This Dharma meeting is really meaningful and rare. Many monks of great virtue with experienced eyes, Dharma teachers, laymen and laywomen have all gathered together. This type of meeting is not easy to have.
Sometimes I have given Dharma talks in a lecture style to my dear monks for three days or seven days. But, this is the first time I have had the chance to give a lecture to monks and nuns as well as laypeople for a whole week. It is my great honor to welcome you, ladies and gentleman of suchness, and to give this Dharma talk before you.
There are many monks of great virtue here, lecturers and abbots. They are very respectable men who have practiced Dharma for more than 20 years. And among the lay people there are several Dharma teachers and scholars of deep learning.
Accordingly, there is not much I could say that you already don’t know. However, because of our usual busyness we often lose touch with the essential Buddhadharma, only to get lost in everyday life. This meeting is about reflecting upon ourselves together in the midst of such insufficiency.
As you all know well, the world faces many kinds of difficulties at this time. While in the past, tension arose from the battle between east and west. Nowadays, more confusion has arisen from the destruction of the communist camp. How in the world can we rescue the human race? Having a sense of basic human value is very important. But where should we look for this?
In fact, the general situation of world confusion up to this point can mainly be attributed to western culture. Therefore, as great scholars predict, western ideology cannot establish a genuine guiding principle for the so-called “new civilization” of the 21st century. Other great people say that we cannot find the guiding principle for this new era except in eastern thought. We Buddhists are very sure of that. Other teachings, other cultural phenomena, have the tendency to examine individual parts, whereas Buddha’s teachings see everything in wholeness.
Buddhism is monism, which sees not only human beings, but also the natural world, or anything at all, as being originally one life, following the “law of equality.” In other words, anything can be incorporated into a single truth. Therefore, this monism of Buddhist thought that observes the law of equality; we are sure that only this teaching can for the first time peacefully unite the world.
For this reason, the theme of this Dharma meeting is: Pure Seon: Cultivation and Peace of Mind. The copied materials, which were distributed to you, are very poor. If I had asked lecturer monks to do the copying, the condition would have been better, but because they were busy, I did it myself, so there are some wrong words. Please take this into account.
Seon Meditation (參禪) is a very good way to meditate, not only for we Buddhists, but also for those of other religions and people in general. Seon is a very good for our body and mind in handling distractions. Thus, these days some Christians have interest in Seon and people in general really want to practice Seon.
Now, we could have just used the word “Seon” in the title, but why did we use “Pure Seon?” You may wonder why. Because there are some people here who have not practiced Buddhist discipline formally, and would have some difficulty in understanding Buddhist jargon. I will give a full explanation. And actually I think it is important for us to correctly understand this Dharma talk on Pure Seon.
You see there is a reason why I distinguish Pure Seon from Seon. So what is Pure Seon? The period from Bodhidharma, China’s first Seon Patriarch, to Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch, we call “the Pure Seon Period” and we call the Seon of that period “Pure Seon”.
After Huineng passed away, his disciples branched off into five schools, becoming hostile and quarreling with one another. Because of this, Seon practitioners, not to mention non-practitioners lost touch with pure Seon. As I said earlier, this Seon from Bodhidharma to the Sixth Patriarch Huineng was the purest Seon, which we call “Pure Seon”.
In short, I don’t mean there are actually different Seons: Hwa-du Seon and Muk-jo Seon and the like. What I mean is that the meditation of Pure Seon is to purify our mind just as it is.
Peace of Mind
First of all, we all want to attain the state in which our mind is at peace and we are harmonious with others, living with a pure heart. This applies to any religion, not only Buddhism. All religions seek after peace of mind, the state in which the mind is comfortable and tranquil.
But especially all eighty four thousand Dharmas of Buddhism are about peace of mind. So the Buddha’s teaching is about peace of mind. This means to make our minds tranquil. There is nobody who dislikes their minds to be peaceful. When we feel anxious, our minds cannot be at peace.
To be anxious is that things don’t go our way, or we don’t know who we are, or we don’t know our minds, or we have great distress, or how can we be peaceful when we sometimes hate people. In fact, there are many ways to be anxious.
As we know well, natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, storms, floods and droughts make our life difficult to live. In addition, there are man-made calamities such as political wrongdoings and the negative effects of the modern systems.
We can never shake off anxieties because of all these natural and man-made calamities. How can we truly live comfortably and without anxiety?
According to the Buddhadharma, we can have peace of mind even when we have failed in business, become ill, our loved ones have passed away, or we have parted with someone.
Where can we access these teaching? Only from pure Seon; only by practicing pure Seon, can we attain such peace of mind. Accordingly, we cannot realize peace of mind apart from Pure Seon. To say this again, whenever we practice Pure Seon, we can obtain peace of mind and live happily. This can be said to be the key to Buddha’s teachings.
Thus, the theme of this Dharma talk is Pure Seon: Cultivation and Peace of Mind. This Dharma talk is about how to have peace of mind in all circumstances and live happily everyday through Pure Seon meditation.
So the main idea here is Pure Seon. Pure Seon transcends all barriers. To use a contemporary common term, it is so-called “Wontong (holistic) Buddhism!” It is also called “Wongtong” ideology or “Whetong” (nonsectarian) ideology. The “Whetong” (nonsectarian) ideology is that one truth resolves everything.
From time immemorial, the teachings of the great saints along with those of the Buddha are based on the Whetong (nonsectarian) ideology. As far as Korea is concerned, Wonhyo, Uisang, Jajang of the Silla period and Daegak, Bojo, and Taego of the Goryo period and the great monk Seosan of the Lee dynasty, all these great monks were drawn toward a Whetong ideology (non-sectarianism).
Why did they follow the Whetong ideology (non-sectarianism)? A saint is one who knows the single truth of the cosmos. Because we sentient beings see everything by appearance, we discriminate between you and me, between good and bad. We can only think this way as far as form is concerned. However, saints see the fundamental base and fundamental nature of all beings.
Accordingly, when we see things from the fundamental nature, everything is one. Jesus and Confucius saw this. They saw the fundamental oneness. Could we not say this “oneness” is God or Buddha? Thus, I’ll try to represent the most precise meaning of Pure Seon.
Samadhi of Ease
We can call this a Dharma talk on peace of mind1), and a Dharma talk on ease of body. Buddhism takes mind and body as one. Therefore, peaceful mind may well result in the ease of body.
The Dharma talk on peace of mind, the Dharma talk on ease of body or calm and precise Samadhi means the dharma talk on “enlightenment first, practice after” or “practice after realization.”
Though the copied materials contain the same contents, I extracted and put them in order again like this for you to have a deeper understanding. The old men like me who belong to the “Chinese characters generation” might not have much difficulty in understanding Chinese characters, but there are many people of the young generation, who have no knowledge of Chinese characters in spite of their Bachelor’s and Doctoral degrees.
Alas, the Dharma talk on peace of mind! Just seeing the characters makes our mind comfortable. So as I say, this dharma talk is on the relief of body. In Buddhism, we never see mind and body as two, only as one. Mind and body are one, nature and humans are also one, and to see the Cosmos as one life is the essential core of Buddha’s teachings.
Therefore if mind is comfortable, so is body. And as far as traditional Seon is concerned, we can call this calm and clear samadhi! This idea is formed by the peaceful ‘An’ character, and the clear ‘Sang’ character. This means we don’t need to hurry at all. Hurry comes from anxiety, but in fact there is no need to be hasteful, no need to go ahead, and no need to lag behind.
If we just think of ourselves and we want only to achieve only our good, our minds will not be at ease. We will not have peace of mind. Conversely, if we can be meticulous and attentive, and flexible, this is “Ansang,” calm and clear, Ansang Samadhi. Samadhi means to be absorbed in this.
Samadhi is Sanskrit, and we are normally using ‘Sammae’ in Korean, don’t we? Being absorbed in something is samadhi. Accordingly, no matter if we are sleeping, awake, sitting, standing, moving, or speaking to somebody, our mind is always calm and not in a hurry, this is to be in the state of calm and clear samadhi.
Only in this state, is our mind at peace and our body at ease. Thus, if we are to have this peace of mind and ease of body, our mindset should be enlightenment first, practice after (practicing after realization), firstly having no theoretical conflicts. Our mind will only be at ease if we have no theoretical conflicts.
Even on an ordinary journey, if we don’t know the way well, we could become anxious and lose our way, couldn’t we? If we must know the side roads well in order to go find our way comfortably, how much more should we know with certainty the way of our course in life.
Furthermore, this era of crisscrossed entanglement of information is called the information era. This information era is a good one to live in, but because of the flood of information, how do the people live, who don’t establish their view of life and sense of values. It is confusing to know which information to choose.
Lately, a newspaper reported that three out of five Americans have symptoms of neurosis. It is because they have a troubled mind. They are always nervous and unable to get rid of stress, however much they try. This can be the cause of disease and the seed of domestic discord, national division, and so forth.
Anyhow, how do we live now? What about tomorrow, and our practice? How are those, who have practiced a lot, practicing now? There are some who cannot answer such questions with certainty.
The most important thing is by which way are we practicing? That’s the most significant thing. Thus, enlightenment first, practice after (practice after realization)! We should bear this in mind, and make efforts until we can practice like this (practice after realization).
Translated by Han Chang-ho