How do the enlightened convert sentient beings?

The Śākya Mūni Buddha, after being awakened at the end of six years of austerities, while he was together with sentient beings for forty-five years, led them on the path to enlightenment. This life of the Buddha showed well the characteristics of the life that an enlightened person must take.

While quoting from the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa Sūtra, Seon Master Mazu in the Gucunshu yulu said, “Even while being in the world one does not perform contaminated actions, and even while residing in nirvana one never enters into extinction.” He also said, “A genuine bodhisattva, even though at the status of a commoner, is not addicted to worldly things and even in the state of a saint does not abandon sentient beings.”

Because Ganhwa Seon stands on the faith that frustrations as they are are enlightenment, and the world as it is is the supra-mundane, even while among frustrations, one is not bound by frustrations, which is to change direction towards the site of the Buddha. Being in the world and not being tainted by the world, and practicing all the practices in the world is the unfolding of conversion activities.

If it is the life of an enlightened person, no matter whether he teaches students in the mountains or converts sentient beings in the world, whatever side he takes will not be a problem. If there is pure water deep in the mountains people who wish to drink it will gather automatically, and so persons of the Way, even though he teaches practitioners who come seek him, or whether they gather in an assembly in the bustling city, he can convert them.

There is a Seon painting called the “Ox-seeking Diagram” that expresses the course of practice of seeking the mind through pictures and hymns. The pictures show the stages of Seon practice which are compared to an ox and a boy. It draws the process of seeking one’s own original share of enlightenment sites until one reaches enlightenment in ten stages, which are also called the “Ten Ox Diagrams.”

The last scene of the ten ox diagrams is called “Entering the bazaar and lowering one’s hands.” It means going into the market and converting sentient beings. In this picture of the most important moment that is expressed by this “entering the bazaar and lowering one’s hands” the practitioner has a walking stick and shoulders a huge bag. It depicts him going to a place where there are many people. Again, in a certain picture there is depicted the appearance of him talking with a child. The huge sack is a bag that contains blessings and virtues that can be bestowed on sentient beings, and symbolizes the ultimate Buddhist aim of enlightenment and the salvation of sentient beings. Filling up his gourd and carrying a stick, he goes from door to door to have everyone become Buddha and to build the Buddha land. Even if his clothes are dirtied with mud and his head completely covered in ashes, with a bright smile from morning to evening, he rescues sentient beings from a worldly life that is full of dust.

One must then try to take note of the points that are developed through the Seon method and the method of salvation. An elder in everyday speech exchanges greetings with a child:

“Who are you?”
“Where have you come from?”
“Now where are you going?”

This is via a thunderous lecture that says to look at one’s own original face by borrowing everyday speech, and if we are not like the child in the picture it will be difficult for us to understand and hear that lecture. The enlightened, according to the causation, naturally go on the path of saving sentient beings. Each time he clearly shows each one their original face according to the ability of the sentient being.

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