This Moment Is Our Life

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If you go into the realm of metaphysics about life after life after life, you're in the world of supposition. But take everything about our past actions creating a future life and substitute the word “moment” for “life”. Our action in this moment creates our life in the next moment. Bring it down from the metaphysical to the very practical, “What am I doing right now?” because this moment, my action in this moment, brings about my life in the next moment.

Whatever it is that you are facing in this moment, how you deal with it, creates how you are reborn into the next moment. So it's not metaphysical, it's very practical and down to earth. This relative self is the idea that you carry from moment to moment to moment. So your actions create your life. There's a saying that says, “You make, you get.” What you get is your life. You get to choose.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

This Moment Is The Answer

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We're actually more focused on the question than the answer because answers change. There's not one fixed answer. The point of questions is to open us up to the experience of our lives. So, this moment is the answer. Our practice is to open up to this moment. It's usually our ideas, our opinions, our beliefs, our fears, and all of the psychological commentary that goes on in our mind, that separates us from the moment. So we're inquiring and asking to open up to right now, just to be in the moment completely.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

How To Trust Your Experience

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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, you’re 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.

Finding Our Balance

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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

Why Be In This Moment?

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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?

Zen Master Bon Soeng

No Meaning is Great Meaning

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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 to 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

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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

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

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.   

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

What is “I”?

What is this thing that I call, “I”.  What is it really? We think we know who we are—we have stories about ourselves. But what is it really?  We have our own limited human perception of things, and that's good, that helps us somewhat. But it's not the truth.

We create stories and ideas then we believe them and we get farther and farther away from the experience of the moment. This question, “What am I? What is this?”, brings us back to the moment. If we can stop the story for a moment, then we can actually experience, “What is this?”  

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

This Moment Is Our Life

If you go into the realm of metaphysics about life after life after life, you're in the world of supposition. But take everything about our past actions creating a future life and substitute the word “moment” for “life”. Our action in this moment creates our life in the next moment. Bring it down from the metaphysical to the very practical, “What am I doing right now?” because this moment, my action in this moment, brings about my life in the next moment. 

Whatever it is that you are facing in this moment, how you deal with it, creates how you are reborn into the next moment. So it's not metaphysical, it's very practical and down to earth. This relative self is the idea that you carry from moment to moment to moment. So your actions create your life. There's a saying that says, “You make, you get.” What you get is your life. You get to choose.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Cause and Effect

That combination of the cause and the action leads to a result. That result becomes the next cause. I remember Zen Master Seung Sahn pretending to hold a match in his hand, and he said, “This match is the cause. Fire is the result.” But you need to strike the match in order to create fire. So it's in the action that determines what the result will be. It's only by being awake that we can have some new impact on what that result will be. 

The wheel of samsara goes around and around. We're trapped in this cycle that's never ending and it always leads to misery. It's only by this awakeness that we have the possibility of changing the result of this moment. And if we change the result in this moment, that means the next cause is different, and we have a whole new life. The world, the whole universe, has now shifted on its axis because our action was different. But the only way to have that new action is to be awake in that moment. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

What Is The Answer?

We're actually more focused on the question than the answer because answers change. There's not one fixed answer. The point of questions is to open us up to the experience of our lives. So, this moment is the answer. Our practice is to open up to this moment. It's usually our ideas, our opinions, our beliefs, our fears, and all of the psychological commentary that goes on in our mind, that separates us from the moment. So we're inquiring and asking to open up to right now, just to be in the moment completely.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng