The Gateway of Seon

I’ve been typing up translations of Dharma songs today, but our office has been kind of noisy, so I used my headphones and some music to keep from getting distracted.  By chance I’d selected the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, and the following track started playing as I began typing in this song. It’s a great teaching poem anyway, but try reading it slowly after the music starts!

 Lord of the Rings_07

With one mind as its foundation,
the whole of existence
has come into creation.
Buddhas and unenlightened beings
exist together,
throughout the heavens and earth,
everything is one.
Yet those ignorant of this
are seduced by outer things,
and cause their own pain
as they fall into evil paths.

Come to your senses,
before its too late and you leave your body.
Learn to travel freely on the path of mind,
where all phenomena and and action
become fragrant offerings,
become your sustenance.

Let’s all know this gateway of wisdom,
let’s all experience this gateway wisdom.

Everything is the manifestation of one mind,
and done by one mind.
Paradise is right here,
the inherent nature of men and women
is exactly the same.
Yet if you indulge in discriminations,
how will you ever understand the truth of emptiness?

Once born into this world,
people are trapped in a barless prison,
and just drug along to their deaths.
The path is blocked
by fixed ideas of “me,”
with one bound
just leap over these!!
Let’s all experience the gateway of seon,
let’s all experience the gateway of seon!

The Reality of Life

 In this poem that’s become a Dharma song, Daehaeng Kun Sunim describes a bit of the nature of our fundamental mind. Understanding this isn’t enough, we have to take what bits we understand and do our best to keep applying them to our daily life. Then the nature of how things truly are will gradually become clear to us.


Living in this eternal moment is the reality of life,
throughout all creation,
there’s nothing that’s not the manifestation of one mind.

Even being born as a human is the manifestation of one mind,
the skillful means of one mind.
Awaken to this one mind,
escape from the suffering of samsara,
and discover what it means to truly be free.

There’s no reason to talk about the past or the future,
for this moment is eternal.

Throughout all this world,
every single thing is the manifestation of Buddha.
Across the heavens and the earth,
at each and every place,
the Buddha is fully present.

Everything is the unfolding of one mind,
it’s compassion,
it’s light.

Dog days…

This is a friend of ours who first came to the temple about nine years ago. He has the slight misfortunate of having a girlish name, Maeli (“Plums Blossoming,” poor guy), but he seems to be okay with it!

One of the interesting things about him is that he’s taken on the job of defending the temple, and here he’s actually on station at the entrance to the nun’s quarters. He’ll start barking if a layperson comes too close to the entrance, and sometimes, for no obvious reason at all, he’ll start barking at someone in the courtyard. The thing is, since he came here, there have been no instances of pick pockets or of people trying to rob the donation boxes.

Korean Buddhist texts and ceremonies occasionally mention something called “fragrance of mind.” Like the fragrance of incense, it weaves here and there, unseen and un-graspable. And it is the results of the efforts we make to transcend ourselves and to see everything as part of ourselves.  It is this fragrance that moves amoung the people in our lives, lifting them up and brightening their path.  It’s there all the time, whether we notice it or not.

Happy New Year

I’ve just got back from the temple. It’s not like Korea, where the temple would be full of people bowing and chanting and praying (how wonderful), in Japan people seem to do a whole lot less, and yet the feeling was great, very positive and very beautiful. It was just my local temple, rarely open except for at New Years, and we joined a short line to ring the temple bell. Afterwards there was a small fire and hot drinks and we said hello to our neighbours.

Earlier, walking in the park, I thought about what my New Year’s Resolution might be this year. Something, I thought, that I could stick to. Something to resolve all this time I spend worrying about the path. I mean, one day I think that just reading a single Sutra is the way forward, then I’ll think about some serious sitting, next thing you know I’m thinking that perhaps I need a retreat or a new altar! My resolution, I thought this morning, would be the answer, the one practice I need.

Silly me. Such nonsense. If I need a resolution, it is to spend less time thinking about practice, and more time actually practicing! The path, after all, is so simple. Let go. Entrust. Have faith that the foundation, under whatever name I might give it, is taking care of everything. Then it doesn’t matter what I do. So long as I’m living by the precepts, I can meditate if I want to, read if I want to, chant if I want to. I can follow any wholesome practice that feels right at any time. I can smile, and live in happiness.

Happy New Year!