Lost in a Drunken Stupor

Buddhism teaches us that we make our own life. We're quick to blame other people. We're quick to make a dream life of our likes and dislikes. We fall into a fantasy, and sometimes it's said, "like a drunken stupor". We get lost in a drunken stupor of our likes, dislikes, our opinions, our conditions.  

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Each one of us brings all of our conditioning right into this moment, but we don't see it. We see a reflection of it in the world around us, so we judge, and we try to fit the world into our image. What doesn't fit, we don't like, and what does fit, we like.  

So in that sense, we make our own suffering. Or in that sense of urgency, you might say we make our own hell. We think of hell as something that comes to us after we die, but really we're making our own hell right here, right now. We are all guilty of it, nobody escapes. Through practice, we can find our way through it. Through practice, through wisdom, through our own experience, we can begin to break out of the hell that we make when our conditions make the hell of our lives.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng
 

Will My Life Work Out?

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The advise that Master Wu Kwang gave is "Pay your rent on the 1st, pay your taxes on the 15th of April, and everything will work out."  He didn't say HOW they will work out.  We all think "work out" means, "Oh everything will work out well for me." That's what goes in my head, and I imagine most everybody thinks that way.  But, everybody gets sick at some point in time, everybody gets old, everybody dies.  Anything and everything that is born into this world passes from this world. So, that's how it all works out.  

What are we going to do along the way?  That's the realm of practice.  Do we keep sticking our feet into the realm of suffering?  Or do we connect with our practice center, really wonder about who we are and how to live in this world and find a way.  "Enlightenment" is a beautiful word. Buddhism loves to throw it around, and nobody knows what it means.  We all have some idea of what it would be if we were enlightened, but that's just our idea.  Anything we think about it makes it too small, too limited, and too much just a creation of our human mind. Return to the practice, come back to this moment.  What am I doing right now?  How is it possible to help the situation?

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Zen is Not Self Improvement

Mind makes everything. If we don't get underneath that, it's all playing with the branches and the leaves. We can have a better life, but not really getting to the base of it. Our teaching is keep a great question. The great question in Zen practice is "What Am I?". "What Am I?", you could say, is "What Is Mind?" Then bring that doubt to this very moment. 
 
We often say Zen is not really about self improvement. What is the self that you want to improve? Who are you really? That's the fundamental point. And until we really deal with that question, we are not really getting to the base of practice. Because our desires, our beliefs, and our opinions drag us around. Until we doubt them, investigate them, and use the moment as an investigatory tool, we're just playing around. 

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Moment to moment to moment to moment, we're being reflected and we always have an opportunity to ask the question and observe what is. As we are lost in our mind, in our thinking, our desire, our fears, our confusion, we don't see anything. It's all colored. It's all mirrors. So our teaching is to pierce through the mirror and come back to the moment.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Great Faith

Faith is a tricky word. For me, I have to bring Great Question to the word faith, because it's not, traditionally in Western religion when we think of faith, like faith in God, faith in some supernatural thing, or experience outside of ourselves.

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Faith in Buddhism has nothing to do with anything outside of ourselves.  It does not necessarily have to do with something supernatural or esoteric.  In a sense, it's faith in our own true nature. It's faith in a sense that if I can be willing to let go of that certainty. And if I am willing to have the courage to meet the moment, something authentic, real and natural can emerge. Something that I may not understand.  Something that may look nothing like I may expect.  But there's a faith that if I just continue on, true nature will reveal itself.  It's already present in all things.  In the sense, you can say it's faith that using great question and great courage is enough. Not needing the certainty of an answer, but trusting the question.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Thousand Year Treasure

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We either don’t get what we want, then end up dissatisfied. Or, we get what we want, but we can’t keep it. There is not one thing in this world we can keep. Or, we get what we want but it is not enough or maybe we wish it could be just a little bit different. The Buddha said the reason we are dissatisfied is because we don’t understand our original nature and we don’t see the nature of cause and effect. 

The good news is that there is another way. As the calligraphy states, “Three days of looking into self, a thousand year treasure.” Three days of looking into the self means right now in this moment, what is this? What am I doing right now? What is this “I”? If we look at that with sincerity, honesty, and openness, it is possible to return to the mind before thinking. Before thinking is our original nature. In our school we call it “don’t know”.

“Don’t know” plus action is human being’s function. When we return to this moment, we also return back to the realm of name and form. Here we can use name and form in a clear and helpful way rather than name and form pulling us around and around. That even means using this “I”. Attachment to “I” results in I like and I don’t like. Using this “I” results in how may I help. Every moment. Every breath. How may I help? The name for that is Great Love, Great Compassion, the Great Bodhisattva Way. And that is a thousand year treasure for the whole universe.

By Jason Quinn, JDPSN  
Excerpt from Inka Speech  

I'm Going To Get Something

That idea “I’m going to get something” is the killer. "It’s going to be great". Sometimes it’s great, but sometimes it is not. But any idea separates us from what actually is going to happen. So, whether the retreat is 1 day, 3 days, 8 days, 28 days, 90 days.......our whole life is a retreat.

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So it’s all about letting go of the ideas that bind us. And do it! What’s the real experience? Everybody who does any length of retreat knows that sometimes it’s okay, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. By the end of the retreat, people are basically pretty happy, probably because it’s ending (laughing from the audience). We go through any number of experiences. It’s really about not getting stuck in our judgments of them, and in almost believing that they’re permanent. It's just allowing things to come and go… come and go… come and go.

It’s our ideas that tie us up. If we let go of the idea, then whatever is..... is. But if we like one thing and we don’t like the other thing, then we grasp towards what we like and we push away what we don’t like. That is the basic definition of suffering. That pushing and pulling is basically the definition of suffering. If we stop pushing and stop pulling, it is revealed just as it is at this moment. That is the essence of the practice. It is not any big deal.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Falling Asleep

When you fall asleep, your conditioning runs the show. You just play things out the way conditioning would play it out. It’s only through being alive, aware, and awake in the moment that we are in, that there’s a possibility to change that. In Buddhist terminology, we say if you fall asleep then your karma, your conditioning, runs the show. But the only time you can change your conditioning is now.

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In your thoughts about the past or even your hopes for the future cannot change a thing. But right in this moment, you can choose. We’re always choosing what we do. So if you’re awake in this moment, it’s possible to change. So the present is the only time we have to change things. Otherwise, we just run through the old story over and over again.
By Zen Master Bon Soeng

What Is Correct?

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Correct is not conventionally correct because it’s not about right versus wrong. The Buddha talked about Clear Seeing, being able to perceive the moment as it is. When we talk about correct situation, we’re talking about perceiving the moment as it is, without adding to it our own particular view or our own particular idea. Just seeing clearly. We call that correct.

When we talk about correct relationship, we talk about what is actually the relationships present in the moment, not colored by my desire, not colored by my particular slant on things; but what actually is it? We all add something. So this "correct" we’re talking about takes away this taint of "I". Just see, what is it? That’s the point the Buddha said when he talked about clear seeing.
 
Clear seeing is the first of The Eightfold Path. It’s been said that if you can attain clear seeing, you’ve already got all the rest of the Eightfold Path. Because it’s that stuckness in "I" that we get lost in.

Zen Master Bon Soeng

Holding Will Kill You

If you think you are going to give up likes and dislikes, you’ll be very disappointed. But, the fundamental teaching of Zen is if you stay in your likes and dislikes, you’ll create heaven and hell. Let go of your likes and dislikes, paradise is right here.

The great way is not difficult for those who don’t make distinctions. But we’re all making distinctions all the time. It’s a matter of attachment, it’s a matter of holding. It’s a natural thing to prefer one thing to another. But craving after what you like and pushing away what you don’t like creates suffering, because you actually can’t control it anyway. So it’s a matter of holding. It’s not a matter of having. The likes and dislikes don’t kill you......the holding does.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Practice Prison

Like or dislike is what creates a prison that we live in. So if you only practice when you want to practice and then don’t practice when you don’t want to practice, that’s a fundamental problem. You are following the winds of your desire, and that’s what leads to suffering. The Buddha’s teaching is very simple. We suffer because of our desire, our anger, and our ignorance. So if our practice is based on desire, all it does is lead us to more suffering.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

The Way of Compassion

Our teaching is the way of compassion. When we can recognize the suffering of others as they act, we can move in the direction of forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness and reconciliation is the way to change our world to a more peaceful and loving place. 

Our practice allows us the spaciousness of mind and heart to view others and ourselves in this gentle way. As we share this practice with each other and those in our lives, we broaden the circle of this forgiveness and reconciliation. Slowly but surely the world around us becomes a more harmonious and happy place to live.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

10,000 Years Is Right Now

The teaching is so prevalent. The guiding wisdom is all around us. All we have to do is listen. Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say "try, try, try for 10,000 years non-stop."

10,000 years non-stop means forever. Forever means right now. 10,000 years is too long. But right now, it’s possible.

Right now..........what more do you need?

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Attaching To Preferences

Our preference is always for the good feeling. If we have the good feeling, we feel like things are right. But if we have the bad feeling, we think things are wrong and we need to somehow fix it so it will be right. The problem with that is we are attached to one particular result and in the process, we amplify our suffering.

Because we want something, we suffer. Probably for all of us we hear that and think, well that’s a nice idea but that’s very difficult to live our lives without preferences. I think once we go there, we get stuck in an absolute “either/or” consciousness so we fall again back into duality.

The less we hold on to our preferences, the more freedom we have and the less we try to manipulate the world around us which really doesn’t work really well anyway. We can’t really control everything that happens to us. If we have a preference and we attach strongly to that preference, we are constantly trying to control our world. So we’ve made ourselves, in a way, separate from the world and made the world something to manipulate.

But if we can loosen the grip of those attachments and allow things to be as they are, it’s then possible to change our stance and to, in a sense, merge with it. We say become one. Then we can find our place in it, and we can be in it rather than trying to make it something.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

No "I", No "You"

One day a student asked Zen Master Man Gong, "Where is Buddha's teaching?"
"Right in front of you." Man Gong replied.
The student said, "You say, 'in front of you', but I cannot see it."
"You have 'I', so you cannot see."
"Do you see?" the student asked.
Man Gong answered, "If you make 'I' you cannot see. But if you make 'you', it is even more diffucult see."
The students asked, "If I have no 'I', no 'you', then who is speaking?"
The student was then instantly enlightened.

The Meditation Experience

Each one of us will get some idea of meditation. Any image or idea we have about Zen, or meditation, or by extension of our lives and our story, is wrong. The only thing we can possibly know is what's happening right now. Everything before it is a dream, everything after it is supposition, and anything even in the moment that we're pondering, is just an idea. So Zen means meditation, meditation means what's happening right now; what actually is going on.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Just Hear The Bell

When the bell was hit tonight during the Evening Bell Chant, some people thought… “Uhmm, wonderful… Oh, great!” Other people thought, “Not loud enough!” Other people said, “I wish he’d do it faster!” Somebody else said, “What’s he doing?”

All that is commentary. Don’t-Know means let go of the commentary and just hear the bell. Simple as that. You and the bell become one. Where is the separation?

I believe I am here, and the bell is there. But that’s my idea. Where is the separation between you and the bell? Between you, (ZMBS picks up the stick and hits it on the floor) and that sound? Where do you start and the sound end? (Hits the floor again.) You may have some idea about it, but actually you don’t know. If you just let that don’t know be, then it’s already complete. It doesn’t need anything more.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

The Meaning of Buddha's Birthday

Once a year, our school celebrates Buddha's birthday. We celebrate the birth of a man who was born somewhere between 2,500 - 2,600 years ago. But the meaning of this in Zen is not celebrating a man; it's celebrating this awakening. But it's not his awakening; it's our awakening. So what is our awakening?

Our awakening appears in this very moment. Buddha's enlightenment, Buddha's awakening was about waking up to the moment that we are actually in. We say very often, before this moment is a memory; after this moment is a dream. Right now, we are alive. Right now, Buddha is born. Not 2,500 years ago. Right now is the awakening of Buddha. Zen can seem esoteric, but it's not about some strange thing. It's about finding our true self and manifesting it right now in the moment we live in. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Story Of The Old Farmer

There is a story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. 

"Maybe," said the farmer

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"Maybe," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"Maybe," said the farmer