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Written by Kwon Kee-jongProfessorDept. of Buddhist StudiesDongguk University
Master Baegun Gyeonghan (1298-1374) was a Seon master who lived in the late Goryeo Period, and a contemporary of masters Taego Po-u (1301-1382) and Naong Hyegeun (1320-1376). These three great masters had a deep and close relationship with one another and they also shared the common experience of having gone to Yuan and learned Seon under masters Shiwu Qinggong and Pingshan Chulin, and then introduced the Linji Order (Kor. Imje) to Silla. In addition, they all tried to reform the declining Seon Dharma of the time and to correct the many faults of the samgha thus setting it on the right track again.
But though they studied Linji Seon and lived at the same time and in the same society, the characteristics of their Seon traditions differ. In order to understand this, we need to examine the study of Master Baegun and the characteristics of his Seon Dharma. One of the best ways of doing this is to look at his sayings.
B. The Philosophical Background
The background of the later Goryeo Period, especially the reign of King Kongmin (r. 1352-1374), can be considered from two viewpoints. The first is the social aspect which shows that this was a time of strong political agitation, and the second is from the philosophical point of view, Buddhism was on the decline including the Seon Order. Of the two, the second viewpoint is of special importance to us because through it we can understand the philosophical background of the transmission of Linji Seon.
Goryeo society, due to the influence of ceremonial Buddhism, often held various Buddhist meetings such as the taking of Eight Precepts (Kor. p’algwan-hoe) and Giving Life (Kor. panseung). Most activities were for the good fortune of the participants and the social effect of this reached a maximum during the reign of King Kongmin. In the fourth year of his reign, Master Seongeun who belonged to the royal temple inside the palace (Kor. Naewon-tang), violated his precept of celibacy but the king released him. When Master Yeonguk of the Chaeun Order wanted to punish him, he rebuked Master Yeonguk by saying, "if you are going to punish me, you should demolish the whole of Buddhism. Is there any monk who is not like me?" The refutation enables us to guess at the level of corruption prevalent at the time.1 Accordingly the new social tendency of persecuting Buddhism and promoting Confucianism can be considered to be the outcome of the criticism of the degradation of Buddhism.
Korean Neo-Confucianism (Kor. Seongni-hak) was established by scholars Yi Che-hyon, Yi Saek, Chong Mong-chu, Yi Seung-in and Chong To-chon in the late Goryeo Period. They openly criticized Buddhism and cited the general degeneration as the basis of their criticism. A memorial presented to the king by Confucian scholar, Yi Saek, who believed in Buddhism, is a good example of the situation of the time.
At the time that our founder, King T’aejo, established the nation, Buddhist temples and ordinary houses were not distinguishable from one another and their relationship was unclear. After the middle period, Buddhist followers greatly increased, so that the Five Schools (of Yeolban, Namsan, Hwaom, Peopsang and Peopseong) and the Two Orders (of Seon and Kyo) maintained temples everywhere which merely became breeding places of profiteering and self-interest. Now the followers become contemptible and everyone has become lazy; sensible people everywhere should be greatly concerned.
The Buddha was an attained spiritual leader, but he must be ashamed of his present day followers. I, your Majesty’s servant, reverently bow and humbly ask you to prepare a provision according to the following restrictions: Please give monk’s licenses to already ordained monks and nuns. Please send monks with no identification to the army. Please remove any newly built temples and punish monks who do not obey. Please do not grant permission to ordinary people to be ordained as monks or nuns.2
This memorial indicates how corrupt both Seon and Kyo orders hadbecome at that time. But is not irrelevant to consider King Kongmin’s character in the context.
Master T’aego Po-u, in a speech in the fifth month of the sixth year of the reign of King Kongmin, severely pointed out the uselessness to the nation as a whole of the king’s blind faith in Buddhism.
The way of a king lies in educating people by practicing the Buddha Dharma, setting an example and teaching it, but not in blind belief in Buddhism, which is not necessary. If a king is not able to govern the nation with virtue, though he believes in Buddhism intrinsically, what will be the benefit? ... The king should give up the wrong and follow the right for the nation to be free from hardship.3
This was also the time when Yuan and Ming dynasties were replaced. The uncertainty of the policy of the foreign ministry along with the trend of distrusting Buddhism after the affair of Master Shindon, who gained favor with King Kongmin and subsequently became in charge of national administration, led to the way. Confucianism was thus able to openly criticize Buddhism and get established as the new religious direction of the nation. The Confucianism of that time had already passed the stage of its early acceptation of Buddhism by passing the following remark displaying its attitude of negotiation, "Religion is Buddhism and the study of the principles of government is Confucianism." In this way Confucianism showed itself to be the new religion with a new metaphysical doctrinal system.
Especially Neo-Confucianism was founded with a strong, hidden inclination towards the persecution of Buddhism so that it was inevitable that Neo-Confucianism would attack anything it could in Buddhism in order to strengthen its own position.4
With all of this in mind, let us take a look at this attack. Buddhism responded to the confrontation by concentrating in two directions. The first was internal and aimed at correcting the ruined moral fiber of the monks and establishing a pure samgha, and the second was to promote the Seon tradition through introducing the new Seon Dharma. Examples of the first include various belief and practice communities in the middle and late Goryeo periods, and integration of the second was the introduction of Linji Seon. The two, of course, cannot be completely separated from each other. But when we keep the latter in mind, the three great masters T’aego Po-u, Naong Hyegeun and Baegun Gyeonghan are of central importance.
These three masters were great Buddhist philosophers who gave direction to the middle and the late 14th century with their fine thinking. They shared the common experience of having all returned after studying the Dharma of Linji Seon in Yuan, even though their aims were different. Master Po-u went to Yuan in 1346, the second year of the reign of King Ch’ungmok, and returned after he had learned from Master Shiwu Qinggong, the 18th generation of the Linji Order.5 Master Naong went to Yuan in 1348, the fourth year of the reign of the same king and returned after he had received the Dharma of Master Pingshan Chulin who had studied with Master Shiwu Qinggong under the same teacher.6 Master Baegun went to Yuan in 1351, the third year of the reign of King Ch’ungjeong and came back after receiving the Dharma of Master Shiwu Qinggong.7
At that time the Linji Order was divided into the Huanglong (Kor. Hwangnyong) and the Yangqi (Kor. Yangji) orders, and the order which the three masters introduced was the latter. The Yangqi Order was the most popular in China because its central thought proclaimed was the idea of “the natural true person.”
The Seon tradition of the Linji Order was not, of course, first introduced to Korea in the time of these three masters;8 it had already been proclaimed by Master Pojo Chinul (1158-1210). The Linji approach of “the shortcut gate” (Kor. kyeongjeol-mun) of investigating the "principal topic" called "hwadu’ (literally head (topic) of speech") originates from the Sayings of Dahui, and Master Dahui Zonggao belonged to the Yangqi lineage of the Linji Order.9
The core of the tradition of the Linji Order lies in the Seon of investigating the hwadu (Kor. Ganhwa Seon), and it was continued in books such as The Essence and the Songs of Seon (Kor. Seonmun-yeomsong) of Master Hyeshim; Stories of the Essence and the Songs (Kor. Yeomsong-seolhwa) of Master Kagun; The Assembly of the Essence and the Songs (Kor. Yeomsong-sawon) of Master Iryon; and Second Edition of the Assembly of the Essence and the Songs (Kor. Chung-pyeon-yeomsong-sawon) of Master Hon-gu. These teachings were also found in Resolving Doubts about Observing the Principal Topic (Kor. Ganhwa-kyeorui-ron) of Master Chinul, and in this way the main stream of Korean Seon was finally established.10of Master Chinul, and in this way the main stream of Korean Seon was finally established.
But the existing streams of Seon introduced to Korea and incorporated into the Nine Mountains of Seon included elements of confrontation and conflict, and the reality of these problems became exaggerated and even reached the level of a national issue.
Nowadays monks of the Nine Mountains of Seon rely on the support of their own Dharma families, seriously distinguishing between the families and judging their superiority; this leads to fights. Recently the struggle is getting more violent. They hold spears and shields in their hands and hedge fences, hence they destroy the harmony and break the good Dharma Alas! Seon was originally one family but men have made it into many families. Where can the truth of the Buddha be found? Where is equality and no-self, the pure family tradition of no formality which was continued through succeeding generations of masters? Where is the will to protect the Dharma and comfort the nation of the late kings?11
Subsequently, Master Po-u presented a memorial to the king to unite all sects and strictly purify the dignity of the samgha by setting up the Pure Rules of Baizhang. Master Po-u’s proposal was adopted, so the Department of Harmonization (Kor. Wonyung-pu) was established at Kwangjo-sa in the same year.12 All monks were forced to study for the monks’ examination (Kor. kongbuseon) at Hoeam-sa under the supervision of Master Hyegeun in 1370, the 19th year of the reign of King Kongmin,13 and this constituted an effort at accomplishing the philosophical integration of the Five Schools and Two Orders. This effort speaks of the deep effect of the conviction of the masters that the active nature of Linji Seon could be the mental background for governing the nation.14
This introduction of Linji Seon and the advice of masters Poll, Naong and Baegun can be regarded as a presentation of the new ideology based on reforming declining Buddhism in the late Goryeo Period. It also performed the double service of making a Buddhist contribution to the nation even though it was a failure and had little effect. This was partly due to the fact that the political character of the time was conservative, and the corruption of the samgha was having such a deep influence that hardly anything could be done about it.15
The series of reformations which were actively pursued, like the union of the Nine Mountains and the transfer of the capital to Hanyang (present day Seoul) from Gaegyong by Master Po-u was stopped by various political upheavals. For example, King Kongmin who had initially tried to establish a national identity through an anti-Yuan policy, allowed his understanding of Buddhism to become warped in later life as he worked hard for good fortune alone. Due to this he was killed in 1374 by some influential families, showing that the sovereign power of Goryeo was actually controlled by them and not necessarily by the king.
The new movement of Goryeo Buddhism, without maturing into a philosophy for saving the nation, was overwhelmed by the strong arguments used by Confucian scholars to reject Buddhism, and so Buddhism had to walk with a declining nation towards the sun setting on its former glory and the result was a dark period of political suppression during the 500 years of the Joseon Dynasty.16
Still the introduction of Linji Seon in the late Goryeo Period had significant philosophical repercussions in its three main aspects of introspection by the samgha itself, presentation of the basic principles for the purification movement and proclamation of the Son tradition as a means of spiritual life in peaceful times.
C. The Life and Writings of Master Baegun
Master Baegun Gyeonghan was born at Kobu of Jolla-do Province in 1298, the 24th year of the reign of King Chungyeol. He was ordained early and received the pen name of Kyeonghan. He did not have a fixed teacher but wandered around Korea It is not certain when he went to Yuan but it seems that he stayed there for a year between 1351 and 1352.17 As in the case of Master Naong, he also asked Master Zhikong about the Dharma and received it from Master Shiwu Qinggong. He was recommended by Master T’aego to King Kongmin and called to a special post by the king in 1357, the sixth year of his reign but refused courteously. Eight years later, in 1365, the 14th year of the reign of the same king, he was again recommended by Master Naong and accepted to be chief monk of Shin-gwang-sa. In 1368, he occupied the position of chief monk of Heungseong-sa, which was built as a royal temple for the king’s dead Queen Noguk-kongju from Yuan. He took charge of the monks’ examinations in the 19th year of the reign, and then stayed in various small hermitages. He passed away at Chwiam-sa in Yeoju at the age of 77 in 1374, the 23rd year of King Kongmin.
Some count the year of his death as 1375. Because they have consulted the record of Yi Ku in the preface of the Sayings of Master Baegun (Kor. Baegun-hwasang-eorok) where it is written "I have seen his greatness when I met him at Shin-gwang-sa in the fall of the year of the snake (1365), and he left ten years later." If so, the year of his death becomes 1375, and the year of his birth is 1299 because of the record which states that he lived for 77 years.18 But then the "after ten years" mentioned in the preface could be 1374 if one counts the ten years from 1365. Hence the date of his death could be either 1374 or 1375.
The Sayings of Master Baegun is recorded by Master Seokchan, Master Baegun’s assistant, in which the prefaces of Yi Saek and Yi Ku are recorded along with the Dharma speeches, hymns, poems and letters of Master Baegun. The book was published in two volumes. Of particular interest is the Excerpts of Direct Pointing to the Mind Essentials: Abstracted by Master Baegun (Kor. Baegun-hwasang-chorok-jikji-simche-yojeol), two volumes which is now preserved in Paris. It is the world’s first book printed with movable metal type and is therefore of great importance in the history of printing.
The Excerpts was edited when the master was 75 years old. He chose these essential writings for "direct pointing to the human mind, so as to behold the Buddha-nature and become a Buddha" from books like Jinde Records of the Transmission of the Lamp (Ch. Jinde chuandeng lu, Kor. Kyeongdeok-jeondeung-nok) and Collections of the Five Lamps (Ch. Wudeng huiyuan, Kor. Odeung-hoewon). It includes Dharma speeches and hymns from the seven past Buddhas through generations of masters. Though some of the ideas of the editor, Master Baegun, are included in the book, as it is a collection of excerpts, it can not be regarded as representative of the Master Baegun’s teachings.
D. The Characteristics of Master Baegun’s Seon Thought
1) The Problem of Tradition of Order
Master Baegun together with masters Po-u and Naong instigated a new Seon tradition in the late Goryeo Period. However, as Master Baegun had certain characteristics which were special to him alone, he set up a unique family tradition which differs from other Korean Seon families.
In the Sayings of Master Baegun the expression "tradition of order" (Kor. chongp’ung, literally "wind of the order") often appears. What order does the word "order" refer to? Does it mean the general Seon Order, the one that differs from Kyo in the Seon and Kyo two orders, or some other specific order? It is necessary to examine this, because this inquiry is closely related to the question of whether Master Baegun’s lineage is legitimate Linji Seon or not.
In the Sayings of Master Baegun, first volume, there is a conversation between Master Baegun and a monk. There Master Baegun says, "I am going to fan the wind of the order of 1,000 years old, so that it blossoms in good fortune in the Three Han States (Kor. Samhan)." And the monk asks, "What tune are you singing and whose wind of order are you succeeding?" Hereby Master Baegun answers, "I sold fresh wind to the bones and bought white clouds casually."19
The phrases "fresh wind" and "white clouds" were used in the death hymn of Master Shiwu, which was sent to Master Baegun. Yi Ku wrote in his preface to the Sayings of Master Baegun in 1377 as follows:
Master Shiwu at his death sent a hymn to Master Baegun.
I bought white clouds ("Baegun" literally means white clouds) and sold fresh wind,
So the whole house is empty and poor to the bone.
To a barely remaining straw-thatched cottage,
Fire was set when I left it.20
This enables us to know that Master Shiwu transmitted his Dharma to Master Baegun.
Hence the phrase of buying white clouds and selling fresh wind signifies the transmission of the Dharma from Master Shiwu to Master Baegun, and Master Baegun’s answer indicates that the tradition of his order was that of Master Shiwu. Considering the fact that Master Shiwu was of the 18th generation after Master Linji, it can be guessed that Master Baegun had the tradition of the Linji lineage as his tradition. Moreover, the same question which the monk asked Master Baegun is also found in the Records of Linji (Ch. Linji lu, Kor. Imje-rok)as below.
(A monk) asked, What tune are you singing and whose wind of order are you succeeding?" Master Linji answered, "I asked Master Huangbo three times and was struck three times."2I
The characters of the question are exactly the same as the one given to Master Baegun. Here, Master Linji, by telling that he asked Master Huangbo three times and was struck three times, reveals that he is designated as the successor of the order of Master Huangbo and sings of Master Huangbo’s family tradition. We can also definitely conclude, through the same question and answer, that Master Baegun succeeded the tradition of the order of Master Shiwu and sang Master Shiwu’s family song. In addition, this record shows us that Master Baegun showed his preference for Master Linji when he compared the different family traditions of the various Seon families. After he assessed the family traditions of various people like Flower Garland scholar Li Tongxuan, Master Weiyang, masters Shitou and Yaoshan, he added:
(They) sometimes hit with sticks or shout, and sometimes they become the guest or the host, sometimes they take and sometimes they leave and they wielded practicality like thunder. Hence masters Linji and Deshan alone surpass all others.22
This attitude of Master Baegun towards Master Linji continued in the relationship with Master Shiwu. Therefore Master Baegun, in the following letter to Master T’aego, wrote that both of them are disciples of Master Shiwu.
This follower planted good seed in his past life so he could join with you, great master, and so both of us are disciples of Master Shiwu. ...Now in the world of today, apart from Master Zhikong, it is rare to see such a great master as Master Shiwu. Though the master has already passed away, his "Seon precedent" (or "case," Kor. kongan) remains.23
But there are several problems in regard to Master Baegun as the legitimate successor of Master Shiwu. Professor Suh Yoon-kil thinks that Master Baegun did not succeed Master Shiwu’s Dharma lineage though it is certain that Master Baegun did study under Master Shiwu.24 The reason lies in the fact that Master Baegun attained awakening while he was reading from "Song of Enlightenment" of Master Yongjia Xuanjue one year after his return from Yuan and not while he was studying under Master Shiwu. Therefore Professor Suh concludes that the meeting between Master Baegun and Master Shiwu was not an opportunity for awakening but one in which the Dharma succession was established. In spite of this, Master Baegun is still of the same lineage as Master Shiwu according to Professor Suh.
Even though Master Baegun is not regarded as a legitimate successor of the Linji lineage, the expressions which he reveals in his Sayings enable us to guess that the family tradition mentioned by him was that of Master Shiwu who succeeded Master Linji, and so we have to accept his claim that "both of us are disciples of Master Shiwu.
2) True Teaching of No-mind
Though both masters Baegun and Po-u were disciples of Master Shiwu who succeeded Master Linji’s Dharma tradition, the two masters were quite different from each other in spreading the tradition. Master Po-u himself does not use the word "Linji tradition," and he had already attained awakening by investigating the hwadu "No" (Kor. Mu) of Master Mazu before he went to Yuan and met Master Shiwu. When he met Master Shiwu, he presented what he had realized along with his "Song of the Ancient Hermitage" (Kor. T’aego-am-ka). Master Shiwu responded by saying, "Looking at what you have realized, your study is right and your view is clear. But leave all of them." Master Po-u replied, "It has been a long time since I have left them."25 Master Po-u, after his return, was consistent with the teachings of the Son of investigating the hwadu.
But in the case of Master Baegun, he did not make "investigating the hwadu" a subject of discussion. He only once mentioned the hwadu.
This mountain monk wandered around the south and north of the Yangzi River (of China) and visited all good masters last year. They taught students using hwadus like "No" of Master Mazu, "all Dharmas return to the one" and “look for your original face before the birth of your parents” ... there was no other teaching.
Finally I visited Master Shiwu at Tienhuan hermitage on Mt. Xiawushan and assisted him several days. There I learned the “true teaching of no-mind” and completely realized the utmost sublime truth of the Tathagatas.26
Considering this, Master Baegun seems to have studied investigation of the hwadu under Master Shiwu and realized the "utmost sublime truth" of the "true teaching of no-mind." Master Baegun talked about the utmost sublime truth when he gave a Dharma talk.
The ways and means of old sages are as many as the sands of the Ganges River. But the Sixth Patriarch said “It is neither the wind nor the flag but the mind which moves”, and this is the utmost true teaching which transcends the main thesis as well as all forms.27
Here, "the movement of the mind" is a concept opposite to that of "no-mind," and Master Baegun grasped not "no-mind" but "the movement of the mind" as the focus of the problem. Accordingly, "no-mind is the "utmost true teaching" and it is the essence of Master Baegun’s main Seon thesis. The reason that he quoted the above phrases of Master Huineng several times was to emphasize no-mind.
Subsequently, Master Baegun expressed his view of the truth as the “utmost mental impression”, 28 the “utmost sublime truth”29 or the “true teaching of no-mind and no-thought,”30and said I have already realized the ’no-mind’ and I wish that unenlightened people may attain the same realization as I have done."31 He again emphasized:and said I have already realized the ’no-mind’ and I wish that unenlightened people may attain the same realization as I have done." He again emphasized:
If I had not learned the true teaching of no-mind, how could this great liberation of today be possible? The phrase, “no-mind,” is something which surpasses myriads of causes between a teacher and a disciple, and is not to be neglected. Nothing can pay for this enormous kindness, though I try to exert myself to the utmost.32
This saying shows how ardent the shock of “no-mind and no-thought” made him become. His enthusiasm is clearly shown in his letter to the king written in the ninth month in the year of the dog, when he was asked by the king to take charge of the examinations. There he mentions, "This is the utmost sublime means, Sometimes it is called no-mind or sometimes no-thought."33 Master Baegun’s method of reflecting on his study is to avoid the following nine things.
What is reflecting on study?
It is not necessarily investigating the hwadu,
nor is it necessarily considering the hwadu,
nor is it necessarily speaking as a substitute for the sayings of old masters,
nor is it necessarily speaking,
nor is it necessarily reading sutras,
nor is it necessarily writing or studying commentaries,
nor is it necessarily wandering all around searching for teachers,
nor is it necessarily getting away from noisiness and searching for calmness,
nor is it moving the mind and looking outside, nor is it clearing the mind and silently looking inside.
If you follow your own direction, being influenced by such things, then please realize that what you are doing has nothing to do with reflection on study.34
And then he gave a definition of reflection on study using old sayings that sincere students should keep in mind. "Reflection on study should be done faithfully, and awakening should be attained faithfully. One should learn no-mind and effortless action and be always free from thoughts and awake. No-thought sees the original person."
The conclusion of Master Baegun’s thinking is that all means of investigating the hwadu and reading the sutras and studying the commentaries are inferior to no-thought. But Master Baegun warned of the misunderstanding of no-mind, saying that no-mind and no-thought do not indicate a consciousness that is similar to the earth, to a tree, to a tile or to a stone.35 Therefore he sang in his “Song of No-mind” (Kor. Mushim-ka):
If mind is deserted
Conditions become calm by themselves.
And when conditions become calm
Mind does not move by itself.
That is the so-called
True teaching of no-mind.36
As we have examined so far, Master Baegun only realized the true teaching of no-mind and no-thought and declared them as the best way. Though masters Po-u, Naong and Baegun were contemporary masters who studied under Master Shiwu, their family traditions were not the same. Especially Master Baegun claimed, “This old monk came into the world trying to hit the Dharma drum and straighten out the already disintegrated principles. You look at it closely.” The claim well shows his will to revive the Goryeo Buddhist world of no-principle by introducing a new line of Seon thinking and development.
3) The Stage of Awakening
The emphasis of the true teachings of no-thought are generally found in the Seon thought of Master Baegun. In his Dharma talk "Minor Talk on Entering HeungSeong-sa, 37 he explains equality. Assuming that Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, or total awakening is equality and that there is neither high nor low, he went on to describe this equality as not being the cutting off of the legs of a crane and then joining them to a duck, or the breaking of a mountain in order to fill up a valley. Therefore, long ones are Dharma-bodies as they are, and short ones are Dharma-bodies as they are. Dharma sticks are Dharma sticks, mountains are mountains, Water is water, holiness is holiness, and worldiness is worldiness.
And he added that wise people can understand this but ignorant people just cling to the sayings.
Here, the stage of awakening after all indicates the stage of equality where discrimination is cut off. Accordingly, it can be considered that no-thought does not mean no thinking but it signifies the absolute equality of no discrimination. That is why real equality regards mountains as mountains and water as water, and never makes mountains into water or water into mountains.
Master Baegun thought that the stage of equality of no-thought is understood differently according to the different faculties. When he gave a Dharma speech, he held up a Dharma stick and showed it to his students, asking “What do we call this? Should we call it a Dharma stick, or not?” Then he answered himself:38
Ordinary men say it exists,
The two vehicles (Skt. dviyana, Kor. iseung) say it does not exist.
The self-enlightened Buddhas (Skt. Pratyeka-buddha, Kor. yeon-gak) say it a phantom,
Bodhisattvas say it is something whose present body is empty.
But such an explanation is the judgment of Kyo, and Seon never regards things in that way. The attitude of Seon is as below:
The Dharma stick is a Dharma stick,
And the Buddha hall is a Buddha hall.
Mountains are mountains, water is water and the mundane is the mundane. Why is it so?
The suitable place for all Dharmas is of itself the truth, calmness, extinction (Skt. Nirvana) and liberation.39
Master Baegun also thought that Seon and Kyo originally are not two. But he understood this level of awakening from the attitude of the Seon of no-thought, and he emphasized that belief is first needed above all to attain that stage. When the Buddha said "People of mind can surely attain Buddhahood," he meant to give rise to clear thinking free from error and defilements, the utmost awakened mind. The reason that students think it is hard to do so is because of their lack of "belief in determination." He emphasized that the belief in determination comes from the will for determination," and that this belief is the start of entering the truth.40
4) Presenting Dharma of Son of the Patriarchs and Means of No-mind
Master Baegun, in his writing called "Seon of the patriarchs" (Kor. Chosa Seon) explained the Seon that the patriarchs teach and use to guide their students and what it means to practice a subject of discussion. According to him, traditional Seon is the Seon of the Tathagatha (Kor. Yeorae Seon), and the Seon of the patriarchs is the Chinese style of Seon which was a new form which had not existed previously in India at the time of the Buddha.
He maintained that the main thesis of the Seon of the patriarchs is expressed by color, sound and language, and a practitioner attains awakening through these means. He explained through these examples:41
Representing the Dharma through speech can be done in this way: "Have you eaten your rice porridge?" "I have." Then Wash your bowl. To attain awakening at that time is done like that.
Representing the Dharma through speech and sound is: “Do you hear the sound of the stream?” “I do.” Then immediately, “Enter into it.” To attain awakening at that time is done like this.
Representing the Dharma by sound is this: It is to attain awakening by listening to "the sounds of crows, magpies, donkeys and dogs which are all turning the wheel of the Tathagata."
Representing the Dharma by color and sound is: Various actions like lifting a stick, standing up a switch42, snapping the fingers and scolding are all the Seon of the patriarchs. Thus when the sound is heard, that is the time of awakening, and one attains awakening when one sees colors.
Hence Master Baegun thought that Master Lingyun attained awakening by color, Master Xiangyan by sound, and it is great that Master Yunmen was troubled with a leg and Master Xuansha with a foot.
That was the explicit explanation of the characteristics of the Seon of the patriarchs and its ways of representing the Dharma. Master Baegun, when he was in-charge of the examinations in 1370, the 19th year of the reign of King Kongmin, carefully defined his ways of explaining the Dharma in his writings to the king. There he wrote that the utmost sublime means of practicing the hwadu and the state of no-mind are as follows:
To express my opinion concerning study, students’ meditation can be examined using the hwadu, making an announcement, and using color, sound and speech.43
On this assumption, he then gave precise instructions and examples explaining:
Firstly, the hwadu is like the "No" of Master Mazu, "all Dharmas return to the one" and look for your original face before the birth of your parents."
Secondly, make an announcement like “the big pine in the garden," three keun (Ch. jin) of yams” and "a dried shit stick."
Thirdly, representing the Dharma by color is like lifting a stick or standing up a switch.
Fourthly, representing the Dharma by sound is like beating it down with a stick or shouting.
Fifth, representing the Dharma by speech is like this: "Do you hear the sound of water?" "I do." "Enter into it."
Sixth, there is no-mind and no-thought.
This "no-mind and no-thought" were added later and they belong to the Seon thought of Master Baegun. Explaining the sixth, he considers it the most sublime means and explains:
There is a most sublime means, namely, the teaching of no-mind and no-thought. That is according to the sayings of the Sixth Patriarch, "If one does not think at all of any good or evil, then he/she automatically enters into the original place of the mind. This state is always calm and sublime like the sands of the Ganges River," of Master Huangbo; "If one, as a student of truth, cannot be mindless he/she cannot accomplish anything at all though he/she practices for several lives," of Zhuoxianggong; "If a single thought does not arise, the whole appears" of the teachers like Li Wenhe; "Proceed on a straight path to the utmost awakening and do not be concerned with right and wrong."44
Master Baegun, quoting the sayings of various people, said that no-mind or no-thought are the utmost sublime means. To him the greatest way of representing the Dharma in the Seon of the patriarchs is not the hwadu but no-mind or no-thought.
As we have seen, it is difficult to draw a conclusion as to whether Master Baegun was a legitimate successor of Master Linji or not. But what can be said for sure is that he was faithful to the family tradition of linji Seon and served Master Shiwu as his teacher. As far as investigating the hwadu, though he mentioned little about it, he did not emphasize it as much as Master Po-u did. Instead, he stressed on Seon of no-mind and no-thought, similar to the concepts of "the noble man of no work" or "the true man of no rank’ which are seen mainly in the Sayings of Linji For him, awakening is a stage of equality of no-thought, that is, a stage of considering mountains as mountains and water as water.
Subsequently, he properly classified and explained the ways of representing the Dharma of the Seon of the patriarchs and the means of guiding and teaching students. According to him, no-mind and no-thought are the most sublime ways above all other ways of the hwadu, making an announcement, through color, sound, speech, speech and sound, and color and sound. Once again, he considered the means of no-mind or no-thought more sublime than investigating the hwadu in the practice of the Seon of the patriarchs and in the training of young aspirants. These are the unique characteristics of Master Baegun’s teachings.
1. History of Goryeo (Kor. Goryeosa)38; article of the sixth month, the fourth year of the reign of King Kongmin; and Yi Neung-hwa, Comprehensive History of Korean Buddhism (Kor. Joseon-bulgyo-tongsa) 1, p. 312.)38; article of the sixth month, the fourth year of the reign of King Kongmin; and Yi Neung-hwa, (Kor. J) 1p. 312.
2. Ibid. 115, chapter "Successive Records" (Kor. Yeoljeon), article on Yi Saek.
3. Ibid. 38, chapter "Distinguished Family" (Kor. Sega), article on King Kongmin.
4. Yi Chong-ik, "Criticism of Jeong Do-jeon’s Theory of Avoiding Buddhism" (Kor. Jeong-Do-jeon-ui-pyeoksa-ron-pip’an), in Collection of Theses of Eastern Thought (Kor. Dongbang-sasang-nonchong), 1977, pp. 308-310.
5. "Stupa of National Teacher Wonjeung of T’aego-sa" (Kor. Taego-sa-wonjeung-kuksa-tap-bi), in Whole Survey of Korean Monumental Inscriptions (Kor. Joseon-keumseok-chongnam) 1, p.526.p.526.
6. Monument of King’s Teacher Seon-gak of Hoeam-sa (Kor. Hoeam-sa-seon-gak-wangsa-bi), in Ibid., pp.500-501.
7. Yi Ku, "Preface of Sayings of Master Baegun" (Kor. Baegun-hwa-sang-eorok-seo), in Whole Collection of Korean Buddhist Texts (Kor. Han-guk-bulgyo-jeoonseo) 6, p.637.
8. Suh Yoon-kil, "The Acceptance of Linji Seon in Late Goryeo Period" (Kor. Gorywo-mal-imje-swon-ui-suyong), in Study of Korean Seon Thought (Kor. Han-guk-seon-sasang-yeon-gu)the Korean Buddhist Research Institute, Dongguk Univ. Press, 1984, pp.202-208.
9. Heo Heung-shik, "Revival of Goryeo Seon Order and Development of Ganhwa Seon" (Kor. Goryeo-seonjong-ui-buheung-gwa-ganhwa-seon-ui-jeon-gae), Gyujanggak 6, pp.11-18.pp.11-18.
10. Ko Ik-chin, "Nation-protecting Development of Goryeo Buddhist Thought" (Kor. Goryeo-bulgyo-sasang-ui-hoguk-jeok-jeon-gae) 2, in Memoirs of Buddhist Studies (Kor. Bulgyo-hakpo) 14, pp.52-53.
11. Sayings of Master Baegun (Kor. Baegun-hwasang-eorok), in Whole Collection of Korean Buddhist Texts 6, p.698.
13. Monument of King’s Teacher Seon-gak, in Whole Survey of Korean Monumental Inscriptions 1, p. 501.
14. Ko Ik-chin, Ibid, p.55.
15. Min Hyeon-ku, "Shindon’s coming to Power and Political Characteristics" (Kor. Shindon-ui-chipkkwon-gwa-keu-jeongchi-jeok-seongkkyeok), in Memoirs of History (Kor. Yeoksa-hakpo) 38 and 40, 1968.
16. Chae Sang-shik, “Developmental Phase and Tendency of Buddhist History in Late Goryeo Period” (Kor. Goryeo-hugi-bulgyo-sa-ui-jeon-gae-yangsang-gwa-keu-kyeonghyang), in Historical Education (Kor. Yeoksa-kyoyuk) 35, 1984, p. 136.
17. Sayings of Master Baegun, in Whole Collection of Korean Buddhist Texts 6, p.656.
18. Whole Collection of Korean Buddhist Texts 6, article on "death hymn" p.668.
19. Sayings of Master Baegun I, in Whole Collection of Korean Buddhist Texts 6, p.636.
20. Ibid., p.637
21. Seoong trans., Records of Linji (Kor. Imje-rok), Dongseo-munhwasa, 1974, p.63.
22. Sayings of Master Baegun (Kor. Baegun-hwasang-eorok) 1, in Whole Collection of Korean Buddhist Texts 6, p.641.
23. Ibid, p. 663.
24. Suh Yoon-kil, "The Acceptance of Linji Seon in Late Goryeo Period (Kor. Goryeo-mal-imje-seon-ui-suyong), in Study of Korean Seon Thought, the Korean Buddhist Research Institute, Dongguk Univ. Press, 1984, p.229.
25. Yu Chang, "Records of Master Taego" (Kor. Taego-hwasang-haengjang), in Whole Collection of Korean Buddhist Texts 6, p.697.
26. Sayings of Master Baegun, in Whole Collection of Korean Buddhist Texts 6, p. 649.
27. Ibid, p. 642.
28. Ibid, p.646.
30. Ibid, p.657.
33. Ibid., p.656.
34. Ibid, p.652.
35. Ibid, p.639.
36. Ibid, p.663.
39. Ibid., p.641.
40. Ibid., p.641.
41. Ibid., p.654.
42. This is a yak’s tail mounted on a wooden stick which is a sign of the office and position held by special monks.
43. Ibid, p.656.
44. Ibid., p.656.