Gold Coast Zen Meditation

Starter’s Mind

  Starter’s Mind

by Zen Master Won Hyo


All Buddhas dwell in the Palace of Extinction, because they have cut off desire and undergone difficult practice. Sentient beings in innumerable world-systems are subject to ceaseless rounds of rebirth within the “burning house,” because they do not cut off desire and craving. Since many value the three defilements of anger, desire and ignorance as though they were family jewels, few among men reach the unguarded heavens. There is no inducement, yet many fall of themselves into wrong ways, because they make the four elements (earth, fire, water and air) and the five desires (for food, sleep, sex, wealth and fame) the treasure of their deluded minds.


Who, as a human being, would not like to retreat to the mountains and practice according to the path, but, bound by the entanglements of love and desire, how many are able to do it? Though you may not be able to go to the mountains and woods to train your mind, don’t neglect good actions according to your capacity. If you cut off your own pleasure you will be trusted and respected as a holy man; when you are able to perform difficult actions, you will be revered like the Buddha himself. Craving for things, you are a member of the family of demons; making offerings with mercy, you are a son of the Dharma King.


High peaks and lofty crevices are the dwellings of a wise man. Green pine trees and deep valleys are the places for those who practice Buddhism. When you are hungry, eat fruits and satisfy your hunger. When you are thirsty, drink running stream water and quench your thirst. However you may nourish your body with delicacies, it will perish. However you may protect it with soft clothes, your life will come to an end. Make the echoing cave your hall for chanting the Buddha’s name. Make the flying ducks who cry out sadly your heart’s friends. Even if your knees are ice cold as you bow, do not think of fire. Even if your intestines are cut through with hunger, do not think of seeking food.


One hundred years will soon pass; how can you afford not to study? How long do you think life is, that you idle the time away without practicing?


Being detached from love is being a wandering monk. Not desiring worldly things is leaving the home-life. If one who practices puts on beautiful clothes, it is like a dog who puts on the skin of an elephant. A student who wants love is like a porcupine who crawls into a rat’s hole—he goes in easily, but he cannot back out no matter how hard he tries.


Though you have talent and wisdom, if you live in a house in town, then all the Buddhas feel sorry for you. But if you live in a mountain temple, even if you have no attainment, all the holy ones are delighted. Even though you have talent and knowledge, if you do not keep the precepts, it is as if you are shown the way to a treasure but do not go there. If you are diligent in practicing but have no wisdom, it is like trying to go east but heading west.


The action of a wise man is like boiling rice from which the sand has been sifted out. The action of one who has no wisdom is like boiling rice and sand together. All men know how to satisfy their hunger with food, but few know enough to learn Dharma as a cure for their ignorance.


Wisdom and practice are like the two wheels of one cart. Benefiting others and also benefiting oneself are like the two wings of a bird. Obtaining food as an offering and reciting prayers to Buddha for the man who offered it, how can you not feel ashamed if you do not understand the meaning of these prayers. Receiving food as an offering and reciting the name of the Buddha for the man who offered it, how can you not be ashamed before the wise and holy if you do not understand the significance of the recitation.


Just as men are disgusted by worms, which cannot distinguish between cleanliness and filth, so are the wise and holy disgusted by novice monks who cannot distinguish between purity and impurity. Precepts are the ladder which allows you to leave behind the noise of the world and ascend towards heaven. Trying to pray for others while you break the precepts is like being a broken-winged bird who tries to fly with a tortoise on its back. If you are not free from your own sins, then you cannot redeem the sins of others. Not keeping the precepts, how can you receive offerings from others? 


It is hardly worthwhile to support an empty body devoid of actual practice. This impermanent, transitory life cannot be maintained forever, however much you may love it. If you wish to attain great virtue, you must be able to withstand great suffering. If you wish to sit on the lion’s seat, you must forever abandon desire and pleasure. When the mind of one who practices is pure, all the heavens praise him, but when such a one becomes involved with women, all the beneficial deities leave him.


The four elements soon dissociate, they cannot be long maintained. As evening draws near, you regret that you did not practice early in the morning. The worldly pleasure which you now enjoy becomes suffering in the future. Why then are you attached to this pleasure? One moment of patience becomes lasting pleasure. Why then do you not practice?


If a man of the Way has desires, it is the shame of those who follow him. 

If a man who has left the home-life acquires wealth, then men of virtue laugh at him.


Words of admonition can be endless, yet craving is not extinguished. By saying, “Next time, next time,” attachment is not cut off. The things that keep us busy are interminable, so why not simply throw away all worldly affairs? Plans also have no limit, so why not just cut off the thinking mind? 


Today never ceases to come, but in each “today” more karma is created. Tomorrow also comes without fail, but few “tomorrows” are given to good actions. This year never fails to come, but defilements are endless. Next year always arrives too, but still you do not seek Bodhi.


Moment succeeds moment, and thus day and night are soon past. One day succeeds the next; months slip away. Month follows month–soon next year is here. Years pass rapidly, and you find yourself at death’s door. A broken vehicle cannot run; an old man cannot practice.


Lying down you are idle; sitting up, your mind is confused. For how many lifetimes will you fail to practice, and waste away your days and nights? You spend your life without practice, but do you think you will be able to make this empty body retain its life? This body will inevitably come to its end. Then what will the next body be? Isn’t this matter urgent? Isn’t this a matter of the greatest importance for your mind?


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: