SECRETS ON CULTIVATING THE MIND, an outline of basic Seon practices, was written by Chinul between 1203 and 1205 to instruct the throngs coming to the newly completed Suseonsa monastery. A seminal text of the Seon school, Secrets presents simple yet cogent descriptions of two important elements of Chinul’s thought―sudden awakening/gradual cultivation and the simultaneous practice of samadhi and prajna―interspersed with edifying words to encourage Buddhist students in their practice. Although Secrets was lost in Korea after the destruction wrought by the Mongol invasions two decades after Chinul’s death, it was preserved in the Northern Ming edition of the tripitaka, produced in the early fifteenth century. Reintroduced into Korea around that time, it was translated in 1467 into the Korean vernacular language using the newly invented han ‘gul alphabet. It remains one of the most popular Seon texts in Korea today.
Chinul, Susim kyol (Secrets on Cultivating the Mind). Translation from Robert E. Buswell, Jr., The Korean Approach to Zen: The Collected Works of Chinul, pp. 140-159. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983. Reprinted with the permission of the translator. For other translations of Chinul’s works, see Robert E. Buswell, Jr. Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul’s Korean Way of Zen. Kuroda Institute Classics in East Asian Buddhism, no. 2. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, A Kuroda Institute Book, 1991.
“One should awaken to the fact that one’s mind is truly the Buddha, and the nature of mind is no different from that of the buddhas…. Although one has awakened to the fact that one’s Original Nature is no different from that of the buddhas, the habit energies are extremely difficult to remove and so one must continue to cultivate while relying on the awakening experienced.”
“Since all dharmas are like dreams or phantoms, deluded thoughts are originally calm and the sense-spheres are originally void. At the point where all dharmas are void, the numinous is not obscured. That is, in this mind of void and calm, numinous awareness is the Original Face.”
The first is the communicating mind. As is clear from his words, “the teaching consists of the words spoken by the World Honored One, while Seon is what the great masters transmitted.” In this way, he pursued the standard points with Seon as the essence and teaching as the function. Master Uicheon sought the standard points of Seon and Doctrine by teaching. It was Bojo who combined the Nine Mountain Schools of Korean Seon into the Jogye and, as the tradition of the Jogye was highly valued, his efforts gave rise to the inner unification of Buddhism in Goryeo, together with the Cheontae (Tiantai in China) School; these were the two directions that Buddhism took during the Goryeo Period.
The rejuvenation of Buddhism based on “The Retreat Community of Meditation and Wisdom” and the foundation of cultivating Buddhism.
The establishment of various ways of practice depending upon individual capability.
He was the first monk to introduce and adopt Dahui’s Kanhuachan. Great Master Dahui Zonggao (1088-1163 C.E.) was the seventeenth patriarch of the Linji school. The great master was the first person to teach Ganhwaseon(Kanhuachan in Chinese) with the question and answer system based on gongan (koan), a methodology that had been conventionally practiced in the Chinese Chan lineages (Five Families and Seven Orders). Bojo vigorously introduced this Kanhuachan to Korea, and it was later fully established by his disciples and called “Ganhwaseon.”
He formulated the rules of Seon and made the Jogye Order into a direct Seon tradition. This is evident from Admonitions to Beginning Students which became the required rules for “The Retreat Community of Meditation and Wisdom.” This work came to be seen as a compass to help practitioners to follow the discipline of the Buddha and it became an important dimension of the formation of the Jogye Order’s image and reputation.
For the truth-seeker preoccupied with Study, that which must principally be avoided is maintaining the idea that “I have accomplished this-and-that” by upholding some format of understanding.
What is the best way to eliminate such a format?
Foremost, one should introspect upon oneself with vigilant doubt regarding whatever is to be known. Searching for different expedient methods or means will only increase the conflictions in the mind by creating otherness (objectification), while vigilant doubt will void all in general.
The next consideration is affectionate attachment, as between children and parents, affectionate attachment combined with feeling seems best for this lifetime. However, in later life the relationship may become antagonistic, even to the point of committing murder and sending each other to hell. Rather than have such a result, what would be the best way for people to get along with each other and still be born in paradise?
For the one with whom you have a personal relationship, do not relinquish control of your mind to the attachment of love by pursuing the feeling; -p393- rather introspect upon yourself with the same living doubt as when praying and chanting Buddha, God, or any other great being’s name. Then, naturally, all the hidden power of goodness will be experienced. This is called true love and is the true way to care for and love someone.
All of you should know that the worldly relationships are nothing but karmic shadows, temporary and apparitional; appearing and disappearing in vain, like a movie film. If this is not realized, then the so-called suffering from life-and-death, defilement, and delusions will be endlessly maintained. To love or like only one’s physical body, which is no different from a dead corpse, is illusory.
Then, what is true love? If the body is illusory, then what is not illusory? Should it be mind? Or spirit? Since mind is just a name, it does not subsist. How can one even call it spirit or mind? Then for what should one care?
When someone calls to one, “Hello,”there is one-thing which knows how to respond,
“Yes.” When a child calls, “Mother,” there is one-thing which knows how to respond,
“Yes, Dear.” This is the one-thing each of us originally possesses; this one-thing can be called neither the mind nor the body. It has no name and cannot be known by intellect, but it is also very obviously present.
Now this is the only one-thing you should love and -p397- care for. To love this one-thing is to care for parents and to love.
Now listen to the Gatha!
Sleeping with Buddha every night,
Even rising together every morning;
Standing and sitting consecutively,
Talking and being silent, dwelling and visiting.
Tis not separated at all,
Just like your own shadow;
Want to know where Buddha has gone?
Just look at voice of this-one.
In the Sutra, it says,
Faith is the mother of enlightenment.
When you were a fetus, you had ears, eyes, mouth, and nose similar to those of an adult; but, they were sense-organs of limited functioning, You did not hear, see, talk, or smell as well as am adult, and you needed continuous nourishment and maternal protection until mature.
Likewise, when you begin to understand the core teaching of the Patriarchal Kong-an, by listening to the Good-and-Wise One, a spiritual transformation ensues, and you are no longer an ordinary humanbeing, but the fetus of enlightenment. This new fetus, however, is like a seed without soil or water.
As the seed of a saint, the understanding, thinking, speaking, and distinguishing are not as mature as those of an enlightened master. You need ceaseless practice with, great respect for, and careful help from your teacher(Master-Mentor) who is the mother of Tao and a necessary condition of the great enlightenment. Until you become a mature master, you need care. Continuous protection by the master, as well as constant re-protection by the master, as well as constant re-examination and respectful practice with the master, are all contents of the teaching of the Patriarchs.
When Chao-Chou was enlightened, for example, Ch’an Master Nam-Chon recommended that he leave and teach in the other mountain. But Chao-Chou said,
I will stay for a while and serve you just until you die.
When the master died, Chao-Chou was already eighty.
Having no teacher for the enlightened student is more critical than having no father for a son. This is the reason Chao-Chou, through his retreatless faith, turned down Ch’an Master Nam-Chon’s recommendation to complete his profound work.
One student asked a question of the master,
How is it when one has just been enlightened?
The Master said,
Before the wind of spring, flower didn’t bloom.
Naw it’s blooming season, unless the shoots are blown away.
There is no hope without continuous reexamination. The exercise of re-examination creates the master of wisdom. One should listen to the Good-and-Wise One very carefully. By this direct dialogue with the master, delivered from the beginning on through this moment, one’s becoming a master is as near and natural as the dawn following long night’s wandering. With ceaseless examination under your master, and because of this retreatless and strong faith, doubtlessly the flower of enlightenment and strong faith, doubtlessly the flower of enlightenment will bloom and brighten.
One will become a saint;
Because, when the night is fully dark.
The sun has to rise soon.
Without the seed of a saint,
Who could dare expect this wonder?
Therefore, to successfully become a saint, you must follow the dharma-words of the teaching as passed on directly by the Patriarchs. The Dharma-words you are examining are the revelation of the Self-nature. Hwa-du itself becomes a more utilized, faithful, and unique Study by examining through dharma-words because the ceaseless re-examination naturally requires the great faith, the great doubt, and the great provocation. But, without a sincere, primary examination, Hwa-du is merely a brain-game. Only by continuous re-examination does it become alive, dealing with the life and death question, and become a true mirror of Self-nature.
In order to become a saint, you must continuously protect this fetus to see the blooming season.
These are the words of the holy ones; shouldn’t we heed them?
True, profound Dharma has never been created nor annihilated. How often have we transformed our bodies; sometimes born in heaven, sometimes born in the ghost world? Whatever countenance we possessed has depended on differing transformations and karmic result, while the suffering and pleasure have alternated back and forth accordingly. Good karma results in being born in the heaven or human body, while bad karma molds the ghost or animal bodies, etc.; whichever we have produced at the moment of death. The sufferings from these alternations have never ended throughout this million-kalpas-karmic-cycle.
Then, what is the cause?
It is where all indigent-beings have forgotten their own Self-nature. The mind is deluded, so to speak. It Self-nature is originally bright, how did it become deluded? Defilements,delusion, and greed have covered the pure mind and blocked its luminosity. More clearly, using an analogy, it is the bright moon net disclosed in the dark night because of black clouds. These black clouds are equivalent to defilements and delusion; the bright moon is the pure mind. Therefore, by carefully cultivating ourselves, like one breeze from the West dispersing the clouds, we should disperse the cloud of the mind, so that our bright, transparent, and original moon can be found.
How do we find it?
We see things outside by eyes, however, the dead corpse also has eyes but cannot see. There is one thing, independent of physical eyes, which can see whatever it wants to see. Yet, no matter how hard we try to introspect upon what sees here, there is not even one form that can be seen.
When not even one form can be seen, no matter how hard we try to introspect upon what sees, right at this moment, “The West wind has already blown and scattered the black cloud, and the bright moon has already been exposed.”
When not even one form can be seen, no matter how hard we try to introspect upon what sees,right at this moment, “Love and hatred have already been annihilated.”
When not even one form can be seen, no matter how hard we try to introspect upon what sees, right at this moment, “Liberation from life-and-death has already been accomplished.”
When not even one form can be seen, no matter how hard we try to introspect upon what sees, right at this moment, “The sea of suffering has already been crossed.”
The indigent- beings’ “Life-and-death” is derived from their contemplating only the physical bodies. Life-and-death itself originally does not subsist.
While originally they do not subsist, everyone has, rather, one bright, self-divine light of Buddha-nature, which is magnificently luminous in ten directions in the world of each and every being and of everything.
When and how does it come to be? When color can be seen by the eye, and when sound can be heard by the ear, then right at this moment, it actually comes to be. Now, even though we say that color comes to be eye, and sound comes to be in the ear, what if there is neither color in the eye nor sound in the ear? Then where does it come to be?
When there is neither color nor sound, this has been tranquil; and then by sudden karmic chance, like this book of Dharma talks you are now reading, it comes to be.
This disclosure of be-coming itself cannot be expounded by the three different time of Buddhas. It can not even be transmitted one to the other by the Good-and-Wise Ones (Master-Mentors).
In this be-coming itself, all karmas are cut off from object; thus out of the relativities is “the True Essence(Original Face) of every Buddha and Bodhisattva in the Ten Direction World.” of all the Good-and-Wise Ones, and of everyone here. Even though every indigent-being has continuously maintained and used this since ancient time ’til now, it has never been diminished. This is what is called the True Original Face which “each and every indigent-being has maintained and carried from the beginning.”
Now listen to my Gatha:
Body is our chamber of right dharma,
Mind is obstructionless candle.
All Dharma has been disclosed, it is empty;
Everything can be seen very clearly.
While everyone prays without rest,
Standing or sitting, it’s always together.
If you don’t believe this; watch it carefully!
What is talking now all this time?
How do we uphold true prayer to the Buddha Statue?
One who bows to the Buddha-Statue must correctly understand whence that Buddha-Statue comes.
Whence comes the Buddha Statue?
From the radiant twinkle of your own luminous eye-ball. Buddha- Statue becomes my mind; my mind be-comes Buddha-Statue; and is no longer divided.
How do we correctly bow to the Buddha Statue?
While you bend your body, bowing to the Statue, you should mobilize a great sincerity, not to the Statue, which is the twinkle of radiance from your luminous eye-ball, but directly to the mind.
To what do bow?
You should know to what to bow since the Buddha-Statue is no other them my mind. Bowing to the Statue is bowing to the mind. But how is this possible, the mind has no from, size or trace?
Holy Object does not ex-ist and is not the mind. Therefore, the Statue is no longer an object of prayer. Thus remains the formless mind-itself-as-it-is.
How do we uphold prayer to the mind?
A student should bow while within the living doubt of the Hwa-du, “What is this?” This is bowing now to the Statue. Here the mind is totally revealing itself and can be called true prayer to the mind. Neither this corpse nor the mind can bow; you can name nothing in the world that can bow. We do net know what bows; therefore, we must ask “What is this?”
By asking this, you obviously do not worship a physical from of worshipping the true Buddha. How? Because true worship is beyond the physical eye. If you make contact with outer form, then you do not truly worship . As Bodhidharma warned us, you will thus sow evil seeds and, not only fall into True Hell, but lose your own life.
It is the same when chanting the names of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. While keeping in mind the thought, What is this which is chanting? –whether Amitabha Buddha, Avalokita, or Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva– it is same. this is true chanting to the mind. In the living doubt, “What is this?” the chanter becomes more sincere, able to see the form of the word mind or of the Buddha Statue. In this way of praying and chanting, and of reading the holy books, the Hwa-du will also naturally be studied at the same time to accomplish the Great Tao.
What is This?
Mud-ox from bottom of the ocean running away, holding the moon in his mouth;
Stone-tiger in front of boulder is sleeping holding a baby in his arm;
Iron-snake is passing though the Diamond-ball;
Mount-Sumeru riding on elephant’s back, being pulled by the sparrow.
One The Closing Day of Winter Retreat
Once Venerable Master Hye-Am was staying in Paljong-Sa in Seoul.
On the closing day of Winter Retreat he was asked to give a dharma talk.
He ascended the podium and began by singing a Gatha:
People today do net see old ancient star:
Today’s star has shone on the ancient people.
people today and of ancient times flow like water;
Watching the bright star together is also the same.
“When you, the student, preoccupied with Study, achieve greater intimacy with the Kon-ans, more and more you will find yourself in a feeling of ennui. It is the time to remind yourself that this is a sign of great progress and the time for full-blooming. Furthermore, this is the time when you should eagerly introspect upon yourself with vigilant doubt. Returning to doubt should never be delayed.
While introverting upon the Hwa-du(Kong-an,”the head of the dialogue” means the core of the dialogue), if the introversion is pure, it will suddenly enter the place of tranquility. After it becomes tranquil, it can enter Samadhi. However, in Samadhi there can be two kinds: right Samadhi and defiled Samadhi. This also should be kept in mind.
When the power of Samadhi has increased, your body and mind will naturally be bright by the untainted faith; so, finally, you will achieve great alertness.
You should use your mind well, even finely concentrated in everyday life movements. Besides, when you are preoccupied with Study, either beginning or ending, you should never depart from the clear and bright tranquility and purity. When the tranquility is fully matured, enlightenment will be imminent. When the purity is fully matured, the brightness will be pervasive.
If the effort of returning to the vigilant doubt is sincere, and if the determination is thorough, then, whether moving or still, the outer perspective will also be like the color of the autumn sky: transparent and bright. This is the moment your study blooms fully. If you uphold and guard that well, as we have said, your brightness will be like the transparent autumn sky and your tranquility will be like the cold incense holder of the old shrine.
If the act of the mind is not darkened but is bright in tranquil stillness and alertness, your illusory and empty physical subsistence will experience being beyond the world of mankind.
The result of this vigilance with Hwa-du will be like one silk thread hanging straight down from on high; you will see that it would never be severed by any means. If you achieve this level, all the dust will be settled and brightness will pervade. But, naturally, right at this moment, if you allow yourself the idea of being awakened and claim that you are enlightened, then that consistency and loftiness from the awaken mind will immediately cease; for which you must watch out carefully.
At this level, for one who does net commit himself to tardiness, movement and stillness will be conjoined. Also, while you are awake in watchful mind and tranquil. the Hwa-du will abide in front of your eyes constantly; just as, for instance, the reflection of moonlight in the water moves freely in accord with the waves, but the moonlight, itself, is net affected by the waves. It, as-it-is, has never moved. Even though defilement and delusion arise from time to time, if you introspect upon yourself with vigilant doubt immediately, then you will not be subject to defilements and delusions.
By cultivating in such a way, one day the whole bundle of doubt will be destroyed; suddenly seeing it right will be manifested in proportional accord, as the strings of a harp. An analogy to this is the hen sitting continuously on the egg, sending down warm energy. If the warm energy is not supplied for even one moment, the egg will spoil. However, instead, the warm energy is effectuated and the hen, using her beak, then destroys the egg-shell, allowing the baby chick to break through with a sound of Chirp, Chirp.
Or, it is like the bamboo stalk, which, when greatly mature, explodes by itself, Boom, Boom, as the stalk bursts forth in growth. Finally, seeing the True Self-nature (Original Face) will be completed. After that, you should go and meet the TrueEyed Master-Mentor, the Good-and-Wise One and examine yourself with him hundreds and thousands of times to accomplish the Great Dharma Vessel. You should not, however, by haughty judgement, create any idea of being superior.
Without seeing the Good-and-Wise One after enlightenment, you would not be able to complete your life-task, which is a potential hazard, not just once, but endlessly and limitlessly.”
Finally Venerable Master sang a Gatha:
Ninety days, chained legs, ending today;
Suddenly winter retreat has no trace.
While Peter and Paul part from each other, north and south,
Stone tiger still fights high mountain peak.
Master hit the dharma floor three times and descended the podium.
Venerable Master Hye-Am(1886-1985),Successor of the 76th Korean Son patriarch, Venerable Master Mann-Gong of Dok-Sung Mountain
Venerable Master Hye-Am was born Soon-Chon(the follower of heaven), the only son of three generations of only sons. He wes born in the Yellow Sea(Hwang-Hae)Province, of Sea-Moon County, in the Sea- Rock City, just north of Seoul, Korea on January 5, 1886. These names imply Buddha(i.e., the sea), Mind (i.e.,the moon), and Sangha (i.e., the rock where the temple or shrine is). By the lunar calendar it was December 1, 2429.
The day of Soon-Chon’s birth, in a dream, an unnamed Bodhisattva, riding a white elephant, emerged from the sky’s edge and descended to the location of his expectant mother. At the spot was a holy rock adorned with flowers and jewels. Upon this rock the Bodhisattva sat and entered Samadhi. After sitting for some time he arose, reached deeply into his chest, and brought out a jar of holy milk. He handed it to the woman-with-child, then disappeared. Later that morning while his mother gave suddenly appeared from no-where, hovered above the house, and steadfastly for some time.
His father died when Soon-Chon was ten (1896). At that same age, he had a chance to visit the Hung-guk temple in Yangju City Kyonggi Province. As soon as he entered through its gate, he insisted on remaining at the temple. He behaved as one who, after aeons of searching, had, at last. found his home. Who could have even imagined that that would be the last day of his worldly life. Finally, his mother had to move into the temple as well.
At age fourteen (1900), he became a monk under Po-Am S’nim and thereafter remained the monk named Song-Am (rock of Self-nature). Song-Am S’nim never received a formal education and thus, throughout his life, relied on others to read write for him.
At age sixteen(1902) his mother passed away and he became very lonely. Orphaned and feeling great sorrow and depression, he set out on an endless journey. For over six years he was a hobo-style monk, employing charity chanting to beg for food, clothes, and money. Wherever mind led, wherever foot stopped, one tattered cloth and spindly staff was all his life:
With one tattered and spindly staff
Travelled east and west; it was endless.
If someone asked, “Where have you travelled?”
Everywhere in the world has been all-encompassing.
At age twenty-two (1908) he heard, for the first time, about Son meditation and raised the great faith. Giving up his endless journey, he attended the seasonal retreats in Diamond Mountain, in Myo-Hyang (Profound Incense) Mountain, and others, in order to do the original task of the sramana (Buddhist priest).
After four years had passed and his study had not progressed, he realized that the expected results of further study would require a teacher. In 1911 the Master Song-Wol in Tongdo Temple gave him a Hwa-du(Kong-an) and in the same year he had a chance to meet the Venerable Master Mann-Gong in Sudok-Sa.
Yesterday was new spring, today is already autumn. Yearly, daily, monthly, it flows like valley streams. Looking for fame and fortune, Returning gray-haired before the desires were accomplished.
He began realize what the right teacher could do, and it was becoming apparent to him what the only task for a human-being was. How lucky!
Even parents are not close.
if asked who the closest is,
Blind tortoise and one gimp-legged turtle.
Hye-Am S’nim’s first meeting with Venerable Master Hye-Wol and Master Yong-Song was also very significant. “Without them,” he commented, “how could I am?”
Blind tortoise met the wood-board in the ocean;
The meeting with superior mind in the Eagle’s Peak
(Where Buddha held up the lotus flower).
Master Mann-Gong was a great, powerful master, while Master Hye-Wol was like a compassionate father or almost a mindless Buddha; but, both were the honey-dew tea of dharma for Hye-Am S’nim. There were many great monks under Mann-Gong. Especially great were Tae-An and Song-Wol (sometimes called Ha’m-Wol), both of whom were actually older than Master Mann-Gong.
Other monks who were related to Master Hye-Am included his well-known colleagues, Jon-Kang, Go-Bong, and Choon-Song. Hye-Am S’nim’s lifelong foundation of enlightenment and sea of great accomplishment included the Venerable Master Yong-Song of O-Dae Mountain, an expert in dodtrinal and patriarchal teachings, as well as other great figures: Mann-Gong, Hye-Wol, Song-Wol, and his closest colleague, Jon-Kang.
Fifteen years passed during which there were continuous retreats and ceaseless re-examination for Hye-Am S’nim. Finally, on the day of Master Mann-Gong’s bifthday. April 18, 1929 (March 7th, 2473), when Hye-Am S’nim was forty-three, the Master was at Sudok-Sa and recalled everyone in the mountain. He cheerfully rolled up his sleeves, filled his brush with ink, and without hesitation, composed the following patriarchal transmission Gatha on silk to Hye-Am S’nim:
To: Son Master Hye-Am (Wisdom Hut)
Clouds and mountains are not the same or different,
Also has no great family tradition:
This, the wordless seal
Transmitting to you, Hye-Am.
From: Mann-Gong: Wol-Myon (Moon Face)
March 7th, 2473rd year from Buddha
(April 18, 1929)
This patriarchal transmission was derived directly from Kyung-Ho and Mann-Gong, both in the modern Korean Buddhest lineage, the ancestry of which goss back to Bodhidharma and includes the Sixth atriarch Hui-Neng (Hye-Nung), and hes lineage of Lin-Chi (Yhm-Je). This Korean lineage, at the end of the Koryo Dynasty, includes the Patriarch Na-Ong (1380-1436) and Chong-Ho (1520-1604) in the Yi Dynasty; after which was a three hundred and fifty year dark age for Korean Buddhism.
After this dark age, however, modern Korean Son Buddhism flourished. We must mention this because it really began with Kyung-Ho S’nim (1849-1912). Just prior to his time, Korean Buddhism was still faded from a lineage that had slept deeply. The great life of Buddhism had been awry until Master Kyung-Ho’s time.
As the 75th generation from Buddha, the 31st from Lin-Chi, and the 12th generation from the Korean Patriarch Chong-Ho, Kyung-Ho S’nim was able to reestablish the foundation of Bodhidharma and the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-Neng. Kyung-Ho S’inm was the modern revival of Korean Son Buddhism. Mann-Gong and Hye-Wol S’nimm were in the first generation after him, but it was to Mann-Gong S’nim (1871-1946) that Master Kyung-Ho transmitted the dharma with the following Gatha:
To: Mann-Gong, the Moon-Face
Cloud, moon, stream, mountain are same everywhere.
‘Tis Mann-Gong Moon-Face’s
(this was Mann-Gong’s monk name) family tradition.
Secretly transmit the wordless seal by sharing with you,
One wonderful power overflows in your unmovable living eye.
From: Kyung-Ho; Sung-Woo (Awakened Ox)
March 27th, 2448th year from Buddha (1904)
When Mann-Gong S’nim, composed the Gatha to Hye-Am S’nim, the direct lineage was suddenly transmitted to Master Hye-Am who, without regard for fame or fortune, continued to just examine day and night. At that time, however, this young “bud of enlightenment” did not understand what had happened, so he immediately asked,
“Master, my study is still far behind; I did not accomplish the great enlightenment. What dharma are you going to transmit to the one who did not yet accmplish the Tao?”
To this question, headmaster Mann-Gong smiled slightly and snswered, “This dharma is a so-called, birthday surprise.”
He, however, did not understand this unexpected, extraordinary surprise, and declared, “There are many good students of yours on this mountain; I am yet the un-perfected bowl.”
Master Mann-Gong suddenly stood up, took out his own bowl from the wall closet and abruptly said,
“If so, then keep this bowl.”
Hye-Am S’nim’s words were severed. Suddenly one aucient phrase dawned on him.
People of the true mind
Have no shape to see and no form at which to look.
word and utterance are severed,
Thought and its abiding place are also annihilated.
Mann-Gong S’nim wrapped up the Gatha in red silk and proclaimed him. No one understood it and no one questioned concerning it.
Who said, The circle does not know the circular?
After receiving the bowl and robe, Hye-Am S’nim continued to study under the great masters, caring for nothing but study. He preserved himself under the re-examination with the Good-and-Wise Ones.
“Only by the power of continuous re-examination, until the moment of death, can one be free from the suffering of Hell. Do not jump into the ocean of life-and-death by haughty foolishness.
Studying without the Master-Mentor is death.
Studying without refinement is insanity.
Studying without re-examination is disease.”
He also said that without a Master-Mentor life is only miserable; worse than having no parents.
Here is a Gatha sung by Ch’an Master Tu-Sun:
A cow in northern city had hay.
A horse in southern city had indigestion.
Looking for a good doctor everywhere,
Treating a pig’s shoulder with burning moxa.
The rewards after continuous refinement and re-examination under the true Master-Mentor have nothing to do with the rewards of this ordinary world’s pursuits. The goal of the homeless one is this invisible work.
One time, an attendant asked the Venerable Master, “By virtue of what seeing can the direct lineage of Buddhas and Patriarchs be transmitted to the one who is not enlightened?”
Master Hye-Am sad,
“Enlightened and not enlightened are just names indicating how they are examining. If you let the word of resolve become the contents of your faith, then that is the enlightenment. If there is no faith in the mind, then the re-examination will be cut off and cause a final entry into the ocean of life-and-death. That is why it is called not enlightened.” -p 31-
This is what the Master Mann-Gong called birth day surprise and the bowl of dharma, which is nothing but the holding bowl of re-examination. Because of that, it is called greatly awakened, not because of a certain enlightenment to be attained.
The Sixth Patriarch said,
Seeing Self-nature is the virtue (of re-examination), Equanimity is its excellence.
The Patriarch once sang a Gatha:
Since re-examining the Buddha-Patriarchs’ words is
The Tathagata’s enlightening mind -as-it-is,
If fire can emerge by rubbing sticks,
Red lotus will definitely bloom in the mud.
When night is deep, dawn is near. When the mind is deep, word is little. When examination is deep, enlightenment is supreme.
By chance, Master Yong-Song once asked the following Kong-an of Master Mann-Gong:
Yong-Song: Tell me, merely departing from speaking silence, movement, and stillness.
Yong Song: Is that the Good-Silence?
Mann-Gong: No, not at all.
This dharma discussion was dropped here. Later, Hye-Am S’nim’s life-long colleague, Jon-Kang S’nim, discussed this with Master Mann-Gong.
Jon-Kang: It us as though both of you masters entered the muddy water while strangling each other. -p 33
Mann-Gong: Then how would you respond?
Jon-Kang: What could possibly be said merely departing from speaking, silence, movement, and stillness?
Mann-Gong: Very good. Very good.
Master Hye-Am did not overlook this Kong-an but examined it and had a chance to meet with Master Jon-Kang.
Hye-Am: Do you believe what you said to the Master, “What could possibly be said merely departing from speaking, silence, movement, and stillness,” was right? Since it has something from which to depart, why can’t you say something?
Hye-Am: Why don’t you ask me?
Jon-Kang: Tell me, merely departing from speaking, silence, movement, and stillness. “In order to answer this Kong-an you have to discover the moment before entry into the womb.
If someone asked me, ‘What is the discovery of the moment before entry into the womb?’ I would say, Broken glass is non-cohesive.”
He then sang a Gatha:
One word for Speaking silence-movement-stillness, Who could possibly break through it?
If one asked me to comment after departing from them,
I’d say, “Broken glass is non-cohesive.”
Everyone called this the enlightenment Gatha of Master Hye-Am. Every mountain was surprised by this discovery and speechless, like a person who had just slightly awakened from sleep.
As Master Jon-Kang commented, “Patriarchs are nothing but the ones who re-examine Buddha’s words.” Without ceaseless refinement of the Kong-ans, one cannot be claimed as a disciple of Buddha.
After Master Mann-Gong passed away, Sudok-Sa became an empty temple in need of a new head master. Some elder monks recommended Master Hye-Am, but at that time he refused, saying, “To be head master is worse than going to a fiery hell. Why are you concerned with such titles? Why can’t we just study together?”
Within the political turmoil of a new born country on old traditional soil and after the Korean war, Buddhism was no longer an interest of the people. It was worship attended for miracles of escape from anxiety and hunger and by the wealthy for good fortune, while the priesthood brotherhood of landholders under the name of Buddhist work. The abbot of the temple was usually a property manager or landlord. By way of criticism, Venerable Master Mann-Gong once roared out:
What is the dirtiest thing in the world?
Dirtier than dung is the maggot;
Still dirtier than maggots are all abbots in the main temples.
The true students were very few. Korean Buddhist sects became vehicles for achieving fame and wealth.
Thieves were many, feigning mastery:
No good people claimed themselves as students.
When Master Hye-Am, who had never been an abbot of any temple, was nominated as head of Dok-Sung Chonglim (Sudok-Sa Temple affiliates), he bellowed out:
Who wishes to hold the dog’s collar?
It’s hollow gourd.
All the disciples were in utter agreement and appreciation of his discerning assessment of the outside world. The times were topsy-turvy. Rather than monks, many lay people came to see him and a score lf thousands studied; but only sixty lay people, twenty Bhikunis (female monks), and less than a handful of Bhikus (male monks) saw the Selfnature. Most came, not to study, but to accrue a popular affiliation. Verily, the times were such that instead of students looking for a master, a master, the master had to look for the students.
No need to blame the world. This kind of situation was not new; it existed in Buddha’s and Bodhidharma’s times as well as in Kyung-Ho’s time.
Even after becoming disabled from an accident, Master Hye-Am deeply sighed, citing Master Kyung-Ho’s living thunderbolt-in-daylight:
The one word breaking through the empty space,
True voice of giving and snatching away:
Looking around, there is no one;
To whom should I transmit this bowl and robe?
Why is it called bad?
Because of not believing in the dharma.
Why does one receive the sufferings of hell?
Because of not following the word of the Good-and-Wise Ones.
What is the trouble?
Letting thought arise in the mind.
The Master summarized his one hundred years of life with one word: re-examination.
While examining what you have awakened, naturally, the major Hwa-du from Buddhas and Patriarchs will be pierced through.
Even if one has seen the Self-nature, without re-examination, seeing Self-nature will soon be obscured and totally useless.
In the study of Son, the three requisite pillars are great faith, a great bundle of doubt, and great provocation.
To the one who saw the Self-nature,
What else can be the great faith other than re-examination?
To the one who saw the Self-nature,
How possibly can the bundle of doubt not be vivid while in re-examination?
To the one who saw the Self-nature,
Re-examination cannot be perfected without the great provocation.
Because of faith, it examines. Because a bundle of doubt is vivid, it examines. Since the mind is provoked, nothing else can do except re-examination.
Today’s students deal with patriarchal Kong-ans carelessly as if they were children playing with a ball, with the idea that awakening is easy, merely saying, “understood it.”
But the old Master, using his dharma sword, destroyed them mercilessly, which is the same way that all the patriarchs have brightened Buddha’s Teaching by re-examination. That is the patriarchal spirit.
Re-examining the Hwa-do of Buddhas and Patriarchs is the true nature of enlightenment, i.e.,Buddha-as-it-is.
Here is a Gatha sung by Ch’an Master Hwang-Pyok (d. 849):
Liberating ourselves from the six sensual dusts is extraordinary.
Playing tug-of-war while holding tightly the end of the reins;
Without passing through the one time chilled-to-the-bone cold,
How dare exotic plum blossom fragrance reach to the tip of the nose?
This old Good-and-Wise One, already past the dusk of life, eight years before his death, slipped and fell, rendering his hip and knee useless. He barely managed to live with only several spoonfuls of rice in plain hot water; sometimes one spoonful of honey with some pine nuts for nutrition. Food was as simple as his life.
However, layman students and the lines of the laywomen never stopped whether he was in Sudok-Sa Temple, at Non-Dual Shrine in On-Yang City, or in -p45- the Dong-A Hospital in Seoul. Wherever he was, it became the Chonglim; the sitting and the dharma discussions never stopped. It contented him because this was the old Good-and-Wise One’s karmic task. The weakened body, seeing the world as a shadow, was unable to distinguish voice, was unable to distinguish drum and bell. He fell into the soundless abyss; his hearing was like waiting for the echo from the horizon. Several broken teeth protruded like tombstones from his otherwise toothless mouth.
However, even in front of this old, weak, and sick corpse, why did the strong and not knowing what to do?
Why could someone else have strong teeth, a better and healthier jaw, and yet not open it? Why?
What did they see?
What could they not see?
In contrast, as goes the ordinary world, people are only interested in power and gold; and the Korean Buddhist sects were no different. In fact, they were the monsters who only looked after the benefit of their own family members and pursued power with the Outlaw Kingdom. Through the eyes of power holders, Master Hye-Am was just a helpless monk -p47- and an irascible old fellow. However, even for this kind of criticism, the Master scolded his attendants who spoke ill of those people.
“After all, dragon lives among snakes!
Mind which better condition is wicked.
If you pursue something outside, then already you have slain the Buddhas and Patriarchs, not to mention having lost your life.
Do not become a follower of them; while you debase them, you become the same kind of indigent-being. While you criticize them, you become a disciple of devils.
Talking hard; useless, ’til blood pours from the throat.
Prefer shut mouth for the rest of life.”
Study, Study, and again Study!
Once the great Son Master Na-Ong sang a Gatha:
The primary concern of Son is faith;
Study carefully but sharpen it more enthusiastically.
When the bundle of doubt is pierced through unexpectedly,
Mud-ox ploughing in the farm at the entrance of Aeon.
Days and months were faster than thunderbolt, knowing that his time would soon come.
Ask without delay.
Nineteen eighty-four, this old Good-and-Wise One became Korean Ancient Buddha who lived twenty years more than Buddha.
On one of the hottest days in Sudok-Sa Temple, Master Hye-Am recalled all of the students to review one-by-one. He called his attendant, Myo-Bong:
In this soil, seeds are sufficient,
The West will be the new fountain.
Quickly but secretly proceed!
Not easy to spread the true Teaching.
“Where can you go with your health?”
“Teaching of the seeing the Self-nature cannot be delayed by any means. This is a first in history. There are some who, under the name of Zen, gather the people and teach the Sutras, or raise the fist and make the Hal(shout), or compose the Gathas without knowing even how to distinguish between black and white; all the while claiming themselves to be teachers of Zen life, of Zen chanting, or even proclaiming themselves to be paatriarchs. However, no one does direct teaching of the Buddha-Patriarchs’ Hwa-du work, by which one sees the Self-nature.
I have been waiting for this opportunity for over twenty years and I cannot postpone it.
Claiming themselves to be enlightened; gathering the people everywhere; but, hungry students have nothing to eat. Imitating their teacher as a cub somersaulting, what will be their excuse on the Day of Judgement?
One who knows has word.
One who speaks cannot know.
Not knowing how to teach the disciples, their disease will become critical. Both teachers and disciples will become descendents of the devil.
One mink who resides in America said,
‘There are many different books published on Byddhism. Many kindw of prescriptions have been introduced, but, there is no real doctor who can properly determine how to treat the patients!’
Let’s pack up! Accomplish it as soon as possible.
Like a mouse-catching cat.
Like a birth-giring mother.
If it fails this time, there is no hope for the Buddha-dharma in the West.”
Leaving behind all the deceitful gossip and insults owing to jealousy, this old Good-and-Wise One still eagerly did his work in order to repay all the Buddhas.
Twenty-seventh day of November in 2528 (1984),
Finally faith reached ultimate peak where “faith” is no longer.
An ancient trace of Kyung-Ho and Mann-Gong; the highest teaching of mankind, Have moved to the western world to be begetter of the beginning.
Finally, the wicked ones shut their mouths for a while to find out what was going on, but the ignorant ones continued the chattering of debasement behind his back. This old Good-and-Wise One was accomplishing his only purpose: whatever the cost, he would direct seeing the Self-nature to the world.
Around scenic Los Angeles there were many communities: industrial, educational, and especially excellent scientists and artists, and many religiously open-minded people. Just south of Los Angeles, in Orange County, there were at least three million people of upper intelligence from South East Asia, Northern Europe, England, and South America. Truly, some might say that America was the “Department of the Human Race.”
One journalist, originally from Denmark, was -p55- asked to come and interview this oldest and highest Korean Buddhist leader. She published this historic event. Everyday many visitors, sometimes thirty or forty, came to see him. During the three months he was in America, about one thousand people were interviewed. Among them, three or four, after several interviews, reached high levels of dharma understanding. They were given dharma names and encouraged by the Master to accomplish the Buddhahood, But, what heavy work for this old body!
A one hundred-year-old international birthday party was held and still he continued to see the people. Finally he became dramatically weak and could not swallow even a grain of rice. This far journey to the West was new explained.
“I am ready to depart from you.”
“When are you going?”
When the temple bell crown is softened.
“To where are you going?”
To the fiery hell.
Afterward, what should we do?
“If I die in the city, put this corpse in the hearse, carry it to the mortuary, and cremate it immediately. If I depart from this world in the mountain, do not even make a coffin, but rather carry my body just like a coffin, but rather carry my body just like a dried piece of wood and cremate it with a bowl of gasoline. After the cremation, return to the main altar, burn one piece of incense and prostrate three times. Then, go to the altar of spirits (for the deceased ones) and again burn one stick of incense and chant The Heart Sutra one time. Do not waste any materials for my body.
Also, I would not produce any sarira from my body, because I do not even respect Buddha’s sarira. Even if sarira were produced, it would not be the same kind as Buddha had. If something emerges from this corpse, immediately bury or scatter it. If anyone gathers my ashes, builds a pagoda or a mausoleum, he will be my worst enemy.
Sarira originally were to be examined by the Good-and-Wise One with the true dharma eye. If the Good-and-Wise One perceives them in his palm with the dharma eye, the licentious sarira will become bloody pus, and greedy sarira will become a snake or serpent. The ignorant sarira will become a snake or serpent. The ignorant sarira will become a wandering ghost. The ignorant sarira will become a wandering ghost. Only the sarira examined by the master of the brightened-eye can be acknowledged as the true sarira.
Even if there is the true sarira, including Buddha’s whole body sarira, one should not ct,respe bow, or pray in front of them, for all of these behaviors will be the main karmic cause of entering the hell. Prayers, bows, and displays of respect are derived from attachment to the truth of all that Buddha taught us.
Whatever has the form
As a whole, is all delusory.
There is no definite substance;
Even illusion has no definite illusion.
This is The Dharma-of-Formlessness.
By not assuming the form, one will coincide with the Saint.
Departing from each and every form is called,
Now, listen to my own Gatha:
At the summit of Buddha’s and Patriarchs’ peak,
Ancient buried sarira have been disclosed.
Instead of seeing one’s own sarira,
Everyone busily scurries after them.
I just carefully looked at Buddha’s sarira,
Buddha is not in sarira.
Even though sarira came from the Buddha,
Buddha-of-seeing is watching Buddha’s sarira.
Therefore, from now on, people of the True-Mind should strive hard, alert and bright, in Study. Purify and cultivate the uncountable vows for the uncountable indigent-beings until this body is completely dis-integrated.”
Blue-eyed students asked,
“How should we Study from now on?”
“Let the examination become your teacher; there is no other work to do besides this. I heard that even Socrates said, The unexamined life is not worth living for man.”
“What, then, would be the last word?”
“Good-bye,” he said in English.
After this short word he turned away. He concluded his difficult three-month journey to the Western world in this way. He insisted on passing away in America. However, his attendants knelt down and beseeched him to return to Korea for the sake of his many followers there. He returned on February 16, 1985.
He locked up his room and forbade entrance to anyone; then spent three more months before he entered Nirvana.
Anxious disciples asked,
“To whom did you transmit the Chamber of the True-Dharma-Eye?”
To the one who examine.
Since the disciples did not say a word, the old Master continued.
“Listen to my Gatha:
No form is,
No emptiness is,
No non-emptiness is.”
“Is there anything more to say?”
There is nothing more to say.
He entered Samadhi for a while; then opening his eyes wide, embraced the whole universe. He then made three strokes in the air horizontally and one vertically. No one knew what he meant.
The Master’s last day was eight days before Buddha’s Birthday, May 19th, nineteen eighty-five (March 30, 2529 by the lunar calendar).
Many eminent monks attended his funeral from throughout the nation. Throngs of people attended the ceremony, forming an ocean of people. Who are they? Suddenly a colorful aura, as appeared at his birth, arced in the sky. Everyone was enraptured by this marvelous phenomenon and called it his power of dharma. What an auspicious occasion!
One short shrill honk from hollow goose pierced through to the stratosphere.
Now where is our old Master? Here is something we cannot forget.
Venerable Master Mann-Gong once wrote a Gatha for Venerable Master Kyung-Ho’s (Empty Mirror) true Self image. The Gatha is:
The empty mirror originally has no Mirror.
Awakened ox is already not an Ox.
Everywhere where there is neither Ox nor Mirror.
Living eye freely abides with inebriety and indulgence.
For comparison Venerable Master Mann-Gong wrote for his Self-image:
I am not departed from Thou;
Thou art not departed from me.
Before Thou and I were born,
I don’t know; what is this?
Venerable Master Hye-Am concluded with a Gatha for his Self-image:
Thou art not the Thou of Thou.
I am not the I of I.
Since I and Thou are non-dual,
Immediately here is true Thou-and-I.
This is the Nirvana: his worldly-age was 99, dharmaage was 85 and 77th generation from Shakyamuni Buddha (in Korea).
Here I would like to conclude this story with the Master’s own Gatha which he composed shortly before he entered Nirvana.
By birth limpid air blew in the horizon,
By death the shadow of moon flew in the tranquil pond;
Departing from body out of Karmic circle: Where did it go?
River flows toward east outside of the Capital City.
October 15, 2529 (1985)
Recorded by His Disciple
妙 峰 Myo-Bong (Profound Summit)
General Dharma Lecture, 7th Lunar Month, 1982, Haein-sa)
Q: Where does life come from, and where does it go?
Ven. Song-chol : Universal law is that there is no producing and no extinguishing. So by transcending time and space, there is nothing to appear and disappear, including life.
In the Avatamsaka Sutra we find, “The One Law is nonproducing, the one Law is non-extinguishing”; and from the Lotus Sutra we have, “All Dharma is that of non-change.”
We call this non-producing, non-extinguishing by various names―the ultimate, the absolute, the Dharma realm, causality, the eternally abiding, Dharmadhuta, Dharma nature. There are a thousand different names, but the meanings are all the same. They all are the basis of the universe and the basis of the Supreme Enlightenment by the Buddha who saw that all was non-producing, non-extinguishing.
This Truth is so profound, so deep, so difficult to comprehend that it can be seen only by the Wisdom Eye of the Buddha; and it cannot be found in any other religion, philosophy or thought system. Modern science is now beginning to come close to a similar explanation, which helps to make the Buddha’s Teachings a bit more comprehensible to modern man. So it will be interesting to see what else science comes up with in the future, although scientific findings in no way influence the Teachings.
In this non-producing, non-extinguishing of the eternally abiding Dharma, there is only unlimited causation where increasing and decreasing and coming and going are non-existent. This is the nature of reality. To put it in more modern terms, the volume does not change; but due to unlimited causation, the influence of eyerything on all things and all things on everything, the apparent containers do.
The nature of all forms of life is the same, matter and mind are one, and there is no distinction between the animate and the inanimate. So “life” is a term that is given to both the animate and the inanimate. And you must be able to listen to the Dharma talk of the inanimate to really know the meaning of life: the totality of all forms of life is absolute, and there is no producing or extinguishing, no coming and going of it.
It may seem a bit progressive to call that which is inanimate “life” but not only the animate moves. Inanimate life, too, is just as filled with molecules with their own movement, their own spin. You must realize that all things, even a staid boulder, are actually in constant motion.
Ten billion Sakyamunis are dancing on the end of a spring breeze.
Q: Is the Buddhist ideal to deal with the existing or to transcend the existing?
Ven. Song-chol : In Buddhism, “producing and extinguishing” is the Bhutatathata or ultimate reality. That is to say, present reality is absolute, torment and suffering are enlightenment, and sentient beings are Buddha. Fundamentality, humanity is absolute, and it both transcends and includes oneness. So there is nothing more to transcend.
You see, the Buddha came to teach us that we already are Buddha, not that we have to become Buddha. Think of it as having gold, but mistaking it for loess. You can mistake it for loess as long as you want, but that doesn’t change the nature of the gold. All you have to do is rid yourself of the delusions that the gold is loess. The gold remains as it is.
In the same way, through our delusions we mistake real Buddhas for sentient beings; and even though we behave as sentient beings, our fundamental Buddha nature remains the same. So we don’t have to go looking for Buddha. We just have to rid ourselves of delusions.
Sentient beings are Buddha, this world of suffering is a Buddafield, and present reality is absolute. We must eliminate our conditioned views and biases, stop living like someone in the hot summer who has no vision of winter ice, and awaken ourselves to our Buddha nature.
A person above vairocana`s torehead is standing at the center of an intersection.
Q: What do you mean by the term “restore humanity”?
Ven. Song-chol : Humanity both transcends oneness and includes oneness, and it is absolute. This is called “original Buddha.” But as sentient beings we mistake this original Buddha, call ourselves sentient beings, and behave like sentient beings. “To restore humanity” is to rid ourselves of these delusions and to confirm our fundamental nature, our original face.
We have mistaken pure gold for loess, so we must become awakened to the fact that we are pure gold. There is nothing else. It’s like a facial mirror covered with dust―the dust prevents it from reflecting. So all we have to do is to clean off the mirror, and it will reflect perfectly. There’s no need to go out and get a new mirror.
In Buddhism, one must make a searching examination of the dust covering the mirror of the mind, and remove every single spot of it. This is the proper function of recovering our humanity. In order to do so, we must completely eliminate all of the dust from both present consciousness and from the absolute consciousness, the Alayavijnana. Then we can clearly see our original nature, our fundamental nature, our Buddha nature.
Smash not just the mirror, but the blue sky as well, and come to see me.
Q: Can the solution to the human predicament be found in religion?
Ven. Song-chol : It seems that most religions move from the mortal to the immortal and from the relative to the absolute. In Buddhism, however, the mortal is the immortal and the relative is the absolute.
Many other religions claim that there is an absolute which is separate from present reality, and their goal is to go from the present world of mortality and limited reality to that separate, absolute, immortal reality.
But in Buddhism, the present is the absolute and we are living in the world of the eternal. There is no need to look elsewhere.
So the problem becomes one of not mistaking the absolute for the relative. What we call the relative is at the same time the absolute. If you realize this, you will come to realize that everything is the absolute, and that everything is already “delivered.” Only then will we be able to solve the problems of humanity.
The sun is high in the sky, but people are walking around with their eyes closed complaining about the darkness. We have to open our Eye to see that we are living in this glorious light. We must rid ourselves of our delusions to realize that we are already eternal in this Great Light.
A Buddha does not have to look for anything.
So what is this we call sentient beings?
Q: In this age of insecurity, how can people overcome their restlessness?
Ven. Song chol : The Great Tranquil Light flows gloriously and completely through eyerything, so in Buddhism we have no room for such concepts as “insecurity” “restlessness” “wandering.” The Great way is wider than the universe itself and brighter than thousands of suns. So nothing should upset you, not even the end of the world.
To talk of life and death, to talk of “salvation” is to be talking in your sleep. “Buddha” and “enlightenment” are just more dust on the mirror. Just look at the fundamental Great Light!
The tips of the willows are green, and the peach blossoms
are spotted with pink.
Q: What are your thoughts on greed and materialism?
Ven. Song-chol : Non-personal greed, that is greed for the common good, and materialism for the common good are the most priceless of jewels.
No living thing wishes to live in misery. But we must go beyond personal greed. National programs for development are good; but we have to go beyond the limited sphere of humanity, and put greed and materialism to work for the benefit of all that lives. Only then are greed and materialism jewels of any worth.
Personal greed is but poison to the heart. You must forget yourself and work for the benefit of all that lives. That has always been the fundamental wish of all Buddhas and the Great path of the Bodhisattvas. And it should be the basic approach to life for all Buddhists.
Q: Can Buddhism save society?
Ven. Song-chol : The word “save” doesn’t apply to Buddhism. Since all forms of life are absolute, all forms of life are Buddha. The prime prerequisite for becoming a Buddhist is to respect all forms of life in the same way that one should respect his parents. One should serve all forms of life the same way one should serve elders. So you see, there is only serving―no “saving” no “salvation.”
I have said repeatedly that helping other forms of life is the only true Buddhist offering. Usually when people talk about helping others, they think of the rich giving to the poor, and so on. This, however, in the Buddhist sense, is not really the proper attitude. The proper attitude is to treat all forms of life with the same gentleness as one would treat an ailing parent, as one would provide a meal to a hungry teacher, as one would offer clothing to a Buddha wearing rags.
“Rescuing” implies something quite different. It’s feeling sorry, selectively, for the weak and the poor. This is, in effect, an enormous insult to those people. Wherever you go there are hungry Buddhas, there are ragged Buddhas, there are ailing Buddhas, there are bag Buddhas. The Buddhist teaching is to treat everyone as one would treat one’s parents, in the same way a Buddhist honors the Buddha. So there is only non-selective reverence and service―no “rescuing.”
A lion doesn’t howl like a wolf.
Q: What does Korean Buddhism have to do during the 1980’s?
Ven. Song-chol : There is only one uniform truth in Buddhism, and it applies to everything in the universe. It does not apply to any one geographical area, nor to any one generation. One acts according to basic Buddhist mentality regardless of time and place.
So where and when one lives is irrelevant. One always reveres all forms of life as Buddha. While espousing the absolute nature of all that lives, one eliminates personal desires and dedicates oneself completely to serving all living Buddhas. That’s all. There’s nothing else to do.
A thousand eons may pass but they are not past. Ten thousand ages pass by, yet everything is now.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to convey to monks and nuns who are in training?
Ven. Song-chol : Just let me say that we think that the planet earth is a large place, but it’s an invisible speck of dust compared to the universe. And this huge, immense universe is but a drop of water in the ocean compared to the Bhutatathata, the Dharma realm. And the activity of this universe is but one drop of toam in comparison to the Great Ocean. If all the Buddhas of the universe appeared at once to expound upon this, they could spend the rest of eternity explaining; yet all their talk would be but a peep in the endless Dharma realm.
All forms of life are one in this inexplicably priceless realm. So we must rid ourselves of those hollow dreams of personal fame and fortune, open this inexhaustible treasure house, and work for the benefit of all. To covet a single grain of rice is to lose 10,000 eons of food.
Think again about the example set by Shun-ch’ih, conqueror of all of China and founder of the Ch’ing Dynasty. He finally considered all of his worldly conquests and riches nothing but debauchery and cast them all aside to enter the path. So I ask all who have joined the order to devote total efforts to attaining the Great Enlightenment.
Deep in the mountains in the middle of a bright, moonlit night, an owl hoots.