Waking Up

I am so happy to be here on this brand new blog. For years I kept another (‘Marcus’ Journal’), and old readers of that will know me very well. But this new group blog, headed by the wonderful Chong Go Sunim, will have a much wider audience – and for all those new readers I’ll start with a brief outline of how I come to be here at all.

My journey into Buddhism goes back to my arrival in Thailand over ten years ago, but the greatest impact was when, a few years ago, I was lucky enough to be back in Korea. One day I stumbled across a beautiful little book called “My Heart is a Golden Buddha”. I thought the title alone was amazing, and I carried that book around with me for weeks.

Inside were many stories from Korea, stories of farmers and kings, animals and sages, wives and wisdom, and fabulous illustrations. A little later I saw that there was an American monk running a Dharma group on Saturday afternoons studying another book by the same writer.

That monk turned out to be, of course, Venerable Chong Go Sunim, and the writer of the book was Seon Master Daehaeng KunSunim. And my time in that little group, which we all came to know as Saturday Sangha, became one of the most significant periods of my life.

Over the weeks and months we met together Chong Go Sunim pointed to a teaching at once simple and profound. “Just trust in your foundation” he said, “Juingong, your Buddha-nature, is the only thing that can truly solve everything, so entrust everything that confronts you to your foundation and let go to that.”

The name is not the most important thing, the faith and the entrusting is, and it’s something that has deeply influenced my own spiritual practice. For me it points a way through all the various approaches, and places practice where it really belongs – in one’s own heart.

And that heart is also, we learn, the source of connection; something that has been very important to me personally. “Just keep letting go to your foundation” Kun Daehaeng Sunim says. “Then you can communicate with each other. If you dial a telephone on your side, the phone will ring on the other side. When you do this, your sincerity can be transmitted. This is truly loving [your family] and is the expression of the Buddha-Dharma.”

Well, eventually, our little Saturday group decided to formalise our commitment to the teachings and in May 2008, just days away from Buddha’s Birthday that year, four of us – myself, Joe, Joseph, and Carl – took formal refuge at the Hanmaum Seonwon in Anyang. Chong Go Sunim led the ceremony and Seon Master Daehaeng Sunim gave us our Dharma names.  It was a deeply beautiful and meaningful day.

I’ve returned to Thailand since then but have been delighted to find that there is a Hanmaum Seon Centre here too, and I’ve been astounded by the kindness and generosity of the Sunims and lay followers here who have done so much in facilitating, leading, and building the English-language Seon club.

And with ever more English-speaking people like myself being drawn to the teachings of Kun Daehaeng Sunim and to her message of entrusting to one’s own True Self, I’m sure this blog will go some considerable way in terms of connecting people, discussing the teachings, and helping everyone discover together that our hearts really are all a Golden Buddha.

3 thoughts on “Waking Up”

  1. Thanks for your wonderful blog. I was wondering if you could tell me more about visiting the Hanmaum Seon Centre in Thailand – in particular, is it easy for English speaking students?
    I am practising Zen with the Diamond Sangha in Australia and travelling to Thailand for the first time. I’m looking for centres which would welcome women lay-practitioners and where there won’t be too much of a language barrier. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  2. Hi Sarah,
    I’m not in Thailand right now, but the seonwon is still there and I believe they still run a Saturday night group once a month.
    You could also attend the Sunday morning service, but that is all in Korean. Or you could just turn up any time and see if a sunim is around and say hello!
    All the best and enjoy your time in Thailand!

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