A Better Zennist

All the people I meet, especially people I care about and who care about me, are my potential teachers. That is just how I look at life.

I met my Zen teacher, Chong Go Sunim, in 2007 and liked what he’d said about just about everything we spoke of. I’d never met Daehaeng Kun Sunim, his teacher, but I read her books, saw her on several occasions, and I bowed to her in respect, several times.

As with anything, I don’t accept all aspects of Buddhism, or Hanmaum Zen, which in Korean is called ”Seon”, but Han-maum, or One Mind Zen has at it’s center of understanding, a beautiful way of looking at reality; namely it says that our inherent nature is interconnected with all things. It also says that if we let go our worries, concerns, and desires to this “foundation”, they will find themselves-through our conscious effort of letting go of them-solved. This takes place in the interconnectedness of all things, working together. This is called Juingong. But you could call it God, if you want.

It is just the words that are different. You see, in Hanmaum, we “put our worries and concerns in our Juingong”, but I have realized it is the same as praying to God. I mean, I realize it doesn’t involve speaking to God, but you could do that too, if you believe in God. But if I release my worries and concerns to my foundation, does God not hear this? Of course not.

What I love about Hanmaum, though, or Zen, really, is that it doesn’t conflict with science, or any faiths, if you truly understand it.

In a funny way, it’s like The Force, in Star Wars. All life is bound by and penetrated with this oneness, and its energy emanates from all things as well. To me what people call “God” is like this; in everything and everywhere, and so what you call him doesn’t matter (those of you seeing God as something moe or less than male, please pad on my use of the masculine pronoun. I do so in the interest of convention according to standard English). The proof of that is all the names he has. In English it’s God. In Korean it’s Hana Nim (First Man, or First One), and in other languages it is other things. Do you think he cares? It is your heart he hears, not your tongue. He’s God. He’s not bound by the same physical limitations that you and I are bound by. I guess I should say here that I am not arguing a case for the existence of God, but I am arguing a case for the oneness of all things, and if one believes in Juingong, or God, it really doesn’t matter, not too much to practitioners of Hanmaum, anyway, and frankly, to me, that’s beautiful; no dogma here.

To me, Zen meditation can be utilized by anyone at any time, regardless of his or her religious practice. It is a tool for peace, harmony, and relieving oneself of useless worry, greed, and harmful states of mind that give rise to our misfortunes. It brings enlightenment. The main practice in any form of Buddhism, or Zen, is to meditate, which bings one the ability to live, as opposed to unconsciously.

I think Christians and Muslims should meditate. Chistians, especially, often ask me why I cannot just follow God, saying, ‘if you did that’, you wouldn’t’ need meditation’. I love people for caring about me this much, but people who say such things-in my opinion- betray a fear of solutions that can be added to their spiritual ‘kit-bag’, and they are basically saying something tantamount to, ‘hey, I got God; who needs penicillin, or stretching before running, or hammers?’

Though I think of myself as a Zennist, and I am in awe of many of the realizations Siddhartha Gautama had, I am not a Buddhist in the strictest sense, for Buddhists believe in rebirth. I am not sure about this. Actually, I am pretty sure I do not believe in  it, insofar as it means (to some) that my whole consciousness will be reborn in another life-form. I am not sure the Buddha meant that anyway. I think reincarnation and rebirth are vastly different, anyway, but I  don’t prescribe to either notions.

Buddhists also want to be  from the cylce of existence. I do not want to be. I love existence. What else is there? It makes sense, though, that Siddhartha Gautama would have wanted to find a release from the cycle of rebith, as he was raised in a Hindu nation, and the going idea was that you could come back as a worm, or an ant. Who would want that? Sheesh! But I do believe the basic teachings of The Buddha, just as I believe in what Jesus taught*.

I am a Zennist because Zen meditation makes my Christian practice better, and by that I mean my practice of loving others. Period. And as much as I am a Buddhist, because I believe in the basic idea that everything is in our minds, Zen meditation makes my Buddhist practice better. It is a wonderful tool. And to be a better Zennist just means to meditate often, so as to stay more “in the moment”, and less in the ego.

Seong Bul Hashipshiyo,

Carl~Mahn Doe


* I am actually quite interested in the Gnostic gospels, which reflect ideas and teachings attribited to Jesus that were not permitted into the book we commonly call The Bible. For an accurate and fair assessment of  the origins and history of that book, read world renowned biblical scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: Who Changed The Bible And Why

16 thoughts on “A Better Zennist”

  1. “…but I am arguing a case for the oneness of all things”

    I love that line! Thank you Carl for a fascinating post covering many issues that I’ve very much struggled with over the years. It’s great to see your take on thse things. A wonderful post. Thank you. _/\_

  2. Thank you for writing this. I also experience Zen as a tool. Like any tool, it can be used in different ways – not all of them beneficial. But if our direction is clear, then the tool will serve! Thanks again!

  3. Thanks Carl, I love your honesty and straightforwardness. Your post helps me better understand my own spiritual struggles as I make an effort to integrate multiple disciplines together. And, for me, meditation is the core.

  4. Chong Go Sunim,

    Thank you for the compliment! ANd Teacher! Don’t worry about posting on top of me. I consider it an honor.

    Peace, Love, and Joy (You’re already enlightened),


  5. Brother Marcus,

    Thank you for the encouragement to post this here.

    I fondly remember the time we were honored with the opportunity to assist in proof-reading one of Dae Haeng Kun Sunim’s Pamphlets with Chong Go Sunim (remember the pizza?)! I saw your knowledge of writing (grammar, and style), there!

    Moreover, I remember you helping me with my book! So, any approval from you on writing-and of course, on Zen-is a major feather in my cap! Thank you!

    Your compliment goes a long way!


  6. Garry!

    Greetings of love, peace, and joy; many thanks!

    Spiitual struggles are testiment to your humanity and your excellence as a striving human being. It is those comforted falsely by an ego-centered certitude who court spiritual disaster, in my humble opinion, so, congratulations on being thoughtful and good.

    As my late uncle Charlie Carroll used to say, “Keep up the good work!”

    Thank you for your feedback and kind words,


  7. Carl, you mention a number of interesting aspects that come into my mind from time to time, too. i remember my catholic teacher for religion getting furious when i said God is just a word for the best in ourselves. you’re wrong here, he said icyly, you’re a Buddhist. i was twelve or so at that time and had never heard about Buddhism before. and you see, this could be a fine hint that rebirth is more than ‘believe’;)
    Anyway, i’m not in a hurry to leave the cycle of existence as well, could ‘live’ with another round like you. in case you want to read a rather funny book on that i recommend ‘Lousy Karma’ by David Safier. this book has boosted Buddhism a lot last year in Germany – not at last with Catholics:)
    love your post, thanks a lot!

    love, peace and bliss

  8. “What else is there?” , ask yourself “who am I?”
    not knowing who you really are, what is your mind and the nature of it is the major generator of endless theories.
    Rebirth – consider death, what do you think of that? it is not the individual piece, some immaterial substance that takes shape as one life form or another, it is the experience of mind, like a dream; individual does not really exist. Actually Jesus also said “who do you think you are,… you cannot change even one hair’s colour on your head…”
    Maybe Tibetan Bardo teachings would be interesting for you, which explain more in detail the workings of rebirth, read carefully and see if you can agree with that, because when we fall asleep we kind of pass out of this world and experience something else, well, in death and rebirth is somewhat similar. The point is to wake up from dreaming, that is why it is called awakening. ” what else is there ?” – is limitless state of Buddhahood, which is potential of everyone and everything

  9. you’re right Tanya, Tibetan Bardo teachings are rather interesting. to prepare for the bardo in Vajrayana we’re practising the moment of our death. ‘we are going to our own funeral – again and again’, as my Lama says.
    ‘…what survives death is an ever-changing continuum of our very subtle body and mind energy. … Everyone is impressed by the capacity of computer discs, but our inner Vajra Disc has space billions of times greater than this. Our limitless inner space disc is located inside our very subtle mind and Sogdzin Wind at the heart chakra. Upon this disc we store all our knowledge and experience, as well as the karmic record of all the self-healing and self-destructive actions we have performed over the continuum of our previous lives up until now. This record is like our telephone bill. We enjoy talking on the telephone, but we never think hat somewhere a record is being made of all our calls. When the bill finally arrives we sometimes get a big shock, but we still have to pay! This inner space disc is the only luggage that we are able to take with us from life to life.’ (T.Y.S. Lama Gangchen, NgalSo Tantric Self-Healing III)
    well, i’m practising and hope for the best 😉

  10. Dear Evelyn,

    I am having a very painful time with my girlfriend, and I mention it because you mention your Catholicism. She is fundamentalist Protestant (though she would never refer to it as such). I mention this because, well, frankly, these exchanges are my sangha these days, and because your mention of your teacher getting angry rings a bell.

    My girlfriend-a very sweet and sincere person–gets angry when I try to talk about spirituality, especially if I mention other aspects of life as I see them related to spirituality.

    You see, I tried to go to church with her, but her parents don’t want to meet me as they know I have studied Buddhism, and most egregiously, I am a fan of Dr, Bart Ehrman. I also love science, viewing scientists as the purest of ‘angels’, as it were, among humanity.

    My bent has been, that if she were to clue in to the history of the monotheistic faiths, though she might not lose her religion (I am not asking for that), she might become more aware of the religious connection to disharmony, in society, relationships, politics, race-relations, etc. More personally, I want for her to shed some of her debilitating guilt (reaching clinical proportions, in my view), which is not helping us in an intimate sense, and not helping her psychologically, in my view.

    I had for a long while given up talking about such things and the relationship improved insofar as we weren’t getting tangled over religion anymore, but recently, I have read from an unauthorized biography of Jesus (of course it is) and Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, as well as Christopher Hitchens’ God is not Great (which I cannot put down). Everyone should read the last one. It has wonderful and beautiful facts in it about genome research, evolution, and the history of religion that will blow anyone’s mind. I cannot help sharing it, and that is where I get in trouble.

    My point is a question; ‘how can we share the great news of the ‘angels’ in our midst, truths about eligion and spirituality, and generally enlightening ideas with those of other faiths who are good people, but who are vastly compromised by the number thesitic faith has done on their thinking process?’ My girlfriend, so succinctly inculcated, and in denial about things she herself was interested in (she had been reading Ehrman, and bought Origin of Species and books on astronomy and cosmology until her father [a preacher] read my letters to her in the Ehrman book I gave her), is looking at my passion to inspire her to more knowledge (and perhaps relax her and make her world a bit more of a forgiving place), thinks I am evil.

    I fear I already know what you are going to say. It is hard to let go when you love someone, and you feel that ignorance is a sort of evil creeping in to destroy not only truth, but beauty.

    Peace, Love, and Joy,


  11. Dear Tanya,

    Hi there. When I said, “What else is there?”, I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek. I mean, whater states or realms you believe in, they all fall into the catagory of ‘existence’, as opposed to ‘non-existence’.

    I am very interested in the concept of rebith as a measure of ou tendency to revisit similar or almost duplicate conditions, through recuring habits (relationships) in THIS life, moe than I am in the notion of it in a literal sense, efering to such in THE NEXT life, which none of us can prove, and thus I find it supernatural, and against sense and what the Buddha actually believed, as opposed to what is popular to say he believed, o alluded to in parable or analogy for the purposes of teaching.

    In What The Buddha Taught (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_the_Buddha_Taught) Walpola Rahula (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walpola_Rahula) said Siddhartha Gautama did not believe in a soul independent of a material body, nor did he believe in reincarnation, but that he spoke of rebith in a concept of sorts. I will look this up as I don’t remember clearly.

    Peace, Love, and Joy,


    1. Dear Carl, do not rely on wikipedia too much. Maybe you can read one very nice book by Sogyal Rinpoche “Tibetan book of living and dying”, you can find it on http://www.amazon.com
      Some people remember their past lives and there even had been official records and research on that; my daughter, for exaple, when she was about 12 months old saw picture of Dalai Lama on the cover of a book and she stared at it for a very long time, then said clearly : “Dala Lama”, she reteated many times pointing he finger at picture. I never showed her his picture, never spoke his name, she just recognised him, why do you think is that? because of continuity of mind. If you like science, you should know that nothing in the universe is created or disappears, it just transforms from one to another, well, mind is too does not appear or disappear, after death your mind does not disappear, even though your body disappear your mind does not go anywhere.
      Also dividing on ‘existance’ and ‘non-existance’ is dualistic, it is more of a whole, the reality of mind goes beyond such limits.
      And about your girlfried – just practice yourself, let go of it to your own foundation; you have a girlfriend, I had a marriage of 20 years which started with love and ended with hate and my family are Orthodox Christians…
      don’t worry about what others think, just practice yourself, let your foundation unfold events natually.

  12. Dear Carl, sangha-brother…

    we all know it: if someone gets angry about something, if someone denies interest contrary to better knowledge then t h i s is exactly her/his theme. as a friend uses to say, ‘ he’s already standing in the doorway’.
    the important thing that my Lama always points out is,’ In order to help someone, it is necessary for that person to want to be helped.’
    as much we would like to bring someone forward – we can’t. believe me, this is the hardest part of being a parent, too;) all we can do is live our life as an example. and offer all our love in the most hair-rising circumstances;) giving an example that who once has said ‘A’ needn’t to say ‘B’… we can always make up our mind anew…
    you know what i do? i’ve given up speaking about interesting books … i just ‘forget’ them in the floor, in the bathroom…

    you’re so right: ignorance is the worst!
    it’s not easy for your girlfriend, i think. she’s torn between two sides – show her your side is the laid-back one:)

    love, peace and bliss

    evelyn/ jampa drolma

  13. The mundane and the spiritual
    Zen begins.
    Deep acceptance opens up
    The pores of love.
    The interconnection of all things
    Fills your awareness.
    “How can it be otherwise?” you ask
    And smile your way
    Through life.

    Ananth Sundara-Rajjan, Norman, Oklahoma.

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