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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Zen is Very Simple.

James: Zen Master Seung Sahn is one of the most fascinating personalities and wise teachers in Buddhism today. His style is so approachable from the videos, quotes and writings that I have seen/read.

He has a way of teaching serious subjects in fun, innovative and yet always challenging ways. The ability to teach from so many different angles is the sign of a great teacher to me because people learn in various ways and are at different points along the spectrum of practice.

From the 1985 Sumner Kyol Che Opening, Ceremony:

Linc just said, "Zen is very simple. Dishwashing time, just wash dishes; sitting time, just sit; driving time, just drive; talking time, just talk; walking time, just walk." That's all. Not special. But that is very difficult. That is absolutes thinking. When you're doing something, just do it. No opposites. No subject, no object. No inside, no outside. Outside and inside become one. That's called absolutes.

It's easy to talk about "When you're doing something, just do it," but action is very difficult. Sitting: thinking, thinking, thinking. Chanting: also thinking, thinking. Bowing time: not so much, but some thinking, thinking, checking, checking mind appear. Then you have a problem.

But don't hold. Thinking is OK. Checking is OK. Only holding is a problem. Don't hold. Feeling coming, going, OK. Don't hold. If your mind is not holding anything, it is clear like space. Clear like space means that sometimes clouds come, sometimes rain or lightning or airplane comes, or even a missile blows up, BOOM! World explodes, but the air is never broken. This space is never broken.

Yeah, other things are broken but this space is never changing. Even if a nuclear bomb explodes, it doesn't matter. Space is space. That mind is very important. If something in your mind explodes, then don't hold it. Then it will disappear. Sometimes anger mind appears but soon disappears. But if you hold it, you have a problem. Appear, disappear, that's OK. Don't hold. Then it becomes wisdom. My anger mind becomes wisdom. My desire mind becomes wisdom. Everything becomes wisdom. That's interesting, yeah? So don't hold. That's very important point.

-Zen Master Seung Sahn

~Peace to all beings~

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L.B. said...

One of my favourite books these days is 'Wanting enlightenment is a big mistake' and is based on recorded lectures from this good man. If ever there was someone I would like to even sit at the feet of, he is one of them.

Barry said...

Many people benefited from his energetic teaching and his "just do it" life!

Garnet said...

Death to multi tasking. :)

MgcHamm said...

Uh oh, is this going to become a productivity blog? :P

Kyle R Lovett said...

"My desire mind becomes wisdom. Everything becomes wisdom. That's interesting, yeah? So don't hold. That's very important point."

Love that quote.

Thanks James!

tozan said...

Master Seung Sahn is a fine example of what Zen Buddhists call a "newspaper roshi."

This kind of witty, talkative teacher appeals to westerners because his approach seems more accessible than someone like, say, Yengo who tells us,

"This is where you surrender all -- your body, your life, and all that belongs to your inmost self. This is where you gain peace, ease, non-doing, and inexpressible delight. All the sutras and shastras are no more than communications of this fact; all the sages, ancient as well as modern, have exhausted their ingenuity and imagination to no other purpose that to point the way to this."

tozan said...

To amplify and perhaps clarify what Master Seung Sahn says in James's post about "wisdom" (Prajnaparamita) here is an excerpt from a teisho by Genki Takabayashi Roshi.

"A few years ago when I practiced with Joshu Sasaki Roshi in New Mexico, he related to me that several of his Zen students were giving strange inadequate responses to his koans. I said, "Oh yes, recently I had seen an English publication of koan answers." He said, "Ah, now I understand. I'll just have to make up some new koans." No one can teach you Zen, how much less can you then learn from a book, but with enough effort and guidance you can realize it for yourself.

"To penetrate a koan, or gain Zen understanding, just sit, sit, sit. Here on the cushion, face all the trials of pain, fatigue and mental disquiet, and learn how not to be distracted or disturbed. Then, and only then, will your own gut-cleansed understanding bubble up to your awareness. Learn how to be undisturbed and you will gain direct access to your own powerful, creative, compassionate, core energy.

"Life is our teacher, our only teacher. When we learn how to fully face life just as it is, without clinging to our likes or running from our dislikes, then we will realize our human potential to meet life and death, times of confusion or clarity, without flinching."

Rarely do we see so clear and direct a statement of what Zen practice is. Of course "learn how not to be distracted or disturbed" is not as easy as it sounds, but once experienced, there's nothing like it!

Noonshyne said...

Did you catch the article in the LA Times June 30th, "Drug wars on another border: Canada"? Big drug king, Clayton Rouechie, "has a passion for martial arts and Buddhism" Huh? Right Livelihood???

They call him James Ure said...


Yeah that's an odd pairing--Buddhism and a drug kingpin. Hmmm...Well, I hope one day Buddhism will influence him greater than crime.

tozan said...

Maybe Clay Roueche went too far with, "a direct transmission outside of the scriptures..."

"A Buddhist temple in Langley, B.C. (a registered charity) provided a reference letter written by its President, Savath Homsab, which claims Roueche "regularly volunteered in fund-raising and doing all variety works to build up our temple."

He isn't suspected of actually practising Buddhism. (grin)

Roueche's organization is known as the "UN Gang." By their works ye shall know them ...

Zero said...

"newspaper (blog) roshi" suits me just fine.

Diane Meier said... simple that most of us humans mess it up and complicate it with our "self" that wants more and more of everything.

It's so simple that it seems a miracle when we "get it" and then it is hilariously funny to look back at our own foolishness over how hard we struggled and suffered over trying to find "it".

What a relief to no longer struggle!

Loved this posting!

They call him James Ure said...


Yeah we love to make things so hard for ourselves don't we? I know I sure do anyway. Sometimes I stop and think to myself, "What are you doing???" Or maybe I should say "WHY are you doing?"

tozan said...

James and Diane:

The "WHY are you doing?" is where Master Seung Sahn is so excellent a teacher. He doesn't speak of Bodhicitta, the "thought of enlightenment" but he points to it again and again. And his own life history is an account of non-stop, wall-to-wall Bodhicitta.

Genki Roshi is right; no one can teach you Zen, but a Seung Sahn can really get you interested!

release_in_extremity said...

Funny you should mention this, I finished reading "Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake" about a week ago and thought it was very good. I also like learning a little about Korean zen since I'm more familiar with zen being Japanese. I also have a book called "The Way of Korean Zen" but I haven't started it yet.

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miracle_tke said...

I am that I am doing.

Paul Lynch said...

Tozan needs to learn to lighten up and follow a much more objective approach, Zen is about transcending our opinions, ideas and constructs. Thanks and please don't judge those whom you don't know and have never met.


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