Zen Master Hye-Am
On the Closing Day of Winter Retreat
Once Venerable Master Hye-Am was staying in Paljong-Sa Temple in Seoul. On the closing day of Winter Retreat he was asked to give a dharma talk. He ascended the podium and began by singing a Gatha:
People today do not see old ancient star;
Today”s star has shone on the ancient people.
People today and of ancient times how like water;
Watching the bright star together is also the same,
When you, the student preoccupied with Study, achieve greater intimacy with the Kong-Ans, more and more you will
ﬁnd yourself in a feeling of ennui. It is the time to remind yourself that this is a sign of great progress and the time for full-blooming. Furthermore, this is the time when you should eagerly introspect upon yourself with vigilant doubt. Returning to doubt should never be delayed. While introverting upon the Hwa-du (Kong-An; literally
“the head of the dialogue” or “the core of the dialogue”), if the introversion is pure, it will suddenly enter the place of tranquility. After it becomes tranquil, it can enter Samadhi. However, in Samadhi there can be two kinds : right Samadhi and deﬁled Samadhi. This also should be kept in mind. When the power of Samadhi has increased, your body and mind will naturally be bright by the untainted faith; and so, finally, you will achieve great alertness.
You should use your mind well, ﬁnely concentrated even in everyday life movements. Besides, when you are preoccupied
with Study, either beginning or ending, you should never depart from the clear and bright tranquility and purity. When the tranquility is fully matured, enlightenment will be imminent. When the purity is fully matured, the brightness will be pervasive. If the effort of returning to vigilant doubt is sincere, and if the determination is thorough, then, whether moving or still, the outer perspectives will be like the color of the autumn sky : transparent and bright. This is the moment your Study
blooms fully. If you uphold and guard that well, your tranquility will be like the cold incense holder of the old shrine. If the activity of the mind is not darkened but is bright in tranquil stillness and alertness, your illusory and empty physical subsistence will experience being beyond the world of mankind.
The result of this vigilance with Hwa-du will be like one silk thread hanging straight down from on high; you will see that it can never be severed by any means. If you achieve this level, all the dust will be settled and brightness will pervade. But, naturally, right at this moment, if you allow yourself the idea of being awakened and claim that you are enlightened, then that consistency and loftiness from the awakened mind will immediately cease. You must watch out carefully for this. At this level, for one who does not commit himself to tardiness, movement and stillness will be conjoined. Also, while you are awake and tranquil in watchful mind, the Hwa-du will abide constantly in front of your eyes; just as, for instance, the reﬂection of moonlight in the water moves freely in accord with the waves, but the moonlight, itself, is not affected by the waves. It, as-it-is, has never moved. Even though deﬁlement and delusion arise from time to time, if you immediately introspect upon yourself with vigilant doubt, then you will not be subject to defilements and delusions. By cultivating in such a way, one day the whole bundle of doubt will be destroyed; suddenly right seeing will be manifested. An analogy to this is the hen sitting continuously on the egg. If the warm energy is not supplied for even one moment, the egg will spoil. However, if the warm energy is adequate, the hen, using her beak, destroys the egg-shell, allowing the baby chick to break through with a sound of “Chirp, Chirp.” Similarly, the bamboo stalk, when ﬁılly mature, explodes forth by itself, “Boom, Boom’ Finally, seeing the True Self-nature (Original Face) will be completed. After that, you should go meet the True Master- Mentor, the Good and-Wise One and examine yourself with him hundreds and thousands of times to accomplish the Great Dharma Vessel. You should not, however, by haughty judgment, create any idea of being superior. Without seeing the Good-and-Wise One after enlightenment, you would not be able to complete your life task, which is a potential hazard, not just once, but endlessly and limitlessly. Finally Venerable Master sang a Gatha:
Ninety days, chained legs, ending today;
Suddenly Winter retreat has no trace,
While Peter and Paul part from each other, north and south,
Stone tiger still fights high mountain peak.
Master hit the dharma ﬂoor three times and descended the podium.
One day the Venerable Master Mann-Gong was standing in front of a statue of Avalokita when he abruptly asked Po-Wol, “How does the Buddha Statue look?” Po-Wol S’nim answered, “Oh, it”s really great!” Immediately Venerable Master paused and returned to his room.
Here, if one carefully observed this conversation, he would see that Po-Wol had actually tried to knock down the Venerable Master. But, before he could knock down the Venerable Master, he had already fallen down himself. When Po-Wol said, “It’s really great,” the Venerable Master did not need to return to his room, but rather should have said, “I have lost my face and then asked, since you said it’s really great, where did you see the greatness of the statue?”
It is really too bad that he returned without saying a word. Besides that, in principle, it was a terrible mistake that Po-Wol created. Even in a practical sense as the Sutra said,
Everything Which has a form,
As a Whole, is delusory,
Since he raised a thought of the greatness of the phenomenal form, it already opposes what the Sutra says. Furthermore, he himself became a bad student of Buddha. Venerable Master responded for himself If the Venerable Master asked me, “How does the Buddha statue look?”, I would not have answered like Po-Wol, but instead, would have responded, “Where the old monkey whistles, there is wall after wall.”
Well known Korean Zen Master Seung-Sahn [Haeng-Won], founder of Kwan-eum Zen School in the U.S., was once staying in the Dharma Temple in Los Angeles. Eun-Bong and Myo-Vong with a traveler visited him. Master Seung-Sahn took his watch, put it on the ﬂoor and asked the traveler. “What is this?” He looked at the three of them and continued, “Don”t call this a watch, however, do not say this is not a watch either. Now, tell me!” First, the traveler hit the ﬂoor and said, “It is half past three.” Seung-Sahn S’nim said, “Very good! You showed me the
function of the mínd,” and continued, “With ‘don’t-know mind,” that is the only way you can transmit Dharma from Buddha.” He then turned his face to Eun-Bong S’nim and asked the same question. “How about you? What is this?” Eun-Bong picked it up and said, “This is exactly the same time, yet still dead like yesterday!” Seung-Sahn was surprised greatly, but instead of
commenting, asked a question to Myo-Vong S’nim, “What is this for you?”
Myo-Vong picked up the watch and threw it, then sang a Gatha:
Between asker and answerer, who benefits?
Once you have the time to Watch yourself,
You are no longer in this World, before and after.
Chukbi and Watch holding monkey scratches his own face
Seung-Sahn was in aposiopesis [paused and speechless]. Later, Venerable Master heard this dialogue, then laughed and sang a Gatha:
Interrogation of What is a watch, between as it is and as it is not,
Nothing is good for either asker or answerer,
Three times four suddenly becomes twenty-four;
Dark sun and crooked moon watch the eyeless face restlessly.
Compiled by Zen Master Myo-Vong