Unconditionally Letting Go

Some of you may be wondering what’s happened to me (or not!) but this is the time of year when we get ready for the Frankfurt book fair.  Book contents have to be finished so that layouts and artwork can be finished in August in order for everything to get to the printer’s in September.

One of the new books we’re finishing up is a collection of Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s poems that have been set to music and used as Dharma songs. They all have deep meaning, and this one talks about an idea that Daehaeng Kun Sunim sometimes mentions: Unconditional letting go expressed as dying. For when we deeply let go of the things we want and the things we fear, it does feel a bit like dying, like a kid denied Christmas. And yet when we entrust all of this to our inherently bright essence, the places that we are stuck seem to lose their hold on us and we can move forward with a fresh heart.

That which I’m fighting with, that which I’m clinging to, is a part of myself.

Die Three Times and Truly See Yourself
(세 번 죽어야 나를 보리라)

Vast beyond imaging
filled with an infinite variety of life,
yet everything in this universe
is but a shadow of one mind.
From an inherently empty place
appear empty things
being empty,
they all vanish.
If I truly realize that everything I interact with is empty,
this is dying one time.

From great Buddhas who rule the heavenly realms,
to tiny weeds alongside the road,
without excluding a single one,
die together with them all
die together with this empty “me,”
and realize that everything, just as it is,
is the truth.
This is dying a second time.

Among all the people, plants, and animals,
among the stones and the clouds,
there is nothing that is not me.
You and I, all of us together,
are sharing the same place
and the same body.
Everything is the manifestation of this inherent Buddha,
so when can you freely take care of everything with life,
and without life,
this is called dying a third time.

My one mind, which brings in and sends out everything
is my true foundation, that which is truly doing things.
We have to die in order to truly live,
die three times and see yourself.

– Daehaeng Kun Sunim

Building a New Dharma Hall

For the last several years, my Dharma brothers have been working on building a new Dharma Hall. I’m quite proud of them both because they’ve been doing such an incredible job, and because they’ve been waiting untill they have all of the money necessary before starting each phase. (No borrowing money!) It’s taken seven or eight years now, (I can’t remember), but the work is nearing completion. They’re just finishing the painting and artwork, and the next step will be installing the flooring and then the Buddha statue. Here are some photos I took yesterday; click on the images to see a larger version.

Here’s the Dharma Hall
Here you can see part of the carved wooden panel that will stand behind the Buddha statue

The interior scaffoding goes up the ceiling, and provides a rare opportunity to examine the artwork on the ceiling and the supporting beams
Every single aspect of the artwork has great meaning. Here the colored bands represent waves of energy radiating outward into the world, from our fundamental Buddha essence. (perhaps you noticed the golden bat? Traditionally bats are regarded as Dharma protectors in Korean Buddhism. Hmm, so when I was reading all the comic books, I was actually studying the Dharma!)
Did I mention that this was a bit high off the ground?!
Details of the ceiling artwork

The ceiling panels

Founder’s Altar

Temples in Korea will often have a “founder’s altar” on the left side of the Dharma Hall. Sometimes this to honor the founder of the temple, and sometimes it’s to honor a great teacher of the temple. In our case, it’s both. This is the altar that was installed a couple of days ago in our Dharma Hall.  I was a bit surprised by the modern style of the design, but I like its clean lines. (Unfortunately, the low light makes this photo look a bit washed out. This is just to the left of the main altar. Tomorrow I’ll  try to add a picture of both.)


EDIT: Here’s a photo of the Founder’s altar in relation to the front of the Dharma Hall.

49th Day Memorial Service

This past Monday (July 9) was the 49th day memorial service for Daehaeng Kun Sunim. Traditionally, these services are to help the spirit of the dead move on, to help free them from what they may be caught up in. But for an awakened being, it is more truly a memorial service for those of us who miss her.  It was a rather public ceremony, with many sunims and laypeople visiting to pay their respects. (Click on the images to see a larger version.)

Looking into the Dharma hall
Greeting visitors
“Any seat will do.” On the stairs that lead to the main Dharma hall

Offering flowers (everyone who came had a chance to pay their respects.)

Dong Hee Sunim is a chanting specialist. She isn’t from our temple, but years ago went with Daehaeng Kun Sunim to Alaska, and what she learned and experienced has been something treasured to this day. So she really wanted to make an offering of her talents.
Hye Hwan Sunim is the last disciple of Daehaeng Kun Sunim to be ordained. (There are a handful of other postulants who are her disciples, but they won’t be able to be ordained with Daehaeng Kuns Sunim as their legal teacher.)
After a final series of bows, we concluded the ceremony by singing “Become a Great Being (대장부)”
The site where Daehaeng Kun Sun was cremated. (The flowers mark the center.) In just 49 days the grass has come in so green.



“The endless path”

“I” is just a composite, and doesn’t actually exist

One of the very first Buddhist texts I read explained how the idea of “I” or “Me” is just a composite, just a shadow that arises from the interaction of the material world and our senses.  It’s always changing, coming and going, and yet we can build up such desire, hope, and anger based upon this. And yet, if we just let go of this “I” and “Me”, all of those things just pass by, unable to find a place to glom onto. Perhaps this is why letting go like this, or bowing, leaves my heart feeling like it’s been washed clean.

I love this image of “self” as the ghost of a thousand sharp-edged pieces of garbage!

from Wired magazine.

You and I as One

Here’s another spectacular Dharma song that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. (Click on the link below to listen to it being sung by our choir at the Dharma song festival last autumn.)

You and I as One

Even a small, ignored weed
is also myself.
There’s not a single thing
that isn’t my shape,
that’s not my life.
Evolving over a billion lives,
I had no idea
that my shape was also there within others,
that others’ shape was also my shape.

That shape is also my shape,
that shape is my shape….
Trying not to see them as separate,
trying not to see them as separate,
finally becoming one,
finally becoming one,
they all become Bodhisattvas,
I too become a Bodhisattva,
become a Bodhisattva.