Reports: Workshop and Korean Zen Temple

John who runs the Kao San Road website and service, reports on his experience under the guidence of Wat Kow Tahm assistant teachers  Mike and Helge in the recent one-day-workshop kindly hosted by the beautiful Ariaysom Boutique Hotel in Bangkok. He posted his expereinces on Khao San Road dotcom. It is never that easy settling into meditation, but always worth the effort, no matter how much (or little) progress it seems one is making.

Marcus gives his summary of  the double header dhamma talk at the Korean Temple in Ekamai recently. It is a lovely dhamma hall, in a surprisingly nice area of Ekamai. A pity the resident Bhikkhunis do not speak English (Ven Chong Go Sunim did try to encourage them) as the hall and temple has a real Zen-like aura of peace. There is of course, the monthly meeting there, where translators are used if there is no English speaking resident available. Next meeting is Saturday December 12th. Photos from the event are in our facebook album.

The following report is from Marcus’ Blog:

Last night, as part of its tenth anniversary celebrations, the Bangkok Hanmaum Seonwon kindly hosted a joint Dharma talk on the subject of Buddha-nature with the Theravadan monk Phra Cittasamvaro Bhikku, popularly known as Phra Pandit, and Chong Go Sunim from the Hanmaum International Centre in Korea.

Phra Pandit started the evening with a brief history of Theravadan and Mahayanan Buddhism, and how the differences between them are not as great as they might at first seem. After all, everything started at the same point – the Buddha putting aside all theories and looking into the nature of things for himself.

What he saw under the Bodhi tree was experience in terms of fields of awareness, sight, sound, taste, and so on, and that they were forever changing. Finding no stability in this, he withdrew his mind and found it becoming brighter and sharper. And what he discovered there, he declared, was that which does not die.

He gave this a number of names such as original mind, source of mind, Nirvana, and so on, and later it was termed Buddha-nature. Phra Pandit suggested it was perhaps a little egotistical to give it this name as it exists in all people, regardless of the labels they use. A bit, he teased, like planting a flag on the moon.

He also pointed out that seeing this fundamental mind is a temporary experience and that we rebound back into normal life. However, seeing it will change one’s way of relating to the world. The great problem, however, is how attainment of fundamental mind can be taught. No matter what is said about it, it is not it.

So Buddhist teachings are like radio stations. We can switch between them, some we will like, some not, but the point is the silence beneath. Using the analogy of the diamond in the mud, Phra Pandit said that reaching it through purification or reaching it through realisation were simply differences in emphasis.

Chong Go Sunim then opened by pointing out how the Buddha’s teachings, using another analogy, are like medicine. And no single medicine is good for all illnesses. So a range of Buddhist teachings developed according to the needs of listeners. Different Sutras, in fact, are simply saying, “okay, let me put it like this, now like this”.

But the point to all these teachings is to transcend the limited sense of self, and Chong Go Sunim described how his own teacher, Seon Master Daehaeng Sunim, emphasises the practice of letting go. Like chanting, bowing, and meditation, he said, it is a tool for transcending the self, and a self-correcting one at that.

Often, he said, people have great meditation experiences or insights, but make the mistake of saying “wow, I want that again”. Soon, they are carrying around little more than a memory of a past experience. By practicing letting go, they are able to move on from it. But to carry out this practice requires trust.

Which is where Buddha-nature comes in. Chong Go Sunim, before he became a monk, used to sky-dive, and he explained that no matter how badly you might be spinning through the air, simply getting into the correct position allows you to right yourself. In terms of practice, that position is the act of trusting and letting go.

And just as a monk’s hair grows back again and again, so does one’s ignorance. And so one must return to the practice over and over. Chong Go compared this to the Diamond Sutra, which seems to repeat itself, but at a deeper lever. “Perhaps this is all just a skillful means” he said, “but I can’t say it’s not true”.