August 21, 1981
I’m writing you because I’ve been told that Soen Sa Nim is flooded with mail, and I’d like to decrease his burden by one correspondent and also, if I may, add to yours by one, which a recent PZC Newsletter suggested. Is this OK with you?
I like writing to someone because I feel in touch with fellow seekers and encouraged and reassured about the worth of seeking through correspondence.
I don’t understand “don’t check.” Does it mean practice not reflecting upon your own feelings, behavior, etc? Does it mean let go of praise and blame? I was at PZC last Wednesday night. During meditation, we stood up to walk. My foot was soundly asleep, and I fell right back down. I started to laugh at this, but I cut it off because I thought that laughter in that time and place might be rude. Is this checking? What is?
I met Annie for the first time last week. She is quite friendly, a wonderful greeting for a stranger just arrived!
What is inga?
Thank you for reading this, for your excellent talks that appear in the Newsletter, and for being there.
September 4, 1981
Thanks for your letter. I’m happy to correspond with you. It was good of you to think of Soen Sa Nim; he is very busy now, although he would certainly answer you if you wrote him.
You asked me about what “don’t check” means. There are two basic divisions of checking. One is checking yourself and the other is checking something outside of yourself (i.e. other people or situations). I can use the example you gave me in your letter about your foot falling asleep to explain something about ways of checking.
There you are, sitting in meditation at the PZC and the chugpi is hit, indicating that it is time to stand up. You try to stand up, fall back down and start to laugh. Then you start thinking, “don’t laugh, everyone is keeping silence at this time.” If that is all you thought, that is not checking. That is what is called “following your correct situation.” If you had continued to laugh, you would have disturbed the formal meditation, so you and Buddha are the same. Congratulations!
But let’s say you start having more thoughts about your sleeping foot situation: “I hope nobody saw me fall. If they did see me fall, they probably think I’m stupid, just a beginner, a clumsy slob. No, it’s not their fault, maybe I am a clumsy slob. I’m lazy and no good. Why are we doing this?’ Sitting cross-legged is not natural, this whole system of practicing is too strict. Oh, I wish I could be like Soen Sa Nim!”
So that’s checking. Instead of digesting each moment completely and understanding it intuitively, the mind turns, twists, and holds it. If we were not attached to our idea of I, my, me, we would not have to manipulate reality. But because we think we are separate from everything else, we have to defend our self-image and consequently expend tremendous amounts of energy doing so. We make up a complex world of Opposites, running from, or clinging to things in order to avoid feeling threatened or hurt.
Practicing with the question, “What is this?” will stop the habitual process of thinking in terms of opposites, and the mind then becomes one with each moment.
I hope your practice is strong now and you have others to practice with. The most important part of practicing is to just try consistently every day and “don’t check” your condition, situation, or opinion.
You asked me what inga is. Inga is when your teacher approves of your practice and of your answers to kong-ans and authorizes you to teach others.
Thanks again for your letter. I hope my answers help you. Please visit again soon.