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Dharma Talk at the Great Equal Assembly of Ganhwa Seon

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Writer ADMIN Date09 Jul 2015 Read16,233 Comment0


The Dharma Talk by the Great Seon Master Jinje Beobwon,

Supreme Patriarch of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism,

at the Great Equal Assembly of Ganhwa Seon, 

​in the Conference for World Peace and Harmony (15-18 May 2015)



Gwanghwamun Square, May 16, 2015

The Master mounts the Dharma Seat and shows the Dharma Staff to the assembly.


Who had been the master of universe before an old Buddha was born?

In deep tranquility the essence is at peace.

The whole universe is of a single family.

All sentient and insentient beings are of the same essence.


Assembly in attendance! Who is the “master” this mountain monk just spoke of?

This master is the foundation of all things in the universe, and the ground of the mind for all sentient beings. This original ground is inherently empty and filled with stillness, but has distinct clarity.

If you immediately let go of all delusions, you reclaim your original ground of the mind as well as your true nature. Deluded, you are a sentient being, but illuminated, you are a Buddha. Just as an ordinary man is not different from a sage in the original ground of the mind, he has light, life, peace and great freedom. Hence, whoever has awakened to their pure mind and attained the true self can enjoy eternal happiness and great wisdom.


Therefore, it is said that mind is Buddha and a person is a Buddha. To realize that a person is a Buddha and to respect and live a mutually sustainable life are the vow we must make today.

An old sage once said, “Be your own master wherever you are, and you will immediately be your own truth.” When you let go of your mental afflictions and delusions, and become your own master by attaining your true self, you will live a life of great unhindered freedom wherever you are.

When you are deluded by your mental afflictions, you experience the suffering of the secular world. However, when you attain your true self, the ten directions are empty and open to you. Then you can swiftly transform painful reality and actualize a life of liberation.


In his great vow of compassion for all sentient beings, the Buddha said that there is blood of sentient beings soaked even in the land as tiny as a mustard seed. The sage Vimalakirti said, “All sentient beings are ill, therefore I am ill.” These words should be a huge warning for present-day humanity. In today’s society that tends to think the salvation of self is enough, and that all wrongs are the fault of others, the cultivation of character and the deeds of Vimalakirti are examples for us all.


Then, if you want to attain your true self, and achieve eternal happiness, great wisdom and mercy, what should you do? What attitude should you take and how should you proceed? This mountain monk would like to tell you the six paths you should take.

First, with generosity you can accrue immeasurable good fortune and virtuous deeds.

Second, with an ethical foundation, you can act purely and uprightly.

Third, with patience you can overcome all discriminatory thoughts that arise from within and lift the veil that hinders your vision.

Fourth, with joyous effort you should investigate your own hwadu ceaselessly and cultivate the deluded minds of other sentient beings.

Fifth, with meditative concentration you should cultivate your mind, remove all fear and attain true peace.

Sixth, with wisdom you should know all things and live a life of great freedom.

If you receive and practice these six paths with utmost sincerity, you will eventually not only awaken to the truth but also establish harmony and happiness in a pure society.


Today this mountain monk wants to take this occasion of the Great Equal Assembly and introduce to you all “Ganhwa Seon,” a practice of mind cultivation to attain your true self which is based on the investigation of a hwadu. I do this for the sake of attaining genuine peace in our global community, of attaining everlasting happiness for humanity, and of attaining the peaceful reunification of Korea, the only remaining divided country on Earth.


Then, how do you practice Ganhwa Seon, the essence of human spirituality? In Ganhwa Seon you investigate a hwadu, and what’s most important in this practice is to build up “fervent doubt” about your own hwadu.

Therefore, in your daily life take the hwadu, “What was your true self before you were born of your parents?” Build up doubt on this hwadu ceaselessly, whether coming or going, standing or sitting. You should engage and return to this hwadu a thousand times or tens of thousands of times a day. Suddenly, you will find yourself immersed in one-pointed concentration, and dwell in a state akin to death. Then suddenly, you come back to life, arriving at your heart’s true home. From then on you can enjoy great freedom, great comfort, great wisdom and great peace for all eternity. In this way, inexhaustible joy and blessings can be found in the awakening of one’s true self, and this should be your foremost and only goal in life


In order to give you hope of attaining great enlightenment, I’d like to tell you a few stories about past sages who attained the truth through practicing Ganhwa Seon and achieved a life of unhindered freedom.

About 90 years ago, there lived a great sage named Master Unbong (雲峰性粹; 1889-1946), the 77th Patriarch of the Korean Seon lineage. Master Unbong received the“MindSeal” of the Buddha from Master Hyewol(慧月; 1862-1937), the head disciple of Master Gyeongheo, a great sage who helped revive Korean Buddhism. As a Dharma heir, Master Unbong visited Seon centers all over Korea and concentrated on Ganhwa Seon practice sincerely in every retreat season.


One day, some Seon practitioners decided to engage together in a “Thirty-Year Practice Movement.” About 40 monks with great aspirations for enlightenment flocked in to Mangwolsa Temple in Gyeonggi-do Province from all over Korea. They had Master Yongseong (龍城震鍾; 1864-1940) as their guiding teacher. Master Seogu (石友; 1875-1958), the 1st Supreme Patriarch of the Jogye Order was their senior meditator, and Master Unbong was their rector. They all practiced earnestly day and night.


One day there was a Dharma assembly and Master Yongseong ascended the Dharma seat. He began his talk by asking, "Even all Buddhas from the past, present and future cannot see my true face, nor can all the generations of sages. Monks in this assembly! Where can you see my true face?"

Nobody answered. Then Master Unbong stood up and said, "It hid itself inside a glass pot."

Upon hearing this splendid answer, Yongseong immediately descended from the Dharma seat in silence and went back to his room.


More than 40 years ago, my teacher, Master Hyanggok questioned this mountain monk about this incident. "If you had been Master Yongseong, what would you have said to Master Unbong when he responded, 'It hid itself inside the glass pot.'?"

So I immediately responded, "A lion gave its best roar."

To this my teacher was greatly overjoyed. It is extremely difficult to have the correct perspective that enables one to respond in an instant.


In Tang China, Layman Pang (龐居士) had a family, and all in his family were sages.

He was perhaps the greatest householder sage to ever have been born since the Seon teachings of Buddha emerged.

At that time, two eminent Seon masters, Mazu (馬祖)andShitou(石頭), were propagating Seon Buddhism widely in Tang China. Courageous monks of great faith and lay practitioners alike flocked to them to receive training and guidance.

One day, drawing upon faith and courage from the depth of his heart, Layman Pang went to see Master Shitou. He offered three bows and asked this noble question: "Who is he that is not a companion to the ten thousand Dharmas of the truth?”

Upon hearing this, Master Shitou placed his hands on Layman Pang’s mouth and silenced him. Layman Pang’s mind suddenly opened about 80 percent.

"Master, thank you so much!"


Layman Pang then prostrated himself before Master Shitou and walked hundreds of miles to meet Master Mazu.

Upon arriving at the residence of Master Mazu, he offered three deep prostrations and asked again: "Who is he that is not a companion to the ten thousand Dharmas of the truth?”


Master Mazu answered, "I will tell you after you have swallowed the entire West River in one gulp."

At these marvelous words, Layman Pang’s wisdom eye was opened. He gained the supreme wisdom eye, equal to all the Buddhas and Patriarchs, and Layman Pang became Master Mazu’s disciple


When Layman Pang returned home, he readily gave away all his wealth and treasures to the neighbors. Afterward, he and his family lived a simple life in a small thatched hut near a river, supporting themselves by making bamboo utensils with bamboo from the mountains. The whole family just concentrated on the practice of Seon. The wife practiced Seon, attaining the great Way, and the daughter never married, only practicing Seon. At last one day, the eyes of the whole family were opened to the supreme truth.


As the story of Layman Pang’s family spread throughout Tang China, many practitioners and sages came to witness the whole family living a life of freedom. One day, when Lingzhou was washing vegetables at the well in front of the gate, Master Danxia Tianran (丹霞天然) came to visit and inquired, “Is Layman Pang home?”

Lingzhou stopped washing vegetables, stood up, and placed her palms on her chest respectfully in silence.

The Master understood her meaning right away, but to test Lingzhou, he asked again,

“Is Layman Pang home?” She answered by putting her hands down, picked up the basket of vegetables and went inside.

Upon this, Master Tianran turned and left at once.


Words are loud and clear in the absence of speech. When our ears are attuned to such words, we attain the noble eye of truth, and then we can guide ten thousand people to the path of truth.


One day, Layman Pang was resting at home with his family. He suddenly mumbled to his wife, "Difficult and difficult! It is like smearing the top of a tall tree with a hundred gallons of oil.” His wife retorted, "Easy and easy! The truth of the Buddha-Dharma is reflected on the tips of a hundred blades of grass."


Lingzhou interrupted in a flash and said, "It's neither difficult nor easy. When I'm thirsty, I drink tea. When I'm tired, I sleep."


Present Assembly! Do you now understand the beauty of Layman Pang’s family?

Which truth did Layman Pang express when he said, "Difficult and difficult! It is like smearing the top of a tall tree with a hundred gallons of oil?”

Which truth did his wife express when she retorted, "Easy and easy! The truth of Buddha-Dharma is reflected on the tips of a hundred blades of grass?"


And which realm of truth did Lingzhou reveal when she said, "It's neither difficult nor easy. When I'm thirsty, I drink tea. When I'm tired, I sleep?"

These three passages contain all of the Dharma talks taught by all enlightened sages. If you can distinguish them, you will join the ranks of all the enlightened sages.


Now, in my hope that the whole world be steeped in the fragrance of Ganhwa Seon and dwell in its peaceful spiritual home, and with my hope that all living beings receive ten thousand blessings, this mountain monk will roll up his sleeves, examine the profound teachings of Layman Pang’s family, and give an offering of Dharma to all of humanity.


If this mountain monk had been present when each member of Pang’s family spoke their passage, I would have brewed good tea and offered a cup of tea to each of them. Is my tea offering adequate praise for their well-presented Dharma talks or a denigration?

Assembly in attendance! Do you understand what I have said?


[After a few moments]


I would like to offer one last passage of truth in hopes that all who died in the Sewol Ferry disaster, in the catastrophic earthquakes in Nepal, and for the happiness and peace of humanity let go of their clinging love and all attachments, and enjoy great peace in the blissful land of the Buddha.


Buds will sprout again on a new branch in the coming year.

In the midst of disturbing spring winds, there is no rest.


[The Master hits the Dharma staff once and dismounts.


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