Inspiring Yourself to Practice by Won-Hyo: Part 1

We’re publishing the full text of Won-Hyo’s Inspiring Yourself to Practice (Bal shim su haeng jang). Written in the seventh century in Korea, it consists of 706 Chinese characters. (The English version looks much longer!)

According to the anthology Admonitions to Beginners, printed by the Bureau of Education of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, Inspiring Yourself to Practice  is one of three staple texts for all aspiring monastics. “The text stresses the need to eliminated (sic) one’s karmic bond with the world and immediately begin practice.”

Inspiring is found in Admonitions to Beginners. Currently out-of-print, this edition needs editing and revising. The following is my rewording of the original English translation, which was produced by Mark Mueller and Won-Myong Sunim.

If you’d like to see a printing of the entire anthology Admonitions, please let us know. If there’s enough interest, maybe it could be published in the future.


For countless eons all Buddhas residing in Nirvana
have discarded their desires and trained arduously.
From endless time sentient beings have cycled
within the burning house, having failed to discard desire.

The Pure Land is not blocked.
Yet few are those who enter;
most make their home among the three poisons.
Although the lower realms lack inherent power to seduce,
many enter therein.

The deluded mind values the five desires and the four elements
comprising the body as if they were jewels.
As this is the case, is there no one longing
to retire to the secluded mountains to practice the Way?

Enmeshed in desire, folks don’t go there.
Although you don’t take refuge in the mountains to cultivate your mind,
strive wholeheartedly to perform wholesome actions.

If you can renounce pleasure,
you will be as trusted and respected as the sages.
If you can undergo that which is difficult,
you will be as respected as the Buddha.
Those who greedily seek after things join the ranks of demons.
Those who give out of compassion are the disciples of the Dharma King.

(This post was also published on a blog specifically about Pure Land Buddhism)

Why the rabbit gave the tiger a pipe

(<– continued from Why did the rabbit give the tiger a pipe?)

“Why did the rabbit give a pipe to the tiger?” the monk asked.

The only thing that came to mind was, “To save their own skin!” but lacking confidence in my thoughts, especially when it comes to Zen, I shook my head.

The monk eventually said, “Because the rabbits don’t want the tiger to eat them.”

Out of pride, I sort of wished I’d spoken my mind, but once that wore off, I thought about the answer a little more.

Initially, it seems basically selfish of the rabbit. He’s not genuinely concerned for the tiger’s wellbeing. If he were, he’d offer him something like a cup of tea, or perhaps his own flesh. I suppose back when tigers smoked pipes, they may not have been aware that it wasn’t very healthy, though. He’s only concerned about the tiger’s contentedness for his and his friend’s sake.

As I thought about it more, it reminded me of my own path. I didn’t become interested in the Buddha’s teachings for anyone’s sake but my own. I was (probably still am) self-centered, depressed, and hid behind a mask of cheerfulness not to let anyone see the real me. Eventually, I read in a book that I should shift my attention outwards, to be concerned for others. Grudgingly, I tried, because it was supposed to bring me happiness also, of course. Eventually, it started working, not because I was any happier, but because I’d genuinely started developing more concern for those around me.

So, maybe the rabbits, acting out of self-preservation, do have some concern for the tiger’s joy. And knowing rabbits, they probably have a den full of babies who are depending on their safe return, in which case, they’d be much more needed there than in the tiger’s belly!

Happy Korean New Year! Saehae Bok Mani Badeusaeyo!

Have a nice Year of the Rabbit!

One mind, many bodies… string, many kites.

Your fundamental mind, your true self is invisibly connected to all things in the world and through it all things communicate with each other and work together as one. In this way, the whole universe is functioning together as one through fundamental mind, so this working together is called One Mind (Hanmaum).

-Dae Haeng Kun Sunim

Sometimes, you just have to look up, and there’s a teaching waiting for you!




good dust, bad dust?

This Fundamental Mind can be compared to a mirror, and whether covered with dust or not, a mirror is a mirror. It remains unchanged no matter how long it is dirtied and covered with dust, and once the dust is removed, it gleams as brilliantly as ever.

Even golddust is only dust to a mirror and an obstruction to its function. In the same way, words of the sages are but dust on our Fundamental Mind and they merely darken it.

-Zen Master Song Cheol

The ignorance and dust of desires are enlightenment and the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana.

-the Maka Shikan

I suppose it depends on what teaching suits you at this moment…

Sunday Photo; Parinirvana Buddha at Wa’u’jeong Temple

About an hour and a bit south-east of Seoul, tucked in the hilly countryside of YongIn is Waujeongsa, head temple of Korea’s lesser known Yeolban Jong, the Nirvana Order.

Near the top of the path that circles the steep grounds is a small grotto shrine in which lies this beautiful Parinirvana Buddha, carved from a single Juniper tree. It’s one of the many Buddhas I love sitting in the room with.

. . .

This year, a lot of special people in my life have had their leases expire. I know I’m not particularly unique or alone in this experience. Every religion and philosophy has their own explanations and beliefs about death (it’s usually a rather important subject!) and I’ve always appreciated what Buddhism has taught me.

It’s a difficult subject to discuss definitively because how many of us remember dying? What we do have, though, is the shared wisdom of those who can see, and personally, ones I trust. The Buddha spoke of witnessing his hundreds of lives, the number in the texts is 500, just before his enlightenment. If since that time, we’ve all been reborn as humans consecutively, we can probably add another 40-50 or so lives, but assuming the possibility that we could have gone anywhere from cats and dogs to birds and bees and who knows what else, well, from a Buddhist perspective, we’ve all experienced death enough times that there ought to be some knowledge stashed down in those roots somewhere!

At Saturday Sangha, Chong Go Sunim often talks about different situations when Dae Haeng Kun Sunim has assisted in the unseen realm of someone’s passing. One of the more practical stories, rather than one of the, “Holly cow! She did what?!” ones, was that she once said, “Even if someone has already been reborn, praying for them can still help them in their current life.”

There must have been people other than me who wondered about this for her to say it, but I’m glad that she did. It’s encouraging to think our thoughts and intentions can reach that far, even beyond death.


[I’d planned on posting this, and chuckled when I opened my email this morning and saw that Carl’s post beat me to it! A good example of working together, on some level!^^. I thought twice about posting again on the same topic, but figured it’s such a nice theme, it’s worthy of investigating together… Maybe others will be inspired to add more!]

In August, on the Ox Herding blog, Barry posted about the Responsible Life, where he quickly discussed intention and the Great Vows:

The Four Great Vows

Sentient beings are numberless, we vow to save them all.

Delusions are endless, we vow to cut through them all.

The teachings are infinite, we vow to learn them all.

The Buddha way is inconceivable, we vow to attain it.

In the ensuing conversation, someone asked if the original text used the word “I” or “we”.

Chong Go Sunim responded,

In the Korean and Chinese versions, there’s no personal pronoun of I or we. Statements like this depend upon the context, and in this case, the most natural choice would be “I.”

However, I can easily imagine Seung Sahn Sunim putting a spin on it with a “we,” and no one here would complain at all. They would see that as a teaching in itself, one that compliment and enrich the usual emphasis on individual effort.

From there, Barry added,

This brings to mind two Korean phrases that I’ve heard (in translation), sometimes said in greeting or parting:

– May you become Buddha!
– May we together become Buddha!

I hadn’t really thought much about the translation before, but at the end of Ye’bul (ceremony) people turn to each other and with palms together say, “Seong Bul ha’ship’shi’yo.” In this context “Seong” is to accomplish, achieve, attain, complete, fulfill, or succeed in, “Bul” is Buddha, or Buddha-nature, and “ha’ship’shi’yo” is a very polite way of saying, “do it”. There is, indeed, no I, me, or you, but in a Dharma Hall full of people, simultaneously wishing each other to become Buddhas, the feeling of, “Let’s become Buddhas together,” emerges.

On my blog Somewhere in Dhamma, I wrote of an afternoon trip I took to YongJu Temple, with my family and friend, Carl. But one part I saved to share here. We stayed for the beginning of Ye’bul, just long enough to recite the Heart Sutra, then followed the monks as they left the hall. One monk who I’d spoken with before the ceremony waited for us by the door to say good-by. Our parting wish to him was, “Seong Bul ha’ship’shi’yo,” But he answered with palms together, a bow, and large, “Ahhh’ni’yo! Gaaaat’chi, seong Bul ha’ship’shi’yo!”

Noooo! Together, may we become Buddha!

For more on YongJuSa, you can visit my blog:


“I take refuge in the sangha”
This weekend, I did

My Dharma Brother Joseph, “Gil Do”,  and his kind and caring wife, Eunbong,
Their wisely-countenanced and
Jolly Daughter, Fina

My patient and erudite teacher and friend, Chong Go Sunim
And my Dharma Brother Marcus, “Seokjong” with his gift of mindfulness

All in kind and compassionate listening, counseling, sharing and generosity
Brought me to this place

To all I say,
Come to the temples
Be you Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, or Atheist
There is serenity and the tone of peace here

Penetrating and cleansing

A Holy Spirit,  a Buddha Nature, a Juingong
And you find it in yourself
And it takes you home

To freedom

Thank you,

Brothers and Sisters of the Sangha

This is Yongju Sa, in Suwon…
Where the monk said:
“Katchi Sungbulhaseyo”
Let us become enlightened ones,

How beautiful
How necessary