Takma (polishing) means the grinding and polishing of a precious stone. No matter how beautiful the gem, if the rough stone is not polished, the bright light cannot shine forth. From the past in Seon cloisters the practitioners polished their study without rest, and having tallied with their place of the original share of enlightenment, they valued greatly the process leading to enlightenment.
The Buddha also reproached practitioners for gathering and idly gossiping, and said one must not talk unless it is about study. And he said one should rather constantly gather together and talk about the Dharma. Practitioners must have the attitude of polishing and refining one’s own capacity for the Dharma endlessly just as the Buddha said.
Seon Master Weishan Lingyou said in his Weishan jingce, “Since heads face each other and noisily clamor about the trivial worldly affairs and they only seek pleasure in that at that time, they do not know that will be a cause of distress and the ending of pleasure.”
Therefore, monastic practitioners, not only in Seon cloisters that vigorously practice, but also in the Seon cloisters of lay Buddhists, must establish an atmosphere for mutual polishing.
Although it is most desirable that Seon practitioners receive teaching and examination from teachers, in some circumstances, companions of the Way, while talking of the Way with each other must advance towards the correct Dharma and put in order that attitude of mind.
If one reads the Chanyuan qinggui, one can know that a tradition of the school styles of Patriarchal Seon was a climate of mutual dialogue concerning the Dharma among the companions of the Way. If practitioners foster an atmosphere in which the companions of the Way polish (their practice), in being humble towards each other, they must have a mental attitude that suggests good ideas to the companions of the Way and for inspecting their own study.
The Seon cloister is a place where practitioners gather to fully practice meditation. In particular, the Seon cloisters of Korea are practice places of the valued Ganhwa Seon, which possesses a distinctive Seon style difficult to find in other cultural spheres. This style is one of receiving a hwadu from a master and investigating it. In Seon cloisters, practitioners who have a long history of practice are called gucham (old practitioners) and those who do not have much of a history are called sincham (new practitioners). Although there are no exact criteria for dividing long-term practitioners from new practitioners, normally in the Seon room a gucham must have accumulated the practice experience from completing retreats over twenty-five years or more. Even lay persons are not generally excluded from this.
The roles of long-term practitioners are very important. In circumstances where one cannot quickly receive guidance concerning all sorts of problems that appear in the course of practicing Seon from a clear-eyed teacher in the vicinity, the new practitioners therefore have no option but to depend on the long-term practitioners. Long-term practitioners must be models for other practitioners in doing the very best and always think of the valuable Dharma of the Buddha. They have to display the characteristics of a correct practitioner and be an exemplar for the new practitioners, and through such practice they must receive the respect and trust of new practitioners.
There is one point that one must be careful of in polishing. If one tries to polish in circumstances where one does not know the path of study operating between the practitioners, it can disturb the correct views one has established and emotional opposition can arise. Because study is a very exact and deep progress, if there is the slightest error, subtle differences in interpretation can emerge. At such times, the brewing of trouble and opposition through excessive attachment to one’s own opinions is not the proper behavior of a practitioner who must establish correct views. Moreover, that being so, if one avoids polishing and exchange idle chat, that cannot make one a genuine practitioner.