We’re working on a new Dharma talk that we should have published in August, and the opening has haunted me. Daehaeng Kun Sunim opens with a couple of paragraphs about how anger and resentment, blame and despising hinder us. She just touches on it – poof – and moves on, leaving me devastated in her wake. Her whole point is that not only do these states damage us, while we are spending time on them, we aren’t moving forward! We’re losing daylight. We have stopped taking steps down our own path, the one we were born to fulfill. The path we need to travel to ensure we don’t end up right back here. All the effort, all the time complaining about the stupidity of politicians, (or silently looking down on them,) of city employees, of, of, of, — none of that was spent doing what I needed to do. All that time was me just standing in a wide spot in the road, looking off into the fields. All that time was neglecting my real work. So I’m not going to look back. I’m not going to get caught up in whatever people over there are doing. As best I can, I’m going to go forward with a light heart, wishing well for everyone. And if I see blame or resentment, or the desire to despise or compare, I’m going to take that as a sign that I need to be letting go of something heavy, and looking forward again.
This daily life of ours is like walking on a frozen lake, all the while trying to juggle a hundred different things. And the ice is thin. Very thin. Would you stop and build a campfire on such ice? No. But that’s what happens when we get angry.
People don’t realize just how thin the ice is, yet they build a fire there and keep feeding it with anger, blame, resentment, and attempts to dominate and control others. How soon before the ice gives way? How long before they’re left flailing and struggling, trying to escape the freezing water? They certainly won’t be taking any more steps forward on their path.
For example, suppose this building was on fire. Finding a way out would be the only thing on your mind. Every other problem would be forgotten. Learning how to rely upon your fundamental mindand free yourself is exactly this urgent.
— Seon Master Daehaeng, “Dancing on the Whirlwind,” 2019, forthcoming
I’ve been working on stuff to reprint some of our older books, as part of that, I had the idea to do some short Dharma talks based on those books. So here goes! 🙂
Whether you live as a monk or a layperson, you must rely upon your inner self, honestly and devotedly, and produce results through your own efforts without hoping that someone else will intercede for you…. No one can give you happiness and freedom, and no one can take them away either. No one else can take your place when it comes to these things. Ultimately, you are the one who takes care of yourself.
– Seon Master Daehaeng, “Mind, Treasure House of Happiness”
Simply because we were born as human beings, we have the ability to make full use of this inherent foundation, this fundamental “mind” that we are born with. We can take in everything, turn it around, and then send it back out as something new.
Just as with life-long learning, how we handle the things we are confronting conditions our future. How well we continue trying to entrust everything to our foundation determines what kind of role we can fulfill in the future, whether that future is a week from now or a lifetime from now.
Quite simply, it’s mind that frees mind. It’s also mind that hinders itself when we say, “This can’t be done.” We have the ability to leap over the old piles of these hindering thoughts if we just make use of it. We all have this bright, divine nature within us. Whether we call it Buddha-nature or God, Allah or Inner Divinity doesn’t matter. When we go forward relying upon this, and letting its ability flow forth, we can overcome the weight of old habits and karma, and begin to live afresh. Every single one of us has the ability to do this. We all have the right to do this.
Here’s the last Dharma talk of this series. It ended up cover two stories because I realized that they complimented each other. One is about intention and our foundation, and the other is about the selflessness that fuels our spiritual growth. Thanks for joining me for these talks!
For a wet Wednesday afternoon, here’s a poem by Daehaeng Kun Sunim that’s also used as a song. These songs are so good! lol. They just blow me away.
A Great Being
This mountain, that mountain, great mountain, green mountain. Stepping down into the world, reaching up and grabbing heaven and earth, making them my hat, hanging the moon and sun from my staff, taking a drink of clear water. This life of one who has truly awakened, what more could anyone want?
This mountain, that mountain, great mountain, green mountain. Gathering all the loose strands together, forming them into a top knot, using my staff as a hair pin to hold them all steady.
Oh, what more could anyone want, than this life of a free person?
Looking up at the sky as I strike the earth with my staff, a pillar of energy rises up and penetrates the heavens, and the heavens begin to rotate around this pillar.
Pierced and connected by this lion’s pillar of fire is every being in the universe. Crossing back and forth between the realms of the living and the dead, flowing with the truth, nothing left undone, this life of a truly awakened one.
This week’s Dharma talk is from the story, “Three Grains of Millet.” It’s a bit of a strange story, but it’s got a couple of very nice points to it. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it in the older posts (there’s also an audio file.)
Here’s the text that will be the basis for the English Dharma talk on week 6.
audio file – from the audiobook version of “My Heart is a Golden Buddha.”
the Joseon Dynasty, there was a scholar who was on his way to Seoul
to take the national civil service examination.
had been walking all day under the late summer sun, and was hungry
and tired. Seeing an inn, he entered its courtyard and sat down on
the raised platform with a heavy sigh. He ordered food and drink, and
as he took out his purse, he found himself staring at it with tears
in his eyes.
tears welled up because while he had spent the last several years
studying for the civil service test, his wife had been the one who
supported their family.
she belonged to the nobility, she worked in other people’s kitchens
and took in their sewing and mending. One copper coin at a time, she
supported her husband and children, and saved enough for her
husband’s traveling expenses.
made it worse was that this wasn’t the first time the scholar had
taken the national examination; it was famously difficult, and he had
already failed it several times. So, as he looked at the coins in his
purse, he felt the weight of his wife’s love and how bravely she
had gone about taking care of the family.
several years, the entire country had been gripped by a drought. If
the rains did come, it was always as floods that washed away entire
fields, or buried them under sand and gravel. Words can’t express
how much the ordinary people suffered.
the worst disaster of all was the behavior of the corrupt and greedy
officials that plagued so many areas. Even when the people were one
step away from eating boiled grass and tree bark, these officials
still insisted that they pay their taxes, and they would take every
last thing of value a family possessed.
the local officials had just reported the situation to the king, he
would have canceled the taxes in the districts that were suffering.
But then the officials would have lost the chance to steal part of
the tax money. So they kept quiet and the people continued to suffer.
the scholar couldn’t pass through a single village, no matter how
small, without hearing the sounds of weeping or the groans of the
sick and dying. He vowed, “If I pass that test with a high score,
I’m going to become a royal inspector, and I will not let the
people be abused and suffer like this!”
see, in those days the king had secret inspectors whose job it was to
tell him what was really going on in the country. In addition, they
had the authority to solve any injustice on the spot. All of the
soldiers and police had to obey the inspector instantly. These
inspectors could even have officials arrested, exiled, and beaten to
within an inch of their lives.
most terrifying sight a corrupt official could see was a shabby
peasant suddenly calling out in a fearsome voice and holding high the
badge of a king’s inspector. Even the most cunning and powerful
official’s blood would turn to ice at the sight of that round,
brass badge with its image of five horses. These inspectors truly had
the power to relieve people’s suffering.
the scholar thought of the suffering of so many people and of his
wife, he sat up straight, drew his shoulders back, and growled, “I’ll
pass that examination or die trying!”
he wiped the tears from his eyes, a weary old man sat down beside
him. “Oh my legs! And if it were any hotter today, I don’t know
what I’d do.” Smiling at the scholar, he asked, “Where are you
off to on a day like this?”
heading up to the capital to take the national examination.”
then,” said the old man, “you’d better take a look at this.”
Out of his backpack he took an old book and gave it to the scholar.
scholar opened it up, but as he looked through it, he saw that every
page in the book was blank. He turned to speak to the old man, but no
one was there; the old man had vanished!
he been there at all?” wondered the scholar. “Perhaps I’m
suffering from heatstroke?” But no, the book the old man had given
him was still in his hands.
sat there for a long time looking at the blank pages of that book.
Passers-by saw him and imagined that he was studying some
particularly difficult text, and yet not a single word was written on
the scholar gave a shout. “Hah! Who would have guessed! There’s
nothing here, so it can become one with everything, and can manifest
as anything. It contains everything in the world. If one takes that
as their center, they can hold all the realms of existence and
non-existence in the palm of their hand.”
scholar reverently put the book in his bag, and with a smile on his
face continued on his way to the capital.
the day of the exam, he went to the palace and found his seat. At
last, the instructors revealed the examination topic: the word
“Everything.” Everyone had to compose an essay or poem with
“everything” as their subject.
scholar thought of the book the old man had given him, with its
blank, white pages, and smiled as he began to write about the
principle by which everything in the universe functions.
to say, his poem received the highest scores. He met the king, who
upon hearing his story made him a royal inspector and charged him
with protecting the people and upholding justice.
peas are immature, they tend to stick to the pod, don’t they?
However, when they have completely ripened, they burst out with just
a touch of the fingers.
scholar’s study of human virtue and how we should live had ripened
to the point where those blank pages alone were enough to open his
eyes. Everyone needs to reach this point.
are so many teachings left by great practitioners; however, if your
own spiritual practice isn’t deep enough, those teachings will
remain just words on a page.
though you’re not yet at the stage of understanding the blank page,
do your best to at least correctly understand the true meaning of the
written words. If you can’t understand even the written words, how
will you be able to pass the examination?
when your practice has deepened and matured, then without even a
single word, you will understand the ultimate meaning.