Day 94 – Upholding both the visible and the invisible

May I uphold the principles of the unseen realms, as well as the rules of society.

세상 계율 무위법을 벗어나지 않게 하옵소서.

This is quite an interesting verse, in that it specifically mentions upholding the standards of society. Of course, this doesn’t mean some society where people have gone off the deep end in a sea of blood and murder. But that in regular normal, decent-ish society, we should try to follow the rules.

Daehaeng Kun Sunim once described this as “upholding trust between people,” and in sociological terms (?) it’s what’s called “civil society,” that is, a collective society that generally has trust as it’s basis.

This is somewhat different than a certain stereotype of the “Zen” monk, who runs around creating chaos and upsetting people. “Oh, he’s trying to shake them loose of their fixed ideas.” Maybeee. But you better have the spiritual ability to see where you harmed others, and the spiritual ability to repay any harm you caused them, and frankly, there aren’t many who can do that.

If you truly understand the truth of nonduality, then only in rare instances, where you can clearly sense an intervention is necessary, would you cause anything like shock or harm to others. As for upholding the truths of how the unseen realms function, that’s to help you move in tune and learn to see these for yourself. (Among any number of other things, I suspect! There’s also the entire issue of not creating harmful karma that will hold you back.)

The memorial pagoda of a 9th century Korean monk

Day 91 – We only become free together

When the Korean says “all beings escape together,” there’s a nuance the English reader may not notice. While on the surface it comes across as “wouldn’t it be nice if we all became free,” in Korean, there’s also a meaning of “The only way to become free is altogether.”

To put it another way, it’s setting aside our attitude of discrimination, of exclusion, of thinking that some are better or worse than others. For while some beings may not be doing a great job of things, we are all inherently manifestations of the one, and “awakening” is knowing and manifesting this “one.” If we want to know this for ourselves, we have to start by trying to move in tune with this, even though we don’t see it for ourselves. Then, the more we can move in tune with this, easier it will be for us to become aware of it.

That’s why (broken record!) reciting these verses from The Thousand Hands Sutra is so helpful. They reflect how things really are, and when we recite these and let them sink down within us, all the lives that make up our bodies are also learning these truths.

May everyone discover the bright light within themselves in this new (but old) year of 2021!
with palms together,
Chong Go

May all beings escape together
escape from suffering and become free.

만물이 함께 고에서 벗어나 벗어나 자유인이 되게 하옵소서.

You need the sustenance of spiritual experiences

I was just reminded of this post, and although it’s from a while ago, it’s just as relevant today. Perhaps even more so.

Start your study with experiences, with applying and experimenting with what you know. Don’t think that you can wait until after enlightenment before you have experiences. If you want to know your true self, experiences are the fastest way to go.  

The Abbess, Hye Won Sunim

When I first became a monk, the abbess at the main Hanmaum Seon Center in Anyang said to me, “Without the experiences (that come from trying to rely upon one’s inherent Buddha-nature), it’s really hard to live as a monk or nun for very long. You need the sustenance of these experiences.”   

Here is a bit more that she has said about spiritual experiences.  

The more effort you make, the more results and experiences you will get.  And the more effort you make, the harder your true nature will push you. The harder you study, the harder your true self, Juingong, pushes you.   If you are determined to study very hard, and try to do so, you will have some obstacles from other people, monks and nuns, laypeople, and various people around you. If you stop studying because of obstacles from other people, you won’t make any further progress.  So don’t be bound or tied down by these.

The first thing you have to pass through is learning to ignore the obstacles from other people.  To me, I’m focused on taking care of my practice, regardless of what other people are doing to me.  I have seen many people, including sunims and laypeople who drop out because of obstacles from laypeople and hardships from their teacher.  Don’t try to have the same experience several times.  Once you have an experience, try to let it go so that you can have other experiences. 

The Rule of Fish

There’s an odd thing I’ve discovered about spiritual experiences – they have a lot in common with fish: They’re alive and vibrant at first, but unless we release them, within a day or two, they really begin to stink.  

Unless we let go of them, nothing new comes, so it’s very hard to keep growing. In addition, if we don’t release them, they will become a foothold for “I” and the all the opinions and fixed views that go along with this sense of “me.” Without even being aware of it, a subtle thought begins to pervade our consciousness, “Look what I know.” From the moment this stink of I starts to pervade our outlook, things begin to fall apart.  I can’t claim to know all the details about why this is, but my feeling is that the dualistic thought, of what I know, begins to cut us off from the whole and our source of energy and wisdom.   

However, when we release what we’ve experienced and become one with it, even though we seem to lose sight of it, it’s still there, transforming us. And when we need it, it will return.  

Trusting our root, our true nature, means that we entrust it with not just the bad things, but also the good things. We release them all to this root, remembering that is what’s really taking care of our lives and everything we encounter.