There is one door. The Buddhas of the three times and also the successive patriarchs pass through this door. The bodhisattvas of the ten directions and the spiritual advisors of this world also pass through it.
Moreover, those of you gathered here today as well as all sentient beings likewise are passing through this door. So, say something! Have you completely awakened and realized this single great door?
[Kusan Sunim pauses and then strikes the base of his seat with his staff.]
A mass of snow and ice emits flames while leaving. Blue mounts cross the water while coming. Do you understand?
One ray of light from the curl on the Buddha’s forehead shines throughout the universe even to the tiniest specks of dust.
The mundane and the supra-mundane truths are both true.
Throughout beginningless time extensive space does not change or differ.
Although the tradition of Mount Ts’ao-ch’i is being transmitted to you allf there is no transmission.
The formal lecture concludes here. However, I will add some superfluous words.
Sometimes, while practising, it is as easy as pushing a boat over ice. At other times it is as difficult as trying to drag a cow to a well. Thus at times it goes well and at times it does not. However, when it is going well, do not be pleased. For then you will succumb to the demon of joy. And when it is not going well, do not be upset. For then you will succumb to the demon of sadness. You must just be as immovable as an incense burner before a Buddha-image and as unchanging as dried wood resting on cold ashes. Furthermore, make your intention as firm as a great mountain and your mind as vast as the ocean. Then the practice will naturally ripen and gradually you will enter wonderful states. If you practise in such a way for a very long time, then you will surely realize great awakening. Although this is the case, many monks who practise in meditation halls often just settle down in such places. Thus out of ten practitioners eight or nine are unable to pierce through the barrier of the patriarchs. How could you pierce through the barrier of the patriarchs without the greatest determination? The greatest determination is similar to the one of a beginner who has just started practising meditation. Sticking the two words ‘birth’ and ‘death’ to one’s forehead and not asking about this or that, one must earnestly make a minute investigation. When one sits on one’s cushion in the early morning, one should think that one must complete the task before the sun goes down. If, in spite of making much effort, one has not awakened by sunset, then, as the evening begins, one should raise the firm intention to complete the task before the night is over. If you practise in such a way for one, two or three weeks, and sit in meditation without ever lying down, you will surely reach a state similar to the meshing of the two halves of a grinding-stone — then the sun will rise in the middle of the night.
At the end of the Koryo dynasty there was a very respected monk called Naong Sunim. He used very skilful means in order to erase his traces and make his name disappear from the world. Pretending to behave as a madman, he absconded with some cloth belonging to someone else. In this way he severed all connections binding him to public life. Thus he was able to pierce through the barrier of the patriarchs. Likewise, during the Yi dynasty, there was a monk called Kyongho who had a thorough knowledge of all the sutras and commentaries. However, once as he was travelling around, giving lectures as though he were a great teacher, he was afflicted by the pain of a sever ailment which made him realize that he had not yet awakened. Thus he covered his head with a gourd to conceal his face and for three years remained in one place, sitting in meditation without ever lying down. When you reflect on the practice of the ancients who exerted themselves in such a way, how could their example not become a model for you practitioners of today? Therefore, do not let your mind and body relax. Take your practice seriously and exert yourself to the utmost.
Naong’s pretending to be mad and stealing some cloth became a skilful means to achieve the Way.
Kyongho’s covering his head to conceal his face and sitting for three years expelled the anxiety of birth and death.
Things like this show that returning to the source produced the effect which brought about true enlightenment.
Thus a large piece of jade is not a precious jewel but the misfortune of losing a leg.
Therefore, misfortune can be seen to ensue when one follows material things. But to practise with much effort will bring realization of Buddhahood.
Buddhism Now February 1990
Read some other Kusan Sunim teachings here.