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Dharma Talk to Begin 2012 Summer Retreat - Supreme Patriarch, the Most Ven. Jinje
The Most Ven. Jinje, the Supreme Patriarch of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism delivered a Dharma teaching to proclaim the commencement of the summer retreat season (June 4, 2012) for the Buddhist Era of 2555.
On the eve of the three-month retreat in the summer and the winter, all the members of the monastic community gather together to draw up the list of offices which must be filled during the retreat season. This list shows the duty of each office during retreat period (龍象榜). Then, on the first day of the retreat, the Seon center calls the assembly and supplicates to the head monk or other great Seon Master for the Dharma teaching to start the three-month long intense meditation practice.
On June 4, over two thousand and four hundred monks and nuns entered the summer retreat in approximately hundred Seon centers across the country. During a retreat called angeo (安居; lit. to reside in peace), practitioners devote themselves on Seon meditation without leaving the temple gate. Monks, nuns and lay practitioners at the Buddhist temples elsewhere also select the method most expedient to them and apply strenuous and sustained effort. The following is the full script of the Dharma talk by the Supreme Patriarch the Most Ven. Jinje, officially opening the 2012 summer retreat season.
Test the Wisdom Eye of Chinese Chan
Supreme Patriarch, the Most Ven. Jinje
〔Ascended the Dharma seat and raised the Dharma staff (拄杖子) to the assembly,〕
The True Self is right in front of one’s own face (面前). Have you all seen your True Self?
The True Self constantly goes in and out of people’s own faces, but still it is hard to see. <面門出入見還難>
An enlightened sage of no status is always just an inch away. <無位眞人咫尺間>
This body wandering on the road is as light as a single blade of leaf, <去路一身輕似葉>
But its name is as high and hefty as a mountain, tens of thousands of years old. <高名千古重如山>
Clear-eyed ones never lose sight of the True Self day in and day out, and embrace it every step of the Way. However, if one is ignorant of the True Self, although it constantly comes and goes right in front of one’s own face, it is difficult to recognize.
The True Self, which is formless, contains the ultimate truth of the whole universes. Attaining this True Self is indeed becoming the Buddha, who realizes the full ability to function freely without any material or mental constraints, masterfully unfurling or furling the magnificent exhibition of truth, spontaneously giving or taking it away.
Today signals the beginning of the summer retreat. The weight of karma from the past, the present and the future, crushing down on us like a mighty mountain, must completely melt away for us to be liberated from suffering. Therefore, everyone from the four-fold community should grapple ardently and urgently with hwadu, or critical phrases. Everyone should firmly set his/her mind to absolutely know the True Self and transform the every cell of this body, when we have this good fortune of getting acquainted with the Buddha-Dharma in this life. If you do not have a hwadu yet, then choose this as your hwadu here and now:
“What is the True Self before we are born of the parents?”
Hold this hwadu at all times, awake or asleep, fervently investigating and doubting. Keep pressing the question, “What is the True Self?” thousands of times or tens of thousands of times, whether seating or standing, coming or going, until it generates the doubt so intense and dense that it unceasingly flows like a fierce torrent of water. One would become oblivious of the passage of night or day, and forget how to even see or hear. As the practice matures, eyes and ears are suddenly open to the reality at a single instance, shattering the hwadu and revealing the True Self from endless eons ago. Then, one shares the full bliss of the Buddhas and sages of all ages and the glories of a fearless hero who rules the world dauntlessly.
This is the process of awakening to the true nature, the most precious and noble task of all.
Once entering samadhi through meditation, one’s mind and life are at peace, no longer disturbed by discords. Unfettered by eighty four thousand kinds of afflictions such as hatred, feeling of indebtedness, jealousy, envy, enmity or contention, everyday for the rest of the life passes in serenity. Seon meditation is a truly wonderful affair. Once our time in this life is over, one jumps to another body, like moving from one house to another, joyously and unobstructedly.
Fellow practitioners of the four-fold community!
You are here today, but may be gone tomorrow. That is life. All sentient beings are chained by the colossal bondage of unwholesome karma accumulated through countless past lives; if you succumb to the lure of sloth and procrastinate today, you may be visited upon by the furies of King Yama tomorrow. Take to heart this exalted teaching and do not waste time in idle gossip or the useless pursuit of dualistic right or wrong. Just keep asking and keep doubting relentlessly, “What is the True Self before we are born of the parents?” “What is the True Self?” whether seating or standing, coming or going.
In March 2001, I made a round of pilgrimages to all the original sites of 9 Mountain Schools of Chinese Chan. The visit was made as part of preparation for 2002 International Seon Buddhist Panca Parisad with the purpose of discovering and inviting a virtuous teacher of Chinese Chan who can present to the rest of the world the offerings of Dharma.
Propagation of Dharma through the direct transmission of Sakyamuni Buddha’s mind (心印法) originated in India and blossomed into the Seon lineage in China one thousand and five hundred years ago, continuously passed on through the generations of Seon masters to the present day Korea. However, sixty years of communist rule in China severely undermined the basis for monastic existence, leaving only the empty shell of temple buildings.
Still, I toured the sites of 9 Mountain Schools with twenty five companions and exchanged the supreme word of wisdom with spiritual patriarchs and head monks in a hope to find at least one cleared eyed master in all of the immense land mass of China. I had to be prudent in my search, for the invitee would represent the entire Chinese Chan lineage.
The very first stop was Guangdesi Temple(廣德寺) where Bodhidharma presided over for the first time in China, but we were only shown the pavilion where Bodhidharma ate his meals and washed himself and told of its history. So we departed soon afterward and went to Erzusi Temple (二祖寺), but the temple that greeted us was without a master. After paying homage to the Buddha, we headed straight to Sanzusi Temple (三祖寺). The vastness of the Chinese continent prevented us from arriving in time. It was after ten at night, but despite the late hour, the entire monastic community, including the head monk, was standing outside the temple gate in two lines to welcome us. When we were invited to the inside of the temple and served tea, I asked the head monk:
“The third Patriarch Sengcan (三祖-僧璨) wrote,
The path of profound truth is never difficult, <至道無難>
But it only shuns the discriminating and grasping mind. <唯嫌揀擇>
If one is free of attachment and aversion, <但莫憎愛>
It is empty, luminous and clear. <通然明白>
What do you believe is like to be free from discriminating and grasping mind (揀擇)?”
The head monk replied, “I will do my best to translate the Xinsinming (信心銘) and use it to propagate the Dharma.”
The next day, we visited Sizusi Temple (四祖寺) and asked the head monk there,
“How do you see Bodhidharma’s facing the wall (面壁) for nine year in silent meditation?” The head monk could not brave a remark.
We left Sizusi Temple (四祖寺) and went to Wuzusi Temple (五祖寺). After paying homage to the Buddha, I asked the head monk over the meal,
“The Fifth Patriarch Hongren (五祖-弘忍) in the past sometimes preached gradual cultivation (漸修法), but sometimes advocated non-arising Dharma of sudden awakening (頓悟無生法) too. What is he teaching now?”
The head monk at Wuzusi Temple (五祖寺) could not answer my question either. So, we proceeded straight to Baolinsi Temple(寶林寺), the monastery of Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of the Chan School (六祖-慧能) and asked the head monk there,
“The Sixth Patriarch often talked about ‘Originally not a single thing (本來無一物).’ What do you see in his teaching?” The head monk was unable to offer any clear insight.
Then, we moved on to Yunmensi Temple (雲門寺) where Master Yunmen (雲門) presided over and inquired of the head monk there:
“When Yunmen studied under Master Cuiyan (翠巖), he delivered a Dharma talk at the end of a retreat and put a question to the assembly, ‘I have presented a variety of Dharma teachings to you for the past three months. Have you seen the old monk’s eyebrows?’ To this, Yunmen put forward a single letter reply ‘barrier (關).’ Where does the meaning of the word ‘barrier 關’ lie?”
The head monk responded, “How can we hazard a guess at the secretly transmitted wisdom (密傳) of Buddhas and Patriarchs (佛祖)?”
Upon this, we immediately departed to Linjiyuan Temple (臨濟院) where Master Linji founded his Chan School. The temple was located in the periphery of the downtown. When we arrived at the temple, we ran into the congregation pouring out of the building after the evening chanting. We exchanged greetings with the spiritual patriarch of the temple in the courtyard and I commented,
“Nowhere to be seen is the dignified teachings of Master Linji. Only commanding presence around the temple is an ancient pagoda.” To my exasperation, no spontaneous response was offered.
We left only after one meal and traveled to Zhaozhouyuan (趙州院), which was hundreds of kilometers away. Master Zhaozhou’s monastery was also located near a village. On the next day of our arrival, the head monk received us in his room and served us tea. Hanging on the wall was the famous Chan phrase ‘Have a cup of tea (喫茶去),’ attributed to the great Chan Master Zhaozhou.
One day, a monk entered Master Zhaozhou’s room and the Master Zhaozhou asked him,
“Have you arrived yet?”
The monk answered, “No, not yet.”
Master Zhaozhou said, “Have a cup of tea.”
Then, he repeated the same question to another monk when he stepped into the room.
“Have you arrived yet?”
He replied, “Yes, I have.”
Master Zhaozhou said to him, “Have a cup of tea.”
The abbot (院主), having witnessed these exchanges, protested to Master Zhaozhou, “How come you told both of them to have a cup of tea when one has come and the other has not?”
Master Zhaozhou replied “Why don’t you have a cup of tea, too?” Master Zhaozhou offered a cup of tea to whoever came to seek his Dharma teaching.
Upon seeing this phrase, this mountain monk asked the head monk,
“Master Zhaozhou told everyone to have a cup of tea. What did Master Zhaozhou mean by that?”
Then, the head monk lifted a tea up in front of him and handed it to me. I added,
“This mountain monk is going to receive and drink it, but you also must accept a cup of tea from me,” but it failed to elicit an answer that implies a clear understanding of where the word comes down to (落處).
Thus, we have toured all nine temples but all we met were spiritual patriarchs and head monks who were mute with no inner substance (內實). At the end, Zen Master Jinghui (淨慧) from Zhaozhouyuan, who handed me a tea cup, was invited to represent Chinese Chan at 2002 International Seon Buddhist Panca Parisad.
Many Koreans have gone to China to have their practice tested and their awakening recognized by Chinese masters in the long history of Korean Buddhism, but this must have been the first time when Koreans crossed the continent to check China’s wisdom eye.
We brought the letter by Seon Master Seoong to Japan in search of a Japanese Zen master and consequently Ven. Sogen (宗玄) came to Korea on behalf of Japanese Rinzai school. However, 2002 International Seon Buddhist Panca Parisad, once opened, confirmed that the genuine thread spurn directly from Sakyamuni Buddha’s mind (心印法) remains and continues uninterruptedly only in Korea.
It is indeed regrettable that the sixty years of communist rule has wiped out the Dharma of Seon, and that there is no longer a truly cleared eye master who could continue the Chan lineage in China, the birthplace of Seon Buddhism.
Therefore, everyone of the four-fold community in Korea has a solemn duty to practice the correct meditation and make sincere and devoted efforts so as to pass the Dharma of Buddha’s mind (心印法) transmitted through Korea’s luminous lineage down to the countless generations to come.
What do you think of the following verse after all?
Holding the golden wheel and clearing the four ocean, <手握金輪淸四海>
Filling the innumerable eons with sages and saints. <聖躬彌億萬斯年>
The Great Patriarch hit the Dharma desk (法床) once with the Dharam staff (拄杖子) and descended from the Dharma seat.