When it meets a hole,
it fills it and continues to flow.
When water meets a rock,
it flows around it.
The path of finding your true self
is like this.
-Daehaeng Kun Sunim
In her regular Dharma talks, Daehaeng Kun Sunim often took questions afterwards. Some of these, and the answers, are quite useful to practitioners. We’ve been working on putting some of these into a small ebook edition called, Find the Treasure Within. We’re not quite finished, but I’ll go ahead and post slightly condensed versions of these. Some of what she says is so striking that I’ve highlighted it.
I had always hoped that my children would grow up happily because my childhood was not so good. Yet, no matter how hard I try, my life doesn’t seem to be turning out the way I wanted.
I read in some book that Shakyamuni Buddha once told people, “Life is suffering.” Is that true? Does this mean there’s nothing I can do about these things?
Every one of us experiences many things during our life, such as illness and poverty, joy and happiness. It might seem like some of those things happened by accident. However, because you were at that place and time, those things occurred and you experienced them. In fact, all the things that we experience are the result of what we have done over a great number of eons. It’s just that when they return to us, they tend to have a different appearance, so we don’t recognize them.
What we receive today is the outcome of what we did in the past, but how we react to this determines what our future will be. So don’t think that the difficulties you’re facing happened by chance.
However, even hardships are another face of your true self, which is trying to teach you. So, don’t blame others or the era for the difficult situation you are in. Instead, you should be grateful to your true self, which is giving you another chance to change things. Forgetting about your inner self and being depressed because of difficult circumstances cannot be excused.
When some hardship occurs, you can get angry and complain about it, or you can think of it as a good opportunity to complete yourself. Which way you approach things is entirely up to you. But your future depends upon the decisions you make.
It’s true Shakyamuni Buddha said, “The world is full of suffering,” and, “the world is like a burning house.” However, these were warnings given to people who chased after only material things, to people who never reflected upon the truth.
Most people move through their life dragging their difficulties behind them. Thus they suffer twice: once when the difficulties come to them, and once more as they try to carry them along. Every single Buddha has also experienced hardships because those things are the results of what one has made in the past, and this applies to everyone. However, without clinging to anything, Buddhas release everything to the fundamental place, the inner self, and by doing that, whatever they encounter becomes one with the inner self and so dissolves and melts away.
Once those bad situations have arisen, there’s not much that can be done about them. But, if you let go of all those difficulties to your inner self without holding on to them and without making discriminations about them, then you will not have to suffer from carrying them with you. You will also be freeing yourself from future suffering. When you keep doing this, you will gradually attain calmness and your suffering will dissolve, and finally you will see your inner self, the truth.
However, releasing everything like this isn’t easy if you’ve never tried it before. So, first, you should firmly believe that the truth is within you. In other words, know that your fundamental mind has the ability to take care of everything. Next, you should understand that everything you confront is not suffering, but rather just another aspect of yourself. Entrust it completely to your inner self. Afterwards, the things you entrusted will dissolve because your inner self, your foundation, is the source of everything and the source of infinite energy.
As I said before, the best way to solve the things you face is to truly let go of everything to your inner self with firm faith, because this is where everything arises from. This is true virtue and is the only way to live truly free.
copyright 2010, The Hanmaum Seonwon Foundation
6 thoughts on “How to overcome suffering: Questions and answers with Daehaeng Kun Sunim”
It’s easy to see the continuum of our actions and experiences in this life, but I’d never really considered how directly connected that is to our previous lives. Even how the timing of our death leads to the timing of our rebirth, like this.
Again, these teachings are so simple but really a matter of bringing them to life.
It’s really interesting for me to see the different, and strong, personalities that little kids have. I don’t see to much of a “blank slate” there. (You’ve probably noticed a bit of this yourself, in the last year and a half or so! ^-^) They have such different tendencies, and different ways of reacting to things, that it’s not hard for me to imagine that those might be the continuation of habits and tendencies from other lives.
I thought this post dovetailed nicely with what Hyedaeng Sunim had to say in the Marcus’ Seon club notes – part one post:
“This world” Sunim replied with gravity as well as a smile, “is perfectly fair. Everything you create eventually comes back to you.”
Of course, this is a very old teaching:
Now, though I do no wrong, I’m punished by my past. Neither gods nor men can foresee when an evil deed will bear its fruit. I accept it with an open heart and without complaint of injustice. The sutras say ” when you meet with adversity don’t be upset because it makes sense.” With such understanding you’re in harmony with reason. And by suffering injustice you enter the Path. Second, adapting to conditions. As mortals, we’re ruled by conditions, not by ourselves. All the suffering and joy we experience depend on conditions. If we should be blessed by some great reward, such as fame or fortune, it’s the fruit of a seed planted by us in the past. When conditions change, it ends. Why delight In Its existence? But while success and failure depend on conditions, the mind neither waxes nor wanes. Those who remain unmoved by the wind of joy silently follow the Path.
From our good friend, Bodhidharma (as translated by Red Pine)
What a wonderful post! Thank you. 🙂
Good luck and thanks for practicing,
A bit of synchronisity, this was posted on, A Raft (http://dhammabum.wordpress.com/2010/11/26/rethinking-the-term-rebirth/), just minutes after this post:
The Pali term in question is “punabbhava”. You will not find the Buddha talking about “puna-jaati” at all in the Pali Canon. Puna-jaati would be the Pali translation of “re-brith”. Punabbhava on the other hand, could be translated and I think would be best translated “re-becoming”.
Ah, past-life Karma…. excellent….another chance for me to past one of my very favourite (Therevadan) quotes:
“Huge, violent, killer waves of our own making are bearing down on us, ready to smash us against the rocks. But… somehow, we see more clearly, we improve ourselves, we reject our past behaviour and we embrace the five precepts. By changing our mental state like that… the power of our bad deeds to effect us has been reduced… The waves will hit us, we can’t stop them; but they only take a limb or an eye or some teeth. We are left alive. The five precepts will reduce the negative effects from our past.”
– Phra Bhasakorn Bhavilai, ‘Karma for Today’s Traveler’
Of course no mention there of entrusting to one’s True Self, but I think the point is well made and it all ties in exactly with what Kun Sunim is saying: “What we receive today is the outcome of what we did in the past, but how we react to this determines what our future will be.”
Thank you for this teaching!