A talk after a kong-an reading, by Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim
Sometimes a student will decide to fast during Yong Maeng Jong Jin or a seven-day retreat. He begins strong. First day, second day, only water. Third day, “…maybe I’ll have a little orange juice…” Fourth day, “…just a half slice of bread…” Fifth day, the student gets a headache; “…think I’ll take a little nap…” Seventh day, starving, he stuffs himself. This is what is called “head is a dragon, tail is a snake.”
I decide, then I don’t do. This means I don’t believe in myself. Ask a child, “What is one plus two?” “Three.” “Is that correct?” “Sure, it’s correct.” He believes in himself, so he doesn’t think about it. “One plus two doesn’t equal three…” “It does too! My teacher said so!” A child’s mind doesn’t shake so easily. But Zen students! They cling to words and thinking.
Your mind is always one of these three: lost mind, empty mind, or clear mind. On the street, a thief comes up. “Give me your money!” How is your mind then? Somebody says sex mind is Zen mind, but if you suddenly found a gun in your face while you’re making love, would your mind move? If you’re afraid you’ll lose your life, you have lost your mind.
Empty mind won’t move. “This is a hold up!” “Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum.” “You want some lead in your head?” “Om mani padme hum. Om mani padme hum…” “Are you crazy?” “Om mani padme hum…” Crazy/sane, alive/dead. It is all one to empty mind.
And clear mind? “Give me money!” “How much do you want?” “Shut up, you… give me all of it!” No fear. Just check the mind behind the gun.
Ma Jo one day took his student Pae Chang riding on the river. They had a good time. A flock of birds flew overhead, going south. Ma Jo asked, “What is that?” “Birds.” “Where are they going?” “South.” “Is that right?” “Yes.” Ma Jo grabbed his nose and twisted it hard. “Aaaggghh!” Very painful! “Where did the birds go?” Pae Chang couldn’t answer. They came back to the temple. Later Pae Chang’s friends came upon him holding his nose and crying, “Oh my nose!” His friends asked him, “Why are you crying?” He just kept right on. They kept asking, “What’s wrong?” Finally Pae Chang said, “Ask the master.” So they went to Ma Jo. “Why is he crying?” “Ask him!” So they went back. “The master said to ask you.” Pae Chang suddenly stopped crying and began laughing just as hard. His friends were very surprised. “Are you crazy?” “Ma Jo is the crazy one!” They all went back to Ma Jo. “Now he’s laughing and says you’re crazy!” Ma Jo understood Pae Chang’s mind then. So what does it mean? Crying mind and laughing mind: are they the same or different? Crazy mind, sane mind. Completely crazy, 100% crazy, believe-in-myself crazy – that’s completely clear mind.
At Jong Hae Sah Temple in Korea they had three months of sitting, three months vacation. During vacation, everybody had to collect money or food and bring it back for the sitting period. At that time Zen Master Mang Gong was just beginning the temple and had no money. So the students would go around to the homes of lay people, recite the Heart Sutra, get rice or money and bring it back to the monastery. But when my teacher Ko Bong got rice, he’d sell it at the end of the day and go out drinking – laughing and singing. Everybody else came back at the end of vacation with sacks of rice. All he ever brought back was alcohol. Then he’d be drinking and shouting all night, “This temple’s no good! Buddhism is full of shit! Mang Gong doesn’t understand Dharma! He’s a low class master!”
Once Mang Gong showed up during one of Ko Bong’s rampages and screamed at him, “What do you understand?” Everybody was waiting to see what would happen. “KO BONG!” “Yes!” “Why are you always insulting me behind my back?” Ko Bong looked completely surprised and offended. “Zen Master, I never said anything about you! I was talking about this good-for-nothing Mang Gong!” “Mang Gong? What do you mean, Mang Gong? I’M MANG GONG! What’s the difference between me and Mang Gong?” “KAAAATZ!” Ko Bong yelled, loud enough to split your ears. “Go sleep it off,” Mang Gong said, and left the room.
My teacher’s actions were very bad, but he always kept clear mind. Drink and sex did not hinder it. He always kept just-now mind. ”Mang Gong? What’s the difference between me and Mang Gong?” “KAAAATZ!” That katz is very important. Better than money or bags of rice. Mang Gong never bothered Ko Bong for anything after that. Dragon head, dragon tail; Ko Bong believed completely in himself.