The Bangkok Seon Club

Gulukhan Bucheonimke Gwiuihamnida
Gulukhan Galeuchime Gwiuihamnida
Gulukhan Sunimdulke Gwiuihamnida
– The Three Refuges 
 

I am constantly struck by just how valuable an opportunity we have here in Bangkok to study the Dharma. In order to practice Therevadan Buddhism in English there is the wonderful Littlebang Sangha, and for those of us drawn towards Korean Zen, there is the Bangkok Seon Club. Not only is it amazing to be able to study Seon Buddhism at a Korean temple while living in Thailand, but the friendliness and support of the group is something not often encountered, and very precious. 

Hyaedan Sunim

We start each meeting by chanting the three refuges, though in the Korean tradition it’s more of a song than a chant, then we bow and take our places for a short meditation. The sit is led by Hyaedan Sunim, who marks the start and finish with three strikes of the seon stick, and then we always place our cushions onto benches, which we move into a square, to briefly read a few pages of Kun Daehaeng Sunim’s book ‘No River to Cross’, and start the discussion. 

Looking back through my notes from the past year of discussions, I see that we’ve covered a great deal of ground. One of the meetings that was most useful to me was from last August in which we talked about faith. I have a naturally devotional approach, and Kun Sunim’s teaching – to believe in, let go to, and observe the workings of Buddha-nature – has provided a better understanding of my faith, and a beautiful and adaptable practice I can go back to again and again. 

Many of the people in the group have been studying Zen for decades in various traditions, and although I admit the discussions sometimes become a little too complicated for me to follow, I always enjoy what I am able to understand and I am impressed at how people are able to share ideas and experiences regardless of language differences. Eun Young, our wonderful translator and an inspiring practitioner, deserves huge thanks for this. 

Bodhisattvas filling the sky around us

 But, of course, discussion has its limits. As Kun Daehaeng teaches in chapter two, “The eternal self cannot be described by words, and it cannot be revealed through discussion. Trying to know it conceptually is like trying to know the world while trapped inside of a barrel.” Hyaedan Sunim describes it as being like a bird which has flown into a room. Banging its head against the window won’t free it. 

Rather, the bird must stop its frantic activity, rest, and examine how it came to be in the room in the first place. Then the way out will be clear. This reminded me a lot of Phra Cittasamvaro Bhikkhu’s comments last year in his talks on ‘the way of wisdom’. He warned against too much conceptualisation and also suggested that simple resting, using time in practice to observe rather than engage, leads to peace and liberation. 

entrance to the Bangkok Hanmaum Seon Center

I’m glad I went back to look at this again. As well as that part of me that welcomes resting in faith, I also have a tendancy to try to work things out, to try to find the ‘right’ answer. Too often this ends up in pointless discussions, especially on the Internet. The beauty of our monthly Sangha meetings is that it is a place where real, meaningful discussion can happen, and where we can learn the practice of letting go. A practice I have had to return to again today, a practice I return to again and again. 

Our meetings are also a lot of fun. After the discussions, and sometimes they go on very late, many people continue talking and sharing in a nearby restaurant till well after the last train has stopped running. Thank you again to everyone who makes these evenings possible. And click on the link below for details of the next one on June the 26th. 

Links:
Littlebang: home page
Littlebang: details of next Seon Club

7 thoughts on “The Bangkok Seon Club”

  1. Sounds wonderful!
    I was told yesterday that I have vacation the first week in August, of course my first thought was Thailand! haha
    I’ll let you know if it materializes.

    “The eternal self cannot be described by words, and it cannot be revealed through discussion. Trying to know it conceptually is like trying to know the world while trapped inside of a barrel.”

    For a long time wasn’t there no speakable name for God, for similar reasons?? I don’t know much about these things…

    Something else I learned in India is that the Hindu faith actually does believe in one source, but rather than not name it, they’ve devised a nearly countless number of Gods and Goddesses to describe the one source. I don’t know if that’s a general opinion in Hinduism or just the opinion of who I was speaking to, but it made sense to me!

  2. I feel happy when I read about Sangha’s such as the Bangkok Seon Club; happy to know that such things exist; happy for the good fortune of those taking part; happy for the ripples sent out in the world from that Sangha – like this blog for instance.

    __/\__

  3. Thank you Joseph and Roy!

    I never thought about that thing with all the Gods and Goddesses in Hinduism, but it certainly makes sense. Like the old hwadu of where the ten thousand things come from and where they return to.

    And it would be great to see you if you do head back out to Bangkok mate! Even better if you could make it to a Seon Club meeting!

    And thank you Roy. Like you, I love seeing that other groups exist and are quietly getting on with practice. Sometimes I spend so long on the Internet (entirely my own fault) that I forget that the real work is done with real people in real time and space.

    Bows to you both,

    Marcus
    _/\_ _/\_

  4. Wow, Craig, what an awesome site! It’s packed full of many years’ worth of photos and accounts of your travels and pilgrimages. Amazing! Thank you!

    And hopefully, one day soon, I’ll be able to take a few steps along the trail behind you. If you don’t mind, I’ll use your amazing website as a guide!

    Thanks so much mate, and with palms together,

    Marcus
    _/\_

  5. Thank you Bhante!

    Moving the meeting this month would have been a good idea! If we don’t finish a little early this Saturday night, we run the risk of missing the start of the Korea-Uruguay game! LOL!

    Anyway, yes, one day we’ll try to have a meeting that’s not on a Saturday night!

    All the best,

    Marcus
    _/\_

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