Zen Master Seong Hyang
(Holds the Zen stick and veryslowly traces a circle in the air, thenstrikes the Zen stick vertically onthe table.)
Very very slow.
(Quickly traces a circle in the airwith the Zen stick and strikes it onthe table.)
Very very fast.The Providence Zen Center has writtena song, and the main theme of the song istime. I think that is appropriate since theonly reason we’re here tonight is that peoplethink there’s time—coming and going, oldand new. There’s the idea that some people’s practice is faster than other people’s practice.That’s really a great dilemma for many of uswho practice—comparing ourselves to other Zen students, to our Zen Master, and to other Zen Masters—and thinking, “How well am Idoing? How much longer will it take me to feel better and be strong, to go out and make thismind light shine to other people?” Sometimes,unfortunately, our mind light gets a little dim,so most of us keep staying here and trying torecharge our batteries enough so we can go outanytime and help anybody.One thing that might make us all feel alittle better is that long ago, Zen Master Jo Jutook a very long time to understand himself.He became a monk when he was seventeenand started studying the sutras when he wastwenty for ten years. He didn’t understandmind, didn’t understand Buddha, even though
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he had read and read and read. Then he becamea Zen monk and sat Zen for thirty years. Hesat and sat and sat—“What is Buddha? Whatis Mind?” —very hard training, until he was57 years old. Still he didn’t understand. Oneday, he asked his teacher Zen Master NamCheon a series of questions regarding the TrueWay. Finally, Nam Cheon said, “The TrueWay is not dependent on understanding or notunderstanding. The True Way of no thinkingis like space, clear and void. So why do youmake right and wrong?” Upon hearing this,Jo Ju’s mind exploded—KHHH!! He was 57years old. For twenty more years Jo Ju walkedaround and around, having Dharma combat
with all the Zen Masters he could nd in China.Then nally, at the age of eighty, he settled
down and went to stay in one monastery, andif people came, he’d give them teaching. Sothat’s the time it took Jo Ju to start teaching.But he actually had no idea of time. He onlywent straight ahead, day by day, and did whathe knew he had to do to become strong.At a very young age, another famousman named Hui Neng heard just a very fewlines from the Diamond Sutra and completelyunderstood himself with no practice at all. Buthe had a lot of karma. People were trying to killhim because he got transmission from a veryfamous Zen Master, the Fifth Patriarch, and became the Sixth Patriarch with no training,no education. So he had to go away in theforest for sixteen years and live with hunters.Finally, after that length of time, he came outand became a monk before he began teaching.So, as Soen Sa Nim has said many times, it’svery easy to attain Enlightenment, but it’s veryhard to keep it. Jo Ju understood that and Hui Neng understood that.
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Excerpt of a formal Dharma talk given on December 29, 1979