Venerable Ya-un: settled body, settled speech

In this next section of Admonitions to Myself, the Venerable Ya-un warns us to settle our bodies and be careful with our words. On the surface, this section seems to be written for monastics, yet it also applies quite well to our modern form of laziness: Busyness. 

Refrain from unnecessary speech and movement:

If your body is settled, then confusion will cease and samadhi will be attained. If you speak little, foolishness will be transformed into wisdom. The true foundation is devoid of words and the ultimate principle is unmoving. The mouth is the door of calamity and so must be guarded carefully. The body is the root of disaster, so do not travel around unnecessarily. A bird that often flies back and forth is in danger of being caught in a net; an animal that roams around will have the misfortune of being struck by an arrow.

Thus the Buddha sat without moving for six years and Bodhidharma spent nine years in the Shaolin cave without saying a word. How then can later practitioners not follow these examples?

Enter meditation while holding mind and body still,
sit by yourself in a hermitage,
without leaving and returning.
Observing your own mind,
return to and rely on the Buddha
that is within.

10 thoughts on “Venerable Ya-un: settled body, settled speech”

  1. This is great. I like your statement that “it also applies quite well to our modern form of laziness: Busyness.” That is so appropriate, and it gives one something to ponder in the depths of one’s being. Also, a quite nice photo. Thanks Chong Go Sunim.

    1. Hi Bookbird, I’m glad it was helpful! Ya-un really hits the nail on the head, doesn’t he.

      Hi Gary, thanks! Sometimes I have an image of a hyperactive kid who’s so busy playing with his food he doesn’t actually take a bite.

  2. I too agree… good posting.

    {The mouth is the door of calamity and so must be guarded carefully.}

    Perhaps I should have that tattooed on my forearm so I can always see it.

  3. “Buddha sat without moving for six years ” – it’s an allegory, right?, because if not, then I don’t understand why would he say that. Buddha did not step back from his search for six years, doing sometimes bizzare things as he said so himself, but he was not sitting without moving for years, he did that for a number of days at the end of those six years.
    I think it is the mind that needs to settle and find a centre, the body can sit quiet or do something and even go sing and dance in front of hundreds of thousands of people, but when the mind is centred within it’s deep root, then, even if you are moving, then you are still.
    The constant “chatter” of thoughts and jumping attention from one thing to another keep mind on the surface, preventing ever going deep, turning attention inward is very hard thing to do; in the West people get themselves busy, and in the East people can do nothing and sit around drinking tea – they both are lazy in terms of not “working out” their Mind; it is one “muscle” that we really do not know how to use. Mind has depth, just look up in the sky at night and see the stars and imagine the magnitude of distance and size of all of that, the Mind that we have also have such magnitude, there is a whole space within and the door is not even locked, and maybe you need to sit still to just see that there is the door, but to open it – you cannot just sit still your whole life and say nothing, it is not gonna bring out the Buddha within, maybe it worked for some, but in our day and age, when you actually can see that Universe is in the state of flux, all you have to do is ‘catch’ the centre.

  4. Hi Tanya,

    I thought that you, as a Russian living in Canada, would be the last to make nonsensical East/West comparisons!

    You say: “in the West people get themselves busy, and in the East people can do nothing and sit around drinking tea”

    Blimey, what a silly thing to say! I’m English – and I can tell you English people in a tea shop can spend hours over a pot of tea and some cake doing nothing! And I lived in Korea and saw a million times more Korean people knocking back vending machine expressos as they rushed from job to job than I ever saw sitting around over a pot of oolong!

    East/west! What a nonsense it is trying to make such a distinction! My second son is half Thai and lives in England with his Thai mother – is he Eastern or Western? Joseph, who writes here, has a Korean wife and baby, they all live in Korea. Is the baby eastern or western? Chong Go Sunim has lived as a monk in Korea for 17 years, is he East or West?

    Many, many years ago I stopped making East/West comparisons. They are all really quite lazy and false.

    But, I’m sure you know that really yourself if you stop to think of it for a minute or two.

    All the best,


    1. hey, Marcus, here we are again, I do like our discussions to tell you the truth. But what you say is not exactly what I ment, first of all, why you call me Russian, I told you I am part russian, and I have heritage of four cultures, I am a mixture, even more mixture than your and Joseph’s child. No ethnical Russian sees me as a Russian, because I don’t look like one, they always would ask me about my nationality (ethnic background)
      What I ment is the general observation of the society/ way of life in the West. like North America and the East, like India. In North America we do get busy with activities alot, and in India (or Iran, and surrounding countries) people like to sit around alot, they are not gonna go shopping, or bring their child to gymnastics, hockey, art class, etc. it is the way of life, it is different. I was born in Armenia and people and behaviour there is quite different from that in Russia (I meant in general and not individual nationalities that live on the territory of Russia), for example, so when I went there I would behave different too, I had too adjust, in the way of talking, body language, rules of interaction, dressing, everything shifts, so when I am with my Armenian relatives I am quite different from when I am with my Polish relatives, it is not only with speaking different language, it is a way of thinking and the patterns of behaviour. When I said East I did not even ment further east, the Orient, Korea and surroundings. In Korea, from what I heard, people work with like almost no vacation, and long hours, and it is considered normal (which is not normal by North American standards, for example)
      Of course, since the Earth is round anyway, there is no such things as east or west, but in a relative sence there is. For example, of all the english speaking people who came into temple, none of them were comfortable sitting on the floor, and for me that was not even an issue, also Korean people in the temple were surprised that sleeping on the floor and not on high bed is part of my culture, I mean things like that, or that I personally don’t like to use fork, – that is part of me that is Armenian.
      I don’t know about Chong Go Sunim, he never told me how he feels, maybe he is highly adaptable, then there are no such things as east/west, but I can tell you that I do have different kinds of friends and with english ones I cannot behave like with armenian or korean. One more example, such things as taking shoes at the door is a norm in Russia, but here in Canada and US people just barge in in their shoes, and even go on a couch and bed in shoes -which is totally weird for me. And in schools here kids are told to put their shoes on their desks at the end of day, that is totally inconceivable and utterly wrong in my view to put shoes on the surface of table where you study and have lunch, but that is part of this culture, what can I do?
      I don’t think it is completely a nonsence to make distinctions of east and west, but, yes, it is a relative term, but it is present in the general, stereotipical way. So when it comes to teachings, it also affects how we perceive things. As I was taught in theatre school (many years ago) that our mind is conditioned and you have to peel those layers of conditioning. So I think there is a difference in the way and style of that conditioning in different cultures.

  5. “it is a relative term, but it is present in the general, stereotipical way.’

    Exactly what I’m saying. It’s a lazy streotype to use the terms East and West as if they meant anything. For every example you can give of ‘western’ behaviour I can give counter examples. For every example of ‘easter’ behaviour you can give, I can give counter examples. The terms ‘eastern’ and ‘western’ are simply useless and often insulting.

    All the best to you,


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