Wake Up From The Dream

Talk excerpt with Zen Master Bon Soeng from 9/09/09. Recorded at the Empty Gate Zen Center.

Talk excerpt with Zen Master Bon Soeng from 9/09/09. Recorded at the Empty Gate Zen Center. Website: http://www.emptygatezen.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/emptygatezen Twitter: http://twitter.com/emptygatezen

what is zen?

Zen is understanding yourself

One day a student from Chicago came to the Providence Zen Center and asked Seung Sahn Soen-Sa, “What is Zen?”

Soen-sa held his Zen stick above his head and said, “Do you understand?”

The student said, “I don’t know.”

Soen-sa said, “This don’t know mind is you. Zen is understanding yourself.”

“What do you understand about me? Teach me.”

Soen-sa said, “In a cookie factory, different cookies are baked in the shape of animals, cars, people, and airplanes. They all have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same dough, and they all taste the same.

“In the same way, all things in the universe – the sun, the moon, the stars, mountains, rivers, people, and so forth – have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same substance. The universe is organized into pairs of opposites: light and darkness, man and woman, sound and silence, good and bad. But all these opposites are mutual, because they are made from the same substance. Their names and their forms are different, but their substance is the same. Names and forms are made by your thinking. If you are not thinking and have no attachment to name and form, then all substance is one. Your don’t know mind cuts off all thinking. This is your substance. The substance of this Zen stick and your own substance are the same. You are this stick; this stick is you.”

The student said, “Some philosophers say this substance is energy, or mind, or God, or matter. Which is the truth?”

Soen-sa said, “Four blind men went to the zoo and visited the elephant. One blind man touched its side and said, ‘The elephant is like a wall.’ The next blind man touched its trunk and said, ‘The elephant is like a snake.’ The next blind man touched its leg and said, ‘The elephant is like a column.’ The last blind man touched its tail and said, ‘The elephant is like a broom.’ Then the four blind men started to fight, each one believing that his opinion was the right one. Each only understood the part he had touched; none of them understood the whole.

“Substance has no name and no form. Energy, mind, God, and matter are all name and form. Substance is the Absolute. Having name and form is having opposites. So the whole world is like the blind men fighting among themselves. Not understanding yourself is not understanding the truth. That is why there is fighting among ourselves. If all the people in the world understood themselves, they would attain the Absolute. Then the world would be at peace. World peace is Zen.”

The student said, “How can practicing Zen make world peace?”

Soen-sa said, “People desire money, fame, sex, food, and rest. All this desire is thinking. Thinking is suffering. Suffering means no world peace. Not thinking is not suffering. Not suffering means world peace. World peace is the Absolute. The Absolute is I.”

The student said, “How can I understand the Absolute?”

Soen-sa said, “You must first understand yourself.”

“How can I understand myself?”

Soen-sa held up the Zen stick and said, “Do you see this?”

He then quickly hit the table with the stick and said, “Do you hear this? This stick, this sound, your mind – are they the same or different?”

The student said, “The same.”

Soen-sa said, “If you say they are the same, I will hit you thirty times. If you say they are different, I will still hit you thirty times. Why?”

The student was silent.

Soen-sa shouted, “KATZ!!!” Then he said, “Spring comes, the grass grows by itself.”

From The Kwan Um School: Sayings of Zen Master Kyong Ho

This piece was sent out as part of the Kwan Um School of Zen Weekly Teaching Piece email series. You can sign up for that series here.

Sayings of Zen Master Kyong Ho
(Part 1)


1) Don’t wish for perfect health. In perfect health there is greed and wanting. So an ancient said, “Make good medicine from the suffering of sickness.”

2) Don’t hope for a life without problems. An easy life results in a judgmental and lazy mind. So an ancient once said, “Accept the anxieties and difficulties of this life.”

3) Don’t expect your practice to be always clear of obstacles. Without hindrances the mind that seeks enlightenment may be burnt out. So an ancient once said, “Attain deliverance in disturbances.”

4) Don’t expect to practice hard and not experience the weird. Hard practice that evades the unknown makes for a weak commitment. So an ancient once said, “Help hard practice by befriending every demon.”

5) Don’t expect to finish doing something easily. If you happen to acquire something easily the will is made weaker. So an ancient once said, “Try again and again to complete what you are doing.”
— http://www.kwanumzen.org/

Pain and Suffering

Nancy Brown Hedgpeth, JDPSN on the Difference between Pain and Suffering

During a talk at the Cambridge Zen Center Nancy Brown Hedgpeth, JDPSN talked about the difference between pain and suffering. Please watch this from the heart video. Also check out our youtube channel and our website www.cambridgezen.com