The New Year Massage (B.E. 2544)

The future is not coming, the past is not going, the present is not stopping, three times periods are full of emptiness, so it is very mysterious. Don’t you understand such kinds of truth?

If you could be understood these things, the sun and moon are looks like anew, the heaven and earth are looks being special, war, disease, famine, destruction of
environment and transmigration of birth and death etcs., such kind of thousands thing of disaster are not happened here even the one only.

Who’s taking the new year and day? You have to know ‘Who am I ? and then
‘Be accomplished’by yourself for your‘Real Ego’.

Who’s said no Taoist hermit with supernatural powers in the world? It is proper that you ought to believe‘The another world exists in a pot!’

In this generation, we have to enlighten a stream of over-credulity for material things except human being and must stand up with an awakening movement for human being’s themselves – for the truthful Real Ego.-

Therefore it must be kept to develop with between the spiritual and culture, going to a step forward, we can overcome the crisis of civilization.

All things in the universe is being at oneness in flesh and spirit upon the same root, in case if it harms the one-side consequently the other-side will be damaged, on the other hand, helping that-side naturally this-side might be benefited, So that, if we could be known this kind of truth never harms the others ever.

Meeting happy new year, we should keep away from unreliable ‘Myself’and keep in mind to help each other continuously a step a head in advance to love the enemy
and then will be overflowed peace and happiness eventually, we can build earthly paradise up.

Rising the round sun up in mind highly as well as shining on the whole creation brightly, the world of light is opening in our presence.

B.Y. Jan. 1, 2544
Supreme Patriarch of Jogye Order

Hyeam Seonggwan ( 1920 ~ 2001 )


1. Biography


He was born the second child of seven in Jangseong, Jeollanam-do in 1920. He was a bookworm from childhood and used to read the biographies of great men of the east and the west as well as Buddhist books. At the age of seventeen (1937), he went to Japan to study more about eastern and western religions and he also studied eastern philosophy. He read The Bible, Four books and Three Classics of Ancient China, and Buddhist masters’ analects.


While he was reading all these different books, he came upon a book called Seongwanchekjin. It was a guide to Seon practice which was collected from advice given by masters of the past. When he read the following words, “I have a sutra, which is not made of paper or ink. Though it does not contain any letters, it always gives a bright light,” he became inspired. Then he immediately returned to Korea, renounced secular life at the age of 26 (1946 C.E.) at Haeinsa Temple. He received teachings from the great monks Hyobong, Hanam, Dongsan, and Gyeongbong who were the spiritual leaders of Korean Buddhism at that time.


From the day of his renunciation up to his death, he never lay down to sleep; and had only one meal a day. His whole life was one of detachment and frugality, in food, clothing, and housing so that he could just concentrate on practicing. He was very self-disciplined monk.


In 1947 at the age 27, he made the Retreat Community of Bongamsa Temple, together with Venerable Seongcheol and some twenty other young monks. This was to resuscitate the traditional lifestyle as lived by the Buddha and follow the Buddha’s teachings. As soon as it was set up, seventeen new rules were enacted. All the monks of the association then started three years of intensive retreat. They pursued the disciplined Seon tradition of Korean Buddhism, by letting Seon practice be the center. As a result, this movement contributed to the proper identity of the Jogye Order. And the rules of behavior, rituals, and lifestyle that they set up in those days became the standard rules of the Jogye Order even today.


In 1957, at the age of 37, he went on retreat at Sagoam Hermitage in Mt. Odaesan with the strong decision that, “even I die, I will not stop practicing.” He continued practice in the freezing cold weather. The temperature went down to minus twenty centigrade, but he never heated his room. His main meal was just 20 grains of raw beans and raw pine tree leaves. He kept on this ascetic practice without letting up. During the retreat, he never slept for four months. He never lost full awareness. After that, he became convinced that sleep does not actually exist. Since that time sleep could never be a hindrance for him any more.


From 1977 onwards, at the age of 57, he stayed in Haeinsa Temple, and practiced together with the community while holding various positions. As Haeinsa is a full monastic training temple, with a Monks’ college, a Meditation Hall and Vinaya School, many monks live together. Over the years he was given various jobs and yet he was not lazy to practice. While he carried out each of these jobs, he put all his effort into development, constantly encouraging the monks to do intensive retreats (yongmaengjeongjin) and to improve the practicing tradition. He opened a Meditation Hall for laypeople at Wondangam Hermitage at Haeinsa when he was 61 (1981). He joined the over-night sitting program on certain Saturdays for 21 years. This special intensive practice was held twice a month on the first and third Saturday in the summer and winter retreat periods. This meditation center, Dalma Seonwon, was opened mainly in order to teach the laypeople Seon practice. After this initiative, meditation centers for lay people have become a popular movement and it gives new meaning to people’s daily lives.


Venerable Seongcheol was a spiritual leader of Haeinsa temple, which is full monastic training temple, died in Nov.11th 1993. After his passing away, its community monks asked him to be their 6th spiritual leader. He accepted their proposal and he did his best. After that, he made some guidelines for Seon practicing monks. They were not allowed to sleep longer than four hours and forced not to eat after midday meal. At his age 74, he was asked to be the 10th Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. He accepted it in 1994. Staying in Wondangam, he taught his disciples.


Because of his straightforward character, he was called “a piece of bamboo” in Mt. Gayasan. He lived as a monk for 55 years, and passed away at the age of 81 while attending to his disciple on 31st Dec 2001 in Misogul, Smile Room, in Wondangam Hermitage.


2. Characteristics of His Thought 


Venerable Hyeam primarily taught Seon practice to monks. He was famous among his students for the following sayings: “Even though you die, die while practicing,” “Eat less,” “Practice inwardly and help others outwardly,” “Do not be the head monk of a temple,” “Live modestly and honestly with a set of clothes and a set of bowls.” He always particularly insisted on telling junior monks, “Do Seon practice diligently.”


He said that Buddhism is not just theory but practice. Practitioners, thus, have to concentrate on their hwadu until they get the answer. That is the real way of Seon practice. Seon is the supreme way and the most expedient way to find our True Nature but it cannot be said that just sitting meditation is the best way of Seon for, in actual fact, the true way of Seon practice is not to forget concentration and awareness of the hwadu at all times; this advice was aimed at monks or lay Buddhists alike. In order to be in that state, the best way is to keep the doubt about hwadu alive for it is this big doubt which brings realization and it can be said that the possibility of breaking through is directly related to the amount of doubt that the practitioner can maintain. In fact, without doubt nobody can reach the state of enlightenment. Normally, there are several hindrances during the practice of hwadu. The first of these is a lack of doubt and the second is having too little knowledge of hwadu. The third is the necessity of a desperate mind, one that can therefore concentrate on the hwadu for if there is not this desperation then the practice cannot be maintained. In addition, concentration must be carried out with a full heart; only this is the way and there is no other. One danger: if practitioners indulged in their own insights, they will suffer from various diseases of the mind. 


He had the habit of saying to meditating monks, “Cut off all relationship to the outside world and just keep your mind empty.” When he was asked the question, “How can we keep to our ordinary life if we follow your teaching?” he would reply, “You just do it, but without any intention when you are doing it.” And he added, “Eat in order to keep the body healthy and not just to feed your belly,” “Go without noticing you are going,” and “Live to practice,” “Do not stick to tasty food, it just makes you to go to the toilet.” Sometimes he was told the people may say that we earn money in order to have good food. Then he would answer them, “We were not born to eat but for another clear reason. We were born into this life in order to practice Seon and to find our True Self. Furthermore we are here to pay back our past lives’ bad karma. Therefore, our duty in this life is to follow our karmic relationships and to diligently practice so as to find ourselves.” This was one of his favorite sayings.


He would often remark, “If you understand this teaching, then you will never envy anybody. Do not envy good-looking people, don’t envy wealth, prosperity, or intelligence for the knowledge that you learn from society is not true knowledge. Even though you keep on learning up to your last breath, you know nothing. For instance, even when you hear such simple words as ‘this is the sky’ or ‘this is your mind,’ you do not really know what the sky is or what the mind is.” He emphasized that knowing common knowledge is not true knowledge. He would say, “The scholars do not know even one-tenth about themselves. In addition none of us knows what will happen in the next second. We all know this fact very well.” He added, “We do not even know why we eat rice! How can we therefore say that we know others! We insist that the knowledge which we have learned in our delusion is right. But, we actually know nothing.”


He would say that happiness is nowhere in the world; it is merely words. Only after knowing what the mind is can a person enjoy true happiness. In order to be inspired, we must practice hwadu intensively all the time. And he often told people, “Even though you have a job, you should investigate hwadu eagerly because by raising continual, you may find your True Self.

Seo-Ong sunim’s dabee ceremony on Dec 19.

All Beings were One in the midst of Mandarava Flowers falling from heaven.

I was on the first bus to Baek-yang-sa Temple, where the spiritual leader Suh-Ong Keun sunim’s dabee (monastic cremation) would be held on December 19. More than 220 lay buddhists and some monks from Jogyesa Temple left Seoul on five buses, at two o’clock in the morning. Outside the night was very cold, but inside, the bus was filled with lay believers eager to attend the funeral and dabee ceremony.

When we arrived there at six, a snowy white world welcomed us. The snow was already heaped up to our ankles and it was still snowing. It has been said the name of the temple – Baek-yang – came from the white rocks surrounding the temple. Snow added even more appropriateness to the name.

The funeral ceremony started with the Dharma bell being struck five times in front of the Main Hall at eleven o’clock. At that time the snow had stopped, and the blue sky showed. After the funeral, twenty-four monks carried the bier to the dabee place, and tens of thousands of monks and lay people followed them with hundreds of poles carrying flags, on which a funeral ode was written, and recollecting Sakyamuni Budda’s name in unified voice, continuously. Eventually it got dark again, and the mandarava flowers came down sporadically.

At first it looked unreal to me. But it was real.
The snow seemed to be blessings from Indra’s net, to welcome Kun sunim to the West Pure Land. Death was not sorrow; it was blessings like mandarava flowers. Death and Life were not two at that moment. Everything was one, in snow. Monks, breaking their winter retreat, from meditation halls across the country, came there. The whole scene reminded me that Suh-Ong Keun sunim was also preaching his message of “true person of no position (muwijinin)” to us without words.

We were here not only to miss and mourn, but also to commemorate and celebrate his Parinirvana in the midst of falling mandarava flowers.
His nirvana will be another moment to arouse the minds of all four groups of buddhist believers. Viva Parinirvana!

Please give a detailed explanation of “wi”(position) and “in”(person) in “muwijinin”. Is it the body that “in” refers to?

“Muwijinin” refers to “the person without position”. People who take the material world they see as reality cannot live apart from life and death, true and false, and other opposites. “Wi” refers to this mistaken perception. When this misperception is overcome the real inexistence of “wi” becomes apparent. The true self or the “true person of no position” is without birth and death and opposites. This is “in”.

– from the Interview with Suh-Ong Sunim in “Empty House”
written by Chris Verebes –

Seo-ong Sangsun ( 1912 ~ 2003 )


Regarded as “Korea’s Linji,” Master Seo-ong devoted his life’s work to advocating the “True Person” (chamsaram) religious movement.
Master Seo-ong was born into the house of a Confucian scholar as an only son on October 10, 1912, in Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do Province. At the age of 6, he lost his father, and then ten years later, in 1928, while attending Yangjeong, one of Seoul’s most prestigious high schools, he received word of his mother’s passing. With her death, he keenly felt life’s impermanence and from this point forward he harbored a great sense of doubt about life. During the Japanese colonial occupation, worried about the days to come facing his pitiable homeland, he happened to read Gandhi’s autobiography and developed a deep connection with Buddhism. During that time, he heard a sermon given by the head of Buddhist propagation, the Venerable Daeeun, and gradually he came to the decision that he would be ordained. In 1932, he graduated from Yangjeong High School and entered the Central Buddhist College (the present day Dongguk University). Even after his entrance into college, he remained at some remove from his peers, and his desire to become a monk did not diminish. Thus, that year he was introduced by Master Daeeun to Master Manam at Baekyangsa Monastery under whose direction he was ordained.
At the age of 23, in 1935, Master Seo-ong, after graduating from the Central Buddhist College, worked at Baekyangsa as a lecturer in English. Then, in 1937, he spent two years as a student of Master Hanam at Cheongnyang Meditation Hall (Seonwon) in Mt. Odaesan, absorbed in the study of Seon meditation. There he met a student who was studying in Kyoto, Japan, at Rinzai University (present day Hanazono University) and his urge to study abroad intensified. Finally, in 1939 at the age of 28, he enrolled at Rinzai University and spent his days studying and his nights practicing Zen meditation at the Rinzai sect’s Myoushin-ji Temple. In addition, he also developed an intimate friendship with Professor Hisamatsu Shinichi, one of the world’s leading authorities on Zen philosophy. In 1941, he graduated from Rinzai University and in his doctoral thesis True Self, he pointed out the errors in the Zen theory of the Japanese Buddhist scholars Nishita Kitaro and Tanabe Hajime. As a result, his work became part of the curriculum at Rinzai University and he received unstinting praise from the Japanese intelligentsia.
Following his graduation from Rinzai University, Master Seo-ong participated in a three-year meditation retreat at Myoushin-ji and then in 1944 he returned to Korea and began serious Seon meditation practice. He entered into meditation together with the esteemed Master Hyanggok, and in particular, while training in Anjeongsa Monastery in Tongyeong together with Master Seongcheol, his study saw immense progress. Following this, for the next twenty years he gave his undivided attention to his practice, training at many Meditation Halls across the country.
In 1962, at the age of 50, he became the first Seon Master of the newly opened University Meditation Hall at Dongguk University. Then, in 1964, after becoming the first Master of the Mumungwan (a meditation hall where one only engages in Seon practice and is not allowed to leave the temple) at Cheonchuksa, he served as head Seon master at the meditation halls of various other temples, including Donghwasa, Baekyangsa and Bongamsa. In 1974, at the age of 63, he served as the 5th Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and that same year he received and honorary doctorate degree from the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. In 1978, even after retiring from his position as Patriarch, he served as Master of various meditation halls. In 1996, he restored the Gobul Chongnim(Monastic Compound) headquartered at Baekyangsa that had gone defunct during the Japanese colonial period, assuming the position of head Seon master and continuously instructing numerous disciples.
In 1998 and 2000, under the leadership of Master Seo-ong, the 1st and 2nd Open Seon Assembly were held at Baekyangsa of the Gobul Chongnim, dedicated to reaffirming Korea’s Patriarchal Seon tradition. An “Open Seon Assembly” (muchaseonhoe) is a meeting where all people from all walks of life, whether monks or common people, men or women, old or young, noble or base, are equally allowed access to hear dharma sermons and engage in dialogue with the Masters. In doing this, Master Seo-ong had revived a practice that had been interrupted for over one hundred years.
On December 12, 2003, Master Seo-ong, who had expanded his Imje Seon inspired “True Person” movement throughout the nation, gathered the abbot and monks of Baekyangsa and said “I have to go now.” Assuming the same jwatal immang (dying while is a seated meditation pose) position as his Master Manam, he then passed into nirvana.
Master Seo-ong’s literary output includes the Imjerok Yeonui (Commentary on the Records of Linji)(1974), Jeoldae Hyeonjaeui Chamsaram (The True Person of the Absolute Present) (1988), Seo-ong Seonsa Beopeojip vol. I and II (The Dharma Talks of Seon Master Seo-ong) (1998), and others. In particular, after the publishing of the Imjerok Yeonui, Linji Seon thought became the basis of the Korean Seon school, set upon the foundation of the Patriarchal Seon tradition.
Doctrinal Distinction
Whenever Master Seo-ong’s name is spoken, it is always accompanied by a mention of the “True Person.” While he studied abroad in Japan, Master Seo-ong studied the Linji Lu, a text by Linji Yixuan, the founder of the Chinese Linji Chan sect. His mind was captivated in the phrase, muwi jinin (An Authentic Person of No Status) and he took this phrase on as his lifelong hwadu. What is meant by muwi jinin is that such dichotomies as sacred and profane, delusion and awakening, noble and base, and time and space are all transcended by the true self, with which nothing remains unconnected.
Master Seo-ong saw this “true self” as a state of non-discrimination and it was this concept that served as the focus of the muwi jinin idea of Linji. It is the awakening to the origin of this “true person” that is itself the “True Person.” With no thing newly awakened to, this is the original being of a genuine human. Master Seo-ong also saw that the “true person” originally is without distinctions between life and death, man and woman, young and old, good and evil, sentient beings and Buddhas, the universe, time and space. The “True Person” movement advocated by the Master was his way of taking a step beyond the thinking of muwi jinin.
“The seat of a ‘true person’ refers to a stage in which time, space, and even the unconscious is transcended. However, it is not something that lies outside of precisely this space of the dialogue that we now share. The shortcut that leads to this ‘true person’ is exactly Patriarchal Seon.”
The master went on to define the essence of Patriarchal Seon: “this is the search for the true likeness of the perfectly free human being, permeating the conscious and unconscious, permeating the totality as a perfect interfusion without obstruction.”
Within Master Seo-ong’s practice methods of as well, Seon meditation was placed at the pinnacle, and he emphasized that Seon was always a “practice aimed at the awakening to our true countenance of intrinsic compassion.” His emphasis on Seon was owing to his belief that it was only be becoming “true people” that we could overcome the accumulated ills of the modern age and that it was through Seon meditation that this genuine life could be made possible.
Master Seo-ong located the ills of modern society within the breakdown of human character and discipline brought on by the development of scientific civilization. He explained that the other side of the material convenience and abundance created by the western scientific civilization based on the philosophy of greed and desire is the subjugation and destruction of humanity and nature that this culture also brings forth. The final outcome of this, according to Master Seo-ong, is that humans are reduced eventually to slaves and both the social order and the environment are brought to destruction.
“Buddhism treats humanity as dignified life that transcends time and space. Human existence must search for that supremely vivacious place where we can find our fundamental identity. This is the culmination of the ‘true person,’ the condition of ilda wonyung, “the perfect interpenetration of one and all,” that combines the unlimited universe into one. It is only in awakening to the fact that humanity and the natural world are not two, that one can save both humanity and the world as well.”
Noting that though all people are “true persons” they must actualize this reality, he published a pamphlet in 1996 titled, “The Door to the True Person Association.” Together with an explanation of what a “true person” was, the end of this pamphlet included a pledge that crystallized Master Seo-ong’s spirit.
“Let’s put the life of compassion into practice. Let’s create a history of the human race living peacefully and equally. Let’s establish a world that loves beauty, acting righteously, knowing sincerely and without any attachments how to respect and help one another.”

Clean off the mirrors in our minds

As the Venerable Seongcheol taught us, in these treacherous times, we must always stay awake.
November 05, 2006

Early in the morning on Nov. 4, 1993, the Venerable Seongcheol of the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order passed away. He died at the age of 82, 58 years after he was accepted as a Buddhist monk.
Seongcheol used to meditate sitting up all night. It was probably due to this prolonged Buddhist training that he preferred to leave the world while meditating in a sitting-upright position.
The monk’s meals were simple and plain. He didn’t use salt and his side dishes were only several pieces of crown daisy leaves, five pieces of thinly sliced carrots and one-and-a-half spoonfuls of marinated black beans. He also ate soup consisting of sliced potatoes and carrots, together with a small bowl of rice, enough food for a small child. Moreover, he took only half a bowl of plain gruel instead of rice for breakfast.

Some people might call it the “original well-being diet,” but it was apparent that Seongcheol did not dine in this manner because he wanted to lead a healthy life.
When he ate, he did not want to indulge. Seongcheol said there were more people who were “eaten by food” than people who “ate” food. If people mix up the purpose and the means to achieve it, it becomes routine for people to cheat others, then get cheated themselves in return.
Seongcheol used to say, in his rough South Gyeongsang province dialect, “Don’t cheat!”
By this, he meant to say that we should not cheat others or ourselves. One who cheats others is like a pickpocket, but deceiving oneself is like being a burglar.
However, people who live without knowing they are robbers, deceive themselves. It is because they cannot see their genuine identity. They cannot see themselves properly because the mirror in their mind is obscured by tons of dust on the surface. So, we must clear the dust away from the mirror in our minds.
The Venerable Seongcheol used to hold firmly and meditate, throughout his whole life, on the topic, “What is this?”

Asking the question, “What is this?” to oneself clears off the mirror in one’s mind. After all, it’s a struggle not to cheat ourselves by pursuing our genuine self. The monk also said, “If the whole volume of 80,000 wooden blocks of the Tripitaka Koreana kept in Haein Temple were summed up, it could be just one Chinese character, sim, which means mind.” He also said, “Even if we wear worn-out clothes, we should not let our minds wear out.”

Seongcheol preached about three kinds of diseases, the ones caused by money, sex and the desire to become a celebrity. Among the three, the most dreadful is a disease caused by the desire to become a celebrity. If one were to catch a disease caused by the desire for money or sex, people around him would see him critically.

But when one is caught by the disease of the desire to become a celebrity, people give applause and cheers to flatter him, although they are reluctant to do so.
Therefore, the disease caused by the desire to become a celebrity becomes a chronic one that cannot be easily cured.

After all, the celebrity disease prevents one from seeing himself or herself clearly as a result of the cycle of cheating and being cheated.
If we see ourselves clearly after cleaning the mirror in our minds, we will find the gold mine that is within ourselves and find that we are pure gold ourselves.
Trying to find a gold mine, leaving the one in ourselves neglected, is like saying that one has no money although he lives in a house made of gold.
As the Venerable Seongcheol said, happiness is not what one receives or gives, but rather what we create in our mind.

Therefore, we must do our best to create happiness. If we exert with all of our efforts, help from others will follow. If we fail, it is due to a lack of effort. There is no fate that can’t be overcome.
It has already been a long time since the Venerable Seongcheol passed away, but his teachings are still alive and awaken us like the whip that Buddhist monks use to wake up monks who fall asleep during meditation.

In this era of confusion where people cheat others and are being cheated, and even North Korean agents stalk the streets, we must stay awake, even when being hit with the whip.
And let’s not be devoured on the dining table of this treacherous era, but prepare a new table for a new era so that we ourselves and our descendants will dine properly.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong

1 Letters Exchanged between Master Seongcheol, Prof. Bieder and Layman Gyutae Son
2 Clean off the mirrors in our minds
3 The Correct Path of Seon
4 Words of Blessings – Keeping the Precepts Is Genuine Purity
5 Words of Blessings – Universal Law Is Buddhist Dharma
6 Words of Blessings – Look at the Great Light
7 Words of Blessings – A World Filled with Peace
8 Words of Blessings – The Red Sun Rises High
9 Words of Blessings – Listen to the Eternal sound of the Bell
10 Words of Blessings – Greedless Harmony
11 Words of Blessings – The True Nature of Life
12 Words of Blessings – Take a good look at yourself
13 Words of Blessings – The Middle Way is Buddha
14 Words of Blessings – Since there is this, there is that
15 Words of Blessings – Noble Buddha
16 Words of Blessings – Happy Birthday
17 Words of Blessings – Searchang for Water in water
18 On “Dharmas are neither produced nor extinguished”
19 Broadly Cultivated Offerings
20 On Meditation
21 The Word of the Spirit
22 Eaith is Your Holy Land
23 The One Vehicle and Expedients
24 “No Mind” is Buddha
25 The Three Jewels
26 Respect All as Buddha
27 Questions from Followers
28 Toeong Seongcheol

Toeong Seongcheol ( 1912 ~ 1993 )


Master Seongcheol, standing as one of the most influential Seon Masters in the history of modern Korean Buddhism, through his exhaustive Seon spirit and his easily understood dharma lectures, led the public to a deeper, broader, and popularized understanding of Seon Buddhism. His ordination name was Toeong and his dharma name Seongcheol.



Master Seongcheol was born in Sancheong-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do Province in 1912, the eldest son of an upstanding scholarly clan. His secular name was Yi Yeongju. During the early years of his life, he contemplated the fundamental questions of life, and though he read voraciously the profound philosophical and intellectual works that spanned history and cultures, he could bring no end to his anxiety. During this period, he read a book recommended by an elder monk, The Song of Enlightenment (Zhengdaoge) written by the early Tang Chan master Xianjue of Yongjia, and it brought about the opening of his mind’s eye. Following in this vein, he went to Daewonsa Monastery, and as a secular practitioner, he immersed himself in the investigation of the “MU” hwadu while practicing Seon meditation deep into the night. While moving or at rest, without exception he became absorbed within a state of consistency of thought through movement or stillness” (dongjeong iryeo). Soon afterwards, while Master Seongcheol was practicing Seon meditation at the Toeseoldang Hall at Haeinsa Monastery, he decided to ordain, and in March 1936, at the age of 24, he was tonsured under Master Dongsan.


Following this, he served Master Yongseong and participated in retreats at various meditation halls (Seonwon) around the country, including Wonhyoam Hermitage at Beomeosa and Baengnyeonam Hermitage at Haeinsa. Then, in 1940, at the age of 28, he experienced a major awakening during the summer retreat in the Geumdang Seonwon at Donghwasa. After this awakening experience, he entered his famous eight-year long period of jangjwa burwa. Jangjwa bulwa refers to the practice of sitting for a long period of time while never lying down, specifically entering the lotus position of Seon meditation and remaining in that state with minimal interruption. Following this, in an effort to examine the state of his own awakening, he went on a wandering pilgrimage, and then in 1947 at the age of 35, with the attitude of “living like the Buddha’s dharma,” he founded an intensive practice community at Bongamsa. This community aimed at resuscitating the traditional regulations of Korean monastery system (chongnim) as well as the original spirit of the Korean Seon Buddhist lineage amidst the degradation inflicted under the Japanese colonial regime. Truly, it was through this association that the principles determining the modern shape of Korean Buddhism were established, and the monks who participated in this group would later become the representative figures of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism’s Seon spirit.


The inception of the Korean War in 1950 brought the dissolution of this association and Master Seongcheol once again began a pilgrimage participating in retreats at numerous meditation halls around the country. It was around this time, in a valley in front of Anjeong-sa Monastery in South Gyeongsangnam-do Province, that he constructed the Cheonjegul Grotto and led the believers who had come to see him in a practice of doing three-thousand prostrations. No matter who came to see him, young or old, business magnates or government officials, before he would do anything with them they first had to do three-thousand prostrations in front of the Buddha. The reason he ordered every one of his followers without exception to partake in this practice originated in the desire to get each of them to see themselves directly and to cultivate their minds to remove their own impurities. It was within the physical suffering felt in the knees and backs during the constant bending of the prostrations that this process could naturally take place. In 1955, at that age of 43, he went to Seongjeonam Hermitage at Pagyesa Monastery, where he used barbed wire to seal off the grounds of the hermitage and again entered a period of jangjwa burwa, abstaining completely from going outside for 10 years.


In 1967, he assumed the position of the first Patriarch of the Haeinsa Monastic Compound (Haein Chongnim) and he held dharma talks for the entire sangha of lay and monastic practitioners for 100 days. This was his famous “100 days Dharma Sermon.” During this period, he clarified that the truth of Buddhism was in the middle path between Seon and Gyo (doctrinal study), elucidated the traditional tenets of the Seon school with the teaching of “sudden enlightenment, sudden cultivation” (dono donsu) in addition to explaining that the truth of “neither arising, nor ceasing” (bulsaeng bulmyeol) was also proven within the constructs of atomic physics and quantum mechanics. Through this 100 days sermon, by using the Buddha’s “middle path” teaching, an idea representative of the grand achievement of the Buddha’s thinking, Master Seongcheol presented a new perspective on Buddhism to the Korean Buddhist society, no matter whether one followed the Seon or Gyo tradition.


In 1981, when he was at the age of 69, in assuming the role of the Seventh Patriarch of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism’, he raised interest in the secular world with his Buddhist phrase uttered at his inauguration, “Mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers,” and this phrase could even be heard on the lips of common folk around the nation. Even after his ascension to the position of Patriarch, he never left his abode in the mountains, and if one wanted to see him, regardless of one’s social status, one was still ordered to first do three-thousand prostrations, upon which he’d offer a dharma saying that shed light to the dim eyes of his guests.


In 1991, he was re-elected to his position, becoming the Eight Patriarch of the Jogye Order, and returned to Haeinsa where he would live a reclusive life until his passing into nirvana. There, he would encourage his practitioners to study diligently, yelling at them when they’d neglect to practice even a little bit: “Pay for your temple meal then, you thief!” Stubbornly persistent in living like this, as a mountain monk, he would finally enter into nirvana at the Toeseoldang on November 4, 1993. He was 81 years old and had spent 59 years in the sangha.



Master Seongcheol’s literary output is combined in the eleven volume compendium of his Buddhist sermons. This is comprised of the two volumes of his Baegil Beommun (100 Days Dharma Sermon), Seonmun Jeongno Pyeongseok (Commentaries on the True Path of the Seon Gate), Dono ipdoyo-munnon gangseol (Discourse on the Theory of the Essential Practice to Enter the Gate of Sudden Enlightenment), Sinsimmyeong Jeungdoga Gangseol (Discourses on the Xinxinming and the Zhengdaoge) , Yeongwonhan Jayu (Eternal Freedom), Jagi reul Baro Bopsida (Let’s Look at Ourselves Correctly), Donhwangbon Yukjo Dangyeong (The Dunhuang version of the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch), Seonmun Jeongno (The True Path of the Seon Gate), Bonji Punggwang (The Natural Beauty of the Original State) and Hanguk Bulgyoeui Beommaek (The Dharma Lineage of Korean Buddhism),which traces the intellectual origin and lineage of the “sudden enlightenment, sudden practice” theory in Korean Buddhism. In a 1976 book, he made a proposal to then Patriarch Master Seo-ong to alter the charter of the Jogye Order, with the consistent emphasis that Taego Bou should be enshrined as the founder of the order. Beyond this, he wrote a book that picked out the most necessary Seon sayings for the practice of Seon, written in vernacular Korean in the 37 volume Seollim Gogyeong Chongseo (The Ancient Mirror of the Seon Grove)


Doctrinal Distinction

Master Seongcheol’s Seon thinking is best presented in the 100 days Dharma sermon he offered on his assumption to the position of the first Patriarch of the Haeinsa Monastic Compound (Haein Chongnim) in 1967. Through these sermons, Seongcheol organized a wide scattering of Buddhist doctrine, and in rectifying the lineage of the Jogye Order, he offered a new analysis of the core of the Seon school’s thought. These teachings can be largely summarized in three main points.


The first is the assertion that the Buddha’s theory of reincarnation was not simply an expedient means, but an established theory that we must believe in. Owing to the fact that samsara, the continuous flow of life and death in accordance with karma, is the most fundamental of Buddhist concepts, he said we must firmly believe in it.


Second is his assertion that Buddhism is a scientific religion. Using Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and his E=mc2 formula as examples, he explained the Buddhist saying of “form is emptiness, emptiness is form” in a logical manner. He noted that the idea that mass is converted to energy and energy to mass, both neither increasing nor decreasing, is a teaching of the Buddha stated explicitly as the “dharma realm,” and that the continued development of science has proven this to be a precise fact.


The third idea is the the Buddha’s teaching lies in the middle path. Like good and evil, mass and energy, flowing into oneness, every contradiction is harmonized into a singularity.


In addition, as Master Seongcheol ardently emphasized the teaching of “sudden enlightenment, sudden cultivation” (dono donsu), he criticized Master Jinul’s “sudden enlightenment, gradual cultivation” (dono jeomsu) teaching. He said that the “sudden enlightenment” of each respective teaching were actually not the same and that they stemmed from differing perspectives. To him, the enlightenment of “sudden enlightenment, gradual cultivation” was nothing but “learned knowledge,” and he labeled this as the type of awakening that could never lead to a genuine awakening. To put it another way, “sudden enlightenment, gradual cultivation” was a poor expression. If we wish to be precise, we should say “understanding and awakening, then gradual cultivation” (haeo jeomsu). It is clear then that the constant “gradual cultivation” practice meant to bring about an ultimate awakening was thus naturally something altogether different than that within the situation of “understanding and awakening” (haeo).


According to Master Seongcheol, he argued that though Master Bojo Jinul did advocate “sudden enlightenment, gradual cultivation” in his early work, his Jeoryo (Excerpts from the Dharma Collection and Special Practice Record), written immediately before his death, clearly states that the practice of “sudden enlightenment, gradual cultivation” corresponded to the teachings of the Gyo (doctrinal study) school and was not part of the Seon tradition.


Beyond this, Master Seongcheol noted also that the practice of Buddhist mass that is commonly thought of as something done for one’s own peace and profit, was something altogether different from the volunteer service done for others that is emphasized in the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. Put simply, a “Buddhist mass” is nothing more than helping others, not just beating a wooden gong (moktak) asking to be given a long life and many blessings. Moreover, he said that a monastery is a place for teaching this “Buddhist mass,” not a place where the “Buddhist mass” is given. Therefore, he said that we needed to solve the mundane problems of our lives on our own and that “prayer” needed to be done for the sake of others, this being the “attitude of a true religious person.”

Hye-Am (1886-1985)

Venerable Master Hye-Am(1886-1985),Successor of the 76th Korean Son patriarch, Venerable Master Mann-Gong of Dok-Sung Mountain

Venerable Master Hye-Am was born Soon-Chon(the follower of heaven), the only son of three generations of only sons. He wes born in the Yellow Sea(Hwang-Hae)Province, of Sea-Moon County, in the Sea- Rock City, just north of Seoul, Korea on January 5, 1886. These names imply Buddha(i.e., the sea), Mind (i.e.,the moon), and Sangha (i.e., the rock where the temple or shrine is). By the lunar calendar it was December 1, 2429.
The day of Soon-Chon’s birth, in a dream, an unnamed Bodhisattva, riding a white elephant, emerged from the sky’s edge and descended to the location of his expectant mother. At the spot was a holy rock adorned with flowers and jewels. Upon this rock the Bodhisattva sat and entered Samadhi. After sitting for some time he arose, reached deeply into his chest, and brought out a jar of holy milk. He handed it to the woman-with-child, then disappeared. Later that morning while his mother gave suddenly appeared from no-where, hovered above the house, and steadfastly for some time.

His father died when Soon-Chon was ten (1896). At that same age, he had a chance to visit the Hung-guk temple in Yangju City Kyonggi Province. As soon as he entered through its gate, he insisted on remaining at the temple. He behaved as one who, after aeons of searching, had, at last. found his home. Who could have even imagined that that would be the last day of his worldly life. Finally, his mother had to move into the temple as well.

At age fourteen (1900), he became a monk under Po-Am S’nim and thereafter remained the monk named Song-Am (rock of Self-nature). Song-Am S’nim never received a formal education and thus, throughout his life, relied on others to read write for him.
At age sixteen(1902) his mother passed away and he became very lonely. Orphaned and feeling great sorrow and depression, he set out on an endless journey. For over six years he was a hobo-style monk, employing charity chanting to beg for food, clothes, and money. Wherever mind led, wherever foot stopped, one tattered cloth and spindly staff was all his life:

With one tattered and spindly staff
Travelled east and west; it was endless.
If someone asked, “Where have you travelled?”
Everywhere in the world has been all-encompassing.

At age twenty-two (1908) he heard, for the first time, about Son meditation and raised the great faith. Giving up his endless journey, he attended the seasonal retreats in Diamond Mountain, in Myo-Hyang (Profound Incense) Mountain, and others, in order to do the original task of the sramana (Buddhist priest).

After four years had passed and his study had not progressed, he realized that the expected results of further study would require a teacher. In 1911 the Master Song-Wol in Tongdo Temple gave him a Hwa-du(Kong-an) and in the same year he had a chance to meet the Venerable Master Mann-Gong in Sudok-Sa.

Yesterday was new spring, today is already autumn. Yearly, daily, monthly, it flows like valley streams. Looking for fame and fortune, Returning gray-haired before the desires were accomplished.

He began realize what the right teacher could do, and it was becoming apparent to him what the only task for a human-being was. How lucky!

Even parents are not close.
if asked who the closest is,
Blind tortoise and one gimp-legged turtle.

Hye-Am S’nim’s first meeting with Venerable Master Hye-Wol and Master Yong-Song was also very significant. “Without them,” he commented, “how could I am?”

Blind tortoise met the wood-board in the ocean;
The meeting with superior mind in the Eagle’s Peak
(Where Buddha held up the lotus flower).

Master Mann-Gong was a great, powerful master, while Master Hye-Wol was like a compassionate father or almost a mindless Buddha; but, both were the honey-dew tea of dharma for Hye-Am S’nim. There were many great monks under Mann-Gong. Especially great were Tae-An and Song-Wol (sometimes called Ha’m-Wol), both of whom were actually older than Master Mann-Gong.

Other monks who were related to Master Hye-Am included his well-known colleagues, Jon-Kang, Go-Bong, and Choon-Song. Hye-Am S’nim’s lifelong foundation of enlightenment and sea of great accomplishment included the Venerable Master Yong-Song of O-Dae Mountain, an expert in dodtrinal and patriarchal teachings, as well as other great figures: Mann-Gong, Hye-Wol, Song-Wol, and his closest colleague, Jon-Kang.

Fifteen years passed during which there were continuous retreats and ceaseless re-examination for Hye-Am S’nim. Finally, on the day of Master Mann-Gong’s bifthday. April 18, 1929 (March 7th, 2473), when Hye-Am S’nim was forty-three, the Master was at Sudok-Sa and recalled everyone in the mountain. He cheerfully rolled up his sleeves, filled his brush with ink, and without hesitation, composed the following patriarchal transmission Gatha on silk to Hye-Am S’nim:

To: Son Master Hye-Am (Wisdom Hut)

Clouds and mountains are not the same or different,
Also has no great family tradition:
This, the wordless seal
Transmitting to you, Hye-Am.

From: Mann-Gong: Wol-Myon (Moon Face)
March 7th, 2473rd year from Buddha
(April 18, 1929)

This patriarchal transmission was derived directly from Kyung-Ho and Mann-Gong, both in the modern Korean Buddhest lineage, the ancestry of which goss back to Bodhidharma and includes the Sixth atriarch Hui-Neng (Hye-Nung), and hes lineage of Lin-Chi (Yhm-Je). This Korean lineage, at the end of the Koryo Dynasty, includes the Patriarch Na-Ong (1380-1436) and Chong-Ho (1520-1604) in the Yi Dynasty; after which was a three hundred and fifty year dark age for Korean Buddhism.

After this dark age, however, modern Korean Son Buddhism flourished. We must mention this because it really began with Kyung-Ho S’nim (1849-1912). Just prior to his time, Korean Buddhism was still faded from a lineage that had slept deeply. The great life of Buddhism had been awry until Master Kyung-Ho’s time.

As the 75th generation from Buddha, the 31st from Lin-Chi, and the 12th generation from the Korean Patriarch Chong-Ho, Kyung-Ho S’nim was able to reestablish the foundation of Bodhidharma and the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-Neng. Kyung-Ho S’inm was the modern revival of Korean Son Buddhism. Mann-Gong and Hye-Wol S’nimm were in the first generation after him, but it was to Mann-Gong S’nim (1871-1946) that Master Kyung-Ho transmitted the dharma with the following Gatha:

To: Mann-Gong, the Moon-Face

Cloud, moon, stream, mountain are same everywhere.
‘Tis Mann-Gong Moon-Face’s
(this was Mann-Gong’s monk name) family tradition.
Secretly transmit the wordless seal by sharing with you,
One wonderful power overflows in your unmovable living eye.

From: Kyung-Ho; Sung-Woo (Awakened Ox)
March 27th, 2448th year from Buddha (1904)

When Mann-Gong S’nim, composed the Gatha to Hye-Am S’nim, the direct lineage was suddenly transmitted to Master Hye-Am who, without regard for fame or fortune, continued to just examine day and night. At that time, however, this young “bud of enlightenment” did not understand what had happened, so he immediately asked,
“Master, my study is still far behind; I did not accomplish the great enlightenment. What dharma are you going to transmit to the one who did not yet accmplish the Tao?”
To this question, headmaster Mann-Gong smiled slightly and snswered, “This dharma is a so-called, birthday surprise.”
He, however, did not understand this unexpected, extraordinary surprise, and declared, “There are many good students of yours on this mountain; I am yet the un-perfected bowl.”
Master Mann-Gong suddenly stood up, took out his own bowl from the wall closet and abruptly said,
“If so, then keep this bowl.”
Hye-Am S’nim’s words were severed. Suddenly one aucient phrase dawned on him.

People of the true mind
Have no shape to see and no form at which to look.
word and utterance are severed,
Thought and its abiding place are also annihilated.

Mann-Gong S’nim wrapped up the Gatha in red silk and proclaimed him. No one understood it and no one questioned concerning it.
Who said, The circle does not know the circular?
After receiving the bowl and robe, Hye-Am S’nim continued to study under the great masters, caring for nothing but study. He preserved himself under the re-examination with the Good-and-Wise Ones.
“Only by the power of continuous re-examination, until the moment of death, can one be free from the suffering of Hell. Do not jump into the ocean of life-and-death by haughty foolishness.

Studying without the Master-Mentor is death.
Studying without refinement is insanity.
Studying without re-examination is disease.”

He also said that without a Master-Mentor life is only miserable; worse than having no parents.
Here is a Gatha sung by Ch’an Master Tu-Sun:

A cow in northern city had hay.
A horse in southern city had indigestion.
Looking for a good doctor everywhere,
Treating a pig’s shoulder with burning moxa.

The rewards after continuous refinement and re-examination under the true Master-Mentor have nothing to do with the rewards of this ordinary world’s pursuits. The goal of the homeless one is this invisible work.
One time, an attendant asked the Venerable Master, “By virtue of what seeing can the direct lineage of Buddhas and Patriarchs be transmitted to the one who is not enlightened?”
Master Hye-Am sad,
“Enlightened and not enlightened are just names indicating how they are examining. If you let the word of resolve become the contents of your faith, then that is the enlightenment. If there is no faith in the mind, then the re-examination will be cut off and cause a final entry into the ocean of life-and-death. That is why it is called not enlightened.” -p 31-
This is what the Master Mann-Gong called birth day surprise and the bowl of dharma, which is nothing but the holding bowl of re-examination. Because of that, it is called greatly awakened, not because of a certain enlightenment to be attained.
The Sixth Patriarch said,
Seeing Self-nature is the virtue (of re-examination), Equanimity is its excellence.

The Patriarch once sang a Gatha:

Since re-examining the Buddha-Patriarchs’ words is
The Tathagata’s enlightening mind -as-it-is,

If fire can emerge by rubbing sticks,
Red lotus will definitely bloom in the mud.

When night is deep, dawn is near. When the mind is deep, word is little. When examination is deep, enlightenment is supreme.
By chance, Master Yong-Song once asked the following Kong-an of Master Mann-Gong:
Yong-Song: Tell me, merely departing from speaking silence, movement, and stillness.
Mann-Gong: …..
Yong Song: Is that the Good-Silence?
Mann-Gong: No, not at all.

This dharma discussion was dropped here. Later, Hye-Am S’nim’s life-long colleague, Jon-Kang S’nim, discussed this with Master Mann-Gong.
Jon-Kang: It us as though both of you masters entered the muddy water while strangling each other. -p 33
Mann-Gong: Then how would you respond?
Jon-Kang: What could possibly be said merely departing from speaking, silence, movement, and stillness?
Mann-Gong: Very good. Very good.

Master Hye-Am did not overlook this Kong-an but examined it and had a chance to meet with Master Jon-Kang.
Hye-Am: Do you believe what you said to the Master, “What could possibly be said merely departing from speaking, silence, movement, and stillness,” was right? Since it has something from which to depart, why can’t you say something?
Jon-Kang: ….
Hye-Am: Why don’t you ask me?
Jon-Kang: Tell me, merely departing from speaking, silence, movement, and stillness. “In order to answer this Kong-an you have to discover the moment before entry into the womb.
If someone asked me, ‘What is the discovery of the moment before entry into the womb?’ I would say, Broken glass is non-cohesive.”
He then sang a Gatha:

One word for Speaking silence-movement-stillness, Who could possibly break through it?
If one asked me to comment after departing from them,
I’d say, “Broken glass is non-cohesive.”

Everyone called this the enlightenment Gatha of Master Hye-Am. Every mountain was surprised by this discovery and speechless, like a person who had just slightly awakened from sleep.
As Master Jon-Kang commented, “Patriarchs are nothing but the ones who re-examine Buddha’s words.” Without ceaseless refinement of the Kong-ans, one cannot be claimed as a disciple of Buddha.
After Master Mann-Gong passed away, Sudok-Sa became an empty temple in need of a new head master. Some elder monks recommended Master Hye-Am, but at that time he refused, saying, “To be head master is worse than going to a fiery hell. Why are you concerned with such titles? Why can’t we just study together?”
Within the political turmoil of a new born country on old traditional soil and after the Korean war, Buddhism was no longer an interest of the people. It was worship attended for miracles of escape from anxiety and hunger and by the wealthy for good fortune, while the priesthood brotherhood of landholders under the name of Buddhist work. The abbot of the temple was usually a property manager or landlord. By way of criticism, Venerable Master Mann-Gong once roared out:

What is the dirtiest thing in the world?
Dirtier than dung is the maggot;
Still dirtier than maggots are all abbots in the main temples.

The true students were very few. Korean Buddhist sects became vehicles for achieving fame and wealth.

Thieves were many, feigning mastery:
No good people claimed themselves as students.

When Master Hye-Am, who had never been an abbot of any temple, was nominated as head of Dok-Sung Chonglim (Sudok-Sa Temple affiliates), he bellowed out:

Who wishes to hold the dog’s collar?
It’s hollow gourd.

All the disciples were in utter agreement and appreciation of his discerning assessment of the outside world. The times were topsy-turvy. Rather than monks, many lay people came to see him and a score lf thousands studied; but only sixty lay people, twenty Bhikunis (female monks), and less than a handful of Bhikus (male monks) saw the Selfnature. Most came, not to study, but to accrue a popular affiliation. Verily, the times were such that instead of students looking for a master, a master, the master had to look for the students.
No need to blame the world. This kind of situation was not new; it existed in Buddha’s and Bodhidharma’s times as well as in Kyung-Ho’s time.
Even after becoming disabled from an accident, Master Hye-Am deeply sighed, citing Master Kyung-Ho’s living thunderbolt-in-daylight:

The one word breaking through the empty space,
True voice of giving and snatching away:

Looking around, there is no one;
To whom should I transmit this bowl and robe?

Why is it called bad?
Because of not believing in the dharma.
Why does one receive the sufferings of hell?
Because of not following the word of the Good-and-Wise Ones.
What is the trouble?
Letting thought arise in the mind.
The Master summarized his one hundred years of life with one word: re-examination.

While examining what you have awakened, naturally, the major Hwa-du from Buddhas and Patriarchs will be pierced through.
Even if one has seen the Self-nature, without re-examination, seeing Self-nature will soon be obscured and totally useless.

In the study of Son, the three requisite pillars are great faith, a great bundle of doubt, and great provocation.

To the one who saw the Self-nature,
What else can be the great faith other than re-examination?
To the one who saw the Self-nature,
How possibly can the bundle of doubt not be vivid while in re-examination?
To the one who saw the Self-nature,
Re-examination cannot be perfected without the great provocation.

Because of faith, it examines. Because a bundle of doubt is vivid, it examines. Since the mind is provoked, nothing else can do except re-examination.
Today’s students deal with patriarchal Kong-ans carelessly as if they were children playing with a ball, with the idea that awakening is easy, merely saying, “understood it.”
But the old Master, using his dharma sword, destroyed them mercilessly, which is the same way that all the patriarchs have brightened Buddha’s Teaching by re-examination. That is the patriarchal spirit.
Re-examining the Hwa-do of Buddhas and Patriarchs is the true nature of enlightenment, i.e.,Buddha-as-it-is.
Here is a Gatha sung by Ch’an Master Hwang-Pyok (d. 849):

Liberating ourselves from the six sensual dusts is extraordinary.
Playing tug-of-war while holding tightly the end of the reins;
Without passing through the one time chilled-to-the-bone cold,
How dare exotic plum blossom fragrance reach to the tip of the nose?

This old Good-and-Wise One, already past the dusk of life, eight years before his death, slipped and fell, rendering his hip and knee useless. He barely managed to live with only several spoonfuls of rice in plain hot water; sometimes one spoonful of honey with some pine nuts for nutrition. Food was as simple as his life.
However, layman students and the lines of the laywomen never stopped whether he was in Sudok-Sa Temple, at Non-Dual Shrine in On-Yang City, or in -p45- the Dong-A Hospital in Seoul. Wherever he was, it became the Chonglim; the sitting and the dharma discussions never stopped. It contented him because this was the old Good-and-Wise One’s karmic task. The weakened body, seeing the world as a shadow, was unable to distinguish voice, was unable to distinguish drum and bell. He fell into the soundless abyss; his hearing was like waiting for the echo from the horizon. Several broken teeth protruded like tombstones from his otherwise toothless mouth.
However, even in front of this old, weak, and sick corpse, why did the strong and not knowing what to do?
Why? Why?
Why could someone else have strong teeth, a better and healthier jaw, and yet not open it? Why?

What did they see?
What could they not see?

In contrast, as goes the ordinary world, people are only interested in power and gold; and the Korean Buddhist sects were no different. In fact, they were the monsters who only looked after the benefit of their own family members and pursued power with the Outlaw Kingdom. Through the eyes of power holders, Master Hye-Am was just a helpless monk -p47- and an irascible old fellow. However, even for this kind of criticism, the Master scolded his attendants who spoke ill of those people.

“After all, dragon lives among snakes!
Mind which better condition is wicked.

If you pursue something outside, then already you have slain the Buddhas and Patriarchs, not to mention having lost your life.
Do not become a follower of them; while you debase them, you become the same kind of indigent-being. While you criticize them, you become a disciple of devils.

Talking hard; useless, ’til blood pours from the throat.
Prefer shut mouth for the rest of life.”

Study, Study, and again Study!
Once the great Son Master Na-Ong sang a Gatha:

The primary concern of Son is faith;
Study carefully but sharpen it more enthusiastically.
When the bundle of doubt is pierced through unexpectedly,
Mud-ox ploughing in the farm at the entrance of Aeon.

Days and months were faster than thunderbolt, knowing that his time would soon come.
He urged,
Ask without delay.
Nineteen eighty-four, this old Good-and-Wise One became Korean Ancient Buddha who lived twenty years more than Buddha.
On one of the hottest days in Sudok-Sa Temple, Master Hye-Am recalled all of the students to review one-by-one. He called his attendant, Myo-Bong:

In this soil, seeds are sufficient,
The West will be the new fountain.
Quickly but secretly proceed!
Not easy to spread the true Teaching.

“Where can you go with your health?”
“Teaching of the seeing the Self-nature cannot be delayed by any means. This is a first in history. There are some who, under the name of Zen, gather the people and teach the Sutras, or raise the fist and make the Hal(shout), or compose the Gathas without knowing even how to distinguish between black and white; all the while claiming themselves to be teachers of Zen life, of Zen chanting, or even proclaiming themselves to be paatriarchs. However, no one does direct teaching of the Buddha-Patriarchs’ Hwa-du work, by which one sees the Self-nature.
I have been waiting for this opportunity for over twenty years and I cannot postpone it.
Claiming themselves to be enlightened; gathering the people everywhere; but, hungry students have nothing to eat. Imitating their teacher as a cub somersaulting, what will be their excuse on the Day of Judgement?

One who knows has word.
One who speaks cannot know.

Not knowing how to teach the disciples, their disease will become critical. Both teachers and disciples will become descendents of the devil.
One mink who resides in America said,
‘There are many different books published on Byddhism. Many kindw of prescriptions have been introduced, but, there is no real doctor who can properly determine how to treat the patients!’
Let’s pack up! Accomplish it as soon as possible.

Like a mouse-catching cat.
Like a birth-giring mother.

If it fails this time, there is no hope for the Buddha-dharma in the West.”
Leaving behind all the deceitful gossip and insults owing to jealousy, this old Good-and-Wise One still eagerly did his work in order to repay all the Buddhas.

Twenty-seventh day of November in 2528 (1984),
Finally faith reached ultimate peak where “faith” is no longer.
An ancient trace of Kyung-Ho and Mann-Gong; the highest teaching of mankind, Have moved to the western world to be begetter of the beginning.

Finally, the wicked ones shut their mouths for a while to find out what was going on, but the ignorant ones continued the chattering of debasement behind his back. This old Good-and-Wise One was accomplishing his only purpose: whatever the cost, he would direct seeing the Self-nature to the world.
Around scenic Los Angeles there were many communities: industrial, educational, and especially excellent scientists and artists, and many religiously open-minded people. Just south of Los Angeles, in Orange County, there were at least three million people of upper intelligence from South East Asia, Northern Europe, England, and South America. Truly, some might say that America was the “Department of the Human Race.”

One journalist, originally from Denmark, was -p55- asked to come and interview this oldest and highest Korean Buddhist leader. She published this historic event. Everyday many visitors, sometimes thirty or forty, came to see him. During the three months he was in America, about one thousand people were interviewed. Among them, three or four, after several interviews, reached high levels of dharma understanding. They were given dharma names and encouraged by the Master to accomplish the Buddhahood, But, what heavy work for this old body!
A one hundred-year-old international birthday party was held and still he continued to see the people. Finally he became dramatically weak and could not swallow even a grain of rice. This far journey to the West was new explained.
“I am ready to depart from you.”
“When are you going?”
When the temple bell crown is softened.
“To where are you going?”
To the fiery hell.
Afterward, what should we do?
“If I die in the city, put this corpse in the hearse, carry it to the mortuary, and cremate it immediately. If I depart from this world in the mountain, do not even make a coffin, but rather carry my body just like a coffin, but rather carry my body just like a dried piece of wood and cremate it with a bowl of gasoline. After the cremation, return to the main altar, burn one piece of incense and prostrate three times. Then, go to the altar of spirits (for the deceased ones) and again burn one stick of incense and chant The Heart Sutra one time. Do not waste any materials for my body.
Also, I would not produce any sarira from my body, because I do not even respect Buddha’s sarira. Even if sarira were produced, it would not be the same kind as Buddha had. If something emerges from this corpse, immediately bury or scatter it. If anyone gathers my ashes, builds a pagoda or a mausoleum, he will be my worst enemy.
Sarira originally were to be examined by the Good-and-Wise One with the true dharma eye. If the Good-and-Wise One perceives them in his palm with the dharma eye, the licentious sarira will become bloody pus, and greedy sarira will become a snake or serpent. The ignorant sarira will become a snake or serpent. The ignorant sarira will become a wandering ghost. The ignorant sarira will become a wandering ghost. Only the sarira examined by the master of the brightened-eye can be acknowledged as the true sarira.
Even if there is the true sarira, including Buddha’s whole body sarira, one should not ct,respe bow, or pray in front of them, for all of these behaviors will be the main karmic cause of entering the hell. Prayers, bows, and displays of respect are derived from attachment to the truth of all that Buddha taught us.

Whatever has the form
As a whole, is all delusory.
There is no definite substance;
Even illusion has no definite illusion.

This is The Dharma-of-Formlessness.

By not assuming the form, one will coincide with the Saint.
Departing from each and every form is called,
Enlightened-One (Buddha).

Now, listen to my own Gatha:

At the summit of Buddha’s and Patriarchs’ peak,
Ancient buried sarira have been disclosed.
Instead of seeing one’s own sarira,
Everyone busily scurries after them.
I just carefully looked at Buddha’s sarira,
Buddha is not in sarira.
Even though sarira came from the Buddha,
Buddha-of-seeing is watching Buddha’s sarira.

Therefore, from now on, people of the True-Mind should strive hard, alert and bright, in Study. Purify and cultivate the uncountable vows for the uncountable indigent-beings until this body is completely dis-integrated.”

Blue-eyed students asked,
“How should we Study from now on?”
“Let the examination become your teacher; there is no other work to do besides this. I heard that even Socrates said, The unexamined life is not worth living for man.”
“What, then, would be the last word?”
“Good-bye,” he said in English.
After this short word he turned away. He concluded his difficult three-month journey to the Western world in this way. He insisted on passing away in America. However, his attendants knelt down and beseeched him to return to Korea for the sake of his many followers there. He returned on February 16, 1985.
He locked up his room and forbade entrance to anyone; then spent three more months before he entered Nirvana.
Anxious disciples asked,
“To whom did you transmit the Chamber of the True-Dharma-Eye?”
To the one who examine.
Since the disciples did not say a word, the old Master continued.
“Listen to my Gatha:

No form is,
No emptiness is,
No non-emptiness is.”

“Is there anything more to say?”
There is nothing more to say.

He entered Samadhi for a while; then opening his eyes wide, embraced the whole universe. He then made three strokes in the air horizontally and one vertically. No one knew what he meant.
The Master’s last day was eight days before Buddha’s Birthday, May 19th, nineteen eighty-five (March 30, 2529 by the lunar calendar).
Many eminent monks attended his funeral from throughout the nation. Throngs of people attended the ceremony, forming an ocean of people. Who are they? Suddenly a colorful aura, as appeared at his birth, arced in the sky. Everyone was enraptured by this marvelous phenomenon and called it his power of dharma. What an auspicious occasion!

One short shrill honk from hollow goose pierced through to the stratosphere.

Now where is our old Master? Here is something we cannot forget.
Venerable Master Mann-Gong once wrote a Gatha for Venerable Master Kyung-Ho’s (Empty Mirror) true Self image. The Gatha is:

The empty mirror originally has no Mirror.
Awakened ox is already not an Ox.
Everywhere where there is neither Ox nor Mirror.
Living eye freely abides with inebriety and indulgence.

For comparison Venerable Master Mann-Gong wrote for his Self-image:

I am not departed from Thou;
Thou art not departed from me.
Before Thou and I were born,
I don’t know; what is this?

Venerable Master Hye-Am concluded with a Gatha for his Self-image:

Thou art not the Thou of Thou.
I am not the I of I.
Since I and Thou are non-dual,
Immediately here is true Thou-and-I.


This is the Nirvana: his worldly-age was 99, dharmaage was 85 and 77th generation from Shakyamuni Buddha (in Korea).
Here I would like to conclude this story with the Master’s own Gatha which he composed shortly before he entered Nirvana.

By birth limpid air blew in the horizon,
By death the shadow of moon flew in the tranquil pond;
Departing from body out of Karmic circle: Where did it go?
River flows toward east outside of the Capital City.

October 15, 2529 (1985)
Recorded by His Disciple

妙 峰 Myo-Bong (Profound Summit)

How to Study Kong-an
True Prayer
The Original Face
Re-Examination Is the Faith
What to Love

Nine Mountains


Buddhism is the formalized expression of a truth about life which is valid to any social situation in either past, present, or future. Since its introduction into Korea in the Fourth Century A.D., the Buddhist attitude towards life has played a vital role in the development of the Korean world-view, and its approach to living has had great influence in the shaping of Korean civilization. Although the last twenty years has seen the rapid encroachment on traditional Korean cultural values by Western material and religious outlooks, Buddhism continues to satisfy a deep need on the part of a large segment of the population for spiritual and psychological growth.
The author of this book is the inheritor of a unique tradition founded by National Master Bojo; feeling respon­sible for giving instruction in and transmitting the understanding of his lineage, he wishes to present this written outline of the teachings of Korean Buddhism. He believes that the practice of Buddhism, as taught in Korea, can lead Westerners to a deeper appreciation of the fruits of Buddhist practice in their lives.

The Seon (Zen) Master Kusan Suryeon (구산 수련) is the Master of Song Kwang Sa (Vast Pines Monastery), Jogye Chonglim, the monastery which represents the Sangha-jewel in Korea. Steeped in the long Korean meditation tradition which has been preserved along orthodox Chinese lines the Master’s strong emphasis on practice, and his concern to maintain an atmosphere most conducive to sincere spiri­tual cultivation, have earned Song Kwang Sa the reputation of being the best among the three top Korean centers for meditation.
The Venerable Kusan is one of the few Masters in Korea who has taken a direct interest in the propagation of Buddhism not only within Korea, but in foreign countries as well. He regularly travels to deliver lectures to Buddhist lay groups in major cities throughout this country, and in 1971 toured the United States, delivering lectures at many of the major Buddhist centers there.

The selections from the Master’s lectures included in this book are intended to provide a representative collection of his teachings on Buddhism, and include instructions for beginning students of Buddhism, lay-adherents, and monks who practice meditation. It is instructive to note the difference in his approach when instructing lay-people and monks. For people who have never had contact with the Korean Seon (Zen) tradition, it will be of interest to note the uniqueness of the Korean interpretation of Buddhism which is distinct from the meditation traditions of Japanese Zen or Chinese Ch’an, though there is still strong influence from the early Ch’an tradition which was current to T’ang Dynasty China (618—906).
The first selection, The Road to the Other Shore, contains much of the material the Master covers during conversations with people (especially Westerners) who have never been exposed to Buddhism before. It contains the essence of the Master’s basic approach to Buddhism, and is also fairly representative of the Korean approach to Ch’an Meditation. It was written to provide a basic description of the Buddhist analysis of the world, the consequent approach to life, and the aims and practice of Buddhist meditation.
The second selection, The Seven Paramitas, is an outline for the practice of Buddhism during the ordinary activities of daily life and is especially directed to the needs of lay-adherents. It is a lecture delivered to a Buddhist lay-organiza­tion in Daejeon in 1976.
The final selection consists both of an introductory account of the lifestyle of those meditators residing in the Meditation Hall, and of The Formal Dharma Discourses which were composed in classical Chinese and were delivered to the meditation monks training at Song Kwang Sa during the three-month Winter and Summer Retreats of 1975-76. It must be emphasized that these lectures are instructions directed specifically to full-time cultivators who are developing hwadu (kung-an) meditation, and were delivered with two purposes in mind:
1) to provide the beginning student with an additional source for strengthening the sensation of doubt which is the indis­pensable core of hwadu meditation through hearing an exposition of the enlightened man’s understanding; and 2) to give the advanced student that final push he needs to break through the i-ching or ‘sensation of doubt’, which will produce the experience of chien-hsing(見性 Jap. kensho) or the seeing into one’s own true nature. If not read with these purposes kept carefully in mind, it will be easy to dismiss these discourses as paradoxical or incoherent nonsense, rath­er than seeing them for what they are in reality— advanced meditation directions. They are presented here for the benefit of those exceptional students who will be able to make proper use of these instructions.

The International Meditation Center would like to extend its appreciation to: Hae Heng Sunim and Hei Myong Sunim who read through and interpreted the Korean and Chinese manuscripts; Hei Myong Sunim who edited the material and made the English rendering; Ham Wol Sunim who typed all the drafts and wrote the introduction to Part III; Hyun Ho Sunim, Hyun Sung Sunim, Su Il Sunim, and Sung Il Sunim for their encouragement and help during all stages in the preparation of the translation.
It is hoped that Buddhist students at all stages of de­velopment will find these lectures inspiring, and that the instructions therein will be the catalyst required to pro­duce the final achievement of Buddhahood.

Kusan Suryeon ( 1909 ~ 1983 )


Spending fifteen years as the first Patriarch of the Jogye-san Monastic Compound(Jogye Chongnim) headquartered in Songgwang-sa, Master Kusan devoted much his life’s energy to propagating Buddhism, through such activities as the founding of the Bulil International Seon Center. Directly and indirectly, some fifty of his disciples from both Korea and abroad are spreading the teachings of Korean Seon Buddhism around the world.



Master Kusan was born December 17, 1909, in a small village in Mt. Jirisan in Namwon, Jeollabuk-do province. At the age of 14, after his father’s sudden death, he took over management of his father’s barber shop and family affairs, spending his young years in anguish. At 25, after coming down with an unknown illness, his moans of agony were interrupted by the words of a wandering Buddhist ascetic. “The body is the mind’s reflection. Since the seat of one’s original nature is pure, where can disease take root?” Hearing these words gave Kusan a sudden religious awakening. At that moment he decided to head to Yeongwonsa Monastery on Mt. Jirisan, to take part in a 100-day practice of devotion to the Bodhisattva Gwaneum. With his disease cured during the 100 days of prayer, Kusan decided to be ordained into the sangha. In 1937 at the age of 28, he received the precepts to become a novice monk at Songgwangsa Monastery from Master Hyobong.


Following this, with Songwangsa as his base, Master Kusan spent five years practicing ardently at various meditation halls (Seonwon). In 1943, to engage in serious practice, he built the “Correct Awakening” (Jeonggak) hermitage near the Sudoam Hermitage at Cheongamsa. For two years, he practiced with ferocity. In 1946, his master Hyobong became the first Patriarch of the Gayasan Monastic Compound (Gaya Chongnim) headquartered in Haeinsa, and Master Kusan took on the administrative responsibilities of the temple and also built and resided in the Beobwangdae Hermitage, midway up Mt. Gayasan, all while maintaining a diligent training regimen. In 1950, with the onset of the Korean War, the monks of Gayasan Monastic Compound scattered, and Kusan went to Eungseoksa in Jinju where he continued his Seon investigation. During the winter retreat in 1951, at the age of 42, Kusan penned his verse of enlightenment and submitted it to Master Hyobong:

The world’s outer appearance is originally emptiness

Do people point to emptiness because the mind resides there?

For the withered tree above the crags, there are no seasons

when spring arrives flowers bloom, in fall, it bears fruit

Master Hyobong accepted this verse and endorsed Kusan’s enlightenment. Beginning in 1954, he assisted Master Hyobong as an avid supporter of the Buddhist purification movement. In 1966, with Master Hyobong’s passing, Kusan returned to Songgwangsa, following his master’s dying request to “restore Songgwangsa [which was mostly destroyed in the Korean War] and train many great people there.” Following the developments at Haeinsa, after three years effort the Jogyesan Monastic Compound (Jogye Chongnim) was established, the second Chongnim in Korea, at Songgwangsa in 1969.


As the first patriarch of the Monastic Compound, Master Kusan instituted a fundamental training program for his disciples, and as one of the three jewel temples, Songgwangsa, the “Sangha Jewel Monastery,” overflowed with the energy of its vivid restoration, the likes of which had not been seen since the days of National Master Bojo Jinul. To say nothing of the Korean monks, monks from the United States, Europe and elsewhere also came to Songgwangsa, constantly maintaining the highest levels of intensity in their training. In 1973, after attending the inaugural service at Sambo-sa in Carmel, California, in the United States, Kusan returned to Songgwangsa with a few foreign disciples and other practitioners to found Korea’s first international Seon meditation center, “Bulil International Seon Center,” opening a new chapter in the globalization of Korea’s traditional Seon teachings. Kusan continued along these lines, pouring his energy into the international propagation of Korean Buddhism, founding temples around the world, including Goryeosa in Los Angeles in 1980, Bulseungsa in Geneva in 1982, and Daegaksa near Carmel, California.


One day the following year, in 1984, as the restoration of Songgwangsa, together with the winter retreat, was coming to an end, Kusan let his disciples know that the karma of his life here was meeting its completion and left behind the following requests: “don’t give my body any injections, perform the cremation in sitting meditation posture, live together in harmony without harm to the Seon tradition, do not live as a monk deceiving yourself, and devote yourself continuously to awakening.” He also left his “death verse”:

As the leaves of fall burn more crimson than the flowers of spring

All of creation is completely laid bare

As living is empty, and dying too, is also empty

I go forth smiling, within the ocean-like absorption of the Buddha

On the afternoon of December 16th, at the Samiram Hermitage in Songgwangsa where he had first met his master Hyobong, surrounded by his many followers, Kusan assumed the lotus position and his seventy-four years of life came to a quiet end with his passing into nirvana.



Among Master Kusan’s written works are his 1975 book, Seven Perfections, aimed at bringing Buddhism back into daily life, and his 1976 book, Nine Mountains, an English version of his dharma talks, written for the benefit of his foreign disciples. After receiving much attention from scholars of Buddhism and eastern philosophy around the world, Nine Mountains was revised and published in Korean as Seok Saja (Stone Lion). After Master Kusan’s passing, his foreign disciples published Seon! My Choice, a compilation of their impressions and experiences regarding Korean Buddhism and their Seon training at the Bulil International Seon Center. In 1985, Master Kusan’s disciples Stephen Batchelor and Martine Fages edited an English compilation of his dharma teachings, The Way of Korean Zen. The Society of Kusan Followers also published Kusan Seonmun (Seon Teachings of Kusan) in 1994, a volume of the Master’s Seon sermons, and Kusan Seonpung (Seon Tradition of Kusan)in 1997, a collection of his dharma sermons delivered in the early 1980s while touring the United States, Taiwan, Europe and elsewhere.


Doctrinal Distinction

Master Kusan’s practice was an exhaustive hwadu training. After gaining experience with the hwadu, “what is this?” Kusan then took up Zhaozhou’s “MU” hwadu, leading his disciples in this practice as well. This hwadu was meant to lead one to understanding the state of mind that exists before saying “MU!” Kusan described his struggle this way:

“Investigating this hwadu, my investigation and the saying of “mu” coincide. In this state, I come even to defer sleep and forget meals. Standing alone, I reach to the point where I am alone, facing every enemy I’ve ever made during the past 10,000 years, wanting to sleep but unable, put in a position where I cannot go left or right, straight ahead or back, until finally, the place I have been leaning on exists no more, and I become unafraid of tumbling into emptiness. Thereafter, one day, I suddenly yell, ‘Ha!,’ and I’m left feeling as if heaven and earth have been overturned. When other people enter this place whose depth is unfathomable, they laugh out loud to themselves and do nothing but smile.”

He also explained that even after achieving an awakening, until you are able to precisely communicate your experiences to others, while pushing yourself to continuously refine your own opinions and understanding, you must engage in purification practices; then you must work to relieve the sufferings of all sentient beings.


Though Master Kusan spent 45 years practicing his hwadu with precisely this kind of discipline, he never stinted from getting involved in doing the work of the Buddha. Whenever he had a spare moment free from his practice, he could not keep still, such that he earned the nickname, “the working monk.”

Moreover, he never failed to join with the rest of the Buddhist community to participate in worship services, cooperative cleaning or building efforts, food offerings, or other such activities. In this way, the ever-thoroughly practicing Master Kusan emphasized the practice of making Buddhism a part of daily life, based on the idea that it was wrong to think of Buddhism as the sole preserve of a singular class of people, like monks and nuns, or that you have to live in the mountains to practice. Combining these methods under one teaching, Master Kusan promoted the “seven perfections” movement. He taught that a good way for Buddhist practitioners to implement the truth of Buddhism within their daily lives was to use six days of each week to practice each of the six bodhisattva perfections: charity on Monday, morality on Tuesday, perseverance on Wednesday, effort on Thursday, meditation on Friday, and wisdom on Saturday, and then to use Sunday as a service day, the day to practice the perfection of all works together.   

Jogye Order’s 25 Temple Distirct Head Temples

Haeinsa Temple is one of the three Jewel Temples representing the Dharma or Teachings as it houses the 81,258Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks – designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is one of the 10 Avatamsaka (Garland Sutra) temples established during the Silla Dynasty as well as one of the five full monastic training temples and the repository of a long tradition of preserving the Zen tradition. It has been home to many outstanding Zen masters and the current Patriarch of the Jogye Order, Ven. Beopjeon, resides at Haeinsa.
Founding Date : 802Address : : #10 Chiin-ri, Gaya-myeon, Hapcheon-gun, South Gyeongsang ProvinceTel : 82-55-931-1001URL :