Dissolving our Karma – Where is our Karma? Week 1


As this course of talks continues, I’ll talk more about how to dissolve karma, and why that’s possible, but to begin with, I need to start with the questions of what is our karma, and where is it? (The following paragraphs are taken from Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s Dharma talks about this topic. Pay attention to the underlined parts, and try to reflect upon those.)

I’m rerecording these talks in order to get an English-only edition (otherwise half the talk would be in Korean), and what this means is I’m doing it without anybody listening at the time, so I don’t have a strong a sense of what people need to know about. If you have questions about karma or its functioning, be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll talk about them in next week’s talk. Thanks! 

Audio files:
Readings from Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s Dharma talks (me reading the text below)

A brief talk about the nature of karma

     As you’ve heard me say before, your body is composed of billions of unenlightened beings. Of course, there’s nothing that’s not a Buddha, but before attaining enlightenment, we are all unenlightened beings. These unenlightened beings gather together, according to their karmic affinity, into one large collection of karma. They gather together and form this lump of flesh that gets called “me.” And then this same principle of gathering together according to karmic affinity caused all of us to gathered here today for this Dharma talk.

      We’ve gone through life after life with untold different bodies, passing through light years of eons, so think about all of the karmic states of consciousness that we’ve created, and all of the chains of cause and effect those have led to.  Think about all the interactions and all the karmic affinities that must have been created over those light years. And now, as we’ve reached the human level, all of those have gathered together as our physical bodies.

     Passing through all of those lives, we’ve created karma of every stage. We’ve created karma at the level of bugs, at the level of animals, at the level of birds, and again at the level of human beings. All of this karma comes out one after another according to circumstances, and sometimes as if they were your own thoughts, and bringing all kinds of hardships and suffering. They pop up out of the blue and make our lives harder. If we let ourselves be fooled by theses, we’ll make our situation worse. A few of you may have heard of the hell of darkness or the snake-pit Hell, right? Well, if we live at the level of a snake, we’ll end up being reborn in a snake’s den. If we live at the level of a worm, we’ll end up living in the darkness underground.   

      What can we do, then, to be free from this suffering? Start by reflecting on what your body is. Karmic states of consciousness became actions and karma, which led to chains of cause and effect, which I in turn caused the formation of this body of you have. For 30 minutes or so in the evenings, try to reflect upon the fact that your body is composed of all your karma and karmic connections. Those are what formed it. Thus, for spiritual practice, you don’t need to be looking around for some other place. This is the very first thing you must remember if you want to be free.

4 Week English Dharma talk series


1B2A1906I’m going to be holding a special series of Dharma talks starting this Thursday, and running for the next 4 weeks, titled,
“Karma: What is it and how to dissolve it.”
I think this will be an interesting one, because a lot times we assume things like karma are set in stone, but that’s not the case. There’s a lot we can do, especially when it hasn’t manifest yet, and a lot we can do to that will change how it affects us going forward.
The talks will be held at 7:30 pm, in the 2nd floor Dharma hall at the Anyang Hanmaum Seon Center. I’ll try to post the text and recordings of the talk for people who can’t attend in person.

Building a Temple as Spiritual Practice

An interview with Hye Yeon Sunim of the Hanmaum Seon Center at Tongyeong, South Korea

The Tongyeong center is quite beautiful, set in a strange, wonderful bowl on top of a mountain. It’s one of the most amazing sites I’ve seen in Korea, but the construction process was long and difficult. The Center made the first purchases of land 14 years ago, and started construction 5 years ago, after Daehaeng Kun Sunim had passed away. Hye Yeon Sunim is the founder of the temple, and has guided the construction from the very beginning. This interview appeared in the 2018 January-February issue of Hanmaum Journal (#97).

Hye Yeon Sunim (center)

Hanmaum Journal: What was your motivation in deciding to build a traditional style temple?

Hye Yeon Sunim:  Well, the laymembers and the sunims always had the idea that a larger, more traditional temple would be nice. However the real impetus came the fact that the center was located in a Korean-style office/shopping building. Kun Sunim’s teachings are wonderful and beyond anything else in the world, but few people were coming to the temple, because it didn’t look like a temple. (These style of buildings are quite common in Korean cities, and will have everything from restaurants, cell phone stores, photo studios, and cram schools to day care centers. It’s common to find hair salons, beauty schools, piano schools, paduck(go) clubs, and even churches and temples, all in the same building. — translator)

863That always felt like a shame, but building a traditional temple building isn’t easy. Then, someone mentioned finding a section of land for sale that they said was quite nice. I went and visited, and it was perfect! Although it was a wonderful location, I was intimidated at the same time. It would have been an almost unimaginable undertaking to find the money for the land and construction, and then to undertake both.

While I was up in Anyang, and visiting Kun Sunim, I told her about the situation. Someone brought in a snack of a type of fried potato pancake made with mushrooms called jeon, and she kept offering me some. I couldn’t refuse, but to tell you the truth, I’ve always hated mushrooms. But here was Kun Sunim personally offering me food, so I ate the mushroom pancakes.

Later, I realized that she was teaching me to take whatever arose, and fully chew and eat it unconditionally. I resolved to move forward with the construction.

Continue reading “Building a Temple as Spiritual Practice”

Direct audiobook sales (Woohoo!)

Well, okay, direct-ish audiobook sales! We’ve loaded the files to the sales website, Gumroad, and they’ll take care of processing payments and file downloads. I’m excited because now we have a way to get this to people who don’t have an account at Audible.com or iTunes. Gumroad also takes Paypal, as well as credit cards.


My Heart is a Golden Buddha – Audiobook edition
by Daehaeng Kun Sunim
narrated by Garan Fitzgerald

A collection of inspiration and wisdom, seen through the tales of housewives and kings, monks and bandits, and the deep mountains of Korea.

In this collection of thirty-three stories, one of Korea’s foremost Seon(Zen) masters introduces the richness and depth of Korea’s Buddhist tradition. With humor and insight, Seon Master Daehaeng shows us our inherent potential and demonstrates how we can face the challenges of life with wisdom and vigor.

(Give it a try! It’s pretty good!)

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(buy direct from us, via Gumroad, and it’s only $7.99!)

 also available at Audible.com and iTunes

In memoriam – Park Jae Won

박고모님  Today was the 49th day ceremony for Park Jae Won, who passed away in January. It’s hard to describe how warm and impressive he was. I’m a bit disappointed that this mediocre photo is the best I could find, but perhaps that’s impermanence telling me not to cling to any particular shape of him!

This is an interview with him from 2006, and touches on modern Korean Buddhist history, as well as his experiences with different Buddhist teachers in Korea.

Sadly, his wife also passed away a few weeks afterwards. Sigh. He leaves behind his daughter and her family.


Senior Advisor Mr. Park, and the Early History of Hanmaum Seon Center

This  interview appeared in the May/June 2006 issue (#27) of Hanmaum Journal.

If you visit the Anyang Hanmaum Seon Center, there is a chance you’ll see Mr. Jae Won Park(박재원). He has known Kun Sunim for many decades, and been a member of the Seon Center from it’s early years. In addition to taking care of all kinds of large and small jobs for the Seon Center, he also used to have many important roles in the Buddhist community and larger society of Korea. Here is his story.

How did you come to meet Daehaeng Kun Sunim?

I first met her through my association with Tanho Sunim [Tanho Sunim was also a disciple of Hanam Sunim, and was considered one of the foremost scholars of modern Korea -translator]. I’d met Tanho Sunim in the mid-1960’s and later had formed a group to help support his teaching and vision. He and Kun Sunim were very good friends, so on one of his visits, I went along and met Kun Sunim. That’s how I first met her, and eventually, in April of 1976, I had been appointed as senior adviser to Hanmaum Seon Center.

Tanho Sunim

For many years I’ve wondered about that karmic affinity that led me to meet Daehaeng Kun Sunim. Her path has been so different from that of a worldly person like me. In my heart she’s closer to me than my own parents were; what kind of connection must there be to cause this? How much strength and hope must I have gotten from her in my past lives that I would neglect everything else to help take care of the Seon Center? I’ve thought often about how meeting her gave me such strength and why it was such a turning point in my life. Continue reading “In memoriam – Park Jae Won”