Don’t Know is Not Don’t Know

Posted on Jun 14 , 2011 in Blog

March 11, 1976

Dear Soen Sa Nim,

How strange it is to be writing to you, instead of just talking face-to-face. Oh well—this is something!

I’ve set a place for myself to sit, and put your smiling pictures there, too. And yesterday I met Samu Su Nim. He was very kind and generous with his time. We talked for about an hour and he told me some jokes. I was delighted—I was expecting a very stern guy from Linc’s description. He wanted me to tell him all about our Yong Maeng Jong Jin and the Los Angeles center. He ask many times, with great affection I think, for Linc.

I sat at his house last night. He’s not a no-hindrance monk, of course; e..g, he told me that there is no place for sloppy dishwater people who don’t place their mats correctly (like me). I don’t mind though. It feels really good to be sitting with other people.

I don’t think I can go to Korea with you in October. I wish I could, but I’d have to quit my job to go with you right now and I don’t want to.

I enjoy reading the newsletters immensely, and I chant with the tapes in the mornings. In both ways, I feel that you’re not so far away.

I’m sending a little bit of money to help out with the Los Angeles center. Love to Linc and many good wishes for the L.A. center.

Love and a big hug,



March 30, 1976

Dear Sherry,

How are you? Thank you for your letter. I am pleased to hear from you. It is good that you visited with the Korean monk Samu Su Nim. He understands both Korean and Japanese Buddhism. Perhaps Samu Su Nim is a good teacher for you, but it is most important to believe in yourself. Good and bad are all you true teachers. But, if you check good and bad, they will become your demons. Not only good and bad, but Buddha, God, Zen masters, and teachers will all become demons if you check them. So, if you check your mind and feelings, you will have problems. Only go straight ahead; don’t check anything.

Don’t know. Don’t know is not don’t know. Don’t know is before thinking. Before thinking is your substance and the universal substance; its name is primary point. So, don’t know is the absolute, the correct way, and true life.

If you lose don’t know mind, you lose your true way, and you will soon get suffering. Always keep don’t-know mind; go straight ahead.

You said this monk told you there is no place for sloppy dishwater people like you. What is correct and incorrect action? Before, I told you action is not good or bad. Why do you do something? How do you keep a just-now mind? Action is important, but most important is how do you keep a just-now mind?

Going to Korea, not going to Korea, keeping a job, not keeping a job: everything is O.K. I ask you, what is your original job? If you find it, you will get freedom from life and death.

Before, I gave you homework. Someone comes to the Zen Center, blows smoke and drops ashes on the Buddha. What can you do? He is is very attached to emptiness. You are a doctor, so you must fix his mind and correct his action.

I hope you always keep don’t know mind, soon get Enlightenment, and save all people from suffering.

Yours in the Dharma,




Calligraphy Class Photos

Posted on Jun 14 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

This past Sunday we had the Preview Calligraphy Class taught by Kitchen Master, Chong Yew. He has over twenty years experience as a calligrapher and has many examples of his work available for purchase in the Pagoda Gift Shop. The gift shop is open on Wednesday evenings 6:00 – 6:30PM after our Public Vegetarian dinner. All proceeds go to support the Zen Center. A big thank you to Caroline Hardman who attended the class with her son and took these wonderful photos of the event.


Why do I have to finish this?

Posted on Jun 07 , 2011 in Blog

Question: You said earlier that on your hundred day retreat, you felt like you had enough sitting. What kind of mind did you have, that made you think like that?

Zen Master Su Bong: I had “I am” mind, which means “Oh, I’m already finished. I can do anything. I have freedom.” That mind.

Q: What did Zen Master Seung Sahn say to you?

ZMSB: I said to him, “Soen Sa Nim, now half of the retreat is over and it’s no problem.” Before, I had talked about always having this mind that wanted to try something, especially if someone said don’t do it. When I went on this retreat, the mind I had was not retreat mind. Lots of people go on retreats and think, “I’m going to practice hard for 90 days and only follow my schedule, and I will do it!” That’s try mind. When I went on retreat, I made up my schedule and then said, “I’ll see what it’s like.” So I didn’t have try mind, I had “see what it’s like” mind, kind of like “checking it out” mind.

When fifty days came and I wanted to leave, it was no problem. I had to hitchhike a long way, six or seven miles to the outskirts of a little town, to get to a public phone. I called Zen Master Seung Sahn and said, “The next fifty days are no problem. My body can do it. If you say, ‘stay,’ then I will stay. But why should I do that?” Asking him meant I thought I already had freedom mind and it wasn’t necessary to finish the retreat.

Zen Master Seung Sahn said, “You must only try.” I said, “Yes, I can, but why?” Then he said, “For all people,” and slammed down the phone. It took me two hours to get back home, and the only thing in my mind was “For all people – what on earth does that mean?” I asked him, why sit? And he said, for all people. What does this sitting do for all people?

For the next forty days I only had this question. I had no choice. It wasn’t that I asked myself the question; it was there all the time. “For all people – what on earth could that possibly mean?” It was there while I was eating, while sleeping, while practicing. I just wanted to vomit. I wanted it to be out and done with. I didn’t care whether I found an answer or not; I just didn’t want the question any more. Then one day I was sitting and all of a sudden it wasn’t there at all. I didn’t understand anything, but it wasn’t there. I was very happy.

Q: Did you finish the retreat?

ZMSB: Yes. That happened on the eighty-seventh day. I only had thirteen days more. Those last thirteen days were just a bliss-out because I didn’t have this frustrating question. It was like going to the beach and lying around, but better than that. I could just do it: get out, chant, sit, wash my clothes. I thought that was wonderful. When I came down from my retreat, I still had that good feeling for three days afterwards – “only do it” mind. Any kind of action, I could only do it. Some people said, Korean people like to take you out after a retreat like that, it’s a big deal. So let’s take you out to dinner. Let’s do this or that. Anything, I could do it. Then after 3 or 4 days it was done. “I” appeared, then all karma appeared. Then again, only sitting, still sitting, still trying, only go straight, don’t know.

Zen Master Su Bong, who died in July 1994 while leading a retreat in Hong Kong, was Zen Master Seung Sahn’s designated successor as School Zen Master.



Hybrid Pullets Arrive at Providence Zen Center

Posted on Jun 02 , 2011 in Blog

Pullets are young hens which have just begun to lay eggs. The Center had ordered 10 Hybrid Pullets which are a cross between White Leggins and Rhode Island Reds. White Leggins are probably the most prolific egg-laying chickens but are high strung and nervous. Rhode Island Reds are good layers – although not as good as White Leggins – but are more even-tempered birds. The young hens are rust color with some white feathers, and the same hybrid breed as the newly-hatched chicks that the Center purchased 3 weeks ago.

The Center’s Chicken Project has been a wonderful example of the Centers “Together Action.” John Violette of Fairhaven, MA, somewhat reluctantly, drove 50 miles in mostly bumper to bumper holiday weekend traffic with 10 chickens and a 25# bag of chicken feed in the back seat of his car to deliver the hens to the Center. Our Abbot, George Hazelbauer. had built what has to be a state-of-the-art chicken coop, dubbed “The Chicken Palace”. The Chicken Palace is three stories high, with a ramp leading from the second story to the top floor. All three floors have a dome-shaped door with the top door opening to a perch with a panoramic view of the surrounding orchard. The Palace will be painted Chinese Red with gold-colored doors and gold paint on the underside of the roof. Darlene Demers, our Artist in Residence, is in charge of the painting project and the dragon graphic she will design for the back. Our Kitchen Master, Chong Yew, will paint “Chicken House” in Chinese Calligraphy in black paint on the front. Our Abbot added sturdy locks to protect the hens from night-time predators and a five-foot high wire fence surrounding the Chicken Palace to allow the hens a safe area in which to forage.

Theresa Murphy, newly arrived resident from Nebraska, will sharpen the scythe that will be used to cut hay for the chicken’s bedding. Theresa, along with Darlene and Kimball Amram will feed the hens, monitor their safety and collect the eggs. David Baristis, our Garden Master, will be planting corn to feed the hens in the winter. Garden clippings and weeds from the Zen Garden will be fed to the hens to vary their diet and help reduce the cost of chicken feed. Photos of the completed Chicken Project to follow later. Stop by and visit our “girls” in their new Digs.

-Diana Starr Daniels, PZC Resident


Zen Master Bon Haeng in Europe

Posted on Jun 01 , 2011 in Blog

Zen Master Bon Haeng about to embark on his European tour. As the departure date draws nearer, some of the participants talk about their expectations for the trip.

The blog is now “Live!”

Hapchang to the worldwide sangha and all friends of the Kwan Um School of Zen.

As many of you already know, Zen Master Bon Haeng will travel to Europe in June of 2011 on a teaching tour of selected KUSZ-affiliated Zen centers. Here is a link to the European sangha’s web page.

The itinerary includes Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Warsaw, Łódź and Kraków (Poland), Berlin (Germany), Vienna (Austria), Brno (Czech Republic), Bratislava (Slovakia), and Israel.

This blog will be an attempt to keep the sangha up to date on where ZMBH is traveling and what he does. We hope to bring you photos, videos and other materials, including maps of the journey, in an attempt to tell the “story behind the story” as he visits our dharma brothers and sisters overseas.

Please subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss a single entry. Your comments are invited, and your encouragement will be greatly appreciated.


Clear Mary

Posted on May 31 , 2011 in Blog

In Florida they have dog races. It is a very popular betting sport. People go to the dog track and bet money on the greyhounds, and if their dog wins, they win a lot of money. It is very simple. Everybody understands how the greyhouds race, yah? The dogs come out of a starting gate, and start heading around the track. Meanwhile, there is an electric rabbit. It is a fake rabbit with real fur on it. Dogs have very keen noses, and they follow a good smell. So this rabbit fur leads them around the track. All the dogs think they can catch the rabbit if they just run a little faster. Meanwhile, some man is watching the dogs and controlling the speed of the rabbit. If the dogs are very fast that day, he speeds the rabbit up; if they are slow, he slows it down. He always keeps this rabbit just within range of the dogs so that they think they can catch it. Every single day, the dogs go around and around and around this track. Race after race after race, the dogs just follow this rabbit.

One day, a very interesting thing happened at the races in Florida. There was a certain dog named Clear Mary. She was a very fast greyhound, and usually won her races. But clear Mary was also a very clever dog. One afternoon, she ran out of the starting gate with the other dogs, as usual. The rabbit hummed around the track, and the dogs sped after it. Running, running, running, running – around, around, around, around. Every day, sometimes several times a day, these dogs did the same thing, over and over and over again. And today they were doing it again, as usual. Chasing the electric rabbit.

But in the middle of the race, Clear Mary suddenly stopped. Many of the people in the grandstand stood up, fixing their binoculars on this dog. “What is happening?” they said. “What’s wrong with that dumb dog?” Some people had placed lots of bets on Clear Mary, so they were very angry. “Run! Run! You dumb dog! What’s wrong with you?”

But Clear Mary did not move for a few moments. She looked up at the grandstand. She looked at the tail ends of the other dogs scampering around the bend. And she looked at the rabbit, whirring around the bend and over to the other side of the oval track. Everything was completely still and silent for that moment at the races that day.

Suddenly, Clear Mary leapt over the guard rail that kept the dogs on the track. She sped straight across the big center infield like a flash. Leaping at just the right moment over the other guard rail, she caught the rabbit! Boom! Ha ha ha ha ha!

So that is a Zen mind. Everybody wants something in life. Everyone only follows their karma. They follow their ideas and their opinions, and believe that this is a true life. But Clear Mary is like a high-class Zen student. She was trained very strongly for many years only to follow the rabbit. Every day, she was taught to go around the track – around and around and around. But one day she stops and takes a close look. That is just like Zen practice: stopping and taking a close look at what is happening in life. Then she perceives something clearly, and just does it, one hundred percent. She doesn’t check inside or outside. Inside an outsite – boom! – become one. That is a Zen mind. It’s very simple, yah?

Excerpt from Compass of Zen by Zen Master Seung Sahn



Calligraphy Class

Posted on May 26 , 2011 in Blog & Buddha Enlightenment Ceremony and Retreat & Newsletter

Sunday June 26 – 12:00 – 1:00PM: After our 10:00AM scheduled long sitting we will begin a series of six Chinese Calligraphy classes which will be offered every other Sunday after the scheduled long sitting or Dharma talk. The one hour long classes will be $15 each or $80 for all six. Paper, brush, old rag, newspaper, saucer plate, and ink can be provided for an additional $15 but feel free to bring your own.  Please register through our office at 401-658-1464 or director@providencezen.org.



Bodhidharma Scroll

Posted on May 26 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

Our Guest Master and Providence Zen Center resident, Kimball Amram, asked me to post this beautiful scroll he has hanging in the staircase leading to the Kitchen. It is a copy of Bodhidharma from the Chosen Dynasty (1392 -1910) and measures 17.5″ x 55″. The actual artwork itself measures 15.5″ x 27″. If you are interested in purchasing this beautiful scroll for your home or Zen Center please email kimballamram@yahoo.com. All proceeds go to support Providence Zen Center.


Four Blind Men Visited the Elephant

Posted on May 25 , 2011 in Blog

Four blind men went to the zoo and visited the elephant. One blind man touched its side and said, “The elephant is like a wall.” The next blind man touched its trunk and said, “The elephant is like a snake.” The next blind man touched its leg and said, “The elephant is like a column.” The last blind man touched its tail and said, “The elephant is like a broom.” Then the four blind men started to fight, each one believing that his opinion was the right one. Each only understood the part he had touched; none of them understood the whole.


Zen and the Art of Living

Posted on May 19 , 2011 in Blog & Buddha Enlightenment Ceremony and Retreat & Newsletter

July 16 – 29. Register for one day or for the entire program.  To register for your retreat online – fill out the retreat registration form.

Non-Members – $65/day – $820/whole retreat

Members – $45/day – $560/whole retreat

Dharma Teachers – $35/day – $440/whole retreat

You can download and print the Zen and the Art of Living PDF here.

Special Guest Colin Beavan will be leading workshops July 23rd -24th! He is the author featured in the film “No Impact Man” and a dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen.

“Colin Beavan is a liberal schlub who got tired of listening to himself complain about the world without ever actually doing anything about it…”

-from noimpactman.typepad.com

Other classes and workshops will include: • Organic Farming & Gardening • Pita & Bread Making  • Yoga  • Kong An & Consulting Interviews  • Dharma Talks • Sutra Workshops  • One Day Retreat  • Kido  • Bonfires  • Work & Community Practice

Experience Zen Center life and how to apply Zen to your everyday life.For more information please email director@providencezen.org or call 401-658-1464.


In addition to regularly scheduled morning and evening practice:

Saturday July 16 – Intro / Orientation.

Sunday July 17 – 9:30AM – 3:30PM One Day Meditation Retreat. Orientation for first time participants begins at 9AM.

Monday July 18 – 8:30AM Organic Gardening Day with Garden Master, David Barstis. 4 – 5PM Yoga with Theresa Murphy, PZC Resident. http://theresamurphy.net/

Tuesday July 19 – Bread Making Workshop 8:30 AM – 2:00PM with PZC Resident and Dharma Teacher Diana Starr Daniels

Wednesday July 20 – Garden Work Period 8:30 – 10:00AM, 1:30PM Dharma Talk with Zen Master Bon Haeng (Mark Houghton), 4 – 5PM Yoga with Theresa Murphy, PZC Resident. http://theresamurphy.net/ , 7:00PM Kong An interviews with Jose Ramirez, JDPSN after special chanting.

Thursday July 21 – 8AM – 4PM South County Farm Day, road trip to Nancy Hedgpeth, JDPSN’s farm for work practice.

Friday July 22 – Kido 9AM – 12PM Chanting with Senior Dharma Teacher Edith Lebowitz, 4 – 5PM Yoga with Theresa Murphy, PZC Resident. http://theresamurphy.net/ , Pita making workshop after Yoga in the afternoon with the Abbot George Hazlbauer.

Saturday July 23 – No Impact Weekend – Workshops with Colin Beavan, author and Dharma Teacher featured in the film “No Impact Man”. http://noimpactman.typepad.com/

Sunday July 24 -No Impact Weekend – Workshops with Colin Beavan, author and Dharma Teacher featured in the film “No Impact Man”. http://noimpactman.typepad.com/

Monday July 25 – Work period in the morning then tea in the morning with Abbot, George Hazlbauer and Kitchen Master Chong Yew. Calligraphy class in the afternoon with Kitchen Master Chong Yew. 4 – 5PM Yoga with Theresa Murphy, PZC Resident. http://theresamurphy.net/

Tuesday July 26 – 10AM – 12PM Kong An interviews with Nancy Hedgpeth, JDPSN and Long Sitting meditation.

Wednesday July 27 – Raising bees and chickens for sustainability with PZC Resident and Dharma Teacher, Diana Starr Daniels. 4 – 5PM Yoga with Theresa Murphy, PZC Resident. http://theresamurphy.net/

Thursday July 28 – Zen and Yoga with Yoga Teacher and PZC Resident, Theresa Murphy and House Master Troy Rapp. http://theresamurphy.net/

Friday July 29 – Sutra Workshop.