International Zen Temple
Treatise on the Awakening of the Mind to Practice
The Diamond Sutra
The Heart Sutra
On the Awakening of
the Mind to Practice
The Diamond Sutra Book
The Diamond Sutra Audio Book

Won Hyo Dae Sa
(617 - 686)

Translated by Ven. Zen Master Young San Seong Do

Treatise on
the Awakening of the Mind
to Practice

by Won Hyo Dae Sa

Generally speaking, all Buddhas have adorned the palace of tranquil extinction by means of having practiced religious austerities, abandoning all desires for infinite kalpas. And all sentient beings transmigrate (suffering endlessly) within the doors to the burning house because of not having forsaken all greed and desires for countless periods of time.


The way to the heavenly paradise is not barred; yet few enter there, because most falsely adopt the three poisonous passions as their own possessions. And many enter the inferno that is without any seductions,
because they falsely take it that the four snakes (their bodies) and five desires are the jewels of their minds.


Who would not want to retire into the depths of a mountain and cultivate the Path? Yet, few people translate such views into action, because they are obsessed by their love and lust. Even though you won’t take to the woods of a mountain to cultivate your mind, you should always strive to perform good deeds to the best of your ability.


If you can renounce your own pleasures (in order to practice the Path), you will be trusted and revered like the sages. If you are able to go through ascetic practices (for the Path), you will be venerated like the Buddha.
 One who is only addicted to material well-being is but a member of the family of demons (mara). But one who practices charity with compassion (maitri) is the follower of the Dharma-king.


The rugged rocks of a high mountain are where the wise abide, and the deep valley of green pines is where a practitioner remains. When hungry, a seeker should satisfy his starving stomach by eating fruit from the trees, and when thirsty, he should appease his thirst with flowing water.


Though you may lavish care on your body with good food, it will inevitably collapse. Howsoever cautiously you preserve yourself with soft clothing, your life-span will, without fail, come to an end.


A seeker of the Path should choose an echoing rock-cave as a hall for chanting the Buddha’s name and comfort himself with the thought that the sad cry of a wild goose (flying by) is a companion to his heart.
 Even if his knees should feel as cold as ice from prostrating himself
(to the Buddha), he should have no thought of a warm fire. Even when he suffers from the gnawing pain of his hungry stomach, he should cherish no thought of food.


One hundred years are over in no time. Then, why not cultivate yourself?
How long do you think your life is, that you idle your time away without practicing?


One who renounces all attachments in his mind is called a sa mun (sramana: a Buddhist monk). And that which severs the connection with worldly fame and desire is called chul ga (pravrajya: leaving home).
 If one who practices puts on beautiful clothes, it is like a dog who puts on the hide of an elephant. A practitioner who desires love is like a hedgehog who crawls into a rat’s hole.


Although one possesses some talent and wisdom, as long as he stays in his worldly home in the village, all the Buddhas feel pity and compassion for him. Even if one has little or no ability for the practice of the Path, if he dwells in a mountain-hut, all the sages and saints will take great delight in such a person.

Even if a person has considerable ability and learnings (for the practice of the Path), if he doesn’t follow the precepts, it is as if he were guided to a cache of jewels, but were not going to own them.
Although one may practice diligently, if he has no wisdom (to enlightenment), he is just like hoping to go east, while in fact heading towards the west.


The practices of those with wisdom are like preparing a meal by cooking rice, but the practices of those without wisdom are like trying to prepare a meal by cooking sand.

Everyone knows well how to gratify his hungry stomach by eating food,
but no one seems to know how to purify his deluded thoughts by studying the Buddha dharma.


The combination of practice with wisdom is like the two wheels of a carriage. Likewise, the salvation of one’s own self and next, that of others, are like the two wings of a bird.


You should pray for the almsgivers after receiving a bowl of gruel in the morning, if you, then, don’t understand the true meaning of the prayer, you should feel ashamed of facing them.
And you should recite the sutra after receiving a bowl of rice in the evening, if you, then also, don’t realize its essential meaning, shouldn’t you express deep regret towards all sages and the saints?


People hate maggots (with tails) that do not distinguish clean from dirty,
but the sages abhor a Buddhist monk (sramana) who does not distinguish the pure from the defiled.


If you wish to free yourself from all the clamour of the world and ascend to the heavens, the precepts are a good ladder. Hence, if one who violates the precepts tries to be a field of blessedness for others, it is like a bird with broken wings trying to fly up into the sky carrying a tortoise on its back.
One who hasn’t yet purified oneself from sin cannot purify others of sin. And yet, how can one who doesn’t follow the precepts accept offerings from others?


An empty carcass without practice, even if supported, is of no benefit. Ephemerally floating life, no matter how preciously you treat it, cannot be preserved.


If you wish to attain the virtue of the great patriarchs, you should be able to endure all kinds of suffering for a long time, and if you expect to ascend the lion-throne of Buddha, you should turn your back on all desires forever. When a practitioner’s mind is purified, all heavens join together in his praise. When a man of the Path harbors sensual desires, the good spirits leave him.


The four elements suddenly disperse and your body can no longer be preserved.
Today as well, the evening has already arrived, and the morn is nigh.
 Hasten to practice!
 Worldly pleasures inevitably become sufferings – why cling to them?
To be patient once, joy will last for long – why not cultivate yourself?


The greedy attachments of a path-man are the dishonour of a practitioner,
and the wealth of a pravrajaka (a home-leaving seeker) becomes the laughingstock of virtuous men.


Your excuses are never exhausted; that is why your attachments never come to an end. The times you say “the next time” are also infinite, and so your affections are never severed.
Like this, worldly affairs are without end, so they are never relinquished.
Such scheming is endless, that is why the thought that you try to put an end to it does not arise.

“Today”, (you always say, “I will do it only today”) is never exhausted.
That is why the days of your evildoing keep on growing.
“Tomorrow”, (you always say, “I will certainly do it tomorrow”) is also without end. That is why the days for your good deeds keep on diminishing. “This year” is never exhausted, so there is no end to your passions and delusions. “Next years” are without end, so you never advance to enlightenment.


As the hours keep passing by, a day and a night are soon over. As the days keep passing by, a month is soon over. As the months keep passing by, the end of the year suddenly arrives. As the years keep passing by, you, in no time, arrive at the doorsill of your death.


A broken carriage cannot be used anymore. Thus, if you get old, you cannot cultivate yourself. Lying down, you get lazy, and sitting down, you get distracted. 


How many days and nights of your life-time have you passed in vain without cultivating yourself? How long will your empty body be alive? And yet, why won’t you practice during your whole life?
This body will inevitably come to an end. Then, how will your next body be?
 How urgent, how urgent, indeed.

English translation by Ven. Zen Master Y. S. Seong Do

© 2019. All rights reserved.

^ top

Copypright © International-Zen-Temple gem. e.V. • Oranienstraße 22 • 10999 Berlin | Impressum | Privacy Notice