What is “I”?

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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

Believe in Yourself 100%

Zen Master Seung Sahn, our founding teacher, with his stick, used to poke us right here (pointing the stick at navel).  He'd poke us and say, "Make your center Stronger....Stronger! Stronger! You must believe in yourself 100%!"

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But what does that mean, believe in yourself? Make your center stronger and believe in your own true nature 100%. Not your idea of who you think you are. But that who you are, before the concept of yourself even arises. What I am talking about is that we make a self concept, "I am this, or I am that." Then we want everybody else to believe that, so we spend our lives convincing ourselves and others that "I am this and I am that." But maybe I am not really that. And in that trying to convince, I get farther and farther and farther away from that true nature.  

Our Zen practice is so simple: Sit down, bring your attention to your lower abdomen, then watch. Then watch your experience. Don't push anything away. Don't grasp at anything. Observe.

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

Buddhism and Lust

Student: What’s wrong with lust?

Zen Master Bon Soeng: It takes you away from your true nature.

Student: Isn’t it a natural feeling?

ZMBS: Is it? How do we know what’s natural? We think we have an idea of naturalness, but we don’t know naturalness. Maybe we’ve been doing it for so long that we think it’s natural, but we don’t know. Lust is intense desire.
Student: Sexual desire, right?

ZMBS: You think of it as sexual desire, but it doesn’t have to be sexual. If you listen to the way I said the precept, the precept isn’t against sex, it’s against lust. Lust is when you use and abuse somebody else to satisfy your desire. It’s when you’re so full of desire that you’re not aware or concerned about its impact on the person you’re with. Buddhism tells us that it’s so easy to fall into delusion. I can make up a story to justify it, I can even pretend that it’s okay, but if I’m not aware and attentive to how my desire is impacting the other person, then usually I’m afflicting pain and suffering on that person. For some people it’s lust for food. For some it’s lust for power. Each of us has our different desire that grabs us. 

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

Great Faith

Faith is a tricky word. For me, I have to bring Great Question to the word faith, because it's not, traditionally in Western religion when we think of faith, like faith in God, faith in some supernatural thing, or experience outside of ourselves.

Faith in Buddhism has nothing to do with anything outside of ourselves.  It does not necessarily have to do with something supernatural or esoteric. In a sense, it's faith in our own true nature.  It's faith in a sense that if I can be willing to let go of that certainty. And if I am willing to have the courage to meet the moment, something authentic, real and natural can emerge. Something that I may not understand.  Something that may look nothing like I may expect.  But there's a faith that if I just continue on, true nature will reveal itself.  It's already present in all things.  In the sense, you can say it's faith that using great question and great courage is enough. Not needing the certainty of an answer, but trusting the question.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

 

Thousand Year Treasure

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  
Published by Primary Point Summer 2015, Volume 32, Number 2  

The Great Bodhisattva Way

One, two, three. Where do these numbers come from? You already understand. Children want candy; business people want money; scholars want to become famous. There are many kinds of people and many directions. Where do they finally go?

If you attain this point, you attain human nature and universal substance. If you attain universal substance, you can see and hear clearly, and your emotions, will, and wisdom can function correctly. Then your life is correct and you can help all beings. This is called the Great Bodhisattva Way.
 
From the Whole World is a Single Flower by Zen Master Seung Sahn

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