Posted on Apr 24 , 2012 in Blog

Dear Zen Master Seung Sahn,

I feel like I’m going crazy. I’m working for the Legal Aid Society, and the maximum caseload at any one time is supposed to be 75. I have more than 75 cases right now. Starting this Friday, one of the attorneys is going on vacation, which will mean even more new cases for each person (there are 3 other lawyers).

I am quite new to the job and feeling totally overwhelmed. As the number of cases increases, I can do less and less for each person. Weeks go by in which there is no time to devote to some of the cases I already have.

I am very worried about this because I’m forced to keep doing a more and more sloppy job. I want to help people, and I like to do a beautiful job. I fear what this will do to my health (pains, ulcers, etc.) I try to have a good attitude, but I am being completely overwhelmed by all this. I am feeling very desperate.

Hapjang with love,

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your letter. How are you? You are very busy and are helping many people–that is wonderful!

If your mind is busy then the whole world is busy. If your mind is complicated, thewhole world is complicated. If your mind is quiet, then the whole world is quiet.So, an eminent teacher said, “Everything is created by the mind.”

Do you know an elevator’s job? Many people can push the button wanting the elevator, but the elevator only comes when the proper floor and direction appears. When the elevator is going up, it only stops for up-buttons and coming down it only stops for down-buttons. The elevator understands its correct action sequence. That is only going straight. If you put your mind in order, then it works the same as a computer. Then you will understand your correct action sequence.That is correct opinion, correct condition, and correct situation–Zen mind. Also,that is great love and great compassion mind. If you want that mind you must make your “I, My, Me” disappear. If you don’t hold your opinion, your condition oryour situation, then your original high-class computer will work correctly. So, you must practice every day.

I ask you: What are you? If you don’t understand, only go straight don’t know.This don’t know broom will sweep your consciousness computer clear of I, my,me dust. Then clear moment-to-moment working is possible. That is the correct way and the great bodhisattva way.

I hope you only go straight don’t know, which is clear like space, don’t make complicated, don’t make busy, soon get Enlightenment and save all people from suffering.

Yours in the Dharma,
Zen Master Seung Sahn


You Must Understand Yourself

Posted on Apr 17 , 2012 in Blog

Many centuries ago, the Greek philosopher Socrates used to walk through the streets and marketplaces of Athens, teaching his students. He would say to them, “You must understand yourself! You must understand yourself! You must understand yourself.” Then one day a student said, “Sir, you always say we must understand ourselves. But do you understand yourself?”

“No, I don’t know myself,” Socrates replied. “But I understand this ‘don’t know.’” This is very interesting teaching. Buddhist practice points at the same experience, because most human beings pass through their lives without the slightest sense of what they are.

We understand many things about this world, but we don’t understand ourselves. So why do human beings come into this world? Why do we live in this world? For love? For money? For respect or fame? Do you live for your wife, husband, or children? Why do you live in this world? If someone asked you these question, you might very well answer, “I live for my children. I live to earn enough money for them, or maybe just to have a good life.” Most people think like this. They live only for their family, for some fleeting social respectability, perhaps to enjoy art or to get some powerful position. Everyone wants to have a good situation for themselves. If you look at this world very closely, it is easy to see that most people eat and sleep and live merely for their own personal happiness. Yet these things are not the real purpose of human beings’ life. They are just temporary means for living in the world. If human beings cannot find who they are, how can they ever be truly happy?

From the Comapss of Zen


Zen and Psychotherapy

Posted on Apr 11 , 2012 in Blog

Zen Master Bon Soeng during a workshop about psychotherapy and Zen practice. From Buddha’s Birthday Weekend March 31, 2012.


Four Blind Men (Original)

Posted on Apr 10 , 2012 in Blog

A holy person came with his elephant to a remote village that was suffering from severe drought. On the back of the elephant he brought a large vessel of fresh water to the home of six blind men who always stuck together to help each other, but somehow always quarreled. After the water pot was lowered from the elephants back, down to the ground, the first blind man reached out and caught hold of the elephant’s tail. “The elephant,” he declared, “is like a piece of rope.”

The second man grabbed an ear and said, “No, the elephant is like the leaf of a banana sapling.”

The third man was holding the trunk and said, “Wrong. The elephant is very much like a huge snake.”

The fourth man had his arms around one of the elephant’s legs. “What nonsense are you talking!” he exclaimed. “It is definitely like a pillar.”

“Wrong,” cried out the fifth blind man, clinging to a tusk. “You are all misled. The elephant is certainly like the branch from a magnolia tree.”

The sixth man, rubbing the elephant’s belly, said, “Can’t any of you see? It’s obvious the elephant is like a sack of grains.”

Soon a quarrel erupted between them. While they were on the ground punching and tearing each other’s hair, they rolled right into the water vessel. All the water spilled out onto the ground while the elephant stood by looking on with an expression of pity.


Hae Jae Talk by Zen Master Seung Sahn

Posted on Apr 04 , 2012 in Blog

Last Friday we finished our annual three month Winter Kyol Che retreat and entered into the Hae Jae period. Kyol Che is the intensive meditation retreat period and Hae Jae is the looser, less formally scheduled period in the spring and autumn. The Hae Jae period provides more of an opportunity to practice in everyday life situations. During this time, monks and nuns traditionally travel from temple to temple to visit other great masters at or meet with their Doban (Dharma friends).

To celebrate, here is a video of Zen Master Seung Sahn giving the Hae Jae talk at the end of Winter Kyol Che 2004 in Korea. This is probably one of the last recordings that capture his Dharma and it’s wonderful to see so many of his senior students practicing together in the same room. Enjoy!


Our Practice

Posted on Apr 03 , 2012 in Blog

By Zen Master Seung Sahn

Our world is supported by three columns: time, space and cause and effect. But, where do time and space come from? Also, who makes cause and effect? Time, space and cause and effect are made by thinking. Our thinking makes everything. So the three columns that support our world are created by our mind.

But if our mind disappears, then thinking disappears. If thinking disappears then time, space and cause and effect disappear; then empty world appears. Empty … completely empty. Another name for “empty world” is Substance. This is the Substance of the whole universe: human being’s substance, dog’s substance, everything’s substance.

Ten thousand dharmas return to one. This one comes from where? During interviews everybody hits the floor: BOOM! Everything becomes one point: no name, no form, no space, no cause and effect., no time … nothing at all. The name for this is the Absolute. If you open your mouth about the Absolute then you’vetruth already made a mistake. Only action.

If you keep that point for a long time, then you see clearly, hear clearly, smell clearly, taste clearly, touch clearly, think clearly, and act clearly. Which means the sky is blue; trees are green; the dog is barking – woof, woof; sugar is sweet. Then, when you see, when you hear, when you smell, everything, just as it is, is the truth. Truth is beyond time and space, cause and effect. There are no opposites. This is the Absolute. If you attain this point, you attain the truth.

How can this point function correctly? Most important in our practice is a clear direction; then a correct life is possible. This world has a lot of suffering. How can we help all beings? The name for that is bodhisattva action. If you wake up moment to moment and keep a clear mind, then correct direction and truth and correct life are always in front of you. Then your action, your life, and you are never separate.

However, if this moment is not clear, then time and space, cause and effect will control you. That means your mind makes subject/object world. If your mind is clear, then subject and object disappear. This is the Absolute. Then everything is clear in front of you, and helping this world is possible.


49 Day Funeral Ceremony

Posted on Mar 20 , 2012 in Blog

When someone passes away, in addition to a funeral service that usually occurs three or seven days after the death, we have a ceremony on the 49th day. Traditionally, the period of 49 days after someone dies is seen as a time for that person to check their consciousness and digest their karma. According to Buddhist teaching the bodhisattva Ji Jang Bosal helps the deceased during these 49 days to perceive their karma so when they return they are reborn to help this world, rather than continue in the cycle of birth and death. Religious Buddhism teachers that there is a life in this body, then a time of investigation or consideration, and then a new life in a new body.

But the truth is, we don’t know what happens when we die. The Buddhist teaching about death can be helpful in that it gives us a good feeling, some sense of comfort in this mystery. This framework that can be helpful in the grieving process, but the Buddha taught that originally there is no life or death. Our true self is infinite in time and space. Don’t Know Mind doesn’t have a beginning or an ending. Zen Master Seung Sahn’s teaching is to wake up in this moment and attain our true nature. When we keep a Don’t Know Mind we are addressing the big question of life and death moment to moment. The big meaning of a 49-day ceremony is to wake up just now. Actually, whenever anybody dies, they are teaching us that we must wake up, because our lives only occur in this moment [snaps fingers]. Just that.

By Tim Lerch JDPSN


True Confidence

Posted on Mar 13 , 2012 in Blog

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.

-Zen Master Bon Haeng


What is Enlightenment?

Posted on Mar 08 , 2012 in Blog

“Enlightenment is only a name,” replied Zen Master Sueng Sahn. “If you make enlightenment, then enlightenment exists. But if enlightenment exists, then ignorance exists, too. And that already makes an opposites-world. Good and bad, right and wrong, enlightened and ignorant—all of these are opposites.

All opposites are just your own thinking. But truth is absolute, and is before any thinking or opposites appear. So if you make something, you will get something, and that something will be a hindrance. But if you don’t make anything, you will get everything, OK?”


PZC on Korean TV Program

Posted on Feb 26 , 2012 in Blog

Here’s a video about Zen practice from a Korean Buddhist TV network that includes some great footage of the Zen Center, clips of Do Am Sunim, JDPS and many other teachers in our school, including our Co-Guiding Teacher Nancy Hedgpeth, JDPSN. There’s a short interview with former PZC resident, Senior Dharma Teacher and Managing Editor of Primary Point, Tamarind Jordan where she talk about her experience with Zen and how being able to ask the question, “What am I?” is much more valuable than any answer she has found.