From a talk at Providence Zen Center, April 29,1992.
Question: Sometimes a woman gets pregnant and she’s unsure if she wants to keep the pregnancy or have an abortion. She’s facing her karma; she needs to make a decision. Could you explain about controlling our karma in that situation?
Zen Master Seung Sahn: Having a baby or not having a baby doesn’t matter. What matters is, “How much do I believe in my true self? How much do I control my true self?” That is a very important point. If you have no babies but still cannot control your true self, then much suffering appears. If you have many babies but can control your true self, then it’s no problem.
Having a husband or not doesn’t matter. In Korea, a woman had twelve children, then her husband died. She worked, worked, worked to help her children. They all grew up and went to school, and many became professors or doctors. So, suffering when young meant being happy as she got old. Being happy when young means much suffering when getting old. Hard training when young is good.
Q: So having children was what she should have been doing. That was her karma, and that was good for her. But what if a woman has a baby, but it isn’t good for her? She doesn’t enjoy it, and she is unhappy her whole life.
ZMSS: Again, having a baby or not having a baby doesn’t matter. What matters is how much you believe in your true self. If I believe in my true self one hundred percent, then having many babies is no problem. If I cannot believe in my true self, even if I have no babies I’ll still have many problems.
Sometimes a baby helps a woman, so she becomes dependent on the baby. If you are dependent on anything, then you have a problem. Only believe in your true self one hundred percent. Try to keep your center strong.
This world already has problems. Next year there will be more problems. Then the next year there will be still more problems. Americans don’t see or understand this. In Africa, more people can see that this is a suffering world. America has too good a situation; if you have too good a situation, then suffering appears. So be careful. A good situation is a bad situation. A bad situation is a good situation. But if you are practicing, a good situation is OK and a bad situation is OK. Neither is a hindrance. That is Zen.