Dear Soen Sa Nim,
How are you? I have heard about your sickness and that it was necessary for you to go to the hospital earlier this summer. I am sorry. But also, I have heard that now with the insulin, you are the strongest in a long time. I am very glad about this.
I have meant to write to you for some tine now, and finally, the time is ripe to do so. I was very disappointed not to be able to attend the special Dharma Teachers’ Yong Maeng Jong Jin in July, but I signed a contract last February to be in Pennsylvania at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts at Bucknell University during all of July and half of August, teaching every day of the week except Sunday. Since it is a very intensive and relatively short program, they were unwilling to let me take the time off to travel to Providence. However, it was a wonderful opportunity to teach, because nearly every day was spent with the students from 8:00 A.M. to 10:30 P.M., after which, there was always preparation of teaching materials for the next day. So, the students and the teachers became like a big family.
Soen Sa Nim, always, when I teach music or karate, I feel as if I am teaching Buddhism. The words are usually mostly about music or karate, but beneath the words, there is always Zen. And, I think that what students learn is not so much about these subjects, but rather about how to live one’s life. This means that there is a very big responsibility on each teacher, and more and more, I understand the importance of always being clear. I did get a chance to introduce Buddhism to some of the students (all of high school age) in a direct way by devoting two classes of ethnomusic to the Buddhist chanting of Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan. I also chanted the Heart Sutra for them, which they liked very much.
In presenting one class on the music of Korea, I found that even though I have always enjoyed the A-Ak, Tang-Ak, and Hyang-Ak music, I became especially drawn to the P’ansori music. Very beautiful, very deep, and somehow ageless music. Anyway, it was a well-spent month and a half, and I felt close to the people, as though brought there magnetically by very strong karma.
Now, I am back teaching at Yale for the last time, but am also concerned about a job which I am applying for at Bard College. Bard is just a short ways across the Hudson River from Woodstock, at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, and I am very strongly attracted to it. Bard is, or has the reputation for being, a very open (receptive to unusual ideas) school, and it sounds like a place where perhaps there may be support for not only teaching music, but also Zen and karate. It is also interesting to me, because of your ties to Woodstock, and so I shall be watching to see if anything comes of it. Karma!
This morning, something unusual happened. I have been reading the kong-an book each morning in between bowing and sitting, to catch up with the kong-ans that I missed this summer while I was gone. And today, I came to your Dharma talk on Primary Point. Your words rang like a bell as I began to sit, and I spent the whole sitting doing my best to control either hysterical sobs and tears or laughter. Even now (much later), this wells up within me. After many years of sitting Zen, I feel as though I just now cut the first thread on the net of ignorance. How can I thank you for your words on Primary Point?
Sunday, I gave the Dharma talk and attempted to explain the term “non-action”, which appears in many books on Zen or Taoism. I said that no matter what appears, good or bad, there is this place or point which cannot be touched, whether you are sitting, or bowing, or chanting, or thinking, or eating, or sleeping, or shitting; it is unmoving. And so this morning, I read about Primary Point. How wonderful! I am indebted to your teaching.
For one hundred lives
I have looked for the nose on my face,
and only this morning did I find a mirror!
The earth smells damp in this September rain.
More than ever before, I must continue to bow, to sit, and to chant, to finish the Great Work, and save all beings from suffering.
September 19, 1977
How are you and your family? Thank you for your letter. You were worried about my body. Nowadays, my body is very strong, no problem.
You could not come to the Dharma Teachers’ Yong Maeng Jong Jin; I heard that you were very busy. When you are busy, but you get not busy, this is better than Dharma Teachers’ Yong Maeng Jong Jin. This means moment-to-moment clear mind. Clear mind is moment-to-moment keeping your correct situation. This means busy is not busy.
You taught at the Governor’s School for the Arts. That is wonderful. Your letter said only teaching music, but other times, you are always teaching music, karate, and Zen. Our mind has three aspects. First will. Will makes goodness. Next, emotion. Emotion makes beauty. Next, intellect. Intellect makes truth.
So, these three aspects come from one mind. You have one body, one mind. When you are teaching karate, you must teach strong will, complete goodness. Next, when you are teaching music, you must teach high emotion. High means everybody together becomes one mind; low means only for myself. This is perfect beauty. Next, when you teach Zen, you must teach correct intellectual style. Then, your students attain the correct way. Those three kinds, which are complete goodness, perfect beauty, and correct true way, make great love, great Bodhisattva, great compassion. The name for this is great man. So, you are already a great man, because you always teach karate, music, and Zen. How wonderful this is!
You like teaching the Heart Sutra and Korean music. Korean music all comes from Buddhism. Now, it is separated into A-Ak, Tang-Ak, Hyang-Ak, and P’ansori. Those all came from Korea’s mother music, Yoeng Sahn He Sahn. You know the story of Buddha picking up a flower. Nobody understood. Mahakashyapa smiled, and Buddha said, “I transmit my Dharma to you.” That event was set to music, called “Yoeng Sahn He Sahn” (Gathering at Yoeng Sahn Mountain). Before, in Korea, Buddhism was the national religion. So, all music was dependent on Buddhism, and comes from Yoeng Sahn He Sahn. So, I think your liking Korean music means in your mind, you already have Buddhist music karma, which is to use music to cut off all thinking and become clear and pure. Buddha picked up a flower; nobody understood. Only Mahakashyapa smiled. But, if we look at this, already Buddha’s mind, everybody’s mind, Mahakashyapa’s mind is the same. Clear and pure. So your teaching music is the same as Buddha’s mind.
You may be near Woodstock. That is very good karma. Right now, we are taking a rest about Woodstock. Maybe in the future, we will make a big monastery over there. Maybe in five years, or ten years, or twenty years, or next life. Someday. But this means Woodstock and the East Coast Zen Centers have very strong karma. Also, this Woodstock mountain location where the farm-church that we like is, is a very wonderful location. Never before did I see such a good location in America.
In your letter, you said, “I feel as though just now, I cut the first thread on the net of ignorance.” That is wonderful! Now, you have found your original face. So, you can believe in yourself 100%. That is your karma. But, you can control your karma, so I say no problem. Already, you have your direction. Already, you have great vow and great way. Great vow is infinite space, and great way is infinite time. So. your great vow and great way come together — numberless lives of great Bodhisattva action.
Congratulations on your great Bodhisattva way.
Finally, you got Katz! This Katz makes numberless Buddhas. Don’t lose this Katz! Getting Katz is very easy. Keeping Katz is very difficult. Katz is Katz.
Your poem is very wonderful. Here is a poem for you:
A man for one hundred lives
Was looking for his nose.
Finally, he got nose is high,
Mouth is low.
The mouth says Katz!
The nose says Acchhew!
I hope you always keep your Katz! keeping a mind which is clear like space, a clear light shining always, and everywhere, make all suffering disappear from the three worlds.!
Yours in the Dharma,