What is the Relation between of Practice of Ganhwa Seon and the Precepts

The Relationship of Seon and Precepts

The three studies of precepts (vinaya), meditation and insight are the core of Buddhist practice. So Seon Master Seosan said, “If the precepts (are kept) entirely and strongly, and the water of meditation is clear and pure, the moon of insight will appear therein.” (Seon-ga gwi-gam). The Buddha said, “The Way is a house. The precepts are the foundations. The fundamentals of practice are the precepts.” The Chanyuan qinggui also emphasizes that Seon practitioners must keep the vinaya and precepts.

It is dangerous for a practitioner of Ganhwa Seon to even think it is OK to ignore the vinaya and precepts. However, because in Chinese Seon cloisters one had to live self-sufficiently, a separate pure regulations was instituted which contained items not in the vinaya that were necessary for the life of a Seon cloister. Seon Master Guishan said, “The Buddha first of all instituted the vinaya and precepts to give a lead to those who had resolved the mind (for the Way),” and so requested that Seon practitioners keep thoroughly the vinaya and precepts.

If one is enlightened, the precepts are perfected

If one is enlightened then the three studies of precepts, meditation and insight are perfected. The life of an enlightened one does not violate the precepts. This is called the Way accompanies precepts (do-gong-gye). If like the Buddha one comprehends the Way, then the precepts will just simply follow.  The practice of meditation and the practice of the precepts are perfected together. If so, automatically the actions of the body and the mind mature and do not transgress in the slightest.

In respect of this, Seon Master Huineng also said that if one is without thought and sees the nature, meditation and insight cannot be divided. If one reaches the realm of no-thought through practice the three studies of precepts, meditation and insight will be fully present.

As the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch says, in Patriarchal Seon the precepts are the active and spirited form of life of the self-nature that originally lacks error. Seon Master Huineng Yuanwu emphasized the practice of precepts grounded in the self-nature, saying, “Keep the pure practice of the precepts, and without thoughts that are attached to the practice of precepts, even if one practices boundlessly, do not leave any thought of studying.”

Patriarchal Seon asserts strongly the vinaya and precepts in a natural and lively sense as something the source of the mind originally was furnished with, rather than a precepts and vinaya in the sense of a control of the sensation system of the body. In such a life, even the violation in thought disappears and every moment of life accords with the vinaya and precepts which are perfected, and they both flow along together as a whole. And so all actions by the enlightened are natural, pure and become as clean as the brilliance of the morning sunlight.

Seon Master Boshan Wuyi in the Sanchan jingyu said that if one opened the eyes of enlightenment, even the words “burning incense and cleaning are all the service of the Buddha,” would point to this principle.

It seems that for practitioners of Ganhwa Seon, keeping the precepts is an extremely natural, everyday housekeeping. In the case of meditation practitioners, during the period of the summer and winter retreats, the precepts are thoroughly and strictly observed of course, and even when the retreat is ended and they go out on pilgrimage (haeng-gak) they must strictly observe the precepts. Lay practitioners also, whether in practice sites or in the midst of daily life must keep the precepts well. If one establishes correct views and practices, the precepts will naturally be perfected in ordinary life. That practice and life go their separate ways is not the true characteristic of a practitioner. That practice and life are united is the natural characteristic of the practitioner. The practice of the precepts of the genuine practitioner does not lie in trying to keep them firmly. Rather, they are a proper characteristic of an active and spirited life that is as natural as the flowers blooming or the leaves of grass budding.

The necessity that one must understand the doctrine before the practice of Ganhwa Seon

Master Seosan said the following:
If after knowing the start and end of one’s own practice, one discards the doctrinal studies and tries to take a thought that is front of one’s eyes and investigates it in detail, one is sure to attain something. This is the path that lives by shaking off the body that is bound. (Seon-ga gwi-gam)

 

These are the words sa-gyo ib-seon. The characters literally mean “discard the teachings and enter into Seon.” Gyo is a word that indicates the Buddhist teachings have been bound up crudely in letters beginning with the sutras. “To discard doctrine,” as Master Seosan says, does not mean from the start to “ignore or deny the doctrine” but to put down the teachings after one has fully understood the doctrine.

 

If doctrines are the expression by the Buddha in words about the state of enlightenment, then Seon is the disclosure of the enlightened mind by the Buddha without words. If we are to use a metaphor for doctrine then it is like a map for climbing up a mountain, and Seon is the act of treading on the mountain and going up to stand on the summit. If one enters into Seon practice without a thorough understanding of doctrine, a dangerous result can come, just like a person who climbs up a high and dangerous mountain without a map. The doctrine is the building up of correct views, a teaching that one cannot do without.

 

On the other hand, after one has understood doctrine one must put it down completely and directly enter into the practice of Seon. Just as one cannot have climbed up a mountain by merely looking at a map, if one is attached to doctrine only, one cannot see the moon and will most likely look only at the finger.

 

Master Seosan said, “To reach the wordless through no words is Seon, and to reach the wordless through words is doctrine.” However, “to reach the wordless through no words” is not easy. Even though a Seon practitioner, it can be dangerous to recklessly enter into the world of Seon from the start. The words, “I do not need medicine” are appropriate to a person who has no illness, but a person with an illness must have medicine. For those practicing meditation, the scriptures and the recorded sayings are really necessary, just like a stick is to blind person.

 

Although it is said, “Seon is to reach the wordless without words,” the Tripitaka contains a huge number of Seon recorded sayings. In those Seon collected sayings are recorded detailed points about how one should enter Seon. When we consider the appearance of so many recorded sayings, it means that Seon from the start could not be separated from words. The important thing is not to be hung up on words. The wordless state is the state that realizes one’s own nature ultimately.

 

However, one cannot enter the world of truth the Buddha was awkened to only by understanding the Dharma preached by the Buddha. This is because that world is apart from language and from discrimination. No matter how much explanation one hears about the taste of water, if one does not try to drink it directly oneself, one cannot know it. No matter how much one hears of the method of riding a bike, one cannot ride a bike through that alone. It stands to reason that one can ride a bike by trying and falling off a number of times. If one tries to see the world of truth, one must directly experience it. To reach this principle the practitioner must sa-gyo ib-seon and experience Seon after having put down the doctrine he had learnt.

The Reason for Valuing a Correct World View in Ganhwa Seon

The Buddhist world-view: the Middle Way, conditional production, no-self and emptiness

Buddhism begins from the Buddha’s enlightenment. Therefore the Buddhist world-view, view of life and values that the Buddha was enlightened to as the conditional production Dharma are the core that has to be cherished in any form of Buddhism. Ganhwa Seon is the same. The world that the Buddha and patriarchs were awakened to cannot be different. Ganhwa Seon does not have a different world-view or set of values. To say that Ganhwa Seon is an excellent practice and that it is the actualization of enlightenment right here does not mean it has a different “state of enlightenment.”

The Buddha said, “If you see conditional production you see the Dharma; and if you see the Dharma you see the Tathāgata.”

The conditional production Dharma is that this and that, you and I, good and evil, the world and the universe, while being mutually dependent, exist without ego. The whole universe enters into a mote of dust, and when a single, beautiful rose blooms, the universe blooms with it.

Where the principle of conditional production is unfolded, that is where all existence is empty, being non-existent. If all existence is only the ‘solitary I’ then no form of you can come into I. When life is manifested as no-self, the conditional production Dharma is again vivified, and while maintaining that mutuality of I and you, they are joined together as an entirety.

The proper characteristic of conditional production is also called the Middle Way, in which the relative world such as I am, you are, to be and not to be, like and dislike, and all this and that are simultaneously cut off. The core of early and Mahayana Buddhism is this “Middle Way conditional production.” It is the Middle Way because you and I are not independent realities, but exist within the relationship and because it achieves an harmonious totality in which such styles as I am unconditionally good and you are unconditionally evil do not confront each other. Śūnya (emptiness) thought expresses this conditional production, no-self and Middle Way even more dynamically. The core of the Vajracchedikā Sūtra and the Prajñāpāramitāhŗdaya Sūtra is the emptiness that is the Middle Way conditional production.

Emptiness is like pristine space. Pristine space does not increase or decrease, and does not come into being or disappear. That is buljeung bulgam bulsaeng bulmyeol. Our very existence is like that. And we must see that directly.

Patriarchal Seon is the Sect that most reliably shows one the Middle Way conditional production.

Patriarchal Seon is the sect that most faithfully experiences the Middle Way conditional production, which is the core thought of the Buddha, and has succeeded to it. Moreover, the Ganhwa Seon that is at the root of Patriarchal Seon is the practice method that most rapidly wakens one through the mind and the body to the principles of conditional production and that Middle Way via the hwadu.

The Buddha explained the reality of existence, and the proper characteristics of the world as conditional production. Therefore conditional production is the universal truth, the principles of the existence of the universe and the reality of life. A non-conditional production thought and action is a fiction and an illusion. The path to thoroughly awaken to all illusion and fiction is meditation. And so shouting and beating appear as ordinary matters. This is from where Seon Master Linji’s active and spirited Seon style derives.

If one clearly opens one’s eyes to the fact of the conditional production Dharma that is the basis for all existence, then naturally the practical deeds of empathetic compassion will flow forth. This is because the conditional-production style awakening destroys the fences that divide ‘I’ and ‘other’ in a moment. Seon practitioners must accompany the understanding of the correct views of the Middle Way with the practice that follows from that, and must stand firmly on such a world-view and set of values.

Seon practice that has not properly established a world-view grounded in the Buddha-Dharma can also fall at the slightest provocation into mysticism, functionalism, the ism of meditation and even into straightforward health promotion. Furthermore, a Seon that cannot change the quality of life falls into the supremacism of enlightenment and has the danger of making enlightenment itself a tool or objectivizing it. If one has not even got a basic understanding of the Buddha-Dharma, and one only sits unconditionally deep in the mountains, one cannot be a practitioner of Ganhwa Seon.

How must one practice the basic practices of Ganhwa Seon?

If one is woken up, even though one meets any sense-realms there will be no entanglements. That is to become an unencumbered person of the Way. When one has a fervent desire to know that and to have a conviction about one’s original face that lacks entanglements one can resolve the mind (for the Way). One must have a sincere mind that (asks), “What is the genuine?” Then one can step out on the path of meditation that seeks the genuine self. So let us see what is needed in the fundamental practice related to that mental resolution. That can be divided into various types.

 

Firstly, the most important requisite for mental resolution is the firm belief that one originally is Buddha. Even so, the present I must have a cold self-reflection that the original appearance is one of wandering around in the sufferings that are unrelated to it. So now one must ignite the earnest and sad mind that says it will definitely seek its original form. At that time one takes up a hwadu.

 

Secondly, one must live embracing compassion, wisdom and the power of vows. The mind of compassion for others being the same as oneself that wishes to rescue beings who are groaning in the midst of suffering is the mind of the Mahayana bodhisattva and the mind of the Buddha. This practice in this world of pain is for wiping away that pain of the world. This is because that is my pain. Furthermore, in order to remove oneself from that pain one must open up the eyes of wisdom. The power of the vow is a pledge to endlessly practice compassion through the eye of wisdom and to set up awakening without fail. These three kinds of mind are the basic requisites that one must certainly possess before entering into practice.

 

Thirdly, one must foster a zeal for practice that definitely cannot be diverted. As it is not easy to produce a genuine doubt in the investigation of the hwadu, a continuous effort is required. One must earnestly make an effort in trying to take up the hwadu unceasingly and not be easily discouraged. Looking at it in this way, in no time one begins to take up the hwadu. To achieve this one must nurture the zealous power that does not step back, does not retreat.

 

Fourthly, before entering into Ganhwa Seon, one must believe deeply in the rules of causation preached by the Buddha and one must make an effort to live correctly, thinking of the next life that is incurred through evil actions. Therefore, one must be tender and correctly mindful of each one of one’s words, actions and thoughts. Seon Master Guishan Lingyou (815-891) said, “If one’s voice is gentle, the echo is favorable; if one’s appearance is graceful, the shadow will be decent.” On the threshold of death, because of the evil karma one has committed, so as not to be afraid, one must be continuously zealous in practice to have a good mind. One must have a practice of thorough knowledge of the Vinaya. Further, it is hoped one would bear in mind the point that one will be free if one frees oneself from causation, if one is enlightened through the hwadu, and is prepared to be tied to the response of causation that traps one in the net of karma for age after age and life after life if one cannot see the nature through hwadu.

 

Fifthly, one must have a sure understanding of hwadu and the method of meditation. It is important to understand in detail what hwadu are, how to select a hwadu, how it must be investigated and what the malfunctions are that can occur while practicing hwadu. Only then will the firm belief be produced that one will be able to discover one’s own original face through the practice of hwadu.

 

Sixth, the most important thing is to establish correct views.

 

It does not matter whether a practitioner fully possesses all of these conditions and is firm in mental resolution (for the Way) and has entered into the gate of Ganhwa Seon. One must know that the basic practice of the earlier stage is absolutely necessary for one to produce the great mental resolution if one was not a person of superior ability who practiced countlessly in the gate of practice in one’s past lives.

The Reason for Giving Importance to Correct Views in Ganhwa Seon

As long as one has resolved the mind (for the Way) according to the Buddha’s teaching, anyone can practice Ganhwa Seon. If there is a clear-eyed teacher who possesses the believing mind and genuine mental resolution, and possesses the correct views, such a person can directly enter into the practice of Ganhwa Seon without the necessity of basic or preparatory types of practice.

 

However, in the condition where there was no mental resolution and correct views about the Buddha’s Dharma, no matter how much one has taken up the hwadu, even if one has made great efforts, one cannot give rise to sincere doubt about that hwadu. So before the beginner enters into the hwadu, they have to establish a tremendous power of vows and a determined, believing mind, and initiate a genuine mind that has a direct sense of insight into the Dharma.

 

A correct view means the establishment of a sense of values that are properly based on the Dharma. These are the theses of the world-view and view of human life seen directly from the conditional production of the Middle Way. Only then can one faithfully possess the basis that one must have as a Buddhist practitioner for such things as, “What is Buddhism? What teaching is it?” or “Why must one study” and “Why must one practice?”

 

There was a traveler walking along a road. What was his objective in going along that road? If he knows his certain aim in going along the road, the traveler will be able to travel confidently along it without hesitation. Master Seosan had a verse on this topic:

 

             A traveler tramping through the snow along a path
             Should not walk in confusion.
             Today your footprints
             Become the mileposts for later people.

 

The snow-veiled plain means the present life circumstances. One must walk directly with a consciousness of the aim of the path one is going along in that snow-covered wilderness. One can be running about here and there in confusion. The firm establishment of correct views is therefore important. On the basis of these correct views, when one ventures into Ganhwa Seon, one must proceed directly and not wander.

 

The establishment of correct views begins from the understanding of the core teachings of Buddhism; conditional production, no-self, emptiness and the Middle Way. These teachings are the truths discovered by and taught by the Buddha. If a practitioner is properly cognizant of these their path becomes clear. If one is cognizant of them as one should, one has to practice and the life-objective of that practitioner must be evident. That means that what one must be enlightened to and how one must practice becomes extremely clear.

 

Having a correct understanding of conditional production and no-self produces an earnest desire to practice them throughout one’s own life. So thinking in accord with conditional production and no-self, and practicing them, will open up a way to personalize them. All Buddhist practice, beginning with Ganhwa Seon, is a path that is thus for the personalization and internalization of the Dharma of conditional production. The Dharma is to confirm that truth and to live accordingly. If one does so, finally the Dharma accompanies one and the path I am walking on becomes the path of truth. At such a time, there will be no obstacles and one can go on alone like a one-horned rhinoceros. Further, the footprints of such a person will become an excellent guide for later people to follow.

Chapter 4: The fundamental practice of ganhwa seon

The Reason for Giving Importance to Correct Views in Ganhwa Seon

As long as one has resolved the mind (for the Way) according to the Buddha’s teaching, anyone can practice Ganhwa Seon. If there is a clear-eyed teacher who possesses the believing mind and genuine mental resolution, and possesses the correct views, such a person can directly enter into the practice of Ganhwa Seon without the necessity of basic or preparatory types of practice.

However, in the condition where there was no mental resolution and correct views about the Buddha’s Dharma, no matter how much one has taken up the hwadu, even if one has made great efforts, one cannot give rise to sincere doubt about that hwadu. So before the beginner enters into the hwadu, they have to establish a tremendous power of vows and a determined, believing mind, and initiate a genuine mind that has a direct sense of insight into the Dharma.

A correct view means the establishment of a sense of values that are properly based on the Dharma. These are the theses of the world-view and view of human life seen directly from the conditional production of the Middle Way. Only then can one faithfully possess the basis that one must have as a Buddhist practitioner for such things as, “What is Buddhism? What teaching is it?” or “Why must one study” and

The Reason for Giving Importance to Correct Views in Ganhwa Seon

As long as one has resolved the mind (for the Way) according to the Buddha’s teaching, anyone can practice Ganhwa Seon. If there is a clear-eyed teacher who possesses the believing mind and genuine mental resolution, and possesses the correct views, such a person can directly enter into the practice of Ganhwa Seon without the necessity of basic or preparatory types of practice.

 

However, in the condition where there was no mental resolution and correct views about the Buddha’s Dharma, no matter how much one has taken up the hwadu, even if one has made great efforts, one cannot give rise to sincere doubt about that hwadu. So before the beginner enters into the hwadu, they have to establish a tremendous power of vows and a determined, believing mind, and initiate a genuine mind that has a direct sense of insight into the Dharma.

 

A correct view means the establishment of a sense of values that are properly based on the Dharma. These are the theses of the world-view and view of human life seen directly from the conditional production of the Middle Way. Only then can one faithfully possess the basis that one must have as a Buddhist practitioner for such things as, “What is Buddhism? What teaching is it?” or “Why must one study” and “Why must one practice?”

 

There was a traveler walking along a road. What was his objective in going along that road? If he knows his certain aim in going along the road, the traveler will be able to travel confidently along it without hesitation. Master Seosan had a verse on this topic:

 

             A traveler tramping through the snow along a path
             Should not walk in confusion.
             Today your footprints
             Become the mileposts for later people.

 

The snow-veiled plain means the present life circumstances. One must walk directly with a consciousness of the aim of the path one is going along in that snow-covered wilderness. One can be running about here and there in confusion. The firm establishment of correct views is therefore important. On the basis of these correct views, when one ventures into Ganhwa Seon, one must proceed directly and not wander.

 

The establishment of correct views begins from the understanding of the core teachings of Buddhism; conditional production, no-self, emptiness and the Middle Way. These teachings are the truths discovered by and taught by the Buddha. If a practitioner is properly cognizant of these their path becomes clear. If one is cognizant of them as one should, one has to practice and the life-objective of that practitioner must be evident. That means that what one must be enlightened to and how one must practice becomes extremely clear.

 

Having a correct understanding of conditional production and no-self produces an earnest desire to practice them throughout one’s own life. So thinking in accord with conditional production and no-self, and practicing them, will open up a way to personalize them. All Buddhist practice, beginning with Ganhwa Seon, is a path that is thus for the personalization and internalization of the Dharma of conditional production. The Dharma is to confirm that truth and to live accordingly. If one does so, finally the Dharma accompanies one and the path I am walking on becomes the path of truth. At such a time, there will be no obstacles and one can go on alone like a one-horned rhinoceros. Further, the footprints of such a person will become an excellent guide for later people to follow.

The reason for not listening to the words of the Buddha or of the generations of patriarchs when investigating hwadu

The reason in Ganhwa Seon for saying, do not look at or listen to the words of the Buddha or the patriarchs can be divided broadly into two. The first is due to something coming between the experience of Seon and the language of the scriptures, in that the experience of enlightenment transcends all language. The second is because of a reflection concerning abuses of the Seon style of the Song Dynasty.

The experience of Seon
Let us begin by looking at the first reason. In the tradition of Seon practice, all Seon practitioners were endowed with an individuality of experience. For any of them, their individual actions that could not be followed were extremely important. This was so because they thought and acted where thought and words were cut off. In having cut off the paths of thought and speech, originally only the person concerned could exactly realize that state?? So the approach via language was not permissible in informing one about the world of this experience in its ultimate state.

Seon Master Dazhu Huihai said as follows:
A disciple asked, “Why don’t you allow us to chant the scriptures? And why do you call the scriptures the words of others?”
The Master replied, “It is like a parrot that can learn the words of humans but does not know the meaning the person gives to the words. Even though the scriptures transmit the intentions of the Buddha, one cannot obtain the Buddha’s intent and so if one only chants them then one is only a person who learns the Buddha’s words. It is for that reason I do not permit it.” (Zhufang menren zanmen yulu, Manji Zokuzō 110; Dunwu rudao yaomen).

This dialogue makes it clear that the scriptures are records of the experience of the Buddha, or if not those of the said person are the words of others. That is, this speaks of the point that there is an independent world of experience that cannot be understood through language. If one falls into the words of others and not into one’s own experience, one does not only forget one’s own lineage teacher, but also becomes devoted to the confused mind. And so what the Buddha says, one must experience that true meaning oneself.

The study of scriptures that only remembers language, to the extent that it is not an subjective awakening, is “another’s affair” and so cannot provide any help with one’s own original share (in enlightenment). Although scriptures or the words of patriarchal teachers sometimes are guides for practitioners, if one clings only to them, one’s mind will be trapped and bound, and one will be deeply entangled.

In the Ganhwa Seon tradition, greater importance was placed on experience of an encounter with one’s own orgininal share (of enlightenment) rather than on the words of the Buddha or the patriarchal teachers. This means that the subjective experience by oneself was more important than the experience of the Buddha or Bodhidharma.

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Overcoming the Song Dynasty Seon that had fallen into inertia
The Song Dynasty climate of study that had excessively formalized the investigation of the hwadu for reasons other than denying the words of the scriptures and the recorded sayings of the patriarchal teachers also had other faults. The gongan is to be self-aware of one’s own original face through the subjective experience of patriarchal teachers of the past, and the practitioners of the time, without such experience just fell into the letters of the gongan and composed stereotypical Seon-like realms in verse. The person who warned against such bad habits most was Seon Master Dahui. He burnt the Biyanlu, the work of his own teacher, Yuanwu Keqin (1063-1125), because contemporary practitioners were intoxicated only with the Seon words of the Biyanlu and disregarded the essence of Seon practice.

Not establishing letters and a separate transmission apart from the Teachings, and Ganhwa Seon.

What are ‘not establishing letters’ and ‘a separate transmission apart from the teachings’?
Seon Master Huangbo said,

 

When one reaches here, one will then know that the Patriarch’s coming from the West, directly pointing at the mind, seeing the nature and being enlightened, is not in words. (Chuanxin fayao).

 

Directly seeing the mind and being enlightened is Seon. “Directly pointing at the human mind and seeing the nature and becoming Buddha,” shows this principle very well. Seon is separate from all language and letters (do not establish letters). The genuine Buddha-dharma cannot be put into scriptures. The practical content that transcends the scriptures and steps forth towards the world of enlightenment without obstruction (see the nature and become Buddha) is Seon.

 

Here the most important thing is directly pointing at and seeing the mind (directly pointing at the human mind). If one sees that mind, that is seeing the nature and becoming Buddha. However, because these four phrases of “not establishing letters, a separate transmission outside of the teachings, directly pointing at the human mind, and seeing the nature and becoming Buddha,” are the common foundations that show the true face of Seon, they are joined together. These four phrases were expressed in one standard verse in the recorded sayings, the Zuting shiyuan composed by Seon Master Muan Shanqing:

 

When the patriarchs transmitted the Dharma, at first they did so together with the Tripitaka (three collections) of sutra, vinaya and śāstra, but Patriarch Bodhidharma after transmitting mind only, tried to smash attachment and elucidate the fundamental meaning. This is the so-called, “transmission of the teaching apart from the teaching, do not depend on letters, directly point at the mind, and see the nature and be enlightened.” (Zuting shiyuan, fascicle 5)

 

The teaching of a “separate transmission outside of the teaching and not establishing letters” (gyooe byoljeon bullip munja) clearly shows that Seon is the practice that sees the moon and not the finger. In this the Seon practitioners transcend the limits that bind one to the finger and so cannot see the moon. They must directly enter into that core by the shortcut.

 

Incidents such as Seon Master Danxia burning a Buddha-statue or Seon Master Deshan burning the sutras can only be found in the tradition of Seon practice. This is the state of beyond the bounds that transcends the frame of thought. However, despite saying that it is transmitted separately outside of the scriptures, this does not mean that the attitude of ignoring the scriptures is correct. Here the words, “outside of the scriptures” means do not be attached to the letters in the scriptures. Really this is because for a person who sees the moon, all things become the truth.

 

Seon is the awakening to the original place of the real-life mind that precedes letters. It is not explanation or a method of understanding, but directly seeing the true reality of the mind as it is. If one sees, one is enlightened at that point. The directly pointing at the mind, seeing that nature and becoming Buddha of “directly pointing at the human mind, seeing the nature and becoming Buddha” speaks of this principle. As a means of directly pointing at the human mind, generations of patriarchs used Seon dialogue, twisted noses, slapped cheeks, yelled and struck with staffs. Ganhwa Seon stands in this tradition of not establishing letters.

The Investigation Method, Conditional Production, and the Structure of the Middle Way

Even though Ganhwa Seon was a method of practice perfected in the Song, this method itself was not completely new. Hwadu has a strong power that blocks the exits for all thinking. The structures of such hwadu are closely connected with the structure of the Middle Way and the conditional production preached by the Buddha.

To the question, “Does a dog have the Buddha-nature,” Zhaozhou replied, “It does not (mu).” This mu reply understood in the speculative formula of the four alternatives of 1) it has, 2) it has not, 3) it does and does not have, and 4) it neither has nor does not have, is mistaken. The form of the above four sorts of thinking are called the tetralemma. Not only are not even one of these forms of thinking recognized by the hwadu of mu, but also thinking itself is not permitted.

In this respect, Seon Master Dahui said,
If one is not attached to existence, then you are attached to non-existence (mu), and if you are not attached to either, then you are discriminating and comparing existence and non-existence. Even if one senses this disease, one soon ends up being attached to neither existence nor non-existence. For this reason former saints said, “Get rid of the tetralemma, put an end to the hundred denials. Directly break a sword into two pieces and do not think again of fore and aft, and just cut off the forehead of the thousand saints.” The tetralemma refers to the four (propositions) of existence, non-existence, neither existent nor non-existent, and while existent is non-existent. (Shuzhuang, Reply to Judicial Commissioner Zhang).

Seon Master Dahui asserted that practice must transcend the tetralemma. Also, the words “one hundred denials,” being applied as an extension of this concept of the tetralemma, means something similar to the tetralemma. Not only Seon Master Dahui, but also various Seon recorded sayings strongly assert one should transcend the tetralemma and hundred denials.

Let us look at the words of Mazu.
A monk requested the teaching, “Seon Master, tell me the meaning of the Patriarch coming from the West without using the tetralemma.” (Mazu yulu)
The practitioners of Ganhwa Seon sit and face a hwadu like silver mountains and iron walls that block all the exits of tetralemma-like discrimination. If so, let us examine how being apart from the tetralemma and the hundred denials can be in agreement with the structure of the Middle Way and conditional production.

The principle of conditional production is no different to the principle of the Middle Way. The Middle Way is a direct viewpoint about the universe and life that looks at them as being this and that as they are from the position that has abolished this and that. So the Middle Way is nothing more than the concept that means something between this and that. This way is wrong and that way is wrong. We cannot express this through speech or writing. At that time, our thoughts fall into the condition where it cannot be like this and cannot be like that. It means one cannot budge in the least, just like a mouse in a pitch-black box.

The Middle Way are words that inform one of the proper features of the Dharma-realm which is apart from this or that simultaneously. It is not easy to be enlightened to the principle of this Middle Way. The principle of the Middle Way cannot be realized through any cogitative discrimination that something is or is not.

The bodhisattva Nagārjuna (ca.150-ca. 250) was a Buddhist patriarch who wrote the Mahyamikakārika in order to re-clarify the essential doctrines of the Buddha-dharma. This Mahyamikakārika never approved of a tetralemma-like reply to the questions that it posed.

Therefore, the practice-method of Ganhwa Seon is the same in content and structure as the Middle Way and conditional production preached by the Buddha, and the tetralemma discrimination and eight-fold negation Middle Way of the Mahyamikakārika. All of these have the same aim, from the point of leading us towards the world of enlightenment by the cutting off of our discriminatory thinking.

Besides the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng and Seon Master Dahui, many other patriarchal monks consistently said one should to stand directly in the Middle Way and apart from the two sides.

Seon Master Dazhu Huihai said, “If one is not attached to existence and non-existence that is seeing the Buddha.”

The Words and Mind of the Buddha and Ganhwa Seon

The Words of the Buddha and Seon

The monk Seosan said,
The transmission of the mind by the Buddha in three places was the gist of Seon and the words that he preached throughout his life are the gate of the Teaching. So Seon is in the mind of the Buddha, and the Teachings are the words of the Buddha (Seon-ga gwi-gam).

Seon is based on the Dharma the Buddha was enlightened to and his teaching of that Dharma. From the ideological viewpoint it has a root in the words of the Buddha, and from the practical viewpoint it has succeeded to the Dharma of the transmission from mind to mind.

Although Ganhwa Seon is an excellent teaching, its aim is to be enlightened to the Buddha’s truth. That truth is no different in the slightest from the teaching the Buddha offered to us and to which the Buddha was enlightened.

The Buddha expressed the real characteristics of existence that he himself was enlightened to as the Middle Way, conditional production, no-self and emptiness. Seon is a path that plainly shows or suddenly embodies at this place here and now the truth that the Buddha illuminated. Seon Master Huineng in the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch stressed prajñā, saying, “If one has been released, that is prajñā-samādhi.” Prajñā-samādhi is the practice of prajñā and the ground of the realization of emptiness. And so he repeated this:

Prajñā is wisdom. Every thought not foolish, always putting into practice wisdom, that is the conduct of prajñā. (Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch)

The enlightenment spoken of in Seon is the conduct of prajñā that has its foundation in emptiness and is based in that prajñā as well as conditional production and no-self.

The Buddha-mind and Seon, and the three places of mind transmission

The Buddha did not only teach through language, he also transmitted the Buddha- mind that is the original face of sentient beings through the Seon Dharma that is teaching apart from language. The Buddha transmitted the Dharma in three places through transmission from mind to mind to Venerable Kāśyapa, and this is called the three sites of mind transmission. Patriarchal Seon and Ganhwa Seon are said to have their origins in these three sites of mind transmission.

The content of the three sites of mind transmission, although a representative hwadu that constantly appears in Seon yulu (Kor.eo-rok, recorded sayings), the words of the three sites of mind transmission can also be seen in the Buddha’s scriptures. While these facts that appear in the sutras were developed in the Seon School, they were further emphasized.

Here we shall look at the three sites of mind transmission that are based in the scriptures and the logia of the patriarchs and try to see what its meaning is.

1) The raising and showing of the flower at the Mt Gŗdhrakūta (Yeongsan) Assembly.

The Gŗdhrakūta Assembly is the name given to the scene of the Dharma assembly of Mt Gŗdhrakūta where the Buddha unfolded the Dharma. The first opportune condition came to be known widely in the world through the words “yeomhwa miso,” that is, “when the Buddha lifted up a flower to show it, Venerable Kāśyapa smiled.” Raising the flower and smiling is recorded in the Dafan tianwang wen Fo jueyi jing (The Sutra in which Brahma asked the Buddha to Dispel his Doubts). The content is as follows:

At that time the Buddha was seated on the Dharma seat when suddenly he lifted up a flower and showed it to the assembly. When he did so, none of the billions of humans and gods in the assembly could grasp his intention and so were silent. But among that gathering one venerable alone, Māhakāśyapa showed a smile quietly on his face. And then he rose from his seat, put his hands together, stood upright and silently displayed a gentle visage.
At this the Buddha said the following to Māhakāśyapa, “The Tathāgata has the eye of enlightenment and the marvelous mind of nirvana, and the formless, marvellous form of truth. This cannot be expressed in letters and since it is transmitted outside of the teaching, if there is a causation with or without wisdom, it will be realized. Today, as I confer this on Māhakāśyapa, in future ages he will receive all the Buddhas’ predictions and will beome Buddha.”
(Dafan tianwang wenFo jueyi jing)

Seon began from the deeply meaningful opportune condition in which, “When the Buddha raised a flower to show it, only Kāśyapa laughed smilingly.” This is the Buddha wordlessly raising a lotus flower to show it, transmitting his mind, and there Kāśyapa was enlightened to that news and wordlessly smiled. This is the raising of the flower and the smile of the transmission from mind to mind.

2) They divided the seat and sat in front of the Pahuputraka Stupa.

The Buddha dividing his seat and sitting down with Kāśyapa is called the “divided shared seat.” This is recorded in an early scripture of the Jātaka Section, the Foshuo zhongben qi jing:

When the World-Honored (Buddha) was preaching the Dharma for the assembly in the garden of Jetavānānāthapinda in the city of Śrāvastī, Māhakāśyapa approached the Buddha with a shabby appearance. Then the World-Honored, seeing him from afar, said with praise, “Welcome, Kāśyapa,” and in anticipation, divided his Dharma seat into half and ordered him to sit there. Kāśyapa retreated, knelt and spoke:

“I am the last of the Tathāgata’s disciples and since you divided your seat and told me to sit, how can I comply?”
As he said this, a number of the assembly members thought, “What special virtue does this elder have that the World-Honored divides his seat and orders him to sit there? Is he an excellent person? Only let the Buddha clarify it.”
At that time the Buddha discerned the thoughts of the assembly and to resolve their doubts, said, “Discuss (the idea) that Kāśyapa’s great deeds are the same as those of a saint.” He also said, “I have cultivated the four dhyānas and rested the mind, and from the beginning to end have not lost anything, and bhikşu Kāśyapa also has the four dhyānas and through meditation has gained the mind of samādhi…” (Foshuo zhongben qi jing 1, Chapter 12, Māhakāśyapa’s First Coming)

The above scripture treats the fact that the Buddha divided his seat and had Venerable Kāśyapa sit there as an important event. In Seon recorded sayings this event is held to have taken place in front of the Prahuputraka Stupa and is called “The division of the seat in half in front of Prahuputraka Stupa.” If we are to summarize the material contained in the Seon recorded sayings, it would be as follows. When the Buddha was preaching in front of the Prahuputraka Stupa, the Venerable Kāśyapa came to that place. The site of the Dharma assembly was tightly packed, without a gap, and no-one would give Kāśyapa a place to sit. Then the Buddha called Venerable Kāśyapa, divided his seat and had him share it. None of the assembly members understood this and although they were bewildered, Kāśyapa alone grasped the intention.

3) Two feet shown outside the coffin beneath the pair of sala trees.
“Two feet are put out of the coffin and displayed” is called gwaksi ssang-bu (coffin displays two feet). On the river-side slope of the Ajitavatī River where the Buddha entered nirvana there were two sala trees. The Buddha entered nirvana beneath these two sala trees. After the Buddha had entered nirvana, he thrust his two feet outside of the coffin that was beneath these trees. This incident is called “Two feet are shown from the coffin beneath the twin sala trees.” This incident is recorded as follows in the early scripture, the Māhaparinirvāņa Sūtra:

Venerable Kāśyapa (who had been late in arriving for the Buddha’s entry into nirvana) was even more saddened, and together with the disciples circled (the coffin) to the right seven times, with eyes brimming with tears. They then knelt, put their hands together and sadly lamented with verses of praise. (Kāśyapa said,) “How painful, it is so painful! He was a saintly Venerable! Now my breast is as pained as if it is being lacerated. Oh World-Honored, how could you pass into extinction so rapidly? Being so vastly compassionate, couldn’t you wait just a little for me?” . . . .
Kāśyapa was choked with grief and wept, and when he finished this verse, the Buddha, with great compassion, thrust forth his two feet, with marks on them in the form of wheels with a thousand spokes, outside of the coffin, turning them around to show Kāśyapa.
(Daban niepan jing houfen, last fascicle)

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In the same way that the Buddha held up and showed a flower to the Venerable Kāśyapa or divided his seat and had him share it, the event in which the Buddha thrust both feet from out of the coffin is news that the Buddha wordlessly transmitted his original mind to the Venerable Kāśyapa.

In this way, the three sites of the transmission of the mind of the Buddha, when they came to the Gate of Patriarchal Seon, all became archetypes of the hwadu. It seems that the transmission of the mind to Kāśyapa on Mt Gŗdhrakūta, the “holding up of a flower and the smile” was the very first hwadu. Of course, because the hwadu revealed the place of the Buddha consistently, one cannot attach the modifier first or last to them. But, if we are to enlist the earliest historical authority, then we would say that is so.