- Was born in Ulsan, Kyung Sang Nam-do province in 1923
- Became a monk under Sung Ahm sunim`s teaching in 1944
- Was the abbot of Chogye-sa and Hae In-sa temple
- Was the chairmonk of the committee of the Chogye Order, 1981
- Is a member of the elder Committee of the Chogye Order
- Living and practicing in a private residence in Ham Yang
I became a monk when I was 19 years old, ju boy by myself.
What does it mean "by myself?" It means I visited many temples to find a good teacher by myself before I became a monk. When I was 17 years old, I was determined to be a monk, like Won Hyo sunim.
Among my neighbors, there were lots of confucianists, and when I asked them, they said they thought that the greatest man was Won Hyo sunim.
So he was my first teacher.
But I came from a family of confuciusist, so I couldn`t express my determination. But two years later after my father died, I started to persuade my elder brother in order to get his permission. So I left home, leaving a memorandum in which I wrote that I would not return until I obtained enlightenment.
First of all I started to look to a good teacher like Won Hyo. But I couldn`t find one . At last, keeping my patience, I was no longer in front of Pum U-sa temple with wearing tattered clothes. Considering the common people`s living situation in those days, the monks` seemed to be living too luxurious a life style. That`s why I was compelled to shout in front of the gate.
"I want to see a great monk." One monk came and saw me. "Why do you want to see a great monk." he asked. "Why does the monk`s life look so luxurious ? The people outside live very hard, I wanted to ask him." With this comment he stood staring without speaking. Later I found he was the great monk, Dong san zenmaster. With this meeting he guided me to study zen at Chogye hermitage where Won Hyo had practiced. Three years had passed before I became a monk.
One day Sung Ahm sunim, my teacher asked me." Why do you live like this?"
"I want to be a great man but I haven`t found a good man to teach me yet." He answered. " In the old days there was no great one without learning. So you`d better start learning the letters from me ." I started to learn "The book for the beginners" I remembered I finished the words in 2 days and after that I mastered the book in 3 days. He asked me to read that book 100,000 times for 49 days. So I did. After that I felt I knew something. Also I read The Sutra of Thousand Eyes and Hands 100,000 times, too.
" These efforts can move the sky." It is true. `
I became a monk by Sung Ahm sunim`s instruction. I continued my practice until the date of the National Independence . After the Independence, I went to Hae In-sa temple.
There was Hyo Bong sunim, Chung Dam sunim, Gu Sahn sunim, and In Gok sunim in Hae In -sa temple. The monks in Hae In-sa temple let me (I brought Sung Ahm sunim`s letter) work in the kitchen. I rejected to work in the kitchen. I insisted on studying in a zen center. Hyo Bong, who I was guided to, said to me . "You are very impudent! You should learn to put down yourself." "Before that I should learn to put me up." With my ardor he permitted me to go inside the meditation room, Tae Kuk Dang. He said to me, "In 7 days you should be enlightened.
After 6 days I could reach some kind of realm. "There is neither the wrong wisdom nor the wrong path." About this Hyo Bong said " It`s not enough." I visited and interviewed him many times with my idea. Whoever wants to find truth, should keep an ardent spirit. It is Dharma Combat. This is the partitioner`s manner. Just sitting is not enough.
If you open your mind, everything in the wold is good and true. If you open your eyes, the wood, and the stone can teach you the true way. Everything is true and, whoever gives you pain, can be an angel. Without an enemy no one can be strong.
"Hit the nail when it is hot" This means we should have great courage, great faith, and great question when we practice. Just the same as the man who must be a good carpenter if he wants to build a good house.
In the case where he wants to learn he should see a good teacher first.
So If you find the true way, then you should meet the eminent master first.
In a Dharma meeting at Hae In-sa Hyo Bong suddenly shouted, "Manjuri, make the soup with Buddha and offer my students today." After few minutes later he asked us ,"How is the soup?" No one could answer. Hyo Bong shouted. "You, scoundrel. Haven`t you eaten the soup, yet?" I was at the end of the line, stood and asked, "How did you taste the soup, Hyo Bong?"
Hyo Bong was one of the greatest teachers of that day. With such courage that I showed, we can come face to face with danger , fight with teachers and kill the Buddha.
The enlightenment is much higher than the knowledge we can imagine.
This is the way the eminent teachers go . This way goes further and higher.
So practitioners should go straight with a spirit like a lion.
This spirit starts with the mind of putting oneself down. When I was 23 years old, I was walking long the street, a little boy laughed at me." Look at that funny monk" Just before I proud enough to be enlightened. But no one knew me. With this little boy`s mocking, I was surprised. " He made fun of me. What am I?" I went to the mountain_ and practiced for 3 years with this question. " What am I?" That time , really I was curious about myself and felt everything in the world was so precious.
Once there was a lady in Pusan. This lady felt ashamed about herself, so she didn`t take any meals at the temple. She always thought for others not herself, and put down herself thoroughly. After she died, there were relics left after the cremation. She used to sit at the corner of the dharma room at the meeting, and bowed a lot. She repented everyday and always helped others.
The mind of putting oneself down is the motive power, curiosity, concentration and belief is the way of practitioners.
As a Buddhist everyone knows the first precepts among five. But most people understand it as only to prohibit killing anything, even an insect or a fly. But just that is not enough. Buddha`s teaching is based on "free from arising and passing." So the first precept, abstinence from killing means transcending the "arising and passing."
I am over seventy and reaching into my eighties.
A human-being grows old after sixty but fruits grow mature after three months in their summer. But even most of the old men, are immature inside. Compared to humans, Nature does not attach itself, it only changes and passes away according to the law of Nature. But humans can`t be matured, they become only disabled and useless. Buddha left home to get supreme security form bondage. After six years of asceticism he received enlightenment, but actually he did this for 500 years of repeated existence. But we want to get some fruition without efforts. Only those who crave and pay all their efforts can get the deliverance of mindfulness.
Let`s be a true practitioner.
Translated by y. j. choi