Mowa Dharmy

Mistrz Seung Shan Sunim

"We can meet our true selves when we hear the spring rooser crow."

Brief history

  • Born in Sun chon, Pyung Yang-province, in 1927
  • Graduated Pyung Yang Technical High School
  • Graduated department of Buddhism Dong Kuk University
  • Ordained Bikku by Zen Master Ko Bong
  • Completed 10 Retreats after first Summer Retreat at Su Duck-sa Temple
  • Graduated master course, Ma Gok-sa Temple
  • After founding Kwan Um Zen School in Tokyo, he founded over 160 zen centers or schools in over 30 countries
  • Now , one of senior members of Chogye Order

Our country is in the thralls of a huge dilemma. Everyone talks about the national economic crisis whenever they have a chance. Why is this the case? As one of the reasons, we can identify our twisted goal. Too inflated a globalized goal for our situation and the wrong paths we have trodden to reach that goal have led us into a labyrinth. We have imitated the rich European countries because we have had access to some abundant material goods recently. At last we have become greedy.

The statistic fuse-GNP 10,000$-has fired consumption and pleasure to ashes. Now we have to repent. We made a great mistake in believing the statistics 10,000$ to be our reality. Without looking back, imitating the rich countries led us to the illusion that government statistics could be a scale for measuring our happiness. Both the confused people and the government boasting of its success are wrong. No one of us is free from blame for the economic crisis. We all had illusions and greed.

IMF hit us, we who have been wandering in the air, seeking a goal without standing firmly on the ground. Ouch! Chaos. It is time for us to pay attention and to make our true model with insight into our true-selves.

There is a proverb that says, "Whoever falls down to the ground should move forward upon the ground." Also they say that "Bad times are good times." With attention, we can become firmly grounded, and we can make a very good world by managing the crisis skillfully. Everything comes from our minds. If we think of the crisis as hardness or death, then it will lead us to hardness and death.

When I was a student, I was jailed by Japanese policemen in Pyung Yang for some trivial fights with some Japanese students. Being jailed was too much. With a special interest in science, I collected a lot of rare eqipments. That is why they thouht of me as a resistant student for independence.

I learned an important lesson: to pay attention. We can survive if we pay attenton, even facing the tiger`s mouth. I learned that proverb into the bone. Japanese policemen dealt and questioned me as if I were a real resister. I tried to answer every question with much care, considering the risk to my life. Some black market merchants advised me, so I paid attention whenever I was questioned and I understood the crisis. We should see the cause clearly. In Zen we say "seeing" as "insight." We Koreans should have insight and see the cause of economic crisis clearly. Insight means to see through our mind-state. Then we can understand the source of our ailments in our time.

After we have done that, we shlould set up our goals properly. A huge globalrized goal should be adjusted properly. The word "bubble-less" is in fashion these days. Our economy has floated on bubbles, but now it seems to be on the way back to touching to the ground. We should also get rid of every bubble from our minds.

Is it wrong if it is anti-globalization? I think to be Korean is more important than globalization. Our economy, culture and philosophy have changed so rapidly in contact with the global, social-political order, that we have lost our true nationality. We have forgotten we are Korean very easily, by indulging in western culture. We are faced with the dilemma of choosing between Koreanizaion and globalization.

What is Koreanization? It means standing firm supported by our roots in cultural, folk psychology. After that we should grafit modern politics, economy and culture on those roots.

I have made efforts to found 160 schools and zen centers in over 30 countries. If I were a businessman, setting up so many branches to gain dollars, surely I would have performed a distinguished deed for our national wealth. I don`t speak from my pride but for your understanding. I rather speak of the cause for what I have done. After founding Kwan Um Zen School in Tokyo in 1966, I founded many schools and zen centers in Taiwan, America, Western and Eastern Europe, Africa and other Asian countries, and taught their people.

What do you think was the cause? I think my subject, Korean Zen, was the main cause. If my teaching had been the philosophy of Socrates or Spinoza, the result would have failed. Moreover, if it had been science technology or political economies, the result would not have been different.

I, as a Zen practitioner, have carried Korean Zen teaching and propagating throughout the world. Korean Zen is unique to western society. It gives a fresh shock to their devastated minds. That is why I was able to expand the propagating stage during such a long time. The long line of blue-eyed students coming from western society to Korea craving truth still continues. They come here by my efforts and train the same as Korean monks do.

Koreans are distinguished people with an abundant spiritual & cultural heritage and ideas as scientific as those of Europeans. We were deprived of our spiritual heritage through the Japanese colonization, the Korean Civil War and military policy. Before recovering in identity, we are seduced by the sweet poison of Materialism. Thus we haven`t pursued Koreanization or being Korean, but tried to fly higher with the wings of globalization only. Everything has a purpose, and a target. The future of a country has a purpose, too. Then what is our purpose, now? We shouldn`t say it is overcoming IMF. That is a very narrow vision only.

I said, "Whoever falls down to the ground should move forward upon the ground." So, it is our goal to make real Korean enterprises, industries and economic power anchored on a thick and deep root. Of course we have to manage the urgent things correctly, gain dollars and reduce consumption. But we put our goal higher and further. We don`t need to put it too high, but we must prepare for what will come next by stepping out further at the same time.

Even in Buddhism, we should know the purpose and the way further. Why do you believe in Buddhism? We know Buddhism is the enlightening religion very well. Then what do we enlighten? It is knowing what I am ,what has come into this world and will disappear.

Once a monk asked.

"What is Buddha`s teaching?"

"Spring rooster crow."

What is this? How can spring rooster`s crow be the answer to the question of truth? If you hear the rooster crow in spring correctly, then you will know the meaning of life clearly. Buddhism is the enlightening religion. Who listens? I did. How? With ears? Then can the dead hear with their ears, too? No. Then how can you hear the sound? What am I that hears the sound?

We can attain realization by asking the sources one by one. So it is not a strange answer to Buddhism, "spring rooster crow." Even in the rooster`s crow, there is a great and clear meaning of Buddhism. Let`s consider one more example of Dharma Battle.

Once a monk asked Dong-Shan Zen Master, "What is Buddha?" "Three pounds of flax." Another monk asked Un-Mun Zen Master. "What is Buddha?" "Dry shit on the stick." How could they answer this way the question of Buddhism?" How could they refer dry shit on the stick to Buddha? Non-sense. Both the speaker and listener are non-sense. What is non-sense? It is not non-sense, the Buddha or dry shit on the stick. It refers to the ignorance of your and my minds. What is mind? Mind is Buddha.

There is a famous Mazo`s Kong-an. One monk asked Mazo. "What is Buddha?" "Mind is Buddha." "What is mind?" "Buddha is mind." There is no difference between mind and Buddha. Mind is Buddha and Buddha is mind. But there is another answer and another question. He answered, "No mind, no Buddha." What is this without mind or Buddha? There is something depending on neither mind nor Buddha that can become Buddha.

It sounds like word-playing beyond understading. I let you understand Buddhism easily, as in the Kong-an, basic for zen students. Always the questions are the same : "What is Buhha?" But the answers are always different. If you attach to answers forms in words or language, you will not be able to attain the truth. In Japanese Sun is Daiyo. Koreans say Taeyang. But is there any differnce in reality? No. No matter how we call it, in any language, the sun rises and sets.

We should see the human "I" and the truth itself in every phenomenon. Our defilements start from ignorance of the real truth or the true "I" by naming at random. If Buddhism is and enlightened religion, we should know what we will attain, how we will attain it and what we will do after attaining it. Without doing it properly and keeping up with the Joneses ,it will give us only defilements.

The recent crisis has led us to dead end, because we have followed other rich countries without looking into our reality and situation. We, living in the present, should ask ourselves constantly, the same as the zen masters did in olden days,"What is Buddha?" Then we can meet the reality of Buddhism suitable to our situation. If there is no questioning, seeking the truth, there will be no economy, politics, ethics or culture either. Ask, "What is politics?" "What is economies?" as you asked "What is Buddha?" Then we can overcome our present crisis.

translated by yoonjungchoi