One time Un Mun Zen Master was visiting the capital city. Because of his fame as a teacher, a high government offical wanted to meet with him. During the audience the offical asked, “What is the meaning of the Hwa Yen Sutra?”
Un Mun said, “Putting that aside for a moment, what is the meaning of ‘sutra’?”
“The cover is gold and the inside is white,” was the minister’s reply.
“You only understand the form of the sutra; you don’t understand its meaning.” The minister was completely stuck.
Recently, at the Centennial of the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, the Dalai Lama gave a speech in which he said that the true basis of the ecumenical movement is spiritual attainment. True understanding of another’s religion can only come from first attaining the meaning of your own religion; not just understanding it. Ritual and theology may be important but what’s most important is what’s inside the fancy robes. If the inside is real, then cooperation is possible.
Zen Master Seung Sahn, too, emphasizes attainment over understanding. Often he will say that a lot of people understand the bible or the sutras, but very few people understand the “behind meaning”–they have not attained the meaning. Zen is a special transmission outside the sutras, not dependent on words or speech. One familiar metaphor concerning this situation is that the various religions are like fingers pointing at the moon. Unfortunately, human beings spend much of their energy finger wrestling, rather than helping our world.
When Su Bong Zen Master was just starting to practice Zen, he was very interested in the story of the Sixth Patriarch’s enlightenment. The Sixth Patriarch got enlightenment upon hearing one line being recited from the Diamond Sutra. Zen Master Su Bong was very interested in this one line, and one day took the sutra into Zen Master Seung Sahn’s room to ask him about it. Pointing to the book, he asked, “What does this mean?” Zen Master Seung Sahn said, “Bring it closer. What line are you pointing to?” Just as Zen Master Su Bong brought the book close, Zen Master Seung Sahn slammed the book on his finger–POW!–and shouted, “What are you?!”
So, if you were the government minister and Un Mun asked you, “What is the meaning of ‘sutra’?” how could you answer?
By Zen Master Dae Kwang
Hard training….. very difficult!
Beginner’s training……. not difficult
Don’t make difficult; don’t make easy.
Not only a hundred days….. whole life bullshit!
Attain bullshit; whole universe, wonderful monastery.
A single thought? Big mistake
Clack, clack clack, clack…. the typewriter
This past Spring, Providence and Cambridge Zen Centers were host to a reporter from a Korean Buddhist and Culture Magazine. You can find the original article here.
Cambridge Zen Center:
Between Harvard University and MIT, Cambridge Zen Center is a place where many people gather to learn and practice Zen Buddhism. Currently, there are 52 residents living at the Zen center. Built in 1973 by students of the late Zen Master Seung Sahn, CZC has provided a space to people who genuinely wish to practice together. Located in the center of metropolitan area, many people from different walks of life
Everyday begins with 108 bows and ends with a short meditation period:
At the Cambridge Zen Center, both monks and laypeople are required to participate in the daily practice. Sitting, bowing, chanting, kong-an interviews, and work period are all part of our daily practice. Despite the busy schedule of each individual, it is important for residents to keep in mind the importance of practice and why they need to practice everyday.
Thich Huey Ji is a Vietnamese-American monk who studies psychology at Harvard University. Instead of living in the dorms, Huey Ji sunim has chosen to live in the Zen center. He said it has helped him understand not only Korean Buddhism but also the culture and history.
Harvard Professor who has been living at CZC for seven years: After completing her Ph.D in philosophy at the University of Chicago, Professor Choi Bomi is a professor at Harvard University. Having lived at CZC for seven years, she says she is still not ready to leave the Zen center. “Usually one would think that for someone who has completed her Ph.D, she has understood everything and is ready to be independent. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that it is through meditation that this world can be understood.”
Importance of Living Together:
Zen Master Bon Haeng is the Abbot of the Cambridge Zen Center and Providence Zen Center. He met Zen Master Seung Shan in 1970 and received inka in 2000. In regards to practice, he encourages all practitioners to bow. The reason is because he believes it to be the fastest way for the mind and the body to become one. “The most important aspect of our practice is to be able to put it down,” he says. Like his teacher, Zen Master Bong Haeng encourages his students to live together in Zen centers where they can derive strength and support from each other’s continuing practice. The regular schedule of practicing, eating and working together acts as a backdrop for seeing our karma appear and disappear. We use the analogy of washing potatoes together in a big pot of water. As the potatoes bump into one another, they clean each other more quickly and efficiently than if each potato was cleaned individually. In the Zen center, we can see clearly how our opinions create problems by coming between us and the situation that we find ourselves in. When we let go of these opinions it is possible to live our every day lives with clarity and harmony. As we learn to cooperate, to see clearly and to accept people and situations as they really are, our minds become strong and wide. Then it becomes possible to act harmoniously and help other people with no trace of ourselves. His eldest daughter who is a web designer living in New York is thankful to her dad for giving her the experience to live in the Zen center.
All residents are required to participate in the daily practice, as well as the monthly retreats held at the Zen center.
Eligibility for community living
Zen Center, you want to live more than twice that anyone taking four days devoted to training experience valor must, meditation, public security check, leading to the prayer should be fully involved in the program performed. Zen master or person in charge there also should be checked with the interview. Even after a short geojuman will be accepted. Practitioners move you until the full and thorough preliminary education in the United States, the most respected could become a training center. Cambridge Zen Center, especially the schools, including Harvard and Boston University. Close ties with other Zen groups is in a position to lead. Justice Department at the University of Bonn, Boston Zen teaches, writing activities, plus some other Zen master in the sharing of community college classes, etc.
The next day Kannon Zen Bonn International School Zen Master and their (Kwanum Zen School) in Providence chongbonsain Zen Center, headed by. Sung by the monks there, the first Buddhist South Korea introduced the Varadero. The first start the 1972 in the state of Rhode Island, Providence was So the name omgyeoon keombeoraendeuro will continue to go after. A place where I emigrated in 1979, ranging from 200,000 to 2,342 ㎡
Bearing the Main Menu is a mountain-minded. 25 minute to the center of Providence, Boston, even an hour away by car everything. Kannon Zen school in the Gregorian calendar celebrates the Buddha’s day. In the first week of May found more than 10 people there. Only family members were Zen Center bangmungil everyone else in the western region is naseotgi.
Providence Zen Center:
Providence Zen Center was the first Zen center built in America by Zen Master Seung Sahn and his students. Built in 1972, PZC occupies more than 202,342m of land in the outskirts of Cumberland, Rhode Island. The location provides ample space for practitioners wanting to do Zen practice or solo retreats and also to group rentals wishing to hold yoga sessions or workshops. As the head temple of the Kwan Um School of Zen, many events and gatherings are held throughout the year for the teachers and the sangha to come together and bond
A Space Beyond Religion:
Providence Zen Center is a place where people from different walks of life can come together to practice. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to be here. Father Kevin Hunt has been the guiding teacher for the Christian-Buddhist retreats. He has been a monk since 1953 and has been holding Christian-Buddhist retreats for many years. He believes that meditation is not restricted to religion. Meditation techniques can be a big help to daily living, he says. People come here not only to learn about Korean Buddhism or Zen. They come here in order to put things down. As Robin says, “If you ask me what I’ve attained, I don’t know. But I feel much at peace and happier!”
The Dharma Chicks have begun to lay. PZC recently purchased 10 hybrid pullets. Pullets are young hens ready to begin laying. Our pullets are a cross between Rhode Island Reds and the high-strung White Leggins; both breeds are excellent layers. We had found one egg yesterday and another this morning. This has generated a great deal of excitement at the Center. Each find has been followed by “Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!” by delighted Sangha members.
What determines the size of the egg is the chicken’s age. The older the hen, the larger the eggs. Pullet eggs are small but will increase in size as the chickens get older. The chicks that were purchased two months ago, also of the same hybrid breed, are doing well. They have been integrated into the flock and the chicks and their big sisters peacefully share the same coop.
Our Garden Master, David Barstis, has been collecting grubs from the Zen Garden for the chickens. In turn we have been cleaning out the coop at regular intervals and putting the spent hay in the big compost pile outside the garden. This will breakdown into soil that will fertilize our organic garden. Scott Beck, another Sangha member, has been mowing the lawn and depositing the grass clippings which are then dried and used for bedding for the chicks. Chong Yew, our Kitchen Master, has been saving vegetable scraps and stale bread for the hens.
The chicken gate is opened in the afternoon to give the chickens the opportunity to free range. This saves some on purchased food, makes healthier and better tasting eggs and the chickens love the freedom. One chickens was cheerfully standing on a rock and picking leaves from a bush. Others were neck-high in the tall weeds near the fence. As the sun gets low in the sky, the chickens begin to move closer and closer to the chicken yard. Once the sun is down, the chickens will walk into the yard, climb the ramp and enter the coop. The chickens have returned home to roost.
-Diana Starr Daniels, PZC Resident
Thank you to Diana Daniels, Darlene Demers, and Theresa Murphy for tending our new flock of chickens. The chickens are settled in to their new home and passing their days munching contentedly on greenery, bugs, and whatever else they find in the orchard. As of yesterday five of the older ones have begun laying! Thanks to Diana for tending our bees, to Darlene for organizing our upcoming yard sale, and to Theresa for re-arranging the artwork around PZC. Also, Theresa’s friend Jean Encontreau has volunteered to help us frame some of the unframed art we’ve had in storage and is giving us free leftover framing material (Jean owns a framing business in Omaha) as well as any materials she has to buy at cost. Thanks once again to the Alternative Market in North Attelboro for generously allowing us to purchase bulk organic foods for the Zen Center at cost. Learn more about the Alternative Market here. Thanks to Doug Walsh for his ongoing weekly volunteer time on Wednesdays, and for joining the management team at PZC as vice abbot. Thanks to Edith Lebowitz for continuing her work of sewing robes for PZC. Thanks to Pete O’Connell for his regular visits to PZC to help with electrical work that needs done around the place. Thank you Chong Yew Heng, our kitchen master, for volunteering to teach calligraphy classes at PZC. Thanks to resident Scott Beck for cutting the grass and volunteering in the office. Last but not least, thanks to Robin Hoffman for her work on the Providence Zen Center newsletter and thanks to any volunteers who we overlooked: please remind us if you’ve been left out so we can express our gratitude in the next newsletter!
Providence Zen Center always has numerous opportunities for volunteering! If you enjoy cooking, you can volunteer for the Wednesday night community dinner, either as a head cook or as an assistant to the cook. People with any level of skill in carpentry, painting, electrical, plumbing, flooring installation, or any other construction related skills can be helpful in helping with the maintenance and improvement of the Zen Center buildings. Folks are welcome to work in the garden or grounds throughout the summer. Our office staff welcomes volunteers to help with filing, data entry, and other office tasks. Or if you have a skill which isn’t listed here which you feel would be of use to the Zen Center, we’re always open to suggestions for ways our members might be able to contribute to PZC. We’re grateful for any amount of help any of our members can give us: it would be impossible to keep this place running smoothly without many hours of dedicated work from members and friends of the Zen Center. Contact the PZC director at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting connected with volunteer opportunities here at the Zen Center. The more we work together to help our community, the more it can fulfill its role as a place where people can come together and support each other in this work of understanding our lives and using this understanding to foster clear direction: helping this world.
Welcome to our new Summer resident Eddie Wisdom! Eddie is a regular at Open Meadow Zen Center who has been volunteering at the Providence Zen Center over the past several months. He will be doing a few weeks of work study at PZC before Summer kyolche. He’s handy with a chainsaw, so he’s been helping us get stocked up on firewood to heat the abbot’s house this Winter. Also, welcome to our new residents, Scott Beck and Steve Smith! Scott moved to PZC from NYC in early May, and Steve moved in early June from Providence. We’re happy to have them both joining our residential community at PZC. Also, a warm farewell to Robin Hoffman, who moved from PZC to an apartment in Providence with her son Alex the end of June. We will miss her, but we are happy we will continue to see her regularly at PZC when she is leading practice on Friday nights, and at Wednesday evenings and retreats.
From a talk at the Seoul International Zen Center
Question: Recently I saw a calligraphy of yours in the U.S. which said, “Freedom from family karma.” What does this mean? Why is this important?
Zen Master Seung Sahn: The basis of the family is emotion. Emotional connections make the family. But, emotion and love are different. Emotion means opposites feeling: like/dislike, good/bad, mine/yours. Love means there are no opposites–only giving, giving, giving–always giving.
Understanding is in our head; emotions are in the heart. Our center–the tantien–is just below the navel. If you keep all your energy there, then you can digest your understanding and your emotions. Emotions are then changed into great love and great compassion. Also, your understanding then becomes wisdom. So, when your center becomes strong you can control your feelings, your condition, and your situation. When these become clear, then our true job appears: help all beings. That’s the great bodhisattva way.
One of the Met Students’ projects was to build bluebird nesting boxes. PZC provides an ideal habitat for bluebirds. They like open fields and water away from human traffic. Bluebirds eat bugs, which makes our Garden Master David Barstis very happy. The population of bluebirds has dropped significantly due to loss of habitat, pesticides and competition from other species of birds. The Eastern Bluebird is indigenous to this area, and quite shy. Birds that were introduced from abroad are more aggressive and have out competed them. The Bluebird population has dropped significantly and, at one point, was 17% of its original numbers.
The Met students, who intern at the Center, carefully followed the directions for building and locating the nesting boxes. The teenagers were delighted to learn we now have a mated pair of bluebirds that have moved in. Papa bluebird was observed lighting on his nesting box this morning. Plans are in the works to build more nesting boxes and create a bluebird trail.
A Bluebird Trail is a series of nesting boxes located at regular intervals along a path. We were not optimistic that we would attract the bluebirds as we had been told by other members of the KUSZ that it is difficult to attract them, even with the right habitat. With having a nesting pair the first year, we now feel a Bluebird Tail is feasible. Met students Eugenio DaCosta and Austin Perez have brought good karma with them and we can now remove the “for rent” sign.
-Diana Starr Daniels, PZC Resident
Primary Point: Why do you, as a Zen Master, bother to compose poems?
Zen Master Seung Sahn: For you. [laughter]
PP: When you compose your poems, do you actually write using “beautiful language”?
ZMSS: No. This moment appears, then compose a poem. Not checking situations, and not making anything.
PP: In your teaching, you say that people suffer from word sickness, so word medicine is necessary. Would you describe how you use language in your poetry?
ZMSS: Simple! Only whatever situation comes up or appears! Any style of writing is OK. You know, Korean, Japanese, English, any kind of writing, but most importantly, only what appears.
PP: This seems too simple. I love reading your poetry because it allows me to connect to this moment, so what if I was to say to you, “I love your poems; they are so beautiful,” what would you say to me in response?
ZMSS: I don’t care! [much laughter]
PP: Of course. In your teaching you often talk about candy, something that gives us a good feeling. So a Zen Master’s words can sometimes be candy and sometimes hooks. Is there candy in your poems? Are there hooks?
ZMSS: Yes, sometimes candy and sometimes hooks appear in my poems, but realize that I don’t create candy or hooks in these poems. They are written, with no intention, only for all of my students.
PP: What happens in your mind when you read or hear other peoples’ poetry?
ZMSS: I don’t check other peoples’ poetry. The mind with which I read other’s poetry is only a practicing mind, so the meaning appears. Then I only comment.
PP: So, what is the best way to read your poems so that I may learn your teaching?
ZMSS: Put it all down, everything! Then my mind and your mind can connect.
PP: That’s not so easy. Is poetry Zen? Does true poetry manifest Zen mind?
ZMSS: Zen mind, poetry mind, writing mind, practicing mind, all are not different.
November in Warsaw
Fifty people together in one room.
Sitting Zen for three days.
Try mind. Bread
And potatoes and onions.
Fifty people eating together.
Get energy. Find the true way.
What is the true way?
Don’t know? Primary point?
Someone appears. Hits the floor.
But is that the true way?
November in Warsaw.
The sky is dark.
Fifty faces are shining.
(from Bone of Space by Zen Master Seung Sahn)
PP: So would you say it is better to write poems or to talk about poems?
ZMSS: If you see clearly, hear clearly, and smell clearly, then everything is clear. So, right now… what appears? People talk about how one poem is this and another poem is something else. This is making something.
PP: So, only read the poem, then [claps hands] cut off all thinking, and then only what appears in this moment is all that is necessary?
ZMSS: Yes. It’s very simple. For example, in my poetry book Bone of Space, when I traveled around Europe, for each city I visited I wrote a poem. If you read these poems you will understand the situation, condition and relationships that existed during that trip — how I connected to each country, each city, and how I understood these cities. Something would appear, and I would make a poem. This is not special; in writing poetry, I only see clearly, hear clearly, smell clearly, and think clearly. My thinking is clear, not checking anything. just think clearly, then make your poem.
PP: In the west there is a rhyming poetry style, or in Japan there is Haiku, which is limited to 17 syllables. These are poetic structures, but it appears to me that Zen poetry has no structure. Is this correct?
ZMSS: Yes, that is correct.
PP: So, whatever appears we write it down?
ZMSS: Haiku poets only follow Japanese style. This style is very tight and many people are attached to its form. Zen means, don’t attach to name and form. Perceive everything. Don’t attach to the particular country, people, forms, situations, or conditions — only become one. Then some idea will appear; that’s the poem. That’s it, OK? My poetry does not make anything. It’s the result of seeing clearly, hearing clearly, and thinking clearly.
A long time ago in Japan, there was a well-known region called Matsushima. Matsushima is a place by the ocean, with mountains, rivers, trees, and flowers. Matsushima inspired many beautiful poems. At one time the famous Zen Master and poet named Basho decided to visit. When Basho saw the beauty of this place he wrote this poem:
Three clear lines! This is a very famous poem. Only Matsushima is Matsushima — it is very simple. That is the most important point. This is great Zen poetry.