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
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