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Making Ganhwa Seon Accessible to the General Public
Master Subul Sunim, Anguk Zen Cente
“Seon meditation” is a direct method that can cut right to the core and reveal the Truth immediately by bringing the light of prajna wisdom into our mind and dispelling our inner darkness and ignorance. Seon emerged in our history to prove one more time that Buddha’s teachings aim only to turn all beings away from ignorance and guide them to awakening.
In Seon, one must break through invisible mental barriers and experience absolute freedom through meditation practice. Through this, one can surpass conventional morality that distinguishes between good and bad, and attain the wisdom to know that there is neither good nor bad.
First blossomed in India, this wise teaching evolved into Mahayana Buddhism. Different meditation methods have developed since the time of the Buddha, but it is particularly fortunate that we can still learn from the living legacy of Patriarchal Seon, Ganhwa Seon, and Mukjo Seon (silent illumination meditation), which led practitioners to experience the state of Buddhahood suddenly and directl..
What is Ganhwa Seon Practice?
1) The Three Essential Elements of Hwadu Practice
What are the actual steps to be taken to lead sentient beings to the sudden awakening? What are Ganhwa principles and disciplines upon which Ganhwa Seon practice is established? I have taught Ganhwa Seon to some 10,000 people over the past 20 years, and I am confident that Ganhwa Seon could be, and should be made available to lay Buddhists. At AngukZenCenter, those who wish to learn GanhwaSeon are asked to sit in for the Dharma class for beginners.
Before starting meditation practice, one should have the right motivation, since redevotion and great determination to see it through to the end.
Beginners of Ganhwa Seon must have great faith in their Seon master and hwadu practice. Without such faith, one cannot overcome various hindrances and obscurations that are bound to arise from one’s prejudice and consequently trouble practitioners in the course of meditation. Only firm, determined conviction will carry the practitioners to the end.
In the beginning of practice, one will inevitably suffer from extreme hardships, both physical and mental, so much so that one may worry that some irrevocable catastrophe awaits. One can surmount such difficulties only by relying on the guidance of an awaken master. In this sense, Ganhwa Seon is not so different from Patriarchal Seon.
Once great faith arises and one is sincerely committed to hwadu practice and has generated questioning, the practitioner will be faced with the so called “silver mountain and iron wall” (銀山鐵壁),’ a seemingly impenetrable mental wall blocking one’s progress. The practitioner should remain undaunted and continue to devote oneself to break through the wall while having faith in the master. If one stays unwavering on this course, it will not take very long to break that wall. This is why Ganhwa Seon is the most effective and superior method.
The second most important element is great anger, originated from a strong resolution to break through the wall no matter what it takes. Once stopped by the “silver mountain and iron wall,” it seems impossible to move beyond it, and one naturally suffers from extreme anxiety and frustration. If this pent up anger can be directed toward practice, the repressed energy will erupt and rush the practitioner towards the break-through. A sudden volcanic outbreak of great anger will give the practitioner the momentum to raze the wall down to the ground. To achieve this, it requires an extremely heightened state of concentration, like a lone mounted cavalier charging into a great army.
The frustration of the practitioner in this state can be compared to that of someone trapped in a deep well, desperate only to get out. Sometimes one is driven by desperation to hate the teacher who fashioned such a contraption and pushed the practitioner into such a hell. However, the indignant mind at this moment must be diverted to sharpen one’s determination to deepen one’s practice and be free from the bonds of life and death.
The third essential element is great doubt. A practitioner should cultivate doubt when a gong’an is given and do the utmost to break through it. One can liberate the human mind, limited as it is by the concepts of life and death, only when practicing with a live phrase. Once doubt flourishes, obscurations and distractions naturally cease. A genuinely held doubt continues without ceasing when it was properly aroused. Practitioners of Ganhwa Seon should be like a fierce dog, which never lets go once its teeth have sunk in. As it is virtually impossible for a beginner to enter a state of continuous and earnest questioning and to check one’s progress on his or her own, it is vital to receive guidance from an awaken master.
“Great faith,” “great anger,” and “great doubt” are called the three essential elements of hwadu practice. Once all these three conditions are fulfilled, and one works on a live phrase with great faith and great anger, one can quickly realize a breakthrough. The great Chinese Chan master Gaofengyuanmiao (高峰原妙: 1238∼1295) said:
If you start to practice meditation with the intention to complete it within a set time, you must maintain a constant mind and try to escape from the ten thousand worldly thoughts, from morning to night and until the next morning. If you practice like this with great effort for three to five days or even for seven days, but fail to attain enlightenment, then I must be blamed for telling a great lie today and shall naturally fall into the everlasting hell where the field has to be plowed with my own tongue.
- The Gist of Seon
To read more please visit http://www.ahnkookzen.org/English/20110729_20100813D_making.html