Korean Buddhism - The Power of Seon Practice in Our Lives
Monday 15 April 2013
The Power of Seon Practice in Our Lives
We exert so much effort to make Seon practice part of our lives, but truly, Seon itself must become our life. If you divide ‘Seon’ from ‘your life,’ where is it that you can apply the teachings of Buddhism?
Buddhist practice and the study of the mind is naturally sought by those in desperate and urgent need, not by those whose lives are free and easy. The life of all sentient beings is like a struggle to stay above water within the sea of suffering. The process of lifting ourselves up out of that quagmire is exactly what Seon practice is. Accordingly, it is impossible for Seon to exist separate from your life.
Indeed, people who start on the Buddhist path often find Seon practice harder than expected. Yet, just as you can’t eat a whole meal with your first spoonful, Seon practice doesn’t all come at once, but instead requires steady and assiduous effort that gradually leads down the path of Seon.
For instance, if someone raises your ire, you’re bound to fly into anger, easily controlled by your emotional habits. However, if you’ve decided to practice Seon and brought some sense of calm to your mind, you’ll soon realize, “A ha! This is how my anger traps me,” and gain control in preventing repeated mistakes.
When your meditation practice proceeds to elevated levels, your Seon master might push you into a deep confusion by quoting a hwadu, “the big cone pine in the backyard is none other than the Buddha.” Such words will undoubtedly leave you with great skepticism about the master whom you have trusted and followed with no doubt. Your master’s strange riddles will bring you to a total impasse, through which you can then direct your doubt entirely towards your Hwadu meditation.
Yet, even when facing this type of great doubt, it is easy for the mind to once again be led astray by the various affairs of daily life. Such is the case when your grasping mind regains control of you, manipulating you through the constant waves of happiness and sadness. Along the way, you lose and regain your great doubt repeatedly. When again you commit yourself to Hwadu meditation , you soon become aware of the fact that you have been lapsing out of practice. In just this way, the process of making Seon one with your life is never easy.
Once you reach this point, it is important to keep in mind that only when your practice is met with troubles can you say that your practice is on the right track. Think of how it when you learn how to ride a bike. You don’t learn how to ride with just one stroke of the pedal. Instead, you need to fall down a number of times before you can bring the bicycle under your control. You may scrape up your knees or even break the handlebars in the process. But if you give up halfway, you will never in your whole life develop the skill to ride. However, to the contrary, if you don’t quit, you will get the knack for riding and never in your life forget it. This shows that the more you are exposed to trials and errors, the closer you will get to your desired goal. In other words, troubles have the potential to guide you directly to your end point rather than to leading you away from it.
The same is true of Seon practice. Even when, at first, you are strongly determined to stick to Hwadu meditation all the time, you soon find it very hard to stay on it for even a few minutes, let alone 24 hours a day. If you persist in your Seon practice, however, the situation grows different over time. In the course of your practice, you will one day find that your life has become inseparable from Hwadu meditation.
One day, a taxi driver asked me, “In a single moment of distraction, taxi drivers could cause a car accident that would have the gravest of consequences. Would it be all right for a person like to me to practice Seon?” I answered, “That’s all the more reason to begin your practice immediately.” When you commit yourself to Seon practice, every part of your body will come to act as eyes. When you neglect the practice Seon, every kind of distressing thought comes across your mind, distracting your attention from your current task at hand. With Seon practice, however, you can free your mind of such distressing thoughts, allowing your mind to reflect in every direction on things as they are, and thereby eliminate any chances of causing accidents.
Later, the same taxi driver committed himself to Seon practice, to the point that he became highly accomplished, and he said that Seon practice not only freed him from any chance of having any careless accidents, but also gave him a clear sense of direction in his life. Yet Seon is nothing extraordinary. When your mind concentrates only on one object, you can keep your mind clear and thereby make a quick and correct decision in every moment. However, your mind is normally so overshadowed by the three poisons of greed, anger and envy that your judgment is dulled and your accidents frequent. In keeping a clear mind, moment to moment, your mind mirrors everything just as it is, without hindrance, from the flow of your inner thoughts to outer conditions. When a mirror reflects something, this reflection is not the result of calculations, it just is.
And it is here where the great power of your mind resides. When your mind remains focused through Seon practice, your mind has no room for distressed thinking. For that reason, it is said that a moment of clear thought can get to the bottom of anything. This is exactly what Seon is.
When you grow accustomed to Seon practice, you naturally come to concentrate on a Hwadu. When you stay detached from Seon practice, you tend to fly into anger and engage in confrontation, blindly following a base level of thinking that seeks an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” However, if your Seon practice applies to every moment of your life, it serves as a shield against such thinking, steeping your mind in clarity and tranquility.
Through the repetition of Seon practice, you can smile and keep calm even when someone angers you or some emergency arises. And so, far from being detached from it, Seon practice is obviously something of great assistance to your life.
So many people these days complain of being stressed out by the complexities of modern life, often suffering from psychological problems such as neurosis and nervous breakdown, and seeking a variety of treatments or supplementary drugs. Such suffering even extends to their dreams. The shortest of moments of a horrible dream can cause their distraught minds to run wildly, leaving traces of fatigue long after they’ve woken. Even though they may have slept for hours, feelings of anxiety and distress linger in their minds.
When you practice Seon as your daily life, you will find you can keep your mind focused at all times. Even during a brief nap during the day, you remain safe from distraught thoughts. Your mind always kept clear, the distraught thoughts naturally come to rest, making it easy for you to find your true self.
There is no place in the world that can be simultaneously occupied by more than one thing. Only after the one thing is put aside, can another occupy its place. The same is true of Hwadu meditation. When your mind is only occupied by Hwadu, your mind is safe from every kind of distressing thought. In this respect, Hwadu can be described as bringing a light to your mind. When you grow adept at Hwadu meditation, your mind is left focused only on Hwadu itself, keeping your mind clear and calm. As such, Seon practice aims to allow your life to proceed without entanglements, in each and every moment.
Please, always keep this in your mind and strive to make Seon practice become one with your life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Seoam Honggeun (1917 2003)
A young boy wandering in the mountains was suddenly inspired to become a monk. He went to the Master Hwasan Sunim and told him, "I want to live in the monastery, sir." "Not all people can live as a monk. It is not an easy job." But the boy would not budge. He persisted and finally got the Master’s permission, on the condition that he would do odd jobs around the monastery for three years. This was how his life as a monk began.
Seoam Sunim was born in Youngju, North Gyeongsang Province, in 1914. He started to practice under the guidance of Hwasan Sunim at Seoaksa in Yecheon in 1936. Until the liberation of the country from Japanese colonization in August 1945, he practiced at diverse monasteries in the region of Mt. Geumgang, and one time he taught at Simwonsa in Cheolwon. He then held many important official positions, such as Executive Director of Administration for the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, Chairman of the Supreme Council of Elders, Head Monk at Bongam Monastery, and then the 8th Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.
Seoam Sunim died at Bongamsa on the 29th of March, 2003, at the age of 87. He had been a monk for sixty-eight years. Before his decease, he assembled about 100 monks and lay people from Taego Seon center and Bongam Monastery and told them, "I have nothing say. If people ask about my Nirvana poem, tell them, ’There was an old man who lived thus and died thus.’ That is my Nirvana poem." He then retired to his room and passed away in a sitting position.
Source : www.koreanbuddhism.net