Sunday Photo; Buddha Nature


Our Buddha nature is like a light in a house. Even if you close all the doors and cover all the windows, some light still shines through to the outside. That’s how we know Buddha-nature is there.

-Mingyur Rinpoche

This photo looks like a double exposure, but it was taken through the huge glass window that covers the front entrance of the Dharma Hall at Jogyesa during Winter time. The light shining off the massive gold Buddha is just enough to shine through the reflection of the tree and buildings, just like our Buddha-nature.

Interfaith dialogue – part 2

I’ve been thinking a lot about Marcus’ last post on interfaith dialogue, and sometimes, I think all dialogue is interfaith.  All dialogue is people (or beings) trying to reach out and understand the other.

 In Korea there’s a saying, “East question, west answer”, that it, the question and the answer are coming from completely different directions.

In working on translations with Korean speakers, this comes up a lot. But if I let go of everything, what I think I know and what I think I don’t, little by little I begin to understand where the other is coming from. 

"Let's play" or, "Foreigners taste funny" (I'm not completely sure which)

interfaith and dialogue

I’m always delighted when I see examples of genuine contact and interaction between traditions with which I am familiar. All traditions are not the same of course, that would be like saying that all languages are the same, but sometimes they do come beautifully together, as seen in this event described by Kyōshin at Echoes of the Name:

The end of my formal retreat coincided with a visit by two Korean monks, of the Seon Jogye order, who had come to present our temple with some relics of Sakyamuni Buddha. How this amazing event came about is a rather complicated story which I am not entirely familiar with.  However  the essential point is that despite all the historical problems between Korea and Japan – involving war, occupation and cultural destruction – individual people in the Korean and Japanese Buddhist communities have worked hard over decades to create friendship, understanding and reconciliation between their countries, cultures, and faiths.  The presentation of the relics is just a small chapter in that story, albeit one of huge symbolic significance.

Please do visit Kyōshin’s wonderful group blog, a thoughtful and pretty comprehensive site in the Japanese Jōdo Shinshū tradition, to read the rest of his account of the ceremony. The full blog post is here.


NB: the image for this post was shamelessly stolen from the Japan galleries on Joseph’s amazing photo site here. Thank you Joseph!

notes from the workshop

The profound ability within me
is awakened not by words
but by the determination
to save all beings
– from The Great Compassion Dharani

Phra Pandit Bhikku, who so kindly supported the workshop through Littlebang in the weeks leading up to it, had warned me that some people who sign up for retreats don’t turn up on the day for one reason or another, but my fear was greater than that, I was worried that almost nobody would come at all.

And I was worried when nine o’clock came and went and nothing had started. I was worried about the fact I don’t have a camera and so wouldn’t be able to put up a picture for this post. I was worried about writing this post. About how the chants would work, about the tea and coffe, about a million things.

But after the first sitting meditation I opened my eyes and saw that all my worries were groundless. As we were sitting, Dr Lee Bhikkuni and two other Bhikkunis in their Thai orange robes had come in and taken seats, here from their centre in Rayong to support the event. And behind them sat some 25 to 30 participants, all enjoying that first deep restful sit.

Then Chong Go Sunim spoke about just what we do when we practice. I didn’t take notes, rather I listened intently. The hall was silent and Chong Go was unhurried, he didn’t use a microphone and that helped establish a calm and concentrated atmosphere. I became at ease. I smiled, glad of this chance to hear the Dharma.

“My own teacher” Chong Go Sunim said, talking about Seon Master Daehaeng Sunim, “describes it as having something like a furnace within yourself. But don’t just let go of problems, you can go even further. Let go of your whole self. Let go completely of even what you think you are. And then you can move beyond any limitations.”

There was a short time for questions and then we stopped for lunch – and more questions. Chong Go Sunim talked to everyone, was available to everyone, and spent time listening to everyone. And we all asked questions. About practice, about Karma, about the name and nature of this inner essence, about all aspects of the teachings.

One of the best features of the day was, for me, this encouragement for everyone to talk and to share their experiences. Rather than just a series of lectures, this was a true group workshop. After lunch Chong Go split everyone into groups to discuss how, in our daily lives, we strengthen the light within us and develop our spiritual muscles.

In my group George talked about climbing the steps of the BTS and reciting “here” and “now” with each footstep. Someone else talked about the walking meditation she does around her bed morning and night. Lynn talked about her relationships with friends and family and how, ultimately, no one can carry out spiritual practice for you.

After the feedback session we practiced some walking meditation in the Korean style, which is very different from the slow individual style usually taught here in Thailand. Walking around the Dharma hall in a large circle, each time I passed the window, the red flowers on the trees outside became more and more intensely beautiful. An experience I shared later in the afternoon.

After some tea we split into a singing group (Joe, the Seonwon’s music teacher, kindly came by for this) and a Sutra copying group led by Chong Go Sunim. I joined the writing group with the others afraid of singing, Don, Ralph, Nat, Paul. We copied, in English, from the Great Compassion Dharani. A wonderful way to allow the teachings to sink deep.

Hyedan Sunim then led us in some bowing, and explained the spiritual as well as physical aspects of the practice, and a small choir from the Seonwon sang a Dharma song which Chong Go Sunim introduced by giving us the translation and meaning. The day ended with a small closing ceremony of bows, refuges, vows, and the the Great Compassion Dharani.

It was, for me, the most nourishing English-language Dharma event I’ve ever attended. The atmosphere throughout was quiet but light, there was a closeness between everyone that was almost intimate. Chong Go Sunim led us, but we all seemed to move as one body anyway. And I came away both nourished and refreshed. It was beautiful.

Thank you.


(And thank you to Nat for the image!)

Sunday Photo; Buddha’s eye

The one “rule” I’d set for myself when posting Sunday Photos was that I would only post images from Korean temples.

Well, today, I’ve decided to take a bit of a vacation to Bangkok, where Chong Go Sunim has been for the last few days to attend a short retreat at the Bangkok Hanmaum.

He’d mentioned to me a few times before that he really had a nice feeling from Wat Pho, one of the most famous attractions in Bangkok, the temple that houses a massive gold Parinirvana Buddha. During my last trip to Bangkok, I took this photo of the Buddha’s eye, about to close for the last time in this realm.

Our home is Buddha-nature

Last Saturday, Mingyur Rinpoche gave a talk at a small temple in Suwon. His talk was centered around the Prayers for Long-Kindness and compassion. Near the beginning, he spoke a bit of Buddha-nature, and I thought it complimented Dae Haeng Kun Sunim’s teachings nicely;

We are all looking for our home. We are homesick. I think we’ve all got homesick, so we are trying to return to our home. Our home is Buddha-nature.

The Buddha gave one example; There is a bird and the bird has a nest. Sometimes the bird flies away, flies very far. But the bird doesn’t think he’s going to stay there. Always he’s going to return to its nest, because the real home for a bird is its nest. The real home for us is our true-nature, our Buddha-nature.

Because I wish to be happy and I don’t want to be suffering is a sign of Buddha-nature. And this is also the basis of Loving-Kindness and compassion.