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Dharma Talk by Zen Master Seung Sahn

Posted on Jan 13 , 2012 in Blog

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Cookies and Compassion

Posted on Jan 10 , 2012 in Blog

A woman who goes into a cafe one morning to have a cup of coffee. She’s glad that she brought her bag of cookies along with her. She gets a newspaper, sits down, and starts enjoying the morning. Reading the paper. Picking up a cookie and eating it. Having a sip of coffee. There’s a guy at the counter next to her doing the same thing: having a cup of coffee, reading the paper. He reaches over and takes one of her cookies out of the bag, and she thinks, “That’s kind of strange—he didn’t even ask.” She takes another cookie, and soon he takes another cookie too. They don’t say anything to each other; they just keep reading their papers. Now she’s get­ting kind of annoyed because she really wanted to enjoy her bag of cookies, but every time she takes one, he also takes one shortly afterwards. She’s get­ting more and more annoyed; she can’t believe he doesn’t even say anything. She can’t say anything at this point either, it’s actually become too weird.

Finally it gets down to only one cookie left, and he quite casually, while still not looking up from his newspaper, breaks the cookie in half, eats half, and gently pushes the remaining half toward her. She’s totally enraged at this point and can’t believe somebody could do such a thing. She eats the remaining half cookie, finishes her coffee, throws down the newspaper and leaves the cafe. She gets in her car, reaches in her purse for her glasses, and there’s a bag of cookies there. The same kind she was just eating, in an unopened bag! She’s stunned. Her angry mind totally dissolves and she feels completely silly that, not only was she getting upset about this guy eating her cookies, but she was eating his cookies! And he was even so kind as to split the last one with her!

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2012 Heart Kyol Che

Posted on Jan 04 , 2012 in Blog

The Heart Kyol Che is an opportunity for students who cannot sit the traditional Kyol Che, or who can sit only part of it, to participate by doing extra practice at home and practicing together with others as they are able. This will run concurrently with the traditional Kyol Che. By doing this Heart Kyol Che together, we will strengthen our own practices, and provide support to our fellow students who are able to sit the traditional Kyol Che. We in turn can draw inspiration and energy from their committment.

You can download and print the PDF here: 2012 Heart Kyol Che

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Broken Relationships

Posted on Jan 03 , 2012 in Blog

By Zen Master Seung Sahn

So everything is truth. But how much do you believe that? Every day we use truth, but we don’t understand truth. We are living in truth, but we don’t understand it. Why don’t you understand it? Because you don’t believe your eyes, ears, nose,, tongue, body, and mind. The sky is blue — nothing special. But you don’t believe that. “That’s the truth? I don’t know…”

So practicing means practicing believing in my true self. What am I? Don’t know. But everybody has their opinions. They also have their condition and situation. So they can’t believe their eyes. They only see their opinion. If you want to become clear, you must let go of everything in your mind. That is the first point. Then you can see clearly; you understand truth. Then you understand what is correct and what is not correct.

Nowadays, in the United States, many relationships are broken. Do you know the expression, “Blood is thicker than water”? That is not true now in America. Many people think, “I don’t like my brother. I don’t like my parents. I like my cat. I like my dog. My dog and cat are better than my parents.” That is not correct! This is a little crazy. Zen means finding your correct relationship and understanding your correct function and situation.

Once you believe in your true self, you can understand other people’s situations. Then you can help your family, then your friends, then your country, then all beings. If you cannot help your parents, how can you help the people in Cambodia? If your wisdom grows and your action is correct, then one action helps your parents, your friends, your country, and all beings. Never separate. That’s the point, O.K.?

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A Tale of Zen Masters Man Gong and Kyong Ho

Posted on Dec 27 , 2011 in Blog

Zen Master Man Gong was Seung Sahn Soen Sa’s Dharma grandfather. As a thirteen year old child, he was studying sutras at the temple Donghaksa in Korea. The day before vacation, everyone gathered to listen to some lectures.

The lecturer said, “All of you must study hard, learn Buddhism, and become as big trees, with which great temples are built, and as large bowls, able to hold many things. The verse says:

“Water becomes square or round according to the shape of the container in which it is placed. Likewise, people become good or bad according to the company they keep. Always keep your minds set on holiness and remain in good company. In this way, you will become great trees and containers of Wisdom. This I most sincerely wish.”

Everyone was greatly inspired by this lecture. At this point, the Sutra Master turned to Zen Master Kyong-Ho, who was visiting the temple, and said, “Please speak, Master Kyong Ho; everyone would like to hear your words of wisdom.”

The Master was quite a sight. He was always unshaven and wore robes that were tattered and worn. Although he at first refused, after being asked again and again, he reluctantly consented to speak.

“All of you are monks. You are to be great teachers, free of ego; you must live only to serve all people. Desiring to become a big tree or a great container of Wisdom prevents you from being a true teacher. Big trees have big uses; small trees have small uses. Good and bad bowls both have their uses. Nothing is to be discarded. Keep both good and bad friends; this is your responsibility. You must not reject any element; this is true Buddhism. My only wish is for you to be free from discriminating thoughts.”

Having completed his talk, the Master walked out the door, leaving the audience astonished. The young Man-Gong ran after him, and called out, “Please take me with you; I wish to become your student.”

The Master shouted at him to go away, but the child wouldn’t listen. So he asked, “If I take you with me, what will you do?”

“I will learn. You will teach me.”

“But you are only a child. How can you understand?”

“People are young and old, but does our True Self have youth or old age?”

“You are a very bad boy! You have killed and eaten the Buddha. Come along.”

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“Don’t Worry, It Will Pass”

Posted on Dec 20 , 2011 in Blog

Once a student went to the Zen Master and said, “My meditation is horrible!! I feel so distracted…. my legs hurt… sometimes I fall asleep. It is just horrible!!”

The teacher replied, “Don’t worry, it will pass.”

A week later, the student came back to his teacher and said, “My mediation is wonderful!! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive. It is just wonderful!!”

The master replied, “Don’t worry, it will pass.”

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Buddha’s Enlightenment Day 2011

Posted on Dec 16 , 2011 in Blog

Photos by Brenton Sheehan Click the link to head over to Kwan Um School Gallery to see photos from Buddha’s Enlightenment Day 2011 at Providence Zen Center. When your done, you can visit the Providence Zen Center Gallery to see more photos from the past year here at PZC. Thank you to the entire Sangha, may you all have a bright, clear and wonderful holiday season. Please come back and visit us in the New Year!


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Fixing the Pot

Posted on Dec 12 , 2011 in Blog

A nice winter story from February 1, 1978: At a Dharma Speech at the end of a Yong Maeng Jong Jin at the International Zen Center of New York, Zen Master Seung Sahn told the following story:

In the countryside of Korea, people used to come together for big markets that lasted several days. Once a young man went to sell his vegetables and buy some rice. While he was there he saw an old monk just standing completely still in the sun for five minutes. The monk was wearing wintertime clothes, and they were old and torn. It was summer, and the sun was very hot — Korean people don’t like this sun — but this old monk just stood still for five minutes.

The young man thought as he watched him, “This old monk, is he crazy? Does he have no consciousness, only standing still like this?” So afterwards, when the monk started walking around, the young man went up to him and said, “Excuse me, I would like to know why you stand still in the sun for five minutes.”

The old man looked at him and said, ”Lunch time.”

“Lunch time? Who is having lunch?”

The old monk showed him the inside of his robe — there were little animals, parasites, like lice. “If I move, they cannot eat, so I only stand still while they take lunch.”

The young man thought this monk must have a wonderful mind, to be so kind to little animals, so he asked him if he could become his student.

The monk looked at his face and said, “Not possible.”

“Why not possible?” asked the young man.

”Why do you want to become a monk?”

”Well, I don’t like married life. I want to find the correct way. You say you give lunch to these small animals, so I have this very strong feeling that maybe this is the correct way. So I like you, so I want to be your student.”

“Maybe,” said the monk, ”Maybe. Where do live?”

“My parents are dead, so I stay at my brother’s house. I have no place of my own; I want to come with you.”

“O.K.,” said the old monk, “come.”

Then they went walking up deep into the mountains for a long time, until they reached a small grass house.

In Korea, kitchens are outside of the house. In the kitchen there is a big pot, on a stand, with fire under it. The pot is made of steel, very heavy. It has two parts: one side for water and one side for rice.

So in this house the pot and the stand were broken. Fixing the pot means pouring a little water into the bottom of the pot and making sure it settles exactly in the middle of the bottom of the pot.

The monk said to the young man, ”You must fix this pot and stand.”

When he had finished, the young man said, “Master, I have fixed the pot.”

So the old monk went to check and said, “No good! Again!” and he dumped the water out.

The young man thought, “This Master has very keen eyes, so maybe he sees some mistake.” So, he tried again, this time being very careful and checking the level of the water in the pot. When he had finished he said, “Master, I have correctly fixed the pot.”

“O.K., I will check.” So the Master went to check the pot and again he said, “No good! Again!” and dumped the water out.

The young man was very confused. “Where is my mistake? I don’t understand. Maybe it is outside the pot, maybe the stand is not correct.” So this time, he prepared the pot and checked all around the outside, the counter area, making sure everything was clean and neat. When he finished up said, “Master, I have fixed the pot — it’s very wonderful, very beautiful!”

”No good!” said the Master, and dumped the water out.

The young man did not understand. ”Maybe the pot is good, but the kitchen is no good,” he thought. So next time he fixed the whole kitchen — the ceiling, the floor, everything. When he finished, he called to the Master, “Master! I have fixed the whole kitchen!”

”Oh, that’s wonderful! I will check,” said the Master. He went to the pot — “No good!” and turned it over again.

This happened four times, five times, six times, seven times, eight times. Each time the young man thought, “What could it be this time?” and each time the Master answered, “No good!” and dumped the water. Now this man is getting angry. Finally the ninth time, the young man thought, “I do not like this Master, this is the last time!”

So he just set the pot on the stand and said, “Master, I am finished.”

“Wonderful! Wonderful!” said the Master.

This Master was testing his mind. Zen is not dependent an anything. You must be dependent on yourself, whatever your own style is. But what is your own style? If you keep your opinions, your condition, your situation, your correct style cannot appear. So this Master tested his mind. Before, each time when the student fixed the pot, “maybe this will pass, maybe this will pass;” much thinking. The last time, no thinking.

Also this Master tested his perseverance mind. “.This young man likes me, but how much does he want to understand his true self?” Usually people try maybe four, maybe five times, then they say, “I don’t like you!” Then they go away. Try, try, try is very necessary, then some time the Zen Master will say, “Oh, wonderful!”

Only this mind, try, try, try, is very important. Try, try, try means persevere. So you must only go straight, try, try, try — then you will get your true way.

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True Confidence

Posted on Nov 29 , 2011 in Blog

By Zen Master Bon Haeng

Koan practice means pulling the rug out from under your thinking. When you do this, it becomes starkly clear that thinking has nothing to do with your true nature. Your true nature is before thinking. Kong-ans can’t be approached with your thinking, they must be approached with your confidence.

This means asking, “Do I believe in myself? Can I trust life’s experience this very moment?” We may think that confidence is an encyclopedia salesperson ringing a doorbell, confident in what she’s selling. This isn’t confidence, this is selling yourself something, selling yourself an idea and making it so strong, you can’t be open to the universe. True confidence is completely accepting your not-knowing. It’s accepting that no one knows and understanding that this is okay. When you do this, your universe becomes bigger. But when you take one idea, formulate something, and become attached to it, your universe shrinks. So let your universe become large. Let your sitting be without boundaries, and a good answer will appear all by itself.

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Commentary on Hyang Eom’s “Up a Tree”

Posted on Nov 28 , 2011 in Blog

Commentary on Hyang Eom’s “Up a Tree”  

Empty Mirror cannot hold on
to Blue Sky or Green Pine Trees’ Sound
Mystic Energy without Time and Space
Has no coming, Has no going.

Before Hyang Eom
Already clean in front of you.
Why then did Bodhidharma
Come to China?

Open your mouth you’re already dead.
Close your mouth already too late.
Why?
Even Yaaaaahaa is not enough.
?????????

Ha Ha Ha Ha
(Ask Man Gong)
Chicken Crowing at 3 a.m.
Moon Setting at 7 a.m.
Wake up! Wake up!
Spring Sun Shining on Complete World

 

by Zen Master Su Bong (1943-1994)