What is your original nature prior to the manifestation of space? Master Kusan

Avalokitesvara. Said to have been excavated in Kyongju, Korea. Unified Silla Dynasty, 8th century. © Tokyo National Museum

Master Kusan ascended the dharma seat, struck his staff three times and said, ‘The Complete Enlightenment Sutra says, “Limitless space is what is manifested by enlightenment.” All you monks endowed with the Dharma Eye, speak! What is your original nature prior to the manifestation of space?’

After a pause, the master struck his staff against the dharma platform and said, ‘This one staff penetrates the whole dharma realm. Do you know the place where it strikes? A poem says:

With one strike against this platform,

The great earth is broadened —

The mountains are high, the sea is wide,

And all the universe is penetrated.

Like the fragrant orchid and the green bamboo

    which prosper despite the snow,

One can, after enduring many hardships,

Proudly step upon the crown of the Buddha Vairocana’s dharma-body.

‘Again, let me explain about the path walked by the ancients. Master Hsueh Feng said to his assembly, “The ‘I’ here present is like an old mirror. If a foreigner comes, a foreigner appears in it. If a Chinese comes, a Chinese appears in it.” A monk then asked, “If we suddenly come upon a shiny mirror, then what?” Hsueh Feng said, “Both the foreigner and the Chinese are obscured.”

‘Then another monk, Ta Chueh Lien, said in a poem:

“In the limitless brightness of two mirrors,

Each facing the other,

The coming and going of the foreigner and the Chinese

 will be completely hidden.

It is improper that he (Hsueh Feng)

Explained about this unchanging truth,

That meddling Persian musician*

Had a strong, deceiving nature.”’

Korean Calligraphy: Buddha © Buddhist Publishing Group

Then Master Kusan said, ‘Today this mountain monk is not of the same opinion. My poem says:

‘The moon on the night of the new moon

Is very bright and clear.

Quietly shines the absolute light

From days of old to now.

I ask you now, how is this?

All material and immaterial things

And all aspects of nature

Are in full conformity with absolute truth.

‘Reflect on this!’

* The monk who asked ‘If we suddenly come upon a shiny mirror, then what?’

Click here to read more teachings by Kusan Sunim

This talk was given during the Winter meditation retreat of 1975-76 at Songgwang-sa monastery in Korea.

Reprinted from Nine Mountains: Dharma Lectures of the Korean Meditation Master Kusan,  © International Meditation Center, Songgwang-sa Monastery, Chogye Chonglim, Korea.

Categories: Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, Chan / Seon / Zen, Kusan Sunim



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