November 4, 1976
Dear Soen Sa Nim,
How are you, and how is it to be back East again? We miss you here! I hope the seven-day Yong Maeng Jong Jin is going well.
It is strange how things happen, sometimes backwards. I felt very clear after the weekend you were here (even though during the weekend I thought all the dry cleaning in the world would not get my mind clear!). But two days ago I suddenly found myself screaming mad at my son to the point that I even tried to slap him. I felt just terrible that, after going to three Yong Maeng Jong Jins in five weeks’ time, sitting every day, etc., I could revert to such a totally angry mind. And over such a small thing! I went to my room and lay on my bed and started to cry in despair at myself — and then an odd thing happened. I realized that something very important had just happened and crying was not the answer.
I realized that it was time to stop worrying and feeling guilty about him and DO something to change his environment and therefore his karma. Right now he is in a very poor environment; school is not challenging, this home is not making him grow, his friends are getting into trouble and not interested in much except excitement. He has always resisted every effort to change school or to move or whatever — and I always have given in, perhaps feeling I didn’t really know the “right” answer anyway or perhaps afraid he would reject me.
This time I saw what had to be done, clear as clear: he needs to go away to a good school for at least a while, whether he likes it or not, whether he hates me for it or not. I saw that I was willing to be “100%,” finally — even if I turned out to be “wrong.” I think I really surprised him — because I got up off my bed and walked into the kitchen where he was and told him all that — and also that I was no longer willing to let him push my anger button like that.
At first he just said “no” loud and clear. But for once I did not waver but told him that I felt very strongly he should give it a try — what did he have to lose? And I told him that unless he could begin to challenge himself to try something new, he would never experience much in life.
Just before we sat Zen last night, he came in and told me he had changed his mind and would go to the school for a day and see what he thought.
I feel so good, Soen Sa Nim. I just wanted to share this with you very much. It has so much to do with the “dropping ashes on the Buddha” kong-an — I feel as if I am making some progress toward attaining an “answer” to it …. which seems (for me anyway) to have to do with that thing you keep telling us, that “Zen is believing 100% in yourself,” something I have just never been able to do. I’ve discovered that I believe 100% in my love for my son, to the point that I am willing for him to reject me or even for my idea to fail. He’s just not old enough to make total decisions for his life in every way. This is one I have to make for him. And evidently he went inside himself, knew I was right in his heart, and decided to go along with it.
Anyway — he is a different kid today, and whatever happens, yesterday was perhaps a turning point for us both.
Your teaching is beginning to get through to me, Soen Sa Nim — thank you very much.
November 10, 1976
Thank you for your letter. How are you and Ezra and all your family? We have just finished the seven-day Yong Maeng Jong Jin.
After going to Yong Maeng Jong Jin your mind was clear. A clear mind is like a clear mirror, so when anger appears, angry action appears. You love your son, so you were angry. Is this correct? Don’t check your mind — at angry time, be angry. Afterwards, checking is no good.
But your previous anger and the anger you talked about in your letter are different. Before Yong Maeng Jong Jin, it was attached anger; after Yong Maeng Jong Jin your anger was only reflected anger. If you do more hard training, the reflected anger will change to perceived anger. After more hard training, perceived anger will disappear. Then you will have only love anger — inside you will not be angry, only angry on the outside. So attached anger, reflected anger, perceived anger, love anger — all are changing, changing, changing. Anger is anger; anger is the truth. Don’t worry, don’t check yourself it has already passed. How you keep just-now mind is very important.
Attached anger sometimes lasts for three hours, sometimes three days, and does not quickly return to love mind. When you were crying, you had reflected anger; it did not last long. Soon you returned to your mind that loves your son, and you knew what to do to help him. You believed in yourself 100%. After more hard training, you will have perceived anger. You will feel anger but will not show it; you will be able to control your mind. Then afterwards, you will have only love anger, anger only on the outside to help other people — “You must do this!” — but no anger on the inside. This is true love mind.
You had already done three days of hard training during Yong Maeng Jong Jin, so your mind light was shining to your son’s mind. Everything is from the primary cause; primary cause means karma. If your karma disappears, then the primary cause disappears. If the primary cause disappears, then the result will disappear. Your son’s bad karma and your karma are closely connected, so if your karma disappears, then your son’s karma will also disappear. This is your mind’s light shining to your son’s mind.
Buddha said, “If one mind is pure, then the universe becomes pure.” So, if your mind is pure, your world will be pure. Your world means your family, your friends, your country — all of them. So changing your son’s school is a very good idea. Sometimes, when the situation is bad, everything is bad; when the situation changes, then it is possible to change everything.
So, your mind light is already shining to your son’s mind. First, what is Great Love? Great Love means believing in yourself 100%. Then everything is no problem. I read your letter, and I also felt very good. All this is from your strong practicing.
But, you must finish your homework. Somebody comes to the Zen Center, smokes a cigarette, blows smoke and drops ashes on the Buddha. How do you fix the cigarette man’s mind? How do you correct him? Quickly, quickly, answer me!
I hope you only go straight — don’t-know, which is clear like space, finish your homework, attain Enlightenment and Great Love mind, and save all beings from suffering.
Yours in the Dharma, S. S.