Saturday, January 30, 2010

Delusion begins with not seeing our True Nature

(I found this talk about the Korean Economy given by Zen Master Seung Sahn to a group of Korean's back in 2004 1998. I find some of his analogies made here about Korea could also apply to the global financial crisis that we find ourselves in today.) 

Mu Sang Sunim, who is the Senior Monk "Kunsunim" in the Kwan Um School of Zen, sent me a recent update and I felt it important to clarify the mistakes that I mad with this post, so I add his comments as a prelude to the Dharma Talk and thank Mu Sang Sunim for his corrections to this very interesting talk.

Subject: DSSN's talk, The Korean Economy and Zen
Thanks for putting up this wonderful talk. I just talked with Dae Jin Sunim (Mu Shim Sunim). He was present at the talk and remembers it well and says it was given in 1998 or 1999, in the middle of the Asian Crisis. That crisis was known in Korea as the "IMF", because Koreans were very resentful of the demands the International Monetary Fund made that Koreans restructure their economy. They saw that as a kind of economic imperialism. (One can contrast the Korean example with that of Malaysia, which refused to accept IMF money and did very well pulling themselves out of the crisis on their own.)
Just to mention, the talk couldn't have been given in 2004 because DSSN was very sick that year and I don't believe he gave any public talks—he died on November 30, 2004 after a long illness. Also reading the talk supports the conclusion that it was given in the middle of the economic crisis. That said, it was wonderful to read it and I thank you very much, so I put it up on my Facebook page.

People are worried about economy these days and no one seems to know how this happened. The reason for this worry may be found in many ways and one of them could be the wrong plan from the beginning. Without understanding our current situation we may have set an unattainable goal that we are not able to meet. As life got better with abundant materials, we became greedy trying to imitate advanced countries. The goal of a ten thousand dollar annual income for all became the cause of greed and its fire delivered the ashes from over-consumption and pleasure. Now it is time to reflect back on it.
People believed the goal of this annual income was within their reality. Without reflecting on our reality, racing towards better countries have deceived sense of people. The government as well as the people are responsible for the mistake and greed.
Without putting our feet on the ground, we have been lost in the empty sky and are now faced with this International Monetary Fund crisis, it urges us to come back to our senses. We are shocked and it hurts. Now it is most important to see our reality and bring back our true identity.
There is a teaching that says, “Those who fall on the ground are supported by the ground;” also there is saying that a bad situation is a good situation. When you are alert, you are able to recover and turn the hardship into opportunity. Everything depends on how you determine yourself. If you keep complaining saying, “Oh, this is hard, it kills me.” Things will not get any better.
When I was young, I was thrown into jail by the Occupying Japanese police. This happened while I was attending school in Pyungyang. The crime I was accused of was hitting some of the Japanese students and having some trouble with them. Being put into jail for this was too much for me at the time. At school I was very interested in the Scientific Method and I possessed few tools for experiments at that time. This caused Japanese to conclude that I might have some involvement with the Korean Independence movement. I learned a few things while I was confined in jail.
It was a simple truth that you must be alert when involved in a bad situation. I realized an old saying, “Even if you are trapped before tiger, your alertness can save you.” The Japanese Police had already convinced themselves that I was part of Korean Independence movement. Their questioning would start and I had to be very alert while answering each question. My life depended on it. While I was in jail, I was advised by rice and meat smugglers to think carefully before answering any question. It made me realize the trouble I was in and how important my answer was. At a very early age I learned about importance of having clear consciousness my experiences in jail as well as from the Japanese police officers.
If our economy is in trouble, there must be the cause. We need to see the cause. When we practice meditation we use the term ‘kwan’ meaning mindfulness. In the same way, people need to be mindful on the cause for the trouble. If we find it by the head, it is not kwan. It is merely analysis and assumption. Kwan refers to observing the state of mind. This will enable us to see the cause of suffering of today.
And we need to set up a new goal. We need to get rid of bluffs that we’ve been striving for Globalization. Nowadays people often use expression called ‘getting rid of the bubbles’. Our economy was floating on bubbles and now stepping down to reality. In the same way, we need to get rid of bubbles in our mind. So what if we don’t succeed in Globalization.
I believe that Koreanization is more urgent than Globalization. When we look back, our economy, culture, and ideology have lost national identity due to rapid change in society and politics. We have long forgotten about our identity but much absorbed into western culture. Without establishing proper Koreanization, this effort of Globalization turned chaos.
What is behind Koreanization? It is setting proper root on culture, and mind. And from it, we may graft politics, economy, and culture.
I have been working for the last thirty years in Globalization of Buddhadharma building about one hundred sixty Buddhist centers and Meditation centers over thirty countries. If I had been a businessman it would have been beneficial to economy of Korea; however, I am just a simple practitioner. My actions have not been beneficial to the economy but to the minds of those I have taught. I would like to talk about the reason how this was possible. After I first established Hong Bŏp Wŏn in Tokyo, Japan, I have spread the teachings to Taiwan, America and Europe, why was it possible to teach the meditation practices that have their roots in Korea? What do you think the reason was?
I believe the reason was that it reflected Korean Sŏn. If I taught them philosophy of Socrates or Spinoza, it would have been impossible. If it were about scientific technology or economic politics, still it would have been impossible. I was only a practitioner who spread the method of meditation from Korea.
Korean Sŏn was new to Westerners and it gave then a fresh approach to understanding their minds, and this made it possible for it to spread over the years. It still continues and some Westerners have come to Korea to practice. Koreans are outstanding people. We, too, have wonderful culture and scientific mind as good as Western Europeans. But we have been discouraged by past Japanese occupation, Korean War, and foreign military policy. Ever before overcoming spiritual loss, we once again lost our soul on abundance of capitalism.
Whatever you do, there is always goal. The same is for the nation. What is our goal? You shouldn’t say that the goal is to overcome the International Monetary Fund crisis. That is not enough. I mentioned earlier that those who have fallen on ground are supported by the ground; therefore, we must rebuild the Korean way of business, a true Korean way of economic structure based on this International Monetary Fund crisis. We need to build a Korean Economy that has strong and deep foundation. Of course there is urgency on particular matters such as stabilizing the foreign exchange rates and must cut down on expenses, but the ultimate goal must go much further. I don’t mean just making high goals, but the goal should start with preparation.
In practicing Buddhism, it is also important to understand our direction and decide what path to take. What is the purpose of practicing Buddhism? It is enlightenment, as you all know. What kind of enlightenment? It is to realize the ‘I’, which had come into this world and living.
A long time ago, a monk asked. “What is the teaching of Buddha?” “It is the cry of a rooster in spring.” What does this mean? He asked what the teaching of Buddha is and the answer was the cry of rooster in spring. How can this be the teaching of Buddha? Yet if you know the cry of rooster in spring, you will understand your life. Buddhism is the religion of enlightenment. You have heard the cry of rooster. But who has heard the cry? It is I who has heard the cry. How did I hear the cry? I heard it through ears. But can the dead person hear the cry because he has ears? That’s not possible. Then with what was I able to hear it? Who is that ‘I’ who heard it?
Now, if we continue to ask question further and further, we are able to attain enlightenment. It is not strange to answer that teaching of Buddha is the cry of rooster in spring. Within cry of a rooster, there is great teaching of Buddhadharma. Let’s examine another story.
A monk asked Chán Master Dòngshān. “What is Buddha?” “It’s three pounds of flax.” Later another monk asked Chán Master Yúnmén, “What is Buddha?” “It is a dry shit stick.” What a strange answer. How can he compare Buddha’s teaching to a shit stick? We do not know. Not knowing is both for questioner and one who answers. It is not the answer that we don’t know. It is the mind, which they exchange conversation is unknowable. What is then mind? That is Buddha. There is famous verse from Chán Master Mazu.
A monk asked Chán Master Mazu, “what is Buddha?” The master replied, “mind is Buddha.” “What is mind?” “Buddha is mind.” The mind and Buddha are not different. The mind is indeed Buddha and the Buddha is indeed mind. But the conversation does not end there. Later the practitioner asked once again, “what is Buddha?” This time Mazu answered, “It is neither mind nor Buddha.” What is that which is neither mind nor Buddha? This means when you are free from both Buddha and mind, you attain enlightenment.
You may have hard time understanding because it seems like a play on words. I am explaining this Huàtóu to you who are practicing meditation so that you can understand Buddhism in the easiest way. There is always same question. “What is the teaching of Buddha?” But the answer is so colorful. If you are attached or hindered by words, you may never understand the principle. The Japanese call the sun ‘Daiyo’ and Americans call it ‘Sun’. The name may be different but it does not change the essence of the Sun. No matter what we call it, the Sun rises and falls by natural process.
What we need to see is the essence of all things including ‘I’. The delusion begins where names are given to many things without seeing the nature of those things. If enlightenment is the goal in Buddhism, we must know what to realize and what to do after the enlightenment. Believing or practicing blindly will only accumulate more delusion.
The very cause of our economic problems is a result of not seeing the reality of ourselves. Blindly following the path of other advanced countries, we are now facing the dead end. As old teachers have continuously asked a question “What is the teaching of Buddha,” we also need to ask this question continuously. If you do this you will eventually see the essence of Buddhism. Without the effort to seek Truth, there is no correct economy, correct politics, correct ethics, or correct culture. Like the question asking what is the teaching of Buddha, we need to ask, “What is politics?” “What is economy?” We need to ask and ask. It will bring the answer to the problem.
Dharma Talks of Korean Sŏn Masters
Copyright © 2005 Hyundae Bulkyo Media Center


Algernon said...

This was GREAT! Thank you.

Paul Lynch said...

Hi Mumon,

Yes, I was surprised to find it, isn't the internet great. We can still make discoveries.


Andrzej Stec said...

Thank you Paul.
This is very accurate any time any place. Unfortunately corporate world ridicule such ideas. Profit is a God.

Paul Lynch said...


Daesonsanim was so right about so many things which seem to transcend the time and place he was speaking of. It is a shame we have lost his presence, it is important to continue his legacy.