Buddhism is the formalized expression of a truth about life which is valid to any social situation in either past, present, or future. Since its introduction into Korea in the Fourth Century A.D., the Buddhist attitude towards life has played a vital role in the development of the Korean world-view, and its approach to living has had great influence in the shaping of Korean civilization. Although the last twenty years has seen the rapid encroachment on traditional Korean cultural values by Western material and religious outlooks, Buddhism continues to satisfy a deep need on the part of a large segment of the population for spiritual and psychological growth.
The author of this book is the inheritor of a unique tradition founded by National Master Bojo; feeling responsible for giving instruction in and transmitting the understanding of his lineage, he wishes to present this written outline of the teachings of Korean Buddhism. He believes that the practice of Buddhism, as taught in Korea, can lead Westerners to a deeper appreciation of the fruits of Buddhist practice in their lives.
The Seon (Zen) Master Kusan Suryeon (구산 수련) is the Master of Song Kwang Sa (Vast Pines Monastery), Jogye Chonglim, the monastery which represents the Sangha-jewel in Korea. Steeped in the long Korean meditation tradition which has been preserved along orthodox Chinese lines the Master’s strong emphasis on practice, and his concern to maintain an atmosphere most conducive to sincere spiritual cultivation, have earned Song Kwang Sa the reputation of being the best among the three top Korean centers for meditation.
The Venerable Kusan is one of the few Masters in Korea who has taken a direct interest in the propagation of Buddhism not only within Korea, but in foreign countries as well. He regularly travels to deliver lectures to Buddhist lay groups in major cities throughout this country, and in 1971 toured the United States, delivering lectures at many of the major Buddhist centers there.
The selections from the Master’s lectures included in this book are intended to provide a representative collection of his teachings on Buddhism, and include instructions for beginning students of Buddhism, lay-adherents, and monks who practice meditation. It is instructive to note the difference in his approach when instructing lay-people and monks. For people who have never had contact with the Korean Seon (Zen) tradition, it will be of interest to note the uniqueness of the Korean interpretation of Buddhism which is distinct from the meditation traditions of Japanese Zen or Chinese Ch’an, though there is still strong influence from the early Ch’an tradition which was current to T’ang Dynasty China (618—906).
The first selection, The Road to the Other Shore, contains much of the material the Master covers during conversations with people (especially Westerners) who have never been exposed to Buddhism before. It contains the essence of the Master’s basic approach to Buddhism, and is also fairly representative of the Korean approach to Ch’an Meditation. It was written to provide a basic description of the Buddhist analysis of the world, the consequent approach to life, and the aims and practice of Buddhist meditation.
The second selection, The Seven Paramitas, is an outline for the practice of Buddhism during the ordinary activities of daily life and is especially directed to the needs of lay-adherents. It is a lecture delivered to a Buddhist lay-organization in Daejeon in 1976.
The final selection consists both of an introductory account of the lifestyle of those meditators residing in the Meditation Hall, and of The Formal Dharma Discourses which were composed in classical Chinese and were delivered to the meditation monks training at Song Kwang Sa during the three-month Winter and Summer Retreats of 1975-76. It must be emphasized that these lectures are instructions directed specifically to full-time cultivators who are developing hwadu (kung-an) meditation, and were delivered with two purposes in mind:
1) to provide the beginning student with an additional source for strengthening the sensation of doubt which is the indispensable core of hwadu meditation through hearing an exposition of the enlightened man’s understanding; and 2) to give the advanced student that final push he needs to break through the i-ching or ‘sensation of doubt’, which will produce the experience of chien-hsing(見性 Jap. kensho) or the seeing into one’s own true nature. If not read with these purposes kept carefully in mind, it will be easy to dismiss these discourses as paradoxical or incoherent nonsense, rather than seeing them for what they are in reality— advanced meditation directions. They are presented here for the benefit of those exceptional students who will be able to make proper use of these instructions.
The International Meditation Center would like to extend its appreciation to: Hae Heng Sunim and Hei Myong Sunim who read through and interpreted the Korean and Chinese manuscripts; Hei Myong Sunim who edited the material and made the English rendering; Ham Wol Sunim who typed all the drafts and wrote the introduction to Part III; Hyun Ho Sunim, Hyun Sung Sunim, Su Il Sunim, and Sung Il Sunim for their encouragement and help during all stages in the preparation of the translation.
It is hoped that Buddhist students at all stages of development will find these lectures inspiring, and that the instructions therein will be the catalyst required to produce the final achievement of Buddhahood.