Gold Coast Zen Meditation

February 12, 2012

Zen and Psychotherapy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gold Coast Zen Meditation Group @ 12:28 am

Zen Master Dae Bong

Zen and Psychotherapy Conference in Korea—May, 2006

Sunims, professors, doctors, and guests, thank you very

much for inviting me here today. I have been asked to speak

on the experience of teaching Zen.

Zen actually has no teaching. The student determines the

teaching. The Great Chinese Zen Master Im Je said, “Our

school has no doctrine. I simply produce medicine for the

disease which appears.”

The Great Chinese Zen Master Tae Hye said, “In Zen

there is nothing to cultivate. Just rid yourself of all your

opinions.” People do not have faith in the clarity and wisdom

of their own original mind, so myriad problems and

sufferings appear.

Practicing Zen is realizing suffering, the cause of suffering,

and the end of suffering. Realizing this, naturally you

want to help others.

Since all names and forms are impermanent, including

religious forms, teachings, and ideas, a Zen practitioner uses

whatever is at hand to help others.Yesterday I met a Korean

man below our temple. He said he wanted to become a monk.

I asked, “Why?” He said, “I want to get enlightenment.” I

asked him, “What will you do after you get enlightenment?”

“I don’t know.” That is a problem. I asked him if he was married.

He said “yes, with two children.” I told him he must

ask his wife’s permission. He said she would say no. She is

Christian and gets very angry when he talks about wanting

to be a monk. I said, “Then why become a monk? Buddhism

means only help others. This world is originally empty, so you

are also empty, so only help others. When you are with your

wife, 100% keep husband’s mind. When you are with your

children, 100% keep parent’s mind. When you are with your

friends, 100% keep friend’s mind. When you are working,

100% working mind. When you are driving, 100% driver’s

mind. That is practicing Buddhism. You can practice Buddhism

in your everyday life just as it is. That is Zen.”

This man said that he is very nervous. “Who is nervous?”

“I am.” Who are you?” After some time he said, “I don’t

know.” “Only keep this don’t know mind—in your lower

belly.” Then I taught him tanjeon ho-heup, a breathing


“If you keep energy in your head, then you will have

much thinking, much desire ,and much suffering. If you

keep energy in your chest, you will have too much emotion.

Then I like this. I don’t like that. This person is good. That

person is bad. This kind of thinking will appear. If you slowly

breathe in and slowly breathe out, and return your attention

and energy to your tanjeon, then your thinking and emotions

will calm down. Slowly your mind will become clear and

bright. You can then perceive this world and perceive your

job moment-to-moment and do it. Try that every day.”

When I first met my teacher, Korean Zen Master Seung

Sahn, in 1977, he was giving a dharma talk atYaleUniversity

in theUnited States. That night, a psychology professor asked

him, “What is crazy and what is not crazy?” Zen Master

Seung Sahn said, “If you are very attached to something,

you are very crazy. If you are a little attached to something,

you are a little crazy. If you are not attached to anything,

that is not crazy.” I thought, “This answer is better than my

ten years of studying and working in psychology.” Then Zen

Master Seung Sahn continued, “So, in this world everyone

is crazy, because everyone is attached to ‘I’. But this ‘I’ does

not really exist. It is only made by our thinking. If you want

to find your true self and not attach to your thinking ‘I,’ you

must practice Zen.”

I thought, “This is my teacher.”

Human suffering comes from attachment to our thinking,

to “I, my, me.” Practicing Zen means looking deeply into

“I.” What am I? If you ask this question consistently and

sincerely, finally you don’t know. This don’t know is very

important. Keeping don’t know mind is practicing Zen.

Giving others don’t know mind is teaching Zen.

Zen Master Seung Sahn said, “Don’t teach your understanding.

Only teach don’t know.”

When I was a university student, I worked as an aide in

a mental hospital at night. One night I came on duty at 11

pm. I could not find any of the staff, so I walked around the

unit. Finally, I found the doctor and nurses in one patient’s

room trying to get her to take her sleep medication. This

woman was refusing to take her medicine and kept saying

she needed to take a bus. Rita, the night nurse, came on

duty and also could not find us. Finally she found us in the

woman’s room. Rita watched the scene for a few moments

and walked over to the bed (the only furniture in the room.)

She pulled the mattress off of the bed, and as she rolled the

bed frame out of the room, she pointed to the mattress and

said to the woman, “There’s your bus. Get on it and take

a ride.” The woman was shocked and stopped arguing. We

all went out of the room, locked the door, and she slept the

rest of the night.

When this happened, I thought to myself, “I want to

get that kind of mind. I do not think I can get that from

academic study.”

In Zen we say, any religion is like a finger pointing to the

moon. If you attach to the finger, you will not get the moon.

So inAmericawe have Christian-Buddhist retreats, led by a

Catholic priest or Protestant minister and a Buddhist monk.

Christians and Buddhists practice Zen meditation together.

I have a Catholic priest friend named Father Hunt who likes

to say, “When you are doing sitting meditation and your leg

has pain, is that Christian pain or Buddhist pain?” That is

a very important point.

Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say, “If you practice Zen,

then if you are Christian, you can be 100% correct Christian.

If you are Muslim, you can be 100% correct Muslim. If you

are Buddhist, you can be 100% correct Buddhist.”

Zen meditation means when you are doing something,

just do it! When you are sitting meditation, just sit. When

you are chanting, just chant. When you are bowing, just

bow. When you are driving, just drive. When you are

washing dishes, just wash dishes. When you are with your

family, 100% family. When you are doing something, just

do it! At that time, there is no “I, my, me.” Where is “I, my,

me” then ?

That sounds easy. It is not, and it is. If you try, try, try,

slowly your body, mind, and situation moment-to-moment

become one. Your complicated mind becomes simple. Then

your simple mind can become empty and clear. One day

you will realize your true nature, universal substance, is

before-thinking, empty, void, pure, clear, and miraculously

functioning. You will realize what the Sixth Patriarch called

“the essence of mind.”

If you correctly attain that, your mind will be clear like

space, clear like a mirror. Everything will reflect in your

mind. Red comes, red. White comes, white. You see clearly,

hear clearly, smell, taste, touch, and think clearly. The sky

is blue. The tree is green. The dog barks, “Woof! Woof!”

Sugar is sweet. Everything just the way it is is truth. You

attain truth.

Then one more step is necessary. How does truth correctly

function and make a correct human life? You must keep the

correct situation, correct function, and correct relationship

moment-to-moment. When you are hungry, eat. When you

are tired, sleep. When someone is hungry, give them food.

When someone is thirsty, give them a drink. When someone

is suffering, help them. The name for that is Great Love,

Great Compassion, and theGreat Bodhisattva Way. But it

is not special. It is simply correct human life. It is Zen.

Zen practice means substance, truth, and function become

clear moment-to-moment. Teaching means that your

mind and the student’s mind become one and give direction.

You can perceive where the person is stuck and show them

correct direction.

Practicing and teaching Zen are not two separate activities.

If your practice is clear, your teaching will be clear. If

your practice is not clear, your teaching will be not clear.

Teaching, for me, is an experience of moment-to-moment

learning—about you, about me, about this world. I always

felt my teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, was a great teacher

because he had a great vow and was a great learner. He knew

how to learn from every moment. Every moment was fresh

and new.

Zen Master Seung Sahn once said to me, “Before, students

learned from teachers. Now, teachers learn from students.”

This has helped me tremendously. I never felt I had anything

to teach. Now I realize that teaching is not teaching. It is

learning: Who is in front of me? Where are we stuck? How

can I help?

A few years ago, a Korean woman approached me in the

subway inSeoul. She pulled my robe and said, “I hate these

clothes.” I said, “These are Korean clothes. Why don’t you

like Korean things?” Pulling the robe again, she said, “I hate

these clothes.” I said, “OK. You and I are about the same

height. How about you give me your clothes and I give you

mine.” Then she looked at me, smiled a little, and said, “You

are a strange man. What is your name?” I said, “My name

is Dae Bong.” “No. Tell me your real name.” “My name is

Dae Bong.” “No. I want your real name.” “I forgot. You

better ask my mother.”

“No. No. I want your real name.” “Why do you want my

name?” “I want to pray for you.” “That is OK. You can pray

for me without my name. God knows who I am.”

“No. I want your name.” I said, “OK. You get a paper

and pen and I will tell you my name.” So she got out a paper

and pen. Then I slowly said, “My name is I…love…you.”

She laughed, slapped me on the arm, and said, “You are a

funny man,” and walked away.

Korean people eat with chopsticks and spoon. Japanese

people eat with chopsticks. Western people eat with a knife

and fork. Indian people eat with just their hands. The techniques

are all different, but the direction is the same: food

into my stomach. The direction is more important than the


The most important thing in teaching Zen is helping the

student find the correct direction of practice and of human

life. Only go straight—don’t know. Why? To help all beings.

When a person finds the correct direction, everything

moment-to-moment becomes a useful technique. You can

use every circumstance to teach a person. You can show a

person how to use every circumstance to move forward, to

help themselves and others.

When I asked Korean young people ten years ago what

they thought about Buddhism, they said, “Buddhism is a

grandmother’s religion.” The Korean young people I met

did not see it as relevant to their life. Similarly, Zen practice

essentially disappeared inChinain the 1500s and 1600s

because it had become a practice of the intellectual elite. It

no longer connected with people’s everyday life.

But society is changing, and now I think that more and

more people find Buddhism, and especially Zen, interesting.

Especially in the West, Buddhist practice is rapidly growing.

It is growing in the West because correct Buddhism is not

based on belief but on practice. It is a practice of becoming

clear, of seeing one’s essential nature, that one’s true self is

identical to the entire universe, of seeing the self-cause of

suffering, and the way to overcome or end suffering. The

ideal in Mahayana Buddhism is to help all beings, not only

oneself, and not only human beings, not later but now, this

moment. This resonates strongly with the concerns of many

people in the world today.

Nowadays, all societies have lost their direction. People

only want money and comfort in this life and the next. People

kill others and themselves to get their dream. Everyone holds

their opinion, and their opinions are different, so they fight.

This is true between religions, countries, political parties,

husband and wife, parents and children. Even inside us,

our mouth and our stomach fight. My mouth says “I want

more food and drink,” but my stomach says “No! No!” So

we cannot make harmony within ourselves, with each other,

with animals, with the air, water, and earth. If we continue

this way, then soon much, much suffering will appear and

many, many people will die—from war, disease, starvation,

too little water, too much water, bad air, and natural disasters.

We human beings are making the world like this! It is not

coming from outside. Cause and effect are clear.

If we want to change this, then we must wake up! We

must find our true nature, return to correct human beings’

mind, help each other, help nature, and help all beings. This

is our human beings’ original job.

If you want to do that, then I ask you: What are you? If

your answer is clear, then your life is clear. If you don’t know,

then I hope you only go straight, don’t know, which is clear

like space, try, try, try, for ten thousand years, non-stop, attain

your true self, truth, and correct function, and save all

beings from suffering.


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