How is the examination and seal of approval achieved?
After Patriarch Bodhidharma in Patriarchal Seon, if one looks at what structures the study through the hall sermon or dialogue had progressed through, one can confirm the universal procedures of examination and the seal of approval. The study of Patriarchal Seon passes through the process of mental resolution, consultation questions, investigation, inquiry and seal of approval. The spirit of Patriarchal Seon continued in this way, and Ganhwa Seon passes through the same process.
The mental resolution is the earnest thirst that one would be enlightened and escape all frustrations and without fail become a person of great freedom. Therefore the mental resolution can be the departure point of Seon practice. It is the way of life that has to continue constantly, and is the motive power for achieving the aim.
Consulting questioning means after having made the mind resolute, to find a teacher and request the teaching. It is also called requesting the question. In this way the teacher responds to the questions of the practitioners who come asking of the Dharma, and through various opportune conditions, directly try to show them their minds. Those concrete methods are the sermon and the dialogue. In the process of the sermon and the dialogue, the practitioner through the mediation of language comes to awaken the mind. And according to the case, through the shout or the staff or other direct actions, this was to explode open the original face. If the practitioners, in the process of the teacher¡¯s replies, met with an opportune condition, they were directly enlightened. Such cases were called ¡°enlightened at a word,¡± that is, ¡°enlightened at the end of a word.¡± This corresponds to an excellent person of superior ability.
If the practitioner in the process of consulting and questioning the teacher cannot be enlightened at the end of a word, they will fall into doubt and confusion. In that case, one continues to cherish the doubt about the hwadu presented by the teacher and continues to investigate thoroughly. Such a process is called investigation. When there is no causation with the teacher one has first sought, here the practitioner wanting to resolve the doubt and confusion that is developed in one¡¯s breast, seeks another teacher by going on pilgrimage. In cases that are not so, one serves the teacher and while vigorously practicing, one will gamble one¡¯s life on resolving the questions that are blocking up one¡¯s breast.
Inquiry means the definite discernment of the condition and extent of the practitioner¡¯s enlightenment by the teacher. If the practitioner has gained enlightenment, he seeks the teacher in seeking the seal of approval, and at that time the teacher presents various problems and through the procedure of confirmation determines whether the practitioner¡¯s enlightenment was sound or not. This was called inquiry.
Through the strict procedure of inquiry, if one had conquered the hwadu and the enlightenment was confirmed, the teacher handed down the seal of approval. If one received the seal of approval from the teacher, and the practitioner himself had not a spot of suspicion, and one had definitive, great enlightenment. However, if the practitioner cannot receive the seal of approval from the teacher, he must continue the investigation of the hwadu. This process continues on until the final moment of great enlightenment.