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by Zen Master Y.S. Seong Do

Ipje Dharma Speech of the 10-Day Retreat in Sommerswalde
Vesag Ceremony 2543
On the Heart Sutra
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20 September 2002
The Ipje Dharma Speech of the 10-Day Retreat
at Schloss Sommerswalde

Dharma Speech by Ven. Zen Master Young San Seong Do

(hitting the dharma table three times with the Zen staff)

What is the dharma?

Buddha says:

“All that has forms is unreal and false.
If you see all forms as non-forms,
then the Tathagata (true nature) can be seen.”

This means that you should cut off attachment to all forms and attain your true self.

(holding up the Zen staff)

When you see this staff and give rise to even a single thought, then you are already attached to this stick's form.

(hitting the dharma table with the Zen staff)

When you hear this sound, if you have even a single opinion separately, then you also fall into the sound.
Then: How can you be free from such attachments to forms and sounds?

Aaak!.................. (a shout, called ”Hal” in Korean)
Put it all down!

What is it that sees and hears? Whosoever, if entering this gate, must relinquish everything and make his mind clear.

(after a break)

Good evening.  I wholeheartedly welcome you and thank you for your attending this 10-day intensive retreat despite your busy schedules.

(chanting a Zen verse)

”Going through a dense forest, seeking for my old home.
From a wooden cock' s crowing at the break of dawn
I knew I had finally returned home.
Entering the yard of my old house
The willow is still green and the flowers are still red.

What is your true home?  Where about is it located?

An eminent teacher chanted:

Coming empty handed to this world
Going empty handed to the other world
This is our life.
When I was born, where did I come from?
When I die, where will I go?
Life is like a floating cloud that appears
Death is like a floating cloud that disappears.
Originally: No floating cloud as such.
The same is true of birth and death, coming and going.
But one thing is there, always shining clearly.
Originally it is free from life and death.

What do we live for? What is the real purpose of our lives?

The above Zen verse says: “One thing is there, always shining clearly.”

What does this one thing mean?
The above verse is a good expression of a life of serene enjoyment always gazing at one's own mind. Quite so, gazing at one's mind is the greatest pleasure of a practitioner and keeping one's mind pure and clear is the real purpose of a practitioner's life.

(chanting a Zen verse)

What thing is this?
If you clearly know this message,
Even though a body, covered in ragged garment,
The mind, leisurely and peaceful
Always strolls on Prajna Peak.

2500 years ago, Buddha was giving sermons on the Lotus Sutra at Grdhrakuta Mountain (Vulture Peak). One day Buddha went up to the dharma rostrum, sat down, and remained mute for a long time. The large congregation of practitioners was puzzled looking at him, curious. Amidst this silence Buddha slowly hold up a lotus flower and showed it to the congregation. No one could fathom out why Buddha held up a flower towards them. Sitting far back in the crowd, covered in rags, Mahakashyapa had a big smile on his face. Seeing him, Buddha declared to the congregation:

“The authentic enlightenment of the Tathagata has now been passed on to Mahakashyapa!”

This is how Mahakashyapa attained “the Dharma Seal of Buddha“ and became the first in the lineage of Patriarchs.

But of course, for practitioners like us, this is but a story told by man, completely irrelevant to our lives. What is important to us is why Buddha presented a flower instead of giving a dharma sermon, and why Mahakashyapa smiled. This is of paramount importance to practitioners.

We must know that Buddha was undoubtedly using an expedient in trying to awaken us to something, and that Mahakashyapa must have penetrated into the very meaning intended by Buddha.

Therefore, if only we were to penetrate into the meaning of Mahakashyapa’s smile, we could penetrate also into the meaning of Buddha's raising of a flower.

Then: What really was the meaning of Mahakashyapa's smile?

Naturally, this meaning should not be told in words owing to the fact that exposing the key to the gongan (koan) is strictly forbidden. But here, borrowing some words from an eminent teacher, I would like to present you with a hint.

An eminent teacher said:  “Mahakashyapa’s smile was a mocking smile.”

Then I want to ask you again: Why did Mahakashyapa laugh at Buddha's holding a flower?

Honourable practitioners, what do you behold now? What do you listen to now? And what do you intend to achieve through this 10-day intensive retreat?

Buddha has declared: ”There is no separate seeing, no separate hearing,” and he continued, “There is no separate thing to gain nor is there something to accomplish.”

Hence we practitioners should, sitting for our lifetimes on our meditation cushions, see only what must be seen, hear only what must be heard, and realize the original message of ”no separate gain and no loss”. Seeing only what must be seen means to see your true self. When you see your true self, you and all forms become one. Hearing only what must be heard means to hear your true self's sound. When you realize that all sounds are your own sound, you and all sounds become one. Thus, when you and all phenomena really become one, this is called samadhi -“no mind“.
But there is actually not even something that could separately be called one mind or no mind. Right now, if you, practitioners, truly see only the thing that must be seen, then, while listening to my dharma speech, you cannot help but smile like Mahakashyapa, i.e. that it can also be called a mocking smile. But being attracted to my voice or my form, without seeing what must really be seen, some of you might even go mad.

That is to say: One who seeks for the dharma outside his mind or separately inside his mind is constantly attracted to names and forms. Such a person, even if Buddha were to raise a flower in front of him at this very moment, would be attached to the form of the flower or immediately wonder about a motive or reason hidden behind Buddha's action. Why? Because such a person lacks the mind-eye to look back into his true self. When an abnormal phenomenon should appear, such a person would lose his mind easily and fall victim to the situation. This sort of person, deluded by his own thinking, always believes that his thoughts are Buddha or God. How will he ever be able to realize the truth?

A Seon (Jap.: Zen) practitioner must, encountering any kind of barrier, at one single thought open the mind eye that would turn the light of awareness back to its source and gaze at his true nature. Then, realizing that there is no separate thing apart from him, he will come to know that all is his true self, that is nothing other than: Mountain is mountain and water is water.

Originally there is no trace of eyes and ears.

(chanting a Zen verse)

”In the midst of this, who really has the bright awareness?
Once turning one's body to where even emptiness has ended:
Dogs barking, donkeys braying are all but a way of life.”

I ask you one more time: How do you understand Mahakashyapa’s smile?

If you want to realize this meaning, relinquish all thoughts and only hang on to the question: What is this, who am I?
Through looking back to one's self in pure question one comes to know that within this entire universe the only thing that one has been completely ignorant of is in fact one's true self. One has to steadfastly drive into the unknown with an intense question. But in doing so, producing analytic thinking and therein obtaining an answer would be as pathetic as catching the tail of a ghost. So, when such a pleasant or glorious answer arises immediately turn back in with doubt and ask yourself: Who is the one that knows this answer?

Now I ask you one more time: At Buddha's holding a flower in his hand, what did Mahakashyapa see?

If you answer: “Mahakashyapa saw his mind!”, I will give you 30 blows with this staff. Why? If Mahakashyapa saw "his mind", then what is Mahakashyapa’s mind?

But even if you were to answer: “Mahakashyapa did not see his mind!”,  I will again hit you 30 times because: What is now Mahakashyapa’s no-mind? Who makes his mind and his no-mind?

Then: How can you dodge my 30 blows?

Relinquish everything! Return directly back to the “What is this?”-gongan (koan)! Then your mind will be pure and clear. And then this world will be empty like the space.

In this way, anyone who finds his true self and keeps it will never lose the smile like the one of Patriarch Mahakashyapa, anytime and anywhere. And just as Buddha found rag-clothed Mahakashyapa even though he was sitting far back, hidden behind the crowd, Buddha will always watch and protect you.

I hope all you practitioners will practice hard for 10 days and obtain excellent results.

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