You Are Buddha

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The Diamond Sutra says that all formations are always appearing and disappearing. If you view all appearances as non-appearances, then you can see Buddha.

If you want to see Buddha, Buddha has already disappeared. If you don't want to see Buddha, then seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting - everything is Buddha. The flower is red, the tree is green, the sky is blue. You and these things are never separate. Then you are Buddha.

By Zen Master Seung Sahn

The Meaning of Buddha's Birthday

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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

Inspiration to Practice

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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.

Keep your direction clear. There is something that moves you to practice, that points you in the direction. Then find your "try mind". Inspiration is wonderful, but if we just rely on inspiration, it fizzles out and then we’re lost. So it’s not about inspiration or not inspiration. We say in Zen something very direct: “Just do it!”

So what I will suggest for you is look at your life realistically and see what you can do. Then set your sights and your direction on doing that. Likes and dislikes – that’s what you will meet when you sit down. Just do it! Don’t be too concerned about success or failure. Moment to moment, be fresh and alive. Just do what you set out to do. Not just for one week, not for one month, not for one year, not even for one decade. Day after day after day… moment to moment to moment…

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

When The Dream Disappears

So we all have these dreams. We have the dreams of our likes, our dislikes, this story that we weave about ourselves. We carry this story of ourselves, but the story is not true. It’s factually not correct. We embellish, we make it up as we go along and then we protect it. "I am this."  "I don’t like that."  "I want this."

This is our dream. So the Buddha taught in the Diamond Sutra that our life is like a dream, like a phantom, like a bubble. Appearing and disappearing. What is it? If it’s not our dream, then what is it? That’s the realm of our Zen practice. 

Zen isn’t concerned very much about form. It’s not really concerned very much about ritual. It’s really not a religion. It doesn’t care about having some mystical experience. It’s not about getting a particular state of mind. It’s asking the question, What am I?  What is this?  Don’t-Know. Because if we don’t know, then the dream disappears. The dream is everything we know, everything we believe, the whole story we have about ourselves. But if we enter into not knowing, where is the dream then?  If I don’t know, then what? That’s the point of Zen practice.

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

You Already Are It!

We talk about the Buddhist teaching, but the talk is to help us actualize the teaching, the practice, and our own true nature in the very moment of our lives. In many ways, this is a pretty radical teaching because everybody can do it. It's not like you have to attain some special knowledge, or some special state of being and then you can do it in your life. You can show up and your Buddha nature can be manifested. Buddha nature can be expressed in this very moment of our lives.  
 
But much of Buddhist teaching makes you feel like it's something you accrue over time. You understand it and do a lot of studying. Our teaching says you have it. You already are it. Just live. Just be. Just express. It's so easy to distance ourselves from the moment and in our practice there's no escape.  Everything counts right now. Not tomorrow, not someday when I finally become something. Right now!

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Equation for Happiness

Buddhist practice is about coming back to the source and finding a way to find that stability, so that we're not pulled and pushed around so much by everything that we like and everything we don't like. The Buddha simply said we suffer because we don't have what we want. Or we have what we want, but we're afraid to lose it. We're constantly trying to shape the world in the image that we think it should be, but it really translates into what we want. Usually we want some safety, some security. We don't want so much change, because it's hard to handle change.  
 
Change is hitting us all the time. But change is inevitable. There's nothing we can do about it. The reality of the world is even in that moment that we have everything that we want, the next moment it's changed. There's no stability in it. So if we judge everything by likes and dislikes, we're always unhappy ultimately. But the more we can accept and work with what is, that equation of happiness changes. Because our happiness is not only based on our likes and dislikes. There is something deeper. There is something more fundamental.
 
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

The First Noble Truth

The First Noble Truth is "All things are suffering." Life is suffering. The word in Sanskrit is duhkha. Sometimes it is translated as "unsatisfactory". Situations, this world and our lives are not what we want them to be. 

There's almost always a gap between what we want and what is. As much as we cannot accept that gap, we suffer. Our inability to accept life as it is and want things to be different, creates the suffering in our lives.  

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. 

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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.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

You Already Are It!

We talk about the Buddhist teaching, but the talk is to help us actualize the teaching, the practice, and our own true nature in the very moment of our lives. In many ways, this is a pretty radical teaching because everybody can do it. It's not like you have to attain some special knowledge, or some special state of being and then you can do it in your life. You can show up and your Buddha nature can be manifested. Buddha nature can be expressed in this very moment of our lives.  

But much of Buddhist teaching makes you feel like it's something you accrue over time. You understand it and do a lot of studying. Our teaching says you have it. You already are it. Just live. Just be. Just express. It's so easy to distance ourselves from the moment and in our practice there's no escape.  Everything counts right now. Not tomorrow, not someday when I finally become something. Right now!

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Right View is No View

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The first of the Buddha’s Eightfold Path is clear view, or right view. Right view means clarity. Right view means letting go of "my" view to be able to perceive the moment. We all know what this is like. There are times we are involved in an argument, and in the middle of it we start laughing because we realize how stupid it is. In that moment we can see clearly. 
 
To see clearly, we have to let go of our own perspective, our own opinion of right and wrong, what I should do and what you should do. If we can let go of that, then it’s possible to have what the Buddha called Right View. Sometimes it is said, Right View is the complete Eightfold Path.  If we can keep Right View which is No View, not my personal view but before my view, then it’s all taken care of.  It is easy to say, hard to do.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Equation of Happiness

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Buddhist practice is about coming back to the source and finding a way to find that stability, so that we're not pulled and pushed around so much by everything that we like and everything we don't like. The Buddha simply said we suffer because we don't have what we want. Or we have what we want, but we're afraid to lose it. We're constantly trying to shape the world in the image that we think it should be, but it really translates into what we want. Usually we want some safety, some security. We don't want so much change, because it's hard to handle change.  

Change is hitting us all the time. But change is inevitable. There's nothing we can do about it. The reality of the world is even in that moment that we have everything that we want, the next moment it's changed. There's no stability in it. So if we judge everything by likes and dislikes, we're always unhappy ultimately. But the more we can accept and work with what is, that equation of happiness changes. Because our happiness is not only based on our likes and dislikes. There is something deeper. There is something more fundamental.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Don't Look Outside of Yourself

The Buddha's enlightenment was about realizing what we already are. The Buddha's enlightenment wasn't about finding something outside of ourselves that suddenly now make us complete. It's finding and connecting to what we already are. We already have it. It's not something that we need to create, or get from somebody else. When we hear, "we already have it, don't look outside of yourself", it can bring up a view that myself is in the boundaries of this skin. But the confusing contradiction is that when you look really deeply, this whole universe is myself. I don't stop at the boundaries of my skin. 

So, don't look outside of yourself doesn't necessarily mean don't pay attention to everything around you. You are it! You and I are not separate. Our thinking makes us separate. Our self-centered "I-ness" makes us separate. But how do you really know where you and I begin?

By Zen Maser Bon Soeng

Got Enlightenment?

The Buddha saw a star and got enlightenment. That's the myth of the Buddha, that's the story that's been told for 2,500 years. Buddha had this experience. Zen Master Man Gong said, "I saw a star too and I lost enlightenment." Everybody thinks "Got Enlightenment" is what we want. But Man Gong says he lost enlightenment. What does that mean? If you think about it, is enlightenment something you get? Or lose? How do you get it? How do you lose it? We don't know.  
 
So already, we're starting to wonder what is this thing we call enlightenment? There is this concept. There is this idea. It's been talked about for 2,500 years. In America, we've been practicing Buddhism for 50 or 60 years. Everybody wants enlightenment. I want enlightenment, so I'll do these difficult practices because I'll get something. But there's a big problem with that. Who gets it? And what is it you want? And if I want something, maybe that gets in the way of getting it. Because the Buddha's enlightenment was about the recognition of the emptiness of this sense of self.  

Our conventional view is that I am here, I have this life, I can get something. But the Buddha in his enlightenment realized that himself and the whole universe were not separate. There is no separate self. Each thing in the universe is connected and a part of the whole. So to say "I separate from You" creates this false dichotomy. Out of this false dichotomy, all suffering grows. So if Buddha got enlightenment, he already lost it. Because there's no Buddha to begin with. There's no Buddha separate from anything else.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng