Just Hear The Bell

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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 of 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

Don’t Know Mind

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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

What is the Meaning of Life?

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What is the meaning of life? Zen Master Seung Sahn once said, “Human life has no meaning, no reason and no choice, but we have our practice to help us understand our true self. Then, we can change no meaning to Great Meaning, which means Great Love. We can change no reason to Great Reason, which means Great Compassion. Finally, we can change no choice to Great Choice, which means Great Vow and Bodhisattva Way.” This is a very interesting statement. Many people have some idea about the meaning of life. Some may even think that their idea is correct. So who is correct? What is it that gives life meaning? Where does the idea of meaning and life come from anyway? If we truly look and investigate these questions with sincerity, we realize that we really don’t know. Don’t know is the place before thinking. Before thinking, there is no life. There is no meaning. There is no “I” or “you”. There is nothing at all. 

If we take another step from this point, we can reflect this world just as it is, without adding anything to it. This is where truth is universal. This universal truth is not based on our ideas, beliefs, or opinions. It is not dependent on the color of skin, what religion we believe in, being rich or poor, nor being a man or woman. The truth is something every human being can perceive intrinsically. It is already clear in every moment. When we see this truth, we can also perceive the difficulties and dissatisfaction in our own lives which helps us to see the difficulties and dissatisfaction in the lives of others. We can see that many people are in great need of help. When we perceive that need clearly, then responding to this world is necessary. So no meaning turns into the Great Meaning, which is actually a vow to recognize our true self in every moment and help this world. Then love and compassion naturally appear in this world.

By Jason Quinn, JDPSN

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  

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

Wake Up From The Dream

The challenge is to use our practice to cultivate awareness, to be honest enough and to train ourselves to be able to witness and watch the ever changing flow of emotion, thoughts, projections, and experience that goes on in our minds. If we don't pay attention, then our minds make and rule everything. Then we're like slaves being jerked around by our mind. Many of us know the experience of doing things and then feeling bad about it saying, “Why did I do that?”  In part, it's because mind, which really gets made up of greed, anger, and ignorance, controls our true nature. 

This “don't know” is a practice to bring us back to our true nature. It brings us back to our compassionate and open self which for most of us is a theory because we're lost in a dream. You always hear in zen centers, “Wake up!” Wake up out of the dream. Unless we recognize that mind makes everything, we stay lost in the dream. So we just go around and around and around and around, then something changes and we think, “Oh, it changed because I did this,” but we don't really know that. It's just we think that's what happened and then we scurry off following this path thinking, “Oh, that worked,” but then that stops working.

There's no technique that works. Just, “don't know.” Even “don't know” doesn't work. But “don't know” brings you back. If “works” means this sweet lovely life where everything goes great and I get everything that I want all the time, that is just more of the fantasy. “Don't know” brings you back to this moment. What am I just now? What is it that's happening in this moment? Not my dream, not my fantasy, not my anxiety, not my wishes, not my projections. But what is it? 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

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

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.

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

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

Wake Up From The Dream

The challenge is to use our practice to cultivate awareness, to be honest enough and to train ourselves to be able to witness and watch the ever changing flow of emotion, thoughts, projections, and experience that goes on in our minds. If we don't pay attention, then our minds make and rule everything. Then we're like slaves being jerked around by our mind. Many of us know the experience of doing things and then feeling bad about it saying, “Why did I do that?”  In part it's because mind, which really gets made up of greed, anger and ignorance, controls our true nature. 

This “don't know” is a practice to bring us back to our true nature. It brings us back to our compassionate and open self which for most of us is a theory because we're lost in a dream. You always hear in zen centers, “Wake up!” Wake up out of the dream. Unless we recognize that mind makes everything, we stay lost in the dream. So we just go around and around and around and around, then something changes and we think, “Oh, it changed because I did this,” but we don't really know that. It's just we think that's what happened and then we scurry off following this path thinking, “Oh, that worked,” but then that stops working.

There's no technique that works. Just, “don't know.” Even “don't know” doesn't work. But “don't know” brings you back. If “works” means this sweet lovely life where everything goes great and I get everything that I want all the time, that is just more of the fantasy. “Don't know” brings you back to this moment. What am I just now? What is it that's happening in this moment? Not my dream, not my fantasy, not my anxiety, not my wishes, not my projections. But what is it? 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Question About Kong-ans (Koans)

Question: If you read to many books about kong-an practice, or kong-ans in general, do you run the risk of having your interviews tainted? 

Zen Master Bon Soeng: It's not the interviews you have to worry about, it's your own mind. Interviews will take care of themselves. But too much thinking about kong-ans only confuses the issue. Kong-ans about before thinking mind. So reading about it a little bit might help you get a feel for something, but a lot of thinking about it only gets you lost in the dream of what you think it's supposed to be. Kong-ans aren't really about the answers, kong-ans are about raising great doubt. Everybody comes into interviews, and it's a tricky situation because I ask you a question, and traditionally you're expected to know the answer. So of course you want to be able to give me the right answer. But that's just your ego-mind. "I want to be good". "I don't want to be bad". "I don't want him to think I'm stupid". Zen Master Seung Sahn used to tell us all the time, “More stupid is necessary!”  

Everything is turned on it's head. So, it's about not knowing. Kong-an practice can be very frustrating because you don't leave the room until you get one wrong. So don't worry about getting the answer. Kong-ans are about raising great doubt. Stopping the mind for a moment, and opening to wonder. You can read about them, but that wont help you. Back in the early 1900's, a Japanese monk published all the answers for all the kong-ans. That doesn't help. It's not about the answer, it's about the question. So, try to move away from the answer to the question. Then the answer will take care of itself. 

Authentic Natural Self

"Before thinking" is easy to talk about but difficult to practice. Our desire, anger and ignorance are so powerful, so encompassing and solid that we don’t even recognize their impact. Many people who first hear about before thinking find it absurd. Others feel that it is impossible to not attach to their thinking.

This leads us to the realm of Zen practice. Though our delusion seems enormous and our suffering feels so daunting and profound, Zen practice offers us a way to deconstruct our delusion. We can live a more centered and grounded life, in order to work with our desire and anger, so that we can reconnect with that authentic natural self which is always shining and free.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

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

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.  

 

Trusting Your Experience

Student: We like to say “Don’t Know”, as was mentioned in the meditation instruction today. Is there anything that we do know? Is there anything that we’re allowed to know? (laughter) 

Zen Master Bon Soeng: Do you see this robe?

Student: Yes

ZMBS: What color is it?

Student: Grey

ZMBS: So already you know that. I already said (hits floor) your mind is clear. Trust your experience, you already can see, you already can smell, taste, touch and think. Trust that. Wait, because in the next moment (hits floor) again clear your mind. Don’t hold on to anything, but moment to moment to moment this whole world is yours. Your eyes work, your nose works, your lucky, some people’s eyes and nose don’t work, but yours do. So use them and trust your experience. Don’t get lost in the dream. Then you already understand. 

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