Start your study with experiences, with applying and experimenting with what you know. Don’t think that you can wait until after enlightenment before you have experiences. If you want to know your true self, experiences are the fastest way to go.
When I first became a monk, the abbess at the main Hanmaum Seon Center in Anyang said to me, “Without the experiences (that come from trying to rely upon one’s inherent Buddha-nature), it’s really hard to live as a monk or nun for very long. You need the sustenance of these experiences.”
Here is a bit more that she has said about spiritual experiences.
The more effort you make, the more results and experiences you will get. And the more effort you make, the harder your true nature will push you. The harder you study, the harder your true self, Juingong, pushes you.
The first thing you have to pass through is learning to ignore the obstacles from other people. To me, I’m focused on taking care of my practice, regardless of what other people are doing to me. I have seen many people, including sunims and laypeople who drop out because of obstacles from laypeople and hardships from their teacher.
There’s an odd thing I’ve discovered about spiritual experiences – they have a lot in common with fish: They’re alive and vibrant at first, but unless we release them, within a day or two, they really begin to stink.
Unless we let go of them, nothing new comes, so it’s very hard to keep growing. In addition, if we don’t release them, they will become a foothold for “I” and the all the opinions and fixed views that go along with this sense of “me.” Without even being aware of it, a subtle thought begins to pervade our consciousness, “Look what I know.” From the moment this stink of I starts to pervade our outlook, things begin to fall apart. I can’t claim to know all the details about why this is, but my feeling is that the dualistic thought, of what I know, begins to cut us off from the whole and our source of energy and wisdom.
However, when we release what we’ve experienced and become one with it, even though we seem to lose sight of it, it’s still there, transforming us. And when we need it, it will return.
Trusting our root, our true nature, means that we entrust it with not just the bad things, but also the good things. We release them all to this root, remembering that is what’s really taking care of our lives and everything we encounter.