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(This is the poem that the wonderful Korean poet Ko Un wrote for the forward of the Korean/English edition of Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s translation of the Thousand Hands Sutra, titled “A Thousand Hands of Compassion.”)

087Look at that! A thousand hands dancing!
Dancing hands of compassion.
Behold Master Daehaeng’s dance of compassion,
going far and wide.
So radiant!

Who is a bodhisattva, what is a bodhisattva?
If a bodhisattva can’t help the beings that are here
right now,
is such a person really a bodhisattva?
A thousand times No!
A true Bodhisattva
calls forth unconditional incomparable compassion
holds nothing back,
and saves the lives in front of her.

Behold,
like a thousand moons shining in a thousand streams
all flowing flowing,
Bodhisattvas shine forth pure light upon all.
And seeing so many still unable to free themselves
from a thousand kinds of suffering and pain,
how sad,
how sad,
the tender compassion of a thousand Bodhisattvas rushes forward.

Such far-reaching compassion,
the compassion of a thousand eyes,
not the two eyes tainted with desire,
but a thousand eyes overflowing with every aspect of compassion.
And not just two hands,
a thousand outstretched hands dancing far and wide.
And in the palm of each hand,
an utterly pure eye shining light on all before it.

So sincere,
so utterly sincere.
For over a thousand years in Korea
have people recited The Thousand Hands Sutra
with such perfect devotion and sincerity
as each new day dawns
and as each day draws to a close.
And yet, for so long have people gone
without understanding this sutra’s Sanskrit heart,
The Great Compassion Dharani.
“It’s already a mantra, what need of explanations?”
But now is the time throughout the world
for every house and every person
to open doors and open minds
and for this sutra to be understood by all.

Now is the time for this ocean of life and all its waves to join together
and carry this sutra’s meaning far and wide.
Oh waves and troughs
and you empty spaces and spray above them:
Master Daehaeng is a Buddha of this world,
present in this world, manifesting miracles throughout this world.

One with all beings, one with their suffering
and one with their ability to understand,
she illuminates the deep meaning of The Sutra of the Thousand Hands and
Thousand Eyes of the Bodhisattva of Perfect Compassion,
revealing compassion like mother’s milk
and love as tender as a mother’s tears.
Now begins the feast of a thousand eyes and a thousand hands!
This great virtue and grace,
more than anything else,
it’s easy
it’s comfortable
it’s warm,
this world that Daehaeng has opened for us.

In due course, the tide surges in,
and then goes out again, carrying everything to all directions.
Now this tide has returned,
a thousand hands of compassion
dancing far and wide.

- Ko Un

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Rest Deeply

Here’s a letter from Michael, a very nice practitioner from Australia.

Greetings to you all
I have noticed a bit of a gap in recent postings, the last being Feb13. I have been a student of Chong Go Sunim for about two or so years (I think) and have thoroughly enjoyed and learnt from the many postings for longer. I have been a traveller along the Way for several decades, sometimes looking for the path while standing on it. I will be taking precepts in Korea in Sep 13, I have previously taken them through Vietnamese Thien (Zen) tradition.  I normally do not post online due to not thinking I have anything to add, and to avoiding arguments over perceptions, opinions, mental formation etc. which I have in abundance but now try to see as puffs of smoke, and try to relinquish my attachments to an I, Me, Mine world view – changing a personal mantra of “be reasonable see it my way’ to “don’t know/none of my business”.   Back to the point – gladly taking and enjoying the offerings of your web site while never giving, might be a tad selfish. So here goes:

When last visiting South Korea with my wife Elze, we had the pleasure of spending a morning with my teacher. On a later visit I was lucky to be given some calligraphy (from him not drawn by him).
rest deeply
I was told it meant rest deeply (I can’t remember the Korean), I have it on the wall in our bedroom and regularly think about it and what a wonderful gift to my practice it would be if I could incorporate into my being.
Chong Go Sunim recently advised me that I’m glad to hear that you’ve been practicing with everything that comes up, and handling it as well as can be expected. As I’m sure you know, it’s all about facing things while completely emptying yourself of everything you think you know.

And

I’ve been thinking a lot about emptiness and something Daehaeng Kun Sunim said, that if you think about your foundation in the morning, and again in the evening, it’s as if all the time in between is seamlessly connected to both.

My perfectionist mind kind of went, “well, okay, I guess.” but these days I’m thinking it really is true. I’m not sure what this means for you, but it’s what came to mind as I was reading your letter.”

To me it means my peacefulness can be measured by the amount of the I, Me , Mine I can relinquish – at least I have something to occupy myself with for next few centuries :)

Cheers and with Metta

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Daegu Hanmaum

On Saturday, I finally decided to pay a visit to the Hanmaum centre in Daegu.

Standing along one of Daegu’s main streams, in the southern part of the city, I’d passed it dozens of times, going from one place to another, but never finding away to stop by. As I mentioned in a post a few months ago, the building had intrigued me since I first moved to Korea. I remember being fascinated by the seven-balled golden pagoda on the roof. I’d never seen a temple before and it looked so exotic.

We looped our way through the tightly woven alleys, looking for the parking lot. The navigation directed me the wrong way down a one way street on the opposite side of the temple, so I switched it off and followed my senses to the gate. Entering the small (for a temple) courtyard, there was an immediate feeling of a welcoming comfort, with an overall sense of sophistication. We entered and a couple of pleasant women directed us up to the second floor.

The Dharma Hall in the Annyang Hanmaum centre has to be one of the most remarkable shrines anywhere and this one was also spectacular. The large Buddha was slightly most generic then the Annyang one, but after doing three bows, I spent a long while studying the elaborate wood carvings on either side of the Buddha, depicting stories of Karma, the prism of Heavenly to Hell realms, and probably other things beyond my awareness, I’m sure. There was one ‘Halmoni’ (Korean grandmother) doing bows int he middle of the hall, so I didn’t want to disturb her with the clicking of my camera, but I would have loved to have captured a few of the details in the carvings.

In the lobby, we met a nun who seemed as though she may have been the Juji Sunim, though I’m really not sure, and I’m not sure that describing her would help; short, shaved head, gray robes…  ^_^  She knew Chong Go Sunim, anyway, and pointed out his photo in the children’s magazine she’d given us for Fina.

Part of the reason for the visit was that I really wanted to send some thoughts to my mother’s cousin, who was in the last hours of his life after developing ALS a couple of years ago. The temple sold lovely pale green candles, made of bee’s wax and mugwort. I left a package on a wooden tray beside the shrine that would be burned once the current candles were finished. He ended up passing away later that day, at peace, surrounded by family and loved ones. He used his last few months of life to help those in his life who needed and was ready for his time to come. One of the last things he told his family was that he wanted to see his mother.

The temple had an entirely peaceful atmosphere. Eunbong commented that it was the nicest feeling of any temple we’d visited in the area since moving here ast year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Simon is a regular at my Saturday Dharma talk at the Buddhist English library of Seoul. Here’s his experience with trying to sit everyday for a year.

While I enjoy sitting meditation, and feel that it is of benefit to me, I have found that making time in my daily life for sitting One of the cool things about the street fair are the activities, here passersby participate in making a Buddhist paintingpractice is not something that comes naturally. Sometimes I’m not “in the mood,” and often I don’t think I can put aside enough time to “do it right.” Weeks can go by until it all comes together and I actually engage in sitting meditation. In an effort to make this practice a part of my daily life, my New Year’s resolution for 2011 was to practice sitting mediation every day for the year. I was quite successful, missing only one day: the day before I got married.

In order to give myself the best chance of succeeding with my resolution, “sitting meditation” was defined quite broadly. This definition did not include how long each day’s meditation should be. The result was that while some sessions lasted about an hour, the vast majority were only ten or fifteen minutes, or even shorter. (Which was not even enough time to allow my thoughts to settle.) While some meditation was done on park benches and in airport lounges, the vast majority was done at home, just before bed. Because I was not waiting to have lots of free time or to be in a “meditative mood,” I feel that the “quality” of my meditation actually decreased.

One (the only?) result that I was hoping for from this year of meditation was that daily sitting practice would become a habit, and that the habit would continue through 2012 (when it was not part of a resolution) and beyond. This did not happen. In 2012 I sat only a handful of times. Again, I sat only when I was in the mood and felt that I could spare enough time to have a productive session. The following is a reflection on a few of the differences in my overall experiences of 2011 (sitting every day) and 2012 (virtually no sitting meditation).

I did not notice a difference in my overall stress level between the two years. However, looking back, 2011 was unquestionably a more stressful year (getting engaged, getting married in Korea (with family and friends all visiting Korea for the first time), an incredibly hostile work environment, much longer work hours, writing three papers towards a Master’s degree). Perhaps the fact that I felt equally stress-free in both years was due to the daily sitting practice in 2011.

I did notice a difference in my relationships with people, especially at work. (Though certainly not limited to work: this effect was also clear when communicating with my family.) As I mentioned before, work in 2011 was pretty tough. Yet, I found that most of the time that I engaged with co-workers I was doing so without “baggage” from the previous encounter. I approached each meeting with fewer expectations (of any kind) and with an openness which was not there in 2012. In 2011 it was really clear that some people came into work each day with a fresh outlook, and others just picked up exactly where they had left off the day before. I doubt all of the “fresh people” were practicing sitting meditation each evening, but do I have to tell you which group of people were happier at work?

Related to the difference in my relationships with people, I think, was a change in my relationship with my daily life. In 2011, for the first time, there seemed to be both time and space between myself and the events in my life. This is not easy to explain. I would not say that I was distant, or disengaged, just that there was usually room to breathe and observe and reflect on what was happening at each moment. This disappeared in 2012, when everything just seemed to be right on top of me. Again, I’m not saying that 2012 was more stressful. I’m saying that in 2012 I was my daily life, while in 2011 my daily life was a part of me. I suppose one could interpret this as positive or negative (or neither), but for me the space was a positive thing.

Related to the change in the relationship between myself and my daily life, I think, was something even more difficult to explain. Despite approaching people free(er) of expectations, and having more space between myself and my daily life, I actually felt more connected. To what? Well, I’m way out of my depth here. Part (but not all) of what makes it so difficult to explain is that it was so subtle. I’m not talking about a specific experience. More about something constantly in the background, that you don’t even notice until your year of meditation is over and it gradually fades away and is gone. Maybe it was just the sense of well-being that sitting meditation has been reported to develop.

I imagine I experienced many benefits (and possibly some negative effects??) during my year of sitting meditation of which I was not conscious. I did learn that whatever little time I can spare is long enough to experience positive effects from sitting meditation. (Five minutes of sitting meditation is worth more than an extra five minutes of sleep.) Also, because of this “resolution approach,” I feel that rarely, if ever, did I go to meditate with any expectations or goals either than that I would be engaging in sitting practice. I think that for me this was a fairly healthy approach to sitting meditation. The idea of a New Year’s resolution to meditate every day seemed to me like a bit of a gimmick at first, but hey, whatever works.

Hope everyone has a great 2013!

Simon.

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The new year

Happy New Year, everyone!
I hope it has found you all well. Things have been a bit hectic the last year, with us doing a lot of translation work, and trying to get a lot more done during the year. We now have several great new books and Dharma talks that have been translated, and are awaiting their turn in the layout process. Within a month or two, we hope to have the new, revised edition of  My Heart is a Golden Buddha available on Amazon as well. That should make ordering and shipping a lot easier, as well as lowering the shipping charges for lots of people.

x_0024-1

 

Song of Sharing the Same Mind and Body
(공심공체 둘 아닌 노래)

Mountains embrace the water,
along with all sentient beings.
Flowers and butterflies
embrace each other,
dancing and dancing.
The mountains whisper to us:

Deep waters have within them
every kind of treasure.
One mind,
our foundation is the guide they always follow;
leaving no tract of their passage,
they ceaselessly go back and forth into the world.
Grasp this essence,
live freely,
release everything into this flowing emptiness,
and live like water.

Water embraces the mountains,
along with all sentient beings.
Flowers and butterflies
together cause blossoms to become fruit.
Water whispers to us:

When a tree cherishes its root,
relies upon its root,
the fruit that ripens on this tree
can freely go back and forth
from the mountains to the world,
with no coming or going.
Grasp this essence,
live freely,
release everything into this living emptiness,
and live like the mountains.

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your own Dharma Hall

“Within yourself you have your own Dharma Hall, which is always filled with light and where the Buddha is always present”.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
- (words slightly adapted from) Seon Master Daehaeng Sunim, No River to Cross, p.82
- picture of Kokubunji Pagoda, 国分寺, Japan, by unknown artist

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Tea and Dharma in Frankfurt

Tea and reading from the German edition of “My Heart is a Golden Buddha,” at the Frankfurt book fair.

image

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Magok Temple

This is the back entrance, on the path from the continuing education center

I recently returned from a stay near one of the oldest extent temples in Korea, Magok Sa. It’s near Kongju, in South Chung Chong Province, and if you’re nearby, be sure to stop in.

This pagoda has a lot of very unique elements, and is believed to have been influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. It was built some time in the 1300′s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two story Dharma Hall of Magok Temple

 

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I recently returned from a new(ish) continuing education program that’s been instituted within the Jogye Order. They’re now offering nearly fifty 3 day classes throughout the year, covering topics from managing temples to social welfare projects to counseling skills. Everyone’s now required to take one class a year, but I’ve taken two so far, and that seems to be the norm. This is quite a nice step up for the Jogye Order, where these kinds of skills tended to be learned or passed along in a fairly haphazard fashion.

This was the room where apparently they teach tea ceremonies. I think I might know a few people who’d love to play with some of those tea sets!

This was all done at a new training center set up near Ma-gok Temple, in South Chung Chong Province. And by “near,” I mean a five minute walk!

This pine tree really was this vivid. I haven’t adjusted the color at all.

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A prayer for Bangladesh

This weekend in southeastern Bangladesh Buddhist homes and temples were robbed and destroyed on a huge scale. Newspaper reports vary, some say four Buddist temples were burnt down, others put the figure at eleven. Some reports say 15 homes were torched, others say forty.  The fact is, they came under a sustained attack from a huge mob (the most common report is of 25,000 people) and were targetted specifically because of their religion.

When I first read this yesterday my initial reaction was one of grief and anger. Grief at the idea of Buddhists being forced from their homes, watching as they were robbed, and then being left homeless as their homes, and places of worship, were destroyed. The attackers even beheaded Buddha statues to complete the insult and harm. Anger followed close behind. My first anger was directed at those who carried out the attacks. My second wave of anger was directed against the western Buddhist blogoshere which completely and utterly ignored the attacks.

(A year or two ago a Christian pastor in the US suggested that Tiger Woods should convert to Christianity, the Buddhist blogs spent months condemning him. But Buddhist temples  are burnt to the ground in Bangladesh and Buddha statues beheaded and the blogosphere is silent).

I was angry, sad, unsettled, and felt isolated and powerless. What could I do to help? What is the proper response. Thankfully, I knew enough to get off the Internet and onto my meditation block. Practice was difficult. My breathing was fast and every time I thought about it my heart rate would increase again. Eventually some peace came as I prayed. “Let there be comfort” I prayed, “let those who did this wake up”, “let those that suffer find strength”. Eventually it was one prayer only, again and again, “let there be peace”.

I’m still unsettled, I’m still angry. My prayer for peace brought some to me, but what does it do for those in Bangladesh? How does it help them? Is our Buddhism so self-centred that all we can do is sooth our own hearts while, effectively, ignoring the suffering in the world?

Well, Thich Nhat Hanh writes that “When you have enough of the energy of compassion and love in you, your heart grows big and you can embrace everything and everyone – even those you call your enemy. When you can look deeply into your ‘enemy’ and see that he is a victim of ideas, notions, and misinformation, of conditions in his own life and his culture and society, then you can remain calm, your heart remains open, and you will have a better chance to help him get in touch with his humanity, his innate Buddha nature, and transform the seeds of hatred and violence within.” (“Peaceful Action, Open Heart”, p. 192).

So, while not ignoring or suppressing my anger, but just siting with it, here is my prayer for Bangladesh. For all those that lost their homes and their temples, and all those who caused the destruction too. It is taken from “A Thouasand Hands of Compassion”.

May the bright eye of wisdom fill the universe with light
shining brightly, illuminating all.
May all beings
become one, become one
one with all Buddhas
one mind, one mind
one body, one body.

May all beings
escape together
escape from suffering
and become free.

————————–

Let there be peace. Let there be peace. Let there be peace.

————————-

Some links:
- http://rt.com/news/buddhist-temples-torched-bangladesh-342/
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/30/bangladesh-muslims-attack-buddhists-quran_n_1926544.html
- http://news.yahoo.com/photos/bangladesh-muslims-attack-buddhist-temples-slideshow/

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