Defending the Story

That’s human mind. We attach to things, we like something, we don’t like something else. We jump from being happy and loving to being angry and sad. We’re on this roller coaster of good and bad, right and wrong, what we like and what we don’t like. We chase after what we want, we reject what we don’t want and we create an idea, a theory, a story to justify it. And then we’ll defend that story almost with our life, sometimes literally with our life. What is it that we’re defending? We’re defending a fantasy. 

The simple practices are about being able in the moment to make the choices available to us. If we’re not awake our karmic tendencies, our habitual patterns, rule the show. I’m not making this up, watch your own life. We just keep redoing the same stupid action over and over again. And then we wonder why we suffer so much. But if we can be awake in this moment, it’s possible not to allow that conditioned reaction to overtake us. It’s possible to do something different. That’s what we do in a Zen center. That’s what Zen centers are about. It may look formal, it may look like “why do they do all these crazy things”? We do these "crazy things " is just to be be alive in the moment that we’re in. Then when suffering appears in front of us, we can lend a hand.
By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Finding Our Balance

What we do when we lose contact is we go up into our heads. In our heads, we try to figure things out and try to understand things. We try to find a way to make sense of things, and what we hope to do is to find our balance. But what I am suggesting is we're finding our balance in the wrong place. Because if we go into our heads, we go into concept, and we go into understanding. We just take what we believe and know and try to find some way to make ourselves feel better. In that process, we totally lose connection to what actually is going on in the moment. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Clear View

The Buddha saw a star and attained enlightenment. What kind of Buddhism was that?

If we have some idea of what we are or who we are, it is usually connected with some view of the world. It may be a religious view, political view, a man or woman view, a black or white view, even a Zen view. All of these views have their place, but if we are attached to any view, then we can longer longer see the truth. This is ignorance. We ignore the truth by seeing the world through our own attached view. And many times we think our view is correct. This attachment results in fear and anger which causes many human beings to respond to the world that results in much suffering. 

If we are sincere and diligent in our practice, the way of ignorance, anger and greed, can turn into wisdom, love and compassion. If we can return to our true self and perceive the truth of this world, without attaching to any view, then it is possible to help ourselves and all those around us.

By Jason Quinn, JDPSN
Excerpt from Buddha's Enlightenment

The Teachings Are Not It

This sitting, being with ourselves, and wondering who we are is the heart of Zen practice. Teachers can guide us, but we have to sit there with ourselves, we have to sit and wonder. I say with ourselves, but who is it that we’re sitting with? Once you use this kind of language suddenly there’s more than one person. I’m sitting with myself. Who’s "myself" and who’s "I"? 

So fundamentally the heart of this Zen practice is the question: What? Who? That’s a question that always comes up in Zen: what is truth? Is it my idea? Is it my opinion? Is it what I believe? It’s actually not my job to tell you what truth is. You have to find it. You experience it. The books, the talks, the teachings, are helpful, but they’re not it. Each one of us finds it.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Experiencing the Dharma

The dharma can be taught. You can speak the words and learn about it, but the only real value it has in our lives is if we have some experience of it. Otherwise, it's just one more competing theory that exists in this world and there are enough competing theories already. We really don't need another one. So Zen always brings you back to your experience. I can tell you something, anybody can tell you something, but that's not the truth. You have to find it for yourself. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Clear Intention

If we are not clear on our intention, then our life is haphazard and we just increase the suffering in the world. But if our intention is clear, it is possible in the moment of action, correct function can appear. Maybe in that moment, we put down our I, mine, me......our desire, anger, and ignorance. Then our eyes are clear enough to perceive the suffering in the world and we're able to offer a hand to help. 

One day, Zen Master Seung Sahn was talking to a student in a retreat and he said, “If you think you can, maybe you can. If you think you can’t, you cannot.” So how we hold our mind is very important.  A Don’t-Know mind is not a stupid mind. A Don’t-Know mind is not a slothful mind. A Don’t-Know mind is not a desirous mind. It is a clear, open, alive, moment of wonder, with the intention to help this world. That combination can light up the world and offer a little peace and maybe a little help to the suffering that goes on. But if our mind is all clouded with desire, anger, and ignorance, we are part of the problem and we are just increase the suffering of the world.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Purpose of Zen

That's Zen mind. It's not being perfect. It's not being able to do everything right, and do it in such a way that somebody will tell this wonderful story about you that a thousand years from now people will still be talking about. It's simply paying attention, meeting the moment and helping.

Our teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn said, "The purpose of Zen is to attain your true self and help others." So the helping others, that's pretty clear. Not judgmental, not with any sense of superiority. Attain your true self. What am I? Just help. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Buddha’s Enlightenment

About 2500 years ago, the Buddha attained enlightenment. Since that time, Buddhism has spread all over the world. There are now many styles of Buddhism all over the world. There is Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism, Zen Buddhism. Within those there is Chinese Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, Korean Buddhism, South American Buddhism, American Buddhism. Many kinds of Buddhism. So, the Buddha saw a star and attained enlightenment. What kind of Buddhism was that?

If we have some idea of what we are or who we are, it is usually connected with some view of the world. It may be a religious view, political view, a man or woman view, a black or white view, even a Zen view. All of these views have their place, but if we are attached to any view, then we can longer longer see the truth. This is ignorance. We ignore the truth by seeing the world through our own attached view. And many times we think our view is correct. This attachment results in fear and anger which causes many human beings to respond to the world that results in much suffering. But the Buddha showed us there is a different way.

Once, the Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples when a man came and instead of bowing and asking for teaching, he spat in his face. The Buddha wiped it off, and he asked the man, “What next?” The man was a little puzzled because he never expected that kind of response. He was used to someone one getting angry and fighting back or sometimes people would submit to him. But the Buddha was not angry or offended.

But Buddha’s disciples became angry, and they reacted. His closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much. We cannot tolerate it. He has to be punished for it, otherwise everybody will start doing things like this!”

Buddha said, “He has not offended me. He is new, a stranger. He must have heard from people something about me, that this man is an atheist, a dangerous man, or a corrupter. And he may have formed some idea of me. So, he has not spit on me, he has spit on his idea. If you look at this matter closely,” Buddha said, “he has spit on his own mind.”

The man was even more puzzled! And so were the Buddha’s disciples. The man returned home. He could not sleep the whole night. Again and again he was haunted by the experience. He could not explain it to himself, what had happened. He never had that experience. The Buddha had really hit his mind.

The next morning he went back. This time, the man bowed. Buddha asked him again, “What next? The man looked at Buddha and said, “Forgive me for what I did yesterday.”
Buddha said, “Forgive? But I am not the same man to whom you did it. If you look at the Ganges river, water is flowing by and other debris. If you leave and come back 24 hours later, it is not the same water and debris flowing. Every person is like this river. The man you spit upon is no longer here. I look just like him, but I am not the same, much has happened in these twenty-four hours! So I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.”

“Also, you are different. I can see you are not the same man who came yesterday because that man was angry and he spit, whereas you are bowing. How can you be the same man? You are not the same man, so let us forget about it.”

So this story points to another possibility. We may not be able to respond the way the Buddha did, but it shows that we can respond to the world in a different way. If we are sincere and diligent in our practice, the way of ignorance, anger and greed, can turn into wisdom, love and compassion. If we can return to our true self and perceive the truth of this world, without attaching to any view, then it is possible to help ourselves and all those around us.

By Jason Quinn, JDPSN

Repaying The Universe

Our body is made up of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Everything we eat or use is also made of these four elements. So these four elements are us and we are these four elements. This means we are the universe and the universe is us. But how do you show your gratitude to the universe? If you understand that, you understand your correct job as a human being. A human being’s correct job is to make harmony with everything in the universe – with the sky, with the tree, with the dog, with the cat, with everything. If you have this harmony mind, you cannot kill an animal or kill a tree. That’s the correct idea. This correct idea appears when you put down your opinion, condition, situation and moment to moment keep correct function, correct situation, correct relationship. Then you and the four elements become one.


Anytime you have “I,” you have a problem. Our teaching is only do it. Don’t make I. When you do a good action, it’s not “I make good action”; it’s your original job as a human being. It’s your payment to the four elements, to the sun, the moon, the stars, the universe. A helping action is not good, not bad. Nature does its job without making good or bad. Water is flowing; is that good or bad? Sky is blue, tree is green; is that good or bad?


Don’t make anything. Just do it.


Excerpt from Earth, Air, Fire and Water Repaying The Universe

Everything is Changing

Everything is always changing. That’s the truth of our human world. The earth is spinning on its axis. That moves the wind, that moves time, that moves space and it creates change. We either like what we have and don’t want to lose it so we fight the change. Or we think our life should be different than it is, so we want it to change and we want the world to change in a particular way. But there are all these outside forces that are at play that we don’t have control over, so we suffer. The truth is everything is always changing. Freedom comes when you allow the change to happen. Suffering comes when we resist the change. So simple.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Clear Seeing, Clear Action

The Buddha talked about clear seeing. In order to clearly see, we have to let go of what's clouding our vision. What clouds our vision is this concept of "I". The concept of "I" fixes the world in a certain way. Let go of the concept of "I" and we can perceive the moment clearly.

When we can perceive the moment clearly, we can see our relationship to the moment. And if our sight is clear, and our sense of our relationship is clear, our action is a natural unfolding of the moment. But, hold on to our opinion, keep our concept, and our ideas to keep "I" safe, then what unfolds is an old story that gets played over and over and over again.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

What Is Enough Mind?

"Enough mind" means you’ve got enough. You don’t need anything else. The First Noble Truth states that life is suffering. Sometimes we say life is unsatisfactory. Why is it unsatisfactory? It always needs to be a little bit different. But if life doesn’t need to be any different than it is now, where is the dissatisfaction? That’s "enough mind."

We suffer because we either want things to be different than they are now, or we’re afraid that they’re going to change and we’re going to lose what we have. So if we can just go with what is, there’s no suffering. But there’s a little bit of a problem even with that. Because if we don’t suffer, we have no empathy. So "enough mind" includes the suffering. It doesn’t get rid of the suffering. It may get rid of the sense that things should be different, but it doesn’t mean we just fall into a puddle and allow things to get all messed up. "Enough mind" frees us to actually deal with the problem.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng



 

Why Be In This Moment?

The question always comes to, “Why do that?” So now we’re present, now what?  Is it for our own enjoyment? That’s okay, that’s nice; we all want our own enjoyment. But that brings us back to suffering because we’re only happy as long as it brings us joy. As soon as that joy is gone, we’re not happy anymore, and then we leave the moment.
 
So why be in the moment?
What’s our intention?
What’s our direction?
What is it that we are after?

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Struggle and Bliss

We think we understand what's good and what's bad, but we don't know. So just breath! And then whatever happens, that's what happens. You learn from all of it. That struggle is powerful. That moment of bliss is also powerful. There is something to be gleaned from all of it. It's just the craving of one and the pushing away of the other that creates a problem.

 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

The Meaning of Meditation

Zen literally translates as, “meditation,” so meditation is the heart of zen practice. Meditation in the dharma room, meditation when you're driving, meditation when you're sitting at the dinner table with your families, all of it. Meditation means asking the question, "What am I?", staying with don't know, and observing from a place of not knowing. What is happening right now? 

But if you stay in your stuck conditioned mind blaming everybody else for what's going on, it will never change. Because everything is just a repetition of what happened before. It may have a little bit of a new face because it's a new moment, but generally speaking, it's just a repetition of what's happened before. It's been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But what Buddhism teaches, that unless we change our karma, unless we can see who we are and act differently in this very moment, life will just keep repeating itself over and over again. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Letting Go Of Attachment

Letting go of that attachment means that we can be in the real and what’s true. We build this capacity to stay present or we find the capacity we already have. The more we let go of attachment to self, the more we find freedom. We practice to find that place before “Self”. What I am suggesting is the more we stay with what’s true and not get caught up in "I", then we already have it. It’s not some distant fantasy. It’s already here. 

By Zen Master Bon Seong

What Kind of World Do You Want?

All of us are involved in situations, with ourselves, other people, other animals, other beings, the whole planet. All day long, every day. How do we decide what to do?
 
One way to decide: If we go into the situation with the direction of helping the situation, then that’s the way we enter in and that’s the path to world peace. If that’s my direction and that’s my intention, my action is going to grow out of that. If I go into the situation thinking about what am I going to get for myself, and that I don’t really care much about what happens to all of you, that’s another way to go into the situation. If my direction/ intention is to get what I want for me, then my action and my way of interacting with the moment is going to come out of that. 

Those are two very different perspectives, and they lead to different worlds. So what kind of world do we want to create? That sounds like an esoteric question, but it’s a question that we answer every moment in our lives. That’s our ultimate responsibility. How do we answer that question? Right now, in this situation.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

The Meditation Pill

If I can connect with what I am doing, I can stay grounded and pay attention to those reactions, see them and not get carried away with them. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the good times or despair the bad times. But if I stay grounded, connected with something beyond my likes and dislikes, then there is some stability and clarity in my life because I am not jumping all around getting lost in my reactions.

If somebody calls me something that I don’t like and that raises my anger, I then start acting out of my anger and loose any clarity that I may have found. I am in a dream of anger. I know from my own experience, I end up responding in ways that are usually less constructive and more likely just add fuel to the fire. But if I can keep connected with something and not get lost in the dream of my anger, I might be able to actually see what is happening in the moment and deal with it.

But if I think that my meditation is this pill that I take, then I’m holding on to this idea of meditation: “I’ll just get back to my meditation and that’ll do it!  I’ll feel better!” And maybe I’ll feel better while I’m doing it. But unless I am cultivating an awareness of being in the moment and being able to really perceive the moment, I am still going to get tossed around by everything that happens.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

No Meaning is Great Meaning

Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say, “Life has no meaning, no reason, and no choice.” His next line was, “No meaning, no reason, and no choice is great meaning, great reason, and great choice.” Ultimately there is no meaning, but what do we do with the moment that we have?  

So in his teaching, Zen Master Seung Sahn said Buddhism means attain your true self and help this world. Of course it sounds linear, but it’s not really linear. It’s not first do one, then the other. But attain your true self is the answer to that question “What am I?” It’s not an intellectual “okay-now-I-know-who-I-am,” but we express ourselves moment to moment. That requires a stripping away or at least a seeing through that condition so that the greed, the anger, the ignorance is not controlling us.

Helping all beings gives us a direction in our life. Helping all beings means don’t live just for me. Living just for me leads us to selfishness and ultimately unhappiness because our chasing after our desires and trying to satisfy our desires does not work. Some of us might argue with that point, but the Buddha’s realization was ultimately we’ll end up with more desires. So an intention of helping this world already says my desire won’t be enough. So how can I use this moment to make the small world that I am living in a more peaceful, harmonious and healthy place? Sometimes that’s what we call good action. Sometimes that’s what we call bad action.  But the intention is turning ourselves towards the suffering of the world. In Buddhism, that’s called the Bodhisattva path.

Zen Master Bon Soeng

A Revolutionary Act

What practice offers us in a very simple way, is to connect to the moment. Put aside that dream of I, my, me and act, not making a big deal about it. Then go on moment to moment, meeting these moments. 

The more we stay in the dream of who we think we are, the less able we are to connect with what is actually happening in front of us and find some simple, fresh and alive way to respond to the moment.  I think in a lot of ways, the simple way of Zen practice is a revolutionary act, because it alters a structure of what “we think” and allows us to drop into "what is."

By Zen Master Bon Soeng