This report of one of our regular Bangkok Seon Club meetings was first published on the now-deleted “Marcus’ Journal” in January of this year. I’m re-posting it now as I think it gives a nice picture of the kind of useful discussions we have at Seon Club, and the lovely people I meet there.
“The ability of our fundamental mind is the most profound and mysterious thing in the entire universe.”
– Zen Master Daehaeng Sunim
The Bangkok English-language Seon Club is really finding its feet. Thanks to the direction provided by the seonwon, everyone is comfortable with the structure of the meetings, starting with the refuges and some sitting meditation, and with the format of the discussion. Young, who does the translating, is simply amazing, and I think everyone gets a chance to speak and to ask anything they like of our wonderful teacher Hyaedan Sunim.
This month we returned to our study of No River to Cross and looked at chapter three, “Mind and Science.” I’ll admit that when I first read this two or three years ago I was dismissive. “Mars is crowded with lives” I thought, “what is this nonsense?” Hyaedan Sunim asked me on Saturday night if my reaction would be any different now, and I can honestly say that it is. Not only is Mars crowded with lives, but my body is too, there is nothing that is not crowded with lives.
We talked about how the universe functions as one life, about how material is actually energy, and how there is no difference between the particles within and outside of us. Pedro, a Seon Club regular, explained some of the latest thinking in science, and what little I understood was fascinating. Hyaedan Sunim agreed and then talked about how Buddhist teachings have never contradicted science but, rather, how science has evolved towards Buddhism.
Young talked about the energy between people, using the example of Pedro’s smile, which everyone thought was lovely, and about the limitations of language in expressing scientific discoveries. Sunim offered the example of how there were no Chinese characters for negative numbers, and then she brought us back to the relationship between fundamental truth and our developing understanding of it. “But how” Kirsten asked, “do we put this into practice?”
We came into being, Sunim said, because of this Fundamental Mind. It put us here, and after we are gone it will still be here; everything is a reflection of it, and our practice is to return everything to it. I talked about my limited understanding of this, how the theory often confuses me but how, basically, I believe that I and everything else shares this Mind, or Buddha-nature, and my job is to live from that, which is best done by entrusting everything to it.
Kirsten, her first visit to Seon Club, was keen to know more and asked lots of great questions, and Sunim talked about entrusting to Buddha-nature as a practice that cuts through trying to figure things out and Young gave some wonderful personal examples of how this works in her life. Then Joe, a fine poet and a regular here and at the San Fransisco Zen Center, quoted from the poetry of Huang Po on awakening to One Mind, True Self, or Fundamental Mind.
And, talking about what happens when you live not from what obscures it but from your original Buddha-nature, Joe told the story of King Mongkut, the great-grandfather of today’s highly revered King Bhumibol. King Mongkut became a monk at Wat Bowonniwet and then, to the great concern of all those around him, found himself more interested in staying in robes than in becoming King, so much so that he eventually became abbot of the temple.
“There is no manual” Hyaedan Sunim said, “just keep sending everything back to Buddha-nature, again and again.” And in a lovely phrase that raised a smile and gets to the heart of the matter, she said one should “use less and less your head, and more and more your Mind”. We finished by reciting the Four Bodhisattva Vows, bowing in gratitude to our wonderful Sunim and to each other, and left the Dharma Hall inspired and confident in this beautiful practice.