Living with Joy and Confidence


Hi everyone! 
We just finished up a series of English Dharma talks here about living with joy and confidence, and some of the things that go into that. We started with readings from No River to Cross, with a different page (roughly) every week. The talks were usually a mix of Korean and English, which can make for difficult listening if your Korean isn’t up to speed, so I decided to rerecord these and put one up each week for the next five weeks. There will be a recording of me reading the text, as well as one of a short talk (10 minutes or so). The thing about these is that as part of the Joy and Confidence thing, I’m not being over perfectionist about them. I’m trying out a simpler microphone solution, and if I flub a sentence while reading from the book, I’m just going to leave it in! Let’s move forward! (I’ll try this for a while, so let me know what you think. If there are problems with the sound or whatnot, we’ll try something different.) So go ahead and take a listen, and if something clicks with you, try to put that into practice. 

with palms together,
Chong Go


This week’s Dharma talk:

Reading of this week’s text (it’s the same as below)

The Correct Attitude for Practicing
You must not try to search outside of yourself. Take your inherent nature as your teacher. Because your inherent nature exists, everything in the universe functions together, so take your inherent nature, your fundamental mind, as your teacher.

In this practice, you teach yourself and you learn from yourself. You let go and you receive. You surrender and you accept the surrender. Spiritual cultivation is done like this, between you and your true self. Don’t be caught by outside things.

God, Buddha, and Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva all exist within you. If you would find and know them, start by brightening your own inner light. Then you will also be able to correctly perceive yourself and the world around you. However, if you abandon your own inner light and search for Buddha and God outside yourself, you will not find them, and little you do will turn out well.

Flowers bloom naturally when the conditions are right. People should learn about the conditions that cause flowers to bloom, and then create those conditions. Instead, they often wander around trying to find some unique and astonishing method. Instead of searching outside of yourself, you should first center your mind, and then take those thoughts that are focused on outward things and return them inward. Do not be dazzled by or chase after other people’s enlightenment. Instead, create the conditions that will allow the flower of enlightenment that is within you to bloom. You’re already endowed with it, so just help it to bloom naturally.

— Daehaeng Sunim, “No River to Cross,” page 51


Why (blank) can’t become enlightened

There’s a story in the sutras of a woman who was so filled with resentment over the way she was treated that the Buddha remarked she wouldn’t be able to become enlightened until her next life, when she would be reborn as a man. Some people have wildly misunderstood this to mean that women can’t become enlightened. (“Urm, don’t we all have the same Buddha-nature? Isn’t it equally present everywhere?”) But the key here isn’t that she was a woman, but that she just couldn’t let go of her resentment as long as she was still being treating unfairly.

Male, female, justified, unjustified, isn’t the point: It’s things we aren’t letting go of, things we aren’t trusting our inherent Buddha essence with that are keeping us from moving forward. It could be resentment at how we were treated, anger, lust, love, or sadness. It could also be an unwillingness to let to of feelings of joy and the thrill of a spiritual experience. And it could be concerns about politics.

Be responsible, take care of what needs doing, but we need to entrust even that as well. As the Bible says so well, we own only our labors, not the fruits of those labors.
Let go of even politics, of even justified resentment, and trust that our true nature is sorting it all out, if we just take our fingers out. Let’s not become people who can only make progress in our next life, at some place where things would (hopefully) be better.

(This text is from a new Dharma talk we’re working on)
People need to working at relying upon their foundation, but instead they spend their time complaining about what other people are doing, or meddling in other’s lives. Do you really have time for that? The house is on fire! You have only a few moments to find a way out! Are you really going to spend them standing around criticizing others?

So you must let go of everything, and just rely upon this one pillar of mind. In truth, everything is already flowing like that, so just don’t try to cling to ideas or events. If, with a wise thought, you can leap over these things, your life and family will be relaxed and comfortable. Wouldn’t this be a better way to live?
What I’ve just said is the most important thing I’ll say all day. It’s so precious! Our lives continuously circle this fundamental mind, as fast and ceaseless as a propellor spinning around its drive shaft. If you let your life flow like this around your fundamental mind, there will be no place for illnesses and such to stick onto.
I wish people would take this fact and treat it like the jewel it is, cultivating their faith in it and entrusting everything to this pillar of mind. But they don’t seem to do this. I’m just telling you about how the world is working, nothing more, and yet still people don’t work at living in accord with this. Instead, they follow distorted paths, living upside-down lives, and so experience every kind of hardship.
If they could just live in tune with this truth that everything is already following and moving according to their fundamental mind, then they would radiate joy and wisdom, and would live out their full, proper, span of years.
Even though everyone is inherently free, you have to know how to act free in order to actually be free. You have to keep taking what you understand and putting it into practice. Start with where you are. Look at how we build a house: you start with leveling the dirt and building a solid foundation. Then you need to know how to build the walls, floor, and roof. You have to figure out how to do all of this to end up with a useful building.
You have to practice like this, taking one thing after another as they come to you, combining them with your fundamental mind, and then observing and putting the results into practice. Then you’ll be able to freely move between higher and lower realms, going wherever you’re needed. This is why the Buddha asked, “Who has my skin?” “Who has my flesh?” “Who has my bones?” and “Who has my essence?” Seon masters have said similar things to their students.
Also, you shouldn’t concern yourself with other people’s level of spiritual practice. Or compare yourself to them. Just focus on putting into practice what you’ve learned and then leap over the things you’re stuck on. If you keep doing this over and over, eventually you’ll naturally understand everything about different levels of spiritual awareness.

— Daehaeng Kun Sunim

Who judges? Who saves?

from the “beam raising” ceremony, celebrating the midpoint of construction of the Tong Yeong Hanmaum Seon Center. The completion ceremony/celebration will be held this Saturday (Oct 13) from around 10am, so if you’re in the 통영 area, stop by!

I suppose for the sake of making things easy to understand, “judgement” has almost always been described as someone else looming over us, checking our deeds and misdeeds in a ledger or book. That works well enough, I guess, to get the point across that our actions will have consequences we’ll have to account for, but it also has the effect of making those effects seem utterly fixed and unchangeable on the one hand, and the whole effect being easily discredited for it’s implausibility on the other hand. In the excerpt that follows, Daehaeng Sunim describes the situation a bit differently.

It is not the Buddha who awakens you and raises your spiritual level. Buddha doesn’t bring you happiness, nor does he take it away from you. Nor is it the case that someone comes to take away your happiness because of the bad karma you’ve made. Nor will making lots of good karma cause someone to bring you happiness. Everything comes to you according to your own thoughts and actions. It comes according to the decisions you have made.

Further, everything is flowing by so quickly that there’s no moment for someone else to step in and try to change or affect something. Everything you see, hear, and do just flies past in that instant. It’s already long gone by the time you could say, “That’s what I’ve done,” or “I couldn’t do that.”

You, yourself, can’t even reach in and grab hold of it, so how could anyone else find a place they could step in and do something for you? Or something to harm you? It’s all flowing and changing every instant in response to what you are doing and thinking.

— Daehaeng Sunim



“The Doctor is In” (new book)


Just in time for Korean Thanksgiving (Chuseok), we have a new Dharma talk out! This is a Korean-English edition of a Dharma talk by Daehaeng Kun Sunim, in which she talks at length about health and spiritual practice. Currently this book is only widely available in Korea, but we’re publishing this talk in an English collection called “Standing Again,” which will be out in the next month or so. “Standing Again” will be in print and ebook formats, and available through and other worldwide book stores.

Here’s an excerpt: 

Regardless of who you are, regardless of your position in society, education, gender, or age, every one of you has this incredible fundamental mind within you. If you just have faith in this essential Buddha and rely upon it, you can move mountains, penetrate the secrets of the universe, and stop army tanks in their tracks. But if you don’t have faith in it, if you try to ignore it, then life is like trying to walk through an endless field of mud. Or flailing through the air, unable to get your feet under you. Please work on firmly trusting this inherent foundation of yours, so that you will be able to step beyond the boundaries of this middle world and become forever free.

Know that this inherent mind can take care of whatever you are going through! Believe in your inherent essence! [Thrusting her fist in the air.] This is where you can find courage! And vision and determination! Here is the power to turn the world upside down or to set it right! Right now we are lame in one leg, blind in one eye, and deaf in one ear. Even the most advanced technology in the world can’t compare to this ability of your inherent essence. Why? Because those are limited to the material world, to only one side of things. But this light within you is connected to both sides, as well as all the energy of the universe.

So leave behind thoughts of social status or judgments about others, and work together as brothers and sisters in the Dharma. The Buddha awakened to the reality that everyone else was also himself, so even cleaning someone else’s bottom after a bowel movement was no more than cleaning his own. Should even a dog, sick with disease, raise from its foundation a deep desire for help, Buddha transforms into a dog and helps cure the disease, or frees the dog from its ignorance. Here, “Buddha” does not refer to an individual, but rather to the great pillar of energy that is the whole.

Every single one of us has this incredible, formless mind, this one great pillar that encompasses everything, which the ancients called the “Highest Heaven of Mt. Sumeru.” Take this pillar as your center, and strengthen your ability to let go. Develop your ability to entrust it with everything. In this way, let’s take all suffering, all illness, every kind of karmic state of consciousness, and burn it all up!

Repaying the Many Kindnesses We Have Received – Daehaeng Kun Sunim Dharma talk


In Korean Buddhist temples, we bow a lot. So much so, that at times we can lose sight of the way, the reason for all that bowing. In one sense, it’s propriety, but it also serves to make us humble.

I suspect that, in some language, “arrogance” means “above the rest,” “better than the rest,” but in losing this, we begin to move in tune with reality, the truth. We are all connected to every other.

While we have different physical shapes, we are all part of one undivided whole. Sharing the same live, the same mind, the same body, working together as one, and freely giving and receiving whatever is needed. Awareness of this, being able to truly live in accord with this, and to help manifest this so that others may find their way, is (I suspect) the essence of enlightenment.

Bek-jung, or Umlambala, was last weekend, and is a time for repaying our debts to those who have passed on. With that in mind, this Dharma talk from issue #100 of Hanmaum Journal seems appropriate: 

Repaying the Many Kindnesses We Have Received

Everything we do to help our ancestors also helps us.
We have to keep raising and entrusting the intention that
our ancestors and parents will reside together with the Buddha’s,
so that they may awaken to the truth of nonduality.

In this way, we can repay them for all their help.
When we bow during a memorial service,
we are not bowing to the physical shell they used to wear,
rather we are bowing to our foundation,
which is already one with all our parents and ancestors.

You have to bow like this,
then you and they will be connected as one,
along with everything else,
and true virtue and merit can arise.

– Daehaeng Kun Sunim

New Subtitled Videos of Daehaeng Sunim’s Dharma talks

Wow! It’s been a long, hot summer! I hope everyone has been well! Baek-jung, which is the ceremony(ies) to help those who have passed on has just finished here in Korea. There was a nice short Dharma talk by Kun Sunim for Baek-jung, and I’ll try to post a translation sometime in the next week.

In the meantime, there are two new subtitled videos of Kun Sunim’s Dharma talks up on YouTube.  They aren’t long. We have a couple more of these that we’re working on right now, and expect that they’ll be finished before the end of September.