Musangsa 2022년 05월 25일

Transmission Dharma Speech

by Zen Master Tan Wol

Transmission Dharma Speech by Zen Mastre Tan Wol

(Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick.)

Before you were born, what was it that sees and hears?


(Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick.)

Now, what is it that sees and hears?


(Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick.)

After you die, what will be it that sees and hears?

After all, among the three, which one is your true self?


Floor is yellow, camera shutter sound “click, click”

About 140 years ago in Korea, Zen Master Gyeong Heo was travelling to Seoul when he heard the news that his teacher was ill. On the way, he encountered a rainstorm and tried to find a place to rest until it would stop. But the owners of every houses he visited did not even allow him to enter their houses, telling him that a severe epidemic was raging in that village. He finally entered a ruined house at the end of the village, where he found the bodies of the whole family lying inside the room. In an instant, he was overtaken in the fear of death. Zen Master Gyeong Heo was already a famous Buddhist Sutra lecturer at that time, but he realized that all the understanding of the sutras he had been proud of until now was of no use to the great matter of life and death. Returning to his Sutra school, he announced that he would not teach Sutras any longer and he began to devote himself to practice Zen with an unanswered question. And he finally got enlightenment to revive the fading Korean Zen Buddhism.

About half a century later, Zen Master Seung Sahn went through different kinds of hardships and was determined to practice risking his life. During his childhood, he experienced numerous tragedies during the Japanese colonial period. But as soon as his country achieved the independence which all the people longed for, he witnessed a desperate situation in which the same people were divided into two groups and fought each other, only because of the different idea, ideology. The situation eventually escalated to war, leading to the tragedy of the division of Korea into two countries, which has continued to this day. Zen Master Seung Sahn deeply felt the impermanence and ignorance of the world of Samsara. Before he was 20 years old, he decided to leave society behind and went into the mountains to solve the problem of life and death.

Even before we were born, disasters and tragedies such as epidemics, pandemic and wars have always existed. We face them today, and it seems certain that they will continue in the future. When such disasters and tragedies strike, most people get lost. However, some rather wake up in the midst of such difficulties and help the world. How should we deal with the hardships of the Samsara world that exist regardless of time and place? How can you digest them so that you can live a peaceful life for yourself and help others live a peaceful life?

About two weeks ago, Zen Master Master Dae Bong notified the members of the Action Committee of Musangsa about this transmission ceremony. At the end of the announcement, he said, “I will give a transmission to one of the three cats living in the temple.” (audience laughter) Yes, exactly!  Everyone burst into laughter at that time. However, a few days later, at a meeting with other guests, he spoke again about the ceremony, and he said the same thing that he would give a transmission to one of the three cats living in the temple. Everyone burst out laughing too. I laughed too, but thought to myself for a moment. ‘Maybe it’s not a joke. Didn’t he tell people already twice…!” (audience laughter) This is my joke to you, everyone!

But after watching those cats for several years, I don’t think they’re bad candidates for the transmission. Cats don’t think as much as people do, and they seem to live much simpler and more laid-back lives. They are also often seen meditating. They know how to get what they want. For example, if they want to be petted by people, they come in front of people and start rolling their whole body on the ground, twisting it. They just do it 100%!  Without checking or hesitation, ‘just do it’!  When I see them doing it, I can’t help just petting them.

However, almost no one here would want to live an animal life. Almost no one would like to be reborn as animals in their next life either. Animal’s mind is simple and focused, but do so only for themselves and have little understanding of others. Human beings thinks and checks a lot and their mind is complicated, but only if they return to their ‘Don’t know’, their true nature, their mind becomes simple and also wide. Not only will they understand their situation, but they can also understand the pain and suffering of other beings. This is called Great Compassion.

Sometimes we don’t even understand those we love. Sometimes you don’t understand why your children, wife, husband or friends do it. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why your student or your teacher does that.

But if you return to your true nature, ‘Don’t know’ moment to moment, you can connect with everyone and everything. In that moment, thoughts such as ‘I understand’ or ‘I do not understand’ disappear.

Somebody said “We may not understand someone perfectly, but we can love them completely.”

If you lose the moment, you will fall like an arrow into the ocean of sufferings and you will lose your life.

If you attain the moment, you will attain the sufferings and attain the true life.

How attain the moment?

(Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick.)

Did you hear clearly?


(Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick.)

Do you see this stick is brown?


(Raises the Zen stick over his head, then hits the table with the stick.)

Don’t lose that point and use it for all beings.

Thank you all very much in all time zones and all places at this moment.

  • Tan Wol
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