Monks & Laymen

The following questions and Soen Sa Nim’s responses were after a Kong-an reading on March 11, 1985, at the Providence Zen Center.

Q: Can you talk about monks and laymen? We have just finished a beautiful Hae Jae Ceremony at the new monastery. Some of us have a yearning to become monks. What is this?

A: If it is only feeling and this feeling controls you, that is desire. Maybe you go to a temple, “Oh, that is wonderful! Maybe I will cut my hair and have beautiful gray robes! I like that!” That is feeling. But if inside you see that there are many, many problems in this world, many suffering people, so that is why you want to become a monk, then this is not just feeling, OK? Intellectual. Strong will mind. “I want to save all beings from suffering so I want to become a monk.” That name is try mind. That is vow. So if feeling controls you and action appears, that is not try mind. This means that only your karma controls you. Same action, same becoming a monk, but a different style. In Korea there are many different style monks. Some have very strong feeling and go to the mountain. Many young girls go there. Maybe they have problems with boyfriend or family – “Oh, I will come here to the temple! Oh, that is wonderful!” So they become nuns. But being a nun is very difficult so soon they don’t like it and leave. So if feeling is the reason for wanting to become a monk, then if a different feeling appears, again change – no more monk. Sometimes in our School. this style appears. Somebody has a strong feeling, becomes a monk, then this feeling changes, then no more monk. Understand? So if feeling controls something and you do it, that is not try mind. Try mind means having strong direction, and behind it, Great Vow. “Human beings are numberless, I want to save them all.” That is Great Vow. Then this never changes. Feeling coming, feeling going; condition, situation changing, changing – doesn’t matter. Even if my body is sick or dies – not broken monk.

Q: So can a lay person save all beings from suffering, have a Great Vow, or only monks?

A: Of course!

Q: Then how are they different, monks and laymen?

A: For example, in our School we have two kinds of Master Dharma Teachers (Note: they are now called Ji Do Poep Sa Nims): monk and family style. The family style Master Dharma Teachers have try mind and want to do together action, but they have children, have wife, have husband, so they cannot do as much together action. But if you are a monk, then all the time together action is possible. That is how they are different.

Q: So if you have no family, is becoming a monk good?

A: I don’t know. What kind of feeling? What kind of direction? Many people have no family but cannot become monks. There is still some hindrance inside. “I want something.” So they cannot become monks. Becoming a monk is not easy.

In our family, many people who became monks now are not monks. First they had a strong feeling so they became monks, then a strong feeling appears again, so they stop being monks. This is a “feeling monk.” So a “feeling monk” doesn’t stay a monk very long. If he has a strong Great Vow, then a monk is a strong monk. Also, a “feeling monk” is OK. Then practicing, practicing and feeling comes down, down, and strong center appears. Then no problem. So becoming a monk or not becoming a monk, doesn’t matter. If you are a lay person, it is also possible to save all beings from suffering. So now all the Master Dharma Teachers are teaching you. The only difference is that if you have a family, not so much together action with the Sangha is possible. Not so much “100% my life for all beings” is possible. My family, my wife or husband, also taking care of my parents is necessary. But if you have no family, it is possible to be with the Sangha all the time. Whole life. That is the only difference. So moment to moment very important – don’t make anything, don’t check anything. Just DO IT! Only go straight.

Mind is Like a Blackboard

From a letter:

When you don’t make ‘small I,’ and you don’t make professor, and you are not attached to the Koan teaching, all thinking returns to your true self and your mind is clear. Mind is like a blackboard. You make pictures on it like ‘small I,’ professor, mountain, etc. When you erase it, everything disappears, and then you must make only the Bodhisattva picture. That means no desire for myself, only must help all people. So I wish you to

Here is a poem for you:

Color body and Karma (thinking) body come from where?
Before thinking there is no name and no form,
There is infinite time and infinite space.
The children chase butterflies with a net,
Wind comes and an apple falls to the ground from a tree.

I hope you will get enlightenment soon and become a great man.

See you soon,


The Medicine Buddha

Primary Point: You often use the phrase Yaksa Yorae Bul when discussing healing. What does this phrase mean?

Zen Master Seung Sahn: Yaksa means Medicine Teacher; Yorae means Buddha Nature; Bul means Buddha. So Yaksa Yorae Bul is the “Teacher of Buddha-Nature medicine,” or “Medicine Buddha.”

PP: What is the origin of this Buddha?

ZMSS: Hinayana Buddhism refers only to Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha. In Mahayana Buddhist beliefs there are many Buddhas and bodhisattvas, as well as many demons. Hinayana Buddhism means attaining a very simple mind – if you are not holding anything, you already become Buddha. If you achieve non-self, you become Buddha. But Hinayana Buddhism was originally geared to monastic practice, whereas Mahayana Buddhism evolved with a strong lay influence. In society there are many kinds of individuals; they want something – money, sex, fame etc. Much desire, much thinking. With each thought, one Buddha “appears,” also one demon “appears.” If you have no thinking, Buddhas and bodhisattvas are not necessary. If you have much thinking, many demons appear, so many Buddhas and bodhisattvas appear to help you. That is Mahayana Buddhism.

PP: From a Buddhist point of view, what does it mean to be sick?

ZMSS: There are three kinds of sickness: body sickness, mind sickness and dharma sickness. Body sickness means my body gets hurt and I have some kind of pain. Sometimes we create body sickness through lack of control; for instance, the mouth wants food but our stomach says, “No, no.” So mouth and stomach fight; we eat too much and sickness appears from this imbalance.

Mind sickness means I am attached to something, or want something very badly. All human beings have these five basic desires – fame, sex, food, sleep, money. These five desires make mental sickness. Sometimes body sickness will follow – you cannot eat, sleep or digest your food.

PP: What if someone with a body sickness “puts it all down” but is still sick?

ZMSS: If you put it all down, you may still be sick or in pain, but you do not suffer. If you attain not-moving mind, pain and sickness do not produce suffering.

PP: Does all body sickness come from karma?

ZMSS: Sickness comes both from “before-life” karma and from this-life karma. Before-life karma means: every day I act correctly, but my body doesn’t function properly. For instance, my eyes and ears are no good. But my actions are correct. That’s before-life’s karma.

This life’s karma means I have made bad actions in this life – anger, desire, ignorance. Then sickness appears. This kind of sickness is made by your this-life karma.

PP: What if the sickness comes from your parents?

ZMSS: As I said before, my eyes and ears are no good. That’s another sort of before-life karma, karma inherited from your family, what you call genetic.

PP: What does it mean when a baby is born, becomes very sick and dies?

ZMSS: This is before-life karma. This baby had very short karma with its parents, so it had to appear and finish that karma.

PP: Is it important that someone understand whether they are sick from before-life karma or this-life karma?

ZMSS: Yes. If you practice, this will become clear. During an interview someone asked me, “I want to do correct practice, but sometimes this mind will appear: ‘I want to kill someone!’ This style of thinking never appeared before; it only came up during meditation. What’s happening?”

So, I told him it was his before-life karma. During meditation your mind becomes more clear, so the old karma becomes uncovered and comes to the surface. This karma was already present in your consciousness. If you practice, you get to see and understand this karma already present in the mind. But if you don’t practice, someday this karma will control your life.

PP: What is dharma sickness?

ZMSS: When you become a teacher of a religion or ideology, and say “I already understand all of this, I have no problem. You must listen to me.” That’s dharma sickness.

PP: So believing in some idea, some teacher, is a problem?

ZMSS: Being attached to something, making something is always a problem. Many Christians become attached to “God.” “My God and your God are different.” So you make your “God.” Zen means put it all down. Don’t make anything. If you meet God, kill God. If you meet Buddha, kill Buddha.

PP: How does the Medicine Buddha help in eliminating suffering?

ZMSS: All sickness comes from the mind. If mind disappears, sickness disappears. If you put it all down, there will be no sickness, and you attain freedom from life and death. But it is hard for us to let go of our mind. Mahayana Buddhism teaches that if you cannot let go of your mind and your desires, a Buddha or a bodhisattva will “appear” to help you. So, if you try the Yaksa Yorae Bul mantra, all your sicknesses – whether of body, mind or dharma sickness – will go away.

PP: You often suggest different mantras to help different people. What do these different mantras mean?

ZMSS: According to Mahayana practices, if you try certain mantras, certain bodhisattvas will help you. For instance, if you have great suffering, try Kwan Seum Bosal mantra; then Kwan Seum Bosal (the bodhisattva of compassion) will help you. Or you may not have much suffering but need wisdom for your direction – what is truth and correct life? – then try the mantra for Munsu Bosal (Manjushri), the bodhisattva of wisdom. If you have wisdom but don’t understand correct action then you cannot help other people. So you must use the mantra for Pu Hyon Bosal, the bodhisattva of action. That will give you energy for moment to moment, correct action. Then you can help other people. Ji Jang Bosal is the great vow bodhisattva; his great vow is to save all beings. When you die, Ji Jang Bosal helps you get a good rebirth. Thus each bodhisattva has a separate job.

PP: Nowadays there is a controversy about people being kept alive by advanced medicine or technology. They can stay alive, but have no brain – only a vegetable. So many people ask, “Is this person alive or dead?” Or, “Should we let this person die?” Is that correct action or not correct action? What does Buddhism say about this kind of situation?

ZMSS: The question in this kind of situation is: how much energy does the sick person take from other people? Sometimes with some energy, a very sick person can be saved. Sometimes despite all the energy being given, the sick person cannot be saved. When this person dies, they must in a future life “return” all of this energy they took. If you die without taking so much energy, you do not “owe” as much the next time. If someone is dying and taking so much energy, it is not incorrect to allow them to die. But if they are not taking people’s energy, why die? The teaching of Buddhism is: does my action help other people or does it take too much energy from them and cause them a problem?

PP: Sometimes people are in a coma – cannot see, hear, taste, touch. They are attached to a machine, but there is some consciousness working. The machine is keeping them alive. Why live?

ZMSS: That is a basic question for everyone, not just the sick people. Why do you live? Why do you die? Why does a tree or a cat appear? Why does this tree or cat die? If you practice, you understand your correct job, direction, and situation as a human being. If you are not practicing, how are you different from a tree or a cat?

PP: If someone pulls the plug on this man who is in a coma, does he have sufficient consciousness so that he will have some emotion inside, like anger or happiness?

ZMSS: This consciousness is like half-tree, half-animal. In this consciousness there is no like or dislike; because they don’t have like or dislike, they cannot create any karma.

PP: So will this kind of person have a good rebirth, because they have no karma when they die?

ZMSS: They are dying with no karma in that moment but they may have very strong consciousness (residue) from this lifetime. That consciousness is like mercury; it may separate into different “globs” like mercury does; sometimes these globs remain separate, but sometimes they may join with similar consciousnesses and be reborn as a strong personality like Gandhi or Hitler.

PP: Nowadays many people have problems with drugs and drinking. What kind of karma is this? How can these people be helped?

ZMSS: Sometimes it may be before-life karma, but sometimes it may be because of doing “together action” with others: “I don’t want to use drugs or alcohol, but my friends say, ‘you try,’ and so I do that.” This kind of mind already understands that drugs or alcohol are no good. So if they want to fix their mind, they can fix it with meditation. But if they don’t care and are only interested in having a good time, they cannot fix it. Your mind makes everything. Buddha said, “All things are created by mind alone.” So your mind creates sickness and you fix your sickness with your mind. That’s interesting, no?

PP: Yes. Thank you very much.

Low-Class Practice

Allston, Massachusetts
September 14, 1977

Dear Soen Sa Nim,

How are you? I hope you are well, even though you are working so hard. Everyone at the Cambridge Zen Center says hello to you and to our West Coast family.

I must tell you something. This summer, I came to believe in Buddhism 100%, so I am very happy. Before, there was a lot of fighting in my mind about whether or not to practice. But this summer, a lot of bad karma disappeared. This fighting stopped, so practicing became possible. Also, I was able to quit smoking — something I thought I’d never be able to do in a million years. How did this happen?

Do you remember two years ago when a lot of bad karma appeared in my mind, and I moved out of the Zen Center and stopped practicing? Then you gave me the mantra: “Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha.” Within three months I was back at the Zen Center, practicing. Then you said, “O.K., your mind is stronger, so now you must breathe in, ‘Clear mind’ and breathe out, ‘Don’t know.”‘ I did this practice for a while,, even though I did not like it. But, at the beginning of the summer, my old bad karma again appeared — “I hate Zen; I don’t want to practice.” So I started doing the mantra again. And again, this bad karma disappeared.

Now, I don’t understand mantras. All I know is that when I begin to lose my direction, this mantra sets me straight again. Is it O.K. to do it all the time even when my mind is strong? Some people say that using a mantra is a very lowclass practice. Is this true? Please tell me about using a mantra.

Thank you for teaching me about Buddhism.



September 21, 1977

Dear Dyan,

Thank you for your letter. How are you? The West Coast family says hello to you and the Cambridge Zen Center family.

You say that you believe in Buddhism 100%. 1 am glad to hear that! Congratulations on your practice becoming very strong. You also said that you stopped smoking; that is wonderful.

In your letter, you wrote about mantra and don’t-know mind. Some people say that using a mantra is low-class. That is wrong. It is their thinking that is low class. The Compass of Zen* says, “Without thinking, sutra practice, mantra practice, yom bul (repeating the Buddha’s name) practice, and Zen practice are all the same, but if you are attached to thinking and attached to words, all practices are different.” When we eat, some people use chopsticks, some use forks, some use spoons, some use fingers. What you use is not important — did you get a full stomach? Whether you use a mantra or kong-ans is not important. What matters is how you keep just-now mind moment to moment. If you understand this, you can always keep enough mind. This means that you already have freedom from life and death, and you understand the True Way and how to help other people. That is the Great Vow, not only in this lifetime but for numberless lifetimes to come to save other people.

You already have the mantra “Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha.”‘ You have very good karma with this mantra, so use this good karma for all beings. Don’t check your mind; don’t check your feelings; don’t check other people’s minds. Only go straight — don’t know with your mantra — then, no problem.

Many people want to climb to the top of a mountain. One person begins to climb from the south side of the mountain; someone else begins from the north side, another from the west side, and another from the east side. They only go straight and arrive at the top, but the person on the south side thinks the direction of the person on the north side is wrong. Each thinks the others’ direction is wrong. Don’t check another’s direction; this is no good. All arrive at the top, at the same point; that is most important.

There is one important point about mantra practice you must understand. With mantra, getting one mind and samadhi are very easy. But you cannot find your True Way if you are attached to mantra. Only mantra has no direction. However, “Who is doing the mantra?” means having a direction. Having a direction means keeping a question and letting your cognition become clear so you can perceive your correct situation. This is Great Love, Great Compassion, and the Great Bodhisattva Way. So only mantra is one mind, but if you keep the great question and mantra, that is clear mind.

Only-go-straight don’t-know mind is clear like space. There is no subject, no object, no inside, no outside. When you are doing something, you must do it. If you are not thinking, that is correct mantra and correct don’t-know mind. What does the cat say? What does the dog say? You already understand.

I hope you only go straight — don’t-know with your mantra, soon become a great Bodhisattva, finish the Great Work of life and death, get Enlightenment, and save all people from suffering.

Yours in the Dharma,

S. S.

*The Compass of Zen is a book Soen Sa Nim compiled containing teaching of the major schools of Buddhism.

Losing It Is Getting It – Part 2

This is an excerpt from a talk given by Zen Master Seung Sahn to the members of Hwa Gye Sah, our temple in Seoul, on the evening before Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. Traditionally Buddhists will stay up all night practicing meditation on this night in emulation of the Buddha before his great enlightenment. Second of two parts.

Zen Master Seung Sahn begins this second part of his speech by chanting a poem.

Before the ancient Buddha was born,
There was this one thing — lucid, round and clear.
Na Mu Ah Mi Ta Bul
Originally nothing, but today
White snow covers the world.
Na Mu Ah Mi Ta Bul

Tomorrow is Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. Just like Buddha, we have gathered here to attain something. Someone tries Kwan Seum Bosal, Kwan Seum Bosal, Kwan Seum Bosal: Who is trying Kwan Seum Bosal, who is that? Who is chanting? What is that thing that chants? What is that thing that tries Kwan Seum Bosal? We call that “don’t know”; we call that “cut off all thinking”– before thinking. We come here and try to keep a before thinking mind.

For six years the Buddha kept “What am I?” and kept “don’t know.” But in front of the Buddha many beautiful women were dancing; demons appeared, many things appeared. He understood that all these things came from his mind. They appear and disappear over and over again. If I have no mind, then nothing appears. So, I ask all you Hwa Gye Sah members, do you have mind or not? If you say you have mind, this stick will hit you. If you say you don’t have mind, this stick will also hit you. Will you say you have mind, or will you say you have no mind? You must understand how to answer! If you want to understand� how to answer, you have to earnestly and sincerely practice Zen.

A long time ago Shakyamuni Buddha sat under the bodhi tree for six years. Then one morning he saw a star and got enlightenment. In our world many kinds of religion have appeared: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Today many people believe in these religions. In the Buddha’s time, also, there were many kinds of religion. But the Buddha left all these beliefs behind and went to the mountain. He only asked himself, ” What am I?” Then he attained enlightenment. So Buddhism is a religion of enlightenment, not of belief. Of course, we say somebody becomes Buddha or somebody attained dharma. All these things are nescessary, but they are only teaching words. Originally Buddhism means attain my true self, attain “Buddha is mind, mind is Buddha.” You must attain to that! OK?

The Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng, unlike the Buddha, had a very simple situation. Every morning he helped his mother; went to the mountains, got firewood, sold the firewood, got money and bought food. He did not get married; he only went to the mountain every day and supported his mother–a very simple mind. But look at our minds; they are very complicated. We have many things to do: save money, make investments, etc. But the Sixth Patriarch’s mind was very simple…too simple.

One day on his way home after selling the firewood, he encountered a monk who was reciting the Diamond Sutra. Just as he passed by he heard the monk recite the line, “don’t be attached to anything that arises in your mind.” BOOM! he got enlightenment, attained his true self and “what am I.” He had never learned Chinese characters or studied Buddhist texts. All he did was to go to the mountains and get firewood to help his mother. But he attained enlightenment upon hearing one line from the Diamond Sutra.

Then he asked the monk: “What book is that? What text are you reading?”

“This is the Diamond Sutra. If you go to the North, you will find the Fifth Patriarch, Hung Jen. He has thousands of disciples and teaches the Diamond Sutra.”

He went back and told his mother about what had happened. After arranging for his mother’s care, he traveled north until he found the Fifth Patriarch’s temple. He said, “I’ve come here to practice with you. I want� to learn the dharma from you.”

The Fifth Patriarch asked, “Where did you come from?”

He said “I’ve come from the South.”

“From the South? Ah, barbarians from the South have no Buddha nature!”

Then Hui Neng said, “Human Beings have North and South, but in Buddha nature is there North and South?”

What a beautiful way to answer. That is the speech of an enlightened person — remarkable. How could this kind of speech appear from somebody who just worked in the mountains cutting wood and helping his mother? It can only appear if you attain something, if you have enlightened yourself. At this point the Fifth Patriarch already understood his mind and said, “You go into the rice pounding room and work.” Later, as everybody here knows, the Fifth Patriarch secretly gave him transmission.
So, how do you attain an enlightened mind? It took the Buddha six years, but the Sixth Patriarch heard just one word and attained enlightenment. Some people just hear one word–BOOM!–get enlightenment. People can attain enlightenment in just one instant; it doesn’t always take six years. Every day we chant, everyday we sit in the dharma hall. How come we are not enlightened people? How come we have not gotten great enlightenment? Our minds are complicated, that’s why. The Sixth Patriarch’s mind was very simple, so he easily got enlightenment. A complicated mind takes a long time. However, we look, we see, and even though it takes time, we can get enlightenment.

Among the Buddha’s disciples, Ananda was one of the foremost. Known for his phenomenal memory, he remembered everything that the Buddha taught — just like a tape recorder. If you said to him, “At this time, at this place, what was the dharma speech?” he could tell you precisely. In the Buddha’s time there were no sutras. It was not until after the Buddha died that the sutras were made. Many people wanted to hear about what the Buddha had taught, so they asked Ananda. One problem was that Ananda had not yet attained enlightenment himself. At one time five hundred great arhats gathered to compile the sutras. All of these great monks had gathered, but Ananda could not join them because Ananda had not yet attained enlightenment. He� approached his senior brother Mahakasypa and asked him, “Older brother, besides the golden kasa and bowls, what else did the Buddha transmit to you? What else did you get from the Buddha?”

Mahakasypa said, ” Ananda.”

Ananda replied, “Yes.”

“Knock down the flag pole in front of the gate.”

So what does that mean? He asked Mahakasyapa what he got from the Buddha, and Mahakasyapa said “knock down the flag pole in front of the gate.” Ananda went away and for seven days only practiced. He didn’t eat. He didn’t lie down. He stood constantly and meditated on this question. That’s the origin of the seven day Yong Maeng Jong Jin practice that our western monks are now doing. Tomorrow, when we see the morning star, it’s all finished. On the seventh day it is said that Ananda got enlightenment. Then the five hundred arhats welcomed Ananda into their assembly.젨젨 Mahakasyapa said, “Without opening the door, come in.”

What does that mean, “Without opening the door, how can you come in?” The meaning is that all five hundred arhats were finally willing to accept Ananda into the assembly. Then all the sutras were composed. Every sutra says, “Thus have I heard…” Those are Ananda’s words. “Thus have I heard” means “I heard from the Buddha such and such teaching at such and such time.” If you look at our sutras today, they all have this mark on them.

The First Patriarch was Mahakasypa. The Second Patriarch was Ananda. But Mahakasypa became a monk much later than Ananda. Ananda left home and became a monk twenty years before Mahakasypa. Even though Ananda became a monk before Mahakasypa, because of the dharma he later became Mahakasypa’s disciple, and became the Second Patriarch. So that is the history of the second dharma transmission.

For seven days we have been practicing very hard. Tomorrow morning, look at the morning star, then we will attain something, OK? I hope you all get enlightenment. This is how the Buddha’s dharma was transmitted through Mahakasypa to Ananda.
Next, let’s consider the great Korean Zen Master, Sosan Dae Sa. He was originally from Pyong-Ando Province in what is now North Korea. As a child he demonstrated great intelligence, so at an early age his stepfather took him to Seoul, where he could learn Confucian texts. After several years of study he stood for the civil service examination. He was required to write an essay for the test. He also wrote the essays for his friends. When the test results came back he was very surprised: all his friends passed; only he did not pass! Again he tried; he wrote very well and finished all the essays. But, again he did not pass. A third time he took the test–again he failed. Why was that? Then he finally understood: It was because of his background. He came from Pyong-Ando–the northern part of Korea. All his friends were from other parts of Korea: Chungchong Do, Kang-Won Do, etc.

After several tries, his stepfather suggested that he should go somewhere where he could rest and just read books. The young man wanted to go to Hein Sah and his stepfather agreed. Upon arriving at Hein Sah temple he found many, many books that he could read. Of course, you all know that the 84,000 sutras are housed there. He found that reading about Buddhism was more interesting than Confucianism or Taoism. The Buddhist Sutras talked about how to solve real human problems. Suddenly he realized how lucky he was that he didn’t get a position in the government. If he had, he would never have known the wonderful teaching of the Buddha.

One day Sosan was sent into town to buy brushes and ink. Upon returning to the temple he had to respond to a call from nature. The temple had an old-style outhouse which was built very high off the ground. It was said that the outhouse was so high that if shit dropped when a traveler left Taejon, it wouldn’t land until the traveler reached Seoul! That’s how high this toilet was! So, as Sosan Taesa was squatting over the hole he happened to look down below–way below!–and saw many small animals. As soon as his fresh shit hit the bottom, worms, rats, many kinds of animals would rush and dive into it, eating ravenously. After contemplating this scene for a while it struck him that the people in the market place were no different. They are always looking for something, always seeking something, always going for something new, always trying to make a profit off something. Ahh… his mind opened. He understood something. Up to now, he thought, I have been just like one of those worms, diving into new shit; always looking for another pile of shit. Now it’s time for me to really practice. Only reading sutras is not enough–that can’t help me. I have to do some serious practice. What am I? Who am I?

With that, he decided to become a monk. He shaved his head, put on gray robes, and went to Myo Hyang San Mountain. There he practiced very hard. First he did a hundred-day retreat, then he did another. On the first hundred-day retreat his mind didn’t really open. On the second hundred-day retreat, everything appeared clearly in front of him. At that time his mind opened widely and he saw that the world is always turning, turning, turning. Everything is always changing. But within all that change there is one thing that is not changing. In order to find that one unchanging thing, we have to attain our true nature.

What did Sosan attain? One morning he awoke very early to do a kido. From far away he heard a chicken crowing and attained his true self. Listening to the sound of a chicken crowing he said, “I’ve finished the great work of life and death. All of you who haven’t attained enlightenment, tomorrow morning, try listening to the sound of a rooster crowing. Listen to that and finish a great man’s work.” He became very famous in the history of Korea. He and Samyan Taesa helped save the country from the Japanese invasion of 1592. That is the story of Sosan.
Zen Master Pao-Chi practiced very hard but still everything was unclear in front of him. One day at a funeral he heard the bell of the funeral crier. As the monk� rang the bell he chanted. As soon as Pao-Chi heard this chant–BOOM!–his mind opened, he got enlightenment. The line that opened his mind was: “In front of the door lies the land of stillness.” Hearing that line, he got enlightenment.

Many stories of masters attaining enlightenment involve hearing one thing. Zen Master Bao Zho was asked by his teacher, “What is your original face before you were born?” He stayed up many nights, desperately trying to answer this question, but to no avail. On his way to the market one day he saw two people fighting. Eventually one man apologized to the other, saying, “I have truly lost my face.” At this Bao Zho achieved awakening. He attained “losing his face.” Then he truly understood his original face. If you keep this great question, then any time, any place, you can get enlightenment. The Sixth Patriarch got enlightenment hearing the Diamond Sutra. Bao Zho got enlightenment hearing two people fighting. Also, you can hear a bird or the bellow of a cow–any kind of sound–and get enlightenment.

Tomorrow is Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. That is the day the Buddha saw a star and got enlightenment. If you really want to attain enlightenment, then the big question must become very strong. It must be earnest and sincere. If you have this big question: “Who is chanting Kwan Seum Bosal? Who is sitting Zen?” then it’s possible to get enlightenment.�

These days I am always teaching that human beings are not human beings. Human beings have to act correctly, then they become human beings. Moment to moment, what do you do? What is your correct direction? Moment to moment, what is your correct life? How do you find your correct way? How do you save all beings from suffering? We come into this world empty-handed. What do we do in this world? Why did we come into this world? Our body is an empty thing. What is the one thing that carries this body around? Where did it come from? You must understand that…you must find that. If you want to find that, you have to ask yourself, “What am I?” Always keep this big question. Thinking has to disappear. You have to take away all your thinking; cut off all your thinking. Then your true self appears; then your true mind appears. Everybody assembled here tonight, ask yourself sincerely, “What am I?”, and keep this great don’t know. Maybe you try Kwan Seum Bosal, or maybe you try Om Mani Padme Hum, but only if you do it with complete sincerity will this great question–this don’t know mind–explode. Then you will attain enlightenment!

In this world how many people really want to practice?� Many people don’t practice at all. All day and night they fight and only exercise their desire, their anger and their ignorance. When you lose this body, you will have nothing to take with you. When this body disappears, what will you take with you? What will you do? If this don’t know is clear, then also the place you go is clear. Then you understand your job, you understand why you were born into this world. Then you understand what to do in this world. When you do that, then you can become a human being. Tonight I will give you homework–a kong-an to work on. A long time ago a monk asked Zen Master Un Mun, “What is Buddha? Un Mun said, “Dry shit on stick.” What is that? What in the world does that mean? Dry shit on stick. If you keep practicing…ahh! Buddha is dry shit on stick! Everything in this world is Buddha. All things–not just dry shit on stick, but everything in the world. All are Buddha.

So I ask you, how long is this dry shit stick? You must attain that, then we can say that you are really a Zen disciple. How long is dry shit on stick?–you must find that. It is very important to find that. Then you can understand your original face. You can understand what brought you to Hwa Gye Sah. You can find Buddha’s original face. You can have the energy to save all beings and you can keep the great bodhisattva vow. Lifetime after lifetime the great bodhisattva way opens for you. All our Hwa Gye Sah members, ask yourself, “What am I?” Keep a great “don’t know” mind. Tonight we will stay up all night, attain our true selves,� attain universal truth, and save all beings from suffering.

Zen Master Seung Sahn chants while hitting with the Zen stick three times.

Vowing to join with all sentient beings throughout the universe,
Together we enter Amita’s Ocean of Great Vows.
Na Mu Ah Mi Ta Bul
In order to save all beings in numberless worlds,
Together, you and I, at the same time, attain Buddhahood.
Na Mu Ah Mi Ta Bul

Losing It is Getting It – Part 1

This is an excerpt from a talk given by Zen Master Seung Sahn to the members of Hwa Gye Sah, our temple in Seoul, on the evening before Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. Traditionally Buddhists will stay up all night practicing meditation on this night in emulation of the Buddha before his great enlightenment. Part one of two.

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits podium with stick.]

Attaining enlightenment is losing enlightenment. Losing enlightenment is attaining enlightenment.

In our world everything has name and form. Everything that has name and form follows the flow of time and space–changing, changing, always changing. Not one thing remains the same. Buddha taught us that our world is impermanent. If we completely attain impermanence then we can find the one unchanging thing, the one unmoving thing. Since everything is changing, mountain becomes water, water becomes mountain. Everything appears and disappears. We call that the law of appearing and disappearing. So, attaining enlightenment is losing enlightenment. Losing enlightenment is attaining enlightenment.

One hundred years ago all the people gathered here today were not alive. Over the last one hundred years you all were born and appeared as a Korean person or as a Western person. But a hundred years from now, will you still be alive? No! you will have to die. So we see that everything is changing, changing. Your body will soon be gone. Where is the master of this body? Where will the owner of this body go? In order to find the answer to that question you have come here to Hwa Gye Sah. You’ve become a member of Hwa Gye Sah. You chant and practice Zen here with other people.

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits podium with stick.]

What is the meaning of this hit? This means no enlightenment to attain, no enlightenment to lose. A long time ago an eminent Patriarch said, “keep a mind which is clear like space.” If we look ever more deeply into our true self and try to find it, then we see that it is completely empty–empty and clear like space. “Complete emptiness with nothing to attain” is our original mind — our original substance. That’s where we come from and that’s where we go. For that reason there is nothing to attain; nothing to lose. All opposites are cut off: good, bad, right, wrong, holy and unholy. If all opposites are cut off, we call that
complete emptiness. That is our original face, primary point.

In order to attain that point we’ve all gathered here to stay up all night practicing until Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. You see many Western people here with big noses. They have been staying up many nights during Kyol Che practicing very late into the night. There are also four Russian people here practicing. How come our Hwa Gye Sah members don’t come here and practice more? Even if you stay up this one night, is that enough? We have to do it. We have to attain where we came from and where we go. We gather here to enlighten ourselves.

If you practice hard then the true way appears in front of you very clearly. Then even though you lose your body, still your way is clear. So we must attain that. We must attain our true selves. All of us should stay up tonight and ask ourselves, “What am I?” After all, who is carrying around this body? If we always keep this great question we will attain one clear and pure thing. If we attain that, then we attain our true selves.

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits podium with stick.]

What is the meaning of this?

This means that enlightenment is just enlightenment. Getting enlightenment is just getting enlightenment. Losing enlightenment is just losing enlightenment. Not so long ago, the great patriarch Song Chol Sunim said, “Mountain is mountain, water is water.” First we said that mountain is water, water is mountain. Next we went to the place where there is no mountain, no water. Now we say, “mountain is mountain, water is water.” This is the place of attaining my true self. So, mountain is just mountain, water is just water. Our true self is like a clear mirror — a great round mirror. In this clear mirror everyhing is reflected. Mountain is just mountain reflected; water comes, just water is reflected. If we completely empty our mind it’s like a clear mirror. Then everything in our world is reflected in my mind: mountain is reflected, water is reflected, everything is just reflected. We call that “truth like this,” the world of truth. We also say that is true form or just truth.

First, we talked about the world of impermanence. Attaining enlightenment is to lose enlightenment. Losing enlightenment is getting enlightenment. Mountain becomes water, water becomes mountain.

Next we went to the world of emptiness. Attainment is emptiness; also, no attainment is emptiness. Mountain is emptiness and water is emptiness. Complete and true emptiness.

Then, taking one more big step from the world of emptiness we come to the world of truth. Here everything is just as it is. Mountain is mountain; water is water. Attaining enlightenment is just attaining enlightenment; losing enlightenment is just losing enlightenment. We call that truth.

Now three different worlds have appeared. Of these three worlds, which one is the correct? Once again: Mountain is water, water is mountain. That’s the world of impermanence. Next, no mountain, no water. That’s the world of emptiness. And lastly mountain is mountain, water is water — truth or moment world. If we have time and space, then all things exist. If we transcend time and space, then we come to the world of emptiness. Taking one more step, we come to the world of truth. In the world of truth everything we see, hear, smell, taste and touch is always teaching us. Every moment is truth. The sky is blue, the dog is barking: woof woof, sugar is sweet. This is the world of truth.

So, which of these worlds is the correct? Which is the world that we attain? Which is the world of enlightenment? If somebody says that they found which is correct then this heavy Zen stick will hit you thirty times. Yes, there is a correct world. But, if you say that you found it, this stick will hit you thirty times. If you say you cannot find it, then this stick will also hit you thirty times. Why is that? Whether you find it or not, you get hit thirty times. Why?


Outside the snow is shining white. Inside the electric lights make it possible for us to see each other very clearly. With this my dharma speech is finished.

Here we see that one more world has appeared. We call this the world of function. Outside the snow is white, inside the electric lights shine clearly. So, we talked about impermanence world, the changing world. Then we talked about complete emptiness, the world of emptiness. Last we talked about truth world — everything is truth. Then, going from truth world through KATZ! — primary point — we arrived at moment world, function. We call that the Great Bodhisattva Way. So, first attain the truth, then attain the bodhisattva way. World after world, lifetime after lifetime, I vow to follow the bodhisattva way, until all beings become Buddha. I vow to follow the Great Bodhisattva Way until all beings are saved from suffering. That’s Ji Jang Bosal’s great vow, the Great Bodhisattva Vow.

Carrying this great vow, we live our lives. That’s our purpose in our life. And not only this life, but lifetime after lifetime, until all beings are saved. That’s how we should live. Then my purpose in life is very clear. I eat breakfast early in the morning and lunch later in the day — for what? Why do I live in this world? Consider this right now. In Dongdaemun market and Namdaemun market many people come and go every day…very busy, very greedy. Aside from the time they spend making money, they have no time. Why do you live in this world? All of you who have gathered here today on the eve of Buddha’s Enlightenment Day; you are just like Buddha: you also want to attain to your true self. You gathered here to practice just as the Buddha did under the Bodhi tree. You are here to find out what you are.

So, really ask, “Who am I?” This is my head, this is my hand, this is my body. But is this me? What is the true me? What is the one thing that brought this body to Hwa Gye Sah and is now sitting in this dharma room? What is that one thing? You have to find that thing, the one thing that brought this body here. If you are just attached to some kind of material thing, if you are just emotionally moved by some kind of material thing, than how are you different from a cow or a pig? How are we different from any animal? “This is a person,” we say to ourselves. “This is not an animal.” But we have to understand our human being’s function before we can call ourselves a human being. We have to understand our human being’s correct way before we can say that we are not just an animal. The Buddha saw the morning star and got enlightenment. When he saw the morning star, he attained his true human nature — the way of a human being. If you attain to your human nature, then you can be called a human being.

Buddhism is not really religion. Our Buddhism means attain something, attain enlightenment. Look at this world… look at our country, Korea. Look at all things in this world changing. Recently several people wanted to become President of Korea. They spent a lot of money and time but they could not become President. If we look closely we see many people in this world who are ruled by the five desires of food, sex, money, sleep and fame. Many people live just for those things. If we throw those desires away, then we can find the correct way.

We should ask: “How can I attain to the true way? How can I save all beings?” That is the important question! We need a great vow. We need a great vow and strong will to save all beings. Even though I die, if I make this great vow, this vow will bring me back again as a human being. I will again seek the bodhisattva way; again come to Hwa Gye Sah; again attain to my true self; again save all beings. We have to make a great vow to save all beings. If we don’t make this great vow then, after we die, how will we be reborn? What will happen to us? Don’t stay in the five desires. Leave the five desires and live in the world of the great bodhisattva vow.

The Lion’s Head

Following a kong-an reading at the Providence Zen Center one year ago, Zen Master Seung Sahn gave this informal talk.

A long time ago, Korea was divided into three countries, all of them constantly fighting. Silla was the smallest, in the Southeast; Paekche was a little bigger, in the Southwest; and the biggest was Koguryo in the North. Silla people wanted more power, so they began army training schools. Many people went to them and for over fifty years there was nothing but war, war.

In one family both the grandfather and father were famous generals, and both of them died. Then only the grandmother was left to care for her little grandson, who had a strong body but a crybaby mind. He would go out to play, and other children would hit him and he’d start to cry. So the grandmother thought, “His father and grandfather were both great generals. Why is this one such a crybaby?” He only wanted to pray to Buddha, “Kwan Sae Um Bo Sal, Kwan Sae Um Bo Sal, Kwan Sae Um Bo Sal.”

One day she got an idea. She called to the crybaby to come with her. She took him in to his grandfather’s room full of swords, guns, and fierce war pictures. The crybaby was always afraid of that room, so he went in trembling.

“Bow to your grandfather’s picture!” He bowed. “Today I’m going to give you a special thing — our family treasure. Your father and grandfather had it before you and every time they went into battle with it, they won and became famous. Now you are growing up, so I am giving it to you. It will give you special energy and other boys won’t be able to beat you up anymore.”

“Is it true? I want it!”

“O.K. Don’t worry. Soon you’ll be strong!” The grandmother took a beautiful cloth off a fine wooden box in front of the grandfather’s picture. She opened the wooden box and inside was a shiny silver box.

She opened that and inside was a bright gold box! Inside the gold box was a small dried-up lion’s head with shining little eyes and a fierce mouth.

“This is a special energy head able to do anything. Keep it next to your body here under your clothes in this bag and then there will be no more problems. Whenever you fight, you’ll win. Never open this bag. No one should ever see it. It’s secret.”

Soon the crybaby felt a great surge of energy and was completely unafraid. He believed in this lion’s head and the special energy 100 percent. He wasn’t frightened of the room anymore. He touched his grandfather’s sword — wonderful! He touched the guns — wonderful! Then he went outside. The children yelled, “Hey, here comes crybaby! Let’s go fight!”. One ran over and POW! The crybaby knocked him down with his fist. Another came up and the crybaby gave him a kick in the stomach. Very strong. The crybaby became the Number One boy. “This lion’s head really works,” he thought.

At school he started doing very good work. A few years later, he went to army school and later he went to war. First he beat Paekche, then he beat Koguryo in the North, and all of Korea became one country, called the Silla Dynasty. He returned to the capital in triumph as a great general to a big parade. After that he went back to his village.

By this time, his grandmother was very old. She went into her altar room. “Thank you very much, Buddha. My grandson has become a great general and come home once more!” Every one in his neighborhood thought he was wonderful. They had parties, gave him presents.

One day his grandmother asked him, “Do you still have… that thing.”

“If I didn’t, how could I have won all those battles,” he said. “The enemy was always terrified of me because I never thought of life or death. I always pressed on, only believing in my special energy. So I always won! This treasure is fantastic! You really told me the truth. Thank you very much, Grandmother.”

“Yes, yes,” the grandmother said.

Then she took him into his grandfather’s room. “Let me see your special energy prize.”

She took the lion’s head and said, “Look, this isn’t any treasure. It’s the head of your grandfather’s walking stick. It isn’t anything special.”

The grandson was astonished.

“You didn’t believe in yourself. The other children kicked you around the block. So I gave you this. The special energy you felt came from you, not this little thing.”

This story is very interesting, about being dependent on something, attached to something. For Zen students it is the same. Maybe you think you understand, but then you see something, you hear something, you are attached to it, so your mind moves. If you cut off this mind-moving, cut off all thinking, then you are already Buddha. To do this, you must believe in your true self 100 percent. This means, don’t check your mind, don’t check your feelings.

But when bad karma appears, your mind moves, then what? In Oriental medicine they say, if you have hot sickness, hot medicine is necessary. So if you are attached to name and form, practicing is necessary — chanting, bowing, wearing these robes, lighting the incense, sitting Zen. When you chant, only hear this chanting; when it is time to bow, only bow; when the incense is lit, only smell. Only practicing means cutting off all thinking. Then you can see, you can hear, you can smell, all things are just like this, already Buddha. So only go straight, keep not-moving mind, “don’t know” mind. O.K.? O.K.

Letter to Three Monks

A letter from Seung Sahn Soen Sa to three American students who are studying in Korea:

Dear Mu Gak,

Thank you for your letter. Happy New Year Byon Jo, Mu Gat, and Mu Bul.

You said a Korean nun would like to come to America. Many Korean monks and nuns want to come to America. I would like them to come, but strong practice, strong faith, and great vows are necessary. You understand what happened to the two monks who came. They have grown their hair and become gentlemen. No more monks. Why did this happen? Their practice, faith and vows were not strong enough. Also, they were not Zen or Sutra Masters, so they could not support themselves. If you have no money in America it is very difficult to live here. They were finally forced to join the worldly life.

In our Zen centers everyone must pay to support the Temple. People with special jobs (Zen Master, general repair man, etc.) can live in the center and not pay rent. These people are necessary. But we cannot afford to support someone who is not necessary at this time. If the Buddha were not necessary, we would be obliged to show him the front door.

It is O.K. if this nun wants to come to America, but why does she want to come? This is very important. Does she want to teach, does she want to study Buddhism, does she want to get a job? How can we support her? In the future, when our centers are strong and rich, we will be able to accommodate visitors. Now we cannot support special positions in our centers.

Now I have explained the host — guest situation. But this is not your job. What is your job? PUT IT ALL DOWN!

Now I will ask you about your job.

Long ago in China, Lin Chi Zen Master was walking in front of the Dharma Room. Just at this time two students appeared and simultaneously shouted, “KATZ!” at each other. Another student walking with Lin Chi asked him, “Is there a host, is there a guest?” The Zen Master said, “Yes.” The student asked, “Which one is the host, which one is the guest?” The Zen Master said, “You ask them.”

So Mu Gak, I ask you, which one is the host and which one is the guest? Tell me! Quickly! This is your job.

Dear Mu Bul,

Happy New Year. I will give you a New Year’s present.

Kwan Seum Bosal has one thousand eyes and one thousand hands. So he is always helping your mind and body and saving all people. He is able to do everything. He is a great Bodhisattva.

Mu Bul, I ask you, which eyes are the correct eyes, which hands are the correct hands. If you attain this, you are Kwan Seum Bosal.

Dear Byon Jo,

I will also give you a New Year’s present.

Duk Sahn, before he had become a great Zen Master, visited Yong Dam Zen Master for the first time. He talked with him until late into the night. Yong Dam said, “Oh, it is very late. You must go to sleep.” Duk Sahn said, “Yes, thank you very much. But it’s very dark outside; could you give me a light?” Yong Dam began to hand him a lighted candle, but just as he was giving it to him, he blew it out. Duk Sahn’s mind opened; he was very happy, and bowed to Yong Dam.

So I ask you, what did Duk Sahn get? Tell me! Tell me!

I hope you keep your bodies strong, always keep the great question, soon get great Enlightenment, and soon finish a Great Work. Here is a poem for you:

Good and bad are good teachers.
Good and bad are very strong demons.
Originally there are no feelings, perceptions, impulses consciousness.
If you keep it, you can not attain it.
If you put it down, you also can not attain it.
What can you do?
If you want to attain it, you must ride the bone of space into the diamond eyes.
Be careful! Be careful!
The puppy is crying outside the door.
Do not kill it with kindness.



Letter From Krzyzstof

Dear Soen Sa Nim,

Thank you very much for your letter. What are you doing lately?

We are well. When I read your letter I put down translating I Ching and other high class jobs and together with Marek, boy who lives with us, started to work like a postman — not exactly postman, because we carry telegrams. On the beginning we had some difficulties walking and walking — rain, snow, eight hours almost every day and checked situation, condition, etc. But soon we became stronger, and also it helps practice, so now I feel we can increase time of sitting to three rounds in the evening instead of one. It means formal morning practice with a half-hour of sitting and evening with one and a half hours. Me and Marek have been practicing for long time, and another boy who lives with us, Czarek, practices sitting and bowing almost all day. Also, other people will come, so we will try this. How is it in American and Korean Zen Centers?

Lately our Zen Center becomes really Zen Center. More and more people are coming and all is progressing step by step. We have this Dharma Energy and it starts to manifest visible for everybody. Thank you for Nam Cheon kong-an. It helps very much – this doing without doing. Few weeks before I felt it is big necessity for me to go to States. Now my job and direction is very clear. Just like this. But anyway I am preparing to visit Providence after your coming here in October. What do you think about it?

For Nam Cheon’s kong-an my answer is: I already saved a cat, but where is this cat just now?

Today is beginning of spring. Sun is shining very bright. My child is sleeping on the fresh air. I would like to talk with you very much.

Yours in the Dharma,


May 8, 1981

Dear Krzysztof,

Thank you for your letter. How are you and all the Poland Sangha?

In your letter you said that beginning working as a postman had many difficulties, but that these difficulties made you stronger and helped your practicing. That’s wonderful. Also you said that you and Marek and another boy that lives with you will increase your time of sitting. That’s also wonderful!

You also say that your Zen Center, step by step, is growing and has much Dharma Energy, and that you plan to visit Providence after my visit to Poland in October. That is very, very wonderful!!!

Next, your answer to Nam Cheon’s Cat kong-an: it is not good, not bad. This kong-an is a Great Love, Great Compassion kong-an. If you have Great Love and Great Compassion, then this kong-an is no problem. How much do you love the cat? I will give you a hint:

Long ago there lived a great and wise king whose name was King Solomon. One day two women appeared before him with a baby. One woman said, “This is my baby.”

The other woman said, “No! This is my baby.” Very much arguing.

Finally King Solomon said, “O.K., since you cannot decide, one of you pull this baby by the feet, the other pull this baby by the hands. Then each of you can have half of the baby.”

One of the women began pulling, but the other woman said, “That’s O.K., you may have the baby.”

Then I ask you, which is the true mother? This kong-an is similar, but the situation is different because many people are fighting about the cat, so only one opinion is not possible. If you only keep Great Love and Great Compassion then an answer is possible, but your answer is like scratching your right foot when your left foot itches. One more step is necessary. If you don’t understand, only go straight – don’t know, O.K.? Try, try, try for 10,000 years nonstop.

I hope you only go straight — don’t know, which is clear like space, soon finish Nam Cheon’s kong-an, get Enlightenment, and save all people from suffering.

Yours in the Dharma,

S. S.

Kyol Che Man Cham – 1982

Zen Master Seung Sahn gave this formal Dharma speech (Man Cham) at the opening ceremony for the 1982 Winter Kyol Che at PZC.

(Soen Sa Nim ascended the High Stand and sat down. Holding the Zen stick and hitting the rostrum:)

Is it Buddha?

(Holding up the Zen stick and hitting the rostrum:)

Is it Dharma?

(Holding up the Zen stick and hitting the rostrum:)

Is it the true way?

Everybody already has Buddha, Dharma, and the true way, but some people understand, some don’t understand. A long time ago someone asked Zen Master Lin Chi, “What is Buddha?” He only shouted, “KATZ!” Someone asked Zen Master Dok Sahn. He only hit. Someone asked Zen Master Gu Ji. He only held up one finger. All three Zen Masters made a big mistake. But when someone asked Zen Master Un Mun, “What is Buddha?” he answered, “Dry shit on a stick.” Not bad! When someone asked Zen Master Dong Sahn, he said, “Three pounds of flax.” Also not bad.

Next, what is Dharma?

Zen Master Lin Chi again shouted, “KATZ!” Zen Master Dok Sahn hit the floor. Zen Master Gu Ji held up one finger. These answers are O.K., but one more step is necessary.

Someone asked Zen Master JoJu, “The Ten Thousand Dharmas return to the one. Where does the one return?” JoJu said, “When I was in Ch’ing Chou I made a robe. It weighed seven pounds.” That answer is O.K., but we must find JoJu’s mistake.

(Holding up the Zen stick and hitting the rostrum:)

Next, what is the true way?

Zen Master Lin Chi again shouted, “KATZ!” Zen Master Dok Sahn only hit the floor. Zen Master Gu Ji only held up one finger.

But once JoJu asked Zen Master Nam Cheon, “What is the true way?”

Zen Master Nam Cheon replied, “Everyday mind is the true way.” What is everyday mind? When you are hungry, eat. When you are tired, sleep. If someone is hungry, give them some food. If someone is thirsty, give them something to drink. That is everyday mind.

Then JoJu asked him, “Then shall I try to keep it or not?”

The Zen Master replied, “If you try to keep it, you’re already making a mistake.”

JoJu asked again, “If I do not try to keep it, how can I understand the true way?”

Then Zen Master Nam Cheon said, “The true way is not dependent on understanding or not understanding. Understanding is illusion. Not understanding is blankness. If you completely attain the true way, it is clear like space. So why do you make right and wrong?” When JoJu heard that, he got Enlightenment. So I ask you, what did JoJu attain?

Today is Kyol Che Day, the first day of our 90-day retreat, Sam Dong Kyol Che. Sam Dong means winter, Winter Kyol Che. We have ninety days to find our mind, the Dharma, and the true way – Buddha, Dharma, and the true way. Buddha is not special. What is Buddha? Buddha is clear mind. Mind-light is Dharma. Mind without hindrance is the true way. But Buddha, Dharma, and the true way – where do they come from? They come from our mind. But where does our mind come from?

If someone says, “I have already found my mind,” then he has already become blind, he cannot see anything. Someone else says, “I don’t know my mind.” But you cannot hide your body. Then where can you find your mind? If you find your mind, you have a problem. If you don’t find your mind, you also have a problem. What can you do?


1 + 89 = 90.

At this point, Soen Sa Nim chanted a four-line poem in Korean. After each two lines, the Sangha joined him in strongly chanting, once, “Namu Amitabul,” bowing together to the sound of the moktak. Soen Sa Nim then read the poem in English:

The Great Way is not difficult;
Only do not make distinctions.
If you want to understand that
There are many cars on Highway 95.

So, for 90 days, what will you do? The Great Work of Life and Death. Shakyamuni was born in Kapila Palace. He was a prince and it was possible for him to become a king. But he had a big question: “What is a human being? What are birth, old age, sickness and death?” He wanted to understand those questions. The Human Route is coming empty-handed, going empty-handed. When you are born, where do you come from? When you die, where do you go? If you understand that, you understand the true way. So where are you coming from? Where do you go? That’s a very important point.

The true way is not difficult. Don’t make distinctions; then everything is the true way. When you see, when you hear, when you smell, when you taste, when you touch, when you are thinking – everything is the true way. But if you are checking your mind, checking outside, checking something – then you have already lost the true way. So don’t make anything. For 90 days we do the Great Work of Life and Death. What is life? What is death? An eminent teacher said,

Life is like a floating cloud which appears.
Death is like a floating cloud which disappears.
Originally the floating cloud does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going are also like that.

That is our life; that is our death. If you understand that, then you have no problem. Your body is like a floating cloud. But there is one thing that always remains clear, that is not dependent on life and death. What is that one pure and clear thing? If you attain that, then you will get Freedom from Life and Death.

We have three kinds of freedom from life and death: first, Wisdom of Freedom from Life and Death; next, Attainment of Freedom from Life and Death; next, Correct Function of Freed from Life and Death.

First, Wisdom of Freedom from Life and Death – what does this mean? Our body is like a floating cloud: it appears and disappears, appears and disappears. But there is one thing that always remains clear and is not dependent on life and death. If you understand that, then you will get Wisdom of Freedom from Life and Death. When you go for an interview, the Master Dharma Teacher (now called a Ji Do Poep Sa Nim) will ask you, “Where are you coming from? When you die, where will you go?

Everybody who has sat one Yong Maeng Jong Jin already understands. It is necessary to digest this understanding and make it yours. After one year, two years, three years, four years, seven years, slowly, slowly you digest this understanding and it becomes yours. Then you can control your feeling, your condition, your situation. And your center will not move. There is no life, no death – you are very strong. Any kind of condition, any kind of situation, any kind of feeling can appear, coming and going, and your center won’t move. At that time, you attain freedom from life and death. This means life and death without hindrance; no matter what kind of situation, condition, or feeling is coming, going, your center is not moving. That is a very important point! So more practicing is necessary – only go straight, more practicing, practicing, practicing. Then your unmoving center can function correctly in every situation and relationship.

Some people try a mantra – only, “Kwan Seum Bosal,” or “Gate, Gate,” or “Om Mani Padme Hum” and try to attain samadhi. Samadhi is not-moving mind. Not-moving mind is the Absolute – there are no opposites. No opposites means there is no life, no death. No matter what kind of condition comes, only “Kwan Seum Bosal,” Whatever kind of bad feeling comes, you don’t care, only “Kwan Seum Bosal,” So your situation and condition and feeling are no hindrance. This samadhi mind is the Attainment of Freedom from Life and Death. But you still don’t understand correct function. It is necessary to go straight, go straight, more and more. Samadhi mind means no mind, so you have no direction.

Next, to attain no hindrance mind control, more practicing is necessary. No hindrance means you don’t care – any kind of feeling, any kind of condition, any kind of situation is no hindrance. And controlling your mind means that when your feelings come and go and your condition changes, you can control your feeling, condition and situation; then correct action is possible. So then, moment to moment, correct function, correct situation, correct relationship are possible. When somebody is hungry, give them food; when somebody is thirsty, give them something to drink. If somebody is sad, be sad with them; if somebody is happy, be happy together – that is correct function. Correct function means your correct situation and correct relationship. That is the Function of Freedom from Life and Death.

For 90 days we are practicing, which means doing the Great Work of Life and Death. We make life and death correct; to make them correct means to completely understand what life is and completely understand what death is. To completely understand means that there is no life, no death. If somebody has a bad feeling, I have a bad feeling that means together you live and die.

There are three kinds of Freedom from Life and Death. First, understand the Wisdom of Freedom from Life and Death. Life is death; death is life. Next, no life, no death. Next, Freedom from Life and Death. If somebody cries, I cry. If somebody is sad, I am sad. That is using life and death to save all beings. So, after 90 days, you can completely understand life and death.

How can you understand life and death? How can you understand this kind of practicing mind?

Our school has Ten Gates. Today, I will talk about these Ten Gates. Then everybody will practice for 90 days and include the Ten Gates in your practicing. Then your practice and the Ten Gates will make Wisdom of Freedom from Life and Death, then Attainment of Freedom of Life and Death, and then the complete functioning of Freedom from Life and Death.

First Gate: Someone asked JoJu Zen Master, “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” JoJu said, “Mu.” (“No”).

The first question is this: Buddha said all things have Buddha nature. Buddha nature means substance. All things have this substance or Buddha nature. But JoJu said the dog has no Buddha nature. Which one is correct?

The second question is: JoJu said “Mu.” What does “Mu” mean?

The next question: I ask you, does a dog have Buddha nature? What can you do? Older students all understand that, but understanding cannot help you. The understanding must become yours. You must attain the correct function of Freedom from Life and Death – only understanding the Wisdom of Freedom from Life and Death cannot help you.

Second Gate: A monk once asked JoJu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me, Master.”

JoJu said, “Did you have breakfast?” “Yes,” replied the monk. “Then,” said JoJu, “wash your bowls.” The monk was enlightened.

What did the monk attain? This is very simple. “Please teach me.” “Did you have breakfast?” “Yes, I have.” “Then wash your bowls.” That’s the correct function, correct relationship. That is everyday mind. This is an everyday-mind kong-an.

The First Gate has three kong-ans. The first is called attached-like-this kong-an. The second two are just-like-this kong-ans. The Second Gate kong-an is a just-like-this kong-an. What did the monk attain? If you attain that point, you understand moment to moment correct situation, correct function, correct relationship. This monk attained his correct situation.

Third Gate: Seong Am Zen Master used to sit every day in the Dharma Room facing the blue mountain. He used to call to himself every day, “Master!” and would answer, “Yes?” “You must keep clear!” “Yes!” “Never be deceived by others, any day, any time!” “Yes! Yes!”

Seong Am used to call to himself and answer himself – two minds. Which one is the correct Master? Some people have not only two minds, three minds, four minds, five minds, or eighty minds, but many, many minds – pain mind, sad mind, sex mind, money mind – many kinds of mind. Seong Am has only two minds: “Master!” “Yes!” “Keep a clear mind!” – two minds. Which one is the correct master? Two minds become one. If you become one, there is no mind, no master. If you attain no mind, no master, then you attain your true master. To attain this, first your master and your mind must disappear; then you are nothing. If you are nothing, then your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body can work correctly and you can see your master – everything is your master. At interview time, the Master Dharma Teacher will ask you this kong-an, and you must give a good answer.

Fourth Gate: Hok Am Zen Master said, “Why does Bodhidharma have no beard?” What is Bodhidharma’s original face?

I ask you, why does Bodhidharma have no beard? This is an attack kong-an. Here is an example: there is a very famous painter, and everybody wants him to draw their face. They will pay him much money to do this. “Please, will you draw my face? Make a picture of me?”

So he makes a portrait of you, and when he is finished with it, there is your finished portrait. Look at that! No hair! It is like a monk! You are very surprised. He is a famous painter! Why no hair? So what can you do? Already you have paid much money, and he is a famous painter! Maybe there is some meaning! Then what do you ask him?

In the same way, Bodhidharma has a beard. Then why does Hok Am Zen Master ask, “Why does Bodhidharma have no beard?” That, we say, is an attack kong-an. There are many kinds of attack kong-ans. Another example is this: you clean your body in the Zen Center shower room. But where do you clean your mind? That’s an attack kong-an. Here is another example: this world is complete stillness. Where do the sun, the moon, and the stars come from? These are all attack kong-ans. So, again I ask you, “Why does Bodhidharma have no beard? Tell me! Tell me!

Fifth Gate: Next is a famous kong-an: Hyang Eom’s “Up a tree.” Master Hyang Eom said, “It is like a man up a tree who is hanging from a branch by his teeth; his hands cannot grasp a bough, his feet cannot touch the tree (he is tied and bound). Another man under the tree asks him, “Why did Bodhidharma. come to China?” If he does not answer, he evades his duty (will be killed). If he answers, he will lose his life. If you were in the tree, how could you stay alive?

You are hanging by your teeth, so you cannot open your mouth. Also, you cannot move your hands; you cannot move your body. You cannot do anything. That, we say is a Kyung Chul Mun kong-an. Everything is stopped. Nothing is possible, but one thing is possible. What is the one thing? Only one way. Not two ways – you only have one way. If you find that, then a good answer is possible. The question is, “Why did Bodhidharma come to China?” If you open your mouth to answer, you are already dead! If you do not answer, you evade your duty as a Bodhisattva and will be killed. If you were in the tree, how could you stay alive? That is the big question.

If you pass this Gate, you have finished half of the kong-ans. We have about 1,700 kong-ans. If you pass this Gate, you will have passed the equivalent of 850 kong-ans. So this is a difficult kong-an. If you only pass the kong-an, it’s not interesting. If it becomes yours, then O.K. – your mind and your body and your world become one and function correctly. At that time you attain freedom, correct function, and Freedom from Life and Death is possible. So attain Freedom from Life and Death. That means there is no life, no death. But if you only have that, you have a problem, so we will check the next kong-an.

Sixth Gate: Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. Somebody comes to the Zen Center, smoking a cigarette. He blows smoke and drops ashes on the Buddha. If you are standing there at that time, what could you do?

This is a famous kong-an. Students of one year and even older students still don’t understand this kong-an. Maybe after three or four years they still don’t understand. But if you only go straight – don’t know, try, try, try, then maybe after three years it is possible to pass this Gate. In this kong-an, this cigarette man thinks, “I already have Enlightenment. I already have this Buddha or Dharma, or true way.” He is very attached to his idea that he has attained universal substance; he has attained freedom from life and death. No life, no death he has attained one point. But he still has a problem because he is attached to one point, attached to emptiness – substance, everything is the same.

An eminent teacher said, “One by one, each thing is complete and each thing has it.” For example, this is a stick. The stick’s substance and your substance – are they the same substance? When you are thinking, your mind and my mind are different. When you cut off all your thinking, then your mind and my mind are the same. If you keep don’t-know mind 100% only go straight – don’t-know – then your don’t-know mind, my don’t-know mind, everybody’s don’t-know mind are all the same don’t-know mind. This same don’t-know mind has already cut off all our thinking. To stop thinking is no thinking. No thinking is empty mind. Empty mind is before thinking. Your before-thinking mind is your substance; my before-thinking mind is my substance – then everybody’s substance is all the same substance. When you keep don’t-know mind 100%. only go straight – don’t know, then already you are the universe and the universe is you. You and everything already have become one. That, we say, is primary point. So Don’t-Know is not Don’t Know; Don’t Know is primary point. Primary point’s name is Don’t Know. Somebody said primary point is mind, or Buddha, or God, or nature, or substance, or Absolute, or energy, or holiness, or consciousness. But the true primary point has no name, no form. There is no speech, no word, because the primary point is before thinking. Only keep don’t-know mind 100% and then you and everything have already become one.

Then if you keep this Don’t-Know, this stick and you – are they the same or different?

(Soen Sa Nim hits Zen stick on the rostrum.)

Do you understand this point? If you are only attached to this point, there is no you, no I, no mind, no Buddha, nothing at all. So you think, “Ohhhh, I am already enlightened!” So it is possible for you to come to the temple smoking a cigarette and drop ashes on the Buddha – no problem. But you don’t understand your correct situation, correct function, correct relationship moment to moment. Everyday mind is Zen mind. But this man has only attained Freedom from Life and Death. He doesn’t understand his correct function. So one more step is necessary. When he is dropping ashes on the Buddha, at that moment what can you do? How can you teach him?

So, during the 90 days of hard training, passing this kong-an is very important – not only for Kyol Che people, but for outside working people. Sometimes the people outside Kyol Che do better than the people who sit Kyol Che. Who is better? After the 90 days, we will check, O.K?

Seventh Gate: Ko Bong’s Three Gates. This is a very famous kong-an.

The First Gate is: The sun shines everywhere. Why does a cloud obscure the sun?

Don’t attach to the Zen Master’s speech. The Zen Master often uses bad speech to check his student’s mind. Why is this? Is it good or bad? Is it correct or not correct? It is an opposites question. When wind comes, maybe the cloud covers the sun. But this style thinking is no good. Just perceive, just intuition. Zen mind means just intuitive mind.

Ko Bong’s Second Gate is: Everyone has a shadow following him. How can you not step on your shadow?

How can you step or not step? Why does the cloud cover the sun? These are opposites questions. I already told you that these questions are to check the student’s mind. Usually in this life, we keep an opposites mind: I like, I don’t like; coming, going; good, bad. Always, kong-ans use opposites. Here we are working with opposites thinking. Is your mind working without opposites thinking? Do you have no hindrance? If you completely become one mind, there are no opposites. Then intuition is possible. So a kong-an is like a fisherman’s baited hook when he goes fishing. He covers the hook with good food. Then always, if the fish wants something or is hungry, he touches the hook and then dies. Your mind usually wants something: I want hard training; I want to become a good Zen student; I want to be correct, moment to moment; I want to give a good answer. So you want – it is not a bad want, it’s a good want. But if you want, whether it’s good or bad doesn’t matter. Already you are dead. So I ask you, how can you not step on your shadow? Then, if you are already thinking, the Master Dharma Teacher hits you! “Keep a clear mind!” (Laughs) If not, you have a problem.

Ko Bong’s Third Gate is: The whole universe is on fire. Through what kind of samadhi can you escape being burned?

I have heard that there are spaceships that are now carrying atom bombs around this earth. Sometime, if somebody pushes a wrong button on the control tower, then the spaceships will explode, and this world will disappear. So, at that time, how can you stay alive?

If you do 90 days of hard training, this world can disappear and you will have no problem. If you don’t do hard training and this mind is thinking, thinking, thinking, then you will have a problem. So, through what kind of samadhi can you escape being burned?

Eighth Gate: Duk Sahn carrying his bowls. In China, Korea, and Japan, this is a famous kong-an,

One day Duk Sahn came into the Dharma Room carrying his bowls. Seol Bong, [the] Housemaster, said, “Old Master, the bell has not yet been rung, and the drum has not yet been struck. Where are you going carrying your bowls?”

Duk Sahn returned to the Master’s room. Seol Bong told Am Du, [the] Head Monk. Am Du said, “Great Master Duk Sahn does not understand the last word.”

The last word means correct situation. In other words, Am Du was saying that his teacher didn’t understand his correct situation or function.

When Duk Sahn heard of this he became very angry and sent for his Head Monk Am Du. “Do you not approve of me?” he demanded.

Then Am Du whispered in the Master’s ear. Duk Sahn was relieved.

The next day on the rostrum, making his Dharma speech, Duk Sahn was really different from before. Am Du went to the front of the Dharma Room, laughed loudly, clapped his hands and said, “Great joy! The old Master has understood the last word! From now on, no one can check him.”

There are three questions from this story. The first question is: the Zen Master did not understand the last word. What was the last word? The next question is, what did Am Du whisper in the Master’s ear? The third question is, how was the Master’s speech different from before?

I asked a famous Zen Master, “Do you understand the last word?” The famous Zen Master said, “When you are hungry, eat; when you are tired, sleep.” I said, “Not bad, but not enough. Hungry time, eat – that is hungry-time last word. Sleepy time, sleep – that is sleepy-time last word. But what is Duk Sahn’s last word?”

Then I asked the Zen Master, “Do you understand what he whispered in the Zen Master’s ear?” Then he imitated whispering, “shee-shee-shee.” I said, “You are a monkey! Only shee-shee-shee – then you cannot hear. Only a monkey does that. The Head Monk said something. What did he say? Only shee-shee-shee – that could be a passing-water sound! What kind of words did Am Du use?”

Am Du’s words were two kinds. At first Duk Sahn Zen Master was very angry. First you must take away his angry mind. It is like a wife and husband – they love each other very much, but one day the wife talks to her husband’s friend: “My husband this, this, this.” Then her husband hears that and is very angry at his wife: “You do not believe in me!” If you were the wife, what could you do? What would you say to your husband? First you must give him good speech, and second you must make clear the correct situation. Just saying you’re sorry is not enough.

If you were Am Du, the Head Monk, then you would have to first make clear your correct situation and correct relationship with the Zen Master. Then the Zen Master would understand, and his angry mind would disappear. Then, second, you would have to offer correct teaching about the last word. Then the Zen Master would be relieved.

How was Duk Sahn’s speech different than before? Before, maybe Duk Sahn didn’t understand the last word. Maybe this time he understands the last word. Before, what kind of Dharma speech did he give? His Dharma speech before that doesn’t matter. This time, what kind of Dharma speech did he give? That is a very important point. If you finish all that, then you can understand correct function, correct situation, correct relationship. That means you understand the last word. Then you can become a great Zen Master!

Why did many problems appear in this kong-an? Duk Sahn Zen Master only returned to his room. He was asked where he was going carrying his bowls, and he only returned to his room. That was a mistake. The drum had not yet been struck, and he carried his bowls to the Dharma Room, so he was not correct. At that time, if you were the Zen Master, what could you do? One sentence to the Housemaster is necessary. Whether it is a mistake or no mistake doesn’t matter – if you make a mistake, use your mistake and make it correct. Then the Housemaster would say, “Oh, Zen Master, now I understand! Thank you very much.” Then the Housemaster would not have spoken to the Head Monk, and the problem would not have appeared.

So, the last question is, if you were the Zen Master and someone asked you where you were going carrying your bowls, at that time what could you do? This kong-an is a little difficult, so you must understand this. If you finish this kong-an, it is possible for you to become a Master Dharma Teacher! Does everybody want that? Then try!

Ninth Gate: Nam Cheon kills a cat. Nam Cheon Zen Master was in his room one day. Outside it was very, very noisy the 250 monks of the Western hall and the 250 monks of the Eastern hall were fighting over a cat. “This is my cat!” “No! This is my cat!” “No, this is our cat!” Fighting. Very noisy. So the Zen Master became very angry because his monks were not practicing Zen – they were only fighting, and their minds had all become cat minds. So the Zen Master picked up this cat and shouted, “You! Give me one word and I will save this cat! If you cannot give me one word, I will kill it!”

He is checking the students’ minds to see if they truly love the cat or if they are only attached to the cat. If they are only attached to the cat, they cannot answer. If they are not attached to the cat – if they only love the cat – then saving the cat’s life with a good answer is possible. But the 500 monks could not answer. There was only silence. They were only attached to the cat; they did not love the cat. So finally Nam Cheon Zen Master killed the cat.

At that time JoJu was Nam Cheon Zen Master’s disciple. That evening, when he returned from outside the temple, Nam Cheon told JoJu what had happened. “So I killed the cat. If you had been here, what would you have done?” JoJu Zen Master took off his shoes, put them on top of his head, and walked away. Then Nam Cheon Zen Master said, “If you had been there, I could have saved the cat.” That is the story, a famous story.

So, first question is, when Nam Cheon Zen Master holds up the cat and says, “Give me one word; then I will save this cat. If not, I will kill it!” – what can you do? That is a love kong-an. If you have Great Love and Great Compassion, this kong-an is no problem.

Also, here is a hint: a long time ago during the time of King Solomon, there was an argument about a baby. Two women each said, “This is my baby!” So Solomon said, “Bring this baby, and I will divide it in two. Then each of you can take half.” Then one woman said, “Oh, you take the baby – it is yours.”

Then who is the true mother? This is a love story. If you have Great Love inside, then you have a Zen mind.

Master Dharma Teacher George talked about unconditional. Unconditional means Great Love, Great Compassion, Great Bodhisattva Way. So unconditionally sit; unconditionally DO IT! Unconditionally practice. Don’t check your condition. Unconditional – very important! This is Great Love. So if your mind is unconditional, this unconditional mind has no I, my, me. I do everything for all beings – for husband, for wife – that is Great Love. Then it would be possible to save the cat.

The next question is: JoJu walked away with his shoes on his head. Then Nam Cheon Zen Master said, “If you had been there, I could have saved the cat.” What does this mean? Why did JoJu put his shoes on his head and walk away? What does this mean? So keep your correct situation, correct condition, correct idea action. If you attain this kong-an, then you attain Great Love, Great Compassion, Great Bodhisattva Way. This means moment to moment keep your correct situation, correct function, correct relationship.

Tenth Gate: The mouse eats cat food, but the cat bowl is broken.

What does this mean? Does everybody understand? Some may understand, but understanding cannot help you. You must attain, and then this kong-an becomes yours. That kong-an, we say, is subject just-like-this. Mouse, cat food, bowl, broken. So mouse bowl is broken. For example, some day your stomach is not feeling very good, and you want ice cream. Then, “Oh, I have a quarter – I can get some ice cream.” Then you go to the ice cream store and buy cream for 25�. Then you eat it, and then you feel very good! Wonderful! So a quarter is 25�; 25� buys ice cream; ice cream is gone. Then – wonderful! So the quarter is changing, changing, changing – wonderful. Mouse, cat food, cat bowl, broken, then what? Everybody is very clever. Very clever means they don’t understand. You must become stupid – then you can get the point, of this kong-an. This kong-an is very easy, too simple. Can you see your nose? Yes, I can see my nose. Can you see your eyes? Not possible! If you want to see your eyes, you must put down your want-to-see mind. Then you can attain your eyes. It is the same as if you want to understand your mind – it is not possible. You must attain your mind. Someone may say, “I have already attained my mind.” That is not possible – that is crazy! That is a clever mind. To become stupid means to have a simple mind. Thinking mind becomes don’t-know mind, becomes simple. Become simple, become simple. Stupid people only DO IT! The clever mind is checking, checking, checking all the time, or holding something, attached to something. If you want to understand this kong-an, then you must become stupid.

So for 90 days, do stupid practicing, O.K? Also, outside working people must become stupid. How can you become stupid? Always take the don’t-know medicine. Don’t-know medicine is very strong. You can digest any kind of understanding and become simple. Also, don’t-know medicine is a wonderful kind of medicine. For any sickness, any kind of problem, any kind of want, the don’t-know medicine can fix it and make it correct. Number one medicine! So only go straight – don’t know. Then you can pass the Ten Gates – try, try, try. If you pass all Ten Gates, then this world will almost become yours. Becoming yours means you will attain the Function of Freedom from Life and Death. Then correct function, correct relationship, correct situation is possible. This is a very important point! If you pass these Ten Gates, I will give you a present of an Eleventh Gate!

Eleventh Gate: Three men are walking. The first man makes a sword sound; the next man takes out a handkerchief; the third man waves his hand.

What does it mean? You don’t understand this? Then only go straight – don’t-know, and you can attain this Gate.

This kong-an is object just-like-this. Subject just-like-this means when you are hungry, what? Eat! That is subject just-like-this. If somebody is hungry, what? Give them food! That is object just-like-this. These three men have different actions, but the situation is the same. The function is different, the condition is different, but it is the same situation. So, what is the relationship? What is the function? What is the situation? Same situation, same condition, same relationship, but the function is different: one makes a sword sound, one takes out a handkerchief, one waves his hand – different action, but the meaning is the same. For example, you go to a theater where somebody is doing a one-man show. He tells a very funny story, he acts funny, talks funny, and then everybody laughs. Everybody is happy. Many different people are laughing with different styles. Somebody is laughing, “Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!” Somebody else is laughing, “Hu, Hu, Hu, Hu!” Somebody else is laughing, “Ho, Ho. Ho, Ho!” — different laughing styles. The action is different, but the condition and the situation are the same. So what kind of condition, what kind of situation, what kind of relationship? You must attain that. That, we say, is object just-like-this.

Today we are checking all the Ten Gates and the Eleventh Gate – the three men walking kong-an. Why are we checking this? Because if you don’t understand them, you must keep don’t-know mind to become stronger. If you don’t understand, don’t understand, don’t understand, then your Don’t-Know mind becomes very strong and a big Don’t-Know is possible, which means Great Question or Great Doubt. Completely don’t-know, then you will get complete Enlightenment. If you have a small question, only small Enlightenment is possible. There are many kinds of Enlightenment – small Enlightenment, middle Enlightenment, big Enlightenment, then finally, no Enlightenment. No Enlightenment is complete Enlightenment. The Heart Sutra says, “No attainment with nothing to attain.”

George is teaching the 90-day Kyol Che people; Linc and Bobby are teaching the members working outside of Kyol Che, so we will have strong outside practicing and strong inside practicing. Only go straight – don’t-know. Don’t make anything, O.K? Don’t check anything, don’t hold anything, don’t want anything, don’t attach to anything. If you want something, then you have a problem; if you want Enlightenment, then you have a #1 big problem. Then you will have a headache, an energy-up headache. Don’t want anything; don’t attach to anything. “I want to sit correctly,” “I want to be a correct Zen student,” “I want correct practicing.” If you are attached to any kong-an, then you have a problem. So don’t check, don’t hold, don’t want, don’t attach – which means don’t make anything. Then your mind is already complete.

Enlightenment is not special. Put it all down, everything! Only Don’t Know. Then Don’t Know will open by itself. In the springtime, all flowers open up by themselves. If you go to a greenhouse in the wintertime, you will find many flowers – only hothouse flowers. That’s O.K., but they are not correct, not strong. Outside, spring comes, the grass grows by itself. Flowers are blooming. That is the true way.

So I hope you only go straight, Don’t Know, for ninety days, and don’t make anything. Then your center will become stronger, stronger, stronger. Then you will be able to control your feeling, your condition, and your situation. Then first, attain the Wisdom of Freedom from Life and Death. Next, attain Freedom from Life and Death. Finally, attain the Correct Function of Freedom from Life and Death.

So I ask you: First, the Wisdom of Freedom from Life and Death; next, the Attainment of Freedom from Life and Death; finally, the Correct Function of Freedom from Life and Death which one is best? If you find which one is best, then the dog is laughing, “Ho. Ho! You are just like me.” That is wonderful. If you cannot find the best one, then the Stone Tiger is laughing, “Ha, Ha, Ha! You are stupid.” More practicing is necessary! If you want to know which one is best, then go outside and ask the snow, “Why are you white?” Then the snow will give you a good answer.

Soen Sa Nim’s penetrating Korean chanting again filled the Dharma Room, and again, after each pair of lines, the Sangha joined him wholeheartedly in chanting, once, strongly, “Namu Amitabul,” to the sound of the moktak. During the chanting Soen Sa Nim hit the rostrum three times with his stick, the final time just as the chanting finished. He then descended from the High Stand.