(New Year’s Message, January 1, 1982)

As the brilliantly rising New Year’s sun colors the clouds on the eastern horizon, everything in the universe overflows with joy and glory.

All universal law is Buddhist Dharma-indeed, there is nothing that is not. The towering mountains and the flowing rivers speak the mystical Dharma; the flying birds and the crawling beasts sing their songs of joy. Both the evil and the gentle are Buddha; both clear waters and muddy waters are streams of compassion. And the world is overflowing with the warm breezes of spring.

Every place to sit is a golden cushion, a jade stool, and we have  always been dancing to the tunes of beautiful nature. So raise your eyes and look before you: the endless light of the universe always shines brilliantly. Indeed, the universe itself is this Great Light. Let’s join hands and move forward together with all our might; for peace, the joy of freedom, and glory are right before us.

The seas of golden grains are our gardens, and the sounds of factory machines are the hope of our future. Let’s all raise our arms together, dance and sing in the beauty of nature, and bless every living thing!

Keeping the Precepts Is Genuine Purity

(Given at a Precepts Ceremony, T’ongdo-sa Monastery, September, 1981)

The Precepts are so fundamentally and eternally pure and spotless that you could not fully transmit their greatness if you painted them across the endless sky. They are so perfect that if the entire universe crumbled into powder, these supreme Precepts would remain indestructible.

You should all be totally content, since there is no difference whatsoever between the virtuous in paradise and those suffering ceaselessly in hell. How mysterious and marvelous that everything is absolutely equal, evenly tranquil, and blindingly brilliant!

The Buddhas of the universe could spend the rest of eternity trying to explain this, but to no avail. It is only through the great psychological death and rebirth of enlightenment that you can see this for yourself. And then you will suddenly awaken to see red flowers brilliantly blooming from steel trees and tremendous fire pouring out of mountains of ice. Even the Buddha and the Zen predecessors flee from such a sight, while insects and microbes sing praise of this transcendental landscape.

Life, death and enlightenment are but dreams in a dream. The spotlessness of temples and the filth of the mundane world are but false flowers of the eyes. There is only the free-flowing peace of the One Great Way, and we are always bursting with exuberance that shoots up through the skies.

Take care of yourselves, and make courageous progress. Open up Wisdom’s Eye, and confirm for yourself the supremacy of the Precepts.

The Correct Path of Seon

From 1st Journal of White Lotus Buddhist Studies(JWBS), 1991

This text is composed of essentials specially excerpted directly by Venerable Master Seongcheol from his previously published Seonmun Jeongno (Correct Path of Seon) plus supplementary explanations related to the practice (gongbu) of hwadu.

“There is not a single sentient being that does not possess the wisdom of the Tathagata, but because of their attachments to delusions they cannot realize (this wisdom). So if they can lose the delusions, all will have natural wisdom and unhindered wisdom revealed to them.” (80 fascicle Huayan jing [Avatamsaka Sutra], 50 )

Comment: The wisdom of the Tathagata means the Buddha-nature, and so if one discards the delusions that conceal the Buddha-nature, the Buddha-nature automatically appears.

“All sentient beings have the Buddha-nature, but because it is covered over by defilements, they do not know and do not see it.” (Daniepan jing [Mahaparinirvana Sutra], fascicle 7)

“The thus-so Buddha-nature can only be known by a Buddha.” (Daniepan jing [Mahaparinirvana Sutra], fascicle 7)

“The anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (supreme, correct enlightenment/awareness) is achieved due to seeing the nature.” (Daniepan jing [Mahaparinirvana Sutra], fascicle 7)

Comment: Since the Buddha-nature can only be seen by a Buddha who has eliminated all delusions, this is the supreme, correct awareness.

“The arhats do not see the Buddha-nature.” (Daniepan jing [Mahaparinirvana Sutra], fascicle 27)

“Even though a bodhisattva has reached the tenth (of the ten stages), that bodhisattva still does not clearly see or know the Buddha-nature.” (Daniepan jing [Mahaparinirvana Sutra], fascicle 8)

Comment: A bodhisattva, even at the tenth of the stages, still cannot clearly see the Buddha-nature because subtle delusions remain.   Needless to say this also applies to arhats.

“Even though one profoundly believes that sentient beings all share the same true nature, because that is covered by adventitious contaminants, it cannot be completely visible. If one can discard the delusions and return to the true (nature), because one is calm and has nothing to do that is called entry into principle.” (Bodhidharma, Sixinglu)

Comment: This is seen in the Dunhuang texts etcetera, and so is recognized as being the personal teaching of Bodhidharma.

“Although the myriad Dharmas are all present in the self-nature, being covered by the floating clouds of false thoughts, the self-nature cannot be elucidated. If one has blown away the illusory falsities, inside and outside are completely clarified and the myriad Dharmas will all be visible in the self-nature.” (Dunhuang Platform Sutra)

Comment: “Inside and outside are completely clarified” is just like when the Buddha lit a light inside a glass bottle, the inside and outside were bright, which was called marvelous awareness.
“When in the space of a moment false thoughts are all extinguished, and inside and outside are completely clarified, one recognizes that one’s own original mind is itself liberation, which is no-thought.” (Platform Sutra)

Comment:  The popularly circulating Platform Sutra writes, “People who see the nature are also the same as this.” Since ‘inside and outside are completely clarified’ and ‘immediate cultivation, no-thought’ are contents shared by the Dunhuang and popular Platform Sutra texts, these are the fundamental thought of the Sixth Patriarch expressed unchanged in the Platform Sutra. That is, if inside and outside are completely clarified, and if one sees the nature and delusions have all been removed, that is called no-thought. Since a fundamental principle of Buddhism is that the ending of delusions is seeing the nature, the words of the Buddha and patriarchs do not contradict this.

“When one has completed the bodhisattva stages and has distanced oneself from the subtle false thoughts, since one can see the nature of the mind it is called ultimate awareness.” (Qixinlun [The Mahayana Awakening of Faith])

“When the false mind is extinguished, the Dharmakaya (Body of the Law) will be clearly visible.” (Qixinlun [Awakening of Faith])

Comment: Since the Dharmakaya is the body of the Dharma-nature, this means that is the same as the Buddha-nature.

“If one removes and extinguishes ignorance one will see the original Dharmakaya.” (Qixinlun [Awakening of Faith])

“The Buddhas and Tathagata are simply the Dharmakaya.” (Qixinlun [Awakening of Faith])

Comment: The Awakening of Faith is a recognized summation of Mahayana Buddhism. Ultimate awareness in which all delusions have been removed is called seeing the nature. This agrees with the words of the Buddha and patriarchs.

“In the stage of no pollution of the diamond-like samadhi (vajra-upama-sam?dhi) that is the final mind (state) of the tenth stage, the mental thoughts of the subtle force of habit are all eliminated. Therefore it is said (that at this stage) one can see the nature of the mind.” (Xianshou Fazang, Qixinlun yiji [Notes on the Meaning of the Awakening of Faith], T44.268c)

Comment: The authoritative doctrinal scholar Xianshou also says that at the tenth stage that the subtle delusions must be eliminated before one sees the nature.

“The saints of the tenth stage preach that the Dharma is like clouds rising or rain falling, and that seeing the nature is like (seeing) with ones eyes covered over by fine gauze.” (Yunmen, Jingde chuandenglu 19)

“Just like a clear-eyed person who (sees) all the masses of material objects (with his eyes) covered by light gauze, the bodhisattva of the ultimate stage likewise sees all percepts. Just like a clear-eyed person who has no obstructions (sees) all the masses of material forms, the Tathagata sees all percepts likewise.” (Yujialun 50)

Comment: As even the bodhisattva of the ultimate and tenth stage has remaining subtle delusions, they do not see the nature.

“The enlightened person immediately cultivates. The self-nature is immediately cultivated.” (Platform Sutra)

Comment: These lines of the Dunhuang Platform Sutra are expressed in the popular Platform Sutra version as, “The deluded person gradually tallies, the enlightened person immediately cultivates. Immediate enlightenment and immediate cultivation likewise have no stages,” and so (these two versions) are unanimous in advocating immediate cultivation. This shared advocacy of immediate cultivation in the Dunhuang and popular versions of the Platform Sutra is a fundamental teaching of the Sixth Patriarch. The Sixth Patriarch did not propose gradual cultivation after enlightenment.

“As immediate enlightenment and immediate cultivation does not produce a single thought, it has terminated both before and after.” (Zongmi, Chanyuan zhuquanji duxu).

“If false thoughts are all completely extinguished, wipe away the place of elimination also.” (Record of Consulting Seon, in Taegorok)

Comment: Although one has eliminated all false thoughts, if one remains at the place of elimination that is the great death that cannot come to life. And so only when one has abandoned even the state of having eliminated all false thoughts is one properly enlightened.

“Anybody who does not produce a single thought and who has terminated before and after, will immediately be enlightened and immediately cultivate, immediately terminate and immediately realize, and will have no stages.” (Seosanjip 4)

Comment: The import of the immediate enlightenment of ‘immediate enlightenment with gradual cultivation’ and ‘immediate enlightenment with immediate cultivation’ is fundamentally different. The immediate enlightenment of gradual cultivation is the defilements and delusions left as they are, and the gradual cultivation is the removal of delusions. The immediate enlightenment of immediate cultivation is the great no-mind in which not even a single thought is produced, and so there is no need to remove delusions, which is called immediate cultivation.

Bojo’s immediate enlightenment is leaving delusions as they are, which he called the starting (mind) of the ten faiths [the first of the ten stages of the bodhisattva career]. The Sixth Patriarch’s immediate enlightenment is the inside and outside completely clarified of marvelous awareness, which he called the no-thought of the Buddha-stage. These two contradict each other. The correct-eyed lineage masters of the Seon School all passed beyond the non-production of a single thought, and since none (of them) lacked no-thought, therefore Bojo’s starting (mind) of the ten faiths that advocated leaving delusions as they are does not even have relative value. However, we must note that even though one has reached (the state of) not producing a single thought, if one remains with the non-production of a single thought that is a great death that cannot come to life and is not called seeing the nature.

“Fada was greatly enlightened at a word and said himself, ‘Hereafter every moment I shall practice the Buddhist practice.’ The Master said, ‘The Buddhist practice is the Buddha.’” (Dunhuang Platform Sutra)

Comment: As immediate enlightenment is the stage of the Buddha, this means that gradual cultivation after enlightenment is not necessary. The practice of the Buddha is the practice of immediate cultivation and perfect realization.

“Each one of our six generations of masters said, ‘Decisively and directly enter, and directly see the nature.’ They did not speak of stages or gradual. Those who would learn the Way should immediately be enlightened and gradually cultivate.” (Shenhui yiji 3)

Comment: As there was much immediate cultivation thought in the Shenhui yiji, Hu Shi declared that Shenhui had spoken of immediate cultivation. But Shenhui, while saying that the Chan/Seon School was immediate cultivation, on the other hand advocated gradual cultivation. Therefore the founding patriarch of gradual cultivation could be none other than Shenhui.

“First one should immediately be enlightened, and only then should one cultivate gradually. This refers to enlightenment through understanding. Therefore the Huayan (jing) preaches that ‘when the mind is initially determined (for enlightenment), that is achieving the correct awareness.’ And after that the three sagely and ten saintly (stages of the bodhisattva career) are successively cultivated and realized.” (Zongmi, Chanyuan zhuquanji duxu, Ji-nul, Jeolyo)

“One first enters the stages of the ten faiths after enlightenment.” (Zongmi, Chengxitu, Jeolyo)

Comment: ‘Successively cultivate the three sagely and ten saintly (stages)’ are evidently the words of doctrinal scholars, and so to call this (teaching an) advocacy of the Seon School of the separate transmission outside of the doctrine is ridiculous.

“Even though one is immediately enlightened that one’s self-nature is originally empty and quiescent, the adventitious contaminants and defilements are no different to what they were before.” (Ji-nul, Susimgyeol)

Comment: While the Buddha and the patriarchs said that the ultimate awareness of the great ground of no-mind is seeing the nature, Bojo said that the starting (mind) of the ten faiths that is no different to the preceding defilements and delusions is seeing the nature. Therefore this (claim) is fundamentally a violation of the words of the Buddhas and patriarchs.

“Turn back the light in a single thought and see one’s own basic nature. That nature-ground is the nature of the wisdom that lacks outflows [insight unstained by defilements], which is something one was originally fully provided with, and which is not in the slightest degree different to that of all the Buddhas. There it is called ‘immediate enlightenment.’”

“Although one is enlightened that the basic nature is no different to the Buddha, the beginning-less force of habit (means) it is ultimately difficult to remove immediately. Therefore, through cultivation that is dependent on enlightenment, one should long nurture the fetus of the saint (Buddha), and after a long time one becomes the saint. Therefore I say (one should) cultivate gradually.” (Susimgyeol)

Comment: Although Bojo said that the starting (mind) of the ten faiths that is no different to the preceding defilements and delusions is seeing the nature, that is not the seeing the nature (spoken of by) the Buddha and patriarchs.

“After enlightenment one should examine and reflect for a long time, and even if false thoughts suddenly arise, one should not follow them at all, but discard them and again discard them till one comes to (where) there is nothing more to be done in discarding (wuwei), which is to be at the point of the ultimate. The excellent teachers of the world herd the oxen [mind/thought] after enlightenment.” (Susimgyeol)

Comment: In the Mahayana sutras, the Avatamaska and the Mahaparinirvana, the Buddha says that the stage of the Buddha where delusions are all ended is seeing the nature, and that there is no need for further cultivation thereafter. In the Platform Sutra the Sixth Patriarch speaks in detail of inside and outside completely clarified as seeing the nature. He did not speak of further cultivation. Even in the oldest text, the Dunhuang version, one cannot find ideas about gradual cultivation.

Bojo said that the ten faiths that overlay the delusions are the seeing of the nature, and that the removal of the delusions is gradual cultivation. One can see that this contradicts the words of the Sixth Patriarch. To the extent that one says that the ten faiths that lie layer upon layer over the delusions are the seeing of the nature, to that extent one is wrong. (To the extent that one says that) one must not leave the delusions as they are, that inevitably means that naturally one pursues gradual cultivation. And thus one must know that this idea of gradual cultivation is clearly that of the doctrinal scholars and not that of the Seon School.

“In the idea of doctrine, immutability and adaptability to conditions, immediate enlightenment and gradual cultivation have a fore and after [temporal succession]. In the Seon Dharma, during one thought/moment, immutability and adaptability to conditions, nature and attribute, substance and function, are fundamentally simultaneous.”

Comment: These are words in Seosan’s Seonga gugam, which says that immediate enlightenment and gradual cultivation are the ideas of doctrinal scholars and not those of the Seon School.

“Of those who now mistakenly receive the meaning of Seon, some regard the gate (method) of immediate (enlightenment) and gradual (cultivation) to be the correct genealogy, and (some) regard the teaching of perfect immediacy to be the vehicle of the school, so how can I dare to speak of their errors in slandering the Dharma?” (Seon gyo gyeol)

Comment: Since the ideas of immediate enlightenment with gradual cultivation and perfect immediacy and the understanding through faith are those of the doctrinal scholars and not those of the Seon School, the mistaken assertion that this is an idea of the Seon School was cautioned against by Seosan as a major error of slandering the Dharma. Moreover, these identical lines (of caution) appear in the Seonmun bojangrok.

“Heze (Shenhui) is a lineage master of intellectual understanding.”

Comment: Heze was the founding patriarch of immediate enlightenment with gradual cultivation, and Guifeng (Zongmi) continued to propagate this. Bojo also was a person who did the utmost to advocate the ideas of Heze and Guifeng, and Bojo at the start of his Jeolyo criticized Heze as a “lineage master of intellectual understanding.” That criticism was a major change in (Bojo’s) thought.

“But although this principle is perfectly marvelous, because it is totally interpreted through the affective mind and is determined through thinking, in the short-cut entrance [gate or method] that is the entrance of Seon, each single one is selected out as a disease of intellectual understanding.” (Ganhwa gyeoluiron)

Comment: Perfect immediacy and understanding through faith mean an intellectual understanding of the Buddha Dharma.

“Perfect immediacy and the understanding through faith are verbal teachings of reality that are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges River, but they are called dead words. Therefore they make people produce obstacles to understanding.”

Comment: Bojo himself fiercely criticized perfect immediacy and the understanding through faith that is immediate enlightenment with gradual cultivation as dead words, but even now, eight hundred years later that double of perfect immediacy with immediate and gradual are still advocated as belonging to the Seon School. That is something that cannot be comprehended.

“Persons who make manifest the realization of wisdom are presently rarely seen and rarely heard of. Therefore, just now one should value the elucidation of the correct knowledgeable views that are reliant on the gate [method] of investigating the meaning of the hwadu.” (Ganhwa gyeoluiron)

“At present the majority of those who destroy doubts investigate the meaning. Therefore they cannot investigate the words, and so are one with the gate of perfect immediacy and the elucidation of correct understanding.” (Ganhwa gyeoluiron)

“Investigation of the meaning is the dead words of perfect immediacy. This is because they have ideas about the paths of principle, of language, and of understanding through hearing.” (Seonga gugam)

Comment: Investigation of words means the part of live words that have ended language and thought. In the Ganhwa gyeoluiron, Bojo abandoned the dead words of perfect immediacy that he had advocated up till then, and tried to advocate live words, but in the final section of the Gyeoluiron, he ended it with a weak conclusion.

That is, while Bojo himself held that investigation of the meaning was the same as the gate of perfect immediacy, because he again returned to the dead words of perfect immediacy and encouraged it, Bojo’s fundamental thought is thus known to be perfect immediacy and understanding through faith, just as it was previously.

Because this directly contradicts the inside and outside completely elucidated and the immediate entrance and immediate cultivation spoken of in the Platform Sutra, in a Seon School that is the Dharma-heir of the Sixth Patriarch, this absolutely cannot be approved. Because this tells us that Bojo could not have had a coherent and fixed view, it was a theoretical contradiction that was nothing but suicidal. In the Seon School, the Platform Sutra is still a standard, and one must return to the live words section of inside and outside completely clarified, and enlightened entry and immediate cultivation.

“If one values the doctrinal teaching and makes light of Seon, even though one passes through endless time, one is still completely of the demonic host of heaven and is a non-Buddhist.” (Seon Gyo seok).

Comment: As this is the conclusion of the Seon Gyo seok written by Seosan, these are awesome words. If one advocates the teaching (doctrine) beneath the signboard of the Seon School, one is professing that one is a demon of heaven, a heretic who is not of the Buddha Dharma, which means Seosan is a truly excellent guide.

“If one directly uses the live words of the short-cut method to teach them, and has gained enlightenment oneself, then that is the style of a lineage master who teaches people. If he sees that a student cannot understand and drags him into the mire by preaching doctrine, he will blind the eyes of many people. If a lineage master violates this Dharmic rule, even though he preaches the Dharma, and even though the flowers fall down from heaven in profusion (in approval), all of this is a stupid madness of running to the outside.”

Comment: Because Seosan in his Gugam indicated that (the teaching of) being first enlightened and afterwards cultivating under the principles of understanding through faith and the practice of realization is that of doctrinal scholars, the gradual cultivation ideas of Bojo are evidently those of a doctrinal scholar and those of the Seon School. There is a world of difference between advocating that the starting (mind) of the ten faiths in which there is no difference with the pre-existing adventitious contaminants and defilements will be the immediate enlightenment to the self nature and that these delusions will then be removed by gradual cultivation, and advocating that in marvelous awareness all delusions will have disappeared, and that inner and outer are completely clarified and one enters by enlightenment and cultivates immediately [i.e. simultaneously].

In the Seon School one must sever off and discard the dead words of perfect immediacy. If one cannot end and discard the attachment to the dead words of perfect immediacy, one will be “in a stupid madness that runs to the outside” as Seosan so sternly taught, and one will be a follower of the school of intellectual understanding that is most taboo in the Seon School.

While Bojo allowed that one could only see the nature in the ultimate awareness in which all the defilements and delusions that conceal the Buddha-nature have all disappeared, Bojo also said that the starting (mind) of the ten faiths stage that was no different to the preceding adventitious contaminants and defilements is seeing the nature. Thus from the very start this opposed the principles of the Buddha and the patriarchs. Even while advocating gradual cultivation, Bojo criticized the founding father of gradual cultivation, Heze, as a master of the school of intellectual understanding, and he also said that one had to decisively discard ideas of gradual cultivation. Although there appears to have been an ideological about-face in his Gyeoluiron, in the final section of this work, because there is an advocacy of the investigation of the meaning of dead words as before, this was only a temporary change in his thought, and was not a fundamental about-face. This counters his efforts in arguing that one must not investigate dead words. It is a fact that Bojo did not abandon the dead words of perfect immediacy and understanding through faith. One must eliminate this mistaken idea and must observe the legacy of Seosan’s strict instruction about this being a “stupid madness that runs to the outside.”

“Even though one gradually reaches a (state in which) sleep and waking are one, one still needs the hwadu to not be divorced from one’s mind.” (Taegorok)

Comment: Even though one becomes (as if in a state in which) sleep and waking are the same during the investigation of the hwadu, one still has to make an effort in investigating the hwadu. This is the lifeline of the meditation monk.

“If one is a strong man, examine a gong’an [Jap. koan]. A monk asked Zhaozhou, ‘Does a dog also have the Buddha-nature?” Zhaozhou replied, ‘It does not.’ In the twenty-six hours (of the day) simply examine the character ‘does not have.’ Investigate it day and night, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down. Pay attention to it mind after mind [thought by thought] continuously, fiercely concentrate the mind. If you do this for a long time, (the hwadu and the doubt) will become one lump, and suddenly the flower of the mind will blossom and one will have been enlightened to the secret (occasion) of the Buddha and patriarchs.” (Yunqi, Changuan ceqin)

“The evaluation says, ‘This was taken up in later ages as a gong’an and was the beginning of the examination of hwadu. One does not necessarily firmly grasp the character ‘does not have’ (mu), but should stick to one case (gong’an), such as the character ‘does not have’ or ‘Mt Sumeru’ or ‘having died, one is cremated,’ etcetera, with enlightenment made the object. Even though the doubted (hwadu) are not the same, the enlightenment cannot be different.” (Yunqi, Changuan ceqin)

Comment: The transmission by writing of the investigation of the gong’an began with Huangbo (Huaihai). Not just the character ‘does not have’, but any gong’an that one receives direction for, if investigated diligently is sure to definitely enlighten one, and so this is the most developed method of meditation in the Seon School.

“’Having fully attained the ten faiths, one still needs to observe the precepts. If one lacks the practice of the precepts that is like erecting a tower up in empty space. Do you still observe the precepts?’ He said, ‘I observe the five precepts.’ ‘From now on only examine the character “does not have” and do not consider whether it is this or that. One must not make interpretations as to whether it has (exists) or has not (does not exist). Moreover, do not examine the sutras, doctrine and recorded sayings etcetera. Just simply take up this character ‘does not have’ and throughout the day, whether sitting, standing, walking or lying down, one must be alert like a cat hunting mice or a hen brooding on an egg; there cannot be any interruption. Before one has attained lucid enlightenment, one cannot change (the hwadu). At times one can again whip up a doubt that says, “All sentient beings have the Buddha-nature, but why did Zhaozhou say they do not?”’” (Weishan)

“In making an effort, one must not just only be mindful of the gong’an. If you are examining the character ‘does not have’ then one should give rise to a feeling of doubt about that character ‘does not have’. If you are examining the ‘cypress tree’ then you should give rise to a feeling of doubt about the ‘cypress tree.’ If one is examining ‘where does one revert to?’ one should give rise to a feeling of doubt about it. Only if one can initiate and give rise to a feeling of doubt will all the worlds of every direction be just one ball of doubt.” (Boshan Jingyu)

“Should you have doubt about the gong’an to be originally investigated, with that great ball of doubt you are sure to have great enlightenment. The thousands and tens of thousands of doubts will mass together into one doubt so that one will be able to make a determination about that originally investigated gong’an.” (Mengshan Deyi)

“Movement and calm as one, alert whether asleep or awake, the hwadu appears, just like the moonlight in translucent water, even in lively and disturbed rapids. When the light strikes them it is not scattered, and when the (waters) are dissipated it is not lost, for inwardly it is quiescent and undisturbed, and outwardly it does not move even though shaken. If the ball of doubt is here destroyed, the correct eye will be opened.” (Mengshan Deyi)

“Our patriarch came from the West and simply offered up the direct pointing and regarded great enlightenment to be the entrance through the gate (of Seon). He did not discuss meditation and miraculous powers.” (Mengshan)

“Correct enlightenment is like being in the dark for a long time and then encountering the light, or like suddenly awakening from a great dream; if one realizes one, one realizes all, and there is no longer the slightest trace of the habits of hate, love, grasping and abandoning in one’s breast.” (Zhongfeng)

“It is like coming from a blackened room into the bright sunlight.” (Xueyan)

“The hallucination of life and death forever extinguished, the correct substance of the Diamond are also revealed, and once (enlightenment is) attained it is attained forever and there is no interruption to that.” (Yuanwu, Xinyao).

“Seeing the nature and becoming Buddha, once attained is attained forever. Possessing one’s own treasure store, one manages one’s own treasures, so how can there be an end to their use?” (Xinyao)

“The singular method of the examination of the word (ganhwa) is the best short-cut. ?amatha-vipa?yan? and samadhi-insight are naturally within it.” (Jin’gak)

“Just throughout the whole of the day, whether sitting, standing, walking or lying down, one must examine the hwadu only.” (Jin’gak)

Comment: Although Jin’gak was the leading pupil of the leader of gradual cultivation thought, Bojo, he did not advocate Bojo’s joint cultivation of samadhi and insight, but rather advocated ganhwa, and he compiled the Yeomsong, a fundamental scripture of ganhwa Seon.

“There is a type of person (who holds that) there is a bright and intelligent nature that reasons and knows, that sees and hears, and is a lord over the corporeal field of the five skandhas. If one is like this and is an excellent teacher, one cheats people greatly. Do you know this? Now I ask you, ‘If you acknowledge this bright intelligence as your true reality, why when you are profoundly asleep are you still not bright and intelligent? If when you are deeply asleep you are not so (bright and intelligent), you are (mistakenly) recognizing a bandit as one’s own offspring, which is the root of birth and death and the conditional production of delusion.’” (Xuanshalu, Jingde chuandenglu 18)

“This Dharma is not something that can be understood by deliberation and discrimination.” (Lotus Sutra)

“The Buddha said, ‘Those who learn my Dharma will know only by realization.” (Zongjinglu 22)

“Even though this mind is Buddha, only those who realize will know it.” (Chengguan, Jingde chuandenglu 30)

“The dharma-nature is only known by the realizing wisdom, there is no other realm (that can know it).” (Uisang, Beopseinggye)

Comment: In the Beopseongdo that Uisang composed there is verse called Uisang’s Beopseonggye. In it he wrote that the realizing wisdom is something that only a Buddha knows. Even though (the idea that) one does not know if it is not the realizing wisdom is an iron rule that is consistent with the Buddhas and patriarchs of Seon and Doctrine, as Bojo says that enlightenment through understanding in which the delusions are the same as before is seeing the nature, he must be truly rebelling against the Buddhas and patriarchs. Therefore his gong’an, in other words, the hwadu, as a deliberation and discrimination that is not realizing wisdom, absolutely does not know.

“One lamplight can remove the darkness of a thousand years; one wisdom can extinguish the stupidity of ten thousand years.” (Platform Sutra)

Comment: Yuanwu sharply warned his disciple, Dahui, that even though one has (achieved a state in which) sleep and waking are as one, once one dies one cannot come back to life, (and so) ‘Not having doubt in the hwadu is a major illness.’ The gong’an of past patriarchs cannot be known before sleep and waking are as one and inside and outside are completely clarified. And therefore before sleep and waking are as one and inside and outside are completely clarified, one must still devote one’s whole body and strength to the investigation of the hwadu. Sleep and waking as one and inside and outside completely clarified are absolutely impossible before (one achieves the state of) a single thought not produced. And a single thought not produced is immediate cultivation, and if there is no immediate cultivation then that immediate enlightenment is not seeing the nature. Bojo’s biggest error was in deciding that enlightenment through understanding, in which the adventitious contaminants and defilements are the same as they were before, is seeing the nature. Enlightenment through understanding in which the delusions remain as they are is not seeing the nature, and with this one absolutely cannot know the gong’an of the past patriarchs. If one gives rise to the disease that one knows in the midst of delusions while meditating, one’s efforts will never achieve (enlightenment). Therefore the disease of intellectual understanding is certainly the greatest of the diseases. And so, because Bojo recognized this to be seeing the nature, the harm he did to later people was tremendous. The theory that one sees the nature through enlightenment via understanding fundamentally destroyed the Seon School for this is the greatest cause that furthered the disease of intellectual understanding.

Therefore meditators absolutely must not give rise to the thought that they know before they achieve the real state of inside and outside completely clarified, and the no-mind no-thought that is spoken of in the Platform Sutra. If one catches this disease of the view of knowing, while posing as a teacher, by doing so one guides later students erroneously and also destroys ones self. This is a truly frightful thing. However, as long as one does not think that perfect realization and immediate realization are too difficult, and does not catch the disease of intellectual understanding, if one genuinely makes a strenuous effort, within three or four years one will attain inside and outside completely clarified and can be greatly enlightened. However, it is absolutely forbidden to think of making a business through the disease of enlightenment via understanding. People who make a vigorous effort do not sleep before midnight, do not talk in the meditation cloister, and do not look even at the writings of the scriptures and recorded sayings, and even though the summer (meditation) retreat has finished do not go wandering, and assuming that they are the Ananda of this age, only try to exert themselves in vigorous practice. They are sure to achieve numinous experiences. One must be convinced that one cannot know the gong’an of the ancients before one achieves inside and outside completely clarified. People who say that their effort (in hwadu) is not working but do not vigorously practice should remove the signboard of the disease of knowledgeable views and genuinely make a vigorous practice. They will be sure to gain a good result.

Not only do I repeatedly say it, but people of the past also said “not doing is not (the same as) being unable to do.” Provided one genuinely practices vigorously and still cannot succeed, since it is cautioned that one should even cut off one’s own head (in the effort), assume that one is not born into this world, put aside all affairs, produce a fiercely heroic mind, do not be deceived by vain dreams, and only request that one can genuinely practice vigorously. This is not a struggle between the (other) persons and myself (ego), but is daring to comment so that the Buddha-Dharma will endure.

Clean off the mirrors in our minds

As the Venerable Seongcheol taught us, in these treacherous times, we must always stay awake.
November 05, 2006
Early in the morning on Nov. 4, 1993, the Venerable Seongcheol of the Korean Buddhist Jogye Order passed away. He died at the age of 82, 58 years after he was accepted as a Buddhist monk.
Seongcheol used to meditate sitting up all night. It was probably due to this prolonged Buddhist training that he preferred to leave the world while meditating in a sitting-upright position.
The monk’s meals were simple and plain. He didn’t use salt and his side dishes were only several pieces of crown daisy leaves, five pieces of thinly sliced carrots and one-and-a-half spoonfuls of marinated black beans. He also ate soup consisting of sliced potatoes and carrots, together with a small bowl of rice, enough food for a small child. Moreover, he took only half a bowl of plain gruel instead of rice for breakfast.
Some people might call it the “original well-being diet,” but it was apparent that Seongcheol did not dine in this manner because he wanted to lead a healthy life.
When he ate, he did not want to indulge. Seongcheol said there were more people who were “eaten by food” than people who “ate” food. If people mix up the purpose and the means to achieve it, it becomes routine for people to cheat others, then get cheated themselves in return.
Seongcheol used to say, in his rough South Gyeongsang province dialect, “Don’t cheat!”
By this, he meant to say that we should not cheat others or ourselves. One who cheats others is like a pickpocket, but deceiving oneself is like being a burglar.
However, people who live without knowing they are robbers, deceive themselves. It is because they cannot see their genuine identity. They cannot see themselves properly because the mirror in their mind is obscured by tons of dust on the surface. So, we must clear the dust away from the mirror in our minds.
The Venerable Seongcheol used to hold firmly and meditate, throughout his whole life, on the topic, “What is this?”
Asking the question, “What is this?” to oneself clears off the mirror in one’s mind. After all, it’s a struggle not to cheat ourselves by pursuing our genuine self. The monk also said, “If the whole volume of 80,000 wooden blocks of the Tripitaka Koreana kept in Haein Temple were summed up, it could be just one Chinese character, sim, which means mind.” He also said, “Even if we wear worn-out clothes, we should not let our minds wear out.”
Seongcheol preached about three kinds of diseases, the ones caused by money, sex and the desire to become a celebrity. Among the three, the most dreadful is a disease caused by the desire to become a celebrity. If one were to catch a disease caused by the desire for money or sex, people around him would see him critically.
But when one is caught by the disease of the desire to become a celebrity, people give applause and cheers to flatter him, although they are reluctant to do so.
Therefore, the disease caused by the desire to become a celebrity becomes a chronic one that cannot be easily cured.
After all, the celebrity disease prevents one from seeing himself or herself clearly as a result of the cycle of cheating and being cheated.
If we see ourselves clearly after cleaning the mirror in our minds, we will find the gold mine that is within ourselves and find that we are pure gold ourselves.
Trying to find a gold mine, leaving the one in ourselves neglected, is like saying that one has no money although he lives in a house made of gold.
As the Venerable Seongcheol said, happiness is not what one receives or gives, but rather what we create in our mind.
Therefore, we must do our best to create happiness. If we exert with all of our efforts, help from others will follow. If we fail, it is due to a lack of effort. There is no fate that can’t be overcome.
It has already been a long time since the Venerable Seongcheol passed away, but his teachings are still alive and awaken us like the whip that Buddhist monks use to wake up monks who fall asleep during meditation.
In this era of confusion where people cheat others and are being cheated, and even North Korean agents stalk the streets, we must stay awake, even when being hit with the whip.
And let’s not be devoured on the dining table of this treacherous era, but prepare a new table for a new era so that we ourselves and our descendants will dine properly.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chung Jin-hong

Letters Exchanged between Master Seongcheol, Prof. Bieder and Layman Gyutae Son

 1. A Letter Answered to Prof. Bieder1) by Master Seongcheol2)

I am deeply ashamed of myself for having said too many unnecessary things, revealing my foolishness, when you visited me the other day.
It is unthinkable to answer questions, which are not clear even to oneself, though, I prepared the following answers to your questions, not daring to put your questions aside. I beg your forgiveness.

1) ‘Truth is not in the letters of scriptures, but in one’s mind, therefore, one must realize one’s mind in order to attain Truth. Otherwise, trying to seek Truth in the letters of the scriptures, is like seeking the sky while digging in the earth, whereby the Truth will never be found. Devote yourself solely to cultivating your mind and you will attain enlightenment.’ That is the basic teaching of the scriptures. For those who don’t believe that Truth can only be found in their mind, scriptures can temporarily be helpful. However, if one meets a good teacher and understands that Truth is in his mind, he doesn’t need scriptures any more. Accordingly, the learning of scriptures is not compulsory for entering the Buddhist Path.
The Buddha always said to his disciples: “The most difficult hindrance to developing Truth in one’s mind is adhering to the letters of the scriptures. The merit of millions of years of scriptural study is inferior to that of a single day’s cultivation of mind. Abandon the scriptures, instead, cultivate your mind.” The Buddha always admonished his disciples for adhering to words and scriptures. Instead, he taught them sitting meditation.
Those monks who study scriptures cannot be equal to those monks who devote themselves to practicing sitting meditation. Though a monk can recite all the sutras printed on eighty thousand blocks,3) his knowledge is not comparable to an illiterate monk who has a supreme powerful wisdom. The lifeblood of Buddhism is not in the accumulation of abundant knowledge of scriptures, but in realization of one’s own mind.
For example, Master Huineng,4) the Sixth Patriarch of Chan (= Zen) Buddhism, is considered to be the greatest figure in Chinese Buddhist history, but he was utterly illiterate. His colleague Master Shenxiu5) was an exemplary disciple who had no equal in his understanding of Buddhist or worldly knowledge. Nevertheless, the Fifth Patriarch transmitted the dharma to Master Huineng, who was illiterate, but realized his own mind. It has been lauded by the whole world that the descendants of Master Huineng’s disciples dominated Chinese Buddhism. There are some who solely engage themselves in the study of scriptures, but, if they devote their whole life to it, it would be a kind of deviation from the fundamentals of the Buddha’s teaching. Master Seosan,6) who was regarded as the greatest monk of the Joseon7) dynasty in its 500 year history, always said, “I would rather remain an illiterate all my life than to become a monk who devotes himself to the study of the scriptures.”

2) In Buddhism, there is a strict distinction between monks, who have renounced the world and laymen leading a worldly life. Monks are those who, sacrificing all of their worldly happiness, devote their whole life to the service of others and maintain a life of celibacy, while laymen, believing in Buddhism, engage in various activities of ordinary life. If a monk has a wife and children, his Buddhist activities will necessarily become a means of making a living, his family, being the center of his life. That would go against the Buddhist spirit of Great Compassion which advocates devotion to the service of all sentient beings. Therefore, it is strictly prohibited for a monk to take a wife. That doesn’t mean, however, that it is not permitted a monk to renounce his earlier commitment and return to the life of an ordinary layman. Once a monk returns to the laity, he retires as a monk and becomes a lay Buddhist. No matter how the world today has changed, such monks, who completely forget their own interests and realize the Great Compassion in the pursuit of the welfare of others, should come forth in numbers. Only then can the true value of Buddhism be recognized.
Furthermore, if one wants to completely develop his absolute and original mind with which everyone is equally endowed, he should abandon all of his attachments, or he cannot accomplish it. The Buddha said that sexual desire is the strongest among all attachments, and so one cannot attain realization without eliminating it. Therefore, realization entails a life of celibacy.

3) According to a medical study, all plants contain a proper amount of salts which are sufficient for maintaining good health. They are natural foods. If a food is proper for maintaining one’s health, it is good enough and doesn’t need to be processed. Besides this, there is no special meaning in several years of a salt-free diet.

4) Prayer is an expedient for those who don’t know clearly that the Buddha is in their mind. Therefore, if one knows that his own mind is the Buddha, then prayer will be denounced rather than unnecessary.

5) One cannot see the Buddha, which we all equally have in our mind, because one’s original mind is obstructed with evil thoughts, that is, afflicted by deluded thoughts. Therefore, if you want to see the Buddha in your original mind, you should eliminate these elements of deluded thoughts. There are four devas8) guarding the gate at the entrance to a temple. They represent the generals who defeat the deluded thoughts and the poor beings, pressed under their feet, symbolize evil, which obstructs one’s original mind. The countenance of each of the four gatekeepers describes their compassion and dignity when they expel the evil beings. It means that the one, who enters the gateway to Buddhism, will activate the guard of his mind to crush evil in his mind and return to his original mind, which has already been one with the Buddha.

6) Temples are training centers where the spiritual leaders, namely, apostles of Truth, who will provide the nation and the society with spiritual nourishment, are cultivated. Therefore, the temples cannot be developed into tourist resorts which serve to delight the eyes of visitors. It is quite natural for Haeinsa to be opposed to tourist development in order to insure that the original purpose of the monastery remains a place for spiritual practice. No matter what plan the government draws up, we cannot but strive to defend our position as seekers after Truth.

7) In Buddhism, it is said that each human being has eternal life and ability, which is called one’s original Buddha nature. If you develop it to perfection, you will attain eternal freedom and absolute happiness. The symbol of the phoenix denotes the eternal working of this principle.

8) I told you several times that the Absolute Self, based on the limitless ability of eternal life, namely, the Buddha in one’s mind, is the original state of a human being, which was discovered and seen by the Buddha. Therefore, Buddhism is not for the study the Buddha’s teachings, but to return to one’s original self, which the Buddha showed us. If one returns to this Absolute Self, the distinction between self and others will completely disappear, and you will find nothing in the whole universe which is different from you or which is not you. If you develop this True Self, which is beyond both self and others, its great working, free from all obstacles, will eternally unfold. If the very ‘self’ is not found here, then how can there be ‘others’? Here is the place where an absolute religious life begins, which rises above both the individual and the whole world and at the same time, integrates them.

9) Buddhism refers to the unity of body and mind. Though there are three bodies of Manju?r?, Samantabhadra and ??kyamuni, which respectively stand for wisdom,  practice and  both wisdom and practice, their meaning is one, that is, the fact that one’s mind is manifested in all. They are different expressions describing various activities of the same one mind, and so, it is called Manju?r? when the activity of wisdom is emphasized, Samantabhadra when that of practice is emphasized and ??kyamuni when that of both wisdom and practice is emphasized. Therefore, such being the case, Manju?r? is Samantabhadra and Samantabhadra is ??kyamuni, and accordingly, they are completely one.

10) Truth, i.e. the original light of the universe is always shining without interruption, though, a blind man cannot see this and laments the darkness. Discrimination between Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc. is like an illusion made by the blind man in his world of darkness. Therefore, if he gains his eyesight, all differentiated illusions of the darkness will disappear without any remains. At that moment, there is nothing which is not light, not the Buddha Dharma. It is like becoming one [salty] taste of various rivers when they flow into the sea. Once you open your eyes and see the light, there will be only this absolute great light, without any traces of various religions. If you can’t find Buddhism, where will you find the Christianity or Islam? We should just open our eyes, look strait ahead and see the light of life which we all equally have.

11) Mountain spirit is one of the nature-spirits which are not acknowledged in Buddhism. The shrine of the mountain spirit shows the influence of Shamanism, an indigenous religion of Korea, upon Buddhism and is not pertinent to orthodox Buddhist thoughts.

12) Seon (= Zen) is essential for the preservation of Buddhism. The dharma lineage of Buddhism has continued unbroken by Seon. One- Buddhism9) places one-sided emphasis on daily life and neglects the basic focus of pure Buddhism on the attainment of enlightenment, that is, realizing one’s original mind. Therefore, One-Buddhism is a quasi Buddhism, and not Buddhism in its real essence.
The division of Buddhism into various branches is caused by different interpretations of the basic teachings. However, all Buddhist schools, without any exception, regard the Middle Path as the fundamental Buddhist teaching, which avoids both extremes and leads to penetration into reality. Therefore, each school is trying to find a way to dispel the differences between the various schools by developing a more accurate understanding of the Middle Path. It will hopefully lead to a resolution of the general problems in Buddhism since the middle Path is the formulation of the contents of one’s own mind, i.e. the Buddha nature.

13) It is easy to find a good scholar, studying the scriptures, in Japanese Buddhism, but not easy to find a devotional monk, practicing meditation. Although there are a number of monks, most of them have a wife, and so there are only few monks who keep the precepts given by the Buddha.
Meanwhile, in Korea, there are a number of monks who practice meditation and lead a life of celibacy, and so Korean Buddhism is regarded as superior to Japanese Buddhism in this respect. Therefore, we often meet Japanese monks who visit Korean temples and record that Korean Buddhism is still active and preserving its ethical and devotional tradition. It seems that Buddhism has disappeared in China, while the Taiwanese monks are often ascribed to be less decent than the Korean monks.

14) As stated above, what is important in Buddhism is to realize one’s original mind, with less emphasis placed upon knowledge of the Buddhist teachings. Fortunately, all human beings, without any distinction, are equally endowed with this original mind, the absolute Self. Therefore, it is important for those who enter Buddhism to have faith in the Buddha nature and their knowledge about Buddhism is no consideration.

15) Buddhism is based on the notion that the present is absolute. From the Buddhist viewpoint, there is no separation between the present moment and the absolute.
When one does not know, he distinguishes between the absolute and the present and mistakes the absolute for the present, but when he attains penetration into reality, he correctly sees that the present itself is the absolute. At the most threatening moment of being attacked by an armed robber, a religious man will not lose his composure, remaining undisturbed by this situation. If he loses his presence of mind and attitude according to various circumstances, how does he differ from an ordinary layman? The common man is subject to spatial and temporal conditions, but the enlightened man, who realizes his own mind, can control them. If one can lead a life which is free from spatial and temporal conditions and have his daily activities under his control, then it will be beyond and prior to the ultimate (= nirvana). Such matters are taught to be actualized through practice, not for talking or discussion. It is not an empty theory. When you realize the Buddha in your mind, with which we all are equally endowed, you will know that there is no falsehood in my words. I apologize for my long letter. Please, after reading it, throw it away.

2. A Letter from Layman Gyutae Son to Master Seongcheol

I deeply appreciate for your kindness and the wholehearted conversation you gave to Prof. Bieder and myself when we visited you the other day. It was an unforgettable experience for me to meet a living Seon master of great personality, though it was just a brief meeting.
Here are a couple of constructive questions of Prof. Bieder along with my questions, which are of interest to me from the viewpoint of social ethics. It was the first time, and probably the last time, for Prof. Bieder to have an opportunity to meet and talk with a prominent leader of Korean Buddhism since he came to Korea and his knowledge about Korean Buddhism is limited to a few books. I believe that the following questions and your answers to them will certainly be considered in his writing after his return. You may answer in English or German, or if you prefer to write in Korean, I can translate them.
The questions are:

1) What is the present state of Buddhism in North Korea?

2) What is the difference between the attainment of Correct Eyes in Buddhism and Transformation in Christianity? Also, it seems that in Buddhism, transformation is denied because even the Enlightened One is still equal to ordinary men. If so, is it the same as the teaching of ‘Simul justus et peccator’10) which is the formula of Ruther’s doctrine of justification by grace alone during the time of the Reformation?

3) You said that, when one enters a new dimension, Nirvana, there is no distinction between others and self and all confrontations resulting from our mental activities will be dissolved. In that case, what is the Buddhist view on the reality of sin? How does it differ from Augustine’s saying that lack of virtue is sin?

These are rather rough and primitive questions, though, as I am concerned about social ethics, I dared to ask for your views on these matters.
Thank you again for your kindness and if you have time, I hope to visit you again some other day. Please, don’t reject me but allow me to see you as last time.

4th September, 1972 A.D.
Sincerely yours,
Gyutae Son

3. An Answer from Master Seongcheol to Layman Gyutae Son

I received your letter and here are my answers to the inquiries of Prof. Bieder. Please translate them and show him.
Among the questions,

1) About the present state of Buddhism in North Korea, I don’t know much about it.

2) The Position of Buddhism is like this: ‘To see your Original State. The Original State is everlasting, inexhaustible and absolute and called ‘mind’ or ‘the Buddha’. If you do not know this Original State of your mind as a result of having a deluded mind, then you misunderstand that ordinary men are just sentient beings. It is only after you get rid of all illusions and misconceptions that you realize your original face, the Buddha in your mind, and attain Correct Eyes. Through these Correct Eyes you see your original face which has been always there and is not at all a result of any kind of transformation. All human beings are equally endowed with this Buddha nature, and so there cannot be any difference between them, such as superior or inferior. The distinction between the Buddha and ordinary men comes from illusion, which is not a correct seeing.’
This is the Buddhist point of view. We are all under the illusion that we are sentient beings, not knowing that we are originally the Buddha. It doesn’t mean that we should transform sentient nature into the Buddha nature. What we should do is just to see our real state as it is, which we mistakenly regard as that of sentient beings, then we will realize that we are intrinsically the Buddha.
Even though you misunderstand the Buddha in your mind as a sentient being or an ordinary man, it remains only as delusion and doesn’t make any difference to the original face in your mind. As I illustrated the other day, no matter what you call gold, whether gold or stone, the gold doesn’t change into stone. When you awaken from this illusion and identify gold as gold, it is still the same gold as before. If you know this correctly, you will see that the present is the absolute and each sentient being is originally the Buddha, and accordingly you will realize that you are originally a great free man of the Land of Bliss.

3) The Buddhist argument favoring the original innocence of human beings is this: ‘You are already in nirvana. In nirvana, all confrontations are dispelled such that there is no distinction between you and me. This is your original face. The distinction between you and me arises from delusion caused by intellectual understanding or speculative discrimination. If these mental activities of intellectual understanding or speculative discrimination are ceased, you will awake from illusion and return to nirvana, your native place. It doesn’t mean that you will enter nirvana, because the great nirvana is the absolute, beyond coming in and out. This nirvana is your original mind, real self and the Buddha.
All sins arise from blind behavior caused by misunderstanding of the original Buddha. If you awaken from illusion and return to the original Buddha, sin, which is the illusion of blind behavior, will disappear without leaving any trace. Sin does not really exist, but is a transitory phantom arising from delusion. Don’t be afraid of sin nor try to get rid of it, but just awaken from illusion. Then you will know that you are originally the Buddha, free from any sins, the real gold.’
Such is the Buddhist preaching of the original innocence of human beings. There cannot be any sin in the original Buddha. When you correctly see the original Buddha in your mind, which, as an absolute personality, is beyond all distinctions such as good and evil, you will realize that each human being is originally a perfect man of virtue, having nothing to do with sin. Therefore, I believe that, if you understand the Buddhist viewpoint of the original innocence of ordinary man, the difference of Buddhism from other religions will be clear to you.
Surely, you can visit me whenever you have time. Though I cannot entertain you well, you are always welcome.

10th September 1972
Sincerely yours,


1) Werner Bieder; Theology Professor of the University of Bazel, Switzerland. While staying in Korea as a visiting scholar, he visited Master Seongcheol in 1972 with Gyutae Son, a graduate student of Theology, who later became a professor of the SongKongHoe University.

2) 性徹 (1912-1993); his dharma name was Toeong 退翁 and family name was Li. He was born in Sancheong, Kyeongnam province. In 1936, he entered the Buddhist Order under the guidance of Master Dongsan of the Haeinsa. It is said that he practiced Hwadu meditation without lying down for eight years until he attained enlightenment at Geumdang Seon (= Zen) Center, Donghwasa, in 1981. In 1967 he was selected as the Seon Master of the Haein Monastic Teaching Center, and in 1981, as the Seventh Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order. He wrote many books which have had a great influence on Korean Buddhism of today. He died in Haeinsa, at the age of 82, fifty eight years after entering the Order.
3) Referring to Tripitaka Koreana; The Korean edition of a Buddhist Tripitaka on wooden printing blocks containing both the Pali and Mahayana sutras, scriptural commentaries, and philosophical texts from the both traditions. In 1236, after the burning of the first Tripitaka by the Mongols, the carving of a new Tripitaka was ordered by the royal decree, in order to protect Korea (= Goryo at that time) from foreign invasion. This second set was completed in 1251 and is still preserved today at the Haeinsa.
4) 慧能 (638-713); A Chinese Chan (= Zen) monk who is one of the most important figures in the tradition. He was said to originally be an illiterate wood-cutter, who, upon hearing a recitation of the Diamond S?tra 金剛經, became awakened to the import of Buddhism. He went on to study with the Chan master Hongren 弘忍, eventually becoming the dharma-heir of this teacher, and thus the sixth patriarch 六祖. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch 六祖壇經, attributed to Huineng, became one of the most influential texts in the East Asian meditative tradition: Cited from Digital Dictionary of Buddhism. http://www.acmuller.net.
5) 神秀 (606? – 706); A most famous figure in the tradition who became the second best in the contest for the patriarchate which, according to the Platform Sutra took place shortly before the death of the Fifth Patriarch, Hongren. However, he became Head Master of the Northern School of Chinese Chan, and was in some traditions recognized as the sixth patriarch of the Chan tradition. Also Dunhuang documents show that in the early part of the eighth century Shenxiu’s group was clearly the mainstream and the most vibrant exemplar of Chan in China. They never referred to themselves as the ‘Northern School’ , but rather called themselves the ‘East Mountain’ school, and were recognized as the legitimate heirs of Hongren: Cited from Digital Dictionary of Buddhism.http://www.acmuller.net.
6) 西山大士 (= 休靜 1520-1604); a great Seon master of the Joseon Dynasty, who advocated the doctrinal approach in combination  with practice. His influence remained in place down to modern times. At the time of the Japanese invasion, he played an important role, by creating and leading an army of monks. He also was the author of a number of important religious texts, the most important of which is Mirror for Meditation Students 禪家龜鑑, a guide to Seon practice which is studied by Korean monks down to the present.
7) 朝鮮; 1392-1910.
8) The Devas in Hinduism and Buddhism hold a similar place in relation to God as angels do in Judaeo-Christian traditions.
9) 圓佛敎; a new folk religion of Korea which was founded by Sotaesan 소태산少太山, Jungbin Pak 朴重彬 in 1916 when he realized the Truth of the world and the life. In One-Buddhism, there are elements similar to the Buddhism, though, we cannot correctly say that it is the same as Buddhism. First of all, its main goal is to make a better society for better life, while neglecting one’s own enlightenment, as Master Seongcheol demonstrated. Also a life of celibacy is not compulsory in One-Buddhism.
10) It means that one is both a righteous man and a sinner at the same time. Based on this teaching, Luther understood righteousness as a gift of God’s grace, and discovered (or recovered) the doctrine of justification by grace alone.

Bodhi-dharma’s Wake-up Sermon

By Bodhi-dharma
Translated into English by Red Pine, 1987
(Inaccurate Translation)

The essence of the Way is detachment. And the goal of those who practice is freedom from appearances. The sutras say, Detachment is enlightenment because it negates appearances. Buddhahood means awareness Mortals whose minds are aware reach the Way of Enlightenment and are therefore called Buddhas. The sutras say, “Those who free themselves from all appearances are called Buddhas.” The appearance of appearance as no appearance can’t be seen visually but can only be known by means of wisdom. Whoever hears and believes this teaching embarks on the Great Vehicle” and leaves the three realms. The three realms are greed, anger, and delusion. To leave the three realms means to go from greed, anger, and delusion back to morality, meditation, and wisdom. Greed, anger, and delusion have no nature of their own. They depend on mortals. And anyone capable of reflection is bound to see that the nature of greed, anger, and delusion is the buddha-nature. Beyond greed, anger, and delusion there is no other buddha-nature. The sutras say, “Bu as have only become buddhas while living with the three poisons and nourishing themselves on the pure Dharma.” The three poisons are greed, anger, and delusion.

The Great Vehicle is the greatest of all vehicles. It’s the conveyance of bodhisattvas, who use everything without using anything and who travel all day without traveling. Such is the vehicle of Buddhas.

The sutras say, “No vehicle is the vehicle of Buddhas.”

Whoever realizes that the six senses aren’t real, that the five aggregates are fictions, that no such things can be located anywhere in the body, understands the language of Buddhas. The sutras say, “The cave of five aggregates is the hall of Zen. The opening of the inner eye is the door of the Great Vehicle.” What could be clearer?

Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen. To know that the mind is empty is to see the Buddha. The Buddhas of the ten directions” have no mind. To see no mind is to see the Buddha.

To give up yourself without regret is the greatest charity. To transcend motion and stillness is the highest meditation. Mortals keep moving, and Arhats stay still.” But the highest meditation surpasses both that of mortals and that of Arhats. People who reach such understanding free themselves from all appearances without effort and cure all illnesses without treatment. Such is the power of great Zen.

Using the mind to look for reality is delusion. Not using the mind to took for reality is awareness. Freeing oneself from words is liberation. Remaining unblemished by the dust of sensation is guarding the Dharma. Transcending life and death is leaving home.”

Not suffering another existence is reaching the Way. Not creating delusions is enlightenment. Not engaging in ignorance is wisdom. No affliction is nirvana. And no appearance of the mind is the other shore.

When you’re deluded, this shore exists. When you wake tip, it doesn’t exist. Mortals stay on this shore. But those who discover the greatest of all vehicles stay on neither this shore nor the other shore. They’re able to leave both shores. Those who see the other shore as different from this shore don’t understand Zen.

Delusion means mortality. And awareness means Buddhahood. They’re not the same. And they’re not different. It’s ‘List that people distinguish delusion from awareness. When we’re deluded there’s a world to escape. When we’re aware, there’s nothing to escape.

In the light of the impartial Dharma, mortals look no different from sages. The sutras say that the impartial Dharma is something that mortals can’t penetrate and sages can’t practice. The impartial Dharma is only practiced by great bodhisattvas and Buddhas. To look on life as different from death or on motion as different from stillness is to be partial. To be impartial means to look on suffering as no different from nirvana,, because the nature of both is emptiness. By

imagining they’re putting an end to Suffering and entering nirvana Arhats end up trapped by nirvana. But bodhisattvas know that suffering is essentially empty. And by remaining in emptiness they remain in nirvana. Nirvana means no birth and no death. It’s beyond birth and death and beyond nirvana. When the mind stops moving, it enters nirvana. Nirvana is an empty mind. When delusions dont exist, Buddhas reach nirvana. Where afflictions don’t exist, bodhisattvas enter the place of enlightenment An uninhabited place is one without greed, anger, or delusion. Greed is the realm of desire, anger the realm of form, and delusion the formless realm. When a thought begins, you enter the three realms. When a thought ends, you leave the three realms. The beginning or end of the three realms, the existence or nonexistence of anything, depends on the mind. This applies to everything, even to such inanimate objects as rocks and sticks.

Whoever knows that the mind is a fiction and devoid of anything real knows that his own mind neither exists nor doesn’t exist. Mortals keep creating the mind, claiming it exists. And Arhats keep negating the mind, claiming it doesn’t exist. But bodhisattvas and Buddhas neither create nor negate the mind. This is what’s meant by the mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist. The mind that neither exists nor doesn’t exist is called the Middle Way.

If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both. Those who don’t understand don’t understand understanding. And those who understand, understand not understanding. People capable of true vision know that the mind is empty. They transcend both understanding and not understanding. The absence of both understanding and not understanding is true understanding Seen with true vision, form isn’t simply form, because form depends on mind. And mind isn’t simply mind, because mind depends on form. Mind and form create and negate each other. That which exists exists in relation to that which doesn’t exist. And that which doesn’t exist doesn’t exist in relation to that which exists. This is true vision. By means of such vision nothing is seen and nothing is not seen. Such vision reaches throughout the ten directions without seeing: because nothing is seen; because not seeing is seen; because seeing isn’t seeing. What mortals see are delusions. True vision is detached from seeing. The mind and the world are opposites, and vision arises where they meet. When your mind doesn’t stir inside, the world doesn’t arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is true vision. And such understanding is true understanding.

To see nothing is to perceive the Way, and to understand nothing is to know the Dharma, because seeing is neither seeing nor not seeing and because understanding is neither understanding nor not understanding. Seeing without seeing is true vision. Understanding without understanding is true understanding.

True vision isn’t just seeing seeing. It’s also seeing not seeing. And true understanding isn’t just understanding understanding. It’s also understanding not understanding. If you understand anything, you don’t understand. Only when you understand nothing is it true understanding. Understanding is neither understanding nor not understanding.

The sutras say, “Not to let go of wisdom is stupidity.” When the mind doesn’t exist, understanding and not understanding are both true. When the mind exists, understanding and not understanding are both false. When you understand, reality depends on you. When you don’t understand, you depend on reality. When reality depends on you, that which isn’t real becomes real. When you depend on reality, that which is real becomes false. When you depend on reality, everything is false. When reality depends on you, everything is true. Thus, the sage doesn’t use his mind to look for reality, or reality to look for his mind, or his mind to look for his mind, or reality to look for reality. His mind doesn’t give rise to reality. And reality doesn’t give rise to his mind. And because both his mind and reality are still, he’s always in samadhi.

When the mortal mind appears, buddhahood disappears. When the mortal mind disappears, buddhahood appears. When the mind appears, reality disappears. When the mind disappears, reality appears. Whoever knows that nothing depends on anything has found the Way. And whoever knows that the mind depends on nothing is always at the place of enlightenment.

When you don’t understand, your wrong. When you understand, you re not wrong. This is because the nature of wrong is empty. When you don’t understand right seems wrong. When you understand, wrong isn’t wrong, because wrong doesn’t exist. The sutras say, “Nothing has a nature of its own.” Act. Don’t question. When you question, you’re wrong. Wrong is the result of questioning. When you reach such an understanding, the wrong deeds of your past lives are wiped away. When you’re deluded, the six senses and five shades are constructs of suffering and mortality When you wake up, the six senses and five shades are constructs of nirvana and immortality.

Someone who seeks the Way doesn’t look beyond himself. He knows that the mind is the Way. But when he finds the mind, he finds nothing. And when he finds the Way, he finds nothing. If you think you can use the mind to find the Way, you’re deluded. When you, re deluded, buddhahood exists. When you’re aware, it doesn’t exist. This is because awareness is buddhahood.

If you’re looking for the Way, the Way won’t appear until your body’ disappears. It’s like stripping bark from a tree. This karmic body undergoes constant change. It has no fixed reality. Practice according to your thoughts. Don’t hate life and death or love life and death. Keep your every thought free of delusion, and in life you’ll witness the beg- inning of nirvana and in death you’ll experience the assurance of no rebirth.

To see form but not be corrupted by form or to hear sound but not to be corrupted by sound is liberation. Eyes that aren’t attached to form are the gates of Zen. In short, those who perceive the existence and nature of phenomena and remain unattached are liberated. Those who perceive the external appearance of phenomena are at their mercy. Not to be subject to afflictions is what’s meant by liberation. There’s no other liberation. When you know how to look at form, form doesn’t give rise to mind and mind doesn’t give rise to form. Form and mind are both pure.

When delusions are absent, the mind is the land of Buddhas. When delusions are present, the mind is hell. Mortals create delusions. And by using the mind to give birth to mind they always find themselves in hell. Bodhisattvas see through delusions. And by not using the mind to give birth to mind they always find themselves in the land of Buddhas. If you don’t use your mind to create mind, every state of mind is empty and every thought is still. You go from one buddhaland to another. If you use your mind to create mind, every state of mind is disturbed and every thought is in motion. You go from one hell to the next. When a thought arises, there’s good karma and bad karma, heaven and hell. When no thought arises, there’s no good karma or bad karma, no heaven or hell.

The body neither exists nor doesn’t exist. Hence existence as a mortal and nonexistence as a sage are conceptions with which a sage has nothing to do. His heart is empty and spacious as the sky. That which follows is witnessed on the Way. It’s beyond the ken of Arhats and mortals.

When the mind reaches nirvana, you don’t see nirvana, because the mind is nirvana. If you see nirvana somewhere outside the mind, you’re deluding yourself.

Every suffering is a buddha-seed, because suffering impels mortals to seek wisdom. But you can only say that suffering gives rise to Buddhahood. You can’t say that suffering is Buddhahood. Your body and mind are the field. Suffering is the seed, wisdom the sprout, and Buddhahood the grain. The Buddha in the mind is like a fragrance in a tree. The Buddha comes from a mind free of suffering, just as a fragrance comes from a tree free of decay. There’s no fragrance without the tree and no Buddha without the mind. If there’s a fragrance without a tree, it’s a different fragrance. If there’s a Buddha without your mind, it’s a different Buddha.

When the three poisons are present in your mind, you live in a land of filth.

When the three poisons are absent from your mind, you live in a land of purity.

The sutras say, “if you fill a land with impurity and filth, no Buddha will ever appear.” Impurity and filth refer to on and the other poisons. A Buddha refers to a pure and awakened mind. There’s no language that, isn’t the Dharma. To talk all day without saying anything is the Way. To be silent all day and still say something isn’t the Way. Hence neither does a Tathagata speech depend on silence, nor does his silence depend on speech, nor does his speech exist apart from his silence. Those who understand both speech and silence are in samadhi. If you speak when you know, Your speech is free. If you’re silent when you don’t know, your silence is tied. If speech isn’t attached to appearances its free. If silence is attached to appearances, it’s tied. Language is essentially free. It has nothing to do with attachment. And attachment has nothing to do with language. Reality has no high or low. If you see high or low, It isn’t real. A raft isn’t real. But a passenger raft is. A person who rides such a raft can cross that which isn’t real. That’s why it’s real.

According to the world there’s male and female, rich and poor. According to the Way there’s no male or female, no rich or poor. When the goddess realized the Way, she didn’t change her sex. When the stable boy” awakened to the Truth, he

didn’t change his status. Free of sex and status, they shared the same basic appearance. The goddess searched twelve years for her womanhood without success. To search twelve years for ones manhood would likewise be fruitless. The twelve years refer to the twelve entrances. Without the mind there s no Buddha. Without the Buddha there is no mind.

Likewise, without water there’s no ice, and without ice there is no water. Whoever talks about leaving the mind doesn’t get very far. Don’t become attached to appearances of the mind. The sutras say, “When you see no appearance, you see the Buddha.” This is what’s meant by being free from appearances of the mind. Without the mind there’s no Buddha means that the-buddha comes from the mind. The mind gives birth to the Buddha. But although the Buddha comes from the mind, the mind doesn’t come from the Buddha, just as fish come from water, but water doesn’t come from fish. Whoever wants to see a fish sees the water before lie sees the fish. And whoever wants to see a Buddha sees the mind before he sees the Buddha. Once you’ve seen the fish, You forget about the water. And once you’ve seen the Buddha, you forget about the mind. If you don’t forget about the mind, the mind will confuse you, just as the water will confuse you if you don’t forget about it.

Mortality and Buddhahood are like water and ice. To be afflicted by the three poisons is mortality. To be purified by the three releases” is Buddhahood. That which freezes into ice in the winter melts into water in summer. Eliminate ice

and there’s no more water. Get rid of mortality and there’s no more Buddhahood. Clearly, the nature of ice is the nature of water. And the nature of water is the nature of ice. And the nature of mortality is the nature of Buddhahood. Mortality and Buddhahood share the same nature, just as Wutou and Futzu share the same root but not the same season. It’s only because of the delusion of differences that we have the words mortality and buddhahood. When a snake becomes a dragon, it doesn’t change its scales. And when a mortal becomes a sage, he doesn’t change his face. He knows his mind through internal wisdom and takes care of his body through external discipline.

Mortals liberate Buddhas and Buddhas liberate mortals. This is what’s meant by impartiality. Mortals liberate Buddhas because affliction creates awareness. And Buddhas liberate mortals because awareness negates affliction. There can’t help but be affliction. And there can’t help but be awareness. If it weren’t for affliction, there would be nothing to create awareness. And if it weren’t for awareness, there would be nothing to negate affliction. When you’re deluded, Buddhas liberate mortals. When you’re aware, mortals liberate Buddhas. Buddhas don’t become Buddhas on their own. They’re liberated by mortals. Buddhas regard delusion as their father and greed as their mother. Delusion and greed are different names for mortality. Delusion and mortality are like the left hand and the right hand. There’s no other difference.

When you’re deluded, you’re on this shore. When you’re aware, you’re on the other shore. But once you know your mind is empty and you see no appearances, you’re beyond delusion and awareness. And once you’re beyond delusion and awareness, the other shore doesn’t exist. The tathagata isn’t on this shore or the other shore. And he isn’t in midstream. Arhats are in midstream and mortals are on this shore. On the other shore is Buddhahood. Buddhas have three bodies: a transformation body a reward body, and a real body. The transformation body is also called the incarnation body. The transformation body appears when mortals do good deeds, the reward body when they cultivate wisdom, and the real body when they become aware of the sublime. The transformation body is the one you see flying in all directions rescuing others wherever it can. The reward body puts an end to doubts. The Great Enlightenment occurred in the Himalayas suddenly becomes true. The real body doesn’t do or say anything. It remains perfectly still. But actually, there’s not even one buddha-body, much less three. This talk of three bodies is simply based on human understanding, which can be shallow, moderate, or deep. People of shallow understanding imagine they’re piling up blessings and mistake the transformation body for the Buddha. People of moderate understanding imagine they’re putting an end to Suffering and mistake the reward body for the Buddha.

And people of deep understanding imagine they’re experiencing Buddhahood and mistake the real body for the Buddha. But people of the deepest understanding took within, distracted by nothing. Since a clear mind is the Buddha they attain

the understanding of a Buddha without using the mind. The three bodies, like all other things, are unattainable and indescribable. The unimpeded mind reaches the Way. The sutras say, ” Buddhas don’t preach the Dharma. They don’t liberate mortals. And they don’t experience Buddhahood.” This is what I mean. Individuals create karma; karma doesn’t create individuals. They create karma in this life and receive their reward in the next. They never escape. Only someone who’s perfect creates no karma in this life and receives no reward. The sutras say, “Who creates no karma obtains the Dharma.” This isn’t an empty saying. You can create karma but you can’t create a person. When you create karma, you’re reborn along with your karma. When you don’t create karma, you vanish along with your karma. Hence, wit karma dependent on the individual and the individual dependent on karma, if an individual doesn’t create karma, karma has no hold on him. In the same manner, “A person can enlarge the Way. The Way can’t enlarge a person.”

Mortals keep creating karma and mistakenly insist that there’s no retribution. But can they deny suffering? Can they deny that what the present state of mind sows the next state of mind reaps? How can they escape? But if the present state of mind sows nothing, the next state of mind reaps nothing. Don’t misconceive karma.

The sutras say, “Despite believing in Buddhas, people who imagine that Buddhas practice austerities aren’t Buddhists. The same holds for those who imagine that Buddhas are subject to rewards of wealth or poverty. They’re icchantikas. They’re incapable of belief.” Someone who understands the teaching of sages is a sage. Someone who understands the teaching of mortals is a mortal. A mortal who can give up the teaching of mortals and follow the teaching of sages becomes a sage. But the fools of this world prefer to look for sage a away. They don’t believe that the wisdom of their own mind is the sage. The sutras say, “Among men of no understanding, don’t preach this sutra. And the sutras say, “Mind is the teaching.” But people of no understanding don’t believe their own mind or that by understanding this teaching they can become a sage. They prefer to look for distant knowledge and long for things in space, buddha-images, light, incense, and colors. They fall prey to falsehood and lose their minds to Insanity.

The sutras say, “When you see that all appearances are not appearances, you see the tathagata.” The myriad doors to the truth all come from the mind. When appearances of the mind are as transparent as space, they’re gone. Our endless sufferings are the roots of illness. When mortals are alive, they worry about death. When they’re full, they worry about hunger. Theirs is the Great Uncertainty. But sages don’t consider the past. And they don’t worry about the future. Nor do they cling to the present. And from moment to moment they follow the Way. If you haven’t awakened to this great truth, you should practice virtuous deeds as early as possible to make you become at least a human or heavenly being in your next lifetime. Do not lose both of them [the great truth and the virtuous fruits produced from your virtuous deeds].

(One verse omitted)

Toeong Seongcheol

Great Seon Masters of Korean History

Toeong Seongcheol ( 1912 ~ 1993 )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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