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

Don’t Be Fooled By What You Want

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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

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

Lost in a Drunken Stupor

Buddhism teaches us that we make our own life. We're quick to blame other people. We're quick to make a dream life of our likes and dislikes. We fall into a fantasy, and sometimes it's said, "like a drunken stupor". We get lost in a drunken stupor of our likes, dislikes, our opinions, our conditions.  

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Each one of us brings all of our conditioning right into this moment, but we don't see it. We see a reflection of it in the world around us, so we judge, and we try to fit the world into our image. What doesn't fit, we don't like, and what does fit, we like.  

So in that sense, we make our own suffering. Or in that sense of urgency, you might say we make our own hell. We think of hell as something that comes to us after we die, but really we're making our own hell right here, right now. We are all guilty of it, nobody escapes. Through practice, we can find our way through it. Through practice, through wisdom, through our own experience, we can begin to break out of the hell that we make when our conditions make the hell of our lives.

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

I'm Going To Get Something

That idea “I’m going to get something” is the killer. "It’s going to be great". Sometimes it’s great, but sometimes it is not. But any idea separates us from what actually is going to happen. So, whether the retreat is 1 day, 3 days, 8 days, 28 days, 90 days.......our whole life is a retreat.

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So it’s all about letting go of the ideas that bind us. And do it! What’s the real experience? Everybody who does any length of retreat knows that sometimes it’s okay, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. By the end of the retreat, people are basically pretty happy, probably because it’s ending (laughing from the audience). We go through any number of experiences. It’s really about not getting stuck in our judgments of them, and in almost believing that they’re permanent. It's just allowing things to come and go… come and go… come and go.

It’s our ideas that tie us up. If we let go of the idea, then whatever is..... is. But if we like one thing and we don’t like the other thing, then we grasp towards what we like and we push away what we don’t like. That is the basic definition of suffering. That pushing and pulling is basically the definition of suffering. If we stop pushing and stop pulling, it is revealed just as it is at this moment. That is the essence of the practice. It is not any big deal.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Practice Prison

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.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Great Effort

Great Effort, I think of as the hinge-point of our practice. If we don't have this great effort, then we really don't have a practice. Because unless we bring our practice to the difficult parts of our lives, it's not much of a practice. In fact, what often seems to happen is many people will practice when things get difficult in their life, but as soon as things start to get better, then they don't feel like they need it anymore.

So in a sense for a Zen practice, great effort really needs to be applied when things are going well because that's the time it's easy to fall asleep. When we're suffering it's easy to keep this great question, “What am I? What is this life about?” But when things are going well, we can get very complacent. 

Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say, “A good situation is really a bad situation, and a bad situation is really a good situation.” This is in a sense what that means. If things are going well, you can easily lose your direction. You can easily fall into selfishness and self-centeredness. But when things are difficult, then you have to call into question all your different assumptions, your different beliefs, and ideas.

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

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

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

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

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

Inspiration to Practice

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!”  
 
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.   
 
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

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

Practice Prison

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.

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

Great Effort

Great Effort, I think of as the hinge-point of our practice. If we don't have this great effort, then we really don't have a practice. Because unless we bring our practice to the difficult parts of our lives, it's not much of a practice. In fact, what often seems to happen is many people will practice when things get difficult in their life, but as soon as things start to get better, then they don't feel like they need it anymore. So in a sense for a Zen practice, great effort really needs to be applied when things are going well, because that's the time it's easy to fall asleep. When we're suffering it's easy to keep this great question, “What am I? What is this life about?” But when things are going well, we can get very complacent. 

Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say, “A good situation is really a bad situation, and a bad situation is really a good situation.” This is in a sense what that means. If things are going well, you can easily lose your direction. You can easily fall into selfishness and self-centeredness. But when things are difficult, then you have to call into question all your different assumptions, your different beliefs and ideas.

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