practitioners’ questions

At the last meeting of the Bangkok Seon Club I met two wonderful Thai women, friends and long-time Dharma sisters, with a real interest in the teachings of Seon Master Daehaeng Sunim and in Seon spiritual practice. Being new to Hanmaum, although of course far from new to Buddhism, they asked a lot of really great questions. Even better, both these women have stayed in touch with me by email since the meeting, and just today I recieved a list of very nice questions regarding some of the things that came up in the last Zen Club.

I’d like to post the questions here and open them up to all readers of this blog. If any of these questions, even if only one, inspire you to respond, please leave a comment. The idea isn’t just for Chong Go Sunim to come along and provide the definitive answers, but for anyone to say what the response is for them personally. These are genuine questions from two life-long serious Buddhist practitioners coming across Seon teachings for the first time, and they’ll both be following this post with interest! Thank you for your responses!

1) What’s the meaning of Sangha ? 
2) What is the difference between one mind and true nature ? 
3) If Emptiness is nothing, then what is one mind ?
4) Is awareness to realize true nature or not ?
5) What is the difference between Enlightenment and Awareness ?
6) Is One mind and meditation the same ?
7) What does it mean to say that wisdom comes from True nature or Buddha mind that is beyond good or bad ?

12 thoughts on “practitioners’ questions”

  1. No one has touched these yet?

    3) emptiness isn’t nothing. You’re just not there to tell the difference. Sunyata is full of everything without the edge between “I” and it.

  2. Good and thoughtful questions!!

    1) Well, I’ll have to agree with The Zennist on this one, but I think that “Sangha” does mean the community of great practitioners, ie the Noble Ones, regardless of where they are lay or ordained.

    EDIT: I also really like Marcus’s perpective on this.

    2) One Mind versus True nature.
    Ah, here’s a chance to put my foot in my mouth!
    I’m reluctant to address this one because it’s easy to take an understanding of this and push it to the wrong conclusions. But in a basic sense, “true nature” is the fundamental Buddha-essence within me that is never created or destroyed. It’s the real “me,” not the conditioned likes and dislikes that I’ve mistaken for “me.”

    While we exist as distinct individuals, we are also a literal whole, interconnected and functioning together. This combined functioning that encompasses everything can be called “One mind.”

    These are some very basic explanations, but words aren’t worth much when it comes to understanding these things. Their only real value is to help give our faith some small direction.

    3) “Emptiness” Doug gave a pretty good explanation above, but I would add that things are called “Empty” because they have no fixed essence, not because there is nothing. They do have an existence of sorts, but they are always changing, so there is nothing you can grab hold of and say “this is it!”

    So material things, feelings, names, “me” are all called empty because they are conditioned and always changing. They aren’t, of themselves, this fundamental, true nature.

    4) Awareness as realizing true nature.
    As the word is normally used, in terms of attention and presence, I would say this is not the same as realizing true nature. I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, and I suspect that awareness, of itself, may not lead to enlightenment. Where I think it comes into play is in overcoming what are called the Five Hindrances, ie the various states of mind and behaviors that keep us from awakening.

    I think in the old texts about causes and effects, this might have been called “necessary, but not sufficient.”

    5) as to the difference between awareness and enlightenment, ordinary awareness is paying attention and being present, whereas enlightenment is (at least) truly knowing one’s inherent Buddha essence.

    I can pay attention all I like, but if I don’t know about returning my thoughts and desires inwardly, if I don’t know that it is this Buddha essence that is fundamentally doing everything, then my attention will tend to end up on my thoughts and physical sensations. Which doesn’t seem likely to lead to enlightenment.

    6) meditation is entrusting and letting go of everything that arises to our foundation, our true nature. It is taking all of the outward going thoughts and returning them inwardly.

    Through this, afterwards, we may realize the fundamental oneness, the working together and interconnectedness of everything, but this isn’t the same as meditation. (of course, it might be, for a deeply enlightened person!)

    7) wisdom coming from true nature that is beyond good or bad.

    Perhaps this is a quote from somewhere? Our true nature embraces everything, including all the good and all the bad, thus it is also the source of all wisdom.

    Because it embraces both sides, it thoroughly knows the situation, so it also knows how best to respond to things. Thus it can give rise to wisdom that utterly surpasses anything that can be learned through books. Not to mention it’s a living wisdom, responding to that situation. Whereas books are all about trying to apply a theory, and hoping you correctly diagnosed the situation.

    I should probably go to the Dharma Hall now, and do a 108 bows to atone for the “mouth karma” I have created!

    with palms together.

  3. Just seen that Chong Go Sunim has responded. He’s the man to read of course, but, for what it’s worth, here are my responses too:

    1) What’s the meaning of Sangha?
    – For me, it means all those who are committed to walking the path. Both lay and ordained. Ultimately, of course, it means every single life in every universe, but in daily terms, for me, it means my Dharma brothers and sisters and Dharma teachers. Including all readers of this blog!

    2) What is the difference between one mind and true nature ?
    – Ultimately, none. My True Nature is my Buddha-nature, which links me with every other life everywhere.

    3) If Emptiness is nothing, then what is one mind ?
    – I personally dislike the word emptiness. I’d prefer to call it Buddha-nature. Or God. It is the same as One Mind. And far from empty, it is the source of all love, all compassion, all understanding. I’d even go further – but will stop there!

    4) Is awareness to realize true nature or not ?
    – I don’t know. Perhaps you can sit in awareness of all your feelings and thoughts but still not realise your True Nature, I don’t know. But I know that for me, when I stop and breathe and practice just being aware – I am aware of an incredible sense of love in the universe which enfolds us all.

    5) What is the difference between Enlightenment and Awareness ?
    – I have no idea what Enlightenment is! LOL! But I suspect it is fully waking up to the love and beauty that is the heart of the world which we all share, and then living fully from that.

    6) Is One mind and meditation the same ?– I really haven’t done enough meditating in my life. But I don’t think you need to do a lot in order to learn to entrust to your own Buddha-nature and live in its light. I might be wrong!

    7) What does it mean to say that wisdom comes from True nature or Buddha mind that is beyond good or bad ?
    – We can never really know what is fully good of fully bad, in both the things we do (although we commit to do good of course) and the things that happen to us. When we know this, we are becoming wiser I think.

    Phew, just my first response. Hope it helps.

    Marcus _/\_

  4. I understand the mind that asks these kinds of questions, having asked many such questions of Zen Master Seung Sahn and his dharma heirs over the years.

    I’ve long labored under the belief that if I could just understand the dharma, my life would be easier/better/happier.

    But Zen Master Seung Sahn rarely, if ever, entertained discriminatory questions. When asked such a question, he would typically respond with one of his patented phrases:

    – “You are too clever. You must become more stupid.”
    – “Too much thinking!”
    – “Put it all down.”
    – “Just do it!”

    In my understanding of Seung Sahn Sunim’s teaching, such questions actually lead us away from the real work of practice, which is to attain the truth and help all beings.

    Different teachers take different approaches, of course; and different students need different medicines. I swallowed Zen Master Seung Sahn’s bitter pills a long time ago and they continue to heal my grasping mind.

  5. Hi Doug, Chong Go Sunim, and Barry,

    I’ve just had an email asking me to pass on thanks to you all for your kind and wise replies.

    Talking about all the replies, and Barry’s four excellent slogans, the writer says “It inspires my mind!!! Just like I got hungry and only think about eating, but if I don’t really eat then I will not be full all time. I think “Do it I will gain it”. Thanks so much and best regards,…”

    I’d also like to add my thanks to you all too. I also learnt a lot from this wonderful dialogue. Thank you.

    Marcus _/\_

  6. Muy buenas tardes a todos: Chong Ir Sunim, Marcus, Barry, Doug,

    Con el peremiso de Uds, quisiera comentar lo siguiente:

    1) ¿Cuál es el significado de la Sangha?

    Históricamente era la Comunidad compuesta por los monjes (Bhikkus y Bhikkunis), al que luego se les agrego “los hombres y mujeres buenos” (laicos).

    Actualmente se les designa a la Comunidad, sean etos monjes y/o laicos, aquellas personas que te asisten de una u otra forma para seguir el Sendero del Dharma. Este sitio mismo es un ejemplo de Sangha.

    2) ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre una mente y la naturaleza verdadera?

    Todos formamos parte del Uno, y el Uno es parte del Todo. Tu y yo somos Uno, Somos Uno con nosotros mismos, somos uno con el Dharma, Somos Uno con el Universo. O como decía un Maestro Tu en mi, Yo en Tí.

    No hay diferencia entre Continente y Contenido.

    3) Si el vacío no es nada, entonces ¿qué es una mente?

    Existe una traduccion errada de los primero textos sobre Buddhismo que llegaron a Occidente. Tradujeron Una mente, el Tao, como vacío, pero como les digo a las personas, el “Vaciio”, (a mi no me gusta para nada el término), no es un agujero negro, del cual todo lo traga y todo lo escupe, sino mas que nada es Todo. Es el Chi, el Ki, la Energía que todo lo sostiene. Sin forma, se manifiesta de la forma que quiere. Me gusta la comparación de la gota de agua del mar y el mar mismo, Cual es la diferencia?, Una vez que esa gota se derrama en el mar, nunca mas puedes recuperarla. Es como el cuento de la Maestra de la vasija llena de agua, rodeada de agua. Nuestro ego es la vasija que evita que el contenido se sumerga en el continente.

    4) ¿Es la conciencia para darse cuenta de la verdadera naturaleza o no?

    5) ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre la Ilustración y la conciencia?

    Es la diferencia entre la Teoría y la praxis.

    Es como el Medico que habiendose recibido de Cirujano, y nunca haya operado, con otro que si lo haya hecho.

    6) ¿Una mente y la meditación de la misma?

    Todos estamos dentro de Hanmaun, lo que sucede es que no somos concientes de ello, o no queremos tomar conciencia de ello. La gota teme fundirse en el mar.

    7) ¿Qué significa decir que la sabiduría viene de la naturaleza verdadera o de la mente de Buda que está más allá de bueno o malo?

    Lo que buscamos es la conciliación de los opuestos, dejar este mundo de dualidad, a ello se referia el Buddha histórico Sakyamuni cuando hablaba del Camino Medio. No hay que Buscar al Buddha fuera de ti mismo, todo lo que ves fuera de ti, se encuentra en ti mismo. Buddhas y Bodhisattvas estan dentro de ti, aplaca los gritos del exterior, y deja que ellos te susurren en tu interior.

    Gracias por esta oportunidad,

    Junto las manos en Saludo de Dharma,

    Alejandro (Mun hye)
    Very good afternoon to all: Go Sunim Chong, Marcus, Barry, Doug

    With the permission of you, I would comment as follows:

    1) What is the meaning of the Sangha?

    Historically, the Community was made up of monks (Bhikkhus and Bhikkunis), which are then added, “the good men and women” (lay).

    Currently they are appointed to the Community, whether ethos monks and / or lay people who assist you in one way or another to follow the Path of Dharma. This site itself is an example of Sangha.

    2) What is the difference between a mind and true nature?

    We are all part of the One and the One is part of the Whole. You and I are One, We are one with ourselves, we are one with the Dharma, We are One with the Universe. Or as you said a teacher in me, I in you.

    There is no difference between continent and Content.

    3) If the vacuum is nothing, then what is a mind?

    There is a mistaken translation of the first texts on Buddhism that arrived in the West. Translated into a mind, the Tao, as empty, but as I tell people, “Vaciio” (I do not like anything the term) is not a black hole which swallows everything and spits everything but more than anything is all. Is the Chi, Ki, the energy that sustains everything. No way, says the way you want. I like the comparison of the drop of sea water and the sea itself, is the difference?, Once you drop that spills into the sea, but you can never recover. It’s like the story of the Master of the vessel filled with water, surrounded by water. Our ego is the vessel that prevents the contents drop into the continent.

    4) Is the conscience to realize the true nature or not?

    5) What is the difference between the Enlightenment and consciousness?

    The difference between theory and practice.

    It’s like having been received Physician Surgeon, and has never operated another if it has.

    6) Any mind and meditating on it?

    We are all within Hanmaun, what happens is that we are not aware of it, or do not want to be aware of it. The drop fears melt into the sea.

    7) What does it mean to say that wisdom comes from the true nature or Buddha mind is beyond good or bad?

    What we seek is the reconciliation of opposites, leave this world of duality, it was referring to the historical Buddha Sakyamuni when he spoke of the Middle Way. We must not look for the Buddha outside of yourself, all you see outside yourself, is yourself. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are within you, appease the cries from outside, and you let them whisper in your interior.

    Thank you for this opportunity,

    Hands together in greeting Dharma

    Alejandro (Mun hye)

  7. Gracias a Uds. por la oportunidad de compartir, dar y recibir,

    junto las manos en saludo de Dharma

    Alejandro (Mun Hye)

    Thank you for the opportunity to share, give and receive

    hands together in greeting Dharma

    Alejandro (Mun Hye)

  8. Sorry friends, check my answer I realized that the question 4 I had passed. my creitrio about it:

    4) Is the conscience to realize the true nature or not?

    Consciousness is not illuminated, it is not True Nature, one can become aware of things, but the lighting is the lighting live. One can be aware of what he does, but not dwell upon what you are doing not one with the moment. Awareness is a way to enlightenment, but do not confuse the road with the aim, though, the ways and means, are One

    Thank your for the opportunity to share, give and receive

    Hands together in greeting Dharrna

    Alejandro (Mun Hye)

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