This is an excerpt from the Dharma talk published with this title as part of the series, Practice in Daily Life. The complete Dharma talk is also included in the book Wake Up and Laugh.
I’m grateful that we can all gather together again today. Although we always function together as one, there is clearly “you” and “I.” All of us are fellow practitioners who explore together the path of truth. When we gather here like this, you, I, and all other beings are friends who walk together on the way of truth. Today let’s begin by thinking deeply about the meaning of what Shakyamuni Buddha said and did when he was born into this world. He said, “Above and below the heavens, there is nothing that is not me.” Then he looked in every direction and took seven steps. Buddhism appeared at that moment, and the practice of cultivating mind, which is the path of discovering our true self, also began. Although I have never been to school, nor have I read many books, here is what I think the Buddha’s actions mean.
First of all, what is the meaning of “Above and below the heavens, there is nothing that is not me”? I have always told you that the foundation of the universe is directly connected to our foundation, our fundamental mind, which is directly connected to every single part of our lives. Even before the Buddha was born into this world, all beings were directly connected to each other through the foundation. Thus, if you awaken to the foundation, you will save all of the lives within you, and you will also save all of the lives outside of your body, because they are all directly connected to your foundation. If you have a question about this, let’s discuss it at the end of the talk.
Second, what is the meaning of the Buddha looking in every direction? The foundation of everything is neither emptiness nor form. Thus everything operates and functions together inseparably. In order to demonstrate this, the Buddha looked in every direction.
Finally, his taking seven steps shows that our ever-changing daily life, where “you” and “I” distinctly exist, is itself the path of truth. This is what the Buddha taught us without using words. Actually, this isn’t something that you can learn through words. The truth can never be learned through scholarship, intellectual knowledge, worldly power, fame, or theories. From the very beginning, practitioners have learned truth only through wisely investigating the fundamental questions of where we came from, where we are going, and how we should live.
To explain it another way, we consist of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and air. We live in the midst of these elements and sustain ourselves by eating them. You shouldn’t ignore this. You should be thankful for those elements, because all living beings originated from them and have evolved from them into the life forms of today. Everything comes from them and returns to them. Everything disappears into them and then arises from them. This is the truth. When the wind blows, a petal hanging from a tree is soon gone. If the petal is protected from the wind, it may hang there a little longer, but in the end it too will fall.
Everything is like drifting clouds. Because we all should overcome this illusionary realm, we have gathered together here to cultivate our minds. Our minds embrace everything without excluding even a blade of grass. You should know that in Hanmaum (One Mind) everything – plants, bugs, animals, and even beings without life – ceaselessly functions together. Although everything functions together like this, as I said earlier, there is clearly “you” and “I.” But the very existence of “you” and “I” is empty, and in the midst of such emptiness, there certainly exists one extraordinary thing. In order to discover it, we are cultivating mind together.
Some of you may wonder why I am explaining this again. There are always people who are here for the first time, so I should say something about it for them. I always tell them, “First, you must die! Let go of everything and entrust everything!” But where should you let go to? You should let go to your fundamental mind. Because you exist, others exist. Because you exist, all other things exist. Further, your fundamental mind is directly connected to the foundation of everything in the universe. It is as if there is a power plant within you. This bright power plant! If we need some energy, we can take out as much as we need. The energy of the power plant is infinite. No matter how much energy is taken out, it never decreases, and no matter how much energy is put in, it never overflows. The energy flows freely – we just can’t see it.
For the rest of the dharma talk please visit the Dharma Talk site by Daehaeng Kun Sunim