- Born in Seo Chon, Chung Cheong Namdo-province in Dec. 1, 1927
- Entered the Buddhist monkhood under Baik Cho Sunim`s teaching in Su Duk Sa in
- Became the abbot of Su Dok Sa 1970
- Became one of 5th, 7th, and 8th members of Administrative Committee of Chogye
- The Resident Master from 1989 till present
- Vice President of Elder committee members of Chogye Order, Now
- "Peace comes from the harmony of Human & Nature." -
- "Where is your home?" -
- "The whole world is a single flower." -
All of these are Man Gong Sunim`s sayings and I have kept them as a kong-an my whole life. Same as in the olden days, even now, the only way to find peace is to look inside, not outside. This is the only way to reach the truth in Buddhism. Try to find enlightenment in everyday life. Do not seek outside. All wandering and suffering come from attachment. Put it all down.
As we begin the New Year, everybody is full of wishes and hopes.
New year comes every year but we always expect something special. I don`t mean that wishes and hopes are wrong. Only I mean that we as humans must find our true selves. We must endeavor to find our true selves if we want something to change in the New Year.
What is this? What am I? With this question we become stuck. We don't know.
Only don`t know is the real "I". Keeping don`t know is zen.
Like the old zen masters, we sit to attain enlightenment. Not depending on words, a special transmission outside the sutras. This is zen. Not clinging to letters, finding the truth inside letters, mind is transmitted.
Don`t be deceived by hallucinations and illusions. Find the real Buddha inside and follow it. People talk about happiness the same as we crave the air within the air. It is an old saying that after wandering a long time in despair looking for happiness, someone found real Spring after seeing a cherry blossom hanging over the wall upon returning home. We are searching for a truth outside that we already have inside. Enlightenment does not come from far away, it is already in our mind.
When I was 12 years old, Kyung Sung Sunim, my aunt, was at Kum Soen Am hermitage at Su Dok Sa. I went there to see my aunt and became a monk. For me, in my youth, the temple looked like the best place to live and the monks seemed to live virtuously. So I became a monk after coming here and seeing my aunt and the Great Zen Master Man Gong.
At our first meeting, Man Gong Sunim, the old monk with white hair asked me, "Where is your home?"
"I came from Seo Chon, Chung Choeng Nam do-province."
"Where does Seo Chon come from?"
"It comes from Seo Chon."
He laughed and said. " I don't ask about your body's home. I ask about your mind's home." So I realized that was a deep question and I have kept it as my own kong-an ever since. Finding where we come from, finding our true self is finding the truth of Buddhism. If you want to know Buddhism correctly, first of all you must find yourself. Same as in olden days, the only way to find peace is to reach inside. It is the way to find our real home. It is the truth in Buddhism. But people crave something outside and do not look inside.
That is a pity.
I started Haeng Ja Training at Chun Jang Sa Temple whose leader was Zen Master Kyong Ho. One day when I had the job of cutting vegetables in the kitchen,
Baek Cho Sunim called me inside and said, "Zen Master Man Gong wants you to be his attendant. Serve him well." After this, I climbed to Jeon Wol Sa Hermitage.
I respected Man Gong Sunim so much and eagerly wanted to attend him well, so I treated him as I would the Buddha. I remember those times well.
Occasionally some students come to ask how to study. It reminds me of those days when I carried the question, "Everything comes from one thing, then where does the one thing come from?" I was curious about that kong-an so much. One day a monk visited Zen Master Man Gong to ask for a kong-an. I stopped working to listen from the kitchen. Man Gong Sunim said. "One day a monk asked Zen Master Jo Ju, `Everything comes from one thing. Where does the one thing come from?' But I'd rather ask you differently. Everything comes from one thing. What is it?" After the student left, I went inside and said to him, "I want to practice zen from now on. Give me a kong-an." He gave me one and smiled. "Do your best."
After that I attempted doing zen only. One day I descended to Su Dok Sa Temple. One monk gave me a biography of Buddha (Eight Stories of Shakyamuni`s life). Zen Master Man Gong didn't allow the students to read books. When I was reading secretly in the room behind, he suddenly opened the door, looked at me and then went away silently. I knelt in front of him and apologized. "Are you said to be enlightened? The dog down the hill will be enlightened instead. You will not be enlightened. You'd better recite mantra to make better karma." I wanted to die with despair. I felt a great anger inside and a big question arose in me. Always he used to say " Great question is necessary for zen." So I felt I'd rather die if I could not be enlightened. So I really wanted to sit or die. I sat in the back room of Jun Won Sa Temple and determined I would die if I fall into sloth during sitting.
And I would not die if I didn't. If you determine to believe in Buddhism, then you should try to crave the truth desperately in retreat and concentrate in your everyday life.
When I received a draft notice for the Japanese colonization army, I asked Man Gong Sunim what to do . Man Gong Sunim said," In the near future the Japanese colonization will be ended, so it would be better if you go to Kan Wol Do island and pray for our national independence for1000 days." After finishing the retreat I heard about the end of the Japanese occupation and our independence. At that time, Zen Master Man Gong picked up a rose of Sharon, put it into black ink and wrote "The whole world is a single flower." This meant you and I, the sun and the moon, the air and the water all come from one thing, the same root. People in the world are struggling with anguish, horror and unequality. All the animals and living things in the sky, on the earth, and under the water demand peace. We should remember that all the people and nature come from the same point. When we return to that root, we make harmony with all people and with nature, then we get peace. The philosophy " the whole world is a single flower" must be handed down to the next generation of our whole world.
Just before entering Nirvana, Man Gong Sunim made his last speech. "Even when you can`t hear my voice anymore, you should be able to see my true face which never disappears." Man Gong Sunim was one of the greatest persons with great humanism, true Nature and empty mind. Emptiness is always empty; it neither appears nor disappears. He never declared anything for himself, attached to nothing and so he was free from appearing and disappearing, from life and death. How nice and great he was! After enlightenment, there is no thinking and no mind left. One doesn`t attach to hearing or seeing but only does sincerely what one should do. See clearly, hear clearly, drink clearly, talk clearly without attachment. That we call Buddha. Zen Master Bodhidharma said, "Inside put it all down, and outside put down all causation." Put it all down.
One time when Buddha was walking calmly in meditation, one Brahma brought him flowers. Buddha said "Put it down." With his saying this, the Brahma put down the flower in his right hand. Buddha said again "Put it down." Now the Brahma put down the flower in his left hand. But Buddha said "Put it down" once more. Now the Brahma only stood there stupidly. He had nothing to put down. But Buddha wished to take away all his conceptions, ideas, prejudice and all his thought. Our lives are the same. We never think that we are impermanent. We want to live forever with lust, hatred, delusion and ignorance. But when the four elements of our bodies scatter and our eyesight falls down, what is left?
All the living things live like this. It is like night flies flying into the fire or a person sneaking a knife covered with the honey. Everything is an illusion disappearing easily when we look closely. We are struggling endlessly wandering in illusion and suffering. The only answer from Buddha is
"Put it all down."
If you really want to know the real meaning of life, then you should put it all down. Then your real truself will appear.
I followed Haeng Ja training for 5 years. Lots of monks wanted me to be their disciple, but I didn`t accepted. " I have a good teacher already in mind."
But one day Zen Master Man Gong called me, "You should pick your teacher now.
I think Baik Cho Sunim is good for your teacher." I was ordained a Samini (novice monk) by Baik Cho Sunim. Of course Man Gong Sunim played the role of witness.
My teacher Baik Cho Sunim was strong and worked conscientiously so he < accomplished much for the temple. Also he was clear in zen. He did working meditation everyday as Back Jang Zen Master did in a long time ago.
Man Gong Sunim was my teacher in Dharma, Baik Cho Sunim was my teacher in monk's life. After Man Gong Sunim died, I wandered around the country during some years. I met Zen Master Kyung Bong in Guk Rak Am Zen Center.
"Where did you come from?"
"From Dok Sung mountain."
"Who is your teacher?'
"Man Gong Zen Master."
"What did he show you?"
I stood holding up two fists and said. "That's it. Do you have it too?" He laughed and told me to sit down.
We are Buddha; there is no Buddha outside. So we should find our trueself as Buddha did. Trusting ourselves is trusting in Buddha. To the non-duality of Buddha and ourselves is the beginning and ending of life.
translated by y.j.choi