, gained his nickname ‘Stone Mortar Practitioner,’ from his reputation of sitting glued to the ground like a stone mortar once he sat down in meditation. In 1939, he ordained as a monk at Bulgap monastery in Younggwang with Seolje sunim as his ordination sponsor and received his sramanera precepts. In 1948, he received his bhiksu precepts at Baekyangsa monastery with Seon master Manam Jongheon (만암 종헌, 曼庵 宗憲 : 1876-1956) as his preceptor.

In 1947, while he was traveling to Haein monastery from Baekyang monastery, he stopped at Bongam monastery in Mungyeong. There he encountered monks who were then attending the Retreat Society at Bongam Monastery–including Seongcheol sunim (성철, 性徹 : 1912-1993), Cheongdam sunim (청담, 靑潭 : 1902-1971), Hyanggok sunim (향곡, 香谷 : 1912-1978), Wolsan sunim (월산, 月山 1912-1997), and Jaun Seongu sunim (자운 성우, 慈雲 盛祐 : 1911-1992)–and decided to join them as its youngest member. His hwadu (keyword) at the time was ‘Who is carrying your corpse?”

This acquaintance with Seongcheol sunim led him to become Seongcheol sunim’s personal attendant. One day in 1951, as he was assisting and sometimes practicing with Seongcheol sunim, who was then cultivating in Cheonje cave at Anjongsa monastery in Tongyoung, Seongcheol sunim expounded the first line from the Song of Attaining the Way, by the eminent Chinese master Yongjia Xuanjue (永嘉 玄覺 : 665-713), which says, “Haven’t you seen it?” Seongcheol sunim asked him, “Do you understand this?” Beopjeon sunim replied, “If you ask me in that way, I will kick you in the back.” To this response, Seongcheol sunim said, “Your mind is clear.” The following day, he gave Beopjeon the dharma cognomen Dorim and formally assumed the role of his sponsor in the Dharma. From that point on, Beopjeon served as Seongcheol sunim’s personal attendant until Seongcheol sunim passed away in 1993. When Seongcheol sunim undertook his practice of ‘ten years without exiting’ at Seongjeon hermitage at Pagye temple, he put up a metal fence surrounding the entire area.

Though Beopjeon sunim was only 5 feet tall and reticent to speak, even Seongcheol sunim could not top his dedication as a Seon practitioner and told him to take a break: “I lost to you. Now, continue after eating your meal.” Beopjeon sunim attained awakening by cultivating the practice of ‘never going out the gate’ in the middle of the harsh winter; he barely ate cold rice with a few pieces of kimchi to satisfy his hunger, and did not bath or clean his place for over three months. There is a story that after validating his awakening, Seongcheol sunim announced that he would provide rice cake as a tribute to Beopjeon sunim’s completing his contemplation. However, due to his humble nature, Beopjeon sunim refused. Even nowadays, he still wakes up at three in the morning and climbs the mountain and exercises for an hour every morning and evening to maintain his good health. After lunch, he doesn’t accept audiences with anyone.

In 1985, Beopjeon sunim returned to Haein monastery and a year later began an eight-year term as abbot. In 1996, he was designated the seventh Seon master of the monastery (방장, 方丈), succeeding Hyeam Songgwan. In 2000, he was the convener of the Jogye Order’s Council of Elders. In the year 2002, he was nominated as the eleventh Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order. His words of teaching are widely known, such as: “Monks are those who specialize in spiritual cultivation; all strata of practitioners are produced by cultivation”; “All problems arise from the excessive greed of human beings,” and “Remind yourselves of the teaching, ‘Be of few desires and know contentment.’”

Wondam ( 1926 ~ 2008/03/18 )

The great Seon Master Ven. Wondam considered calligraphy as one means of practice. He was an extraordinary monk who was renowned for his calligraphy, alive with the spirit of Seon. “Sentient beings, full of sin, are not too low for me; and Buddhas, gone to Nirvana, are not too high for me.” He would say that if we meditate, we will gain wisdom. “I lost myself,” even such a thought must be abandoned. Ven. Wondam was born in Okgu, Jollanamdo Province in 1926. His mother had a dream, where a monk appeared and gave her a name for her baby. He was called “Mongsool (Dream Manifest).” He was not prone to crying, yet on one occasion a monk came for alms and the baby bawled. At 12, he followed his aunt to Sudeoksa Temple. He saw the bright countenance of the meditating monks and great delight arose in him. He entered the monastery and for more than five years, he trained as a postulant at Chunjangsa Temple and Junwolsa Temple serving Ven. Mangong. In 1941 at the age of 16, he received novice (sramanera) precepts with Ven. Byukcho as vocation master (Unsa) and Ven. Mangong as precept master. Ven. Byukcho was a Seon-farmer monk. He was known for his humility and served others all his life. Ven. Wondam inherited the Seon-farmer practice lineage and increased the renown of the practice of “farming and Seon are one.” He received Dharma transmission from Ven. Mangong. In 1970, he became the Abbot of Sudeoksa Temple. In 1983, he established Sudeoksa Temple as a Chongrim (a large-scale temple, which provides comprehensive training for the monastics; there are four such temples in Korea). Thereafter, he published the “Teachings of Mangong.” In 1986 he became the third spiritual director of the Chongrim. Ven. Hye-am and Ven. Byukcho were the first and second. Ven. Wondam was a true practitioner all his life. On March 18, 2008 9 p.m. at Sudeoksa Temple, Ven. Wondam passed away at the age of 82. He was a monk for 76 years.

Only This; That Is All.

The following is a part of Dharma talks exchanged between the late Supreme Patriarch Seoam and his disciples, collected in the book “Sound without Sound” compiled by the disciples.

Only This; That Is All.
“Sunim, are you sure about the hereafter?”
“Do not be deluded either by coming or going.
There is only ‘this;’ that is all.”
A Dream
“Every perspective is but a dream.
This is the only thing one should realize;
A dream is but a dream.”
“What, then, is not a dream?”
“A dream.”
“What is the logic in your contradictory statement that
A dream is not a dream?”
“You are carrying around too many bags of this and that,
Of ‘a dream’ and ‘not a dream.’
Aren’t they heavy to carry around?”
Sure, I Will Come Back.
One day the Master visited a student of a fellow monk
Who has died, and asked the student:
“Your Master has gone to Heaven
And hasn’t come back, hasn’t he?
Was there a letter or a phone call from him by any chance?”
“No, Sunim.”
“A heartless fellow.”
And another student:
“Does that mean that
You will be coming back
When your turn comes around?”
“Sure, I will.
If you promise that you will study hard.”
Almighty God, the Creator
One day an attendant asked the Master:
“Is there an almighty God who is the Creator?
Another attendant asked the same question:
“Is there an almighty God who is the Creator?”
“Yes, there are as many as eighty-four thousand gods.”
“You are now saying, ‘Yes.’
Aren’t you contradicting yourself, Master?”
“All those gods are the creation of your mind.”
Do You Have to Drink the Entire Ocean to Have a Taste of It?
Sunim was coming to Wonjeok Monastery by bus from Seoul.
Sitting next to Sunim was a young man who was an adherent of a different religion.
He asked Sunim:
“I understand that there are eighty-four thousand Buddhist sutras.
Have you read them all?”
“No, I have not.”
“How can you call yourself a Sunim if you have not read them all?”
“Do you have to drink the entire ocean to know the taste of it?”
“. . . “
My Hwadu Doesn’t Work.
Student: “My Hwadu doesn’t work.
I can hardly even breathe.”
Master: “Good for you!”
Honggeun’s Archives

Seoam Honggeun ( 1917 ~ 2003 )


  A young boy wandering in the mountains was suddenly inspired to become a monk. He went to the Master Hwasan Sunim and told him, “I want to live in the monastery, sir.” “Not all people can live as a monk. It is not an easy job.” But the boy would not budge. He persisted and finally got the Master’s permission, on the condition that he would do odd jobs around the monastery for three years. This was how his life as a monk began.

Seoam Sunim was born in Youngju, North Gyeongsang Province, in 1914. He started to practice under the guidance of Hwasan Sunim at Seoaksa in Yecheon in 1936. Until the liberation of the country from Japanese colonization in August 1945, he practiced at diverse monasteries in the region of Mt. Geumgang, and one time he taught at Simwonsa in Cheolwon. He then held many important official positions, such as Executive Director of Administration for the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Elders, Head Monk at Bongam Monastery, and then the 8th Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

Seoam Sunim died at Bongamsa on the 29th of March, 2003, at the age of 87. He had been a monk for sixty-eight years. Before his decease, he assembled about 100 monks and lay people from Taego Seon center and Bongam Monastery and told them, “I have nothing say. If people ask about my Nirvana poem, tell them, ‘There was an old man who lived thus and died thus.’ That is my Nirvana poem.” He then retired to his room and passed away in a sitting position.

Doing practice by Ganhwaseon in America

From International Symposium of Bojo Thoughts Institute, 16, November, 2005

Ven. Jong-Ho(Prof. Mun Gi, Bark)
Dept. of Seon, Dongguk Univ. & Graduate School
Ⅰ. Introduction
   It has been taken for 50 years or more since Seon(Zen in Jap./ Ch’an in China/Sitting Meditation in the US) had been introduced as a technique of practice in American society. Many Zen masters came to the States from South-eastern areas; Korea, China, Taiwan, Myanmar, Sri-Lanka, Vietnam, and then they made up a new linage of American Zen, since Suzuki Shunryu(1904~1971) had built San Francisco Zen Center(SFZC) in 1958, in which a hall for practicing and a farm for self-sufficiency are completed.
   Today, it is due to them that there are the various methods of Zen with many Zen-Centers and web-sites on internet for meditation practice in the States. If we surf on internet for a moment, immediately, we’d find out hundreds of web-sites related with Zen. I heard, that there are about 30 to 50 thousand of Zen Centers in the States, by a Zen-practitioner whom I met, while I was staying in the States in 2004.
   Among them, first SFZC is organizing 9 Zen Centers around San Francisco, 10 in California area and 14 in the other areas. And Tibetan Shambhalla Center is organizing about 1,500 branches all around the States, IMS(Insight Meditation Society) is organizing about 5 hundred or more, and there are lots of Zen-Centers and practitioners. We can say, the number is not so considerable in the big country, but it is  raised up so rapidly for a short period.
   I classified the groups in the States into 4 methods of practice; Vajrayana Practice by Tibetan gurus, Vippassana Practice by South-eastern practitioners, Mook-jo Seon(Silent Illumination without kong-an/kung-an in China) by Japanese practitioners and Gan-hua Seon(Meditation with kong-an or hua-t’ou) by Korean, Japanese and Chinese practitioners. By the methods, Vajrayana is surpassed others, Vipassana is the next, and then Mook-jo, and the last is Gan-hua.
   Hereby, specifically I’ll look into the Gan-hua Seon method in American society. In the lineage of Gan-hua Seon, there are separated to many families from their own Zen Masters, but I’ll study a few big families among them and also study the field related with 3 countries; Korea, China, Japan. I don’t want to review the great Zen Masters’ biographies, either. So I’d like to mention their activities inside of the States.
Ⅱ. Gan-hwa Seon of Zen-Master, Joshu S, Roshi
   1. Life of Zen-Master, Joshu S, Roshi
  Joshu Sasaki Roshi(1907~   ) arrived in L.A. on July, 1962, because his teacher asked him to go to America to teach Zen Buddhism and at that time, Dr. Robert Harmon and Dr. Gladys Weisbart had been independently trying to bring a Rinzai Zen monk to L.A. They sponsored Master Joshu Roshi to come to the US.
  After arriving there, the Master Rhoshi began to teach Zen(Seon) for a few Zen students in a small house lent by Dr. Harmon. Before long, his teaching were attracting so many Zen students and the more lay-people gathered to learn his Zen teaching. At last, the Cimarron Zen Center, since renamed Rinzai-ji Zen Center as the first Zen Center, was opened in L.A.1)
 Three year later, Rinjai-ji’s main training center, Mt. Baldy Zen center, was opened. This Center has gained a reputation in international Zen circles for its rigorous practice for 19 hours a day. Most of Rinjai-ji’s monks and nuns have received some or all of intensive training there.
 And Michelle Martin who were practicing at Mt. Baldy Zen center, asked to practice in New Mexico area, and then Master, Joshu S, Roshi opened Jamez Bodhi Mandala, now Bodhi Mandala Zen Center in 1974. It became Master J. S, Roshi’s second training Center, offering daily Zazen(Ch’am Seon/Sitting Meditation) and communal work practice. In this Center, all practitioners were growing fresh greens and fruits together. It means Zen practice is not different from farming everyday life.
   For 5 years, Master J. S, Roshi had never tired, offering Zazen(Ch’am Seon/Sitting Meditation), investigating kong-an, having private Dharma meeting in a very small house. He had always served tea, cooked for himself, whenever he met with anyone who came to practice. Specially, to commemorate his fifth birthday in 1967, he began to practice Seven-Day Intensive Retreat(Dai-Sesshin) at first, which has developed to another tradition for practice under the Master J. S, Roshi’s teaching. During the Intensive Retreat, practitioners usually do Zazen(Ch’am Seon/Sitting Meditation). Now there are 21 branches in the US under his teaching.
   It is notable that the Master J. S, Roshi has held the Buddhist Sutra Seminar every summer at Mt. Baldy Zen Center since 1977. Over 16 years, many Buddhist scholars have taken part in the seminar from other countries. Naturally, Rinjai Zen under Master J. S, Roshi’s teachings was more prevalent.
   He has taught his Zen students with old patriarchs’ Dharma Talks and interviewed them in the face of him with private until now, though he is walking 98th year. It is interesting that he was familiar with Korean Zen Master, Seung Sahn friendly. And he was very sad, when the Master, Seung Sahn passed away in 2004.
   2. Gan-hua Seon of Zen-Master, Joshu S, Roshi
   Even though Master J. S, Roshi has taught Gan-hwa Seon with kong-ans under Rinzai-ji, I wonder how he has checked the kong-ans for his Zen students. As for me, it was difficult to get the related data more. However, it’s obvious that he teaches Zen(Sitting Meditation) with hard, using the traditional method of ‘investigating kong-an’ and his own modern style. I confirmed to the Zen Center of Master J. S, Roshi a few times, that Master J. S, Roshi gives Hua-t’ou to the Zen students who is needed to test and checks the answers in the face of him. But usually beginners have learned the ‘counting breathing’ first and then, ‘investigating Hua-t’ou’ one after another.
   Until now they have kept on practicing ‘7-Day Intensive Retreat’ one or two times a month, and Master J. S, Roshi has had private interview directly 4 times everyday during the period. At that time, usually he gives big questions(Hua-t’ou) as follow; “Who am I?”, “What am I?”, “What was my original face before I was born?”, “What is it?”.
   However, we couldn’t confirm any more because they don’t want show their private teachings. They wants to come and ask for their methods of practice the Zen Center, if somebody would have any question. Though Master J. S, Roshi is a Japanese, he has chosen only Gan-hua(Investigating Hua-t’ou), not Mook-jo(Silent Illumination) as the methods of practice.
   And we know he also uses the Buddhist daily-service or communal working and so forth, by the methods of practice, on his web-sites. During the ‘Intensive Retreat’, practitioners do Zazen(Ch’am Seon/Sitting Meditation), must keep silence, and finally can be free out of all delusion. By doing this, we could attain the self-nature and get wisdom to help all sentient-beings everyday life.2)
   Consequently, Master J. S, Roshi emphasizes that you attain your true nature through the practice with kong-ans, and apply the wisdom into your real life. For the purport, he teaches Zazen(Ch’am Seon with Hua-t’ou), Intensive Retreat(Dai Sesshin), checks the kong-ans(private interview) directly, and ‘counting breathing’ for the beginners. And on farming greens and fruits, he leads the practitioners to apply daily life with Zen.
Ⅲ. Gan-hua Seon of Zen-Master, Sheng-yen
   1. Life of Zen Master, Sheng-yen
   Zen Master, Sheng-yen(聖嚴, 1931~ ) was born in a small village near Shanghai in 1931. Later on his Japanese teacher, Bantetsugu Roshi who met in his studying in Japan, asked him to teach Ch’an(Zen/Seon) Buddhism in the US. But he couldn’t speak English, so hesitated to leave. However, his teacher encouraged to him, ‘Zen doesn’t rely on words. Why worry about words?’
   When he had traveled to the State in 1977, where he had served as the abbot of a temple in New York for a while. And he opened a Ch’an(Seon/Meditation) Center in Queens, New York, to propagate Chinese Ch’an(Zen) in there. In 1978 he became a professor at Chinese Culture Univ. in Taipei. In 1980 he found a Ch’an(Seon/Zen) Center and Chung-Hwa Buddhist Cultural Institute in New York. In 1989 founded the International Cultural and Educational Foundation of Dharma Drum Mountain and reopened the Center in Queens to New York Branch of ICEFDDM. Nowadays there are 24 branches of ICEFDDM in New York. In the Center, there are organizing many programmes as follow; ‘One-Day Ch’an Retreat’, ‘One-Day Recitation Retreat’, ‘Three-Day Recitation Retreat’, ‘Seven-Day Intensive Hua-t’ou Retreat’, ‘Ten-Day Intensive Silent Illumination Retreat’, ‘Family Zen Camp’ and so forth. Specially they have Dharma meeting for questions and answers every programme.
   Finally, Master Sheng-yen had affected to open the Buddhist subject in almost 40 universities in the US. Currently 3,000 or more Zen students follow him in the States and about 300,000 are learning under his teaching in Taiwan. The Master has published more than 90 books, available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, French and other languages.
   It is notable that the Master received by two major lineages of Ch’an(Zen/Seon) Buddhism; Lin-Ji(Rinzai) School and Cao-Dong(Soto) School, and he became the Dharma heir in these two traditions. At age 28, sojourning at various monasteries, he had the deepest spiritual experience of his life. The experiences were recognized by the masters later. In 1975 he formally received transmission from Ch’an(Zen/Seon) Master Dong-Chu(東初, 1908-1977) of Cao-Dong(Soto) School and in 1978, from Ch’an(Zen/Seon) Master Ling Yuan(靈源, 1902-1988) of the Lin-Ji(Rinzai) School.3)
  2. Gan-hua Seon of Zen-Master, Sheng-yen
 The Master emphasizes not only Gan-hua Seon(Ch’an/Zen), but also teaches sutras, mantra practice, and all the methods for practice. In his Dharma talking, there are basically included the Buddha’s teachings, theory of cause and effect, rebirth(samsara), emptiness and so forth. He also applies ‘Gan-hua Seon(investigating kung-an)’ of Lin-Ji(Rinzai) School, ‘Mook-jo Seon(silent illumination without kung-an)’ of Cao-Dong(Soto) School and ‘Ji-kwan(止觀/ Great Shamatha)’ of T’ien-t’ai School for practice. Regardless of the methods, he uses all the types for practice like; ‘counting breaths’, ‘reading sutras’, ‘invoking mantra’, ‘reciting buddha’s names’, ‘walking meditation’, ‘investigating Hua-t’ou’, ‘silent illumination’ and others.
   ‘Ch’an encompasses four key concepts: faith, understanding, practice, and realization. Faith belongs to the realm of religion; understanding is philosophical; practice is belief put into action; and realization is enlightenment. Without faith, we cannot understand; without understanding, we cannot practice; and without practice, we cannot realize enlightenment. Together, these four concepts create the doorway we enter to attain wisdom.”4) It means that the Master thought all the methods of practice are related with each other.
   In practicing meditation, Master Sheng-yen explained very simply. For beginners sitting postures on the cushion and the way of counting breaths is taught first. It is important that body and mind be relaxed. If one is physically or mentally tense, trying to meditate can be counter-productive. Sometimes certain feelings or phenomena arise while meditating. If you are relaxed, whatever symptoms arise are usually good. It can be pain, soreness, itchiness, warmth or coolness, these can all be beneficial. But in the context of tenseness, these same symptoms may indicate obstacles.
For example, despite being relaxed when meditating, you may sense pain in some parts of the body. Frequently, this may mean that tensions you were not aware of are benefiting from the circulation of blood and energy induced by meditation. A problem originally existing may be alleviated. On the other hand, if you are very tense while meditating and feel pain, the reason may be that the tension is causing the pain. So the same symptom of pain can indicate two different causes: an original problem getting better, or a new problem being created.5)
   The methods of Ch’an(Zen) that the Master, Sheng-yen has taught in the States are divided into three stages. The first stage is to balance the development of body and mind in order to attain mental and physical health. The second is free from the sense of the small “I”. The third is free from the large “I” to no “I”.
   The method of the first stage is very simple. Mainly it requires you to relax all the muscles and nerves of your entire body, and concentrate your attention on the method you have just learned. With regard to the body, we stress the demonstration and correction of the postures of walking, standing, sitting and reclining. Because the tension of your muscles and nerves affects the activity of the brain, the key is therefore to reduce the burden on your brain.
   In the second stage you begin to enter the stage of meditation. When you practice the method of cultivation taught by your teacher, you will enlarge the sphere of the outlook of the small “I” until it coincides with time and space. The small “I” merges into the entire universe, forming a unity. When you look inward, the depth is limitless; when you look outward, the breadth is limitless. Since you have joined and become one with universe, the world of your own body and mind no longer exists. What exists is the universe, which is infinite in depth and breadth. You yourself are not only a part of the universe, but also the totality of it.
  In the third stage you realizes that the concept of the “I” does not exist. But you have only abandoned the small “I” and have not negated the concept of basic substance or the existence of God; you may call it Truth, the one and only God, the Almighty, the Unchanging Principle, or even the Buddha of Buddhism. If you think that it is real, then you are still in the realm of the big “I” and have not left the sphere of philosophy and religion.
   I must emphasize that the content of Ch’an(Zen) does not appear until the third stage. Chan is unimaginable. It is neither a concept nor a feeling. It is impossible to describe it in any terms abstract or concrete.6)
   What is the Master’s methods for Ch’an(Zen) practice? He showed two styles for getting enlightenment; Gan-hwa Seon(Ch’an/Zen) with hua-t’ou of Lin-Ji(Linjai) School and Mook-jo Seon(Silent Illumination without hua-t’ou) of Cao Dong(Soto) School. Both of them enables us to be relaxed physically or mentally, and concentrate on mindfulness. The purpose of practicing Ch’an is to “Illuminate the mind and see into one’s true nature.” This investigation is also called ” Clearly realizing one’s self-mind and completely perceiving one’s original nature.”
   There are many hua-t’ou as such; “Who is dragging this corpse around?” “All dharmas return to one, where does this one return to?” “Before you were born what was your original face?’ and “Who is reciting Buddha’s name?” is common.
In fact, all hua-t’ou are the same. There is nothing uncommon, strange, or special about them. If you wanted to, you could say: “Who is reciting the sutras?” “Who is reciting the mantras? “Who is prostrating to the Buddha? ” Who is eating?” “Who is wearing these clothes?” “Who’s walking?” “Who’s sleeping?” They’re all the same.
  The Master Sheng-yen said, the answer to the question “who” is derived from one’s Mind. Mind is the origin of all words. Thoughts come out of Mind ; Mind is the origin of all thoughts. Innumerable dharmas generate from the Mind ; Mind is the origin of all dharmas. In fact, hua-t’ou is a thought. Before a thought arises, there is the origin of words. Hence, looking into a hua-t’ou is contemplating Mind. There was Mind before your parents gave birth to you, so looking into your original face before you were born is contemplating Mind. 7)
   Hence, hua-t’ou’s involving the word “who” are wonderful methods for practicing Ch’an. You have to investigate the great doubt, whenever you walking, standing, sitting and reclining. A necessary element of Hua-t’ou practice is the presence of a sense of doubt. It doesn’t mean thinking or considering of an idea repeatedly. By the Great doubt, it means a burning, uninterrupted persistence to get the root of a question which is unanswerable. That is the core of Gan-hua Seon practice.
Ⅳ. Gan-hua Seon of Zen master, Seung Sahn, Haeng-won
   1. His motivation and development for propagating
   Zen Master, Seung Sahn, Haeng-won(1927-2004) arrived at the States in April 1972, when he was 42. In there he saw the sight, that Japanese people were practicing Ch’am Seon(zazen/sitting meditation) at a Zen Center in L.A. He was shocked and thought, ‘Why don’t we, Korean monks, teach the Seon(Zen) like that?’ At the next moment, he determined firmly to propagate Korean Gan-hua Seon(Kanna Zen) in the States.8)
   However, the Master couldn’t speak English. So, he called Jeong-sun, Kim who was a professor for the Uni. of Rhode Island State, and began to propagate his Zen talks for his Zen students in his house with him.
   Before long time, the more people came to listen to his Zen talks at his small house. So, the Master lent a small apartment in Providence and began to transmit his Dharma Talk in there, and then around 50 to 90 Zen students gathered to listen per week. Finally, October 10th of the year, Providence Zen Center was opened with great.
   As the Dharma meeting at Providence had developed, so many lay-people came to become one of his Zen disciples from all the areas. Consequently, he opened Cambridge Zen Center in Massachusetts in 1974, New Haven Zen Center in Connecticut in 1975, and Dharma Zen Center in L.A. in 1976, one after another.
   From 1976, Seung-Sahn Zen Master has affected on lay-people very tremendously. For his teaching style, he has taught Zen students directly in the face of him, and corresponded with them frequently. Specifically, Stephen Mitchell who was called Ven. Moo-Gak as his buddhist name, published “Dropping Ashes on the Buddha in 1976”, which is the collections of the Master’s Dharma Talks, questions & answers with his students, stories for the old Zen masters or patriarchs, and the letters corresponded  with his American Zen students and so forth. In a twinkle, the book was recorded as a best-seller on the list, and then many people who read it wanted to become his disciples eagerly.
   Until now, in the US, there are opened 29 Zen Centers, and so many people are practicing Korean Seon(Zen/Meditation) under his teaching in there.
   2. Gan-hua Seon of Zen Master, Haeng-won, Seung Sahn
   The core of his teaching is ‘see your true nature!’ and practice to attain the ‘true nature’, as it is just substantial world for us.
   The Master said, “The most important thing that characterized their practice is that they simply looked inside, very deeply inside, to find their true nature. This is how the Buddha’s first students attained his teaching, preserved it, and passed it down to us.”9)There are layed emphasis on the ‘attain true-nature’ through his all teachings. The Master pointed that the true nature is already realized as it is.
   “Zen teaching is very clear and simple. It points directly at our self-nature so that we can wake up and help this world. When you see, when you hear, when you smell, when you taste, when you touch, when you think-everything, just like this, is the truth. Everything is Buddha-nature. Everything is your true nature.”10) “Zen Buddhism means going from the world of ignorance and delusion and attaining the perception that everything is truth, just as it is. This world is already complete, and never moving. If you want to attain that point, first you must let go of your opinions, your condition, and your situation. You can see clearly, hear clearly, smell clearly, taste clearly, touch clearly and think clearly. The name for that is truth.”11)
   Everything is already truth, and true Dharma. Zen Master, Seung-Shan admits all the styles of Buddhist practice to attain the true nature. He didn’t insist on any special word, any meaning or any form to get enlightenment.
   “In Buddhist practice we can say that there are four main techniques for learning  Buddha’s teaching: reading sutras, invoking the name of the Buddha, mantra practice, and meditation. Even though meditation is known to be the most direct way of realizing the Buddha’s teaching, each of these can help you very much. But if you become attached to sutras, or to invoking the Buddha’s name, or to mantras, or even to certain aspects of formal sitting meditation, then any one of these techniques will hinder you and drag you off the path. So the important thing to remember is not to become attached to anything, but rather to use each practice or technique correctly to find your true nature.”12)
   Though our goal is to attain true nature ultimately, every technique will be helpful for us as the above; reading sutra, invoking the name of the Buddha, mantra practice, and meditation. “No matter what the tradition, the point of any meditation practice is to help you realize your own original nature so that you can help all sentient beings get out of suffering. Meditation(Zen) is not about making something special. It is not about having some peaceful experience of stillness and bliss.”13) The most important thing is finding your true nature, not the technique, the Master means that.
   But the Master insists on the practicing whatever you’ve got enlightened in your everyday life. Of course, even though attaining true nature means that we have nothing to attain because everything is already complete, through the practicing to attain, we could keep a not-moving mind in any situation or condition and control the mind clear from moment to moment and control all the functions correctly to help all sentient beings. Meditation doesn’t mean only sitting in a straight posture, but keep your mind clearly all the time. “So moment-to-moment do-it mind is very important. Just-now mind. It has no subject and no object.”14)
   Hereby, Zen Master, Seung-Shan  specially teaches Gan-hua Seon as a technique for practicing. In his teaching there are two types of kong-ans(hua-t’ou/ big question); one is for looking inside, and the other is for testing the hua-t’ou(big questions) as follow; ‘Who am I?’, ‘What am I?’, ‘Only don’t know!’ and so forth. “There are many, many teaching words in this book. There are Hynayana word, Mahayana words, and Zen word. There are Buddhist and Christian words………..too many words! But all of these words are not necessary. Words and speech are only thinking, and thinking makes suffering. You must throw them all in the garbage! The reason for this is that our true nature is not dependent on understanding. This is why I only teach “don’t know.”…….”Don’t know” is not Buddhist or Christian or Zen or anything…………….I only teach ‘don’t know'”15) Master said, ‘never forget these big questions, ‘Only don’t know!’, ‘What am I?’ and so forth.
   “In the Kwan Um School of Zen…………., the point of kong-an practice is to show you how to connect your don’t know mind with everyday life. How does your meditation on the cushion find its correct function, from moment to moment, to help other people? Nowadays this world is moving very quickly, and there are always new situations………………..If you only hold on to ‘Mu(無, nothing)’, attach to old poetic commentaries, and make some special experience out of Zen practice, you will lose your way. When you step out onto the street keeping ‘Muuuuuuuu’, maybe you will be hit by a car because you are only holding One Mind. However, our style of kong-ans means using kong-ans as practice to instantly perceive your correct situation, your correct relationship to that situation, and your correct function in that situation.”16)
   Not holding One Mind, but perceiving your correct situation in your everyday life using the kong-ans. His teaching means that practice to attain your true nature using kong-an, and get wisdom in everyday life. On these days, it is important to apply the kong-ans in our everyday living.
   These kong-ans were conventional methods for the Zen masters to review if their students got the right view through practicing in the past.
   “When a Zen student practices hard and claims to have attained some insight into his or her true nature, how can this be proven or shown? This is the meaning of kong-ans and kong-an practice.”17)
   “If some monk thought he got enlightenment, a master could test him by presenting him with the story or teaching of another monk’s enlightenment experience. Any monk who truly had some sort of realization would hear the kong-an and instantly understand its true meaning. “18)
   There are 10 major kong-ans available to Zen students. ①Does a dog have Buddha-nature? Joju answered, (Joju’s Dog /趙州無字) ②Joju’s “Wash your Bowls.”(趙州洗鉢) ③Seong Am Calls “Master.”(巖喚主人) ④Bodhidharma has No Beard. ⑤Hyang Eom’s “Up a Tree.”(香嚴上樹) ⑥Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. ⑦Ko Bong’s Three Gates(高峰三關). ⑧Dok Sahn Carrying His Bowls. ⑨Nam Cheon Kills a Cat(南泉斬猫). ⑩The Mouse Eats Cat food., and “Three Men Walking.” etc. “If you finish the Ten Gates(10 major kong-ans), you get this as special home-work. And if you pass this, the Zen master checks your center and you can get inka19)
   As the above, Seung Shan Zen Master’s Gan-hua Seon is composed of practice and checking with his kong-ans,”Only don’t know!” and so forth. This style is a little different from traditional practice in Gan-hua Seon of Korea. Traditionally, kong-ans(hwa-t’ou) are used to get enlightenment with practice. However, Zen Master, Seung Shan is using them to quest and answer for checking. He applies them in everyday life as conventional methods to get wisdom and to realize right view from moment to moment.
Ⅴ. Conclusion
   All the 3 Zen Masters do not insist on Gan-hua Seon only. They are using all the methods for practice such as; Mook-jo Seon practice, reading sutra, invoking mantra, counting breaths and so forth. If some monk said that I solved one Hua-t’ou, the Masters never admitted him to be a realized man. Because they are all stand for gradual enlightenment, rather than sudden enlightenment.
   Moreover, the Zen Masters give the big questions and check the answers to their Zen students in the face of them. By using kong-ans, the Masters lead their students to look back on their self-nature, and apply the attainments to everyday life.
   Hereby, I’d like to summary the patterns of Gan-hua Seon practice in the US.
First, all the Masters have practiced strongly under their own Buddhist views.
Second, they are emphasizing on the ultimate attainment of practice, not their own methods for practice. Therefore, they are using all kinds of methods to teach their Zen students such as; counting breaths, invoking mantra, reciting buddha’s names, reading sutras, prayer chanting and so forth.
   Third, they are stand for gradual enlightenment, not sudden enlightenment for practice. There are 3 stages to get enlightenment. Masters gives kong-ans to the practitioners every stage and checks the answers.
   Fourth, the Masters give hua-t’ou to their Zen students for contemplating original self-nature. Not only traditional kong-ans, but also common questions like ‘Who am I?’ are given to them.
   Fifth, the Masters give questions to the Zen students and check the answers continuously. Specifically, this is the main method that the Zen Masters teach their students.
   Sixth, the Masters teach to the practitioners Zen practice, and also to apply what they have learned or attained to their own everyday lives.
   The Zen Masters have found many Zen Centers in the US for themselves to teach their students, and they have already been able to speak English. Furthermore, now they are transmitting Dharma to the native Americans in active.
   For long time, the Zen Masters have considered how to teach the American lay-people and finally they got what the Western Zen practitioners want. Even though their methods for teaching are a little different from traditional styles, those are by far the best for the American practitioners, I think.
   However, I regret that I haven’t studied how the Zen Masters could overcome the cultural or social gaps between the countries, and teach the foreign people in the face of them directly. And I wonder how their teachings affected to the U.S. society or inspired to every Zen student spiritually. I haven’t looked for any social or environmental effects derived from the Masters’ Zen teachings yet.
   If I had an opportunity, I would review all the above and the prospects of Zen Buddhism for the future in the States.

Seungsahn Haengwon ( 1927 ~ 2004 )

Seungsahn Haengwon ( 1927 ~ 2004 )


1. Biography
Venerable Seungsahn was born in Suncheon, Pyeongannam-do, North Korea in 1927. He graduated from Pyeongan Industrial High School in 1945, and entered Dongguk University in 1946. He left for Magoksa Temple to become a monk in 1947 as he had become disillusioned with life. At that time, the political situation consisted of a confrontation between the ideological views of the left and right wings – between the same ethnic people after liberation from Japanese rule.

One day, he met Master Gobong(1889-1961) who was a disciple of Master Mangong. During the dialogue, he was unable to respond to the master’s questions. Master Gobong told him “If you don’t know, then go out and raise your doubt about it. This is the way to practice Seon.”

After this encounter he went into an intensive retreat at Sudeoksa Temple. During the free seasons, in between the practice sessions, he was particularly fortunate to be able to meet many of the famous masters of his day. He had a second chance to meet Master Gobong, while he was doing another retreat at Mitasa Temple. At that meeting, Venerable Seungsahn said; “As I killed all Buddhas of the three realms last night, I came back after cleaning up all of the corpses.” Seon Master Gobong said, “You are very naughty, how can I believe your saying?” Then Master Gobong began to ask Seungsahn the 1,700 gongan — Seon questions — and he was able to answer all of them without hesitation. So Master Gobong told to him, “As your flowers burst into bloom, I will be a butterfly for you.” And he gave his sanction or dharma transmission to Seungsahn. Therefore, Master Seungsahn, at the age of 22 in 1949, inherited the Korean Seon lineage from masters Gyeongheo, Mangong, and Gobong who had restored the Korean Seon tradition.

After finishing eleven retreats at Sudeoksa Temple, he joined the new purification movement to reestablish the Korean Buddhist tradition which was weak after Liberation and the Korean War. From then on, he worked at reestablishing the tradition once again and improving the Jogye Order which had lost its identity during the colonization period. Due to this, he was appointed the president of the Buddhist Newspaper (1960), and worked as a director of the General Affairs Department (1961) and director of Financial Affairs (1962) in the headquarters of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

As the Jogye Order became stabilized in 1962, Seungsahn was free to turn to other activities. He opened the Korean temple, Hongbeobwon, in Japan and this heralded the start of his spreading Buddhism outside Korea. Later on, he proceeded to set up Korean Seon centers in America, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Russia, Africa and South East Asia from 1972. Master Gobong had told Seungsahn, when he gave his sanction, “You will spread the teachings all over the world.” Following his teacher’s saying, he opened over 120 Seon centers in 32 countries over a period of 35 years, resulting in more than 50,000 people becoming Buddhists. For his great efforts in propagation, he was given the world peace prize by WUM in 1985.

In 1987, he held the first Seon international conference with the title given by Seon Master Mangong, “The Whole World is a Single Flower” at Sudeoksa Temple. This meeting was aimed at unifying all people of different races and from different regions of the world under the Buddha’s teachings. The second and the third conferences were held at the same temple in 1992 and 1993 respectively. In 1992, he opened the International Seon Center in Hwagyesa Temple for training his foreign disciples and for the globalization of Korean Buddhism.

Throughout his life, he taught Korean Seon to domestic and foreign monks enthusiastically while he was head monk of Hwagyesa Temple. On November 30th 2004, he called his disciples together at Yeomhwasil room. All of them recognized his approaching death, and then they asked him. “When you die, what should we do?” He said, “Don’t worry, don’t worry. The great light is immeasurable; mountains are blue and waters flow.” With this song, he died at the age of 77 in 2004.

After his death, many people as well as many condolences came from all over the world. Mr. John Kerry who was the American presidential candidate in 2004 gave a condolence speech and expressed his regrets. He said his son was also very touched by the late Seon master’s teaching. Master Seungsahn’s foreign disciples are Venerable Musim, the head monk of Musangsa Temple, in Mt. Gyeryongsan; Venerable Murang, the head monk of Taeansa Temple; Venerable Hyon Gak, the head monk of the International Seon Center in Hwagyesa temple and the author of Man Haeng: From Harvard to Hwa Gye Sah and Venerable Cheongan from Hungary, as well as many more. All of them were ordained under him and chose the path of a Buddhist practitioner instead of living an ordinary life.

2. Writings
The trace of globalization of Korean Seon by Master Seungsahn remains clearly evident in his more than 20 written works, both in English and in Korean. The Whole World is a Single Flower — 365 Gongans for Everyday Life involves the gongans of Seon; The Compass of Zen explains in simple and easy language a way of understanding Buddhism; Dropping Ashes on the Buddha is a collection of his short dharma talks. These were all written for his foreign disciples in English and translated into Korean as well. Though these books were written for his foreign disciples, they have greatly influenced laypeople who want to know Korean Buddhism and Seon better. The book, Only Doing It involving his biography and his disciples’ writings, was compiled by his foreign disciples from all over the world; Only Don’t Know is a collection of letters about Seon practice and the lives and difficulties of the practitioners; The Moon Illuminated on the Thousand Rivers, and Seon poems Bone of Space are all well known as well.Especially The Whole World is a Single Flower which was published in celebration of his thirty years of propagating Buddhism describes his work in spreading Buddhism at a glance. involves the gongans of Seon; explains in simple and easy language a way of understanding Buddhism; is a collection of his short dharma talks. These were all written for his foreign disciples in English and translated into Korean as well. Though these books were written for his foreign disciples, they have greatly influenced laypeople who want to know Korean Buddhism and Seon better. The book, involving his biography and his disciples’ writings, was compiled by his foreign disciples from all over the world; is a collection of letters about Seon practice and the lives and difficulties of the practitioners; and Seon poems are all well known as well.Especiallywhich was published in celebration of his thirty years of propagating Buddhism describes his work in spreading Buddhism at a glance.

3. Characteristics of His Thoughts
Master Seungsahn used to give everyone Seon sayings whenever he met them. Examples include: “only don’t know,” “mountains are blue and water flows,” “what news is this,” – all like hwadu. He taught that the realm of impermanence is “mountains are rivers and rivers are mountains”; that the realm of emptiness mentioned in the Heart Sutra is “mountains are empty and rivers are empty”; and that the realm of reality is “mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers.” And he often said, “Through all of these realms, the realm of ‘mountains are blue and rivers flow’ is the realm of embracing the state of how the world of truth is to be taken and adjusted to the reality of righteous living.”

He used to frequently say “Only don’t know” to his visitors. Another one of his teachings was quoted from the Diamond Sutra: “Everything with form is an illusion. If you see things without form then you see the Tathagata.” He said “As everything which has its own name and form is illusion and untruth, don’t attach to it!”

His teaching did not just follow the hwadu of previous masters but adjusted to modern society. This is one of the most characteristic aspects of his teachings. He taught this world is “only don’t know,” and so following the path of the Buddha for finding our True Nature is the only way to find the True Nature of Buddhahood.

Bodhi Meditation

– by the Venerable Geumta Dae Hwa Sang(Master Cheonghwa’s teacher)
– translated into English at Sambo Temple in California, USA
MIND is like empty space, without a trace of cloud or a spot of shadow. Perceive the mind-realm like great, vast and infinite empty space. At the same time, recollect the pure Dharma body, Vairocana Buddha.

In this void-like mind-realm, perceive the ocean of essential Dharma nature like an overflowing ocean of infinitely pure clear water with radiant golden light surpassing that of sun and moon. At the same time, recollect the perfect and infinite body, Rocana Buddha.

All beings: internally, the formless beings of thoughts that arise and disappear; and externally, beings without conciousness such as the sun, moon, and stars, the mountains and rivers, and great earth and all of Nature; as well as beings with consciousness such as mankind and animals, crawling creatures and so on. Perceive all these beings as bubbles playing in the radiant golden waves without wind within the ocean of essential Dharma nature. At the same time, recollect the countless incarnation bodies, Sakyamuni Buddha.

Again, perceive collectively that the clear empty MIND realm, the pure ocean of essential Dharma and all beings like bubbles not different from one another these three realms are the oneness. At the same time, recollect the Trikaya (three bodies) – the pure Dharma body (Vairocana Buddha), the perfect and infinite body (Rocana Buddha) and the myriad incarnation bodies (Sakyamuni Buddha) – are the infinite oneness, Amita Buddha.

Contemplate and perceive that the transitory actions of all countless beings, all phenomena arising and disappearing internally and externally, are the innumerable manifestations of the MIND, the appearance of the great actions of Amita Buddha

* 菩提方便門보리방편문 (원문)

心은虛空과等할새片雲隻影이無한廣大無邊한虛空的心界를觀하면서淸淨法身인달하여毘盧遮那佛을念하고此虛空的心界에超日月의金色光明을帶한無垢의淨水가充滿한海象的性海를觀하면서圓滿報身인달하여盧舍那佛을念하고內로念起念滅의無色衆生과外로日月星宿山河大地森羅萬象의無情衆生과人畜乃至蠢動含靈의有情衆生과의一切衆生을性海無風金波自湧인海中 로觀하면서千百億化身인달하여釋迦牟尼佛을念하고다시彼無量無邊의淸空心界와淨滿性海와 相衆生을空性相一如의一合相으로通觀하면서三身一佛인달하여阿彌陀佛을常念하고內外生滅相인無數衆生의無常諸行을心隨萬境轉인달하여彌陀의一大行相으로思惟觀察할지니라

Cheonghwa ( 1923 ~ 2003 )


The Great Spiritual Master Cheonghwa was born at Mu-an in Cholla Province in 1923. After graduating from Gwangju Educational College, he went to Japan to study more. Returning home, he founded a public school and taught students at his hometown. However, he renounced the job upon seeing many conflicts between left wing and right wing ideology of that time, and left home to seek truth. He became a monk under the direction of Master Geumta at Unmun Hermitage at Baekyang sa Temple at the age of 24.


He moved through many meditation halls and hermitages over the whole country to practice, keeping silence, never lying down, and taking one meal a day.  He started to instruct sentient beings when he was over 60 years old, after such a long time of practice, around 1985. With the intention of dissemination of Korean Buddhism in other countries, in 1992 he opened the Diamond Meditation Center in California, and served as a member of the Council of Elders for the Jogye Order until entering nirvana.  He always focused his mind on keeping precepts and a simple life. He taught that samadhi (concentration) comes from keeping precepts, and wisdom follows samadhi.


His contribution to modern Korean Buddhism was to suggest “Seon with recollecting Buddha’s name” in an atmosphere tending toward hwadu meditation. He claimed “the Buddha’s name, for example Amitabha Buddha or Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, is a hwadu itself that the Buddha shows us.  This new way of practice is in harmony with personal spiritual capacity, without opposing hwadu meditation.  It makes you find that you and Buddha are not two, to recollect Buddha’s name repeatedly while praying for what you wish.”


He passed away on November 12, 2003. He was 80 years old, 57 years of Dharma age.

His last day was the same as other days.  Though he was not in good shape for the last couple of months, he had kept on taking one meal a day and never lying down as practice. He took only a simple lunch and had dharma talks with his disciples. Around late afternoon, he took a walk in the courtyard in front of the Main Hall, saying that it was time for him to leave, looking long at Ji-ri Mountain far away. He finally lied down to take a long rest after more than 40 years, and asked the disciples to “practice hard in order to help sentient beings.  That is the way to pay back Buddha’s blessing.” 

His last Gatha is:

I do not care about coming or going
Either to this samsara or to nirvana
Receiving Buddha’s blessings as countless as the whole universe
I deplore that my return for this is a tiny stream.


Though he went away leaving his old body, his fragrance is still with us.