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Dharma Words for Summer Retreat from the Supreme Patriarch, the Most Venerable BeopJoen
"Can you talk without using your neck and mouth?"
Establishing history-making systems "setting rules to regulate monks’ behavior and for confessional ceremonies" beginning with this summer retreat
Greeting the summer retreat on the May 19th (by lunar calender April 15th) in Buddha era 2552, the Supreme Patriarch, the Most Venerable BeopJeon, gave dharma words encouraging monks all over Korea.
By giving an example of talks between Pai-Chang and his disciples, the Most Venerable BeopJeon said, "All the masters including Pai-chang tested people with Seon dialogue that was like thorn bushes" and he also emphasized "Practitioners investigate only living phrases, never contemplating dead phrases".
He continued with "Entering the summer retreat in the Year of the Mouse, I urge you one more time to furiously investigate and break the hwadu "Can you speak without using your neck and mouth?".
One night before the summer retreat, this year on the evening of the 18th (Sun.), all the monks who are to participate in the retreat gather and make a list outlining the jobs that each monk has to do. At about 10 AM on the first morning of the retreat, each temple invites a senior monk such as the abbot of the temple to give dharma words for the retreat, and then the monks enter the 3-month long meditation practice.
In the Jogye Order, every year more than 2200 monks devote themselves to meditation practice in around 100 temples across Korea, with permission from the temple they want to stay and practice at, and other temples also strive for practice during the retreat period.
In addition, the Order has established a system for each participating temple to set strict rules regulating monks’ behavior, and it has started confessional ceremonies, both beginning with this summer’s retreat. On the 19th of May, the first day of summer retreat, monks are supposed to report the rules to the main temple of their parish, and during the retreat period they will hold confessional ceremonies by parish, with all monks participating.
The Order expects these two developments to help revive the Sanghas’ common agendas as well as enhance the Order’s tradition of practice.
Before the retreat started, the Central Assembly passed a bylaw for these two actions with a unanimous vote on March 20th, and a related enforcement ordinance was made public on April 24th.
Following is the entire dharma speech for the summer retreat in the Year of the Mouse from Supreme Patriarch Most Venerable BeopJeon
Can you speak without using your neck and mouth?
Seon Master Pai-chang asked monks "Can you speak without using your neck and mouth?"
Wei-shan Ling-yu said "why don’t you answer first?", and Ohbong Sanggwan said "Why don’t you get rid of your neck and mouth first?" Also, Yunyan Tansheng replied "I thought you got rid of your neck and mouth already, but do you still have them?"
Seon Master Yunmen once said, "There are countless dead people on flat land. Only the ones who are able to go through thorn bushes can be regarded as skillful ones." Likewise, all the masters including Pai-chang tested people with Seon dialogue that was like thorn bushes. That’s because it was impossible to test monks properly with ordinary words.
Therefore, any practitioners who have the rightly-opened view are supposed to realize exactly where the words fall. It’s easy once you realize. When you find out there’s a strand of way in the question, neither the tip of a knife nor the tip of a finger will ever be hurt. Accordingly, such practitioners investigate only the living phrases, never contemplating dead phrases. Masters’ guiding of people is just like teaching them that there’s a truth to pulling out nails and wedges.
* Translated by Kim Soo Hee