Illuminating the Buddha Within

This is a short Dharma talk Daehaeng Kun Sunim gave for the Buddha’s Birthday.

We celebrate the Buddha’s Birthday every year,
but this year I feel strongly that we need to use this opportunity
to exert ourselves.

As you light lanterns this year,
and brighten and develop your mind,
think of the Buddha’s teachings, which showed us this path.

This life we cling to
lasts only for a season,
yet within an instant of our daily life
are all of the truths and principles
of the universe.

These are what we must awaken to;
this is what is truly urgent.
So don’t light lotus lanterns
trying to create
some small bit of good luck.

Lighting a lotus lantern reminds us that
our mind exists everywhere
throughout the universe,
and because you exist, others exist,
because others exist, everything exists.
This instant of our daily life,
where everything works together peacefully
to the extent we are harmonious,
shows us that, just as it is, light fills the world and
the Buddha is brightly present within each of us.

Each of you has the exact same Buddha-nature as Sakyamuni,
each of you was born in a Buddha realm and are being guided by the Buddha.
So just as the Buddha teaches us,
if you throw away “I,” if you throw away your egotism,
you can live brightly, free of suffering,
able to draw upon the unlimited ability within,
and send forth radiant energy.

Under the lotus lanterns

If you are continuously letting go of “I,”
if you’re truly living in the present moment,
the effects of a single thought
can reverberate
throughout the entire Dharma realm.
Living like this,
the true worth of life
becomes abundantly clear,
and as a disciple of the Buddha,
with gratitude towards the Buddha,
you can live freely, as a true human being,
able to take care of everything in creation. 

            –Daehaeng Kun Sunim

The Blame Game

As soon as you concern yourself with the “good” and “bad” of your fellows,
you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter.
Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weakens and defeats you.

Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace, page 55 


This is such a wonderful verse. Like other truly profound teachings, it causes everything within me to settle deep down. It’s a lot like the deep-centered feeling of sitting in the full lotus posture (assuming one isn’t being tormented by rending knee pain!) 

I think the reason for this is that it acknowledges and reinforces the fundamental truth of our lives: that we are not separate.  We’re living together as one, and anything I direct towards someone else is felt equally (or more!) by myself.  It’s as if we’re living in the same room, breathing the same air, and eating from the same plate.  If I said I was going to poison the plate of food we’re eating from in order to “get” one person, everyone would think I’m nuts.

“But you’re eating the same food!?!  It’ll kill you as well!”  To poison the air we all breathe, thinking “Hah! I really showed you!,” would be the act of a lunatic.  Yet the actions and thoughts we give rise to continue to act through this unseen connection we all share.  This isn’t to say don’t ever have harsh thoughts; everyone has them, and they tend to arise out of habit before we realize it.  Rather, when you realize you’re caught up in them, stop feeding them energy.  Entrust that situation, as best you can, to your inherent Buddha, the source of all energy, and that which is truly taking care of things.

Another thing about blame and criticism, is that it’s often dumping the entire cause for something onto the other person(s). When in reality, if there’s something going back and forth between us, then I also share partial responsibility for it.  At the very minimum, I’m at this place now as the karmic result of the choices I’ve made, so there’s no use in blaming others. And in fact, acknowledging that I have a share of the blame often feels very liberating.  Look at how you feel when you get caught up trying to defend yourself and justify your actions. Now look at how you feel when you say “I’m sorry,” even if only silently, to yourself.

Daehaeng Kun Sunim often teaches that everything gathers together because of its similar level of growth and its similar karma. She gives the example parents and children, saying that they’ve gathered together because they created similar karma, although it’s not always apparent. Parents chose their children, and children chose their parents, because that was the level that looked most appealing to them. 

Thus, for all these reasons, Daehaeng Kun Sunim has always emphasized that blaming and criticizing others is one of the most spiritually harmful things we can do. She tells people to be generous in how they view others, and to interpret the things in their lives positively. For everything in this world manifests according to the thoughts we give rise to. Whether this world is a hell realm or a heavenly realm depends upon the thoughts we choose.

Over these many kalpas of our evolution, there’s no one who hasn’t been our father or our mother, our son, our daughter, our husband or our wife. Let’s remember the love we once felt for them, and raise the desire to see them grow and succeed, and know peace and liberation.



The pillar of all work on behalf of Buddhism…

In a short letter, the Korean Seon master Hanam (han-am) Sunim, said something that’s stuck with me ever since:

The pillar of all work on behalf of Buddhism is harmony.

That’s all.  Nothing fancy.  But it packs such a wallop.  Everything about interconnectedness and nonduality is right there, together with tremendous power to guide.

Am I feeling harmonious as I approach this issue?
Am I viewing the others involved in a harmonious way?
Will my intentions and behavior result in a harmonious outcome?

Although obvious in hindsight, this is such a critical issue, for we are all inherently connected, as Daehaeng Kun Sunim says, sharing the same life, the same mind, the same body, and working together as one while freely giving and receiving whatever is needed. 

There’s only helping, not “helping her.”  There’s only loving, not “loving them.”  There’s only hating, not “hating them.”  There’s only defeat and humiliation, not “defeating them.” 

May all beings know happiness and harmony, joy and wisdom, virtue and merit.

with palms together,

Seon Master Hanam Sunim

Chong Go

Inherently sharing the same life and body

    Towards the opening of Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s translation of the Heart Sutra it says:

Inherently all beings
are sharing the same life,
the same mind,
the same body,
working together as one
and free giving
and receiving
whatever is needed.
They are endlessly
manifesting and
changing every instant,
but because they are unaware
of this,
they walk the path of suffering.

     I’m always amazed at how the implications of this continue to unfold. It explains the idea of “one mind” as well as “interbeing,” and has so many practical implications:

If I want to save myself, I can’t exclude or hate anyone else, for they’re also part of me.

Everything’s constantly changing, yet it’s denying this that causes one to suffer.

Everything I need is there, if I just stop building walls of self and other…