Everything, just-like-this


The teaching in my school (Kwam Um) is very straightforward. There are some things we hear again and again — like “The dog is barking. Woof! Woof!” — which seemed quite comical the first time I heard them. By their very simplicity, they made no sense to me.

Sometimes I repeat some of these things to my friend who practices in the Tibetan school, and she says that Zen seems so obscure — it is too difficult for her. Well, I never argue with that. Many of these things seemed opaque or obscure to me too (and some still do).

Your mind is clear like space, which means it is clear like a mirror. Everything is reflected just as it is: when red comes, red appears in the mirror; when white comes, white. The sky is blue. The tree is green. A dog is barking, “Woof! Woof!” Sugar is sweet. When you see something, that is your true nature. When you hear, smell, taste, touch, and think, that is also your true nature, your original substance and Buddha. Everything is already the truth.

That teaching came from Zen Master Seung Sahn, in The Compass of Zen (p. 261).



6 responses

  1. Dae Soen Sa Nim always used to say, “You must become more stupid!” One time he said it to me, prefacing the phrase by saying, “Your mind is very clever..”

    If “ordinary mind is the Way,” to quote Mazu, why can’t my clever mind be ordinary? I’m probably being too clever right now…


  2. I laughed out loud when I read your post โ€œThe dog is barking. Woof! Woof!โ€ – my neighbor’s dog has been barking for a half hour. Synchronistically in the moment – then again, maybe not ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. @johnherberger, we used to sit in a room where a very loud bird was often chirping just outside. One day a woman said something about the darned bird, with that darned chirping all the time. She was joking about how easily she is distracted during meditation, and everyone laughed along with her.

    The reason I laughed was that sometimes when I heard the bird, I realized that my mind had been far away, and the bird brought me back — and just as often, I’d focus on the bird, and the sound would send me away. Whenever I hear or read the sentence about the dog, I always remember that bird, even though we have not sat in that room for a few years now.

    Stay with the bird while the bird is there. Let the bird go when it goes.

  4. Daesonsa-nim said to me in interview once; “You have no choice.”
    I asked him what he meant by that and he said, “You believe that you have a choice, but this isn’t true.”
    I told him I didn’t understand, so he then said; “You have no choice, and until you realize that you have no choice, only then will you get a choice.”
    It took me a long time to understand what he meant.

  5. Paul, what you wrote made me remember something a teacher I know has said many times:

    “You don’t know you have choices until you know you have choices.”

    Sometimes I hear this as: “You don’t have choices until you know you have choices.” But that is not how he says it.

    What you have quoted from Dae Soen Sa Nim is different still. Same? Or different?

    Oh, phooey — I have the answer to THAT. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Daesonsa-nim was a master at the brief statement. He will be remembered, much as Zhaouzhou (Joju) for having a sharp tongue and an even sharper wit. I miss him so much. Every time I saw him he was smiling, and he would always give me great encouragement. He would say, “Oh, the great abbot is here, how are you?” He was truly a Zen Master of transcendence.