The social values and role of Ganhwa Seon

The historical and social reality of China at the time of the foundation of Ganhwa Seon was a circumstance of great crisis. The Song had been defeated in a war with the Jin (Jurchen) dynasty and the society was disordered, the economy was in difficulty and the peasants had fallen into confusion and despair.

In such circumstances, Seon Master Dahui Zonggao systematized Ganhwa Seon and taught lay and cleric the method of investigation of hwadu while living an everyday life. He called up courage in the peasants who had fallen into misery, and in order to elucidate a wisdom that would rebuild and resurrect a collapsing state, he spread widely this active and lively Seon. Seon Master Dahui taught Seon to those people who had lost the war and fallen into despair, positively teaching them to live according to a correct set of values that had removed the idea of two sides and of egotism.

Our society today is not much different from the circumstances of China when Ganhwa Seon was established. Even though compared to the past the level of material life has improved, the maturity of the spiritual culture and the depth of education remains at a low level. Moreover, the social currents that oppose East and West, labor and capital, progressive and conservative etecetera, and the historical reality of the tragic split into North and South, is too much for our life to bear. Even further, the present address attained by human civilization is one where everywhere in the global village there is not a day on which opposition and trouble, and war does not stop.

Korean Buddhism has a feature that is different from the Buddhisms of Japan, Tibet and South-east Asia. That is Seon. In Korean Buddhism, Seon has been fixed and developed continuously. Therefore it has a more deeply examined Dharma than the Buddhism of other countries. The Seon School, that is the tradition of Patriarchal Seon and Ganhwa Seon, has been best preserved in Korea. Even though we have an impressive pride, to a major extent we have preserved a significant value in respect of Seon thought, real consultation and real practice. Is it not a reality that although there are various countries in the world and there are various religions, far from resolving the opposition and troubles between ideologies and religions or races, it has made them worse? But Buddhism does not have a history of creating wars or of extreme confrontation. If one properly knows the Seon of Buddhism, it will show mutual equality and without opposition and trouble, it can possibly resolve these problems of limitless improvement in this age of unbridled competition.

Although it is important in any age to make those Seon values widely known to the world, it is now an even more urgent and earnest task due to the extent of emergencies and disputes. Will the devastated and sterile spiritual culture of our age that has been greatly changed through the desires and individualism that have destroyed the value foundations of everything that supported our lives, not guarantee a rose-colored future and some realistic comfort to us now? The experience of Seon and the causation of Middle Way in which one can live well together in limitless improvement in our own individual duties, transcending at a stroke the fundamental problems that human beings face, must present a new plan for human civilization.

Now is the time when practitioners, lay and monastic, who are conscious of their own problems as the problems of humanity, must take the path of an intense Seon practice that will give rise to a great mental resolution that will merge together individuals and ages. Above all else, lay and monastic practitioners, while setting up a model of life through the practice of meditation, must make widely known in this land the values of Seon and must make Seon culture and thought bloom brilliantly.

And the active and lively, free and independent disposition of Seon must contribute to the freeing, wisely and peaceably, the mind of each person, and broadcast this to all members of society.

Now, at this moment, in just this place, although there are no shapes or traces, let us look directly at this actively living and moving mind.

Look directly at one’s own self.
We originally are Buddha.

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