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.


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.


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.
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)


Plum Flowers Fly In The Snow

Posted on Nov 22 , 2011 in Blog

How many people stay in a worrying dream?
The great one’s original home is everywhere.
One KATZ! sound breaks the whole world.
Plum flowers fly in the snow.

By Master Hahn Yong Un
From the Whole World Is A Single Flower


My Pain Is Very Expensive

Posted on Nov 15 , 2011 in Blog

In those last days of his life, Zen Master Seung Sahn was in the hospital and in a great deal of pain. Dae Kwan Sunim was with him, and asked if ZMSS would give his pain to her.

“No, no, no, no! It’s enough only I experience this. Never give to you……only I keep!”

Dae Kwan Sunim insisted, but Zen Master Seung Sahn said, “My pain is very expensive!”

“How much, sir?” she asked him. “We will buy it from you.”

“My pain is so expensive, you cannot buy it!” Zen master Seung Sahn replied.

Dae Kwan Sunim leaned into his ear and said, “Then maybe I will sell the Su Bon Zen Monastery, get lots of money and give it to you. Then you give us your pain!”

There was a moment of silence.

Dae Kwan Sunim continued, “If we give you all this money, then what will you do with it?”

Zen Master Seung Sahn replied “I take your money, then rent another Zen center, save all beings from suffering!”

At these words, everyone burst out laughing. Then he said, “That’s not a bad business deal, yah?”


7 Day Yong Maeng Jong Jin With Zen Master Soeng Hyang

Posted on Nov 09 , 2011 in Blog & Upcoming Events

7 Day Yong Maeng Jong Jin Retreat December 5 – 11 with Zen Master Soeng Hyang

Download and print the PDF here: Zen Master Soeng Hyang December YMJJ

Yong Maeng Jong Jin retreats are two, three or seven days long and are held in silence. The schedule each day consists of ten hours of Zen practice (bowing, chanting, sitting and walking), work and rest periods, and vegetarian meals eaten in traditional temple style. Includes talks and kong-an teaching interviews with a zen teacher. Minimum participation is 24 hours. For more detailed information, read the Yong Maeng Jong Jin Orientation Guide (pdf format). Prior meditation experience or attendance at a meditation instruction class is recommended.

Prices per day: non members $65, members $45, Dharma teachers and Dharma teachers in training $35

Dharma Teachers please bring your own bowl set.

To register for your retreat online – fill out the retreat registration form.




In Memory of Myo Ji Sunim JDPS

Posted on Nov 08 , 2011 in Blog

Inka speech by Myo Ji Sunim JDPS

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]

Empty is full. Full is empty.

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]

No empty, no full.

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]

Is that empty or full?

Korean sky is blue, American sky is also blue.

Even as a young child, I always felt an emptiness in whatever I did. When other kids joined a dancing class, I thought, “Maybe that is what I want”. So, I took the dancing class. But it was not what I wanted. Some others tried piano, so I thought, “Maybe that is the way I have to go”. But that was not for me either. Whatever others were interested in, those activities were not my way.

Both my father and grandfather were Christian ministers. The house I grew up in was like a church. But I was never 100 percent into that because everything felt empty. I was always searching for something, nothing seemed to complete me. My question was this: If what people say is true, why do I feel so much doubt? Why do I always feel this emptiness? When I moved to North America, however, I did have a belief system. I joined the Catholic Church. I fell in love. But I still asked myself, “If these things are true for me, why is there still this emptiness?”

Later I met a Buddhist nun and asked her, “What is Buddhism?” She said, “Mind creates everything.” When I heard that, I hit myself and cried, “That’s it!” That nun was the one who taught me how to practice, to bow. Then one day she called my house and said, “There is a great Zen Master visiting our temple. You must come and meet him.” I dropped everything I was doing and rushed right over; that was when I first met Zen Master Seung Sahn.

At that time I was very busy, working long hours every day, so he told me to do midnight kidos. If I just sat, I would fall asleep, so I bowed from 12:00 to 2:00 every night. I was getting by on very little sleep but still I had a lot of energy, I don’t know where it all came from. Today I am not empty any more because of this practice. The emptiness was filled in and things have become clear. This practice is our teacher.

These days I don’t have money, a car, a house or even hair! But I am no longer empty, it’s fulfilled.

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]

Myo Ji Sunim passed away Friday afternoon on November 4th. She had been a student of Zen Master Seung Sahn since 1976. A longtime resident of Canada, Myo Ji Sunim was ordained a nun in 1990, then trained at Seoul International Zen Center. Since 1995, she was the abbot of New York Chogye Sa temple.


This Trivial Tail

Posted on Nov 01 , 2011 in Blog

By Nancy Hedgpeth JDPSN

Oh Jo said, “It’s like a water buffalo passing through a window. Its head, horns, and four legs have already passed through. Why is it that its tail cannot?”

If it passes through, it falls into a ditch;
If it turns back, it is destroyed.
This trivial tail,
Just this is very weird.

This water buffalo is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is at a slaughter house which is surrounded by a ditch. If it escapes it falls into the ditch and will be caught. If it stays it will be slaughtered. So here it finds itself-all but through the window. Why is it that its tail cannot pass through?

Zen Master Seung Sahn gave us many succinct teaching phrases. One is “A good situation is a bad situation; a bad situation is a good situation.” When our situation is always smooth and with good feeling then we can grow complacent. Keeping an alert and awake mind, fresh with inquiry, isn’t always so easy then. When we find ourselves stuck, suffering, wishing things to be other than they are, then this difficult situation often has us looking for some way to resolve it. Questioning arises. And what a gift this is! As we keep asking — going past the complaints and protests of how unfair life can be, seeing that we’re not completely satisfied by intellectual understanding — then we can address the root of suffering. We can address the questions that we all share as human beings: What is this life and death business? What is my job in this life? What is suffering, and what is this that suffers? What is this I? What is other than I?

What we call practice is exactly this act of questioning and of doing it again and again moment to moment — returning to our “Don’t Know” mind that is before assumptions and preconceptions. So every situation — bad, good or neutral — offers an opportunity to see clearly, without attachment, and act with the compassion that is a natural result.

“This trivial tail, just this is very weird” — and very wonderful. Why is it that its tail cannot pass through?


Original Face

Posted on Oct 25 , 2011 in Blog

Poem by Zen Master Seung Sahn

Your true self is always shining and free.
Human beings make something
and enter the ocean of suffering.
Only without thinking can you return to your true self.
The high mountain is always blue,
white clouds coming and going.


The Life Of The Buddha, BBC Documentary

Posted on Oct 22 , 2011 in Blog