The Dharma Talk Marking the End of the Summer Retreat
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The Dharma Talk Marking the End of the Summer Retreat
in the Year of the Golden Dog
On August 25, 2018 CE, 2562 Buddhist Era
[Holding his Dharma staff out toward the audience]
當機一句千古輝 < Danggiilgu cheongohwi >
臨機不變是丈夫< Imgibulbyeon sijangbu >
A well-formed dharma verse for all walks of life can last a thousand years.
A true man is unshaken by any obstacle.
Today marks the last day of the summer retreat in the Year of the Golden Dog, in which we experienced the scorching hot days of this season. I have never experienced such heat waves, even as I approach the age of ninety. Thus, I barely managed to complete my summer retreat, wrestling with my hwadu, or critical phrase.
There is a saying, “We only truly appreciate the genuine quality of evergreens when freezing winter arrives.” Likewise, the true accomplishments of our study can only be seen, and we only reveal our actual worth, when we are able to dedicate our zealous efforts to our practice, while enduring the harsh scorching summer heat of this year. If we are true practitioners, we must simply concentrate on exhausting ourselves through our practice, regardless of the environment, where there may be coldness or heat, hunger or satiety, abundance or scarcity.
As we reflect on this year’s retreat, we should consider how our practice was during the sweltering heat of the summer again and again. If our hwadu or critical phrase wasn’t truly investigated consistently, what will we do when death knocks on our door? If one was thinking, ‘I will practice more zealously when the fall comes, after this sweltering summer,’ procrastinating lazily, that day will never come along.
We procrastinate again and again, even today. Yet, if we delay until the next time, how will we be able to meet the Buddha dharma, attain Siminbeop, or the heart-seal of Buddha, and achieve a great awakening of our true nature? It is difficult to predict even what will happen tomorrow; this is life itself, and the law of nature.
Thus, we should never wander around mindlessly just because it is the end of the retreat, putting our hwadu away. We should not carelessly throw our hwadu into a geolmang, or backpack, like a vagabond, just admiring the splendor of mountains and waters. In other words, we should not let go of the thread of our unfaltering endeavor to practice with ever-greater devotion.
Only after moving beyond all of the false forms and constructs conceived by the human mind, the true wisdom of Buddha can be seen before our eyes and become the ultimate law in the present. When every defilement is broken down and our true nature is revealed, there is nothing left to solve. At last, there is no law that requires the perpetuity of life and death for eternity.
Though the universe seems permanent, it will absolutely cease to exist after billions of years. It will be formed and disappear over and over again. This cycle of the universe arising, abiding, dissolving, and becoming emptiness is repeated innumerable times, like the number of sand grains in the Nakdong-gang River, the longest river in South Korea. Yet, absolute permanence is an attribute of true wisdom.
Henceforth, as we accept this, the nature of wisdom, we should free ourselves from the cycle of life and death. When we free ourselves from life and death and eliminate these two, we can be truly great, those who have reached the state of self-existence, with the ability to give and take away things at will.
If one has a hwadu or critical phrase, one should take it. However, if not, one should investigate and delve into this one: ‘what was my true self, prior to being born to my parents?’ while asleep or awake, sitting or standing, coming or going.
Take a hwadu, and examine it over and over again, all day long for a thousand or ten thousand times a day. We should exert ourselves wholeheartedly, filling our minds with the endless thoughts of its investigation. As we completely and endlessly immerse ourselves in its investigation, a genuine doubt will arise one day, and the single thought of hwadu will clearly emerge, on its own. Whether we are going or coming, sitting or standing, cooking or cleaning, working or sleeping; that is, like Ilchecheo ilchesi, wherever and whenever, we keep the hwadu and questioning in mind. It will flow continuously, like a stream of water. In this state of mind, we can see something, yet we won’t recognize it. We can hear a sound, yet we won’t be aware of it. All of the habitual energy of fear that has accumulated over many previous lives will finally be able to melt away.
Time will pass by as you remain in this state for months and years, and then all of a sudden, one glimpse, or one sound will unlock the hwadu, and our true self will be brightly revealed all at once.
During the Tang Dynasty of China (618-907), there was a disciple called Zhenzhou Puhua (普化, 770-840 or 860) under Chan, or Seon Master Panshan Baoji (盤山 寶積, 720-814). When Chan Master Baoji was approaching death, he came to a lecture hall to address his last dharma talk to the great assembly.
“Is there anyone among you who can draw my likeness?”
Thus, a hundred of people drew his portrait and presented it, but he said, “None is to my liking.”
At last, his brightest disciple, Master Puhua, stepped forward empty-handed and said,
"I have done it."
Puzzled, Chan Master Panshan Baoji asked, "Why don't you show it to me?"
Then, Master Puhua performed three somersaults and left.
Watching this, Chan Master Baoji commented,
"Someday, that fellow will teach others in a crazy manner!"
At the request to bring his portrait, why did Master Puhua perform three somersaults?
There is a deeper meaning to this. As he watched him doing three somersaults, Chan Master Baoji saw Master Puhua’s entire life.
It can be quite shocking when an enlightened one makes a prediction of enlightenment by seeing through one’s past, present, and future, and arriving at such a prophecy. As predicted, Master Puhua spent his entire life preaching dharma in a rough and stubborn way, shaking a small hand bell in the middle of the town.
One day, an offering of food, sent by devotees, was brought into the temple where Chan Master Linji Yixuan(臨濟, ~ 866) was residing. So, a couple of elderly monks in nearby temples were invited over. One was Master Muta (木塔) and the other was Master Heyang (河陽). While they were having their meal and talking, the topic of Master Puhua came up.
“Every day, Puhua goes out to the middle of town acting like a crazy man. Is he just a commoner or a sage?” Before Chan Master Linji could finish his sentence, Master Puhua came into the room.
So, Chan Master Linji looked at Master Puhua and asked,
“Are you a commoner or a sage?”
In response, Master Puhua repeated the question,
“Well, you tell me. Am I a commoner or a sage?”
Then, Chan Master Linji shouted straightaway, “Katz!”
Master Puhua commented,
“Muta is an old Chan lady, Heyang is a young bride, and Linji is a small errand child with one eye.”
“Am I a commoner or a sage?” Master Puhua asked again.
As Master Muta sat, staring blankly, and unable to answer the question, Master Puhua called him a Chan practitioner, who sat meekly, imitating the meditation practice of elderly female practitioners.
As for Master Heyang, he was called a young bride, as the monk sat there timidly, unable to make any move like a young woman about to get married. Master Puhua used the term for a small errand child for Master Linji, to indicate that he had the eye of wisdom.
Thus, Chan Master Linji shouted,
Hearing this, Master Puhua reacted, shouting back,
Then, he left the room.
Can you guess what happened?
As the thieves met together, the one on the left held their metal flute and the other one, on the right beat out a rhythm, so that the clear sounds resonated throughout the universe.
Master Puhua always went around the streets and rang his bell, shouting:
Coming as brightness, I hit the brightness;
Coming as darkness, I hit the darkness;
Coming from the four quarters and eight directions, I hit like a whirlwind;
Coming from the empty sky, I lash like a whip.
Likewise, he went east and west, day and night.
One day, Chan Master Linji summoned his attendant, and told him, “Go out when Master Puhua rings his bell on the streets, shouting his dharma, hug him from behind and ask him what he would do if none of those four situations happen.”
His attendant did as he was told and asked.
Master Puhua responded,
“Tomorrow, there will be a memorial service at Daebiwon, a government hospital.”
Once the eye of wisdom is open, one will acquire the ability to effortlessly answer any dharma questions.
Does it make sense to you, the assembly?
If this mountain monk were Master Puhua then,
I would have hit the attendant thirty times with my staff, if he held me from the behind and asked me, “What would you do if nobody shows up?”
Afterwards, if he asked, “What would happen at the end?”
There are one hundred and five days between Dongji, or the winter solstice, and Hansik, or Cold Food Day.
On another day, Master Puhua and Chan Master Linji were invited to visit a patron’s house. While having their meal, Chan Master Linji asked Master Puhua,
“A thin strand of hair swallows up the great sea, and a mustard seed contains Mount Sumeru. Are these the work of a supernatural power or is it wisdom itself, just as it is?”
Then, Master Puhua knocked over the table.
Consequently, Chan Master Linji exclaimed,
In return, Master Puhua scolded,
“What kind of place is this, where one speaks of coarse or refined manners?”
The next day, Chan Master Puhua and Linji were invited to another patron’s house, and were having a meal.
Chan Master Linji said,
“Today’s fare, how does it compare with yesterday’s?”
As before, Master Puhua knocked over the table.
As Chan Master Linji was watching this again, he replied,
“Understand it you will – but still you are a rough fellow.”
Master Puhua reprimanded him,
“Blind fellow, does one preach of roughness or fineness in the Buddha-dharma?”
Then, Chan Master Linji stuck his tongue out.
Can you guess which of Buddha’s teachings they were trying to convey?
As the old thieves get together and exchange what they have,
even if one has the eye of wisdom, and a coarse temperament, he may still fall down three thousand kilometers away.
Even as Master Puhua approached death, he still went around, ringing his bell and shouting:
“Is there anyone who would make me a robe?”
Thus, many people made robes for him, but he didn’t want any of them.
Consequently, several people told Chan Master Linji about this, and then he had the head monk prepare a coffin. Just then, Master Puhua walked in.
“I have prepared a robe for you,”
Chan Master told him, and brought out the coffin.
“Truly, Linji understands my feelings,” Master Puhua exclaimed. Then, he shouldered his coffin, went out downtown and shouted the following,
“Linji had this robe made for me! I am off to the East Gate to enter nirvana.”
When people heard that and said, “Let’s go and see the crazy monk enter nirvana,” fighting their way to the East Gate. Though the people waited all day long, Master Puhua didn’t show up with his coffin on his shoulders until evening and announced,
“Today is no good. I shall go to the South Gate to enter nirvana tomorrow.”
On the following day, people crowded around the South Gate, but again, he didn’t enter nirvana. The next day, people gathered together by the West Gate, as he said that he would enter nirvana there, yet nothing happened on that day either.
Again, the next day, he announced that he would enter nirvana by the North Gate. As he had repeated his words for three days in this manner, nobody at all believed him.
Henceforth, one the fourth day, there was nobody by the North Gate.
There, Master Puhua put himself into the coffin alone and asked a passerby to nail the cover on.
After sealing the coffin with nails, he went in through the gate and told people in the fortress. Soon, the news reached everyone, and they quickly rushed to the North Gate.
By then, Master Puhua had already entered nirvana, leaving (no) flesh behind in the coffin, yet they heard the gentle sounds of the bell that he used to carry all his life.
Dear Assembly, can you understand Master Puhua’s teaching?
Approximately 60 years ago, at Donghwasa in Daegu City, Seon Master Hyobong entered the lecture hall and addressed the assembly on the memorial-service day of Seon Master Seolseokwoo.
“Long, long ago, Master Puhua retired his flesh, leaving (nothing) behind in the coffin, but only the sounds of his bell in the air. So, how did Master Puhua go?”
At that time, Venerable Myeongheo, an exemplary monk of Geumdang Seon Center of Donghwasa Temple, stood up and shouted,
Then, Master Hyobong scolded him,
“How dare you shout out Katz? You must not do so mindlessly!”
Venerable Myeongheo replied,
“You don’t even know why I shouted out Katz. Why do you deny me?”
Thus, Seon Master Hyobong replied,
“In ancient China, the word “Katz!” came forth from the assembly in the east hall as well as the west hall, while Chan Master Xinghua Cunjian (興化存獎, 830-888) was giving a dharma talk. Thus, Chan Master Xinghua entered the lecture hall and gave a dharma talk there. ‘The assembly is shouting out “Katz.” Even if this makes an old monk rise to the Thirty-three Celestial Realms of thirty-three gods, the second level of the Six Heavens of Desire at the top of Mount Sumeru, and fall onto the land from there, lose his consciousness and wake up, this “Katz” can’t be right.’”
As he told the assembly to listen to the old man, he advised them to stop shouting “Katz.”
“Is there anyone who would like to try?
Then, a mountain monk stood up and replied.
“The ancient sage Puhua had gone this way and now Puhua has gone that way.”
Thus, Chan Master Hyobong’s face broke out in a grin, and he commented,
“The answer ought to be like this.”
Now, how about a few last words?
Where can we find beauty in ancient wisdom?
As the moon rises around midnight, it passes through the streets.
On August 25, 2018 CE, 2562 Buddhist Era
Jongjeong, the Supreme Patriarch Jinje of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism
[With his Dharma staff, he strikes the dharma table once and descends from his seat.]