Monday, December 08, 2008

The Miraculous Awakening of Zen

Ven. Hyunoong Sunim, Abbot

The word Zen means the mind of awakening or miraculous awareness. It has no form. It is also not silent. It doesn't stay fixed in any one place. It is something one has to experience. If you bring any understanding with you into this practice you will obstruct the path. Zen is the Buddha mind. And Buddha mind is in each individual person. It's here in this moment as we sit. It's absolutely not separate from us. That's all we need to trust.

The name is Zen, but according to the person practicing this, some think Zen is sitting quietly while others say Zen is having a clear mind. Some say Zen is forgetting all the complexities of life, while others say Zen is guarding nothingness. There are many kinds of Zen Buddhists in the world but if we forget the correct path, then even if we do Zen practice all we are doing is wasting time.

When you first begin Zen practice you observe many thoughts arising in your mind, but you mustn't search for which of these thoughts is the real you. Searching is avoidance. To seek is to suffer. You need to understand this carefully. This is our fundamental delusion. Someone doing Soto Zen just has silence-but that is not practice- when you reenter reality that silence will shatter. Our Zen nature doesn't abide in any one place, it functions from moment to moment, so we mustn't hold onto anything. When we stay in one place this creates a view and we make distinctions - Soto Zen/Rinzai Zen, awakening/delusion. If you say you have awakening you are actually very far from awakening.

There is a Zen koan that says, "Knowing obstructs Zen, not knowing obstructs Zen". Knowing is delusion because knowing can create tension and obstruct our practice. So we decide "Ok, I don't know," but that is also relying on delusion. We need to recognize the mind that knows, and let go of that. And because "not knowing" also obstructs our Zen, we need to be aware of this too. Our Buddha nature has nothing to do with knowing or not knowing - it is spontaneous awareness and cannot be touched intellectually. Right here is where our thoughts are completely cut off.

Knowing, not knowing, nothing can cling to this awareness. The sentient being mind will attach itself anywhere - over here over there, Hell or Heaven, awakening/delusion. It creates duality everywhere.

We have this miraculous awareness that cannot be expressed in words; and we have to simply experience it. Then automatically the things that we cling to are released. At that point we are no longer attached - not because we are trying to be unattached but because our nature no longer clings to anything. At this point religion disappears. There isn't anything we are carrying around with us. This is something that cannot be understood. It simply requires faith. It can only be experienced through awareness. Through this, wisdom and power grow. If you constantly practice, at one point that empty mind within you is suddenly revealed. Then there is only realization, and you can enter a correct path. Only with such realization can true practice begin.

If one practices Soto Zen correctly, one's practice becomes the same as koan practice, and the conflicts within you will disappear. If you meet Dogen you come to the world of Rinzai, and if you meet Rinzai you meet the world of Dogen. You will see the Zen of the ancient masters and American Zen too. We can all become one Dharma family and benefit each other. Through this, societies become purified. Otherwise we will cling to a small mind and this is suffering.

In our Rinzai Zen, even though we are sitting, we don't pay a lot of attention to our posture. We totally focus on mind and the koan, and in doing that both body and mind become quiet. You utilize the sitting posture because of it's convenience. We can be active in reality and when we come to sit we let go of body and mind. We only focus on the koan. As our active energy settles down into our lower body we may sometimes feel a little itchy spot and spontaneously our hand goes to scratch it. But your practice continues.

Let's open our narrow minds. We mustn't compete with others. It would be nice if we could come together into one Dharma. It doesn't matter whether one is practicing Soto or Rinzai Zen, whether Christian or whatever. Someone following the path of awakening can understand it as soon as they see it. Let's reveal the ancient path of Zen and that would be one goal if Buddhism can be reborn in the United States, if someone awakens to correct traditional Zen here. I believe great Zen power can arise in America.



Hyunoong Sunim is a Korean Zen master as well as a Taoist Master born in South Korea. He is a Dharma heir of Ku San Sunim and entered Songkwang-sa Buddhist Monastery when he was 20 years old. After ten years of training in Zen Meditation halls, he spent some years training under Taoist Master Chong San and in 1982 was sanctioned as a Taoist Master. Master Sunim spent six years in rigorous practice alone in hermitages in remote mountain areas. There he followed a raw food diet, eating what the mountains made available. One early spring day while sitting in the Zen hall suddenly all his doubts were resolved and he wrote the following song of enlightenment:

Even existing dharmas must be discarded,
So how can we cling to Dharmas which don't exist!
Ah ha! Futilely the Ancients busily pursued
enlightenment, then departed.
The countenance, existing of its own accord
I wonder who named it buddha or sentient being?
Even one true Dharma cannot survive.
Outside the window, the cherry tree
is singing this news.

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