Several people have asked me to talk more about entrusting, and what Daehaeng Kun Sunim means by it.  Let me start off by saying that entrusting is probably the second-most important aspect of all spiritual practice. There’s so much that revolves around this topic, so I’ll just jump in, and if you all have questions unanswered, let’s continue the topic in the comments section.

What is entrusting?
The easy explanation is that it means trusting your root.

It’s trusting your inherent Buddha-nature, and turning over to it everything that arises, along with the things you get hung up on.  

To be even more accurate, you’re returning them back to the place they came from. Everything arises from there, so that’s the place they need to be returned to. If you want the answer to a problem, look for it at the source of the problem. If a bee or fly comes into your room, the only way for it to get back outside is the way it came in. If it came in through the doorway, and looks for the solution at the window, it will die there, hitting the window again and again. This is the feeling I get from looking for solutions in the wrong places.
Just off the top of your head, how many examples can you think of where things are made worse by searching for a solution somewhere outside the problem? If you have a relationship problem, is looking for the answer in the arms of another really going to make things better? If you’re stressed or lonely or bored, is there really any long-term relief in repeatedly looking for comfort in a bottle,  a pizza box, or the internet? Ultimately, it arose from this foundation, so that’s where we have to return it.

Root, Foundation, Buddha-nature, God, the master within, Mind

      Awakening is to know your root.
It’s got a lot of names, but it’s that which is your source and destination, your sustenance and support.

Sometimes I feel like people (unconsciously) misunderstand awakening  as a blissed-out feeling,  or a clear(er) intellectual understanding of what’s really going on in the world. This is probably there, to be sure, but this isn’t the main thing.

Your root is your source and your refuge. To paraphrase the words of the Sixth Patriarch, “Who would have guessed that my foundation was inherently complete, endowed with every kind of knowledge and ability, and able to perceive everything and respond appropriately through both the spiritual and material realms.”  This root of ours is the source of all energy, wisdom, courage, compassion, and is continuously taking care of everything. It seems that only our clinging and insistence on relying upon “me” and “my” thoughts and ideas can hinder it. 

         Daehaeng Kun Sunim gives the example of assigning a task to someone: if you give them a job, and then constantly bug them about how it’s going, they’ll throw the job back in your face. “Here, you do it!”  Or, if you keep calling to them and asking how it’s going, or give them something new to do every few minutes, how can they set about getting the task done?

What do we entrust?

We entrust everything, unconditionally.

What we know, along with what we don’t know. What we understand, and what we don’t understand. Things that go well, and things that are going badly. We have to entrust both sides, otherwise we end up (trying to) cling to those aspects that represent our fixed ideas of good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant.

Roy, at Return to the Center, asked “how to discern entrusting to my foundation / Buddha-nature from entrusting to my ego-driven storyline? Trust me on this – I have a very convincing storyline…” This is a great question, and I think this unconditional entrusting is a huge part of the answer. Somewhere in letting go of what I know and what I don’t know, I transcend this storyline. If (when!) I find myself caught up in the storyline, I let go of that too.

Barry, from Ox Herding, touched on the problem of carelessly thinking “things will turn out for the best.” Things don’t always turn out as good as they needed to be.  A big cause on the personal level, is me not entrusting both sides of the situation, or hoping for one result over another. And sometimes “best” is just a reflection of my own fixed ideas. But our root can still fill in the gaps and help things for the best in our current circumstances. However, this is often the second-best outcome. (Or third, or fourth!^^)

Similarly, how do we know what we’re feeling or sensing from within is arising from our true nature, versus our bad karma? This one isn’t easy. For one thing, we have to let go of even the things that arise from inside. Both the good and the blissful, and the wise. If they are true, they’ll return when we need them. Another sign is the tone of this inner “voice.” Is it something that violates the precepts? Is it something harsh and cruel? Something argumentative or spiteful? Those are really strong indications that what I’m sensing is just a karmic echo. No need to feel bad about them, just let go of them too, and don’t be deceived by them any longer.

Whether we see it or not, whether we can feel it or not, our Buddha-nature is there taking care of things. You don’t see the root of a living tree, yet it’s there supporting and feeding the tree. So a lot of what entrusting is, is simply getting out of the way and letting it work. Even when I don’t know it’s there, it’s still there, supporting me and sustaining me. Every breath, every cycle of our blood, every exactly produced hormone and enzyme is a miracle of the highest order.  A 100 billion lives are magically working together within just this one body.

Entrusting is a step off a hundred foot bamboo pole. It’s stepping beyond my own fixed ideas. It’s dying and traveling through that gray land where there’s nothing to grasp onto.

(Perhaps that’s why I used to love skydiving!)

However, for eons we’ve mistaken “I know,” “me,” and “mine” for a support, for something safe to stand on.

“So Neo, you think that’s ground you’re standing on right now?”



You think that floor is safer?  Far more skydivers die in plane crashes than skydiving accidents. You’re safer out of the plane than you are in it!

It was truly said that when you let go of everything you gain everything. When you’ve let go of all dualities, you become a channel for all the creativity, love, and wisdom in the universe.  

There are so many aspects to entrusting that it’s hard for me to address them all, and my own practice is still incomplete (by a lot!) so if there’s something I haven’t addressed, let’s go ahead and discuss it in the comments section.

with palms together,
Chong Go 

(The skydiving photos came from here and here. Thanks to the original posters.) 

entrusting/Green Tara

I noticed this comment by Roy, from Return to the Center;

It would be very helpful to me to hear more about entrusting. I react with worry to this encouragement. I think “entrust myself to what? How do I know if I am entrusting myself to my own delusion?” and things like that.

Actually, I had a very similar feeling after reading No River to Cross. I asked Chong Go Seunim at Saturday Sangha one day how to know if it’s truly intuition or your desires that you are following. His answer was to ask deep within and listen to what your true feeling is. Usually we know if we’re doing the right thing or not, we just don’t always listen to ourselves.

My wife and I decided that we would get married only three weeks after we first met. It sounds crazy even to us when we think about it now, but at the time, we just knew. I’d never had a relationship that I didn’t drive myself half crazy asking if it was right (because deep down I knew that it wasn’t, I just didn’t listen) but when I met my wife there was never any doubt. Three weeks isn’t long, but I looked as deep down as I could in that amount of time and didn’t hear anything but “Yes!” It’s only been a couple of years, and I can’t pretend to know what the future holds, but just trusting that everything will be okay, even if it doesn’t work out as planned, makes it seem okay. If there’s ever a time that things just can’t be worked out, I trust that I can find the strength to pack up (within) and become a monk!! ^ ^

Also, I wonder whether or not entrusting yourself is very separate from some devotional forms of Buddhism. Personally, I see the Amitas, Gwan Sae Eums, Taras, or which ever you prefer, as manifestations or projections of expressions that are also within yourself.  Honestly, it’s not a topic that I’ve given a great deal of thought to, my practice is decidedly not very devotional, but I’m sure Chong Go Seunim or Marcus will be willing to add something to that (and it doesn’t have to be in accord!).

I am reminded, though, of taking a night bus from Kathmandu to Lumbini. I usually travel entrusting that nothing bad is going to happen to me, but even the locals kept worrying we about the risks of traveling on the night buses. One of the shop keepers, from whom I’d bought a number of castings, gave me a small Green Tara amulet to hold on the ride. He reminded me of her mantra, said to remove fear, and then told me not to worry, even the daytime buses tend to get hijacked in Nepal…

A little short of reassuring, it still made me realize there was no point in worrying.  On the bus, however, my nerves were shaky. I clenched the Green Tara amulet in my left hand and my mala in my right hand and repeated the mantra until I lost count of how many times I’d thumbed through the 108 beads. I visualized Tara above me, shinning her light down. I visualized the green light hitting my forehead, spreading out to the others sitting around me, the others in the bus, and everyone else traveling on the road that night.

At one point, I opened my eyes to see the entire bus bathed in green light. I noticed a green plastic cover over the light at the front of the bus. I had to giggle to myself as my mind toyed with possibilities.

What I realized later about the mantra is that it doesn’t necessarily protect you from what you fear but more from the feeling of fear itself. It might be a stretch, but maybe what it’s doing is actually giving you the trust within yourself that everything will be okay.