An excerpt from a talk given by Zen Master Seung Sahn on December 3, 1998 to the students beginning the ninety-day winter retreat at our school’s temples in Korea.
Q: I want to ask you about the fighting at Chogye Sah Temple. You always talk about putting everything down, but on the television news we see pictures of Korean monks fighting with each other at Chogye Sah Temple in Seoul, the head temple of Korean Buddhism. Why are they fighting?
ZMSS: A long time ago in Korea a famous book appeared which predicted the fate of our country. The book said, “When true monks do not live in the temples anymore, only outside, [laughter] then it’s the end of the world!” So, that means it is almost the end of our world.
Many religions are nowadays saying it’s the “end of the world.” That means there are too many human beings down here! Everybody understands: in 1945 there were two billion people in the whole world. Now, only fifty years later, there are over five billion people! All these consciousnesses come from where? All this is from animal consciousness. So today there is a lot of fighting everywhere–just like animals. In the old days–east or west, it didn’t matter–people understood correct human being, correct parent, son and daughter, correct situation, condition and relationship. But now many people don’t understand correct situation, correct function, correct relationship.
When I first went to America many of my students were hippies. They didn’t like their parents. Long hair, long beard, dirty hat, dirty clothes, dirty shoes, no bath, everything dirty! Their parents didn’t like that! What is good, what is bad? They didn’t care. Back then all young people did together action: they slept together, ate together and took drugs together. They didn’t like their parents, didn’t like society, didn’t like school, didn’t like anything. That’s the hippie mind. Now these hippies are almost 50 or 55 years old. [laughter] Now many of them have children too and…oh, the same thing! Being a parent means understanding this world, this recurring situation.
That was the time of the Vietnam war. Many people didn’t like the war. They wanted to fix the world, but they didn’t know how to fix it. Then the hippies grew up, and the same thing again! They still cannot fix the world; cannot make it correct.
Then slowly a new mind appeared and they began to understand what our world is like. They come to understand correct practicing. In the 70s many people were practicing yoga. But with yoga practice, your body is okay and your mind is pure, but the direction is not clear. Next, they became interested in meditation which gave them a peaceful feeling, or would maybe lead to special magical powers. Here also, the direction was not clear. So what to do? Then Zen Buddhism came to the United States and they said, “Aaaaahh!” The direction became clear: attain enlightenment, find the correct way, and choose correct life, save all beings. The Bible said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” The Christian point and Buddhism’s point are the same point. Many younger people practicing at that time who had a hippie idea turned to Buddhism. What is the correct way? What is correct practice? Now, many people understand. Still, many people like magic and special things. But magic… okay, that’s interesting, but can I attain my true self that way? Not possible! If you want to attain your true self and help this world, then come here and sit. Only go straight “don’t know,” don’t make anything for ninety days, OK? That is most important! So, you are very lucky to come here to Shin Won Sah or Hwa Gye Sah to practice.