Don’t Know Mind

This basic teaching we have is Don’t-Know Mind. We want to know, we think we know, we think we’re supposed to know. There’s all of this bias toward knowing. But we don’t really know. We have this radical teaching – how about admitting the truth that we don’t know and go from there. If we really live that, it changes everything. 

Don’t-Know doesn't mean stupid. It means What Is It? Suddenly our eyes are open, we’re vibrating with energy because we wonder, “What?”… rather than, “Oh yeah, I know that!”

Suzuki Roshi’s quote was, “A beginner’s mind is wide open and questioning. An expert’s mind is closed.” So this Not-Knowing actually gives us life. It gives vibrancy and energy to the world we live in. This kind of I-Know shuts everything down and we get stuck. Yet all the signals from everything around us say we’re supposed to know. The competition is who knows the most, but look at the result.

We fill our minds up with all this stuff, and it gets stale and dead. Not knowing is what opens us up and comes alive. In Buddhism and in Zen, there are a lot of different ways to talk about this very same thing. Sometimes we call it Don’t-Know Mind, sometimes we call it Beginner’s Mind, sometimes we call it Before Thinking Mind.

It all comes down to this, (Zen Master hits the floor). Clear it away. Return to zero. What do we see, what do we smell, what do we taste, what do we touch? Everything is truth. What we know blocks the truth. Returning to not knowing opens us up.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

True Way

Our job is to really discover what our experience is. Don’t worry too much about what Buddhism says. Use the practice to discover your own experience and use that experience to attain your true self and help all beings. That’s authentic. That’s real. The teachings will help guide you, but use your own experience to find your true way, and then you can use that true way to help this world. Become who you really are. Each one of us has a different karmic life. Use yours to help the world. Okay?

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Don’t Be Fooled By What You Want

Don’t be fooled by what you want. Just keep practicing. If you are only after what you want, ultimately you are going to be disappointed. It's not that your practice or discipline leads to what you want; practice leads to some clarity which leaves you more open to what’s there for you. If you lose your clarity, then you lose your ability to move in the world that way.

Also, don’t be fooled that practice is only the formal sitting, which is important, but practice is meeting the moment with not-knowing. Our meditation practice, sitting Zen, is training the mind to return. Go back to the clarity, go back to the wisdom and the compassion.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Right Speech

Question: As far as keeping that open mind, that Don’t-Know mind, how does that relate to our preconception that it is good for me to have right speech?

Zen Master Bon Soeng: It would raise the question, “What is right speech?” It’s a nice idea to have right speech, but right speech this moment may not be right speech this moment. There isn’t a formula that you can fill in. There are ways that you can talk about right speech in general, but in specific, it depends on the moment. Zen is not theoretical. So all of these ideas play out in the very moment that we’re alive. It doesn’t matter what we say about right speech. In this moment, what is right speech? Everything is concrete and actually alive in the moment, not our understanding about it.

Mind Makes Everything

I think if you look at your own life, you can see that the way you hold your mind and the way you view and perceive these situations that occur in our lives, that it creates the way we respond to them. Our responses are what create the next event. So, our likes and dislikes are really what create the shape and the texture of our lives.

If you investigate, you will discover that your likes and dislikes are relative. They are created by our idea, by our conditioning, by our preferences, by our desires, but they are not really truth.  

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Understand Yourself

The basic teaching of the Buddha was that if you want happiness, don’t go chasing after the things that you want or like, and don’t push away the things that you don’t like. It's chasing after what you want and the resisting of what you don’t want that causes suffering. The very simple truth, the Buddha said, was if you can stay present in this moment and accept what’s here, happiness actually arises. In a way that’s counterintuitive and a little bit preposterous. Happiness is not about getting what I want and not getting what I don’t want. If I just chase after that, I will actually suffer rather than be happy. That’s the basic Buddhist teaching.

The strategy we usually have to find some semblance of peace and happiness actually makes the situation worse, not better. Don’t take the Buddha’s word for it, don’t take my word for it. Investigate your own life. What happens when you chase after what you like? It’s not about understanding this teaching, it’s about finding out in your own life what works and what doesn't work. What brings love, peace and joy? What brings hate, suffering and despair? That’s all. You find your own way. The investigation that we do for ourselves is where the real gem is. You can do it from a Buddhist perspective, you can do it psychologically, you can do it in other religions, that’s all fine. It doesn't matter which way you do it. But the point the Buddha taught was “don’t take anything for granted or on faith, find out for your self”. What distinguishes Zen and Buddhism in general is that it gives a practice to actually find out your own truth. You don’t have to accept anybody else's idea. But to do that you have to understand yourself. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Accepting Your Life

You have to accept your life. Accept does not mean "like", accept does not mean it's a good idea or a good thing. Accept means that's the truth. One of the important things that the Buddha talked about was that what we perceive and what we think is not necessarily the truth. Because the truth gets colored by our opinions, conditions and situations.
 
Zen Master Seung Sahn talked about letting go or putting down our opinions, conditions and situations in order to actually see clearly what it is that's going on in front of us. That is a key point that comes up over and over again in Zen practice and Zen literature.  If you can't see clearly, then you're acting on faulty information. If you act on faulty information, you come up with faulty results. So it's almost a prerequisite to be able to clearly perceive what is the situation and accepting "what is" is a good start.  
 
By Zen Master Bon Soeng

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