Although a quiet and cozy place provides some psychological and biological assistance to hwadu practitioners, one cannot view such places as functioning as absolute causes. If one is mentally resolute and resides with the mind on the Way, no place should be a problem. If one has made the mind resolute, even though one polishes meditation in the city center, that place can be a deeply quiet site. In the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa Sūtra, Layman Vimalakirti said, “The direct mind is the pactice site (monastery), the bodhi-mind that seeks truth is the practice site.” And so, even though one meditates downtown, if the mind is still and not disturbed, there is no difference between that place and a hermitage deep in the mountains or a quiet meditation room.
In taking up the hwadu, if it is hot, take advantage of that; if it is cold, take advantage of the cold; if it is noisy, take advantage of the noise; if it is quiet, take advantage of the quiet. It is right that one should enter into this study.
However, for beginners it is not so easy to gain the strength to control the mind well. For those starting study, the place of study can have some role. The Buddha also spoke about the location of monasteries. “A monastery must be appropriately separated from villages. It has to be in a place that is not noisy and not far from where one goes begging.” Seon Master Changle Zongze also said that a basic condition for meditation is a tranquil and quiet place. This point was the same for Seon masters of the past. This is because the Seon rooms and caverns in which the generations of Seon masters meditated were mostly sited on myeongdang [geomantically powerful sites] and were valued as places to meditate.
Anyhow, in the case of beginners, it is necessary to find a quiet, clean and intense place. Even if it is only for a fixed period, if one can have a quiet environment, any place is fine. Of course, if it is a permanently established Seon cloister, one must preserve such conditions always. Therefore, if you enter into a Seon cloister, one gets used to a quiet and calm atmosphere at anytime. But one is not to be too attached to a superficially good place.
It is especially desirable for those beginning the meditation to select and go to a place with many assembly members and a Dharmic practice. If one participates in the serious practice with various assembly members, one will unconsciously gain much strength and one can become accustomed corporeally with a study that lacks obstacles and difficulties.
Even though one gains some strength, to the extent that one can, it is advisable to dwell together with various assembly (members). It is truly better to be empowered by being in a Seon room of congregations than in a cave or practicing alone in a Seon cloister. One has to bear in mind above all the fact that the superior causation is to pass time together with the teacher. If one can receive the teacher’s guidance and advance vigorously, that place is more excellent than any practice place/site.
The most important thing is one’s own attitude that wants to make the mind resolute and achieve enlightenment. If one does not make the mind resolute and advance vigorously, no matter how good the causation, it cannot help. Even though there are people who try wandering round in search of a good place to consult Seon, these places are all over. One cannot call a person who seeks a place to study with the concerns only about the natural scenery or the physical geography a genuine Seon practitioner.