“Biography of Seongcheol” Wins Grand Prize at the 14th Buddhist Publishing Culture Award


After having reviewed 110 books on Buddhism submitted by 34 publishers, the grand jury for the 14th Buddhist Publishing Culture Award – organized by the Central Directorate for Religious Affairs at Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and hosted by the Buddhist Publishers Association – announced 10 Buddhist Books of the Year and 1 recipient of the Hyangsan Translation Award.

“Biography of Seongcheol” is written by Kim Taek Geun, a journalist who remembered the Great Seon Master Seongcheol as “the one who travelled to the planet earth leaving the least amount of marks during his life, yet leaving the deepest fragrant.” The book was praised for tracing back to the Great Seon Master Seongcheol’s life and thoughts, successfully capturing the teachings and enlightenment, and ultimately reincarnating the Great Seon Master back to the world. “Biography of Seongcheol” is especially remarkable for bringing back to us the teachings of the Great Seon Mater 70 years after the reformation movement at Bong Am Sa temple and 50 years after the 100-day dharma sermon. Therefore, it was acclaimed as a much needed book that could guide us to the life of truth and the way to live happily with our neighbors in the age of chaos.

The following is a summary of a lecture given by Kim Taek Geun regarding the “Biography of Seongcheol” titled teachings left by the Grand Seon Master Seongcheol at the 23rd Buddhist Forum. The lecture provided five great teachings by the Grand Seon Master Seongcheol including “Let’s live by Buddha’s law”, “Three-thousand prostrations”, ‘“Discourse of Sudden Enlightenment – Sudden Cultivation”, “Let’s take a good look at ourselves” and “Let’s pray for others and help them without them finding out”


Religion is related to the thoughts after death and it is about obtaining eternal happiness through leaving the relative and finite world to enter the absolute and infinite world.

Grand Seon Master Seongcheol also wandered in earlier part of his life seeking for the way to eternal happiness. At first, the young monk thought that the way could be found in the books. So, he read all kinds of books. However, the way never appeared to him. The way to eternal life and eternal life could not be obtained from the books. Then one day, his eyes were stuck on a line of sentence in the book, <Lecture on Vegetable Root Discourse (菜根譚)>.

“I have a book made without paper or ink. Though there is not a single word in the book, the book always reflects a great light (我有一卷經 不因紙墨成 展開無一字 常放大光明.”

Grand Seon Master Seongcheol experienced a moment of sudden understanding. Then he searched for books without words and made without paper and ink. He finally abandoned the world of words he faithfully worshipped. Teachings of Laozi came to his attention.

“In studying, each day something is gained. In following Dao, each day something is lost. Lost and again lost. Until there is nothing left to do. Not-doing, nothing is left undone (爲道日損 爲學日益 損之又損 以至於無爲 無爲而無不爲)” (Laozi)

In the Grand Seon Mater also quoted Wang Yangming in <100 Day Dharma Sermon>.

“Because each and everyone has within an unerring compass, the root and source of the myriad transformations lies in the mind. I laugh when I remember that I was only searching outside following branches and leaves. When one realizes that there is neither sound nor scent on one’s own, this is the foundation for all within heaven and earth. But, people abandon their own limitless treasury and go door-to-door with alms bowl in hand like a beggar.”

The quotation emphasizes the point that people are going around door-to-door begging for food from other people’s house forgetting the treasure vault within one’s own mind. Grand Seon Master Seongcheol admitted to a fact by quoting Wang Yangming that he was dragged around by words looking at the wrong places through reading a large volume of books of all ages and countries.

Grand Seon Master Seongcheol, who searched for the books made without paper and ink, finally encountered Buddhism. One day, while passing a village Grand Seon Master Seongcheol received a book from an elderly monk. The book was <Song of Enlightenment证道歌> by Chan Master Yongjia.

When the Grand Seon Master opened the book, it was as if a bright sun was shining light toward the way in the middle of the night. <Song of Enlightenment 证道歌> taught him that the way to eternal happiness does not lie in the words or books. Those who seek the way to eternal happiness from words or books are counting the sands under the sea. This was the story of the young man, Great Seon Master was, who sought for the truth.


The mirror has never been polished to clean off the dust accrued from before,

And today the mirror has been definitely cleaned.




Tea teaching expresses that the fundamental nature of sentient beings is pure. However, the golden hue of wisdom has been draped with anguish and delusion. When we clear our mind, we are all originally Buddha. Buddha does not exist separate from us but exists within us. Shakyamuni Buddha was first to discover that all sentient beings are orignially Buddha. Finally, this was the moment when Grand Seon Master Seongcheol met Shakyamuni Buddha.

Grand Seon Master Seongcheol realized that the treasure vault within oneself is the “mind”. However, he needed to learn the way to clear the mind of all the defilements. So, he began the Seon meditation. Piercing straight through the Hwadu, Grand Seon Master Seongcheol was able to see his true nature.


After having read <Biography of Seongcheol>, Prof. Bae Jae Ho summarized the 8 major incidents of Grand Seon Master Seongcheol’s life as follows. Prof. Bae depicted Grand Seon Master Seongcheol’s life into eight phases following the Buddhist tradition: Lay-practice at Daewonsa Temple (유발수행), Renunciation of secular life to become a monk at Haeinsa Temple (퇴설출가), Enlightenment at Golden Hall of Donghwasa Temple (금당성도), Establishing Association for Practice at Bongamsa Temple (결사수행), Lone Practice at Seongjeonam Hermitage (동구불출), First Teaching at Gimlyongsa Temple (초전법륜), 100-Day Dharma Sermon at Haeinsa Temple (백일법문), Nirvana at Haeinsa (퇴설열반).


In other words, the eight phases are achieving “In the waking state, one mind (動靜一如)” state of practice through reading the <Letters (書狀)> of Chan Master Dahui (大慧) at Daewonsa Temple, receiving the dharma name of Seongcheol (성철) from Seon Master Dongsan after joining the monastic life at Haeinsa Temple, attaining enlightenment at Geumdang Seon Center of Donghwasa Temple at the age of 29, establishing association for practice at Bongamsa Temple, practicing alone at Seongjeonam Hermitage without ever leaving for 10 years, teaching for the first time at Gimlyongsa Temple, giving dharma sermon for 100 days at Haeinsa Temple and entering into Nirvana at Haeinsa. Prof. Bae was able to summarize the life of the Grand Seon Master described in the book better that the author, myself.


One could pose a question why Grand Seon Master Seongcheol read so many Buddhist books and considered them so precious. The answer lies in that the commentaries and theoretical background recorded in Tripitaka Koreana (팔만대장경) is regarded as an itinerary. It is a finger pointing at the direction of enlightenment and a traveller’s guide. Therefore, it is merely a type of prescription as stated by Shakyamuni Buddha. Since medicine cannot be obtained without a prescription, the prescription must be precious as well. This is the reason why Grand Seon Master Seongcheol always had the Buddhist sutras near him and considered them precious.


The House Style of Korean Patriarchal Seon

Korean Buddhism breathes a vivid life with the practice of Patriarchal Seon House style of Ganhwa Seon. This is something really rare that cannot be found in other Buddhist domains.

Each year in Jogye Order, over 2,000 meditation monks and over 100 Seon cloisters enter the summer or winter retreats for three months at a time. Retreat means that the monk refrains completely from leaving or entering the gate of the Seon cloister and vigorously practices (jeongjin or vīrya, strenuous effort, zealous practice) meditation. For the period of the retreat the practitioners of the cloister rise from their sleeping places at the get-up time of the monastery, which is 3.00 am, or even earlier, at 2.00 am. After getting up, at the sound of a bamboo clapper the assembly of the Seon cloister gathers and wordlessly worships the Buddha with three bows. In the Seon cloister, with the exception of the times when they gather to eat, the gongyang time, and when they work together physically, according to the pure regulations of each Seon cloister, they devote themselves solely to the zealous pursuit of sitting in meditation from the getting-up time until 9.00 or 10.00, and sometimes 11.00 pm in the evening. The times of a Seon cloister’s zealous practice differs because the custom for that practice differs according to the cloister. The customs for zealous practice of meditation in Seon cloisters are usually divided into three types:

             The first is the normal zealous practice. The daily zealous practice is to sit in meditation for eight or ten hours per day.
             The second is the additional zealous practice, which is to spur on even more than the everyday zealous practice, with the aim of exerting oneself even more and practicing meditation for twelve or even fourteen hours per day.
             The third is ferocious zealous practice. One practices zealously without sleeping day or night for twenty-four hours, and one practices meditation for eighteen hours or more. In the majority of Seon cloisters, for seven days all the assembly practices this, and in some Seon cloisters this even lasts for one month.

Besides vigorous zealous practice, there is also jangjwa bulwa (long sitting and no lying down), which is sitting in meditation without lying down for a set period of three months or even longer, and there is also the practice of the gateless barrier (mumungwan) in which one zealosly practices meditation alone without going outside of a locked door and staying alone in a single room. This practice of mumungwan can last six months, a year, three years or at most six years. In addition there is the formation of fraternities (gyeolsa) for fifteen months or three years etcetera, in which all of the assembly is banned from going beyond the monastery gate, and one practices zealously for a set period of time in the Seon cloister.

When the retreat ends, the Seon monks leave for manhaeng (various supplementary practices). These Seon monks are calledunsu (cloud and water) monks in the sense that they are practitioner monks who drift like clouds and river water. The reason for departing for manhaeng is this is where they will see spread out in the field of concrete life the state that is caused by the zealous practice of meditation during the period of the retreat. And they also receive an examination of the condition of their practice or their own enlightenment from the keen-eyed masters they seek out. Manhaeng also is a practice of seeking the Way, in that they consistently hold the hwadu during the various aspects of life. Again, some meditation monks also pursue zealous practice in the monastic retreat, which is not a set period retreat, but continues even in the period of freedom, along with their practice in the Seon cloister.

In each of the secluded and pristine mountains of Korea there are Seon cloisters and small hermitages. In such places are gathered unsu meditation monks who are trying to illuminate the eternal darkness, entering into the samādhi of single-mindedly seated in meditation and not budging in the slightest from their hwadu. Also, many lay Buddhists hold their hwadu and zealously practice Seon meditation in citizen’s Seon rooms in the city centers, trying to illuminate their own mind-nature.

How to Study Kong-an

One The Closing Day of Winter Retreat

Once Venerable Master Hye-Am was staying in Paljong-Sa in Seoul.
On the closing day of Winter Retreat he was asked to give a dharma talk.
He ascended the podium and began by singing a Gatha:

People today do net see old ancient star:
Today’s star has shone on the ancient people.
people today and of ancient times flow like water;
Watching the bright star together is also the same.

“When you, the student, preoccupied with Study, achieve greater intimacy with the Kon-ans, more and more you will find yourself in a feeling of ennui. It is the time to remind yourself that this is a sign of great progress and the time for full-blooming. Furthermore, this is the time when you should eagerly introspect upon yourself with vigilant doubt. Returning to doubt should never be delayed.

While introverting upon the Hwa-du(Kong-an,”the head of the dialogue” means the core of the dialogue), if the introversion is pure, it will suddenly enter the place of tranquility. After it becomes tranquil, it can enter Samadhi. However, in Samadhi there can be two kinds: right Samadhi and defiled Samadhi. This also should be kept in mind.

When the power of Samadhi has increased, your body and mind will naturally be bright by the untainted faith; so, finally, you will achieve great alertness.

You should use your mind well, even finely concentrated in everyday life movements. Besides, when you are preoccupied with Study, either beginning or ending, you should never depart from the clear and bright tranquility and purity. When the tranquility is fully matured, enlightenment will be imminent. When the purity is fully matured, the brightness will be pervasive.

If the effort of returning to the vigilant doubt is sincere, and if the determination is thorough, then, whether moving or still, the outer perspective will also be like the color of the autumn sky: transparent and bright. This is the moment your study blooms fully. If you uphold and guard that well, as we have said, your brightness will be like the transparent autumn sky and your tranquility will be like the cold incense holder of the old shrine.

If the act of the mind is not darkened but is bright in tranquil stillness and alertness, your illusory and empty physical subsistence will experience being beyond the world of mankind.

The result of this vigilance with Hwa-du will be like one silk thread hanging straight down from on high; you will see that it would never be severed by any means. If you achieve this level, all the dust will be settled and brightness will pervade. But, naturally, right at this moment, if you allow yourself the idea of being awakened and claim that you are enlightened, then that consistency and loftiness from the awaken mind will immediately cease; for which you must watch out carefully.

At this level, for one who does net commit himself to tardiness, movement and stillness will be conjoined. Also, while you are awake in watchful mind and tranquil. the Hwa-du will abide in front of your eyes constantly; just as, for instance, the reflection of moonlight in the water moves freely in accord with the waves, but the moonlight, itself, is net affected by the waves. It, as-it-is, has never moved. Even though defilement and delusion arise from time to time, if you introspect upon yourself with vigilant doubt immediately, then you will not be subject to defilements and delusions.

By cultivating in such a way, one day the whole bundle of doubt will be destroyed; suddenly seeing it right will be manifested in proportional accord, as the strings of a harp. An analogy to this is the hen sitting continuously on the egg, sending down warm energy. If the warm energy is not supplied for even one moment, the egg will spoil. However, instead, the warm energy is effectuated and the hen, using her beak, then destroys the egg-shell, allowing the baby chick to break through with a sound of Chirp, Chirp.

Or, it is like the bamboo stalk, which, when greatly mature, explodes by itself, Boom, Boom, as the stalk bursts forth in growth. Finally, seeing the True Self-nature (Original Face) will be completed. After that, you should go and meet the TrueEyed Master-Mentor, the Good-and-Wise One and examine yourself with him hundreds and thousands of times to accomplish the Great Dharma Vessel. You should not, however, by haughty judgement, create any idea of being superior.

Without seeing the Good-and-Wise One after enlightenment, you would not be able to complete your life-task, which is a potential hazard, not just once, but endlessly and limitlessly.”

Finally Venerable Master sang a Gatha:

Ninety days, chained legs, ending today;
Suddenly winter retreat has no trace.
While Peter and Paul part from each other, north and south,
Stone tiger still fights high mountain peak.

Master hit the dharma floor three times and descended the podium.

Questions from Followers

General Dharma Lecture, 7th Lunar Month, 1982, Haein-sa)

Q: Where does life come from, and where does it go?

Ven. Song-chol : Universal law is that there is no producing and no extinguishing. So by transcending time and space, there is nothing to appear and disappear, including life.
In the Avatamsaka Sutra we find, “The One Law is nonproducing, the one Law is non-extinguishing”; and from the Lotus Sutra we have, “All Dharma is that of non-change.”
We call this non-producing, non-extinguishing by various names―the ultimate, the absolute, the Dharma realm, causality, the eternally abiding, Dharmadhuta, Dharma nature. There are a thousand different names, but the meanings are all the same. They all are the basis of the universe and the basis of the Supreme Enlightenment by the Buddha who saw that all was non-producing, non-extinguishing.
This Truth is so profound, so deep, so difficult to comprehend that it can be seen only by the Wisdom Eye of the Buddha; and it cannot be found in any other religion, philosophy or thought system. Modern science is now beginning to come close to a similar explanation, which helps to make the Buddha’s Teachings a bit more comprehensible to modern man. So it will be interesting to see what else science comes up with in the future, although scientific findings in no way influence the Teachings.
In this non-producing, non-extinguishing of the eternally abiding Dharma, there is only unlimited causation where increasing and decreasing and coming and going are non-existent. This is the nature of reality. To put it in more modern terms, the volume does not change; but due to unlimited causation, the influence of eyerything on all things and all things on everything, the apparent containers do.
The nature of all forms of life is the same, matter and mind are one, and there is no distinction between the animate and the inanimate. So “life” is a term that is given to both the animate and the inanimate. And you must be able to listen to the Dharma talk of the inanimate to really know the meaning of life: the totality of all forms of life is absolute, and there is no producing or extinguishing, no coming and going of it.
It may seem a bit progressive to call that which is inanimate “life” but not only the animate moves. Inanimate life, too, is just as filled with molecules with their own movement, their own spin. You must realize that all things, even a staid boulder, are actually in constant motion.
Ten billion Sakyamunis are dancing on the end of a spring breeze.

Q: Is the Buddhist ideal to deal with the existing or to transcend the existing?

Ven. Song-chol : In Buddhism, “producing and extinguishing” is the Bhutatathata or ultimate reality. That is to say, present reality is absolute, torment and suffering are enlightenment, and sentient beings are Buddha. Fundamentality, humanity is absolute, and it both transcends and includes oneness. So there is nothing more to transcend.
You see, the Buddha came to teach us that we already are Buddha, not that we have to become Buddha. Think of it as having gold, but mistaking it for loess. You can mistake it for loess as long as you want, but that doesn’t change the nature of the gold. All you have to do is rid yourself of the delusions that the gold is loess. The gold remains as it is.
In the same way, through our delusions we mistake real Buddhas for sentient beings; and even though we behave as sentient beings, our fundamental Buddha nature remains the same. So we don’t have to go looking for Buddha. We just have to rid ourselves of delusions.
Sentient beings are Buddha, this world of suffering is a Buddafield, and present reality is absolute. We must eliminate our conditioned views and biases, stop living like someone in the hot summer who has no vision of winter ice, and awaken ourselves to our Buddha nature.
A person above vairocana`s torehead is standing at the center of an intersection.

Q: What do you mean by the term “restore humanity”?

Ven. Song-chol : Humanity both transcends oneness and includes oneness, and it is absolute. This is called “original Buddha.” But as sentient beings we mistake this original Buddha, call ourselves sentient beings, and behave like sentient beings. “To restore humanity” is to rid ourselves of these delusions and to confirm our fundamental nature, our original face.
We have mistaken pure gold for loess, so we must become awakened to the fact that we are pure gold. There is nothing else. It’s like a facial mirror covered with dust―the dust prevents it from reflecting. So all we have to do is to clean off the mirror, and it will reflect perfectly. There’s no need to go out and get a new mirror.
In Buddhism, one must make a searching examination of the dust covering the mirror of the mind, and remove every single spot of it. This is the proper function of recovering our humanity. In order to do so, we must completely eliminate all of the dust from both present consciousness and from the absolute consciousness, the Alayavijnana. Then we can clearly see our original nature, our fundamental nature, our Buddha nature.
Smash not just the mirror, but the blue sky as well, and come to see me.

Q: Can the solution to the human predicament be found in religion?

Ven. Song-chol : It seems that most religions move from the mortal to the immortal and from the relative to the absolute. In Buddhism, however, the mortal is the immortal and the relative is the absolute.
Many other religions claim that there is an absolute which is separate from present reality, and their goal is to go from the present world of mortality and limited reality to that separate, absolute, immortal reality.
But in Buddhism, the present is the absolute and we are living in the world of the eternal. There is no need to look elsewhere.
So the problem becomes one of not mistaking the absolute for the relative. What we call the relative is at the same time the absolute. If you realize this, you will come to realize that everything is the absolute, and that everything is already “delivered.” Only then will we be able to solve the problems of humanity.
The sun is high in the sky, but people are walking around with their eyes closed complaining about the darkness. We have to open our Eye to see that we are living in this glorious light. We must rid ourselves of our delusions to realize that we are already eternal in this Great Light.
A Buddha does not have to look for anything.
So what is this we call sentient beings?

Q: In this age of insecurity, how can people overcome their restlessness?

Ven. Song chol : The Great Tranquil Light flows gloriously and completely through eyerything, so in Buddhism we have no room for such concepts as “insecurity” “restlessness” “wandering.” The Great way is wider than the universe itself and brighter than thousands of suns. So nothing should upset you, not even the end of the world.
To talk of life and death, to talk of “salvation” is to be talking in your sleep. “Buddha” and “enlightenment” are just more dust on the mirror. Just look at the fundamental Great Light!
The tips of the willows are green, and the peach blossoms
are spotted with pink.

Q: What are your thoughts on greed and materialism?

Ven. Song-chol : Non-personal greed, that is greed for the common good, and materialism for the common good are the most priceless of jewels.
No living thing wishes to live in misery. But we must go beyond personal greed. National programs for development are good; but we have to go beyond the limited sphere of humanity, and put greed and materialism to work for the benefit of all that lives. Only then are greed and materialism jewels of any worth.
Personal greed is but poison to the heart. You must forget yourself and work for the benefit of all that lives. That has always been the fundamental wish of all Buddhas and the Great path of the Bodhisattvas. And it should be the basic approach to life for all Buddhists.

Q: Can Buddhism save society?

Ven. Song-chol : The word “save” doesn’t apply to Buddhism. Since all forms of life are absolute, all forms of life are Buddha. The prime prerequisite for becoming a Buddhist is to respect all forms of life in the same way that one should respect his parents. One should serve all forms of life the same way one should serve elders. So you see, there is only serving―no “saving” no “salvation.”
I have said repeatedly that helping other forms of life is the only true Buddhist offering. Usually when people talk about helping others, they think of the rich giving to the poor, and so on. This, however, in the Buddhist sense, is not really the proper attitude. The proper attitude is to treat all forms of life with the same gentleness as one would treat an ailing parent, as one would provide a meal to a hungry teacher, as one would offer clothing to a Buddha wearing rags.
“Rescuing” implies something quite different. It’s feeling sorry, selectively, for the weak and the poor. This is, in effect, an enormous insult to those people. Wherever you go there are hungry Buddhas, there are ragged Buddhas, there are ailing Buddhas, there are bag Buddhas. The Buddhist teaching is to treat everyone as one would treat one’s parents, in the same way a Buddhist honors the Buddha. So there is only non-selective reverence and service―no “rescuing.”
A lion doesn’t howl like a wolf.

Q: What does Korean Buddhism have to do during the 1980’s?

Ven. Song-chol : There is only one uniform truth in Buddhism, and it applies to everything in the universe. It does not apply to any one geographical area, nor to any one generation. One acts according to basic Buddhist mentality regardless of time and place.
So where and when one lives is irrelevant. One always reveres all forms of life as Buddha. While espousing the absolute nature of all that lives, one eliminates personal desires and dedicates oneself completely to serving all living Buddhas. That’s all. There’s nothing else to do.
A thousand eons may pass but they are not past. Ten thousand ages pass by, yet everything is now.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to convey to monks and nuns who are in training?

Ven. Song-chol : Just let me say that we think that the planet earth is a large place, but it’s an invisible speck of dust compared to the universe. And this huge, immense universe is but a drop of water in the ocean compared to the Bhutatathata, the Dharma realm. And the activity of this universe is but one drop of toam in comparison to the Great Ocean. If all the Buddhas of the universe appeared at once to expound upon this, they could spend the rest of eternity explaining; yet all their talk would be but a peep in the endless Dharma realm.
All forms of life are one in this inexplicably priceless realm. So we must rid ourselves of those hollow dreams of personal fame and fortune, open this inexhaustible treasure house, and work for the benefit of all. To covet a single grain of rice is to lose 10,000 eons of food.
Think again about the example set by Shun-ch’ih, conqueror of all of China and founder of the Ch’ing Dynasty. He finally considered all of his worldly conquests and riches nothing but debauchery and cast them all aside to enter the path. So I ask all who have joined the order to devote total efforts to attaining the Great Enlightenment.
Deep in the mountains in the middle of a bright, moonlit night, an owl hoots.

Respect All as Buddha

(General Dharma Lecture, 29th Day of the 5th Lunar Month, 1982, Haein-sa)

Revere your enemies as you revere your parents.
―The Perfect Enlightenment Sutra

Sentient beings have not achieved enlightenment because of their myriad delusions, often referred to as the 84,000 delusions. And what are the most basic of these delusions? The Buddha said that love and hate were the greatest delusions of them all. Also, the Third Patriarch of Ch’an, Seng-ts’an, in his On Believing in Mind, said that if you rid yourself of hate and love, everything would be perfectly self-illuminating.
And in fact, if you can rid yourself of hate completely, then you can easily achieve pure Mind, the Supreme Enlightenment. But before then, hate continues to arise in the mind, and hate is indeed a disease that is hard to cure.
As Buddhists who set our standards by the Teachings of the Buddha, we must do our best to eliminate hate from our lives, from our actions, from our hearts. It is difficult to practice the advice of the Buddha to treat even the bitterest of enemies as our parents. But we must try.
Nowadays we hear a lot about “forgive evil” and “love your enemy”; but only the Buddha could have made such a statement as, “Revere your enemies as you revere your parents.”
You should understand that in Buddhism there is no such thing as “forgiveness.” To forgive implies that you are right and the other person is wrong. So to say that you will “forgive” somebody is a tremendous insult to that person. And you are not assuming any responsibility for what has happened to you.
Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings have the same Buddha nature. An enlightened Buddha sitting high on a lotus pedestal and those beings writhing in the torments of a hell are, in fundamental reality, the same. So no matter how wicked a person has been, no matter how much you dislike or criticize a person, you cannot, at least according to Buddhist thought, “forgive” him for something he did to you.
Well, then, what are you supposed to do?
No matter what a person has done, you should respect him like a Buddha. This is the very essence of Buddhism. The Buddha’s cousin Devadattaa harassed the Buddha throughout his life. And finally Devadatta was put through a living hell. He was put through this as an expedient to protect other people from his wiles. But How was the Buddha supposed to treat Devadatta, his own cousin but his greatest of enemies? He rewarded him with Supreme Enlightenment.
In Buddhism, we say that the entire universe is filled with the brilliance of evil and goodness. You may not understand this at first. One gentle deed lights up the entire universe which I think you’ll find acceptable even if you don’t understand it. But can you understand and accept that an evil act done by sentient beings in hell also lights up the entire universe?
Usually we think of the Buddha as the gentlest of the gentle, and devils as wicked. We conceive the Buddha and devils as different as day and night, as different as heaven and earth. But actually the devils and the Buddha are of the same body, they are one, and they differ only in name. They are all Buddha.
A person may do something utterly horrible, but that person’s basic nature, his original face remains the same. And So it is with someone who has become enlightened―his fundamental nature remains the same. Every sentient being is of the same Buddha nature, the same body. We are all just different manifestations of the same thing.
Devadatta was evil, and wicked, and scheming. But because his basic nature was exactly the same as the Buddhas, the Buddha repaid Devadatta’s wicked deeds with future enlightenment. He did this so that Devadatta would lead sentient beings rather than harm them. It is this type of response that is basic to Buddhist thought.
This very important quote―”Revere your enemies as you revere your parents―should be the basis of your daily life, your actions and your study. Your first basic guide to life as a Buddhist is to respect all forms of life as the Buddha and to revere them as your teachers. All forms of life―the gentle and the wicked, cows, pigs, and beasts of all kinds―have the exact same Buddha nature, so you should respect them just as you respect the Buddha. And each one has something to teach you if you look closely enough. So don’t judge a person by his clothing or appearance. You should look beyond those things to the person and his Buddha nature.
Centuries ago there was a national celebration, and all the senior monks in Korea were invited. Among the monks was one who lived an exceedingly frugal life. When he showed up at the palace gates in his tattered robes and wom-out shoes, the guards wouldn’t let him in, and shooed him away. So the monk went somewhere nearby, borrowed some fancy new robes and returned. The guards started kowtowing left and right, and ushered him to the most honored seat in the room.
While the other monks were busy gorging themselves on all kinds of delicacies, this monk kept smearing the food onto his clothes. The other monks, startled, asked him why he was doing so. He replied, “Because the food is for the clothes, not for me,” and he kept it up until his robes were covered completely.
The point is, of course, that you shouldn’t treat people according to their appearance, according to what you see on the outside. There may be some of you here who are thinking to yourselves, “Well, that’s easy for him to say, and something that only the Buddha could do; but we have to live with people who expect to be treated according to their ‘packaging.'” That, however, is not necessarily the case.
There’s a story about the aristocratic Kwak clan from Hyonp’ung in Kyongsang Province. One of the Kwak’s got married, but his new brides behavior was less than becoming to the family’s social status. She dressed sloppily, she wasn’t particularly polite to his parents, and she talked disrespectfully. The family tried everything they could to get her to behave properly, but nothing worked.
One day, the groom was reading the Confucian classics and he came across the quote that said that people were inherently gentle and good, even though they may not always behave that way. This changed the groom’s attitude completely. He realized that his brides behavior was probably all his fault, so he made up his mind to treat his wife more respectfully because, as a human, her basic nature was gentle and good.
In the old days, aristocrats began the day by going to the study and bowing to their ancestors. The next morning, after the husband had performed this ritual in full dress, he turned and bowed to his wife. At first she thought that he had gone mad. The same person who cursed her and beat her was now bowing before her!
He said to her, simply, “I sincerely respect you,” and bowed again. Flustered by all of this, she tried to make him leave, but he kept on bowing. Then he said, “Human nature is basically gentle and good. You are gentle and good. But because I was busy mistreating you, I didn’t see that. From now on I will look only at the good in you, and respect you.”
It didn’t take long before the bride completely changed her behavior but she continued to implore her husband.
“I won’t misbehave any more, so please stop your bowing!”
“You are so gentle, I can’t help but bow to you.”
“No, no, no. You are the one who is really good and gentle,” she replied. From then on they bowed to each other every morning, and spent the rest of their lives in mutual admiration, respect and happiness. So you see, the Buddha wasn’t the only one who was capable of respecting everyone. It’s something anyone can do, and something all Buddhists should do. And it has great results.
When the Chinese monk I-ching1 traveled to India, he observed that the monks at every temple recited Matrcheta’s Hymn in One-Hundred Fifty Verses at both morning and evening services. We find in the records of his travels to the south sea2 quotes from these verses:

We have become enemies by betraying his infinite grace;
But Buddha sees this as the greatest benevolence of all.

In other words, even if you treat someone better than your own parents and better than you would treat the Buddha, and this person in turn hurts you or betrays you, you should revere him even more. The verses continue:

If enemies harm the Buddha, he still only reveres them. The enemies look only at his faults; yet the Buddha treats them with benevolence.

So if you treat someone really well and this person only harms you in return, you should still revere this person. And you should revere most the person who harms you the most. This is a basic Teaching, and a basic attitude in Buddhism.
As I may have mentioned once before, when Christians come to see me I have them perform 3,000 prostrations just like everyone else. But I set the condition that as they do their prostrations, they must pray that those who refute their God and those who curse Jesus will be the first ones to go to their heaven. Think of that in our terms now: we should pray that those who curse Buddha and attack the monks be the first to go to paradise.
The Buddha said that only by revering all enemies will delusions and poiso ns of the mind disappear. If these all disappear, then we will all become Buddhas, we will all attain enlightenment. And just as we Buddhists set enlightenment as our goal, we should live a life practicing what we have been taught by the Buddha. But you cannot do this as long as your reactions are based on your fleeting emotions.
Some of you may be wondering about how to respond to the challenge Christianity has presented to Buddhism in Korea in recent years. You may think that if we don’t respond, eventually Buddhism will be wiped out. You think that if someone screams at you once, you should respond with ten screams and then he’ll run away. You want to do something about it.
It’s easy to think that way, but that is not right. The greater this challenge becomes, the more you should bow for and pray for these people. That is the Buddhist way, and that is how you should live. And if you do so, others will be impressed by your example, and they will be impressed by Buddhism.
If one person shouts, the other should be silent. If one person raises his fist, the other should not. If one person sets a fire, should you set a fire, too? Then you will only burn together. If one person brings a torch, no matter how big, all you have to do is to use water wisely. There is no way that fire can conquer water. Fighting fire with fire results only in more scorched earth.
So the basic attitude you must adopt in all facets of your life is to treat your enemies with the reverence and respect that you afford your own parents.
Buddha nature is pure, spotless. It knows neither form nor formlessness, and it is complete enlightenment. No matter how tattered a persons clothing is, the person is sacred. His real nature is Buddha nature. Revere the precious and the lowly, the old and the young as you revere the Buddha, and revere even the greatest of criminals for his Buddha nature. Treat all, including your greatest enemy, with reverence. And the greater the enemy, the greater the respect and reverence you should have. This is the Buddhist way, and it should be your standard for all behavior. Then, and only then are you really qualified to enter the Buddha Hall.

The Three Jewels

(General Dharma Lecture, Full Moon of the 5th Lunar Month, 1982, Haein-sa)

The pure Mind is Buddha, the brilliant Mind is the Dharma, and the inexhaustibly pure, bright and free-flowing Mind is the Sangha.

These are the words of Master Lin-chi, founder of the Lin-chi Ch’an school. And indeed to become an enlightened person, one has to have a pure Mind and a brilliant Mind, and one has to be inexhaustibly free-flowing, and pure.
How pure and clean and clear is such a Mind, though? Incomparably purer and cleaner and clearer than a cloudless sky. There is an old saying that to call a cloudless sky clear and pure is to warrant a beating with a mallet. In comparison to a truly pure Mind, a clear sky is filth.
We can make a comparison of this Mind with a perfectly clear mirror, but that, too, is an insufficient comparison, although it is frequently used in Buddhism. A monk once said, “Smash your mirror and come so that we may look at each other.”
How clear and pure and clean does one’s Mind have to be to meet the Buddhist requirements of a pure Mind? Even at the stage of Universal Enlightenment, one does not have a pure, clear Mind. Although at that stage all major delusions have been removed, tiny delusions still remain in the Alayavijnana, even without one’s knowing it. So to reach the state of perfect purity and clarity, one must eliminate all delusions including the basic ignorance found in the Alayavijnana. Then and only then is your Mind cleaner than a cloudless sky and a spotless mirror.
This is something that has to be experienced to be understood. Our Ch’an predecessors referred to this state as a “line-up of a thousand suns.” Not one, two, three or several suns, but a thousand! And even that number is inadequate to express the brilliance! It is something so brilliant that it is completeiy beyond description. If all the Buddhas throughout the universe tried to explain this brilliance for the rest of eternity, they couldn’t. It is Truth beyond description, brilliance beyond description.
The purity and clarity of it, too, are inexhaustible, and they are inseparable from it. Where there is fire there is light, and where there is light there is fire. Think of the purity and clarity of the light as the fire, and the brilliance as the light itself. The light is the fire and the fire is the light. There is no light without fire, and no fire without light. So they are inexhaustibly one and the same. When Hui-neng spoke of it, he made this comparison of purity and brilliance to fire and light. And we call this light the “pure, inexhaustible brilliance.”
Think of the Buddha then as the purity, the Dharma as the brilliance, and the Sangha as inexhaustibly pure and bright. These are the Three Jewels of Buddhism, and yet they are inseparable. To put it in the analogy we were using, the Buddha is the fire, the Dharma is the light; but fire is light, and light is fire. The Three Jewels―Buddha, Dharma and Sangha―are one in purity, brilliance and inexhaustibility. In Buddhism, we say that all three are one and that each one is all three.
If you come to this understanding fully, then at the same time you rid yourself of constraints, you are free-flowing and you have achieved complete liberation. But where do these constraints that we have come from? They all come from our delusions. Even with Wisdom’s Eye closed, we think that we are free, but we are not free at all. We are completely free only when we have achieved the state of No Mind, when we have seen the brilliance, when we have rid ourselves completely of all delusions.
But what freedom does a blind person have? If he goes this way, he stumbles; if he moves that way, he falls. He has no freedom. But to open his eyes is to have complete freedom.
So some people wonder why I would call you blind. You can see huge mountains, you can see tiny specks of dust. Blind?
To become enlightened is like waking from a deep dream. When you are dreaming, it seems that you are moving about in your dreams quite freely. But usually you don’t know that you’re dreaming. You have to first wake up, and then recall moving about in the dream to realize that you were dreaming. We’re talking about the same thing here. You’re living in this world, but you don’t realize that you’re dreaming. You have to awaken from this dream to realize that you have been dreaming all along.
Just as a person who doesn’t wake from a dream doesn’t realize he’s dreaming, a person who hasn’t opened the Eye finds it difficult to understand that he’s blind. Chuang-zu once said that it takes a great awakening to realize that you have been having a big dream.
This world of delusion is one big dream. And even a Bodhisattva who has achieved Universal Enlightenment should realize that he is still dreaming. Only when all remaining elements of ignorance in the Alayavijnana are swept away does one awaken from this dream. Then, and only then, do you see your true Buddha nature.
You are not an awakened person, you are not a free-flowing person before this Supreme Enlightenment. The freedom that people talk about is freedom in a dream; but only a fully enlightened person is truly free. How can you call freedom in a dream true freedom? There is a great difference between dream and reality. An enlightened being, a Buddha, a free being is one who has fully awakened, one who has experienced No Mind, one who has seen the great brilliance. Only such a being is truly free-flowing. And once a person becomes that free-flowing being, he has no need for the Buddha, no need for the predecessors, no need for the Tripitaka. Terms like “Buddha” and “predecessor” are merely medicine to help you wake from your dream. Our disease is this dreaming, and once we are cured we have no need for medicine. Medicine is for the ill, not for the cured.
“You have your own way to go, so why do you follow others?” This one sentence illustrates the true freedom of Buddhism.

The Buddhist Taboo
Let’s talk about religion for a moment. There are all kinds of religions, but it seems that most major religions on this planet argue for a transcendental god and demand subservience to their particular transcendental god with comparatively little regard to the world of sentient beings. They continually submit to the will of their god. And then they claim that after they die they will go to live with this god or that god. They serve their transcendental god without a bit of freedom for themselves. Eyery movement is a submission to the will of their particular god, and these people spend their entire lives this way.
My point here is not to criticize other religious tenets, but to illustrate the uniqueness of Buddhism. Such a subservient type of thinking is exceedingly strange to Buddhism. You see, the Buddhist premise is that we all have Buddha nature. Our fundamental nature is clearer and purer than a line-up of a thousand suns, a nature that has no room for Buddha, for predecessors, for anyone else. In this pure mind, Buddha is dirt and the predecessors are dirt. And so is the Tripitaka.
In this realm of Supreme Enlightenment, one is not under the control of Buddha or the predecessors or anything else. It is the state of total, perfect freedom. It is inexhaustibly free-flowing. There are no restraints. In such a state, how is it even possible to be controlled or restrained by some outside force? If you are everything, there cannot be anything outside of you to control you. Yes, Buddhism, too, has a taboo―control, restraint, subservience, enslavement to an outside force. Because, in Buddhism, there can be no outside force. And to reach this state of Supreme Enlightenment is to reach this state of total freedom, to be unrestrained, uncontrolled by anyone or anything. It is at the same time complete liberation, Buddhahood, nirvana.
During the last century or so, people have been talking more and more about human freedom and equality. But in order to be truly and totally free, you must experience the state of No Mind for yourself. You must experience and confirm the tranquillity, the brilliance, the inexhaustibility, and the completely unrestrained flowing freedom of it for yourself. This is what Buddhism is all about. But if you are tied to this or tied to that, if you are unconditionally subservient, how can you ever know this one and only great Truth?
Humanity is already liberated, already “delivered.” But because of delusion, man has become imprisoned in a variety of ways. If you completely sever these delusions, however, and experience this still, pure Mind, then you are truly free and you will have become the Buddha’s very first words: “I alone am supreme in this universe”―because you are the universe. So when you make the ultimate breakthrough to Supreme Enlightenment, then you are inexhaustibly, universally free-flowing. And this is the very purpose, the very goal of Buddhism.
In The Awakening of Faith, we find that this Supreme Enlightenment can take place only when you are completely free of torment. But if you are subservient in this life, then you will have the torment of being subservient in the next life. You will continue to suffer. If you sever all suffering, however, you are not constrained by the Buddha or by anything else. That is true freedom. Can you find such a concept anywhere else except in Buddhism? Your problem is, however, one of how to go about achieving this state of perfect freedom.
You must begin by abandoning Buddhism.
To believe in the Buddha and to depend on the Ch’an predecessors is to develop hitches, obstacles. You must believe in only one thing, and that is your fundamental Buddha nature, your original face. To believe that your Mind is Buddha is the correct belief, and any other belief is a false belief. That is why I constantly tell people to believe only in their Mind, and to abandon even the Tripitaka. The Buddha himself and the predecessors constantly admonished us to consider them nothing but enemies if we wish to achieve Supreme Enlightenment.
Regard the Buddha and the predecessors as enemies! Believe only in your own Mind! Your Mind is your Buddha, your Mind is your predecessor. Your Mind is paradise and your Mind is heaven. Eliminate your Mind, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing. “Buddha” and “predecessor” are but sounds from a dream. Regard the Buddha and the predecessors as your enemies! Is there anything else to say?
A person once came to me who was studying Christianity but who had run into a stone wall in his study. He could make no further progress at the time, so he came to me to try Zen meditation. We discussed this and that, and I finally said to him, “lf you wish to resolve the basic problem, you must meditate, but there is one condition.”
“A condition?”
“Yes. When monks enter the Zen meditative process, they must abandon Buddhism. Likewise, if you don’t abandon Christianity, you will never be successful in your study. You must abandon Christianity not because it is Christianity, but because it is a belief system. You must rid yourself of the constraint called Christianity just as a monl must rid himself of the constraint called Buddhism.
“Well, sunim, I’ll come back after I think it over.”
“You’re really saying that you’re not going to come back, aren’t you? Well, if you can’t abandon Chrishanity, then don’t come back. You could meditate for a hundred years, but you’d just be wasting your time.”
The pure, clear Mind knows no Buddha and it knows no predecessors. The Tripitaka would be but soil on this Mind. So you must believe that your Mind is Buddha, that there is no Dharma except for your Mind, and that there is no Buddha aside from your own Mind. Believe this thoroughly, believe it completely, and work with your koan. And if you apply yourself completely, then you will achieve true, lasting freedom, Supreme Enlightenment.
What is the point? The point is that to talk about food is useless. The issue is whether you have eaten or not. So I hope that you will take me seriously, and work diligently in your study, work diligently with your koan.
At the same time, you have to be careful. There may be some here today who think, “Well, he said to believe only in yourself. Right on! I’m thinking of having a drink―how about it?” But that is not your Mind. That is delusion, and delusion is a thief. When I talk about your Mind, I mean a pure, clear Mind, not a false Mind.
Confucius said, “At seventy, I followed my mind’s desire without stepping over the line.” If he wanted to go east, he went east; if he wanted to go west, he went west; if he wanted to sit, he sat. He did what he wanted. but all within a moral context.
Once you discover this pure, clear Mind, whatever you do is liberation, total freedorn; and whatever you do is the movement of a Buddha. You can look in all ten directions, and never find a person who drinks and makes merry with a Mind as clear as a mirror.
You must realize that. The water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is deep beyond words. And even when a typhoon strikes and the waves roll, the water remains clear. But if you look at a mud puddle and think of that as water, you’ll never realize what pure water is.
Believe that your Mind is infinitely clearer than a cloudless sky, a Mind so pure that it knows not good or evil, no Buddha, no predecessors. Awaken to your truly pure Self.

“No Mind” is Buddha

(General Dharma Lecture, Last Day of the 4th Lunar Month, 1982, Haein-sa)

Buddha is of course the foundation of Buddhism. But when you ask what Buddha is, you could get a variety of answers even though it is difficult to define in concrete terms what “Buddha” means. It is much easier to talk about the basic principles of Buddhism.
We call those who live in the world of torment and delusion sentient beings, and a Buddha is one who has completely transcended such a world. That delusion-free state, the state of supreme Enlightenment, is called “No Mind” and sometimes “No Thought.” But where exactly do we draw the line between the realms of sentient beings and the realm of no Mind?
We classify all forms of life, from the tiniest micro-organisms to Bodhisattvas at the level of universal Enlightenment, as sentient beings. Only by achieving supreme Enlightenment, by eliminating even the tiniest of delusions from the Alayavijnana, does one reach no mind, and that is when one becomes a Buddha.
We have classified all that lives in the realms of delusion as sentient beings, but how do we define delusion? Based on the Sutras, we usually talk in terms of 84,000 delusions, and we can classify these into two major groups.
First, we have the conscious delusions―a variety of thoughts rising; secondly, we have the unconscious delusions which include even the tiniest of delusions hidden deep in the unconscious. In Buddhism we have eight types of cognition, and of these the Alayavijnana, or “storehouse” is the deepest. Getting into this level is an extremely difficult task. Even a Bodhisattva at the 8th level of sainthood or an Arhat are not aware of delusions at this level. This can be known fully only by those who have achieved supreme Enlightenment, by the Buddhas.
Sentient beings, ranging from the tiniest micro-organisms to Bodhisattvas af the 7th level of sainthood, live in the realm of the conscious. Bodhisattvas above that level and those who have achieved Universal Enlightenment live in the world of the unconscious. But both of these worlds, the worlds of the conscious and the unconscious, are worlds of delusion and worlds with thought. It is only when one has gone beyond all of that, when even the tiniest delusions of the Alayavijnana have disappeared, that one reaches Supreme Enlightenment, the realm of No Mind.
What exactly is this No Mind that we are talking about? Let’s use a mirror as an analogy, since the mirror is often used in Buddhism when explaining fundamental Mind, fundamental nature, original face. Think of delusions as dust, and No Mind as the natural state of the mirror. That state―a spotless mirror―is Buddha nature, fundamental nature, original face. If you dust off the mirror, you have this natural state.
In this natural state, a mirror is indescribably clear and bright, and it reflects great light. Our fundamental nature is the same way. If all delusions are swept away, right down to the Alayavijnana, then a huge, all-pervading light appears like the sun appearing out of the clouds. And when we rid ourselves of all delusions, the light of great wisdom appears and reflects into the Dharma realm of the ten directions, the entire universe. In Buddhism we refer to this as tranquil light or brilliance. At Haein-sa, the main Buddha Hall is called “Great Tranquil Brilliance Hall,” which means a place where Buddha resides.
So this No Mind is not a state of emptiness, void, blankness or vacuity. It is this state of complete elimination of all delusion, a state of perfect, quiet brilliance. Contrary to common misunderstanding, it is not a state of abso lute thoughtlessness, like a boulder. The Chinese characters are those for “No Mind” but it is not a state of no mind, or blank mind. If is a state of no delusions, a mirror free of dust, the state where this brilliant light of wisdom pervades everything.
This No Mind can also be explained in terms of “non-producing, non-extinguishing.” Non-producing is the state without a trace of delusion, and non-extinguishing is the state of the great light of wisdom. Non-producing is the “tranquil” and non-extinguishing is the “light.”
In the Sutras, this state of Mind is referred to as correct, or proper wisdom. Correct, or proper refers to the state without delusion, and the wisdom refers to the great light. So Buddha is often described as maintaining wisdom at a fixed level. The achievement of the state is also called “seeing one’s true nature.” It is achieving both Buddhahood and nirvana at the same time.
Many people think of nirvana as a state which comes after death. But a state of nothingness after death is not nirvana. True nirvana is this state of completely delusionless tranquillity in a brilliance of universal magnitude. To think that the stillness that we are talking about exists without this brilliance is not Buddhism. And achievement of this state of tranquillity and brilliance is what we mean by deliverance or release from suffering and delusion. The Awakening of Faith sums this all up simply by saying that deliverance is release from all delusion and the reaching of this Great Light of Wisdom.
Based on what I have said, you now should be able to imagine what Buddhism is talking about when we use such terms as attaining Buddhahood, realizing Buddha nature, or achieving No Mind. Of course, to you this is still nothing but theory or speculation. But if you consider yourself a Buddhist, you have to try to experience this yourself. That is the very purpose of Buddhism. So you’re wondering if in fact you are capable of experiencing this.
Equality is basic to Buddhism, and we are all equal in that our basic nature is that of Buddha. So becoming a Buddha is not transformation out of the human state into another realm. Let’s go back to the analogy of the spotless mirror―it reflects everything in a bright light. This bright light is the still mind, it is the Tranquil Brilliance, it is maintaining wisdom at a fixed level, and it is non-producing and non-extinguishing.
Then why are we humans like a damaged mirror, incapable of reflecting this brilliance? If our basic nature is pure and clear and brilliant, then why are we in this human state of pain and suffering? Not because the mirror is damaged, but because our mind is covered with dust. If we wish to reflect this Great Light, this still Mind, there is no need to make ourselves into another mirror. All we have to do is to discover the mirror within us and wipe away the dust to find our true selves.
One of my favorite expressions is, “Take a good look at yourself.” And to wipe away the dust is to take a good look at who you really are, to see your mirror, to reflect the Great Light. When I say, “Open the Eye.” I am talking about this still. Mind, this No Mind. There are a thousand ways of expressing this, but they all mean the same thing.
What does this No Mind have to do with the mundane world? In the old days, some people used to think that there really was no difference between Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. To say such a thing, is however, practically a travesty. In both theory and practice, Confucianism and Taoism just add more delusion to people already filled with delusion; in theory and in practice, they just add more dust to the mirror.
The purpose of Buddhism, on the other hand, is to achieve this state of No Mind through the elimination of all delusion. How can you equate dust makers and dust removers? To say that Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism are the same is to say that you know nothing about Buddhism. Think of it: even a Bodhisattva who has achieved Universal Enlightenment is still struggling with dust, so you can imagine what Confucianism and Taoism are like.
The world has become smaller, and there are all kinds of religions and philosophies floating around in addition to Confucianism and Taoism. How does Buddhism compare to all of this? Let me be very frank with you. You may talk about the greatness of a certain philosopher, a certain religious leader, or a great scientist. But all of those people are talking out of delusion. None of them has ever said a single word about the level of the delusionless state of No Mind.
A while ago I said that Buddha is the very basis of Buddhism, and that Buddha was this No Mind. I said that sentient beings were creatures living in the world of delusions, and that Buddhahood was the state of ridding oneself of all delusions and attaining this state of No Mind. Not a single one of these other supposedly great philosophies or religions or sciences even mentions a concept similar to this attainment of NO Mind. And it is here, with this No Mind, that we find the greatness and the distinctiveness of Buddhism, a greatness and distinctiveness that no other religion or philosophy can come close to.
But you cannot clearly see truth when you are filled with delusions. To know the truth, you must be free from delusion. You cannot see truth and you cannot experience No Mind before you eliminate your delusions. Everything other than the level of Supreme Enlightenment, or Buddhahood, is false knowledge, false views. At the stage of Supreme Enlightenment, the mirror has been completely cleared of all dust, of all delusion; you reflect everything, you see everything, you understand everything. It is correct knowledge, it is correct perception, it is complete Truth. And from this position, all other philosophies and all other religions are based on delusion, on false knowledge and false views. They cannot be seen as correct knowledge or correct perception.
If you do not have correct knowledge and correct perception, you cannot behave correctly. Can a blind person walk straight by himself? Can a mirror covered with dust reflect light? Can Mind covered with delusion have correct knowledge and behave in a correct manner? Correct behavior cannot be achieved until one has experienced the state of No Mind, the Tranquil Brilliance.
So, what is a Buddha? A Buddha is someone who sits correctly, who sees correctly, who behave s correctly, who lives correctly. And I think everyone wants to understand correctly, to see correctly and to live correctly. How can we do this, however, when Wisdom’s Eye is closed?
Buddhism is an attempt to live correctly, but you cannot live correctly in a state of delusion. You have to experience No Mind to understand perfectly and then to be able to live correctly. Yet even a Bodhisattva who has achieved Universal Enlightenment is blind, and for such a Bodhisattva to teach people is a case of the blind leading the blind. If you’re going to lead others, you have to be able to see properly yourself, you have to understand correctly, and you have to behave correctly.
Let me briefly review what I’ve covered today with you. Creatures  which live in the realm of delusion are called sentient beings. And to become free of all delusions is to be a Buddha. This state of non-delusion is what we mean by No Mind, but this No Mind is not a blank mind. It is like a state where the dust has been wiped from the mirror, where everything is reflected, where the clouds have rolled back and where the sun shines brilliantly. In this state there are no more delusions, and the Great Light of Wisdom is all-pervading. It is realizing the state of non-producing and non-extinguishing.
You cannot find this state of No Mind in any other religion or philosophy. There are innumerable religions throughout the world, and there may be certain discernments of ultimate truth in the teaching of their founders; but they have all failed to see anything but small fragments of Truth.
It is a fact that no other system opens its Eye wide enough to consider everything in the universe. Consequently, all Buddhists should have thorough confidence while striving to attain the state of No Mind. But to just talk about it is to just talk about food on an empty stomach―you must eat to be full.
This No Mind is not something we have made up. It is our fundamental nature, it is our original face, and it is the very basis of Buddhism. I am always saying that sentient beings are Buddha, but perhaps you don’t believe me because all you see is the sentient being and not the Buddha nature in you. But clear the dust from the mirror, wipe away all of your delusions, and you will see for yourself. If someone told you that there were a hidden gold mine around here, is there a single person who wouldn’t go digging?
You are originally, fundamentally Buddha. All you have to do is to recover this Buddha nature. You must have the confidence to recover it, and if you sincerely strive, you will see it very, very clearly. You will come to see who you really are, and there is nothing else after that.
Work diligently with your koan, and come to realize the magnificence of “No Mind.”

The One Vehicle and Expedients

(Dharma Lecture, Full Moon of the 11th Month, 1981, Haein-sa)

All ten directions are permeated with the One Vehicle Dharma. There are no Two Vehicle or Three Vehicle Dharmas―these are merely expedients used by the Buddha for teaching.1

The entire universe is the eternal Dharma realm, it is the all-pervading Dharma realm, it is the Dharma realm of the One Reality. In Buddhism this is also called the One Vehicle Dharma, or Law of the One Vehicle.

You must understand that this all-pervading, unobstructed world of the Dharma is not something that comes from Buddhism; rather, Buddhism comes from it. It was taught by the Buddha after this one true reality untolded before him during his Great Enlightenment. So everything in the universe and beyond is this one vehicle, and there is nothing else. It encompases everything that is, and everything that isn’t.

Yet we think the Buddha taught a great deal in addition to this Dharma. But everything else he taught was an expedient so that people could understand this one teaching more easily. And to understand the Buddha’s Teachings, you have to come to understand the One Vehicle Dharma.
After the Buddha was enlightened, he first delivered the entire Avatamsaka Sutra. But it was so difficult, so beyond the comprehension of the average person that he might as well have been talking to the deaf. And of what use would that have been, if, after the Great Enlightenment, he were the only one to be enlightened for ever and ever? Consequently, he decided that he would have to use expedients. He decided to talk in simplified terms understandable to people so that eventually they would come to know the truth of the One Vehicle. He reverted to the Three Vehicles as a means to make the One Vehicle more easily understandable.
The Buddha spoke to meet the needs of the occasion and to meet the needs of whoever he was addressing. He spoke like a child to children, like a student to students, to commoners like a commoner, to royalty like royalty so that whoever was listening would understand him.
If everyone had understood what he was saying when he delivered the Avatamsaka Sutra, there would have been no need to proceed this way. But he had to work his way gradually, by beginning with simple explanations. This eventually led to the other Sutras, and as people became more attuned to what he was saying, he delivered his final two Sutras, the Lotus Sutra and the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. He had begun with the One Vehicle in the Avatamsaka Sutra, and finally returned to the One Vehicle in the Lotus Sutra. His forty years of teaching in between were expedients in trying to get across the concept of this One Vehicle.
Consequently, we have the 84,000 Dharma Teachings to meet the needs of so many kinds of people. So these are not the real Truth, but expedients for coming to an understanding of the One Truth. In between the Avatamsaka and Lotus Sutras we have all kinds of Sutras, all of which contribute in one way or another to bring about an understanding of the One Vehicle. It was through these other Sutras that people gradually came to an understanding of the One Vehicle.
Well, what is this One Vehicle that we’re talking about, this one and only Truth? We regard the Avatamsaka and Lotus Sutras as the representative Sutras of this One Vehicle. But what is it that they contain that makes them so representative?
First to compile systematic doctrine based on the perfect Doctrine of the One Vehicle was the Chinese Master T’ien-t’ai Chih-i.2 Concerning the Lotus Sutra, Chih-i said that the perfect Doctrine came from The Middle Way, and that this is a parting from reality based on relative dualities. The world based on subject and object is one of dualities, but such a world of discrimination is not the real Dharma.
He also said that it was through strenuous endeavor that the mind would become bright and clear, and when it did that, one was beyond dualities; but at the same time, this would reflect what appeared to be another duality, that of the eternal truth and the false truth. At this point, however, one would syncretize these apparent dualities, as well, into one. Truth and non-truth are syncretized just as good and evil are.
So The Middle Way becomes one of syncretizing dualities in addition to transcending them, and this is the Perfect Doctrine of the One Vehicle. Chih-i concentrated on the Lotus Sutra from which we get the term Bhutatathata or ultimate reality. The Perfect Doctrine claims that to transcend dualities completely is to syncretize them completely, and this is The Middle Way, the One Vehicle.
What is the difference between transcending dualities and syncretizing dualities? Let me make an analogy for you. For our purposes, think of it this way, and think carefully. When it is cloudy, we cannot see the sun. But if the sky clears, then the sun comes out. To transcend the dualities of cloudy and sunny, we could say that the sky cleared.
But to syncretize the dualities, we would say that the sun came out. However, to say that the sun came out is the same as saying that the sky cleared, and to say that the sky cleared is to say that the sun came out. So transcending and syncretizing are not two different things. The dualities are both transcended and syncretized.
To transcend dualities is to syncretize them, and this is the Perfect Doctrine of the One Vehicle, and it is The Middle Way.
Consequently, the Dharma realm of the One Reality, the ultimate, the fundamental true reality, the absolute or whatever you want to call it―it is all equal, it is all real, it is all eternally Thus. Eyerything is freely syncretized into one, that which we call the all-pervading Dharma. There are no dualities; they are all transcended, they are syncretized, and everything is free-flowing, unobstructed. The Bhutathatha is the all-pervading, and the all-pervading is the Bhutathatha.
Let’s take a minute here to see what the Avatamsaka Sutra, the complete teaching of the One Vehicle, has to say on the matter. Chinese National master Ch`ing-liang3 in his Treatise on the Avatamsaka Sutra, grasped the meaning of the Sutra quite well:

While brightening, clearing,
while clearing, brightening;
together brightening and together clearing;
evenly, fully bright,
and the meanings have been syncretized.

What he is saying here is that to unite or syncretize is to transcend, and to transcend is to syncretize. The dualities are both transcended and syncretized at the same time; and the dualities transcend themselves and at the same time syncretize. This is the Perfect Doctrine―everything is comprehensive, everything is complete, everything is round and bright, and this is the meaning of the Avatamsaka Sutra. All apparent dualities are both transcended and syncretized as Ch’ing-liang has very aptly pointed out.
Chih-i said the same thing, but he was using the Lotus Sutra as the basis for interpretation. So if you can grasp the meaning of this “both transcend and syncretize,” then you have come to an understanding of the Avatamsaka Sutra.
Ch’ing-liang and Chih-i both reached this same conclusion, so one would assume that they would agree completely. However, the Avatamsaka sect regarded the Lotus Sutra as the last Sutra to be taught, and therefore not the original Perfect Doctrine. That is the only difference―the meanings of the Sutras are the same. So we consider both the Avatamsaka Sutra and the Lotus Sutra to be representative of the Perfect Doctrine of the One Vehicle.
The deeper you get into the logic of this thought system, the more complicated it becomes. And this leads us into the Four Dharma Realms of the Avatamsaka Sutra: l) the noumenal with unity, 2) the phenomenal with differentiation, 3) the noumenal and phenomenal are interdependent and unobstructed, and 4) all phenomena are interdependent and unobstracted. The duality of the noumenal and the phenomenal is transcended and syncretized, for the noumenal is found in the phenomenal and the phenomenal is found in the noumenal. So this applies to everything in the universe, and from that we conclude that everything is The Middle Way, and that everything conse-quently is absolute. This is the basic theory behind both the Avatamsaka Sutra and the Lotus Sutra.
Following this logic, then, is the fact that paradise or heaven cannot be a separate entity. If everything is unobstructed, free-flowing and The Middle Way, then wherever you are must necessarily be paradise.
So the main point of concern is whether we are aware of this absolute reality or not. If your Eye is closed, then everything is dark no matter how bright the sun may be. But whether you understand this or not does not in any way detract from the fact that the we are living in the world of the free-flowing Light. If you can’t see, or if you refuse to see, that’s that. But the fact still remains that we are living in this world of the all-pervading Dharma. So we must strive to become aware of this. We must strive to open the Eye.
This all-pervading Dharma realm is the One Truth, the One Vehicle. Of course we have all kinds of other terminology, all kinds of contradictions and all kinds of other logic and reasoning. But as I stated earlier, these are all falsities, these are all expedients in bringing about gradually increased understanding and eventual awareness of the all-pervading Dharma realm.
Once you have truly become aware of this, then you must abandon all the falsities and all the expedients. To do otherwise would be foolishness. But one who is unaware of this One Vehicle, this One Truth, must pace himself with these other expdients, and work towards a gradual understanding through them.
To summarize, the whole universe and beyond is the One Vehicle Dharma Realm, and there is nothing else. Everything is originally, fundamentally the all-pervading Dharma, the Absolute.
So is this the end to the argument? No. The One Vehicle is the reality, and the Three Vehicles are expedients. But the Three Vehicles themselves must necessarily also be The Middle Way, the One Vehicle. Why? Because we have syncretized the duality of One Vehicle and Three Vehicles.

Zen-Beyond the One Truth

And then we have the Zen School. No matter how much you may shout or talk about or expound upon this One Vehicle, it is exactly that―talk. It is doctrine, but not practice. You can talk about tood, but that does not fill your stomach. If you are hungry, then you must eat. You can take a cooking course for years, but of what good is it if you don’t put it to use for you? Doctrine is the Teachings of the Buddha, but Zen is the actual transmission of the Buddha-mind. So to Zen, even the Perfect Doctrine of the One Vehicle is false and it is merely an expedient. It is only through Zen that one can really come to know, that one can fill one’s stomach so to speak, through practice. Ch’an master Chin-jong4 said that self nature was inexhaustible, and that everything was “the one flavor” but that Zen had to go beyond even this “one flavor.” He was talking about the One True Dharma, the allpervading Dharma. But how can “the one flavor” be inexhaustible if everything in the universe is different? Only by syncretizing can we undetstand everything as being of “the one flavor.” Thus good and evil, form and formlessness, everything is syncretized into the same inexhaustible flavor.
You all know the saying, “Pointing at the moon but seeing only the finger.” One Vehicle Buddhism is saying, “This is reality, this is reality,” but it, too, is seeing only the finger. This is true also of the Avatamsaka Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, and the Perfect Doctrine of the One Vehicle. It is all talk, and the One Vehicle, too, becomes an expedient, a falsehood. You must understand this if you are to enter the path to become enlightened. To go around saying that the Perfect Doctrine of the One Vehicle is Buddhist Truth, to say that it is the ultimate, to say that it is the greatest is to be seeing only the finger, and you will never see the moon.
To come to know genuine Truth, rather than just knowing about it, we must rid ourselves of all expedients. We must toss away the One Vehicle and the Perfect Doctrine into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We have to look beyond the finger to see the moon.
There is an old saying that you have to regard the Buddha and all the Zen predecessors as enemies before you can begin to study. Right now you probably think that all the Zen classics and written records of the predecesso rs are true, and that the Avatamsaka Sutra and the Lotus Sutra are nothing but pure Truth. But if and when you become really enlightened, you will realize that all of these are nothing but thorns to the Eye. To become enlightened, and thus free-flowing, you must transcend the Buddha and you must transcend the records of the masters. If you feel that you have to listen to this person talk or that person talk, or if you get tied up in this expedient or that expedient, you will continue to do nothing but fail in your quest and you will not live eternally.

Eaith is Your Holy Land

(Dharma Lecture, Full Moon of the 11th Lunar Month, 1981, Haein-sa)

If you ask what Buddha is, Buddha is young Mr. Ma’s wife at the Stream of the Golden Sand.

This quotation is from a Dharma talk by Master Feng-hsueh1 of the Lin-chi school of Ch’an. Another monk had asked him what the Buddha was, and that was his reply. But you can only fully understand the true meaning of this koan through meditation, and you would really have to apply yourself to make such a breakthrough. But I would like to talk today about the background of this koan.
In what is now Shaanhsi-sheng in China, there is a famous river named Chin-sha T’an-t’ou, or “Stream of the Golden Sand.” During the reign of Chen-yuan in the Tang dynasty, there was a stunningly beautiful girl who lived by the river. Rich men, high government officials, men from all over the place came to propose to her. The girl had only one thing to say to all these imploring men:
“There are lots of men who propose to me, and I have only one life, so I will marry the man who meets my conditions. I will marry the man who memorizes “The supernatural powers of Avalokitesvara,2 from the Lotus Sutra.”
Overnight some twenty men memorized the section from the Lotus Sutra. So the girl said that she would have to make another qualification: she would marry the man who could memorize the Diamond Sutra. The next morning at dawn, some ten men showed up. She was then torced to make yet another qualification to reduce the competition. She said that she would marry the man who could memorize the entire Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra was long, but many of the ten remained steadfast in their determination to win the ladys hand. Two days later, the young son of a certain Mr. Ma showed up and recited the entire Sutra for the girl. Greatly impressed, the girl said, “I could take anyone I wanted for a husband, but I have found you now, and have no regrets. I will marry you.”
On the day of the wedding they had a grand ceremony, and after the rites the girl returned to her room. But even before all the guests had left, cries of pain came streaming from her quarters. The bride rolled about in agony, and then died.
Young Mr. Ma was stunned. He had stayed up two nights memorizing the entire Lotus Sutra so that he could marry this girl, and she died on the day of the wedding!
Immediately after she died, the body began to rot and puss oozed out all over the room. How could this be? Just a short time ago she had been the most beautiful girl in the world. But every corpse must rot, whether it belongs to a king or a pauper. So the family hurriedly put this rotting corpse into a coffin and buried what was once the most beautiful girl in all of Tang.
The groom could not forget her though. He wondered about this terrible fate, and sat around sighing for days. Then one day a monk suddenly appeared looking for him. The monk wanted to know if this was the place where the bride had died, and if he could be taken to the grave.
When they got to the grave, the monk took his staff and struck it. The grave split open, and it was filled with bones made of gold. In only a matter of days, the joints had all become golden ringlets, so when they lifted the head, the entire body rose up. The monk asked the man if he understood what this meant, but the man had no idea.
“This woman was Avalokitesvara. The people in this area have such a lack of faith that she decided to appear here as a beautiful girl. Look at this gold!”
The man who had memorized the entire Lotus Sutra in just two days stood there gazing at the incredible sight. “Now I have really seen Avalokitesvara!” he exclaimed.
The monk went on: “She has taught you the Dharma in such a marvelous way. You should all now fervently believe in Buddhism.” And then the monk suddenly flew away high into the sky.
So this is the background story behind the koan which I mentioned. Those of you who know a bit about Buddhism should be able to understand the symbolism involved in the story. But your reaction probably is one of doubt, and you wonder if such a thing is possible, if Avalokitesvara could really appear in this world in such a way. But you should not reject this as a falsehood, a tale, a fantasy just because you can’t understand it fully.
Avalokitesvara appears to humans much more frequently than you would think, and one place where she has appeared frequently is the sacred island of Baoto, off the coast of Ningpo in China. The name is derived from the Indian word for “white flower.” The entire island is dedicated to Avalokitesvara, and it has long been the main Chinese center of worship to her.
Although I’ve never been there, I’ve seen pictures of Chaoyin-dong, or “Grotto of the Tidal Sound.” It is there that she has appeared most frequently to those who pray to her. There are many sacred spots dedicated to Avalokitesvara in China, but for centuries and centuries, millions and millions have made pilgrimages to this place. Avalokitesvara appeared frequently to the tens of thousands who gathered at one time to light incense and to pray. She has delivered Dharma talks, performed numerous miracles, and done many other things there. Convinced in faith by her appearance, pilgrims would leave huge offerings of money.
Up until the communization of China, more than 4,000 monks were living at one time in a monastery on the island. But a great problem arose. While most of the pilgrims, in thanks for having seen Avalokitesvara, would make monetary donations, some were so moved by the apparitions that they would offer themselves by diving off the cliff there in a personal sacrifice to Avalokitesvara. Consequently, the local authorities had to erect numerous barricades in dangerous areas to prevent people from doing this. But still, some people foundways of getting through the barricades to dive from the cliffs.
Avalokitesvara has appeared not only on Baoto Island. she also appeared at the stream of the Golden sand. And the story of young Mr. Ma’s wife is not just tolklore; it is from Feng-hsueh, third to receive transmission in the Lin-chi sect, the largest Ch’an sect at the time.
The phrase “Young Mr. Ma’s wife at the stream of the Golden sand” also has a much deeper meaning, one that most people don’t understand. It has been passed down through the Wen-yen Ch’an school since it was spoken by Feng-hsueh. As I said before, however, you cannot understand the true meaning of this until you make the great breakthrough. I just talked about the background to the sentence. Let me now tell you more about a deeper meaning.
In the Ch’an tradition, there is a much more famous and astounding phrase: “Three-by-three in the front, three-by-three in the back.” This phrase can be found in The Blue Cliff Records among the one hundred case studies of koans, and it is ascribed to the Bodhisattva Manjusri3 in a conversation with the master Wu-chuo Wen-hsi.4 Wu-chuo had gone to Mt. Wu-t’ai in hopes of seeing an apparition of Manjusri, and in front of the Diamond Cave he met an old man. He followed the old man to a very fine temple, sat down with the old man, and they chatted. The old man asked,
“How are the Teachings going in the south?”
The people of this corrupt age keep a precept or two and are pretending to be monks.”
“Well, how many people come to the temples?”
“Oh, sometimes three hundred, sometimes five hundred,” replied Wu-chuo. Wu-chuo also wanted to ask something.
“How are the Teachings going around here?”
“Criminals live with the saints, and the dragons and snakes all mix together,” said the man.
“Well then, how many followers are there?” asked Wu-chuo.
“Three-by-three in the front, three-by-three in the back,” replied the old man.
We would take something like the statements about the criminals and saints living together and the dragons and the snakes all mixing together for their obvious figurative meaning. But the real meaning of the “three-by-three” is much, much deeper. Wu-chuo did not catch the meaning at the time, and he departed. As he was leaving the area, he tumed around to take another look, but the temple was gone. Wuchuo then composed his own verse:

Everything was a beautiful temple. I saw and chatted with Manjusri, but at the time I didn’t understand him. Turning around again, I saw nothing but green mountains and cliffs. Sometime later, he again met manjusri and listened to his Dharma talk. This is quite well known in the Zen School:
Someone who sits quietly for a while is better off than someone who builds as many jeweled pagodas as there are grains of sand along a river. Sooner or later the pagodas will collapse; but a single though from a pure heart is Buddha.
Many people know this quote, but not many know where it came from. It was spoken by Manjusri to Wu-chuo at Mt. Wu-t’ai.
The forms of Avalokitesvara, Manjusri and the other Great Bodhisattvas are not, however, just limited to thirty-two forms. All of the Bodhisattvas can appear in 300 forms, in 3,000 forms, in limitlees forms. someone who reaches the stage of enlightenment can freely move about and take any form he desires, and he can appear anywhere.
According to records, there is a place at Mt. Wu-t’ai in China where Manjusri has appeared frequently. In order to teach Dharma in various ways, he has appeared riding a lion, as an old man, as an emperor, and in numerous other forms. So someone with great faith who goes to Mt. Wu-t’ai and prays fervently may meet Manjusri.
But we don’t have to go to Baoto Island to meet Avalokitesvara, and we don’t have to go to Mt. Wu-t’ai to meet Manjusri. The Buddha said over and over that he would enter nirvana as an expedient to guide sentient beings, and that he was not really dying-he would always be everywhere in the universe to teach the Dharma.
Where is Baoto Island? Your faith is Baoto Island. If your faith is strong, every place you go is Baoto Island. And you don’t have to go to Mt. Wu-t’ai to meet Manjusri. Mt. Wu-t’ai exists in the heart of those with faith. Faith! All you have to do is to meditate and to pray with this deep faith. Then you can see Avalokitesvara, you can meet Manjusri, and you can see Buddha.

The Word of the Spirit

(Dharma Lecture, October 30, 1981, Haein-sa)

For hundreds, even thousands of years, man has been debating the issue of the existence of a spirit. Yet the issue is still unresolved. Many scholars, philosophers and religious people have argued for the existence of a spirit while others have argued against it. And the arguing continues even to this day.
No matter where you look in Buddhist Sutras, whether Theravadin or Mahayanin, you will find the Buddha’s words on the continuing cycle of birth and death, reincarnation. According to this teaching, which is central to Buddhist thought, death as we know it is not the end. One is reborn again in another form according to ones karma.
The question is, how valid is this teaching? In the modern academic community, many are claiming that a spirit which experiences this cycle of birth and rebirth cannot be explained. And even if a spirit could be explained, how could there be such a thing as reincarnation? Additionally, some people argue that the Buddha used this concept of reincarnation as an expedient even though there is no such thing. They consider reincarnation as an educational means to get people to modify their behavior.
On the other hand, science is becoming increasingly interested in the non-material, the world of the psyche. And with developments in this area, more scholars are beginning to believe that there is a spirit, that there is reincarnation, and that the principle of cause-and-effect works on the psychological or spiritual level.
So if there is this cycle of reincarnation, of endless cause-and-effect, how are we supposed to behave in order to be released from the cycle? I’d like to talk about this subject today. Understanding reincarnation is essential to your understanding of Buddhism, and when you come to understand this thoroughly as a follower of the Buddha, you will have the proper attitude in your own personal life, in teaching Buddhism, and in attaining your own enlightenment. Many scholars, scientists and researchers throughout the world today are trying to uncover the mysteries which surround this concept of, or belief in, reincarnation. And they are finding increasing evidence to support this. The method that is gaining the most credence through impartial observation is that of previous life recollection. One of the most interesting discoveries is that of two- or three-year-olds who volunteer information about their former lives. And research into the information given proves them right. Let me give you an example.
About 25 years ago in southern Turkey, there was a child named Ismail. His family ran a butcher shop. One evening, at the age of about a year-and-a-half, Ismail was lying down with his father when he suddenly told his father that he was going to run away. He claimed that his real home was in a neighboring village and that his name was not Ismail.
The child then told his father that he had been the owner of the orchard in that village, but that he had died at the age of 50. His wife couldn’t bear children, so he had remarried, fathered four children, and lived quite well. But one day he had had an argument with a worker in the orchard, and the worker had hit him on the head, killing him. The child said that it happened in the stable, and that when he had screamed, his wife and two of the children came running and the worker killed them, too. The child then said that he had come back to be born in that particular house so that he could go and see the other two remaining children that he missed so much.
The child continued to insist on going to the house with the orchard, but everyone just laughed. And whenever they laughed, he would talk more about his former life. Once his father brought home a watermelon for the family, and he gave the child a big slice, but the child wouldn’t eat it. He said that he wanted to take it to his daughter who used to love watermelon.
Since the village with the orchard was not far away, people from there occasionally came to Ismail’s village. One day the child spotted a man who had come from the village with the orchard and who was seiling ice cream. The child approached the man and identified himself, but the man was at a loss. The child then identified himself further, and said that the man used to sell fruit and vegetables from the orchard. He also  said that he had circumcised the man when the man was a child.
Upon investigation, all the facts were proved correct, and rumors began to spread. But Turkey is an Islamic nation, and the idea of reincarnation is rejected. If someone made claims to it, he could be ostracized from the village. So as rumors spread, everyone tried to keep the child quiet. The more they did this, however, the more the child made a fuss.
Finally, when the child was three, they took him to the house with the orchard in the other village. On the way, the child who had never been to the village kept pointing the way and led everyone right up to the orchard. When they got there, the first wife of the deceased was sitting there, astounded at the sight of a child leeding a large group of people to her. The child called her by name, ran up to her and held on to her. He consoled her about having such a hard life, which baffled her even more. Then the child went on to explain that he had been her former husband, that he had been born again in the other village, and that he had come to see her.
Then the child saw the deceased man’s children, and calling them by name, ran to them and hugged them as a parent would. The people then took the child to the stable, and he asked about his favorite horse, a brown one, which was nowhere to be seen. He then inquired about the former workers, one by one and by name, and he described them exactly in terms of age, where they came from, and so forth. Everyone was astonished.
This soon became an international event of sorts, and when the child was six, in the year 1962, a team of scholars, scientists and other experts was formed for an investigation. There were so me Japanese scholars on this team, and there was something which convinced them thoroughly of the validity of the claims. Evidently before the man was killed, he had loaned some money but the borrower had never paid it back. The borrower was called in for an interview.
Upon seeing the man, the child said that on such-and-such a date he had loaned the man a certain amount of money. He wanted to know why the man hadn’t paid it back to his remaining family. Upon investigation, the date of the loan and the amount of money were both exact, and the somewhat embarrassed man paid it back on the spot. No one had known about the loan at the time except the two men involved, so there was no way that this child could have known about the loan, the date or the amount. The investigators were convinced of the validity of the case, and the final report confirmed all findings.
There are innumerable documented cases throughout the world, cases such as this story of Ismail. Let me tell you about a couple of others.
Just a few years ago in Sri Lanka, there was a set of twins aged three years and seven months, twins who kept talking about their former lives. An investigative team took the twins to the village where they claimed to have lived. A crowd of several hundred had gathered there, and the investigators had intentionally included the people who the children had claimed had been their family in a previous life. They then told the children to pick their family members out of this crowd of hundreds. And the children proceeded to pick out each family member.
There was another case where a three-year-old kept talking about having been a member of a diving team in his former life. When he was asked if he could still dive, he replied that he could, so they took him to a swimming pool where he performed like a professional diver.
There are lots of children nowadays who are geniuses, prodigies, children who are born with an immense amount of conscious knowledge. For example, there are some children who have never been taught to read but who can read just about anything. But no one has and explanation for this phenomenon. In Buddhism, however, we perceive this ability to read something as being left undisturbed from a previous life. You’ve probably had your own flashes of this type of thing―complete familiarity with a place you have never been before, instant attraction or familiarity with someone you’ve met for the first time, or even a special, unexplainable knack for doing something.
But how many people have this capability of former life recall? While most people don’t have any recollections of past lives, some people have very vague recollections and some have very clear recollections. And in recent decades a number of scholars, specialists, researchers and research organizations have been established to investigate the subject. One of the most famous of these researchers was Professor Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia’s Medical College.
Professor Stevenson established a worldwide network so that people everywhere who claimed to have this recollection ability could be investigated and have their claims either confirmed or refuted. Having investigated over 600 people, Stevenson selected twenty representative cases, and published these in a book called Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. This book presented conclusive evidence of the validity of claims made, validity which cannot be refuted, and the book was translated into numerous foreign languages, becoming a major topic of discussion around the world.
In addition to recollection of past lives, there is a phenomenon called transmigration. One of the best known cases took place in China in 1916, with a report appearing in the Shenchon Jihpao Daily on February 2 th of that year.
According to this report, a certain Ts’ui T’ien-hsuan of Shantong-sheng died at the age 32 from an incurable disease. He was uneducated and had worked as a stone mason. On the day of the funeral, noises started coming from inside the coffin. When the family opened up the coffin, the person was alive. The family was both over-joyed and stunned at the same time. The person who came out of the coffin, however, did not recognize any of the family members, and people could not understand the language he spoke. Everyone thought he must be delirious from the tim he had spent in the coffin.
After a few days, the man had recovered considerably but he sitll did not recognize anyone, and people could not communicate with him. Completely frustrated, the man took an inkstone, ink and a brush, and began writing in beautiful Chinese caligraphy. This was man who was illiterate efore he supposedly died.
He wrote, in perfect calligraphy, that he was from Indochina. He had been ill and his mother had covered him with a heavy blanket to make him sweat. The last thing he remembered was going to sleep. And now he was there in quite unfamiliar surroundings.
The mason had in fact died, but the spirit of a man from Indochina had taken over his body. So we can see from this and other examples that forms of reincarnation are many, and they are not restricted to just rebirth from a female womb. This method of moving from one body to another is what we mean by transmigration.
After the man recovered fully, the family began to teach him spoken Chinese. The man, however, kept on insisting on returning to his home in Indochina. The family finally took the man o Beijing University where he underwent psychological examination and received some form of minor treatment, but he was judged normal. The university sent someone to Indochina to investigate the case and to confirm the existence of this man as well as other details concerning his life and death. Everything that the man had claimed was confirmed. It was concluded that in fact he had been reborn in the body of the mason, Mr. Ts’ui. And the story had a happy ending-the man was given a yearly pension from the government!
In psychotherapy, there is also a method for investigating recollections of previous incarnations. Hypnosis has proved very effective in securing informaion on previous lives. This method is called hypnotic regression, a method in which a person is gradually taken backwards in his life under hypnosis. For example, if a person is brought back to the age of ten, he will describe his activities at that time. People will sing songs from early childhood which they have no conscious recollection of, and if brought back to infancy they usually cry a lot. This hypnotic regression has received increasing recognition as a method of unveiling former lives.
In medicine, increasing support is being given to hypnosis as a form of diagnosis. Sometimes people develop diseases or afflictions for which there is no obvious cause; but under hypnotic regression, the cause can often be uncovered. This regression method has also been used in securing information from spies who refuse to give information.
How does this apply to reincarnation? A person is brought back to the age of one through the hypnotic regression method, and the person often cries and kicks a lot as a one-year-old would. The person is then asked under continued hypnosis where he was a year before he was born, and the person begins to tell an entirely different story. He takes on a different time, place, name, address, and sometimes even gender. In psychotherapy, this methodology is referred to as a return to previous existence. And often not to just one previous existence―often to two, three or more previous existences.
Western psychology, on the basis of Freud’s work, divides the human mind into three levels: the conscious, the latent or pre-conscious, and the sub- or unconscious. Freud of course pioneered theories on the unconscious, but it was Sir Alexander Cannon who really did extensive work on the subject. He was knighted in England and he was an outstanding lecturer at institutes in five European nations. Perhaps his greatest contributions were in the investigation of former lives.
Initially, as a scientist, he had denied the validity of both the spirit and reincarnation but using hypnosis as an investigative method, he consistently came across accounts of previous lives through this hypnotic regression process. He brought some people even as far back as the Roman Empire, and much of what he recorded was proved through historical evidence. On the basis of what he collected from a total of 1,382 patients, he published a book, The Power Within, in 1952.
His many findings included cases where the cause of an affliction was uncertain and where the affliction did not respond to treatment. Through hypnotic regression, he could discover the cause and consequently provide a cure. It was obvious to him that the affliction had carried over from former lives.
One interesting example was that of a man who was absolutely terrified of water. He refused to go near the ocean and he would not live near a river. Under hypnosis, the man was taken back to former lives and it was discovered that in one former life he had been an oarsman on a merchant vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. Having committed a crime against one of his mates, he was shackled and tossed into the ocean as punishment. The terror of that event cartied over even into his present life. Based on this information provided through regression, the man was cured of his phobia.
There was another case, that of acrophobia. The man was terrified of going up a high flight of stairs. Under hypnosis it was discovered that he had been a Chinese general in a former life and had fallen from a cliff to his death. So with growing evidence for the theory of reincarnation, greatly aided by the work of Sir Alexander Cannon, former-life therapy has become increasingly widespread internationally. In the October 3, 1977 issue of TlME magazine, there was an extensive article on the subject, and TlME is hardly a magazine to devote space to nonsense. So there is greatly increasing international recognition and acceptance of both reincarnation and former-life therapy.
If there is reincarnation, then, what are its principles? Can you reappear as anybody you want to reappear as? In Buddhism, the basic premise is that good actions reap good effects, and misdoings breed suffering. This law of nature is a universal law and it is a Buddhist law. Based on this law, all you have to do is to look around you: those who planted seeds of retribution in former lives are unhappy or unfortunate one way or another in this life, and those who planted seeds of good are comparatively happy in this life.
In the Lotus Sutra, we find that the Buddha said that if you want to know about your past lives, just look at your present. You are the culmination of everything you have ever been and done. And if you want to look into the future, look at your present―what you are doing now determines your future. In other words, you can tell by the situation in your present life what your past was like, and what you plant today you will reap tomorrow. This law of cause-and-effect is called karma, and the use of this word has proliferated around the world, and increasingly into academic circles.
There is another man who did a great deal in explaining and illustrating this law of cause-and-effect, an American named Edgar Cayce. Cayce did tremendous work with telepathic diagnosis. People from quite far away would send their names and addresses, and based on this information alone, Cayce could diagnose diseases. He also had tremendous healing powers, and treated over 30,000 people. He was able to diagnose people as far away as Europe. He also had such psychic power that he could tell, given a name, what a person in Europe was doing and where he was at that very moment. A simple phone call would confirm his telepathic accuracy.
Cayce knew that a great deal of disease had origins in previous forms of existence. But he was a Christian, and Christianity has refuted reincarnation since it was struck from its dogma at the council of constantinople in 553. This religious conflict was too great for Cayce, and due to his religious beliefs he ceased his work. But the people around him urged him to continue and helped him to reconcile his spiritual/religious convictions with his psycho-academic pursuits.
He finally dispensed with healing and poured himself into investigating former lives. His records cover more than 2,500 cases of former life investigation, and academicians and psychics have been studying these records ever since. Several of Cayce’s publications have been translated into most major languages.
Cayce had a lot to say about cause-and-effect in relation to former lives. One case study was about a couple who had a very unhappy marriage, and upon hypnotic regression, Cayce discovered that in a former life they had been enemies. In some instances, happily married couples were revealed to have had parent-child relationships in former lives. We find this hard to believe, but this is how cause-and-effect can work.
There would be no problem if we could just recall former lives, but the average person can’t. However, I think that as more and more scientists become involved in this field of investigation, the more likely they are to agree with the Buddha’s Teachings on cause-and-effect and reincarnation. According to the Teachings, an overly greedy person who ridicules and looks down upon others will return as an exceedingly short person. And one former life investigation confirmed this. So we have another reason to respect and to look up to other people no matter who they may be.
I think there is already sufficient evidence today to support the Buddha’s Teachings of cause-and-effect in terms of reincarnation, but we can expect the volume of material on these subjects to grow rapidly in the future. As Buddhists, however, we do not have to rely on contemporary scientific evidence for our convictions. As Buddhists, we accept the Teachings of the Buddha.
It is important for Buddhists to realize that they should not reject this or that Teaching just because they don’t quite understand it. The fact that you don’t understand it is your shortcoming, not the Buddhas. So through your own experience you should try to come to understand the meanings of the Teachings fully.