Some thoughts on Juingong

Eternal, unchanging, pure gold.
The bright essence of our true nature.
Seon Master Daehaeng Sunim

I don’t want all my posts here to be no more than re-writes of material I published on the now deleted ‘Marcus’ Journal’, but I used that website to do a lot of thinking about the practice and as a record of my journey, and there were one or two posts that I think bear being repeated. This is one of them. A little research and some persoanl reflection on what exactly is meant by ‘Juingong’.

In terms of its Chinese characters, juin is the person who carries out an action, whilst gong means sky, or empty. And an on-line dictionary I consulted suggests that the Korean term juin-gong originated in the theatre or in literature and means the hero or heroine, the lead role. Which, by extension, also means the central figure in any situation.

Korean Buddhists have traditionally translated this term as True Self, as in this poem said to have been expressed spontaneously by the great Seon Master Gyeongbong Jeongseok as he danced alone under a full moon upon the falling away of his doubts and the revelation of his true nature:

Having searched for myself in all myriad things
True Self (Juingong) appeared right before my eyes
Ha! Ha! Meeting it now, there is no doubt
Brilliant hues of udumbara flowers spill over the whole world.

Master Gyeongbong Jeongseok compared his finding of True Self to waking from a dream and, in terms both personal and touching, described it as being “as familiar as my own name”. Seon Master Daehaeng, when she first awoke to Juingong, called it appa, the Korean for ‘daddy’. Years later, according to Chong Go Sunim’s excellent biography, she’d laugh about this, saying:

“If I hadn’t been so young and uneducated, I might have called it Buddha-nature or true self, but at that time all I knew was that it was completely full of love and warmth, so I just called it ‘Daddy’.” Still today, Master Daehaeng teaches that you can call Juingong Dad or Mum, Amida Buddha or God, my love or pure water. It is, she teaches, ‘the true essence of me’ and the practice is to entrust everything to it.

My great friend and Dharma brother Carl once wrote an intimate and helpful essay on his practice of entrusting to Juingong. He says he first saw it in action in a friend before he tried it himself, and the effects were remarkable. It was “transforming her life,” he says “making her really happy, focused, and frankly, fascinated – I became more intrigued.”

Putting everything into Juingong is like slipping a post-it note into the mind, Carl said. He can just leave it there, knowing it’s being taken care of, and that he doesn’t need to do things alone. It works, he concludes, because “we are all connected – all people and all things – in this continuum of life and existence”.

This aspect of True Self, that it doesn’t exist separately, is why it is described as empty. Emptiness not as a void, but as continuous manifestation. Daehaeng Sunim describes it as “the fundamental place of ceaseless changing shapes” and says “JuinGong is never born, never dies, it is the eternal self, it cannot be seen with the eyes, nor can it be grasped with any thought”.

Which is a wonderful reminder to me to stop thinking and just rest, something I don’t do enough of. And yet, when I do, when I entrust everything to Buddha-nature and find myself held within its embrace, then, like Master Gyeongbong Jeongseok dancing under the moon, I discover that normal language can hardly express it at all.

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