One morning after chanting at the Providence Zen Center, Seung Sahn Soen Sa gave a Dharma talk, and afterwards one student asked, “What is Buddha?”
Seung Sahn Soen Sa said, “The walls are white. The rug is blue.”
“I don’t understand,” said the student.
Seung Sahn Soen Sa hit him and said, “Just seeing is Buddha nature. If you want to understand the realm of Buddha, keep a mind which is clear as space. So let all thinking and all externalized desires fall far away. Let your mind go anyplace, with no hinderance.”
The student asked, “What is keeping a mind which is clear as space?”
Seung Sahn Soen Sa answered, “It is enlightenment nature. Above, the abode of Buddhas. Below, the six realms of existence. One by one, each thing is complete in it. One by one, each thing has it. It and dust interpenetrate. It is already apparent in all things. So, without cultivation, you are already complete. Understand, understand. It is very clear.”
Then Seung Sahn Soen Sa held up the Zen stick and said, “Do you see?”
And hitting the floor with the stick, he said, “Do you hear?”
The student nodded his head.
“Already you see clearly. Already you hear clearly. Then, what are this stick, this sound, and your mind? Are they the same or different?”
The student said, “They are the same.”
“If you say ‘the same,’ I will hit you thirty times,” said Seung Sahn Soen Sa, “and if you say ‘different,’ I will also hit you thirty times.”
“Why?” asked the student.
“KATZ!” shouted Seung Sahn Soen Sa. “Three times three is nine.”
The student bowed and said, “Thank you. I understand the meaning of your shout, but, I don’t understand three times three is nine.”
Seung Sahn Soen Sa said, “O.K., then here is a poem for you:
The four elements (earth, fire, water, and air) disperse as in a dream.
The six dusts (perceptions), roots (senses), and consciousnesses are originally emptiness.
To understand that the Buddha and the eminent teachers return to the place of light:
The sun sets over the western mountains.
The moon rises in the East.”
NOTES: The six dusts or perceptions are color, sound, smell, taste, touch, and ideas. The six roots or senses are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind, and the six consciousnesses arise from the six corresponding senses.