The Bangkok Seon Club

Gulukhan Bucheonimke Gwiuihamnida
Gulukhan Galeuchime Gwiuihamnida
Gulukhan Sunimdulke Gwiuihamnida
– The Three Refuges 

I am constantly struck by just how valuable an opportunity we have here in Bangkok to study the Dharma. In order to practice Therevadan Buddhism in English there is the wonderful Littlebang Sangha, and for those of us drawn towards Korean Zen, there is the Bangkok Seon Club. Not only is it amazing to be able to study Seon Buddhism at a Korean temple while living in Thailand, but the friendliness and support of the group is something not often encountered, and very precious. 

Hyaedan Sunim

We start each meeting by chanting the three refuges, though in the Korean tradition it’s more of a song than a chant, then we bow and take our places for a short meditation. The sit is led by Hyaedan Sunim, who marks the start and finish with three strikes of the seon stick, and then we always place our cushions onto benches, which we move into a square, to briefly read a few pages of Kun Daehaeng Sunim’s book ‘No River to Cross’, and start the discussion. 

Looking back through my notes from the past year of discussions, I see that we’ve covered a great deal of ground. One of the meetings that was most useful to me was from last August in which we talked about faith. I have a naturally devotional approach, and Kun Sunim’s teaching – to believe in, let go to, and observe the workings of Buddha-nature – has provided a better understanding of my faith, and a beautiful and adaptable practice I can go back to again and again. 

Many of the people in the group have been studying Zen for decades in various traditions, and although I admit the discussions sometimes become a little too complicated for me to follow, I always enjoy what I am able to understand and I am impressed at how people are able to share ideas and experiences regardless of language differences. Eun Young, our wonderful translator and an inspiring practitioner, deserves huge thanks for this. 

Bodhisattvas filling the sky around us

 But, of course, discussion has its limits. As Kun Daehaeng teaches in chapter two, “The eternal self cannot be described by words, and it cannot be revealed through discussion. Trying to know it conceptually is like trying to know the world while trapped inside of a barrel.” Hyaedan Sunim describes it as being like a bird which has flown into a room. Banging its head against the window won’t free it. 

Rather, the bird must stop its frantic activity, rest, and examine how it came to be in the room in the first place. Then the way out will be clear. This reminded me a lot of Phra Cittasamvaro Bhikkhu’s comments last year in his talks on ‘the way of wisdom’. He warned against too much conceptualisation and also suggested that simple resting, using time in practice to observe rather than engage, leads to peace and liberation. 

entrance to the Bangkok Hanmaum Seon Center

I’m glad I went back to look at this again. As well as that part of me that welcomes resting in faith, I also have a tendancy to try to work things out, to try to find the ‘right’ answer. Too often this ends up in pointless discussions, especially on the Internet. The beauty of our monthly Sangha meetings is that it is a place where real, meaningful discussion can happen, and where we can learn the practice of letting go. A practice I have had to return to again today, a practice I return to again and again. 

Our meetings are also a lot of fun. After the discussions, and sometimes they go on very late, many people continue talking and sharing in a nearby restaurant till well after the last train has stopped running. Thank you again to everyone who makes these evenings possible. And click on the link below for details of the next one on June the 26th. 

Littlebang: home page
Littlebang: details of next Seon Club