Toward the great bodhisattvas in all directions
Who practice the Way out of sympathy for all,
One should have reverence and respect,
Saying ‘These are my great teachers’.
– The Lotus Sutra, Chapter 14
Entrusting and devotion. Thank you to everyone who has brought this discussion into being; these are questions I’ve been struggling with for years, and what follows are my own personal thoughts and tentative conclusions based on my own feelings and practice. I offer this not as a replacement or supplement to the wonderful articles already submitted by Joseph and Chong Go Sunim, but just as a personal account of what is true for me.
But I start with Zen Master Daehaeng, who gave me my Dharma name and whose words I’ve found to be invariably wise and relevant. “First,” she says (in ‘No River to Cross’), “sincerely believe in your inherent nature, Juingong, and know that it is taking care of everything. Second, go forward with courage. Third, experiment with how Juingong takes care of everything, continuously apply what you experience, and never let yourself be daunted by anything”.
What Master Daehaeng Sunim does is invite us to know, for ourselves, that Juingong, Buddha-nature, is taking take of everything, that everything arises from it and returns to it. So entrust everything, she writes, “entrust the things you understand and the things you don’t understand, entrust happiness and entrust suffering, entrust poverty and entrust disease.” But let go to what? Entrust to what? To emptiness, Daehaeng Sunim says, to emptiness.
Emptiness, One Mind, True Self, the fundamental place. Daehaeng Sunim calls it ‘Juingong’ but she says “you can call it Amida Buddha, or the main Buddha. You can call it God or my love because it is the fundamental place… the true self that leads you, no matter what name is used.” The experience is the very same. The most pure and fundamental part of you responding to what is most pure and fundamental. And this call to the fundamental place is universal.
For me, this is the emptiness that manifests as Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva or Amida Buddha, or in a church I may feel it as the Christ. I am held in the warm arms of the Buddha, wrapped in the loving cloak of the Bodhisttva. This is not poetry, it’s true. True not just because it’s in countless Sutras, but because I know it. When I die I will be met by Amida Buddha and the Bodhisttvas. Yet they are also here now, all I need do is remember. And to live well, all I need do, and here’s the thing, is entrust.
Perhaps that which we entrust to may best be described through rhythm, or art, or silence. When asked for highest wisdom, the ancient masters said ‘mu!’ – ‘nothing!’. But emptiness is also form, so then they told their students to chop wood, to carry water, to find that emptiness, that eternal ever changing flow, that fullness of love and awareness that sunders the bonds of suffering, in their every activity, in their work, in the very depths of their lives.
Where names are, for me at least, important. I’ll happily admit to being a beginner. I’ve tried, but cannot reach the most difficult philosophical heights of the Dharma. I’ve been to many Buddhist discussion groups where I’ve been lost at the complexity of it all. And I’m rubbish at meditation. But I look around at the good people in the temples, in Thailand and Korea, the places I know best, and see that Buddhist life is the precepts, generosity, chanting, and reliance upon the Buddha. That is enough. And difficult enough.
So faith is vital to me. I remember many times at Bonguensa with my Dharma friends performing prostrations and chanting Kwan Seum Bosal. The temple would be full of people, their practice clearly coming from faith. It rubbed off on me and I find myself often drawn to the Boddhisattva, with devotion and gratitude. Many times a day I chant the Bodhisattva’s name and feel her presence. I feel grateful for this and my practice is to entrust everything to her. Yet I also know that she is no different to my fundamental Buddha-nature.
Perhaps I’m in the wrong Buddhist group for this to find its full expression, but I don’t think so. Rather, I think the teachings of Master Daehaeng Sunim gives a depth to this faith that places it where it most belongs, right in my heart. Know that you are connected to all, believe, entrust, observe. For me, there is no contradiction between a devotional practice towards the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (or whatever figure one is drawn towards) and faith in one’s fundamental Buddha-nature. How could there be?
“Because mind has no form, tens of thousands of different shapes can come out from it. This is called the ten billion transformation bodies of Buddha. Why is it called the ten billion transformation bodies? It’s because Buddha responds to you as you request: if you want the mountain god, Buddha manifests as the mountain god. If you want Avalokitesvara, Buddha manifests as Avalokitesvara. Like this, Buddha manifests in various forms. Furthermore, Buddha responds not only with certain shapes, but also with compassion and warmth.”
– Seon Master Daehaeng Sunim