Dharma talk for Buddha’s Birthday, 2023

Here’s the translation of the Dharma talk for Buddha’s Birthday, I *think* this was given by Daehaeng Kun Sunim in 1999, but I might be wrong about the year. It was a beautiful day, there were tons of people, and the choir was simply incredible, although I wasn’t in a position to take many pictures.

2023 Buddha’s Birthday Dharma Talk by Daehaeng Kun Sunim (originally in 1999, iirc)

We call this day the Buddha’s Birthday,
but the Buddha was never born or left,
and always exists together
in the one place,
with everything.
With every kind of being,
all material things,
all together
sharing the same life,
the same body,
the same mind,
working together as one,
and freely giving and receiving whatever is needed,
the Buddha said,

“Treat everything of the unseen realm
and the material realm as not two,
function as one with the universe
and every aspect of it,
think of other’s life as your own,
see their body as your own body,
know their pain as your pain,
and treat everything as part of this one whole.”

But, all over the world,
there is conflict and fighting,
wars, destruction, and killing each other,
and brutality beyond description.
All over the world,
we can see men and women,
the old and the young,
starving and dying,
sick and dying,
wrapped in pain
and unable to escape.
The world is like this because
this truth that the Buddha showed us
hasn’t been put into practice.

What should we do then?
All of us,
whether our spiritual awareness is great or weak,
or somewhere in between,
must work diligently through our one mind,
and discover our Buddha-nature,
our Juingong.

The outer work is to love each other.
Help each other out,
when others hurt,
treat that as your own,
help them through mind
and material means,
letting go of any trace of “me” that’s helping.
In this one life that barely lasts a season,
let’s walk together on the eternal path
the path that runs through life after life,
going forward letting go of all traces of “I’m doing,”
and through one mind,
let’s light a flame
that brightens all existence.

We pay homage to Shakyamuni Buddha,
We pay homage to the inherent Buddha within us,
We pay homage to the foundation within us that is our teacher,
and none other than Shakyamuni Buddha.

On this Buddha’s Birthday of 2023, let everyone here,
everyone throughout all realms,
receive this wonderful truth give to us by Daehaeng Kun Sunim,and work diligently to brighten the great lantern within ourselves

Hye Su Sunim, reading the Dharma talk

11th Anniversary of Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s passing

Tomorrow, May 27 (April 1 on the lunar calandar) will be the 11th anniversary of Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s passing, though it’s probably better to say, “when she was finished with her body!”

We’ll have a ceremony here at the Anyang Hanmaum Seon Center at 10:30 am Seoul time, which will probably be live on the Seon Center’s YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/@HanmaumTemple

Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s Pagoda, last Monday on Teacher’s Day

It won’t be too long (by Korean standards!) and there should be something interesting for the video memorial. That said, here is the text of one of her favorite Dharma songs, where she talks of how we can dissolve our old karmic input by taking it and entrusting it inwardly so that it can dissolve. It speaks of becoming free of those, knowing our existence as part of the whole, and the positivity and hope that arises from this!

Live Magnificently

Through similar karma,
consciousnesses have gathered together
and formed a body.
Billions of lives make up this body,
with every instant
they leave and return,
and cause us to suffer.

Take the suffering and hardships that arise
and gather them together in your one mind.
Do this!
Then lives within your body will be transformed
into bodhisattvas.
Then the lives within your body will all be saved,
will all be saved.

Our one mind and all Buddhas
exist together,working together as one.
“All minds are my mind,
all bodies are my body,
not a thing is separate from me.”
Truly realize this for yourself,
truly bring forth this one mind.
Raise high this invisible, five-colored pillar
and go forward entrusting everything to it.
Live magnificently
throughout all life’s ups and downs,
live magnificently!
Live magnificently!

And a bit of silliness by the monks after a group photo on Teacher’s Day!

Unveiling the parade lanterns

This Sunday at 7pm, we’ll be unveiling the parade lanterns for Buddha’s Birthday, as well as the group performances (May 7, 7pm Seoul time). It will be broadcast live on YouTube, and *might* be left up, or some version of it. Here are some photos from years past. The lanterns this year will all be new.


A Dharma Talk for Buddha’s Birthday

(Here’s a Dharma talk given on Buddha’s Birthday. The basic aspects that this talk doesn’t cover are to first have faith in this inner light that we all have, and to work at entrusting it with whatever comes up as we go forward doing our best.)

Buddha’s Birthday Dharma Talk by Daehaeng Kun Sunim
(originally given in 1994)

All the creatures and things of this world
are the manifestation of Buddha.
Every thought that arises from our foundation
is the Buddha’s great meaning.
Each of us is fully embraced by Buddha’s mind,
thus we already have within us this eternal light
that never wavers,
so open your inner eye and escape from darkness!

Being able to truly take care of whatever you encounter
is the real path forward.
The fragrance of one mind permeates everything far and wide,
so wake up from the sleep of ignorance,
and go forward with true sincerity,
taking care things
with hands that aren’t hands,
on feet that aren’t feet.

The cycle of life and death
and nirvana are not two,
Buddhas and unenlightened beings are not two,
wisdom and afflictions are not two,
and if you deeply awaken to what this means
and can put it into action,
you can taste the life giving waters of your true nature,
and you will know that Buddha’s birthday was not a onetime thing.
You will truly know that Buddha appears in the world every instant.

Let us raise high this radiant lotus lantern
and under its light,
may we all bring forth the light within us,
becoming one with all Buddhas,
may we raise the great desire that all beings
escape from suffering and live comfortably,
and may we all awaken together and become truly free!

On this Buddha’s Birthday,
may all beings hearing this Dharma talk brighten the light within them!

We pay homage to Shakyamuni Buddha,
We pay homage to the inherent Buddha within us,
We pay homage to the foundation within us that is our teacher,
and none other than Shakyamuni Buddha.

Hanging Lanterns for Buddha’s Birthday

We had kind of a fun project here at the Seon Center in Anyang today! We started at 7 am and hung the lanterns for Buddha’s Birthday. It’s May 27 this year. (April 7 on the lunar calendar. Everything was mostly finished by 8:30. It goes fast when you have a couple of hundred people! My thanks to Hoon Park for these photos!

This Sunday, May 7 at 7pm, we’ll be having the opening ceremony for the big parade lanterns. This should be broadcast live on the Seon Center’s youtube channel. Given that this is a little buried, I’ll go ahead and make a separate post for this in a couple of days. I hope everyone’s been well!

Happy Lunar New Year!

Gathering at Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s stupa on New Year’s morning

I hope the new year is finding you all well and growing in your practice! Things haven’t been too exciting here, but we have finished a couple of new videos. The first is a excerpt from a Dharma in 1992. The video quality isn’t particularly good, but the contents are definitely worth it.

This talk covers one of the most foundational steps of spiritual practice: how to view what we’re experiencing and encountering, and what to do with it. I specifically meant “foundational” not “fundamental,” because this is the foundation of spiritual practice. It’s like getting the first button lined up properly. Get that mixed up, and everything else after it is a bit off.
“What I’m experiencing, good or bad, is manifesting from my true self.” This seems like it could be quite unfair, and in a sense it can be, because sometimes stuff happens to us for (apparently) no other reason than we were in the way. But. The thing is, because this is a manifestation of *our* foundation, our foundation also has the ability to change it into something else.
This is key. This is hope.
If what we were experiencing was truly coming from somewhere else, from something disconnected to us, then we would have almost no control over it or ability to determine where things go from here. We would be reduced to beggars, appealing to some other source to please be kind to us. Instead, by returning what we’ve experienced to our foundation (as we go forward responding to it as best we can,) it will begin to change. Sometimes that change happens so slowly we can’t see it, and sometimes it happens in an instant. But, because this is arising from our foundation, through this connection with the whole, we have the ability to affect how things go from here.
In general, it’s best to try to return and change things before they manifest into the material realm, if possible. Once something has appeared with physical form, any change has to take that into account as well, and there often seems to be only a limited range of physical change possible in the short term. Perhaps I should do a post on the limitations of change, and why it isn’t always as instantaneous as we’d like?

The second video we have is the English text to Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s translation of the Heart Sutra, as chanted in Korean by Bo Won Sunim. He does a great job, and the contents are quite profound.

Dharma Songs!

We’ve been working on a couple of different things, and here’s one! These are translations of several of the Dharma songs used at Hanmaum Seon Center. This one is called “The path of completing myself” (나를 완성시키는 길), but it could also be read as “The path that causes me to become complete.” We have three more done that I’ll put up over the next few days.

Truly! An interview with Chong Gu Sunim, part 2

[I hope everyone’s been doing good! If you’re in Korea, be sure to stay safe; we’re getting rain by the bucketfull! ]

Chong Gu Sunim has worked as a member of the Hanmaum Seon Center Publications Department for nearly twenty years. As part of the process of publishing the complete talks of Daehaeng Kun Sunim, the Publishing Department transcribes them, checks the transcription multiple times, and then lightly edits them for spelling and grammar. In the course of this, they’ve listened to and read over a thousand Dharma talks, multiple times.

The Korean version of this interview appeared in May/June 2018 issue of Hanmaum Journal(#99). This is part two of two.

Hanmaum Journal: Sometimes when there’s something that I just can’t seem to let go of, if I read one of Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s Dharma talks, something just clicks and I can let go of whatever was bothering me and move on.

Chong Gu Sunim: Exactly. That’s because whether someone’s speaking or hitting a bell in the Dharma Hall, it’s mind that’s being communicated, and mind that’s being absorbed. So even just hearing a random sentence, that will sometimes just click as you become one with that, and your stuck parts dissolve and you can move forward. This functioning is such a precious thing, and I’ve often thought about it during the morning bell part of the early morning ceremony.

Among the stories of sunims who awakened, there was one sunim who was chanting during the early morning ceremony, and at the moment he awoke, his chanting was quietly heard in all the surrounding villages. The writers were talking about this mind connecting with other minds. In other stories, their chanting or the sounds of them hitting the bell in the Dharma Hall was heard as far away as China. This fundamental mind of ours truly has no form or shape, so it can go anywhere, embracing anything. This is what those stories were expressing.

Years ago, when I had some issue and I just couldn’t come up with a good answer, I would go ask Kun Sunim, and her answers were so amazing and deep and all-embracing. I aways left feeling that even in a thousand years, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with such a good way of looking at things. The thing is, when we’re confronted with hardship, we tend to become preoccupied with finding a solution. Instead, we should ask why the whole gave us that problem, and what is there in it that we need to learn.

“Raising up our Jujangja,” (the word for a monks staff), can also be read as raising up our center, and means combining the whole into one. It’s the place where the whole is functioning as one, and from this perspective, things just arise, and then pass away. So the real question is, what was the intention of the whole when that situation arose? What was it that I was supposed to learn? That’s what we need to ask inwardly and reflect upon. When you understand that, then you will be able to understand things at another level, and will also move beyond that problem. All beings and things are inherently connected, so true communication is possible.

When I’m struggling to understand something and pondering what it is that I’m supposed to be learning from that situation, then because I’m actively desiring an answer, something a fellow sunim says will be exactly what I need. Or it will be few words from a Dharma talk, or a verse in a ceremony that speaks to me. Because I’m searching for that answer, that meaning reaches out and connects with me. This is why people who are engaged in this spiritual practice seem to grow faster than others. They are searching on their own, and trying to grow, and so this foundation responds accordingly.

The thing is, this is available to everyone. It’s not just for select people. It’s inherent in the functioning of the universe. It’s like there’s an inner teacher that’s trying to direct our attention inwardly, and in order to pick up on this, we need to set aside “me” and what “I know,” and go forward with faith in our foundation. Then it’s like we come to the attention of our foundation.

Hanmaum Journal: Back when Daehaeng Kun Sunim first opened the Seon Center, people would complain because she was talking about things like the Dharma Realm and how it functioned, and it was so far above their own experience and understanding that it seemed pointless to hear about it. But she said that even if they didn’t understand it now, later on when they had brightened and raised their spiritual level, what she was saying would be helpful to them.

Chong Gu Sunim: She mentioned similar things in some of her Dharma talks, when she spoke of the work she had been doing to raise the spiritual level of all people on the planet. She was trying to make this world itself into a Buddha’s Realm. I was left with the impression that to the extent the spiritual level of people here moved more in tune with that of the higher realms, such a transformation was easier to achieve.

To look at the presence or absence of Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s physical body and then say that she’s here or not, is just a reflection of one’s limited level of understanding. The essence of Kun Sunim isn’t something that can be approached or known through senses based on the physical, material world. The only way to approach this essence is through our fundamental mind, Juingong. Through what’s inherent within us. You have to truly know what you are, then you can begin to understand what Kun Sunim is.

So we have to keep working at practicing, regardless of whether it seems like we’re making progress or not. We have to keep working at it until we can approach and perceive the world through our foundation. Then we’ll find ourselves the realm of the Buddhas.

When Daehaeng Kun Sunim first started working with people, she would become one with whoever came, and in that oneness, energy would move, resolving whatever hardship had been confronting the person. Those things that people needed to know through their intellect, she would teach them. She would also melt away whatever emotional states and attitudes that were blocking the person, and then teach them how to do that for themselves with whatever came up the next time, so that they could stand on their own and go forward as free and independent people.

This was her purpose in establishing the Seon Center at Anyang, as well as all of the branch centers, in the public Dharma talks she gave, and in all of the events and ceremonies held over the course of the year at the Center.

As people work at learning and applying Kun Sunim’s teachings like this, her intention soaks into them. We sunims, too, work to help new sunims and laypeople learn to use their problems and hardships as a way to deepen their understanding and spiritual practice, so that they can stand on their own.

Although we may not be able to do this as powerfully as Kun Sunim, we can still embrace others with our mind, and work to help them move forward by entrusting their situation to our foundation and raising intentions for their well-being. I don’t have the least doubt that as we do this, Kun Sunim is there working together with us.

Hanmaum Journal: Kun Sunim used to say that the world needed great numbers of experienced practitioners.          

Chong Gu Sunim: That’s right. We each have to work diligent at learning to rely upon our foundation. This is also what other people need to do as well. This need for people to undergo spiritual practice is why Kun Sunim gave so many Dharma talks. We have to learn to connect with our foundation, and then we can truly connect with others.

Everyone is practicing together with us, and it’s such a blessing. Everyone and thing has a different personality, different energy, and a different style of speaking. But not reacting to that, and instead returning it all inwardly is the number one rule of spiritual practice.

We have to keep returning everything inwardly, such that at some point everything bursts open. Then all barriers will disappear, and we can understand anything we are determined to know. This itself is the guidebook and the teacher we’ve been looking for.

We have to take what we learn through this, and use that to look for the habits and viewpoints that we haven’t yet overcome, and then apply ourselves and work hard at cutting through those things. If we let ourselves get caught up in the feeling that we know enough, or that we’ve ‘attained’ something, then it gets very easy to just drift along at that level of awareness. Then we can’t shed our current level of awareness, and we can’t experience this glaringly bright, broad, weightless mind. Further, we start accumulating states of mind that darken our perspectives, and begin to pull us back down.

Perhaps I could describe spiritual practice as always focusing inwardly and resting? Or maybe as completely returning your attention inwardly and always loving and honoring this inner place? As you practice like this, no matter what you experience, no matter how your emotions fluctuate, you look at it all as, “This is something I’m encountering due to just a bit of karmic affinity.” You recognize this yourself, and then go forward without letting it interfere with what you were doing.

My ability to practice has its shortfalls, but I am the one who has to deal with those, and the one who can truly deal with them. We each have to keep pouring our energy into spiritual practice and keep experiencing the functioning of this foundation, and then finally attain spiritual ability like that of Kun Sunim. This is what it means to care for other people. Truly.

It’s Buddha’s Birthday!

It’s Buddha’s Birthday here in Korea, and we’ve just finished up the noon service. There will be a lantern lighting ceremony at 7pm (which will be broadcast live, Korea time, on YouTube) tonight, Monday, and Tuesday. Here are some photos from last year, as well as years past. (If you don’t see masks, then its pre 2020!)

Instead of a “Bathing the Buddha” ceremony, we offer the six nurturing offerings. These are water, tea, rice, incense, flowers, and light.
The ceremony is broadcast live, and features a video Dharma talk from Daehaeng Kun Sunim, usually a talk given on Buddha’s Birthday.

This is a pre-covid photo, but there are still a lot of people! All day long I’ve been hearing the whistles of the traffic cops directing people and cars.
At night, as the hanging lanterns are lit.

Getting ready for a lot of lunches! Bibimbap for everyone!

The rice offering.

The head of the Seon Center’s foundation, Hye Su Sunim, who was Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s attendant for 30+ years.

Concluding with an encouragement to practice diligently.

10th Anniversary of Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s passing

Hi everyone,
Tomorrow will be the 10 year anniversary of Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s passing. In a way, it’s a thing, but it’s also not, because fundamentally, she never went anywhere. That said, we still hold a yearly ceremony! It will all be in Korean (sorry), but if you want to watch, it will be broadcast live on youtube at 10:30am Korea time (May 1). The regular midday ceremony will last about 40 minutes, with the anniversary ceremony immediately following. https://www.youtube.com/user/HanmaumTemple

Here are a couple of photos I took this morning at the site of her pagoda. It’s also the site of her cremation, now that I think about it.