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.


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

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.


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

What Is Correct?


Correct is not conventionally correct because it’s not about right versus wrong. The Buddha talked about Clear Seeing, being able to perceive the moment as it is. When we talk about correct situation, we’re talking about perceiving the moment as it is, without adding to it our own particular view or our own particular idea. Just seeing clearly. We call that correct.

When we talk about correct relationship, we talk about what is actually the relationships present in the moment, not colored by my desire, not colored by my particular slant on things; but what actually is it? We all add something. So this "correct" we’re talking about takes away this taint of "I". Just see, what is it? That’s the point the Buddha said when he talked about clear seeing.
Clear seeing is the first of The Eightfold Path. It’s been said that if you can attain clear seeing, you’ve already got all the rest of the Eightfold Path. Because it’s that stuckness in "I" that we get lost in.

Zen Master Bon Soeng

Holding Will Kill You

If you think you are going to give up likes and dislikes, you’ll be very disappointed. But, the fundamental teaching of Zen is if you stay in your likes and dislikes, you’ll create heaven and hell. Let go of your likes and dislikes, paradise is right here.

The great way is not difficult for those who don’t make distinctions. But we’re all making distinctions all the time. It’s a matter of attachment, it’s a matter of holding. It’s a natural thing to prefer one thing to another. But craving after what you like and pushing away what you don’t like creates suffering, because you actually can’t control it anyway. So it’s a matter of holding. It’s not a matter of having. The likes and dislikes don’t kill you......the holding does.

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

The Way of Compassion

Our teaching is the way of compassion. When we can recognize the suffering of others as they act, we can move in the direction of forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness and reconciliation is the way to change our world to a more peaceful and loving place. 

Our practice allows us the spaciousness of mind and heart to view others and ourselves in this gentle way. As we share this practice with each other and those in our lives, we broaden the circle of this forgiveness and reconciliation. Slowly but surely the world around us becomes a more harmonious and happy place to live.

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

Attaching To Preferences

Our preference is always for the good feeling. If we have the good feeling, we feel like things are right. But if we have the bad feeling, we think things are wrong and we need to somehow fix it so it will be right. The problem with that is we are attached to one particular result and in the process, we amplify our suffering.

Because we want something, we suffer. Probably for all of us we hear that and think, well that’s a nice idea but that’s very difficult to live our lives without preferences. I think once we go there, we get stuck in an absolute “either/or” consciousness so we fall again back into duality.

The less we hold on to our preferences, the more freedom we have and the less we try to manipulate the world around us which really doesn’t work really well anyway. We can’t really control everything that happens to us. If we have a preference and we attach strongly to that preference, we are constantly trying to control our world. So we’ve made ourselves, in a way, separate from the world and made the world something to manipulate.

But if we can loosen the grip of those attachments and allow things to be as they are, it’s then possible to change our stance and to, in a sense, merge with it. We say become one. Then we can find our place in it, and we can be in it rather than trying to make it something.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

No "I", No "You"

One day a student asked Zen Master Man Gong, "Where is Buddha's teaching?"
"Right in front of you." Man Gong replied.
The student said, "You say, 'in front of you', but I cannot see it."
"You have 'I', so you cannot see."
"Do you see?" the student asked.
Man Gong answered, "If you make 'I' you cannot see. But if you make 'you', it is even more diffucult see."
The students asked, "If I have no 'I', no 'you', then who is speaking?"
The student was then instantly enlightened.

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

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

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

Story Of The Old Farmer

There is a story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. 

"Maybe," said the farmer

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"Maybe," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"Maybe," said the farmer

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. 

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