The Buddhist world-view: the Middle Way, conditional production, no-self and emptiness
Buddhism begins from the Buddha’s enlightenment. Therefore the Buddhist world-view, view of life and values that the Buddha was enlightened to as the conditional production Dharma are the core that has to be cherished in any form of Buddhism. Ganhwa Seon is the same. The world that the Buddha and patriarchs were awakened to cannot be different. Ganhwa Seon does not have a different world-view or set of values. To say that Ganhwa Seon is an excellent practice and that it is the actualization of enlightenment right here does not mean it has a different “state of enlightenment.”
The Buddha said, “If you see conditional production you see the Dharma; and if you see the Dharma you see the Tathāgata.”
The conditional production Dharma is that this and that, you and I, good and evil, the world and the universe, while being mutually dependent, exist without ego. The whole universe enters into a mote of dust, and when a single, beautiful rose blooms, the universe blooms with it.
Where the principle of conditional production is unfolded, that is where all existence is empty, being non-existent. If all existence is only the ‘solitary I’ then no form of you can come into I. When life is manifested as no-self, the conditional production Dharma is again vivified, and while maintaining that mutuality of I and you, they are joined together as an entirety.
The proper characteristic of conditional production is also called the Middle Way, in which the relative world such as I am, you are, to be and not to be, like and dislike, and all this and that are simultaneously cut off. The core of early and Mahayana Buddhism is this “Middle Way conditional production.” It is the Middle Way because you and I are not independent realities, but exist within the relationship and because it achieves an harmonious totality in which such styles as I am unconditionally good and you are unconditionally evil do not confront each other. Śūnya (emptiness) thought expresses this conditional production, no-self and Middle Way even more dynamically. The core of the Vajracchedikā Sūtra and the Prajñāpāramitāhŗdaya Sūtra is the emptiness that is the Middle Way conditional production.
Emptiness is like pristine space. Pristine space does not increase or decrease, and does not come into being or disappear. That is buljeung bulgam bulsaeng bulmyeol. Our very existence is like that. And we must see that directly.
Patriarchal Seon is the Sect that most reliably shows one the Middle Way conditional production.
Patriarchal Seon is the sect that most faithfully experiences the Middle Way conditional production, which is the core thought of the Buddha, and has succeeded to it. Moreover, the Ganhwa Seon that is at the root of Patriarchal Seon is the practice method that most rapidly wakens one through the mind and the body to the principles of conditional production and that Middle Way via the hwadu.
The Buddha explained the reality of existence, and the proper characteristics of the world as conditional production. Therefore conditional production is the universal truth, the principles of the existence of the universe and the reality of life. A non-conditional production thought and action is a fiction and an illusion. The path to thoroughly awaken to all illusion and fiction is meditation. And so shouting and beating appear as ordinary matters. This is from where Seon Master Linji’s active and spirited Seon style derives.
If one clearly opens one’s eyes to the fact of the conditional production Dharma that is the basis for all existence, then naturally the practical deeds of empathetic compassion will flow forth. This is because the conditional-production style awakening destroys the fences that divide ‘I’ and ‘other’ in a moment. Seon practitioners must accompany the understanding of the correct views of the Middle Way with the practice that follows from that, and must stand firmly on such a world-view and set of values.
Seon practice that has not properly established a world-view grounded in the Buddha-Dharma can also fall at the slightest provocation into mysticism, functionalism, the ism of meditation and even into straightforward health promotion. Furthermore, a Seon that cannot change the quality of life falls into the supremacism of enlightenment and has the danger of making enlightenment itself a tool or objectivizing it. If one has not even got a basic understanding of the Buddha-Dharma, and one only sits unconditionally deep in the mountains, one cannot be a practitioner of Ganhwa Seon.