Snatching the Whiskers of a Dragon, by Master Kusan

We keep on working. If we can continue in this manner for one to three weeks, suddenly our mind and truth will mesh; we will understand the cause and conditions of the big matter…

元 龍虎圖 軸 Dragon Artist: In the style of Muqi (Chinese, ca. 1210–after 1269)After ascending the dharma seat, and looking to all the four directions, Master Kusan said, ‘Today is the beginning of this three-month retreat. Within the assembly present here now — do each of you brave men intend to go through with this retreat? Those of you endowed with the Dharma Eye, speak! What is an extraordinary person (an awakened mind)?’

The assembly remained silent. After a pause the master gave a shout and said, ‘The oranges of Cheju-do and the apples of Taegu — do you know where they fall? One pill of golden cinnabar (the medicine of the immortals) swallows all the Dharma realms, and exudes many marvellous mani­festations. Everyone is Vairocana. Everything is a store of flowers within which the Sam­bhogakaya of the Buddha dwells. Do you understand this? You must be as audacious as someone trying to grab the eyebrows of a living tiger or to snatch the whiskers of a flying dragon. Then you will know. A poem says: Continue reading “Snatching the Whiskers of a Dragon, by Master Kusan”

Hearing Sounds Through the Eyes, by Jisu Sunim

Sometimes people feel afraid because they don’t know what the teacher is talking about! `How we can face our own reality?’ But the teacher also has difficulty in getting the student’s discursive mind to understand what he is talking about. The best policy for the teacher, then, is to let practitioners continue with their practice, giving them time for some perspective to slowly come into focus. The most chronic disease for people who find it difficult to face reality is, indeed, this discursive mind…

Amitabha triad © Metropolitan Museum of ArtWe are approaching the end of this summer school here in Leicester. The day after tomorrow we shall be departing and the only thing left will be a sweet memory which may recur from time to time.

In a way, life is a continuous imparting of oneself in other people’s hearts. So we can say there is a continual process of giving something to someone. Whether you like it or not, that is just the way life is. If you know this, then give readily with pleasure. Give it according to your own environment and relations.

There is a maxim in this part of the world: `One swallow does not make a summer’. But I’ve never seen a swallow in Britain! I can, of course, imagine a mother swallow picking up a worm or an insect and bringing it back to the nest where her young chicks—maybe five or six of them—are waiting, making an awful noise, opening their mouths: Me first! Me first! Me first! Give it to me! Give it to me! Continue reading “Hearing Sounds Through the Eyes, by Jisu Sunim”

The Illusion of Attainment, by Kusan Sunim

In the course of one’s practice it is as though one has to take hold of the hua-t’ou [Koan] two or three times anew. At the stage of emptiness when nothing at all appears, one clings to the emptiness. Like­wise, at the stage of vivid quiescence and the emergence of the brilliant spiritual light, one clings to this brilliant light…

Translated from the Korean
by Martine and Stephen Batchelor

Spring blossom.To pride oneself on any slight degree of knowledge that may have been attained is likened to killing oneself as well as all the Buddhas and patriarchs. It is incorrect to base one’s life upon the fragments of understanding which might occur upon reaching certain states. The ancients of the past have always emphasized that one should never cling to such slight attainments. For if there is something which has been attained, then there is also something to be lost. In order that nothing may be lost, all sense of attainment has to disappear as well.

As long as we remain deluded, we tend to worry about our delusion. So we start diligently to practise meditation. After a while we may experience something which in fact is very insignificant — about as faint as the glow of a firefly or as tiny as the eye of a needle. But simply because what we are experiencing is something we have never heard of or seen before, we wonder, ‘Ah! this must be it!1 We are then liable to start saying that we now really know something and are even enlightened. To regard such an experience as final will result in our living and dying in vain. Therefore, even if we do have some slight attainment, we should not give it any importance! Continue reading “The Illusion of Attainment, by Kusan Sunim”

Pensive Bodhisattva

The origin of Buddha statues of this style is the figure of Prince Siddhartha in contemplation pondering the four phases of life (birth, old age, sickness, and death). Established first in India, the Pensive Bodhisattva was made in countless numbers in China but not till it came to Korea…

Pensive Bodhisattva with Lotus Crown © NATIONAL MUSEUM OF KOREA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDThe pensive bodhisattva is posed with its right leg crossed over its left knee, while its right hand touches its cheek, in deep meditation. The origin of Buddha statues of this style is the figure of Prince Siddhartha in contemplation pondering the four phases of life (birth, old age, sickness, and death). Established first in India, the Pensive Bodhisattva was made in countless numbers in China but not till it came to Korea did it reach a high level of artistic completion and become adopted as a main object of worship.
Continue reading “Pensive Bodhisattva”

Investigation of the Live Word, by Taego Pou

Do not do anything (good or bad) and do not even do this not-doing; then straightaway one reaches that place where there is no concern for external affairs, that vast and peaceful place where there are absolutely no obstructing thoughts…

Son (Zen) Master Taego Pou (1301-1382)

Translated from the Korean by Stephen and Martine Batchelor

HUA-T’OU: (Lit. ‘head of speech’). Has a twofold meaning: (i) the essence of the kung-an, a shortened version of the story or situation; (ii) the source of thought; that which exists before one thought has arisen (thoughts being the mind’s external manifestations — the ‘tail of speech’).

Fuji from the Katakura Tea Fields in Suruga.

A monk asked Chao Chou [Jap. Joshu], ‘Does a dog also have the Buddha nature, or not?’ Chao Chou replied, ‘Mu (No).’ This Mu is not the Mu of yes or no; it is not the Mu of true nonexistence. Ultimately what is it? To reach that place from where Chao Chou said Mu one must straightaway lay down the entire body.

Do not do anything (good or bad) and do not even do this not-doing; then straightaway one reaches that place where there is no concern for external affairs, that vast and peaceful place where there are absolutely no obstructing thoughts. Continue reading “Investigation of the Live Word, by Taego Pou”

False Thought, by Ch’an Master Lai-kuo

The strength of false thought is great, so you ought to be afraid of it. And it is necessary that you get away from it. You want to get away from your false thought, but how much strength do you have? Its strength is waterproof; your strength only amounts to a single drop…

Translated from the Korean by Martine and Stephen Batchelor

Dainichi Nyorai is known as the Supreme Buddha of the Cosmos in Esoteric Buddhist thoughtWhen people first make the resolve to realize enlighten­ment, they fear false thought. Those people who have sat for a long time fear drowsy con­fusion. I say that people like these are not capable of doing the work, and don’t have a share in liberation from birth and death. Why is that? Be­cause they don’t realize the scope and sphere of their false thinking, and what is more, they don’t know the places to which their drowsy thinking takes them.

You should understand that from beginningless kalpas past until the present, that which has ascended into the heavens is just your false thinking, that which has fallen into the hells is just your false thinking, that which has transformed into a cow or a horse is just false thinking, that which wants to cultivate the Way is just your false thinking, that which wants to put an end to birth and be liberated from death is just your false thinking, and that which wants to accomplish Buddhahood and become a Patriarch is just your false thinking. Continue reading “False Thought, by Ch’an Master Lai-kuo”